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New Jazz Bakery in Jeopardy; Westside Jazz Scene Hurting

The Ron Jones Orchestra at the Jazz Bakery, 2008
The Ron Jones Orchestra at the Jazz Bakery, 2008
Tom Meek

The Jazz Bakery, L.A.'s major jazz non-profit organization, is in turmoil because of the pending shutdown of the Culver City Redevelopment Agency.

Jazz Bakery president Ruth Price had been working with the agency to reopen Jazz Bakery's venue at a new building near the Kirk Douglas Theatre later this year. After losing its original Helms Avenue location in 2009, the organization announced last year to that it would develop a two-stage performance venue at the new site -- with the help of a $2 million seed grant from The Annenberg Foundation.

But the Culver City Redevelopment Agency's demise appears to have killed that project, along with numerous others. Culver City's summer music festival -- also co-produced by the Jazz Bakery -- may also get the axe at a city council meeting next week.

Price says that while she was initially "depressed" at the pending demise of the agency, there remains the possibility that the project could continue at another location in Culver City, due to additional new private funding. She would not offer any more specifics, but adds that she is cautiously optimistic.

While downtown Los Angeles has seen jazz expansion over the past two years, with the opening of the highly successful Blue Whale club in Little Tokyo, along with Nola's A Taste Of New Orleans in the Arts District and the expansion of weeknight music offerings at the Seven Grand Whiskey Bar, the West side has fared considerably worse.

A July 2010 fire gutted the Dakota Lounge in Santa Monica, while more recently the West Restaurant topping the Hotel Angeleno in Brentwood ended its jazz evenings. Regular jazz performers at Angel's Piano Bar & Supper Club in Santa Monica were told earlier this month the club's new management would close Angel's and open under a new name at the end of January, with entertainment yet to be determined.

Meanwhile Rocco Somazzi, producer of the Angel City Jazz Festival and jazz booker at the Royal/T Cafe on Washington Boulevard is leaving for Oakland this month, and jazz at Royal/T will end.

Two brighter spots are Herb and Eden Alpert's Vibrato supper club in Bel Air, which has continued its regular jazz schedule, while PIPS on LaBrea Avenue opened and has gotten a foothold in the past year. Typhoon at the Santa Monica Airport has also added Tuesday jazz evenings to their long-running Monday big band series.

In recent years the San Fernando Valley has seen the closing of full-time jazz clubs La Ve' Lee in Studio City, Charlie O's in Van Nuys, and Spazio in Sherman Oaks. Vitello's in Studio City, however, now offers jazz most nights in its upstairs showroom and downstairs bar, and Cafe Cordiale in Sherman Oaks has expanded its music lineup.

The area's two longest running full-time jazz venues are The Baked Potato in Studio City which opened in 1970, and Catalina in Hollywood, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

"Clubs come and go," says Price, "but there's always a place for jazz in Los Angeles."

See also: Charlie O's Jazz Club Closes


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