Picks of the Week: Oct. 24 – 30

October 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Goran Bregovic

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Goran Bregovic Wedding and Funeral Orchestra.  Sarajevo’s wildly eclectic bandleader Bregovic leads an orchestra that combines Roma gypsy music, a brass band, strings, a male choir, Bulgarian back-up singers and traces of rock into an inimitable evening of mind-bending music.   Disney Hall.   (323) 8502000.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette.  Three decades together and Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette are still going strong, still bringing stunning improvisational illumination to everything they play.  Firmly established as one of the iconic groups of the post-bop era, they should be heard at every opportunity.  Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.    (310) 825-2101.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  The Thom Rotella Quartet. Guitarist Rotella has a resume covering virtually every area of the music world — from performances with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra, to composing for shows such as Sex and the City and China Beach and performances on the sound tracks of The Simpsons,Family Guy and much more.  Here’s a chance to hear him in an up close setting, backed by the Pat Senatore TrioVibrato Jazz Grill…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Celtic Thunder.  The five dynamic singers of Celtic Thunder are the male version of Celtic Woman, their immense popularity triggered by the blend of powerful solo work, engaging collective ensembles combined with a program of memorable Irish song.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Rob Mullins Quartet.  He started out as a drummer, picked up several other instruments along the way during his prodigal career as a young professional, and wound up as a versatile pianist, composer and educator, with multiple accomplishments in all those areas.  This time out, he’s joined by a stellar ensemble: Doug Webb, reeds, Brian Bromberg, bass and Bernie Dresel, drums.  Vitello’s.     (818) 769-0905.

Inga Swearingen

- Oct. 28. (Fri.)  Inga Swearingen. You’ve probably heard Swearingen singing her uniquely personal song interpretations on the Prairie Home Companion. But her imaginative view of jazz still hasn’t received the audience her rare talent deserves.  Here’s a good chance to sample it.  LACMA.    (323) 857-6000.

- Oct. 28. (Fri.)  Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra featuring Phillippe Jaroussky.  “Handel and Vivaldi Fireworks.”  At 33, Jaroussky – a French sopranist countertenor –has firmly established himself as one of the star performers of the Baroque repertoire composed for the extraordinary male soprano voices.  He sings with the highly praised, period instrument ensemble, Apollo’s Fire.  UCLA Live.

- Oct. 28 – 30. (Fri. – Sun.)  Riverdance.  Nearly two decades since it made its first appearance at a Eurovision song contest, the spectacular step dances and enchanting Irish music of Riverdance continue to delight audiences in appearances around the world.  Segerstrom center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

- Oct. 28 – 30. (Fri. – Sun.)  Soka Blueport Jazz Festival.  The first festival at Soka University in Orange County has all the looks of a major jazz event.  The three days of programming are loaded with many of the Southland’s major artists as well as a healthy sampling of players from the East Coast and other parts of the world.  Fri.: The Geoffrey Keezer/Peter Sprague Band; Trio Da Paz starring singer Maucha Adnet.  Sat.: The Bert Turetzsky- Chuck Perrin Dynamic Duo; singer Tierney Sutton with pianist Mike Garson; The Charles McPherson Quintet with Gilbert Castellanos; Trio Da Paz starring clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen. Sun.: The Ron Eschete Trio; The Mike Garson Sextet starring Komel Fekete-Kovac Soka Blueport Jazz Festival, Aliso Viejo.  (949) 480-4278.


- Oct. 29. (Sat.) Tinariwen. The musical collective from Northern Mali has been blending the sounds, the rhythms and the instruments of their Taureg roots with the energy and dynamism of Western rock music for more than a decade.  Luckman Fine Arts Complex.   (323) 343-6600.

- Oct. 29. (Sat.) “We Four: Celebrating Coltrane”  Javon Jackson, tenor saxophone, Mulgrew Miller, piano, Nat Reeves, bass, Jimmy Cobb, drums.  John Coltrane’s music should always be celebrated, of course.  But it’s a very special celebration, indeed, when it’s handled by four players with the credentials to do it full justice.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center.

- Oct. 30 (Sun.) Linda Eder with Tom Wopat.  Broadway and cabaret singer Eder joins her scintillating soprano with the rich baritone of actor/singer Wopat.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

San Francisco

- Oct. 27. (Thurs.)  Mose Allison.  The one and only musical philosopher of the bayou always has a message worth hearing.  Returning to the studio last year for The Way of the World, his first album in a decade, he was good as ever – which is very good indeed. YBCA Forum.  SFJAZZ  Festival.    (866) 920-5299.

- Oct. 28. (Fri.)   Goran Bregovic Wedding and Funeral Orchestra.  See above.  Paramount Theatre.  SFJAZZ Festival. (866) 920-5299.

Oct. 28. (Fri.)  “We Four: Celebrating Coltrane”  Javon Jackson, tenor saxophone, Mulgrew Miller, piano, Nat Reeves, bass, Jimmy Cobb, drums.  See above.  SFJAZZ Festival.  (866) 920-5299.

- Oct. 29. (Sat.) Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette.  See above.  Zellerbach Hall at U.C. Berkley.  (510) 642-9988.


Russell Malone

- Oct. 27 – 30. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Russell Malone Trio.  Guitarist Malone has devoted a good portion of his career to making other performers sound great.  But on his own, he’s even better.  Check him out and you’ll see.   Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Oct. 25 – 30.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Jimmy Heath’s 85th birthday celebration.  The veteran saxophonist shares a milestone birthday with a string of celebratory musical encounters.    Featuring Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart, Steve Davis, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash and many others.  Special guest Bill Cosby appears on Tues. at the early show.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Oct. 25 – 30. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Wycliffe Gordon Quintet & Friends“Hello Pops!  The Music of Louis Armstrong.”  Trombonist Gordon’s enthusiastic playing style combines with his convincing vocals to create a musically entertaining tribute to Sachmo.  Special guest Anat Cohen (Tues. & Wed.) adds her clarinet delights.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 259-9800.


- Oct. 27 & 28. (Thurs. & Fri.)  The Bad Plus.  Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King have been transforming the familiar jazz piano trio into a vehicle for genre-busting musical excitement for more than a decade. Regatta Bar.    (617) 395-7757.


THeo Bleckmann

- Oct. 27. (Thurs.)  Theo Bleckmann“Hello Earth: The Music of Kate Bush.”  A major figure in contemporary avant-garde music, singer/composer Bleckmann has performed with everyone from Laurie Anderson and Anthony Braxton to Meredith Monk and Phillip Glass.  Here he presents selections from his recently released album exploring the songs of eclectic singer/songwriter Kate Bush.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.


- Oct. 27 – 29. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Ramsey Lewis Electric Band. Multiple Grammy winner Lewis has been leading high visibility trios since the mid-‘50s.  This time out, he revives the electric sounds of his classic, top charting Sun Goddess album of the ‘70s.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Picks of the Week: June 28 – July 4

June 28, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 28. (Tues.)  Satoko Fujii.  The envelope stretching music of pianist Fujii, a brilliant composer/improviser will be enhanced by the presence of the similarly adventurous trumpeter (and her husband) Natsuki TamuraThe Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Bob Sheppard

- June 29. (Wed.)  Bob Sheppard’s East West Band. Saxophonist-flutist Sheppard can always be counted on for a provocative evening of world class jazz.  This time out, he juxtaposes East Coast and West Coast, with Larry Koonse (L.A.), guitar. Anthony Pinciotti (N.Y.) drums, Ed Howard (N.Y.), bass.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 29. (Wed.)  Rene Marie.  She got a late start as a jazz singer, but Marie hasn’t wasted any time since she made her professional debut after she turned 40.  She’ll celebrate the release of her fascinating new CD, Voice of My Beautiful Country. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 30. (Thurs.)  Elliot Caine Quartet.  Music on the Main Jazz Series.   Trumpeter/eye doctor Caine and his players perform bebop driven jazz in what is surely one of the summer’s most appealing musical settings.  Descanso Gardens .  (818) 949-4200.

- June 30. (Thurs.)  Janis Mann Quartet. Singer Mann’s rich-toned voice and intimate way with a song affirm her status as one of the Southland’s finest jazz vocal artists. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

Rondi Charleston

- June 30. (Thurs.) Rondi Charleston. A story teller at heart, Charleston applies her warm singing style to an exploration of the inner essence of a song.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- July 1. (Fri.)  Brian Scanlon Quartet.  Versatile saxophonist Scanlon’s resume reaches from solid jazz with Dizzy Gillespie to a stint with the NBC Orchestra and a busy schedule as a studio musician.  In his spare time he teaches jazz at Pepperdine.  But on this night, he’ll be doing it all his own way, backed by pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kendall KayVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Ballet Folclorico do Brasil

- July 2. (Sat.)  Ballet Folclorico do Brasil. Expect an evening of colorful, high energy, terpsichorean delights when the dancers, capoeiristas and musicians of the Folclorico take the stage with their far-reaching expressions of the rich pleasures of Brazilian culture. Ford Amphitheatre.    (323) 461-3673.

- July 2 – 4. ( Sat. – Mon.)  July 4th Spectacular with Hall & Oates. The pop hit-making duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates showcase an evening of their classics with Thomas Wilkins and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.  And don’t forget the always sensational July 4th fireworks.  The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.  

San Francisco

- July 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  James Cotton’s Superharp Band.  The Fourth of July Weekend Blues Festival.  Blues legend Cotton has shared stages with everyone from the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin to  B.B. King and Sam & Dave.  On this blues driven appearance, he’ll be trading licks with harpist Momo Buford and guitarist Hubert SumlinYoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- July 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra.  Multiple Grammy Award-nominated guitarist Liebert has been defining the nouveau flamenco style since the ‘90s.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.     (415) 655-5600.


Milton Nascimento

- June 28 & 29. (Tues. & Wed.)  Milton Nascimento.  He’s one of the great Brazilian artists of song – as a performer and a writer.  Approaching 69, he is still a vibrant performer, his music reaching out to bring Brazilian roots and American jazz and rock into a warm embrace.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.


- June 30 – July 3. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Larry Coryell Trio.  Guitarist Coryell has been crossing over from rock to blues to jazz and beyond since the ‘60s.  Although he doesn’t often receive the credit he deserves, his impact on the fusion of the post bop era was vital.  Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

- June 28 – July 3. (Tues. – Sun.)  Django Reinhardt Festival, starring the Young Lions of Gypsy Jazz.  Featuring Samson Schmitt, guitar, Ludovic Beier, accordion, Pierre Blanchard, violin, Andreas Oberg, guitar, Brian Torff, bass.  With special guests Anat Cohen, James Carter, Joel Frahm, Edmar Castaneda, Claudio Roditi. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Jon Hendricks

Annie Ross

- June 28 & 29. (Tues. & Wed.) Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross.  Don’t miss this one.  Two of the great principals of the legendary Lambert, Hendricks & Ross trio get together for a stirring reunion.  The presence of the lively, teen-age jazz singer Nikki Yanofsky on Tuesday will undoubtedly spice things up even more.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.


July 4 & 5. (Mon. & Tues.)  The Gary Burton Quartet.  Vibist Burton’s world class ensemble features his frequent musical companion, rising young guitarist Julian Lage, drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Jorge RoederRonnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Lee Ritenour

- July 30 (Wed.)  Lee Ritenour and Friends.  Guitarist Ritenour continues his European tour with a stop in France, displaying the far-ranging versatility and imagination that have made him one of the prime contemporary jazz practitioners of his art.  New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.


- June 3 – 6. (Sun. – Wed.)  Sadao Watanabe.  Alto saxophonist Watanabe is one of Japan’s finest gifts to jazz.  Although his style is rooted in the complexities of bebop, he enhances it with a rich improvisational imagination of his own.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03-5485-0088.

Bob Sheppard and Annie Ross photos by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: June 6 – 12

June 5, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 6. (Mon.)  Candi Sosa: Bolero Meets Jazz.  Cuban born singer Sosa finds surprisingly compatible musical linkages between jazz and the lyrical Latin ballad style. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 7. (Tues.)  Jennifer Leitham Trio.  Bassist/singer Leitham celebrates the release of her DVD, The Real Me Live!, the chronicle of an extraordinary talent and an amazing life.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Sally Kellerman

- June 8. (Wed.) Sally UnpluggedSally Kellerman.  Hot Lips returns with a bundle of songs reaching from jazz and blues to country and pop.  And she does them all with utter authenticity, finding the heart of the story in everything she sings. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- June 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  “Rhapsody in Blue.”  The Pacific Symphony conducted by James Gaffigan, performs a program of Gershwin (the Rhapsody in Blue and Variations on I Got Rhythm) and Rachmaninoff (Symphony No. 2).  Orion Weiss is the piano soloist for the Rhapsody.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

- June 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Diane Schuur.  Deedles, as she is known to friends and fans alike, makes a few of her too-rare appearances in the Southland, celebrating the release of The Gathring, her debut album on Vanguard.  On Thurs. she’ll be at the Grammy Museum.    And on Fri. and Sat. at Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 10. (Fri.)  Julie Kelly.  Versatile in everything from atmospheric Brazilian music to jazz balladry and lively scatting, Kelly’s singing is always a pleasure to hear.  She’s backed by the John Heard Trio.   Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- June 11. (Sat.)  Jethro Tull.  More than four decades since Ian Anderson first demonstrated the potential for the flute as the lead instrument in a rock group, he’s still romping with Jethro Tull.  The band will perform their Aqualung album in its entirety, with a sampling of other hits, as well. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.



- June 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Playboy Jazz Festival.  The Hollywood Bowl.  It’s that time again.  The weekend that jazz fans anticipate with pleasure.  A two day jazz party in the sun, filling every nook and cranny of the Hollywood Bowl with all the amazing sounds grouped under the broad colorful umbrella of contemporary jazz.  This year’s program includes:


Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves, The Roots with Terence Blanchard, Fourplay, Eddie Palmieri’s Salsa Orchestra, the SFJAZZ Collective, A Night in Treme with the Rebirth Brass Band (and guest artists Donald Harrison, Jr., Kermit Ruffins, Dr. Michael White and Big Sam Williams), Bill Cosby’s Cos of Good Music (featuring Geri Allen, George Bohanon, Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler, Anat Cohen and Babatunde Lea), The Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet and the LASUD All City HS Big Band (directed by Tony White and J.B. Dyas).


Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy, the Lee Konitz New Quartet, John Scofield and Robben Ford, Naturally 7, Harmony 3 with Ronnie Laws, Walter Beasley and Stanley Jordan, Geri Allen’s Timeline Band, Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown (featuring Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley and Vusi Mahlasela), Bill Cunliffe with the Resonance Big Band in a Tribute to Oscar Peterson, featuring Marian Petrescu, Carlos Varela and the Pullum HS Jazz Big Band (directed by Fernando Pullum).  The Playboy Jazz Festival.     (310) 450-1173.


- June 12. (Sunday)  Gerald Wilson Orchestra.  One of the great masters of large ensemble jazz composition and orchestration, ninety-two year old Wilson still knows how to lead a band with enviable dynamic energy.  Don’t miss him in action.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- June 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Yellowjackets with special guest Robben Ford.  Fusion, funk, groove masters the Yellowjackets team up with the equally blues-driven guitarist Ford.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

Karrin Allyson

- June 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  Karrin Allyson Quartet.  A singer who brings musicality, believability and a gorgeous vocal instrument to all her songs, Allyson appears on the crest of her new album, ‘Round Midnight.  Pianist Bruce Barth is featured in her fine back-up group. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


Denny Zeitlin

- June 6 – 12. (Mon. – Sun.))  The Healdsburg Jazz Festival continues with its presentation of world class jazz in delightful settings.  Among the highlights: Mon: John Stowell Guitar Trio; Tues.: SF Jazz High School All-Stars; Wed.: Sandy and Natalie Cressman.  Thurs: Geri Allen, solo piano; the Babatunde Lea Quintet in a tribute to Leon Thomas.  Friday: Sangam with Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland.  Saturday: Denny Zeitlin, solo piano; the John Heard Trio; George Cables All Stars.  Sunday: Charlie Haden and Allen Broadbent.  At the Raven Theatre and other locations in Healdsburg, CA.  The Healdsburg Jazz Festival.  (707) 433-4633.


- June 9 – 12 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Earl Klugh.   One of Detroit’s finest products, guitarist Klugh’s articulate style brings life and substance to the smooth jazz/fusion genre.  Jazz Alley.    (206)441-9729

New York

Ron Carter

- June 6. (Mon.)  Jim Hall and Ron Carter Duo“Alone Together, Again.”  A pair of the great jazz masters in action.  One only hopes that they continue to do these “Alone Together” gigs – again and again.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- June 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.) The Joe Lovano Nonet.  Saxophonist Lovano’s Grammy winning Nonet admirably carries the torch lit by the Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool band.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- June 9 & 10. (Thurs. & Fri.)  The Steve Cropper Band.  Guitarist, songwriter and producer Cropper has backed the likes of Booker T., Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and many others, while writing tunes good enough to trigger his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

Washington D.C.

- June 12. (Sun.)  Jazz on the National MallClaudia Acuna Quartet, Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, Eddie Palmieri All-Star Orchestra, Frederic Yonnet, Toby Foyeh and Orchestra Africa.  A free, live performance of world class jazz, presented by the D.C. Jazz Festival.  Jazz on the Natonal Mall.    The National Mall, Washington, D.C.  (202) 457-7628.



- June 9 & 11. (Thurs. & Sat.) Noa.  Israeli/American singer Noa (her full name is Achinoam Nini) is as comfortable and effective with a symphony orchestra as she is with the guitar of her frequent musical companion, Gil Dor.  But no matter what she’s singing, whether it be rock, blues, Yemenite or folk, in Italian, French, Hebrew or Arabic, she’s one of the world’s great vocal artists.  Here, she performs with Dor, as well as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, celebrating the release of her new album, The Israeli Songbook.  The Henry Crown Hall, Jerusalem.    1-700-70-4000.


- Jan 7 – 9. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Michel Legrand.  The French pianist/composer combines an appealing jazz performance style with a catalog of superb, memorable songs.  He’ll be backed in this relatively rare night club performance by Ronnie Scott’s All-Stars.   Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747 4000.


Dervish Aziz

- June 9. (Thurs.)  Yuval Ron Ensemble.  Oud master Yuval Ron has assembled a remarkable array of musicians for  “A Concert For Peace in the Middle East.”  The participants include whirling Dervish Aziz, qawwali master Sukhawat Ali Khan, Armenian woodwind master Norik Manoukian, Israeli-Yemenite singer Maya Haddi, and Virgine Alimian, playing kanoun, Jamie Papish and David Martinelli on percussion.  FREE but reservations for the free tickets are required. Please email for the free tickets to: sevdearpaci@gmail.com. “A Concert For Peace in the Middle East.”   Sultanahmet Square AmpheTheatre. Istanbul.


- June 8 – 11. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Mike Stern Band featuring Randy Brecker.  Guitarist Stern, a six-time Grammy nominee, leads the solid ensemble of bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Dennis Chambers in a multi-layered set of sounds reaching across the spectrum from groove blues to straight ahead jazz.  The Blue Note Tokyo.

Sally Kellerman, Dianne Reeves, Buddy Guy and Ron Carter photos by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: April 11 – 17

April 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

-  April 11. (Mon.)  Cabaret Cares.  A Song For Japan. A benefit performance to aid the stricken populace of Japan features cabaret artists Andrea Marcovicci, Daisy Eagan, Lee Lessack, Sharon McNight and others.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

John Pisano

- April 12. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  With Sid Jacobs and John Leftwich.  Pisano’s Tuesday Guitar Nights just keep on cooking.  And with Jacobs and Leftwich also on stage, the rhythms will be crisp and the imagination wide open.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

-April 12. (Tues.)  John Daversa Big Band.  Trumpeter Daversa’s exploratory approach to big jazz band sounds is producing some consistently adventurous music.  To read a recent iRoM review of the Daversa Big Band click HEREVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- April. 12. (Tues.)  Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band. The always swinging, always entertaining Big Phat Band celebrates the release of their new CD, That’s How We Roll. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- April 13. (Wed.) Mike Lang Trio. Pianist Lang has a resume that includes gigs with the likes of Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand and more, recordings with Henry Mancini, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, and a long string of film and TV credits.  This time out, he’s doing it his own way, backed by bassist Michael Valerio and drummer Jim Keltner Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210. .

- April 14. (Thurs.)  Duran Duran.  They’re back.  The sounds of the eighties that made all the young girls quiver, still playing the hits.  Fox Theatre Pomona.   (909) 784-3671.

Denise Donatelli

- April 14. (Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli. Grammy-nominated Donatelli’s dark-timbred voice and imaginative singing will prove, once again, why she really should have won that award.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

- April 14 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Victor Wooten Band.  Five time Grammy Award winner Wooten displays the bass playing dexterity and free-roving imagination that make him one of the important artists of his generation.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- April 15. (Fri.)  Michael Wolff.  Pianist Wolff, heard to rarely in these parts, plays his second Vitello’s gig in a couple of weeks.  This time, his musical companions will be trumpeter Mark Isham, bassist John B. Williams and drummer Michael Barsimento.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent Wolff performance.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 15. (Fri.)  2nd Proverb Trio.  An unusually intriguing approach to small ensemble jazz features Dafnis Prieto, drums, Kokayi, vocals and poetry and Jason Lindner, keyboards.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at  the Musicians Institute Concert Hall.  \.

- April 15. (Fri.)  Tom Peterson/Andy Martin Quartet.  Saxophonist Peterson and trombonist Martin, first call players on their instruments, take a break from playing for everyone else, and step to the front of the stage. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- April 16. (Sat. ) Improvisatory Minds: Chamber Music by Jazz Musicians.  It’s an evening that promises to provide some of the more intriguing musical explorations of recent memory.  On the bill: works by Bevan Manson, Ed Neumeister, and Gernot Wolfgang, with guest composers Billy Childs and Alan BroadbentVitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Judy Wexler

- April 16. (Sat.)  Judy Wexler.  Versatile Ms. Wexler is a singer who finds the essence of jazz in everything she sings, regardless of genre.  She celebrates her birthday with a prime evening of music.  Café 322.    (626) 836-5414

- April 16 & 17. (Sat. & Sun.)  Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks.  They may not have found musical companionship in their early years, but Stewart and Nicks seem perfectly attuned to share a stage in the prime maturity of their careers.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- April 16 & 17. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads the LACO in a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with pianist Jon Kimura Parker.  Also on the program: Dvorak’s lyrical Serenade in E Major for Strings and composer John Harbison’s whimsical Gli accordi piu usati (“The most often used chords”).  Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.  Sunday at UCLA’s Royce Hall.  For information click HERE.  (213)  622-7001 Ext. 215.

San Francisco

- April 15. (Fri.)  Dr. Lonnie Smith and Barbara Dennerlein. It’s a night for B-3 organ fireworks.  The groove pyrotechnics of Dr. Lonnie and the hard driving rhythmic charge of German-born Dennerlein.  SFJAZZ Spring Season at the Herbst Theatre.  (566) 920-5299.

- April 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Maceo Parker.  Alto saxophonist Parker’s funk roots trace back to his highly visible work with James Brown.  Since then, he’s performed with every imaginable funk band, including his own “greatest little funk band on earth.”  He makes his debut performance at Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

New York

- April 12 & 13.  (Tues. & Wed.)  The Three Cohens.  Tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen.  Three impressive jazz artists from the same Israeli family are a jazz

Anat Cohen

rarity.  But aside from that, they’re always a pleasure to hear, and never more so than when they’re in an infrequent public family jam.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) (212) 258-9595.

- April 12 – 17. (Tues. – Sun.)  Martial Solal & Francois Moutin Duo. There’s no better proof of France’s love affair with jazz than the teaming of these two extraordinary French artists in a cross generational gig – the great, veteran pianist Solal and the talented young bassist Moutin. Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- April 13 (Wed.)  Kendra Shank – Steve Wilson – Frank Kimbrough.  Vocalist Shank, saxophonist Wilson and pianist Kimbrough will be performing standards, originals, songs by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Abbey Lincoln and others.  With the additional highlight of Shank’s imaginative “voice collages” – vocal improvisations with electronic loops.  Kitano Hotel.   (212) 885-7119.

Darcy James Argue

- April 14. (Thurs.)  Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.  Fast rising composer arranger Argue’s writing for his big band, Secret Society, has been praised in media of every stripe.  Here’s a chance to hear the work of this gifted young artist in an up front and live setting.  Iridium.   (212) 582-2121.

- April 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet. Trumpeter Akinmusire leads a stellar collection of young players in a celebration of the release of his debut album on Blue Note, When the Heart Emerges Glistening. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

John Pisano photo by Bob Barry.  Denise Donatelli and Judy Wexler photos by Faith Frenz.  Anat Cohen photo by Tony Gieske.

Here, There & Everywhere: The 33rd Annual Playboy Jazz Festival Artist Line-Up

February 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

It’s no mystery that producing the Playboy Jazz Festival – a two day event for 18,000 listeners (each day) with eight straight hours of music – is a different task from what it was thirty or forty years ago.  After all, at that time it was possible to program schedules including the likes of Count Basie, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald (to name only a few of the available icons).

More recently, as times (and availabilities) have changed, Producer Darlene Chan, has brought a new perspective to her programming choices.  Like many other jazz festival impresarios, she clearly tries to bring star power to her schedules by featuring the contemporary jazz world’s most visible, high level jazz artists as headliners.  But she also works to emphasize the great stylistic and thematic diversity of contemporary jazz, as well as explore the expansion of jazz into the big international umbrella it has become.

Anat Cohen

This year’s line-up moves even farther in its quest for diversity and globalization.  Take, for example, the presence of veteran Latin jazz bandleader Eddie Palmieri, Israeli saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen, Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos Varela, South African singer/songwriter Vusi Mahlasela, Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sanchez, Venezuelan pianist Edward Simon, Swedish guitarist Andreas Oberg and Romanian pianist Marian Petrescu, and the global reach of jazz at the Festival quickly becomes clear.

Television rears its head with the presence of a pair of high visibility ensembles:  The Roots are the hip hop-driven house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. And A Night in Treme draws upon the Rebirth Brass Band music featured in the HBO series Treme.

Rebirth Brass Band

All-star assemblages are all over both days of the Festival.  Fourplay, more than two decades together, arrive with a new member, guitarist Chuck Loeb.  The SFJAZZ Collective will devote its program to a celebration of the music of Stevie Wonder.  Emcee Bill Cosby’s Cos of Good Music will, once again, revive the inspiration and the fun of a jam session format.  John Scofield and Robben Ford illustrate the range of the guitar in jazz.  And Harmony 3 partners saxophonists Ronnie Laws and Walter Beasley with tap-on guitarist Stanley Jordan.

Geri Allen's Timeline Band

Thematic groupings are also present.  Geri Allen’s Timeline Band explores jazz and dance with tap dancer Maurice Chestnut.  The a cappella group Naturally 7 returns for a second year with its startling vocal simulations of jazz instruments.  And “Still Black, Still Proud” is an African tribute to James Brown featuring Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, Mahlasela and other African stars.

Lee Konitz

Add to that, the presence of talented young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.  And pianist/arranger Bill Cunliffe leading the Resonance Big Band with Romanian pianist Petrescu.

What about those headliners?  They’re there too.  At the top of the list, veteran alto saxophone master Lee Konitz, amazingly making his Playboy Festival debut at 83.  As well as blues great Buddy Guy, singer Dianne Reeves and trumpeter Terence Blanchard (performing with The Roots.)

Here’s the line-up by day.

Saturday June 11, 2011. 3 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Bill Cosby

Dianne Reeves

The Roots with special guest Terence Blanchard


Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra

SFJAZZ Collective

A Night In Treme: The Rebirth Brass Band

The Cos of Good Music

Ambrose Akinmusire

The LAUSD All City High School Big Band

Sunday, June 12, 2011.  3 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

Lee Konitz New Quartet

John Scofield and Robben Ford

Naturally 7

Harmony 3

Gerry Allen Timeline Band

Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown

Bill Cunliffe and the Resonance Band with Marian Petrescu

Carlos Varela

Pullum High School Jazz Big Band

Bill Cosby, Master of Ceremonies

Picks of the Week: Nov. 1 – 7

November 1, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 2. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightBrasil Night.  Pisano expands his usual two-guitar format into an evening simmering with the irresistible rhythms of Brazil. With Federico Ramos, guitar, Jose Marino, bass, Enzo Todesco, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Ornette Coleman

- Nov. 3. (Wed.) Ornette Coleman.  Jazz in the post-bebop era wouldn’t have been what it was without the arrival of alto saxophonist and creative revolutionary Coleman on the scene.  More than fifty years after  he startled the New York City jazz crowd — musicians and fans — with his improvisationally free-flying ensemble, he’s still insists upon stretching the envelope of what jazz can’t and can do.  As one of the important iconic figures in jazz history, he should be heard at every opportunity.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101l.

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Sally Kellerman. Hot Lips is back.  With hot jazz, cool jazz, a seasoning of country and a lot of stops in between.   Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Scott Whitfield Quartet.  Trombonist Whitfield takes time off from his busy arranging, conducting and producing chores to lead a stellar L.A. ensemble featuring Roger Neumann, reeds, Corey Allen, piano, Adam Cohen, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums. And with luck, maybe Ginger Berglund will sit in for a number or two.  Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.) The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning Orchestra, led by keyboardist/arranger Oscar Hernandez revives and re-interprets the sounds and the rhythms of New York City’s salsa duraThe Conga Room.  (213) 745-0162.  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on Tues. & Wed.)

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Betty Bryant. She’s celebrating her 81st birthday, but Bryant’s ability to combine her smoky voice with her lush and rhythmic piano is as appealing as every.  She’ll be aided by the engaging vocals of her special guest, singer Mark MillerJazz at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 642-7500.

- Nov. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  Multi music hyphenate Tyrell has moved from the business side to a performance persona aimed at keeping the American songbook alive via recordings and performances dedicated to the great standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.


- Nov. 5. (Fri.) Djavan.  Brazilian superstar Djavan has successfully blended Brazilian rhythms with pop, jazz, funk and beyond.  Magnetic as a performer, he also has written memorable songs covered by the likes of Carmen McRae, Al Jarreau, the Manhattan Transfer and others. Club Nokia.   (213) 765-7000.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Denise Donatelli.  Performing in support of her new album, When Lights Are Low, Donatelli performs in the warm and friendly atmosphere of Charlie O’s laid-back jazz bar.   To read a recent iRoM review of Donatelli click HERE. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Cheryl Wheeler. Folk singer/songwriter Wheeler’s songs recall a folk era when ideas and points of view were essential elements in a songwriter’s bag of musical tools.  McCabes. (310) 828-4497.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Ryuchi Sakamoto.  El Rey.  Pianist, composer, environmental activist Sakamoto performs pieces that reach from his catalog of film music to his fascination with the link between ambient sound and composed textures.  The El Rey.   (323) 936-4790.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Dontae Winslow Quartet.  Trumpeter, composer and all around musical renaissance man Winslow’s resume reaches from USC’s Monk Institute of Jazz to gigs with Queen Latifah, Snoop Dog, Christina Aguilera and more.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 6. (Sat.)  Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.  It’s big band Saturday night, with the added pleasures of vocalists Calabria Foti and Seth MacFarlane.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.  To read a recent iRoM review of the Jazz Influence Orchestra click HERE.

Pablo Heras-Casado

- Nov. 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicPablo Heras-Casado conducts Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Debussy’s Jeux, Takemitsu’s riverrun and Stravinsky’s Concerto For Piano and Winds with pianist Peter Serkin Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 7. (Sun.)  Bobby Vinton.  It’s hard to believe, but true, that singer Vinton – now 75 – had more Billboard #1 hits between 1962 and 1972 than any other male artist.  His soaring voice, at its best in songs such as “Roses Are Red” and “Blue Velvet” are among the most memorable items from the soundtrack of the ‘60s.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8500.

San Francisco

- Nov. 2 & 3. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning Orchestra, led by keyboardist/arranger Oscar Hernandez revives and re-interprets the sounds and the rhythms of New York City’s salsa duraYoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.  (Also at the Conga Room in Los Angeles on Thurs.)

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers.  Keyboardist and co-founder of The Doors Manzarek gets together with premier slide guitarist Rogers in search of some new takes on classic Doors songs.  Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

Gil Scott-Heron

- Nov. 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Gil Scott-Heron.  Before there was rap and hip-hop there was the remarkable blend of politically charged poetry that made Scott-Heron one of the important voices of the ‘70s civil rights movement.  He’ll be performing selections from an upcoming album, his first since the early ‘90s.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 6. (Sat.)  Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band.  At 85, drummer Haynes – who’s worked with everyone from Charlie Parker to Pat Metheny – continues to lead and usually outshine groups of players two generations younger than he.   An SF Jazz Festival event at the Herbst Theatre.  (866) 920-5299.

- Nov. 7. (Sun.)  The Yellowjackets and the Jeff Lorber Fusion. A pair of bands who successfully prove that popularity doesn’t have to mean diminished musicality.  Lorber’s Fusion features the dynamic presence of trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Eric Marienthal.  But expect fireworks from both these fine ensembles. An SF Jazz Festival event at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

New York

- Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Lou Donaldson Quartet.  Alto saxophonist Donaldson, at 84, continues to perform impressively with the ear-catching combination of bebop, the blues and soul that have characterized his playing since the ‘50s.  Village Vanguard. (212) 929-4589.

- Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars.  Gillespie’s ability to surround himself with extraordinary young talent is on full display in this memorable celebration of his birthday. Featuring Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Randy Brecker, Eric Alexander, Antonio Hart and Claudio Roditi.  (Check club for schedule.)  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  The 11th Annual Django Reinhardt N.Y. Festival.  “Schmitt Family Tributel” Night after night of gypsy jazz, featuring guitarists Dorado Schmitt and Samson Schmitt with special guests Anat Cohen, Miguel Zenon and others.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Eliane Elias

- Nov. 3 – 7. (Wed. – Sun.)  Eliane Elias Quartet. Sao Paulo-born Elias’ most recent albums Bossa Nova Stories and Eliane Elias Plays Live reveal how completely she has merged her remarkable jazz instrumental skills with the Brazilian heartbeat of her warmly intimate vocals.   She’s truly one of a kind.  Iridium.      (212) 582-2121.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 28 – Oct. 3

September 28, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Sept. 29. (Wed.)  Strunz & Farah. The dynamic guitar duo display their fast-fingered magic.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent S&F appearance.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

McCoy Tyner

- Sept. 29 – Aug. 3 (Wed. – Sun.)  McCoy Tyner Quartet. The ever-exploratory Tyner,  leads a group that features the similarly adventurous alto saxophonist Gary Bartz Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 30. (Thurs.)  Alfredo Rodriguez. Cuba’s latest jazz piano prodigy has been startling listeners with his improvisational virtuosity since he arrived here a year ago.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of one of Rodriguez’s first L.A. appearances.   Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.   Musicians Institute Concert Hall.  (310) 271-9039.

- Sept. 30. (Thurs.) John Cale.  When Past and Future Collide – Paris 1919. Cale presents a complete live performance of his classic 1973 album, Paris 1919, with members of the UCLA Philharmonia and special guests Ben Gibbard and Mark LaneganUCLA Live.  Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101.

Lorraine Feather

- Oct. 1. (Fri.)  Lorraine Feather.  She’s an engaging singer, as well as a brilliant wordsmith, and she doesn’t make many appearances in L.A.  So don’t miss this one. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 1. (Fri.)  Betty Buckley.  “Broadway by Request” with Seth Rudetsky.   She’s starred on Broadway in Cats and 1776, in television (Eight is Enough) and films (Tender Mercies), and she’s at her best with an audience and a song.  Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University.  (310) 506-4522.

- Oct. 1. (Fri.)  America.  The 40th Anniversary Tour. Forty years after their glory days, America can still turn on a crowd with tunes such as “A Horse With No Name,” “Tin Man” and more.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- Oct. 1. (Fri.) Mary Stallings.  With the Eric Reed Trio.  Her resume reaches back to appearances with the likes of Ben Webster, Earl Hines, the Montgomery Brothers and more in the ‘50s, and she can still deliver a song. The Culver Club at the Radisson.   (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

- Oct. 1 & 2. (Fri. & Sat.)  Yoko Ono. We Are Plastic Ono Band.  An extremely rare live performance from Yoko, surrounded by a posse of performers empathetic with her envelope stretching ideas.  With Nels Cline (10/1), Iggy Pop (10/1), Mike Watt (10/1), Lady Gaga (10/2), Kim Gordon (10/2), Thurston Moore (10/2), Cornelius, Perry Farrell, Carrie Fisher, Vincent Gallo, Yuka Honda, Haruomi Hosono, Sean Lennon, RZA, Harper Simon, Tune-YardsThe Orpheum.  (877) 677-4386.

Lee Konitz

- Oct. 2. (Sat.)  Lee Konitz New Quartet. Alto saxophonist Konitz is one of the few certifiably original practitioners of his instrument in the post-Charlie Parker era.  At 83, he continues to approach improvisation as a new adventure every time he plays.  He’s backed by the international rhythm team of bassist Jeff Denson, German pianist Florian Weber, and Israeli drummer Ziv Ravitz. UCLA Schoenberg Hall.  Friends of Jazz at UCLA.  (310) 206-3269.

- Oct. 2. (Sat.) Alan Pasqua Trio. Pianist Pasqua, a first call rhythm section master on everyone’s list, takes time away from his day gig as Chairman of USC’s Jazz Studies program to lead his own trio – in the supportive company of bassist Darek Oles and drummer Joe LaBarbera. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 2. (Sat.) Luckman Jazz OrchestraA Tribute to Lee Morgan. The LJO, one of the Southland’s finest, and least appreciated, large jazz ensembles, dips into the memorable music of Lee Morgan. Luckman Fine Arts Complex. (323) 343-6600.

- Oct. 2 & 3. (Sat. & Sun.) Angel City Jazz Festival. The ACJF kicks off its week-long run with a pair of stylistically far-ranging events.   Sat.: Dwight Trible and John Beasley, REDCAT.  Sun.: Ravi Coltrane/Ralph Alessi Quintet, Wadada Leo Smith Golden Quartet, Vinny Golia Sextet and Kneebody.  Ford Amphitheatre.  Angel City Jazz Festival.

- Oct. 3. (Sun,.)  Tamir Handelman: Solo Piano. Pianist Handelman’s diverse skills are coveted by everyone from Barbra Streisand the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.  Here, he does it all himself.. Atelier Concert.

San Francisco

Dave Liebman

- Sept. 28 & 29.  (Tues. & Wed.)  Dave Liebman Quartet. Saxophonist Liebman and his quartet have a knack for taking their audiences on fascinatingly exploratory musical journeys.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of the Liebman Quartet.  Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

- Oct. 1. (Fri.)  Roy Ayers. Vibist Ayers transforms every performance into soul and r&b-driven excitement.  Yoshi’s San Francisco (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. (Tues. – Sat.) Wallace Roney Sextet.  Trumpeter Roney molds the Miles Davis sound into his own, unique expression. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

Anat Cohen

- Sept. 28 – Oct. 3. (Tues. – Sun.)  Anat Cohen Quartet. Woodwind specialist Cohen can do everything from down-home, bar-walking tenor saxophone playing to brilliantly virtuosic clarinet stylings.  Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- Sept. 28 – Oct. 3. (Tues. – Sun.)  Stanley Clarke Band featuring Hiromi.  Bassist Clarke and pianist Hiromi have found illuminating common ground enhanced by their individual instrumental virtuosity.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Sept. 30. (Thurs.)  Jimmy Webb.  One of the most successful singer/songwriters of the late ‘60s and ‘70s continued, over succeeding decades, to expand his catalog of music well beyond the limits of song.  But expect to hear some very familiar tunes, as well as something new.  Iridium.   (212) 582-2121.

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 3. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Joshua Redman Trio. Tenor saxophonist Redman continues to find improvisational treasures in an instrumental format reaching back to Sonny Rollins’ classic recordings of the late ‘50s. Jazz Standard.   (212) 447-7733.

Photos of Dave Liebman and Anat Cohen by Tony Gieske.

Q & A: Bill Cosby, Jazz and the Playboy Jazz Festival

June 10, 2010

By Don Heckman

Bill Cosby’s irrepressible personality has been such a vital element at the Playboy Jazz Festivals that the event seemed to lose its spark in the one year in which he took a hiatus. In addition to his role as master of ceremonies, his all-star Cos of Good Music band has become one of the Festival’s highlights – a shifting collection of generation-crossing musicians performing Cosby-chosen programs embracing the entire history of jazz. A recent conversation with Cosby touched upon his lifelong love of the music as well as his lengthy association with Playboy and the Festival.

DH: Cos, you’re an East Coast guy, initially from Philly, yet here you are in L.A., year after year, doing the Playboy Festival. Has it begun to feel like a once-a-year home out here?

BC: Well, actually, I’ve had a house here for years. This was the house that Jello built. I was doing the commercials, a good thirty years ago. The family traveled with me. So we’d have four kids check into the Beverly Hills Hotel. And after a while, one morning I just saw the breakfast bill, with all of us sitting around. And I noticed that a pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice was $85. So I decided I could buy a house and buy a quart of Tropicana a day and the difference would pay for the house. And it did.

DH: Can we go back a little earlier to where it all started, to those days when you were a kid in Philly hearing your first jazz?

BC: There was an AM station, and they played progressive jazz in those days. And I heard it on our Philco radio. And it was Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz. And Bud Powell and the big bands at the Earle Theatre. So what I listened to and what brought me in was the difference under the umbrella. The difference. Tiny Bradshaw and Earl Bostic. And then Red Prysock and Illinois Jacquet. The guys that played the danceable music. And then there was the Max Roach and Bud Powell and John Lewis and Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and all those guys that played super fast. 78 rpm records and dancing. So that you danced to the honking guys. Oh, and don’t forget Mr. Louis Jordan. Please. Please! So all of that was together. You could keep time to those guys. And then of course there were the singers – Sonny Till and the Orioles, groups named after all these birds and things. And we danced slow to them.

DH: So dancing was basic to your listening?

BC: Right. When Parker, Dizzy and others – Max Roach – played, their tempo was “Cherokee.” What we did in those days was called Off-Time. You cut the meter in half. That way you wouldn’t die running around the dance floor, like the professional people you saw, throwing the women over the shoulder. And they had the big skirts and the saddle shoes and all that. No, we cut it in half. And that’s the dance that I do for Cliff’s character in the intros of the Huxtables [on the NBC-TV hit sitcom series The Bill Cosby Show]. Which people laughingly say “You can’t dance.” But they don’t know that I’m doing an Off-Time, which was invented in the forties. But the other thing is that if you ever see a full show of Cuban music, and the male and female come out to dance in their classic culture, you will see that Off-Time in the male as he goes around the female, telling his story. Now for me, that’s what hooked me.

DH: But jazz was even more than that, wasn’t it? More than dancing, more like a kind of lifestyle approach?

BC: It was. For instance — Miles Davis in clothing. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in clothing. The Brooks Brothers box cut Ivy League suit. And all five of them dressed the same way. And then that famous photo of the MJQ. Brooks Brothers, salt and pepper tweed, three piece suits. Looking like warriors. And I mean the clothing we copied – the way they dressed. Everything about it. When dating you would reject a beautiful girl who would think that Chico Hamilton was a singer. And you had nicknames for the LPs, you called them your sides. And the most popular girls were the ones who loved jazz.

DH: Speaking of singers, any particular vocal numbers come to mind?

BC: Well, when I turned 13 or so, there were two songs I remember. I did not understand the first one. It was called “All About Ronnie.” I don’t know why it was popular. I had no idea what it was about, because I wasn’t into singers, just instrumentals. Now if it was Sonny Till singing “Crying in the Chapel,” that was something else. But the girls were hipper than the boys about singers at that age, and they knew all about it. But the real whammy, the real breaking news was the song “Moody’s Mood for Love.” It is the national anthem of black puberty. Because as it passed through time, our daughter knew the words to it because of George Benson. But we were singing the song at age 13, singing the song and doing the high pitched parts. You could sing it and not know what the hell you were singing about. And the girls knew the words, too. Everybody was walking around the neighborhood singing. If you went to ten black people all across the United States and said “There I go, there I go,” they would either King Pleasure or Moody you. Everybody just knew it. Ask Herbie Hancock how old he was when he first heard the words. I knew a man who became the Secretary of the Army under LBJ, and he can sing it. He’s 74 years old.

DH: Let’s talk about New York. You got out of the service, began to work there as a comedian in the fifties, an amazing time for jazz.

BC: . I think it was at its high point. Miles Davis. Lenny Bruce at the Village Vanguard, maybe the Village Gate for maybe a couple of hundred people at most. And then there was Basin Street East. You had the Village Vanguard, the Village Gate, the Five Spot, Birdland. This was way before the taking over of the music business by the Beatles and Haight Ashbury and things like that. So these jazz musicians, they were the guys. I mean Brubeck and those guys could come in and do concerts in halls, too.

DH: And you were a fan.

BC: I was a fan. I had a record player and I loved the music. You could walk into a record store – well, I did. And there was a lady there, and I’d say “What’ve you got?” And she’d say, “I’ve got a new Blue Note. Art Blakey,” and so forth. And I’d say “Okay, give it to me.” Don’t even listen to it, just buy it. “What’ve you got?” “MJQ.” “Gimme it.” And she knew. It was the East Coast sound. Which really was Rudy Van Gelder. They’d put that bottom into it, that bass thing. And I was always happy when there was a new Horace Silver, who plays what I call the best jazz rhythm ‘n’ blues piano. I mean Horace plays 4/4. When he accompanies you, you don’t get a one and three and then spaces. Horace is a pump. Your tire will not go down. He always amazes me with that left hand, cuz it’s almost like a grunt. Wonk, Wonk-wonk. He’s always pumping with you. And that showed, as far as I’m concerned, what it meant to have your taste be way up there, where you could just walk in a record store and say, “What’ve you got?” “A new Bud Powell.” “I’ll take it.” “Two forty-nine.”

DH: You spent a lot of time in the clubs, too, didn’t you? Both performing your own act and listening?

BC: Sure. I could finish up a gig, jump in a cab and it’s a four minute drive from the Half Note to the Vanguard to the Five Spot or whatever. And they stayed open. I remember one night I was working, must have been 1963, at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village. I’d get off at 4 in the morning, and the streets were still full of what’s left – college people, etc. – and I’m walking around and I hear music, being played live. And I walk into this place and there’s Ben Riley and Buster Williams. Cedar Walton. They were playing, people were eating, it’s quarter to five in the morning. And I said to Ben, “How long are you guys going to play?” and Ben said, ‘’Til death.”

DH: I guess every jazz musician’s had at least one of those gigs. Okay, let’s jump forward. Jazz, Playboy and you. When did that all start to happen?

BC: I think when Leonard Feather was about 12 years old. [Laughter] See you have to look at Playboy when that stuff started. Hef was setting the style. Iyy league, those skinny pants, the skinny tie. Shel Silverstein. The beginning centerfolds, Gadgets, stories by Nat Hentoff, etc. The Guide to How To Be Hip. It all ran Esquire into second place. And so the Playboy Jazz Poll became hip, too. And the Playboy Clubs, no matter what city they were in because they were private clubs, they integrated, no segregation, period. The first. And the talent, as well — Dick Gregory. Then they started the Playboy jazz festival, first in Chicago. Then Hef moves to California, and somebody gets an idea 32 years ago. Hef says “Let’s do it. It’s going to be different.” And it has been. If you started with the Festival 32 years ago you can pretty much say there weren’t many of the great ones that you missed. Male and female.

DH: Along with some unusual events, as well. Like the time bassist Jaco Pastorius had an emotional breakdown on stage.

BC: Jaco. Yeah. I just went out cause I knew he’d had enough, and I just walked up to him. He put his arms around me and he just started crying. But the crowd was getting angry and he was frustrated. That was a breakdown. Right before their very eyes. And you know, man, those drug dealers couldn’t care less. They couldn’t care less for the geniuses they’re responsible for taking out.

DH: You’ve also had a pretty wide range of experiences with your Cos of Good Music sets, as well. Like the one with the gospel group?

BC: You had to mention that, didn’t you? But you’re right. The worst set for me was when I tried to meld gospel with jazz to bring in the roots. I had a choir that should have lit up the place. I had heard earlier and they killed. I had Billy Higgins on drums. And you can’t miss with that. Jimmy Heath and I think Cedar Walton. But it didn’t work. It didn’t travel past me. Forget that it wasn’t going into the audience. It wasn’t going past me. Then I look out and I see Clint Holmes in the audience. And I know Clint kills in Las Vegas. So I go get him and say, ‘Clint, come here. You know the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ and we’ll get the choir to back you…”. And then Clint dies, too. It was a staring contest. But it wasn’t the audience’s fault. The music never left the bandstand. It died.

DH: Not one of your better ideas.

BC: Oh, it was a great idea. But we should have left it at that. The best left ideas of man… To this day it is still the worst set I have ever played. But the good news is that every year I hear people say the same thing. “Listen, that band was better than last year’s, and I didn’t think you could do that.” So that means that my choices of songs are wonderful. And musicians, too. Like Anat Cohen last year. I heard her on the U. of Mass jazz station and I didn’t know she was a woman. So I called Darlene Chan and I said, ‘Darlene, lemme tell you something. There’s a guy I want. I heard a recording of his on the U. Mass jazz station. Get him. I want him in my band.” And Darlene says, “What’s his name.” I said, “Anat Cohen.” She says, “Bill that’s a woman.” And I said, “I don’t care who he is. Get him.”

DH: Can you give a little advance tip on how you’re approaching this year’s performance by the Cos of Good Music?

BC: Look at it this way. Everything I’ve done with the Cos of Good Music has been to capture the spirit of these people carrying their food in. It does no good for me to do a tribute to Django Reinhardt. I mean, they’re talking, they’re greeting each other, they’re waving to each other. So I have to put the spirit out there. To do that I choose certain things. They don’t have to be fast. But they have to have a spirit and a movement where people are getting something coming that is not a continuation of Muzak so to speak.”

DH: Like what?

BC: For this Festival we’ll open with Wayne Shorter’s “The Chess Players.” The reason why is because it goes like this. And you will hear it exactly like this. [He scat sings the line, touching on all the instrumental parts.] Now, you can’t get away from that. You’re carrying your wine and cheese and you’re greeting people and you hear [He scats again] and you’ve got your best clothes on. And it’s done with Art Blakey’s shuffle beat, which Ndugu Chancler does very well. It’s not a back beat, it’s a shuffle beat. And we drive that thing, man, with Dwayne’s bass up. That’ll capture the spirit, don’t you think?

DH: All the way. Then what?

BC: The second song is “Olé” – John Coltrane. [He scats the line]. It’s almost like “Mission Impossible.” All this stuff is going around in layers. And I’ve sent a note to every musician. It basically says you play what you want to play, but I want you to enter with the same energy that John Coltrane enters on his first solo. Because I know this is what excited that whole song. So everybody can play his or her own solo, his or her own notes, but with the same intensity. And then we will go from there, because then we will have them.

DH: A final thought about what the Cos of Good Music and the Playboy Jazz Festival mean to you.

BC: It’s in the name. It says “Playboy Jazz Festival” with this realization that jazz has this tremendous umbrella that keeps broadening, it keeps getting wider. And to me, that says everything.

DH: Thanks, Cos. Looking forward to the weekend.

Jazz CD Reviews: Luis Munoz and Jon Gold

May 25, 2010

By Don Heckman

Luis Munoz

Invisible (Pelin Music)

Listening to this recording, experiencing its warm embrace, I can only marvel that Luis Muñoz does not have wider visibility.  The Costa Rican-born composer’s music begins with the subliminal qualities of his native roots, then blossoms into a creative expression that transcends boundaries reaching from jazz to classical to pop and beyond.

Invisible is an album in which atmosphere and emotion are central  Each work takes the listener into new territories of emotional experience.  Muñoz’s techniques are far reaching, choosing instrumental timbres in utterly unpredictable ways, searching for precisely the right combination of tones and textures to satisfy his creative goals.

In the opening “Adam’s Dream,” melody is doubled, unpredictably, by bass and trumpet.  “Luz del Sur” simmers with a sub-divided 12/4 rhythm over which Jonathan Dane’s Miles Davis-inflected trumpet brings the counterpoint of urban sophistication to the roots qualities of John Nathan’s marimba.

David Binney’s adventurous alto saxophone takes center stage in “Sobre Vivencia,” at first over stirring, metrically shifting rhythms, then blending with the infectious rhythms of dancing percussion.  The mood changes unexpectedly with the arrival of the spiritual phrases of Muñoz’s soulful “Hymn” – “Blessed are the ones who surrender to Love/For they’ll inherit the Kingdom of Heaven” — sung beautifully by Lois Mahalia.

“De Alma Y Sombra” begins with the feeling of a Bach chorale before evolving into a showcase for a lovely solo from pianist George Friedenthal, and “Esperanza” adds a quiet pastoral quality via a duet between bassist Tom Etchart and guitarist Chris Judge.  A pair of vibrant pieces, “Malabarista” and “Manantial” bring more divergent sounds, the former with an upbeat trumpet and tenor melody suggesting the sound of the Jazz Messengers rambling over layered Latin jazz rhythms, the latter with Ron Kalina’s chromatic harmonica and a collection of rich vocal harmonies supporting Teka Pendiriche’s solo voice.

The extraordinary program ends with “Tango y Sangre de la Media Noche,” a long, affecting journey led by Laura Hackstein’s dramatic violin, enhanced by the tender backing of Muñoz’s gentle piano touches.

It’s a fitting climax to a program that never fails to entice one’s attention.  But with the orientation of today’s music world, Invisible may be an unfortunately prophetic title, reflecting how much attention the album could receive, given the myopia of most major media toward new creative ideas.  If so, that will be a shame.  Muñoz is a talent who should be far more widely heard.

Jon Gold

Brazil Confidential (Zoho)

The first minutes of “Alem Do Azul,” the first of twelve original compositions by pianist Jon Gold, make it clear that this is an album that demands attention.  The combination of floating rhythmic undercurrents from Gold’s seven piece ensemble, blended with soaring flute work from Jorg Continentino, announce that a uniquely fascinating mixture of Brazil and jazz is in the works.

But that’s just the start.  As the tracks unfold, the momentum reaches in one direction, then another.  “Funky Jabour” showcases saxophonists Anat Cohen and Bryan Murray over a driving rhythmic groove.  “Teresinha” dips into bossa nova, followed by even more bossa in Tatiana Parra’s singing on “Confissao,” and Leah Siegel’s intimate, wordless vocals on “”Paraty” and “Parazen” (with guitarist “Scottinho” Anderson leading the way).

Other tunes further display Gold’s compositional vitality: the surging melodies of “Carioca Da Clara,” the quirky, off-beat sounds and rhythms of “Vitamin B,” and the Brazilian bebop of “Parafuso A Menos” (sparked by Cohen’s driving clarinet). Add to that the balladry of  “Singela” (featuring Katie Scheel’s English horn) and the emotional twists and turns of the suite-like “Rapadura,” topped off with Gold’s lyrical re-imagining of Janacek’s Suite No. 4.

It’s fascinating, all of it – compelling because it presents a musical imagination that has been inspired by the culture of Brazil without superficially attempting to imitate it.  And that’s a true rarity.

Live Jazz: Anat Cohen at Catalina Bar & Grill

May 1, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Anat Cohen brought her lovable quartet to Catalina’s for a swift Friday night performance, commemorating some kind of anniversary having to do with Benny Goodman and playing her clarinet with a deep, rich sound much like the King of — what’s this? — Swing.

Anat Cohen

And swing she memorably did, assisted in no small measure by the equally lovable pianist Benny Green.

Cohen is a radically unchic kind of person: She likes m-e-l-o-d-y. She plays with a-f-f-e-c-t-i-o-n.  These preferences were exhibited right off the bat with two stalwart old ballads understandably eschewed by Death Cab for Cutie and other contemporaries, “Lullaby of the Leaves” and “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”

This is reassuring fare, indeed, and the full house went for it just as I did.  Her improvisational prowess ebbed from time to time, though, and it was here that Green’s powerful and deeply swinging pianism came subtly to her aid.

Benny Green

Both players approached that sentimental bon-bon “Poor Butterfly” with telling restraint, softly and sweetly and most affectingly.

Peter Washington, bass, and Kevin Kanner, drums, fit themselves right in to the easygoing atmosphere, but when it came their turn to turn on the propulsion for “Reunion Blues,” a Milt Jackson classic, they were well up to the job.

“After You’ve Gone,” another Goodman classic, came out like a swiftly moving rapids, but you couldn’t help feeling a yen for Lionel Hampton when it was all over.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.


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