Live Jazz: The Jazz Baltica Festival in Salzau, Germany

July 30, 2009

By Fernando Gonzalez

Salzau, Germany.  This year’s edition of Germany’s Jazz Baltica Festival was billed as “The Battle of the Big Bands,” and included the Jazz Big Band Graz, the Bohuslan Big Band with Steve Swallow, the NDR Big Band directed by Maria Schneider, and The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Still, as good as some of their performances were, and some were indeed terrific, the highlights of the event might have been the shows by a couple of small groups: The Hank Jones trio with James Moody and Miguel Zenón Quartet. And their performances stood as perfect bookends, celebrating both the history and, arguably, the future of jazz.

Salzau Castle

Salzau Castle

Held in and around the Salzau castle, a bucolic setting near Kiel in Northern Germany, July 1-5, the Jazz Baltica festival is part of the classical music-oriented Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. It was started in 1991 as part of a program of cultural cooperation between Baltic states and has since grown into one of the important stops in the jazz summer circuit in Europe.

Because of the programming philosophy, over the years, the programs have been often set up as meeting places for artists from all over the world to work on one-of-a-kind projects with regional bands and players. (Some of the musicians who have appeared at Jazz Baltica include Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, David Murray, Charles Lloyd but also Jan Garbarek, Lars Danielsson, Dino Saluzzi, E.S.T., Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tomasz Stanko and Marcin Wasilewski. It’s a long, rich list)

The concerts take place on several stages – including a club-like setting in the castle and an outdoor stage. The main halls are in fact two reconditioned barns, the large one has a capacity for about 600 and the smaller one sits about 200.

MIguel Zenon

MIguel Zenon

Saxophonist and composer Zenón — clearly not someone inclined to take the easy path — took the opportunity to present new material from his upcoming album, Esta Plena (Marsalis Music) in his performance in the small hall. The title reflects the fact that the music represents his take on the traditional plena style of his native Puerto Rico. That Latin jazz has been evolving by leaps and bounds in recent years, well beyond the tired jazz-with-congas idea, should not come as news. For some time now, a young generation of Latin musicians has been integrating indigenous rhythms and styles from their own cultures — such as tango, and flamenco, but also Mexican huapango, Panamanian mejoranas and Uruguayan candombe — and reworking them with the syntax and vocabulary of jazz. And yet, what Zenón has been doing – blending Puerto Rican styles such as jibaro (country music) with his own post-Ornette sound – is in a class by itself. Moreover, he has been able to keep his group — Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass and Henry Cole, drums – together and the quartet seemed to breathe as one, changing dynamics and turning on a dime, anticipating and responding to the most minute musical gestures on the fly. And yet, beyond that, there was a raw, earthy feeling to the music even as the ideas seem to sail by unpredictably, in seemingly all directions. The overall effect illuminated both traditions, jazz and plena, anew.

concierto_02

James Moody and Hank Jones

Later that day, also in the small hall, Hank Jones, 91, and James Moody, 84, neither asked for, nor made, any concession to age. Backed by George Mraz, bass and Willie Jones III, drums, Jones played the trio part of the set at an intense, crisp pace. Elegant and understated, he was all business; the pieces were short, the solos tight, clear and to the point. When Moody joined — he had recorded the marvelous Our Delight (IPO) with Jones in 2006 — he added not only his rich tenor sound and a fluid stream of ideas but also a touch of humor and vaudeville (his by-now classic parody “Benny’s From Heaven” brought down the hall). It was a master class of jazz history, swing and showbiz by two masters, all rolled into one.

And, as though that wasn’t enough, Jones appeared later that evening as a special guest with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and Moody was part of the closing set with saxophonist Bunky Green (a Jazz Baltica mainstay) and his quartet, augmented by Donny McCaslin on tenor sax, and Zenón on alto — a four saxophone delight.)

If this year is any indication, Jazz Baltica is certainly well worth a visit.

For more info about the Festival click here  Jazz Baltica.


Quotation of the Week: Miles Davis

July 30, 2009

Miles_Davis

“Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.”

Miles Davis


News: R.I.P. George Russell

July 28, 2009

By Fernando Gonzalez

Composer and theoretician George Russell died on July 27th at a hospice nursing facility near his home in Jamaica Plain, MA from complications to Alzheimer’s. He was 86. He was probably the most influential figure in jazz over the past 60 years whom the general audience never heard of. But musicians knew.

I thought I knew him because I knew some jazz history and had recordings of his compositions. Then I became one of his students and I discovered a remarkable teacher, one who pushed and made me listen with fresh ears.

A drummer by training, he was part of the group that hung out at Gil Evans’ apartment in New York and included Miles Davis, Max Roach and Gerry Mulligan. “It was like a school in a way,” Russell told me in an interview some years ago. “Not an ordinary school but an esoteric school — and Gil was the schoolmaster. He was a calming force.”

George_RussellIn 1947, Russell wrote Cubana Be/Cubana Bop for Dizzy Gillespie, and two years later “Bird in Igor’s Yard, ” a startling fusion of Charlie Parker and Stravinsky, for Buddy DeFranco. While hospitalized for 16 months, he developed his Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, an ambitious theoretical work that reformulated the chord/scale relationship. First published in 1953, it is considered the first major contribution to music theory by a jazz musician. ( His second volume on the Lydian Concept – The Art and Science of Tonal Gravity – was published in 2001.)

Russell’s work on modal music had a profound influence on Davis and led the trumpeter to his explorations in the now classic Kind of Blue. Throughout the 1950′s and 60′s, Russell continued his work on the Lydian Concept, refining his ideas while teaching at the Lenox School of Jazz in Lenox, MA and leading his own bands. His groups included musicians such as Bill Evans and Art Farmer (with whom he recorded the influential The Jazz Workshop), John Coltrane (who was also deeply influenced by Russell’s modal work), Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, Bob Brookmeyer and Steve Swallow.

Frustrated by the lack of work and recognition, he moved to Scandinavia in 1964. He stayed for five years but his his work, both as a musician and teacher had a lasting impact in the Scandinavian scene and musicians such as saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal, and drummer Jon Christensen.

“When I think back I realize it had a really, really big impact on me,” Garbarek told me in 2005. “It was a sort of an initiation rite. I was a very young player, only 17 at the time and being invited to play with George Russell and go on tour with him and to think this well respected, admirable musician accepted me, was like stepping into manhood.”

“But at another level it was the first time I encountered music theory,” continued Garbarek. “I had no knowledge of those concepts. I read his book and he was my teacher and he was always extremely careful not to impose his views or tell you how to do things. That I always thought was his outstanding feature as a teacher. He would catch himself imposing something and he would say ‘Forget that, erase what I said’ and explain in a more open way, just giving you tools. That was all that mattered to him.”

Composer Gunther Schuller, an old friend and then president of the New England Conservatory in Boston, enticed him to come back to the States in 1969 to teach at the newly created Jazz Department.

The teacher Garbarek described is the teacher I also remember from my days at the Conservatory. Russell was not your typical wise, old, warm-and-fuzzy professor. He was rather exacting and demanding, and challenged you to nothing less than to hear music anew.

He remained at N.E.C. until 2004 when he became Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Emeritus. He also organized a 14 piece band, his Living Time Orchestra, with which he toured regularly. His 1985 recording, The African Game, received 2 Grammy nominations.

That was the beginning of a period of much deserved, if late coming, recognition including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a designation as a National Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Master, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Oscar du Disque de Jazz, and six NEA Music Fellowships, among others.


Picks of the Week: July 27 – Aug. 2

July 27, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- July 28. (Tues.) Regina Spektor. The Soviet-born singer/songwriter manages to combine influences from Ani DiFranco, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Edith Piaf — as well as her own unique personal history — into one of the more offbeat contemporary pop styles. The El Rey. (323) 936-6499

pizzarellil-and-molaskey

Jessica Polaskey and John Pizzarelli

- July 29 – Aug. 2. (Wed. – Sun.) John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey. Musically, they’re constantly engaging — a blend of instrumental swing and delightful vocalizing. Add in the humor and byplay between this attractive couple and expect an evening of irresistible entertainment. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- July 30. (Thurs.) Gadji-Gadjo. Accordionist Melanie Bergeron leads the Quebec-based band in their L.A. premiere, performing a colorful array of Roma and klezmer-based music Skirball Cultural Center. (310) 440-4500.

- July 30. (Thurs.) The Anthony Wilson Trio and Nonet and the L.A. Jazz Collective. The Hammer Museum’s JAZZPOP series outdoes itself with this far-reaching display of the Southlands fine, young jazz talent. Not to be missed. Hammer Museum. (310).443-7000.

- July 31. (Fri.) Bruce Forman. He’s been highly praised by no less an expert on jazz guitar than Barney Kessel. And Forman, a versatile guitarist/educator — who is also a published novelist (“Trust Me”) — deserves that praise and more. Steamers. (714) 871-8800

galison cowboy

William Galison

- July 31. (Fri.) William Galison has been called “the most original and individual of the new generation of harmonica players” by Toots Thielemanns. Like Toots, he also plays the guitar (along with soprano sax and various other instruments). Galison’s resume includes gigs with, among others, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Chaka Khan, Ruth Brown and a creative partnership with Madeleine Peyroux. He’s backed by pianist Otmaro Ruiz, clarinetist John Tegmeyer, bassist Greg Swiller and drummer Nate Wood with special guest pianist Adrianne Duncan. Pasadena Jazz Institute. http://www.pasjazz.org. (626) 398-3344.

- July 31 – Aug. 2. Guys and Dolls. The Frank Loesser musical, one of the certified classics of the Broadway musical stage, receives an inimitable Hollywood Bowl treatment. The star-studded cast includes Jessica Biel, Ellen Greene, Scott Bakula, Beau Bridges and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Kevin Stiles conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchesatra, and director Richard Jay Alexander and choreographer Donna McKechnie lead the same creative team that produced last summer’s highly praised production of Les Miserables. Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 1. (Sat.) Stacy Rowles. Combine her Jimmy Rowles genes with her own impressive talents, and trumpeter/vocalist Stacy is always a pleasure to hear. This time out, shes backed by the Pat Senatore trio. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.eo

Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke

San Francisco

- July 29 – 31. (Wed. – Fri.) Leo Kottke. A guitarist’s guitarist since the release of his first major label album, “Mudlark,” in 1971, Kottke is making his first appearance at Yoshi’s. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

Seattle

- July 30 – Aug. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.) Monty Alexander Trio. Straight ahead jazz piano trio playing at its best, further enlivened by the rich Caribbean undercurrent that flows through everything Monty touches. Jazz Alley. ( 206) 441-9729.

New York

- July 28. (Tues.) Alfredo Rodriguez. The young Cuban pianist, a protege of Quincy Jones, performed recently at the Playboy Jazz Festival, displaying imagination, technique and adventurousness of a major new arrival on the jazz scene. The Jazz Standard (212) 576-2252.

- July 28 – Aug. 2. (Tues. – Sun.) Bob James and Earl Klugh. The veteran duo celebrate the 30th anniversary of their Grammy-winning album, One on One. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

lou-donaldson

Lou Donaldson

- July 29 – Aug. 1. (Wed. – Sat.) Lou Donaldson Quartet. He may have started out as a disciple of Charlie Parker, but Donaldson’s been laying down his own groove-driven, bop-tinged alto saxophone style for decades. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

- August 1 & 2. (Sat. & Sun.) The Caramoor Jazz Festival. This’ll be a weekend to remember for fans of jazz piano. It doesn’t get much more divers than this lineup:, Jean-Michel Pilc, Cedar Walton, Randy Weston, Gerald Clayton, Chuchito Valdes, Junior Mance and Cyrus Chestnut. Singers Luciana Souza and Dianne Reeves add some vocal variety. Caramoor Jazz Festival (914) 232-5035.

Boston

- July 31. (Fri.) Tim Reis. The Rolling Stones Project. After touring the world with the Rolling Stones, Reis knows the music of Jagger and Richard well. He performs music from his album, The Rolling Stones Project, illuminating such classic numbers as “Honky Tonk Women,” “Gimme Shelter” and “Ruby Tuesday” from a jazz perspective. The Regatta Bar. Cambridge. (617) 395-7757

Newport

joan-baez

Joan Baez

Highlight- August 1 & 2. (Sat. & Sun.) George Wein’s Folk Festival 50. Wein virtually invented the concept of summer jazz and folk festivals. And still does it better than almost anyone. His celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Newport Folk Festival is a great example. Characteristically, Wein has created an event to be remembered, assembling a brilliant line-up that includes, among others, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, Ramlin’ Jack Elliott, Mavis Staples. George Wein’s Folk Festival 50. Fort Adams State Park, Newport, Rhode Island. (800) 514-3849. .

Pennsylvania

- July 31. (Fri.) Dave Liebman. He’s close to home for this gig, but saxophonist Liebman’s creative imagination knows no boundaries. He’s backed by pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Tony Marino, and drummer Mike Stephans. The Dearhead Inn. Delaware Water Gap, PA. (570) 424-2000.


On Second Thought: Pink Floyd “Animals”

July 26, 2009

Pink Floyd Animals CD

By Dave Gebroe

Animals is an ugly record. The music is cold, coked-out aggro-prog, possessing none of the light, playful touches that made much of the Floyd’s previous work so alluring and transportative. The lyrics are depressingly downbeat and glum, and its grotesquely off-putting misanthropy remains almost unparalleled in the history of popular music. This is where uber-successful rock star Roger Waters’ vision became clouded over with his miserable hatred of humanity. Was the record-buying public turned off by the sudden about-face? To the contrary, they in fact followed him down this dark alley like the lemmings he’d already presumed they were. No wonder a couple years later he was trafficking in images of schoolchildren falling into meat grinders. How could he possibly work up any respect for an audience willing to lap up such abject curmudgeonliness?

Animals was quite obviously inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Waters must have felt that cloaking his influence with any more subtlety would have sent it sailing way over the heads of the stoned-out, cough-syrup-swilling zombies who bought his records. As in Orwell’s high school syllabus perennial, Waters has various societal types represented by different types of animals (the businessmen are dogs, the corrupt leaders are pigs, and the clueless hoi polloi are the sheep, of course). This highbrow set-up is perfect for Waters. He gets to sheathe his contempt for humanity within his effort to pull down a degree of literary respectability, thus having his cake and stuffing his face with it, too.

Pink Floyd

The problem is, Roger’s hang-ups aren’t just limited to hating the world and the ways in which it works. My gut tells me, in the midst of the now legendary power struggle within the band and Roger’s far less than grateful attitude toward Floyd’s massive success, that beneath it all the venom is directed toward Gilmour, Wright, and Mason, as well as anyone who’s ever bought a Floyd LP or 8-track. This is exactly the kind of hateful, solipsistic, ego-driven monomania that ushered in the punk movement. Ironically, Animals actually seems to be a concession to a certain kind of sneering punk attitude, but really what it does in the final analysis is confirm the need for punk’s brevity and connective, audience-bonding philosophy to puncture the bloated hide of stadium rock pomposity and drag the carcass back home where it belongs: at the feet of the fans who love the music so passionately. Animals makes the divisions inherent in Waters’ vision quite clear—band up here, audience down there.

Of course, The Wall would only further confirm this notion, proving once again that we want that which we cannot have. Like a guy who’s got it bad for a girl who won’t give him the time of day, we imbue the unattainable with all the power in the world and elevate it to mythic status. Once Waters gave his audience the snub, his self-fulfilling prophecy was set into motion and the swaying masses followed him hither and thither. Thus an attitude of bite-the-hand derision—interpreted by their devoted following as “honesty”—elevated Pink Floyd to legendary status, and made them one of the biggest bands in the world.

Lest we forget, back in the day when they referred to themselves as “The Pink Floyd,” Waters had no songwriterly vision to speak of. Their brilliant debut Piper At The Gates Of Dawn contained only one Waters original, the utterly laughable “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk,” by far the worst song on the record. It was only as a direct response to acid-addled bandleader Syd Barrett’s relinquishing of the reins that Waters took it upon himself to work toward anything resembling a vision, and frankly—for all the great work that he wound up producing in the 1970s—that vision was primarily piggy-backed off of Syd. In the end result, with all the hatred directed out at the rest of the world, Animals feels like it’s also promoting a strong sense of self-hatred. The bile that Waters spewed, and in which he eventually drowned, may well have originated with his frustration in being unable to stand on his own two feet aesthetically. Dark Side Of The Moon was in large part a Barrett-esque treatise on madness, and of course Wish You Were Here was about their dear departed leader from top to bottom. By 1977, I’d have been resentful at myself as well. Anyone would have.

Animals also marks the moment when Waters began to impose himself creatively on the rest of the band. But to what end? The record is basically just three bloated, noodly, sub-standard Floyd tracks, sandwiched between an unconvincingly optimistic pair of intro/outro snippets that would have us believe that somehow there’s meaning to be found outside of the insanity of everyday life. I couldn’t be any less sold on the idea that Waters actually believes this.

Musically, Animals is pure monotony. Although similarly insistent in its nihilism, at least The Wall would have plenty of variation in its motifs and musical styles. Animals, on the other hand, is a real slog. The band sounds uninspired, and there’s a surfeit of tired stretches that seem to be promoting some kind of bad-ass, cock-grabbing stance. It’s all a load of bottom-of-the-barrel, Seventies Stadium malarkey.

This era of contemptuous disgust in the Floyd ultimately swelled to a bursting point, leading as it did to the infamous “Spitting Incident.” Roger tells it best, in a quote scrawled up graffiti-like on an exhibit based on The Wall at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland: “…Success overtook us and by 1977 we were playing in football stadiums. The magic was crushed beneath the weight of numbers. We were becoming addicted to the trappings of popularity. I found myself increasingly alienated in that atmosphere of avarice and ego until one night in the Olympic Stadium, Montreal, the boil of my frustrations burst. Some crazed teenage fan was clawing his way up the storm netting that separated us from the human cattle pen in front of the stage screaming his devotion to the demi-gods beyond his reach. Incensed by his misunderstanding and my own connivance, I spat my frustration in his face. Later that night, back at the hotel, shocked by my behavior, I was faced with a choice. To deny my addiction and embrace that comfortably numb but magic-less existence or accept the burden of insight, take the road less traveled and embark on the often painful journey to discover who I was and where I fit. The wall was the picture I drew for myself to help me make that choice.”

So, in essence, instead of seeing this horrifyingly dehumanized gesture as a clear sign that the time was nigh to address his shortcomings and attempt to become a better person, he chose to capitalize on it as a validation of his alienation aesthetic and base an entire double album around it.

It would not be much of a surprise, then, if while writing “Pigs” Waters snuck a peek in the mirror when he wound up with “Ha ha, charade you are.”

To read more of Dave Gebroe’s “On Second Thought” columns, click here.


Quotation of the Week: Albert Schweitzer

July 23, 2009

Albert_Schweitzer

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”

Albert Schweitzer


Live Jazz: The Grammy Museum Salutes the Jazz Bakery, with Hubert Laws, Alan Bergman, Tierney Sutton, Bill Henderson, Mike Melvoin, Kenny Burrell, Jeff Garlin, Alan Broadbent and more

July 20, 2009

By Michael Katz

Perhaps you came from a musical family. Perhaps you remember those holiday dinners, when your mother would proudly call you and your siblings to gather around the piano and sing, strum or toot what you’d recently studied when the other kids were out playing ball. Now, close your eyes and pretend that your sister is Tierney Sutton and your brother is Hubert Laws and that legendary uncle who went off to the Coast to write music for the movies makes an appearance, and it’s Alan Bergman. Now you’re getting an idea of the atmosphere at the Grammy Museum Sunday night, when Ruth Price’s extended musical family gathered in support of her impending autumn relocation of the Jazz Bakery (location TBD). Ten musicians, working in a variety of settings, jamming with familiar tunes and vamping with impromptu lines, put on a memorable show in the Grammy Museum’s terrific, small theatre setting at the Nokia/LA Live complex.

Jeff Garlin, best known for his role as Larry David’s manager on the HBO series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” was an amiably goofy host, tying the program together with amusing stories and references to himself as a jazz comedian (“If I was a rock comedian, I wouldn’t be available, I’d have a gig somewhere”). First up was the Alan Broadbent Trio, with Putter Smith on bass and Paul Kreibich on drums. Broadbent, a native New Zealander who has written and arranged for everyone from the Woody Herman band to Diana Krall, began with his trademark, elegantly swinging style on “How Deep Is The Ocean.” He then welcomed Alan Bergman to sing a trio of his compositions, beginning with “The Windmills Of Your Mind.”

alan-bergman

Alan Bergman

The Grammy Museum, with its intimate 200 seat theatre and pristine acoustics, was the perfect setting for Bergman, whose voice carried perfectly and whose stories were a gentle accompaniment to the familiar lyrics. He followed with “Nice and Easy,” a song originally performed by Frank Sinatra, and augmented by a wonderful solo by Broadbent. The evening’s first of several indelible moments occurred next, when Bergman called Tierney Sutton and Hubert Laws to join him for “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life.” They had heard the brief rehearsal and asked to sit in, Sutton alternating the lyrics with Bergman while Laws improvised beside them on flute. Moments like these are rare even in a city as full of virtuosity as LA; the audience responded with a standing ovation.

Tierney Sutton 2

Tierney Sutton

Tierney Sutton stayed on and asked Hubert Laws to do the same. She started her own segment with “Lullaby Of The Leaves,” establishing the melody and then vamping, scatting, changing tempos, with Laws matching her riff for riff. She then did a duet with Alan Broadbent, singing “Heart’s Desire,” a lovely tune composed by Broadbent with lyrics by Dave Frishberg. When Sutton sang “Dream your dream and make it grow, you’re luckier than most you know…” it seemed especially poignant in the circumstances, and the opportunity to perform it with Broadbent was another highlight of this night. She finished up with a rousing, up tempo version of “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon).”

Bill Henderson(pic 1)

Bill Henderson

The next segment brought up pianist Mike Melvoin and vocalist Bill Henderson. Melvoin may be one of LA’s most under-appreciated talents. His performance with Henderson was less an accompaniment than a duet of voice and piano. Their set opened with “All The Things You Are,” the two of them trading choruses, with Henderson in fine voice despite having sustained a fall at home that afternoon. Melvoin and Henderson have performed together for over forty years, and their versatility was in evidence as they covered material from Elton John’s “Sorry Is The Hardest Word,” to a Melvoin original ballad, to the highlight of the set — a rousing rendition of Johnny Mandel’s “Vacation From The Blues.”

Hubert_Laws

Hubert Laws

Next up was a remarkable duet performance by Kenny Burrell and Hubert Laws. Burrell has been an anchor of jazz in LA, through his stellar guitar work, his teaching presence at UCLA and his status as Dean of all things Ellington. Hubert Laws, for many of us who first started listening to jazz in the late sixties/early seventies, defined the jazz flute. He was ubiquitous during the CTI years, both as leader and sideman to Freddie Hubbard, George Benson and others, then seemed to be drowned out by the disco years and faded from the scene for much of the 80’s and 90’s. Happily he has been much more visible of late, and his duets with Burrell were inspired. After opening with a JJ Johnson tune, Kenny Burrell led the audience with a rhythmic “Jazz Bakery” chant, which served as the backdrop for an entirely improvised blues line, with Burrell and Laws trading licks. It wouldn’t be a Burrell set without an Ellington number; they followed with “Sophisticated Lady,” Burrell introducing the theme and Laws exploring the melody, building his solos with staccato bursts. The audience reacted with long and sustained applause.

ruth-price

Ruth Price

The program ended with Mike Melvoin back at the piano and Putter Smith and Paul Kreibich rounding out the rhythm trio, with Laws and Burrell out front in a swinging version of “Summertime.” All in all it was a reminder of the panoply of remarkable talent in this community, and the spirit generated by Ruth Price that can bring it all together for a night like this.

To read more posts by Michael Katz click here.


Picks of the Week: July 20 – 26

July 20, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Patricia Talem - web

Patricia Talem

- July 21. (Tues.) Patricia Talem. The musical talent never seems to stop flowing from the rich, creative culture of Brazil. But the musically eclectic newcomer Talem, who is celebrating the release of her self-titled CD, is something special. Blessed with a warm, intimate, whisper in your ear voice, she uses it with the communicative qualities of a born story teller. She’ll be backed by the impressive skills of pianist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip, guitarist Sandro Albert and drummer Marco DaCosta. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323)466-2210.

- July 21. (Tues.) Jon Mayer Trio. Mayer has been quietly delivering one classy performance after another for decades — from the intimate jazz of his own trio to deeply empathic backing for a wide range of other artists. This time out, he’s celebrating the release of his new CD “Nightscape,” backed by bassist Chris Conner and drummer Roy McCurdy. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- July 23. (Thurs.) Mike Marshall, Darol Anger and Väsen. The strings will be flying in what promises to be a fascinating encounter between the bluegrass mastery of Marshall’s mandolin, Anger’s boundary-less fiddle and the nyckelharpa, viola and guitar of the dynamic Swedish trio, Väsen. The Skirball Center. (310) 440-4500.

- July . (Thurs.) The Squirrel Nut Zippers. It’s a real night for dancing on the Santa Monica Pier, with the retro jumping jive of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the authentic big band swing of Johnny Vanus and the Big Band Alumni. All of it taking place on the 85th anniversary of the opening of the La Monica Ballroom. The Twilight Dance Series. (310) 458-8901.

- July 23. (Thurs.) Philip Glass and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Michael Riesman, in the world premiere performance of a new arrangement of Glass’ score for Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. The Music will be played in sync with a video projection of Godfrey Reggio‘s 1982 wordless film, Koyaaniqatsi. The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000

The .

Roberta Donnay

Roberta Donnay

- July 23. (Thurs.) Roberta Donnay Quartet. Donnay’s one of the real originals in the latest wave of female jazz vocalists. Although there are traces of Blossom Dearie in her sound and Madeleine Peyroux in her phrasing, Donnay transforms everything she touches into her own unique musical vision. Crowne Plaza Hotel. (310) 642-7500.

- July 25. (Sat.) The Mike Melvoin Trio. Is there such a thing as the “Mike Melvoin Songbook?” The veteran jazz pianist says, “yes.” And Mike, with the incomparable assistance of bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland, will sing and play its pleasures and its secrets. With scheduled guest appearances by Keith England, Theresa Russell and possibly others. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

gerald wilson

Gerald Wilson

- July 25. (Sat.) “Music and Monologues — Harmony and Humor.” An evening of fun, satire, hi-jinks and some pretty good music, too. Featuring Teresa Tudury, Vicki Juditz and Jonathan Solomon. Parlor Performances. Steinway Hall. (310) 476-6735.

- July 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Central Ave. Jazz Festival. The Southland’s most authentic jazz festival — at last in terms of location — situated across from the Dunbar Hotel, at the center of what was once the heart of jazz in Los Angeles. On the schedule — Sat.: The CJS Quintet; Raya Yarbrough; The Eric Reed Trio; The Adonis Puentes Band; Bill Henderson. Sun: Jazz America; The Littleton Bros.; Kalil Wilson; Kamasi Washington; The Gerald Wilson Orchestra; The Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars. The Central Avenue Jazz Festival. (213) 743-8738.


San Francisco

- July 22 (Wed.) “A Musical Tribute to Buddy Montgomery.” Friends, former associates and admirers of the late vibist/pianist (who passed away in May) celebrate his memory. Featuring Marlena Shaw, Mary Stallings, John Handy, David Hazeltine, Brian Lynch, Jeff Chambers and many others. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

- July 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) “Hawaiian World Festival” reaches across the broad spectrum of Hawaiian music. Featuring the versatiel group Hapa, slack key and ukulele master Led Kaapana and singer/songwriter John Cruz. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

New York City

hjf_2008-charlie_haden-2

Charlie Haden

- July 21 – 26 (Tues. – Sun.) The Charlie Haden Invitation Series. Bassist Haden measures his considerable versatility against a world class line-up of pianists. With Ethan Iverson (Tues,) Steve Kuhn (Wed.), Kenny Barron (Thurs. & Fri,.), Paul Bley (Sat.) and Bill Charlap (Sun.). (212) 475-8592. The Blue Note.

- July 22 – 25. (Wed. – Sat.) The Lee Konitz Quartet. Konitz should be on everyone’s must-hear list whenever he’s in town. And even more so when he’s in the company of drummer Paul Motian and pianist Dan Tepfer. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

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To contact Don Heckman with information regarding performers and/or performances for possible inclusion in Picks of the Week click here.


Live World Music: Ceu, Andrea Ferraz, Patrizia Laquidara at the Roxy

July 18, 2009

By Devon Wendell

It was Brazil across the board at the Roxy Friday night, with a program featuring three very different, but very entertaining singers: the hip, much-praised Céu, singer-actress/Andrea Ferraz, and Sicilian-born Patrizia Laquidara.

First up, Laquidaria, whose interests embrace the rich musical cultures of Brazil, Spain and her native Italy, shyly took the stage accompanied only by acoustic guitarist Antonio “Tony” Canto. Her program primarily featured material from her two most recent CD’s – 2003’s Indrizzo Portoghese (Genius/Virgin) and 2007’s Funambola (Ponderosa Music & Art).

Patrizia_Laquidara_Ziza

Patrizia Laquidara

Sporting pigtails, she opened with an Italian translation of Mexican composer Tomas Mendez’s classic “Cuccurruccu,” she began the piece a cappella, backed by the gentle accompaniment of Canto’s Brazilian-flavored guitar. Pausing to gently grasp the microphone stand, she then danced with a childlike sensuality and a playful nature perfectly accentuating her delicate vocal delivery, and setting the stage for the entire evening.

By the second number, “Kanzi,” Laquidara had relaxed into her program. Her unique musical choices and personal mannerisms — playing the kazoo, brushing her lips with her index finger, and even the use of a triangle — were perfect tools for her sexy, schoolgirl, savant image (think a younger, less brutal Bjork meets Gwen Steffani). Laquidara’s most captivating performance was a dedication to French tightrope walker Philip Petit, “Oppure no,” with an interesting percussive triangle effect which laced Canto’s bare-wire picking.

Ending the set was the up-tempo Brazilian-tinged “Personaggio.” Though performed with a small group on the original recording, this version took on a haunting and mournful quality, with Laquidara tugging on her black dress and dancing along with the minor key progression laid down by Canto’s guitar. She then politely thanked the crowd, apologizing for not speaking English. It was easy to see why Laquidara is one of the most renowned artists in Italy, even though she’s relatively unknown in this country. Her music may have often seem understated at first, but ultimately it was her subtlety and soft, theatrical command of the music and the stage that made her set powerful. We’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future, I suspect.

Andrea Ferraz

Andrea Ferraz

Next on the bill, and definitely the most traditional, was Brazilian singer/actress Andrea Ferraz with her group D’Agua. Ferraz came out dancing with a wild and wooly seven piece band with two back-up singers – blowing bubbles into the audience, with Simon Carrol and Rodney D’Assis playing drums, shakers, zabumba, pandeiro, and a full array of traditional Brazilian percussion instruments, locking firmly into the groove of James Hazley’s pocket bass. The set kicked off with “Pegapacapa” and “Told You So” and it was evident from Ferraz’s first hip-shake that this was true-to-the-game Brazilian party music.

D’agua’s samba beats did, however, occasionally add some modern r&b flavored bounce accented by Gubish’s trip-hop/Electronica keyboard work, without going too far off the Brazilian map. Robinson’s guitar was at times the only element that didn’t fit, with an overt, late 60’s, psychedelic shrill tone that was often intrusive upon Ferraz’s vocals, as well as the background singing – especially when he used overpowering wah-wah on “Patchungue” and the ballad “Vida.” But Ferraz’s enthusiasm and the sheer energy of the interaction with her band made the set full of fun and eminently suitable for dancing.

Ceu2

Ceu

In the headliner role, critically acclaimed, Latin Grammy winning Céu’s return to the States after an entire year away was the most anticipated moment of the evening. After the success of her debut album and her new CD Vagarosa, this 29 year-old Sao Paulo native was ready to take no prisoners in a fashion that cannot be experienced when simply hearing her songs in a local Starbucks.

Where Laquidara had a more youthful sensuality, Cèu pranced on the stage in a wildly seductive and wickedly confident manner, wearing a flowered hat and a short, tight black dress barely covering her shapely figure. Guilherme Ribeiro’s sinister, post-60’s, Sly Stone funk-drenched keyboard work cued the band and complemented Ceu’s predatory, snake-like moves. The rest of her band — Guilherme Ribeiro playing keyboards, accordion, guitar, and backing vocals, DJ Marco on scratches and samples, Lucas Martins on bass, and Samuel Fraga on drums – easily covered the wide stylistic range of Céu’s music.

“Espaconave” fused hip-hop-flavored fusion (think Jill Scott), 70’s funk, and even reggae stylings to her samba, bossa nova and soul. On “Comandi” and “Malemolencia” it was Martins’ dub bass feeling and DJ Martin’s hip-hop scratches that wove the framework for Céu’s lush vocals and relaxed, sexy dance moves. For some listeners, Céu’s music may have come across as less than traditional. But it is the music embraced by the Brazilian youth of today — music for, among other uses, hypnotic, trance, all-night dance party grooves. And her look matches the sound in every way, leading the musical tribe with each beat-driven wiggle.

The combination of Céu’s singing, her band and her set list seemed crafted to put a spell on her devout following. “Buibuia” and “Ponteiro” displayed great accordion work by keyboardist Ribeiro, which worked perfectly with the DJ loops of Marco, and the modern soul drumming of Fraga. The ease of the group’s interplay, and Céu’s often half opened eyes and swaying body, were indulgent in all the best ways. Even her dedication to Ray Charles and Betty Carter with “Two To Tango” was so confident and relaxed that it had to work.

Finally, “Rainha,” with Céu’s take on Fela Kuti African rhythms, closed the show, wrapping this culturally diverse and sexually-charged performance in an upbeat, happy manner – a perfect ending for a colorful, entertaining evening.

To read more posts by Devon Wendell click here.


Quotation of the Week: Michael Jackson (1)

July 16, 2009

michael-jackson-christian1

“If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.”

Michael Jackson

To read more Quotations of the week click here.



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