In my columns, I probably come across as a cultural sophisticate. All those mentions of nights at the opera and such.
In fact, I’m a homebody. I married a homebody. Our nightlife is filmed entertainment on our 60-inch TV screen.
Yet Cheryl and I both have occasional yearnings to get out and DO SOMETHING.
There’s lots to do in this valley. And one of the newer attractions is Blue Note, the jazz venue on the ground floor of the Napa Valley Opera House.
I’ve been highly curious about Blue Note since it opened in October. But since I’m a Bruce Springsteen kind of guy, I questioned if I would like this jazz business.
In my mind a jazz club is a nightclub, which created its own set of uncertainties. For one, I’ve never been to a nightclub. Do they still have hat check and cigarette girls like in old movies? Does Blue Note have mobsters and their molls lounging in corner booths?
Also, I value relative sobriety. Don’t nightclubs pour the drinks down you?
Such uncertainties have kept me at arm’s length from Blue Note. I was content just to drive by and wonder.
What broke things open was Kellie Fuller, a Napa-based singer who would be singing jazz and R&B songs at Blue Note last Saturday night.
Seeing a performance notice in the paper, Cheryl interrupted her breakfast to say she’d like to go.
I hardly reacted.
A week later, seeing another Kellie reference in the Register, Cheryl said it again.
But why? She doesn’t sing the kinds of music we listen to on Pandora and YouTube.
Cheryl had a personal connection that transcended music. At a party three years ago, she told Kellie she would go to one of her shows sometime.
That sometime was now.
Blue Note was cheap enough. We bought $10 seats at the bar. We picked the 7 p.m. show, not the 9:30 which would have risked keeping us up far beyond our bedtimes.
How does one dress for Blue Note on a hot summer’s day with the sun still blazing?
Their website advised “smart casual.” I translated that to mean my everyday work clothes.
Cheryl aimed higher. She wore what she called a “tourist outfit” with a floral blouse I’d never seen before.
We shared a pizza at Oxbow before strolling over on First Street. Despite the heat, downtown was hopping.
Blue Note is one cool space. Well air conditioned, yes, but more. Remember the bad feng shui that plagued the ground floor of the Opera House? It’s gone.
Everything is now beautifully organized with dreamy blue accents. You could probably fool a New Yorker into thinking this was a basement club in Greenwich Village.
Some early arrivals were eating full dinners, other were doing drinks. We asked for the dessert menu.
When a couple is sharing a slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie with a dollop of ice cream and drinking French press coffee, the staff pretty much leaves you alone. We were not likely candidates for martinis.
So, how was the show? In a word, wonderful.
Virtually every seat at Blue Note is a fine one. The bar seats are among the best. Staff’s friendly. The performers took us places we didn’t know we wanted to go.
Fuller’s been many things in her adult life. Mom, doula, host of the KVON radio show “Kellie in the Morning.”
Now she’s a genuine chanteuse in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, with a touch of Janis Joplin.
Fuller can belt out a song with the best of them. She was backed by The Wayne de la Cruz Trio, each musician an experienced Bay Area jazzman. When de la Cruz fired up his Hammond B3 organ, my lord!
We left Blue Note more than happy.
For the record, I didn’t see any hat check or cigarette girls. Scanning the room, I realized that mobsters don’t go to 7 o’clock shows.