Picks of the Week: Nov. 30 – Dec. 6

November 30, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Demetra George

- Nov. 30. (Mon.)  Gala Opera NightDemetra George and Ralph Cato perform “Villains and Heroines at the Opera,” selections from Puccini, Verdi and Strauss.  Frank Fetta is music director.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 30. (Mon.)  Slide FX  Trombone Tentet.  Not quite enough trombones to play “76 Trombones,” but enough to produce a surprisingly appealing array of sounds and swing.   Steamers. (714) 871-8800. http://www.steamerscafe.com

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  “Christmas in Ireland” The veteran Irish ensemble Danu combines with a choir to bring an Irish Christmas celebration –An Lollaig in Eirnn – to Southland audiences.  The Cerritos Center. (562) 916-8501.

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band.  Goodwin’s band is that rarity – a big jazz ensemble with steady personnel delivering performances that match well-rehearsed craftsmanship with inventive playing and imaginative arrangements.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  Henry Franklin Quartet.  Bassist “Skipper” Franklin plays with most of the hard driving ensemble from his recently released CD, “Home Cookin’”: Azar Lawrence, tenor saxophone, Theo Saunders, piano, Ramon Banda, drums.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 989-3110.

Hilary Kole

- Dec. 1 & 2. (Tues. & Wed.)  Hilary Kole. The critically praised New York jazz singer makes her West Coast debut, backed by the sterling ensemble of Alan Broadbent, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Tom Warrington, bass and Kendall Kay, drums.  . Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 2. (Wed.)  Peter Marshall sings “TIME WAS: Music of the Thirties and Forties.”  No Hollywood Squares in this evening of delightful musical nostalgia.  Upstairs at Vitellos.  (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 2. (Wed.)  Judy Wexler. Gifted with a smoky sound, thoughtful phasing and a solid sense of rhythm, Wexler applies those qualities to her ever-intriguing jazz interpretations.  Café 322 (626) 836-5787.

- Dec. 3. (Thurs.)  Tom Rainier.  With Trey Henry, bass and Ralph Humphrey, drums, the trio serves as the rhythm section for “Dancing with the Stars.”  But here they are, in a very different setting, doing their own thing.  Upstairs at Vitellos. (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 3, 4 & 5. (Thurs, Fri. & Sat.)  Charlie Hunter.  The adventurous guitarist brings his cross-genre style to a pair of L.A. appearances.  Thurs., Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach. 310-372-0035.  Fri. & Sat. The Mint.  323-954-9400.

Gaea Schell

- Dec. 3. (Thurs.)  West Coast Left Coast: Leonard Slatkin with the Kronos Quartet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform works by Gladsmith, Bates, Waxman and Newman in the continuing series.  Disney Hall.

- Dec. 4. (Fri.)  Gaea Schell Trio.  A hard-swinging, inventive pianist, Schell brings the qualities of an instrumentalist to her laid-back, but always intriguing vocals. This time out, she celebrates the release of her new CD, “After the Rain.” Café 322. (626) 836-5787.

- Dec. 4 & 5. (Fri. & Sat.)  5th Annual Fil-Am Jazzfest.  Any original doubts about the reality of Filipino jazz have been thoroughly removed by these stirring annual events.  This year’s featured artists include Charmaine Clamor, Mon David, Tateng Katendig, Abe Lagrimas, Angelo Pizzaro, Sandra Viray and a special appearance by Eddie Katendig.   . Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  The Nutcracker SuiteThe State Street Ballet Company brings an unusual slant to Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic with a newly choreographed production featuring Art Deco sets and 1930’s costumes..  2 p.m. and 7 p.m.  CSUN Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-5768.

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  Carol Welsman. Canadian pianist/singer Welsman illuminates songs associated with (or written by) Peggy Lee in her new album, “I Like Men.”   Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

Herb Alpert & Lani Hall

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  David Ornette Cherry and Organic Roots.  Following in the footsteps of his father, Don Cherry, and his namesake, Ornette Coleman, Cherry’s envelope-stretching music also embraces eclectic aspects of cultures from around the globe.  World Stage Performance Gallery.  (323) 293-2451.

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  Herb Alpert & Lani Hall. Show biz power couple Alpert and Hall also happen to be imaginative musical artists.  Performing selections from their recent album, “Anything Goes,” Alpert’s trumpet and Hall’s vocals make an appealingly intimate jazz marriage. Orange County Performing Arts Center. (714) 556-2787.

- Dec. 5 & 6. (Sat. & Sun.)  Lisa Mezzacappa.  San Francisco bassist/composer Mezzacappa says her music lives “at the intersection of music and composition.”  She brings her imaginative musical perceptions to a pair of Southland performances. Sat.: Café Metropole, / Sun: Eagle Rock Center for the Arts.

- Dec. 6. (Sun.) Inner Voices. “Christmas A Cappella Brunch.” L.A.’s most fascinating vocal ensemble – musically, harmonically and stylistically – present their annual look at the rich, creative potential of the familiar songs of Christmas.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Dec. 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Taj Mahal Trio.  The blues legend displays his inimitable guitar and voice in the intimate frame work of a trio.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New  York

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  Jackie Ryan.  Praised from every direction, Ryan’s extraordinarily versatile voice, her buoyant swing and gifted story telling abilities will be backed by a pair of superb instrumentalists — trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Eric AlexanderBirdland. (212) 581-3080.

Anat Cohen

Dec. 1 – 6. (Tues. – Sun.)  Anat Cohen Quartet.  In addition to her powerful – and often funky – tenor saxophone work, Cohen is bringing vital new life to the too-often under-appreciated jazz clarinet.  She performs with Howard Alden, guitar,  Carlos Enriquez, bass and Herlin Riley, drums.  Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- Dec. 2. (Wed.)  Bob Brookmeyer celebrates his 80th birthday with the Eastman New Jazz EnsembleKilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of \Music.  Rochester, N.Y.   (585) 454.2100.

- Dec. 2 – 5. (Wed. – Sat.)  Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch“A Town and Country Christmas.” A pair of musical theatre and cabaret veterans come together for an evening of inspired song.  Birdland(212) 581-3080.

- Dec. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Chano Dominguez Flamenco Quartet perform “The Flamenco Side of Kind of Blue – a fascinating musical concept that will be the final concert series of the Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival,  The Jazz Standardhttp://www.jazzstandard.net (212) 447-7733.

- Dec. 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun.)  Madeleine Peyroux“Remembering Lady Day: 50 Years.” Given the Holiday qualities that are such a distinct part of the Peyroux style, this should be among the more intriguing live performances of recent memory.  Blue Note.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

Sonny Rollins

- Dec. 6. (Sun.)  Sonny Rollins.  The icon of the tenor saxophone appears in a benefit Concert for Pete Seeger’s Clearwater.  He’s backed by his regular ensemble: Clifton Anderson, trombone; Bobby Broom, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Kobie Watkins, drums and Victor See-Yuen, percussion. Tarrytown Music Hall or call 877-840-0457.

- Dec. 6. (Sun.)  Alessandra Belloni“The Voyage of the Black Madonna,” written and directed by Belloni, with music composed and arranged by John La Barbera.  The work features healing chants, ritual drumming and dances from Southern Italy performed by Alessandra Belloni with La Barbera playing guitars, mandolin, and Susan Eberenz playing flute, piccolo and recorders.  St. Mary’s Church, 521 W. 126 St. (212) 864-4013.


Blues CDs: Grandpa Elliott, Arthur Adams, Brian Lee

November 29, 2009

By Devon Wendell

Grandpa Elliott

Sugar Sweet (Playing For Change)

New Orleans’s own Grandpa Elliott’s debut is pure down home blues and southern fried soul without the usual over production that plagues most modern blues recording today. (Elliott was first recognized on The Play For Change project with his rendition of Stand By Me.) He sings, plays harmonica and is backed by members of the Playing For Change Band, consisting of some incredible artists, in all genres, from all over the world: including Keb Mo’, Jason Tamba (guitarist from DR Congo), Louis Mhlanga on guitar, and Peter Bunetta on percussion.

There are many familiar chestnuts on Sugar Sweet, beginning with Elliott’s back porch boogie version of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do,” enhanced by a mix of Memphis soul grooves and African rhythms. His laid back yet pleading vocals are reminiscent of Taj Mahal and Jimmy Reed, and his minimalist harmonica playing brings to mind the masterful Slim Harpo.

Elliott’s take on the Harry Dixon Loes’ classic gospel piece, “This Little Light Of Mine” surfaces with a ska flavor, and melodic guitar playing by Tamba and Mhlanga. On Little Milton’s “We’re Gonna Make It,” he perfectly captures every subtle vocal nuance. And It’s fitting that Elliott does a medley of Chicago blues master Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do”/”Bright Lights, Big City,” in which he shows off his powerful harp playing. Keb Mo’s slide guitar adds is subtle and colorful texture to this Windy City shuffle.

The title track is a sweet, African-tinged ballad. Singing lyrics such as “I’m afraid if you kissed the ocean, it would turn to lemonade,” Elliott sings like a man on his knees courting the last great woman on Earth. But he reserves his most powerful vocal performance for Aretha Franklin’s “Share Your Love With Me,” with his tearful, fast vocal vibrato and spot-on phrasing. The track is worth the purchase price alone, giving the Queen Of Soul’s own version a run for the money.

“Another Saturday Night” lacks the excitement of the rest of the album’s tracks, but Elliott makes up for it with a live version of “Fannie Mae,” a no-nonsense blues with great call and response between Elliott’s vocals and harmonica playing.

The album closes with a final highlight – a poignant version of Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home For Christmas,” with Elliott’s harmonica solo saying so much with just a few notes, and Steve Molitz Fender Rhodes laying down some perfect gospel keyboard backing.

With his memorable references to sawdust juke joints, back porch boogie, touching gospel music, Chicago blues, Memphis soul, Grandpa Elliott’s Sugar Sweet returns the listener to a purer time – reflecting the comment Sly Stone made at Woodstock in 1969: “If it was good in the past, it’s still good today.”

Arthur Adams

Stomp The Floor (Delta Groove)

Though Arthur Adams came to Los Angeles from Meden, Tennessee, he has been a staple of the Southland blues scene since 1964. He’s back in full force on his 7th album Stomp The Floor with an all-star lineup consisting of Hense Powell: keyboards, Reggie McBride: bass, Lou Castro: bass, James Gadsen: drums, Stacey Lamont Syndor: percussion, Lee Thornberg: trumpet, Dave Woodford: saxophone, and Garrett Adkins: trombone. But overall the results are mixed.

The opening title track starts with a sexy, Isaac Hayes Memphis funk beat. Adams’s throaty vocal, single string bends, and clear guitar tone have an uncanny resemblance to Chicago blues veteran Fenton Robinson, and McBride’s pulsating bass line drives the rhythm section to — in the words of George Clinton — “Funk or walk.”

Other tunes reach into different areas. On “You Can’t Win For Losing,” Adams offers a hopeful message with B.B. King-like phrasing and well placed horn arrangements. “Don’t Let The Door Hit You,” prompts Adams and the fellas to take it down to the alley with the humorous tale about a lazy, no good woman who’s got to go. Here, as elsewhere, Adams digs deep into his guitar strings. Although he can be a strong vocalist, the highlights of the album trace to his instrumental work. Especially the raw funk of “You Got The Right,” which brings to mind Texas six stringers Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Albert Collins, and “You Are Invited”, his Adams’s most melodic and interesting guitar solo, delving into minor keys with passion and intensity.

But there are down sides, as well on Stomp the Floor. Adam sings falsetto on the minor key “I Know What You Mean” with originality and grace, and plays a soft, sweet guitar solo. But Powell’s electric keyboard work is distracting. The saccharine ballad “So Sweet” sounds intentionally geared to be a hit, but it lacks power and doesn’t go anywhere past the chorus. Similarly, “Callin’ Heaven” has some unique, overdubbed vocal harmonies from Adams, but the backing arrangement is far too polished.

On “Nature Of The Beast” Adams’ guitar tone has too much chorus, robbing it of its bite. “Around the Sun,” a light jazz instrumental, seems out of place in this collection, although it does show off Adams’ jazz chops and versatility. And “Blues Roots,” another instrumental is simply an obvious nod to T-Bone Walker’s more funky recordings of the ‘70’s.

In sum, Stomp The Floor, has a good share of great vocal, guitar and band performances. But too much of it feels over produced and lacks consistency, ending up with an album that has more valleys than peaks.

Bryan Lee

My Lady Don’t Love My Lady (Justin Time)

The Louisiana blues guitar legend is back with his eleventh solo CD, featuring a list of blues icons, both young an old – among them Buddy Guy, David Maxwell, Doug James, Sax Gordon, and Kenny Wayne Shepard – with production by the veteran Duke Robillard. Leading a loose but swinging band romps through a far-reaching collection of New Orleans-tinged blues.

Doc Pomus’s “Imitation Of Love” jump starts the album with Lee’s biting guitar and soulful vocals backed by a Meters-like groove from the rhythm section. Interestingly, his vocal performance on this track is oddly closer to that of Etta James in tone and attitude than his fellow male ax-slinging singers. Although Willie James Mabon and Thomas King’s “I Don’t Know” has been covered by every blues artist you can name, Lee’s whimsical version, combined with David Maxwell’s rollicking piano solo and Doug James’ hard-swinging baritone saxophone, gives the distinct impression of hearing it live, for the first time, on Bourbon Street.

Maxwell’s piano also takes it all the way down on Big Bill Broonzy’s “When I Been Drinking.. Maxell’s drunken affectation and tired-sounding vocals drive the point of this song home, with Gordon Beadle shining on tenor sax and Duke Robillard adding a down and dirty guitar solo. This is what this kind of blues is all about — meant to be heard very late or very early before crash time.

Buddy Guy steps up to the plate on “Early In The Morning,” which he originally recorded with the late Junior Wells on the Hoodoo Man Blues album. This time, Guy plays some of the same phrases, with the same tone as on the original, while Lee does a great vocal imitation of Wells. Wisely, Lee lays out on guitar, knowing it’s hard to go up against Guy’s boundless energy.

There’s a lot more, most of it driven hard by the band: The horn section’s Louisiana boogie-woogie take on “Heartbreaker”; their slow grooving, hooks on Earl King’s “Three Can Play The Game” (with Lee singing alone with his guitar, paying homage to one of his heroes, Albert Collins); their swing and sway on “Reconsider Me” – with another strong vocal from Lee. The up-tempo shuffle, “Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough,” with Kenny Wayne Shepherd doing a blues-in-a-can, Stevie Ray Vaughan solo. And “Me and My Music – shifting to a true Texas, Albert Collins shuffle features Lee roving through some of Albert’s signature licks with love and understanding.

A few segments in this otherwise entertaining album leave something to be desired. On “Too Many Wolves” and the title track, Lee falls back on too many commonplace guitar tricks and effects, instead of exploring new ground. And Shepherd’s Vaughan simulation includes – perhaps understandably –a few too many blues clichés.

But all is forgiven with the final “Just To Prove My Love For You” with its Mardi Gras spirit. The fun reaches a peak, as Lee sings just a few verses and choruses and gives each band member some solo time. Like most of the album, it’s loose, swinging, fun, and most of all, not perfect. Which is exactly what the blues is all about.


Here, There and Everywhere: A Few (More) Things I’m Thankful For

November 26, 2009

By Don Heckman

This was first published in its original form a year ago.  Everything in that post still holds true, and I thought I’d add a few more musical reasons to be thankful.

charlie-parker-and-miles-davis

Charlie Parker and Miles Davis Photograph by William P. Gottlieb

- Every note Charlie Parker ever played.

- Ditto for Louis Armstrong.

- Bebop, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Tadd Dameron, Ray Brown, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Clifford Brown and more.

- The magical spells of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

- Ditto for Don Redman, Sy Oliver, Benny Carter, Neal Hefti, Ralph Burns, Gil Evans, George Russell, Bill Holman, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson and Maria Schneider.

- Count Basie‘s rhythm section (with Freddy Green, Jo Jones, Walter Page).

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

- Billie Holiday‘s “Strange Fruit.”

- Nina Simone‘s “I Loves You Porgy.”

- Ella Fitzgerald‘s Song Books.

- Joe Williams‘ “Here’s To Life.”

- Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle.

- Coleman Hawkins playing “Body and Soul.”

- Ben Webster playing a ballad – any ballad.

- Sonny Rollins playing “St. Thomas.”

- Almost anything by Miles, Herbie, Wayne, Ron and Tony.

Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus

- Ditto for Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman,

- Ditto for Thelonious Monk.

- John Coltrane playing “A Love Supreme.”

- Ravi Coltrane playing — right now   Along with Charles Lloyd, Branford Marsalis, Christian Scott, Jason Moran, Brian Blade, and more.

- Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao  Gilberto, Elis ReginaGal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Ivan Lins, Eliane Elias, Heitor Villa-Lobos and all the rest of the creators of the marvelous music of Brazil.

Michael Jackson

The life, accomplishments  and music of Michael Jackson.

The life and music of Eva Cassidy.

The life and music — especially “Imagine” — of John Lennon.

The life, music, and ideas of George Russell.

The life, music and teaching of Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar.

Mercedes Sosa

The life and music of Blossom Dearie, Louie Bellson, Maurice Jarre, Les Paul, Mary Travers and Mercedes Sosa.

The poetry of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.  The songs of Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Paul Simon,  Paul McCartney, Bacharach and David, and Sting.

The music of Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joan Baez, The Who, David Bowie, Nirvana, Kanye West (among others).

The composers and the lyricists whose music will live forever in the Great American Songbook.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

- The madrigals of Gesualdo.

- Everything and anything by Mozart, but especially the Clarinet Concerto and the Clarinet Quintet.

- Beethoven‘s Piano Sonata No. 32.

- The songs of Schubert.

- Chopin‘s Etudes, Preludes and Waltzes.

- Beethoven‘s 3rd,  Schubert‘s 8th, Mendelssohn‘s 4th,  Brahms‘ 4th,  Tchaikovsky‘s 6th, Prokofiev‘s 1st.

- Stravinsky‘s Sacre du Printemps.  His Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet.

- The String Quartets of Debussy and Ravel.

- The Bartok Concerto for Orchestra. His String Quartets No. 3 and 4.

west-side-story

Rita Moreno in West Side Story

- The Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, the Goldberg Variations, the Cello Suites and almost everything else.

- The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, Falstaff, Madam Butterfly, Die Fledermaus, Three Penny Opera, Porgy and Bess, Hair, Pal Joey, West Side Story and many more..


Live Jazz: The Bob Mintzer Big Band at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

November 25, 2009

By Don Heckman

Full time big bands are in short supply these days.  True, the ghost bands, bearing the names of Swing Era leaders tour the arts centers of America.  And a few stable ensembles work to keep the instrumentation alive — some as institutional entities (the Jazz Orchestra of Lincoln Center, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble), some managing on their own (the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Diva Jazz Orchestra)   More often, big jazz bands are ad hoc ensembles, based around a leader, a book of compositions (often arranged or composed by the leader) and an occasional gig.

But, hearing the performance by the Bob Mintzer Big Band Tuesday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc., one couldn’t help but wish that the remarkable, large jazz ensemble instrumentation – the primary American musical collective of the 20th century — could have a far more frequent presence in contemporary musical life.

Saxophonist Mintzer, perhaps most visible as a member of the Yellowjackets, is also a gifted composer arranger, whose charts are frequently played by collegiate and high school jazz ensembles around the country.  His Big Band, however – with its cadre of A-list L.A. players — is only a sometime thing, performing on the relatively rare occasions when a club such as Vibrato provides a forum.  And the setting for their performance was an impressive visual sight – with the sixteen members of the Band positioned on and off the stage, the four trumpeters on stools at the back of the platform, the four trombonists on chairs in front, and the five saxophonists seated on chairs placed on the floor in front of the stage.  Bass, drums and piano were clustered to the side of the full group.

What really mattered, of course, was the music.  Mintzer mostly chose original works, some inspired by personal history – “Original People” traced to a job he had at a Pequot Indian casino.  “New Rochelle” was a tribute to his home town.  He also offered his arrangements of Thad Jones’ ballad “Don’t Ever Leave” and the Billie Holiday classic “Easy Living,” which was done as a feature for Mintzer’s adventurous tenor saxophone.

His arranging style tended to juxtapose unison ensemble passage against each other – at times recalling the work of Bill Holman – while occasionally adding surprisingly dense harmonic passages and sudden, explosive, full band accents.  Substantial space was opened for soloists, with Mintzer, alto saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter John Daversa, pianist John Beasley and drummer Peter Erskine providing particularly impressive outings.

Playing with minimal rehearsal time, the Mintzer Band delivered a crisp, craftsman-like set of performances.  At its best, it was a convincing display of the full breadth of musical pleasures that can be produced by a first rate big jazz band.  Let’s hope they return to Vibrato soon.


Picks of the Week. Nov. 24 – 29

November 23, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bob Mintzer

- Nov. 24. (Tues.)  Bob Mintzer’s Big Band.  Mintzer’s a high visibility saxophonist with the Yellowjackets, but he’s also a first rate big band arranger and composer.  All those skills will be on display in this rare appearance with a full ensemble.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 24. (Tues.)  John Pisano.  “Brazil Night” — with Federico Ramos, guitar, Jose Marino, bass, Enzo Todesco, drums — offers an entertaining variation on Pisano’s weekly Guitar Night programs.  Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

- Nov. 24. (Tues.)  Jon Mayer Trio and Pete Christlieb.  Pianist Mayer and saxophonist Christlieb are stellar members of the Southland’s world class array of jazz artists.  They perform with Chris Connor, bass, Roy McCurdy, drums.  Charlie O’s. (818) 989-3110.

April Williams

- Nov. 25. (Wed.)  April Williams & Friends.  “The Night Before Thanksgiving Hang” – a laid-back evening of briskly swinging jazz to kick off the holiday weekend.  With April Williams, vocals, Andy Langham, piano, Dave Stone, bass, Don Williams, drums and Bob Sheppard, reeds. Upstairs at Vitellos.   (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 25. (Wed.)  The Banda Brothers. Latin jazz meets Thanksgiving at the Brothers’ 10th Annual Turkey Bash. Steamers. (714) 871-8800.

- Nov. 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat.)  Jack Sheldon Big Band.  Sheldon celebrates his birthday with an evening of his inimitable trumpet and vocals, backed by his swinging collection of big band all-stars.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 28. (Sat.)  Dr. Richard Allen Williams Quintet.  A physician and a college professor, Williams nonetheless finds time to play the trumpet with probing musical inventiveness. (818) 728-8400.  Spazio.

- Nov. 29. (Sun.)  Alan Broadbent and Pat Senatore Duo. Broadbent’s piano playing, with its rich compositional foundation and lyrical touch blend superbly with the steady foundation and solid swing of bassist Senatore.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

Tuck & Patti

- Nov. 27 – 29. (Fri. – Sun.)  Joe Sample and Lalah Hathaway. The veteran pianist and founder of the Jazz Crusaders reaches across the generations to musically blend with singer/songwriter (and daughter of Donny Hathaway) Lalah Hathaway. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 27 – 29. (Fri. – Sun.)  Tuck & Patti. The guitar and vocal duo’s deep musical intimacy has been producing irresistible sounds for decades. Yoshi’s  San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

- Nov. 27 –  29.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Loretta Devine:” Night Devine.” One of the original stars of Dreamgirls, Devine’s acting career has embraced a wide array of films (among them, Waiting To Exhale, Crash) and television roles (including Grey’s Anatomy and Boston Public).  Here’s a rare chance to hear this dynaimc singer in an up close club setting.   The Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko.  (415) 394-1189.

New York

- Nov. 24. (Tues.)  Terese Genecco and Her Little Big Band.  Genecco’s quest to keep the jaunty rhythms of swing alive is enhanced by the guest star presence of veteran trumpeter Lew Soloff Iridium.   (212) 582.2121.

- Nov. 24 – 28. (Tues. – Sat.)  The New York Voices celebrate their 20th anniversary with a collection of lush vocal harmonies and upbeat swing.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Renee Rosnes

- Nov. 24 – 29. (Tues. – Sun.)  Renee Rosnes Quartet. A musicians’ musician, pianist Rosnes has played with almost everybody over the past twenty years.  But she still doesn’t receive the acknowledgement her impressive talents deserve  She performs with Jimmy Green, sax, Sean Smith, bass, Lewis Nash, drums.  Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- Nov. 24, 25 and 26 – 29. (Tues, Wed. and Fri. – Sun.)  Maria Schneider Orchestra. Schneider’s compositions continue to expand the palette of the large jazz ensemble, and they’re performed by an A-list musical aggregation.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.

Dave Brubeck

- Nov. 24 – 28. (Tues. – Sat.) Bucky Pizzarelli/Ken Peplowski Quintet.  Mainsream jazz at its best, with the master of the seven string guitar and the guy who’s helping keep the jazz clarinet alive.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9595.

- Nov. 27 – 29. (Fri. – Sun.)  Dave Brubeck Quartet. A rare opportunity to hear one of jazz’s iconic figures, in action in a club setting.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.


iRoM’s Holiday Gift Guide: Jazz Icons Series 4

November 22, 2009

This is the first in a continuing series of iRoM holiday gift recommendations that will be adding new items  until the end of 2009.

By Don Heckman

The latest entry in the Jazz Icons DVD series – Jazz Icons Series 4 – continues to provide extraordinary collections of live performances by some of the music’s most legendary figures.  The featured artists in this group are Jimmy Smith, Coleman Hawkins, Art Farmer, Errol Garner, Woody Herman, Art Blakey and Anita O’Day.  (The DVDs, produced by Reelin’ in the Years Productions and Naxos, are available in a boxed set as well as individually.)

Mostly filmed or taped in the ‘60s for European television, the production is superb.  Cameras linger on revelatory close-ups, and the flow of images is always at the service of the music.  Unlike the unpleasant, herky-jerky, director-centric editing style that has become almost obligatory in music films of the post-MTV era, these videos create the convincing ambiance of a live performance.

The Jimmy Smith set, recorded in Paris in 1969, features his classic jazz organ trio format with guitarist Eddie McFadden and drummer Charlie Crosby.  Loose and swinging, the selections range from “Satin Doll” and “Sonnymoon for Two” to “The Days of Wine and Roses” and Smith’s atmospheric vocal on “Got My Mojo Working,”   As with each of the discs, there is a detailed liner note essay providing context and background, in this case by Ashley Kahn.

There are two performances in the Coleman Hawkins set, the first – recorded at the Adolphe Sax Festival in Belgium in 1962 – has never been seen before; the second dates from a 1964 BBC Televison show recorded at Wembley Town Hall in London.  This is prime Hawkins, defining sensual balladry with tunes such as “Lover Come Back to Me,” “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Stella By Starlight” and spirited mainstream jazz in “Disorder at the Border” and “Centerpiece.”  In the English segment, he’s joined by theinimitable trumpet of Harry “Sweets’ Edison.  The liner essay is by Scott Deveaux.

Art Farmer concentrates on flugelhorn in his appearance, recorded for BBC Television in 1964.  Always a lyrical player, he sounds even more engaging in the dark-toned instrument.  But what makes the performance even more unique is his interaction with the extraordinarily empathic playing of guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete LaRoca.  The liner essay is by trumpeter/arranger/composer Don Sickler.

Two performances by Erroll Garner – in Belgium in ’63 and Sweden in ’64 – are marvelously entertaining displays of this one-of-a-kind artist at work.  His mobile, expressive face becomes an intimate part of his tempo-shifting, dynamically inventive progress through classics such as “Misty” and “Sweet and Lovely,” as well as the seemingly unlikely “One Note Samba” and “Thanks For The Memories.”  In each case, he makes the tune his own, backed by steady, understanding support of bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin.  John Murph provides the liner essay.

The set by Woody Herman’s Swinging Herd was recorded by the BBC in 1964.  This installment of the Herman Herds hasn’t always received the attention or the credit it deserves.  Driven by the rhythm section of Nat Pierce – who also wrote most of the charts and was the band’s straw boss – drummer Jake Hanna and bassist Chuck Andreus, it was an ensemble that swung as hard as most of the earlier Herman groups.  The soloing by the fiery tenor saxophone team of Sal Nistico and Joe Romano, with trombonist Phil Wilson leaves no notes unturned, and the new versions of classics “Four Brothers” and an astonishingly fast “Caldonia” are matched in intensity by heated interpretations of Charles Mingus’ “Better Git It In Your Soul.” Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” and Oscar Peterson’s “Hallelujah Time.”  The liner essay is by Steve Voce.

The Art Blakey Quintet was recorded in France in 1966 by one of the drummer/leader’s most transitory ensembles, assembled primarily for a relatively brief European tour.  But it’s a compelling line-up, nonetheless, with trumpeter Freddy Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Nathan Davis, pianist Jackie Byard and bassist Reggie Workman.  The result is a set of stretched-out richly improvisational performances, with Hubbard taking a stellar role.  His piece “The Hub” runs 17 minutes, “Crisis” lasts 24 minutes, and Hubbard is also featured on “Blue Moon” which had been his showcase number during his stint with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early ‘60s.  But there are a lot of other things happening in this unusual set – among them the always imaginative playing of the still under-appreciated Byard.  The liner essay is by Michael Cuscuna.

Anita O’Day was recorded in Sweden in ’63 and in Norway in ’70.  She was, by almost any definition, at the top of her form in both sets – especially the Swedish performance.  One engrossing performance follows another – two versions of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” scatting with the lyrics on “Tea For Two,” Lennon & McCartney’s “Yesterday” combined with Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” – all of it presented in readings that sell the song and the lyrics, while simultaneously finding the most intriguing musical phrase.  Bottom line: this is a video that should be required watching for every young jazz singer, as well as every fan of the jazz vocal art.  The liner essay is by Doug Ramsey.

The bonus disc that comes with the boxed set includes additional performances by Coleman Hawkins, Errol Garner and Jimmy Smith.  One of the many highlights is the pairing of Hawkins with alto saxophonist Benny Carter, including a gorgeous rendering of “I Can’t Get Started” by Carter and a revisit to “Body and Soul” by Hawkins.


Quotation of the Week: Paul McCartney

November 19, 2009

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“When I write, there are times — not always — when I hear John  in my head.    I’ll think, ‘ OK, what would we have done here?,’  and I can hear him gripe or approve.”

Paul McCartney

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To read other Quotations of the Week click here.


Picks of the Week: Nov. 16 – 22

November 16, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 16. (Mon.) Devon Wendell, Kevin Kelly and Tyler Kidd.    Blues on the loose, featuring iRoM’s own “Doc” Wendell playing electric and acoustic guitars and harmonica.  A chance to hear the reviewer in action.   The Viper Room.  (310) 652-7869.

- Nove. 16. (Mon.)  Elvis Schoenberg’s Orchestre Surreal.  Schoenberg’s large collective of L.A. studio players claims to perform music that “fuses classical, jazz, rock, hip hop, world music and just about anything else.”  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

charlie-o

Charlie O

- Nov. 17. (Tues.)  Remembering  Charlie OThe Bill Cunliffe Trio.  Charlie Ottaviano passed away a year ago.  But his widow Jo-Ann has made sure that the club that bears his name continues to be the Southland’s ultimate jazz bar and restaurant, presenting world-class music seven nights a week.  There will undoubtedly be a few tears and a lot of jamming taking place to celebrate his memory.  Charlie O’s. (818) 989-3110.

- Nov. `17. (Tues) Charlie Haden Family & FriendsRambling Boy.  Bassist Haden, one of the jazz world’s most versatile artists, recalls his early years in country and bluegrass music.  Family members, bluegrass players and Jack Black join the party.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 19. (Thurs.)  John Altman.  Sixtieth Birthday Party. Alto saxophonist/composer/arranger and humorist Altman celebrates a milestone birthday. Charlie O’s (818) 989-3110.

Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan

- Nov. 19. (Thurs.)  Thom Rotella Quartet.  Guitarist Rotella performs with the sterling backing of pianist John Beasley, bassist Kevin Brandon and drummer Roy McCurdy.  Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge.  (310) 642-7500.

- Nov. 19 – 21. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Lainie Kazan.  The star of stage, screen, television and beyond is also a jazz-oriented, always engaging vocalist.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 20. (Fri.)  Graham Dechter Trio performs with guest star trumpeter Gilbert CastellanosSpazio. (818) 728-8400.

- Nov. 20 – 21. (Fri. & Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco Trio.  The master of the B-3 keeps alive the tradition of big, blues-driven, irresistibly swinging jazz organ music. Steamers. (714) 871-8800.

- Nov. 21. (Sat.)  The Kronos Quartet, Terry Riley, Matmos and Michael Einziger“Eureka” The opening event in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s West Coast, Left Coast Festival features four artists whose skills were honed in the cultural environment of California.  The evening’s works are frequently interrlated, especially during a combined version of a piece titled “For Terry Riley,”  performed by the Kronos Quartet and the electronica of Matmos.  Walt Disney Concert Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Tommy Tune and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings: “Steps In Time” Dancer, choreographer and director Tune recalls some of the classic, high-stepping moments in Broadway musical history.  CSUN Performing Arts Center (818) 677-5768.

- Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Bernadette Peters. The Broadway musical star, who can command a stage with a sultry phrase and a playful twist of her hips, stars in the 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Thousand Oaks Civic Plaza.   (805) 449-2700.

Hubert_Laws

Hubert Laws

- Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Hubert Laws, Larry Koonse and Tierney Sutton. The Jazz Bakery continues its Moveable Feast series of concerts with a Holiday Celebration featuring veteran flutist Laws, versatile guitarist Koonse and jazz vocalist Sutton.    Fowler Museum.  UCLA.   (310) 271-9039

- Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Bob Sheppard.  Name the style you want to hear from a saxophonist, and Sheppard can deliver it in A-class style.  This time out, he’s doing things his own way, backed by the sturdy support of bassist Pat Senatore’s TrioVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Hans Groiner & Larry Goldings Quartet.  Here’s an intriguing two-fer.  Pianist and humorist Groiner, making his West Coast debut is allegedly a “Thelonious Monk scholar.”   Goldings is a solid talent, one of the Southland’s most imaginative keyboardists.  The Red Carpet Jazz Series.  Upstairs at Vitellos.  (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 22. (Sun.) Suezenne Fordham Chamber Jazz LA. Fordham’s expands upon the lineage of avant-garde jazz reaching back to the ‘60s.  South Pasadena Music Center and Conservatoryhttp://www.southpasadenamusic.com (626) 403-2300

San Francisco

- Nov. 18. (Tues.)  Fred Hersch.  Solo piano.  Gersh is always a pleasure to hear, but never more so than when he plays alone.  Hopefully he’ll include some selections from his recent album of music by Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Yoshi’s Oakland )510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 20 – 22. (Fri. – Sun.)  Wallace Roney Quintet.  Trumpeter Roney’s playing style flows from the Miles Davis wellspring, but what he does with it is uniquely his own.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

Savion Glover

Savion glover

- Nov. 20 – 22.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Patti Austin.  Who will show up this week?  The Jazz Patti, the Blues Patti, the Soul Patti.  Doesn’t matter.  All of Austin’s musical manifestations are great.  With any luck she’ll include something from all her sources.  Yoshi’s  San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Nov. 17 – 22. (Mon. – Sun.)  Savion Glover“Jamming with the Masters” The brilliant tap artist performs with special guests McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Eddie Palmieri, Jack DeJohnette and others TBA.  Check with club for schedules.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 17 – 22.  George Wein & the Newport All-Stars.  At 84, Wein – a swinging pianist as well as jazz’s most successful impresario – still loves to get up on the stage and do it himself.  He performs with the true all-star backing of saxophonist Lew Tabackin, trumpeter Randy Sandke, guitarist Howard Alden, drummer Winard Harper and others.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9595.

. – Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Mariza and Friends.  The Portuguese diva and her passionate fado interpretations are joined, in a diverse program, by Peru’s Eva Ayllon and Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo RubalcabaCarnegie Hallhttp://www.carnegiehall.org/SiteCode/Intro.aspx

- Nov. 22. (Sun.)  Jean-Michel Pilc Quartet. French pianist is one of the most adventurous members of the new generation of players taking their music beyond the powerful influence of Bill Evans. 55 Bar (212) 929-9883.


Live Jazz: The McCoy Tyner Quartet at Royce Hall

November 13, 2009

By Michael Katz

McCoy Tyner, one of the last giants of the post-bop era, had the audience on its feet Thursday night in a stirring performance at Royce Hall, presented by UCLA Live.  Though not the dominating physical presence  he was before an illness several years ago,  Tyner, at 71, retains his McCoyTynerdriving, percussive approach to the piano, his left hand flying over the lower chords of the keyboard, his right still able to articulate delicate riffs. His quartet featured Gary Bartz on tenor and soprano sax, Gerald Cannon on bass and Eric Kamau Gravatt on drums.

Tyner opened with his composition “Fly With The Wind”, originally written for an ensemble with strings, but missing nothing with this rendition. He began with a flourish, presenting the opening line, yielding to Bartz on tenor for the first of many extended solos. Bartz, looking resplendent with his graying mane and a gold tie that matched his horn, has a clear, natural sound – one almost had to visually search for the mic cord to ascertain that he was being amplified at all.  Cannon, taking the baton next, displayed a resonant and robust style that stood up to Tyner’s still-thunderous piano.  The same could be said for Gravatt – his stick work was crisp, his solos enunciated with precise dynamics. The quartet as a whole seized attention from the start, grabbing the crowd by the lapels and not letting go.

Tyner spoke sparingly to the audience, introducing only the second number, Duke Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone.”  Her took this bouncy Ellington standby and molded it to his own full-bodied style, churning out counter melodies while Bartz, playing soprano now on the small, curved version of the instrument, wended his way around the main theme.

Aside from his quartet work, Tyner has had a notable presence as both a big band leader and a pure soloist.  He demonstrated the latter when he took over the stage for a gorgeous version of  “I Should Care.” Starting with a lush, chordal presentation, he melted into the main theme, altering tones, visiting the upper registers of the instrument, filling the hall with its lyricism. Even if one was unaware of the title or lyrics, as I suspect much of the audience was, Tyner communicated the aching beauty of the song.

Throughout the length of the set — a full evening by Royce Hall standards, lasting until nearly 11 – the Tyner quartet played with a rollicking drive. Bartz was smoking on his riffs through two blues-based pieces, Cannon providing steady support on bass.  And the usual early departures missed a terrific finish, as Tyner recalled his groundbreaking work with John Coltrane’s 60’s quartets by striking the familiar opening of  “Moments Notice.”  Bartz, surging over the full force of the quartet, his tone fiery, drove the theme home, with closing solos by Cannon and Gravatt. The audience, clearly appreciative of the Coltrane inspiration, responded with a thunderous ovation.

The show opened with an hour long set by Build An Ark, a large choral and instrumental ensemble patterned after the Sun Ra Arkestra. Led by composer Carlos Nino and viola/violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, the group put on an engaging program of mostly original compositions, based on a theme of global peace and harmony, with various choral members and instrumental soloists shuttling on and off the stage. Vocalist Dwight Trible, whose firm, spiritual voice recalls Leon Thomas, helped anchor the choral pieces, and violinist John White and trombonist Phil Ranelin added expressive solos.

To read other reviews and posts by Michael Katz click here.


PIcks of the Week: Nov. 9 – 15

November 9, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 9. (Mon.)  Judy Wexler. Wexler’s briskly swinging vocal style finds a perfect match with the trio of organist Joe Bagg, guitarist Bruce Forman and drummer Devin KellyCharlie O’s.   (818) 989-3110.

Steve Gadd

Steve Gadd & Friends

- Nov. 10. (Tues.)  Reginald Robinson.  The MacArthur Genius award winning pianist  performs solo ragtime pieces to accompany silent film clips of animation by cartoon pioneers Walter Lantz, Otto Messmer and Earl Hurd. The Hammer Museum.

- Nov. 10 – 12. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Steve Gadd and Friends. After bringing the authentic flavor of jazz to a long list of pop artists, drummer Gadd does his own thing. With Joey DeFrancesco, Ronnie Cuber and Paul Bollenback.   Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.  (Also at Yoshi’s SanFran Nov. 13 – 15.  See Below)

- Nov. 11. (Wed.)  The Philharmonia Baroque OrchestraNicholas McGegan conducts this superb period orchestra, six soloists and the Philharmonia Chorale in a rare evening devoted completely to the music of Henry Purcell.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 12. (Thurs.)  McCoy Tyner.  Versatile, ever-intriguing Tyner has been one of the most powerful piano innovators of the past five decades.  He performs with his trio and alto saxophonist Gary Bartz.  The large improvisational ensemble, Build an Ark, opens the show.  UCLA Live at Royce Hall. (310) 825-4401.

janis-mann

Janis Mann

- Nov.12. (Thurs.)  Janis Mann.  Although she’s been compared to such iconic singers as Sarah Vaughan, Mann bring’s her own unique qualities to the classic jazz vocal style. Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge. (310) 642-7500.  m

- Nov. 12. (Thurs.)  Pete Christlieb Tall and Small Band w. vocalist comedian Tony Russell.  Saxophonist for all seasons Christlieb leads a snappy 10-piece band with his wife, trombonist Linda Small-Christlieb.  This is the first event in which comedy is added to Vitellos’ Red Carpet Jazz Series.  More on the way.   Upstairs at Vitellos.  (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 12. (Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli. A singer with the sound, the rhythm and the interpretive imagination to bring a song to life – that’s Donatelli.   Charlie O’s.  (818) 989-3110.

- Nov. 12 – 15. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dawn Upshaw with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.. Upshaw sings Luciano Berio’s fascinating cycle of folk songs and Dudamel conducts Schubert’s Symphony #8 (Unfinished).  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 13. (Fri.)  “Loud and Rich. ”  Loudon Wainwright and Richard Thompson. A pair of veteran songwriters, each with a witty, sometimes sardonic, way with a phrase, make a rare duo appearance.  UCLA Live at Royce Hall (310) 825-4401.

Frank Marocco

Frank Marocco

- Nove. 13. (Fri.)  Dr. Bobby Rodriguez. ” Latin Dance Party”.  Trumpeter and educator Rodriguez knows all the connections between the steaming rhythms of Latin jazz and Latin dance.  The Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside.  (310) 649-1776.

- Nov. 14. (Sat.)  Frank Marocco Quartet. Marocco keeps affirming the role of the accordion in jazz and beyond with his rich, inventive musical imagination.  He’s backed by Pat Senatore, bass, Robert Hardt, piano and Ramon Banda, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Nov. 9. (Mon.)   Ian Anderson plays acoustic Jethro Tull. Anarchic flutist Anderson revisits his past.   The Warfield.

- Nov. 11.  (Wed.)  Leon Russell.  A rare club appearance by the great songwriter, pianist and character. Yoshi’s  San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

- Nov. 12. (Thurs.)  Ray Davies performing the Kinks Choral Collection. Forty years after, Davies is still producing memorable music.  The Warfield.

- Nov. 13. – 15. (Fri. – Sun.)  Steve Gadd and Friends.  W.. Joey DeFrancesco, Ronnie Cuber and Paul Bollenback Yoshi’s  San Francisco (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Nov. 9 – 12. (Mon. – Thurs.  Gal Costa and Romero Lubambo.  An irresistible combination: Costa’s dark-toned, intimate lyricism and Lubambo’s remarkably intuitive guitar backing.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Jim Hall

Jim Hall

- Nov. 10 – 14. (Tues. – Sat.)  Jim Hall Quartet.  Veteran guitarist Hall, always eager to test his wares in a contemporary setting, performs with Greg Osby, alto sax, Steve Laspina, bass and Joey Baron, drums. Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 11. (Wed.)  Kat Edmonson.  A stand-out in the crowded field of young female jazz vocalists, Edmonson has an ear caressing sound and an easygoing sense of rhythmic swing.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 447-7733.

- Nov. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Mike Melvoin Trio.   The veteran pianist is backed by the world class rhythm team of bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Bill Goodwin.  Mike promises that they “will play music for your blood, your heart and your spirit.”  Kitano.  (212) 885-7119.

 


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