YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Fond Memories of His Own Jazz Club Keep Plucking Bassist Pat Senatore's Heartstrings

August 12, 1990|ZAN STEWART

Bassist Pat Senatore has played with some pretty big names in jazz and pop--Stan Kenton, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Les Brown and the VIP Trio with pianist Cedar Walton and drummer Billy Higgins.

There's little doubt in Senatore's mind that his shining hour was as the proprietor/house bandleader/chief bottle washer of Pasquale's, which from 1978 until it closed in October, 1983, was one of the Los Angeles area's best-known jazz rooms.

"There isn't a day that goes by that someone doesn't come up to me and say how much they miss the club and all that," said Senatore, 54, of the club that was perched on Carbon Beach in Malibu, just south of the Malibu Pier. It has since been reopened as the Pier View Cafe.

Asked what he most misses about the club, the answer was easy: "The music." "Man, I don't think I really understood how great it was there," he said. "I was hassled by so many problems. I wish I had that scene now, because I'm more into playing and learning, though I learned by playing with those great cats every night."

Pasquale's--Pasquale is Senatore's given name--was a special place. The oblong room that seated about 150 people had glass walls--with doors that opened--on the western and southern faces and a deck that overlooked the beach a few feet below, giving customers an oceanfront view. When the doors were opened, the ocean breeze would waft in, providing an exhilarating mix of heated jazz and cool winds.

Opened by Senatore and his wife, Barbara, in early 1978, Pasquale's quickly became a favorite with the public and the musical community. Senatore--a native of Newark, N.J., who attended the Juilliard School for two years--felt this happened not only because of the room's spectacular atmosphere, but because he insisted that the music be given top priority.

"Pasquale's was a bona fide jazz club," he said. "The whole reason for the place was the music. Too many clubs feature other things. You have to spotlight the music first, and everything else is an embellishment.

"I remember one night after we'd first opened and there were only two people in the room and they got up and started dancing. I yelled over the microphone, 'There's no dancing in this club,' and our only two customers left," he said with a laugh.

Soon customers were there by the hundreds. Often, they could be seen lining up outside the club's front door, eager to hear such jazz notables as pianists Chick Corea, George Cables, Roger Kellaway and Alan Broadbent, saxophonists Joe Henderson, Joe Farrell and John Klemmer, singer Willie Bobo and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. And on sunny days, crowds would gather on the beach below the club, listening to the sounds that wafted out.

As successful as Pasquale's was for the Senatores--who ran the club mom-and-pop style--the room was also a source of seemingly continual problems, often caused by the weather when people couldn't get to the club. Heavy rain closed Pacific Coast Highway on many occasions, putting an additional financial strain on Senatore, who was operating on a five-year lease from Ishmael Barrera, who owned the land and building that housed Pasquale's.

When Senatore's lease expiration approached, he attempted to negotiate a new one, but Barrera wanted to carry him on a month-to-month basis. "He wouldn't budge or negotiate," Senatore said. "And the room needed some work, but there was no way I could do that without some guarantee that I could stay, so I closed on October 23, 1983.

"It was a magic spot but the obstacles after a while turned it into a nightmare. I was fighting with everyone."

Senatore continues to look for a club site, and feels that the only way to control an operation is to buy the building. "Then you don't have to worry, you're in charge." He says he has a couple of irons in the fire, but nothing he wants to talk about.

Music is what's occupied Senatore in the years since Pasquale's. Going back to being a free-lance bassist wasn't easy at first for the soft-voiced, quick-to-smile Senatore, but it's gotten better. "People didn't know I was available," he said, "but now the gigs are coming in pretty steadily. And I can say that since January, most of my income has come from jazz gigs."

For more than four years, Senatore, who can be heard with the VIP Trio on "Standard Album, Vol. I & II" (California Breeze), has been part of the Pat Britt-Wilbur Brown quintet, an energy-filled be-bop-based jazz unit that plays Sunday evenings at the Cat and Fiddle Pub and Restaurant in Hollywood. "It's become such a part of my life that if I didn't do it, I'd feel like something was missing. It's always a ball," he said of playing with the band led by the two vital saxophonists that also features pianist Dwight Dickerson and drummer Clarence Johnston.

Los Angeles Times Articles