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Getting in tune with that L.A. vibe

Dear friends:

I’m here at the Hollywood Farmers Market and thought I’d fire off this quick postcard.

You know what I love about the place? Smoke from the grills, sunlight on brick, the human centipede that marches past all the organic food stalls. Pupusas and tamales, Gouda and mushrooms. Organic cherries and Harry’s Berries.

And the music. There’s this cat Carl Tassi in his Panama hat, a singing jazz drummer. Eleven years in the same spot and so West Coast cool, a little bit of Mose Allison with Chet Baker and Annie Ross mixed in. Here, listen to this from Tassi’s song “Small Day Tomorrow”:

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I don’t have to go to bed

I’ve got a small day tomorrow

Small day tomorrow

I don’t have to use my head

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I’ve got a small day tomorrow

I can sleep the day away

And it will cause no sorrow

Not tomorrow.

You know what’s fun to do? Next time you’re here, try this:

Stand behind the band.

Behind Austin Nicholsen on upright bass (the kid’s in his 20s and eats organic sprouts on breaks), and Cengiz Yaltkaya on keyboards, and last week Ben Hurwitz, an 85-year-old trumpeter.

You’ve got to see these guys, but don’t miss the real show: the people walking by.

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It’s L.A. on parade. The old and new, stroller for two. The dreadlocks and comb-overs, the hipsters and farmers.

You see grannies and toddlers do a little bounce step when the music hits them. The best, says Tassi, is to see some guy up at the corner of Ivar and Selma, catch him tapping his foot. Is that for Tassi’s band? Yes, look at that. He’s tapping in rhythm, and next thing you know he follows the sound and drops a buck in the basket and says thanks, that last song made his day.

It could have been “Blue Skies” or “Gypsy in My Soul.” It could have been “I Love the Life I Live (And I Live the Life I Love).”

Tassi’s life fits into the trunk of a red Mazda Miata convertible. The drums and the amp. What else does he need? No, he never broke out big, but what’s wrong with Hollywood on a Sunday morning?

Dozens of gigs have come his way here. No, hundreds! The people who come down out of those hills for fresh arugula and heirloom tomatoes like their music organic too. Tassi can’t remember all the parties he’s played in 11 years. Weddings and bar mitzvahs. Birthdays and Christmas.

“I just like their sound,” says Don Murphy, a regular who also enjoys the bluegrass band and the reggae guy who gets all the kids drumming along with him. “The story I’d like to know about is the blind guy who plays flamenco guitar.”

That’s easy. His name is Pepe Viramontes, 69, born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and blind since he was a toddler. Like Tassi, the farmers market gig gets him jobs at birthdays and weddings.

The sun is high in the sky now. The vegetables are baking and Tassi’s band is cooking.

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The thing about L.A. is that you can’t define it, sum it up neatly or pretend to have found it. But I always feel like I’m getting closer to knowing it when I’m here where little Caroline always wants the grilled corn on the cob and Alison is always bumping into Sheila or Hillary, and Carl Tassi’s band makes Sunday morning so familiar.

Honey child tonight’s the night

And there’s a car I can borrow

Til tomorrow

We can swing til broad daylight

I’ve got a small day tomorrow.

--

steve.lopez@latimes.com


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