By Jonathan Widran
As a regular patron of the original Spaghettini in Seal Beach, California, which launched in 1988 and evolved into a smooth-jazz mecca via its live Sunday Brunch broadcasts on Los Angeles radio station KTWV, I had been looking forward to the opening of Spaghettini & The Dave Koz Lounge on Canon Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills for a long time.
The opening had been delayed several times, so I was pleased to receive an invitation to an exclusive pre-opening gathering just before Thanksgiving, centered around a celebration of Koz’s new holiday album The 25th of December. When I walked in wearing sneakers, jeans, a reasonably dressy shirt and a casual jacket, my first thought was: “I’m underdressed.” I was used to the original location’s laid-back elegance, its woodsy architecture and expansive multi-room layout — and that typical SoCal ambience wherein patrons feel comfortable whether they dressed up or not.
This new Spaghettini was something else: compact, sleek and fancy, intimately lit, thoroughly modern. A 24-piece art installation composed of cement, glass and oxides contrasts nicely with walls painted in natural tones of cream, stone and slate. Tables and booths made from worn wood and a trendy bar area are scattered beneath a funky, exposed-beam ceiling. Instead of seating for 450, the new venue seats 150, all of them in front of the stage.
Then there was the guest list. Spag’s in Seal Beach always had the top smoothies performing, but Koz’s high-profile affiliations run deep. In addition to the expected batch of smooth stars, I spotted legendary TV producer Norman Lear (a co-owner of Concord Music, for whom Koz records), singer Steve Tyrell and actor John Stamos. And while I figured that Jonathan Butler would join Koz for some onstage caroling, I didn’t expect to see Johnny Mathis up there crooning his holiday chestnut “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Photo Credit: Greg Allen