Mid-Century Jazz in a Mid-Century House

Jazz vocalist Kathy Kosins will perform in an Eichler home in Castro Valley as part of her Bay Area tour. Courtesy of Kathy Kosins

Kathy Kosins, a vibrant Detroit jazz singer with a fondness for West Coast Cool jazz and modern architecture and art, will perform in an Eichler home as part of her August West Coast tour.

“I cannot wait to see Thomas’s house. I’m sure it’s just incredible,” Kosins says, referring to the home of Thomas Westfall and Andria Tay, who live in Eichler’s Greenridge subdivision in Castro Valley.

Kosins, a jazz artist since the early 1990s, has made a name for herself thanks to beautiful vocals and imaginative arrangements, and through frequent touring both nationally and abroad. She has recorded several CDs and released downloadable singles.

The concert will be Friday, August 29. Westfall, who, like his wife, has a background in the music business, hopes to attract fans of the singer and fans of Eichlers. This will be the third house concert he and Andria have put on in the home. “It’s a fun, grassroots thing,” he says.

Now that the home has become “more presentable,” he says, they will probably put on more such concerts.

Kathy Kosins paints while Joe Cartwright plays piano during a performance in Kansas City. Courtesy of Kathy Kosins

“I call this gig 'The Art of the Duet,’” Kosins says. “Normally I work with trios and quartets. This is a small, intimate gig for a small, intimate audience.”

Kosins will perform with Bay Area pianist Adam Shulman, who leads his own groups and also performs with groups led by Marcus Shelby and Anton Schwartz. Their other 'Art of the Duet' gigs will be Thursday, August 28 at the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco, and Saturday, August 30 at the Sound Room in Oakland.

To round out her tour, on Wednesday, August 27, Kosins will perform at Jazz on the Plazz in Los Gatos with the Full Spectrum Jazz Orchestra.

Kosins, a fan of mid-century architecture, says that for the 'Art of the Duet' concerts, “I’ll be doing stuff from the mid-century days, much of it from my CD ‘The Ladies of Cool.’ It’s a modern exploration of West Coast Cool music.”

The CD was dedicated to Anita O’Day, June Christy, Chris Connor, and Julie London, chanteuses of the cool school who made their mark in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The Westfall-Tay home has served as a venue for other house concerts, as this one by Adam Levy. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“It’s mid-century modern to the ear, if you will,” Kosins said of the album, in an earlier interview. “The arrangements will take you back to early Blue Note or Prestige recordings.

“This is an audio component that echoes the visuals you see in these homes and the furnishings that are in these homes. You’re getting music that one would have heard in the '50 and 1960s. The cocktail parties, people in these homes sitting in Eames chairs, the big windows.”

Kosins is a painter as well as a performer – and she paints as part of her performances. During the San Francisco and Oakland gig, but not in Castro Valley, she will be “painting from the stage,” she says. “Visual interpretations of jazz greats of the mid-century. My paintings take on a real Cubist look.”

This will not be the first modern home in which she has performed. Kosins has also given a concert at the Turkel House in Detroit, a Usonian house of concrete brick from 1955 designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Ticket receipts for the house concert go entirely to the artists. Westfall and Tay will put out refreshments, with a jar for donations. Those proceeds, he says, will benefit a local animal shelter.

Greenridge, by the way, must be a very musical neighborhood. Another couple in the subdivision put on house concerts, and do so more regularly than Westall and Tay.

“She’s much better at it than I am,” Westfall says of his neighbor, Renee Hermosa, who puts on concerts five or six times a year with her husband Dennis. They focus generally on acoustic Americana, the California Honeydrops, Sylvia Herold, American Nomad.

Hermosa's concerts are often held outside on weekend afternoons. The next, with Houston and Jones (from the band Houston Jones), is August 24. These are by email invitation only and to hear about them, email them at [email protected].

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