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The allure of a smidgen of kitsch

June 17, 2004|Lina Lecaro

After dark El Cid may be a bustling hub of hip-hop and hard rock these days, but every Sunday afternoon, a mellower beat keeps swingin', thanks to the swift and steady rhythms of Jerrie Thill. The 87-year-old drummer has been a staple at the eatery's outdoor patio brunch for nearly two decades, and her sweet and feisty style holds it own among the onslaught of new performers and parties.

Crooning standards such as "The Lady Is a Tramp" and her signature "When You're Smiling," Thill and her group -- keyboardist Brian O' Rourke and weekly alternating horn players Stacy Rowles and Carol Chaikinare -- are a hoot. Her old fans still come for the omelets and mimosas, but thanks to El Cid's new promotions (DJs spin after her show), she's earning new fans who dig her catchy tunes blending jazz with a touch of kitsch.

"It's funny, in my old age all of a sudden this is all opening up, we're getting all these young people in, and I just found out this week that I have a website," she says. "It's really kind of exciting."

A vaudeville veteran originally from Dubuque, Iowa, Thill has played with countless groups over the years, including Ada Leonard's Big Band in the 1940s and the Dixie Belles, an all-female group of 60- to 80-year-olds who appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 24, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
El Cid -- An article in the June 17 Calendar Weekend section on the Sunday music lineup at El Cid in Silver Lake misspelled the last name of horn player Carol Chaikin as Chaikinare.

The original El Cid Sunday brunch began with the Dixie Belles, but Thill, who's known for chatting up guests between sets, stayed on over the years, first with her trio Jazz Au Femme and now with Jerrie and Friends.

"I was actually surprised the new owners kept us on, because I figured, you know, they've got all those other clubs, and everything is either rock or rap or disc jockeys," Thill says with a chuckle. "But I guess I came with the lease."

-- Lina Lecaro

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