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 Americas great indigenous art form. The cash makes you feel you can afford the best. And the drink helps you forget that you actually cant. The jazz worlds fading tradition of alcoholism, like the literary worlds (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 youre spending enough money. Order a martini and a beer together; theres a two-drink minimum in addition to the cover, and you wont want to be distracted by having to flag down that second drink midset. Its 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, www.catalinajazzclub.com. 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 cant 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. Its 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 hadnt 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, wdch.laphil.com. 3. Jazz Bakery. Even the lecture hall of jazz clubs, Culver Citys 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 youve spent next weeks 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 clubs narrow art gallery if he hadnt succumbed to internal bleeding at age 49. 3233 Helms Blvd., Culver City, (310) 271-9039, www.jazzbakery.com. 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, isnt that Tommy Dorsey? Nope, he took too many barbiturates with his alcohol at age 51. 8641 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 287-1918, www.cryptonight.com. 5. Charlie Os. My colleague Brick Wahl frequents Charlie Os 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, doesnt own a suit. So I cant be seen with him. 13725 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 994-3058.
Get the Things to Do Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly guide to events in Los Angeles, and never be bored again. With suggestions for every day of the week, our recommendations will keep you busy on any budget.