Live Music: Robert Davi at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

October 24, 2014

By Don Heckman

Bel Air. Robert Davi was back at Herb Alpert’s elegant Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. at the top of Beverly Glen last night. And, as always happens in his performances, he spent most of his program demonstrating his belief in the Great American Songbook as “America’s Shakespeare.”

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

Davi, whose acting career began in a film starring Frank Sinatra, has been one of the most convincing Sinatra-influenced vocal stylists for most of his career. But, unlike the growing cadre of Sinatra wannabees, he’s never been an imitator. Inspired by Ol’ Blue Eyes, he has instead invested the lyrical expressiveness and rhythmic swing of the style with his own considerable interpretive skills.

As he did Thursday night at Vibrato. Backed by a solid, six piece band led by his music director, pianist Andy Waldman, Davi offered a program mixing Sinatra classics with an intriguing range of tunes from a variety of other sources.

For many responsive listeners, the Sinatra songbook items – “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “Just One of Those Things,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “That Old Black Magic,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “The Best Is Yet To Come” and “That’s Life” among them – were the high points. And there’s no disputing the fact that they were brought vividly to life within a Sinatra framing shaped by the Davi imagination.

Roberto Davi and his band.

Roberto Davi and his band.

Other songs were equally persuasive: a warmly intimate reading of “Moonlight In Vermont”; a stunning medley of “Old Man River” and “River Stay Away From My Door,” thoroughly displaying the rich timbres of Davi’s mellow baritone voice; a Broadway stage-worthy version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns”; and a rendering of “New York, New York” deeply touching the heart of every former New Yorker (including this one) in the room.

Robert Davi walking the room

Robert Davi walking the room

Davi enhanced lengthy segments of many songs with tours through Vibrato’s forest of tables, using a wireless microphone to create an informal, living room setting. And he was typically humorous, as well, often jokingly arguing with some of his show biz friends in the crowd about the correct identities of various songwriters. In one especially amusing segment, he recalled meeting “Russia’s Frank Sinatra” during a concert program in Russia. Imitating what he heard, Davi sang “The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else” with what can best be described as a hilarious Russian accent.

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

As he has done in past performances, Davi also sang “The House I Live In,” from a mid-’40s short film, featuring Sinatra. The film, rare for the time, offered powerful opposition to Anti-Semitism and racial prejudice. And Davi, always a strong supporter of the best characteristics in American culture, underscored the song’s contemporary value at a time when those characteristics are most needed.

In sum, Davi’s performance was a virtual seminar in how to bring imagination, creativity, musicality and the sheer pleasures of entertainment to a beautifully expressed evening of song. And it was done so well that it aroused – for this listener – a feeling I’ve occasionally had at past Davi performances: the desire to hear his extraordinary skills at the service of a even wider repertoire of songs.

Among the possibilities: more works by the incomparable Alan and Marilyn Bergman; more songs by Leonard Bernstein; and Davi is more than versatile enough, as well, to find some offbeat musical riches in the singer/songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s.

That said, Davi’s performance was another musical night to remember. And when he returns to the Vibrato stage, we’ll be there once again, packing the house, along with his legions of enthusiastic fans.

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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 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.


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