Live Jazz: The Count Basie Orchestra, the Dave Holland Big Band and the Dave Douglas Big Band at the Hollywood Bowl

July 29, 2010

By Don Heckman

It sounded like a good idea.  Big Band Jazz night at the Hollywood Bowl.  Lacking a resident ensemble such as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, L.A.’s fans of big band jazz are generally limited to hearing large ensemble sounds on occasional Monday nights at the clubs.  (And we can be grateful for the fact that Vitello’s, Vibrato, Steamers, Charlie O’s and a few other places continue to make it possible for us to do so.)

Wednesday night’s program at the Bowl was a rare big band presentation at a large venue, with a program that crossed from the classic (the Count Basie Orchestra) to the contemporary (the Dave Douglas Big Band and the Dave Holland Big Band).  But its promise was often wrapped in disappointing results – and not always because of the efforts of the musicians themselves.

Count Basie

Start with what worked.  The Basie band has been one of the jazz world’s great ensembles, even over the course of the 26 years since Basie himself passed away.  With the advantage of a great book of music, most of it instantly memorable, and the careful selection of first-rate players, their performances reach well beyond nostalgia into high voltage musical excitement.  Prompted by Bill Hughes at the helm, the band ripped through such classics as “Shiny Stockings,” “Blues In Hoss’ Flat,” “Li’l Darlin’,” and “April in Paris.”  The soloing, especially from trumpeter Scotty Barnhart was first rate.  And vocalist Carmen Bradford – a veteran of nine years with the band when Basie himself was at the keyboard – delivered a pair of dramatic vocals on “Young and Foolish” and “My Shining Hour.”

Dave Douglas

The opening bands didn’t fare quite as well.  The Douglas band, as it turned out, was a kind of hybrid.  The compositions were by trumpeter Douglas and he served as front man and principal soloist.  But the arrangements and the piano work were by Jim McNeely – who was initially introduced as the “Featured Artist.”  In addition, the band included a mixture of players, some from the East Coast some from L.A., including tenor saxophonist, Bob Sheppard, who provided some of the set’s best soloing.  Although the music was delivered in efficient fashion, neither the compositions nor the charts possessed any particularly memorable qualities.  The sole exception was titled “The Persistence of Memory” – presumably inspired by Salvador Dali’s famous painting, but unmentioned by Douglas in his introduction.  Its most appealing aspect, however, was the resemblance it bore to Gil Evans’ arranging style, with Douglas sounding especially Miles Davis-like in his soloing.

Dave Holland

Holland’s big band offered a group of generally well-crafted charts, played with a unified feeling heightened by crisp, well-articulated ensemble passages.  Add to that some first rate soloing, especially from tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart and Holland himself.

But despite their willingness to occasionally reach into daunting contemporary dissonance and brief collective improvising, there were few extraordinary moments in the performances by either the Douglas or the Holland East Coast-based bands.  How much more intriguing might it have been to have had one of the unique Southland-based big bands on stage instead: the Bill Holman Orchestra, to suggest an obvious possibility?

It’s also worth mentioning that the Bowl’s dreaded BBAP (Big Band Audio Problem) once again reared its head.  The BBAP seems to be generated by the failure to realize that big jazz bands are horn ensembles.  Over-amplifying bass, drums, keyboards and guitars may be essential to contemporary rock and pop performances, but it completely distorts the natural sound of a big jazz band.  One egregious example: the guitar (played properly by Will Matthews) in the Basie band should have had an almost subliminal quality, blending intimately with the bass, supporting the piano comments (remember, Count Basie was the founder of this band).  But in this performance, the guitar strums often matched the level of the four trumpet section.

Listening to this out of balance reproduction, I  couldn’t help but wonder how Gustavo Dudamel would feel about having the contrabasses in the Philharmonic consistently sounding louder in the audio mix than the violins.


Quotations of the Week: Descartes, Voltaire and more…

July 28, 2010

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“To do is to be…”

-   Descartes

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“To be is to do…”

-   Voltaire

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“Do be do be do…”

- Sinatra

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Live Jazz: Louis Prima Gets His Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

July 27, 2010

By Devon Wendell

Musical Renaissance man Louis Prima would have turned 100 this year, and maybe that’s why he finally received his star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Sunday July 25, 2010, in front of The Montalban Theater in Hollywood, some 32 years after his death.

Prima’s incredible legacy began in the 1930’s when he headed to New York City from his New Orleans home, and soon landed a contract for his band to play on CBS radio twice a week. His “Swing, Swing Swing” was a major hit for Benny Goodman in the ‘30s.  Later, his own twenty two piece orchestra delivered such top selling tunes as “Angelina,” “Please No Squeeza Da Banana” and “Josephina.”  And in the ‘50s, with partner (and then wife) Keely Smith, backed by Sam Butera and the Witnesses, Prima produced such chart topping, Vegas-era hits as “Jump, Jive, Wail,” “Just A Gigolo” and “That Old Black Magic.”  Prima started his own record company, Prima Magna Groove, in 1963, and his smoky voice and tender wit was added to such children’s films as The Jungle Book, and The Rescuers.  Prima’s signature smooth vocals, and his limited but effective trumpet stylings, have made him one of the music world’s most unique and memorable entertainers.

But at times, the event Sunday seemed to have more to do with the 50th anniversary of The Hollywood Walk Of Fame than it did with Prima, the honoree.  Los Angeles City councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge, along with Sam Smith of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, led the ceremony, which inexplicably kicked off with an Aztec drum ritual of fire and dance. Thankfully, the star of the ceremony finally became Prima’s son, Louis Prima, Jr.

Louis Prima Jr. and his band

After receiving the star for their father with his sister Lena, Prima Jr. performed a short set of his father’s classics, opening with “Jump, Jive, Wail.”  Although many of Louis’s stage antics and mannerisms mimicked those of his father’s, the band had a loud and progressively unique sound — loud being the operative word, meaning that much of the subtle nuances of the original music got lost in the shuffle.  The horn section, consisting of trombonist Phil Clevinger, trumpeter Ted Schumaker, and tenor saxophonist, Marco Palos, were the standout members of the band. This was especially evident on “Angelina Buona Sera.”

Singing with Prima, Jr., Sarah Spiegal may have looked and dressed the part of Keely Smith, but sadly she lacked the vocal skills and charismatic stage presence. Her voice was often off key and brash, especially when paired up with Prima Jr.’s soft, laid back sound, disrupting the easy swing of “Old Black Magic.” Fortunately, the resemblance between father and son was especially apparent on the group’s reading of “Just A Gigolo,” with some energetic young swing dancers stimulating the enthusiastic fans to move along in rhythm.  Sister Lena Prima did a duet with her brother on “When the Saings Go Marchin’ In,” and proved to have a stronger voice and more natural stage appeal than Spiegal. Cousin Jimmy Prima’s drumming also stood out, but the rock guitar wailing of Joey Sykes didn’t always fit the compositions.

The energy of Prima Jr. and the contemporary Witnesses had the sort of modern and aggressive approach that might have prompted Louis Sr. to give them the old “cut” throat sign at times. That loss of dynamics and subtlety, failing to contrast high energy with soft and low points, was a statement to the understated power of Prima Sr.’s whole generation — gone but not forgotten.

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Before the big ceremony began, I had a brief conversation with Prima Jr. about the significance of the big day:

DW:  How does it feel to have your father honored with a star on the Hollywood walk of fame?

LP,Jr:  We feel very proud and honored. We’ve been working on this for 20 years. Especially with this being my father’s 100th birthday makes it very special.

DW: What were the greatest lessons you learned from your father’s music?

LPJr.: I feel my father had a joyful lesson to teach everyone. He never did a sad or slow song. He believed that life is too short and anything can happen, so music should make you happy and tap your foot. There are enough problems in the world.

DW:  How would you like today’s as well as future generations to remember your father’s legacy?

LPJr.: People tend to narrow down his career to the few years in Vegas and not his years in New Orleans. My father wrote “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and was a viable hit-making entity for decades, maintaining a style that is accessible, good time music. We just found out that — before he took ill — he was in the process of adding three songs and voice-overs for the film The Rescuers.  Then you also have his hits from the ‘60s. Fifty years of influence. He influenced everyone from David Lee Roth to Brian Setzer in the ’80’s and ’90’s. If he were alive today, he’d still be up on stage swinging with that energy. He never looked back, never stopped moving. Louis Prima remains important because he played pretty for the people.   This is a great day.


Picks of the Week: July 26 – August 1

July 26, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- July 27. (Tues.) and 29. (Thurs.) Heroic Beethoven.  A pair of evenings overflowing with the splendor of Beethoven’s boundless imagination.  Pianist David Fray plays the Piano Concerto No. 3.  And Pablo Heras-Casado conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Eroica Symphony No. 3.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 27. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  This week Pisano interacts with the adventurous guitar of Bruce Forman and the ever-dependable bass of Chuck BerghoferVitello’s (818) 769-0905.

Count Basie

- July 28. (Wed.)  Big Band Jazz at the Bowl.  The Count Basie Orchestra, the Dave Holland Big Band and the Dave Douglas Big Band.  Expect a diverse set of perspectives on big band jazz, from the ineffable swing of the Basie players to Holland’s Grammy-winning large ensemble to the outward bound music of Douglas.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 28. (Wed.)  Tina Raymond Trio.  The rising drummer/percussionist performs with guitarist Tim Fischer and bassist Emilio Terranova.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  www.vibratogrilljazz.com.

- July 28. (Wed.)  Ancient Future. The duo of Matthew Monfort, scalloped fretboard guitarist and Mariah Parker, santurist, from the world fusion group Ancient Future, perform selections from three recent albums: Seven Serenades for Scalloped Fretboard Guitar (Monfort); Sangria (Parker); and the re-mastered 30th anniversary edition of Planet Passion (Ancient Future).   The Waterfront Concert Theatre, Marina del Rey.  (310) 448-8900. They also appear at the Fret House in Covina on Sat., July 31.  (626) 339-7020.

- July 28. (Wed.)  Jack Shit.  Blues, country, rock and satire.  Musical entertainment at its extreme.  Click here for a recent iRoM review of a Jack Shit performance.  The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

- July 29. (Thurs.)  The David Angel Saxtet.  Celebrate Sax Liberation Day with the six saxophonists and the sturdy rhythm section of Angel’s entertaining ensemble. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- July 29. (Thurs.) CJSQ. Saxophonist Chuck Johnson and trumpeter James Smith keep the torch burning for swinging, straight-ahead jazz.  Crowne Plaza Hotel.   (310) 642-7500.

Natacha Atlas

- July 29. (Thurs.)  Natacha Atlas.  Belgian-born Atlas has been in the vanguard of world music artists exploring the boundary-less blending of traditional Middle Eastern music with reggae, rock and electronica.  The Skirball Center.  http://www.skirball.org (310) 440-4500.

- July 29. (Thurs.)  Kailash Kher’s Kailasa. Kher is one of the major stars of Indian pop music.  His program will run the gamut of Indian Pop, Rock andBollywood songs.  Twilight Dance at the Santa Monica Pierh (310) 458-8900.

- July 30. (Fri.)  Mon David.  Filipino singer David has been convincingly establishing himself as one of the most unique new male jazz vocalists.  The Culver Club in the Raddison.  (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

- July 30 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.) Sergio Mendes and Morcheeba. Mendes has been bringing Brazilian sounds and rhythm to the world for more than four decades, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.  British rock band Morcheeba is the opening act.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

Strunz & Farah

July 30 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.)  Strunz & Farah.  The two-guitar duo’s fast fingered musical romps seem to get better with every outing.  Click here read a recent iRoM review of Strunz & Farah.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- July 31. (Sat.)  Viver Brasil with Katia Moraes. The premiere of Alafia/Harmony, a celebration of peace, as expressed in the music and dance of the Yoruban community, featuring the dynamic Viver Brasil dancers and the charismatic singing of Moraes. Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

- July 31. (Sat.) Holly Hofmann and Bill Cunliffe.  Hoffman’s flute and Cunliffe’s piano make for an irresistible combination of subtle sounds and driving rhythms.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- July 31. (Sat.)  Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon. Eighties pop-rock hit-maker Benatar teams up with eighties rocksters REO Speedwagon to revisit their hits.  The Greek Theatre. (323) 665-3125.

Judy Wexler

- Aug. 1. (Sun.) Judy Wexler.  Jazz artist Wexler is always a pleasure to hear, with her eclectic musical interests and articulate vocal skills.  This time out she’ll be in a setting that perfectly frames her abilities — a luxurious new downtown music venue, the First and Hope Supper Club

- Aug. 1. (Sun.)  Film: The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi.  The Jazz Bakery’s Movable Feast events feature a film, this time out, celebrating the life and music of Vince Guaraldi, with on-camera appearances by Dave Brubeck, Dick Gregory, Irwin Corey, John Handy and others.   Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax.  Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.   (310) 271-9039.

- Aug. 1. (Sun.)  Gaea Schell. She prefers to describe herself as a jazz pianist who also sings, but the truth is that Schell handles both those hyphenates with plenty of style, imagination and grace.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  .

San Francisco

- July 28. (Wed.) Mingus Amungus. One of the Bay area’s more intriguing groups, celebrating the music of Charles Mingus in music and dance. Yoshi’s San Francisco (415) 655-5600.

- July 30 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.)  Larry Carlton Trio.  Specializing in smooth jazz, blues and crossover, guitarist Carlton has been doing it well for decades.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

John Pizzarelli

- July 30 – Aug. 1. (Fri. – Sun.)  John Pizzarelli. Every time he steps on stage, Pizzarelli’s guitar playing, singing, and whimsical humor affirm the fact that jazz can be as entertaining as it is musically engaging.  Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

New York

- July 27 – 31. (Tues. – Sat.)  Charlie Haden’s Quartet West.  Bassist Haden celebrates the 25th Anniversary of his Quartet West ensemble with the current personnel — Ravi Coltrane, Alan Broadbent and Rodney Green. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- July 27 – Aug. 1 (Tues. – Sun.)  Earl Klugh.  The Grammy-winning guitarist continues to bring life and imagination to the smooth jazz and crossover genres.The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- July 27 – Aug. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Marcus Roberts Trio. Backed by Jason Marsalis and Rodney Jordan, Roberts moonlights from his professorial duties at Florida State University with performances that are virtual living displays of jazz piano history.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9595.

- July 29. (Thurs.)  Sarah McLachlan.  Jet Blue customers traveling through Terminal 5 at New York’s JFK airport on Thurs., July 29 will enjoy a free, live show, post-security in the Marketplace, celebrating singer/songwriter McLachlan’s new album Laws of Illusion.   Information click here.

Joanne Brackeen

- July 29 – Aug. 1. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Joanne Brackeen Quartet.  Veteran pianist/composer Brackeen displays her dynamic improvisational style backed by the sterling playing of Mark Turner, Ugonna Okegwo and Johnathan Blake Jazz Standard. (212) 576-2232.

- July 29 – Aug. 1.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Larry Coryell Power Trio.  Coryell, who can do almost anything he wants to with a guitar, cranks up the power, assisted by the equally electrifying playing of bassist Victor Bailey and either Lenny White or Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.  Iridium.   (212)  582-2121.


Live Rock: Jackson Browne and David Lindley at the Greek Theatre

July 25, 2010

By Mike Finkelstein

A quick glance at the billing of David Lindley opening up for Jackson Browne Friday night at the sold out Greek Theater couldn’t help but make fans eagerly anticipate the two sharing the stage at some point.   After all, Lindley had been a member of Browne’s band and a key player in the signature sound of Browne’s most iconic songs for most of the ‘70’s.   The Greek, major venue that it is, always seems to offer an intimate vibe, and pairing these two engaging and accessible personalities set the table for a very memorable and satisfying show.

One of the most successful singer/songwriters ever, Jackson Browne is a very impressive cat both artistically and now, physically.   Time has been good to him.   When he walked onstage with his band you had to remind yourself that the man is coming up on 62 years of age, because he has the same gait and physical presence he had perhaps 30 years ago.  Clad in various hues of black he and the band wove their way through a set that delivered standards like “Rock Me On The Water,” “Doctor My Eyes,” and “The Pretender” as well as delving below the surface for songs like “Time the Conqueror” and “Shape of a Heart.”

Jackson Browne (Photo by Craig O'Neal)

The band was seven pieces large and included Kevin McCormick on bass, Mauricio Lewak on drums, Jeffrey Young on keyboards and backing vocals, Mark Goldenberg on guitar, and the angelic voices of Chavonne Stewart and Alethea Mills on backing vocals.  Browne’s songs are full of dynamic shifts and the band shined as they framed one musical mood after another behind him.   Judging from his body language, he clearly relished leading them through the changes.  Mills and Stewart also added a remarkably beautiful sense of dimension to the vocal mix under Browne’s voice.  Goldenberg, assigned to deliver Lindley’s original lap steel lines on his six string electric, had his work cut out for him.   And he did it skillfully, putting his own style into the solos while staying true to the original lines.

Several songs into the show, Lindley walked onstage and sat down on a chair to play some slide.   On “Your Bright Baby Blues” he played a mesmerizing solo on a multi-neck lap steel guitar.   During musical moments like these you could literally feel the audience members’ spirits rising.   Similarly, later in the set the band played and Browne sang a cover of “Mercury Blues,” which was a considerable hit in the early ‘80’s for Lindley and El Rayo X.   The song roared on lap steel like the open throttled engine of the ‘49 Mercury it celebrates.

Though Browne’s songs often deal with the stickiest and most complicated dynamics of relationships, finding one’s direction, and political issues, they are beautifully constructed works.   His lyrics are layered poetically to go progressively deeper.    His musical arrangements feature stylized signature vocals and instrumentation such as Lindley’s lap steel sound.   On Friday, Browne’s songs of emotional torment and angst were delivered with a dynamic musical style that was always true to the lyrics, playing up the core emotion of the moment. On “In The Shape Of A Heart” he told us the metaphorical tale of a doomed, heart-shaped ruby of a relationship that he finally dropped away for good into a fist-sized hole in the wall.  The poignancy of a song like “Too Many Angels,” which elegantly described a home filled with ornamental angels watching the surrounding dysfunctions, was one of several profound moments of both beauty and melancholy. It was Browne’s poised and warm voice that was so soothingly winsome in conveying the heaviness.  Nearly everyone at the Greek seemed to know the words, and had quite likely lived some version of the emotions behind them. Browne sings with grace of the difficult emotions that are so often the raw materials for making great music.

While what is said between songs at a concert is often just filler, Browne’s banter was so engaging, witty and warm that he really did make one forget they were part of a group of thousands.    The topics ranged from plastic waste at the bottom of the ocean to lost love letters.   At one point on Friday, Browne actually responded to a playful request for “Free Bird” by beginning to sing the first stanza of the Lynrd Skynrd tune over his piano.   It sounded nothing like the original and every bit like a new Jackson Browne song. The band appeared ready to run with it and the audience was certainly curious and game, but an enticing tease was all we would hear. Still, his musical delivery is so distinctive that he had us all going.

David Lindley

David Lindley was billed as Friday’s opening act, although he and Browne played both sets together.   He is truly one of a kind, performing in some of the loudest, most gaudy polyester togs known to man.   With his long gray hair, a pair of very long mutton chop sideburns and wearing spectacles, he sat regally on his chair under a lap steel guitar, looking like a psychedelic version of Ben Franklin.   The huge, full sound that he pulls from his many instruments is the bottom foundation of his music.  Lindley has a well-deserved reputation for being able to play beautifully bluesy music on any instrument he gets his hands around.  For his hour-long set he rotated between acoustic lap steel guitar, bouzouki, and oud.  The latter two — Middle Eastern instruments that he simply delights in playing — have attractive and warm middle range timbres that responded beautifully to the hammering and nuanced bends that he used with them.

His set featured songs by Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon and also his own funny tune called “Cat Food Sandwiches,” about dubious backstage cuisine and the beauty of headcheese.  Like Browne, Lindley, too was charming and entertaining between songs.

The sun had been barely setting when the show began with Browne and Lindley warming up their open-tuned instruments.  Three hours later, with a near-full moon rising, both men were still on stage together, wrapping up a great show.

To read more of Mike Finkelstein’s reviews click here.


Quotation of the Week: Michael Jackson (3)

July 23, 2010

‘A little over a year since his premature death, Michael Jackson’s creativity, his thoughtfulness, his sensitivity and his humor are still vital and alive.

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“The meaning of life is contained in every single expression of life.  It is present in the infinity of forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation.”

Michael Jackson

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To read more Michael Jackson Quotations of the Week click here.


Live Jazz: Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Dianne Reeves, John Scofield, Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal at the Hollywood Bowl

July 22, 2010

By Michael Katz

There was a pleasing aura of comfort that emanated over the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night, the result of a group of musicians closely associated with L.A. that turned the sometimes imposing amphitheatre into their own personal living room on a chilly mid-summer’s night. From former L.A. resident and recent director of the Bowl’s jazz program Dianne Reeves, to native Lee Ritenour (celebrating 50 years on the guitar) and Dave Grusin, with enough movie and TV scores to qualify as an honorary native, the performers had a perfect rapport with the audience, who in turn lent them their attention in ways not always evident at L.A.’s largest venue.

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves opened the show with a rousing, blues-tinged “Today Will Be A Good Day,” which featured Romero Lubambo on guitar, showing that his skills go far beyond his native Brazilian rhythms. Though Reeves has been best known for her lush interpretations of standards, especially since her work on the film “Goodbye and Good Luck,” there was nary a jazz standard in the program, and for this night it showed off her versatility with crisp, swinging versions of her own compositions and jazz-tinged versions of classic r&b numbers. Most impressive was an improvised vocalese tango, delivered in sultry fashion, abetted again by Lubambo, as well as a sterling rhythm section with Peter Martin on piano, Reginald Veal on bass and Terreon Gully on drums. Equally stirring was her dramatic reading of the ballad, “Goodbye,” which had the Bowl audience pindrop silent. Reeves used a continual vocalese patter to communicate with the crowd, urging them to join in the chorus on a soulful version of  “Just My Imagination,” and a later nod to Michael Jackson to close the set.

Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin

Taj Mahal

Lee Ritenour led off the second half of the program by introducing the conceptual  6 String Theory highlighted in his latest cd and immediately yielded the stage to bluesmen Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal. With Taj on acoustic guitar and Keb on an understated electric, their vocals took precedence on “Government Cheese” and “Honky Tonk Woman.” Blending in Taj Mahal’s slightly crustier voice, the two had a folksy, roadhouse feel,  reminiscent of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. Taj picked up the harmonica as Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin joined in, backed up by Marvin Lee Davis on bass and Sonny Emory on drums, for a rollicking “Am I Wrong.”

Keb' Mo'

Ritenour featured his jazz chops on the next couple of tunes, starting with “Wes Bound,” his tribute to Wes Montgomery from the album of the same name. Up to this point, pianist Grusin had been lurking in the background, but he took center stage for the beginning of a Jobim medley, soloing beautifully in “Fotografia.” Ritenour then kicked in with “Stone Flower” from his Twist of Jobim CD, which has become a signature piece in his live shows.

John Scofield

John Scofield joined the group for the next three numbers, showing off an astonishing versatility. First he joined Ritenour on a tribute to Les Paul entitled “LP,” the two of them trading riffs with a Nashville accent, ably filled out by Grusin who was now manning a candy apple red electric organ. Next came “Lay It Down”, a rock-funk burner with Scofield and Ritenour bringing the crowd to its feet with one sensational lick after another.  Finally, Ritenour stepped back and let Scofield lead the quartet in another highlight of the evening,  a searingly beautiful version of “My Foolish Heart,” his acid-tinged tones reverberating in heartbreak.

Dave Grusin stepped in next with an equally compelling turn, playing solo piano on “Memphis Stomp,” from his solo piano soundtrack for Sydney Pollack’s film of John Grisham’s The Firm. Grusin combines a classic jazz swing style with his  western roots – fans of his recognize it most memorably in his hit “Mountain Dance” – and his work, particularly in this score, showed off his ability to evoke a sense of place.  You could almost see the backdrop of Grisham’s novels in his performance.

From there the show fell into an easy listening pop-jazz groove, featuring Ritenour and the band in “Getup Standup” and finally “Smoke N’ Mirrors,” which featured a rousing extended percussion solo with some terrific stick work by Sonny Emory. The whole crew, including Dianne Reeves, came back for “Why I Sing The Blues,” with an L.A. down home feel that had the crowd up in the aisles, stamping their approval.

To read Lee Ritenour’s Q & A about the making of  “6 String Theory” click here.

To read more reviews by Michael Katz click here.


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