More sterling standards from Paula West 

This year, San Francisco jazz-cabaret singer Paula West’s winter engagement is an unprecedented eight weeks at the Rrazz Room.

Toward the end of her opening-night set last week, she asked her audience of admirers — including local singers Carly Ozard, Denise Perrier, Amanda King, Mike Greensill and Wesla Whitfield — to “tell everybody they better get their butts over here.”

West need not plead, however. The show — again featuring her velvet voice, inimitable interpretations and smartly unique song selections — is up to her impeccable standards.

She wisely and generously shares the spotlight with her top-notch band: pianist-arranger George Mesterhazy, bassist Barak Mori, guitarist Ed Cherry and drummer Jerome Jennings.

In the past few years, West’s set lists have included a fun sampling of more-contemporary songs, but in 2011 she has gone back to her roots, of sorts, keeping the main focus on tunes — not necessarily famous ones — by Great American Songbook-era composers.

West likes to get Cole Porter’s high-density lyrics out of the way, delivering the show’s second tune, “At Long Last Love,” with her typical panache.

Later, in what she called the “wanton women” trio of sad and sultry tunes, she did Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets,” Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Francis Webster’s “Baltimore Oriole” and the heartbreaking “Tired” by Allan Robert and Doris Fisher.

Other heart-rending songs were Irving Berlin’s “Summertime” and Jimmy Webb’s thought-provoking “Wichita Lineman” made popular by Glen Campbell.

West often makes magic with a Bob Dylan tune, and this year it is “Shelter From the Storm.”

The evening is not all sadness and heartache. Among the lighter numbers are Slim Willet’s “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” originally sung by Perry Como; “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” by Berlin; and “I Love to Singa” by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.

She promises to keep things easy, in particular for Valentine’s weekend performances. As is always the recommendation: Do not miss her.


Paula West

Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. most Wednesdays-Saturdays; 7 p.m. most Sundays; closes March 15

Tickets: $40 to $65

Contact: (800) 380-3095,

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Leslie Katz

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