Gray band puts a little jazz in lives

first_img“For $6.25, I get a cheeseburger, a salad and an hour of great, live jazz. How are you going to beat that?” – Don Fraser It’s noon Tuesday, and Sardo’s Restaurant in Burbank is jumpin’. There’s not a stool at the bar available, not an empty seat at any of the tables or booths. It’s been this way every Tuesday and Thursday for the last couple of years – ever since Don Nelson and his pals started showing up for a lunch-hour jam session. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson Don is the youngest brother of the late Ozzie Nelson. He played soprano sax in his big brother’s orchestra before Ozzie went on to star with his wife, Harriet, and sons, David and Ricky, in TV’s landmark sitcom of the 1950s and ’60s, “Ozzie and Harriet.” Don went on to be a scriptwriter at Disney Studios, where he met a lot of the guys who would one day form the Great Pacific Jazz Band and later the Holiday Jazz Band, playing venues in the San Fernando Valley. “I was walking across the Disney lot one day back in the 1960s on my way to lunch when I saw a guy carrying a trumpet case,” Nelson said. “I asked him where he was going. He said they had a daily jam session on sound stage B. That’s how it started – on our lunch hour. “More than 40 years later, a lot of us are still jamming on our lunch hour.” Singer Kaye Wade grabs the microphone and belts out a lively rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin,” followed by “After You’ve Gone.” A former stuntwoman, Wade is filling in this week for singer/ventriloquist Nancy Wible, who had a kiddie TV show in the ’60s. Yeah, it’s a wild crowd at Sardo’s, 259 N. Pass Ave. “Where else are you going to catch lunch and live music?” asks Don Fraser, president of the California Boxing Hall of Fame, as he sits in a booth eating the Coachman cheeseburger special with salad for $6.25. At the bar, Nina Sherwood is keeping beat to the music with her friend Red Loberg. Yeah, Red’s a redhead. Sherwood lives in Granada Hills but works part time nearby in North Hollywood as a teacher’s aide. She gets off work at 11 a.m., and by noon she’s sitting at the bar having lunch with Red every Tuesday and Thursday. “For a couple of hours, you get to talk to interesting people and listen to some great music,” she says. “Not a bad lunch.” There are many older retirees in the crowd who no longer drive at night, so jazz with a burger at lunch is perfect. But don’t let the gray hair fool you. When the music starts, the years melt away – in the audience, as well as on the bandstand. Nobody glides back in time more completely than Nelson, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. “He’s such a courageous guy – and an example to many who are disabled that you can still be productive,” Fraser says. “Don’s driven here by his caregiver. Then with the aid of a walker he struggles to get to his seat with the band. Once he gets the downbeat, though, he forgets about his disability and starts swinging and singing.” Shortly before 1 p.m., Wade starts making the rounds with the tip jar, while bass player Pete Kier announces there’s time for one more request before last call. So eat up. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more