weather icon Partly Cloudy

Lady Gaga’s backing band jams at off-Las Vegas Strip club

Updated January 22, 2019 - 5:18 pm

We often say of Dispensary Lounge that the magic is easy to find — just follow the path to the water wheel.

That’s the effect next to the stage/VIP seating area at the tavern at 2451 E. Tropicana Ave. The old watering hole, which opened in 1976, has become an unlikely jazz hang over the past seven years. It’s not uncommon for the club to be filled with Vegas musicians, in the crowd and onstage, such jazz greats as pianist Uli Geissendoerfer and vocalist Michelle Johnson hold court.

Wednesday night, the off-Strip joint — which is actually tucked into a strip mall — was host to a surprise visit from members of Lady Gaga’s backing band. They are otherwise known as the Brian Newman Quintet, out of New York and in town for Gaga’s Jazz & Piano show at the Park Theater on Sunday.

Newman, a highly regarded trumpet player, is Gaga’s bandleader who has also hit the scene at Copa Room at Bootlegger Bistro to catch Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns (Newman has also recruited members of the Santa Fe’s famed horn section for the jazz/piano shows). Alex Smith (piano), Daniel Foose (bass), Steve Koryka (sax) and Donald Barrett (drums) fill out the Newman Quintet.

The New York crew joined Las Vegas musicians Steve Flora on bass, Julian Tanaka on clarinet and Jake Langley on guitar. The guests performed off and on throughout the night.

Flora, a bassist and tuba artist, has known the musicians for years and gave them a head’s up about the under-the-radar music haunt.

“Brian, Steve, and Alex have been close friends of mine for over 20 years,” said Flora, who has backed Andrea Bocelli at MGM Grand Garden Arena and John Fogerty in his Strip headlining shows at Venetian Theater. “I used to run a jam session in Cincinnati, and they started coming out when they were still in high school. Whenever they come to town, we hang. They are musicians and people of depth and substance.”

Dispensary owner Adele Bellas, who was at the club Wednesday night, had not been aware Lady Gaga’s band was going to be in the house until Barrett walked in was waved to the stage by Tanaka. Barrett was dressed, um, informally, like any self-respecting drummer about to join a jazz gig.

“When the drummer came in, I didn’t recognize him at all and Julian invited him to the stage, I thought, ‘Who is this? Is Julian going to actually let him play?’ ” Bellas said in a phone chat Saturday. “And Julian told me, ‘Oh, yes. He graduated from Harvard.’”

Bellas said the band was “very, very nice to me,” and said they would be back to play at the club “spontaneously” when they are in town for Gaga’s select big-band shows, which offset her “Enigma” production show. The next “Jazz & Piano” show is is Feb. 3, followed by another June 2.

It’s been no secret that Newman has been raking the Vegas entertainment scene for players to join his band onstage at Park MGM.

“I don’t want to give anything away, but expect old Vegas—like the days of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, but also with the edge of the Lower East Side and the modernity that comes with an artist like her,” Newman told The Oprah Magazine this week. “It’ll fuse both of our influences.”

Newman went on the says the upcoming production is “the most wonderful show we could ever put on.” It’s an effort rooted in the hippest Las Vegas music haunts.

The Bernstein Scene

On the topic of big names in small venues, Al Bernstein welcomed several luminaries to his packed performance at Tuscany Suites Piazza lounge on Friday night. Muhammad Ali’s daughter Rasheeda Ali, Joe Louis’ daughter, Candice Joseph, with her husband, author-musician-magician George Joseph; and Eva Futch, widow of the late legendary trainer Eddie Futch, were all in the room.

Ronson is On The Record

Mark Ronson has been announced as the first superstar resident DJ at On The Record at Park MGM. Ronson collaborated with Lady Gaga on “Shallow” from “A Star is Born,” an effort that led to a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award. HE debuts Feb. 2 and has booked 12 dates this year at the club, operated by nightlife wonder twins Mark and Jonnie Houston.

Ronson also worked with Bruno Mars on the unflagging groove hit, “Uptown Funk,” and collaborated with Miley Cyrus on the new single “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart.”

The great summit

Quick quiz: Who has been Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley’s favorite celeb meeting in Las Vegas?

Wayne Newton!” Foley said on the “black carpet” at Thursday night’s Vegas Golden Knights Foundation gala in the tented fortress at World Market Center. “He was just the nicest guy.”

Newton, a Vegas headliner for 60 years this May, has told me, “I never thought, in all the years I’ve lived in Las Vegas, we’d see an ice hockey team take over this city.”

Head’s up!

We’re having a party at The Golden Tiki at 9 p.m. Wednesday. The occasion is the unveiling of the Polynesian-themed club’s latest shrunken head, yours truly’s, to join the famed likenesses on display around the venue.

No cover charge; try the Dole Whip.

Those previously honored include Travis Pastrana, Rod Stewart, Rich Little, Five Finger Death Punch’s Chris Kael, Carrot Top, Zowie Bowie, Murray Sawchuck, Marky Ramone, Tom Green, Vinnie Paul,Playboy Playmate of the Year Claire Sinclair, the late Robin Leach, and Disney legend Bob Gurr.

As another recent honoree, DJ Ashba, told me at his unveiling, “It’s pretty weird.”

Note: The name of Joe Louis’ daughter was corrected for this version of the column.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter and @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Celine Dion’s lounge gig a boon to Las Vegas act

Celine Dion performed “Because You Loved Me,” “Ashes,” Beauty and the Beast” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Her arrival drew a roar from the 300 VIPs in attendance, who were not informed of the night’s entertainment.