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Gonzo Report: TV themes take the stage at The Jazz Lounge

For a brief but mystical time, we all become the Brady Bunch

Leonard Patton doesn’t have to demand attention — he attracts it.
Leonard Patton doesn’t have to demand attention — he attracts it.

“I opened this club, so I can do what I want,” says Leonard Patton from the stage at The Jazz Lounge. He’s flanked by pianist Aimee Nolte and bassist Antar Martin (San Diego Jazz Quintet, Coast Bop Quintet, Antar Martin Aggregation), and he’s saying this as part of his introduction for a musical set the likes of which likely wouldn’t be performed at any other club: television theme songs.

When I first meet Patton before the show, the trio is in the midst of rehearsing. (They’ll finalize the set later in the green room over a pizza from Milos, which is walking distance from the club.) Patton himself is not on the stage at this point. Instead, the prolific singer and Guinness record holder for most consecutive shows in a 24-hour period (70) is vacuuming the club floor and directing staff for preparations. He handles every aspect of the venue’s operations, from the sound to the meals, which are ordered in from Terra American Bistro (my order of rigatoni Bolognese is delicious). He belts out melodies and runs through vocal scales in between bits of conversation, and never stops speaking to his staff like they’re members of a team. He smiles, confident that everyone’s invested in a common goal, and his people move like a ballet company in the close quarters, avoiding collisions with pirouettes that would make Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby blush. 

Place

Jazz Lounge

6818 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego


I wonder how the table seating is going to work in these cramped quarters, even as I try to count the number of times I’ve walked past the nondescript club — part of a strip mall that also houses Little Fish Comic Studios, a hair place called The Shop SD, and Aphrodite, a rave clothing store — without even noticing it.

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As the room gets closer to full, the sound level rises; I hear a lot of talk at polite volume about topics ranging from veganism to the weather. Occasionally, music gets mentioned. Even with my rock concert-induced tinnitus, I can make out the discussions, a testament to both the acoustics of the venue and the manners of the patrons. Once the set begins, the conversation between songs shifts to banter between the musicians and the audience. It plays like an extension of Patton’s interaction with the club staff, quietly signaling that nobody in the room is more important than anyone else, that we’re all there for the same reason. It’s weirdly reminiscent of those punk shows where the line between performer and patron gets blurred. But while punks form their own bands overnight out of pure adrenaline and passion, the musicians on this stage have been honed by decades of practice, and my cursory knowledge of theory tells me that they make the difficult look easy because of it. For his part, Patton doesn’t have to demand attention; he attracts it with his presence while seated on a cajon, keeping the beat.

As for the TV themes themselves, the shared bonds within a room full of people whose childhood schedule was formed around television transcends the nostalgia of actually hearing the songs that introduced their shows. Case in point: the shout of “it’s on” interrupting playtime when Nolte shares a memory of her grandfather watching All In The Family, and witnessing Archie Bunker’s transformation as the world around him changed. When the trio performs the show’s opening song “Those Were the Days,” Nolte channels Jean Stapleton’s Edith Bunker, while Patton delivers the accompanying lines in his own distinctive voice.

As part of the tribute, they play “Suicide Is Painless” from M.A.S.H., albeit without the depressing lyrics, in order to keep the mood upbeat. A wise choice, and appropriate, because the lyrics were heard only in the film, not on the television show that ran longer than the war it depicted.

Antar Martin doesn’t speak often, instead letting his notes do the talking. But he receives a roar of approval when someone yells out “Law and Order,” and he plays the opening by himself as Nolte and Patton laugh and applaud along with the audience. There’s more laughter when he cites playing it innumerable times in high school as the reason for his instant recall.

After the set, the room seems just as populated, but not cramped. Art is transformative magic and has turned an anonymous strip shop to a cozy music joint, close quarters to intimacy, and strangers to friends. In the process, we all became the Brady Bunch for a short but mystical time.

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Leonard Patton doesn’t have to demand attention — he attracts it.
Leonard Patton doesn’t have to demand attention — he attracts it.

“I opened this club, so I can do what I want,” says Leonard Patton from the stage at The Jazz Lounge. He’s flanked by pianist Aimee Nolte and bassist Antar Martin (San Diego Jazz Quintet, Coast Bop Quintet, Antar Martin Aggregation), and he’s saying this as part of his introduction for a musical set the likes of which likely wouldn’t be performed at any other club: television theme songs.

When I first meet Patton before the show, the trio is in the midst of rehearsing. (They’ll finalize the set later in the green room over a pizza from Milos, which is walking distance from the club.) Patton himself is not on the stage at this point. Instead, the prolific singer and Guinness record holder for most consecutive shows in a 24-hour period (70) is vacuuming the club floor and directing staff for preparations. He handles every aspect of the venue’s operations, from the sound to the meals, which are ordered in from Terra American Bistro (my order of rigatoni Bolognese is delicious). He belts out melodies and runs through vocal scales in between bits of conversation, and never stops speaking to his staff like they’re members of a team. He smiles, confident that everyone’s invested in a common goal, and his people move like a ballet company in the close quarters, avoiding collisions with pirouettes that would make Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby blush. 

Place

Jazz Lounge

6818 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego


I wonder how the table seating is going to work in these cramped quarters, even as I try to count the number of times I’ve walked past the nondescript club — part of a strip mall that also houses Little Fish Comic Studios, a hair place called The Shop SD, and Aphrodite, a rave clothing store — without even noticing it.

Sponsored
Sponsored

As the room gets closer to full, the sound level rises; I hear a lot of talk at polite volume about topics ranging from veganism to the weather. Occasionally, music gets mentioned. Even with my rock concert-induced tinnitus, I can make out the discussions, a testament to both the acoustics of the venue and the manners of the patrons. Once the set begins, the conversation between songs shifts to banter between the musicians and the audience. It plays like an extension of Patton’s interaction with the club staff, quietly signaling that nobody in the room is more important than anyone else, that we’re all there for the same reason. It’s weirdly reminiscent of those punk shows where the line between performer and patron gets blurred. But while punks form their own bands overnight out of pure adrenaline and passion, the musicians on this stage have been honed by decades of practice, and my cursory knowledge of theory tells me that they make the difficult look easy because of it. For his part, Patton doesn’t have to demand attention; he attracts it with his presence while seated on a cajon, keeping the beat.

As for the TV themes themselves, the shared bonds within a room full of people whose childhood schedule was formed around television transcends the nostalgia of actually hearing the songs that introduced their shows. Case in point: the shout of “it’s on” interrupting playtime when Nolte shares a memory of her grandfather watching All In The Family, and witnessing Archie Bunker’s transformation as the world around him changed. When the trio performs the show’s opening song “Those Were the Days,” Nolte channels Jean Stapleton’s Edith Bunker, while Patton delivers the accompanying lines in his own distinctive voice.

As part of the tribute, they play “Suicide Is Painless” from M.A.S.H., albeit without the depressing lyrics, in order to keep the mood upbeat. A wise choice, and appropriate, because the lyrics were heard only in the film, not on the television show that ran longer than the war it depicted.

Antar Martin doesn’t speak often, instead letting his notes do the talking. But he receives a roar of approval when someone yells out “Law and Order,” and he plays the opening by himself as Nolte and Patton laugh and applaud along with the audience. There’s more laughter when he cites playing it innumerable times in high school as the reason for his instant recall.

After the set, the room seems just as populated, but not cramped. Art is transformative magic and has turned an anonymous strip shop to a cozy music joint, close quarters to intimacy, and strangers to friends. In the process, we all became the Brady Bunch for a short but mystical time.

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