Clients entering into the “World of Rick’s” are always impressed by the musical ambience. The particular architecture of the building provides wonderful acoustics and the amplification is naturally suited to the different spaces of the restaurant. When the piano stops, one hears the standards of the 40’s, nostalgic morsels from the legendary voices of Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holliday and others that resonate among the shadows and lights. The songs follow each other in a selection carefully chosen to provide a soundtrack especially adapted to the space. At your table with a flute of champagne you could feel like tapping your toe to the rhythm of “Jersey Bounce” interpreted by the orchestra of Benny Goodman. If you’re with good company, you may see your partner’s eyes sparkle on hearing “Moonlight Serenade” played by the orchestra of Glenn Miller, and if you’re a fan of jazz you won’t be able to ignore Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” sung by the leading lady of jazz vocalists Ella Fitzgerald. The music at Rick’s has never been an added accessory, but a fundamental element to compliment the setting, a soundtrack which punctuates and illuminates the space and which brings to life for our clients that particular atmosphere of music and sound which sets Rick’s apart from all the rest.
One of the key lines of dialogue in the film, one which is known the world over is: “Play it Sam…” The scene in the restaurant where Ilsa encounters Sam, the pianist and asks him to play the song she remembered him playing in Paris…in happier days: “Play As Time Goes By.” Because of this the piano takes on an important role in the film, and was also a key element in bringing Rick’s to reality. And for this reason, dominating the central courtyard is a beautiful piano, an authentic Pleyel from the 30’s which each night fills the air with notes and songs which animated the parties of those years. Passing from jazz to the smooth standards of the epoch, the pianist recreates the atmosphere of the sophisticated sound from the 40’s and 50’s, from the bouncy “Hello Dolly” to the deep melancholy of “My Foolish Heart.” The tone and the choice of repertoire are always determined by the feeling and mood in the room at the time. The pianist plays according to how he reads the audience…sometimes attentive, from time to time animated and noisy, often charmed and transported into reverie by familiar melodies evoking memories of parties from years gone by. For the opening of Rick’s a figure in the world of “Piano Bar”, Lennie Bluett, was invited from Hollywood to play the piano and animate the first evenings and participate in the birth of the legend. Lennie’s mother Mae was Humphrey Bogart’s cook, and as 21 year old Lennie was starting out in the music business in 1941, Humphrey Bogart insisted he try out for the part of Sam. Lennie lost the part being too young, and had to wait 62 years for a second chance. At Rick’s today the pianist is Issam and his talent is confirmed every day by the testamonials written in our Golden Book and the comments and appreciation of clients coming from all over the world. Most wait to hear the inevitable “As Time Goes By” which is played again and again for those guests who love, and never tire of, the theme which has become the musical symbol of Rick’s Café.