Quotation of the Week: Jimi Hendrix

April 30, 2011

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“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

-  Jimi Hendrix

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Click HERE to read more Quotations of the Week, including other Jimi Hendrix Quotes.


Live Music: Sue Raney and Alan Broadbent at Vitello’s

April 27, 2011

By Don Heckman

On Monday night at Vitello’s, Sue Raney gave an unofficial seminar in the art of song. A seminar, that is, that illustrated by example, not by textbooks. And the key word was “art.” Because Raney’s remarkable vocal skills were completely at the service of her creatively illuminating interpretations of material from the Great American Songbook — and beyond.

Sue Raney

The performance began impressively with a stunning solo rendering of Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean” by pianist Alan Broadbent, who would provide the sole accompaniment for Raney’s set. Long term musical companions, the near-symbiotic presence of Broadbent’s extraordinary support was immediately established as the launching pad for Raney’s soaring interpretations.

Her first song was the Burke/Van Heusen classic (most famously sung by Bing Crosby), “Aren’t You Glad You’re You.” Done with buoyant, whimsical charm, it immediately defined one of the many aspects of Raney’s story telling skills. A tender version of Dave Frishberg’s “Listen Here,” followed by a jaunty romp through Burnett & Norton’s pre-WW I “Melancholy Baby,” further revealed the breadth of her vocal art.

As did similarly insightful readings of Sherwin & Maschwitz’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square,” Rodgers & Hart’s “He Was Too Good To Me,” Warren & Gordon’s “You’ll Never Know” and David Raksin’s atmospheric theme from “The Bad and the Beautiful.”

Alan Broadbent

The set hit its peak with stunning anthems to Spring — including Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” and Michel Legrand and the Bergmans’ “You Must Believe In Spring.” In the closing vamps, Raney light-heartedly tossed in quotes from other songs about Spring. And, more subtly, Broadbent slyly used the opening phrase from Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring” as an introduction.

What Raney brought to all this memorable material was a stunning mix of craft and dramatic imagination, engagingly expressed via her warm-toned, far ranging voice — all of it combined in a perfectly balanced, utterly compatible musical blend.

I’m not sure how many singers were in the overflow crowd, but I know there were a few. And I’m willing to wager that they came away from Raney’s casual but mesmerizing seminar with some vital ideas about the enhancement of their own vocal art.


Picks of the Week: April 26 – May 1

April 26, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- April. 26. (Tues.)  “The Music of Sonny Rollins.”  Tenor saxophonist Benn Clatworthy takes on the challenging task of exploring the music of a great jazz master.  Expect intriguing results.  With the Chris Colangelo Trio.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

Phil Upchurch

- April 27. (Wed.)  Phil Upchurch Quartet. Master blues and jazz guitarist Upchurch has been the go-to guy for jazz-driven funk, groove and beyond since the 1961 release of his platinum album, You Can’t Sit Down.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- April 27. (Wed.) Gregg Bendian Trio Pianissimo.  Drummer Bendian, pianist Dave Witham and bassist Joel Hamilton get together to explore the adventurous arenas of Bendian’s compositional imagination.  Royal T.   (310) 559-6300.

- April 28. (Thurs.)  Orchestre SurrealElvis Schoenberg (the musical nom de plume for composer Ross Wright), has assembled a large collective of studio musicians to leap the boundaries between jazz, classical, hip hop, funk and beyond. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- April 29. (Fri.)  Norman Brown.  Guitarist/singer Brown invests his smooth jazz style with invigorating traces of Wes Montgomery, George Benson and r & b. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

Bobbi Page

- April 30. (Sat.) Bobbi Page and the Dream St. Band.  Singer Page, guitarist Stan Ayeroff and their talented Dream St. Band are creating some compelling chamber jazz sounds with an unusual instrumentation that includes cello, bassoon, violin, bass, guitar, percussion and Page’s multi-hued voice. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 30. (Sat.) Brian Stokes Mitchell.  He’s starred in everything from Kiss Me Kate to Kiss of the Spider Woman, bringing everything he sings to life with his rich baritone and convincing interpretive style.  Valley Performing Arts Center.   (818) 677-8800.

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Justo Almario

- May 1. (Sun.) Justo Almario Afro-Colombian Ensemble and Tamir Hendelman Trio.  Versatile saxophonist Almario leads an energetically charged journey through the rhythmic pleasures and improvisational inventiveness of Latin jazz.   The eclectic Hendelman, born in Israel, has developed a musical versatility that reaches from his role as Barbra Streisand’s accompanist to his own ever-evolving vision of the imaginative potential of the jazz piano trio.  Almario and Hendelman are featured in the first of 2011’s free Playboy Jazz Festival community concerts.  Beverly Hills Civic Center.  3:30 – 5 p.m.    (310) 450-1173.

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- May 1. (Sun.)  Bill Cantos Duo. Singer/songwriter/pianist Cantos displays some of the fine entries in his growing book of songs. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Angelique Kidjo

- May 1. (Sun.)  Angelique Kidjo.  There’s nothing quite like the Angelique Kidjo experience, nothing like the emotional high she creates whenever she steps on stage.  A small, but utterly irrepressible package of sheer energy, the Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter from Benin matches her dynamism with superb musicality and gripping story-telling powers — whatever language she is singing.  She should be heard — and experienced — at every opportunity.   Luckman Fine Arts Complex.    (323) 343-6600

- May 1. (Sun.)  A Tribute to Billy Higgins.  The first annual KPFK 90.7 Hero Award has chosen the late, great drummer Higgins as its first honoree.  The musical tributes will be offered by a stellar ensemble that includes Charles Lloyd, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Cedar Walton, Gerald Wilson and more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

 Seattle

April 25 & 27. (Tues. & Wed.)  Pinetop Perkins TributeHubert Sumlin and Willie ‘Big Eyes” Smith recall the compelling music of the late blues pianist, who passed away in March at the age of 97.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

 San Francisco

John Scofield

April 29. (Fri.)  John Scofield Solo. Guitarist Scofield, whose versatility seems limitless, performs as a soloist in the resonant, echoing acoustic environment of Grace Cathedarl.  SFJazz Spring Season.    (866) 920-5299.

 New York

- April 26 – May1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Samba Jazz and the Music of JobimDudka Da Fonseca and Helio Alves with special guest Tonino Horta bring an irresistible air of musical authenticity to the linkages between samba, jazz and the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

- April 30. (Sat.) Music of Steve Reich.  The 75th birthday of one of America’s most idiosyncratic composers is celebrated with New York premieres of three recent works, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet.  Performers include the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Kronos Quartet and more.  Carnegie Hall.     (212) 247-7800.

 Washington D.C.

Manhattan Transfer

- April 26 – May 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  Decades together and the singers of Manhattan Transfer continue to surprise, enlighten and thrill their audiences with mesmerizing images of vocal jazz at its best.  Blues Alley.     (202) 337-4141.

 London

- April 27 – 29. (Wed. – Fri.) Eddie Palmieri and the AfroCaribbean Jazz All Stars.  Multiple Grammy-winning pianist Palmieri has been revealing the intimate connections between jazz and Latin music for decades. He appears with his stellar collective for a dynamic three night run. Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

 Paris

- April 26 & 27. (Tues. & Wed.)  Patricia Barber.  Pianist/singer/songwriter Barber has authoritatively established herself as one of the world’s fine jazz cabaret artists.  And what better place for her to display her skills than in the city that virtually invented the cabaret genre.  New Morning.  01 45 23 51 41.


Live Jazz: The Steve Huffsteter Big Band at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

April 25, 2011

By Tony Gieske

Let’s talk about that undermeditated topic, lighting. The lighting at Vibrato’s voluminous listening room, for instance, is without stain and healthy, which is to say clean and well.

Equally clean and well lighted, if you’ll forgive the segue, was the Steve Huffsteter big band, a precision ensemble that played the room last week.

They did not take their cue from the leader, whose trumpet playing was not at all clean and well lighted. On the contrary, his tactic, as he stood quietly in darkness before the gentlemen and lady of the ensemble, was to glitter with intelligence and gleam with subtlety.

Not that he learned that from his first foray into the big time as a member of the Stan Kenton trumpet section, the echoes of which still lurk in various L.A. crannies. He just seems to have it in him to glitter, not that he’s gay.

We’re talking about a guy who also played with the bands of Sy Zentner, Les Brown, Ray Charles, Louis  Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Mike Barone, Kim Richmond, Bill Berry, Benny Carter, Bill Watrous, Bill Holman, Shorty Rogers, Clare Fischer, Bob Florence, Gordon Brisker, Matt Cattingub and Tom Talbert. Quite a learning process.

The sidemen who soloed were not to be disdained by comparison with the maestro, either.

These included the great Doug Webb, Jerry Pinter and Rick Keller on saxophones, whose dueling musketry was rich and urgent — make that trueling. Fine trombone solos came from Andrew Lippman and Les Benedict. Dave Tull, drums, and Chris Conner, bass, kept the going targeted and unobstructed, assisted by the silver-haired D Huffsteter on congas.

“Steamroller” opened the set I caught, and it lived up to its title, which could fortunately not be said for many of the other numbers.”7th Heaven” was a good example, an earthy passage all in 7th chords. The stars on the stand raised it to the skies.

“Backseat 56″ celebrated that funkless decade, the one in which Eisenhower and Miles Davis ruled, with a decidedly 21st century vibe.

Tull, the poor man’s Dave Frishberg, did not favor us with song, but made sure the shape of things that were coming stayed more than accessible.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.


Live Rock: Robert Plant and the Band of Joy at the Greek Theatre

April 24, 2011

By Mike Finkelstein

Once, more than 40 years ago, Robert Plant and John Henry Bonham emerged out of their Band of Joy and into the New Yardbirds, led by a talented upstart studio musician named Jimmy Page. The original Band of Joy was a vehicle for Plant and Bonham to play the music they loved — traditional blues, English folk music and San Francisco vintage hippie music (Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane etc) – as well as they possibly could.  And if critical success was in the cards then so be it.    Plant and Bonham certainly caught Page’s ear and, with their new singer and drummer, the New Yardbirds morphed into the infamous Led Zeppelin.  The rest was truly iconic rock history. Now, some 30 years later, Plant has formed a new Band of Joy.  And in support of their new self titled “LP,” they put on a splendid show Saturday night for a full house at the Greek Theatre.

The new Band of Joy consists of Marco Giovino (percussion), Patty Griffin (vocals and guitar), original member Byron House (electric and acoustic bass), Buddy Miller (guitar, baritone guitar, mandoguitar and vocals) and Darrell Scott (vocals, mandolin, guitar, pedal steel guitar, banjo).   In this band,  Plant has assembled a group that sounds rootsy, bluesy and quite folky as they put their interpretive spin on a set of songs ranging from Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance” to Townes Van Zant’s “Harm’s Swift Way” to Porter Waggoner’s “A Satisfied Mind,” as well as the Led Zeppelin material. The folkier yet very recognizable Led Zeppelin tunes really do lend themselves well to the stripped down/turned down treatments that the Band of Joy thrive on.

Robert Plant

When Robert Plant walks on stage it’s only natural to realize that you are looking at one of the true living legends in rock history.  And Saturday night’s audience knew it well, most of them having grown up listening to Led Zeppelin throughout their formative years.  To look at him, Plant doesn’t give the appearance of one of hard rock/heavy metal’s most vaunted front men. At 62, he remains slender, his hair is still long and he wears a short goatee.   He never has actually looked much the part of a heavy metal deity, per se. Never has he looked like a bad-ass. He is without excessive piercings, tattoos, and all the other frills that go with the genre. His style has always leaned more towards jeans and a boutique shirt.

Of course he did sound the part while at his peak during the Led Zeppelin years.  His voice then was a prototype for fusing sheer power and tender expression. On Saturday, he walked onstage unassumingly with his black shirt out and loose fitting over his jeans.   Many times during the evening, he stood on the backline to deliver background vocals as his band mates carried the tune. At stage front, he had a memorable way of tiptoeing as he danced through the changes like a nomad cutting across a meadow.   Occasionally he would kick the mike stand up, as he did in the old days.  But generally speaking, we were watching a man who has happily reinvented himself over the years, taking things tastefully low key for the long run.

The program for Saturday night relied on several chestnuts from the Zeppelin catalogue, as well as tasteful choices in covers from varied and unlikely sources.   The show opened with a transformed “Black Dog.” The audience recognized the song immediately and when the stops and starts that song is famous for didn’t materialize, they went with it and got into the new groove of that song.   Changing the pace allowed Plant to sing at a more natural pitch, with no need to wail, with room for every sound to breathe and for the words to set in.   “Black Dog” featured tastefully layered droning guitars, extensive tom work on the drums, light use of the cymbals, and a huge sense of open space between all the voices in the mix.   Later in the set, “Houses of the Holy” also received a dramatic but oh, so tasty reworking.   On this song in particular, his voice meshed with the angelic tone of one Patty Griffin to bring out hues in the song previously unheard.

Perhaps the most compelling instrumental voice in transforming the songs was the pedal steel guitar voicings of Darrell Scott.   Every time he came in on pedal steel it took a song up a notch. Led Zeppelin’s recording of  “That’s the Way it Ought to Be,” features Jimmy Page evoking a pedal steel guitar. On Saturday, Band of Joy did a show-stopping version of the tune in which Scott took the torch and ran with it on a real pedal steel guitar.   It was a realization of the sort of music that many LZ fans surely may have wondered about over time. Scott also made beautiful contributions on the banjo, lending an ultra bluesy feel to songs like “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down.” In fact, with all six voices in the band in an eerie low harmonic interval, the song was downright haunting.

Having garnered 5 Grammys in 2009 for his work with Alison Krauss on Raising Sand, the inclusion of their collaboration, “Please Read the Letter,” was obvious.  It is a simply beautiful tune and Plant’s and Griffin’s voices again shimmered together in harmony and in the wide open space Band of Joy provided them.  During the encore, the audience ecstatically received a sparkling version of “Ramble On” and a sparser version of the centuries old folk song “The Gallows Pole,” in which a man asks to be forsaken while hanging on the gallows pole.   Fittingly, the very last entry of the night was a very nearly (save for one guitar) a capella version of the Grateful Dead’s “And We Bid You Goodnight.”

Opening the show were the North Mississippi All Stars — on this evening a two man power house of musicianship represented by brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, sons of the late music legend, producer Jim Dickinson.   They proceeded to switch off between different instruments for each song.  Luther is a born killer on slide guitar and seemed to have a different guitar for each of many open tunings.   He even had what looked to be a custom made mock up of a cigar box guitar like the old time rural blues men used to make for themselves.   Cody spent most of the evening behind the drum set, occasionally coming out to play an amazing guitar duet with his brother.    It should be very interesting to see where these hugely talented guys take their music in the future.

To read more reviews by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


Live Music: Katia Moraes and Sambaguru at Vitello’s

April 23, 2011

By Don Heckman

Any performance by Kátia Moraes and Sambaguru is a gripping tour through the seemingly infinite rhythms and far reaching passions of Brazilian music. And their appearance at Vitello’s Friday night offered all that and more.

Moraes has been one of the Southland’s most dynamic singer/dancers since the ’90s. A frequent star of Carnaval celebrations, her performances sizzle with rhythmic high voltage and soaring melodies. But the work she does with the six piece ensemble Sambaguru takes in a far broader perspective.

Katia Moraes and Sambaguru

In her non-stop set Saturday, the music cruised through a brilliantly kaleidoscopic collection of Latin music. Surprisingly, the only element missing was bossa nova — Brazil’s best known genre, and the staple of most Brazilian ensembles appearing in this country. But no problem. The music, most of it written by Moraes and keyboardist/composer Bill Brendle, along with the intensely rhythmic playing of Sambaguru, provided a colorful, richly succulent musical banquet.

One could make a convincing case for Brazil as the source of some of the most richly diverse musical forms created by any single country in the world. And Moraes and Sambaguru adventured convincingly through many of them — from the sophistication of samba to the African-tinged rhythms of Bahia — and all stops in between.

Although Vitello’s upstairs room had been fitted with a dance floor, Moraes’ frequent calls for members of the audience to try out their samba steps produced no results. Fortunately, she offered a few of her own, recalling the irrepressible dancing she once did with groups such as Viver Brasil Dance Company and the Folk Ballet of Brasil. Too bad she didn’t do more.

Backing Moraes’ fiery, audience-grabbing singing and dancing: special guest Miguel Gandelman, tenor saxophone, bassist Hussain Jiffry, percussionist Kevin Ricard, drummer Tony Shogren and keyboardist Brendle. Together, they created the sort of performance that deserves a far wider hearing. It’s time for the programmers and producers at Disney Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, the Greek Theatre and beyond to check out the utterly mesmerizing music of Kátia Moraes and Sambaguru.


News/Preview: The 54th Monterey Jazz Festival

April 21, 2011

By Michael Katz

This is the time of year when Monterey Jazz Festival diehards pour over the newly released lineup, plotting strategy for seeing as many of the 500 + artists spread over six venues as humanly possible. This year’s 54th Monterey Jazz Festival, September 16-18, promises to be one of the best.

To begin with, the Main Arena schedule is loaded.

Hiromi

Friday night’s show opens with the sublime Japanese pianist Hiromi and her trio, followed by Radio Deluxe guitarist John Pizzarelli’s quartet featuring his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey and his dad Bucky. Anchoring the show will be Poncho Sanchez with special guest, Monterey favorite Terence Blanchard, doing a tribute to Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie. The Grounds venues include Richard Bona and Raul Midon in the first of two appearances, featured artist Robert Glaspar in a piano trio setting, young pianist Helen Sung and Portuguese singer Carmen Souza.

Saturday afternoon is the blues/funk/roots program. Last year Trombone Shorty took over the festival and this year the main stage features “An Afternoon in Treme” with Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Kermit Ruffins, and others, followed by Huey Lewis and the News. If the place is still standing it’ll be back to jazz at night, with a promising slate that begins with pianist Geri Allen and Timeline featuring tap dancer Maurice Chestnut in the commissioned piece, a tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr.

Joshua Redman

Artist –in– Residence Joshua Redman is next with his James Farm group, and Herbie Hancock closes out the show. Meanwhile, on the Grounds stages, you can check out sax greats Donnie McCaslin and Chris Potter, who is playing with bassist Scott Colley, as well as singer Pamela Rose and many others.

Sunday afternoon is devoted to the Next Generation, and a special shout out to local L.A. schools. The L.A. County School for the Arts won the big band competition for the third year in a row and will be performing on the main stage, and also has a vocal ensemble performing on the grounds; Hamilton High has a combo group, Cal State Long Beach and USC both have big bands performing.  The more pop oriented Sunday afternoon stage show features India.Arie and Israeli Idan Raichel on their Open Door Tour.

Bruce Forman

One of the festival highlights is always the late afternoon ensembles at the Garden Stage, which this year feature sax player Tia  Fuller and guitarist Bruce Forman with Cow Bop, a country/jazz/swing group. Singer/pianist Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman on sax perform throughout the festival on the small Yamaha stage.

Sunday night on the main arena begins with a Miles Davis/Gil Evans retrospective, featuring music from Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain and Miles Ahead,  featuring Terence Blanchard, Peter Erskine and Miles Evans.

Sonny Rollins

Many of us in SoCal saw this performance at the Hollywood Bowl two years ago, so our eyes will shift to the Night Club on the grounds, where pianist Benny Green and his trio will team with saxophonist Donald Harrison for a program of Monk Music. The annual B-3 blowout is also taking place in Dizzy’s Den, with Wil Blades opening, followed by Joey DeFrancesco with special guest Bobby Hutcherson.  Pianist Eldar is at the more intimate Coffee House.  The one and only Sonny Rollins closes things out on the main stage.

Exhaustion follows, but at that point, who cares?

Joshua Redman photo by Tony Gieske.


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