Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 26

January 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Jan.21. (Tues.) The Pat Senatore Trio. Bassist Senatore, Josh Nelson, piano, and Mark Ferber, drums, assemble to celebrate a CD release party for the Trio’s new album, Ascensione. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

Aaron Weinstein

Aaron Weinstein

- Jan. 22. (Wed.) Aaron Weinstein. Violinist Weinstein, still not a highly visible jazz artist, is rapidly establishing himself as one of his instrument’s rare jazz masters. Click HERE to read an earlier iRoM review of Weinstein. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 22 – 24. (Wed- Fri.) Lenny White and Friends. Eclectic drummer White, a vital veteran of Return to Forever, leads his own solid ensemble, including bassists Foley and Victor Bailey, woodwind player Bennie Maupin and keyboardist George Colligan. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

John Proulx

John Proulx

- Jan. 23. (Thurs.) John Proulx Trio. He’s a fine pianist and an in-demand rhythm section player. And Proulx is now beginning to prove his skills as a fine interpretive jazz singer, as well. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Master Chorale performs the Bach B Minor Mass in an interpretation that Music Director Grant Gershon says will “blow the roof off Disney Hall.”  (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) Average White Band. More than 40 years after their arrival on the pop music scene the A.W.B. still conjurs up an irresistible blend of funk, soul and r&b. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

- Jan. 25. (Sat.) Chita Rivera: A Legendary Celebration. And, yes, Rivera is indeed one of the musical theatre’s most unique, memorable and legendary performers. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra offer an inviting program of Mozart & Beethoven. On Saturday at the Alex Theatre.  On Sunday at Royce Hall.

- Jan. 26. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe. Grammy-nominated Cunliffe offers a “Night at the Grammys with a stellar ensemble – saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Adam Czerwinski.  (818) 769-0905.  Vitello’s.

 San Francisco

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter

- Jan. 24. (Fri.) Cameron Carpenter. Organist Carpenter is one of classical music’s most dynamic performers, bringing an astounding blend of virtuosic technique and entertaining showmanship to everything he plays. SFJAZZ at Grace Cathedral.  (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

- Jan. 21 – 22. (Tues. – Wed.) Grace Kelly with the Marc Seales Trio. A jazz saxophone prodigy as a teen-ager, Kelly – now 21 – has matured into a gifted creative artist. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

 New York City

- Jan. 22 & 23. (Wed. & Thurs.) Pat Martino and Eldar. A cross generational team – veteran guitarist Martino and talented young pianist Eldar – get together in search of common improvisational ground. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 23-25 (Thurs. – Sat.) Paolo Fresu Special Quartet. Italian trumpeter/flugelhornist Fresu has assembled an aggregation of some of Europe’s finest jazz players, among them Paolo Russo, piano, Thomas Fonnesbaek, bass, and Alex Riel, drums. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- Jan. 23 – 25. (Thurs. – Sat.) Diane Schuur. “Deedles,” as she is known by friends, fans and musicians alike, continues to sing with the Sarah Vaughan influenced style that has characterized her imaginative work ever since Stan Getz discovered her in the late ’70s. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

Jan. 23 & 24. (Thurs. & Fri.) Avishai Cohen Trio. Israeli jazz bassist Cohen – not the Israeli jazz trumpeter by the same name – leads his new trio in a rare Japanese appearance. The Blue Note Tokyo. +81 3-5485-0088.


Record Rack: Lyn Stanley, Lisa Engelken

December 11, 2013

Of West Coast Girls

By Brian Arsenault

The Left Coast is not taken seriously enough by the New York centric jazz “world” as a producer of any jazz, but maybe particularly female jazz singers. Of course, Queen Bentyne is based there now but she’s late of Manhattan Transfer so the East Coast still claims her.

So here come two very different talents to turn our eyes and ears to the West. You know, LA, San Francisco. The places that mostly stay warm but are oh so cool.

 Lyn Stanley

Lost in Romance (A.T. Music)

Only a few tracks are required for the listener to be Lost in Romance with Lyn Stanley. I was there by “The Nearness of You.” By then, she has warmed the room with a series of classics from Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael.

The room is in a small club. Perhaps near the desert. Dim lighting. Bogie and Bacall unobtrusive in the back of the room. Dietrich’s set over, she stays to listen.

The room has a piano that accompanies her so well whenever Tamir Hendelman or Mike Lang sit in. Tenor sax (Bob Sheppard), trombone (Bob McChesney), flugelhorn (Gilbert Castellanos, also on trumpet) in the backing group which plays every note to complement her. Every single note.

And those notes are all full and rounded, almost never sharp and stinging. Perhaps vinyl was required for the richness throughout. I’d like to think so. (two 180 gram 45 rpm albums which I first tried to play as 33s. Slowwwwwwwww. Also available in CDs and downloads for the unromantic.)

The striking blond former ballroom dancer opens and closes the album with songs entwined with dance.

First: “Change Partners,” where she lingers over each note, each moment, seeking her chance.

Last, naturally: “The Last Dance,” where the partner has been found and the evening is regrettably ending but “keep holding me tight.”

In between, the bartender leans in to listen as she asks for “One More for My Baby.” Each word, each inflection so important as “You Go to My Head.”

Her phrasing is close, intimate, personal. Not like Sinatra’s phrasing but with Ol’ Blue Eyes’ requirement that you listen to the story, that you feel it might be sung directly to you.

I don’t think her talents are best suited for Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You” but she shines on George Harrison’s “Something” which Sinatra called the only really good love song in eons.

On “Fever”, the warmth becomes heat. Peggy Lee may have been the first white girl singer so openly sexual but Lyn Stanley takes it a bit sultrier, plays with it a bit. A touch of how Marilyn would have sung it. Finger snaps as percussion.

Another strength of vinyl; each time you get to flip the album or put on the second disc (may I say record), you’ll be pleased there’s another side. You’ll wish you were at that imaginary club that night. But go ahead, careful not to smudge the grooves, put on the album and soon you will be.

Lisa Engelken

little warrior (CD Baby)

If Lyn Stanley is the epitome of classic romance and the classic American songbook, Lisa Engelken is the postmodernist purveyor of pain and alienation.

. . . for there must be a god to exist such a godless man. . .”

If Lyn Stanley rounds each note and lingers for its full effect, Lisa Engelken frequently blows through lyrics with staccato phrasing. Everything at times is a single chopped note since she must move on and not linger.

send me keys

send me jets

send me trains . . .

and don’t forget instructions as to what to do with your remains”

Don’t get me wrong. Lisa’s range of emotions, as well as octaves, is extensive. The album includes the reflective “little warrior” title song and Chick Corea’s gently rolling “sea journey.”

But pain is near at all times. It’s integral to her art.

blue valentines” is Tom Wait via Billie Holiday (can’t beat that for melancholy) through Lisa. The band gets it. Bill Cantos’ piano chords keep a somber pace. Sam Bevan’s bass descends with her voice. Sadness keeps a grip impervious to whiskey.

She moves with Joni Mitchell’s “cold blue steel & sweet fire” to some very personal hell vision of “. . . vicious gnawing in the veins. . .” This seven minutes, a dark trip, is orchestral, at times symphonic — Lisa says she wants to sing it with the San Francisco Symphony — but some of the musicians may have hooves and tails, maybe even horns.

Even in the supposedly upbeat “viva la felicita,” an alleged ode to happiness, the chorus in Italian is “eh poi, eh poi?” what else, what else is there? Can’t get more post modernist than that. Like an Italo Calvino short story.

For this album to end on the sweetness of “All I Do Is Dream of You” is either ironic or an inside joke. This is a singer pushing some boundaries and a long way from romance. But we know the World needs more than one vision.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 28 – Nov. 3

October 29, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Amanda McBroom

Amanda McBroom

- Oct. 30. (Wed.)  Amanda McBroom.  The singer, actress and songwriter (“The Rose” is one of her songs) takes a break from her busy acting career to make a rare musical appearance in Los Angeles.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Oct. 31. (Thurs.)  Kate Reid and Larry Koonse Duo.  Guitarist Koonse, who is at the top of everyone’s rhythm section list, has a strong musical connection with singer/pianist/educator Reid. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  Vivaldi with Perlman.  Violinist Itzhak Perlman conducts and solos with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of Vivaldi, Weber and Berlioz.  Walt Disney Hall. /2013-11-01  (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 1. (Fri.)  Bob Sheppard Trio. He’s a prime, first-call tenor saxophonist, but Sheppard is also a versatile woodwind (clarinet, flute and other saxophones) artist as well.  Hear him in the warm acoustic ambiance of Herb Alpert’s elegant jazz club.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Karrin Allyson

Karrin Allyson

- Nov. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.) Karrin Allyson.  Multiple Grammy nominated Allyson performs superbly in genres reaching from folk to cabaret to jazz to bossa nova and beyond. Her L.A. performances are rare, and always worth attending.    Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Nov. 2. (Sat.)  Joanne Tatham.  “Soundtrack New York: Music from Movies Made in Manhattan.  It’s a fascinating idea for a program of songs, with dozens from which to chose.  And Tatham delivers it well, via her warm, seductive sound and musical story-telling skills.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Pat Senatore

Pat Senatore

- Nov. 3. (Sun.)  The Pat Senatore Trio.  With Josh Nelson, piano and Mark Ferber, drums.  Bassist Senatore leads a stellar group of players in a CD release party celebrating the release of the Trio’s new album, AscensioneVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Oct. 30 & 31.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Four Freshmen.  Their history dates back to the late ‘40s, when the Freshmen were creating harmonically lush, jazz-driven jazz vocalizing, accompanied by their own multiple instrumental skills.  This is a younger version of the Freshmen, but their music continues to be richly compelling.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- Oct. 31 – Nov. 3. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Gerald Albright. He’s well known as a much-admired, contemporary jazz saxophonist, but Albright is also a multi-instrumentalist who brings genre-crossing sounds to all his performances.   Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York City

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval

- Nov. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  Arturo Sandoval.  Every performance by Cuban-born Sandoval is a stunning display of his musical range and instrumental eclecticism.  Whether playing Dizzy Gillespie-influenced trumpet, rhapsodic piano, dynamic drumming, or singing, he does it all with complete musical mastery.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Oct., 31 – Nov. 3.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Vijay Iyer Trio.  Pianist Iyer’s Grammy-nominated Trio is an engaging vehicle for his playing, which incorporates aspects of his Indian heritage with his dynamic piano style.  Jazz Standard.

- Oct. 29 – Nov. 2. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Ron Carter Nonet. Carter has performed as everyone’s favorite bassist on more than 2500 albums.  But he’s less-known as a composer and band leader in his own right, who should be heard at every opportunity.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

Dave Holland

Dave Holland

- Nov. 2 & 3.  (Sat. & Sun.)  Dave Holland Prism.  Prism is the latest in bassist Holland’s numerous ensembles.  And like all his musical efforts, it leads his listeners through inventive musical adventures.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747

Copenhagen

- Nov. 1 & 2. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Ben Sidran Quartet.  “Don’t Cry For No Hipster.”  The versatile Sidran, a Renaissance jazz man, moves comfortably from performing jazz, rock and beyond to work as a producer, educator and radio host.  Here, he’s on piano and vocals, backed by Bob Rockwell, tenor saxophone, Billy Peterson, bass and Leo Sidran, drums.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- Oct. 30 & 31. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Jack DeJohnette Group.  Drummer DeJohnette, always creatively curious, leads an ensemble that features the equally inventive clarinetist/saxophonist Don Byron Blue Note Milano.     +39.02.69016888.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 18 – 22

September 18, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Gina Saputo

Gina Saputo

- Sept. 18. (Wed.) Gina Saputo. Emerging young jazz vocal star Saputo shares the stage with a talented group of L.A.’s finest singers — Courtney Lemmon, Dave Damiani and Mark Christian Miller. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 18. (Wed.) The Sammy Cahn-cert. Vocalist Kurt Reichenbach sings the marvelous far-ranging tunes from the Sammy Cahn songbook. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 18. (Wed.) Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. It’s been nearly two decades since the Orquesta Buenta players began to enlighten the world about the great music of Cuba. And they’re still at it. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

Annie Trousseau

Annie Trousseau

- Sept. 19. (Thurs.) Annie Trousseau. Multi-lingual singer Trousseau sings in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English, enlivening the tradition of international cabaret styles. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 20. (Fri.) The Bob McChesney Quartet. McChesney’s superb trombone playing has thoroughly established him as one of the instrument’s great jazz masters. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 20. (Fri.) The Bob Sheppard Group. He’s everyone’s first call saxophone and woodwind player and with good reason. Here’s a chance to hear him in action with the stellar aid of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Mike Valerio and drummer Steve Kass. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway

- Sept. 20 & 21. (Fri. & Sat.) Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway. The talented Callaway sisters get together to display talents reaching from jazz and pop to Broadway classics. Catalina Bar & Grill.  466-2210.

- Sept. 21 (Sat.) Sing-a-long Sound of Music. It’s an annual event, inviting enthusiastic audiences to sing along with the memorable songs from the Rogers & Hammerstein musical. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 21. (Sat.) Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Swing music is still alive and well in the hard jiving hands of the Voodoo Daddys. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

Jeffrey Kahane

Jeffrey Kahane

- Sept. 21 & 22. (Sat. & Sun.) Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The gifted players of the LACO begin their season with Jeffrey Kahane conducting a program of Beethoven, Mozart, Lutoslawski and Kodaly. Featured soloist is young violinist Benjamin Beilman. Sat: the Ambassador Auditorium; Sun. Royce Hall. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  (213) 622-7001.

- Sept. 22. (Sun.) Los Angeles Master Chorale. The extraordinary singers of the LAMC celebrate the ensemble’s 50th anniversary with a retrospective look at the highlights in their remarkable performance history. Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

- Sept. 19. (Thurs.) Amjad Ali Khan and Sons. Classical Indian master of the sarod, Khan has passed his skills on to a generation of gifted offpsring. SFJAZZ. Miner Auditorium. -(866) 920-5299.

Chicago

- Sept. 19 – 22 (Thurs. – Sun.) Miguel Zenon and Rhythm Collective. Alto saxophonist and winner of a MacArthur “genius:” award Zenon reveals the far-reaching range of his improvisational skills. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

- Sept, 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.) Coltrane Revisited. Steve Kuhn, a veteran performer with Coltrane, leads a talented band of young players in a revisit to the Coltrane legacy. Birdland.  212) 581-3080.

London

- Sept. 18 – 19. Wed. & Thurs. Remembering Oscar Peterson. With pianists James Pearson and Dave Newton, Featuring selections from Peterson’s Canadiana Suite. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747 .

Copenhagen

- Sept. 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.) French Jazz Festival. Denmark celebrates the high quality of French jazz artists. Among the featured performers: violinist Didier Lockwood, guitarist Michael Felderbaum and saxophonist Lionel Belmondo. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

- Sept. 20. (Fri.) Jonathan Butler. South African singer Butler has been blending the music of his roots with a gift for crossing over into international pop, soul and blues. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: July 1 – 7

July 1, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Susan Krebs

Susan Krebs

- July 1 (Mon.)  Suze’s Birthday FestSusan Krebs celebrates her birthday in the creative company of Rich Eames, piano, Jerry Kalaf, drums and Tom Warrington, bassAdd to that the presence of special guests saxophonist Brian Scanlon and violinist Paul CartwrightVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 2. (Tues.)  Carol Robbins, Pat Senatore and Larry Koonse.  An evening of interactive stringed instruments, with Robbins’ harp, Senatore’s bass and Koonse’s guitar.  Expect to hear some brisk swing combined with some fascinating textures.    Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Josh Groban

Josh Groban

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- July 2 – 4. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Josh Groban Fireworks Spectacular. Groban’s warm, baritone voice is featured singing patriotic songs, supported by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Sarah Hicks in this year’s fireworks spectacular.   Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 5. (Fri.)  Joe La Barbera Quintet.  Everyone’s favorite rhythm section drummer steps into the leadership role with a stellar group that includes saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Clay Jenkins, pianist John Beasley and bassist Tom Warrington. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bugs Bunny at the Symphony. An evening of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons along with Tom and Jerry and some new 3D animation.  The video projections will be performed with live music from the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by George DaughertyHollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- July 5 – 7. (Fri. – Sun.)  Ron Carter Trio.  With Russell Malone and Donald Vega.  It’s a cross-generational trio of world class players, from veteran bassist Carter and busy guitarist Malone with the gifted young pianist Vega.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- July 6. (Sat.) Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson plays Thick as a Brick 1 & 2 in a theatrical production with video and additional musicians – including some who are veterans of Jethro Tull. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

– July 7. (Sun.)  LL Cool Jay.  Grammy-winning LL Cool Jay headlines the Kings of the Mic hip-hop tour, joined by Ice Cube, Public Enemy and De La Soul.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- July 7. (Sun.)  David Silverman. Singer/pianist Silverman, who has become a major musical star in Tokyo over the past two decades, performs a program of classics from the Great American Songbook. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- July 6. (Sat.)  Jim Kweskin Jug Band 50th Reunion.  Featured artists include Maria and Jeff Muldaur, Richard Greene and Bill Keith from the original Jug Band, along with guitarist Cindy Cashdollar and bassist Sam Bevan.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.  Berkely, CA.    (510) 644-2020, x120.

New York

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

- July 2 – 4. (Tues. – Thurs.) Jackie Ryan.  The ever-appealing jazz singer Ryan  celebrates the release of her new CD Listen Here  with special guest Harry AllenBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- July 2 – 7.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Jerry Gonzalez & the Fort Apache Band.  The super-heated Latin jazz rhythms of the Fort Apache Band fill the room whenever trumpeter/percussionist Gonzalez and his players perform.  Village Vanguard.   (s12) 475-8592.

Dominick Farinacci

Dominick Farinacci

- July 2 & 3. (Tues. & Wed.)  Dominick Farinacci. Trumpeter Farinacci, one of the most gifted players of his generation, still hasn’t received the attention his fine playing deserves.  He performs with Zaccai Curtis, piano; Ryan Scott, guitar; Yasushi Nakamura, bass; Keita Ogawa, percussion.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

London

- July 7. (Sun.)  Daryl Sherman“The Songs of Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter.”  Singer/pianist Sherman offers a convincing blend of cabaret and jazz.  She performs here with Alan Barns, woodwinds, Andy Cleyndert, bass, and Steve Brown, drums.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- July 4 & 5. (Thurs. & Fri.)  ‘The New Generation Meets the Great Danes.”  Young American jazz pianist Christian Sands performs with a pair of legendary Danish jazz artists, bassist Thomas Fonnesback and drummer Alex RielJazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

Pat Martino

Pat Martino

- July 1 – 3. (Mon. – Wed.)  The Pat Martino Trio.  Guitarist Martino was striken with amnesia after experiencing after a near-fatal brain aneurysm in 1980.  But over the succeeding years he relearned how to play his instrument, returning to action in 1987 with a sequence of superb recordings.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   +81 3-5485-0088.


Live Jazz: International Jazz Day at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz. Etc.

May 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

Bel Air, CA. International Jazz Day was celebrated in high spirited fashion Tuesday night at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  The room’s Music Director and bassist Pat Senatore, who schedules an appealing flow of jazz talent in the attractive Bel Air club, picked many of his regular players to perform in a 3 ½ hour sequence of virtually non-stop spontaneous jazz.

It wasn’t exactly a jam session, but there were times when it came close: the players making spontaneous on-stage decisions about what tunes to play, shifting from number to number and group to group, tossing ideas back and forth, working out endings on the spot.

Bob Sheppard, Putter Smith, Dontae Winslow

Bob Sheppard, Putter Smith, Dontae Winslow

The horn players covered a complete gamut of styles and methods – exactly what one might expect from the presence of such sterling talents as saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Tom Peterson and Chuck Manning, trumpeters Steve Huffsteter and Dontae Winslow and trombonist Bob McChesney.

And with rhythm teams that included pianists Joe Bagg, Ed Czach and Otmaro Ruiz, bassists John Belzaguy, Chris Colangelo, Jeff D’Angelo, Putter Smith and Pat Senatore, and drummers Matt Gordy and Dick Weller, it was no surprise that there was no let-up in the music’s propulsive rhythmic drive.

There were plenty of highlights in this extraordinary evening. To mention a few of the sounds still ringing through my mind after the performance, as we drove down Beverly Glen’s twists and turns to the Valley:

- The opening set by a gifted group of teen-age jazz players, whose convincing program reached from a fast-paced “Donna Lee” to a lyrical “Passion Flower.”

Steve Huffsteter, Pat Senatore, Tom Peterson

Steve Huffsteter, Pat Senatore, Tom Peterson

- A quintet that matched Tom Peterson and Steve Huffsteter in a set of beautifully played versions of “Alone Together,” “Body and Soul” and a simmering bossa nova.

- Another quintet featuring Bob Sheppard and Dontae Winslow – a pair of horn players with fine intuitive interaction, doing their imaginative takes on “Autumn Leaves” and “Straight, No Chaser.”

- Trombonist McChesney’s remarkably fast-paced, articulately expressive soloing in a surprisingly high speed romp through “I Love You,” and Chuck Manning’s similarly fast-paced, spontaneous take on “I Hear Music.”

- And a final set pairing of Sheppard and Huffsteter on a warmly intimate ballad rendering of “I Can’t Get Started” and “Yesterdays” (the Cole Porter, not the Beatles version).

Jazz at its best, in other words.  Precisely the sort of inventive, briskly swinging improvisational music that was being celebrated in locations around the world for International Jazz Day.

Give Pat Senatore, his players and Vibrato lots of credit for the way they handled their share of the celebration, reminding one and all of the Southland’s vital role as one of the important sources of jazz at its finest.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: The Arturo Sandoval Big Band Performs for the California Jazz Foundation at Catalina Bar & Grill

April 22, 2013

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA.  “Let’s Give the Band A Hand” was the title for the jazz celebration at Catalina Bar & Grill Sunday night.  It was right on target.  The program was the annual fund-raiser for the California Jazz Foundation.  And the very worthy honoree was Catalina Popescu.  Both the CJF and Catalina have been “giving the band a hand” for years.

The celebration began late in the afternoon with cocktails on the outdoor patio and music by the Keith Jones Trio.  At dinner time, everyone moved inside the club for an evening of feasting, opening with a performance of the youthful, but very promising players of  “The Next Route”  and climaxing with the Arturo Sandoval Big Band.

Catalina Popescu

Catalina Popescu

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Before the music began, Catalina received her much deserved award from the CJF, there was a fund-raising auction and the brief acknowledgment of a few of the numerous jazz supporters and celebrities in the audience.

But the musical high point of the event was the dynamic performance by Sandoval and the world class players in his Big Band.

The program included a few selections from a Sandoval performance at Catalina’s last November.  But both Sandoval and his players performed at such a high level that there was no sense of redundancy.

As usual, Sandoval’s far-ranging virtuosity was on full display.  His trumpet playing was extraordinary.  From a lush “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” to an energetic and sometimes humorous duet on “And Then She Stopped” with trumpeter Gary Grant and another duet on “Waynard and Maynard,” originally written for Wayne Bergeron and Maynard Ferguson, here performed by Wayne and Arturo.

Arturo Sandoval and Wayne Bergeron

He also sang, in convincing ballad style, his own tune, “Every Day I Think of You,” inspired by his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie, and backed by a warm undercurrent of fills from tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard.

On an untitled blues, Sandoval led the band through an improvised, on the spot arrangement, assembled spontaneously as he gestured to different soloists and sections, winding up with something resembling a Count Basie big band jam.  For “All the Things You Are,” featuring solos from alto saxophonist Dan Higgins and trombonist Bob McChesney, Sandoval showcased his impressive piano chops.  And in the closing fireworks of “Mambo Caliente,” he switched to timbales, displaying equally remarkable percussion skills.

Other high points of the evening included Higgins’ playing and arranging on the gorgeous saxophone soli of “The Man I Love,” and the bop-driven “Algo Bueno,” as well as Rusty Higgins’ expressive rendering of “Body And Soul.”

All in all, a remarkable collection of music, superbly performed.  And the only surprise was the early departure of many members of the audience – unexpected for a crowd that was presumably dedicated to jazz.  (Maybe not so surprising in Los Angeles, where people have been known to leave Dodger stadium in the seventh inning of a tie game to beat the traffic.)

But, beyond the pleasures of the music and the award to Catalina Popescu, the important aspect of the evening was the fund-raising for the California Jazz Foundation and its dedicated efforts to keep food on the table and a roof over the heads of the many needy jazz players and singers.

To learn more about the work of the California Jazz Foundation, click HERE.

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Photos by Bob Barry.


Live Jazz: Lauren White at Vitello’s

April 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City CA.  A loudly expressive full house crowd was waiting for singer Lauren White when she came on stage Saturday night at Vitello’s.  Which was somewhat of a surprise, given White’s still emerging visibility as a jazz artist.  But, although she hasn’t yet found the full audience her singing deserves, she has begun to receive considerable critical accolades.  Veteran jazz critic Scott Yanow has described White as “poised to make a strong impact on the jazz world.”

That achievement may take a little while, but her performance at Vitello’s was filled with enough intriguing moments to underscore White’s impressive potential.

Lauren White

Her program was largely devoted to selections from her new album, Meant To Be. And the far reaching selections underscored the musical curiosity and eclectic interpretive range that are essential elements in White’s growing skills.  Among the many highlights: Matt Dennis’ classic jazz ballad, “Angel Eyes”; Dave Frishberg and Alan Broadbent’s “Heart’s Desire”; Stephen Sondheim’s “Now You Know:’ Bernard Ighner’s Everything Must Change”; and Ivan Lins’ gorgeous “Meant To Be (“Saudades de Casa”), with English lyrics by Lani Hall.

That’s a remarkable collection of  songs, by any definition, and there were that many more, equally remarkable.  White has been described accurately as an adept practitioner in cabaret as well as jazz, with both skills amply present in the selections she chose for her virtually non-stop 90 minute program.

She was backed superbly by pianist Quinn Johnson, saxophonist/flutist Bob Sheppard, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Kevin Winard.  The well-crafted arrangements by Johnson provided precisely the right settings, with brightly rhythmic swing on the faster tunes, and lush, impressionistic harmonies on ballads, enhanced by the soaring tones of Sheppard’s flute.

Lauren White and Trey Henry

Lauren White and Trey Henry

At her best, White made the most of her warm voice and embracing vibrato.  Occasionally, she called up memories of the late Irene Kral.  Although she is a few steps away from the memorable interpretive accomplishments of Kral, White approached each of her selections with a similarly determined effort to reach into the heart of a song.

Often, she succeeded admirably in finding the emotional center of that inner heart beat.  Occasionally, especially in the more unfamiliar numbers, she appeared to be more focused on the beauty of her sound rather than the intimacy of the lyrics.

But she’s on her way.  And when White’s musical story telling skill reaches its fullest level of expressiveness, she may well be positioned to fulfill Yanow’s description of her potential “impact on the jazz world.”

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: The Wolff and Clark Expedition at Vitello’s

April 8, 2013

By Michael Katz

I’m going to tell you about the second set at Vitello’s Saturday night, featuring the Wolff & Clark Expedition, led by pianist Michael Wolff and drummer Mike Clark. Not that there was anything wrong with the first set. It was, in fact, quite wonderful. It’s just that some of you were no doubt at the first set, and I don’t want to be redundant. The second set, I believe, is my exclusive. A scoop, even.

I know, I know. The second Final Four game didn’t end until nine o’clock or so. That pretty much took care of your evening. And you’ve got lots to do on Sunday morning. LA is just not a late night town, not a great sign for a late night art. So here’s a little of what you missed.

Michael Wolff meandered to the stage while the rest of the band was still milling around, bidding adieu to a few first set stragglers.  He treated the scattered crowd to some lovely solo piano, breathing life into his composition “Portraiture,” until Mike Clark joined him with some textured backing and turned it into a duet. By this time bassist Tony Dumas and guest soloist Bob Sheppard had come back to the stage. Sheppard stepped into a robust tenor introduction to “Song For My Father.” The Horace Silver standard is one of the featured songs on the new Wolff & Clark Expedition CD, which artfully mixes standards like “What Is This Thing Called Love,” and “Hummin’” with original compositions. It’s a trio album, and in the first set it took Sheppard some time to find his way into the arrangements. But “Song For My Father” was a perfect vehicle for him. Perhaps because we’re familiar with the Leon Thomas vocal version, the sound of the tenor feels both familiar and specific to Sheppard’s improvisations. Wolff, meanwhile, countered with his own dark underpinnings, taking the narrative back, while Dumas set the tone behind him.

Michael Wolff and Mike Clark

Michael Wolff and Mike Clark

“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” is a staple in the Wolff oeuvre, dating back to his mid-seventies days with the Cannonball Adderley band. For the CD, he and Clark added an insistent counter tone to the intro, giving the line some extra verve, and freeing up Mike Clark to do some pulsating stick work behind the groove. Like the Lennon-McCartney song “Come Together,” which they performed in the first set, it’s such a recognizable line that it keeps your mind occupied while the players improvise around it, though “Mercy” has that added Zawinul funk that keeps it fresh after all this time.

It’s fun listening to Wolff, Clark et al turn these standards inside out and still bring them home in more or less one piece, but I do want to point out the compositional skills, particularly of Michael Wolff. There are several originals of his on the new CD, including “Elise,” written for his mother, which he performed in the first set.  It’s a brief, lilting melody, extended nicely in live performance with sensitive support from Clark and Dumas.

But I digress. The band has been bringing in guests throughout their tour, and Mike Clark recounted Jimmy Heath’s date with them at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in New York. They played Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy” there, and recreated it here with Bob Sheppard on soprano sax.  It was a fitting recipe for closing out a late night set. Sheppard soared through hard bop lines on the soprano, completely in control of the instrument’s tonal challenges. Clark, the former Headhunters drummer, agile and inventive as always, had plenty of room to stretch out, driving the pace from the opening downbeat. Tony Dumas, with an insistent bass, kept things alive from underneath. And then there was Michael Wolff with riff after riff, darting through his arpeggios, taking the theme home.

So that was it, not a lengthy set but a memorable one, the kind of thing that happens when a couple of touring stars combine with the type of local talent available in few places outside of LA. It’s what happens when the musicians have an extra hour to find their way with compositions and arrangements new to some and familiar to others.

It is why some of us always stick around.

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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: April 2 – 7

April 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin

- Apri. 3. (Wed.)  Bobby McFerrin.  One of the music world’s most uniquely gifted vocal talents, applying his startling skills to a celebration of his father’s gospel singing in a program titled Spirit You All.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- April 3. (Wed.)  Dave Damiani and the No Vacancy Orchestra.  Singer Damiani revives the music of Sinatra and the Rat Pack in an introduction of his latest CD, Watch What Happens.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (223) 466-2210.

- April 3. (Wed.) Sara Gazarek/Josh Nelson Duo. A promising musical encounter between singer Gazarek and pianist Nelson, two of the current jazz generation’s most gifted talents.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 5 (Fri.) Vadim Repin in recital. Russian-Born (now a Belgian citizen) violinist Repin was described by Yehudi Menuhin as the “best and most perfect violinist that I ever had a chance to hear.”  He performs Brahms, Janacek, Grieg and Ravel with the accompaniment of pianist Andrei KorobeinikovValley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

Cheryl Bentyne

Cheryl Bentyne

- April. 5. (Fri.)  Cheryl Bentyne.  Up Close and Personal.  Back in action after surviving a life threatening illness, Bentyne – a valued member of the Manhattan Transfer — illustrates the irresistible appeal of her captivating solo skills.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Helen Reddy. One of the great pop vocal stars of the ‘70s, Australian Reddy makes one of her extremely rare performances.  Hopefully we’ll hear her revisit “I Am Woman” among her many other hits. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- April. 6. (Sat.)  The Wolff and Clark Expedition.  Veteran pianist Michael Wolff and drummer Mike Clark, long time musical companions, team up with L.A. jazz stars Bob Sheppard, saxophones and Tony Dumas, bass.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Katia Moraes

Katia Moraes

- April 6. (Sat.)  Katia Moraes and Brazilian Heart Music“Clara Nunes, A Celebration.”  One of the Southland’s most consistently fascinating Brazilian artists, Moraes visits the memorable music of  ‘70s Brazilian hit-maker Clara Nunes. As always, Moraes’ interpretations will simmer with the dynamic energy of her own, unique expressiveness.  Brasil Brasil Cultural Center.  11928 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066.  (310) 397-3667

- April 7. (Sun.)  Mark Winkler CD Release party.  The Laura Nyro Project.  Always in search of adventurous territory for his jazz-based vocals, Winkler celebrates the release of a new CD featuring his imaginative takes on the Laura Nyro songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

- April 5 – 7  (Fri. – Sun.)  The Stanley Clarke Band.  Bassist Clarke always follows his own pathways, accompanied by stellar musical aggregations.  This time, he’s traveling with John Beasley, piano, Kamasi Washington, saxophone and Ronald Bruner, Jr., drums.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Washington D.C.

- April 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  James Carter Organ Trio.  Multiple reed and woodwind player Carter focuses his wide angle musical perspective on hard driving timbres of the classic jazz organ trio instrumentation.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- April 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Enrico Pieranunzi.  Pianist Pieranunzi has been, since the ‘70s, one of the European jazz pianist most favored by touring American musicians.  Here he’s in the leader’s role himself, backed by Marc Johnson, bass and Joe La Barbera, drums.  The Village Vanguard.     (212) 255-4037.

Randy Weston

Randy Weston

- April 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet 87th Birthday Celebration. Pianist/composer Weston’s fascination with African musical culture continues to produce some of the most fascinating revisits to the deepest jazz roots. And, at 87, he still does so convincingly.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232 .

London

- April 6. (Sat.)  The London Supersax Project. Alto saxophonist Med Flory was the first to assemble a saxophone section and rhythm section to play harmonized versions of Charlie Parker solos.  Here’s the U.K. version, delivered with the same love of bebop.  Ronnie Scott’s. r  +44 20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- April 3 & 4. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Diego Figueiredo and Cyrille Aimee. The imaginative duo of guitarist Figueiredo and singer Aimee have already released two albums displaying their far-reaching musical interests, from jazz and bossa nova to looping electronica.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- April 3 & 4. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Steve Lukather.  Multiple Grammy-winning guitarist has recorded tracks on more than 1,500 albums, and continues to contrast first-call gigs as a sideman with leadership of his own bands.  The Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888

Tokyo

Clementine

Clementine

- April 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  Clementine.  The French singer and song writer Clementine lives in Japan, where her richly diverse style, blending cabaret, jazz, bossa nova and pop has generated a large, enthusiastic following.  The Blue Note Tokyo.     +81 3-5485-0088.

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Bobby McFerrin photo by Carol Friedman.


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