Friday, March 18, 2011

Slipping into jazz

A baby grand takes his place at the raven polished Steinway. Four men in mismatched suits grab their instruments of choice for the set. The worn brass reflects in the light as a collection of saxophone, trumpet and trombones raise up to begin. The singer, a short lass with curls grabs her mic and yells to the crowd. A lone drum beat, sturdy and loud starts up and the pianos syncopation chimes in. A five, six, seven, eight, and the evening’s festivities take over the room.

For me, jazz with its swinging notes and improvising, keeps my heart in the music. It is a type of outlet that can take any emotion and flip it around. The soul and funk of the rhythms is a perfect healing concoction, and what better way to ease out of the sour mood then through jazz.

The Hip Kitty jazz and fondue lounge in Claremont, Calif., is a hot spot where various music styles are welcomed. Nestled in the south-end of the village Packing House, this lounge is the cat’s meow when it comes to variety jazz and smooth night life. The dimly lit entrance and red satin drapes resemble an underground jazz lounge from the 1920s’.

Throughout the venue, smells of chocolates and wine waft in and out of the brightly covered tables. The waitress glides between parties as her flapper beads swish over her delicate dress. It is the small details that can really send someone back through time.

“ I come for this intricate ambiance, the upbeat live music, and the mood of the place as a whole,” Chad Easter of Upland said. “ It is a way to get away from the stress at the fire station, I like to be taken back every once in awhile, the Kitty does that for me.”

Many of the refugees who seek sanctuary at the lounge often remove themselves from the bustle of the inner quarters and move to the outside patio. Lights drape across vine-covered awnings and roman couches surround warm glass fire pits. Although outside, the sounds of the smooth and big-band swing can be heard still and resembles a party scene out of “The Great Gatsby.”

“I see this place as an upscale location, clientele, and atmosphere, not to mention the bar tenders know how to make a drink,” Robbie Rugg from La Verne said.

A swing band rolls on to the stage and the soft sounds of brass wield to the upbeat jams. Rugg grabs his partner and heads to the floor where they perform like two falling leaves, intertwining and swinging about. The raspy voices on the stage fill the room. A group of businessmen and women in suits raise their glasses, while a few college students in their worn jeans and band t-shirts huddle together and hum along with their ale. A table dedicated to a bachelorette party laugh as they mimic the lyrical tune and the table to the right houses a couple college professors who head to the bar to refill their amber glasses.

“ I need something like this to get away from grad school and my business, I have always used music for that and when it is live, it is more of a high,” Rugg said.

A worn wooden bar grounds the chaos of the music in the center of the eclectic room. My eyes are captured by the hand-blown glass lit up within the liquored shelves as multicolored lamps above surround the room. Abstract city paintings and earth tones cover the walls, while on stage, the musicians continue to play rhythms and lyrics that keep the crowd engaged. The bartender mixes drinks with ease, a glass flips right and the liquor goes left and in front of his eyes both collide into a sweetened mixture.

“ At the end of my work week I come here to listen to these musicians, I let them take my worries away with a tuned clarinet and a thick, booming stand up bass,” said Kyle Lawrence of Ontario.

With free admission anyone may come and listen to the music of the night. Another band is rolling in, members quickly set up to close out the evenings festivities. A swanky man in a suit runs in front of the mic.

“Check one, two, welcome, welcome,” he says. “We are here to take you fine ladies and gentlemen back, join us in the music.” The brass booms and they are off again.

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