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, 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 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, www.cryptonight.com.
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.

LA Weekly