Live Music: The Thelonious Monk 2014 International Jazz Competition Gala

November 11, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA. The 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition came to a dramatic conclusion Sunday night in a All-Star Gala event at Dolby Hall in Hollywood. This year, the Competition was for trumpet players. And the three finalists each offered a display of their considerable skills in a setting that allowed each player to perform a pair of selections of their own choice. And it was no surprise that works by Thelonious Monk were popular choices.

Inevitably, there was a winner, a second and a third place finisher, as follows:

1st Place Winner: Marquis Hill from Chicago.

1st Place Winner: Marquis Hill from Chicago.

 

2nd Place Winner: Billy Buss from Berkeley

2nd Place Winner: Billy Buss from Berkeley

3rd Place Winner Adam O’Farrill from Brooklyn

But the prevalent thought that came to mind while hearing these fine young players in action was the firm belief that each of the prodigal musicians had displayed all the skills required for successful careers in the musical world in general and the jazz world specifically. And, win or place as a finalist, they all will benefit from the visibility associated with having placed so high in such a major competition.

In addition to the Competition finals, the Gala presented a concert clearly intended as a celebration of jazz itself, in its many shapes, sizes, styles, disguises and a lot more. As a result, much of the music was far more closely related to pop, blues, rock, soul and beyond. No problem there, except in the passages attempting to shoe horn those genres into a jazz setting.

In its best, moments, however – especially when singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves, and instrumentalists Herbie Hancock, John Beasley, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Stefon Harris, Joshua Redman and others were on stage – the program’s jazz roots were ever present.

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Taj Mahal

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Taj Mahal

The Gala concert was hosted by Kevin Spacey, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Don Cheadle, Goldie Hawn and Billy Dee Williams. It included performances by a multi-generational group of all-stars including Musical Director John Beasley, Pharrell Williams, John Mayer, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wayne Shorter, Queen Latifah, Jimmy Heath, Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Miller, Kenny Burrell, Stefon Harris, T.S. Monk, Joshua Redman, Jon Faddis, Billy Childs, Vinnie Colaiuta, James Genus, Theo Croker, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Dontae Winslow, Melissa Aldana and others.

President Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock

President Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock

As if the presence of all the stellar names on that list wasn’t enough, the Monk Institute also honored President Bill Clinton with the Institute’s 2014 Maria Fisher Founder’s Award. Each year, the Founder’s Award is presented to an individual who has made major contributions to the Institute, the perpetuation of jazz, and the expansion of jazz and music education programs. President Clinton received the award from Herbie Hancock, Chairman of the Monk Institute, with a smile and a wave to the crowd. He did not, apparently, ask to sit in on tenor saxophone.

The Gala ended with a crowded backstage party for participants and friends of the Monk Institute, enlivened by conversations already speculating on possibilities for next year’s Monk Competition.

Which was good news for music education. Proceeds from the All-Star Gala Concerts support the Institute’s jazz education programs in public schools across America.

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Photos courtesy of Steve Mundinger/Thelonious Monk Institute Of Jazz


Pick of the Night in L.A.: Cat Conner at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 11, 2014

By Don Heckman

Singer Cat Conner is one of the high visibility members of L.A.’s impressive assemblage of jazz vocal artists. She’s also another gifted Canadian jazz performer who’s brought her considerable jazz skills south of the border.

All of which will be self-evident tonight when Cat offers her warm, luxurious voice, convincing musical story telling and floating swing at Catalina Bar & Grill in the company of some of the Southland’s most masterful jazz instrumentalists: saxophone/woodwind artist Gene “Cip” Cipriano, guitarist John Chiodini, pianist Tom Ranier, trumpeter Ron Stout, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe La Barbera.

 

The program celebrates the release of Cat’s new CD, Cat House. And Cat is quick to promise that it will be a big time launch party. “We are going to be playing,” she says,” with the joy of five year olds.” And singing, too.

Since most of the band of masters playing with her at Catalina’s are also on the new album, she’ll no doubt showcase selections from the CD. So expect some memorable moments. Who knows, maybe the versatile “Cip” Cipriano will also tell some of his stories and offer some amazing sounds on his bass oboe. How often do you get to hear that in a jazz club?

Don’t miss this one. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.


Live Music: Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys at Valley Performing Arts Center

November 10, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

Northridge, CA. For several years now, Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys have been touring together to the continuing satisfaction of their solid fan bases. Sometimes Los Lobos headlines, other times Los Lonely Boys headlines. The two bands teamed up Saturday night at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the CSUN campus for a fun evening of shared music with Los Lobos closing the show.

Saturday’s performance was a loud one. While most rock concerts are going to be that way, it’s noteworthy that the Valley Performing Arts Center doesn’t often present louder rock concerts. The VAC is a gorgeous building but the interior of the main auditorium is comprised mostly of wooden walls and baffles designed to direct the sound optimally. It seems that this actually works best for softer performances with lower volumes. The sound rattled around inside noticeably on Saturday night, reducing the high ends to a sizzling hiss. It was way too challenging just to make out the lyrics of the tunes.

While Los Lobos have been together in excess of forty years, Los Lonely Boys have been at it for nearly 20 years themselves (!). And one would think that as he band’s three brothers — Ringo, Jojo, and Henry Garza — were growing up in San Angelo, Texas they had to be inspired by the success they saw Los Lobos have playing any style of music they wanted to – masterfully and to huge acceptance. So touring with them and knowing them is coming full circle. After LLB closed their hour-long opening set, their equipment stayed where it was. It only stays if it’s going to be used later on, after all. The LLB’s were far from done.

Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys

Throughout the evening nearly all the members of each band came out to play with their touring buddies. The frontlines of both groups are all multi-instrumental so they could and did play drums or percussion as well as their guitars, regional stringed instruments, and accordions.

Aside from their ace musicianship, one of the biggest appeals of Los Lobos is how they have consistently embraced all their musical influences and worked them into the repertoire. Whether it’s traditional Mexican folk music, blues-rock, rockabilly, folk, pop or country, these guys will play it like no one else’s business and on Saturday night we got a bit of everything. In a song like “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” it all came together. There was a simple but driving bass line, and between the lyrics, Berlin’s baritone sax, David Hidalgo’s accordion, and the timbre of his and Cesar Rojas’ voices the atmosphere was something to get lost in.

Los Lobos

Los Lobos

Having grown come up in LA in the late 60’s/early 70’s the guys in Los Lobos got to immerse themselves in all the exceptional music of those times on the radio and with vinyl records. Then they added the traditional music that was around them in the neighborhood. It makes for a uniquely rich blend of styles. Whatever the wolves play it never sounds remotely like a stretch. They do the blues-rock style very well, with songs like “Shakin’, Shakin’, Shakes,” and “Don’t Worry Baby.” Rojas’ guitar, in particular, was in the sweet spot for these tunes. His amp was ready to jump off the chair! But it was the Los Lobos rhythm section of Conrad Lozano on bass and Enrique Gonzalez on drums, wound tight and swinging, which took it to a different level. Can’t say enough good things about the power of the bass and drums being dialed in. As bass players who lay down a great groove for each tune go, Conrad Lozano is exemplary. He was grinning ear to ear for the whole ride on Saturday.

About half way through Los Lonely Boys’ opening set, Hidalgo (guitar), Berlin (baritone sax), and Perez (guitar) sat in with the band. Afterwards, bassist Jojo Garza admitted that every time they get to jam with the wolves it’s a dream come true for himself and his brothers. The good vibe was obvious on all the faces onstage. It was a night built on the simple joy of playing music with your friends for people who are right there with you.

The evening ended with a blistering version of “La Bamba.” We’ve all heard this song many times and probably noticed how much it sounds like “Twist and Shout.” But it is an historic tune. Although it’s a traditional Mexican folk song, it was made enormously popular by Ritchie Valens, of Pacoima, in the ‘50’s when he gave it a rock ‘n roll treatment. Los Lobos made the song a customized rock ‘n roll hit again when the movie about Valens’ tragic life came out in the late 80’s. So, it was only fitting that Henry Garza and Cesar Rojas would raise the bar to pump each other up trading hot solos in the middle of the tune. Both men and the audience, too, were having a blast … which is just what we all showed up for.

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


Picks of the Weekend in Los Angeles: Nov. 6 – 9

November 6, 2014

By Don Heckman

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

- Nov. 6 – 9. (Thurs. – Sun.) Steve Tyrell. Add an amiable Texas twang to a jaunty sense of swing and a convincing way with a lyric, and that still doesn’t add up to the magic that happens when Tyrell digs into the Great American Songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com (323) 466-2210.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

- Nov. 6. (Thurs.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall. The veteran jazz trumpeter/painter/sculptor and his vocally superb wife are back again at their home base – Alpert’s jazz friendly, elegant Bel Air club. They’ll no doubt be working over material for their current touring. And that’ll be a musically captivating gift for anyone who can squeeze into what will no doubt be a full house crowd. But it’ll be worth the effort. Click HERE to read a review of the dynamic duo’s most recent appearance at.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 6. (Thurs.) David Ornette Cherry. He’s the son of trumpeter Don Cherry, who worked frequently with free jazz icon Ornette Coleman– thus David Ornette Cherry’s middle name. A keyboard player with his own unique approach to contemporary improvisation, he’s an imaginative jazz artist who deserves a hearing on his own right. The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Los Lobos

Los Lobos

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys. The mutiple Grammy-winning group from Los Angeles are one of the popworld’s most eclectic ensembles. Blending everything from Latin pop and Chicano rock to TexMex and Americana their music has a fascinating body-moving appeal. Opening the bill, Texas’ Los Lonely Boys follow a similar musical path. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) Dimitri Matheny Quartet. Matheny’s warm, engaging flugelhorn playing has thoroughly established him as one of the most emotionally expressive improvisers of his generation. He performs with the sterling backing of Joe Bagg, piano, Pat Senatore, bass, Dick Weller, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) Johnny Mathis. He doesn’t show up often any more in the Southland, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear the hit-maker of the ‘6os and 70s up close in action. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) The New West Symphony. Marcelo Lehninger conducts the gifted players of the NWS in Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, and the Dvorak Concerto in B minor for cello and orchestra, featuring cellist Lynn Harrell. The Cavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. (805) 449-2100.

HIGHLIGHT EVENT: SATURDAY AND SUNDAY NOVEMBER 8 & 9

The 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition and All-Star Gala Concert

Thelonious Monk

The annual jazz competitions produced by the Thelonious Monk Institute are among the most celebrated jazz events of the year. And the 2014 installment is no exception. This year’s competition again showcases a talented, ambitious group of young players. The semi-finalists will first meet at U.C.L.A.’s Schoenberg Hall on Saturday, Nov. 8. (The semi-final event is free and open to the public.)

The three finalists will then perform in the Competition’s Gala event on Sunday, Nov. 9 at Dolby Hall. The distinguished panel of judges for both stages of the competition includes trumpeters Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Randy Brecker, Roy Hargrove, Quincy Jones and Arturo Sandoval.

Following the finalists’ performances and the selection of this year’s winner, an All-Star Gala concert will feature Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ron Carter, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Heath, Marcus Miller, Dianne Reeves and others.

In another highlight of the Gala, the Institute will present its prestigious Founders Award to President Bill Clinton.

The Thelonious Monk Institute 2014 International Jazz Trumpet Competition  (310) 206-9700.


Picks of the Week: October 27 – November 2

October 27, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

John Pisano

John Pisano

- Oct. 28. (Tues.) Guitar Night with John Pisano. Like all of John Pisano’s Guitar Nights, this week’s features a world class assemblage of players: in addition to Pisano, you’ll hear guitarist Barry Zweig, bassist Chris Conner and drummer Tim Pleasant. Viva Cantina.  (818) 845-2425.

– Oct. 28,. (Tues.) The Hagen Quartet. The much honored string quartet, which includes three siblings, makes a rare Southland appearance. They’ll perform quartets by Mozart, Shostakovich and Brahms. The Samueli Theatre in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- Oct. 28. (Tues.) Julie Kelly celebrates the release of her new CD Happy To Be backed by an all star band featuring Bill Cunliffe, Joe La Barbera, Anthony Wilson and Bob Sheppard with guest vocalist John Proulx. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Lee Konitz

Lee Konitz

- Oct. 31. (Fri.) Something Cool: Celebrating Jazz Sounds of the Cool School. The Los Angeles Jazz Institute presents another of their immensely entertaining vistas of broad areas of jazz, This time the event encompasses four areas of cool jazz: Woody Herman and the Four Brothers sound: the music of Lennie Tristano and his Disciples; The Birth of the Cool and its participants; and West Coast Cool. The stellar list of participants is topped by the iconic Lee Konitz as Special Guest of Honor. The programs take pace at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. Something Cool. The L.A. Jazz Institute  (562) 200- 5477.

- Oct. 30. (Thurs.) John Proulx Trio. Pianist Proulx is a prime instrumentalist. And he is now matching that skill with his engaging work as a jazz vocalist. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 30. – Nov. 2.) (Thurs. – n. ) The Los Angeles PhilharmonicMozart and Beethoven, Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program featuring Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Oct. 31. (Fri,) Bob Sheppard with the Pat Senatore Trio featuring Josh Nelson. In a week in which Southland music stages are filled with stellar instrumentalists, here’s one not to miss, with an up front saxophone stylings from Sheppard, and briskly swinging rhythm section work from Senatore’s Trio (featuring Nelson). Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

- Nov. 1. (Sat,) Jackie Ryan featuring saxophonist Rickey Woodard. Although she’s one of the finest of vocal artists in the contemporary jazz scene, Jackie’s appearances in Southern California are far too rare. And she’ll be backed by Rickey Woodard’s fine tenor work. So don’t miss this one. A Jazz Bakery event at the Musicians Institute. (310) 271-9039.

- Nov. 1 & 2. (Sat. & Sun.) Helen Reddy. Australian-born Reddy was called “Queen of Pop” in the ’70s for her success in releasing hit songs. Two of the best-known are “I Am Woman” and “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.” She’ll no doubt perform those and more of her dozens of memorable hits. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Washington D.C.

- Oct. 29 (Wed.) Maria Muldaur. Singer Muldaur’s warm voice was one of the appealing sounds of the folk revival of the early ’60s, followed bv her ’70s hit single, “Midnight at the Oasis.” And she continues her work as a contemporary exponent of all forms of Americana and roots music. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- Oct. 28 – Nov. 1 (Tues.. – Sat.) Ron Carter Nonet. Carter’s one of the most (perhaps the most) recorded bassist in history. But he’s not often recognized for his prime skills as a composer and arranger. Here’s a chance to experience those skills up close and personal. Birdland. . (212) 581-3080.

Kenny Garrett

Kenny Garrett

- Oct. 30 – Nov. 1/ (Thurs. – Sat.) Kenny Garrett Quintet. Grammy-winning alto saxophonist Garrett has cruised the challenging territory from bop to post bop to avant-garde, playing with Duke Ellington and Miles Davis along the way. In the world of contemporary jazz saxophone, he’s the real deal. The Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.

Paris

- Oct. 31 (Fri,) Spyro Gyra. They’ve been in the vanguard of fusion and smooth jazz since they first arrived on the scene in the ’70s. But their award winning recordings are also rooted in solid mainstream skills. Paris New Morning.  +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

Becca Stevens

Becca Stevens

- Oct. 28. (Tues.) Becca Stevens. Eclectic singer Stevens is often identified as a jazz artist. But her considerable abilities also include a convincing facility in pop and blues, often supported by her guitar playing, A-Trane Jazz. +49 30 3132550.

Copenhagen

Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band. Featuring vocalist Charenee Wade. St. Louis-born saxophonist/arranger/composer Wilkins spent the last decades of his life in Copenhagen, where he formed a mid-sized band., Called the “Almost Big Band” it was big enough (12 pieces) to serve as a vehicle for his adventurous arranging and composing. Since his death, the Band has continued under the direction of Nikolaj BentzonJazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Stanley Carke- Oct. 30 & 31 (Thurs. & Fri.) The Stanley Clarke Band. Versatile bassist/bandleader Clarke has always led great ensembles of his own (when he wasn’t pairing up with Chick Corea). And he’s always been receptive to helping new talent along the way. This time out, his band features the impressive piano work of 16 year old prodigy Beka Gochiashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia. The Blue Note Milan.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- Oct. 31 – Nov. 2. (Fri. – Sun.) Goastt (The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger), featuring multi-instramentalists Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, was formed by Lennon (John Lennon’s son) and musician/model Muhl in 1908. But they consider Midnight Sun, released in early 2014 to be their first significant album. The duo also describe their working relationship as singers and songwriters as similar to the working relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, The Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Live Music: Dee Dee Bridgewater at Catalina Bar & Grill

October 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater

I love Dee Dee Bridgewater. I don’t hesitate to say that in public because I know my wife loves her as much as I do. And we both love her even more after experiencing the remarkable performance she gave at Catalina Bar & Grill last night.

To say that what Dee Dee and her impressive quintet offered in their ten song program was dynamic is like describing an atomic bomb as just an explosion. She and her players – trumpeter and leader Theo Croker, alto saxophonist Irwin Hall, keyboardist Michael King, bassist Eric “E-Dub” Wheeler and drummer Kassa Overall – fit together like the workings of a fine Swiss watch. And they did so with a combination of sizzling spontaneity, hard driving swing and interactive inventiveness.

Eric “Dub” Wheeler, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Theo Croker, Kassa Overall and Irwin Hall

Blessed with a voice that soars effortlessly across octaves with an astonishing range of timbres, Dee Dee transformed each of her songs into a dramatic short story, delivered in a compatible musical setting perfectly illuminating every emotional twist and turn that she brought to her vocal narratives.

Dee Dee Bridgewater and Michael King

Dee Dee Bridgewater and Michael King

The range of selections was extraordinary: from “”Afro-Blue” to “A Foggy Day,” from “Blue Monk” to “Love For Sale.” With occasional in between stops at tunes such as “Save Your Love For Me” and “Living For the City.” But whether the source was Thelonious Monk or the Gershwins, Dee Dee found the heart of the song, in brilliant creative exchanges with her musicians.

I’ve already mentioned interactivity several times in describing this memorable evening, and with good reason. All singers value a strong linkage with their players.

Theo Croker, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Irwin Hall

Theo Croker, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Irwin Hall

But what took place between Dee Dee and her musicians could more accurately be compared to what has taken place in some of the classic instrumental ensembles in jazz history (think those of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the Modern Jazz Quartet). And, by the way, Dee Dee’s players – Croker, Hall, King, Wheeler and Overall – are not as well known as they should be.

Dee Dee wrapped the night by stepping down into the table area, cruising among the enthusiastic, hand-clapping crowd, singing Abbey Lincoln’s “The Music is the Magic of a Sacred World.” Occasionally bestowing hugs along the way, she concluded her magical music by inviting her listeners into her creative “Sacred World.”

Dee Dee Bridgewater and her players have one

more night to go at Catalina Bar and Grill. Don’t miss her one of a kind musical experiences. And when she asks you to get up and join her song, do it.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

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Live Music: Experience Hendrix at the Greek Theatre

October 14, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

Los Angeles, CA.  Of all the guitar players to come along in the 20th century, none have been more influential than Jimi Hendrix. Forty-four years after his death, his presence is still felt vividly by anyone with ears open. On Friday night, the Experience Hendrix tour 2014 vintage rolled into the Greek Theatre to share the love and appreciation for Jimi’s music and style. This tour featured hot-shot guitar players from all over the stylistic map, but culling mostly from blues, and rock ‘n roll … between which there is often a very thin line. You could say that Jimi Hendrix set up camp on this line and expanded his style into a very inspired original realm.

On Friday we had people like Zakk Wylde (from Ozzy Ozbourne’s band), Rich Robinson of the Black Crows, Jonny Lang, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd — all of whom were barely out of the crib or not yet born when Hendrix checked out — paying homage to him. Eric Johnson on the other hand was 16 by the time Hendrix died and had the time to take him in, way in, while he was current. Buddy Guy was actually an elder contemporary of Hendrix’s. And on Friday Jimi’s old Army buddy and Band of Gypsies mate Billy Cox, who helped arrange the tour, played on several tunes, including “Red House,” “Message to Love” and “Them Changes.”

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

As a popular music artist, Jimi Hendrix brought the whole package to the table. He was legendarily influential in how electric guitars would sound and be played after him…and he played his Stratocaster left-handed and upside down! He also was an electrifying performer and an inspirational songwriter. The cherry atop it all was that Hendrix was an African American young man coming at the world, fusing Delta blues and rock ‘n’ roll, via swingin’ London, having blown away all the rock gods of the time away in their hometown. The world took notice. But these were turbulent times and copious drug use was absolutely the norm. By age 27, Jimi was a tragic casualty of the lifestyle, after only about 4 years in the limelight.

Yet, it appears that in many circles his legacy is still thriving. Then and now, he set the bar several dozen notches higher than it had been before, for anyone who was (or is) getting serious about playing rock guitar. If one can do justice to several of Hendrix’ tunes, then they just may be getting the real hang of the instrument.

There is one caveat about Hendrix’ music. It has seduced many guitar players into wanking out on their solos far too often, particularly on blues jams. Hendrix was such a great instrumentalist that he could pull off extended solos in a rock format when few others could. With his popularity and Eric Clapton’s concurrent years with Cream, many guitarists seized on stretching out and were nothing much more than boring.

Zack Wylde

Zack Wylde

When you have a night of people jamming Hendrix it’s a given that a whole lot of notes will be played for a long time. Generally speaking on Friday, only two guys went a little too long. They were Zakk Wylde (who looked like he’d clobber you like a cave man if you suggested as much) on “Manic Depression,” and Kenny Wayne Shepherd who did sound amazing as he went on and on over the soft and hard versions of “Voodoo Chile/Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Wylde is a first string heavy metal dude. But, as deft a player as he is, his guitar style can get long winded and histrionic enough so as not to allow him to perhaps let it breathe the way blues-based music needs to. But he did add the elusive piano part to Eric Johnson’s version of “Are You Experienced?” that put it over into one of the top performances of the evening. Shepherd actually had an amazingly authentic tone to work with and did real justice to two of the litmus test tunes on the learning curve of rock guitar.

Eric Johnson and Scot Nelson

Eric Johnson and Scot Nelson

Friday’s show also did a fine job of spotlighting many of Hendrix’ most popular and most inspirational tunes. The song list was top shelf, with many of Jimi’s best deeper cuts and B-sides taking up the lion’s share of the program. “Stone Free,” “Manic Depression,” “Purple Haze” and “Little Wing” all made the list.

Ana Popovic

 

But so did a very soulful version, from Rich Robinson, of the bluesy but atypical “Up From the Skies,” Eric Johnson’s ripping version of “Ezy Rider,” Kenny Wayne Shepherd and singer Noah Hunt’s revved up version of “Gypsy Eyes,” a sparser, more poignant version of “House Burning Down,” from the lovely, guitar-slinging Ana Popovic, and a very tasty version of “Angel” from Doyle Bramhall II, which he has covered since he was in the Arc Angels.

Chris Layton and Doyle Bramhall II

It should be pointed out that the rhythm section was impeccable. Rock steady bassists Tony Franklin (The Firm, Whitesnake), who played fretless basses most of the night, and Scot Nelson were in fine form playing with the one and only Chris Layton. The laconic Layton was Stevie Ray Vaughn’s drummer for many memorable years and on Friday he made it look so easy to hold down the enormous bottom end of these songs – the calm in the middle of the storm.

Experience Hendrix featured one fine tune after another and it still leaves me incredulous that all of Jimi Hendrix’s music was produced in what amounts to about 4 short years. To say the least, he was taken away from the world far too early. Hendrix had some now legendary plans in the works to collaborate with Miles Davis and Emerson Lake and Palmer. What a shame it is that we never got to hear the sound of any of this.

But what he did put out remains stellar and it’s reaffirming to see that it still carries big weight with musical people. That’s why they come out to celebrate it at shows like this one.

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Photos of Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Layton, Ana Popovic, Eric Johnson and Scot Nelson by Mike Finkelstein.


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