Only Paula West could make a hotel conference room feel like the Copacabana on opening night. But that’s just what San Francisco’s premier jazz-cabaret singer did Tuesday in the Carmel Room at Hotel Nikko, where she began her 2008 residency with the George Mesterhazy Quartet.
It simply didn’t matter that the highly anticipated opening of the Rrazz Room, which is taking the place of the defunct beloved Plush Room at the York Hotel, has been delayed.
West never disappoints, whether singing from a glitzy stage or from an inauspicious platform in front of patrons seated at office-style tables and chairs in the makeshift "club."
How appropriate that her concert is called "Something Good." She opened the show with that song, a little gem from the movie version of "The Sound of Music."
As she always does, she gave the song a new twist. Whether subtle or dramatic (or subtly dramatic), her interpretations undeniably bring her listeners on a journey, making them hear each tune she painstakingly selects in novel, thrilling ways.
Accompanied by arranger/pianist Mesterhazy, bassist Barak Mori, drummer Tony Reedus. guitarist Ed Cherry — and snazzy backup vocalists Sharon D. Henderson, Deborah Tisdale, Liz Whitted Dawson and Lady Sunrize — West is boasting a distinctly big sound.
Even more than ever, her set list bounced around, going from ballads and swing to country and rock.
She called "God Only Knows" her favorite love song, then coolly transitioned to "Dancing on the Ceiling," pointing out the fun juxtaposition of Brian Wilson and Rodgers and Hart.
"The Goodbye Song," a witty tune sung by Pearl Bailey, got some laughs, while Noel Coward’s "Mad About the Boy" tugged the heartstrings and Hank Williams’ "Jambalaya" really cooked.
On a roll with Bob Dylan tunes in recent years, West this time out performs "Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right" in an evocative keyboard-driven arrangement by Mesterhazy, a highlight in a show where there are no low points.
Closing with a gospel-tinged "You Can’t Always Get What You Want," and singing the gut-busting (but always welcome) "Waters of March" for the encore, West, once again, is at the helm of a show that’s not to be missed.
Check her out when she moves to the new Rrazz Room in the middle of her run. Or go even sooner. You won’t be disappointed.
IF YOU GO
Where: Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays; closes March 16
Tickets: $35 to $40
Contact: (866) 468-3399 or www.therrazzroom.com