Live Jazz

Times have changed, but a full appreciation of jazz still requires a suit, a roll of currency and a steady supply of liquor. The suit shows respect for America’s great indigenous art form. The cash makes you feel you can afford the best. And the drink helps you forget that you actually can’t. The jazz world’s fading tradition of alcoholism, like the literary world’s (and unlike your liver), is worth preserving. Creativity and booze go together, and when you die, you want to go the way your idols did. 1. Catalina Bar & Grill. The prime torchbearer of the jazz tradition is Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, which moved to a spacious new location a couple of years ago. The environs are dark and luxurious, the full bar is amply supplied, the food is good, the talent (Frank Morgan, Chick Corea, Cedar Walton) is world-class, and you can be damn sure you’re spending enough money. Order a martini and a beer together; there’s a two-drink minimum in addition to the cover, and you won’t want to be distracted by having to flag down that second drink midset. It’s easy to imagine Billy Strayhorn (dead at 51 of esophageal cancer) lounging in the corner, savoring a cocktail mixed exactly to his specifications. 6725 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-2210, 2. Walt Disney Concert Hall. Impossible to beat for ostentatious modernity, Walt Disney Concert Hall books jazz legends (Sonny Rollins, Charlie Haden) on a fairly regular basis, is definitely expensive and dressworthy enough, and affords opportunities to get drunk if you play your cards right. (You can’t slurp in your seat.) There are several bar stations on the peripheries, but you could die of thirst in line. Better to arrive well before the show and make for the basement, where a cafeteria sells sandwiches, salads and beers. It’s also got splits of — what do they call that liquid? Comes in red and white, and they make it out of grapes; not recommended for jazz. If Coleman Hawkins hadn’t passed on at age 64, the hardy tenor man, now 100 years old, might be down there with a lager and a pocket flask. 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown, (323) 850-2000, 3. Jazz Bakery. Even the lecture hall of jazz clubs, Culver City’s Jazz Bakery, acknowledges that truants will cut class, so the decision was made to save patrons a trip to the 7-Eleven by offering beer and wine for hasty pre- and between-set chugging. The simultaneously stiff and Cali-casual atmosphere is offset by the satisfying knowledge that you’ve spent next week’s allowance on first-rate cultural avatars from Randy Weston to Dave Douglas. Lester Young, fresh from a few rounds of absinthe and brandy, his appetite stimulated by a few open-air tokes, would surely be nibbling a brownie in the club’s narrow art gallery if he hadn’t succumbed to internal bleeding at age 49. 3233 Helms Blvd., Culver City, (310) 271-9039, 4. Cryptonight at Club Tropical. Just around the corner, Cryptonight at Club Tropical every Thursday shamefully breaks all the hallowed rules with low cover charges, good Salvadoran food, cheap drinks and slovenly dress. Yet one keeps going back for the bookings, which feature the absolute pinnacle of national and local edge-pushing improvisers such as Mark Dresser, Steuart Liebig and Jeff Gauthier. Hey — there at the back table, isn’t that Tommy Dorsey? Nope, he took too many barbiturates with his alcohol at age 51. 8641 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 287-1918, 5. Charlie O’s. My colleague Brick Wahl frequents Charlie O’s in the Valley, where he can drink well and hear first-rate bop from John Heard or Med Flory at minimal cost. But Brick just wears a blazer, doesn’t own a suit. So I can’t be seen with him. 13725 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 994-3058.


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