When jazz pianist Ayako Shirasaki looks back on where she performed during the summer of 2013, the jazz brunch at Ono inside the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel sits right alongside Bryant Park in New York City and an eight-show tour of Japan on her concert itinerary.
Shirasaki was one of the first musicians to play during the reinstituted brunch, which now features live jazz. It is the only one of its kind in an Atlantic City casino.
"The people are very warm. The piano's condition and the PA system, I'm pleasantly surprised. With just piano and bass, we are not really pushing too much. It's a nice addition," said Shirasaki, who added Atlantic City is a short trip from where she lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
While playing the gig, Shirasaki said she felt relaxed. The tranquility is helped by the giant arch windows along the Boardwalk side of the second-floor restaurant that allow patrons to look out at the beach and ocean while the musicians play.
From 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. on a recent Sunday, Shirasaki mostly played such standards as "Summertime" by George Gershwin and "Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn.
Grammy Award winner Joseph A. Donofrio, of Brigantine, the artistic director for jazz brunch at Ono, said his concept was to concentrate on bringing into the area extremely talented jazz artists, who never perform in Atlantic City.
"Most of the people when I call them, they are in between major tours. Demetrios Papas was off from Smokey Robinson. I put him with Andrew Neu, who has his own group, but he also tours with a lot of famous artists," said Donofrio about the July 21 gig that pairs pianist Papas with saxophonist Neu. "I'm going to bring Kate Davis (bassist in the Grammy Jazz Ensemble) back on July 14."
The artists get a chance to come and enjoy the Atlantic City area, which they don't get a chance to do, so it's kind of a trade off, Donofrio said.
Edward Rosen, 74, of Bucks County, Pa., patronized Ono several times in the past when the live jazz music was heard on Sunday evenings. Rosen did not know the switch was made from Sunday evenings to brunchtime Sunday.
"I thought they were terrific... I enjoyed it very much. I love that form of music," Rosen said.
Dr. Debra Landau, from Montvale, Bergen County, showed up at Ono while Shirasaki was playing. Landau's favorite style of jazz is more R&B influenced, but she said the music, the $5 bloody marys and the sticky Thai wings brought her to the restaurant.
"It's very enjoyable. They are very skilled," said Landau, a dentist.
Kevin Curau, the food and beverage manager at the Atlantic Club, said the live jazz played during dinner at Ono was well received last year and earlier this year. When the Ono brunch was brought back, they decided to apply the live jazz music to the afternoons instead.
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Upcoming jazz brunch performers
Today: Pianist Rick Germanson with saxophonist Michael Pedicin
June 23: Pianist Tom Adams with bassist Andy Lalasis
June 30: Pianist Donald Vega with bassist Greg Ryan
July 7: Pianist Alex Minasian with bassist Brandi Disterheft
July 14: Bassist and vocalist Kate Davis with pianist Noah Kellman
July 21: Pianist Demetrios Papas with saxophonist Andrew Neu
July 28: Pianist Jim Ridl with Lalasis.
Performances held 12:30 to
3:30 p.m. Sundays at Ono Chinese Bistro on the second floor of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. Brunch is $35. For more information, visit atlanticclubcasino.com