For over 60 years, Hadda Brooks has been singing the blues, jazz and torch in taverns, cabarets and restaurants. Yet somehow, the 85-year-old chanteuse makes even a run-of-the-mill Wednesday night in a little club in Los Feliz seem like an opening night.
Which in some ways, it was. Ms. Brooks is doing a month of Wednesdays at the boite, accompanied by former Brubeck bassist Senator Eugene Wright.
No longer a blues belter and thus off that circuit of clubs, Brooks plays a handful of jazz festivals and cabarets and has been looking for a gig closer to home (which for the singer is in East Hollywood). Sitting at her piano, she belted out a mix of standards and originals and can work a house like no one’s business.
In fine form she was, singing classics like “Funny That Way” and “Ballin’ the Jack” and “A Little Sugar in My Bowl” before hammering out a honky-tonky instrumental and bidding the audience adieu — but not before she walked about the tiny room a few times serenading and insulting the audience good-naturedly, beginning with a hapless photographer that took a little too long for her liking to snap her picture. “Are you gonna flash me now or what?,” asked the singer to uproarious applause, after striking a pose and getting no result. She then played a stunning little solo interlude during the tune and kissed her fingers afterwards, also drawing a huge hand. The consummate pro, indeed.
In a world where Billie and Bessie and Dinah are beyond long gone, Hadda Brooks is still kicking it out.