Thursday, May 10, 2007

Splashdown in San Francisco May 2, 2007!

I'm so excited to be spending a month in San Francisco house sitting in Noe Valley - and I can't wait to become a part of the swing scene in one of the most vibrant cities in the U.S. -- why, every night there's multiple venues playing wonderful jazz with some of the best bands in the land performing weekly here - including the fabulous Stompy Jones (at the Verdi Club in the Mission District every Tuesday & at the Top of the Mark on Thursdays), the marvelous Lavay Smith & her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (also at the Top of the Mark but on Wednesdays), the smooth sounds of William Beatty's Swing Band (for "Cat's Corner" at the Savanna Jazz Club on Wednesdays) - and trad-wise, there's Clint Baker's All-Stars playing every Friday at Cafe Boronne in Menlo Park and trad jazz clubs every Sunday just a few miles from the city (Santa Rosa (1st Sunday), Napa Valley (2nd Sunday), San Pablo (3rd Sunday) and Palo Alto (4th Sunday).

Week 1:
Thursday, May 3: I went to hear the Martini Brothers playing at Le Colonial (formerly Trader Vics) - a gorgeous supper club where the band and dance floor are upstairs and there's no cover! You feel like you've stepped into the scene in Guys & Dolls when Sky takes Sarah to Havana for her first taste of nightlife. See the venue at
And the band! Check out their website at: - the co-leaders have an affinity for the Thirties unparalleled in the music world - Mr. Rick even owns two Art Deco galleries and brings his gorgeous Thirties vehicle and parks it out front!

Friday, May 4: I went to see Clint Baker's All Star Jazz Stars in Menlo Park at Cafe Boronne - the jazz was great (there were three fabulous trombonists who sat in that night), the food was great and the ambiance was all fun! My friend, Rae Ann, the San Francisco jazz aficionado that she is, went a couple hours early so we'd have the best seat in the house!

Saturday, May 5: I decided to walk down Castro to Market Street and then continued walking all the way to the Ferry! I stopped off for a 2-hour orientation at Access San Francisco (required to take workshops there) in the middle -- so by the time, I got to the Embarcadero, they were already getting ready to close up shop (it was 5 p.m.) by then. Since I was in the Union Square area without a car, I had a wonderful dinner at Puccini & Pinetti's and then stopped by the Gold Dust (I miss John Gill playing there!), Lefty O'Doul's for the sing-a-long and ended up at the Top of the Mark to check out the Black Market Jazz Band. They play mostly Fifties and R&B style dancing music that was really fun -- I loved their male vocalist - I bet he sang with some of the groups that made those hits famous! Next time, I'll have to ask him!

Sunday, May 6: The weather was again GORGEOUS -- Sunny & 70s! So, I decided to walk down 17th Street to Stanyard to the Golden Gate Park - there's free swing dancing and lindy hop in the park from 11-2 but alas, it was a longer walk than I realized and I didn't get there in time for dancing :( But it was a really beautiful walk and I decided to go back to Le Colonial and support the Martini Brothers since they're trying to take on an additional night at Le Colonial. Raoul was DJ'ing during the band breaks -- what a great dancer and a fabulous DJ -- I love his music collection! They finished early (around 10), so I headed over to Amnesia in the Mission District to hear Tin Cup Serenade and Lucky 7 -- Amnesia was a small "dive" of a nightclub but very cozy with wonderful music and fabulous dancers. I arrived too late to hear Tin Cup Serenade but they said they would be at Le Colonial on Wednesday, so I promised to catch them there. Lucky 7 was a wonderful Cab Calloway/Duke Ellington inspired sound with marvelous musicians who played until 1:45 AM. During their break, a gentleman at the bar proceeded to give me a tour of some of the music venues in the Mission District, including the Revolution Cafe among others. Thanks to Jose Segue for the tour -- and check out his website: letting you know where the rockabilly bands are performing in SF.

Monday, May 7: Choices, choices! There was a brand new swing night being started at Julie's Supper Club and I had every intention of going but...I had signed up for a pole dancing class from Slinky Productions and after two hours of pole dancing, I had some sore muscles that were really looking forward to a hot bath! I'll be sure and check out Julie's next week...

Tuesday, May 8: I started the night at Pier 23 - a wonderful little dive right on the water with a fabulous pianist playing on Tuesdays from 5-8 while he's in town - Ray Skjelbred does a lot of ragtime and early trad jazz favorties -- his song selection was so obscure it even stumped me a few times as well as my musician friends at the table - banjoist Scott Anthony & his gal, Karen, and my friend Rae Ann.
Afterwards, I headed to the Verdi Club --and what a dream that is! It reminds me of the old Continental Club in NYC where all the best swing dancers in the world would get together every Sunday night at this old Oddfellows Hall down near Union Square in NYC. The Verdi Club is another gorgeous old "hall" from back in the day when social clubs were what your father joined and had his social life through. And the fabulous Stompy Jones is the house band! Every week! How lucky these San Franciscans are! I arrived on Tuesday to discover THREE old-time classic cars from the Thirties parked out front and swing dancers had taken over the entire hall. Steve, the bartender, was the BEST! When the dance was over at midnight, he graciously allowed several dancers to pull out instruments (Bob Sinaiko brought his guitar and banjo) and jam in the lounge until nearly 2 AM! Everyone was singing along to "You Are My Sunshine" and "That's All Right Mama". Stompy Jones' wonderful new male vocalist, Chris Binnings, joined right into the jam doing some great old Ink Spots songs including "It's All in the Game" & "We, Three". If there's any musicians who'd like to join in the jam -- stop by the Verdi Club next Tuesday at midnight -- you're more than welcome!

Wednesday, May 9: Choices and more choices! I so wanted to go hear Lavay Smith & the Red-Hot Skillet Lickers but I didn't want to miss Cat's Corner at the Savanna Jazz Club now that they have a house band every week too -- the wonderful William Beatty Swing Band. Of course, I had already told Tin Cup Serenade I was going to see them at Le Colonial - so, I started the night there -- and met up with some conventioneers in town for the JAVA convention at the Moscone. One of them was a past Broadway dancer (poor guy did several years in "Cats" on Broadway and danced with the Rockettes at Radio City!) who made my evening by spending it dancing with me! We had a blast as I tried to brush up my rusty tap and jazz skills to keep up with him and when Tin Cup finished at 10 - we headed to the Savanna Jazz Club on Mission Street. It's so tiny, we missed it the first time we drove past! Of course, we were talking and were slightly distracted! It's a LOVELY, tiny bar with a beautiful wood dance floor and stage for the band and gorgeous photos all over the walls of jazz musicians such as Milt Hinton and the TV screens played continuous early jazz videos of everyone from Louis Armstrong to Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers tap dancing. After our first dance at the club, Cat went and got a tap board for us to tap dance on and the band played "Cute" so we'd have some tap breaks. What a fabulous time in a beautiful club with wonderful hosts and a fabulous band! Thanks Cat for the venue! Thanks William for the music! and thanks to Owen for all the fabulous dances!

Week 2:
Thursday, May 10, 2007 - An educational evening for a change of pace! My trad-jazz friend RaeAnn told me that bandleader Clint Baker was giving a lecture in Tateuchi Hall (at the Community School of Music & Arts, Finn Center in Mtn. View) entitled "New Orleans Jazz, At Home & Away." Mapquest said it was only 35 minutes away but since it was 5 p.m. when I left, it took nearly two hours to drive it and I arrived just in time for the 7 p.m. start. And it was so interesting! The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation had chipped in to give Clint a 7-piece band to go with his lecture -- and such marvelous musicians (half of them had played at Earthquake Magoon's with Turk Murphy). The lineup was Scott Anthony (guitar, banjo & vocal), William Carter (clarinet), Marty Eggars (piano, tuba), Mike Fay (string bass), Leon Oakley (cornet), Hal Smith (drums) and of course, Clint himself on trombone. And Clint played quite a few tunes from his Ipod -- including Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Kid Ory - what a treat to hear the original artists that everyone's always talking about! Clint really is a wonderful jazz historian - he started the night with Marty playing "Harlem Rag" by Tom Turpin and then slowly progressed his talk from Buddy Bolden to Jelly Roll Morton to King Oliver before he ever got to Louis Armstrong. Highlights included a song from his Ipod that showed the "dance" band sound being shaken up by Louis' solo to a whole new style of music that fused arrangements with improvisation -- and two versions of "Panama" from his Ipod - one by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band playing it as a parade march and another arranged by Louis Russell in 1929. The trad jazz talk centered on New Orleans, then Chicago, then New York and finally home to San Francisco & Los Angeles where Kid Ory, Lu Watters & Turk Murphy led to a "re-discovering" of the music in the Fifties. "Do As Ory Say," was a fun Ipod tune but then the live musicians bought the music back alive with "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It," "Muskrat Ramble," "Nobody's Sweetheart Now," & "The Weary Blues" - what a night!

Friday, May 11, 2007 - Fabulous swing dancers and painters, Jeremy Sutton & Peggy Gyulai, had invited me to the Mission Open Studios weekend but when Jose Segue told me that the Cottontails would be performing at Workspace, that was the clincher -- we saw three of the Open Studios before the music started at 9 (Blue Studio, Root Division & Workspace - saving Jeremy's 1890 Bryant St. Studios for the next day) and what a show Kevin produced at Workspace! The extraordinarily talented musicians who make up the Cottontails--the legendary Ralph Carney on every horn you can image (including "slide" clarinet, soprano/alto/tenor sax, cornet, trumpet, trombone, piccolo, flute, etc.!) and lap steel, the fabulous Michael McIntosh on piano, the marvelous Daniel Fabricant on bass, and the irrepressible Randy Odell on percussion also had the adorable Twilight Vixen Revue and the wonderful Mariel a la Mode performing burlesque numbers during their three sets. The finale had Mariel atop a trapeze both stripping and singing to "Let Me Entertain You" - and believe me we were definitely entertained! It's hard to believe that burlesque was once considered X-rated - since there's no nudity or violence it wouldn't even rank PG-13 anymore! And the Vixens and Mariel were so tasteful and talented that it was really fun!

There was even enough room to do a little swing dancing - thanks to Andrew, Randall & Jose for the swing dances! And thanks to Michael & Randy for inviting me to sit in and sing with the Cottontails - I did "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and I meant it, youse guys! Their singer, Emily, is spending a month not even talking due to throat nodes, so they also invited me to their weekly gig down at the Riptide to sit in some more -- I'll be sure and be there Sunday!
If you'd like to check out their website, they're at: and they're also on MySpace (I'll have to do that one of these days!) at

Saturday, May 12, 2007 - There's SO much going on in San Francisco -- the World Sound Healing Conference presented by Globe PsychoAcoustics & the Sound Healing Institute was at The Cathedral Hill Hotel - an All-Access badge was over $500, so unfortunately, my budget said "exhibits only" -- there were more than 30 exhibitors you could see for free). I stopped by for an hour on Saturday and another four hours on Sunday (when the parking was free) and was inspired by the strides that scientists and holistic healers have been making when they start working together! Check out Don Estes' website at http:// & Kae Thompson-Liu's website at Matt Kramer used Zyto's Evox technology to give me a free sample of "voice repatterning" for emotional healing (see or Matt's website at . And I also highly recommend a wonderful Aura Intuitive, Robert Wood, from Boulder, CO., who gave me a Palm & Aura/Gemstone reading - check out his site at - all in all a fabulous morning.
I had to rush to get to North Beach to meet RaeAnn at the Savoy-Tivoli bar on Grant near Union (right by the Coit Tower) to hear trombonist Mal Sharpe's trad jazz band, Big Money in Jazz play from 3-6 pm. Another trombonist, the talented Larry Leight, was sitting in the first set and I sat in the last set - doing "Basin Street Blues" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," and I meant it there too!
The Savoy-Tivoli is a beautiful old bar that looks positively historical and proud while at the same time, inviting and homey -- and I just have to get used to the idea that San Francisco has bars that don't sell anything but liquor! No bottled water, no food, no appetizers! I went across the street during the break to get a pizza from North Beach Pizza (yummm!) which the bartender encouraged me to bring in! (San Franciscans don't find this odd - but heaven help them if they try it outside of their own town) And the neighborhood! There's positively hardly ANY parking and when you find it -- it's a quarter for just 10 minutes! But I love the historical feel that's tempered by its "alive-ness" -- it's one hopping neighborhood! RaeAnn says I have to go check out the pictures on the wall of the Condor (just a couple of blocks away) where the first dancer to go "topless" performed as well as check out the Beatnik poets hangout --the CityLights Bookstore. Maybe next week - since I told Mal I'd be back!

Sunday, May 13, 2007 - Well, I managed to miss the free Lindy in the Park for the second week in a row (I didn't leave the Sound Healing Conference until it was too late to get to the Golden Gate Park) but I WILL get there yet! I had a lovely Mother's Day patty melt at Mel's Drive-In where every lady received a red rose on Mother's Day and called my Mom to wish her a great day. And then it was off to the Riptide Bar on the Pacific side of San Francisco (I hadn't gone that direction yet!) to hear the Cottontails again. I let Michael choose the songs for me to sing from my repertoire list -- so I sang songs I hadn't sung in years! It's so exhilarating singing with such wonderful musicians - I sat in with "Good Morning Heartache," "Orange-Colored Sky" and my usual "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Mariel a la Mode wowed the crowd with "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" and Diana sat in and sang a blues with the guys -- they can play anything! From Thelonious Monk to country-western to standards to swing -- they're great!
I was really amazed at how un-commercial the Pacific side of San Francisco is -- just single-story family homes along the beach and the Riptide is small and very unpretentious - and, as usual, the pizza parlor was next door if you wanted something to eat! Residents told me that normally the fog has the entire area just socked in and they can go for weeks waiting to see some sunshine -- fortunately, on Sunday, the weather was beautiful -- blue skies, sunny and only slightly chilly.

Monday, May 14, 2007 - Well, this week I finally made it to Julie's Supper Club for "swing, salsa & tease" according to the gorgeous flyers that Bernie was handing out. He said that opening night last week was packed with people (of course, it was free that week -- that always helps!) But it was only a $6 cover and with two separate dance floors in two adjoining rooms alternating swing & salsa songs it was loads of fun. And on the hour at 10 & 11, they had a burlesque dancer do a number - I hope San Francisco is a trendsetter! Bombshell Betty had a fun strip even if her wardrobe did malfunction and she had to manually twirl her pasties' tassels! And I have to thank Luis for the wonderful salsa dances - salsa is great for making you feel sexy and sensual!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - This week at Pier 23 was not one but two master ragtime pianists who happen to be married to each other - while Marty Eggars played rags and Tin Pan Alley songs, his wife, Virginia Tichenor, would play drums. And when Marty was ready for a break, Virginia took over on the keys - so there was continuous music from 5-8 pm. Rae Ann had the best table in the house (as always) and several ragtime aficionados turned out (including the president of the West Coast Ragtime Society) who shared the final draft of his upcoming newsletter. Thanks to Marty for letting me sit in and sing "I Double Dare You." Next week, Virginia is having a CD release party there, so they're really expecting a crowd!
After leaving Pier 23, I hurried over to the Verdi Club - where Stompy Jones was again wowing the crowd! There were lots of fabulous dancers - but I have to say a very happy almost (May 18) birthday to "Banjo" Bob Sinaiko - and thanks for the birthday dances! We didn't get to jam this week since Bob had to be at work early the next morning -- but maybe next week!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 -