DJ Brice Nice spends a lot of time with records.
His eclectic, long-running Block Party show airs Saturday evenings on WWOZ 90.7 FM. In 2013, he co-founded the vinyl-driven Sinking City Records label.
He’s written about obscure collectors’ favorites for publications like Offbeat and Wax Poetics, and most of all, of course, he buys records; a loose estimate, he said during a recent phone conversation, puts his personal collection at about 50,000 discs.
Recently, he went on a shopping spree and picked up a few thousand more, but not for himself. The haul will be spread out among rooms at the new Ace Hotel, which opened in March at 600 Carondelet St.
The resurgence of listening on vinyl has been a much-reported trend in recent years, and the Ace isn’t the only hotel brand to outfit rooms with turntables.
Some hotels in the Kimpton and W chains offer the funky amenity, too; the Hotel Max in Seattle has a floor dedicated to Sub Pop Records, with in-room vinyl curated by the legendary indie label.
Brice Nice’s selections for the Ace rooms, he said, are about 25 percent regional interest.
“If there are 20 records in the room,” he said, “then there should be at least five from New Orleans and southeast Louisiana — traditional jazz classics, zydeco, Cajun, Mardi Gras Indian, funk, R&B. I think there’s great stuff in there.”
Guests can charge records to their room and take them home, like minibar snacks (except they last longer.)
Connecting to Brice Nice is one aspect of the new spot’s considered approach to music, which appears driven by keen local partnerships.
The Ace New Orleans boasts its own music venue, Three Keys (named after a James Booker song, no less) with a full programming schedule that has so far included Tank and the Bangas, Micah McKee’s Little Maker and the loud garage-punk crew the Bottomfeeders — the kind of schedule you might expect from any reasonably cool local club.
Most Ace hotels (there are nine) host DJs and bands with a hipper edge than your standard lobby bar or jazz brunch atmosphere-provider. Jack White’s Third Man Records is on the roster of partners for Six of Saturns, Three Keys’ series of Jazz Fest-season concerts, which also includes shows presented in collaboration with Preservation Hall, WWOZ and the Ponderosa Stomp, plus a benefit for the Musicians’s Clinic featuring Hurray for the Riff Raff.
Bill Summers, the Grammy-winning Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist, played a soft opening evening in mid-March that preceded a sunrise ceremony featuring Shamarr Allen and others.
Other events, helmed by Ace “cultural engineer” and former Oxalis co-owner Sonali Fernando, focus on programming that’s not necessarily performance driven, as well as charitable and social justice work. (One opening-week event spotlighted the Institute for Women and Ethnic Studies’ In That Number campaign, which advocates for at-risk youth.)
The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the Mixed Company writers’ collective for women of color and several independent scholars will host or curate Monday-night speakers and Tuesday-evening salons on different aspects of local history and culture.
In short, the Ace team seems aware that to successfully enter the vibrant New Orleans creative landscape, you’ve got to dig in deep with what’s already here.
“We saw the venue as an opportunity to collaborate with and support movements and things that are already happening,” said Kelly Sawdon, a top Ace executive and brand co-founder. “It’s a way to expose our audience and our guests to a rich and diverse culture.”
It was a night out on Frenchmen Street, she said, in fact, that helped cement the decision to open an Ace in New Orleans.
“There has to be an authentic connection to a city that excites us,” she explained. “We were walking around, and we went to Snug Harbor. And then we just casually walked across the street to the Spotted Cat, and there was another amazing band, with no cover. And it was just a normal Wednesday night.”
On April 2, as part of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, the Ace hosts novelist Alexander Chee, whose latest book is “The Queen of the Night,” about an American opera singer in Paris. The New Orleans Opera Association will present performances inspired by the novel, in conjunction with a live multimedia installation by third-generation New Orleans Opera set designer Nathan Arthur.
The opening reception, reading and performance takes place Saturday, April 2 from 7-9 p.m. at the Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet St. The exhibit, “The Queen of the Night,” remains up through May 31.