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SOCIAL CLIMES / UP ALL NIGHT

Nothing but the Blues Will Do? Walk On in Here

May 24, 1996|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Israel Gallant can't remember when exactly he got the blues, but says he's had them a long time.

"Every day I have the blues," says the Venice salesman.

Gallant heads to Harvelle's in Santa Monica twice weekly with his wife Avery Zia to get a fix of the down-home rhythm. The denim-clad couple arrive when the band starts promptly at 8:30 p.m. While most patrons are still swilling their drinks and letting the beat sink in, Zia and Gallant take over the dance floor.

Grooving across the linoleum, Gallant proves that he's got some soul. As Blues Underground plays a rendition of Willie Dixon's "Sugar Mama," Gallant slides his feet across the dance floor, moonwalk style. He mimics playing the guitar when the song really gets down. Later he tackles the keyboard.

Like so many blues fans, Gallant returns to Harvelle's because there is nothing but the blues here. Opened 10 years ago, Harvelle's owner Reiner Beck says his establishment was the place west of South Los Angeles featuring live blues nightly. Reiner cornered the market on the Westside, and though several other clubs have since opened, fans continue to return to the very-established Harvelle's.

"Anyone can stick a band in a bar, but it never turns out as good as it does at Harvelle's," says Beck.

Harvelle's has been a success because it's been around a long time. Beck says it is the oldest bar in Santa Monica and that its reputation can be traced back to 1931, when it was a supper club. Harvelle's later became a piano bar, a jazz club and was a rock 'n' roll venue until 1987, when Beck took it over and kept the name.

Though ownership and entertainment at Harvelle's have changed over the years, the Art Deco architecture in the narrow bar has remained. A mirror featuring an etching of a man and woman sipping martinis hangs over the vintage wooden bar.

Located just a block from the Third Street Promenade, Harvelle's features live blues music every night. On Mondays, the house band New Breed takes to the stage and invites aspiring blues musicians to bring their instruments. L.J. and the Blues Factory have been the Thursday-night band for five years now; Blues Underground will be featured each Tuesday in June.

Gen Xers and baby boomers alike frequent the crowded club. Denizens groove to the soulful music from the tables, while others like Richard Taylor, who looks like he's just arrived from the Mississippi Delta, rock to the rhythm from bar stools near the dance floor. Others, like Gallant and Zia, prefer to dance. Bonnie Raitt stopped in last year and jammed with the band and musician Albert King, B.B. King's brother, also has dropped by.

"This is an old neighborhood bar where everyone who comes in has a great time," Beck says.

*

Where: Harvelle's, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica. (310) 395-1676.

When: Every night, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Cost: Cover varies from $3 to $7. Domestic beer, $2.75; Chardonnay, $3.75; mixed drinks,$3.50 to $4.50.

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