How important is ‘world-class’ music and entertainment for a ‘world-class’ hotel?
In 2000, a guest at the then Queen’s Park Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22 in Bangkok sat down at the latent and slightly neglected baby-grand piano sitting in the family-friendly buffet restaurant and started to play. As the legend goes, people were transfixed by the waves of colour, stories and emotions cloaked as sound that emulated from the piano as international jazz piano genius Randy Cannon ‘shared’ the only way he knows how.
Randy had played with greats like Bob Hope, George Benson and other giants in the genre. His new ‘gig’ had just started and he didn’t even realise it – Randy never returned back home to Portland, Oregan, and the live music scene in Bangkok changed from that day on.
Thanks to an F&B manager with a passion for jazz, for the next year the Queen’s Park Hotel was electrified with Jazz. Word had gotten around that ‘Randy was in town’ and people flocked to be put under his spell six nights a week with a Trio that had subsequently formed. Sunday nights were ‘Jam Nights’ at the Queenspark and jazz musicians of all calibres flew into Bangkok from all over the globe to be part of what was happening with Bangkok’s jazz.
After about a year of playing at the Queen’s Park, Randy was subsequently made an offer by the Sheraton Sukhumvit Grande Hotel to be the regular entertainment for its ‘Living Room’ jazz area. The Sheraton Grande became the place in Bangkok for jazz in 2001 and it has maintained that reputation along with Randy and his trio which to this day still has the original Bassist, Thai native Therdsak ‘Pong’ Wongvichien – who has also become a icon in Thailand’s jazz scene.
Bangkok needed Randy. Hotels in Bangkok needed Randy. Randy came in right at a time where the staple ‘jazz’ in even 5-Star hotels was increasingly heading in the direction of MIDI-File / pre-programmed backing music backed ‘affordable’ musicians under the guise of ‘lobby band’, where in many cases talent took a back seat to ‘budget friendly’.
When the Sheraton Grande hired Randy, they set a new standard for music in the city, and any hotel in the city that wanted to go head-to-head with the Sheraton realised that all of a sudden, international calibre entertainment was becoming as important as everything else on the menu.
For the next ten years in Bangkok, live music went through many ups and downs. As long as Randy and his trio were playing at the Sheraton Grande, you knew that Bangkok was a city of international standard entertainment, and a ‘5-Star’ hotel was really ‘5-Star’.
Body language specialists say that one of the ‘tells’ that we as humans pick up on when we sense that someone is lying is that there is a lack of congruence between what someone says and what their body-language, facial expressions and actions say.
At the Sheraton Grande, under the watchful eye of master hotelier Richard Chapman, everything ‘5-Star’ about the hotel has a certain congruence to it. The ambience as you walk in, the greeting by the staff at the door, and the waitress that remembers exactly what you like to eat and drink despite not having seen you for months. The music is the last piece in this ‘congruent’ picture and for the past 15 years, no matter when you walk into the hotel, the sound of Randy on the keys along with his warm, gravelly voice as he tells his ‘story’ to the audience each night just like it was the first time he ever told it, keeps that ‘5-star’ feeling that you’re ‘home’ alive.
I guess the moral of this story is that in a world where now branding is the ‘buzz-word’ being bandied about, especially within hotel chains ever trying to ‘rebrand’ themselves, hotel management needs to understand that ultimately a hotel’s ‘brand’ is its emotional attachment to its guests, and there is no better way to bond with the emotions of your guests than through ensuring that there is the best service and music … jazz that money can buy – without compromise.
Back to the head – So who is your next act?