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All That Jazz

Knitting Factory Coming to Hollywood

May 14, 1999|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Los Angeles is about to have another major jazz club. Michael Dorf, founder and CEO of New York City's eclectic music venue the Knitting Factory, has signed a lease for a 10,000-square-foot space at 7121 Hollywood Blvd., in the Hollywood Galaxy building.

The property, according to entertainment real estate agent Ira Spilky, who handled the transaction, has been bought by a new landlord and is being transformed into an entertainment complex.

"The theaters will remain," says Spilky, "but the ground floor will be completely remodeled, with the Knitting Factory taking up one of two major spaces in the rear. We're also in negotiation with another nightclub operator--not a jazz club--for the other space."

Projected opening date for the Knitting Factory Hollywood will be early in 2000, preceding by a year the arrival of Quincy Jones' jazz club in the vast new entertainment complex being built at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

"I'd love to say we'll be there by New Year's Eve," Dorf says, "but we probably won't make it until a bit later than that. But our lease starts June 1, and that's when we'll be groundbreaking to begin our renovation."

The club will essentially follow the New York model, with a large performance area seating between 300 and 400, and a smaller, more intimate venue seating 40 to 50. Soundproofing will provide complete aural isolation between the two spaces.

"It's a formula that's worked well for us," Dorf says. "The large room to pay the bills, the other to stretch out and go avant-garde."

There will also be a separate restaurant-bar area.

"We see that as a main schmooze, talk, hang-out, free-to-get-into space," he adds. "I like to think of it as a place where we can pull some of the fragmented strands of the L.A. music community together and create a real home for musicians--create a real nice hang."

The New York Knitting Factory initially established its reputation as a showcase for downtown Manhattan's active jazz avant-garde scene before expanding into broader areas. (New York magazine calls it "a true New York original . . . the best live music club in New York.") Dorf expects the Knitting Factory Hollywood location to provide a similarly broad menu of musical programming.

"We'll attempt to mix and balance the blue-chip avant-garde artists--Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Phil Glass, the Lounge Lizards, Meredith Monk--with some of the important players in contemporary jazz: John Zorn, Leon Parker, Henry Threadgill, Ravi Coltrane, people like that," says Dorf.

"And we'll blend it with some of the younger influences on the scene--Medeski Martin & Wood--stuff that moves into the more pop and rock culture. Which is what we've done in New York. Beck did his first New York show at the Knitting Factory, so we won't hesitate to have the Indigo Girls or Sonic Youth--groups with a connection to the artistic side of the music, regardless of the style."

Dorf realizes that such a programming philosophy edges over into areas covered by other local clubs, but doesn't feel bothered by the overlap.

"Sure," he says, "there's some duplication with the House of Blues and Catalina Bar & Grill. But competition is healthy, and we expect to be in a unique position, with our New York club and a club in Berlin, which will open around the same time that we open in Los Angeles. Bottom line is that I think we'll be increasing the pie, with a larger share for the artists as well as the public."

Dorf expects numerous other projects to flow from the Knitting Factory presence in Hollywood, among them an eclectic variety of musical series, including one dedicated to film and soundtrack music. In addition, he plans eventually to create a Los Angeles jazz festival comparable to the major, citywide event he produces every summer in Manhattan.

"And this is all going to come together technologically," he adds. "Knitting Factory Hollywood will be one part of an Internet strategy that will allow us to bring music from three cultural capitals--New York, Los Angeles and Berlin--live, via the Internet, to anyone's desktop with the click of a mouse."

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