Loa's, the Southland's newest jazz club and restaurant, opened Tuesday evening. It was one of those celebrity-heavy, television-covered first nights best summed up in three words: Quincy was there.
Not surprising, perhaps, for both Quincy Jones and Ray Brown, who is musical director at the Loa, are old jazz pals and fellow alumni of the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra. The owner of the room, Mariko Omura and her partner, Hideyuki Nogami, got to know Brown when Omura was producing records with him for a Japanese company.
Brown's involvement with the venture will find him on hand initially through Feb. 22, returning for the month of March Tuesdays through Sundays. He will bring other major jazz artists to work in the room, but promises to be back with his own group at least four months a year.
The Brown unit, billed as "the world's greatest house band," places the veteran bassist alongside Gene Harris, the pianist, and Mickey Roker on drums. The pace was set with the opening number, a rocking "Night Train" that brought Harris' blues credentials powerfully into the foreground.
Harris displayed a slightly less flamboyant side of his personality in the easily swinging "Street of Dreams." Then it was Roker's turn to demonstrate that a song called "Soft Winds" can live up to its title even as a percussion feature.
The sound at the Loa is bright, perhaps a mite too bright, with Harris in control of a splendid nine-foot grand piano. Outside and in, the decor is somewhat barren, mostly in slate gray, black and white. The policy calls for a cuisine mixing Japanese with Nouvelle California.
The Loa is well situated: 3321 Pico Blvd. at Centinela Avenue, on the inland edge of Santa Monica. It has no license to serve alcohol at present, but in the meantime dinner can be accompanied by any of 15 non-alcoholic beverages named after everyone from Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis to Charlie Parker and B. B. King. Regrettably, there is at present no drink called Toshiko Akiyoshi.