Picks of the Week: March 30 – April 5

March 29, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- March 30 (Mon.) The Frank Capp Juggernaut Big Band. It’s a juggernaut, all right – a hard driving, deeply swinging collection of L.A.’s finest players, working through the scintillating repertoire of the Great American Big Band Book. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058. www.charlieos.com

- April 1. (Wed.) The Alan Broadbent Trio. Broadbent is a superb arranger and a much-valued accompanist. But best of all, he’s a jazz pianist with the voice, the sensitivity and the imagination to produce constantly compelling music. Jazz Bakery (310) 271-9039. www.jazzbakery.com.

- April 1. (Wed.) Jenny Scheinman. Violinist Scheinman showcases material from her recent album, “Crossing the Field,” with guitarists Nels Cline and Moe Hawk. “Crossing the Field.” Largo.

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– April 2. (Thurs.) Bill Frisell’s Disfarmer Project. The ever-curious Frisell presents an original compositional suite based upon photographer Mike Disfarmer’s stunning, Depression era images of rural Arkansas life. (310) 440-4500. www.skirball.org

- April 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.) Omar Sosa. Sosa’s new CD, “Across the Divide: A Tale of Rhythm and Ancestry” – inspired by the Middle Passage of African slaves to the U.S.– is a richly textured blend of jazz, folk songs, hymns and spoken word, celebrating the American confluence of cultures. Jazz Bakery (310) 271-9039. www.jazzbakery.com.

- April 3. (Fri.) Charmaine Clamor. She may be the pathfinder for “Jazzipino” music, but Clamor’s career ignites in other directions as well. On April 18 , she’ll reprise her English/Tagalog performance of “The Vagina Chronicles” in New York; in June, she’ll receive a Filipino “Oscar” from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences as the “Philippine Pride Best Jazz Vocalist.” But first, she’ll be in L.A. for a not to be missed one nighter at Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210. www.catalinajazzclub.com

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Kendra Shank

- April 3. (Fri.) Kendra Shank with the Geoff Keezer Trio. The songs on the versatile Shank’s new album, “Mosaic,” run the gamut from Carole King to Johnny Mandel to Bill Evans to a poem by Rumi. Steamers. (714) 871-8800 www.steamersjazzcafe.com. Shank also performs at the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel on Thursday, April 1 (310) 642-7500. www.CrownePlaza.com.

- April 4. (Sat.) Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider. Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle) master Kalhor teams up with the envelope-stretching string Quartet, Brooklyn Rider to perform selections from their new CD, “The Silent City.” UCLA Live at Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101. www.uclalive.org

- April 4. (Sat.) Chango Spasiuk. Don’t let the name fool you. Accordionist Spasiuk, the offspring of Ukrainian immigrants, is one of the masters of northeast Argentina’s dancing, schottische-like chamamé music. The Getty. http://www.getty.edu.

- April. 4 & 5. (Sat. & Sun.) The Duke Ellington 110th birthday Anniversary Festival of Music. Various UCLA music department ensembles explore the full range – from small group jazz to sacred music – of the Ellington repertoire. Open to the public and free of charge. UCLA’s. Schoenberg Hall. (310) 206-3033. www.friendsofjazz.ucla.edu.

- April 5. (Sun.) Jazz Brunch with the John and Jeanne Pisano. The briskly swinging sounds of the Flying Pisanos – vocalist Jeanne and guitarist John – and an overflowing buffet. Call it a great way to highlight a weekend. Spazio. (818) 728-8400. www.spazio.la/jazz.php

- April 5. (Sun.) Organica with Christophe Bull. The 10th anniversary celebration of Bull’s always compelling multi-media illuminations of the pipe organ. Special guests include Norton Wisdom, I-Chin Feinblatt, Lili Haydn, Paulist Choristers of California, Richard Martinez and Robert Woolsey UCLA Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101. www.uclalive.org 7 p.m.

- April 5. (Sun.) Page Cavanaugh Tribute. Leonard Maltin leads an afternoon celebration of the life of the pianist/Singer whose airy instrumental work and whisper vocals created a template for cool, swinging night club jazz. 11 a.m. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210. www.catalinajazzclub.com

San Francisco

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Joshua Redman

- April 1 – 5. (Wed. – Sun.) Joshua Redman‘s appropriately titled new album, “Compass,” continues his expansive journey through the possibilities of the saxophone/bass/drums trio format. His partners here are Matt Penman and drummer Greg Hutchinson. Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200. www.yoshis.com.

- April 4 & 5. (Sat. & Sun.) Oregon. Three decades together, and Paul McCandless and his associates continue to produce music that is as stylistically inclusive as it is creatively compelling. The band’s newest release, Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600. www.yoshis.com

New York City

- March 31 – April 2. (Tues. – Thurs.) Ted Nash and Odeon. A rare appearance by saxophonist Nash’s eclectic ensemble, performing music that finds the common ground between jazz, tango, country music and a variety of ethnic sounds from the Middle East. The Jazz Standard (212) 576-2252. http://www.jazzstandard.net/red/index.html

- March 31 – April 4. (Tues. – Sat.) Jessica Molaskey and the John Pizzarelli Quartet. One of the jazz world’s most visible married couples, Molaskey and Pizzarelli have all the entertaining amiability of Keely Smith and Louis Prima, with a lot more to say musically. Birdland. (212) 581-3080. www.birdlandjazz.com

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Lee Konitz

- March 31 – April 5. (Tues. – Sun.) Lee Konitz and Friends. Regardless of who the “Friends” may be, any chance to hear Konitz in person is a chance to tap into the essence of what jazz is all about. More than an iconic figure, Konitz is one of jazz history’s great creators, still in rare form, still offering masterful new information. The Village Vanguard (212) 255-4037. http://villagevanguard.com

- March 31 – April 5. (Tues. – Sun.) The Wonderful World of Armstrong. Saxophonist Victor Gaines and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon recall the glories of Satchmo, with Gordon adding his atmospheric vocals for good measure. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. (212) 258-9595. www.jalc.org/dccc .

- April 2. (Thurs.) Bang on a Can All-Stars. The no-boundaries chamber ensemble premiers works by Lok Yin Tang, Kate Moore and Lee Ranaldo (who also appears as a special guest), as well as the always-fascinating Fred Frith’s “Snakes and Ladders.” Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center. (212) 501-3330. http://kaufman-center.org/merkin-concert-hall

Reading, Pennsylvania

March 27 – April 5. The 19th Annual Berks Jazz Fest. Smooth jazz and a lot more at this annual musical delight in a pleasant old southeast Pennsylvania city (my home town) along the Schuylkill River. Featured randybrecker1performers in the expansive program include David Benoit, Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Brian Bromberg, Anat Cohen, Brian Culbertson, Bela Fleck, Bobby Lyle, Paul Jackson Jr., Mitch Forman, Chieli Minucci, Andy Narell, Randy Brecker, Joyce Cooling, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Smith & Vital Information, Phoebe Snow, Tierney Sutton Band, Take 6, Derek Trucks, McCoy Tyner Quartet, Gerald Veasley, Nnenna Freelon, Peter White, Mindi Abair, Victor Wooten and many others. At locations around Reading, PA. Tickets from Ticketmaster: (800) 745-3000 Festival information: http://www.berksjazzfest.com/index.htm

Bill Frisell photo by Ralph Gibson
Randy Brecker photo by Rusty Russell

Live Jazz: The Ron Carter Trio (with Russell Malone and Mulgrew Miller)

March 28, 2009

By Michael Katz

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Ron Carter photo by Michael Katz

There were plenty of reasons to celebrate Friday night at the Jazz Bakery. For starters, there was the return of proprietor Ruth Price, back hosting the music with her trademark effervescence for the first time since a December auto accident. For another, there was the news she shared that the Bakery, whose lease runs out at the end of May, has no shortage of suitors for a September return. Best of all was the all-too-rare appearance of bass legend Ron Carter, who led an all-star trio featuring pianist Mulgrew Miller and guitarist Russell Malone before an appreciative capacity crowd.

Mixing in a few standards with selections from their 2003 album, The Golden Striker, the trio was a mix of virtuosity and blended elegance. They opened with Malone’s Cedar Tree, which featured Miller and Malone volleying seamlessly, Carter content to lay back and set the tone. Things heated up on the second tune, unannounced, but with the familiar bass line of Carter’s 12 x 12 from his Pastels album. Carter began with the extended bass solo, then handed off the spotlight to Mulgrew Miller. Miller has a linebacker’s physique, and hunched in front of the Bakery’s Steinway, made it look almost like Schroeder’s piano. But he has a deft touch, with graceful riffs along the higher octaves, supplemented by Russell Malone’s rhythm guitar.  The two alternated solos, then conceded the spotlight to Carter.

Cool and elegant, his body contoured to the instrument, the fingers on his left hand scurrying over the neck of the bass like a tarantula, Carter is both a visual and musical delight. His soloing has a robust tone, recalling his compositional themes from signature tunes such as Parade, which he played later in the program.

Russell Malone, meanwhile, exhibits the full range of his guitar, from rhythm accompaniments to his soulful, sometimes funky solos. Most breathtaking, though, are his ballads. Possessing a muted tone to begin with, Malone has a circular style that builds emotionally to a stunning, harp-like effect.

Carter, who once teamed memorably with Miles Davis, introduced My Funny Valentine as one of his favorite tunes. He provided a lovely counterpoint with Miller’s pensive, haunting melody. Malone picked up the tempo with his own riffs, then handed it back to Miller, who added a quote from Summertime before closing it out.

It was altogether fitting that the trio ended with John Lewis’ Golden Striker. It has the precise, chamber jazz quality that characterized the MJQ, yet easily lends itself to the   free-swinging qualities of the individual musicians, in this case highlighted again by Mulgrew Miller. The finale was met with a standing ovation, and the hope that Ron Carter doesn’t wait another Olympiad before returning.

The Ron Carter Trio also performs tonight (Saturday, Mar. 28) at the Jazz Bakery.


Quotation of the Week: Hunter S. Thompson

March 27, 2009

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.  There’s also a negative side.”hunter-thompson

Hunter S. Thompson


On Second Thought: The Kinks — “Lola vs. Powerman and the Money-Go-Round, Part One” (1970)

March 26, 2009

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by Dave Gebroe

Lola Vs. Powerman And The Money-Go-Round, Part One was the Kinks‘ most successful record on both sides of the Atlantic since the mid-60s. It single-handedly elevated them to arena band status in the U.S. Its title track became their legacy, an FM standard that refuses to die. Ask any classic rock fan what record springs to mind when you say “The Kinks,” and 99 times out of 100 they’re going to say “Lola.”

But pull back the curtain and look a little closer. “Lola” planted the seeds for a once-great band’s creative demise, as tremendously gifted songwriter Ray Davies began spinning a solipsistic cocoon that eventually led to him simply floating out to sea. Starting in 1970, Ray’s choices seemingly began to be made solely on whether or not he wanted to convey the impression of giving a shit about being appreciated. During the first half of the decade, he apparently couldn’t have cared less (much to new label RCA’s chagrin). After “Lola,” Ray escaped into himself, finding comfort inside concept albums whose last priority was musical excellence. They were mainly dopey nostalgic forays that made it clear that Ray Davies was now a man who felt extreme discomfort in his own skin. Precious little of the output from this period (1972-1975) holds up as listenable and I’d only loosely define much of it as music. Then, after 1975, Ray flip-flopped and spent the remainder of the decade pumping out generic stadium rock in a listless concession to the idea of “giving the people what they want.”

 

Ray’s utterly conflicted, thoroughly bizarre knee-jerk reaction against commercial acceptance can be traced back to 1965, when the Kinks were banned from re-entering the U.S. by the American government. For four years, one of the greatest, most creative bands on the planet all but disappeared from America, focusing instead on following their muse and creating distinctly British masterpieces that had the unfortunate effect of thrusting them headlong into a sales slump. By 1969, their star had fallen precipitously. They needed a hit to bring them back in a big way.

 

Ray later talked about wanting to write a song that would “sell in the first five seconds.” Enter “Lola,” their new single. Based on a real-life experience of Ray’s back in 1965, “Lola” was an instant smash, reaching #1 in the New Musical Express in the U.K. , and #9 in the U.S. This wasn’t just a shot in the arm for the Kinks — it was necessary for their continued existence as a band. Their last album, 1969′s brilliant “Arthur,” had topped out at #105 on the charts. This was it and Ray Davies knew it.

 

With the prospect of an honest-to-goodness comeback looming ahead, Ray shaped an entire concept album around the song. In a particularly strange gesture, when considered side-by-side with the years of struggle they’d just endured, the LP created around the 45 flat-out rejected and negated the success that seemed within their grasp as a result of that very song! This insistence on biting the hand that fed them at this crucial juncture in their career is, arguably, the fulcrum point between the undimmed brilliance of the Kinks up to that point and the extreme musical self-indulgence of their output from 1970 forward.

 

The basic concept: a struggling band makes a go of it, releases a single that tops the charts, achieves huge success, and has to contend with the faceless, soul-crushing behemoth that is the music industry. The funny thing is that at its root the true concept of “Lola” is something of the inverse of that — a well-established act releases a huge hit and shoots themselves in the foot in a misguided attempt to prove their integrity.

 

I wouldn’t say the record’s a total disaster; “Lola” truly is the great single it was created to be, and “Get Back In Line” and “A Long Way From Home” are two of Ray’s most poignant, affecting ballads. “This Time Tomorrow” isn’t bad, either, communicating with great economy the whirlwind isolation of life on the road, a topic that would be far more laboriously explored on 1972′s double-set “Everybody’s A Star.”

 

However, what saps “Lola” of its power and its message is the acerbity that lingers in the listener’s ear. Somehow, during this period, when Davies attempted to express himself with bitter resignation, his ability to connect emotionally was awe-inspiringly on the money (i.e., the twin-ballad attack mentioned above, “Celluloid Heroes,” “Where Are They Now?”, etc.), but when he stripped that bitterness of its resignation he had a tendency to come across as shrill and ungrateful.

 

Is the man allowed to whine? Has he earned the right? Sure. But, as his career path eventually revealed, once a rich, famous rock star begins bitching and moaning about his woeful existence, it becomes a chore for the listener to relate. Let’s face it, Ray had already shown signs of being a crotchety old man in the 1960s. On “Lola,” he finally got to yell at his audience — and the music world at large — to keep their collective ball off his lawn.

 

Although the material on “Lola” is quite varied — there’s folk, music hall, even metal — much of it is blunt, generic, and uninspired. Right off the bat, there’s “The Contenders” — a piss-poor attempt at blues rock that comes off sounding like a generic Ten Years After outtake. The second single, “Apeman,” sounds like what might happen if “Weird Al” Yankovic took a cod-Calypso stab at “Lola.” Dave Davies‘ “Rats” sounds as pseudo in its intent to rock out with its cock out as “You Really Got Me” felt like the real deal and the seething swipes at the music industry — “Denmark Street,” “Top Of The Pops,” and “The Moneygoround”—barely qualify as songs.

 

Indicators for all the various, half-hearted dead-ends the band were to barrel down thereafter were there for the seeking on “Lola”: the throwaway music hall whimsy, Ray Davies’ lyrical over-reliance on autobiography and the compulsion to populate his records with villainous character-types…even the desire to take twice the time to say half as much (as can be surmised by the title, a part two was originally intended). The essential Kink konundrum can be found in the lyrics to its closing song, “Got To Be Free”:

 

“Got to be free to say what I want
Make what I want and play what I want”

 

What a beautiful declaration of artistic independence! Unfortunately, from this definitive fork in the road of Ray’s musical concerns, we’re able, now with the benefit of hindsight, to trace the outcome of this pronouncement. He took that freedom and promptly utilized it to transform himself into an inebriated music-hall stooge. Within two short years, Ray had bottomed out in a confused mess, leading to this stunned, momentary insight of the music-hall insanity he’d come to embrace:

 

“If my friends could see me now, dressing up in my bow-tie,
Prancing round the room like some outrageous poove,
They would tell me that I’m just being used
They would ask me what I’m trying to prove.
They would see me in my hotel,
Watching late shows till the morning,
Writing songs for old time vaudeville revues.
All my friends would ask me what it’s all leading to.”

(from “Sitting In My Hotel,” 1972)

 

Unfortunately, in Ray Davies’ case, what it led to was a great band being flushed down the toilet in a sacrificial gesture to one man’s bold yet increasingly diffuse vision.

 

 


Live Jazz Review: Carol Welsman

March 25, 2009

By Don Heckman

The population of female jazz vocal artists has been growing faster over the past decade than a California wildfire.  But with far more appealing results.  And among the most appealing of all are the singing and piano playing of Carol Welsman.  She may not be the best known blonde jazz singer from Canada – at least not yet.  But when it comes to sheer talent, she doesn’t have to take second place to anyone.

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Carol Welsman

Welsman’s performance at Vibrato Grill… Jazz in Bel Air Tuesday night was a case in point.  Despite the distractions of a somewhat talkier than usual crowd, her two sets were striking displays of creative versatility, reaching from blues and balladry to bossa nova, vocalese, and classic standards.

All of which provided a lot of choices from a musical table filled with appetizing dishes.  One of Welsman’s current projects is an album of Peggy Lee classics, and she included a briskly swinging “Why Don’t You Do Right?” along with a darkly intimate rendering of “Black Coffee” capturing the full, caffeine-driven intensity of the song’s poignant tale.

Scat singing can be – for this listener – studies in boring, white key meandering.  But Welsman, in “Just One of Those Things,” “Lady Be Good” and “Cottontail,” ripped off choruses – often in league with parallel piano clusters — with the harmonic accuracy and the ineffable swing of the instrumentalist that she is.  And she dug into the vocalese of the latter two – especially Jon Hendrick’s tongue-twisting lyrics for “Cottontail” – with a fluency that belied the Byzantine difficulties of the lyrical/melodic lines.

The most satisfying entrees in Welsman’s musical feast, however, were the ballads, which, like the balance of the program, roved across time and style.  Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” for example, emerged as a stunning jazz ballad.  Rodgers and Hart’s “Where Or When” revealed Welsman’s way with a lyric via phrasing that perfectly combined the story of the song with the flow of the music.  And, in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s touching “The Folks Who Live On the Hill,” she brought utter musical believability to that rarity – an American Songbook standard that’s not about unrequited love (and that also accomplishes the unlikely lyric feat of rhyming “veranda” with “command a”).

Despite a few audio problems throughout the night, Welsman was backed with swing, efficiency and total empathy by guitarist Pat Kelley, bassist Rene Camacho and drummer Jimmy Branley.

Call it a musical night to remember.  But even so, leaving Vibrato’s elegant environs, I couldn’t help but wonder why – despite her long list of accomplishments – Welsman still hasn’t made the big breakthrough, still hasn’t reached the wide audience that her talent so obviously deserves.  It’s time.  And hopefully soon.

So don’t miss the opportunity to hear Carol Welsman up close and personal this weekend at the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside, 6161 W. Centinela Ave., Culver City.  Information: In-House Music.

To sample Carol Welsman’s recordings, click here.


PIcks of the Week: March 23 – 29

March 22, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

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Nikki Yanofsky

- Mar. 23. (Mon.)  Nikki Yanofsky.  She’s only fifteen, but this young Canadian jazz singer has already headlined at the Montreal Jazz Festival, performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and recorded with Herbie Hancock.  Catch her now, so you can say you saw a new star in the ascendancy.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  www.catalinajazzclub.com.

- Mar. 24. (Tues.)  Carol Welsman.  Yet another Canadian vocalist, but one who has already established her credentials as one of the jazz world’s uniquely talented, musically compelling singer/pianists.  Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.  www.vibratogrilljazz.com.  Also Mar. 27. (Fri.) at the  Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside.  (310) 649-1776.  http://www.radisson.com/hotels/caculver/dinings.

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Branford Marsalis

- Mar. 24 – 28 (Tues. – Sat.)  Branford Marsalis Quartet.  Tenor saxophonist Marsalis’ impressive versatility is on full display in his just-released album, “Metamorphosen.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.  Expect to hear selections from it, including, hopefully, his rarely heard alto sax on the Marsalis original, “Jabberwocky.” (323) 466-2210.  www.catalinajazzclub.com.

- Mar. 26. (Thurs.)  Pharoah’s DaughterBasya Schecter may have been born in Brooklyn, but her musical heart beats with Middle Eastern rhythms.  And her group, Pharoah’s Daughter, weaves comfortably through Hasidic chants, Sephardic folk-rock and her own re-imagining of Mediterranean musics.  Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.  www.skirball.org

- Mar. 26. (Thurs.)  Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, with the Ditty Bops and Van Dyke Parks.  The sixties and seventies still live in the outlaw swing of Hicks and the Licks.  And with the folky Ditty Bops and the unpredictable Parks in the room, anything can happen.   El Rey Theatre. (323) 936-6400    http://www.theelrey.com.

- Mar. 26. (Thurs.)Tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb’s status as an A-list sideman is fully justified by his far-ranging versatility.  But the best time to hear him is when he’s doing it his way, backed by the solid rhythm section of Jon Mayer, piano, Roy McCurdy, drums and Chris Conner, bass.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.  www.charlieos.com

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Ron Carter

- Mar. 27 – 28. (Fri. & Sat.)  Ron Carter, Russell Malone, Mulgrew Miller.  All-star trios don’t get much better than this definitive display of mature, creative jazz at its finest.  The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.  www.jazzbakery.com.

- Mar. 27 – 28. (Fri. & Sat.)  Cryptonights at REDCAT showcase a collection of envelope-stretching contemporary music.  Fri. Myra Melford and Be Bread, the Alex Cline Continuation Quartet.  Sat. The Nels Cline Singers.  The Jeff Gauthier Goatette. REDCAT. (213) 237-2800.  www.redcat.org.   Also at Yoshi’s Oakland, Wed. Mar. 25. and Thurs. Mar. 26.  Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.  www.yoshis.com.

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Madeleine Peyroux

- Mar. 28. (Sat.)  Madeleine Peyroux . Until the recent release of her newest album, “Bare Bones,” Peyroux has built her career as an atmospheric interpretative artist.  Now she’s stepping out on her own, with considerable success, as an intriguing singer songwriter.  William Fitzsimmons, an idiosyncratic songwriter, himself, opens the show.  8 p.m. Club Nokia. (213) 765-7000.  www.clubnokia.com

Mar. 28. (Sat.)  The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with special guest Ernie Andrews.   One of the country’s biggest, brawniest jazz bands with the inimitable, strutting vocals of a legendary vocalist, performing in the newly expanded Spazio jazz room.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  Spazio in Sherman Oaks.  (818) 728-840o.  http://www.spazio.la/jazz.php.

- Mar. 28. (Sat.)  Prince.  The purple one does what no one seems to have ever done before — perform at three different (if nearby) venues in the same night.  The stunt is in support of the launch of his new web site, http://www.LotusFlow3r.com, and the release of three new studio albums.  He’ll appear at  5:30 p.m. at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.  (213) 763-6030.   http://www.nokiatheatrelalive.com.  8 p.m. at the Conga Room. (213) 749-0162.  http://www.congaroom.com.  11:30 p.m. at Club Nokia.(213) 765-7000.  www.clubnokia.com.    ..

- Mar. 29. (Sun.)  Jay Leonhart. In set pieces such as “The Bass Lesson, Leonhart supplements his sturdy rhythm playing with a wit and whimsy that place him comfortably in a grouping with jazz humorists Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough.  The last event before the closing of Steinway Hall @ Fields Pianos.  5 p.m. (310) 471-3979 or Jeannine@FrankEntertainment.com.

- Mar. 29. (Sun.)  Mark Winkler writes the kind of songs that should provide him with a comfortable spot in the Great American Songbook — if anyone’s still interested in melodic, literate, emotionally touching songs, that is.  He celebrates the release of his new CD, “Till I Get It Right,” presumably not referring to his songwriting, since he got that right a while ago.  Cheryl Bentyne makes a guest appearance.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  www.catalinajazzclub.com.

San Francisco

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Andy Statman

- Mar. 23. (Mon.)  Andy Statman Trio.  A pioneer of the klezmer revival that began in the late seventies, Statman — who is proficient on clarinet and mandolin — roves freely from bluegrass and jazz to Eastern European Jewish roots music.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.  www.yoshis.com

- Mar. 25 and 26. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Myra Melford and Be Bread.  The Alex Cline Continuation Quartet, The Nels Cline Singers and The Jeff Gauthier Goatette.   Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.  www.yoshis.com.  Also at REDCAT Mar. 27 & 28.

- Mar. 28.  (Sat.)  Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.  www.yoshis.com.  Also Mar. 26 at the El Rey.

New York City

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Cecil Taylor

- Mar. 28. (Sat.)  Cecil Taylor, still as mesmerizing a performer as he was in the fifties and sixties, when he was redefinng the possibilties of the jazz piano.   Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center.  (212) 501-3330.  http://kaufman-center.org/merkin-concert-hall

- Mar. 28. (Sat.)  The Jessica Lurie Ensemble.  The multi-instrumental woodwind artist  roves freely from performance art to Latin music and jazz.  The Jalopy Theatre.  Brooklyn. (718) 395-3214.  http://www.jalopy.biz.


Here There & Everywhere: Herbie Hancock, The Hollywood Bowl and the Jazz Bakery

March 21, 2009

By Don Heckman

herbie-hancock

Herbie Hancock

There’s been some good news, bad news and in-between news this week out here on the Left Coast.  The good news is that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has appointed Herbie Hancock for a two year term as the new Creative Chair for Jazz, starting in 2010.  He replaces Christian McBride, who has held the job since 2006.  If anything, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for Herbie to get the job.  But better late than never.

One of the position’s most significant tasks is recommending jazz programming for the summer season at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as the Fall through Spring season at Walt Disney Hall.  The difficulties of creating that programming in a venue that seats over 18,000, became crystal clear in the Philharmonic announcement of the jazz schedule for the 2009 Bowl season – still under the guidance of McBride.

The list of names will surely draw, at the very least, questioning glances from anyone who expects jazz programs to actually include jazz artists.  The three scheduled jazz performances for July, for example, consist of appearances by Sergio Mendes, Eddie Palmieri and Poncho Sanchez (7/8), Natalie Cole (7/15), and Boney James and Fourplay (7/22).  The August programs consist of a recreation of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans’ “Porgy and Bess,” “Sketches of Spain” and “Miles Ahead,” with trumpet playing from Terence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton (8/5), a concert featuring Buddy Guy, Dr. John and James Cotton (8/12), an evening with Patti Labelle (8/19), and a performance by the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, James Moody and the Roy Hargrove Big Band and the Big Phat Band (8/26).  The final date, on September 2, showcases the almost-Return-To-Forever Trio of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White.

That’s a total of three, maybe four or four and a half, authentic jazz dates out of a total of eight scheduled “jazz” events.  So let’s call that the in-between news.

ruth-price

Ruth Price at the Jazz Bakery

The bad news is that the Jazz Bakery‘s lease will expire on May 31.  Ruth Price, the diva-in-charge of the fabled venue says she’s hoping to reopen at a new site on the Westside in the Fall.  A few events, using the Jazz Bakery brand, will be held over the summer, obviously in the hope of keeping the name alive.

This is, in fact, a sword that’s been threatening to drop for a while.  And the Bakery’s unsteady situation was undoubtedly exacerbated when the opening of the trendy Father’s Office restaurant — a few doors away from the Bakery in the old Helms Bakery building – brought crowds into the area who were not necessarily jazz aficionados and reducing parking to a minimum.

One can only hope that Price is right (no pun intended), that she will find a new, appropriate venue that can duplicate the concert style setting that made the Jazz Bakery a favorite among both musicians and their listeners.  If not, then yet another important era in Southland jazz history will have ended.


CD Review: A Little Bit of Stomp, A Little Bit of Whomp

March 20, 2009

by Casey Dolan

Rudder

matorning-cover1“Matorning” (Nineteen-Eight Records) Most rock listeners will not know who the hell these guys are, coming up, as they do, from the modern jazz ranks. That’s an injustice and just ridiculous. Rudder should be major. This is neither jazz in the strict sense nor rock, nor any of the conventional notions of fusion, although Rudder owes much to all three traditions. It is music, call it Party Whomp, that should appeal to an extremely wide variety of listeners – from lovers of new electronica to jam band enthusiasts; from the most discerning jazz musos to crunchy rockers (despite there being no guitar in the band); from trip hop isolationists to acid jazzers of every stripe.

The second album from Keith Carlock, Tim Lefebvre, Henry Hey and Chris Cheek doesn’t depart too far from their 2007 eponymous debut. The same comical, herky-jerky heads, the deep, molasses grooves, a pretty ballad (“Lucy,” with a seamless arc of crescendo in the arrangement) – they are all there with each player adding his signature style. In other words, there are few surprises, but there are some. Tenor sax player Chris Cheek seems to have added more effects (no saxophonist alive works a wah-wah like him — check out “Tokyo Chicken” and “One Note Mosh”) and bassist Tim Lefebvre, conversely, seems to be playing with more organic sounds this time and less coloration. Not so with keyboardist Henry Hey who uses his usual bag of tricks that seem to lift as much from bad science fiction films as from the chitlin circuit. The undeniable center of Rudder’s universe, though, the quasar, the eye of God itself, is drummer Keith Carlock, one of the greatest drummers in existence.

Think I’m talking hyperbole here? That’s because you don’t read drummer polls or hang out in New York jazz dives. That’s because the musician’s world of musicians is not a concentric universe with radio play, or the appallingly (un)hip music magazine focus or whatever awful thing makes it on a TV soundtrack these days. Please, take it from me. Whether your percussive God is John Bonham, JackDeJohnette, Al Jackson, Mastodon’s Brann Dailor, Bill Bruford, Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Neil Peart, whomever…Carlock will make you weep. Live, he is an electrified muppet, multi-limbed like Shiva, but he dominates the proceedings (and not in an overbalanced sense) on both the first album and “Matorning.” It is Carlock (with some help from Lefebvre) who will make you bounce around your house uncontrollably with a cattle prod up your bottom and not merely because of his tribal thumping, but the sound of it as well (listen to his beautifully hollow kick drum on “Jackass Surcharge” or his snare on “Innit”).

But Rudder is not a showcase for Carlock, it is a band. And a band that displays much humor. There’s a Funkadelic cartoon feel to some of the tunes, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have subtleties. The album is far from painted in primary colors. The 7/4 whomp of “Jackass Surcharge” has a soft, insinuating horn arrangement that sounds like cats mewing or distant traffic (Lefebvre is astonishing on this, popping away). There are the fun games with meter: “Lucky Beard” has Carlock laying down a funky 6/8, but Cheek is playing in 4 with a bar of 6 thrown in, and it works beautifully. “Daitu” has Lefebvre channeling Jack Bruce’s distinctly trebley bass against an acid jazz background. “Neppe” (possibly the most otherworldly track on the whole album) weds an “Addams Family” sax to trip hop. And Hey deserves special recognition as a keyboardist who really knows when to play it simply and be most effective. The closing track, “CDL,” has him playing eighth-note chords almost throughout, lending a Radiohead feel to the track.

If “Matorning” has an inherent cautionary tale for its participants, it may be to always keep things lively and fresh, to not become complacent with a sound. This is such a fine aggregation of musicians that they should be willing, on occasion, to put the Party Whomp aside and stroll into unheard territories, to consider greater use of electronics, tape manipulation and digital editing, maybe to even add an instrument or two. (What would happen if Four Tet, Danger Mouse, Dan Deacon, Adrian Sherwood, or one of those bhangra nutjob remixers did mixes? Could be monstrous). The second half of the album begins to do that, but it might be a good idea for album number three to go further and eschew even that solid stomp that Carlock supplies (at least part of the time). I believe Rudder has the capacity to do almost anything and the compositional skills of all three writers — Cheek, Lefebvre and Hey — could lead the band into greater recognition and success.

This is a video from the 2007 Fall tour in the Rex in Toronto. “Circle of Jerks”:


Video: “Cough Up the Bucks,” Riding with Neil Young

March 20, 2009

by Casey Dolan

God bless the old nutball. I love him. Here’s the latest video from Neil Young’s album, “Fork in the Road,” set to be released by Reprise on April 7. Young has always had that that simian physiognomy that could approximate a corrupt tycoon (real estate might be the perfect investment), sweating, sputtering in apoplectic fury. Directed or played by Orson Welles. With a couple of essential props: the shades, the cellphone. And the stretch limo? Perfect.

The song strolls at that mid-tempo banging pace that Young loves so much, but the guitar is not quite all those overdriven open chords that we have come to expect. Instead, there’s some close-voiced density harshness and a touch more twang that he’s pulling from his Paul. But, in blissful contrast, the lovely stacked harmonies come in on the chorus.

It’s both what you’d expect and what you’d not expect. The video’s political statement and the tune manage to be both avant-garde and naively primitive at once. In other words, Neil Young, as ever, is the most sane lunatic of us all.

Viddy here: Neil Young – Cough Up The Bucks


CDs on Shuffle: A Look at Some (Terrific) New Releases

March 18, 2009

by Casey Dolan

The Lonely Forest

the-lonely-forest1“We Sing the Body Electric!” (Burning Building Recordings)

When people say of Kurt Cobain that he had a pop composer’s sensibility, I never quite understand what they mean. He may have loved the Beatles, but he didn’t write like Lennon & McCartney. Bridges and choruses ape verses, dynamic changes become a predictable soft-loud-soft-loud paradigm, melodies stagger half-drunkenly over mumbled poetry. Maybe Nirvana was a necessary cathartic purging for a generation.

The Lonely Forest (terrible name, guys), a young Anacortes, WA band that takes many cues from Nirvana (the angry gargle, the occasional sonic roar), adds piano and that extra dimension of complexity in pop songcraft (true bridges, imagine that!). Their new album, “We Sing the Body Electric!” (another unfortunate choice for a title, taken from one of the lyrics but, more importantly, borrowed from Ray Bradbury, who had been previously pillaged by both Weather Report and Since by Man), merges the two often conflicting worlds of raging punk and chamber pop. John Van Deusen writes memorable tunes –  “We Sing in Time” has the potential to be a big single — but it’s his voice that grabs center stage, ranging, like the music, from the strangled Cobain to the purest falsetto. The only concern might be that some of the prettiest harmonies are sung by Van Deusen himself and thus not replicable live. There is a hint of emo in Van Deusen’s delivery and one shudders to think what a grand emo producer like Howard Benson would do with a band like this. I hope they keep it hairy and raw like this album, which is not to say these guys aren’t tight. Drummer Braydn Krueger is a powerhouse, coming up with some surprising accents and parts but always grounding the band.

If there is a weakness, it is in the lyrics which occasionally smack of cloying sentimentality and pithy idealism: “When will the world start moving forward?/Let’s lose the hate and drown the sorrow!/Give love/Just live love!” sings Van Deusen in “Golden Apples of the Sun, Part II.”

“We Sing in Time” live at Folklife in EMP’s Skychurch, 2008:

 

 

Dan Deacon

bromst“Bromst” (Carpark Records)

The album begins with the slowest fade-in in history– a dramatic entrance, sounding like an alarm from the dystopian world of “Minority Report” and opening into one of the most varied sonic topographies this listener has heard in a very long time. “Bromst” beggars description and is an easy candidate for one of the year’s best.

Dan Deacon, the Baltimore wizard of sound, explores a full spectrum of sonorities — from a jagged sawtooth to the purest sine wave, an impossibly fast drum n’ bass groove to mid-tempo Kraftwerkian vocoder pop — but he never stays in one territory long. Inevitably, the glistening mercury turns to sand. The layers multiply exponentially. Loops are edited with a composer’s ear for detail; samples defy source identification. As any good symphonic composer, Deacon mixes timbres, instruments to surprising effect. “Paddling Ghost” begins with something close to a kalimba sound on overdrive, and then, of all things, a Farfisa organ enters. “Surprise Stefani” suggests gamelan, but filtered through the post-rave landscape. Ambient series Brian Eno finds an unholy union with the synclavier-era Frank Zappa (and all his obsessions with VSO) and the American shaman composer, John Adams.

For those who think that Aphex Twin and Squarepusher were really on to something in the mid-90s, Dan Deacon represents the next step forward. His previous outing, “Spiderman of the Rings” (2007), is almost as good, so it is clear that he’s on a roll. Catch him when he hits the Troubadour on April 22. The live shows are legendary.

The entire record can be streamed here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101150484

An Horse

an-horse“Rearrange Beds” (Mom & Pop Music)

Fresh from an appearance on David Letterman last week, this Brisbane duo (bassless, naturally) of Kate Cooper and Damon Cox play songs that read like diary entries from an anguished, overwrought teenage girl, but they still manage to make things rock and not sound like adolescent whinings. Tagged by Tegan & Sara to open for them on tour, it’s easy to see why the Canadian duo liked An Horse so much — a strong frontwoman songwriter in Cooper with emotional direct simplicity in the songs. Even guitarist extraordinaire Kaki King has covered an An Horse song. Cooper is the focal point and, as can be seen in the video of their Letterman performance of “Camp Out,” she doesn’t really have to even look at the audience to be riveting. The album packs a stark but aggressive punch.

Here is the Letterman performance of “Camp Out”:

 

Micachu & the Shapes

micachu“Jewellery” (Rough Trade)

Magnificent little engines in a Rube Goldberg contraption run in perfect syncopation, their square gears setting off whistles. Cymbals pin the meters into white noise and a slightly adenoidal English teenager starts yammering. There’s a bit of hysteria throughout the debut album of Micachu & the Shapes, like a giddy Noel Coward on a gin and pills jag and don’t we really all want that in our lives? Noel weaving down the hallway, martini glass in hand?

Can music get more fun than this?

The toyshop explodes in “Eat Your Heart” until a yodeling chorus brays about eating your heart. The guitars on “Lips” sound like outtakes from Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica” rehearsals. “Calculator” starts off as a low-fi garage beater, but then all these strange sounds appear and it devolves into a subway busker.

Mica Levi, a.k.a. Micachu, is all of 21 years old, thoroughly grounded in composition at the Guildhall School of Music, a violist and is a fan of Harry Partch, Bela Bartok, the Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Al Green and Johnny Cash! Bully for her to bring such iconoclasm and individuality to the table. Fundamentally, Micachu and the Shapes are pop, albeit a skewed, funhouse mirror version of the genre. They’re in SXSW this week. Here’s hoping they get heard by discerning ears.

Here is a performance of “Lips”:

Reissues:

Dukes of Stratosphear

psonic125-oclock 

25 O’Clock and Psonic Sunspot (Ape House Records)

There are many compelling arguments for the claim that XTC is one of the two or three most important bands to come out of post-Seventies England. These two albums, made under the moniker of their psychedelic alter-ego, contribute to that claim. Strangely out of print for a long while, Andy Partridge’s cottage label, Ape House, is resurrecting them. Fans can discover that the albums work as musical statements far more than mere pastiches of Beatles, Who, Kinks, Hollies, Small Faces, (Syd Barrett era) Pink Floyd, Beach Boys and Byrds. The excellent songwriting of Partridge and Colin Moulding that made the parent band revered (particularly among musicians) is evident on these albums. “25 O’Clock” is more consistent a disc, but each contain demos, extra songs and a video as bonus items.


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