Live Jazz: Janis Mann at The Gardenia

By Don Heckman

Any night at The Gardenia is a musical night to remember.

The West Hollywood supper club at the corner of LaBrea and Santa Monica has been one of the Southland’s rare cabaret destinations for three decades. Showcasing sophisticated musical artists reaching from musical theatre to jazz and the Great American songbook, The Gardenia – in any given performance – offers memorable music in a warm, intimate setting.

Which is exactly what happened on Saturday night with the appearance of jazz vocalist Janis Mann and the trio of pianist Raymond DeFelitta (including bassist Jim DiJulio and drummer Dick Weller).

Janis Mann with Dick Weller, Raymond DeFelitta and Jim DiJulio at The Gardenia

The blending of Mann’s convincing jazz singing — rich with imaginative interpretations buoyed by a lithe sense of swing — and The Gardenia’s warm and intimate setting made for an irresistible combination.

Janis Mann
Janis Mann

Mann’s selection of material was perfect, embracing such classic Songbook items as “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “The Man I Love,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “That Old Devil Moon” and more. Add to that her captivating rendering of Abby Lincoln’s “Throw It Away” and her occasional scat passages in tunes such as “That Old Devil Moon.”


Janis Mann
Janis Mann

Each was offered with the enthralling qualities of a gifted musical story teller. And Mann further mesmerized her enthusiastic listeners with whimsical between-songs patter that virtually transformed the Gardenia into the environs of a living room performance.

Seated at the rear of the room, Tom Rolla, the founder and entrepreneur of The Gardenia watched Mann’s set with a warm, approving gaze. Once a performer in Broadway musicals himself, Rolla handles his bookings at The Gardenia with an insistence upon finding and presenting the highest quality musical talent.

As he did with Janis Mann’s superb set.

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Janis Mann, a jazz artist who should be heard at every opportunity, can next he seen and heard at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach on May 18.

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The next major event at Tom Rolla’s Gardenia takes place on Wednesday, April 30, with the performance of the brilliant Brazilian singer/guitarist Teka and her group, New Bossa. Don’t miss this one.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.




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