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Bars & Clubs

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Live Jazz & Blues

Agenda Lounge
399 S. First St., San Jose (408/287-4087)
Along with numerous architectural amenities, this swank supper club leans to the sophisticated side of music: jazz, acoustic acts, swing, acid jazz, reggae and the occasional showboating movie star. Downstairs is the Cellar, a literally underground dance club where Fil Maresca sets the turntables on '80s hits on Fridays and DJ Jesse goes funky disco on Saturdays. The main floor houses a linen-tablecloth restaurant. The cover charge for the bands upstairs rarely exceeds $3. Open nightly, 5pm­2am.

Almaden Feed and Fuel
18950 Almaden Road, San Jose (408/268-8950)
Unlike North Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos, the south-bound lanes of Almaden Expressway are not associated with "a night out." But when the road splits, bear right, then make a quick left into the Feed and Fuel parking lot. The "feed" is the grilled fare (steaks and chicken) and the "fuel," presumably, is provided by the microbrews, small-batch bourbons and single-malt scotches. An Almaden Valley voice of rebellion lives on Fridays and Saturdays with live blues, country and rock & roll bands plugging in from 9:30pm to 1:30am. A blues jam happens on Sundays around 5:30pm.

Cafe Fino
544 Emerson St., Palo Alto (415/326-6082)
For putting on the ritz, there's no place like Fino. Though the bar has no dress code, it would be nearly impossible to be overdressed for a night on the town sipping impeccably mixed martinis beneath Fino's vaulted ceiling adorned with art deco frescoes. The menu features single-malt scotches, vintage port and other upper-regions libations served by the tuxedoed bartender from central casting. A bar menu of selections from Fino's sister establishment, Mia Maddalena, is available. Classic jazz provides the background sounds Mondays through Saturdays; weekends feature a three-piece combo including a chanteuse with a Marlene Dietrich voice and Bette Davis eyes. Open till 10:30pm, later on weekends; closed Sunday.

Club Ibex
55 S. Market St., San Jose (408/971-4239)
An world-music nightclub, Club Ibex welcomes all cultures and ages. This upbeat hot spot impresses with its modernized array of neon lights, its checkerboard dance floor and its full bar with a variety of imported beers and a wide selection of liquor. Weekends bring jazz and world-beat acts. The atmosphere is welcoming without the pressure of a pickup bar. Unlike most downtown San Jose clubs, the Ibex offers free parking on weekends. Doors open at 7:30pm.

French Quarter
193 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale. (408/773-8700)
New Orleanaise cuisine--blackened redfish and red beans and rice--is served for quiet lunches and dinners. This small club on the end of Sunnyvale's downtown strip, built as a classic '70s-era disco, opens for live blues and jazz on Wednesday nights; a TGIF crowd comes by after work to watch the major sporting events on one of the five TVs around the club. DJ Ebonite spins "adult contemporary" tunes for late-night dancing Thursday through Saturday. Some Sunday nights feature KBLX oldies dancing. The dress code is enforced Saturday after 8pm and Sunday after 7pm.

15043 Los Gatos Blvd., Los Gatos (408/358-7852)
If there is a no-nonsense '60s musical meeting place in Los Gatos, Friends is it. No college kids, no phonies, no umbrella drinks. Live bands play blues, rock and country Thursdays through Saturdays (no cover). The place draws everybody from leathered longhairs to sheared yuppies getting back to their musical roots. On Wednesdays, drinks are $1 for women. In the meantime, try the pool table, darts and video games. Microbrews, single-malt scotch and small-batch bourbons are available. Open 10am­2am, Monday­Thursday; 8am­2am, Friday­Saturday.

Garden City
360 Saratoga Ave., San Jose (408/244-3333)
The dizzying, A-frame peak of the Garden City lounge has sheltered some of the most talented jazz artists in the world. The class-act club oozes jazz every night, featuring the work of Smith Dobson, Bobby Hutcherson, Richie Cole and others on a cozy stage in the center of the room (the big names play two shows every Sunday). The full bar is stocked with a variety of wines, microbrews and specialty espresso drinks, and the shots are measured. Dress is casual to glittery. Cover varies, depending on who's playing.

Hedley Club
Hotel De Anza, 233 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose (408/286-1000)
Located in the restored Hotel De Anza, this lounge de luxe recalls the more elaborate tastes of Roaring Twenties with its hints of Moorish architecture and design, including a lavishly painted ceiling and a towering fireplace. A broad range of business people, hotel guests and Sharks fans en route to a game stop here to chat in a shadowy, flora-filled corner or on the airy patio--and, Wednesdays through Saturdays, to enjoy live jazz and R&B. Noon­12:30am weekdays, 4pm­1:30am weekends.

JJ's Blues Lounge
3439 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara (408/243-6441)
The wee little blues club with the big bad reputation is a model for aspiring dive-bar designers. A long, narrow room with mirrors and bar stools in vinyl noir, a ceiling painted black, a pool table in the rear and conversation-defying volume set the scene for bellowed flirtation, drunken bouts of self-pity or a good game of billiards. The weekends feature national touring acts, usually starting at 9pm, in the dim, smoky environment that blues aficionados expect.

Kuumbwa Jazz Center
320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz (408/427-2227)
A Santa Cruz landmark institution for more than 20 years, Kuumbwa attracts some of the top names in both classic and experimental jazz. A nonprofit club, it offers an outlet for both local performers and those of world-wide acclaim--Fridays tend to see area artists playing world-beat, trance and acid jazz, the Monday Night Concert Series boasts the crème de la crème of the jazz world. It's an intimate venue with mostly sit-down shows for all ages. Wine, beer and tasty treats served. No smoking; showtimes and cover vary.

Moe's Alley
1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz (408/479-1854)
Moe's Alley has all the makings of a classic '40s blues joint. Smoky, dimly illuminated and appealing to all walks of life, from the aging hippies and old-time bluesmen to college hipsters and singles, it's a comfortable spot to enjoy live music any night of the week. Live bands nightly. Cover and showtimes vary.

Murphy's Law
135 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale (408/736-3822)
A huge TV screen is eclipsed by no-cover blues bands four days a week, and the pleasantly noisy Murphy's Law is bisected by a long shuffleboard table parallel to the bar, where, during one visit, an unassuming 30ish/40ish crowd sat on stools yakking and watching the Giants. Softball trophies tower over the back bar; about a hundred dollars' worth of crumpled singles are pressed up against the ceiling, along with one significant artifact: an air-conditioning vent painted to look like a Lockheed missile.

#1 Broadway
102 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/354-4303)
Off the beaten track in little-mentioned South Santa Cruz Avenue territory sits this quaint upstairs lodge with a panoramic view of Los Gatos. Light jazz, blues and Motown by the likes of Spang-a-Lang and Thick get dancers moving Tuesdays through Saturdays. Regulars (mostly on the far side of 30) are serious about dancing--chairs and tables convert into coat racks, and the humidity level jumps as the evening progresses. Closed Sunday, open 3pm­2am other days.

The Quarter Note
1214 Apollo Way, #403, Sunnyvale (408/732-2110)
The Lawrence Expressway is nothing like a dusty Texas highway, but it goes right past a roadhouse that would fit in six miles out of Abilene. On a recent Wednesday, Jimmy Mabou is improvising a country-blues number on an upright piano in the middle of the room. He switches to guitar when he takes the stage--Beverly Scoval plays keyboards, Ron Lewis is on sax and a big guy called Cowboy sings and slaps bass. These veterans have played with the likes of Freddy King and Queen Ida, and it shows. The Quarter Note features jam sessions Wednesdays and Sundays and blues Fridays and Saturdays. Also: two pool tables and sports on TV. Open daily, 10:30am­2pm.

Roadhouse Blues and Rock Cafe
1102 W. Evelyn Ave., Sunnyvale (408/739-7939)
Like many neighborhood bars, the Roadhouse Blues and Rock cafe exists in something of a time warp. Its basic look and feel haven't changed since it opened--and probably never will. Neon beer signs, airbrushed poster girls, faded pool tables and a battered wooden stage are all essential to the ambiance. Although the full range of beverages is available for blending, mixing and shaking, this is a Bud and JD kind of place. Live music is featured three nights a week: Thursdays are jam nights, Fridays are reserved for the blues and Saturdays are all right for rock & roll. And yes, they do have a print of Dogs Playing Pool hanging in the back room. No cover; cash only. Open 11am­2am.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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