Singer Kim Nalley Notes Favorite S.F. Spots
May 29, 2011 | By Aidin Vaziri, Chronicle Pop Music Critic
Kim Nalley is a critically lauded San Francisco jazz and blues singer who has performed Gershwin with the San Francisco Symphony and produced sensational musical tributes to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. In June, she will start a two-month residency at the Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko, taking on the music and life of Nina Simone. The former owner of the North Beach club Jazz at Pearl's, Nalley is a faculty member at the Jazzschool and a history student in UC Berkeley's doctorate program. She's as famous for her immaculate style as her remarkable range. We asked the Nob Hill resident to tell us about some of her favorite Bay Area spots.
A few of Nalley's insider tips
Armstrong Chiropractic, 22 Battery St., No. 701. "Between prancing on heels in concert, acting on raked theater stages, global touring and lugging history books on BART to UC Berkeley, my back is hopelessly destroyed. Dr. Dan Armstrong is a god who not only keeps me out of pain, he gives the best massage ever. Kyle, who works the front desk, has an old-fashioned clear-cased Wurlitzer full of 45s in the waiting room and plenty of free quarters for you to plug into it if you should be so lucky to wait."
The Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St. "Going out to see music can be a big production for me. I can't really schlep down to SFJazz incognito or expect not to be asked to sit in at a smaller place. Rrazz is only a few blocks from my flat and features the type of music I grew up with - jazz, blues, Motown, R&B and Broadway. The owner, Robert Kotonly, sneaks me into my secret seat near the back door at the last minute, and I leave right before the artist leaves the stage. That way I can go to a show in glasses with no makeup and not see the photos on Facebook the next day."
Costume Party, 1058 Hyde St. "Spig, the owner, created my first look and has been keeping me in affordable vintage cashmere and sequined gowns for decades. He is a real old-school San Franciscan, so no cell phones, look him in the eye and mind your Ps and Qs. Spig takes my measurements and calls me when a 'Kim Nalley dress' comes in."
City Vintage, call for location, (650) 634-9537. "Roberto and Julia Isola have amazing vintage cars, suits, WWII uniforms and dresses - including sizes that fit today's figures. Everything they have is in impeccable condition. He found me the perfect ivory Chick Webb suit for my play, 'Ella: The American Dream.' "
Al's Attire, 1314 Grant Ave. "For those who want the vintage-inspired look but want it new or updated, Al is your man. His original work is stunning and made to order, although he has some ready-to-wear items to try on or buy. He sometimes makes a pattern from worn-out or outgrown vintage gowns and makes me a new gown. He has great hats, custom shoes, but his real forte is making suits and trench coats tailored to perfection. He even made my husband's wedding suit. While brainstorming, Al and I go right across the corner to Caffe Trieste for the best coffee in San Francisco and flip through Spiegel catalogs from the 1960s for inspiration."
Musical Offering, 2430 Bancroft Way. "I am a grad student at Berkeley but dislike most of the loud student hangouts. I also hate background music because music is never background for me. Hence, this cafe, which is half classical music store and half corduroyed professors talking in dulcet tones over bistro fare. It's the perfect place for me to recharge with coffee, wine or a meal over a book."
Dogpatch Saloon, 2496 Third St. "Vince Lateano holds his weekly jam session every Sunday afternoon at Apicelli's homey bar. Here the intricacies of jazz subculture are played out as horn players battle on the testosterone fueled Serengeti musical plain. Occasionally, Madeline Eastman or myself will sit in and the boys will settle down and play something pretty for the pretty people, but those who don't like bop need not attend."
Lindy in the Park, John F. Kennedy Drive, Golden Gate Park. "You know San Francisco is the best place on Earth when you can get free dance lessons from my favorite DJ-dance instructor Hep Jen while listening to killer jazz and blues every Sunday, weather permitting. All ages, all levels, no partner necessary dancing together in Golden Gate Park."
Discount Beauty Supply, 1440 Fillmore St. "Whenever I take girlfriends to this store for the first time, their jaws drop and their eyes go as wide as saucers. No other beauty supply store even comes close. They have the complete line of every hair-care brand, every wig, every toner, every hair doodad, every flat iron and blow-dryer imaginable, clip-on extensions, toupee tape, rhinestone jewelry, pearl-studded bobby pins, Billie-esque clip-on flowers, peroxide, henna. Honey, you name it and they got it or will get it for cheap."
Cheese Board Collective, 1512 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. "Well-known jazz musicians who normally charge at least three bills to walk out of the house will forgo their minimum to play at the Cheese Board because it is fun, it's a co-op and the pizza is off the chain. I am Holden Caulfield when it comes to lines; if I cannot get a reservation then I do not go. But at least the Cheese Board serenades you with free music while you wait. Well, at least while you wait. I just go straight up to the piano, sit in and snag one of the band's slices."