Live Music: Hot Tuna at McCabe’s

February 11, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

Santa Monica, CA.  On Sunday night, in the second of two well-placed shows at McCabe’s, Hot Tuna gave a clinic in acoustic ensemble playing. Featuring founding Tuna members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, along with their now longtime mandolin collaborator Barry Mitterhoff, the group romped smoothly through a 90 minute set drawing mainly from their signature catalogue of country blues covers. Rounding out the set were their own rock driven original numbers that now go back decades to early Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane days.

There is something beautifully reaffirming in watching longtime musical partners play, something in the air and between the lines. Jorma and Jack have been playing together since they were teenagers in Virginia…this amounts to well over 50 years. It’s been a wild ride. From the psychedelic vortex of San Francisco in the ’60’s with Jefferson Airplane, to their ongoing country blues and rock-based project, Hot Tuna, these two have been side by side for pretty much the whole way. You can hear it in their playing. They know intuitively what the other is going to do and so they complement each other on the fly, in ways that take this long to develop. The fact that they put their own psychedelic stamp on something as stylized as country blues with a bass and an acoustic guitar is definitely winsome.

While Jorma lovingly gigs at McCabe’s on what seems to be an annual basis, he doesn’t always have his bud Jack Casady beside him. So, on Sunday it was a special treat to watch them do what they do best live in McCabe’s back room. Jorma’s finger-picking and Jack’s octave leaning, softly clicking bass lines, and liquid flurries kept the audience right there in the groove with them.

Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen

Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen

Considering that the set was only 13 songs long, Hot Tuna covered much musical ground, both on the popular and less travelled paths. They opened with Jimmy Cox’s marvelous standard, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” playing it crisp and bouncy. After some loose banter, they launched into what was once a heavy mid ’70’s Tuna rock piece, “Serpent of Dreams” from America’s Choice. Their acoustic treatment of this tune supports the idea that a great set of chords and voicings can rock, yes, really rock, whether or not electric instruments are involved. They got the same effect on “Trial By Fire,” another lesser-known Jefferson Airplane tune from Long John Silver. This process of reinvention is how fans and musicians alike delightfully rediscover songs they hadn’t considered for some time.

Hot Tuna used to be one of the loudest rock bands around in the ’70’s. But they always loved to play acoustic as well (their legendary first album was a live acoustic performance). In this ensemble they have the low, the middle, and the high parts represented by three of the best around. With a mildly amplified electric bass, finger-picked acoustic guitar, and a mandolin, Hot Tuna had a dynamic sound with that sweet space between the instruments…a sound that could shrink and swell, and then pivot on a dime.

On Sunday they proved that it’s not entirely the volume or distortion that makes the rockin’ songs swing, it’s also how the guitar and bass contrast. The key to it seemed to be in Jack’s timely lowest notes, which would rumble beautifully and surge forth to pump the changes up into something huge.

Hot Tuna really did make all the choices in the set count. There were Hot Tuna standards like “Keep on Truckin’,” “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” (one of the band’s favorite Gary Davis songs) “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning,” and “Come Back Baby.” Also making the list were “Vicksburg Stomp,” with some inspired runs from Jack and Barry, and the beautiful “Second Chances,” from the band’s most recent album Steady As She Goes. A nice surprise turned out to be “I’ll Be All Right Someday,” from Jorma’s Quah album.

This show lasted nearly an hour and a half but it felt more like 40 minutes. I know I’ll be back again the next time they roll through McCabes. Can’t get enough of this music.

* * * * * * * *

To read more reviews and posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

Photo by Barry Berenson, courtesy of Hot Tuna.


Picks of the Weekend: Jan. 30 – Feb. 2

January 30, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

- Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 (Thurs. – Sat.) Stanley Clarke Trio and the Harlem Quartet. Eclectic bassist and band leader Clarke blends his always-fascinating trio work with the unique sounds of the Harlem
Quartet. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 30. (Thurs. Lauren Kinhan. A CD Release party for a young singer with a voice to remember. Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 31. (Fri.) Billy Childs Electric Band. Pianist/composer Childs’ versatility runs the complete gamut of jazz genres. This time out, it’s all electric. The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn

- Jan. 31. (Fri.) Hilary Hahn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Russian conductor Andrey Boreyko leads violinist Hahn and the L.A. Phil in a program of Nordic music by Sibelius, Nielsen and Swedish composer Anders Hillborg. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 31. (Fri.) Gina Saputo. A rising star if there ever was one, Saputo’s vocals are the product of a compelling young talent. Steamer’s.  (714) 871-8800.

Gary Foster

Gary Foster

- Feb. 1. (Sat.) Gary Foster Quartet. Saxophonist Foster has been one of L.A.’s prime first call players for years. Here, he’s in action fronting his own band. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 2. (Sun.) The Webb All-Stars. All-Stars is an appropriate title for a band featuring Doug Webb, saxophones, Mitch Forman, keyboards, John Ziegler, guitar, Jimmy Earl, bass, Danny Carey, drums. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

Seattle

Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell

- Jan. 30 – Feb. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.) Bill Frisell’s “Guitar in the Space Age.” Always on the crest of trying something new, Frisell’s latest effort features Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen. Jazz Alley,  (206) 441-9729.

Washington D.C.

- Jan. 29. (Wed.) Diane Marino. The warm and engaging voice of singer Marino offers a performance celebrating the relese of her latest CD, Loads of Love. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie

- – Jan. 30 – Feb. 1. (Thurs. – Sat.) John Abercrombie Quartet. Guitarist Ambercrombie does a convincing job of blending fun, fusion and straight ahead bebop. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 30 – 31. (Thurs & Fri.) Dado Moroni: “The Legacy of John Coltrane.” An international all-star jazz ensemble commemmorates the incomparable music of the great John Coltrane. Featuring pianist Moroni from Italy, vibist Joe Locke from the U.S., tenor saxophonist Max Ionata and bassist Marco Panascia from Italy, and drummer Morten Lund from Denmark. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milano

Billy Cobham

Billy Cobham

= Jan. 30 – Feb. 1. (Thurs. – Sat.) Billy Cobham Spectrum 40. Drummer Cobham’s crisply rhythmic Spectrum features the guitar work of Dean Brown, the keyboards of Gary Husband and the bass of Ric Fierabracci. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 26

January 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Jan.21. (Tues.) The Pat Senatore Trio. Bassist Senatore, Josh Nelson, piano, and Mark Ferber, drums, assemble to celebrate a CD release party for the Trio’s new album, Ascensione. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

Aaron Weinstein

Aaron Weinstein

- Jan. 22. (Wed.) Aaron Weinstein. Violinist Weinstein, still not a highly visible jazz artist, is rapidly establishing himself as one of his instrument’s rare jazz masters. Click HERE to read an earlier iRoM review of Weinstein. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 22 – 24. (Wed- Fri.) Lenny White and Friends. Eclectic drummer White, a vital veteran of Return to Forever, leads his own solid ensemble, including bassists Foley and Victor Bailey, woodwind player Bennie Maupin and keyboardist George Colligan. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

John Proulx

John Proulx

- Jan. 23. (Thurs.) John Proulx Trio. He’s a fine pianist and an in-demand rhythm section player. And Proulx is now beginning to prove his skills as a fine interpretive jazz singer, as well. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Master Chorale performs the Bach B Minor Mass in an interpretation that Music Director Grant Gershon says will “blow the roof off Disney Hall.”  (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) Average White Band. More than 40 years after their arrival on the pop music scene the A.W.B. still conjurs up an irresistible blend of funk, soul and r&b. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

- Jan. 25. (Sat.) Chita Rivera: A Legendary Celebration. And, yes, Rivera is indeed one of the musical theatre’s most unique, memorable and legendary performers. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra offer an inviting program of Mozart & Beethoven. On Saturday at the Alex Theatre.  On Sunday at Royce Hall.

- Jan. 26. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe. Grammy-nominated Cunliffe offers a “Night at the Grammys with a stellar ensemble – saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Adam Czerwinski.  (818) 769-0905.  Vitello’s.

 San Francisco

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter

- Jan. 24. (Fri.) Cameron Carpenter. Organist Carpenter is one of classical music’s most dynamic performers, bringing an astounding blend of virtuosic technique and entertaining showmanship to everything he plays. SFJAZZ at Grace Cathedral.  (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

- Jan. 21 – 22. (Tues. – Wed.) Grace Kelly with the Marc Seales Trio. A jazz saxophone prodigy as a teen-ager, Kelly – now 21 – has matured into a gifted creative artist. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

 New York City

- Jan. 22 & 23. (Wed. & Thurs.) Pat Martino and Eldar. A cross generational team – veteran guitarist Martino and talented young pianist Eldar – get together in search of common improvisational ground. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 23-25 (Thurs. – Sat.) Paolo Fresu Special Quartet. Italian trumpeter/flugelhornist Fresu has assembled an aggregation of some of Europe’s finest jazz players, among them Paolo Russo, piano, Thomas Fonnesbaek, bass, and Alex Riel, drums. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- Jan. 23 – 25. (Thurs. – Sat.) Diane Schuur. “Deedles,” as she is known by friends, fans and musicians alike, continues to sing with the Sarah Vaughan influenced style that has characterized her imaginative work ever since Stan Getz discovered her in the late ’70s. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

Jan. 23 & 24. (Thurs. & Fri.) Avishai Cohen Trio. Israeli jazz bassist Cohen – not the Israeli jazz trumpeter by the same name – leads his new trio in a rare Japanese appearance. The Blue Note Tokyo. +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: January 8 – 12

January 8, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Jan. 8. (Wed.) Jim Cox Trio. Pianist Cox has long been one of the Southland’s first call pianists and arrangers. Here he is, on his own, backed by bassist Domenic Genova and drummer John Ferraro. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti

- Jan. 8 & 9. (Wed. & Thurs.) Laura Benanti. Tony Award-winning Broadway star Benanti starred in last year’s NBC-TV production of The Sound of Music. This week, she celebrates the release of her album, In Search of the Right Kind of Attention. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 9. (Thurs.) Frank Petrilli Quartet.The accordion is very much alive and swinging in the hands of the gifted Petrilli. He’s backed by the equally stellar playing of John Chiodini, guitar, Pat Senatore, bass and Enzo Todesco, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Tom Wopat

Tom Wopat

- Jan. 10. (Fri.) Jan. 10. (Fri.) Tom Wopat.  Actor/singer Wopat’s busy career reaches from his starring role in the hit TV series The Dukes of Hazard to prominent appearances in Broadway musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun.  But his warm baritone and buoyant rhythms are also well heard in recordings — most recently, I’ve Got Your Number — showcasing his jazz-tinged interpretations.  Rockwell Table and Stage.  (323) 669-1550.

- Jan. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic performs a gripping program of Dvorak and Beethoven. Edo de Waart conducts Symphony No. 9 (New World) with violinist Augustin Hadelich soloing in the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

Lee Ritenour

Lee Ritenour

- Jan. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.) Lee Ritenour. He’s a guitarist for all seasons, earning Ritenour the nickname of “Captain Fingers. And in this three night run, he’s surrounded by a line up of all-star guests. On Friday and Sunday: Patrice Rushen, Abe Laboriel and Sonny Emory. And on Saturday: Dave Grusin, Ernie Watts and John Beasley. Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 11. (Sat.) Jennifer Logan and Bryan Pezzone. “A Different Quiet.”The title should be right on target for this intriguing ensemble, with Bezzone, piano, Logan, electro-acoustics, Tim Emmons, bass and MB Gordy, percussion. Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 11. (Sat.) Tom Peterson. Saxophonist/woodwind player Peterson, one of Minnesota’s many gifts to jazz, balances first rate playing with a busy career as a producer, educator, clinician and more. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Lenore Raphael

Lenore Raphael

- Jan. 11. (Sat.)  Lenore Raphael Quartet. Pianist Raphael’s briskly rhythmic style has earned her the title of “Queen of Swing.”  And with Howard Alden, guitar, Chris Colangelo, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums, she’ll fully justify the label.  She’ll also play selections from the Oscar Peterson Songbook and share anecdotes about Peterson himself.   Jazz at the Radisson LAX.  (310) 670-9000.

San Francisco

- Jan. 10 – 12 (Fri. – Sun.) Tower of Power. The horn-driven funk, blues, soul and jazz of Tower of Power reach back to the ‘sixties, and they’re still going strong. Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Jeff Lorber

Jeff Lorber

- Jan 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.) Jeff Lorber Fusion. Keyboardist Lorber, one of the innovative artists of the crossover and fusion era. His all star band includes bassist Brian Bromberg, saxophonist Patrick Lamb and drummer Gary Novak. Jazz Alley (206) 441-9729.

Washington D.C.

- Jan. 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.) Gerald Albright. Blues Alley. http://www.bluesalley.com/events.cfm (202) 337-4141. Saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Albright is a versatile master of styles reaching across the gamut of contemporary jazz styles. Blues Alley. (202) 337-4141

New York City

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli

- Jan. 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.) The John Pizzarelli Quartet with special guest Jane Monheit. A pair of the contemporary jazz world’s finest vocalists team up for a scintillating tour through the pleasures of the Great American Songbook. The Blue Note (212) 475-8592.

Paris

- Jan. 10. (Fri.) Naturally 7. There’s nothing quite like the remarkable a cappella vocals of Naturally 7, who call their rich-textured, mesmerizing performances “Vocal Play.” New Morning +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.) The Steen Rasmussen Quartet Plays Jobim. Brazilian sounds at their finest come to Denmark in the capable hands of Steen Rasmussen, (piano), Josefine Cronholm (vocals), Fredrik Damsgaard (bass ) and Alfonso Corrêa, (drums, percussion). Jazzhus Montmartre +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Tania Maria

Tania Maria

Jan. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.) Tania Maria Trio. Pianist/singer Maria is one of the world’s most engaging ambassadors of Brazilian music. Blue Note Milano +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- Jan.12. (Sun.) Edmar Castaneda and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. It’s a fascinating musical encounter, blending the far-ranging harp music of Castaneda and the stillunder-appreciated jazz piano of Rubalcaba. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Weekend: December 13 – 15

December 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Mike Stern

Mike Stern

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

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

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

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

April Williams

April Williams

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

San Francisco

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

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

Chicago

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

 New York City

Fourplay

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

 Copenhagen

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

 Tokyo

Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack

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


Picks of the Weekend: Nov. 8 – 10

November 8, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Bill Holman

Bill Holman

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

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

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

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

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

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

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

Judy Wexler

Judy Wexler

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

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

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

 San Francisco

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

 New York City

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

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

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

 Boston

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

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

 London

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

Paris

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

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

Milano

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


Picks of the Week: Oct. 28 – Nov. 3

October 29, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Amanda McBroom

Amanda McBroom

- Oct. 30. (Wed.)  Amanda McBroom.  The singer, actress and songwriter (“The Rose” is one of her songs) takes a break from her busy acting career to make a rare musical appearance in Los Angeles.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Oct. 31. (Thurs.)  Kate Reid and Larry Koonse Duo.  Guitarist Koonse, who is at the top of everyone’s rhythm section list, has a strong musical connection with singer/pianist/educator Reid. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  Vivaldi with Perlman.  Violinist Itzhak Perlman conducts and solos with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of Vivaldi, Weber and Berlioz.  Walt Disney Hall. /2013-11-01  (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 1. (Fri.)  Bob Sheppard Trio. He’s a prime, first-call tenor saxophonist, but Sheppard is also a versatile woodwind (clarinet, flute and other saxophones) artist as well.  Hear him in the warm acoustic ambiance of Herb Alpert’s elegant jazz club.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Karrin Allyson

Karrin Allyson

- Nov. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.) Karrin Allyson.  Multiple Grammy nominated Allyson performs superbly in genres reaching from folk to cabaret to jazz to bossa nova and beyond. Her L.A. performances are rare, and always worth attending.    Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Nov. 2. (Sat.)  Joanne Tatham.  “Soundtrack New York: Music from Movies Made in Manhattan.  It’s a fascinating idea for a program of songs, with dozens from which to chose.  And Tatham delivers it well, via her warm, seductive sound and musical story-telling skills.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Pat Senatore

Pat Senatore

- Nov. 3. (Sun.)  The Pat Senatore Trio.  With Josh Nelson, piano and Mark Ferber, drums.  Bassist Senatore leads a stellar group of players in a CD release party celebrating the release of the Trio’s new album, AscensioneVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Oct. 30 & 31.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Four Freshmen.  Their history dates back to the late ‘40s, when the Freshmen were creating harmonically lush, jazz-driven jazz vocalizing, accompanied by their own multiple instrumental skills.  This is a younger version of the Freshmen, but their music continues to be richly compelling.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- Oct. 31 – Nov. 3. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Gerald Albright. He’s well known as a much-admired, contemporary jazz saxophonist, but Albright is also a multi-instrumentalist who brings genre-crossing sounds to all his performances.   Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York City

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval

- Nov. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  Arturo Sandoval.  Every performance by Cuban-born Sandoval is a stunning display of his musical range and instrumental eclecticism.  Whether playing Dizzy Gillespie-influenced trumpet, rhapsodic piano, dynamic drumming, or singing, he does it all with complete musical mastery.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Oct., 31 – Nov. 3.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Vijay Iyer Trio.  Pianist Iyer’s Grammy-nominated Trio is an engaging vehicle for his playing, which incorporates aspects of his Indian heritage with his dynamic piano style.  Jazz Standard.

- Oct. 29 – Nov. 2. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Ron Carter Nonet. Carter has performed as everyone’s favorite bassist on more than 2500 albums.  But he’s less-known as a composer and band leader in his own right, who should be heard at every opportunity.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

Dave Holland

Dave Holland

- Nov. 2 & 3.  (Sat. & Sun.)  Dave Holland Prism.  Prism is the latest in bassist Holland’s numerous ensembles.  And like all his musical efforts, it leads his listeners through inventive musical adventures.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747

Copenhagen

- Nov. 1 & 2. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Ben Sidran Quartet.  “Don’t Cry For No Hipster.”  The versatile Sidran, a Renaissance jazz man, moves comfortably from performing jazz, rock and beyond to work as a producer, educator and radio host.  Here, he’s on piano and vocals, backed by Bob Rockwell, tenor saxophone, Billy Peterson, bass and Leo Sidran, drums.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- Oct. 30 & 31. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Jack DeJohnette Group.  Drummer DeJohnette, always creatively curious, leads an ensemble that features the equally inventive clarinetist/saxophonist Don Byron Blue Note Milano.     +39.02.69016888.


Live Music: Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck at the Greek Theatre

October 24, 2013

By Mike Finkelstein

Man, oh man, oh man!  When I first saw that Jeff Beck and Brian Wilson were going to tour and share the stage together on Sunday night at the Greek Theatre, I knew this promised to be one very special show. Much anticipation was in the air for this gig.  We’re not often fortunate enough to see a pair of talents like these two interact live.

You might say that Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck were getting after the same vision of Americana from different angles, back in the mid- to late-sixties.  It was a vision centering on simple innocent pleasures like driving old Ford hot rods and being at the beach with girls galore.   In about 1966, Wilson and the Beach Boys were making the beach and surfing into an iconic notion in song.   Meanwhile, Jeff Beck, like many similar English blokes of his time, was learning the ins and outs of stylized hot-rodded electric guitar in the epic British blues/pop band the Yardbirds.  But he was listening to Beach Boys albums, too.

In 1966 the Beach Boys released the tremendously influential album Pet Sounds.  People like the Beatles raved about it and the bar was raised for innovative recording techniques and pushing the limit with bizarre but imaginative ideas in the studio.   Though it never got above Number 10 in the U.S., Pet Sounds was a big hit in the U.K. and particularly with the Beatles.

Save for a few greatest hits before and after, Brian Wilson’s set centered on playing Pet Sounds in its entirety.   Back in the day, bands didn’t really try to recreate the studio polish and effects.  But these are different times and Wilson has been performing with the Wondermints for several years now.   The nine of them were nothing short of amazing, as they proceeded to account for every vocal nuance, every English horn, glockenspiel, banjo, 12-string guitar, theremin, baritone guitar, or bass harmonica part that was necessary to sound just like the record.  The vocal precision was scary.  I can only imagine what it must sound like to Wilson himself when he hears the Wondermints reproducing his late brothers’ (Carl and Dennis) vocal parts.

Wilson, who has a history of coming in and out of the onstage moment, seemed to be all there for this huge show.   Sitting at a big white Steinway grand piano he was present the whole way Sunday, thanked the audience warmly and kept the show moving at a nice brisk clip.  This was a back to the roots show for Wilson.  Original Beach Boy David Marks was there (he sang on “Sloop John B”), as were Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin (he sang “Sail on Sailor,” and “Wild Honey”).

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson

Pet Sounds is a most interesting set of songs.  Though it’s a classic album, it isn’t a big-sounding, anthemic production.  The songs are often introspective, subdued, and detached lyrically.  The instrumentals don’t feature the bravado one usually expects from surf music.  Instead they go into jazzy minor modes that slow things down and turn them inside out.  The subtlety and movement away from the unexpected is the charm of Pet Sounds.   Songs like “Caroline, No,” “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” “That’s Not Me,” “Don’t Talk, Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “I Know There’s an Answer,” and “I’m Waiting For The Day,” go far out of the realm of pop songs.  In their time, they gave other prominent pop artists a license to deal with deeper issues.  To call it influential would be an understatement.

Of course, Pet Sounds also features a bundle of the most popular Beach Boys favorites ever like “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations,” “God Only Knows Where I’d Be Without You,” “Sloop John B,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”   To hear all of this so beautifully recreated at the Greek was a little bit of magic and the crowd ate it up gleefully, giving Wilson a standing ovation at the end. After a brief string of four Beach Boys hits, “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “I Get Around” and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” it was intermission.

Jeff Beck and the Beach Boys

Suffice it to say that Jeff Beck walks an original line through popular music.   Having been through pop stardom, then rock stardom, he is now privileged (and self-effacingly admits it) to play with the cream of the musical crop and still sounds utterly unto himself.  And doing it at age 69(!).   He still has the same basic jet-black shag hairstyle, and he showed up in shiny black pants with a rhinestone wristband and sleeveless shirt/vest.

On Sunday, Beck’s band featured a lovely young violinist, Maggie Ball, and beautiful young bassist named Rhonda Smith, as well as guitarist Nicholas Meyer, and drummer Jonathon Joseph. Usually, Beck performs with a keyboardist as a foil.  Because he has been exploring some very lush guitar tones of late, the violin and second guitar were actually a wise choice to lend a lot of atmosphere to the mix.

Just playing his jazz/rock fusion style isn’t the whole story.  Yes, his bands are comprised of top-notch players, but they are all somewhere around half his age and often they are beautiful young women.  It’s clever to find and enlist such beauty and musicianship into the band.  You bet it draws an audience in!  Then, the talent proceeds to sell the idea on a very high level.

Beck’s playing is flashy but in a very musical way.  The flashiness always augments but never overtakes the focus of his instrumental voice.  His approach is to squeeze every sound he can hear in his head out of his guitar.  A Fender Stratocaster is his usual ax of choice, as he loves to wrestle with the vibrato arm.  On Sunday, we could hear all the strings wrenching dynamically, one string at a time.  With a distorted signal and in the sweet spot of sustained overdrive, he had the Strat screaming, squealing, pinging, roaring, and doing all of this on a dime.   It’s a processed sound but it’s also quite unique.  Nobody sounds close to him now.

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck’s setlists are getting more varied.  For this show he opened with “Eternity’s Breath/Stratus,” in a classic jazz/rock groove.  He soon covered Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing,” with a flamenco flavored intro, as well as the tantalizing plodding classic, “You Know, You Know,” by the Mahavishnu Orchestra.  He also gave us his signature instrumental version of the Beatles’ “A Day In The Life.”   Beck’s more recent “Yemin,” shined with Nicolas Meyer and violinist Lizzie Ball adding a lot of desert atmosphere in the evening air.

About halfway through Beck’s set there came a series of videotaped clips of Beck showing us his beautifully garaged collection of hot rods and taking them out for a spin.   You just knew this was leading to the moment we were anticipating, when Brian Wilson (the guy who wrote “Little Deuce Coupe”) came on stage, accompanied by five of the Wondermints.   Would you believe they proceeded to lead off with “Our Prayer,” perfectly nailing all of the soaring harmonic beauty of the recording?   Many of us would never have expected to see it done live.  This led into the legendary “Surf’s Up” getting the Beck instrumental treatment.

Perhaps the highlight of the show came when Beck, a rather mercurial player in the context of a simple gig, got right into the moment on “Surfin’ USA.”   Words cannot adequately describe how this one concise guitar solo put the whole thing into context.  The song was just too close to Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” in its day, and it got the Beach Boys successfully sued by CB.  But it has always been quintessential beach music, and the guitar solo on the original was a bit ordinary, also derivative of Chuck Berry.

Beck took it into the ozone on Sunday night with a hot-rod solo of epic proportions.  He redefined the guitar break of that song, brought it into the new millennium.  The solo didn’t last long but Beck put his seal on it like few could hope to do.   A panting, wheezing, spinning, screaming, and ecstatic runaway freight train of a solo it was.  He was obviously giddy to get the chance to nail it like that right next to Brian Wilson.

In the end Brian and Jeff only shared the stage for about 20 minutes but it was truly something special.   And, for those 12 bars they ascended the heights we all knew they could reach. Not too shabby at all, from two guys whose average age is 70.   This was a great night of seminal Americana, from both sides of the Atlantic.   Fun, fun, fun.

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Photos by Bonnie Perkinson

To read more reviews and posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 14 – 20

October 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Josh Nelson

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

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

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

Carol Welsman

Carol Welsman

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

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

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

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

Brian Wilson

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

San Francisco

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

Seattle

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

Chicago

Russell Malone

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

New York City

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

London

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

Milan

Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander

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

Tokyo

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


Live Pop Music: The Rascals “Once Upon A Dream” at the Greek Theatre

October 13, 2013

By Mike Finkelstein

On a brisk Thursday evening none other than the Rascals presented their autobiographical stage show, Once Upon a Dream, at the Greek Theatre. It comes as a pleasant and uplifting surprise to know that all the original members are alive and well, and sounding quite good, indeed. With a strong push from longtime fan, New Jersey disciple, and powerful shaker and mover, Steve Van Zandt, the Rascals have pieced together a fast-paced and engaging narrative centered on their stay at the top of the pop charts. Their career absolutely flourished during the craziest and most turbulent times the mid/late sixties had to offer.

It has been 40 years plus since the Rascals were in their heyday, but on Thursday the music was intact. It was tight and crisp. The guys have aged, of course, and all but Brigati wore hats for this show. Brigati, has put on a fair amount of girth and no longer resembles the striking picture of youth he once was. Who could? But to watch him sing and sway with two tambourines was to see the connection with the past.

For OUAD the entire back wall of the Greek was outfitted with a huge projection screen. Silhouetted in front of the screen were the Rascals, with Cornish and Brigati standing in front, and Cavalliere and Danelli on cool circular risers. This vivid and enormous look delivered a vibe that appropriately evoked a 60’s TV show, perhaps Ed Sullivan.

The Rascals in Action

The Rascals in Action

The key to the success of OUAD lies in its pacing. None of the songs included goes much beyond three minutes and many are less than that. Because their material was tailored to the AM radio-friendly format, very little of it needed to be pared down. The show contained 30 songs over a course of two hours. Spliced with topical footage of the times (psychedelic Sgt Pepper-ish images, plenty of shots of hippie youth communing) and the narrative pieces, the presentation presses a great many memory buttons as it rolls along at a light but very entertaining clip. The shots of Central Park for “Groovin’,” were perfect, just as I had always pictured it.

The show plays up the band’s east coast New York/New Jersey roots skillfully, cutting together the live tunes with vignettes of the band and their accomplices recounting how it all came together and went down. Each member of the group sits on a chair and reminisces. In heavy accents, they told us short but intriguing stories that move the show along. Then the band played another song or two. At other times, younger actors reenacted key moments in the band’s history. The story of the count-in to “Good Lovin’,” was winsome, “Why don’t all three of youse count it in?” But, the long view is that The Rascals’ development began as an amazing covers band, moving into interpreting songs written just for them, and finally testing their wings writing their own tunes with huge success.

We learned that Felix Cavaliere had already been a college student when he hit the east coast bar band club circuit, that guitarist Gene Cornish was hugely influenced by rockabilly cats like Carl Perkins, Scotty Moore and James Burton. Drummer Dino Danelli winsomely recalls how, at age fifteen, he would sneak into clubs and watch drumming legends like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. He was actually allowed to live at one of these clubs for a while. And we also learn of singer Eddie Brigati’s bizarre route into the Rascals, including singing on a hit record with his brother Dave in Joey Dee and the Starliters, being shot by his brother Dave as a kid, routinely upstaging other singers on the circuit by singing convincingly “black,” and entering a three day coma after a traffic accident – as legend has it, all he remembered was how to sing the Rascals repertoire of covers.  We even learned that in 1963 the Beatles opened for them in Sweden, when both bands were in the business of playing “blue-eyed soul” (white guys playing black music-soul and R&B).

The Rascals in Rehearsal

The Rascals in Rehearsal

On Thursday night you couldn’t help but be impressed with how many of these songs were just instantly recognizable. If any band provided a running soundtrack to American popular culture between 1965 and 1970, it would have to be the Rascals as they became a prominent voice of the Love Generation. They were four enormously talented guys making great music and developing as young men in some of the more intense times this country has seen.

The band’s songs were ubiquitous on the radio then, on a level with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In fact, the show points out that the Rascals were not finished off by the British Invasion.  The Brits’ success with their own music actually opened the door for bands like the Rascals to do the same.

Many of the most memorable songs were ones that they wrote. Gems like “Lonely Too Long,” “You Better Run,” “See,” “Groovin’,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “It’s A Beautiful Morning,” and “People got to Be Free,” transported us all back to where we were when they were current. The footage was icing on the cake.

Though they were classified as blue-eyed soul, it was not that simple with the Rascals. They looked white but they were first generation Americans of Italian descent. As kids, they and their families had experienced the humiliation and injustice that come with the prejudice often directed at immigrants. This was nothing like Pat Boone covering Little Richard. They had a large black and white fan base, and it was band policy to make sure that their shows also featured top-notch black acts from the local area of each gig.

If you try to put your finger on what it is about any Rascals’ tune that gets you, it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing. Vocally, Brigati and Cavaliere had something tremendously unique, and combined with the Hammond organ sound it was usually perfection. Cornish’s guitar parts were deceptively great, serving up power and subtle dynamics in the right measures for hit after hit. Danelli’s drumming, busy as it may get at times, is remarkable for the expression and clarity he gets from a light touch. It’s never cluttered.  He certainly learned from watching the masters.

Once Upon A Dream confirms that The Rascals’ music was and still is a truly special blend of the best elements of soul singing, gospel, rock ‘n roll, and pop. Their MO was to capture a vibe and build it into a 3-minute radio-ready send-up that would become timeless. When you hear their songs, you still remember to listen for those special hooks. Uncanny.

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To read more reviews and posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


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