Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mister First Nighter Strikes Again

I also posted this today on a list serve devoted to (Duke Ellington says there's no such word as. . .) jazz and jazz-oriented singers.

Last night I sallied forth from Los Angeles proper, crossed the Orange Curtain and went to Huntington Beach (Surf City USA) to hear Pinky Winters and her band (Tom Garvin, Ralph Penland, and Chris Collangelo) at the relatively new Orange County 4 star Cavallino Ristorante and Jazz Bar --- It was my first visit to the establishment, which has been operation since the first of the year.

Pseudo-cosmopolitan Los Angeleneans tend to get nosebleed when they have to travel any farther south than the Santa Monica freeway ("Omigod are we EVERRRR in Hicksville.") But, in fact, Cavillino's has every L.A. (proper) jazz-dining venue beat hands down. No competition. Quite a long drive from the city of L.A. (The City Where the Future Come to Die), but worth it. Cavallino's is a bright light shining in a bad old world.

Cavallino's is sort of like a humane Vibrato (an upscale but NOISY L.A. scenemaking madhouse co-owned by Herb Alpert). Or a much nicer Henri's Backroom (Canoga Park), which is kind of dumpy and where the sound system seems to consist of a reconditioned Karaoke machine.

Cavallino's has the best sound system, food, ambiance, clientele, and staff I've come across in this neck of the woods in a long time. Finally a jazz club in L.A. (well, almost L.A.) worthy of Pinky Winter's estimable skills as a performer. The Gardenia where she successfully appeared a couple of weeks ago in L.A. with Bob Florence doesn't count, for it is not really a jazz club. THINK, instead, Andrea Marcovicci.

Cavallino's is not even all that expensive for gourmet dining and the music is FREE! The place was packed with Orange County fans of Winters whom she hadn't seen for ages. Two vacationing Australians had even travelled ALL THE WAY from Hollywood. A good ninety minute schlep. Another couple came bearing greetings to Pinky from Blossom Dearie in NYC. Another Winters fan turned out to a world expert on crop circles! Think Mayans.

Most of the performers who play Cavallino's are OC locals, and not as well known as Pinky Winters, but several with whom I'm familiar are also quite good in their own right. Especially guitarist-singer Clem Ahia, who happens to be playing there tonight with a world class trio backing him (Llew Matthews, Ralph Penland and Tony Dumas) and Orange County's own Jack Jones, vocalist John Wood.

Plus, you haven't lived until you've heard Pinky Winters sing "Limehouse Blues."

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