Brick Wahl Keeping It Real: Checking Out Charmaine Clamor’s New CD

February 23, 2014

By Brick Wahl

Heard several tracks in progress from Charmaine Clamor’s new recording recently. Quite a selection of tunes – none of the usual jazz standards at all.

Charmaine Clamor

Charmaine Clamor

Instead there’s a remarkable take on “Imagine” (a tune that rarely survives covering) propelled by some really striking rhythmic piano by Laurence Hobgood. There’s a surprising ”O Shenandoah,” a George Harrison tune, a Carole King, a take (in Spanish) on a Mercedes Sosa tune, which she nails, and at long last she’s recorded her knock out interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Very passionate vocals even by Charmaine’s standard – that’s always been her thing, the passion – and she’s showing subtleties untapped till now. The sound is full and warm and rich. This thing has crossover potential I think (KCRW and that end of the dial definitely) without selling out to commercialism even one iota.

Ernie Watts by the way, sits in and kills it, and drummer Abe Lagrimas picks up the ukulele in about as uncliched way as you can imagine. One of my favorite pianists around town, Andy Langham, even takes the bench for a couple numbers. And while I can’t say enough about Hobgood’s presence here, it’s Charmaine’s record through and through, it’s her feel, even on the instrumental passages it never gets away from her.  Anyway, I totally dug it.

This is major label stuff if I ever heard it.

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The album, which will be titled “The Better Angels,” will be released soon.

Photo by Faith Frenz

To read more fascinating essays from Brick Wahl, check out his personal web by clicking HERE.

Photo Review: Sally Kellerman at Vitello’s

June 8, 2013

Studio City, CA. Sally Kellerman is such a musically dynamic performer that it almost doesn’t matter what she’s singing.  Whether it’s the Great American Songbook, the blues, a country tune or a rock classic, she brings it vividly to life.

On Wednesday night at Vitello’s, backed by the Andy Langham trio, she sang a program of songs reaching easily across various genres.  And we decided to try something a little different: a set of photos illustrating Sally in action, bringing a panorama of rich emotions to a far-ranging set of songs.

 Photos by Bonnie Perkinson.

“I Feel Good”

“Say It Isn’t So”

"I Believe the Lies of Handsome Men"

“I Believe the Lies of Handsome Men”

"A Spooky Boy Like You"

“A Spooky Boy Like You”

"Damn Your Eyes"

“Damn Your Eyes”

"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do"

“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

“How Sweet It Is.”



Picks of the Week: June 5 – 9

June 5, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Barbara Morrison

Barbara Morrison

- June 5. (Wed.) Barbara Morrison.  Despite her difficult medical problems, the courageous, musically versatile Ms. Morrison continues to make her ever-appealing singing available to Los Angeles audiences.  Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  She also performs at Steamers in Fullerton on June 7 & 8 (Fri. & Sat.).  (714) 871-8800.

- June 5. (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman.  Hot Lips is back again to display her inimitable way with a song.  She’s backed by the superb support of the Andy Langham TrioVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 6. (Thurs.)  The Josh Nelson Trio with Anthony Wilson.  Pianist Nelson, one of the Southland’s important first-call players, is always a pleasure to hear with his own trio – especially when gifted guitarist Wilson is a musical guest..  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 6. (Thurs.)  Joanne Tatham“Soundtrack New York” Music From Movies Made in Manhattan.”  Vocalist Tatham, adept at both cabaret and jazz has created a program of appealing songs based on an intriguing premise. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan


- June 7. (Fri.) The Jon Mayer Trio with Jackie Ryan.  It’s a great combination: Pianist Mayer’s far-ranging versatility, rooted in his deeply authentic jazz skills; and Ryan’s similarly sophisticated musicality and lyrical story-telling qualities.  Hear them together in this rare booking. Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Jackie Ryan.   Jazz at LACMA.  (323) 857-6000.


- June 7. (Fri.)  Dolores Scozzesi and Mark Winkler“The Great Singer/Songwriters of the Seventies.”  Scozzesi and Winkler sing the songs of Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and more.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

- June 7. (Fri.)  Prairie Home Companion. The entertaining Garrison Keillor  and his live radio-in-living-color program make one of their rare appearances in the Southland.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- June 8. (Sat.)  An Evening with Rufus Wainwright.  Singer/songwriter has an impressive lineage: Loudon Wainwright III is his father; Kate McGarrigle is his mother.  But he has already established a musical voice of his own.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

- June 8. (Sat.)  Brenda Russell.  The musically eclectic singer/songwriter Russell, whose career has moved through soul, pop, jazz and dance genres, is also a gifted lyricist and songwriter.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 8. (Sat.)  Andrea Bocelli.  The hugely popular Italian singer performs with soprano Maria Aleida and the Los Angeles Festival Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Kohn. (Note that this is a lease event.)  The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

- June 9. (Sun.)  Bill Cosby.  The wit, the humor and the engaging personality of Bill Cosby are irresistible.  Retired from his role as emcee of the Playboy Jazz Festival, he performs in Los Angles a week before this year’s Festival takes place.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.


- June 6 – 9. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Turre Quartet.  Trombonist Turre is always a pleasure to hear, whether he’s playing his primary instrument or displaying his remarkable ability to make music from conch shells. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

Washington D.C.

Tuck & Patti

Tuck & Patti

- June 7 – 9.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Tuck & Patti.   After more than three decades together, the duo of guitarist Tuck and singer Patti (who were married in 1983) continue to make remarkable music together.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Tuck & Patti in an L.A. performance.   Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York City

June 5 – 9. (Wed. – Sun.)  Stefano Bollani Trio and the Paolo Fresu-Uri Caine Duo.  An evening of prime jazz from some of Italy’s world-class artists, sponsored by Umbria Jazz and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.


- Junes 7. (Friday)  Hugo Rasmussen Trio.  Bassist Rasmussen, an icon of Danish jazz, blends his masterful musical maturity with the youthful energies of tenor saxophonist Jakob Dinesen, pianist Heine Hansen and drummer Morten Ero Jazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.


- June 6 – 8. (Thurs. – Sat.) Chick Corea/Stanley Clarke Trio with drummer Marcus Gilmore.  All-star trios don’t get any better than this one combining the long-term creative linkage of Corea and Clarke with the enthusiastic drumming of Gilmore.  Blue Note Tokyo. 6  +81 3-5485-0088.

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Barbara Morrison photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Jackie Ryan photo and Tuck & Patti photo by Faith Frenz.

Live Jazz: Charmaine Clamor at Catalina Bar & Grill

April 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s been a few years since I first reviewed jazz singer Charmaine Clamor.  I was powerfully impressed by what I heard on her debut CD, Searching For the Soul..  And I was even more impressed by what I heard in her performance at Catalina Bar & Grill on Sunday night.

The presentation was titled “Hallelujah! A Celebration of Rebirth and Renewal,” an appropriate label for an Easter Sunday event, further underscored by Charmaine’s parallel work as a physical therapist.  The mesmerizing quality of her Catalina performance, however, suggested that her evolutionary growth as a singer is probably not going to allow much time for anything other than the expansion of her career as a musical artist.

Everything was right about this program, starting with Charmaine’s singing. Over the course of the few years in which I’ve heard her perform, there’s been a continuing interpretive growth.  Early on, she was closely identified with a blend of jazz and Filipino traditional music, earning the title the Queen of Jazzipino music.

As intriguing as that material may have been, Charmaine brought much more to the stage this time around.  Her eclectic program of songs began with a distinct gospel touch via Ethel Waters’ hit, “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” and Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” following up with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  She sang each in authoritative fashion, without resorting into an overflow of too-familiar melismatic phrasing.

Charmaine was equally convincing with the old standard, “’Til There Was You,” the Italian classic “Estate,” “I Believe In Love” (based on Joshua Redman’s “Wish” with lyrics by Eli Brueggemann), a jaunty romp through “Pick Yourself Up” and a dramatically climactic “Here’s To Life.”  Add to that some of her original items and one couldn’t have asked for a broader, more engaging set of songs.

She delivered them with stunning effectiveness, balancing the lush timbres of her voice with the dramatic gestures and gripping expressiveness of a born musical story-teller.  And it didn’t hurt that Charmaine is a gorgeous woman, enhancing her slender appeal in a shimmering gold gown.

She was ably aided by the steady, solid support of her musicians: pianist Andy Langham, bassist Dominic Thiroux and drummer Abe Lagrimas.  Responding with near empathic back-up, subtly flowing in sync with her confident musicality and her rich, emotional qualities, the trio provided an encompassing musical embrace for an artist whose career is clearly heading skyward.

Expect much more from Charmaine Clamor (and let’s hope the Grammy voters are paying attention).

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Photos by Faith Frenz. 

Picks of the Week: Aug. 27 – Sept. 2

August 27, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jason Marsalis

- Aug. 27. (Mon.)  Jason Marsalis Quartet. He may be the youngest member of the illustrious Marsalis jazz family, but drummer/vibraphonist Jason has already established his own impressive musical identity.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 28 & Aug. 30/ (Tues. & Thurs.)  Carmina Burana. German composer Carl Orf’s cantata, a dramatic setting of medieval poems, is performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Childrens’ Chorus, directed by Spanish conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de BurgosHollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000

- Aug. 28. (Tues.)  Sachsa’s Bloc.  An eclectic group of musicians from countries across Europe offer a collection of music ranging freely across gypsy jazz, contemporary jazz, flamenco, swing, blues and country. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400

Wayne shorter

- Aug. 29. (Wed.)  Celebrating Peace.  Herbie Hancock has gathered a stellar array of musicians to join together in a musical celebration of the pleasures of peace.  The cast includes Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Zakier Hussain, Dave Holland, Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos Santana and others.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 31 and Sept 1. (Fri. & Sat.)  John Williams Maestro of the Movies.  “Musical Maestro” would be a more accurate title for Williams, whose film scores reach from Star Wars and Superman to E.T. and Harry Potter.  He’ll conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in selections from many of his hit films, including a film sequence from E.T. accompanied live by the Philharmonic.  The guest artist is violinist Gil Shaham. Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 31. (Fri.)  Wolfgang Schalk Quartet.  Guitarist Schalk celebrates the release of his new CD Word of Ear with pianist Andy Langham, bassist Michael Valerio and drummer Tom BrechtleinUpstairs at Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 1. (Sat.)  Wendy Fraser.  Singer-songwriter Fraser has been described by the LA jAzz Scene as a “diamond in the rough” and “a musical force to be reckoned with.”  She makes one of her rare appearances, backed by guitarist John Chiodini, saxophonist Rob Lockhart, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Kendall Kay. Upstairs at Vitallo’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Barbara Morrison

- Sept. 1 & 2. (Sat. & Sun.)  Barbara Morrison returns to Catalina’s for an exciting weekend featuring a pair of different settings: With the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center Big Band (Sat.), and the Barbara Morrison Quartet (Sun.)  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  John Proulx and Pat Senatore.  Pianist/singer Proulx’s laid-back vocals recall the intimate singing of Chet Baker.  He’s backed by the ever-versatile, always supportive Senatore on bass.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  Madeleine Peyroux“The Party Oughta be Comin’ Soon!”  Singer/songwriter/guitarist Peyroux has been one of the music world’s most unique talents since she first arrived on the scene in the mid-‘90s.  And she’s still charting her own creative pathway through song. The Broad Stage.   (310) 434-3200.

Louie Cruz Beltran

- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  The Fourth Annual La Vida Music Festival. La Vida returns with its annual celebration of the great pleasures of Latin music, in all its forms.  And what better time to do it than during National Hispanic Heritage Month.  This year’s far-ranging music features Louie Cruz Beltran and his Latin Jazz Ensemble, Incendio, the Plaza de la Raza Youth Mariachi and the Ted and Pablo Choro Ensemble with special guest Chalo Eduardo.  The Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

San Francisco

- Aug. 29 – Sept. 2. (Wed. – Sat.)  Bela Fleck & the Marcus Roberts Trio. It’s an off-beat combination – Fleck’s unique banjo playing and the straight ahead jazz trio of pianist Roberts, drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Rodney Jordan. They’ll no doubt play selections from their new recording together – Across the Imaginary Divide. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Washington D.C.

- Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mose Allison. The inimitable Bard of the Bayou and his suitcase full of songs can always be counted on to provide a swinging, blues-driven evening of song and wisdom. Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

- Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Jenny Scheinman Quartet.  Violinist Scheinman showcases her eclectic musical interests with pianist Jason Moran, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Rudy RoystonVillage Vanguard.  (212) 929-4589.

- Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  Charlie Parker Birthday Celebration.  What would have been the 92nd birthday week (the actual birthday is Aug. 29) of the legendary alto saxophonist is celebrated with a musical tribute from Tom Harrell, trumpet, Vincent Herring, alto saxophone, George Cables, piano, Victor Lewis, drums and Lonnie Plaxico, bass.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Ron Carter

- Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Ron Carter Big Band.  Bassist Carter has played with everyboy and led a variety of his own ensembles.  But this, his first big band, wasn’t established until 2011, with arrangements by Bob Freedman.  Featuring a line of major NYC players on stage and Carter up front, expect musical magic to take place.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 889-2005.


- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  The Story So FarRonnie Scott’s Jazz OrchestraPete Lang leads an assemblage of the U.K.’s finest jazz players in an exploration of the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, the Rat Pack and Benny Goodman.  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.


- Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Mingus Big Band.  The rich musical legacy of bassist/composer Charles Mingus continues to find new musical expression in the hands of the superb Mingus Big Band. The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter photos by Tony Gieske. 

Picks of the Week: July 31 – Aug. 5

July 31, 2012

 By Don Heckman

Los Angeles


- July 31. (Tues.)  Overtone.  This impressive sextet of a cappella singers from South Africa are on the verge of breaking onto the international music scene.  Discovered by Clint and Dina Eastwood, they’ve got the right support to match their extraordinary potential.  Let’s hope they have a few more dates in the Southland. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Aug. 1. (Wed.)  Bob McChesney Quintet.  If there’s a better trombonist than McChesney – technically, creatively and inventively – I’d like to hear him (her).  In the meantime, here’s a chance to hear Bob in action, backed by the fine support of pianist Andy Langham, saxophonist Rob Lockart, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter ErskineVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

The Neville Bros.

- Aug. 1. (Wed.)  The Neville Bros. Farewell Tour.  The inimitable Neville’s celebrate their more than three decades of prominence as a New Orleans icon.  Also on the bill, the funky exuberance of Trombone Shorty and the Crescent City roots-rock of Roddie RomeroThe Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 1. (Wed.)  Miles Evans Big Band.  Trumpeter Evans is the son of the legendary arranger/composer Gil Evans.  The mission of his band, he says, is to “pick up where Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorious and Rashied Ali left the notes on the page.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 2. (Thurs.)  All Beethoven.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lionel Bringuier conducting, perform Beethoven’s lively Symphony No. 7.  And violinist Renaud Capucon joins the ensemble for Beethoven’s only Violin Concerto. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 2. (Thurs.)  The Alaev Family.  The Tajikistani Alaev Family, with eight, multi-generational musicians and drummers, performs the music of Central Asia, Turkey, Persia and Russia, along with the Jewish music of Bukhara.  Expect a party atmosphere. Skirball Center Sunset Concerts.   (310) 440-4500.

Ravi Coltrane

- Aug. 2 – 5.) Thurs. – Sun.  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  The son of the iconic jazz great, John Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane – also playing the tenor and soprano saxophones – has carved out a uniquely inventive style of his own.  His playing deserves to be heard at every opportunity.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 3. (Fri.) Sony Holland.  Her singing has been critically praised, but Holland has not yet received the popular response that she deserves.  She’ll be performing with the prime ensemble of pianist Andy Langham, bassist Hussain Jiffrey, drummer Kendall Kay and her husband, guitarist Jerry HollandVitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 3 – 5. (Fri. – Sun.)  Pixar in Concert.  The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins presents an evening of music and video celebrating characters from such memorable Pixar films as Toy Story, Cars, Wall-E and more.  The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

Strunz & Farah

- Aug. 4. (Sat.)  Strunz and Farah.  Niyaz.  A pair of superb groups – early leaders in the emergence of the World Music genre appear on the same stage.  Strunz and Farah with their remarkable 2-guitar excursions; Niyaz led by the soaring vocals of Azam Ali.  Grand Performances.    Niyaz also appears Aug. 9 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Orange County.

- Aug. 4. (Sat.)  “Cosmic Oscar” The Music of Oscar Brown, Jr.  One couldn’t ask for a more entertaining and illuminating program than the songs of Oscar Brown.  Add that the presence of precisely the right performers: Dwight Trible & Co., with Trevor Ware, bass; Breeze Smith, percussion and soundscape artist; Paul Lagaspi, drums; John Beasley, piano.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at Boston Court. (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

- Aug. 4 & 5. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Family Stone. Still keeping alive the memory and the music of one of the great groups of the ‘60s and ‘70s, some of the original members revive the great Stone classics.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


- Aug. 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  More than three decades since they arrived on the New Orleans seen, the DDBB is continuing to prove that traditional New Orleans style has plenty of room to encompass bebop, funk and beyond.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York

Jane Monheit

- Aug. 1 – 5. (Wed. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. The mellow-voiced Monheit celebrates her first decade as a performer a five night run, singing selections from the 10th anniversary album, Home. The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Aug. 2 – Sat. (Thurs.- Sat. )  Irabagon Fest. Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk saxophone competition, demonstrates his creative versatility on three  consecutive nights, with three different ensembles: Thurs., Jon Irabagon Trio; Fri.,, the Barry Altschul Group; and Sat., the Jon Irabagon Jazz Quartet.    Cornelia St. Café.  (212) 989-9319.

- July 31 – Aug. 4. (Sat.)  The Masters Quartet.  For the line up of Steve Kuhn, Dave Liebman, Steve Swallow and Billy Drummond, “Masters” is the only appropriate title.  Expect to hear music as rich and bracing as a vintage bottle of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild..  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.


- Aug. 3 & 4. (Fri. & Sat.)  Legends of Latin Jazz.  The Classic Jazz Series, celebrating the 1012 Olympics, features two evenings of great Latin jazz, performed by the U.K.’s top jazz artists.    Ronnie Scott’s.    (0) 20 7439 0747.


Patti Austin

- Aug. 2 (Thurs.)  Patti Austin Group.   Versatile Patti Austin can sing anything from pop to soul to r&b, blues and jazz.  And do so with authenticity, swing and sheer entertainment panache.  She may not be a huge name, but she’s a great vocal artist.  New Morning.    01 45 23  51 41.


- Aug. 5 – 7. (Sun. – Tues.)  The Count Basie Orchestra.  Yes, the Count Basie Orchestra still lives – with vibrancy and rhythm, performing some of the most memorable big band classics in the history of jazz.  Don’t miss this one.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03. 5485.0088.

Here, There & Everywhere: Dolores Scozzesi at Vitello’s

June 21, 2012

By Don Heckman

The Playboy Jazz Festival, as well as the lead-in to the Festival, tended to dominate our view screens here at iRoM for the last week or so.  And that’s cool.  It is, after all, one of the major musical events of the year.

But other music has been taking place, as well.  And now that the Playboy Festival madness is over, I want to be sure to call attention to another performance that took place last Tuesday.  It may not have been high visibility, and — in its single night at Vitello’s — it drew a considerably smaller crowd than the 18,000 who showed up for each of the Festival’s two days.  But for listeners attuned to fine music, convincingly done, it was a memorable night.


So let’s take a look back at Tuesday, and the appearance of jazz singer Dolores Scozzesi, backed by Andy Langham, piano, Lyman Medeiros, bass, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., drums, at Vitello’s.

It became apparent, almost immediately, that there was stunning musical empathy between Scozzesi and her musicians.  At its best, it recalled the kind of creative intimacy that exists in the Tierney Sutton Band, a group that’s been together for two decades.

Add to that the range of selections in the program.  Scozzesi’s first few choices, reaching from “Listen Love,” a tender song by the too little acknowledged singer/songwriter of the ‘70s, Jon Lucien, to Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and such standards classics as “Night and Day,” “Body and Soul” and “What Now My Love?” underscored both her creative eclecticism and her far ranging musical interests.

As intriguing as her song choices were – also embracing such equally compelling tunes as “When Did You Leave Heaven?” “I’m Going To Sit Right Down and Right Myself A Letter” and “Love Look Away” – what really mattered was what Scozzesi did with this abundant collection.  Gifted with a mature, dark timbred voice, capable of using it across a rich emotional palette, she reached deeply into the heart of each song’s story.  And with especially convincing intensity in an English and French version of “Autumn Leaves” that included a newly conceived segment inspired by a Stan Getz solo, with lyrics by Scozzesi.  Call it a highlight in an evening of memorable songs.

I learned a long time ago that one of the most meaningful estimates of a performance’s impact often lies in the feelings it generates after the program.  Sure, one wants to be captivated by the music while it’s taking place.  But it’s equally important, maybe even more so, to be so stimulated by what one has heard that it stays with you, triggering new feelings and thoughts long after the performance is over.

The experience, to me, is similar to what it used to be like to see an especially impactful movie, back in the time before “films” became the operative word.  In those days, coming out of a movie theatre with a companion, eagerly discussing high points in the story, re-living aspects of the plot, feeling strongly – pro or con – about what we had just seen, was an essential part of seeing a movie.

Driving home from Scozessi’s performance at Vitello’s, Faith and I experienced similar feelings, recalling the pleasure of hearing such a fine array of songs, delivered with so much musical authenticity.  We even had a small disagreement, disputing whether or not Scozessi had tended to make too liberal use of her sometimes edgy chest tones.  But there was no dispute over the quality of the strains of music that remained with us, soothing our ears well into the high decibel sounds of the Playboy Jazz Festival weekend.

Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for Dolores Scozessi’s album, “A Special Taste.”  Fortunately writing liner notes does not cause me to lose my sense of musical objectivity.

Live Jazz: Charmaine Clamor and the Fil-Am Jazz and World Music Festival at Catalina Bar & Grill

December 16, 2011

By Don Heckman

Each year when the Fil-Am Jazz and World Music Festival rolls around there’s a new opportunity to discover the significant role jazz continues to play in Filipino culture.  And this year, the Festival’s seventh installment, was no exception.

On Tuesday night, Catalina Bar & Grill — the event’s warm and welcoming home — was filled with enthusiastic listeners.  Many were from the Filipino community.  Many were jazz fans, eager for a new musical experience.  And many were drawn by the presence of singer Charmaine Clamor, often described as the “Queen of Jazzipino.”  (For the uninitiated, “jazzipino” is generally described as a blending of traditional Filipino musical elements with the improvisation and swing of jazz.)

Charmaine Clamor

The lengthy program, hosted by Clamor and the irrepressible Bubba Jackson, offered a surprisingly wide range of artists, including the winners of the Jazz-Phil USA Talent search, some already established Filipino jazz artists and, in the headliner position, Clamor.

With pianist Andy Langham’s trio providing most of the backing, the music embraced jazz standards, material from the Great American Songbook, a healthy selection of Christmas and holiday songs, and an occasional Filipino melody.

It was delivered, for the most part, with ambitious enthusiasm, even though it was apparent that much of the playing reached across different developmental levels.

Some of the vocals occasionally ranged closer to American Idol excesses than jazz subtleties. There were times when the piano was played as a percussion instrument, its keys struck with a seemingly minimal awareness of its capacity for a rich, dynamic range of sound.  And the quest for new ideas resulted in such oddities as a rhythmically over-intense take on the classic Christmas carol, ‘Silent Night.”

That said, there also was reason to praise the perky, pop-driven stylings of VJ Rosales, the powerful voice of Angela Vicente, the emerging talents of guitarist Vincent Reyes (one of the two winners – with singer Vicente – of  the Jazz-Phil USA Talent search), the solid professionalism of guitarist Ric Ickard, the compositional abilities of pianist Winston Raval, along with the impressive versatility of harmonica player and pianist Noel Melanio and drummer/ukulele player Abe Lagrimas, Jr.

But there was little doubt that Clamor was the evening’s definitive Filipino jazz artist.  Blessed with a rich, warm sound, intuitive musicality and irresistible swing, she also knows how to find the story at the heart of every song she sings.  Her deeply felt, emotionally intimate reading of Leonard Cohen’s touching “Hallelujah” was the creative centerpiece of the entire evening.

In addition to her song offerings, Clamor possessed a vital, emotionally irresistible on-stage presence.   Placed in context, that presence, combined with her stunning musical skills, thoroughly establish her as the model template for the many arriving Filipino jazz artists.  And the next level of Filipino jazz will be reached when more performers achieve the capacity to follow in the footsteps of this splendid young musical artist.

Here, There & Everywhere: The Closing of Charlie O’s

September 3, 2011

By Don Heckman

Charlie O’s closed Wednesday night.  It happened without anticipation, and without warning.

My first awareness of the bad news came with an email from Jo-Ann Ottaviano, who has been running the club – along with her brother Mike – since the death of her husband, Charlie Ottaviano in 2008.  It arrived at 6:19 p.m. with the message “after 11 years of amazing jazz at Charlie O’s, tonight will be our last presentation.  The lights will dim forever after the last set. “

Charlie O's

I’ve seen jazz clubs disappear in the past.  But never with such startling suddenness.  I”ve loved Charlei O’s since the first time I went there, and I described it in the Los Angeles Times as the “ultimate jazz bar and restaurant.”  It reminded me, in many respects, of some of the Greenwich Village rooms I frequented in my New York years.  But it was more than nostalgia that made Charlie O’s a welcome destination for me.  It was also the laid-back ambience, the intimate closeness to the music as it was being made, the bookings that were made with musical, rather than commercial intentions as the primary requirement.

No wonder the long, long list of players who spent time on Charlie O’s up close and personal stage was a virtual directory of the Southland’s finest jazz artists.

Why did it have to happen?

Jo-Ann made it clear yesterday: “The stress of trying to keep it going in this economy was just too much.  The club was just not staying above water.  I realize lots of folks have lost their jobs and money is tight.  I also know that the first thing people stop doing is spending money on entertainment, whether that is going out to see live music, or for dinner and drinks.”

Characteristically, Jo-Ann is far too modest to have mentioned how tough it must have been when Charlie passed away, and the complete management of the club fell into her hands.  Remarkably, she continued to do so, despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2009 – somehow managing to keep Charlie O’s alive and swinging while beating the disease.

But that’s all in the past now, suddenly and unexpectedly.  And maybe not so unexpectedly, given the fact that Charlie O’s shut down a day before the government reported that the economy had generated no new jobs in August.  So, unless someone like a Herb Alpert or a David Geffen steps up to enable the phoenix-like return of Charlie O’s, jazz has lost another vital home.

If nothing else, it went out in style.  When singer Janis Mann was getting ready for her performance Wednesday night the last thing she expected was to serve as Charlie O’s final act.  To her credit, she took it out superbly.  Backed by pianist Andy Langham, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Roy McCurdy, she displayed the musical and lyrical versatility that are her specialties.  Moving convincingly from ballads such as “With Every Breath I Take” and Henry Mancini’s too rarely heard “Slow Hot Wind” to a samba-driven “Never Let Me Go,” a sexy “Evil Gal Blues” and a touching version of Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away, Mann offered an appropriate musical finale — a celebratory program of song.

And a poignant reminder of the eleven years of musical pleasures that took place, almost every night, at the now sadly departed Charlie O’s.

Photo of Charlie O’s by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: Aug. 30 – Sept. 4

August 30, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

MIchael Wolff

- Aug. 30 & 31. (Tues. & Wed.)  Michael Wolff Quartet.  Pianist and television personality Wolff does a live recording with the stellar ensemble of trumpeter/film composer Mark Isham, bassist John B. Williams and drummer Mike ClarkVitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 31. (Wed.)  George Benson, George Duke, Marcus Miller and David Sanborn.   It’s an evening of blues, funk, crossover and smooth jazz.  But straight ahead jazz fans can rest assured that all of these high visibility artists are also firmly rooted in traditional jazz skills.  The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2040.

Janis Mann

- Aug. 31. (Wed.)  Janis Mann Quartet.  Versatile singer Mann’s soaring vocals are underscored by solid musicality and a masterful story-telling skills.  She performs with pianist Andy Langham, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Roy McCurdyCharlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

- Sept. 1. (Thurs.)  Pat Tuzzolino.  Watching Tuzzolino in action is to marvel at his eclectic skills, as he plays a synth keyboard with one hand, a bass synth with the other, while delivering warm, engaging, hard swinging vocals.  He performs with guitarist Barry Zweig and drummer Billy PaulVitello’s.  (818) 769-0905

- Sept. 1. (Thurs.)  The Ron Eschete Trio.  Seven string guitarist Eschete manages to generate the sort of rich, harmonic textures and flowing rhythms that would seem to only be possible on a keyboard instrument. And he does so with far reaching creative imagination. Keyboardist Joe Bagg and drummer Kendall Kay will back him.  Steamer’s.    (714) 871-8800.

Charlie Haden's Quartet West

- Sept. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Charlie Haden’s Quartet West.  Haden’s veteran, all-star band, one of the West Coast’s great jazz ensembles, celebrates their 25th anniversary.  And it comes at an appropriate time, with pianist/arranger Alan Broadbent moving to the New York area in the near future.  Hopefully Haden will find a way to keep the Quartet together, from time to time.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 2 – 5. ) Fri. – Mon.  Sweet & Hot Music Festival.  The 16th annual celebration of the timeless pleasures of classic jazz.  The names are too numerous to mention.  But suffice to say there’ll be over 200 musicians, 20 bands, 8 venues, 180 scheduled events and 4 dance floors – all sizzling with everything from New Orleans jazz to Swing and Bebop.  The LAX Marriott Hotel.

- Sept. 3. (Sat.)  Steve Huffsteter.  Trumpeter Huffsteter’s extensive resume includes appearances with a complete lexicon of jazz and pop artists.  Much honored by his musical associates, he’s too rarely heard on his own, in the spotlight.  Here’s a great opportunity to experience the articulate subtlety of his playing.  He’s backed by the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato.

San Francisco

- Sept. 1 – 3. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Ivan Lins Quartet.  Singer/songwriter/pianist Lins has been one of Brazil’s – and the world’s – great musical treasures for decades.  Like all iconic artists, he should be heard at every opportunity – especially in a musically compatible setting such as Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

Ron Carter

- Aug. 30 – Sept. 4 (Tues. – Sun.)  Ron Carter Big Band.  At the pinnacle of a career that has embraced every imaginable musical setting, bassist Ron Carter celebrates the release of an album expressing his affection for classic big band jazz: Ron Carter’s Great Big Band.  His assemblage of horn-playing all stars will be backed by the solid rhythm team of Carter, guitarist Russell Malone, pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Willie Jones III.   Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Sept. 1. (Thurs.)  Roseanna VitroThe Music of Randy Newman.  Vitro’s jazz-driven exploration of the emotionally multi-layered songs of Newman has been one of the headline items of 2011’s vocal CDs.  Hopefully the Recording Academy voters will have the good sense to give it a Grammy nomination.  Here, she offers her interpretations up close and live.  The Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.


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