Fate of Venice’s Comeback Inn Uncertain; ‘Legends’ Photos on Display in Santa Monica

Will Raabe, who has operated the Comeback Inn in Venice for 16 years, may lose his lease at the end of May. Robert Klenner, who owns the West Washington Boulevard building and premises where the inn operates, has offered Rabbe a new lease--the present one expired in May, 1988, and Rabbe was given a one-year extension by Klenner at that time.

“But I can’t accept the new lease proposal because he wants me to be responsible for all repairs to the building, and the building needs improvements,” Raabe said. In addition, Klenner raised the rent.

Raabe said he made an offer to buy the Comeback, which is noted for the variety of jazz, world and folk music it presents, about a year ago, and says that after some preliminary negotiations, Klenner proposed new lease terms instead.


Klenner could not be reached for comment.

Raabe said that John Kertisz, former negotiator for Howard Hughes Industries and owner of the Human Arts Gallery in Venice, will serve as mediator for Raabe and Klenner in the dispute. Says Raabe: “I’m hopeful of a positive outcome.”

Should the inn close, it will be the second major L.A.-area jazz club to close in the past year. Donte’s in North Hollywood closed in early April, 1988, after owner Carey Leverette sold it to Japanese businessman Ken Akemoto, who planned extensive remodeling. But when Leverette died April 7, 1988, Akemoto decided against reopening Donte’s and later sold it to Arizona businessman David Robert Silvert, who has yet to reopen the room.

Meanwhile, Raabe is hosting a party Sunday to celebrate the release of “Alive at the Comeback Inn"--featuring Milcho Leviev and Ara and Danais of Arco Iris--the debut release on Raabe’s Doron record label. Both Leviev, the Bulgarian emigre, and Arco Iris have appeared regularly at the Comeback for several years.

MORE COMEBACK: Paula Ross, who calls herself “an artist who uses the camera as a tool"--and who has shown her photographs at the Comeback Inn, among other nightspots--has an exhibition of “large photo-paintings” on view at L.A. Photoworks in Santa Monica. Highlight of the show is “Jazz Legends,” an array of 20-by-24-inch hand-colored photos of such notables as Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey. Also on display are some smaller pictures of such top local talents as Leviev, Buddy Collette and Ray Pizzi.

L.A. Photoworks will hold a reception for Ross on Friday evening. Information: (213) 451-3243. On May 15, “Jazz Legends” moves to the Grand Avenue Bar of the Biltmore Hotel for a three-month exhibition.

AND ANOTHER: Isabel Holt, for several years the host of “Evening Becomes Eclectic” on KCRW-FM (88.9), is back on the air with a new program, “Isabel Holt: Solo,” airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on KPCC-FM (89.3). Holt’s show is based on jazz. “That will be the core, musically, of the show,” she says. “Some of the artists I expect to play are seminal people in . . . jazz . . . like Fletcher Henderson, Bud Powell, Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong.” Information: (818) 578-7231.

TOP OF THE CHARTS: Michel Camilo’s “Michel Camilo” (Portrait) is the top-selling jazz album this week, according to charts in Billboard magazine. Others making up the top five include Cassandra Wilson (“Blue Skies"/JMT), Chick Corea (“Chick Corea Akoustic Band"/GRP), Marcus Roberts (“The Truth is Spoken Here"/Novus) and Charlie Parker (“Bird--The Original Recordings of Charlie Parker"/Verve). The five top-selling contemporary jazz artists are Al Jarreau (“Heart’s Horizon/Reprise), Kenny G (“Silhouette"/Arista), Kim Pensyl (“Pensyl Sketches 1"/Optimism), Hiroshima (“East"/Epic) and Steps Ahead (“N.Y.C."/Intuition).