For over 20 years, Karen Hernandez has been one of the San Fernando Valley's top lounge draws, and to know why, you just have to hear her do a number or two. For example, at a recent benefit in Hollywood for the late bassist Larry Gales, the pianist backed saxman Teddy Edwards on a slow version of the classic "Misty," and when she soloed, her emotional, bluesy phrasing brought down the house.
"I've always listened to players that got an audience going," said Hernandez, who plays tonight through Saturday at J.P.'s Lounge in Burbank and Wednesday at Monteleone's in Tarzana. "Someone like Gene Harris, he knew how to get them going, so I started paying attention to that kind of soulful music."
At J.P.'s, Hernandez backs guest singers on Fridays and Saturdays: this week it's Maurice Davis and Exetta Harris respectively.
But at Monteleone's, she has the room's fine Yamaha piano all to herself, working Wednesday with bassist Darek Oles and drummer Frank Wilson, who also appears with her at J.P.'s. "Frank's enthusiastic. Someone once said he dots all his i's and crosses all his t's. I liked that," she said.
Besides her blues-drenched numbers, Hernandez also indulges in flavorful Latin vehicles, like "Ay! Papacito," a selection included on her "Soundscapes to You" CD. "I don't know why, but I just love Latin music," she said. "Maybe," she added laughing, "it's because I've been married to two Hispanics."
* Karen Hernandez plays tonight through Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., art J.P.'s Lounge, 1333 Hollywood Way, Burbank. No cover, no minimum. (818) 845-1800. She also performs Wednesday, 7 to 11:30 p.m., at Monteleone's West, 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover; without dinner, $9.95 food/drink minimum. Information: (818) 996-0662.