By KENDRA SITTON | Downtown News
Each Thursday this summer, Westgate Hotel is bringing in some of the leading soft jazz musicians in the area to delight guests sitting by their third-floor pool with the background of the San Diego sunset. Attending with a friend, we went to enjoy the music of local vocalist Dennis Gittens.
The night fulfilled Westgate’s promise of live entertainment in the heart of Downtown with only one caveat: June gloom blocked any hopes of viewing the sunset. Still, the patio and pool overlooked the buildings making up San Diego’s skyline and I forgot about the missed sunset.
I wish I could give you a detailed review of Gittens’ vocals, which were pitched as soulful and sweet. I cannot delineate between elevator jazz and the skilled playing of jazz talent nor will I try to. Gittens’ music was beautiful but unfamiliar to me. A table of supporters, made up of what appeared to be family and friends, cheered him on. Many other guests seemed more interested in having a relaxing drink while overlooking San Diego (I was in this category).
San Diego Music Award-winning trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos, whose quartet will perform on Aug. 29, curated the performers. The jazz series has been running for the past five years.
While no tickets are needed and guests attend on a first-come, first-served basis, there is a $25 minimum purchase per guest. Two items on the menu of appetizers and desserts, along with cocktails and wines, could easily meet that threshold.
My friend and I ordered the dim sum and wagyu sirloin sliders. The dim sum consisted of vegetable spring rolls, coconut shrimp, cha su bao, pork siew mai and vegetable potstickers, which came in a double-stacked bamboo steamer with a sauce for dipping. My enjoyment of these pieces was uneven: the spring rolls were heavenly while the pork lacked flavor. It was easily enough food to constitute my dinner. My friend ate the sliders and noted the complex flavor in the steak. I liked the aged cheddar paired with it, along with onion marmalade and bacon. The chefs struck a balance between feeding the many guests while not compromising on the aesthetics of presentation. The Moscow mule delivered to our table was refreshingly light while the daiquiri tasted too strongly of licorice to be pleasant.
In addition to the $25 minimum, parking is available for $10. There is also a bus stop just a block away.
Since we were situated next the living wall, off to the side of the performers where things weren’t quite as loud, the best part of the evening was the conversation between friends that ensued. With great service, food, views and music, the Westgate’s Poolside Jazz Series is worth checking out.
The Poolside Jazz Series runs every Thursday for the rest of the summer until Sept. 12, except for a one-week break during Comic-Con. For more information on the event series, call 619-238-1818 or visit westgatehotel.com/activities/hotel-events/the-westgate-hotel-2019-sunset-poolside-jazz-series/.
July 11 – Matt Hall Quartet
It will be an evening of rich sounds and cool vibes with the Matt Hall Quartet, featuring Hall (trombone), Irving Flores (piano), Mackenzie Leighton (upright bass), and Charles Weller (drums).
July 25 – Steph Johnson Band
Award-winning, original soul-jazz vocalist, guitarist, and composer, Steph Johnson shares her soulful and unique voice, backed by her all-star band.
Aug. 1 – Robert Dove Trio
Dove and his fellow musicians weave together a variety of musical configurations that create a blissful, soothing experience.
Aug. 8 – Holly Hofmann Trio
Flutist Holly Hofmann has made the flute a front-line instrument from classical music to jazz and is one of the most authoritative and swinging flutists in jazz today.
Aug. 15 – Lorraine Castellanos Trio
Jazz chantress and classical guitarist, Lorraine Castellanos shares her intense passion for music with her perceptive phrasing and tone, both as an instrumentalist and vocalist.
Aug. 22 – Irving Flores
Accomplished pianist, composer, and arranger, Flores is a Latin music giant who has performed with Bill Watrous, Charles McPherson, Abraham Laboriel, Poncho Sanchez, and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
Aug. 29 – Gilbert Castellanos Quartet
Gilbert Castellanos, master trumpeter and bandleader, has established himself as one of the nation’s most inventive improvisers who is skilled with impressive dexterity and control.
Sept. 5 – Besos de Coco
Latin/classical/jazz duo Besos de Coco melds the austerity and grace of classical music, the improvisation, and spontaneity of jazz, the appeal of pop, and the liveliness of hot rhythm and tap dancing.
Sept. 12 – Curtis Taylor
Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Cutis Taylor creates a unique blend of soulfulness, harmonic sensibilities and rhythm that melt together for an unforgettable sound that directly connects with the soul of the listener.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at email@example.com.