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

February 23, 2014

By Brick Wahl

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

Charmaine Clamor

Charmaine Clamor

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

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

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

This is major label stuff if I ever heard it.

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

Photo by Faith Frenz

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

Live Jazz and World Music: the 9th Annual Filipino American Jazz & World Music Festival at Catalina Bar & Grill.

December 23, 2013

By Don Heckman

The room was filled with an enthusiastic crowd at Catalina Bar & Grill Friday night for the 9th Annual Filipino American Jazz & World Music Festival. And with good reason. A long sequence of performances in the Festival once again underscored both the quality and the quantity of first rate Filipino and Filipino-American musicians.

Many were unfamiliar to the non-Filipino members of the audience. But by the time the music wound to a close with a rendering of the Filipino national anthem, in which most of the participants joined Charmaine Clamor — singer and founder of the Festival — on stage for a climactic ending, any doubts about the quality of Filipino jazz artists had been thoroughly dismissed.

Charmaine Clamor and the Fil Am Jazz & World Music Festival

There were plenty of memorable performances. Among the highlights:’

Angela Vicente

- Singer Angela Vicente, singing the classic Duke Ellington standard “In A Mellow Tone” started with a properly laid back mellowness. But she soon shifted rhythmic gears into high speed scatting, improvising with the articulate, swinging expressiveness of a jazz instrumentalist. Although she’s not familiar to American jazz audiences, Vicente is a first rate candidate for a jazz album to bring wider attention to her impressive skills.

- The unusual band, Vanishing Tribe, was led by pianist Winston Raval. Mixing jazz textures and rhythms with the occasional tonal textures of Filipino instruments, the group made a convincing case for the blending of mainstream jazz with the fascinating sounds of rarely heard traditional instruments.

- Baritone saxophonist Edison Patrick Gregory Salvador demonstrated an impressive ability to balance his saxophone excursions with appealing vocals.

Jon Irabagon

Jon Irabagon

- And tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, winner of the Thelonious Monk Jazz Saxophone competition, revealed all the reasons why he has become one of the jazz world’s compelling new arrivals.

Call it an intriguing display of the fascinating results that can be produced by an interfacing of jazz and traditional musics. And give credit to Charmaine Clamor for leading the way in the development of what she calls Jazzipino music. If there was any flaw in the program, it was the absence of a full set by the gifted Clamor. One looks forward to hearing her again in a full evening of her fascinating jazz talents.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

Live Jazz: Charmaine Clamor at Catalina Bar & Grill

April 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Faith Frenz. 

Picks of the Week: Mar. 27 – 31.

March 26, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sascha's Bloc Band

Sascha’s Bloc Band

- Mar. 27. (Wed.)  Sascha’s Bloc.  A gifted group of players, many from Russia and/or Eastern European backgrounds, showcasing music that crosses easily and compellingly across lines of genre and tradition.  Led by the dynamic guitar playing of Alex (Sascha) Gershman, with the intimate vocalizing of Carina CoperVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 27. (Wed.)  The Scott Healy Ensemble.  Pianist/composer Healy leads a compact, but richly expressive, ten piece ensemble in selections from his classically tinged, highly praised Hudson City Suite. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield

Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield

- Mar. 28. (Thurs.) Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield.  Ginger and Scott’s musical legacy reaches back to the Pied Pipers and the Modernaires, filtered through their own jazz instincts, with traces of Jackie Cain and Roy Kral.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 29. (Fri.)  Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra.  Saxophonist Richmond leads a fine aggregation of Southland players in A Tribute to Stan Kenton REDCAT.   (213) 237-2800.

- Mar. 29 & 30. (Fri. & Sat.)  Charles Wright and the Watts 103 St. Rhythm Band.  The pioneering funk and soul band, led by guitarist Wright, revive some of their many hits from the late ‘60s and early 70s.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 30. (Sat.) A Ttribute to Charlie Haden.  Bob Sheppard, Billy Childs, Peter Erskine, Darek Oles get together to honor the remarkable career and superb playing of bassist Haden, whose health conditions over the past few years have limited him to rare public performances.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 30. (Sat.)  Nikhil Korula.  Singer/guitarist Korula, who concentrates on acoustic rock, makes a rare solo acoustic appearance, performing a program of original compositions and rock classics.  Witches Brew in North Hills.  (818) 892-1480.

- Mar. 30. (Sat.)  and April 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Trisha Brown Dance Company. An adventurous choreographer since the ‘70s, Brown’s Company performs her Floor of the Forest on Saturday night – the first event in The Retrospective Project, a collection of her works unfolding over the following week. Royce Hall CAP UCLA.     (310) 825-2101.

Charmaine Clamor

Charmaine Clamor

- Mar. 31. (Sun.) Charmaine Clamor.  Reaching beyond her Filipino background, Clamor has thoroughly established herself as one of the most imaginative, and utterly listenable, jazz voices of the decade (and beyond).  “Hallelujah,” her Easter show, displays the full range of her remarkable vocal expressiveness. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 31. (Sun.)  John Proulx Trio. Pianist Proulx has long been a first call rhythm section player.  But in recent years, his mellow vocalizing has positioned him as a Chet Baker-influenced singing instrumentalist. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Mar. 29 & 30.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Rita Coolidge.  Grammy winning, hit-making Coolidge peaked during the ‘70s with hits in pop, country and jazz charts.  In her late ‘60s, she’s still going strong.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.


- Mar. 28 – 31. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Holly Cole.  Canadian jazz singer Cole has been charting an original vocal pathway since the ‘90s.  She’s currently supporting her latest album, Night. Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York City

Kyle Eastwood

Kyle Eastwood

- Mar. 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Kyle Eastwood Group and the Larry Coryell Group. It’s a generationally contrasting evening: featuring 44 year old jazz bassist and composer Eastwood, and 69 year old guitarist Coryell.  Expect to hear diverse sounds.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Mar. 28 – 31. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Dave Douglas Quintet.  50th Birthday Week. Trumpeter Douglas celebrates his anniversary in the sterling musical company of Jon Irabagon, tenor saxophone, Matt Mitchell, piano, Linda Oh, bass and Rudy Royston, drums.   The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.


- Mar. 31. (Sun.)  The Humphrey Lyttelton Septet.  Trumpeter and arranger Lyttelton died in 2008 after celebrating 60 years as a bandleader.  But the band has carried on with Humph’s tradition of providing entertaining evenings of jazz and beyond. Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747


- Mar. 30. (Sat.)  Maria Pia De Vito & Ares Tavolazzi Duo.  Vocalist/composer De Vito and bassist Tavolazzi have both worked in crossover and avant-garde areas of contemporary music.  Expect intriguing musical results from their duo partnership.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.


Tuck & Patti

Tuck & Patti

- Mar. 26 – 28. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Tuck & Patti. Guitarist Tuck and singer Patti have been a couple – in life and in music – for more than three decades.  And their engagingly intimate music continues to be one of the pleasing marvels of contemporary jazz and pop. Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Nov. 27 – Dec. 2

November 27, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Welsman

- Nov. 27 & 28. (Tues. & Wed.)  “And Then She Wrote.”  With Peter Marshall, Carol Welsman and Denise Donatelli.  A new version of an entertaining show dedicated to the female composers and lyricists of the Great American Songbook.  Tuesday night the duo of Marshall and Welsman perform; on Wednesday, Donatelli joins them in a trio.  She replaces Calabria Foti from the original cast.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Nov 27 – 30. (Tues. – Fri.)  Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio.  It may sound like an odd combination, but banjoist Fleck and pianist Roberts are both dedicated musical adventurers.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Louie Cruz Beltran

- Nov. 29. (Thurs.)  Louie Cruz Beltran.  The busy percussionist and bandleader adds vocals to his impressive array of entertainment talents, singing and playing Latin Standards, American classics and a few surprises.  He’ll be backed by pianist Carlos Vivas, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Ramon Banda.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 29 – Dec. 2.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Marcus Shelby Quartet.  Bassist Shelby offers a program celebrating “the evolution of American social movements through music.”  The Skirball Cultural Centert   (310) 440-4500.

- Nov. 30. (Fri.) Bob Mintzer.  “Homage to Count Basie Band.”  Saxophonist Mintzer leads an evening of big band music dedicated to the classic rhythms of the Basie Band, and featuring some of the Southland’s finest players. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 1 (Sat.)  The Anonymous 4. The all-female vocal quartet, well-known for their Renaissance music performances, take a different tack with  “Love Fail,” a contemporary work composed by David LangCAP UCLA Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2101.

Bill Cunliffe

- Dec. 1. (Sat.) Bill Cunliffe’s Big Band “Holiday Kick-Off.”  The Big Band weekend at Vitello’s continues with pianist/arranger/composer Cunliffe’s celebration of the holiday season. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 1. (Sat.)  8th Annual Fil-Am Jazz Festival. An evening celebrating the growing numbers of fine Filipino jazz artist.  Heading the line-up, Charmaine Clamor, the Queen of Jazzipino.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- Dec. 2. (Sun.) The Blind Boys of Alabama. The multiple Grammy-winning gospel singers, performing for decades, are a musical inspiration.  An SFJAZZ event at the Herbst Theatre.    (866) 920-5299.


- Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Tom Harrell Quintet. Trumpeter Harrell leads a stellar ensemble in a program displaying his extensive talents as an instrumentalist and composer.   Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

Eliane Elias

- Nov. 27 – Dec. 1. (Tues. – Sat.)  Eliane Elias   Brazilian pianist/singer Elias makes her Birdland debut.  Expect an evening ranging from Elias’ superb jazz piano to her authentically Brazilian way with a song.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 27 – Dec. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  Geri Allen ‘s Timeline Band.  Pianist Allen honors the connection between jazz and tap dancing in a performance featuring the rhythmic stepping of dancer Maurice Chestnut. Jazz Standard.   (212) 889-2005.


- Nov. 27 – Dec. 1. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Mingus Big Band.  The music of composer/bassist Mingus is kept vividly alive, in all its many manifestations by the Mingus Big Band.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)20 7439 0747.


Kenny Barron

- Nov. 28 & 29. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Kenny Barron Solo Piano. He’s been everyone’s first call jazz pianist for decades, but the most intriguing way to hear the free-roving Barron improvisational imagination is in this kind of solo piano performance. Jazzhus Montmartre.   (+45) 70 15 65 65.


- Nov. 29. (Thurs.)  Carmen Lundy.  Jazz singer Lundy’s superb interpretive artistry is enhanced by her original songs.  Blue Note Milano.   02.690 16888.


- Nov. 30 – Dec. 3. (Fri. – Mon.)  David Sanborn.  Alto saxophonist Sanborn’s unique, blues-driven style has impacted the past few decades of arriving saxophonists.  He performs selections from his new, 2-CD album, AnthologyBlue Note Tokyo.  03-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: April 4 – 8

April 4, 2012

 By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Kyle Eastwood

- April 4. (Wed.)  Kyle Eastwood.  Bassist Eastwood came to jazz from a highly supportive background.  His father is actor/director/composer/pianist and jazz lover Clint Eastwood.  And Kyle has transformed that lineage into an impressive jazz career of his own.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- April 4. (Wed.) Otmaro Ruiz.  Venezuela-born pianist Ruiz’s diverse skills have taken him across the spectrum from areas of pop, rock, fusion and straight ahead jazz.  This time out, he’s in an airy duo setting with bassist Pat SenatoreVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- April 4. (Wed.) Kait Dunton.  Gifted young composer/pianist Dunton celebrates at a CD release party for Mountain Suite, a collection of works amply illustrating her impressive compositional skills.  Her stellar ensemble includes John Daversa, trumpet, Bob Mintzer, tenor sax, Darek Oles, bass, Peter Erskine, drums.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Anthony Wilson

- April 4. (Wed.)  Anthony Wilson.  Versatile guitarist/composer Wilson takes a break from his busy touring schedule with a four night – every Wednesday – residency at the Blue Whale.  For this opening night Part l, he will perform with bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and special guest pianist Champian FultonBlue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

- April 4 – 7. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Blues Brothers. The original cast from London’s West End production of the hit musical based on the characters created by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.  Irvine Barclay Theatre.    (949) 854-4646.

- April 5. (Thurs.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  The ever-entertaining programming of the LACO has come up with an especially intriguing idea for this installment of their Westside Connections series.  “Music and the Culinary Arts” is the theme, with performances of works by Saint-Saens, Martinu and Ravel, and conversation from chef/restaurateur Susan Feniger.  The Broad Stage.   (213) 622-7001 x1.

- April 5 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  The one and only “Deedles,” as she is known to fans and friends, makes one of her infrequent night club appearances.  Don’t miss this chance to hear her up close and personal in the pleasant environs of Catalina Bar & Grill.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Ted Nash

- April 6. (Fri.)  Ted Nash.  Saxophonist/composer/arranger Nash, well known from his high visibility appearances with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, makes a rare L.A. Appearance to feature music from his new quartet The Creep.  He’ll perform with trumpeter Ron Horton, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Ulysses Owens. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 6. (Fri.)  Carolina Chocolate Drops.  The Grammy-winning Chocolate Drops are keeping alive the tradition of high spirited old South string bands.   The Mexo-Americana folk duo David Wax Museum open the show.  UCLA Live.   (310) 825-2101.

- April 6. (Fri.) Sara Serpa. Portugal-born singer Serpa has established herself, in a few brief years, as one of New York City’s most innovative new vocalists, capable of moving freely and creatively in sync with instrumentalists.  No wonder Ran Blake described her as “the magical voice.” Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Barbara Morrison

- April 7 & 8. (Sat. & Sun.) The Barbara Morrison Performing Art Center Big Band Easter Weekend.  A collection of the Southland’s fine big band players get together for an Easter Weekend celebration, featuring the ever-engaging vocals of  Barbara Morrison herself with the big bands of Rod Harris and John Stephens. BMPAC.   (310) 462-1439.

San Francisco

- April 4. (Wed.)  Brass Menazeri.  San Francisco based, the Menazeri nonetheless cruises energetically – and often authentically – through the Roma-based music of Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia and beyond. Be prepared to dance. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- April 7. (Sat.) Hermeto Pascoal.  A vital figure in Brazilian music since the ‘60s, multi-instrumentalist/composer Pascoal, a dramatic figure whenever he steps on stage, was a leader in the blending of jazz and the rhythms of Brazil.  He rarely appears in the Bay area, so don’t miss this one.  SFJAZZ.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

Charmaine Clamor

- April 8. (Sun.)  Charmaine Clamor.  She has come to be known as the Queen of Jazzipino, and her innovative blending of jazz with Filipino traditional music has produced some extraordinary results.  But Clamor’s remarkable talents reach beyond labeling into some of the most compelling jazz vocalizing of recent memory.  Appropriately, she debuts her new show, “Hallelujah: A Celebration of Rebirth,” on Easter Sunday.  The Rrazz Room.   (415) 394-1189.

 New York

- April 3 – 8. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ron Carter Quartet.  One of the great veterans of contemporary jazz, bassist Carter has played on more than 2,000 recordings.  And he brings youthful vitality and imagination to everything he does.  His quartet includes Renee Rosnes, piano, Payton Crossley, drums, Rolando Morales-Matos, percussion. The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- April 7. (Sat.)  Ellery Eskelin Trio New York.  Eskelin’s bold, muscular tenor saxophone is showcased in the similarly brawny setting provided by Gary Versace, organ and Rudy Royston, drums.  The Cornelia St. Cafe.  (212) 989-9319.


- April. 7. (Sat.)  The African Jazz All-Stars.  A musical collective including players from South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and beyond, the All-Stars pride themselves on their unique blend of African rhythms, funk and high energy soloing. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Gretchen Parlato

April 4. (Wed.)  Gretchen Parlato. In a crowded field of female jazz singers, with more arriving every day, Parlato continues to hold her own as an utterly unique talent.  At her best, she invests every song with compelling musicality and intimate lyricism.  Blue Note Milano.    02 69 01 68 88.


- April 5. (Thurs.)  Alan Broadbent Trio. The names on pianist/composer Broadbent’s resume – Charlie Haden, Chet Baker, Irene Krall, Sheila Jordan, Woody Herman and many others – attest to the remarkable breadth of his abilities.  But an intimate setting with his own trio is the best way to hear the full range of Broadbent’s engaging creativity.  The A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.

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Anthony Wilson photo by Bob Barry.

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

December 16, 2011

By Don Heckman

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

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

Charmaine Clamor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picks of the Week: Dec. 12 – 18

December 12, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Dec. 12. (Mon.)  Handel’s Messiah Singalong. It’s an annual delight for anyone who’s ever sung in a choir – and even those who haven’t – to share in the magic of Handel’s classic.   The L.A. Master Chorale leads the way.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

Charmaine Clamor

- Dec. 13 (Tues.)  The 7th Annual Fil-Am Jazz & World Music Festival. Hosted by Charmaine Clamor. A decade ago, few jazz fans were aware that the Philippines were – and had been – producing world class jazz artists.  But all that changed with the start of the Fil-Am Jazz Festival and the arrival of Clamor, the Queen of the unique blend of jazz and traditional Filipino sounds called Jazzipino.  This year’s celebration, also hosted by the inimitable Bubba Jackson, features guitarist Vincent Reyes, vocalists Angela Vicente and VJ Rosales, pianist/harmonica player Noel Melanio, pianist Winston Raval and drummer/ukulele player Abe Lagrimas, JrCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 13 & 14. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Messiah. Handel not only composed The Messiah in little more than three weeks, he also orchestrated several different versions.  Here, it’s performed in historically authentic fashion by San Francisco’s period instrument-playing Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the Philharmonia ChoraleDisney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

The Canadian Tenors

- Dec. 14. (Wed.)  The Canadian Tenors.  Moving easily from dramatic classical singing to dynamic pop, the four gifted Canadian Tenors are stirring performers in their own right, as well as a stunning musical ensemble.  Their Christmas recording, The Perfect Gift, hit the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s classical music chart.  The Cerritos Performing Arts Center.   (562) 916-8501

- Dec. 14 & 15. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Moscow Classical Ballet.  “The Nutcracker Suite.”  In contrast to the Joffrey Ballet’s intriguing Nutcracker seen here in early December (click HERE to read the iRoM review), the Moscow company’s version closely follows the classic Russian version of the ballet.  The contrast should be fascinating. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

- Dec. 15. (Thurs.) A Chanticleer Christmas. Described as an “orchestra of voices,” the 12 Grammy-nominated male singers of Chanticleer move freely and impressively from Renaissance madrigals to contemporary pop, jazz and gospel.  Disney Hall.     (323) 850-2000.

Marilyn Scott

- Dec. 15. (Thurs.)  Marilyn Scott.  She’s got a resume that reaches with ease across smooth jazz, pop, blues, soul and beyond.  But the inner reality of Scott’s singing has always flowed from an irresistible jazz heartbeat.  She performs with the stellar backing of Mitch Forman, piano, Brian Bromberg, bass and Joel Taylor, drums.  Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 15 – 17. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stanley Jordan Trio.  Well known to jazz and guitar fans for his unique “tapping” method of playing his instrument, Jordan has used the technique to create an ever-fascinating jazz style. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 15 & Dec. 18. (Thurs. & Sun.) Inner Voices Christmas Holiday Show.  The annual holiday performances of Morgan Ames’ gifted vocal collective are always among the musical highlights of the season.  Thurs.: 8 p.m.  Sun.: 1 p.m.  Vitello’s.     (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 16. (Fri.)  The Baked Potato All-Stars.  “All-Stars” is exactly the right title for this assemblage of some of the Southland’s jazz masters: Ernie Watts, saxophones, Russell Ferrante, keyboards, Brian Bromberg, bass, Alex Acuna, drums, Jeff Richman, guitar.  The Baked Potato.   (818) 980-1615.

Aaron Neville

- Dec. 17. (Sat.)  Aaron Neville.  Multi-Grammy award winner Neville has one of the most recognizable – and most appealing – vocal sounds in all of pop music.  This time out, he’ll apply that signature sound and style to a program of seasonal favorites.  Luckman Performing Arts Complex.   (323) 343-6600.

- Dec. 17 & 18. (Sat. & Sun.)  Manhattan Transfer.  They’ve won 12 Grammys and deserved every one – and maybe a few more.  Not only are they a convincing jazz vocal ensemble, they’re also superb individual artists who bring imagination, insight and rich subtlety to everything they do. Broad Stage.(310) 434-3200.

- Dec. 17 & 18. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.  The more than 200 members of the GMCLA have established it as an extraordinary musical organization, as well as an important service to the community.  This year’s holiday show is titled, with characteristic humor, Naughty and Nice, and features special guest, Melissa Manchester.  The Alex Theatre in Glendale.    (818) 243-2539.

- Dec. 18. (Sun.) The MessiahLos Angeles Master Chorale. One of the world’s finest vocal ensembles, the LAMC has played a vital role in the L.A. music scene since the mid-‘60s.  In a week in which The Messiah will be performed in many different fashions, the Chorale’s version is one not to be missed.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Gerald Wilson

- Dec. 18. (Sun.)  The Gerald Wilson Orchestra.  At 93, the great arranger/composer/bandleader is still going strong, still matching his fine compositional skills with a capacity to bring a performance by his band to life via the sheer magnetism of his presence.  Don’t miss any chance to hear and see him in action.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- Dec. 12 & 13. (Mon. & Tues.)  Women of Jazz Celebrate the Holidays.  It’s a double bill showcasing the wealth of distaff talent in the Bay area.  Mon. night features singer Roberta Donnay and her Jass Ensemble and  New Orleans-born vocal stylist Chelle! On Tues., harpist Destiny Muhammed’s Jazz Trio and pianist (and keyboardist with Stevie Wonder) Victoria Theodore are showcased.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- Dec. 14 & 15. (Wed. & Thurs.  Tuck and Patti: Season of Giving. The ultimate jazz duo, guitarist Tuck and singer Patti have been together for nearly three decades.  And their deeply intimate musical and personal relationship seems to improve and mature like fine wine. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.


Taj Mahal

- Dec. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  Taj Mahal Trio.  Blues is at its best in the capable hands and the remarkable voice of Taj Mahal.  He celebrates his nearly five decade career with selections from his most recent album, Maestro.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

- Dec. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  “Samba, Jazz and the Bossa Nova Years.”  The musically layered connections between samba, jazz and bossa nova are displayed in their full glory by a band adept in all areas: drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, singer Maucha Adnet, guitarist Romero Lubambo, pianist Helio Alves, trumpeter Claudio Roditi and bassist Hans GlawischnigDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- Dec. 15. (Thurs.)  Spike Jones’ 100th Birthday Celebration. The wild and crazy musical capers of Spike Jones’ slapstick musical comedy are revived in a “Challah-Daze Spectacular” by the group Polygraph Lounge.   Joe’s Pub.    (212) 539-8778.

- Dec. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Trumpeter Chris Botti — one of the most in-demand (with good reason) performers in the jazz world — begins his annual holiday residency at the Blue Note.  He’ll continue, performing two shows a night, until Jan. 1.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.


- Dec. 15. (Thurs.) Paula Morelenbaum and the Renova Bossa Trio.  Morelenbaum’s subtle singing style has been carrying the torch for classic bossa nova for years.  Here she performs in the Renova Bossa Trio with pianist Ralf Schmid and trumpeter Joo KrausA-Trane Berlin.    030 / 313 25 50.


Diane Schuur

- Dec. 13 – 17. (Tues. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur. Always a versatile singer with the capacity to move convincingly across genres, Schuur – “Deedles” to friends and fans — has returned to emphasizing the abundant jazz skills in her musical portfolio.  The Blue Note Milano.   02 69 01 58 88.


- Dec. 13. (Tues.)  Pharaoh Sanders Quartet.  Seen by many as the successor to John Coltrne, tenor and soprano saxophonist Sanders has moved beyond the comparison into a deeply expressive improvisational style of his own.  New Morning Jazz Club  01 45 23 51 41.


- Dec. 17 & 18. (Sat. & Sun.)  Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott.  The world class trio of young jazz lions showcase music from their highly praised new recording, Ninety Miles.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03 5485 0088.

Gerald Wilson photo by Tony Gieske

Konik’s Commentary: “(K)Jazz is Dead”

July 26, 2011

By Michael Konik

Since the 1970s, for as long as I’ve been aware of the music commonly known as “jazz,” various authorities, mavens, and aficionados have been declaring it dead or soon-to-be-deceased. “Jazz is dead.” “Jazz is dying.” “Jazz is going extinct.”

If this is so, the suffering patient has been enduring a kind of decades-long hospice care that would bankrupt Medicaid. While it’s true that jazz record sales comprise a comically small percentage of the (withering) recording industry and an even smaller slice of the radio market, and live music venues calling themselves jazz clubs close more frequently than sales of foreclosed homes, the music itself is gloriously alive.

Michael Konik

Thanks to college jazz programs, the advent of cheap recording technology, and an irrepressible need for members of a free society to express themselves individually and collectively, there are more artists than ever creating modern American music rooted in improvisation. Some of it swings, some of it doesn’t. Some of it employs traditional jazz instrumentation, some does not. (Almost all of it, even the stuff that sounds resolutely “out,” remains firmly rooted in the Blues, the ancestral wellspring of nearly all popular American music.) Most folks who care about profound sounds are uninterested in the banal question “is it jazz?” since the form itself is (and always has been) evolving and shifting shapes. We who admire and revere artists as disparate as Bobby McFerrin, Brian Blade, and Maria Schneider aren’t much concerned with the marketing umbrella these un-categorizable creators fall under. We just know they’re alive and happening and necessary listening. They’re now.

KKJZ 88.1FM in Los Angeles (Long Beach, actually), is one of the few full-time jazz stations remaining in the United States. (New York, Denver, and San Francisco, among a handful of others, are home to thriving and exciting jazz stations, which anyone anywhere can access online.) K-Jazz, as it’s commonly known, is a “member-supported” radio station, which means that in addition to the “corporate underwriting” — read: advertising — they solicit, the station relies on the charitable contributions of its listeners, or “members,” to flourish. One of the oft-repeated and apparently compelling sales pitches the station employs is, “Help us keep jazz alive!” The implication is the same as it’s always been: jazz is a dying art form with a small but devoted cult of supporters, and without K-Jazz nobly spinning the nobly unpopular recordings over the airwaves the noble music will indeed finally suffer the ignoble demise everyone’s been forecasting forever.

If you listen to K-Jazz regularly, or if you examine their archived playlists from the past 6-months or so, since a new Music Director named Lawrence Tanter, public-address announcer of the Lakers, took over, you could easily get the mistaken impression that jazz really is dead, that it is largely the provenance of dead people or those, like Dave Brubeck, in the twilight of their life. Living artists do get played, but they’re a minority. It wasn’t always like this. The KKJZ DJs, who previously were allowed the latitude to program their own shows according to their individual personalities and tastes, drawing on the vast (and sometimes intimidating) trove of new music being produced, are now limited to a narrow palette of aural colors dominated by cats and kittens whose work, while historically significant and possibly immortal, is the stuff of Smithsonian archives and Ken Burns documentaries. Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Art Blakey are wonderful artists. But they’re early chapters in an ongoing narrative, not the climactic finish to the story. Listen to K-Jazz enough and you could get the impression that jazz isn’t a thriving, vital, contemporary art form but something that belongs in a museum. Or a hospital.

Outside of New York City, Los Angeles is home to more brilliant jazz musicians than any place on the planet. These folks don’t just gig in local venues and contribute their talent to movie and TV soundtracks. They make recordings that are played in every region of the United States. Some of them have international reputations and touring careers. Some of them have the powerful marketing imprimatur of Grammy nominations attached to their names. Many of them are younger than 50. But if K-Jazz were your primary source, you wouldn’t know they exist. I recently searched for the names of a dozen Los Angeles-based female vocalists, all of them quite alive, including a couple of the Grammy girls and two singers who currently have albums on the national JazzWeek radio chart. Total number of spins on KKJZ for the past two weeks? Zero.

Speaking of the Grammys, last year’s Best New Artist wasn’t Justin Bieber or a rapper. It was a 20-something jazz musician – bass and vocals – named Esperanza Spalding. She gets played on KKJZ as often as our local stars: almost never.

When the most progressive and current sounds emanating from KKJZ come from the overnight syndicated host Bob Parlocha, who’s steadfastly committed to what he calls “mainstream jazz,” you know that it’s not jazz that’s dead or dying. It’s the station that curates it. I don’t know anyone under the age of 45 who listens to KKJZ regularly. They don’t need to hear “Take Five” or “All Blues” every day. These “younger” people have been given tacit permission from “America’s Jazz and Blues Station,” as KKJZ likes to bill itself, to dismiss jazz as music intended for old folks, performed by old folks, best enjoyed as an antique cultural curiosity.

It’s not. Jazz is the sound of present-day America and, increasingly, the world. Jazz is searching and subversive, bold and beautiful, questioning and quiet, loud and proud. No, jazz is not popular music. In a 140-characters-or-less society, jazz music, like anything else that requires mindfulness and careful attention, appeals to a shrinking demographic of thoughtful and engaged citizens. But dead it’s not. Gatekeepers of the art form would do well for both themselves and the culture-at-large to stop living in the past and start celebrating jazz’s present-day vitality. The labels and genres and marketing tactics will inevitably change; the musical continuum – the entire thing, from Pops to the present — endures.

* * * * * *

Best-selling author Michael Konik is the proprietor of the independent jazz & blues label FreeHam Records. He’s produced several notable CDs, including albums by Linda “the Kid” Hopkins, Mr. Z, and the fast-rising jazz vocal artist, Charmaine Clamor. His latest book is “Reefer Gladness: Stories, Essays and Riffs on Marijuana.”

To find out more about Michael Konik, click HEREFor more information about Freeham Records, click HERE.

Picks of the Week: Feb. 8 – 14

February 8, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

John Daversa

- Feb. 8. (Tues.)  The John Daversa Progressive Big Band. Trumpeter/composer/arranger  Daversa takes the big band instrumentation into fascinating new musical areas.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 8. (Tues.)  Lianne Carroll.   BBC Jazz Award winner Carroll, who accompanies her vibrant vocals with equally dynamic piano playing, makes her North American debut. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 9. (Wed.)  The Clare Fischer Voices and Latin Jazz Group. A fascinating blend of vocal and instrumental jazz from Clare Fischer’s prolific musical imagination.  Brent Fischer directs the ensemble.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 9. (Wed.)  The John Altman Quartet.  Busy alto saxophonist Altman takes a break from his composing, arranging and producing for laid back jazz jam with Mike Lang, piano, Frank De Vito, drums, Putter Smith, bass.  Charlie O’s.

Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg

- Feb. 9. (Wed.)  Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with the New Century Chamber Orchestra. Now the conductor of the NCCO, violinist Salerno-Sonneberg joins with the ensemble in a diverse program of Bartok, Piazolla and Tchaikovsky.  The Broad Stage.   (310) 434-3200.

- Feb. 9 & 10. (Wed. & Thurs.) Oz Noy.  Israeli-born guitarist Noy leads a jazz/rock/fusion trio with Dave Weckl on drums and Darryl Jones (of the Rolling Stones) on bass. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 10. (Thurs.)  Kodo.  The entertaining Japanese percussion collective bring their colorful collection of instruments and irresistible rhythms to Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Lorraine Feather

- Feb. 10. (Thurs.)  Lorraine Feather.  Singer/songwriter Feather writes songs in which jazz is the root and poetry the blossom.  There’s no one quite like her, and she should be heard at every opportunity.  Backing her: Russell Ferrante, piano and Mike Valerio, bass.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Natalie Cole. She’s a beyond definition artist, as comfortable with jazz as she is with the blues and classic pop songs.  No doubt she’ll be unforgettable (and probably sing it, as well) with the Pacific Symphony, conducted by Richard Kaufman. Segerstrom Concert Hall (714) 556-2787.

- Feb. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  and Feb. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Who’s “Tommy. It’s one of the classics of the sixties, still a compelling work of musical art.  This version is a Chance Theatre Production. Segerstrom Concert Hall Segerstrom Center for the Arts. (714) 556-2787.

- Feb. 11 (Fri.)  Tessa Souter.  Souter’s warm sound and intimate interpretive style are backed in this pre-Valentine’s Day celebration, by the solidly supportive playing of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Steve Haas.  Musicians Institute. A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  (310) 271-9039.

Larry Karush

- Feb. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Larry Karush Solo & Quartet. Pianist/composer Karush, ever in search of new musical horizons, displays his creative adventures in both a solo and an ensemble setting.  The Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Feb. 11 – 14. (Fri. – Mon.) and Feb. 17 – 20 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  Singer Tyrell’s nouveau-pop style, with its traditional pop echoes, is successfully aimed at finding the life in great American song.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 12. (Sat.)  Inner Voices“An A Cappella Valentine Show.” The Southland’s masterful a cappella ensemble apply their extraordinary vocal magic to a program of Valentine standards. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Jazz at Lincoln Center OrchestraLeonard Slatkin conducts Gershwin’s An American In Paris, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No.1 and the West Coast premiere of Wynton MarsalisSwing Symphony (commissioned by the LAPA).  Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 13. (Sun.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall.  The music world’s ultimate power couple.  And they can still deliver it.  Hall has been, and remains, one of the underrated jazz singers.  And trumpeter Alpert knows how to find both the space and the center in an improvisation. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Charmaine Clamor

- Feb. 14. (Mon.)  Charmaine Clamor.  .  Jazz vocalist Clamor is rapidly establishing herself as one of the uniquely creative, rising vocal stars.  The equally incomparable Bubba Jackson hosts.  KJAZZ Valentine’s Day Jazz Dinner The Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood \Hotel.  (562) 985-2999.

San Francisco

Maria Volonte

- Feb. 8. (Tues.) Maria Volonte.  Argentine singer/songwriter/guitarist Volonte’s music is an appealing blend of traditional roots rhythms – tango, candomble, etc. – with the sounds of contemporary jazz, pop and funk.  The Rrazz Room. (415) 394-1189. To read an earlier iRoM review of Volonte click HERE.

- Feb. 8 & 9 (Tues. & Wed.) Kenny Garrett Quartet. Grammy award-winning alto saxophonist Garrett has a resume reaching from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis.  This time out, he offers his envelope-stretching sounds at the front of  his own quintet.  Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

- Feb. 10 – 14. (Thurs. – Mon.)  Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Pete Escovedo and the Escovedo family have been energizing Latin jazz since the ‘60s.  And they’re all still at it.  This time out, the band includes special guests Sheila E. and Peter Michael EscovedoYoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York City

Gato Barbieri

- Feb. 10 – 12 (Thurs. – Sun.) Gato Barbieri.  Tenor saxophonist Barbieri’s long, checkered career has reached from the avant-garde years of the ‘60s through his Grammy-winning score for The Last Tango In Paris to more recent smooth jazz outings.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Feb. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Potter Trio. Tenor saxophonist Potter takes on the familiar Sonny Rollins challenge of performing with only bass and drums as a rhythm team.  His companions: bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland. Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- Feb. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Freddy Cole “Valentine Swing” with Harry Allen.  Cole’s sound and style are clearly, and unabashedly, influenced by his big brother Nat.  But Cole has a way of adapting those qualities to his own engaging musical identity.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (212) 258-9800.

- Feb. 8 – 14. (Tues. – Mon.)  Hilary Kole.  Jazz singer Kole, who usually hosts Birdland’s Sunday Jazz Party, does a full week’s run at the club.  And her rich way with a ballad is the perfect lead-in to Valentine’s Day.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Denise Donatelli

- Feb. 11 & 14. (Fri. & Mon.). Denise Donatelli.   Grammy-nominated singer Donatelli makes a pair of too-rare Manhattan appearances which will inform New York jazz fans about what Angelenos have known for years — that she is a singer with the sound, the skill and the imagination to be included at the top levels of the jazz vocal art.  Donatelli is backed by the Geoff Keezer arrangements and quartet featured on the Grammy-nominated “When Lights Are Low.”  Fri.: Coca-Cola Circle of Fashion Lounge, Time Warner Center, 6:30 p.m.  Mon.: Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, 7:30, p.m.  (212) 258-9800.


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