Back in the 1970s, when pianist Jimmy Parker held court at the long-gone University Hideaway Club on Fillmore in Pacific Heights, he would generously allow me to play my 12-string guitar and sing Fats Domino songs along with him. Parker would often introduce a young chanteuse named Denise Perrier, who could really tear up a tune, even as a nascent stylist.
Perrier plays the Rrazz Room backed by local favorite Tammy Hall and her quartet, with her show, Bessie, Dinah and Me on April 5–6. Yes, a tribute to her heroines, Bessie Smith and Dinah Washington. Then Perrier is off for a month-long tour of New Caledonia and New Zealand.
“Working overseas is my forte,” says Denise. “I met Jimmy Parker in Australia back in 1965, worked in Hong Kong for five years, L.A., New York, but I always like coming back home to San Francisco. Thank God for the Rrazz Room,” she says.
It’s no secret that many of the jazz clubs in San Francisco have vanished.
“The Rrazz Room and Yoshi’s are really the only place for a seasoned performer these days,” she laments. “And it’s tough to make any real money. A lot of these smaller clubs will offer $45 or $50 a night, if you can imagine that.”
The economy has had a devastating impact on musicians and everybody else. Perrier used to work a lot of hotels, corporate events, private parties – now few and far between. She’s been relying on the out-of-town gigs.
“I worked at a New Year’s party,” she says, “and was amazed by how many of my fellow musicians were there as guests. They had no gigs on New Year’s Eve. I mean, everybody’s got a gig on New Year’s Eve.”
Not only that, Perrier would keep gigs for years, such as Mason’s and the New Orleans Room in the Fairmont Hotel. Alas, those days are gone.
“I played the now-disappeared Club Sanchez at Pine and Fillmore for five years,” she recalls fondly.
But Denise Perrier is not discouraged.
“I am proud of my new CD with the Junius Courtney Big Band. The disc is called Us. We had a release party at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. It was a big success. The place was really swinging.”
Denise Perrier: The Rrazz Room (in the Nikko Hotel) 222 Mason Street (at O’Farrell), April 5–6, 8 p.m., tickets $30 at (415) 394-1189, www.therrazzroom.com. For additional information, visit www.deniseperrier.com.