The closing of Steamers Jazz Club in Fullerton last summer still hurts. The iconic venue had been the only spot in OC to catch live jazz seven nights a week. The shuttering of Steamers led to an exodus of jazz aficionados and musicians wandering around looking for a new place to call home ever since. But last Thursday night at Cooks Chapel in Anaheim, a hopeful tune sounded when the Ron Kobayashi Trio took the stage.
The concert nights dubbed "Jazz in the Chapel" are brand spanking new and off to a good start. The Tony Guerrero Quintet, ol' Steamers regulars, kicked things off at the venue occupying the ground floor of the Anaheim Packing House two weeks ago. The Ron Kobayashi Trio followed with a show last week. Both performances packed the house. The Scott Martin Latin Soul Band is keeping the momentum going in March. "Cooks started jazz because it is a perfect space to hear live jazz both acoustically and size wise," says David House, co-promoter of Jazz in the Chapel along with his son Jason. "OC is a jazz desert, like a huge empty space waiting to be filled."
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Part of that void, of course, deepened with the closing of Steamers seven months ago. "Is was a huge loss because our trio played there once a month for 20 years since it opened," Ron Kobayashi tells the Weekly. "It was obviously a loss for the jazz community because jazz folks in Orange County and Southern California knew that Steamers was one place that had jazz seven nights a week." Kobayashi got involved with a group called OC Live Jazz and started up a Facebook page with the sole purpose of promoting live jazz in our fair county wherever it should appear. Chances are, more and more posts will be pointing folks to Cooks Chapel. The Ron Kobayashi Trio is certainly looking to return.
His group struggled to find a new place to play all while fans clamored for shows. When the trio took the stage at Cooks Chapel last Thursday night, the response was tremendous filling the ground floor venue to capacity. The Ron Kobayashi Trio played for three hours and invited guest musicians that they worked with back in the Steamers days to join them. It was like old times in a new space.
"It was a really, really great night," the jazz pianist says. "Right now, Cooks Chapel is just starting to see how it goes and if it goes well next month, I have a feeling it will be turning into a regular thing." Whether it does or not, the buzz is already beginning in OC jazz musician circles. "I'm getting a lot of people just calling me asking a lot of questions," he adds. "People around town are starting to talk about it as potentially being the next regular jazz spot."
OC jazz musicians aren't the only ones beaming at the prospect. "Cooks has the potential to be a world class jazz venue," House says. "We have started with really good OC musicians and will continue on that tract, but will be booking more and more of the very best musicians on the west coast and also from New York City and the world."