Live Music: Dee Dee Bridgewater at Catalina Bar & Grill

October 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater

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

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

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

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

Dee Dee Bridgewater and Michael King

Dee Dee Bridgewater and Michael King

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

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

Theo Croker, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Irwin Hall

Theo Croker, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Irwin Hall

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

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

Dee Dee Bridgewater and her players have one

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

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

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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.

*************************************************

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: Experience Hendrix at the Greek Theatre

October 14, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

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

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

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

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

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

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

Zack Wylde

Zack Wylde

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

Eric Johnson and Scot Nelson

Eric Johnson and Scot Nelson

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

Ana Popovic

 

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

Chris Layton and Doyle Bramhall II

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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


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.

* * * * * * * *

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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