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WANNA DANCE?

Butts Brings Carmelo's Up to Speed

June 15, 1995|ROSE APODACA JONES | Rose Apodaca Jones is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition. and

He's baaaack . Charismatic saxophonist and vocalist George Butts has returned to Carmelo's for a nine-week gig.

Butts, who lives in Laguna Niguel when he's not playing at the Tropicana Resort Hotel in Las Vegas, is in his third summer run at the Corona del Mar restaurant bar.

The homecoming Sunday evening was obviously welcomed by the couples who jockeyed for space on the minuscule dance floor. Being bumped into or stepped on didn't seem to matter to them as much as the moment.

Other fans and friends watched from the dozen cocktail tables crammed into the bar area. Black and white posters of Garbo, Harlow, Gable and others gazed down dreamily at the club-goers, enrapt in their own fuzzy bliss.

Carmelo's stresses coziness. It's the perfect date destination. And Butts' music perfectly accents this romantic, candle-lit haunt.

Accompanied by keyboardist Charles Kobrinsky and his synthesized rhythm section, Butts delivers deliciously smooth, soulful standards and originals of danceable pop, contemporary jazz and R&B on saxophone and, occasionally, clarinet. He also makes quick changes to the role of vocalist throughout the set.

The Georgia-born Butts has performed with Teddy Pendergrass, Sam Cook and Al Jarreau. As a teen-ager in the mid-'60s, he and his band toured with James Brown. Marvin Gaye is another apparent favorite. They all emerge in one way or another during Butts' performance.

Between numbers, he's a showman down to his silver-glittered shoe tips: He eggs on a single guy to ask a lady at a nearby table to dance; then he asks someone to dance. His exchanges with the crowd add even more warmth to the place.

Through Aug. 28, Butts plays Carmelo's on Sundays and Mondays. From 9:30 to 10:30 on those evenings, a complimentary sample from the Italian menu is brought out on a large dish from which patrons serve themselves. More extensive dining is available until closing in the restaurant or on the patio.

Meanwhile, Wednesdays through Saturdays, Carmelo's features Gino G. & Los Tropicanos, who continue to shake things up with their Brazilian-tinged jazz. And starting this Friday and Saturday, patrons can enjoy the cognac and cigar bar on the patio from 8 p.m. until closing; prices for either indulgence start at $5.

* THE GEORGE BUTTS BAND AT CARMELO'S

* 3520 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Corona del Mar.

* (714) 675-1922.

* Sundays and Mondays only, 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

* No cover.

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