Arturo’s, the jazz spot
By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen
There are bound to be jazz purists who may be skeptical that metro Detroit’s new jazz mecca could be located adjacent to a modern, multi-theater movie complex. But once inside, the possibility of Arturo’s Jazz Theater and Restaurant becoming one of the nation’s premiere jazz destinations suddenly seems like a distinct possibility.
Despite his distinguished history in the political arena, Art Blackwell, Arturo’s principal owner, is no stranger to the restaurant and entertainment industry. He teamed with other investors to bring the first Bennigan’s to Detroit and is a founding partner of the Greektown Casino.
Arturo’s seems to be much more than another investment for Blackwell, however, as he strives to incorporate his love of jazz into his latest venture. This increased personal stake has translated into an expansive, multi-layered space that manages to maintain a feeling of sophistication and comfort throughout. His son and Wayne County Commissioner, Moe Blackwell is also a partner in this multi-generational effort.
Arturo’s interior design excels at being a very large venue—at 22,000 square feet—and a series of small, yet connected, spaces at the same time.
“What we’re finding out is working really well for us is booking these special parties and events because we’ve got the space,” Blackwell told the Michigan Citizen. “We can do different things in different areas.”
The focus is on either the 350-seat main dining room or the 170-seat jazz theater. Both operate as arenas for live music. But woven seamlessly are also a cigar bar, martini bar and a smaller dining room for private parties. The martini bar is a perfect union of wood, marble, brushed metal and tile. There’s even patio seating for dining and drinks during the summer months.
Paintings by Detroit-born artist Marcus Glenn are found throughout the restaurant, some cleverly mounted on scrolls. Their color and vitality depict, visually, those same elements found in jazz music. Blackwell is also a private collector of Glenn’s work.
But the plush jazz theater is the spot where you will find the music enthusiasts. It has an old school-feel, as if being transported to a time when seeing the performance of your life could happen in a nightclub. Already, national artists Roy Ayers, Keiko Matsui and Alex Mugnon, who performed for the grand opening, have taken advantage of the superior acoustics.
“There’s really no place like this for live jazz,” Blackwell told the Michigan Citizen. “Detroit used to be a place, like New York or Chicago, where you would go to hear the big names. That kind of went away and our goal is to bring some of that back.”
Another welcome feature at Arturo’s is that the kitchen was given every bit of the attention and thought that a premiere establishment deserves. The kitchen is run by the infamous Chef Hamadou, who is from the Ivory Coast.
Before arriving in Detroit, he studied cooking in Italy for four years and France. His worldly expertise and enthusiasm are reflected in the menu, which has received rave reviews. His master creation is Chef Hamadou’s Voodoo Seafood, served with sauteed shrimp, salmon and seabass over jasmine rice.
“It’s a unique thing. There’s no place like this in all of Michigan,” Chef Hamadou told the Michigan Citizen. “When you look at the menu, you’re going to see we’ve got something for everyone.”
Blackwell’s previous ventures have taken place in Detroit or Highland Park where he has served in very public capacities. Yet, he has come to terms with bringing this concept to the city of Southfield.
It was a compromise that stemmed from not wanting his many ties in the business and political community to influence people’s perception of his vision.
“I’ve always done my business in Detroit,” Blackwell explains, “but you try to look for opportunities and you go to where the opportunities are sometimes. [Southfield] is a predominantly African-American city with an African-American mayor, so it wasn’t an issue.”
Right now, Blackwell’s focus is on keeping the steady train of national talent coming. Arturo’s is featuring the Yellowjackets and Ravi Coltrane in August and is currently in negotiations with Marcus Miller for a date to be announced. Arturo’s is fast becoming a destination for top jazz artists and aficionados alike.
“We’re building a calendar and we’ll continue to upgrade the website,” says Blackwell. “The word is getting out.”
You can check the entertainment schedule at www.arturosjazz.com or call for reservations at 248-357-6009. Arturo’s Jazz Theater and Restaurant is located at 25333 West 12 MileRd. In the Star Theater complex.