Jazz Night @ Teddy’s Will Make You Love It

I am not a lover of jazz. My father was a jazz musician, and for the duration of my younger years, he would play these noodly bits of instrumental music as a way to torment the teenager in his house who preferred bad hard rock and new wave. Good thing, then, that the house band at the weekly Thursday jazz night at Teddy’s knows how to capture the imaginations of the jazz-fearing masses: They take pop music hits and turn them into bluesy, jazzy riffs. A smart and sexy idea.

There we were, standing in Teddy’s cavelike interior bathed in blue light (what else?), watching a voluptuous, short blonde woman dressed in a white sparkly dress tear through “Addicted to Love.” She was Candace Devine, and she has to be good — she’s a backup singer for Christina Aguilera. In order to prop up that big vox, yours better be meaty, too.

And it was. Big, bold, beautiful, ballsy.

imageShe was backed by a crack band. They switch in and out, but the core members are Tommy King (piano), Aaron West, (sax), Ryan Fevis and Ryan Cross on bass, Paul Allen, Iaghi Hampton, and Donald Barrett on drums, Joel Whittley and Zane Carney on guitar, and Michael Bulger on trumpet and “everything else,” says band manager Travis Case.

They wore paperboy hats, vests, and skinny ties, and they seemed to keep a wad of tobacco tucked in the side of their cheeks; we were transported to another era, one far away from even the regular Friday and Saturday nights at Teddy’s. The crowd was a cool multiculti mix — you saw African American couples in their 30s and 40s, younger Lindsay Lohan types in tiny dresses swaying to the music, and a few fashionable lesbians.

In a more mainstream venue in Hollywood, this is unusual; but then, this night isn’t very typical of most of what you find on the Strip. Just down the street at the same time, the edgy downtown glitz of Diamond Dogs was going off in full force. And around the corner on Sunset, you could go into the Roxy or the Whisky and pretend it’s 1988. It might surprise you, as it did me, to learn that jazz night is the brainchild of Danny Masterson, who these days seems better known in the blogosphere for being a Scientologist and DJ (Momjeans) than as an actor from a famous TV show. Masterson wants the night to feel old school, and he enforces a dress code: suits for the guys, dresses for the ladies. It mostly works … ties are provided at the door if you don’t have one. But we were amused to learn that a tie can’t buy you elegance. One frat-boy type was given a tie and entree, and he quickly proceeded to do a Jaeger bomb at the bar. Classy.

The night was originally at Guy’s on Sunday nights, but when Guy’s closed, Masterson moved it to the Sunset Room space. That didn’t gel, but the third time turned out to be the charm, moving to Teddy’s on Valentine’s Day.

The band keeps things moving too — with new players rotating in and out of the line-up — as well as new singers, some of whom are quite famous, including John Mayer and Christina Aguilera. But the celeb quotient is perhaps the least interesting part of the night; better still are the hard-working musicians who serve as the core.

That Thursday, after Devine’s opener, regular performer Jacob Luttrell took the keys and the mic. He was the yang to Devine’s yin. He had a lilting falsetto, which my companion said reminded her of Robin Thicke or Justin Timberlake. He cruised through a shimmery rendition of Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Making Love.”

After him, Dave Yaden took over and imparted his blue-eyed soul into the jams. While the band was perfectly capable twirling the familiar songs into their own groove, in between the choruses, when they were just jamming, you see that they were the real deal, too. My father would have approved.

Jazz Night happens every Thursday at Teddy’s.

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