Luquillo is about to open its first jazz club with an iconic name: The C-Note. Construction began months ago on an existing three-story building located on Calle Fernández García, with dramatic views of Luquillo beach. The façade is adorned with a mural painted by Puerto Rican artist Frank Andujar, whose art is infused with Spanish, African and Creole influences. Located on a prominent corner just off the town square, the colorful club stands out among its neighbors.
The C-Note is a concept devised by Charlie Sepulveda, Puerto Rico’s Latin Grammy winning trumpeter, his wife Natalia Mercado, who sings with Charlie, and Lori Bluett, part owner of Wicked Lilly in Condado and longtime real-estate developer. Érika Suárez, an award-winning Puerto Rican chef and former executive chef of Wicked Lilly and El Conquistador, rounds out the concept’s ownership.
A true jazz club has long been a goal for Charlie. “Having my own jazz club is a dream for me,” Charlie said. After hearing Charlie’s music with his band, The Turnaround, Bluett sought out Charlie to play the grand opening night of Wicked Lilly and its bar Tryst two years ago. Bluett and Charlie shared their dream of having a jazz venue on the island. The C-Note was born that night.
Since Lori and Charlie both live in Luquillo, they decided their town was the right location. “Luquillo needed some musical energy,” she said. Lori sought an ideal building for a jazz club on the beach. She also has more real-estate projects in the works in Luquillo and around the island.
Jazz is integral to Bluett’s family, who is from California. Her father was a jazz musician and was trained on the clarinet. He gave up being a professional musician to support his family and he became an engineer on a full scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley. Lori’s son shares the same musical passion, and he wrote an essay on jazz that he shared with Charlie to seal the deal of opening a jazz club with his mother.
Lori’s father’s 1940’s era clarinet will be a permanent part of the C-Note. It will hang on the third floor behind Andujar’s painting of a clarinetist. Charlie was awed at the sight of the family treasure when Lori unveiled it during a promotional event.
Charlie’s last big gig, just before the pandemic, was a sold-out three-night run at the famed Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center in New York, where one reviewer foretold the need for a jazz club in Puerto Rico. “The performance was historic for several reasons. It dispelled the misconception that Puerto Rico lacks a robust jazz scene. Also, the sold-out performances demonstrated there is a demand for Puerto Rican Jazz that is not being filled (club owners, take heed!).”
The C-Note will offer live music throughout the week. Charlie has commitments from local jazz greats Nestor Torres, James Williams, Henry Cole, David Sanchez, Randy Brecker, William Cepeda and Miguel Zenon. Charlie will also play his jazz, at times solo, with his quartet, and with The Turnaround. A beautiful Baldwin piano, cello and drum set are permanent features of the second floor.
Fridays and Saturdays will feature two shows with different bands, one show in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Charlie is considering jamming with students from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, where he teaches. Sundays will be devoted to a Jazz Brunch. They plan on offering fresh oysters on Sundays, along with other delicacies.
The first floor will serve tapas and will include a wine and cigar store. The second floor is devoted to the live music and will have a seating area. It will also host a recording studio. The top floor, with a commanding view of the undulating waves of Luquillo beach, will be a cigar smoking area with a whisky, bourbon, scotch and wine bar.
Recently, Charlie gave a free jazz concert in the street in front of the C-Note, and Chef Suárez cooked a delicious New Orleans style gumbo. The C-Note will be a complement to the existing live music venues in Puerto Rico, including the piano bar at the Cannon Club and Carli’s Bistro and Piano Bar, both in Old San Juan.
Charlie and Lori are targeting November for their first opening gig. Plenty of parking exists in the large free parking lot off the town square. More information about the club can be found at C-Note’s website at www.cnotepr.com, where tickets can be purchased.
Good things are happening in Luquillo.