Haute Secrets: Jazz Vocalist Paula West Shares Her Guide to San Francisco

Paula West
Paula West

Photo Credit: Courtesy Feinstein’s at the Nikko

Jazz vocalist Paula West has delighted San Francisco audiences for more than two decades. The late Wilkes Bashford liked to say that he discovered her, and it was only fitting that she performed two songs at the celebration of the luxury retailer’s life on Jan. 29, 2016 at Grace Cathedral. Undoubtedly Bashford would have been at Feinstein’s at the Nikko when West returns for a four-week engagement – Feb. 11 – March 6, 2016. Her annual appearance is always a haute ticket. Known for her rich, powerful contralto voice, West will present an all-new show featuring an eclectic range of songs by Bob Dylan, Glen Campbell, Pearl Bailey, Ethel Waters and more. Accompanied by her four-piece band, expect West to take her fans on a musical journey through the ages. Born into a Marine Corps family in San Diego, West was initially exposed to classical music. It wasn’t until college that she began listening to jazz singers such as Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn. After college, West moved to San Francisco, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life. Buying old records from thrift shops, she studied them and then began singing classes. As she became more secure in her talent, she ventured into jam sessions, places where an open mike gave her a chance to perform before an audience. It was at one of these sessions that she met a pianist who would join her in the climb to her own musical identity and her musical success. His name was Ken Muir, and he continues as her accompanist today. West went on to study with Faith Winthrop, developing her unique tone and delivery. She learned how to sustain a note without a vibrato, which is now almost a Paula West trademark. Here, West offers her haute guide to San Francisco.

Where were you born: San Diego

How long in San Francisco: 27 years

Neighborhood: Nob Hill

Occupation: Singer

Favorite Restaurant: I love The Slanted Door! After all these years, it’s the perfect place to take guests visiting from out of town.

Best Sushi: I recommend Saru Sushi in Noe Valley. I like neighborhood places in general. The presentations are beautiful.

Best Italian: The Italian Homemade Company. It’s informal, but the real deal!

Best dessert: I love a hot fudge sundae at Ghirardelli Chocolate or just about anything from Tartine Bakery.

Best place for a romantic date: Getting a picnic together with fixings from various shops in the ferry building, such as Boulette’s Larder,  Cowgirl Creamery, and Acme Bread, and watch the sunset, from the ferry building, or by the Cliff House.

Best Sunday brunch: My favorite brunch spot is Park Tavern in Washington Square Park. There’s lots to choose from in a beautiful atmosphere, with great service!

Best place for a power business meeting: Before it is crowded in the evening, The Big Four, at the Scarlett Huntington Hotel.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? I would recommend The St. Regis Hotel. I love the design of this place.

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: It’s one of a kind! Wilkes Bashford (R.I.P.) , this is a rare experience, unlike any place in the country!

Best Spa: Nob Hill Spa, with that view and pool, would be hard to top!

Favorite Charity Event: Muttville’s Annual Fundraiser, “Moolah For Mutts”. This organization is a senior dog rescue group. The event is a lot of fun for a great cause.

Favorite Cultural Event: I love the annual gala for SFJAZZ. Randall Kline has built an organization that continues to bring the best of the music to the city.

Favorite Cultural Institution: That’s tough, as we are blessed with so much here. I’ll go with our SF Symphony.

Best Steakhouse: I love Epic Steak. This is definitely a “special occasion” restaurant. There’s something for everyone, including the fabulous view of the Bay Bridge, which is beautifully lit at night.

Best Pizza: My favorite pizza is served at Pizzeria  Delfina. I’ve never been disappointed!

Best Lunch: Kokkari Estiatorio is the best Greek/Mediterranean, with a wonderful atmosphere….a truly transporting experience!

Best Gym/Athletic Facility: I’m not a member of a gym, however I walk all over town, everyday!

Best Massage: A massage at The Nob Hill Spa.

Best Limousine/Driving Service: Even though it’s controversial, I use uber services, in town, and to and from the airport.

Best Museum/Exhibit: The de Young Museum is my favorite, that is until the SF MOMA reopens this spring. An exhibition that was memorable, was the Picasso exhibition from 2011.

Describe your city in three words: The three words I would use to describe San Francisco, would be, “Something for everyone.”

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: You could spend all day in Golden Gate Park, between the museums, The Botanical Gardens, The Japanese Tea Garden, Stowe Lake, etc.

All-around favorite spot in San Francisco: My favorite spot is Huntington Park, enjoying the time there with my dog, Satchmo.

Best Aspect of San Francisco: The best thing is all the lovely friends I am fortunate enough to have.