Picks of the Week: Mar. 30 – April 4

March 30, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ginger & Scott

- Mar. 30. (Tues.)  Ginger & Scott.  Jackie Cain and Roy Kral?  Not exactly, but Cain herself has described Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield as “a new duo who provide hope and inspiration.”  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 31. (Wed.)  Susan Krebs Jazz Aviary.  Krebs and her Soaring Sextet perform a program inspired by the sights and the sounds of our fine feathered friends.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 31. (Wed.) Lesa Terry. Violinist Terry successfully explores the rich territory between jazz and classical. Wilshire Ebell.   (323) 931-1277.

- Mar. 31. (Wed.) Gaea Schell Trio hosts a jam session.  Schell’s vibrant piano playing and intimate vocal style are a jam session in themselves.  But this time out she opens up the proceedings to an eclectic band of players.  Café 322.  (626) 836-5414.

Dominick Farinacci

- April 1. (Thurs.) Dominick Farinacci. Trumpeter Farinacci is one of the breakout stars of the last year, still soaring into an orbit of brilliant, ever-compelling music making. Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

- April 1. (Thurs.)  Betty Bryant. Pianist/singer Bryant has been around long enough to know how to bring a song vividly to life – and she’ll do it with everything she sings.  Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge.  (310) 642-7500.

- April 1. (Thurs.)  Sony Holland.  The tender, but gripping voice of Holland, underscored by her subtle rhythmic swing, finds perfect support in the backing of the Theo Saunders Quartet.   Charlie O’s. (919) 994-3058.

- April 1 – 3. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Kenny Werner Quartet. Pianist Werner, always a cutting edge player, performs with the stellar companionship of tenor saxophoist Chris Potter, drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Johannes Weidenmueller.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Edgar Winter

- April 3. (Sat.)  Rick Derringer and Edgar Winter. The seventies are revived by a pair of still dynamic icons from the decade.  Expect to hear “Hang On Sloopy” and ‘Frankenstein.”  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- April 3. (Sat.)  Ustad Aashish Khan, sarod, Pandit Sapan Chaudhuri, tablas, offer an intriguing program of classical Hindustani ragas.  Opening the performance: Chaudhuri’s CalArts Tabla Ensemble. REDCAT.   (213) 237-2800.

- April 3. (Sat.)  Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet.  Trumpeter Smith has long been one of the Southland’s leaders in exploring the wide open territory of free jazz improvising.  Barnsdall Gallery Theatre.

- April 3. (Sat.)  Grant Geissman and the Cool Man Cool Band. Versatile guitarist Geissman plays selections from his foot-tapping album Cool Man CoolSpaghettini in Seal Beach. (562) 596-2199.

- April 4. (Sun.) KJAZZ Easter Sunday Jazz Brunch. Vortex, a far-ranging gospel group, celebrates the joy of Easter with a high spirited collection of soulful song reaching from traditional spirituals to jazz and blues.  And the brunch menu is even more far-ranging, in quality and quantity.  11 a.m. until 2 p.m.  Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.  (323) 491-1000.   More information on the Brunch series at KJAZZ.

San Francisco

- Mar. 30 – April 1. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Tierney Sutton. Always musical, always entertaining, always a superb vocal story teller, Sutton’s a joy to hear. Rrazz Room.   (415) 394-1189.

Habib Koite

- April 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Habib Koite and Bamada.  Mali’s guitarist/singer Koite’s unique instrumental style and intimate, understated singing, are best heard in the company of his veteran back up band, Bamada. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

- April 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Brad Mehldau Trio. Mehldau’s been stretching into other areas lately, but he’s always at his best performing in his Grammy-nominated partnership with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Mar. 30 – April 3 (Tues. – Sat.)  Gary Peacock, a long time associate of Keith Jarrett steps into a different piano trio format, with pianist Marc Copland and drummer Bill Stewart.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Mar. 30 – April 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  Tom Harrell Quintet.  Trumpeter Harrell always has something intriguing to say musically.  This time out, he’ll be in creative conversation with Wayne Escoffery, tenor saxophone, Danny Grissett, piano, Ugonna Okegwo, bass, Johnathan Blake, drums.  Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- Mar. 30 – Apri. 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  Take 6. The marvelous a cappella ensemble has been getting some competition lately, but they’re still cruising as the top level of their unique vocal style.  Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Mar. 30 – April 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  The “Sing Into Spring Festival,” a celebration of the jazz vocal art, continues with Ernestine Anderson and tenor saxophonist Houston Person, backed by bassist Lonnie Plaxico, drummer Willie Jones III and keyboardist Lafayette Harris, Jr.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.  (212) 258-9800.

Danilo Perez

- April 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Danilo Perez.  Pianist Perez is always looking for a new area in which to spread his creative wings. This time out, he celebrates material from his CD, “Things To Come – 21st Century Dizzy” Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

- April 2. (Fri.) Avishai Cohen Trio.  One couldn’t ask for a better example of the creative globalization of jazz than this impressive trio, with Israeli trumpeter Cohen, Malian guitarist Lionel Loueke, and Hungarian drummer Ferenc Nemeth.  55 Bar.   (212) 929-9883.


Live Jazz: The Sal Marquez Quintet at Spazio

March 29, 2010

By Tony Gieske

You would never say that Sal Marquez was off the scene. He’d just be on some scene not yet up to you. So here he was now, and what a scene to be back on, at Spazio or wherever.

Rick Zunigar was playing a solo on guitar concerning “What’s New.”  Bright ideas were flooding down like seagulls on a sandwich. He has absorbed much from his hero, Joe Pass. It was not terribly far from the sublime.

But then so was the output from Chuck Manning’s tenor, more high velocity goodies in a sound somewhere south of Stan Getz and north of Lester Young, in a room of his own.

Neither soloist asked quarter from the rhythm section, drummer Steve Hass and bassist Chris Colangelo, and none were they given. Tight but bumptious, these two stayed pure and musical.

Sal Marquez and Chuck Manning

Marquez called the plays after brief huddles with his bandmates, naming such rich and seldom mined veins as Joe Henderson’s “Ice Truck,” a jump tune, or challengingly familiar ballad fodder such as “If I Were a Bell.” A veteran of the bands of Frank Zappa, Buddy Rich, the Tonight Show and many other enviable gigs, he has plenty in his pantry.

On “Bell,” Marquez eschewed the approach of his one-time idol Miles Davis. Now he was cavorting all over on a foundation we used to hear under Freddie Hubbard. But Marquez’ sound is warmer, gentler and more thoughtful than in the past.

And he kept finding fresh paths past beautiful flowers, as did the rest of the players, converging often enough with each other to attain salutary bandhood.

Photo by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.


Live Jazz: The Antonio Sanchez Quartet at a Jazz Bakery Moveable Feast

March 28, 2010

By Michael Katz

“Migration,” the name of the quartet led by drummer Antonio Sanchez, seemed an adept name for a group headlining the latest in the Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast Series. The Bakery, which was uprooted from its Westside home, is on a peripatetic journey which has taken it to downtown, Hollywood and points in between.

Ruth Price has demonstrated a feel for booking programs that fit the surroundings and so it was Saturday night at the Musicians Institute just off Hollywood and Highland. With its low ceiling and informal atmosphere, it seemed a perfect place for a group that explored the boundaries of free-form jazz.

Antonio Sanchez

You might expect a group fronted by a drummer to feature the pyrotechnics of a Buddy Rich or the out-front dynamism of Elvin Jones, but Sanchez has a more subtle, pulsating rhythm that focuses on the interplay between musicians. Without a piano, the interplay between Sanchez and superb bassist Scott Colley became intricate,  Sanchez alternating brisk stick work and occasional brushes with Colley’s intelligent bass lines. The melodies and flights of improvisation were handled by Donnie McCaslin on tenor sax and David Binney on alto, the two of them pairing off on each number, alternating the lead, responding to each other in ways composed or not,  playing off the rhythms of Colley and Sanchez.

The group played mostly  pieces from their Migration album, plus Miles Davis’ “Nardis,” though in all of them the main compositional line was only a launching point for various permutations of the four players searching out musical boundaries. In the opening “Greedy Silence,” Sanchez began with a haunting brush of the cymbals, then gave way to McCaslin, who started in the lower registers of his tenor and seemed to circle upwards,  eventually stepping aside for Binney to respond on his alto in searing counterpoint. Colley and Sanchez dropped in to lead the number back to its original line.  “Nardis” had the most familiar melody, though it was Colley and Sanchez who gave the tune its mystery, Colley starting off on the bass and Sanchez countering with stick work against the rims of his traps and hand-tapping in a gentle, conga-like style. McCaslin again opened the horn soloing, with Binney in response, and Colley leading an urgent bass line to the finish.

“Ballade” was a lovely improvisational exercise, as Sanchez asked his sax players for an introduction (“That’s how we do it in jazz.”) and the two of them launched into a stunning duet, while Sanchez laid back, eventually contributing elegant brushwork, while Colley juxtaposed his bass lines with McCaslin and Binney. Without the chordal backing of a piano, this format really emphasizes the ability of the quartet to reach out to each other, sort of like a musical jigsaw. It was not a concert where you walk out humming the tunes, but an exploration  blending musical sensitivities. “Challenge Within” had the most upbeat line, with Binney this time taking the lead, asserting himself on a strong dance through the alto’s mid-tones, and leaving it for McCaslin this time to respond in robust fashion. Antonio Sanchez closed out with a surging solo, saving his best for the final number, alternating lithe stick rhythms with his right and left hand, much to the appreciation of the healthy crowd.

All in all it was another example of the diversity of jazz, truly a moveable feast.

To read more posts by Michael Katz click here.


Quotation of the Week: Jimi Hendrix

March 26, 2010

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“Music doesn’t lie.  If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”

Jimi Hendrix

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To read more Quotations of the Week (including another from Jimi Hendrix) click here.


Live Jazz: The Billy Childs Trio at Vitello’s

March 26, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Putting aside the burden of his many writing commissions for symphony orchestras, singers and festivals and his somehow late-blooming renown, the great pianist Billy Childs gave a brilliant little concert for the patrons of Upstairs at Vitello’s Thursday where he ever-so-deftly raised the roof.

I have heard him when he seemed to be Ravel or Satie or Duke Ellington but tonight Childs was Bill Evans, even when he tried to be McCoy Tyner or Mulgrew Miller.

To play the piano lyrically, of course, you cannot help but enter Bill Evans territory. So if you gotta do it, do it, seemed to be Childs’ mantra, and before you knew it he was expanding the Evans boundaries like the genius he is.

The Billy Childs Trio

The first thing you hear in a Bill Evans performance is the shockingly beautiful singing tone he gets from each keystroke. Sure enough, Childs had that one down, playing “Come Rain or Come Shine” and similar ballads with that lyrical but adventurous improvisational movement the older musician pioneered.

Billy Childs

Little atonal canons are tossed off. Adroitly placed silences startle the ear and immediately convince it. Block chords display each note within them. None of this error-free complexity can be done from memory; you must think it up as you go along. A strain-free swing keeps everything moving from one delight to another.

Peter Erskine

The latter aspect was enforced with quick-witted inevitability by two of the town’s greatest rhythm section players, the bassist Tom Warrington and the drummer Peter Erskine. Their work brought frequent grateful grins from the leader.

Tom Warrington

Childs’ affection for McCoy Tyner was marked with a merry little jump piece called “Boinkin’ Around,” and his regard for Evans’ seemingly inimitable romps came out with “34 Skidoo” and “It’s You or No One.” By this time, you’d become accustomed to a state of astonishment at how good they sounded.

“I’m definitely gonna come back to this place,” Childs declared after earning a couple of authentic sounding ovations. We can only hope.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.



Live Jazz Review: Judy Wexler’s “Talkin’ ’bout My Generation” at Vitello’s

March 25, 2010

By Don Heckman

“Talkin’  ‘bout My Generation” was the title of jazz singer Judy Wexler’s presentation at Vitello’s Wednesday night.  And it was right on target – a compilation of songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s reaching from the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to Richie Havens, Paul Simon and more.  In between numbers, she often set the scene by reading excerpts from the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary.  (Curiously, though, she did not include The Who song that provided the lead line for her show.)

But what made Wexler’s show unique was the convincing way in which she approached the material from a jazz perspective.  Nothing new for her, since her past outings have included similarly improvisatory interpretations of songs reaching from Elvis Costello to the The Wizard of Oz.  This outing, however, embraced a broad selection of pieces, touching upon the many aspects – romantic, social, sexual and beyond — of the transformative ‘60s and ‘70s.  And each was handled in a way that blended its root origins with Wexler’s adept jazz interpretations.

Backed by the quartet of pianist Jeff Colella, bassist Chris Colangelo, guitarist Larry Koonse and drummer Devin Kelly, with the high spirited back up work of singers Catte Adams and Janelle Sadler, Wexler came on stage in a buoyant mood, launching the show with a perfect thematic choice – Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”  Although she seemed a bit nervous, her intonation somewhat uncertain for the first few minutes,, she quickly found her groove.  And by the time she settled into Richie Haven’s touching “Follow,” her rich, dark sound and story-telling phrasing were in full blossom.

“Happiness Runs” emerged, in true Donovan fashion, as a playful round between Wexler and her guest singers, and the Bacharach/David classic, “One Less Bell To Answer,”  revealed another, more traditional aspect of the music of the late ‘60s.  Other memorable items followed: A French and English take on Melanie’s “Look What They Done To My Song, Ma”; Lennon & McCartney’s “Fixin’ A Hole” and “In My Life”; Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” (with a guitar solo from Koonse recalling the song’s Bach connections); Paul Simon’s “One Trick Pony”; Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”; and more.

The final number – Cat Stevens’ “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out,” was an offbeat inclusion.  The song was best known, at the time, not as a recording, but for its presence in the 1971 film, Harold and Maude.  Wexler may have included it because she felt it would work well as a singalong finale.  Or, she may have included it as a reminder of the film’s early ‘70s dark humor.  Maybe both.

Wexler’s singing was the appealing centerpiece of the show, with the arrangements – by Colella, Alan Pasqua and others – framing imaginative ways to allow her jazz phrasing to find common ground with the very different qualities of each song.  Along the way, Colella and Koonse made the most of the frequent openings for instrumental soloing.

At its best, “Talkin’ ‘bout My Generation” displayed all the qualities of a concept with legs – one that warrants many more performances.  Hopefully, those performances will also eventually wind up in a recording studio, on the way to becoming Wexler’s next CD.

Photo by Faith Frenz


Live Jazz: The Nat Adderley Jr./Longineu Parsons Quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill

March 25, 2010

By Tony Gieske

You can’t get much more down home than this: The Nat Adderley Jr. and Longineu Parsons quintet playing the music of Cannonball and Nat Adderley.

Nat Adderley, Jr. Inset: Nat Adderley

At Catalina’s Tuesday night, the young Adderley, who made his bones as the musical director for Luther Vandross, played piano with mucho soul, not to mention deep-seated jazz spirit.

The same attributes were demonstrated by cornetist Parsons and the alto player Diron Holloway.  All the more amazing since the two horn men are music professors at Florida A&M. Adderley Jr. holds a degree in African-American Studies from Yale.

Longineu Parsons

Diron Holloway

Off-campus tonight, the players enthusiastically caught the spirit of such immortal Adderley brothers hits as “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Work Song” and “This Here.”

Prof. Parsons’ efforts were glistening examples of advanced technique, with a satisfactory echo of cornetist Nat.  Prof. Holloway (no relation to tenor man Red Holloway) did not try to evoke the original Nat’s brother Cannonball. He just threw in plenty, plenty soul of his own devising and a bushel of affection too. And of course that did sound like Cannonball.

Nat Jr. brought more than one tide of approbation from the plump, silver-haired assembly as he block-chorded to climax after climax at the piano.

After five or six of the classic charts from the senior generation, propelled with conviction by drummer Roy McCurdy and bassist Trevor Ware, wives and children of the musicians were introduced to the house by Adderley, and he played “Happy Birthday” to one or two of ’em.

Never would have happened at a Miles Davis gig, right?

Photos by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.


Live Jazz: The Willie Jones III Quartet at Catalina Bar & Grill

March 24, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Willie Jones III brought a couple of familiar homies, Eric Reed and Trevor Ware, to Catalina’s Tuesday night to herald the release of his new CD.  But the guy who stole the show was his Mexican born trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos, who played faster than Arturo Sandoval, Dizzy Gillespie or Freddie Hubbard.  Yes.

Trevor Ware and Golbert Castellanos

His astounding velocity enabled him to build bebop on top of bebop, with every microscopic cadenza vividly present in the ear.

Of course, he had some enlightened help: the pianist Eric Reed, out of the Wynton Marsalis hive by way of Los Angeles, his native burg, and Trevor Ware, one of Jones’s fellow Degnan Avenue habitues, who backs everybody in town on his warmhearted bass.

The repertoire came mainly from the scoring pad of Reed. It embraced a couple of his somewhat impatient ballads in three beat measure that were well on the way to tenderness, and a fine up-tempo tribute to the forgotten avant-garde pianist Herbie Nichols that formed one of the highlights of the evening.

Eric Reed

Not to mention Sonny Rollins’ “Airigin,” the first number on which Castellanos left blood on the bandstand.

In addition to his classy comping, Reed played with intensity,  scope and depth, bringing to mind Marsalis’s icon Duke Ellington here and there.  He got to baiting Ware with quotes from Ahmad Jamal, and they enjoyed a laugh or two that were not shared by Jones or Castellanos, who stood for serious musicianship, thank you very much.

Now, I’ve been a fan of Willie Jones III since the 1980s, but on this night his mind seemed to be elsewhere. Not to say that he wasn’t full of his usual inspiring fireworks. He connected with the soloists as he always does, right on time with the stick tips, but he seemed to be overcompensating somehow.

Willie Jones III

Also, the CD he was plugging did not get released yet.

On the whole, though, you came away from the evening with gratitude. It would be foolish to say that bebop is coming back, since jazz has never given it up. But tonight seemed to say don’t you ever forget it.

Photos by Tony Gieske.

Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.


Picks of the Week: March 23 – 28

March 23, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Mar. 23. (Tues.)  Christopher Cross.  Multiple Grammy Award-winning composer Cross hits include “Sailing,” “Ride Like the Wind” and “Never Be the Same.” Vibrato.   (310) 474-9400.

Ray Davies

- Mar. 24. (Wed.)  Ray Davies. After the success of last Fall’s CD, The Kinks Choral Collection, Davies – one of the founders of the venerable English rock band The Kinks – is once again out on tour, offering golden oldies, as well as his newer material. Grove of Anaheim.  (714) 712-2700.

- Mar. 25. (Wed.)  Jamie Cullum.  The English wiz, adept at the piano, quick with a song, successfully masters the territory between rock, pop, blues and jazz.  The Avalon.   (323) 467-4571.

- Mar. 25. (Wed.)  Nat Adderley Jr. Quintet “The Music of Cannonball and Nat Adderley”. His direct connection with the source, makes pianist Adderley, Jr. the perfect advocate for the classic music of his father and uncle. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 24. (Wed.)  Judy Wexler“Talkin’ About My Generation.” Jazz singer Wexler adds her fine-tuned, improvisational vocal touches to the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 25.  (Wed.)  Chef Jam Sessions. Vibrato launches a new series in which guest chefs will cook 5-course dinners of their signature favorites.  Alain Giraud (Anisette, Bastide, Citrus) is the first all-star guest chef.  The Norman Pantone Continental Quartet will accompany the feasting with accordion-driven Gypsy jazz.  Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 25. (Thurs.)  Nancy Kelly.  Veteran jazz singer Kelly brings swing, phrasing, vitality and – best of all – authenticity to everything she sings.  This is one of her too-rare appearances in the Southland.  Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge.  (310) 642-7500.

Billy Childs

- Mar. 25. (Thurs.)  Billy Childs. He’s got eight Grammy nominations and two Grammy awards, and he’s been commissioned by symphonies across the land to write compositions.  But Childs is also one of the finest — and too little acknowledged — jazz pianists in the world. He doesn’t play many club dates these days, so don’t miss this one.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 26. (Fri.)  The CJS Quintet and Hideaki “Heday” Tokunaga “East Meets Wes.” The hard bop of the CJS Quintet encounters Heday’s grooving, Wes Montgomery-styled guitar work.   Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill/Gower Gulch.  (323) 466-9917.

- Mar. 26. (Fri.) Larry Karush Quintet.  Pianist Karush roves confidently across the boundaries of improvisation, from the thorny avant-garde to the propulsive lift of straight ahead.  The Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center (Edye 2nd Space)  (310) 434-3000.

- Mar. 26. (Fri.)  Perlene Thurston. The rich-timbred voice and roving phrases of Thurston stimulate distinct recollections of Sarah Vaughan.   The Back Room at Henri’s.   (818) 348-5582.

- Mar. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.) Wallace Roney Quintet. Trumpeter Roney has taken the Miles Davis style and shaped it into a highly personal expression of his own.  He performs with Antoine Roney, saxophones, Aruan Ortiz, keyboards, Rashaan Carter, bass, Kush Abadey, drums.  Spazio.  (818) 728-8400.

- Mar. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.)  Mike Lang and Los Angeles Sonic Odyssey.   Pianist Lang performs the world premiere of Jennifer Logan’s Planetarium, a work for improvised piano and electronics.  Logan will also perform Lang’s Moonlit Night…in blossoms’ shimmer and her own Serenades and spreading shadows for solo piano.  Neighborhood Unitarian Church, Pasadena.  Los Angeles Sonic Odyssey. (213) 422-2733.

Diane Schuur

- Mar. 27. (Sat.)  Diane Schuur.  Eclectic singer/pianist Schuur has a pair of Grammy awards and three nominations.  Lately, Deedles has been setting aside some of her pop interests in favor of the expressive jazz vocalizing she does best.  CSUN Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-1200.

- Mar. 27. (Sat.)  Broadway Today Jason Graae, David Burnham, Julia Murney and Lisa Howard sing songs from  such contemporary musicals as  Wicked, Hairspray,  The Lion King, Rent, The Producers, The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia and others.  Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.  (805) 449-2787.

- Mar. 27. (Sat.)  Antonio Sanchez Quartet. Drummer Sanchez keeps the Jazz Bakery brand alive with a stellar group that includes alto saxophonist David Binney, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin and bassist Scott Colley.  All of which should make for a high sprited evening.  Musicians Institute.  A Jazz Bakery Moveable Feast.   (310) 271-9039.

- Mar. 28. (Sun.)  Frank Potenza Trio. Guitarist/educator Potenza, inspired by Joe Pass, has built a highly personal style of his own.  He performs material from his current Capri release, Old, New, Borrowed & Blue.  With Joe Bagg, organ, Steve Barnes, drums.  The Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach.   (310) 376-9833

San Francisco

- March 23 & 24.   (Tues. & Wed.)  Joe Lovano and US Five perform selections from “Folk Art,” his first recording with a program of all his original compositions.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Eliane Elias

- Mar. 23 & 24.  (Tues. & Wed.)  Eliane Elias.  Pianist/singer Elias brilliantly combines her deep Brazilian roots with an impressively original jazz imagination.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

- Mar. 23 – 27. (Tues. – Sat.)  Maude Maggart. With a background that traces to several generations of musical show biz veterans, Maggart enhances her inherited skills with her own stylish approach to the classic songs of cabaret and the musical theatre.  The Rrazz Room.  (415) 394-1189.

- Mar. 26 – 28. (Fri. – Sun.)  Natalie Cole.  Ever versatile, as comfortable with a  soulful pop song as she is with a dynamic evening of jazz, Cole makes a rare club appearance.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New York

Mar. 23 – 27. (Tues. – Sat.)  John Scofield New Quartet. Guitarist Scofield sets aside his eclectic musical interests for some straight ahead jazz.  With Mulgrew Miller, piano, Ben Street, bass and Kendrick Scott, drums. Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Mar. 23 – 28. (Tues. – Sun.)  Regina Carter. The busy, versatile violinist previews her new CD, Reverse Thread. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

- Mar. 25. (Thurs.) Allison Miller.   Multi-skilled drummer, composer and singer Miller leads a stellar ensemble — pianist Myra Melford, violinist Jenny Scheinman and bassist Todd Sickafoose — in a release party for her new CD, Boom Tic Boom.   Cornelia Street Cafe.  (212) 989-9319.

Freda Payne

- Mar. 25 & 26. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio.  Guitarist Rosenwinkel does what the title of his group says – explore the soaring melodies and rich harmonies of the Great American Songbook.  Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

- Mar. 25 – 28.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Freda Payne sings Ella Fitzgerald.  She’s had a #! Hit – “Band of Gold” – and starred in Broadway shows such as “Jelly’s Last Jam” and ‘Sophisticated Ladies.”  But Payne has a feel for jazz, too, and – especially – an empathic way of understanding Ella’s way with a song.  Iridium. (212) 582-2121.


Live Jazz; Dee Dee Bridgewater and Al Jarreau at Disney Concert Hall

March 22, 2010

By Don Heckman

The combination of Al Jarreau and Dee Dee Bridgewater, performing at Disney Hall Sunday night on the same stage was an inspired booking.  One could make a good case for the event as a rare display of brilliant jazz singing at the highest level.  The only missing element, in fact, was the failure to allow time for at least a single spontaneous musical pairing by these two extraordinary artists.

Bridgewater’s set was based on material from her new CD, Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee, a tribute to Billie Holiday.  Both the CD and the performance differed dramatically from Bridgewater’s theatrical production of the late ‘80s, Lady Day, based on Holiday’s autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues.  Rather than position the tribute in the atmosphere and the setting of the originals, Bridgewater chose the path of bringing her own unique artistry to the Holiday classics, enhanced by the supportive arrangements of pianist Edsel Gomez.

Her opening numbers, “Lady Sings the Blues” and “Lover Man” immediately announced her intentions.  Alternating intimate, soft-spoken lines with segments of high energy intensity, Bridgewater stamped the songs with a personal imprimatur, as Holiday had done decades earlier.  “Don’t Explain,” less outgoing, found a darker expressiveness, enhanced by the background flute work of Craig Handy.  On “A Foggy Day,” she displayed her impressive scat singing abilities, delivered with the sort of authenticity that too often eludes vocalists who attempt this deceptively challenging art.

The elegantly graceful, stunningly gorgeous Bridgewater prowled the stage on virtually every number, reaching out to the sometimes neglected listeners in the rear stage area, joking with her listeners, clearly enjoying her complete immersion in the music.  Charging through an exuberant scat exchange with drummer Greg Hutchinson, she coyly flirted with bassist Ira Coleman during a bass and voice version of the early Holiday tune, “My Mother-in-Law’s Son.” and finished he program with a mesmerizing reading of “Strange Fruit.”

In most of the numbers, Handy – on tenor and soprano saxophones – was a close partner, deeply involved in the same sort of musical marriage that often took place between Holiday and Lester Young.  But the only problems in this otherwise superlative set arose when his intensity – exaggerated by the overamplification of his horns and his tendency to play in the same pitch range inhabited by Bridgewater – tended to narrow the emotional range of the interpretations.

Jarreau, as he sometimes does, took a while to warm up to his surroundings.  His performing style is, by nature, gregarious, and he spent the first few numbers finding his way musically, chatting with the audience, seeking a comfort zone in what is basically a theatre in the round setting.

By the time he got to James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” he’d found his groove, displaying his ineffable ability to personalize familiar material.  He followed with a string of equally irresistible interpretations: a buoyant version of the jazz classic, “Better Than Anything”; his characteristically upbeat – and musically challenging – romp through Paul Desmond’s “Take Five”; a deeply touching, story-telling reading of Lennon & McCartney’s “She’s Leaving Home”; and a jazz bossa nova-tinged “Agua de Beber.”

His climactic number – “Roof Garden” – was Jarreau at his hard grooving best.  Taking a simple, repetitive line, underscoring it with a pounding back-beat, enlivening it with his crisp, articulate scat singing, he – and his solid band – brought more meat and potatoes swing to Disney Hall than the venue has experienced in a long time.

At seventy (as of March 12), Jarreau is still at the top of his game – maybe even more than that, given the blend of maturity and musical insight that he brings to every thing he sings.  And the same can be said for Bridgewater, who turns sixty in May.  Together, their performances offered incomparable testimony to the timelessness of music, and to the persistence of its life force in artists who fully embrace its possibilities.


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