Tall, laid-back saxophonist Cal Bennett and his powerful quartet lay into a rolling funk version of Miles Davis' "All Blues," and slowly the true character of the room is revealed. This modal bop sound, born in smoky basement clubs in the gritty core of urban America, rolls around the orange-hued interior of Windows' dining room, high atop downtown L.A.'s Transamerica Building, and then out through the great glass walls, dissipating into the lights of L.A. winking far below. Even Miles' compressed, urgent vibe succumbs to the sense of infinite space here, relaxed by the room's elevated chill.
Far from being a hipster hangout, Windows' new Saturday jazz night, ongoing weekly since August, is strictly upscale. Top local jazz acts like Bennett, there until Nov. 16, play only for diners sitting down to chef Carlos Andrade's increasingly noted cuisine, especially his mind-blowing filet and New York steaks. It's been consistently sold out, but at $80 to $100 per couple for dinner, the killer jazz is going to hurt for young swingers.
But the jazz is only where the night starts. After 10:30, diners and those who just come for drinks and dancing with an unbeatable view pack into a late-night R&B; and funk DJ party in Windows' Sunset Room.
"There's a music crowd looking to go more upscale, to have dinner, to go to a place with a dress code," says Fred Loc, partner in the Highland Jazz Society, which has hosted long-running Saturday night parties at Atlas, Chicago Bar & Grill and Calypso before landing at Windows.
"But if you step into the other room after 10:30 or so, it's a party," Loc says. "We sweat the windows out every weekend, people jam the place until 2 a.m."
The dining room scene, for its part, is chill but not sedate. Loc and his partner DJ General Lee (the pair also bill themselves as Worldwide Entertainment and also DJ Laker games, celeb parties and many Staples events) like their jazz mean and simmering.
Bennett, for instance, can hold back to let Windows diners gaze out at the sun setting over the ocean miles away or the moon rising over the San Gabriels, but even then his smooth, funk-inflected sound is never saccharine or thin. After listening to his newest indie album, "Cal Bennett Live at the Blue Note Las Vegas," seeing his quartet here, driven by rock steady drummer Cedric Anderson, is like watching a train pull away slowly: pure tension and potential. With keyboardist Jerome Academia and Eddie Townes on six-string electric fretless bass, Bennett moves through originals like "Glow in the Dark" with the freshness of early-'70s George Benson or the occasional funk of Steely Dan.
Loc's experimenting more with danceable sounds in the dining room too, looking to bring in Latin jazz bands in early 2003 for a get-up salsa nights.
"I like the diversity," says Loc. "I got a party of 40 Latin jazz lovers coming in this weekend. There are people coming up here who want hot salsa in a place with a dress code too. We can do that."
Where: Windows, atop the TransAmerica Building, 1150 S. Olive St.,. L.A.
When: Every Saturday, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Jazz in dining room only, must be dinner guest. After-hours club with name DJs, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. $20. $10 before 10 p.m. Cover waived with dinner.
Info: (213) 746-1554.