I made a special trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to attend the Sony Holland concert at the Catalina Jazz Club. I had never been to the Catalina so I had no idea what to expect.
I arrived the morning of the concert and decided to take a walk along Sunset Blvd. to get a feel for the area. The club is actually located inside an office building. Their marquee is mounted outside the building with flashing lights displaying the club and artist names. It was exciting to see Sony's name in lights.
Since I had never been there I decided to arrive early at 7:00 p.m. when the doors opened. The person cleaning the outside area of the building buzzed me in the front door of the building and the club was identifiable by a simple sign on a door located on the first floor of the building. I walked in the door and was pleasantly surprised. The host was so friendly and welcoming that I felt as if I had walked onto the set of "Cheers." The club had that distinct feeling all evening. I was also thrilled to see two of my friends from the Bay Area there as well.
The club itself has an L shape to it which is very interesting and I think well thought out for the venue. The main club area has table vignettes which seat anywhere from two people to around ten people situated around the stage so that no matter where you are the stage is the main focal point in the room. Even if you are at the bar which is the longer part of that L shape, you still have a good view. Each table was set with tablecloths, menus and flyers with the artist information. I found these extras very appealing which high end jazz clubs normally do not provide.
The lighting I found to be the best I have ever encountered in any club, jazz or otherwise. I was able to actually see my bill when presented with the dim lighting during the concert as well as the menus and upcoming show information. Normally clubs are so dark, especially during a concert that you cannot see anything. Here the lighting in my opinion was perfect. Even the lighting on the stage was good enough that we were able to get photos without a flash as can be seen in this post. Usually in clubs, the lighting is such that it will distort the actual colors of the musician's attire though not the case here. I really liked that.
The sound was crisp and clear. You could hear each instrument along with the vocals without anyone drowning out the other. It wasn't too loud or too soft but right on key, throughout.
I do not drink alcohol so it's always tough to find something I enjoy. They have a full bar which offered non alcoholic drinks including beer of which I ordered Buckley's and enjoyed it very much. I did not eat here as I had dinner earlier but my friend did order dinner and seemed to enjoy what he ordered. This brings me to another point I would like to mention. Most clubs require two drink minimum when attending a show. The Catalina gives you a choice of either a two drink minimum or dinner. I love the fact that they provide a choice. I also want to mention that when reading reviews of the Catalina I found so many people stating how expensive it was to attend a show here. NOT TRUE. If you frequent music venues, especially high end premier venues like the Catalina as I do on a regular basis, you'll find their prices to be in line and competitive with all the other venues out there. The cover charges vary depending on the artist and the dinner and drink prices are standard. They are not expensive at all. My bill? One non alcoholic beer and a ginger ale with a 30% tip = $17.00. Now I normally never tip 30% but I loved this venue.
The service was friendly, quick and non intrusive. The servers knew when to approach for your second drink and were very cautious not to interrupt or obstruct the view of the patrons. They were helpful, knew what they were doing and very friendly.
When Sony Holland performs at premier jazz clubs, her friends provide a champagne and dessert reception after the show. Normally the champagne and dessert is buffet style located in the bar area. At the Catalina, servers provided the dessert trays to the audience which I thought was very special. It was that extra touch provided by the club that makes this venue so wonderful.
As I said in the beginning of this post, I had that friendly feeling all evening. Now I know why this club is considered to be the premier jazz club in LA. I've been to many in the Bay Area and have to admit I enjoyed this club over and above any other I've experienced. I will definitely go back to see Sony if and when she again performs at the Catalina. In fact, if anyone I really like will be performing there, I will absolutely make that trip from SF to LA to see them. That is exactly how much I enjoyed the Catalina.