By Tom Meek
After more than a decade, venerable Van Nuys jazz club Charlie O's has closed its doors. Owner Jo-Ann Ottaviano announced the shuttering early Wednesday evening, blaming the bad economy.
Charlie O's was known for presenting straight ahead, bebop jazz. Jazz magazine Downbeat consistently called it one of the Top 100 jazz clubs in the world. The long and narrow room, with warm wood paneling and low-key lighting, featured tables on one side and a bar and stage on the other.
Founded by Charlie "O" Ottaviano and his wife Jo-Ann in 2000, the club initially had live music on weekends, centered around a trio led by former Count Basie bassist John Heard. Before long it had offerings every night of the week, and thousands of world-class musicians graced its stage.
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Speculation swirled about the club's future after the death of Ottaviano in November, 2008. Jo-Ann's health became an issue shortly after her husband's passing, as well. These factors, as well as the economy, had caused the club to cut back its performance nights from seven per week to five in recent years.
On Wednesday night Jo-Ann and her brother, Mike -- who stepped in to help run the club after Charlie's passing -- hinted they might return at some point in the future with another jazz venue.
During the evening, Jo-Ann stopped for pictures with patrons and musicians eager to pay their respects. Long-time Los Angeles Times jazz writer and critic Don Heckman was on hand, serenaded by singer Janis Mann.
Mann said she was "in shock," having only learned of the club's demise a few minutes before going on. She, like most others who visited Charlie O's, described herself as struck with sadness about the closing, but grateful for the club's oft-fabulous music over the years.