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Vocalist Adds a Touch of Jazz to the Menu

Michael Tompkins and his quartet will perform traditional and contemporary tunes for a dinner- concert at Plug Nickel.


Jazz comes to Westlake on Saturday night, when vocalist Michael Tompkins and his quartet show up for a dinner-concert at the Plug Nickel. The restaurant--not to be confused with the famed nightclub called the Plugged Nickel, where Miles Davis put in a legendary stint--has been around since 1975 and has been hosting special events of late.

Tompkins hails from the Twin Cities but has been working on the road for many years and has lived in Los Angeles for a decade. He has recorded with the "contemporary jazz" likes of Joe Sample and David Benoit.

But Tompkins also sings and scats in a traditional jazz mode, and standards provide the substance of his debut album, "A Beautiful Friendship," coming out soon.

Is there a place for jazz on the Plug Nickel menu? Time will tell.

* Michael Tompkins, at 7 and 10:30 p.m.. Saturday, at the Plug Nickel Restaurant, 717 Lakefield Road, #1, in Westlake. Tickets for the dinner-concert are $39.95. Call 495-3469, Ext. 1.


Trumpeting Tradition: Critics have generally not been bowing reverentially toward Robert Altman's "Kansas City," but, whatever one's views of it as cinema, the film provides an almost unprecedented focus on jazz.

The music itself is well worth checking out, on the soundtrack and in the theater. Scenes of a long jazz jam session ostensibly shot at the fictional Hey Hey Club in Kansas City circa 1934 were captured mostly live on film and threaded throughout the film's intentionally loose, and, well, jazz-like, story line.

Among the host of notable young players--with ears respectfully cocked toward the past--corralled for the film is young Nicholas Payton, the New Orleans-reared trumpeter, who fits right into the soundtrack's '90s-meets-the-'30s aesthetic.

There he is, issuing a soulful, pealing solo on "I Surrender Dear," between solos by James Carter and Cyrus Chestnut. With his handsome tone-control and sleek chops, Payton sounds vintage and fresh, all at once. Check him out, up close and personal, when he comes to the Jazz Hall in Santa Barbara this weekend.

At 23, he may be too young to have "paid dues" in the traditional sense, but Payton's time has come. His two albums for Verve have established Payton as one of the brightest horn players on the scene, and one with plenty of tradition running in his veins--with echoes of Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown and even Wynton Marsalis.

Payton knows from whence he comes, historically and also regionally, as evidenced by his most recent album, "Gumbo Nouveau." On this tribute to New Orleans culture, Payton revisits old classics with new twists. It would be hard to find hipper new arrangements of "When the Saints Go Marching In" or "St. James Infirmary."

* Nicholas Payton, at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Jazz Hall, 29 E. Victoria St., Santa Barbara. Call 963-0404.


Wait, There's More Dept.: 66 California, Ventura's reliable home of jazz most nights of the week, is taking a detour Friday, when the Pan Ramajay 5-Piece Steel Drum Jazz Band plays.

And, don't forget, the Ventura County Fair continues through this weekend, with music interlaced throughout. Tonight, check out Hux Reid's swing band at the Pepsi Community Stage.

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