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Jazzophiles Welcome : The Bel Age's Club Brasserie Has the Big Players and No Cover

August 15, 1993|MARK EHRMAN

The five-star luxury of West Hollywood's Bel Age Hotel may seem an unlikely venue for hearing world-class jazz at a coach-class fare. But it's true.

Club Brasserie--located off the Bel Age's sumptuous lobby, past the megabuck antique store with the sign that says "We Buy Estates"--is the site of one of the great jazz bargains in Los Angeles. It's hard to believe.

The room is, after all, dominated by a window that offers a panoramic vista of Los Angeles, and the walls are enriched with original, signed Miros. Hardly evidence of egalitarian appeal.

Nor is there a shortage of platinum bank cards personified as the club opens at 9 p.m. In the earlier part of the evening, Club Brasserie rings with the euphony of the moneyed at mealtime.

"The first set, we like to think of ourselves as a restaurant," says assistant manager Drew Mock, indicating the clots of elegant dinner patrons at the tables. "It's a little more low-key."

After 11, though, the band works into its second set, and the atmosphere becomes more up-tempo as the club fills with what Mock calls "your club crowd type"--a more casually dressed contingent with lower credit-card limits.

What draws this crowd into these sumptuous surroundings are "big players, no cover, free parking," says Markus Puhvel, a University of North Carolina student, who's come in a plaid, proletarian work shirt.

Puhvel, a die-hard jazz lover, says he often comes here with his girlfriend when he's home in Los Angeles on school breaks.

"If you look at the L.A. jazz scene, you have a lot of good places, but they draw a lot of local players. You can go see a lot of jazz for free, but this place has got the names," he says.

The year-old club has hosted Kenny Kirkland, Buddy Colette and other top-tier jazz musicians. The likes of the Marsalis brothers have been known to drop by occasionally for an impromptu jam.

So, on any decent night, as midnight approaches, the area around the bar (where the two-drink minimum seems to be more loosely enforced than at the tables) swells with the ranks of L.A.'s jazzophiles. Status begins to take a back seat to bebop.

Even at the tables, the menu switches from the full-on haute cuisine to sandwiches and salads, making the evening an even more financially palatable option.

* Where: Club Brasserie at the Bel Age Hotel, 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood.

* When: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

* Cost: No cover. Two-drink minimum. All beverages $5 and $5.50 for the first two drinks; after that, $3.50-$5.50. Two hours free parking with validation.

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