Northside SF
San Francisco's fab songstress Paula West continues her extended run at the Rrazz Room

photo: Pat Johnson
Paula West’s exquisite singing has been described as “sultry, smooth, soulful” and so on. They certainly all apply to this sublime jazz-cabaret singer who has come home to the Rrazz Room – she was the first act to appear in the club in March 2008. Her real home is on Nob Hill.

With an eight-week engagement at the Rrazz, not only does the venue feel like home, it’s comfortable for the audience, which likes tasteful jazz and cool, sophisticated singing.

“I am so pleased,” she says. “We were busy at the beginning of the run, and we’ve only seen more and more people coming to the club each week. This is wonderful because we all know about the economy. But there are so many distractions to keep people away from live music – DVDs, Netflix, cable TV – but they’re coming out to see us.”

There are fewer places for jazzers to perform these days. Shanghai 1930 and Enrico’s are among the clubs that have closed recently. 

“It seems that the two major ones now are Yoshi’s and the Rrazz,” says West.

In addition to enjoying popularity at home, West is a big hit in New York. She often has gigs at the Algonquin, Feinstein’s, and the Jazz Standard. For six years, she’s been performing with the George Mesterhazy Quartet with Mesterhazy on piano, Barak Mori on bass, guitarist Ed Cherry, and Jerome Jennings on drums.

“The musicians are all from the New York area,” says West, “and they play with the top people.”

If you were a songwriter, you’d want your tunes in the hands of Paula West. She shows the deepest respect for songs, and keeps learning new ones (and old) to keep the act fresh. She adopts all sorts of material for the show.

“We try to have a variety,” she says. “We pay attention to moods, texture and tempos. We want the familiar to sound different.

Indeed, in addition to the standard jazz tunes by Duke Ellington, Rodgers & Hart, and Johnny Mercer, West brings songs by Jimmy Webb, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Elvis Costello to her song list.

“I also do songs by Johnny Cash and Hank Williams,” West explains. “These songs are in the Great American Songbook. Who says the classic American songs stop with the 1950s? The audience has grown with these great songs that were part of our lives over the years.”

Paula West with the George Mesterhazy Quartet: the Rrazz Room (in the Hotel Nikko), 222 Mason Street (at O’Farrell) through March 13, Wednesday–Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., Sunday 7 p.m.; tickets $35-$45 at 415-394-1189,

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