By Ken Martin
RIGHT UNDER OUR VERY NOSES: I frequently hear the over-worn lament that there is nothing doing in Castro Valley. I generally counter that there are many things to do here but you have to look for them, an action frequently not taken. Case in point: Palomares Cafe.
Palomares Cafe is at the west end of the 580 Marketplace, which is, in turn, at the east end of Castro Valley Boulevard. Patty and I have eaten there occasionally and found the food to be very good, especially the Linguine Carbonara. They also have live jazz on Thursday evenings. Eventually, at the urging of fellow Buon Tempo Club member Rich Vanucci, we went there recently to have dinner and to hear the jazz. We found the Stan Popper Trio playing some very mellow music in the bar.
The personnel of the trio consisted of Stan Popper on drums, Spencer Allen on keyboard, and world-renowned bassist Mario Serracci on the bass. Except for the keyboard being a little too loud, the sounds were a great accompaniment for our dinner. Soon the group was joined by a lady vocalist whose only name was Dima.
While the music was good as it was, Dima added a whole new dimension. She has to be characterized as a vocal stylist. Her soft style brought images of the Julie London-Sarah Vaughn-Julie Christie era. Her renditions of “But Beautiful” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” almost made her sound like a reincarnation of London.
Mario Serracci is so relaxed while he plays the bass that he almost appears to not be paying any attention to what he is doing. But when his precise notes reach your ears you know that he is totally into making the bass do exactly as he demands.
Stan Popper’s drum solos were welcome interludes. Like the other performers, he completely carried his part of the music.
Keyboardist Spencer Allen showed outstanding skill with the instrument and he certainly made his presence known as the lead instrument. Unfortunately he played too loud, especially during Dima’s numbers.
After the first set, the group was joined by saxophonist Don Santos who also doubles as a vocalist. His tenor sax really rounded out the band and his vocals, like those of Dima, were reminiscent of an era long since gone when singers had real voices and weren’t the nasally screamers that we are subjected to now.
This was a great evening’s entertainment. The most disturbing aspect of the night was the sparse crowd. With the quality of the music, it should have been almost impossible to get a seat. Instead, only a dozen or so people were there to listen to this aural treat. This is the only live jazz for miles around and should be a very popular venue. Where were all the “nothing to do in Castro Valley” bunch? Here is something eminently worth doing and they weren’t there. Best of all, this entertainment is not expensive. For the price of a drink, you can be enraptured for three hours. You can’t beat that anywhere!!
Jazz performances are on Thursday evenings from 7 to 10 PM. Various groups play here. To find out just who is on for the evening, call the Palomares Cafe at (510) 733-5852. It will definitely be worth your time. Also check on the Friday and Saturday night activities there. Always live, always good!