Jazz With An Accent: Drummin’ Back Out Into the World — CDs by Arturo O’Farrill and Ginger Baker

August 6, 2014

By Fernando Gonzalez

Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra

The Offense of the Drum (Motema)

Maestro Mario Bauzá — trumpeter, saxophonist and music director of Machito and His Afro- Cubans, direct link between Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo and a key figure in blending jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms — scoffed at the label Latin Jazz.

“What they call Latin jazz is not Latin jazz. That’s Afro-Cuban jazz,” he would say in his inimitable growl. It wasn’t just that “Latin jazz” blurred the Afro-Cuban contribution. It was also that, for him, Latin jazz suggested a different, more varied mix — incorporating Argentine tangos, Colombian cumbias, Venezuelan joropos or Puerto Rican bomba y plena.  He would then name artists such as Paquito D’Rivera, Gato Barbieri or Jorge Dalto as worthy
practitioners.

It was the 1980s and it was a short roll call.  Today, he would’ve had a much longer and broader list.

But Bauzá would have been specially proud of the work of pianist and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill, the son of his friend and collaborator, the great Cuban arranger and bandleader Chico O ́Farrill.

For 12 years, sometimes seemingly hidden in plain view, Arturo O ́Farrill has carried on an extraordinary effort, not only organizing and keeping alive an 18-piece big band but doing so while also expanding the vocabulary of Afro-Cuban jazz into a truly Pan-Latin Latin jazz.  By now, the book of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) includes not only some of the great standards of Afro-Cuban jazz but also pieces blending in tangos, choros and Peruvian festejos.  In The Offense of The Drum, O ́Farrill both takes it further out and brings it all home.  With the drums as the foundational center of the music, the ALJO connects diverse traditions  creatively but also rather organically.

So a tribute to the shared spirits and grooves in Havana and New Orleans, a musical dialogue  in “On The Corner of Malecón and Bourbon,” flows into a sly Colombian porro groove and  allusions to Colombian papayera band (a type of brass street band) on “Mercado en Domingo.”  But exploring the groove doesn’t preclude a reflective “Gonossiene 3 (Tientos),” which  explodes Erik Satie’s music Arabic elements with a flamenco perspective.

And O’Farrill is neither afraid of collaborations — such as those with pianist Vijay Iyer (the odd  metered “The Mad Hatter”) and DJ Logic (“They Came” which also explores spoken poetry)  — nor having a good time, as with the eminently danceable salsa track, “Alma Vacía,” or the  classic “Iko Iko” – featuring alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, a Big Chief Mardi Gras Indian –  reinvented here as a joyous, bouncing Cuban/New Orleans party groove.

Throughout, the arranging is imaginative, exploring the character of the music and the  instrumental possibilities of the band, while the soloing (especially by O’Farrill and Iyer on  piano, Rafi Malkiel, euphonium and Harrison on sax) is consistently smart and purposeful.  Creative, swinging and open to the world, The Offense of The Drum is Latin jazz at its best.

Offense of the Drum Electronic Press Kit

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Ginger Baker

Why? (Motema)

While lasting only two years, 1966 – 1968, the British trio Cream had an oversized impact in  modern popular music. At different times, Cream has been claimed as ancestor and inspiration  by rock musicians of nearly all stripes, from fusion to heavy metal.

But jazz has more than a fair claim to their legacy too. In fact, one doesn’t need to go back to  their epic version of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad,” in the group’s final Goodbye, to connect the  dots between the jazz tradition and their instrumental virtuosity, their approach to improvisation  and open-ended treatment of the blues. Set aside the pop-rock imagery for a second and think of, say, a saxophone playing the guitar lines and you are closer to an avant-jazz trio than a rock band.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. The two guys working the engine room of Cream, bassist  Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, were educated in, and fans of, jazz. Guitarist Eric Clapton was a different story — and his post-Cream, MOR career is evidence enough. In his autobiography, Bruce seems to suggest that two-thirds of Cream thought of it as a jazz trio adding, jokingly one would hope, that they just wouldn’t tell Clapton about it.

With his new album Why?, his first in 16 years, Baker, 75, seems to be closing the circle, returning once again, in one gesture, to his old loves — jazz (including two appealing trio records in the 90s with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden), African music and, essentially, the trio format (replacing the guitar with a horn and in fact playing without a chordal instrument this time).

Baker’s band these days, Jazz Confusion, features Pee Wee Ellis on sax, Alec Dankworth, bass and Abass Dodoo, percussion, and offers the drummer a smart, strong, no-frills vehicle.  The repertoire in Why? also suggests a bringing-it-all-home feel.

It’s comprised mainly of Baker’s originals, including “Ain Temouchant,” recorded with Frisell and Haden on Going Back Home (1994); “Cyril Davis,” (sic) a tribute to the British harmonica blues player Cyril Davies, and trumpeter Ron Miles’ “Ginger Spice,” both first recorded on Baker’s Coward of the County (1998); and the title track, a meditation on his life and work including a tip of the hat to the late bandleader Graham Bond.

The set also includes “Aiko Biaye,” an update of a Nigerian song Baker recorded in 1970 with Air Force, his short-lived sui generis big band; Ellis’ “Twelve and More Blues,” and a couple of jazz standards, Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and the irresistible “St. Thomas,” by Sonny Rollins.  Throughout, Ellis is an economic and tightly focused improviser, even as he takes flight on  tracks such as “St Thomas” and his own “Twelve and More,” remade here with a post-bop
swing. Dankworth is solid and fluid throughout, anchoring the group and providing measured, eloquent soloing.

Baker drives the music forward with his distinct drive and African-tinged tom-tom and hi-hat sound. There it might not be in his playing the relentless, maniacal intensity of his heyday (how could there be?) but Baker’s craftiness and musicality more than makes up for what he might lack at this point in energy. In Why? Baker embraces his past — but don’t expect a warm-and fuzzy nostalgia trip. To quote the title of the terrific Jay Bulger 2012 documentary about him, Beware of Mr. Baker. Yep. And that’s a good thing.

Beware of Mr. Baker

To read more posts, reviews and essays by Fernando Gonzalez click HERE


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

January 30, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

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

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

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

Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn

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

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

Gary Foster

Gary Foster

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

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

Seattle

Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell

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

Washington D.C.

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

New York City

John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie

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

Copenhagen

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

Milano

Billy Cobham

Billy Cobham

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


Live Jazz: Charles Lloyd and Bill Frisell in a CAP UCLA concert at Royce Hall

November 19, 2013

By Don Heckman

Charles Lloyd made one of his rare Southland appearances Saturday night a Royce Hall in a CAP UCLA (Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA) concert. And, as often happens with the iconic jazz saxophonist and flutist, one couldn’t help but wish that Lloyd would leave his Santa Barbara home for more frequent local appearances.

Every Lloyd concert is unique. And this one, with special guests Bill Frisell  and Greg Leisz, was a striking display of contemporary jazz improvisation at its finest.

Barely a word was spoken from the stage during the entire 90 minute set (followed by a generous encore of several songs). Instead, Lloyd, with guitarist Frisell, bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Eric Harland and steel guitarist Leisz simply moved smoothly from one piece into another. Some were based on familiar source material – including at one point an unlikely passage from “Abide with Me” to “Red River Valley,” no doubt inspired by Frisell’s America interests. Other selections tapped into everything from Lloyd originals to traditional tunes and pieces by Gabor Szbo and Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” (from West Story).

Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd

Lloyd is a fascinating performer to watch. Slender and lithe, his movements were intimately related to the flow of the music, whether he was playing or not. When he dug into an especially mobile improvisational passage of his own, he became more involved with the music, lifting one leg after the other in his own unique dance moves.

Since the mid-sixties and the unexpected success of his live performance of “Forest Flower” Lloyd’s career has embraced everything from avant-garde jazz to some intriguing episodes with the Beach Boys. Over the course of the past four or five decades, he has firmly established himself as one of the most musically independent jazz artists of his generation. And, in this memorable performance, his inventive playing offered convincing evidence of his still vital, still imaginative skills.

Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell

But the performance offered more, its numerous fascinations triggered primarily by the continuing interaction between Lloyd and Frisell, supported the sturdy rhythm work of Rogers and Harland, as well as the dark, roving steel guitar work of Leisz. At the heart of it all, each of the players tailored their individual musical explorations to a non-stop musical journey shared by everyone, on stage and in the audience.  The results illuminated the essence of collective jazz improvising at its finest.

And it was Frisell who – in a conversation with the UCLA Daily Bruin – best described the essence of the interplay between the musicians:

“On stage with (Lloyd),” said Frisell, “there is no competition. There are no worries, no mistakes, no rights or wrongs….When you’ve been playing your whole life, you don’t need to talk about (music) in that way. I feel at home when I’m on stage with Charles Lloyd.”

By the end of the Lloyd quintet’s performance, it’s a fair bet to say that most members of the responsive Royce Hall audience also felt very much “at home” with every note played by Lloyd and his gifted musical associates.


Picks of the Week: April 17 – 21

April 17, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Corky Hale plays for Billie Holiday

Corky Hale plays for Billie Holiday

- April 17. (Wed.)  Corky Hale and special guest Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge perform selections from the Billie Holiday songbook. Pianist/harpist Hale, who accompanied Holiday in the ‘50s, is well qualified for the job.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

April 17. (Wed.)  Julian Coryell.  The son of fine veteran guitarist Larry Coryell, Julian – an impressive guitarist in his own right, as well as a singer – is carving out a prime career. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 17. (Wed.)  Andras SchiffThe Bach Keyboard Cycle.  Schiff performs the French Suites and the French Overture as part of his survey of the complete solo keyboard works of J.S. Bach.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- April 18. (Thurs.)  Judi Wexler Birthday Bash.  The critically praised Wexler displays the far ranging, richly interpretive qualities that are at the heart of her singing.  Mambo’s Café.   (818) 545-8613.

Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson

- April 18. (Thurs.)  A Tribute to Bill Henderson.  A celebration of the music and life of the creative versatility of 87 year old singer/actor Henderson.  The program features the Eric Reed Trio, with special guests Denise Donatelli, Kenny Burrell, Janis Mann, Ernie Andrews, Mark Winkler, Cheryl Bentyne  and others.  Bubba Jackson hosts the performance.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- April 20. (Sat.)  Jimmy Cobb and the So What Band.  Drummer Cobb is the last surviving member of the Miles Davis band that created the best selling album, Kind of Blue.  Here, leading a world class band, he revisits the classic numbers from that iconic jazz recording.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

- April 21. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Music Director Jeffrey Kahane conducts and performs the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22. The program also includes Handel’s Concerto Grosso in A Major, Ginastera’s Variaciones Cncertantes and a newly commissioned work by Andrew NormanCAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101.

Catalina Popescu

Catalina Popescu

- April 21. (Sun.)  The Arturo Sandoval Big Band is the centerpiece in the California Jazz Foundation’s annual Benefit Concert, this time honoring the decades of jazz support from Catalina Popescu, the owner of Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- April 21. (Sun.)  Sherry Williams. With a voice as smooth and sweet as honey, Williams is always a pleasure to hear in her blues-tinged interpretations.  She’ll be backed by Joe Bagg, piano, Pat Senatore, bass, Mark Ferber, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- April 19. (Fri.)  Raquel Bitton. With special guest Rebeca Mauleon. Paris Meets Havana is the subtitle of a program featuring Bitton’s French and Mauleon’s Cuban classics, performed with full orchestra. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- April 20. (Sat.)  Bill Frisell.  The ever-adventurous guitarist/composer Frisell provides original music for a reading of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Kentucky Derby.  An SFJAZZ program at Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.

Chicago

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- April 18 – 21. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  “Deedles,” as she is known to friends and fans alike, still possesses one of the most musically malleable voices in jazz – always a pleasure to hear. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

Washington D.C.

- April 17. (Wed.)  The Stan Kenton Alumni BandMike Fax conducts a program of music ranging across the full musical panorama of Kenton’s remarkable big band history.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- April 17 – 20. (Wed. – Sat.)  The John Scofield “Hollow Body Band” is an aptly titled musical exchange with special guest guitarist Mike SternBirdland.      (212) 581-3080.

Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson

- April 18 – 21. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Wilson Quintet.  Alto saxophonist Wilson’s resume includes recordings and performances ranging from Chick Corea and Lionel Hampton to Joe Henderson, Ron Carter and beyond.  But it’s always great to hear him on his own.  In this case he’s backed by Alex Sipiagin, trumpet, George Cables, piano, Larry Grenadier, bass and Ulysses Owens, Jr., drums.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- April 19. (Fri.)  Ana Popovic.  A blues guitarist and singer from Serbia may seem unlikely, but Popovic has been solidly proving her skills in both those areas.  The Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

London

- April 21 (Sunday)  Joyce.  Described by Antonio Carlos Jobim as “one of the greatest singers of all times” Brazil’s Joyce has convincingly blended jazz and Brazilian music in her far-reaching recordings and performances.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.

Berlin

Judy Niemack

Judy Niemack

- April 18. (Thurs.)  Judy Niemack.  She has been praised for the beauty of her voice, but Niemack is also a superb interpretive singer, who blends technical skill and far-reaching imagination.  A-Trane.   030 / 313 25 50.

Milan 

- April 20. (Sat.)  Dave Holland with the Pepe Habichuela Flamenco Quintet. Always in search of new areas of musical expression, bassist Holland dips into the pleasures of flamenco.  The Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.

Buenos Aires

Maria Puga Lareo

Maria Puga Lareo

- April 18. (Thurs.)  Maria Puga Lareo and Bob Telson.  Argentine singer Lareo, highly regarded for her jazz skills, performs every Thursday night in April with American jazz and film composer/pianist Telson.   Clasica Y Moderna.   +54 11 4813-9517.

Tokyo

- April 19 & 20.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Karen Souza.  Latin American singer Souza’s fascination with the jazz swing era is an essential element in her music.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Karen Souza.   Tokyo Blue Note.   +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 5 – 10

February 5, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles 

Sally Kellerman

Sally Kellerman

- Feb. 6. (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman.  The inimitable Ms. Kellerman is back, this time with an evening of Valentine’s Day songs in a program titled, appropriately, “Love.”  Don’t miss it.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Robben Ford. Guitarist Ford, who moves easily across boundaries from blues to jazz and beyond, celebrates the imminent release of his new album, Bringing It Back Home.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Feb. 8. (Fri.)  Bill Cunliffe Big Band“Bach to the Future.”  Grammy-winning and Grammy-nominated pianist/composer/arranger Cunliffe leads his big band in his jazz imagining of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  Later, starting at 9:30 p.m., pianist John Campbell will perform in a new Vitello’s weekly event — Piano Night in the downstairs dining room.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.)  Rhythm of the Dance.  Irish step dancing in all its colorful variations, delivered by an expert company of dancers.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts  (562) 916-8501.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

- Feb, 9. (Sat.)  Wayne Shorter Quartet with Esperanza Spalding and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Saxophonist/composer Shorter presents the world premiere of a work for Esperanza and the L.A. Phil, commissioned by the Philharmonic.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.  www.laphil.com

- Feb. 9. (Sat.)  Rob Lockhart Quartet.  Versatile saxophonist Lockhart, an A-list sideman, steps into the spotlight.  He’s backed by pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Mark FerberVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 9 & 10. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Russian National Ballet Theatre. One of Russia’s finest ballet companies presents a pair of classics.   Sat.: Sleeping Beauty.  Sun.: CinderellaValley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

- Feb, 10. (Sun.)  Ann Hampton Callaway.  “The Streisand Songbook”  Pianist/singer Callaway, who moves easily from jazz to pop to cabaret, offers a program of songs associated with Barbra Streisand.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

- Feb. 7 – 10 (Thurs. – Sun.).  Dave Holland.  Bassist Holland displays his far-reaching musical versatility in four unique programs.  Thurs: Solo.  Fri.: Duo with Kenny Barron.  Sat.: Quintet.  Sun.: Dave Holland PrismSFJAZZ at Miner Auditorium.     (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

Joshua Redman

Joshua Redman

- Feb. 7 – 10 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Joshua Redman.  The always adventurous, Grammy-nominated saxophonist stretches the musical genre-boundaries in search of new and compelling improvisational ideas.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- Feb. 5 – 9.  (Tues. – Sat.)  Lou Donaldson Organ Quartet.  He’s one of the still active iconic jazz saxophonist, performing this time in the grooving environment of an organ quartet.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Feb. 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ron Carter Quartet.  Carter is not only a brilliant bassist and composer, he’s also a stimulating leader who knows how to assemble an imaginative jazz group.  This time out, he’s with pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Payton Crossley and percussionist Rolando Morales-MatosThe Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

Paris

Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull

- Feb. 9. (Sat.)  Marianne Faithfull and Bill Frisell.  It’s a fascinating combination.  Pop star/actress Faithfull has been an iconic figure since the ‘60s.  Versatile guitarist Frisell seems determined to try something new in every outing.  The combination should be intriguing.   New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Copenhagen

- Feb. 7 & 8. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Leszek Mozdzer/Lars Danielsson Duo.  The names may be unfamiliar to English-speaking jazz fans, but pianist Mozdzer and bassist Danielsson play together with a spirit of jazz togetherness that reaches beyond the limits of languages. Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 263 267.

Milan

- Feb. 7 – 9.  )Thurs. – Sat.)  Billy Cobham. Veteran drummer Cobham has assembled a band of players from France and England into a collective of true international jazz.   Blue Note Milano.    02.690 16888.

Tokyo

Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander

- Feb. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.)  Monty Alexander: The Harlem-Kingston Express.  It’s a perfectly named band, with Jamaica-born pianist Alexander blending his impressive jazz playing with the traditional sounds and rhythms of his roots. Blue Note Tokyo.   03-5485-0088.

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Sally Kellerman, Wayne Shorter and Joshua Redman  photos by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 15 – 20

January 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Eloise Laws

Eloise Laws

- Jan. 16. (Wed.)  Eloise Laws.  A member of the musically prominent Laws family (Hubert, Ronnie and Debra among others) Eloise Laws makes a rare live performance in the Southland.  Her warm and expressive vocals are backed by members of the Laws family and their talented friends.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 16. (Wed.) Windy Karigianes.  It’s a busy month for international jazz singers to make appearances in L.A.  Denmark’s superb vocal artist Sinne Eeg was here last week, Australia’s Chris McNulty is at Vitello’s tomorrow.  And today there’s Karigianes, whose background is Greek, Portuguese and Italian, bringing a musically diverse perspective to her mellow, evocative singing.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Jan 16. (Wed.)  John Beasley Residence II.  Pianist Beasley’s second event in his January residence features his trio – with bassist Carlitos del Puerto and drummer Gary Novak, plus guests — playing a program of Brazilian Music.  The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

- Jan. 17 & 18. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Chris McNulty.  Australian jazz singer McNulty celebrates the release of her latest CD, The Song That Sings You Here.  With guitarist Paul Bollenback and bassist Trey HenryVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- Jan. 17 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  Veteran jazz vocalist Schuur – called “Deedles” by friends and fans alike – continues to sing with the appealing, Sarah Vaughan influences that she has transformed into her own unique style. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 18 – 19. (Fri. & Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco Trio.  The master of contemporary jazz organ always has something new to bring to his classic organ trio performances.  He’ll perform with the Banda Brothers, Steve Cotter and Steve WilkersonSteamer’s.  (714) 871-8800.

- Jan. 19. (Sat.)  Freddy Cole.  There’s an immediately recognizable trace of the Cole sound in Freddy’s vocals and piano work.  And he’s retained the musical memories while exploring new musical horizons. The  Kirk Douglas Theatre.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 20. (Sun.)   Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuaria.   A pair of very different guitarists with styles reaching from American folk to Brazilian rhythms perform selections from their 2012 album, Lagrimas Mexicanas.  Skirball Center.     (310) 440-4500.

John Daversa

John Daversa

- Jan. 20. (Sun.)  The John Daversa Contemporary Big Band.  Trumpeter/composer Daversa, a true musicall adventurer – as a soloist and as a writer/composer – showcases some of his especially ground-breaking writing for his stellar big band.  Baked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

San Francisco

- Jan. 19 & 20. (Sat. & Sun.) Jane Monheit. She’s always had a gorgeous voice, but Monheit – now in her ‘30s – also brings a compelling musicality to everything she sings.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of a Monheit performance in Los Angeles. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Jan. 15. (Tues.)  Tammy Faye Starlight IS Nico in the show Chelsea Madchen, singing legendary Velvet Underground songs in a Warhol-tinged setting.  Special guest: Steve EarleThe Cutting Roomk  (212) (877) 987-6487.

Ken Peplowski

Ken Peplowski

- Jan. 15 – 20.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Benny Goodman Reinvented: 75th Anniversary Carnegie Hall Concert.  Clarinetist Ken Peplowski assembles a 10 piece all-star ensemble to revisit Goodman’s memorable Swing Era performance in January, 1938. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Jan. 16. (Wed.) Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz Revisited.  Anther live, musical re-imagining performance.  This time the subject is one of the classic recordings of the ‘60s free-jazz era.  Players include  Jaleel Shaw, Joe Lovano, saxophones; Jeremy Pelt, Tim Hagans, trumpets, Ben Allison, Lonnie Plaxico, basses, Billy Drummond, Matt Wilson, drums.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2561.

London

- Jan. 16 – 19. (Wed. – Sat.) Deodato.  Brazilian pianist/composer/arranger has produced and/or arranged hundreds of albums for everyone from Bjork to k.d. lang.  Here’s a rare opportunity to hear him up close in his own personal musical environment.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Berlin

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

- Jan. 14 & 15. (Mon. & Tues.)  Steve Kuhn Trio.  With a resume that reaches back to John Coltrane and the avant-garde ‘60s, Kuhn – at 74 – has thoroughly established himself as one of the contemporary jazz scene’s most original piano voices.  His trio includes Buster Williams and Joey BaronA-Trane.   030/313 25 50.

Panama

- Jan. 14 – 19.  Panama Jazz Festival.  The 10th Annual Panama Jazz Festival once again assembles a stellar line up of performers in a warm and welcoming Central American setting.  The artist roster includes Herbie Hancock, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Ruben Blades, Susana Baca, Bill Frisell, John Patitucci, Brian Blade and Danilo PerezThe Panama Jazz Festival.    (507) 317-1466.


Live Music: 2012 in Review

January 1, 2013

By Michael Katz

Los Angeles, CA.  Looking back over the year’s worth of live performances I covered, mostly in jazz, is a bittersweet experience. There are surely enough terrific moments to fill a column, but in a city with L.A.’s diversity of talent, you can’t help wishing for more. Our club scene is struggling, with only Catalina Bar & Grill consistently booking major touring acts for extended stays. In the Valley, Vitello’s  has done a nice job of showcasing the best of our local talent and the occasional national stars, and downtown the Blue Whale has presented an intriguing mix of fresh talent and local mainstays. As for the Westside, the best news was that the light rail Metro Line finally made it to Culver City.

Now, if I could only get to Culver City.

On the concert side, the Hollywood Bowl brought lots of talent to its band shell on summer Wednesday evenings, mostly in combinations for retro theme nights, but its directors don’t  seem to trust anyone on the current scene to headline a show. UCLA Live (newly renamed the Center For The Art of Performance) presented an eclectic program that included the Mingus Dynasty septet, Bill Frisell and Hugh Masekela.

How anybody finds out about this music is another problem. (Unless, of course, you visit iRoM). Our local newspaper covers only a scant sampling of the jazz spectrum, while our jazz radio station has narrowed its daily programming range to the Old, the Dead and the Smooth.

But enough grumbling. Here’s a few of the superb performances that still resonated in my mind, months after the last note had died out.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater

I never saw a full set of Dee Dee Bridgewater, but when she stepped onto the stage of the Hollywood Bowl during the Ray Charles tribute last summer, she simply took over.  She began with “Hallelujah I Love Him So,” backed up by the great Houston Person and finished with “I Got News For You,” her ringing, soulful vocals augmented by Terence Blanchard and George Duke. A few months later I caught her in the closing set of the Monterey Jazz Festival with an all-star group that featured Christian McBride, Benny Green, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lewis Nash and Chris Potter . She opened the set in a nimble duet with McBride on “Do What You Want To Do” and brought the crowd to pin drop silence with “Don’t Explain.” This group will be at the Valley Performing Art Center on January 23, so don’t miss them.

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval

I saw a number of outstanding big bands this year, but the most memorable was led by Arturo Sandoval, in support of Dear Diz, his Grammy nominated CD and my favorite disc of the year. I caught them at The Federal, which hopefully will expand its presentation of jazz in 2013. Sandoval is clearly one of the world’s elite trumpet players, his tones piercing and his leadership swinging and joyful. His collection of mostly Dizzy Gillespie tunes featured sharp new arrangements, including a wonderful take on “Bee Bop” by Gordon Goodwin and a rollicking “Night In Tunisia.”

John Pisano

John Pisano

LA is the home of some of the world’s great guitarists, and I was lucky enough to catch a few of them live. At the top of the list is John Pisano’s Guitar Night. He keeps moving it farther away from my digs on the Westside, but I did manage to catch one of his last shows at Vitello’s with Anthony Wilson. Watching the two of them riff through two sets, testing their imaginations and dancing around familiar standards  reminded me that Guitar Night remains one of LA’s great treats.  I hereby resolve to make it out to Lucy’s 51 in Toluca Lake to see Pisano and friends in 2013.

Dori Caymmi

Dori Caymmi

Meanwhile, there were other great guitarists, including Dori Caymmi presenting a night of Brazilian music at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, in what we hope is a prequel to the new Jazz Bakery, still in the planning stages next door. For jazz deprived Westsiders, it cannot come soon enough.  Pat Metheny played two sets at the Monterey Jazz Festival, my favorite being a trio performance with bassist McBride and percussionist Jack DeJohnette.  And then there was Mimi Fox, who we don’t hear nearly enough of, doing a lovely Saturday matinee duet at MJF with flutist Ali Ryerson.

Mads Tolling

Mads Tolling

As usual there were some unheralded performers that caught my attention. Here’s to a couple of fiddlers: Sara Watkins and Mads Tolling. Watkins, late of Nickel Creek, shone during an LA performance of Prairie Home Companion, dueting with host Garrison Keillor on “Let It Be Me” as they strolled through the crowd, and later burning it up in a fiddle showdown with Richard Kriehn. Tolling, a veteran of the Turtle Island Quartet, fronted his own group on Sunday afternoon at the Garden Stage at MJF. Whether plucking in tandem with his guitarist or racing through a tribute to Jean Luc Ponty, Tolling was a revelation. His live CD, A Celebration of Jean Luc Ponty, was another of my favorite discs.

Monterey, as usual, had lots of highlights for me, including some wonderful trio work by pianist Mulgrew Miller, a rousing vocal performance by Gregory Porter and a Cal Tjader tribute led by pianist Michael Wolff, featuring Warren Wolf on vibes.

Luciana Souza

Luciana Souza

And finally, there was Luciana Souza, opening the season at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, singing warm renditions from her two CDs that would later be nominated for Grammys, Duos 3 and The Book of Chet.

So what are my resolutions for 2013? For one, I resolve to catch Gustavo Dudamel leading the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl. For another, I resolve to brave the traffic (and the absence of chairs) at the Blue Whale and see what is happening downtown. And finally, it is long past time for me to get to New York and check out the great jazz scene there. Perhaps if we can avoid the fiscal cliff, I can get some federal funding for a trip East. Sort of a reverse Lewis and Clark Expedition culminating in a week or so in the Big Apple. I plan to get it tacked on to an appropriations bill. I’m sure no one will notice.

Happy New Year to all.

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

Click HERE to visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, Katz of the Day.

Arturo Sandoval and John Pisano photos by Bob Barry


Live Music and Film: Bill Frisell and “The Great Flood” at Royce Hall

October 15, 2012

By Michael Katz

One of my regrets from the Monterey Jazz Festival was missing guitarist Bill Frisell’s commissioned piece.  So Saturday night’s performance in support of the Bill Morrison film The Great Flood at UCLA’s Royce Hall gave me the opportunity to experience another facet of Frisell’s diverse musical oeuvre

The 75 minute film, presented in conjunction with the newly named CAP UCLA program and the Angel City Jazz Festival, is a documentary about the 1927 Mississippi flood which submerged 27,000 square miles and spurred the migration of thousands of Delta residents, including many of the blues musicians who ended up in northern cities, especially Chicago. Morrison relies on footage from the National Archives and the Fox Movietone Newsreel Archive, dividing his story into visual and musical “movements” with no narrative other than introductory titles.

Bill Frisell

For audiences used to the Ken Burns documentary style – broad themes enhanced by individual stories, narrated by letters or diaries or biographical accounts — Morrison’s overview can seem lacking in focus. Even the Biblical Flood, after all, would be considerably less compelling without Noah. The film’s opening is effective enough, with a map of the Mississippi superimposed on the rising floodwaters. Frisell’s score is ominous with a hint of the Delta Blues. The accompaniment of percussionist Kenny Wollesen on vibes provided an unexpected layer of foreboding. Given the nature of the material, the music was bound to be elegiac, and the main voice through much of it belonged to trumpeter Ron Miles. His playing throughout was graceful, reminiscent of the thematic scoring and performance we’ve often heard from Mark Isham.

Still, without the individual stories to hang a theme on, it was hard to separate the   compositions from one movement to the next. About a quarter of the way into the film, Morrison presented an extended look at the 1927 Sears Roebuck Catalogue, which gave Frisell the opportunity to up the tempo and present a diversionary theme,  but there were few such segments in the performance.

The Great Flood of 1927

It’s impossible to view this film without making references to Hurricane Katrina, and it’s clear that, with all the changes in technology and communication, there was precious little difference over eighty years in the treatment of rich and poor. Morrison presents an effective overview early in the film of sharecroppers, working the field with horse and plow. When the floods rise, the evacuations stand in stark contrast: the well-to-do dressed in their Sunday best boarding trains north, while the mostly black sharecroppers huddle in tents like war refugees, watching the waters rise around them.

When the word “Politicians” flashed onscreen for the opening of the ninth segment,  snickers arose from the Royce Hall gathering. That in itself was as trenchant a commentary as what followed: white officials in suits and ties, trolling for photo ops, with looks that suggested they couldn’t wait for these moments of noblesse oblige to be over. You kept trying to read lips, waiting for someone to say “Heckuva job, Brownie.” Frisell again took advantage of the change in tone to present a more sardonic musical accompaniment, augmented by the fourth member of the quartet,  Tony Scherr, working on a variety of electric basses.

The latter part of the film dealt with the Diaspora that ensued. One segment, entitled “Friendship Baptist Church, Chicago,” simply used footage aimed at the front door of the church, as a seemingly endless surge of parishioners flowed out onto the street following a service. It was such an effective metaphor that the following segment, “Migration,” hardly seemed necessary.

The final segments of the film focused on the musical evolution of the blues, from its Delta origins to the urban streets of Chicago and other cities. Close-ups of blues players showed the progression from acoustic guitar to electric, steel and slide. Frisell chose not to mimic the sounds or present a blues digression of his own. Instead he adapted Jerome Kern’s “Ol’ Man River.” The fact that the arrangement worked so well underlined both his own strengths and the overall problems of the film. There was no shortage of passion, but it lacked the individual stories and themes that connect the audience with the material.

Great Flood of 1927 photo courtesy of Movietone. 

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

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


Picks of the Week: October 9 – 14

October 10, 2012

BY DON HECKMAN

Los Angeles

Dr. John

Oct. 11. (Thurs.)  Dr. John, the Lower 911 and the Blind Boys of Alabama“Spirituals To Funk.”  The title is right on target, with Dr. John’s inimitable, funk-driven, Crescent city swing and the gripping spirituals of the Blind Boys.  Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

- Oct. 11. (Thurs.)  Frank Petrilli.  The jazz accordion is alive and well in the talented hands of Frank Petrilli.  He’s backed by the equally skilled John Chiodini, guitar, Pat Senatore, bass and Enzo Tedesco, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.).  “Where the Wild Things Are.”  Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a mixed media performance of Oliver Knussen’s one act opera based on the famous children’s book by Maurice Sendak.  Also on the program: Ravel’s charming Mother Goose.   Walt Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

Bajofondo

Oct. 12. (Fri.)  Bajofondo.  Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla leads an eight person collective of musicians from Argentina and Uruguay in a program of innovative Latin music ranging from tango and electronica to contemporary and alternative sounds.  A CAP UCLA  concert at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101.

Oct. 12. (Fri.)  Marilyn Crispell and Myra Melford.  Pianist/composer Crispell performs a solo/duo set, followed by pianist Melford and Snowy Egret, her six person music and dance ensemble.  At REDCAT as part of the ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL.    (213) 237-2800.

Oct. 12. (Fri.) Smoky Joe’s Cafe.  The immensely popular, Tony-nominated musical features a program of memorable songs by Mike Stoller and Jerry Lieber Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501. /production.aspx?productionSeasonId=4128

Denise Donatellil

Oct. 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.)  Denise Donatelli.  The gifted, Grammy nominated Ms. Donatelli is backed by music director/pianist Geoffrey Keezer and his quintet in a release party for her new CD, Soul Shadows.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Oct. 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.)  Chris Minh Doky and the Nomads.  Danish/Vietnamese bassist Doky leads a hard driving, jazz fusion band featuring Dave Weckl, drums, Dean Brown, guitar and George Whitty, keyboards. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Oct. 13. (Sat.) Bill Frisell & Bill Morrison.  “The Great Flood.”  A creative collaboration between the music of guitarist/composer Frisell and Morrison’s film based on the 1927 Mississippi River flood.  A CAP UCLA/Angel City Jazz Festival concert at  Royce Hall.

Oct. 14. (Sun.)   An Evening with Vijay Iyer: Trio, Quartet and Sextet.  The much praised keyboardist leads several different group formats featuring saxophonist Steve ColemanA CAP UCLA/Angel City Jazz Festival concert at Royce Hall.

San Francisco

- Oct. 10. (Wed.)  “Monk’s Birthday.”  With Barry Harris, Jacky Terrasson and Alfredo Rodriguez. Three cross-generational jazz pianists celebrate the 95th anniversary of the birth of the incomparable Thelonious Monk.   An SFJAZZ concert at the Herbst Theatre.  .

New York

Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin

- Oct. 10 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  “GRP 30th.”  Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin, a pair of long time musical companions, get together for the 30th anniversary of GRP Records, the company founded by Grusin and Larry Rosen.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Oct. 13 & 14. (Sat. & Sun.)  The SFJAZZ Collective Plays Chick Corea.  The stellar members of the SFJAZZ Collective perform the far-reaching, ever-fascinating music of Chick Corea.  SFJAZZ Collective is David Sanchez, Miguel Zenon, Avishai Cohen, Stefon Harris, Robin Eubanks, Edward Simon, Matt Penman and Jeff BallardJazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

London

- Oct. 11 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) Soulive.  Carrying the torch for the jazz organ trio format, the trio of Soulive – Eric Crasno, guitar, Neal Evans, keyboards and Alan Evans, drums, continue to keep the jazz groove alive.  Ronnie Scott’s.    (0)20 7439 0747.

Tokyo

John Scofield

- Oct. 10 – 13. (Wed. – Sat.)  The John Scofield Trio.  Guitarist Scofield, always in search of challenging playing environments, performs with a pair of great, veteran players – bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill StewartBlue Note Tokyo.  03.5485.0088.


Live Jazz: Mike Katz’s Monterey Jazz Festival Top Ten

September 13, 2012

By Mike Katz

Every year the Monterey Jazz Festival program features a Top Ten list from Artistic Director Tim Jackson, and I always think that’s interesting, but what does he tell everybody else? And how can he not mention (your favorite here). So I figured I’d take a stab at my own Top Ten, but with a slightly different angle, for this year’s Festival, which begins Fri. Sept. 21.  Here in LA we get to see a good deal of the major touring names (Trombone Shorty, Esperanza Spalding, Eddie Palmieri) as well as others who live or have lived here (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Tierney Sutton, Gerald Clayton, among others.)

I always look forward to new configurations of talent, and introductions to new players, as well as a few familiar names that we don’t see too often on the Left Coast. So here’s my list, in order of appearance, with a special effort to highlight most of the festival’s venues.

1. Mulgrew Miller,  Coffee House.  8, 9:30, 11, Friday night.   Every year I promise myself I will get to see at least one set in the cozy Coffee House, which features small groups playing before appreciatively quiet audiences. What better way to start off  the festival than with Mulgrew Miller, whose bright, swinging touch belies his impressively large physique.

Jack DeJohnette

2. Jack DeJohnette, Dizzy’s Den. 8:30 Friday night; Arena w/ Pat Metheny and Christian McBride, 9:20 Sat. night; Dizzy’s Den, Sunday night, 7:30 with Bill Frisell. The Festival’s Showcase artist, DeJohnette’s multi-faceted talents are reflected in these three different settings. I don’t know yet who the personnel will be in the Friday night  group but it is bound to be interesting; the Metheny trio can’t help but be great and I hope to catch at least part of the duet with guitarist Frisell on Sunday.

3. Gregoire Maret Quartet, Night Club, 9:30 Friday night. When you think about the harmonica in jazz, Toots Thielemans comes to mind, and then there is a long pause. Maret, from Geneva, Switzerland, has been getting some attention as Toots’ heir apparent, so here’s a chance to check him out.

Ali Ryerson and Mimi Fox

4. Ali Ryerson-Mimi Fox Duo, Night Club, 2:30 Saturday Afternoon. Take a break from the raucous atmosphere at the Arena and check out flutist Ali Ryerson and guitarist Mimi Fox, both of them notable for exquisite phrasing. You’ll still have time to get back for most of Trombone Shorty’s set.

5. Tribute To Cal Tjader, Dizzy’s Den, 8  Saturday night.  Pianist Michael Wolff, who played with Tjader in the ‘70s, has assembled an all-star group that features Warren Wolf on vibes, along with Pete Escovedo, John Santos, Robb Fisher and Vince Lateano.

Bill Frisell

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6. Bill Frisell Big Sur Quintet, Arena, 8  Saturday night.  Night Club, 10:30 p.m. I know, you can’t be two places at once. Frisell’s commissioned piece promises to be a highlight. Visit the special Cloning Tent right next to the funnel cake stand.7.

Pat Metheny

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7. Pat Metheny, Arena, 9:20 Saturday night (See above) and 7 Sunday night. Unity Band with Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, Ben Williams. Two arena appearances for Metheny. The trio appeals to me the most, but you can’t lose with either one.

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8. Tony Bennett, Arena, 10:50 Saturday night. Need we say more?

9. Next Generation Band, Arena, 1:10 Sunday Afternoon. Yes, you have tickets for Esperanza Spalding. Don’t think it’s cool to skip the opening student groups. Last year’s NGB knocked everybody out. Artist-in-Residence trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire sits in.

10.  Mads Tolling Quartet. Garden Stage, 4 Sunday afternoon. The mid-afternoon sets at the Garden Stage are always great fun. Turtle Island Quartet violinist Tolling fronts his own group.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

11.  MJF ALL-STARS w/ Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chris Potter. Bennie Green, Christian McBride, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lewis Nash, Arena, 9  Sunday night and Dizzy’s Den, 11 Saturday Night. This super group closes out the festival at the Arena, but you might have just as much fun seeing them Saturday night at Dizzy’s Den.

Okay, that’s 11. And I didn’t even mention Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman at the Courtyard Stage throughout the Festival.

But…but…what about…Melody Gardot, Christian Scott, Robert Randolph?….excuse me, I’ve got to run. See ya next week.

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

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


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