Live Jazz: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center.

March 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have been making regular appearances in the Southland for the past few years. And it’s always a musical delight to hear this stellar assemblage of jazz artists in action. On Sunday night they took the stage at the acoustically accurate environment of the Valley Performing Arts Center, once again reminding us of the great music that exists in the nearly century-old repertoire of big jazz bands.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

Marsalis’ carefully planned programming reached from Duke Ellington to Count Basie, while making additional stops at the efforts of Benny Carter, Henry Mancini, Gerald Wilson and Charles Mingus. The results were extraordinary.

I’m tempted to name (and praise) the impressive soloists who stepped into the spotlight. But the fact is that virtually every member of the JLCO displayed world-class improvisational skills. Suffice to say that the combination of extraordinary ensemble playing, blended with superb individual artistry, led by Marsalis’ deep historical overview (which he offered between numbers) of the creative potential of the big jazz band, resulted in an incomparable evening of music.

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

And the thought that kept surfacing throughout the memorable two hour program was the JLCO’s far ranging capacity to remind us of the big bands’ historical role as the symphony orchestra of American music. Evolving over the decades from the ’20s to the present, the big bands have provided one composer/arranger after another with the instrumentation to express musical creativity comparable to the work of European symphonic composers.

In the hands of jazz artists such as Marsalis and the gifted members of the JLCO, performing some of the great, jazz-oriented big band works of the 20th century, the music left little to be desired. Add to that the opportunity to compare the big band works of such iconic composers as Ellington, Mingus, Carter and Wilson, among numerous others.

And the result, in this extraordinary performance, was a musical night to remember – a beautifully articulated, inventively played display of big band jazz at its finest.


Live Jazz: The Gerald Wilson Big Band at Catalina Bar & Grill

March 14, 2014

(Editor’s note)  Jazz critic, author and historian Scott Yanow joins the International Review of Music reviewing staff with this characteristically thoughtful commentary.  We look forward to more posts and essays from Scott’s thoughtful perspective.

By Scott Yanow

Gerald Wilson probably does not know it but he is the last survivor. The 95-year old bandleader-arranger-composer first recorded in 1939 when he was a 20-year old trumpeter with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Although a few other living performers preceded him onto records (including singer Herb Jeffries who is now 100, violinist Svend Asmussen and singer Kay Starr), they have all retired. Wilson stands alone as the only active jazz musician to have recorded before 1940. He outlasted everyone else.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

At Catalina Bar & Grill, Wilson led his 17-piece orchestra through a long set of his arrangements. While Gerald Wilson’s recounting of his familiar stories to the audience found him occasionally forgetting names and details, he looked pretty healthy and, amazingly enough for someone in his mid-nineties, he did not sit down once during the entire two-hour set.

Inspired by his presence, Wilson’s big band played at their very best throughout the night. “Blues For The Count” had many solos including one from violinist Yvette Devereaux, who always adds a lot to the band’s power and ensemble sound.

Carl Saunders

“Blues For Yna Yna” included four choruses full of musical miracles from trumpeter Carl Saunders (who consistently plays the impossible flawlessly), and some enjoyable Stanley Turrentine moments from the soulful tenor-saxophonist Louis Van Taylor. Taylor and altoist Randall Willis starred on “Perdido” while many soloists (including the fine high note trumpeter Winston Byrd) were featured on a driving “Milestones.” John Coltrane’s “Equinox” was intense and had strong spots for Devereaux and tenor-saxophonist Kamasi Washington.  Other selections including “Viva Tirado,” the majestic “Carlos” (with Carl Saunders in the spotlight), and a closing medium-tempo blues.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

Throughout the night, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra was inspired. Kamasi Washington on tenor was consistently fiery and inventive, creating his own version of sheets of sound. The trumpet section, led by Winston Byrd’s stratospheric notes, never let up, the trombonists (with Les Benedict often having the solos) had a unified sound, and the rhythm section, which included Wilson’s long-time pianist Brian O’Rourke, kept the music swinging.

Gerald Wilson’s last few recordings have found him leading an all-star group of East Coasters through some of his classic charts, but he should really document his real band, particularly after this recent performance. They kept him smiling and youthful for the full two hours.

* * * * * * * *

Scott Yanow (www.scottyanow.com) is the author of 11 books on jazz and over 750 liner notes. He can be reached at scottyanowjazz@yahoo.com.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 18 – 23

February 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Brenna Whitaker

- Feb. 19. (Wed.) Brenna Whitaker. She’s a blonde beauty with a voice to remember. Michael Buble has called Whitaker “one of the finest singers of our generation. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.) ”TchaikovskyFest.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic celebrates Tchaikovsky with performances of his chamber music, as well as his Symphonies #1 and #6. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

- Feb. 20 – 23. (Thurs, – Sun.) Steve Tyrell. He’s back at Catalina’s again for another long weekend. So don’t miss this opportunity to experience Tyrell’s warm, interpretive, gently swinging way with the Great American Songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Feb. 22. (Sat.) Bob McChesney Quartet. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400. The Southland bandleaders’ first choice for their trombone section. McChesney is not just a master of his instrument, he also brings rich musical depths to everything he plays. Here, he’s out front, leading his own band. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 23. (Sun.) Angela Parrish. Singer, songwriter and pianist Parrish showcases her engaging collection of original songs. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 23. (Sun.) “Guitar Passions.,” Call this a great evening of guitar mastery in a variety of appealing styles. Start with the classical guitar of Sharon Isbin, followed by her guests – Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo and the finger tapping stylings of Stanley Jordan. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

San Francisco

Bobby Hutcherson

Bobby Hutcherson

- Feb. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.) Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Hart join forces in an assemblage of jazz all-stars. An SFJAZZ event at Miner Auditorium.  (866) 920-5299.

Portland OR

- Feb. 23 (Sun.) Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough. “Who’s On First?” A rare opportunity to hear a tandem performance by a pair of the jazz world’s most gifted musical humorists. A PDX Jazz Event at the Winningstad Theatre.  (503) 228-5299.

New York City

- Feb. 20 (Thurs.) Portraits of Joni: Jessica Molaskey Sings Joni Mitchell. Musical theatre star Molaskey (and wife of John Pizzarelli) takes a break from the stage to explore the rich Mitchell song catalog. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9595.

- Feb. 21 – 23. (Fri. – Sun.) Patricia Barber. Singer/pianist brings imagination, musicality and wit to her new interpretations of Songbook classics, as well as her own songs.The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Milan

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater

- Feb. 19 – 22. (Wed. – Sat.) Dee Dee Bridgewater. The one and only Dee Dee offers her inimitable collection of vocal jazz renderings to Italy’s many jazz fans. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Moscow

- Feb. 23. (Sun.) Lisa Henry. With the Igor Butman Trio. Blues and gospel specialist Henry is backed by saxophonist/bandleader and club owner Igor Butman. Igor Butman Jazz Club.  (+7 495) 632-92-64.

Warsaw

- Feb. 22. (Sat.) DISCO FEVER! Revisit the dance crazes of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s in a Polish evening to remember. Tygmont Live Club.  +48 22 828 34 09.

Tokyo

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

- Feb. 18 & 19. (Tues. & Wed.) Roy Hargrove Big Band. Trumpeter Hargrove continues his quest to keep big band jazz alive with his own stellar ensemble. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the (Valentine) Week: Feb. 12 – 16

February 12, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

- Feb. 13 – 16. Thurs. – Sun. Steve Tyrell. Four days to enjoy Valentine’s Day at L.A.’s primo jazz room, captivated by Tyrell’s warm voice and engaging musical storytelling. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- Feb. 13 & 14. (Thurs. & Fri.) The Moscow Festival Ballet showcases a trio of ballets perfectly chosen for Valentine’s Day: Giselle, Chopiniana and Romeo & Juliet. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800

- Feb. 14. (Fri.) Dream Street. Led by guitarist/arranger Stan Ayeroff, Dream Street brings superb musicality to all their compelling interpretations.  However, singer Bobbi Paige, a regular member, will not be present, due to a family emergency and will be replaced by “fill-in” vocalists.. Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

Anna Mjoll

Anna Mjoll

- Feb. 14. (Fri.) Anna Mjoll. Icelandic jazz vocalist Mjoll celebrates the romance of Valentine’s Day with a program of love songs from the Great American Songbook. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 14. (Fri.) Maria Rita. Brazilian singer Rita,the daughter of the iconic Brazilian vocalist, Elis Regina, has become a vocal star in her own right. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000

- Feb. 15. (Sat.) Clint Black. Grammy-winning, country male vocalist of the year, puts a unique country twist on a program of ballad classics. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8500.

New York City

- Feb. 12 – 15. (Wed. – Sat.) Cyrille Aimee. French-born jazz singer Aimee has been described, accurately, by Will Friedwald as “one of the most promising singers of her generation.” Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

Tierney Sutton

Tierney Sutton

- Feb. 13. (Thurs.) Tierney Sutton. One of L.A.’s finest jazz pleasures, Sutton has lately been bringing her many skills to compelling, jazz-driven interpretations of Joni Mitchell songs.  Click HERE to read a recent review of a Sutton performance in Los Angeles.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. (212) 258-9595.

Copenhagen

- Feb. 13 – 15. (Thurs. – Sat.) Warren Wolf. Vibist Wolf has been bringing new, imaginative ideas to his instrument. He’s backed in his Danish appearances by American drummer Billy Williams, Danish pianist Jacob Christoffersen and bassist Kaspar Vadsholt. Jazzhus Montmartre. +45 31 72 34 94.

 London

All Jarreau

All Jarreau

- Feb. 16. (Sun.) Al Jarreau. The seven-time Grammy award winner and all around versatile jazz artist celebrates the 30th anniversary of his album, Jarreau the Album. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Milano

- Feb. 13 – 15. (Thurs. – Sat.) Ray Gelato and the Giants. Vocalist Gelato and his European jazz masters describe their music in the all-inclusive label of “Swing + Rhythm ‘n’ Blues + Jive.” Expect to be well-entertained. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.


Picks of the Weekend: December 13 – 15

December 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Mike Stern

Mike Stern

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Mike Stern Quartet. Guitarist Stern moves convincingly across jazz styles with ease. And he’s backed by a band – featuring Randy Brecker, Anthony Jackson and Dave Weckl – that is equally versatile – and swinging. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun) “Christmas with Gustavo.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays the Nutcracker Suite (complete), under the celebratory baton of Musical Director Gustavo Dudamel. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 13. (Fri.) Don Menza Quartet. Saxophonist Menza is high on the list of first call players, regardless of style. This time out, she steps into his own musical spotlight. Vibrato. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 13. (Fri.) The Oak Ridge Boys. Christmas Time’s A Comin’” with the iconic country group presenting their own warm and fuzzy Christmas celebration. Valley Performing Arts Center (818) 677-8800

April Williams

April Williams

- Dec. 15. (Sun.) The Ron Jones Influence Jazz Orchestra and April Williams. “It’s A Big Band Holiday.” Christmas music in a big jazz band setting, with Ron Jones 21 piece big band, featuring holiday classics sung by tuneful April Williams. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

- Dec. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.) Sheila E. Birthday Celebration. Singer/percussionist Sheila Escovedo is a compelling performer who is as musically gripping as she is entertaining. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Chicago

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) The Fred Hersch Trio. Pianist Hersch’s playing recalls the engaging aspects of the jazz piano trio style that reaches back to Bill Evans. The Jazz Showcase. (312) 360-0234.

 New York City

Fourplay

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun) Fourplay. With Bob James, keyboards, Chuck Loeb, guitar, Harvey Mason, drums, Nathan East, bass, Fourplay continues to maintain its well-deserved reputation as a world class contemporary jazz ensemble. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

 Copenhagen

- Dec. 15. (Sun.) Love & Peace. The Music of Horace Parlan. Bop piano stylist Parlan has had medical problems intruding on his playing in recent years. But his music is being keep alive in Copenhagen by the American/Danish ensemble of Bob Rockwell, tenor saxophone and Doug Raney, guitar, from the U.S. and Jesper Lundgaard, bass, Henrik Gunde, piano and Aage Tanggaard, drums, from Denmark. Jazzhus Montmartre. +45 31 72 34 94.

 Tokyo

Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack

- Dec. 14 & 15. (Sat. & Sun.) Roberta Flack. Singer/songwriter Flack may be in her mature years, but she’s still singing with the vitality of a gifted young artist. Hopefully she’ll include “Killing Me Softly” and ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in her program. The Blue Note Tokyo.+81 3-5485-0088.


Live Jazz: The Bill Cunliffe Big Band and Quartet with Harry Allen at Vitello’s

December 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Bill Cunliffe’s accomplishments are many. Not only is he a world class jazz pianist, composer and arranger. He’s also acknowledged for his many skills by his musical compatriots. He’s been honored with a Grammy Award, a Down Beat Award, multiple Grammy nominations, and several Emmy nominations. Add to that a winner’s award from the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano competition.

Bill Cunliffe

Bill Cunliffe

It’s unlikely that either Cunliffe or his full house audience at Vitello’s Saturday night were giving much thought to his many attainments. The focus on this engaging evening of music was on the here and now of Cunliffe’s multiple skills, as he opened the performance with his sterling quartet and topped off the evening with a big band full of the Southland’s finest players digging into his rich textured, briskly swinging music for large jazz ensemble.

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The performance was enhanced by the presence of tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, one of the rare contemporary masters of traditional and swing style improvising. Working with Cunliffe’s quartet in a program of tunes ranging from standards (“But Not For Me”) to Christmas tunes (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”), his soloing flowed with the captivating lyricism of such predecessors as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster.

Harry Allen

Harry Allen

Like them, Allen’s playing recalled the old admonition that jazz improvisers, when playing standards and ballads, should also be familiar with the words of the songs. Each melody he played came to life with the intimate, story-telling connectivity of a jazz vocalist.

Allen also soloed brilliantly with Cunliffe’s big band, as well, playing with such appealing musicality that the band’s five saxophonists – whenever they had a rest – were completely focused on his warm, inventive improvising.

But the band, playing Cunliffe’s ever-fascinating compositions and arrangements, also offered their own superb playing. The charts, which included selections from a soon to be released Cunliffe big band recording, were definitive displays of his far-reaching creative imagination. The high points included the bossa nova classic, “The Girl From Ipanema, a hard-driving Cunliffe original – titled “Bonecrusher” – from his Latin CD, and a glorious take on “’Round Midnight” featuring Allen at his finest. Topping off the big band set, guest artist Grammy-winning composer/arranger Nan Schwartz conducted her own briskly swinging arrangement of “Sunny Side of the Street,” and dedicated it to her mother, a former Swing era big band singer.

Memorable musical nights at Vitello’s are not unusual. And this one was no exception. How could it be, with Cunliffe in the command position, aided by the stellar work of Allen, the superbly crafted arranging of Schwartz, and – above all – the splendid playing of the gifted musicians, including the Southland’s finest, in the Cunliffe band.

So give thanks to April Williams, Vitello’s music manager, for opening the door for Cunliffe, his music, his guests and his players. Let’s hope they return again, soon.


Picks of the Weekend: Nov. 8 – 10

November 8, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Bill Holman

Bill Holman

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Bill Holman Big Band. Holman’s music is always a pleasure to hear live. And this is an even better opportunity, since the band will be performing (on the first set only) its highly praised all-Thelonious Monk album, Brilliant Corners, in its entirety. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Anna Mjoll. Iceland’s gift to jazz is also one of the Southland’s intriguing female jazz vocalists. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fr. – Sun.) Steve Tyrell. Bringing his own musical gifts to the Great American Songbook, Tyrell’s appealing interpretations are always a pleasure to hear. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, with trumpet soloist Alison Balsom, perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. and Tovey’s trumpet concerto, Songs of the Paradise Saloon. Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 9. (Sat.) Lee Hartley. Jazz singer Hartley surrounds her self with a stellar collection of world class artists, including the great Les McCann and the grooving Alphonse Mouzon Band. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 9. (Sat.) Susan Marshall & Company. Featuring Marshall’s Play/Pause, described as the “ultimate mash-up: postmodern dance-theater meets indie rock on both real and virtual stages.” A CAP UCLA event at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-4401.

Judy Wexler

Judy Wexler

- Nov. 10. (Sun.) Judy Wexler. Always a pleasure to hear in action, the small, but musically exciting Wexler celebrates a CD release party for her new album, What I See. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 10. (Sun. Brunch Performance) Betty Bryant. Veteran singer/pianist Bryant celebrates her anniversary with a Birthday Bash Brunch and CD release party. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 10. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe and Imaginacion. Grammy-winning pianist/composer/arranger Cunliffe digs into his Latin jazz perspectives. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

 San Francisco

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) Paula West. A standout among the Bay area’s many fine female jazz artists, West displays her virtuosity with an appealing set of songs, including her take on June Christy’s version of “Something Cool.” SFJAZZ at Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

 New York City

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

- Nov. 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.) Steve Kuhn Trio. Pianist Kuhn has been carving out his own musical directions since he played with John Coltrane as a young arrival. Here he’s backed by the propulsive accompaniment of Buster Williams, bass and Billy Drummond, drums. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) The Django Reinhardt New York Festival recalls the inimitable jazz artistry of the great Django Reinhardt with an ensemble featuring the Django Festival All-Stars. With Special Guests: Cyrille Aimee, Freddie Cole, James Carter & Edmar Castaneda. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

 Boston

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Jackie Ryan. In the crowded field of female jazz vocalists, Ryan continues to be a standout, an imaginative artist who still hasn’t quite received the accolades her extraordinary talents deserve. She celebrates the release of her latest CD. Regatta Bar.  (617) 661-5000.

 London

- Nov. 8 & 9. Fri. & Sat. Soul Jazz Alliance. You can bet that the title of this group is an accurate description of what to expect from a world class collection of players, featuring Vincent Herring and Jeremy Pelt and special guest Sachal Vasandani. Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Paris

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Sheila E. Gifted with jazz skills inherited from her Escovedo family background, Sheila E. can do just about anything, from her driving percussion work to her ability to musically dominate a stage. New Morning.  +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Milano

- Nov. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.) Maceo Parker. A saxophone star with James Brown, Parker is still – at 70 – a master of the soul, funk and bebop genres. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 14 – 20

October 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Josh Nelson

- Oct. 17. (Thurs.) All Star Quartet. Pat Senatore, bass, Josh Nelson, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Mark Ferber, drums. “All Star” is the right label for this quartet of four of the Southland’s finest players. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun. Steve Gadd Band. Drummer Gadd has played with everyone from pop and rock stars to jazz headliners. This time he’s backed by the equally stellar ensemble of Michael Landau, Larry Goldings, Walt Fowler, & Jimmy Johnson). Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- Oct. 18 – 20. (Fri. – Sun.) Disney Hall 10th Anniversary Celebration. Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to a familiar podium to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a celebratory program of Debussy, Bartok and Lindberg, with cello soloist Anssi Karttunen and the women of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Carol Welsman

Carol Welsman

- Oct. 19. (Sat.) Carol Welsman. “Reflections of Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman.” Pianist/singer Welsman applies her many talents to a program of Swing band classics. She’s joined by versatile saxophonist/vocalist Don Shelton. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 19 (Sat.) Eva Ayllon. Multiple Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, one of Peru’s most honored musicians, makes a rare L.A. Appearance. CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-.2101.

- Oct. 19. (Sat.) Bernadette Peters. Musical theatre star Peters’ many talents reach from film and television to the stage, where her many starring roles include Mack and Mabel, Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy, Into the Woods and more. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

- Oct. 20 (Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Jeffrey Kahane conducts the LACO in works by Britten, Haydn, Mozart and Bruce Adolphe, featuring cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras. CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.  (310) 825.2101.

Brian Wilson

- Oct. 20. (Sun.) Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck. It’s a rare combination of pop music greats, joining with Wilson’s former bandmates, Al Jardine and David Marks in a program that includes a great deal of the Beach Boys classic catalog of songs. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

- Oct. 19 & 20 (Sat. & Sun.) Michel Camilo, solo. The Dominican Republic’s gift to jazz piano playing performs a rare solo display of his rich improvisational skills. An SFJAZZ concert at Miner Auditorium. (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- Oct. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.) Fourplay. Together for more than two decades, the members of Fourplay – Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason and Chuck Loeb continue to lead the way in finding the roots of contemporary jazz. Jazz Alley. (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

Russell Malone

- Oct. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.) Russell Malone Quartet. Guitarist Malone has demonstrated his considerable versatility with the likes of Diana Krall, Harry Connick, Jr. and Jimmy Smith, and he continues to be a player adept with all seasons of jazz styles. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- Oct. 15 & 16. (Tues. & Wed.) Phil Woods Quintet. Still one of the definitive bebop players, veteran alto saxophonist Woods is one of the trune jazz originals. Here he’s joined by the world class backing of Brian Lynch, trumpet, Bill Charlap, piano, Bill Goodwin, drums, Steve Gilmore, bass. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

London

- Oct. 16 – 19. (Wed. – Sun.) Wayne Henderson’s Jazz Crusaders. Trombonist Henderson works hard to keep the classic jazz/funk/soul of the Crusaders alive and well. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Milan

Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander

- Oct. 15. (Tues.) Monty Alexander Trio. Jamaican-born pianist Alexander successfully manages to blend the sounds and rhythms of Jamaica with his extraordinary, Oscar Peterson-influenced jazz stylings. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- Oct. 20 – 22. (Sun. – Tues.) John Scofield’s “Uberjam.” Always in search of new creative ideas, veteran jazz guitarist Scofield’s Uberjam band explores linkages with contemporary pop styles. Blue Note Tokyo. Tokyo Blue Note.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: October 2 – 6

October 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Diane Hubka

Diane Hubka

- Oct. 2. (Wed.) Diane Hubka. Singer/guitarist Hubka celebrates the release of her new CD, West Coast Strings. She’ll be backed by a prime group of players: Guitarists John Pisano, Barry Zweig & David Eastlee, organist Bobby Pierce, bassist Jeff D’Angelo and drummer Kendall Kay. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 2. (Wed.) Teka & New Bossa. Brazilian singer/guitarist Teka displays her authentic view of Brazilian music, backed by Quinn Johnson on piano, Kevin Winard on percussion, Doug Webb on saxophone and Randy Tico on bass. Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

Christian McBride

Christian McBride

- Oct. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun. Christian McBride Trio. Bassist Christian McBride, every leader’s first call for a world class rhythm section, plays selections from his album Out There with pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr,. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 4. (Fri.) Lucy Guerin Inc. Weather. Australia’s much-honored choreographer presents a new work that “embodies human patterns within those of the elements.” CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.  (310) 825.2101.

Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

- Oct. 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun.) The 6th Annual Angel City Jazz Festival begins with a weekend brim full of musical activity. On Fri.: Free concert at LACMA with the Zach Ramacier Group and Nicole Mitchell Sun Dial Ensemble. On Sat: Dave Holland Prism and the John Scofield Uberjam Band. CAP UCLA at Royce Hall. On Sun: Richard Sears group, Albert Tootie Heath, Kneebody, Yosvany Terry Quintet, Greg Osby Group with special guest Anat Cohen. Ford Amphitheatre. The Angel City Jazz Festival.

- Oct. 5. (Sat.) Sandi Patty. One of the major stars of Christian music, Patty is a uniquely talented singer whose work is not limited by her popularity in the Christian music genre. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501

- Oct. 6. (Sun.) Carol Duboc. Versatile Duboc, a singer/composer and actress, celebrates the release of her latest album, Smile, in the musical companionship of Jeff Lorber, keyboards, and Jimmy Haslip, bass. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Miguel Zenon

Miguel Zenon

- Oct. 5. (Sat.) SFJAZZ Collective Jam Session. The SFJAZZ Collective has thoroughly established itself as one of the irresistiblly appealing contemporary jazz ensembles. The gifted players include Miguel Zenón alto saxophone, David Sánchez tenor saxophone, Warren Wolf vibraphone, Edward Simon piano, Matt Penman bass, and Obed Calvaire, drums. An SFJAZZ event at the Joe Henderson Lab. (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- Oct. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.) Karrin Allyson. Grammy-nominated jazz singer Allyson continually reveals a musical curiosity that has taken her from bossa nova and the blues to John Coltrane. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729

Chicago

- Oct. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.) Bobby Watson Quartet. Eclectic alto saxophonist Watson has moved convincingly from bebop and hard bop to cutting edge contemporary jazz. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

Donald Harrison

Donald Harrison

- Oct. 3 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.) The Messenger Legacy Celebrating Blakey. Drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers legacy is celebrated by Brian Lynch, trumpet, Donald Harrison and Billy Pierce, saxophones, Donald Brown, piano, Reggie Workman, bass, Ralph Peterson, drums. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

- Oct. 4 & 5. ( Fri. & Sat.) John Mayall and Friends. The influential English blues artist, whose influence reaches from Eric Clapton to Mick Fleetwood and beyond, celebrates his 80th birthday. The Iridium. h ( 212) 582-2121.

Copenhagen

- Oct. 3. (Thurs.) Soren Kristiansen. Pianist Kristiansen, largely viewed as one of Denmark’s finest, most imaginative jazz artist, displays influence from Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Art Tatum in a stellar evening of solo piano jazz improvisations. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- Oct. 3. (Thurs.) Nicholas Payton. Trumpeter Payton, a world class, Grammy-winning product of New Orleans music, is always a pleasure to hear in action. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.


Live Jazz: Sunday at the Monterey Jazz Festival 56

September 26, 2013

Impressions from MJF 56, Sunday

By Michael Katz

Sunday brought its share of legendary virtuosos to the Monterey Fairgrounds, but before we go there, a word about the kids.

Jazz education is the mission of the MJF, and Sunday afternoon demonstrated how successful they have gotten at it. The Night Club had healthy audiences to see the winning high school jazz combos and vocal ensembles. The previous night, the Coffee House had turn-away crowds for the terrific Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors. But the signature group is the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, and they put on a terrific show in the Arena Sunday afternoon. Paul Contos led the band through some fresh arrangements of standards like “Sunny Side of the Street” and Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” Soloists included a fine pair of tenor sax men, Julian Lee and Jyron Walls. Vocalist Brianna Rancour-Ibarra sang “Out of Nowhere,” with polish and verve.

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

It was great seeing Joe Lovano working in the context of a big band again, and his soloing on his own “Streets of Naples,” “The Peacocks” (with more lovely singing by Brianna) and “Birds Eye View” were worthy additions to his work as Artist-In-Resident. Elena Pinderhughes added some swinging flute work on “Got A Match.”

Peter Gabrielides

Peter Gabrielides

A special shout out to guitarist Peter Gabrielides, representing New Trier High School (Winnetka, IL) where this writer once stumbled through many a first period on the tenor sax. Gabrielides, who had several blazing solos, made all of us alums proud.

Bob James and David Sanborn were a perfect antidote for the typical Sunday afternoon heat. Teamed with drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus, they led an acoustic quartet through a combination of previous hits and new compositions from their Quartet Humaine CD.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

Sanborn has one of the more recognizable sounds; it crosses over from smooth to funky jazz and blues. During most of the show the group was pleasant, if not earthshaking, but there were surely some memorable moments. James’ composition, “You’d Better Not Go To College” was a delightful romp. Sanborn’s ballad “Sophia” gave James the opportunity for a sweet piano turn, Sanborn answering with a soulfully plaintive run on his alto. Marcus Miller’s “Maputo” was the source of one of Sanborn’s signature riffs, and “Follow Me” was James’ venture into complicated time signatures, a la the late Mr. Brubeck.

The “hammock” period between arena shows was an opportunity for sampling more from the cornucopia of talent on the grounds. I caught singer Judy Roberts and tenor man Greg Fishman in one of their eight sets from the Yamaha Courtyard stage. This one featured Judy in two of her favorite modes – Brazilian, with an inspired version of “Agua de Beber” (Fishman providing the Stan Getz-inspired accompaniment), and, a few minutes later, a take on Charlie Parker music, testing Roberts’ scatting ability with “Scrapple From The Apple” and a closing Parker vocal riff.

Meanwhile, back at the Garden Stage, the Minnesota group Davina and the Vagabonds, led by Davina Sowers, was tearing things up. Like the California Honeydrops the day before, they had a definite New Orleans sound. Davina is singer, pianist and provocateur, with a little bit of the Divine Miss M in her. Whether belting out a blues like “I’d Rather Go Blind,” or a good-time tune like “I Gotta New Baby,” she was full of life, and the Garden Stage crowd was on its feet for much of the 90 minute show.

MJF 56 was down to its last group of acts, now, and one could be forgiven for making one last trip to the food court and loading up on shrimp-ka-bobs and peach cobblers before they ran out. There were B-3 organs everywhere in the Grounds area, in various concoctions, and even though I was headed for the Arena, I had a vague feeling that I’d be back.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter was leading an 80th Birthday celebration on the main stage, with an all-star group that featured Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blades on drums. Shorter was playing soprano sax, and no one quite gets the lyrical sound out of that difficult instrument like him. With Perez dipping and dancing around him, it was like watching a pair of eagles soaring through the thermals.

Still, I was beginning to feel restless, and with the minutes ticking away from the festival clock, I decided to go back to the grounds and check out Jazz Master Lou Donaldson on his alto. I suppose I shouldn’t have considered that an unexpected treat. Donaldson, at 87, may not get around so easily, but the chops are still there, as is a delightfully raspy blues voice and a deft sense of humor. And what a group he had behind him – guitarist Randy Johnston is a leader in his own right, and Akiko Tsuruga added a lush layer on the B3 organ. When I walked in, Fukushi Tainaka was in the middle of a rousing drum solo; Donaldson then stepped up with a blues vocal, Johnston casually laying off one riff after another. Donaldson’s classic “Alligator Blues” followed, with Lou ripping off the main line and leaving plenty of room for the others. Then, a crack-up blues number, LD singing “It Was Just A Dream.” And finally, a delicious romp through “Cherokee.”

It was back to the Jimmy Lyons Stage for the curtain closer, an extended set with Diana Krall. Diana has had a magical relationship with Monterey, dating back to her debut there at MJF 40. Sunday night she had a new look. Gone was the standard trio, and gone also the full orchestra that had gotten a little stodgy. Her new group provided a fresh perspective, especially with fiddler Stuart Duncan, most recently heard with Yo Yo Ma on the Goat Rodeo sessions. He was a perfect fit for the material from Krall’s new CD, Glad Rag Doll and sparkled throughout.

Diana Krall

Diana Krall

Diana established the tone early with “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye.” She retains the ability to take nearly forgotten material from decades past and bring it to life, as she did a few minutes later with “Just Like A Butterfly Caught In The Rain.” But her diversity is startling, or would be if she didn’t pull it off so effortlessly. She did an extended version of Tom Waits’ “Tempation,” complete with reverb mic, and before the evening was out, would touch base with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Jimmie Rodgers and more.

There was a time when Krall was reticent to talk to the audience, but she has developed an easy rapport now, inviting the crowd in for some family patter and a little musical background. Best of all, she had a sizeable amount of solo time, just her voice and piano playing, which remains first rate. “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” had a freshly dramatic quality, separated from the symphonic background. Then there was the Dave Frishberg classic, “Peel Me A Grape.” When she first performed it here at MJF 40, Krall presented it with a delicious sex kitten mystique. But 16 years later, Diana smartly stepped back and sang it with the brisk irony that Frishberg (and Blossom Dearie) intended. “Frim Fram Sauce,” is still wonderfully saucy, and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” didn’t need much adjustment. It is still the same heartbreaker, full of longing.

The quintet behind provided plenty of support. Aram Bajakian shone on guitar (and ukelele, on “Everything Made For Love”), Patrick Warren filled in the sound on keyboards, and the rhythm section was held down by Dennis Crouch on bass and the estimable Karriem Riggins on the drum set.

Meanwhile, Krall continued on with a remarkable tour through her own particular North American Songbook. There was Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” delivered with touching simplicity, and “Sunny Side of the Street,” with Duncan performing a lively jaunt on his fiddle. Another nod to Nat King Cole with “Just You, Just Me” (not to mention a nod to Bill Evans). And from there, a bluesy blast of The Band’s “Ophelia.”

It is hard to imagine another vocalist who has that kind of range today, and can do it all so movingly.

Finally, Krall shared with us the only song, or so she claims, that her 7 year old twin boys actually like. It was Jimmie Rogers’ “Prairie Lullaby,” delivered again with simplicity and grace. A perfect way to close the curtain. And that was it for MJF 56.

A few closing thoughts on the festival…It’s been noted by some that overall attendance was down a little, thanks mainly to a storm that rattled through the Bay Area Saturday, cutting down on some of the traditional walk-up gate. That’s too bad, because the Grounds line-up was diverse and outstanding from start to finish. There was plenty to like at the Arena, too, but it’s worth noting that practically every act had appeared in LA within the last six months, most of them this summer. Of course it is difficult to book 5 shows of headliners without dipping into the summer tours, but it would nice to have a few more “Made For Monterey” acts that traditionally make the Festival a can’t-miss event for us SoCal types.

The Monterey Shore

The Monterey Shore

So now I type these last words on a Tuesday morning from my B and B in Pacific Grove, where I hung on for an extra day. It seems empty – my friends that came up for the festival are gone. All those wonderful music fans and musicians who reunite the third weekend in September have dispersed, returning to far flung homes, or back on the road. The last chords of music echo from venues now reverted to fairgrounds out-buildings. The Hyatt Lounge is just another bar.

One last walk along the sea shore, listening to seals playfully barking, pelicans on the wing overhead.

See you next year, Monterey.

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All photos, except Wayne Shorter, by Michael Katz.

Wayne Shorter photo by Tony Gieske.

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Don’t forget to check out Michael Katz’s new novel, Dearly Befuddled, available in paperback and E-book at Amazon.  And Read Mike’s Blog at Katz of the Day.

 


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