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Artist Profiles

Charlie O the Jazz Man

By Published: December 21, 2008
Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
b.1941
sax, tenor
:
The first thing I think of, when I remember Charlie, is that rough, husky voice—and the sound of it when he laughed. I always felt a sense of satisfaction when I made him laugh.

I had played in Charlie O's with some small groups before Charlie heard about my Rather Large Band. He kept asking me when I was going to bring my band into the club, which is a switch from the usual routine of begging club owners to give your band a chance. I kept putting it off, and finally—one night, he said, O.K., I'm not going to bug you anymore. You let me know when you're ready. Of course, that's when I decided to do it!



Among my most memorable conversations with Charlie—at the end of the bar—was when he told me, in a very sincere manner, that he just wanted to have a place where guys like Plas Johnson, etc., etc. could have a place to come in an play. Charlie seemed to especially favor saxophone players. You've gotta love a guy like that!



THESE CATS Carl Saunders leader and trumpet. Trumpets: Pete Desiena, Lee Thornberg, Bob Summers, Ron Stout. Trombones: Charlie Loper, Scott Whitfield, Andrew Lippman Craig Gossnel. Saxophones: Lanny Morgan, Glenn Morresett, Pete Christlieb, Jerry Pinter, Bob Efford. Piano John Campbell. Bass Dave Stone and drums Santo Savino. Rarely do you have an ensemble that houses the creme de la creme of the jazz nation and this one does just that, and then some.



Frank Capp

Frank Capp
Frank Capp
b.1931
drums
: Back in November 2006 Charlie asked me if I would consider taking my big band Juggernaut into the club. I thought it would be a gamble, not only because the bandstand was small, but also the cost might be prohibitive for him. But, I said OK I'll take the chance. Well that 1st Monday "Big Band Night" was a rousing success. The club was packed and many had to be turned away. He really started something.



Here we are two years later and Monday nights still feature big bands. Many new (and old) bands were formed because he gave them a place to play. No other clubs were doing that on a regular basis. Charlie loved all kinds of jazz in his club and wouldn't vary from that format. He never hired rock & roll or so called pop music. He was the jazz musicians best friend. He would feed all the cats that worked there. It was also the only "Jazz Hang" for the cats, like Donte's was years ago and Jim & Andy's was in New York. We will all miss him and I feel deep sorrow because he also was my friend.



Joe Magnarelli

Joe Magnarelli
Joe Magnarelli
b.1960
trumpet
: I had the pleasure of playing at Charlie O's, a few times, even though I live in New York City. Charlie always made me feel welcome, he was very gracious, and classy. I am very sorry that he has left us, it won't be the same without him. I can't wait to see his wife, Jo-Ann, the next time I am at the club, and give her a hug.

Joe LaBarbera

Joe LaBarbera
Joe LaBarbera
b.1948
drums
: I liked Charlie and Jo-Ann immediately, especially when Charlie told me he was from Batavia, NY, a town well known to me which is 25 miles from my home town of Mt. Morris , NY. Beyond that small detail was his obvious love of the music and the people who play the music, a fact that is apparent the minute you walk into the club. Both Charlie (and Jo-Ann) made you feel welcome and went out of their way to do whatever they could to make the music the most important thing in their club.



As the years went on, Charlie was constantly upgrading and improving wherever he could, including moving the ice machine (actually didn't sound too bad on certain tunes!) enlarging the stage to accommodate big bands, getting a new piano and a drum set and having a working sound system. I also don't know too many places that have a resident piano tuner (Ron Tuttle) who keeps the piano in good shape for all. Los Angeles jazz musicians and fans alike were very fortunate to have known Charlie and to still have a place like Charlie O's to play in.



It will never be the same without you, Charlie. God bless and rest in peace.

John Heard

John Heard
John Heard
b.1938
bass, acoustic
: As you know, I worked at Charlie O's since he started hiring jazz musicians. In the beginning, we were accompanied, particularly on ballads and bass solos, by the icemaker machine located next to the bandstand. Charlie took care of this eventually.



I was surprised to learn of his construction background which was mentioned in his obituary. Over the years I sought and got good advice from him about things I needed done around the house but he never mentioned he had been in that business. That was kind of typical for him, i.e., not blowing his own horn.



Charlie loved jazz and the club which has a great jazz joint ambiance about it. Make no mistake. Even though I worked for him at the club those eight years or so, I considered him a trusted friend and confidante. He was a sweetheart of a guy and I do and will miss him. He did a service to the entire L.A. jazz community by providing a venue where jazz fans young and old could hear good music and where new fans could discover its magic.



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