Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Elk Grove couple buys Tommy T’s in Rancho Cordova, renames it, adds jazz to mix

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 - 8:02 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 11:13 am

Say what you will, but A. Cornell Cotton III believes it was fate that Tommy Thomas decided to sell the Rancho Cordova offshoot of his Tommy T’s comedy club business earlier this year.

Cotton took over the business at 12401 Folsom Blvd. on July 18 with his wife, Boomie, and they renamed it Jazz & Joker’s at Niki C’s in a nod to their daughter. At age 15, Niki Cotton told her parents that she wanted to attend New York University, and it left Cornell and Boomie Cotton both scratching their heads because they lived in Elk Grove.

Where on Earth had that idea come from? When their daughter made the grades and got accepted two years ago, they hid their trepidation and headed for orientation at the Greenwich Village campus.

“We were walking over on Third Street, and I said, ‘Oh, there’s the NYU law library,’” Cornell Cotton said, “and I turned to my left and looked down the street, and there was the Blue Note, my Dad’s favorite club. I just got chills.”

Cotton’s father, Al, was a stand-up bass player who had played that famed club and others in bands with the likes of Sonny Rollins, Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Max Roach, but he had died in 1998 when Niki was 4 years old. She’d seen pictures of him but never asked too many questions.

“I said, ‘Your grandfather called you home, Niki,’” Cotton said, ‘and you know what she said? She said, ‘I know.’”

It was that moment that Cotton began thinking it was time that he showed some faith in jazz, a genre he had loved since he was a child. When he and his wife saw Tommy T’s was for sale, they saw it as an opportunity to combine jazz and comedy shows. They’re hoping it will become a mecca for jazz aficionados. This weekend, they welcome jazz pianist and vocalist Les McCann, whose career spans five decades and includes an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Butchering up a comeback

Danny Johnson stifled his amusement when he learned that he’d have to interview with The Butcher’s Guild co-founder Marissa Guggiana to determine whether he was worthy to join the organization.

Johnson, the owner of Taylor’s Market with his wife, Kathy Johnson, has been butchering for 30 years. He graduated from the Oregon Meat Cutting School in 1982.

“Marissa … found out my skill set and my experience. She said, ‘Oh, you’re going to be one of the old guys in the guild,’ said the 49-year-old Johnson, pausing for effect. “Then they invited me to participate in this competition on Saturday.”

That would be the Sept. 28 Flying Knives contest at Oakland’s Real Eat Fest, in which competitors will race to break down a quarter of beef into retail cuts. They will be judged on cuts, variety and time. Johnson will have a busy weekend for an “old guy.” He’ll be breaking down beef in a Sept. 28 morning appearance on Capitol Mall at Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival and then lamb on Sept. 29 for a special locavore dinner at Emigh Ranch.

Johnson likes to say that butchering never went out of style at Taylor’s Market, but it definitely underwent a decline across the nation. He’s happy to see Guggiana and her colleague Tia Harrison working so hard to garner recognition of the craft. Johnson saw recently how much renewed respect his trade is getting among young people when he posted a position for an apprentice butcher on six weeks ago. He filled the position in three days.

“I had 120 applications in 12 hours,” he said. “It was crazy. We had to shut it off.”

Restoring a legend

The renovation of Sacramento’s Stanley Mosk State Library & Courts Building took years to complete, but the team who undertook the project can now stand back and relish their accomplishment.

On Sept. 27, this project and 19 others around the state will be recognized as outstanding by the California Preservation Foundation. San Francisco’s Carey & Co. took on the task of studying the design and working with Arntz Builders and its subcontractors to bring new life to the building’s failing infrastructure.

“It still had the original plumbing and pretty much the same original electrical, and over the years, it had IT and telecom stuff kind-of scabbed into the surface of the building, and in the ’70s, the air-conditioning system was installed, so pretty much every single one of those systems was at or beyond its useful life,” said Pella McCormick, who directed the project for the Department of General Services Real Estate Services Division.

The renovation project was authorized in 2005, but it wasn’t completed until last January.

“The challenge with that building … is it has some very elaborate coffered ceilings and a lot of hand stenciling that is original from the 1920s,” McCormick said. “It’s all very valuable historic fabric, and to be able to install the infrastructure systems, you need to get above all the ceilings, so the challenge for the contractor and design team was to figure out how to really thread all these large systems over and around our very elaborate coffered ceilings and not really damage any of the finishes.”

Editor's note: This story was changed Sept. 23 to correct the date of the locavore dinner at Emigh Ranch.

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

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