Live Music: The George Fest 2014 at the Fonda Theater

September 30, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

George Harrison

George Harrison

Hollywood, CA. On Sunday night the first annual George (Harrison) Fest went into the books at the Fonda Theater. There was so much interest in this show, a benefit for the Sweet Relief charity for needy musicians, that it was moved from the El Rey Theater to the larger Fonda Theater. The stately old place was sold out and packed by the time the music began about 40 minutes late. But it was a very satisfying night of tunes for all who gathered — All things George, solo or Beatles.

The format of the night was for the Cabin Down Below Band to serve as the house band, with “a lot of moving parts,” to shepherd the evening along as guests passed onto and off of the stage, as on a carousel, for the better part of two and a half hours. The band and the stage crew did yeoman’s work to this end. Keyboards, guitars, and pedal boards were shuttled on and off stage as quickly as the performers. Amazingly, for all of this activity, things cruised along at a nice, crisp pace, with very little empty space between songs.

George’s musical catalogue was on display in a way that folks like myself had perhaps always hoped for but never gotten from him live. He rarely toured and didn’t play all of his below-the-surface gems when he did. And this material is the difference maker with him.

Specifically, the performers mined the too-often-ignored mother lode of the All Things Must Pass album. It’s an album loaded with gorgeous musical ideas. Making the cut on Sunday were, “Awaiting on You All,” “Isn’t it a Pity?” “If Not For You,” “I’d Have You Anytime,” “What Is Life?” “Let It Down,” “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp,” “Wah Wah,” “Behind That Locked Door,” “Beware of Darkness,” “My Sweet Lord,” and “All Things Must Pass.” I hadn’t thought I’d hear anyone do most of these tunes live any time soon. But we were all very happily surprised to have it happen.

Ann Wilson, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Vivino, Al Jardine

Ann Wilson, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Vivino, Al Jardine

One of George’s signature sounds, as a solo artist, and particularly on All Things Must Pass, was his harmonized slide guitar work. It was an impressive bit of planning, practicing, and execution done by the Cabin Below boys to get those slide parts nailed in unison. It definitely took the songs over the top to where they could jump out and grab us. Throughout the evening many of the most memorable and elusive sounds in all of these songs were delightfully included in the arrangements.

Sunday was one of those rare opportunities to see an intriguing and diverse list of performers take on a super-savory batch of tunes. The matchups we saw just don’t happen too often. They all turned in memorable performances.

Conan O'Brien

Conan O’Brien

Weird Al Yankovic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the more unexpected numbers were Conan O’Brien singing “Old Brown Shoe,” Weird Al Yankovic with “What Is Life?” and Ian Astbury of the Cult persuasively crooning “Be Here Now.”

Norah Jones

Norah Jones

There was Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction singing “Here Comes the Sun,” with Norah Jones and Karen Elson. Where else do you get to see that? We also heard a very sweet take on George’s treatment of Dylan’s “If Not For You,” by Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards. Ben Harper took “Give Me Love (Peace on Earth),” to another level vocally and instrumentally. And the match of Norah Jones to “Behind That Locked Door,” was a keeper. Remarkable, really.

Dhani Harrison

Dhani Harrison

The most direct connection to all of this was George’s son, Dhani Harrison, who sang a great “Let It Down,” and handled “Savoy Truffle,” with style. In the second half of the show we saw a lot of Dhani. He sang “Got My Mind Set On You,” with Brandon Flowers of The Killers, to the frenzied delight of many of the ladies in the crowd. Dhani stuck around for the closing numbers. The final three songs were “My Sweet Lord,” with Brian Wilson, “Handle with Care,” featuring a stage full of musicians easily 20 strong, and “All Things Must Pass,” sung beautifully in tandem by Ann Wilson, Nora Jones, and Dhani.

The George Fest Cast

The George Fest Cast

When it was all said and done we had gone the distance on a long but thoroughly fun and entertaining show. Despite the large number of top shelf performances, the unmistakable star of the show was George Harrison’s musical body of work. His songs are clearly timeless and it’s gratifying and inspiring to see so many talented young musicians embrace the music the way they do. They did make the songs shine on Sunday night.

Photo journalist Bonnie Perkinson took the photos of Ann Wilson, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Vivino, Al Jardine, Conan O’Brien, Weird Al Yankovic, Norah Jones, Dhani Harrison and the full cast of George Fest.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 24 – 28

September 23, 2014

By Don Heckman

As the warm days of September wind to a close, while autumn is just beginning to arrive, the bookings are light at clubs and concert venues around the world, but there’s still some very special music to hear.

Los Angeles

Pat Senatore

Pat Senatore

- Sept. 25. (Thurs.) Pat Senatore Trio. Bassist Senatore and his trio – pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Mark Ferber play selections from his exciting new album Ascensione and a forecast of what to expect from his up-coming, soon to be released CD. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 26. (Fri,) Roumani & Sidiki Diabate and Rokia Traore. An extraordinary evening of music from Mali, featuring the father and son team of Diabates in a program of traditional sounds, as well as the imaginative works of singer/songwriter/guitarist Traore. A CAP UCLA event at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

Trey Anastasio

Trey Anastasio

-Sept. 26. (Fri.) Trey Anastasio with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. One of the founding members of Phish, the ever-adventurous Anastasio presents newly imagined orchestral versions of pieces he’s written over the past few decades. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 26 & 27 (Fri. & Sat.) Chambers, Herbert & Ellis. The best way to describe this musically fascinating vocal trio is to say “Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. But Chambers, Herbert & Ellis add their own unique touches as well. Click HERE to read an iRoM review of the trio in action. The Gardenia.  (323) 467-7444.

- Sept. 26 – 28. (Fri. – Sun.) Lenny White, Victor Bailey and Larry Coryell. A trio of the contemporary jazz world’s most versatile players. Expect to hear improvisational fireworks from drummer White, bassist Bailey and guitarist Coryell. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias

Seattle

- Sept. 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.) Eliane Elias. Sao Paulo’s gift to jazz continues to find fascinating creative links between her Brazilian roots and her compelling jazz piano and vocals. Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Elias and her superb trio. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York City

- Sept, 23 – 27. (Tues. – Sat.) Fred Hersch, Esperanza Spalding and Richie Barshay. Pianist Hersch and bassist/singer Spalding may seem to be an odd couple. But with the talent they have, individually and collectively with drummer Barshay, musical delights will be on the menu. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

London

- Sept. 24 – 26. (Wed. – Fri.) The David Sanborn Trio featuring Joey DeFrancesco and Byron Landham. Alto saxophonist, one of the innovative players of his generation, is always a pleasure to hear. And he’ll no doubt take everything up a notch in company with the dynamic organ work of DeFrancesco and the solid groove of drummer Landham. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.

Milan

- Sept. 24. (Wed.) Tierney Sutton. “After Blue – The Joni Project. On her seemingly non-stop quest to bring her imaginative approach to jazz vocalizing, Sutton has added the music of Joni Mitchell to her extraordinary performances. (And on her After Blue CD, as well.) Blue Note Milan. / +39 02 6901 6888.


Live Music: The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at Royce Hall

September 23, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles CA. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra can always be counted on to deliver an evening of rich musicality. And Sunday night’s performance at Royce Hall in Westwood was no exception.

The headline event in a rich program was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. But, typically, LACO Music Director Jeffrey Kahane also scheduled a pair of intriguing works – Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5, with soloist Juho Pohjonen and Lines of the Southern Cross, the latter the premiere of a work newly commissioned by the LACO from Australian composer Cameron Patrick.

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

The evening opened with the new Patrick composition. Introducing the work, Kahane noted that the music “acknowledged the traditional owners of Australia and custodians of the land, the Australian Aboriginal people.” Patrick did all that and more, in a work that also captured the broad, far ranging landscape of Australia, from its mountain peaks to its ocean depths via some especially expressive writing for the strings. And the LACO interpretation of Southern Cross convincingly introduced it as a significant new work that deserves wide hearing – in live performance and on recordings.

The Saint-Saens Piano Concerto, sometimes called The Egyptian, was described by the composer as the representation of a sea voyage. And there are passages in the piece that do so, in characteristically French impressionist style. The work is also a virtuosic showcase for the piano soloist, and Pohjonen was effective on all counts, from the lyric passages to the most technically demanding passages.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven

The climax of the evening, understandably, was the Beethoven Symphony No. 5, one of the most frequently performed pieces in the entire catalog of classical music. And any well-interpreted performance of the work resonates with its long history. Written in the first decade of the 19th century, it was created at a time of considerable unrest for the Western world and for its composer. Europe was in the midst of the Napoleonic wars. And Beethoven, in his mid-thirties, was becoming aware of the fact that the deafness he had begun to experience was progressive, and would continue to worsen.

Since then, No. 5 has also been heard, and viewed, from a variety of symbolic interpretive perspectives, starting with the V for Victory aspects of its four note, opening motif.

Jeffrey Kahane

Jeffrey Kahane

But ultimately it is the gripping quality of the music itself that makes No. 5 a work to be heard in every possible opportunity. In the capable direction of Kahane and the equally capable playing of the LACO’s masterful musicians, the music came to life in especially persuasive fashion. Perhaps best of all, the musically symbiotic togetherness of the LACO’s players, combined with Kahane’s seeming desire to open the way for the music to find its way produced a stunning performance, overflowing with passionate intensity.

Altogether, it was another significant entry in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s long lexicon of memorable performances.


Live Music: The Fab Faux at the Valley Performing Arts Center

September 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

Northridge, CA. Memories galore resonated through the architecturally grand, acoustically captivating Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of CalState Northridge Saturday night. Memories, that is, of an era dominated by the Beatles.

The performance, by the Fab Faux, was yet another display of the Center’s growing presence as the creative center for the arts that has long been missing from the San Fernando Valley. And the overflowing packed house, full of 1700 enthusiastic listeners, underscored Executive Director Thor Steingraber’s quest to prove VPAC’s “commitment to arts and entertainment experiences of every variety.”

Which is exactly what listeners experienced in the Fab Faux. There are numerous Beatles tribute bands and cover bands in various parts of the world. But the Fab Faux are unique. Neither dressing in period Beatles costumes nor wearing Beatles hair-dos (or wigs), they focused instead upon the rich creative density of the Beatles’ extraordinary catalog of music.

The Fab Faux

The Fab Faux

The Fab Faux consist of bassist Will Lee, guitarist Jimmy Vivino, drummer Rich Pagano, guitarist Frank Agnello and keyboardist/guitarist Jack Petruzzelli, backed by the Creme Tangerine Strings and the Hogshead Horns.  All of the principal members also sang, doing so without resorting to attempts at imitating either the sounds or the accents of the original Beatles.

The first set was devoted to a broad selection of songs, mostly by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, reaching from “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Paperback Writer” to “Nowhere Man,” with dozens of stops in between.

On the second set, climaxing a long, musically stunning evening, the Fab Faux and their accomplices performed the classic Beatles album Abbey Road in its entirety.

As noted above, this was not a collection of imitations, in any sense of the word. While the musical spirits of the Beatles were ever present in virtually every note, there was another aspect of the Fab Faux performance that was even more closely related to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. And that was the persistent effort by the Fab Faux to find the creative potential that resides in the heart of the songs.

Guitarist Vivino may have described it best when he said, “This is the greatest pop music ever written, and we’re such freaks for it.”

In that sense, the Fab Faux and the Valley Performing Arts made the perfect pairing on this memorable night: classic pop music, played with the sort of creativity that inspired the original versions, in a setting perfectly framed for imaginative performances.


Live Music: Charles Aznavour at the Greek Theatre

September 15, 2014

By Don Heckman

What is there to say about a 90 year old French singer/songwriter with the ability to mesmerize a packed house at the Greek Theatre? Not much that Charles Aznavour didn’t himself say at the Greek on Saturday night. Not just in his words, although there were plenty, in both French and English. What Aznavour had to say was based on musicality, lyricism, emotion and warmly intimate communication.

There may come a time when the vision of a nonagenarian singing a nearly two hour long program, strolling, sometimes dancing, across the stage, interacting humorously with his listeners and his musicians and winding up seeming as energetic as when he began, won’t be a rarity. But until that enlightened time, anyone who’s been fortunate enough to see and hear Aznavour in action – Saturday night at the Greek and elsewhere – will surely remember the experience as the rare and remarkable event that it was.

Sometimes described as France’s Sinatra, Aznavour performed with the kind of dynamism associated with Ol’ Blue Eye’s live performances. But Aznavour, who is also a brilliant songwriter, with a thousand or more songs to his credit, in four different languages had a more far ranging set of creative skills to offer.

Add to that his extraordinary ease on stage. At one point he paused in singing to address the age old question directed at songwriters – What came first, the words or the music? And on one song, he was joined in a delightful duet by one of his daughters.

The program of Aznavour originals ran the gamut of his grand catalog of works. Among them, such Aznavour classics as “Mon Ami, Mon Judas,” “La Boheme,” “She,” “Je Voyage,” his remarkably touching “Ave Maria,” one of his most-covered songs, “Yesterday, When I Was Young” and “What Makes A Man,” the song that triggered some of the most enthusiastic audience response of the evening.

But the central, most mesmerizing aspect of this memorable performance was the still potent quality of Aznavour’s captivating vocals. Soaring across octaves, from a rich baritone to penetrating head tones, he brought each phrase vividly to life, applying his stunning musicality to the story-telling enhancement of every song.

Rumors of Aznavour’s retirement were heard over the past year in Europe and the U.S. But he has repeatedly denied them. One can only hope that he will in fact return again to Los Angeles, and the many other cities on his usual itinerary before he actually does write finis to his incomparable performance career. Charles Aznavour is, has been and will always be one of a kind.

Photos by Bonnie Perkinson


Picks of the Week: September 9 – 14 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, Copenhagen, Milan and Tokyo

September 9, 2014

 

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Sept. 11. (Thurs.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted by Juanjo Mena finish the summer’s classical season at the Hollywood Bowl with a grand performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 11. (Thurs.) The Fazioli Piano Series. Pianist Eric Huebner plays works by by Luciano Berio, Paolo Cavallone, Nathan Heidelberger, Roger Reynolds, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Eric Wubbels on the much honored (with good reason) Fazioli piano. The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles. (310) 443-3250.

Barbara Morrison (Photo by Bonnie Perkinson)

- Sept. 12 & 13 (Fri. – Sun.) Barbara Morrison 65th birthday and CD release celebration. It’s a memorable weekend for one of Los Angeles’ greatest jazz treasures. She should be heard at every opportunity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Sept. 12. (Fri.) Don Rader Quartet. Trumpeter Rader has been a first call Southland artist for decades, performing every imaginable kind of music with ease and musicality. Here he’s in the spotlight, displaying his versatile musical wares. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.) Mary Bogue. Cabaret artist Bogue, a unique stylist, has been described by Cabaret Scenes Magazine as “kind of throw-back to the red-hot mamas…electrifying, sassy, and sexy.” The Gardenia. (323) 467-7444.

Sept. 13. (Sat.) Charles Aznavour. The great French singer/songwriter makes a rare Southland appearance celebrating his 90th birthday.  The performance will be a banquet of classic songs, sung by one of the iconic figures in the history of international song.    The Greek Theatre(323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

Eliane Elias (Photo by Bonnie Perkinson)

- Sept. 11 – 14, (Thurs. – Sun.) Eliane Elias. The gifted Brazilian singer/pianist presents four fascinating evenings of music: Thurs: Celebrating Getz/Gilberto; Fri: Chet Baker Tribute; Sat: Night in Bahia; Sun: Bill Evans Salute. Don’t miss any of them. An SFJAZZ program at Miner Auditorium. r (866) 920-5299.

Chicago

- Sept. 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.) Robert Glasper Trio. Comfortably positioned on the cutting edge of contemporary jazz, pianist Glasper and his players are offering fascinating new views of 21st century improvisational music. The Jazz Showcase. (312) 360-0234.

New York City

Dr, Lonnie Smith

Dr, Lonnie Smith

- Sept. 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.) Dr. Lonnie Smith.  Organ master Smith’s performances are unique explorations of an instrument with orchestral potential. “The organ is like the sunlight, rain and thunder,” says Smith. “It’s all the worldly sounds to me!” The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

London

- Sept. 10 – 13 (Wed. – Sat.) “Brubecks Play Brubeck” featuring Darius, Chris and Dan Brubeck. The talented offpspring of Dave Brubeck display the remarkable genetic musical heritage they’ve received from their legendary father. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

Sept, 13, (Sat.) Robert Lakatos. Hungarian jazz pianist Lakatos, one of Europe’s most highly praised jazz artists, is joined by Denmark’s Jesper Lundgaard, bass and Alex Riel, drums in a convincing display of the stunningly high level of jazz artistry on the continent. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

The Bad Plus (Dave King, Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson)

- Sept. 11. (Thurs,.) The Bad Plus. The creatively ambitious trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King has been exploring new musical vistas since the 1990s, touching on everything from new views of the blues to their interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- Sept. 11 & 12. (Thurs. & Fri.) The Quartet Legend, featuring Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Benny Golson and Lenny White. With a line-up of those names, this stellar group might more accurately be called “The Legendary Quartet.” Here’s a rare opportunity to hear them together. The Blue Note Tokyo. +81 3-5485-0088.

 


Brian Arsenault Takes on Buddy Holly

September 9, 2014

Not Fade Away
The Music of Buddy Holly

by Brian Arsenault

That ass Gene Simmons saying the other day that rock was dead got me to thinking about living through its whole lifetime. Not that Simmons was right. Hell, he wouldn’t know, coming out of a band so devoid of musicality they had to dress like clowns. Typecasting.

Then today, not consciously thinking about the life and death of Rock, I put on Buddy Holly’s Down The Line – Rarities and it was all there.

Rock. All of it.

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly

It’s not an accident that during the British reinvigoration of rock there was a band called The Hollies. Graham Nash was in it. Before there were Beatles there were Crickets. “Not Fade Away” was a Buddy hit before the Stones and the Dead were around.

All there. The pain and pleasures of early love, first discoveries, teens dancing in the dark. It’s easy to be scornful of such themes but in truth what is more shape shifting for a lifetime than the first discovery of the other sex. (“Fool’s Paradise,” “Love’s Made a Fool of You,” “Oh Boy”) Or the same sex for that matter. Hell, how hard is that? We’re only beginning to recognize the early pain of that sexual urge.

Before acid and gurus, love angst was the theme of the Beatles. A theme that made them bigger than anyone. Ever. And underneath even the White Album, the Buddy Holly gentle, jesting, sensitive feelings never went away nor should they have. Obla Di, Obla Da . . .

It was all there. Acoustic guitar chords played fast, faster and then electric. Sometimes both in the same song.
It was all there. An actual bass lead in “slow version #1″ of “Slippin and a Slidin’.” Long before The Ox and Jack Bruce.
It was all there. Buddy stopping to tell the drummer to push it, push it. An early organ lead when Doors were only something to open or shut.

It was all there. Watch Keith Richards on stage now and he’s playing those neat little rhythm riffs. Just without the horned rim glasses though he could probably use some.

Buddy’s great fame was a little before even my time. The day the music died I was only just tuning in to the music of my life. Digging his stuff.

A plane crash. Over and again a goddamn plane crash. The Big Bopper and La Bamba went down with him. They were doing a tour of high school sock hops. Imagine.

Plane crashes. Left us wounded in Lynrd Skynrd. Bereft of that little guitar monster from Texas. Damn plane crashes. Do like Willy and drive to the gigs. You can smoke ‘em easier.

Chuck Berry invented the form. Elvis made it America’s music. But Buddy led the way. From country and bop, from blues and r&b. All you have to do is listen to an album like Rarities and know that he listened to all of it. And then he gave us all of it. Rock ‘n Roll.

Unfortunately Gene Simmons lives in the same world, just not the same musical universe. So now he owns a fake football team. Figures.


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