Los Angeles, CA – March 3 – It’s a rainy Tuesday night at the Dresden and every seat in the lounge is taken. A brief scan of the crowd reveals celebutantes and starlets, swooning to the crooning of Marty and Elayne Roberts, a glittery jazz duo who invites everyone to “Let’s Get Lost.”
On April 1, the legendary duo celebrates 35 years at the Dresden, an unprecedented feat in a town that tears acts down as quickly as it raises them up.
“One thing we decided early on in our career was to give the people what they want,” says Elayne, a petite L.A. native who started performing at the age of 13. “We were diehard jazz musicians, but we learned to play a little bit of everything to make people happy.”
Their rendition of “Staying Alive” in the cult film Swingers put them on a global map, earning them national TV spots, including a Super Bowl ad and primetime coverage by the likes of Anderson Cooper.
A quick scan of the smiles on the faces of their nightly guests, and it’s easy to see why their fans are so devoted. Dressed as always in matching sequined ensembles, they easily navigate between pure jazz standards, disco, and even sprinkle in some country.
Their fan-base includes such celebrities as Scarlett Johansson, Sandra Bullock, David Lynch, Johnny Depp, Leo DiCaprio, and Nicholas Cage, who famously sang a “Love Me Tender” duet with Elayne. At the cusp of her fame, Julia Roberts showed up with Kiefer Sutherland, who later produced a CD of their music, to croon “Makin’ Whoopee,” with Marty on drums and Elayne at her piano.
Jazz trumpet great Terrance Blanchard said of the duo, “I fell in love with their passion for music. Anyone who’s ever heard them play can tell they’ve created their own musical language.”
Of their jazz life, Elayne says, “It’s not different than anyone else’s except the hours are different, and it takes a lot of practice, it never ends. You’re always striving for new things to keep it fresh. The audience is my inspiration. If they’re feeling it, that’s the best reward.”
When Elayne loses herself to the music it’s a site to behold. “Elayne puts everything into it, she means it,” says Marty. “Especially her rock show. She gives it all she’s got. We’re not faking it and our crowd knows it.” He says the secret to their success is simple: “We’re just ourselves, and we let it all hang out.”
“I was on the ‘Late Show with Carson Daly,’” says Elayne. “It was like 30 seconds of ‘Staying Alive.’ I was up there smiling and dancing and when I saw it, I couldn’t believe it was me. It’s just a spirit that flows through you. If I was aware of it, I’d probably be too shy to do it.”
She says her greatest moment in her jazzy life was marrying Marty. “It’s kind of like when you find your soulmate,” she says. “Music is what’s kept us together.” She says her husband is a people person. “He loves people,” she says. “He loves talking to people. We had a gig in Palm Springs and by the end of the first day, everyone knew him. Everyone knew his name, and everyone was his pal.”
Reflecting back on April 1, 1981 at the Dresden, she says the 1940’s nightclub looked exactly the same except the crowd was over 40, there was a dress code but as they updated their repertoire, a younger audience found them.
“It’s amazing when the kids first started coming in,” says Elayne. “We got on jazz radio in 1987 and the young musicians from Frank Zappa’s band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers would come in. I love the years from 1987 to 1990. Those were some of the best years. After ‘Swingers,’ the loud trendies started coming in, but it was okay. At least once a night, I take them on a time travel jazz trip with me, and they calm down and fly with me.”
Among a career that includes so many highlights, Elayne says performing “That’s Life” for Frank Sinatra in Palm Springs still gives her goosebumps.
Marty, who always has a wink and a one-liner for his fans, says it’s their goal to continue giving Hollywood good vibes. “We really like to make people happy,” he says. “We see people change in an hour. They come in dragging, some with their pocketful of woes, and by the end of the evening they’re cool. They’re relaxed and their entire attitude has changed.”
When asked if they are considering retiring, Elayne says, “Not if we can help it. We’d be bored.”
Marty says he met Milton Berle once, and Berle told him: “My friends say, ‘Why don’t you retire? And I say, ‘Retire to what? That’s how we feel,” says Marty. “We’re musicians through and through and bringing a little bit of joy to this town each night we perform is what we do.”
Please join Marty and Elayne Roberts in celebrating their 35 anniversary at the Dresden Room on April 1.