Valley Weekend : SOUNDS : Vocalist’s Dreams Thrive Despite Dreaded ‘Day Job’ : For Pamala Feener, music is her joy, even if she performs only a few times a month. She’ll sing at Chadney’s on Friday.
Like many artists, singer Pamala Feener makes her living at a dreaded “day job"--the sort that most of us do all the time, but musicians do only when they can’t find work inside their profession. And while Feener says it’s frustrating “keeping a roof over her head by doing something other than what I love to do,” when she does get a singing job, it’s all the more fulfilling.
“Singing is a thrill,” says the North Hollywood resident, who appears Friday at Chadney’s, performing with a trio that spotlights pianist Todd Hunter. “Singing is my soul, it’s what I love. It allows me to communicate in so many ways.”
One way Feener gets her message across is to sing a variety of tunes, from classic standards such as “But Not For Me” to whimsical vehicles such as “Frasier (The Sensuous Lion).”
“I couldn’t sing ballads all night. I’d get bored,” she says. “I sometimes sing things really fast, then other tunes are more mellow, in the pocket, so to speak, and it’s like I’m having a conversation with the audience. And I feel I have a great sense of humor, so I like humorous things.”
“Frasier,” a number by two greats--pianist Jimmy Rowles and lyricist Johnny Mercer--is in the latter bag. The song, written 20 years ago, is about an aging male lion that escaped from a circus in Tijuana and was placed at the now-defunct Lion Country Safari in Irvine, where his way with the female lions became legend. “That number always gets a reaction because it’s a true story,” says Feener.
Though she sometimes works with big bands led by Chuck Flores and Jimmy McConnell, where the sound “surrounds her,” Feener is usually heard in a trio setting, which she says is ideal. “It’s so intimate,” says the singer. “I love the colors and the moods that can be created, also having the freedom to take a lyric and say what I want with it, tell people what I am thinking or feeling in the moment.”
Feener was born in San Leandro in the Bay Area and started singing professionally at age 16. She worked steadily for more than 20 years, both as a soloist and with such groups as the Doodle Town Pipers. When she moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, she found it much harder to get work, and started taking day jobs. These days, she sings a handful of times a month.
“I’d love to work every night but one,” she says. “But it’s up to me. I have to put myself out there, trying to get jobs. I don’t do that nearly enough.”
* Pamala Feener sings on Friday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Chadney’s, 3000 W. Olive St., Burbank. No cover, no minimum. (818) 843-5333.
On Wednesday, pianist-owner Don Randi celebrated 25 years of continuous operation of his Baked Potato. He hosted a bash that featured many of the musicians who had played at the North Hollywood club over the years.
“We’re the oldest jazz club in the city now,” he says. “We’ve stayed open because we kept it simple: good food and great music. The musicians have always been so supportive. They love to play here and the customers keep showing up, so we must be doing something right.”
Randi’s band Quest has been the club’s house unit for years and its leader is extremely proud that some of his players have gone on to greater fame. “Tom Brechtlein, Vinnie Colaiuta and Chet McCracken all worked with me,” says Randi, referring to the drummers that have appeared with Chick Corea, Madonna and the Doobie Brothers, respectively.
On Tuesday, the pianist will bring in two of his current favorites--bassist Rick Firabracci and drummer Dave Libman--to play in a trio. The music will range from be-bop to fusion.
“Though I often find myself in a fusion bag, I’m playing more be-bop than ever,” says Randi, who, before he opened the Baked in 1970, led trios on the Sunset Strip and was one of Los Angeles’ most active recording-session musicians. “I’m going back to the good tunes, like Miles Davis’s ‘All Blues’ or ‘Milestones,’ Horace Silver’s ‘Senor Blues’ and ‘Song For My Father’ and Thelonious Monk’s ‘Friday the Thirteenth.’ To me, these tunes will go on forever.”
* Don Randi’s trio plays Tuesday, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. at the Baked Potato, 3787 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood. $10 cover, two-drink minimum. Information: (818) 980-1615.