Monteleone's West, the popular restaurant on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, currently has a music policy that matches the quality of its cuisine, thanks to the presence of Thelma Jones and Karen Hernandez. Both artists are on hand for an indefinite run Wednesdays through Saturdays.
It is easier to analyze Thelma Jones in terms of what she omits than to assign a specific character to her. She screams not; neither does she belt. There are no time-consuming introductory raps, no pseudo-hip vocal or visual mannerisms; she simply serves up tasteful offerings from the worlds of jazz ("All of Me," "God Bless the Child") and pop ("Just the Way You Are") along with generous scoops from the soul bowl.
Though there were occasional reminders of Gladys Knight in her readings of the Al Jarreau hit "We're in This Love Together," Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By" and George Benson's "Greatest Love of All," Jones is her own woman, with Hernandez leading an intensely supportive trio.
A powerfully swinging, chord-conscious pianist, Hernandez has been a fixture at Monteleone's since May, when she ended her 10-year tenure at the Money Tree. As was revealed most conspicuously during her instrumental set, she has a strong affinity for blues colorations, even on such non-blues pieces as "Angel Eyes." The bassist Ernie McDaniel and drummer Mel Lee were her solidly sympathetic companions.