Live Jazz: The 35th Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Day #1

June 17, 2013

Review by Michael Katz

Photos by Bonnie Perkinson

Hollywood CA. One happy problem with an eight hour music fest that runs uninterrupted through the shifting temperatures of a near-summer’s day at the Hollywood Bowl is a lineup so strong you don’t want to leave your seat. That was the occasion on Saturday, Day 1 of the 35th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival. It was a show that featured some bright new names in the jazz realm, a blur of world music and vocal skills, plus cameos and guest appearances from jazz legends and LA icons.

George Lopez

George Lopez

The most notable new face was comedian and actor George Lopez, who took over the emcee duties from Bill Cosby. Lopez smartly kept his patter brief and enthusiastic. Cosby, himself, never tried to upstage the music, and although his Cos of Good Music bands are dearly missed, their spirit was reflected in some adventurous booking, particularly a powerhouse mid-day lineup that had the sold-out house dancing in the aisles.

Some snarling traffic (not to mention my Park and Ride bus that broke down halfway between Westwood and the Bowl) resulted in a crowd filtering in through the first several acts. I entered to a pleasant set by percussionist Pedrito Martinez, with Ariacne Trujillo on keyboards and vocals. Their Latin rhythms set up a relaxed atmosphere as the crowd gathered and settled into party mode. But things got down to business immediately thereafter, with the appearance of Grace Kelly and her quintet.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

The vivacious Kelly, only 21 years of age, has a half-dozen albums already to her credit. She plays mostly alto sax and doubles as a vocalist, excelling at both. Her alto tones are clean and driving, her own compositions melodic and well served by her lovely voice. Her band included one of LA’s premier young pianists, Josh Nelson, and an outstanding young trumpeter from Boston, Jason Palmer, who gave us some of the handful of great trumpet licks of the afternoon.

Grace Kelly and Phil Woods

Grace Kelly and Phil Woods

It takes plenty of self-assurance for a young musician to invite Phil Woods on as a guest and then stand up to him, lick for lick, but Kelly was up to the task. They dueted on her composition “Man In A Hat,” (from the CD of the same name) written as an homage to Woods. His presence seemed to inspire Ms. Kelly, and I don’t think a blindfold test could have separated the two of them. They later romped through a medley of “How High The Moon” and “Ornithology” with equally fine results. Bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Bill Goodwin rounded out this terrific band. Grace Kelly, originally from Boston, has settled here in the LA area, which is great news for local jazz fans – if they can catch her on a break from an ambitious touring schedule.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

I had caught the end of an electrifying set by Gregory Porter last September at the Monterey Jazz Festival (where he will be the opening act this year), so it was no surprise to see him light up the Playboy stage, even in the shank of the warm afternoon. Porter has it all. His deep, evocative voice has the authority of a Joe Williams; he has an engaging stage presence that can command even a crowd settling down for wine and hors d’oeuvres. Porter was in a romantic mood, with a ballad, “No Love Dying,” from a soon-to-be-released album. His band features a sparkplug in altoist Yosuke Sato, who whipped the crowd up with ascending riffs that arced into the pungent afternoon air like tracers. Porter continued on, imploring the audience to “Hold On,” while segueing into Oscar Brown Jr.’s lyrics to Nat Adderley’s “Work Song.” The title song to his new CD, Liquid Spirit, featured some terrific piano work by Chip Crawford. Porter’s closer, (as in the Monterey set), was “1960 What,” an ode to the unrest in sixties Detroit, sung with a gospel fervor that recalled Les McCann’s vocals from the seventies. Porter shone throughout. The LA native, by way of Bakersfield, is clearly on the cusp of something special.

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper has been a ubiquitous presence lately, bridging the gap between jazz and pop with his straight ahead jazz trio and his “Robert Glasper Experiment,” which usually includes a guest from the hip hop world. On Saturday he featured Casey Benjamin on sax and vocoder, as well as the terrific jazz bassist Derrick Hodge and Mark Colenburg on drums. I’ll freely admit that I prefer the “jazz trio” – I put that in quotes because whatever Glasper does has a spirit of adventure to it. Glasper has a quick wit and engaging patter – he’s clearly the jazz performer most likely to host his own TV show. The Experiment is, no surprise, amped up and electronic, and went over fine with the crowd. But Glasper still found the occasion to invite Bowl favorite Dianne Reeves onstage. True to the Experimental spirit, she sang Oscar Brown Jr.’s lyrics to “Afro Blue,” circling on and off the beat, letting the audience find their way into the song.

Angelique Kidjo greets her 18,000 fans at the Playboy Jazz Festival

Angelique Kidjo greets her 18,000 fans at the Playboy Jazz Festival

It’s hard to imagine a more exciting performer for a music festival than Angelique Kidjo, from Benin. I’ve seen her twice, now – the first time anchoring the Sunday afternoon stage show at Monterey a few years ago. Her unique blend of African rhythms, elucidated in several languages, French, Yoruba and Swahili among them, is intoxicating. The pulsating rhythms and percussions, familiar to U. S. audiences through such artists as Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mumbazo, were highlighted by a terrific guitarist, Dominic James, and percussionists Magatte Sow and Yayo Serka, along with Itaiguara Brandao on bass.

As if that was not enough, Hugh Masekela joined the group for several numbers. Kidjo exudes warmth – even if you can’t decipher her lyrics, the spirit of inclusiveness permeates everything she does.

Anglelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela

Anglelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela

Masekela’s flugelhorn remains deceptively simple, his tones clear and bold. His gravelly voice counteracted with Kidjo’s, and the two of them brought the crowd to their feet early and for the duration. Kidjo’s finale included promenading into the crowd and bringing back selected audience members onto the stage – I don’t know whether she does some magical on-the-spot scouting or just counts on divine inspiration, but it works wonderfully. Magatte Sow took center stage on his conga drum and provided the transformational spell, while the audience had a blast, onstage and off.

I’ve always thought that the Playboy Jazz Festival might benefit from a ten or fifteen minute break sometime during the show. It would give the audience a chance to wind down, break out the picnic baskets, talk to their friends without having to shout over the music. If there was ever a time to do it, it would have been after Angelique Kidjo’s set, which was impossible to follow. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band would seem to be a perfect candidate, with the impressive sound of a 20 piece ensemble.

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band

They opened with two burners and a great solo on alto sax by Eric Marienthal, but the audience wasn’t ready to be engaged by what is basically a performance band. They finally found a little traction with Goodwin’s Grammy-winning arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Gershwin, after all this time, can still make people sit up and pay attention. After a brief appearance by “The Voice” vocalist Judith Hill, the band found some more familiar and appealing ground when they were joined by guitarist Lee Ritenour. Ritenour brought one of his most successful arrangements, his adaptation of Jobim’s “Stone Flower” into the Big Phat Band groove. His second number was a tight Goodwin arrangement of his tribute to the late Les Paul, simply titled L.P. That was the Big Phat Band and Ritenour at their best, weaving smart guitar licks into the larger sound. They kept the audience with them for the final tune, “Race To The Bridge,” with sax player Brian Scanlon and Andy Martin on trombone leading the way out.

Naturally 7 is a contemporary vocal band, sort of a capella meets hip hop, led by baritone Roger Thomas. This was their third Playboy appearance in four years, so they were warmly received throughout their set. The group combines elements of Doo-Wop, Hip Hop, and McFerriana. Their “vocal play” extends past the traditional vocal levels and instruments; it includes “DJ” and “Beat Box.” Whatever the simulation, it was pretty heavily amplified from the start, proving it is possible to have too much bass, even if you don’t have a bass. But it was a tight and lively show, emphasizing Doo – Wop in “Summer Breeze” and providing a playful narrative with “Englishman In New York.”

Naturally 7 with Herbie Hancock

Naturally 7 with Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock joined them with one of his “keytars;” it seemed altogether fitting that he would jam with them on “Chameleon.” The opening bass line to that Herbie classic still galvanizes an audience, and Hancock continued with splashes of electronica throughout his appearance.  The group finished off with George Harrison’s Beatles classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” At that point you could look back pleasingly at the versatility of the entire Saturday lineup; in a matter of a few hours you could go from Gershwin to Jobim to Herbie Hancock to George Harrison and somehow fit it all under the jazz tent.

And there was still some Coltrane to come. Maybe not quite enough; Poncho Sanchez’s set was entitled Ole’ Coltrane, after the 1961 Coltrane album of the same name, though the set was more Ole’ than Coltrane. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending an hour with Poncho’s band, whatever the circumstances. Along with Sanchez’s formidable conga work, his group featured Musical Director Francisco Torres, doing double duty (he also soloed with the Big Phat Band.)

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

But I was especially impressed by Ron Blake, who delivered some feisty trumpet cadenzas in the opening Latin numbers. We didn’t hear a lot of lead work from the staple jazz instruments over the day’s program, which was heavy on vocals and large ensembles, so it was a pleasure to hear Blake and then James Carter, who provided the Fest’s primary blast on the tenor sax.  Carter provided scorching work on a Latinized arrangement of Trane’s “Giant Steps,” and more laid back and melodic playing on Duke Ellington’s “The Feeling of Jazz,” which Ellington recorded with Coltrane. Poncho’s version had a tinge of the Mingus Latin feel to it, with some excellent supporting work by Torres. That was it, though, for the Coltrane material. Carter rejoined the band for a final number, Poncho’s always entertaining version of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.”

Regrets to George Duke, whose final blasts into the night came after much of the crowd had left, thoroughly sated by such a pleasing mixture of jazz and funk, performed by ensembles large and small, and by players seasoned and refreshingly new. It was one of the best days at the Playboy Jazz Festival in recent memory and a great start for the two day event.

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To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

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    Dearly Befuddled.


Live Jazz: Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band at Vitello’s

June 10, 2012

By Michael Katz

If  you have never seen Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band in a Small, Close Room, it is an experience I would heartily recommend. For sheer excitement, it is about the closest thing to actually being in the band – if you are a musician or just an air saxophone player, you will be tempted to stand up and take a solo.  Friday night, the eighteen musicians occupied every nook and cranny of the stage at Vitello’s. The guitarist seemed to be sitting in your  lap. The conga player was wedged between Goodwin’s piano and the back wall — his rhythms floating unseen from the direction of Laurel Canyon. The baritone sax player was perched just in front of the curtained stage entrance; one step backward and he could have been the Wizard of Oz. The drummer, Bernie Dresel, sat smack in the middle of  all this, cool and hip in black-rimmed glasses, looking like Steve Allen reincarnated in an argyle sweater.

If you are an acoustic purist, this may not be for you. There are just too many sounds colliding and reverberating between the low ceiling and around the walls. But that is hardly the point. This is a musical Funhouse. It’s a chance to get up close to precision section playing and scorching solos, not to mention a few young players who have infiltrated the roster of Goodwin’s veteran group of LA session men.

Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

Goodwin, who handles the arrangements and plays mostly piano now,  started this band a decade ago. He’s developed a rousing, hard swinging sound that borrows liberally from all points of the American jazz scene – over two sets Friday night there were nods to Benny Goodman, George Gershwin, Diz, Herbie and even Elmer Fudd. It’s all done with panache, humor and Goodwin’s trademark in-the-pocket groove, dominated by a front line of saxophones that doubles impressively on flutes and clarinets.

The first set featured tunes from the BPB’s most recent album, That’s How We Roll, opening up with the title cut. A typical foot-stomping Goodwin piece, it featured Francisco Torres, best known for anchoring the trombone section of the Poncho Sanchez Band, and Willie Murillo,  the lead trumpet soloist most of the night. “Howdiz Songo” followed with a lilting piano riff by Goodwin,  Joey De Leon’s congas bubbling up from behind. A couple of newer names made their presence felt: Katisse Buckingham is a fine young saxophonist who doubled on flute and Andrew Synoweic showed his versatility on guitar.

Goodwin won a 2012 Grammy for his shape-shifting arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Another young reed player, Kevin Garren, opened it up with a stirring clarinet solo. The tempo shifted to an aggressive swing, featuring Bob Summers on trumpet, then laid back for a Dorsey-like trombone burst from Charlie Morillas. Finally Murillo took over on trumpet as the tempo assumed a rollicking strip tease tone, perhaps not exactly what Gershwin had in mind, but who’s to say?

Singer Becky Martin, who I’d heard with Arturo Sandoval last month, stepped in for two numbers. It is especially hard belting out a tune over an 18 piece band in such a small room, but Martin carried an up-tempo version (was there anything else?) of “Cheek To Cheek” and followed with a persuasive interpretation of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night In Tunisia,” augmented by Murillo’s homage to Diz.

There were only two ballads over the evening, placed in penultimate  positions of each set. Guitarist Synowiec had a nice casual feel to “Everlasting” in the first set with Goodwin accompanying him gracefully on the piano. The same spot in the second set brought Goodwin back on tenor sax with a samba-like rendition of “I Remember,” from the BPB’s first album. Bob Summers delivered some soulful work on the flugelhorn   with harmonic support from the woodwinds, alternating from an all flute background to a medley of saxophones. And speaking of stellar section work, the trombones, who had carried less solo work most of the night, performed beautifully in “It’s Not Polite To Point” with Jason Thor and Craig Gosnell joining Torres and Morillas in a perfect blending of the four horns.

Mostly, though, it was the rip-roaring numbers that had the capacity crowd on their feet. There was “Hunting Wabbits III,” the third variation of Goodwin’s salute to the Warner Brothers cartoon themes. “Sing Sang Sung,” which opened up the second set, is based on Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” and featured more great clarinet work by Kevin Garren. Lead tenor man Brian Scanlon, after losing a pad on his horn, borrowed Goodwin’s and blew through “Rippin’ N Runnin’ from the new album.  By the time the Big Phat Band finished off the night with “The Jazz Police,”  highlighted by percussionist Joey DeLeon and drummer Bernie Dresel tearing things up, the audience and band alike were on the edge of exhaustion.

Which is the way it ought to be. The next time I see this band it will be opening the main stage show at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September. I’m sure it will be great, but I won’t be sitting two feet from the band, trading eights in my mind with the horn section.

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To read more iRoM  reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

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Picks of the Week: June 5 – 10

June 5, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 5. (Tues.)  “And Then She Wrote.”  Peter Marshall, Carol Welsman, Calabria Foti.  Five time Emmy Award-winning Marshall (Yes, he sings, too) is joined by the lovely singer/instrumentalists Welsman and Foti in an evening of great standards written by women. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- June 5. (Tues.)  Corliss Dale and Lou Forestieri.  Pianist/arranger  Forestieri’s impressive resume reaches from Stanley Clarke to Mel Torme and beyond.  He and his singing wife Dale have released a pair of impressive albums of standards; Fascinating Rhythms and Crazy Rhythm.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- June 6. (Wed.)  The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.  The music from one of the most popular video games of all time is performed by a full orchestra.  The program features music based on story lines from “Ocarina of Time,” “The Wind Waker,” “Twilight Princess” and “A Link to the Past.” The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

Fabiana Passoni

- June 7. (Thurs.) Fabiana Passoni.  Her sultry vocals have earned Passoni the title of Best Brazilian Singer Living in the U.S. from the Brazilian International Press.  Despite the difficult interruptions of a three year battle with cancer, her musical journey has continued to discover new areas of creativity.  She’ll be backed by a ten piece band featuring the stellar presence of, among others, pianist Bill Cantos and guitarist Kleber Jorge. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.  Also at Yoshi’s San Francisco on Sun. (See below.)

- June 7 – 9. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Freddy Cole Quartet.  If the voice sounds familiar, don’t be surprised.  He’s Nat Cole’s younger brother, and he’s fashioned those memorable vocal timbres into an appealing style all his own.  At a time when engaging male jazz singers are in short supply, don’t miss the chance to hear Cole in action.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- June 7 – 9. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Peter Cetera.  If the name doesn’t instantly ring a bell, think “Chicago.”  And, no, not the city, the great rock group of the ‘70s that rode to fame on Cetera’s memorable vocals.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.     (714) 556-2787.

- June 8. (Fri.) Primus.  For nearly three decades Primus has been stretching the envelope in the style of Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd.  Also on the bill, Fishbone, a high visibility presence in L.A.’s alternative rock scene since the ‘80s.  Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

Ernie Watts

- June 8. (Fri.)  Ernie Watts.  Grammy-winner Watts’ versatile saxophone playing has been heard over the past four decades on more than 500 recordings in the company of artists reaching from Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa.  And he’s still going strong.  LACMA.    (323) 857-6000.

- June 8. (Fri.) Big Phat BandGordon Goodwin’s collection of L.A. all-stars perform selections from his always-swinging book of originals and re-invented standards.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 10. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale. Tribute to Gorecki.  The superb voices of the LAMC close the season with a trio of sonically mesmerizing works by the great Polish composer, as well as the Brahms motet for chorus, Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- June 10. (Sun.)  Chickenfoot.  All-star rock group Chickenfoot – Joe Satriani, Kenny Aronoff, Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar – arrive in support of their latest album, Chickenfoot III.  Also on the bill – Black Stone Cherry. Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

Rick Braun

- June 8 – 10.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Rick Braun. Trumpeter/vocalist Braun, following in the Chet Baker footsteps, combining his warm and amiable vocals with an appealingly melodic trumpet style.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

June 10. (Sun.)   Fabiana Passoni.  Brazilian singer Passoni makes her second California appearance this week.  See above L.A. entry for more details.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Washington D.C.

- June 8 – 10.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Kenny Garrett. Cutting edge alto saxophonist Garrett’s early roots trace to a five year stint with Miles Davis’ electric bands.  But he’s traveled his own path since then, fully apparent in his latest album, Seeds From the Underground.  Blues Alley.  http://bluesalley.com/events.cfm  (202) 337-4141.

New York

Karrin Allyson

- June 5 – 9. (Tues. – Sat.)  Karrin Allyson. Twenty years after her debut album, I Didn’t Know About You, was released, Allyson continues to set standards for what great jazz singing can and should be – via her superb musicality, rich sense of swing and her utterly engrossing storytelling abilities.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- June 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)  Renee Rosnes Quartet.  Pianist Rosnes, always a jazz adventurer, checks out fascinating territories with the world class companionship of Steve Nelson, vibes, Peter Washington, bass and Lewis Nash, drums.  Village Vanguard.   (212) 929-4589.

- June 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)  Dudka Da Fonseca & Helio Alves.  “Samba, Jazz and the Music of Jobim”  An evening revealing, in delightfully rhythmic fashion, the creatively compelling links between jazz and the music of Brazil. With Anat Cohen, Claudio Roditi, George Mraz and Maucha Adnet.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- June 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Charles McPherson. Alto saxophonist McPherson has been convincingly carrying the torch for bebop since he performed on the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood’s 1988 Charlie Parker film, Bird.   Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

London

Danilo Perez

- June 6 (Wed.)  Danilo Perez.  Panama-born pianist/composer/educator Perez’s career arc reaches from intimate musical relationships with Dizzy Gillespie to Wayne Shorter.  With a lot of stops in between, thoroughly establishing himself as one of the influential jazz voices of his generation.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.


Live Jazz: Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band at Vitello’s

February 5, 2012

By Don Heckman

The performance by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band at Vitello’s Friday night was a hearty reminder of the decades when big bands were the stars of popular music.  Some of those bands – Count Basie, Duke Ellington – were firmly rooted in jazz.  Others – Sammy Kaye, Guy Lombardo – played music primarily for dancing.  And still others – Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller – did both.  Something for most musical tastes, in other words, during an era in which jazz qualities were so strongly present in the music – with even the Kayes and the Lombardos occasionally dipping into jitterbug-pleasing swing rhythms – that jazz and pop music were virtually synonymous.

But no more, of course, at least since the arrival of the electric guitar.  To saxophonist/pianist Goodwin’s credit, however, he continues to keep a band alive – via the attractions of his writing and the qualities of the Phat Band’s players – that remains firmly in touch with the appealing qualities of the big Swing bands.  And thoroughly receptive to its contemporary surroundings, as well.Friday’s opening set provided an impressive display of all those qualities.  Among the highlights: Goodwin’s Grammy-nominated arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue and his original composition – also Grammy-nominated – Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn).

The Gershwin classic was rendered with a rhythmic panache that energized all its inherent jazz qualities, especially aided by the clarinet work of Sal Lozano and the stunning trumpet of Wayne Bergeron.  One suspects that Gershwin would have been pleased.

So, too for Wabbits, Goodwin’s third installment of this cartoon-inspired theme, a quirky, musically whimsical reminder of how much the animation world of Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker was inspired by jazz.  Here, as elsewhere throughout the set, the band’s ever-present rhythmic vitality was propelled by the dynamic drumming of Bernie Dresel.

Another Goodwin original, “Race To the Bridge,” was a kind of jazz concerto grosso featuring each of the band’s stellar sections.  The result was a display of sheer musical excitement.

The evening’s only hiccup took place during the guest artist section, which featured singer Becky Martin and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.  Martin was ebullient and assertive in a lively version of “Cheek To Cheek,” and Sandoval offered some of his familiar Dizzy Gillespie recollections in “Night in Tunisia.”  Neither piece, however – with the exception of a saxophone section harmonization of Charlie Parker’s famous high speed break in “Night in Tunisia” – did enough to sustain the spirited qualities of the Big Phat Band in action.

But that’s a small carp for an evening of memorable musical pleasures.  If anyone’s looking for a convincing template of how to bring the big bands back to the center of American music…check out Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.   


Picks of the Week: Jan. 31 – Feb. 5

January 31, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Anthony Wilson

- Jan. 31. (Tues.)  Anthony Wilson.  He’s had a lot of visibility the past few years backing Diana Krall, but Wilson’s a certified jazz star in his own right – as a performer, a composer and a band leader.  This time out, he gets back to basics with guitarist and host John Pisano in the laid back format of  Guitar NightVitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 31. (Tues.)  Sheldon Reynolds’ “Elements of Fire.”  A guitarist and lead singer with Earth, Wind and Fire in the ’80s and ’90s, Reynolds revisits some of the Grammy-winning ensemble’s greatest hits.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 2 (Thurs.)  The Salzburg Chamber Soloists.  The critically praised members of the SCS reveal their musical versatility with a diverse program featuring works by Mozart, Ravel, Britten and Janacek.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

Windy Karigianes

- Feb. 2 (Thurs.)  Windy Karigianes.  Las Vegas singer Karigianes hasn’t had a lot of wide visibility yet, but the warmth of her sound, her briskly rhythmic style and evocative interpretations bode well for her future.  Saxophonist Brandon Fields will be her special guest.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 2. (Thurs.)  Doug MacDonald Organ Quartet.  Guitarist MacDonald dips into a deep groove with the vibrant assistance of organ playing and vocals of Bobby Pierce, the tenor saxophone of Clarence Webb and the drumming and vocals of Harold Acey.  The LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza.   (310) 258-1333.

- Feb. 2 – 4. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Bobby Caldwell. It’s a safe bet that Caldwell won’t get through the night without singing his 1978 hit, “What You Won’t Do For Love.”  But he’s got plenty of other past hits in his resume, as well as an easygoing, appealing way of dealing with everything from American Songbook classics to his own catalog of memorable originals.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

The Flying Karamazov Brothers

- Feb. 3. (Fri.)  The Flying Karamazov Brothers.  Juggling’s their game, and comedy’s a good part of their fame.  How could it be otherwise with a whimsical group of experts who juggle everything from apples and swords to fish and flaming torches.  There’s nothing quite like them.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

- Feb. 3. (Fri.)  Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.  Saxophonist/pianist/bandleader has accomplished the jazz world miracle of not only keeping a big band together, but doing so with an impressive display of engaging, hard swinging musicality.  No surprise that the Phat Band has a Grammy nomination this year.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 3. (Fri.)  Trio M.  With Myra Melford, piano, Mark Dresser, bass, Matt Wilson, drums.  The instrumentation may be the same as the classic jazz piano trio, but Trio M — Myra, Mark, Matt — has set no stylistic limits.  A true creative musical collective, each of its stellar members brings his or her artistic vision to the trio’s unbounded explorations.  The Musicians Institute Concert Center.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Feb. 3. (Fri.)  John Beasley and Dwight Trible.  “First Fridays Jazz Series.”  Pianist Beasley ands singer Trible, performing with stunning musical empathy, celebrate the release of their album, Duality, as a headliner event in the First Friday Jazz Series at Joe’s Restaurant.    (310) 399-5811.

- Feb. 3 & 4. (Fri. & Sat.)  Ben Wendel.  Grammy nominated multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Wendel showcases his eclectic creative skills in a celebration of his new album, Frame. Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

San Francisco

Peter Erskine

- Feb. 1 (Wed.)  The Peter Erskine New Trio.  Grammy-winning Peter Erskine has drummed with everyone from Stan Kenton to Pat Metheny, with all stops in between.  But one of the best ways to hear his subtle rhythms is with his own impressive new trio, featuring pianist Vardan Ovsepian and bassist (and nephew) Damian ErskineYoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 4. (Tues. – Sat.)  David Sanchez Quartet.  Grammy-winning, and frequently Grammy-nominated Sanchez is one of the rare saxophonists who has found inspiration in John Coltrane, while continuing to explore the essentials of his own style and creativity.  He’s backed by drummer Antonio Sanchez, bassist Matt Brewer and guitarist Adam Rogers. Jazz Standardl.  (212) 576-2232.

Simone Dinnerstein

- Feb. 2 (Thurs.)  Simone DinnersteinBach and the Romantics.  Whether it’s baroque, classical or romantic, Dinnerstein approaches the piano with a transparency that takes the listener into the very origins of the music she plays.  This time she offers a program reaching from Bach through Schubert, Chopin and Brahms.  The Miller Theatre at the Columbia University School of the Arts.    (212) 854-7799.

- Feb. 3. (Fri.)  The Ben Monder, Theo Bleckmann Duo.  Guitarist Monder and vocalist Bleckmann, each an adventurous musical explorer in his own right, take on even more unusual creative territories when they come together as a team.  Cornelia St. Café.    (212) 989-9319.

London

- Jan. 31. (Tues.)  Mark Murphy. One of the great veterans of the jazz vocal art.  Approaching 80, he continues to offer definitive displays of his still potent, richly creative abilities. Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747

Berlin

- Feb. 5. (Sun.)  Becca Stevens. Singer, composer and multiple instrumentalist (guitar, ukulele and charango), Stevens also manages to find a way to embrace folk, classical and pop in her idiosyncratic, jazz-tinged music.   A-Trane.   030/313 25 50.  Critically acclaimed 2011 album, Weightless.

Peter Erskine photo 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.


Live Jazz: The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band at Vitello’s

October 29, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Gordon Goodwin is one bandleader who really knows how to fill a room. I don’t know why his band looked so big. He doesn’t have strings or French horns or anything. But it seemed to fill half the upstairs room at Vitello’s Monday.

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band Phills Vitello's

I guess it’s just kind of a phat band, or Phat band, as he proclaimed on a wall-filling red, white and blue banner. I thought maybe he might have Pol Pot on trumpet, or maybe Phats Navarro.

Willie Murillo

No, it was a guy named Willie Murillo, who got off  alarming growl trumpet solos in the course of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Goodwin’s chart on this would have gladdened Gershwin’s melancholy heart. It rolled along like George’s old man river, only phaster.

And like every other number all night long, it swung, boldly and impeccably.   A player could not very well help doing that with the great Bernie Dressel, of Alf Clausen’s “The Simpsons” band and the Miles Evans band, at the drums.

Bernie Dressel

The great Wayne Bergeron, whose chops were a little down, ceded the trumpet glory to Murillo and later to the great Bob Summers, who devised a poised and well designed chorus or two on a classic ballad.

A charming looking young gent named Andrew Synowiec played electric guitar with clarity and momentum, and the bassist, Rick Shaw, had everybody’s back, no trivial  feat since there were 18 up there.

Fortunately, Shaw was working with a Panormo-style bass, a large, broad-shouldered Italian-bred instrument with a Stenholm “C” extension that  lowers the E string to a C.

Andy Martin

Among the other commanding soloists  were the renowned Andy Martin on trombone; the expert Brian  Scanlon, Jeff Driskill  and Sal Lozano on saxophones and fearless Jay Masen on baritone saxophone.

Aside from the stomach-turning red uniforms, what you remembered was this band’s bright but brawny precision — tight, agile and plenteous — and the masterly writing by Goodwin, which is as it should be with his training as a film  scorer on  FernGully: The Last Rainforest, The Majestic, Glory Road, National Treasure, Remember the Titans, Armageddon, Star Trek: Nemesis, The Incredibles, Hot Rod, Get Smart, Snakes on a Plane, Race to Witch Mountain, Coach Carter, Bad Boys II, Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds.

The Big Phat Brasses

As well as the beloved classic, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, his score for which the Phat boys sliced and salted with, uh, relish.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.


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