Paula West at Feinstein’s at the Nikko

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Aidin Vaziri | It may have been Valentine’s Day Eve but Paula West wasn’t in the mood for love. On Thursday, the opening night of a monthlong residency at Feinstein’s at the Nikko, the venerated San Francisco jazz singer performed a set of songs that ruminated heavily on heartache, betrayal and neglect. And that was before she got to her bluesy cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Want You.”

“I like to keep it real,” West deadpanned.

That’s no lie. One of the biggest reasons people have flocked to her regular cabaret shows since the late ’90s is that you never know where she’s going to take you as she reaches into the most wonderfully obscure corners of her record collection. She doesn’t play to the crowd. She doesn’t do genres. She doesn’t compromise.

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