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DeLaria’s dabbling is surface stuff

Special to The Times

Mention an area of the entertainment world, and Lea DeLaria has probably been there successfully, working in genres ranging from Broadway and films to television and nightclub appearances. For the last year or so -- largely as a result of her “Play It Cool” album on Warner Bros. -- she has been vigorously promoted as a jazz singer. And Thursday, that aspect of her entertainment persona was in the spotlight at Catalina Bar & Grill.

Most of her set was dedicated to songs from the album, with the addition of the Doors’ hit “People Are Strange” and the Billie Holiday classic “Don’t Explain.”

What soon became apparent was the sense that DeLaria is primarily a jazz hobbyist. It’s possible to be successful in various areas of the entertainment world by relying upon image, style and attitude. But in jazz, those elements are significant only as extensions of fundamental musical skills and an inventive imagination.

DeLaria’s performance displayed a fascination with scat singing without revealing any particular gift for the technique, and the impact of her ballad work mistakenly emphasized long tones rather than communicative phrasing. The set’s primary jazz qualities, in fact, were provided by the fine backup ensemble of Joe Bagg, piano; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; Gene Burkert, saxophones; and Barbara Merjan, drums.

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DeLaria was at her best with Broadway numbers that tapped into her real abilities.

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Lea DeLaria

Where: Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood

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When: Today, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7 and 9 p.m.

Price: $18-$25, with a two-drink minimum purchase

Contact: (323) 466-2210


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