Picks of the Week: Jan. 30 – Feb. 3

January 31, 2013

By the iRoM Staff

Los Angeles

Don Williams

Don Williams

- Jan. 31. (Thurs.) The Don Williams Group.  Percussionist Williams, a busy studio musician (not the country singer), takes a break to lead an all-star collective featuring saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Carl Saunders, trombonist Bill Reichenbach, pianist Christian Jacob and bassist Dave StoneVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 31. (Thurs.) The Miro Quartet.  The award-winning Miro quartet performs a program dedicated to three far-ranging Beethoven string quartets: Op. 18, , Op. 95 and Op. 131.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

- Jan. 31. (Thurs.) Frank Petrilli.  A protégé of the late jazz accordionist Frank Marocco, Petrilli also emphasizes the rich musical potential of an instrument not always appreciated for what it can do.  He’s backed by guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Enzo TedescoVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  Stanley Jordan Trio.  One of the true jazz guitar innovators, Jordan has spent a great deal of time as a solo performer, emphasizing his tapping technique.  But here he performs in a more musically diverse trio setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis

- Feb. 2. (Sat.) An Evening with Branford Marsalis. One of the high visibility members of the high achieving Marsalis family of New Orleans, saxophonist Marsalis makes a rare Southland appearance, backed by pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin FaulknerThe Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

San Francisco

- Feb. 3. (Sun.)  Vieux Farka Toure.  The son of the great Malian guitarist/singer Ali Farka Toure, the younger Toure continues to carry the torch for a contemporary blend of blues, funk, rock and traditional rhythms.  Also on the bill, American blues artist Markus JamesYoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

Seattle

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 3. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dr. John and his All-New Band.  There’s never a boring moment when Dr. John leads his new band in a definitive display of the rich, rhythmic gumbo of New Orleans music at its best.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 2. (Thurs. – Sat.)  John Pizzarelli Quartet. Always engaging, guitarist/singer Pizzarelli has done a convincing job of following in the footsteps of such iconic artists as Nat “King” Cole, George Benson and others, while maintaining his own appealing style.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 2. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Patricia Barber Quartet. Pianist/songwriter Barber has thoroughly established herself as one of the jazz world’s rare singer/songwriters. Click HERE to read a current iRoM review of Patricia Barber’s new CD, Smash.   Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Feb. 1. (Fri.) Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with the Wayne Shorter Quartet.  A classic evening of far-ranging music, one of many scheduled in various parts of the world to celebrate Shorter’s 80th birthday in August.  The program features three Shorter original works, along with Beethoven’s Overture: Creatures of Prometheus, and Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 3.  Carnegie Hall.  (212) 247-7800.

Berlin

Lily Dahab

Lily Dahab

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 1  (Thurs. – Fri.)  Lily Dahab.  Argentine singer Dahab has lived in Berlin, Madrid and Barcelona.  Along the way, she performed as a jazz singer and a musical theatre artist, defining one of contemporary world music’s most uniquely interpretive styles. A-Trane.    030/313/25 50.


CD Review: Patricia Barber’s “Smash”

January 30, 2013

 Patricia Barber

Smash (Concord Music)

By Brian Arsenault

I have a friend who says all great novels begin with a great first sentence.  If so, then perhaps all great albums begin with a great first song.

This one does. “Code Cool” is one of those jazz road markers that should be recorded by generations of singers.  It belongs in the American Songbook as do others on this album. “Spring Song” and “The Swim” especially.

Perhaps all that need be said about “Code Cool” is its closing refrain; “I will live as if I were loving.” So should we all. And what piano work as well.

“The Swim” is a love song that begins with a break up . . . “let’s lie the next time.” Unique, original. Like a Chekhov story about people who somehow can’t connect. There are deep waters here.

Patricia Barber

Patricia Barber

Barber’s is an original voice within an original voice.  That is to say her singing voice is like no one else’s and she composes, plays piano and sings tales that are so strongly her own, unique while still being connected to American jazz traditions.

That seems like artistry to me.

On “Spring Song” Larry Kohut’s bass matches the pathos of the lyrics and when her piano works with him they are briefly lovers.

Barber says she’s a songwriter, not a poet, but writers say a lot of foolish things about their own work. I don’t want to use canned catchwords about her lyrics like “intelligent” or “sophisticated” so I’ll just say that if the following stanzas aren’t poetry, they’ll do until a poem comes along:

“Afternoon

the unseen

the gentle lover calls

but softly on the wind

and softly evening falls. “

“counting back

tea for two minus one

begets me though alone . . .”

The album throughout leaves me with a sweet sadness, rather like life itself. It’s said on the publicity sheet that Barber’s songs are a long way from “The Man I Love,” maybe so because she’s gay. But I don’t find that the longing in “Missing,” the yearning for someone strong to comfort the singer, is all that distant. A longing that transcends the seasons:

” i’ll stay up

i won’t sleep

till you call.”

Cole Porter was also gay but he gave us lots of songs about romantic love that don’t exclude hetero or homo. Like Barber, he went deeper into the human experience. Great art is like that.

“Devil’s Food” is about sexual confusion way beyond “Lola”  — “girl in blue, boy in pink” — but hints at a man-woman connection right along side “boy meets boy, girl meets girl”. The point seems obvious in a way, don’t disparage anyone’s love, it’s hard enough as it is to make it work.

The rest of Barber’s band — Jon Deitemyer on drums and John Kregor on guitars — is as strong as Kohut’s bass and Barber’s own piano playing. Kregor can play delicate acoustic as he does on “Missing” and blast some rock riffs on “Smash.”  Deitemyer is strong throughout.

And, oh yeah, one more song mention. “Romanesque” is 140 seconds of crystallized beauty. To me, it defines Barber’s work on this album:

“So gossamer and thin these pale and delicate dreams.”

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To read more reviews, posts and columns from Brian Arsenault click HERE


Live Music: The New West Symphony at Barnum Hall

January 29, 2013

By Don Heckman

Santa Monica, CA.  The New West Symphony may not be the highest visibility orchestra in the Southland.  But they’re rapidly becoming one of the most intriguing music presenters, with programs performed in Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica.  And the NWS performance at Barnum Hall Sunday night was an impressive example of the creative range of this stellar ensemble.

Norman Krieger

Norman Krieger

The program, the third in the New West Symphony’s 2012/13 Masterpiece Series,  was devoted to a pair of works.  The initial one, George Gershwin’s Concerto in F Major for Piano and Orchestra, showcased the piano soloing of Norman Krieger.  Given Gershwin’s involvement with the emerging jazz scene of the ‘20s when he wrote the F Major Concerto, the work demands a performance in which orchestra and soloist come together with the sort of rhythmic jazz accents that Gershwin clearly seems to have intended.

To their credit, Krieger and the NW S, largely – although not always – did precisely that.  Despite its occasionally uneven aspects, however, the Gershwin piece was an appropriate choice, a musical vision of America in the ‘20s, and the perfect lead-in to the highlight composition of the evening, Visions of America: A Photo-Symphony.

Roger Kellaway and Joseph Sohm

Roger Kellaway and Joseph Sohm

What, you might ask, is a “Photo-Symphony?”  A mixed-media musical event of some sort is the first description that comes to mind.  And the media was indeed mixed, based upon the images and personal reminiscences of photographer Joseph Sohm, read as a voice-over by Clint Eastwood, combined with a symphonic score by pianist/composer Roger Kellaway, and highlighted in five memorable songs by the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the melodies of Kellaway.  All of it held together by Sohm’s far-ranging imagery, first published as a book, underscoring a thematic vision of American life – from small towns and family snapshots to epic photos of America in the splendor of its great cities and its memorable landscapes.

Marcelo Lehninger

Marcelo Lehninger

The work was performed by the New World Symphony under the baton of its new (as of May 2012) conductor, Marcelo Lehninger, with Kellaway playing piano, and songs delivered by singers Judith Hill and Steve Tyrell, backed by the lush harmonies of the New West Symphony Chorus.

There’s no denying the multi-layered emotional appeal of Sohm’s visual images, which succeeded admirably in accomplishing his desire to “photograph an idea (i.e., democracy).” The narrative, however, despite the familiar timbres of Eastwood’s voice, was at its best in its efforts to illuminate the words and philosophic thoughts of the founders, less intriguing when it veered into personal recollections.

But ultimately it was Kellaway’s score, his songs with the Bergmans, the focused conducting of Lehninger, and the warm expressiveness of the NWS players that brought Visions of America vividly to life.  Like Gershwin, Kellaway balances significant jazz credentials with a far-reaching orchestral vision.  And I’d wager that his score – performed with or without the mixed media, photographic imagery – will receive many performances as an impressive contemporary work, beautifully tinged with the jazz elements of the Bergman/Kellaway songs.

The concert concluded, there was still more to come in this immensely entertaining evening.  Following the orchestral performance, many in the audience gathered at the nearby Sheraton-Delfina Hotel for a Gala honoring the Bergmans in the form of a celebratory fund-raising auction and performance.

Marilyn and Alan Bergman

Marilyn and Alan Bergman

The auction, humorously and successfully led by KNBC-TV weathercaster Fritz Coleman, was followed by a brief music segment.  Alan Bergman sang a deeply intimate, utterly captivating version of his (and Marilyn’s and Michel Legrand’s) “Windmills of Your Mind” followed by a poignant “The Way We Were.”  Tyrell added a jaunty rendering of the Bergman’s classic for Frank Sinatra, “Nice and Easy.”  And Kellaway sang “I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before,” written with the Bergmans.

It was the perfect ending to a memorable evening of music, imagery and song.  The sort of imaginative musical experience that characterizes the offerings of the New West Symphony.  Expect to hear much more as the NWS Masterpiece series continues to unfold into 2013.

 


Video of the Day: The Perpetuum Jazzile Choir Sings “Wave”

January 26, 2013

The Perpetuum Jazzile Choir from Slovenia is a superb ensemble of young singers whose repertoire reaches from jazz, pop and Swing to bossa nova, funk and gospel.  They’ve toured Europe, Canada and the U.S., performing the music of Jobim, the Beatles, Van Halen, Lady Gaga and beyond, usually done in rich a cappella harmonies and rhythms –- and always with striking musical authenticity.  Here they perform Jobim’s “Wave.”

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Thanks to Roger Crane for turning us on to this remarkable musical collective.  To see and hear more videos by Perpetuum Jazille click HERE.


Live Jazz: The Monterey Jazz Festival All Stars at the Valley Performing Arts Center

January 25, 2013

By Michael Katz

Northridge, CA.  There were lots of good vibes, not to mention some friendly apparitions, circulating through the Valley Performing Arts Center Wednesday night, as the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars brought their tour to the campus of Cal State Northridge. The sextet, which had closed the curtain on the 55th MJF last September, featured vocalist  Dee Dee Bridgewater, the world class rhythm section of Benny Green, Lewis Nash and musical director Christian McBride, and a front line of Chris Potter on tenor sax and young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.

As they did at Monterey, Dee Dee Bridgewater and McBride opened with a duet, this time Billie Holiday’s “My Mother’s Son-In-Law.” Bridgewater lithely covered McBride’s fingerings, giving the song an intimate, conversational feel that invited the audience into the performance.  Throughout the evening the group would split into various permutations – duets, trios, a stunning piano solo to open the second set by Green – as they explored the many nuances of improvisational music.

Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lewis Nash, Benny Green, Ambrose Akinmusire

Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lewis Nash, Benny Green, Ambrose Akinmusire

In a “Super Group”  of this sort, you never know who will stand out on any given night, and on this evening it seemed Benny Green was charged up right from the start.  His work on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Tanga,” the group’s first trio presentation, was inspired.  He subtly shifted tempos, his right hand dancing over the keyboard, while across the stage Lewis Nash was pulsating with sticks and brushes.  As for McBride, we sometimes forget, for all his versatility, what a terrific trio anchor he is, and he would turn the format on its ear later in the evening.

Chris Potter and Ambrose Akinmusire provided robust counterpoints for the group,  giving Bridgewater some added oomph (not that she needed much) on “All of Me” and Horace Silver’s “Filthy McNasty.” Potter, who can reach out to the edges of Coltrane-inspired territory, stayed mostly straight ahead with this group. Akinmusire, the ascending star who was the MJF Artist-In-Residence in 2012, provided some spirited riffs, and teamed with Potter on his haunting composition “Henya” in the second set.  The trumpeter had some terrific soloing as the concert progressed, but it would have been nice to see him take command of another  tune on his own, whether a more familiar ballad or a hard charger, just to give the audience a taste of his potential as a leader.

As readers of this space know, I think Dee Dee Bridgewater is on the short, short list of the best vocalists around. Last night she did a lovely version of Thad Jones’s “A Child Is Born,” softly modulating the rarely heard lyrics, with the trio backing her up in spare accompaniment. Later, in the second set, she reached for the opposite end of the spectrum, interpreting “God Bless The Child” with a gospel verve that would have made Aretha Franklin or Mavis Staples proud.  The audience, which had a substantial and appreciative segment of CSUN students, (many of them no doubt from their award winning big band) was on its feet.

Benny Green, as noted earlier, walked out alone to start the second set. He set up his extended solo with the chords of “The Man I Love,” and dived into an improvisational mode, tossing in quotes from “I Can’t Get Started,”  among others, gathering steam and moving to a crescendo before pulling back for the denouement and gently bowing out.

I mentioned a couple of apparitions. The first would be the late, great bassist Ray Brown, whose wife, Cecelia, was in the audience.  The rhythm trio has all played with Brown and their adoration was evident. On “East of The Sun, West of the Moon,” Christian McBride took the main line on the bass, his notes clear, crisp and swinging. He segued from melody to improvisation, setting the stage for more great stick work behind him from Lewis Nash.  In a night full of highlights, the virtuosity of McBride and the trio was a delight.

The other apparition was the recently departed Dave Brubeck, who meant so much to everyone at the Monterey Jazz Festival. After blazing through Horace Silver’s “Filthy McNasty” to nominally close the show, the group reassembled and chose one of Brubeck’s less familiar tunes,  “Mr. Broadway.” It was a perfect choice to honor his memory, one that avoided the trap of mimicking “Take Five” or “Blue Rondo.” It provided a swinging framework for the front line to go out charging – I thought Akinmusire’s trumpet solo was one of his best moments of the evening. And Dee Dee Bridgewater provided some tender vocalizing, slipping into the lines of “Take Five” at the end, a perfect coda to the performance.

As difficult as it is to transfer the ambience and spirit of the Monterey Jazz Festival to another performance venue, the MJF All Stars managed to do it.

Now, only eight more months to MJF 56.

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To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


Live Jazz: The Mike Lang Trio at Catalina Bar & Grill

January 24, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s easy to take many musicians for granted.  The musicians, that is, who create the infinite array of melodies, textures and rhythms that are the soundtrack of daily life.  On television and film screens, Muzak, iTunes, videogame music tracks, favorite CD collections, and so on.

“Studio musicians,” they’re called, usually with a minimizing tone of voice.  But the fact is that Los Angeles film and music studios are filled with players who possess amazingly far-ranging skills.  Including many who are fully adept at music of every genre and style, who bring imagination and authenticity to whatever is demanded of them.  And many more with impressive jazz skills.

Musicians such as pianist Mike Lang.  With credits reaching from Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald to Milt Jackson, Lee Konitz, Barbra Streisand and beyond, with performances in more than 2000 film scores, Lang has never lost touch with the jazz roots that reach back to award-winning performances while he was still in college.

Mike Lang and Alex Frank

Mike Lang and Alex Frank

Last night at Catalina Bar & Grill, Lang worked in the intimate setting of a piano jazz trio, backed by the subtly interactive playing of bassist Alex Frank and drummer Jim Keltner.  And as the evening’s music began to flow, Lang’s stylistic diversity and richly inventive imagination took over, fully revealing the creative qualities that have made him a first call pianist for many of the iconic jazz figures of the past five decades.

The first selections reached into the classic jazz songbook – first with Henry Mancini’s “Days of Wine and Roses,” then Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sun Flower,” followed by a linkage of three tunes — Bill Evans’ “Peace Piece,” Miles Davis’ (with Evans) “Flamenco Sketches” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time.” Lang’s touch was perfect for each, finding the lyricism of the Mancini song, the jaunty qualities of “Little Sunflower,” the floating, Erik Satie memories of “Peace Piece,” the modalities of “Flamenco Sketches” and the poignancy of “Some Other Time.”

The rest of the hour and a half set explored further: the improvisational challenges of a pair of John Coltrane works – “Naima” and “Moment’s Notice,” and a take on “Georgia On My Mind” recalling the soulfulness of Ray Charles.  Add to that several originals by Lang, all memorable, especially his “A Rural State of Mind,” which sounded very much like a song ready for lyrics.

Lang managed to make the most of a piano with a few jangling strings, especially in mid-range, that often distorted some of the rich harmonic clusters in his chordal vocabulary.  But, with the sterling aid of Frank and Keltner, he led the trio beyond the occasional warped sounds, into an engaging evening of prime piano trio jazz.

Mike Lang may well be back in the studio today, invigorating the music track for yet another new film.  But the imaginative jazz skills that are at the heart of his music will still be stirring, ready for the next opportunity to be displayed in their full expressiveness.

Photo by Faith Frenz.

To see more photos and reviews by Faith Frenz click HERE. 


Jazz CD Review: Emy Tseng’s “Sonho”

January 23, 2013

Emy Tseng

 Sonho (Self Produced)

 By Brian Arsenault

If the reality of burgeoning world music can be encapsulated in a single individual, I submit in nomination Emy Tseng.  Taiwanese born, raised in the American Midwest, Ivy League educated (she appears to have overcome it) singing Brazilian jazz, in Portuguese of course, with a couple of American jazz standards thrown in for good measure. (More about that later.)

Her debut album Sonho, Portuguese for Dream, is just that in places.  Dreamlike. There’s the very first tune, “Aquelas Coisas Todas” (“All Those Things”); Brazilian dreams: beaches, beauties, beverages, bistros, bossa nova.  Brazil has a myth, a legend, a romantic sense of passion and languor that Tseng acquired in Greenwich Village and honed in the Washington D.C. Brazilian music scene.

Emy Tseng

Emy Tseng

Don‘t sneer. The legend, the essence, is often sensed most strongly by those who know first  only the myth. But Emy Tseng is real. A remarkably clear voice. An adept student working hard at her craft. More than that, a gifted artist starting on a long path.

You don’t have to know the language to hear the allure in “Berimbau” with her sultry voice playing off Andy Connell’s soprano sax. (More about this guy later.) And if “Berimbau” flirts, Caetano Veloso’s “Coração Vagabundo” seduces. Again a dream: It’s deep dusk and a few dancers move smoothly on the floor. Andy Connell’s clarinet doesn’t accompany, it sings with her.

You see, I don’t know Portuguese. Like a lot of gringo Americans I have a passing acquaintance with English, some street slang, and little else. So I have to respond to the music and her voice as instrument.

Except in a few places.  “California Dreamin’” is a surprise – yes, the Mamas and Papas song — but it fits because she does it as melancholy and mournful and gives it a greater depth than a cold, broke hippy. Another dream.  Matvei Sigalov, an acoustic guitarist, plays wonderfully here and elsewhere on the album.

There’s her marvelous closing rendition of the classic jazz standard, “Close Your Eyes,” where she is accompanied only by David Jernigan’s wondrous acoustic bass. What’s created are spaces, silences between the notes of the two that would please even those discerning guys at ECM. Did I close my eyes? Yeah, for a moment, to hear those most comforting words  “I’ll be here by your side” in pure tones. Delicious.

On another standard that has become a jazz classic, “I Thought About You,” I thought about Emy doing a big piece of the Great American Songbook on a future album. Johnny Mercer songs, Cole Porter songs, Gershwin maybe.  It wouldn’t be better than her Brazilian jazz but, I think it might be very good indeed.

Still, she needn’t stray far from Brazil.  “Na Beira do Rio” shows how that distinctive Brazilian style of rhythm and melody can heighten emotional content with a singer who feels it. Sigalov again helps entrance us.

But the guy who really knocks me out on the album is the previously mentioned Andy Connell, who puts in two distinctive performances on clarinet and two more on soprano sax.

The clarinet is such a terrific instrument to listen to, but it’s often pushed aside, it seems, by our obsession with brass.  I have it too.  It’s, well, it’s brassy, commanding attention. But the clarinet floats on high and rides the wind when played by a guy this good. Similarly, the soprano sax seems often neglected for its larger siblings but is equally evocative.

Tseng, in the best jazz tradition, lets Connell and the others be showcased strongly, often as equals on songs.

If you’re like me, you tend to like your music “from the street” and to be a little suspicious about too much of an academic music background for rock or jazz. Hell, Tseng’s academic credentials even include a degree in Math. Yet the mistrust of learning and over-reliance on “street cred” can be distinctly anti-intellectual. A formal quality education in music also has the potential to expand creativity, not diminish it.

Emy Tseng will prove that, I think.

To read more posts, columns and reviews by Brian Arsenault click HERE.  


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