While jazz singer Julie Kelly croons huskily into the microphone and the bass and drums throb behind her, the dancers begin to glide out on the floor two by two; high heels and slinky dresses, tuxedos and black slacks. They sway to their reflections in the sparkling mirror. Hints of chrome glint seductively in the mellow dimness of the room.
The jazz and dance club Nucleus Nuance has changed a lot in the last few years. Established by 64-year-old Rudi Marshall--in the same location, though much smaller--nearly 20 years ago as a home cookin' eatery, it grew into a popular dining spot even before live music was introduced.
Though it's now under new ownership, Marshall still keeps a firm hand on the menu--as executive chef--just to make sure the cooking lives up to his standards. In spite of the fact that beer is no longer served in paper cups on linoleum-topped tables, and that it's been enlarged and totally redecorated--with fancy etched-glass partitions, polished wood dance floor and paintings by Joni Mitchell and Aldo Longo on the walls--Nucleus Nuance retains a comfortable, dark and jazzy atmosphere.
The current owners of Nucleus Nuance, Katherine and Bruce (Red) Veniero, have put a great deal of love and work into making it one of the premier jazz clubs in Los Angeles.
Perhaps due in part to its interior face lift, and the fact that it features live jazz seven nights a week, the club has begun to attract a young, hip crowd.
Featuring acts such as John Hammond Smith, Dennis Rowland and Herbie Mann, the nightclub's eclectic clientele ranges from local jazz buffs and dancers to stars of stage and screen whose photographs decorate the long, winding corridor that leads from the street to the dining area.
"One night we had an old conga player on stage," says vivacious Katherine Veniero, who constantly jumps up to greet customers as they arrive. "Clint Eastwood was here--he's quite an accomplished conga player himself, you know. Well, he asked if he could play the congas for a while."
The performer was agreeable to it if Eastwood would remove the big ring he was wearing. Eastwood obliged and played a tune. "The audience shouted for more when he got off stage," she recalled. "Not realizing he'd put the ring back on, he started playing another tune. Well, the conga player got quite upset, and took the drum away from him right in the middle of the tune, telling Eastwood that he couldn't play it with his ring on."
Veniero laughed. "Eastwood was very gracious about it. But he hasn't been in since."
A Bargain for Music
Nucleus Nuance now conforms to the "high-tech" image of most of the trendier nightspots on the Melrose Avenue strip. If you're just out for a drink with friends, you might consider it moderately pricey. But if you've come to hear the music, it's a bargain--top-notch entertainment for a $5 cover charge and two-drink minimum per show.
The elegant music room with dance floor and stage is the main attraction, though you can hear the music perfectly well in the main dining room too. And if you need quiet for conversation, two smaller rooms with soft-leather booths and small tables located well away from the stage are perfect for intimate, cozy dining.
The restaurant specializes in a variety of fresh pastas. But especially recommended are the salmon souffle, garlic chicken and roast duckling with cranberry and papaya sauce.
Nucleus Nuance is at 7267 Melrose Ave., half a block east of Poinsettia Place. Performance information and reservations: (213) 939-8666 .