Friday, February 29, 2008

Rrazz Room Opens

I still hate the name, but San Francisco's newest night club/cabaret is off to a good start. After delaying opening for many weeks, the scene that used to be at The Empire Plush Room at the York Hotel has moved downtown to the Nikko Hotel, with the swank level raised considerably.

I really loved the Plush Room, in part because it has a history (it used to be a speakeasy during Prohibition), and in part because it was a little over a block from the first place I lived in San Francisco. But I could get used to the Rrazz Room -- though probably not to its name.

The two Rs of Rrazz -- Robert and Rory -- have done an excellent job building a new cabaret. It's not stunning or especially noteworthy in a design sense, but it's elegant without being gaudy, unobtrusive without being bland. The sightlines seem good, and the sound was likewise -- but I would think they ought to install some permanent speakers. The loudspeakers they had floor-mounted put quite a few seats out of commission. The back wall is a wall of glass, sort of like Jazz at Lincoln Center, the venue in the Time-Warner Building in New York where Ellen does her show from time to time. If only the Rrazz Room looked out on Central Park and midtown Manhattan instead of the rather pedestrian Hilton Hotel across the street. Then we'd really have something.

Tonight's show was Paula West. I'd never heard her sing. She can. (And so can her backup singers, three sweet-voiced black women who really light up stage left. Best backup trio I've heard in a LONG time.) Paula interprets a range of songs, including great versions of "Something Good" from the movie of "The Sound of Music," "Jambalaya" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

It's a great show -- though someone ought to tell the band there is a reason "bass solo" is the punchline of a joke. (The setup for which is about explorers and jungle drums going on too long.) Paula's four-piece combo does a number prior to Paula coming onstage, and it runs on a tad. I enjoyed hearing them, but the top of the show is not the place for extensive soloing. Give the pianist and the guitarist a few bars to play with -- but save any bass and drum soloing for a little later in the show (if at all), after we've warmed up to you.

All in all, though, a great show in a great room. Visit soon.

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