Arthur Vint: Bringing New York-Style Jazz to the Desert

Arthur Vint has capitalized on a series of life experiences that has enabled him to make a major contribution in the creation of a highly-successful jazz club in Tucson, Arizona.

Given a drum set at the age of six; he studied at William Paterson University and the Manhattan School, of Music; gained experience “busking” in Central Park; was called a “blue-collar musician” in the Big Apple; spent 10 years working at the Village Vanguard understanding how to run a jazz club; learned computer-aided design software during the Pandemic; now is teaching at the University of Arizona; and finally had an integral role in creating a New York-style jazz club in his hometown.

Red Wood Coast

“My parents played lots of music at home,” Vint recalled. “The Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Linda Ronstadt. My dad is an architect and designed part of Linda’s house, so whenever she would perform near Tucson, we would go hear her. Elvis was the first music I discovered on my own, and Ringo Starr was my first big influence. After taking some lessons and learning the importance of rudiments and reading music, I was determined to become a professional musician.”

Percussionist Arthur Vint (courtesy

He learned to emulate the styles and techniques of the legendary drummers from the various eras (such as Baby Dodds, Chauncey Morehouse, and Sonny Payne), but felt it important that he always sounded like himself. After gigging around Tucson, he moved to the East Coast to attend William Paterson University in New Jersey. He and his fellow students would head into New York City most nights and listen to live music at Birdland, Jazz Gallery or the Village Vanguard and occasionally sit in on jam sessions at clubs like Cleopatra’s Needle and the Fat Cat.

Village Vanguard

“I still remember the musty basement smell the first time I walked down the steps of the Village Vanguard. I would stay for all three sets, starting at 9 pm, switching tables between sets until I was sitting right in front of the drum set after midnight. I was hooked on the energy of New York, and anything seemed possible.”

Hot Jazz Jubile

“Moving to Brooklyn, I had bills to pay, so I picked up a couple part-time jobs. I sold women’s jewelry at flea markets and pickles at street fairs. I was a teacher’s assistant at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which was the perfect job because I saw a ton of great shows just by showing my employee ID.”

Arthur cut his chops with the usual assortment of gigs and recording sessions, including appearances with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks and worldwide tours with Postmodern Jukebox. His solo and composing career began with the formation of Arthur Vint & Associates (a play on the name of his dad’s architectural firm in Tucson), whose first album, Through The Badlands, drew heavily on the sounds and images of his hometown and the West.

In 2010, he started working at the Village Vanguard learning how to run a jazz club. “I started out by setting up/tearing down for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on Monday nights. I mopped the floors, cleaned toilets and took out the trash before working up to be head bartender (“I got to know all the greatest living jazz musicians and their drink orders”) and managing the club’s website, social media and ticketing.

15 Years in NYC

While living in New York, Vint performed at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, Jazz Standard and numerous well-known jazz clubs. “I lived in New York City for almost 15 years and started a family there. I never thought I would ever move away. But then COVID-19 and the Pandemic hit.”

Percussionist Arthur Vint (courtesy

“During the Spring of 2021, I was traveling back and forth between New York City and Tucson, teaching at the University of Arizona, and playing a few gigs here and there.” On one occasion while in Tucson, I organized a concert in conjunction with three of my UA jazz faculty colleagues to play a concert on the Hotel Congress Plaza. We sold a bunch of tickets and played a really fun set for a very receptive audience.”


The Century Room

Richard and Shana Oseran, owners of the Hotel Congress, were in attendance. “I spoke with Shana afterwards, and she said they were interested in doing something new with Copper Hall, a rarely-used banquet room inside the hotel (During the Pandemic, it became a storage area.) and were considering repurposing the space into a mezcal tasting room and piano bar.

Vint said he had been looking for some basement space on Congress Street, dreaming about opening a jazz club. Knowing that he didn’t have the capital for such an undertaking on his own, he jokingly suggested to Shana that she should turn Copper Hall into a jazz club. Much to his surprise, she said, “Yes! Let’s do it.”

“Later that night, I scribbled out a layout of Copper Hall as a jazz club and typed up a business plan.” The next day, Vint was invited to a meeting to discuss the idea further, and the team immediately jumped on board. The owners spared no expense in building it out and appointed Arthur as the club’s general manager and artistic director (and house drummer). With seating for 85, the Century Room models itself after the Village Vanguard, booking the same act for two separate ticketed sets—at 7 and 9 pm. Usually open seven nights a week, the club attracts today’s top jazz artists, with a Grammy Award winner appearing almost every week, along with the best local and regional players.


The 35-year-old drummer was named a 2024 Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalist Association. “I’m passionate about the music,” Vint concluded, “and am hopeful that whatever I can do as a performing musician and concert promoter will contribute in some small way to making jazz a popular music again.” His goal: To open more jazz clubs like the Century Room.

Hotel Congress and John Dillinger

There’s a story to be told within this story regarding the historic Hotel Congress.

Built in 1918 adjacent to the Amtrak Southern Pacific train station, the hotel is known for being the site of the capture of gangster John Dillinger in 1934. After a series of bank robberies, Dillinger and three members of his gang rented a house in Tucson to hide out. The floors of the house had just been waxed, so the gang decided to spend a night at the Hotel Congress.


On January 23, 1934, at 7:20 am, a fire started in the hotel basement and spread to the third floor where the gang members were staying, having registered under various aliases. After being alerted by the desk clerk through the hotel switchboard, the men were rescued by aerial ladders. When a fireman retrieved the men’s luggage, the gangsters tipped him $12. The fireman noticed that the luggage was heavy and wondered about the men who had given him such a big tip. So he reportedly checked True Detective Mysteries magazine, identified the men as Dillinger gang members, and alerted the Tucson Police, who made the arrests.

The Hotel Congress fire, January 23, 1934. John Dillinger’s gang was rescued from the blaze, only to be identified and arrested soon thereafter. (courtesy

Unique Facilities

The hotel today anchors the redevelopment of cultural downtown Tucson and has 39 rooms, an award-winning restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, five bars and multiple music venues. The interior décor has been maintained as it was during the 1930s. Some people believe the place is haunted. The Tap Room has been renamed “Tiger’s Tap Room” in honor of Thomas “Tiger” Ziegler, who is well into his 80s and has been working at The Congress since 1952. There is a fully-functional radio station broadcasting from a studio in the downstairs lobby.


Hotel promotional material makes note that “Cynical city slickers might notice the absence of televisions in the rooms and feel slighted. But it’s intentional. We strive to maintain the hotel’s original ambiance from the iron beds to the vintage radios, to the rumble of nearby trains, to the 1930s-style phones that connect to a real switchboard at the front desk.

“Yes, WE ARE NOISY! Your room will be affected by plaza, nightclub, or street noise. We do not give discounts or refunds due to noise. Earplugs are available at the front desk. Better yet, just come join in on the fun.”

Lew Shaw started writing about music as the publicist for the famous Berkshire Music Barn in the 1960s. He joined the West Coast Rag in 1989 and has been a guiding light to this paper through the two name changes since then as we grew to become The Syncopated Times.  47 of his profiles of today's top musicians are collected in Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz.Volume two, Jazz Beat Encore: More Notes on Classic Jazz contains 43 more! Lew taps his extensive network of connections and friends throughout the traditional jazz world to bring us his Jazz Jottings column every month.

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