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 for a Long Weekend: Oct. 9 – 12 in Los Angeles, New York City and London

October 8, 2014

By Don Heckman

Sally Kellerman

Sally Kellerman

- Oct. 9. (Thurs.) Scott Snapp and Sally Kellerman. It’s an offbeat booking, with Snapp, who defines his singing/songwriting as Theatrical Pop, as the headliner, and Kellerman as “special guest.” But any appearance by Sally is stellar, and everything she sings deserves top billing. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 10. (Fri.) The Emerson String Quartet. Performing an all-Beethoven program of quartets from the early, late and middle stages of his remarkable works for string quartet. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- Oct. 10. (Fri.) The London Philharmonic Orchestra. Vladimir Jurowski conducts a program of Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

Maceo Parker

Maceo Parker

- Oct. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.) Maceo Parker. Perhaps best known for his long association with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, saxophonist Parker has also established himself as a major funk, soul and groove artist in his own right. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Oct. 11. (Sat.) Mary Chapin Carpenter. Country singer/songwriter Chapin has won five Grammy awards in a career studded with songs hitting the top of the country music charts. And with good reason, given the memorable quality of her work. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. 6 (805) 449-2100.

- Oct. 12. (Sun.) Paula Poundstone, Lily Tomlin and guest MC Fred Willard. A rare evening of comedic pleasures, and with this line up expect the best. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

New York City

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

- Oct. 9 – 11. (Thurs.- Sun.) “Chita’s Back.Chita Rivera. The versatile artistry of Chita Rivera, from music to dance takes center stage. She doesn’t often make club appearances, so don’t miss this one. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

 

Lee Ritenour

Lee Ritenour

- Oct. 7 – 12. (Tues, – Sun.) Lee Ritenour. He used to be called “Captain Fingers” for his extraordinary technical virtuosity, But Ritenour has also added creative interpretations to his imaginative, swinging playing. The Blue Note. Residency. (212) 475-8592.

London

- Oct. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.) Ronnie Scott’s. Stacey Kent. New Jersey-born jazz singer Kent has been living in the U.K. since the early ’90s, establishing herself as one of Europe’s finest jazz artists. Ronnie Scott’s +44 20 7439 0747.


Here, There & Everywhere: A Tribute to Myrna Daniels at Catalina Bar & Grill

October 6, 2014

By Don Heckman

“A Tribute” was the nominal title of the event that took place Sunday afternoon at Catalina Bar & Grill. But it was actually much more than that. Some called it a Love Feast, celebrating the accomplishments of Myrna Daniels and her L.A.,Jazz Scene Newspaper. Others referred, repeatedly, to the coming together of L.A.’s “Jazz Family.” And it was also a diverse jazz performance event, showcasing a far-ranging group of some of the Southland’s most dedicated jazz artists.

That might seem like a lot for a Sunday brunch, social hour and concert. But all the aspects of the day were right on target. Largely because the producers, Jazz del Corazon did a fine job of putting all the pieces together, the performers gave their all, and Catalina Popescu and her assistant Manny – as always – provided the perfect ambiance in the perfect setting.

Myrna fully deserved all the accolades that were offered, in recognition of the many years in which she has maintained a periodical supporting Los Angeles jazz in all its manifestations. And the tribute attracted a room packed full of jazz people – musicians, fans and more – the “Jazz Family” that was acknowledged so often during the day.

Myrna accepted the tribute with characteristic grace and warmth. And, in her final comments, she added the best news of all for the many fans of her L.A.,Jazz Scene Newspaper, promising to continue publishing the much valued, widely read periodical into the future.

Jazz itself took over for the balance of the day emceed by the inimitable wit, humor and charm of Bubba Jackson. The many fine participants included:

Singer/bandleader Dave Damiani and his No Vacancy Big Band. The superb vocal trio Chambers, Herbert & Ellis. The empathic duo of singer Cat Conner and woodwind specialist Gene “Cip” Cipriano. The brilliant vocal improviser Mon David. Singers Jackie Gibson, Dolores Scozzesi, Cathy Segal-Garcia, Judy Wexler and Lauren White, each of whom brought another intriguing slant to the jazz vocal art. Ira Hill, an 18 year old jazz vocal prodigy, and Mark Winkler & Cheryl Bentyne’s irresistible combination of fun, swing and balladry.

Here’s Faith Frenz’s photo essay look  at many of the artists in action:

Dave Damiani and his big band

Dave Damiani and his big band

Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne

Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne

Dolores Scozzesi

Cathy Segal-Garcia

 

Ira Hill

Ira Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy Wexler

Judy Wexler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mon David

Mon David

Cat Conner

Cat Conner

Chambers, Herbert & Ellis

Chambers, Herbert & Ellis


Live Music: Crosby, Stills and Nash at the Greek Theatre

October 6, 2014

By Don Heckman

They were back again Friday and Saturday at the Greek Theatre. The incomparable Crosby, Stills & Nash. And once again they delivered a performance that will surely be recalled by the enthusiastic full house crowd as one of their most memorable experiences.

One could have made the same claim for their prior appearance at the Greek, two years ago, which was equally stunning. Not surprising, of course, given the music that C,S&N have to offer.

Stills, Nash and Crosby

This is not, however, a band that repeats itself – the way many holdover acts from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s do, presenting living jukebox renditions of their biggest hits. That’s not to say that C,S&N didn’t please the crowd’s appetite for material from the band’s songbook. But their hits, each of which shimmered with new musical facets, represented only one aspect of Friday night’s many musical pleasures.

The three hour program, including a twenty minute intermission, was liberally sprinkled with familiar C,S & N classics: “Carry On,” ”Southern Cross,” “Just A Song Before I Go,” “Delta,” “Deja Vu,” “Helplessly Hoping,” a climactic “Teach Your Children Well,” and a lot more.

David Crosby

David Crosby

When he wasn’t entertaining his listeners with his sardonic humor, David Crosby was applying his tactile vocal style to his atmospheric “Guinivere” and “Wooden Ships.”

Add to that Graham Nash’s irresistible love song, “Our House,” which immediately triggered warm hugging by seemingly every couple in the venue. And, in contrast, a rocking romp through Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” which was quickly transformed into an audience singalong.

Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills

Further enhancing the program, Stills offered his unique interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country.” And a pair of new songs from Nash showed all the signs of eventually becoming new C,S&N classics. The first, “Here For You,” is an embracing love song. The second, “Burning For the Buddha,” is a stunning work, triggered by Nash’s response to the dozens of holy men in Tibet who have self-immolated since 2009 to protest China’s rule over areas of Tibet.

The program was delivered with collective and individual intensity, supported superbly by C,S&N’s back up band, which included Crosby’s son, keyboardist James Raymond.

Watching this seemingly non-stop flow of captivating music, I recalled the line that often was used in reference to James Brown, describing him as the “Hardest working man in show business,” and with good reason.

Graham Nash

Graham Nash

But in their Friday performance at the Greek, C,S&N were also worthy of the title during their more than 2 ½ hours on stage. Led by the dynamic presence of Graham Nash, who has clearly become the group’s spark plug, the trio’s performance was a non-stop whirlwind of activity.

Each member of the trio offered a characteristic number, some original, some not, displaying their stellar individual skills. In the ensemble vocal passages, they demonstrated their ability to produce the harmonically rich, tonally lush characteristics of their vocal togetherness.

And in the hard driving, rhythmically intense pieces, led by the soaring electric lead guitar of Stills, they reminded us of the rock roots that lie deep within the foundation of this superb trio of great pop artists.

In my review of C,S&N’s 2012 Greek Theatre appearance, I wrote that “the words of “Déjà Vu” remind us that ‘We have all been here before.’ Let’s hope that Crosby, Stills & Nash continue to be here again.”

And now, after hearing them again this year, let’s hope that we can continue to experience deja vu all over, and hear C,S&N again, and again.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by photo journalist Bonnie Perkinson.


Picks of the Weekend in L.A.: October 3 – 5.

October 3, 2014

By Don Heckman

It’s a light weekend, as Yom Kippur ushers in October. But there are some intriguing musical events to experience. Like these:

Angelique Kidjo

- Oct. 3. (Fri.) Angelique Kidjo, With special guest Red Baraat, Dynamic, exciting and entertaining only begin to describe Angelique Kidjo’s remarkable performances. And this one includes the added high energies of the Brooklyn bhangra band with percussionist Sunny Jain. Valley Performing Arts Center.  2014-10-03 (818) 677-8800.

- Oct. 3 & 4. (Fri. & Sat.) Crosby, Stills & Nash. What is there to say that hasn’t been said about the remarkable musical history, past and present, of the extraordinary musical collecetive of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Here they are in their always welcome, annual Southland appearance. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

– Oct.4. (Sat,.) Sha Na Na sings Grease. It’s a great combination: the doo-wop songsters of Sha Na Na take on the hit songs from the hit film musical Grease. Expect to hear “Hound Dog,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Here To Stay,” “Sandy” and more. Don’t miss this one. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8500

Jennifer Leitham

Jennifer Leitham

- Oct. 4. (Sat.) Jennifer Leitham. It’s unclear why Upstairs at Vitello’s continues to describe itself as a “Jazz and Supper Club.”: No argument with the “Supper,” which is good enough; but “Jazz” has become virtually non-existent in a room that once seemed on the way to establishing itself as one of the Southland’s prime jazz destinations. Fortunately there are still rare, but worthwhile, jazz nights at Vitello’s (a few times a month) with appearances by performers such as Jennifer Leitham, who brings jazz authenticity to whatever and wherever she’s playing. Upstairs at Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne

Oct. 5. (Sun.) A Tribute to Myrna Daniels and the L.A. Jazz Scene Newspaper. Here’s one of the jazz events of the Fall season. Start out with an 11:00 a.m. brunch tribute to the many contributions Myrna Daniels and her L.A. Jazz Scene have made to the continuing presence of jazz in the Southland. Following that, there’ll be performances by Chambers, Herbert & Ellis, Mon David, Jackie Gibson, Dolores Scozzesi, Cathy Segal-Garcia, Judy Wexler, Cat Connor, Lauren White, Mark Winkler & Cheryl Bentyne and others. Later, on Sunday night, Ron Jones and his hard-swinging Influence Jazz Orchestra will top off a music-filled day and night. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 5. (Sun.) Michelle Coltrane and Shea Welsh. Like her brother Ravi, singer Michelle Coltrane has inherited a remarkable legacy from her parents, John and Alice Coltrane. Also like her brother, she’s applied that legacy to her own growing musical creativity. She performs here with her close musical associate, busy studio guitarist Welsh. Should be a fascinating musical evening. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

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Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne photo by Faith Frenz.


Live Music: The George Fest 2014 at the Fonda Theater

September 30, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

George Harrison

George Harrison

Hollywood, CA. On Sunday night the first annual George (Harrison) Fest went into the books at the Fonda Theater. There was so much interest in this show, a benefit for the Sweet Relief charity for needy musicians, that it was moved from the El Rey Theater to the larger Fonda Theater. The stately old place was sold out and packed by the time the music began about 40 minutes late. But it was a very satisfying night of tunes for all who gathered — All things George, solo or Beatles.

The format of the night was for the Cabin Down Below Band to serve as the house band, with “a lot of moving parts,” to shepherd the evening along as guests passed onto and off of the stage, as on a carousel, for the better part of two and a half hours. The band and the stage crew did yeoman’s work to this end. Keyboards, guitars, and pedal boards were shuttled on and off stage as quickly as the performers. Amazingly, for all of this activity, things cruised along at a nice, crisp pace, with very little empty space between songs.

George’s musical catalogue was on display in a way that folks like myself had perhaps always hoped for but never gotten from him live. He rarely toured and didn’t play all of his below-the-surface gems when he did. And this material is the difference maker with him.

Specifically, the performers mined the too-often-ignored mother lode of the All Things Must Pass album. It’s an album loaded with gorgeous musical ideas. Making the cut on Sunday were, “Awaiting on You All,” “Isn’t it a Pity?” “If Not For You,” “I’d Have You Anytime,” “What Is Life?” “Let It Down,” “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp,” “Wah Wah,” “Behind That Locked Door,” “Beware of Darkness,” “My Sweet Lord,” and “All Things Must Pass.” I hadn’t thought I’d hear anyone do most of these tunes live any time soon. But we were all very happily surprised to have it happen.

Ann Wilson, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Vivino, Al Jardine

Ann Wilson, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Vivino, Al Jardine

One of George’s signature sounds, as a solo artist, and particularly on All Things Must Pass, was his harmonized slide guitar work. It was an impressive bit of planning, practicing, and execution done by the Cabin Below boys to get those slide parts nailed in unison. It definitely took the songs over the top to where they could jump out and grab us. Throughout the evening many of the most memorable and elusive sounds in all of these songs were delightfully included in the arrangements.

Sunday was one of those rare opportunities to see an intriguing and diverse list of performers take on a super-savory batch of tunes. The matchups we saw just don’t happen too often. They all turned in memorable performances.

Conan O'Brien

Conan O’Brien

Weird Al Yankovic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the more unexpected numbers were Conan O’Brien singing “Old Brown Shoe,” Weird Al Yankovic with “What Is Life?” and Ian Astbury of the Cult persuasively crooning “Be Here Now.”

Norah Jones

Norah Jones

There was Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction singing “Here Comes the Sun,” with Norah Jones and Karen Elson. Where else do you get to see that? We also heard a very sweet take on George’s treatment of Dylan’s “If Not For You,” by Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards. Ben Harper took “Give Me Love (Peace on Earth),” to another level vocally and instrumentally. And the match of Norah Jones to “Behind That Locked Door,” was a keeper. Remarkable, really.

Dhani Harrison

Dhani Harrison

The most direct connection to all of this was George’s son, Dhani Harrison, who sang a great “Let It Down,” and handled “Savoy Truffle,” with style. In the second half of the show we saw a lot of Dhani. He sang “Got My Mind Set On You,” with Brandon Flowers of The Killers, to the frenzied delight of many of the ladies in the crowd. Dhani stuck around for the closing numbers. The final three songs were “My Sweet Lord,” with Brian Wilson, “Handle with Care,” featuring a stage full of musicians easily 20 strong, and “All Things Must Pass,” sung beautifully in tandem by Ann Wilson, Nora Jones, and Dhani.

The George Fest Cast

The George Fest Cast

When it was all said and done we had gone the distance on a long but thoroughly fun and entertaining show. Despite the large number of top shelf performances, the unmistakable star of the show was George Harrison’s musical body of work. His songs are clearly timeless and it’s gratifying and inspiring to see so many talented young musicians embrace the music the way they do. They did make the songs shine on Sunday night.

Photo journalist Bonnie Perkinson took the photos of Ann Wilson, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Vivino, Al Jardine, Conan O’Brien, Weird Al Yankovic, Norah Jones, Dhani Harrison and the full cast of George Fest.


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