Live Music: Anna Mjoll At Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

November 13, 2014

By James deFrances

What do jazz standards, Iceland and Bel Air have in common? Simple…the answer is the dynamic blonde haired Iceland-born diva Anna Mjoll. Last Friday night at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc., Mjoll crooned to a thoroughly filled house of diners and jazz enthusiasts alike. Only a day after Alpert and his wife Lani Hall played two sold out shows Mjoll managed to keep the blood flowing for a third consecutive night.

Her show ranged from light moving ballads to hard-driving bossa nova tunes. Impeccably supported by the #Pat Senatore trio, Mjoll did the Great American Songbook right.

Anna Mjoll and the Pat Senatore Trio

Anna Mjoll and the Pat Senatore Trio

Her voice possesses an airy, relaxed quality which makes the music even easier to digest. Her vibrato (no pun intended) is on tap when she needs it and her phrasing is uniquely her own. In between songs she keeps the audience in check by telling stories, asking questions and cracking jokes.

She asked the audience to say hello to her mother from Iceland, who was seated in the first row and only in town for the weekend. “I wish you would move to California,” exclaimed Mjoll. Mother and daughter maintained a lighthearted banter throughout  the entirety of the show.

Anna Mjoll and Pat Senatore

Anna Mjoll and Pat Senatore

Before singing “Taking A Chance On Love,” she reflected on her many marriages and philosophized on love. Perhaps the highlight of the evening, however, was when she sang “Nature Boy” with only bassist Pat Senatore’s accompaniment. She dedicated the song to Senatore, whom she said is the only man who never let’s her down. Also on the list Friday night were songs like “Come Fly With Me,” “Smile” and “Imagination.” For Mjoll who has a busy calendar it was just one of those nights and her closing tune appropriately enough was “Just One Of Those Things.”

But the large audience who remained long after she took her final bow was a sign of a job well done. Those who stayed late enough even got to hear the Senatore Trio play their “Sexy Late Night Set.” In the end, if you are looking for a night of Marilyn Monroe glamour and some hot straight ahead jazz Anna Mjoll with the Pat Senatore trio is your best ticket in town!

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Photos by James deFrances. 

 

 


Live Jazz: Jackie Ryan in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute

November 3, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles. Jackie Ryan made one of her far too rare Southland appearances on Saturday night. The program was a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute featuring Ryan with the stellar backing of tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Tamir Hendelman, drummer Dean Koba and bassist Alex Frank.

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

That’s an impressive combination of talent, and the result was a stunning blend of vocal and instrumental jazz.

Ryan has always been a versatile, expressive singer, comfortable in several languages, an effective interpreter of bossa nova classics often in their original Portuguese. Add to that her strong sense of rhythmic swing and effective story-telling mastery.

Rickey Woodard

Those qualities, and more, were all present in her dynamic Saturday night appearance. Additionally noticeable in her rendering of an appealing program of songs were Ryan’s engaging entertainment skills. Interacting humorously with her highly receptive audience, sharing the spotlight with Woodard and the other players, introducing songs with a narrative describing their background, she offered a complete package, energized by the rich jazz qualities that are at the center of her performance art.

Among the highlights of an evening filled with memorable moments: a group of warmly intimate Brazilian songs from Milton Nascimento and Antonio Carlos Jobim, highlighted by an especially touching version of Jobim’s “Louisa”; a passionate rendering of “I Love You Porgy,” prefaced by Ryan’s telling of the song’s meaning in the context of the opera Porgy and Bess; a briskly swinging “I Just Found Out About Love”; a laid-back “Sleeping Bee”; a soaring, blues-driven take on “Georgia,” featuring a scene-stealing solo from Woodard; and more.

Rickey Woodard, Dean Koba, Alex Frank, Tamir Hendelman

Ryan was backed throughout by the sort of sturdy support that most singers dream of having, and often do not. Hendelman’s highly praised accompaniment for singers was present in every note he played; Koba and Frank laid down an irresistibly bouyant rhythmic flow; and Woodard’s playing, as noted above, provided the perfect, musically illuminating musical partnership.

The only thing missing in this otherwise superb musical evening was a second set. And when we left the theatre, the only remaining desire was the wish for Ryan to make more frequent trips south to gift L.A. with the many pleasures of her music.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

 


Live Jazz: Bob Sheppard with the Pat Senatore Trio at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

November 2, 2014

By Don Heckman

Bel Air, CA.  Some of the best nights for jazz in Los Angeles take place on the week nights when the city’s prime jazz destinations – Catalina Bar & Grill, Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc., the Blue Whale and beyond – schedule appearances by the Southland’s finest side men (and side women). By the players, in other words, who spend most of their time working as back-ups, rhythm sections and big band section players. Many of whom are also busy studio musicians, performing daily on the sound tracks for films and television, on recordings for everything from country music and the blues to jazz, pop and classical music.

Bob Sheppard and Pat Senatore

Bob Sheppard and Pat Senatore

Friday night at Vibrato was a good example. Bob Sheppard, a master of woodwind instruments of every shape and size, gave a full fledged display of his far-ranging jazz skills, backed by bassist Pat Senatore’s equally skillful trio of masterful instrumentalists (Senatore, bass; Tom Ranier, piano; Ramon Banda, drums).

At its best – which was throughout the entire set – the music had the laid back, spontaneous creativity of a jam session. And with good reason. Sheppard and the Senatore trio players have plenty of familiarity with each other, in all sorts of musical settings. And a relaxed, laid back gig in the amiable environs of Vibrato’s jazz-friendly setting allowed plenty of room for the music to flow freely.

With good reason, Sheppard was at the center of it all. And watching him proceed from one instrument to the other was not just a display of versatile technique. It was also an opportunity to enjoy the work of a masterful jazz artist – one who hasn’t yet received the widespread recognition that his talent deserves.

Bob Sheppard

Bob Sheppard

And there was another aspect as well. Sheppard played tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and clarinet. Many multi-instrument doublers, when they shift instruments, tend to play each from the same musical perspective (despite their inherent differences). But not Sheppard. Switching easily from soprano to tenor, for example, he was always firmly in touch with the unique qualities of each – and so, too, for his approach to the flute and the clarinet. The results were compelling, a fascinating display of imaginative versatility.

Sheppard and the Senatore Trio played their way through an appealing program: some floating bossa nova, airy flute sounds on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave”; lyrical soprano saxophone on “In Your Own Sweet Way”; hard driving tenor on “Easy Living”; a pairing of “Perdido” with “I Want To Be Happy.” And a lot more.

An evening, in other words, that was a reminder of how much fine jazz can be heard on any given week night in the Southland. Check the informative calendar of LA Jazz  and you’ll find something appealing on virtually every night.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Brazilian Music: Teka at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

October 22, 2014

By James M. DeFrances

Bel Air, CA. Teka Penteriche’s performance at Vibrato last Sunday night had the approval of everyone in the crowd, including veteran crooner Tom Jones.

Teka

Teka

The smooth sounds of the Brazilian born singer-guitarist and her New Bossa Band filled the air of Herb Alpert’s cozy and elegantly appointed club in Bel Air. Her song choices too were apparently just what the doctor ordered for the late night weekend patrons in West LA.  Over a glass of white wine and a bowl of the club’s extraordinary Cream of Mushroom soup I too was able to experience first hand what everyone had told me about,

Teka is sensational. Her set list offered a wide variety of Brazilian jazz with songs sung in both Portuguese and English. Teka’s arrangements and adaptations are uniquely her own and her voice and the band synced up the way every band hopes for. Highlights of the evening included her renditions of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classics — including a beautifully done version of “Aguas de Marco” and the song that the audience seemed to appreciate the most “Summer Samba” the crowning achievement of Brazilian composer Marcos Valle.

Teka and her New Bossa Band

Teka and her New Bossa Band

She was backed superbly by her New Bossa band – saxophonist/flutist Doug Webb, pianist Tom Zink, bassist Randy Tico and percussionist Kevin Winard.

Teka and her husband Paris had to make quite the trip down from Santa Barbara but it was a trip well taken as the audience was ready for more, even at the conclusion of her second and final set. Many audience members purchased a CD from Teka’s collection of albums as they left the club – a solid indication that her performance was a hit!

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Photos by James M. DeFrances.


Picks of the Week: October 15 – 19 in Los Angeles, New York City and London

October 15, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater

- Oct. 16 – 18. (Thurs. – Sat.) Dee Dee Bridgewater. She’s a Grammy and Tony award winner, an actress, a radio star and a U.N. Ambassador. As if all that wasn’t enough, she’s also a dynamic jazz artist, a singer with a unique style and a creative imagination. She doesn’t make a lot of L.A. Club performances, so don’t miss this one. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Oct. 16. (Thurs.) Gregg Arthur. Add Australian singer Arthur to the growing list of male vocal artists finding inspiration in the Sinatra style and the Great American Songbook repertoire. And he does it with authority. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Billy Childs

Billy Childs

- Oct. 17. (Fri.) Billy Childs. Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro. Pianist/composer Billy Childs showcases a live performance of his new recording, finding new creative aspects in the music of singer/songwriter Laura Nyro. He’s aided by the vocals of Becca Stevens, Moira Smiley and Lisa Fischer. Segerstrom Center.  (714) 556-2787.

- Oct. 17. (Fri.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Prokofiev and Dvorak. In an evening of extraordinary international taent, Basque conductor Juanjo Mena leads the L.A. Phil in performances of the Dvorak Symphony No. 7 and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3, with Uzbekistani pianist Behzod Abduraimov. Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- Oct. 18. (Sat.) Laura Pausini. Consider it good timing for Italian singer Pausini to make a Southland appearance in the week of Christopher Columbus celebrations. A major Italian star, she should be heard by American listeners, as well. The Greek Theatre. (323) 665-5857.

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

- Oct. 19. (Sun.) Jane Monheit.   “Hello Bluebird: Celebrating the Jazz of Judy Garland.”  Monheit applies her rich vocal timbres and and brisk rhythms to a fascinating view of the Garland’s jazz roots.  Saban Theatre. (888) 645-5006.

- Oct. 19. (Sun.) The Buddy Rich Band. It may no longer be led by the charismatic drumming of the late Rich, but his band still retains the character and the spirit of the original. Catalina Bar & Grill. (223) 466-2210.

- Oct. 19. (Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Mozart Serenade. Douglas Boyd conducts Mozart’s Serenade in D Major and George Benjamin’s First Light, and cellist Steven Isserlis is the soloist for Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major. A CAP UCLA event at Royce Hall.  310-825-2101.

 

* * *  L.A.’s HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK   * * *

TEKA and her NEW BOSSA QUARTET

Oct. 19. (Sun.)

Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

 Brazilian singer/guitarist Teka and her New Bossa Quartet perform music rich with free flying jazz, the irresistible rhythms and melodies of Brazil, and the lyrical pleasures of the Great American Songbook.

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New York City

- Oct. 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.) Benny Green Trio. The virtuosic Green is one of the few pianists influenced by Oscar Peterson who does so with convincing improvisational authority. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Oct. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.) Cassandra Wilson. A jazz singer who is one of the few uniquely original performers in the field of jazz vocalists. Blessed with a voice rich with warm, expressive timbres, she uses it at the service of a compelling creative imagination. The Blue Note.

London

- Oct. 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.) Al Di Meola plays Beatles and More. Always in pursuit of new expressive arenas for his superb guitar playing, Di Meola applies his remarkable skills to the classics of the Beatles songbook. And more. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.


Live Music: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

October 9, 2014

By Don Heckman

Bel Air, CA.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. became a very special place when Herb Alpert took it over a few years ago, transforming a small venue in a mini-mall at the top of Beverly Glen into a fine food connoisseur’s delight and a world class showcase for jazz.

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

And it becomes even more special when Alpert, his wife, vocalist Lani Hall, and their all star band put in an appearance. As they did Tuesday night.

The fact is that there’s nothing quite like hearing Alpert perform in his own club. There’ve been musician club owners over the years – Shelly Manne, Ronnie Scott, Igor Butman, to name a few – all of whom played in their own venues from time to time.

Herb Alpert

But when Herb Alpert plays in Vibrato, he’s not just on stage at his own elegant Bel Air bistro. He’s performing in a virtual art gallery, surrounded by walls displaying his large, colorful abstract expressionist paintings and his sculptures of musicians in the act of playing. Add to that the remarkable collection of repertoire that he brings to his performances – selecting material reaching from his latest albums to hit songs from his Tijuana Brass successes of the ’60s.

At the center of his music, Alpert – at 79 – reminded us that he is still a remarkable trumpeter and a gifted improviser. Not often given sufficient credit for the quality of his instrumental skills, he once again displayed his Miles Davis-inspired ability to bring a song vividly to life.

And let’s not overlook Alpert’s unspoken, but significant subtitle of “philanthropist” in recognition of the large generous funding he has bestowed upon University music programs and gifted young artists in many genres.

All those elements and more were present Tuesday night when Alpert and Hall – backed by pianist Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael Shapiro – celebrated the release of their new album, In the Mood.

The Herb Alpert Band

When Alpert noted that the performance was the start of a tour introducing the album, he also added, whimsically, that they did not include the classic Glenn Miller hit “In The Mood” on the CD, or in their set of the night. But no problem there. After romping through “Chatanooga Choo Choo” the band also dug into “Blue Moon,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Let it Be Me” and more from an album displaying all the signs of presenting Alpert with his next Grammy Award.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Other highlights included entertaining looks at both Alpert’s and Hall’s stellar pasts. The Tijuana Brass medley called up stirring memories of the Alpert band that topped Bob Dylan and the Beatles on the Billboard charts in the mid-’60s. And an Antonio Carlos Jobim medley showcased Hall’s mastery of bossa nova songs (and Portuguese), reaching back to her stint with Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’66 as she applied her warm, intimate contralto to songs such as “The Waters of March,” “Corcovado” and “”Samba de Uma Nota Só.”

As always, Alpert and Hall were superbly backed by Cantos, Jiffry and Shapiro who consistently found the perfect balance between energizing the rhythm while supporting the headliners’ many interpretive subtleties. And Cantos, a versatile singer/instrumentalist in his own right, has recently added colorful synth textures to his fine piano work, as well as his own back up vocals on a few tunes.

In sum, call it one of the most notable musical experiences of the year. All of the Vibrato appearances of Alpert and Hall have been memorable. As was this one. And I (along with, I suspect, the many members of the packed house) look forward to many more.

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Photos by Faith Frenz

 


Picks of the Week: Sept. 24 – 28

September 23, 2014

By Don Heckman

As the warm days of September wind to a close, while autumn is just beginning to arrive, the bookings are light at clubs and concert venues around the world, but there’s still some very special music to hear.

Los Angeles

Pat Senatore

Pat Senatore

- Sept. 25. (Thurs.) Pat Senatore Trio. Bassist Senatore and his trio – pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Mark Ferber play selections from his exciting new album Ascensione and a forecast of what to expect from his up-coming, soon to be released CD. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 26. (Fri,) Roumani & Sidiki Diabate and Rokia Traore. An extraordinary evening of music from Mali, featuring the father and son team of Diabates in a program of traditional sounds, as well as the imaginative works of singer/songwriter/guitarist Traore. A CAP UCLA event at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

Trey Anastasio

Trey Anastasio

-Sept. 26. (Fri.) Trey Anastasio with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. One of the founding members of Phish, the ever-adventurous Anastasio presents newly imagined orchestral versions of pieces he’s written over the past few decades. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 26 & 27 (Fri. & Sat.) Chambers, Herbert & Ellis. The best way to describe this musically fascinating vocal trio is to say “Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. But Chambers, Herbert & Ellis add their own unique touches as well. Click HERE to read an iRoM review of the trio in action. The Gardenia.  (323) 467-7444.

- Sept. 26 – 28. (Fri. – Sun.) Lenny White, Victor Bailey and Larry Coryell. A trio of the contemporary jazz world’s most versatile players. Expect to hear improvisational fireworks from drummer White, bassist Bailey and guitarist Coryell. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias

Seattle

- Sept. 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.) Eliane Elias. Sao Paulo’s gift to jazz continues to find fascinating creative links between her Brazilian roots and her compelling jazz piano and vocals. Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Elias and her superb trio. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York City

- Sept, 23 – 27. (Tues. – Sat.) Fred Hersch, Esperanza Spalding and Richie Barshay. Pianist Hersch and bassist/singer Spalding may seem to be an odd couple. But with the talent they have, individually and collectively with drummer Barshay, musical delights will be on the menu. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

London

- Sept. 24 – 26. (Wed. – Fri.) The David Sanborn Trio featuring Joey DeFrancesco and Byron Landham. Alto saxophonist, one of the innovative players of his generation, is always a pleasure to hear. And he’ll no doubt take everything up a notch in company with the dynamic organ work of DeFrancesco and the solid groove of drummer Landham. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.

Milan

- Sept. 24. (Wed.) Tierney Sutton. “After Blue – The Joni Project. On her seemingly non-stop quest to bring her imaginative approach to jazz vocalizing, Sutton has added the music of Joni Mitchell to her extraordinary performances. (And on her After Blue CD, as well.) Blue Note Milan. / +39 02 6901 6888.


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