Best Jazz Club Orange County 2008 - Steamers Jazz Club and CafĂ©
Jazz clubs—a dying breed—come and go faster than political smears. Live jazz demands intimacy, a reach-out-and-touch-the-performer proximity that complements the personal aspects of the music. And it goes down great with booze. Since 1994, Steamers has provided the up-close experience and great audio to boot. Owner Terence Love books the best musicians he can afford—and, on occasion, a few he can't. Such greats as saxophonists Lew Tabackin, Bud Shank and Miles Davis sideman Dave Liebman; vocalists Kurt Elling and Diana Krall; drummer Billy Higgins; and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra have made a few nights here very special. Love likes to mix it up, booking big bands on Mondays, often singers on weekdays (no cover!) and a host of name acts. Lately, the club has seen the Estrada Brothers Latin band, ultra-hip drummer Gerry Gibbs (son of legendary bop vibraphonist Terry Gibbs) with scintillating pianist/composer Billy Childs, the world-renowned master of Cuban rhythms Francesco Aguabella, swing drummer Jeff Hamilton's trio and the great that Poncho Sanchez. There's a cluster of tables around the bandstand for the serious, and a group of them in the back for those who just want to hang. But the best seats are at the end of the bar near the sound board, where you can flirt with the servers, listen to Terence boss his staff around, sip your martini and peer over the crowd into the heart of the music. Hit it!