CD Review: Helen Sung “Anthem For A New Day” (Concord Jazz Records)

January 15, 2014

By Devon Wendell

Pianist and composer Helen Sung has quickly established herself as a jazz veteran over the past decade, performing and recording with icons such as; Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, T.S. Monk, Lonnie Plaxico, and Terri Lyne Carrington to name a few.

She is one of the most consistently brilliant recording artists in jazz today. And her sixth and latest release, Anthem For A New Day, scheduled for release on January 28th,  is her hardest swinging album to date. The album is also produced by Sung.

Helen Sung

Sung wastes no time, kick starting the album with her hard-bop tribute to Thelonious Monk entitled “Brother Thelonious.” The horn section of Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and Seamus Blake on tenor sax has a Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley at the earliest stages of The Jazz Messengers feel to it. Sung’s solo proves that she has a clear understanding of Monk’s harmonic complexities and knows how to incorporate them into her own virtuosic style.

Paquito D’Rivera’s melodic clarinet soloing dances around Sung’s polyrhythmic textured piano playing on her adventurous arrangement of Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rhumba.”

Another guest is Regina Carter who offers some tasteful and thematic violin lines to Sung’s “Hidden.” Ingrid Jensen’s trumpet truly shines on this piece, as does Sung’s elegant phrasing on Fender Rhodes electric piano.

One of the most impressive elements of this album is how clean the rhythm section (Reuben Rogers, bass, Obed Calvaire, drums, and Samuel Torres on percussion) was recorded. No effects, compressors, or reverb were added to the drums and upright bass, which is refreshing in a time when many traditional and contemporary jazz recordings are destroyed by overly adventurous producers and engineers.

There’s a wonderfully pure tone to this album as a whole. Sung’s reading of Duke Ellington and Irving Mills’ swing anthem “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” is an album highlight. Sung uses her own chordal voicings, and her improvisations blend bop-styled pedal tones with classical elements in a completely natural way.

Sung’s originals — “Hope Springs Eternally” and the album’s title track – dip into a more late ‘60s fusion- jazz groove with a hint of third stream. John Ellis provides colorful bass clarinet shadings atop Sung’s funky staccato Fender Rhodes arpeggios on the album’s title track.

Sung’s rendition of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ “Never Let Me Go” is the perfect vehicle for the piano trio format. Obed Calvaire’s drums are subtle and melodic and Reuben Rogers’ bass solo is dynamic and mournful.

“Chaos Theory” brings to mind early Weather Report with fast changing meters, and piercing alto-sax runs by Seamus Blake. This composition shows off Sung and her band’s tight chemistry and creative fearlessness.

In order to truly capture the spirit of Thelonious Monk, a musician must bring forth what makes them truly unique when covering one of the High Priest’s compositions. And Sung and company achieve this on an utterly funky, gospel take of “Epistrophy.” The energy of the band is ecstatic. There’s lots of love for Monk here.

The album closes with a beautifully haunting solo piano cover of the great Stanley Cowell’s “Equipose.”

What stands out most on Anthem For A New Day is not only Sung’s fluid and imaginative piano playing but her awe-inspiring talent as a truly unique composer and arranger. Her music is adventurous, personal, and a powerful force to be reckoned with in the jazz world.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


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: Sept. 25 – 29

September 25, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Joe Pass

Joe Pass

- Sept. 25. (Wed.)  A Joe Pass Tribute.  The great jazz guitarist’s life is celebrated with a screening of the jazzumentary, A Not So Average Joe, followed by a live performance featuring Frank Potenza, John Pisano, Jim Hughart and Colin BaileyCatalina Bar & Grill.

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Pat Senatore Trio. Veteran bassist Senatore plays with a different band almost every night at Vibrato. This time he applies his versatility to the jazz trio setting with Josh Nelson, piano and Mark Ferber, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Isabel Rose

Isabel Rose

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Isabel Rose. Jazz/cabaret singer Rose has been compared to everyone from Peggy Lee to Ann-Margret and Bette Midler. She’ll introduce some new songs from her album Trouble in Paradise. The Mint.  323) 954-9400.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart. Expect a great jazz evening listening to this trio of world class players in action. Vitello’s.

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Singer Harris and guitarist/songwriter Crowell first got together as musical associates in the mid-’70s. Here, they revive their long creative partnership. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Gary Peacock. They’re one of jazz history’s great ensembles, continuing to bring imaginative ideas to the classic piano jazz trio. Royce Hall.  (310) 825-0768.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Composer/arranger/bandleader Wilson may be 95 years old, but he’s still going strong, still a masterful model of jazz creativity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Free Family Concert. The far-reaching skills of the SJO are on full display in a free concert aimed at all ages. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center.  (310) 876-8130.

 San Francisco

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun,) Regina Carter. Jazz violinist Carter performs a four day sequence of far ranging music. On Thurs. with Jenny Scheinman and Sara Caswell. On Fri. with the Pablo RZiegler Quartet. On Sat. with Kenny Barron. And on Sun. with Carla Cook & SFJAZZ High School All-Stars. SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium.  (866) 920-5299.

 Seattle

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Following in the footsteps of his father – John Coltrane – saxophonist Ravi has gradually, and successfully, begun to establish his own independent creative style. Jazz Alley.  (312) 360-0234.

 New York City

- Sept. 25 – 29. (Wed. – Sun.) Chick Corea and the Vigil. After seasoning his new band in an international tour, Chick showcases it for American audiences. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Vinicius Cantuaria Quintet. Brazilian guitarist /singer Cantuaria started out as a percussionist, and his rhythmic skills continue to bring propulsive swing to his guitar work. The Jazz Standard. http://jazzstandard.net/red (212) 576-2232.

 London

- Sept. 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat,.) The Rebirth Brass Band. Thirty years after they were founded, New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band continues to sustain the musical memories of the classic jazz brass band style. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Milan

Patti Austin

Patti Austin

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Patti Austin. A protege of Quincy Jones, who was her godfather, the musically eclectic Austin brings imaginative perspectives to whatever style she’s singing.  Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888.

Copenhagen

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Eddie Gomez Trio. Bassist Gomez, a prominent musical associate of Bill Evans in the ’60s and ’70s, sustains the piano jazz trio style on an international basis with Swedish pianist Stefan Karlsson and American drummer Billy Drummond. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

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HIGHLIGHT EVENT OF THE WEEK

Alessandra Belloni’s Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop

By Faith Frenz

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni is an Italian shaman dancer, singer, performer and healer extraordinaire. This week, she’s in Los Angeles for one of her biannual visits. Among her various activities, she will share — by instruction and performance — her unique talent and understanding of the ancient rituals of the tarantella Spider Dance. Alessandra presents the chants and songs sung as devotion to the Black Madonna (tracing to the ancient rites for the Earth Goddess Cybele), an ancient female healing tradition which uses a powerful tambourine style combined with singing and dancing.

I had the pleasure of taking her brief workshop last week at the North Hollywood Remo Recreational Center, where she has her own line of signature series tambourines made by Remo. Alessandra is a small, intensely sensual and beautiful woman, devoted to her goal of sharing these ancient devotionals around the world for their healing gifts. She is a gifted teacher of a very challenging ritual which taps into the essence of femininity.

 Alessandra has a packed schedule here in Los Angeles with numerous opportunities to experience her passionate performance and healing energy. And I urge everyone who reads this to choose an opportunity to witness her up close and personal: 

– Sept. 27. (Fri.) Tarantata at the Goddess Temple Orange County.  (949)651-0564 or (714) 392-0558.

- Sept. 28 (Sat.) DAY OF THE DRUM, WATTS TOWERS FESTIVAL,11:30 a.m. Los Angeles Watts Towers.   213.847.4646

- Sept. 29. (Sun.)  Tarantata at Hollywood Feast of San Gennaro  12:00 p.m.

- Oct. 1. (Tues.) Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop at CalArts.  (661) 255-1050

We will be doing an iRoM Q&A with Alessandra during her stay this week, so look for it in the next few days. There is so much to learn from this amazing woman.

For more information about Alessandra Belloni click HERE to check her website.

 


Picks of the Week: Sept. 10 – 15

September 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

- Sept. 10 (Tues.) Rachmaninoff and Gershwin. “Romantic Favorites.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya with piano soloist Daniil Trifonov, performs a program of richly colorful, early 20th century music. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 11. (Wed.) George Benson Inspiration Tour. A Tribute To Nat “King” Cole. Guitarist/singer Benson brings convincing life to the Cole song book. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 12 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) Joey DeFrancesco. Jazz organist DeFrancesco is joined by guitarist Steve Cotter and drummer Ramon Banda in a definitive display of jazz organ trio music. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Roberta Gambarini

Roberta Gambarini

- Sept. 12 – 14. (Thurs. – Sat.) Roberta Gambarini.   Italian-born Gambarini continues to assert her musical aulthenticity as one of contemporary jazz’s finest vocalists. She’s joined by special guest, Kenny Burrell. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.) Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. One of the most appealing pop/rock, jazz-influenced bands of the late ’60s, the Oblivion Express, in keyboardist Auger’s hands, still continues to produce exciting music. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

- Sep. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Fireworks Finale: Earth, Wind & Fire with Thomas Wilkins and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. It’s an attractive line-up of talent, enhanced by the usual spectacular fireworks, bringing the 2013 season to a pyrotechnic closure. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 14. (Sat.) Tom Peterson Quartet. Saxophonist/woodwind player Peterson, one of Minnesota’s many gifts to jazz, balances first rate playing with a busy career as a producer, educator, clinician and more. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. r (310) 474-9400.

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

- Sept. 15. (Sun.) Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler. The Manhattan Transfer’s Bentyne teams up with jazz vocalist Winkler to celebrate the CD Release party for their new album, West Coast Cool. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 15. (Sun.) John Proulx. Pianist/vocalist Proulx continues to display a warmly interpretive vocal style, backed by the solid support of his swinging piano work. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 15. (Sun.) Julie Esposito. She’s an attorney/jazz singer, one of the more unlikely hyphenates in the L.A. music scene. And, somehow, Esposito handles both her skill sets with authority and complete authenticity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker

- Sept. 12. (Thurs.) The United Trumpet Summit. The title is exactly right, given the presence in the U.T.S. of a stellar line-up of world class trumpeters, including Randy Brecker, Dr. Eddie Henderson, Jeremy Pelt and Leon Jordan, Jr. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655.5600.

Portland, Oregon

- Sept. 12. (Thurs.) Jacqui Naylor. She’s one of the contemporary jazz vocal world’s most versatile artists, moving easily from straight ahead jazz to folk rock and adult alternative genres. Hear her in action. Jimmy Mak’s.  (503) 295-6542.

Seattle

Nellie McCay

Nellie McCay

- Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Nellie McKay. Singer/actress/humorist MacKay balances a sardonic sense of humor with stunning musicality and an easy comfort with genres reaching from jazz to rap, funk and beyond. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York City

- Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Dave Liebman Expansions Quintet. Always eager to explore new musical territory, saxophonist Liebman leads an adventurous new ensemble. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

- Sept. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Staney Jordan Trio. Guitarist Jordan’s unique, tapping style of playing has created virtual one-man-band sounds. But this time out he expands his possibilities in a trio setting. Iridium (212) 582-2121.

Washington D.C.

Gary Burton

Gary Burton

- Sept. 12 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) The New Gary Burton Quartet.70th Bday Tour.Vibist Burton, one of his instrument’s most gifted practitioners, celebrates his 70th birthday in the company of Julian Lage, guitar, Scott Colley, bass and Antonio Sanchez, drums. Blues Alley (202) 337-4141.

London

- Sept. 10 – 12. (Tues. – Thurs.) Jose Feliciano. Guitarist Feliciano has been a uniquely appealing singer/guitarist since his ’60s hit version of “Light My Fire.” And, at 67, he’s still going strong. Ronnie Scott’s. +44 (0) 7439 0747.

Milan

- Sept. 11. (Wed.) Big One – The European Pink Floyd Show “Biglietto Cumulativo.“ The music of the English art rock band of the ’60s continues to appeal to audiences around the world. Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888. 

Tokyo

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

- Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Chick Corea and The Vigil. The iconic keyboardist/composer has once again organized a new collective to express his ever-curious, creative musical adventures. The Vigil includes the gifted, youthful Tim Garland, Carlitos Del Puerto, Marcus Gilmore, Charles Altura and Luisito Quintero. Blue Note Tokyo. 03-5485-0088. 


Picks of the Week: June 5 – 9

June 5, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Barbara Morrison

Barbara Morrison

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

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

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

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

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

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

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

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

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

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

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

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

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

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

Chicago

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

Washington D.C.

Tuck & Patti

Tuck & Patti

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

New York City

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

Copenhagen

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

eTokyo

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

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Barbara Morrison photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

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


Picks of the Week: April 24 – 28

April 24, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Barbara Morrison

Barbara Morrison

- April 24. (Wed.) Barbara Morrison.  A legend in her own right, the versatile Ms. Morrison celebrates the music of the iconic Ella Fitzgerald.  She’ll be backed by pianist Stuart Elster, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Lee SpathVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

-April 24. (Wed.)  Miles Evans Big Band.  Gil Evan’s trumpet-playing son (and Miles Davis namesake) keeps his father’s superb music alive, while taking it into compelling new musical areas.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- April 25.  (Thurs.)  Cat’s Birthday Bash. Singer Cat Conner celebrates with an evening of prime jazz.  Her special guests include singer Lee Hartley and woodwind master Gene “Cip” Cipriano, with stellar backing provided by pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Steve SchaefferVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 25. (Thurs.)  Nutty.  Seven piece Nutty is a one of a kind band, applying their ‘Mashups” style to a blend of “jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, served up with a swinging, old school Vegas swagger.” They perform at L.A.’s elegant new jazz room.  H.O.M.E.  l  (310) 271-4663.

Rita Coolidge

- April 25 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rita Coolidge. Grammy-winning singer Coolidge – know as “Delta Lady” after Leon Russell wrote the song for her – is still, at 67, a convincing vocal practitioner in the pop and soft rock genres.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- April 26. (Fri.) An Evening with Medeski, Martin & Wood.  M, M & W have been exploring new genre combinations – jazz funk, jazz fusion, avant-jazz, etc. – for two decades.  And they’re still working at the cutting edge.  CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101.

- April 26 – 28. (Fri. – Sun.)  Bringuier and Thibaudet with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  An evening of French delights.  French conductor Lionel Bringuier and French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet perform a program of Ravel and Saint-Saens.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- April 27. (Sat.)  Larry Koonse – Alan Pasqua Duo.  Two of the Southland’s most highly praised players, first call rhythm section experts and superb soloists in their own right, get together in a duo setting.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 28. (Sun.)  The Susie Hansen Latin Jazz Band.  She’s a blonde girl from the mid-West who plays violin, but Hansen has been providing some of L.A.’s most authentic and dynamic Latin jazz, salsa and swing for more than two decades.  She’ll be joined by guest vocalist Valerie Petersen. Be prepared to dance in the aisles.  The Huntington Beach Art Center.  www.huntingtonbeachartcenter.org  (714) 536-5258.

San Francisco

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

- April 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Chick Corea & the Vigil.  Always in search of newly expressive music, the inimitable Corea performs with his newest band, featuring saxophonist Tim Garland, bassist Hadrien Feraud, guitarist Charles Altura and drummer Marcus GilmoreYoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York City

- April 25 – 27. (Thurs. – Sat.) Celebrating Duke EllingtonWynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra explore their deeply insightful understanding of the classic Ellington musical canon.  Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre.    (212) 258-9595.

Boston

- April 27. (Sat.)  Gato Barbieri. Veteran Argentine saxophonist Barbieri has moved across genres from the free jazz of the ‘60s to his Latin jazz specialties of the ‘70s and beyond. He’ll no doubt play his hit version of his music for the film Last Tango In Paris.    Regatta Bar.   (617) 661-5000.

Milan

Avishai Cohen

Avishai Cohen

- April 28 (Sun.)  Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital and Iago Fernandez Camano. Critically praised Israeli trumpeter Cohen performs in a true international jazz trio with bassist Omer Avital and drummer Iago Fernandez CamanoBlue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- April 28 & 29. (Sun. & Mon.)  The Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin.  Pianist/composer Akiyoshi and her husband, saxophonist Tabackin return to Japan to perform with Akiyoshi’s superb big jazz band. Blue Note Tokyo.   +81 3-5485-0088.


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.


Live Jazz: The Chick Corea/Stanley Clarke Trio with Hubert Laws at Catalina Bar & Grill

April 11, 2013

By Michael Katz

Let’s start with this: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, an acoustic jazz trio, a nightclub appearance. Fill out the trio with an energetic young drummer, Marcus Gilmore, grandson of Roy Haynes, no less.

Enough?

Hardly. Make it a quartet with Hubert Laws sitting in on flute. Jam an appreciative overflow crowd into the sprawl of Catalina Bar & Grill on a Tuesday night. Sprinkle in good vibes from all the players. Shake, stir, and Voila! One of those nights you won’t soon forget.

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

Chick Corea has cut such a wide swath in his career that it rightly took him several weeks and ten concerts to celebrate his 70th birthday in New York in 2011. For the opening of a weeklong gig here in LA, he presented a mini-tour of his acoustic work, in the splendid company of Clarke and Gilmore (to begin with), touching on his early trio work with the opening Steve Swallow tune, “Eiderdown.” Corea made it a point a few times during the show to thank the audience for attending a “rehearsal,” and although the players know each other quite well, there are always some bugs to be worked out in an opening show. I thought the piano sounded a tad muffled during the early going, though that may have come from sitting in the extended wing that reaches behind the piano and towards the bar area. On the other hand, it presented an excellent perspective for Clarke’s lithe bass work – at 61, he looks like he could step in and play defensive back somewhere.

“Bud Powell,” a Corea composition from Chick’s Remembering Bud Powell CD, had all the musical dexterity of Powell’s signature tunes: the darting ebbs and flows that fill up a space like a tidal pool, then whoosh back out, leaving Clarke and Gilmore to fill in the void, while Corea moves on, looking for musical eddies to stir up.

Hubert Laws

Hubert Laws

Hubert Laws joined the trio for the rest of the set, starting with Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica.” For those of us who discovered jazz in the late sixties and early seventies, Laws’ playing defined the jazz flute.  Re-united with Corea and Clarke he sounded every bit in his prime, full of the lilting riffs, tinged with classical arpeggios that have always characterized his playing. Following Chick’s intro, Laws entered with the Monk line crisp and clear, leaving the others room for solos in an atmosphere that was casual and cool.

And then there was “Windows.”  I suppose we all  have our favorite songs, but “Windows” is unabashedly one of mine.  It’s not just one of Chick Corea’s best compositions, but a perfect construction for Hubert Laws’ expressive tones. From the plaintive opening notes, to the improvisational flights that follow and the dovetailing denouement, it still captivates. Simply put, hearing Laws perform it with Corea, Clarke and the young Gilmore behind him was, for me, a singular musical moment.

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

There was much more, in a set that stretched over ninety minutes. “Captain Marvel” is a tune from Return To Forever’s second LP, but I first heard it on Stan Getz’s album of the same name, with Corea and Clarke as sidemen. Laws introduced the theme, giving it a soulful boost, then let the rhythm section take the forefront. Stanley Clarke would be in dynamic mode the rest of the evening.  Here, sandwiched between two terrific drum explorations by Gilmore, he took command of the acoustic bass,  while Corea laid out harmonic layers behind him.

That was nominally the end of the set, but the crowd wasn’t ready to disperse, not by any means, and the band continued with Joe Henderson’s “Recorda-Me.” Again, Clarke was out front, perhaps most noticeable because he had laid back earlier, but by this time it was four great musicians swinging separately and together. Young Gilmore provided a verve and youthful enthusiasm that kept the others on their toes. Hubert Laws reminded us that after all this time, no one plays the flute better.

And then there’s the leader of this group, Chick Corea, who has hit every musical touchstone imaginable, getting right to the heart of the matter: a piano, a melody, the intrinsic syncopation of swing, a classic trio plus one. The Corea/Clarke Trio will play through Sunday with Hubert Laws sitting in tonight.

This is an event you don’t want to miss.

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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 10 – 14

April 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

- April 10 – 14.  (Wed. – Sun.)  Chick Corea Trio.  With bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr.  Corea’s musical activities lately have ranged in all directions.  But here’s an irresistible opportunity to hear his uniquely inventive playing in an illuminating piano trio setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- April 10. (Wed.)  Max Raabe and the Palast Orkester.  The glorious jazz and pop music of the ‘20s and ‘30s comes vividly to life in the early big band music of Germany’s Palast Orkester and singer/leader Raabe.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- April 10. (Wed.)  Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble. The seven gifted young musicians of the Monk Institute Jazz Ensemble – Mike Cottone, Josh Johnson, Eric Miller, Jonathan Pinson, David Robaire, Miro Sprague and Diego Urbano – make a rare public performance. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 10 & 11. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Gypsy All Stars.  Gypsy Kings alumni Ced Leonardi and Mario Reyes are keeping alive the surging rhythms and soaring melodies of the Indo-Gypsy fusion of the original Kings. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- April 14. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale. The stunningly versatile singers of the LAMC take on the music of  Poulenc and Vaughan Williams, a pair of composers stylistically positioned on opposite sides of the English Channel.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Ute Lemper

- April 10 & 11. (Wed. – Thurs.)  Ute Lemper.  The amazing Ms. Lemper calls up memories of German cabaret in general and the music of Kurt Weill in particular.   SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.   (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- April 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Garrett Quintet.  Grammy-winning alto saxophonist Garrett’s resume reaches from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis.  At 52, he’s one of the most inventive players of the post-Coltrane generation.   Jazz Alleyt (312) 360-0234.

Boston

- April 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.)  Michel Camilo Trio. Born in the Dominican Republic, pianist Camilo brings the panoramic rhythms and hues of the Caribbean to his inventive jazz stylings.  Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

New York City

Al DiMeola

April 10 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba Duo.  Guitarist DiMeola and pianist Rubalcaba are a well-matched musical team, moving amiably across jazz stylels.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- April 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Eric Harland and Voyager. Drummer Harland, a first-call jazz rhythm section player, steps into the spotlight with his own group of talented young players, including Julian Lage, guitar, Taylor Eigsti, piano, Harish Raghavan, bass, Walter Smith III, tenor saxophone.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

London

- April 14. (Sun.) Natalie Williams Soul Family.  Call it a delightful evening of soul music at its finest with Williams, her band and special guest JP CooperRonnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747

Copenhagen

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

- April 11 – 13. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stefano Bollani.  Milan-born pianist Bollani moves eclectically from jazz to classical music and beyond, establishing himself as one of Europe’s most gifted musical artists.  He performs here with bassist Jesper Bodlisen and drummer Morten LundJazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- April 13. (Sat.)  Kazumi Watanabe, Jeff Berlin and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.  Guitarist Watanabe, one of Japan’s most prominent fusion/jazz-rock artists, has performed with players ranging from Wayne Shorter to Richard Bona.  He’s backed by the equally versatile bassist Berlin and drummer Hernandez.  Blue Note Milano.     +39 02 6901 6888

Tokyo

Helen Merrill

Helen Merrill

- April 10 – 12.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Helen Merrill. Jazz vocalist Merrill’s imaginiative skills have established her as a musicians’ singer, highly regarded by Japanese jazz fans.  She sings with the Masahiko Satoh Trio and special guest Hozan YamamotoBlue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

* * * * * * * *

Chick Corea photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Record Rack: Gerald Clayton, Steve Kuhn and Roberta Piket

March 15, 2013

Pianos On The Loose

By Don Heckman

 Gerald Clayton: Life Forum (Concord Music)

I’ve been listening to and marveling at the playing of Gerald Clayton since he was displaying all the makings of a unique jazz artist while still a teen-ager.  Now 28, with three Grammy nominations, his credentials have been thoroughly established, and never more so than on this far-ranging set of performances.  Working with his regular associates – bassist  Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown – he moves confidently and inventively through a compelling collection of intriguing original works.  Clayton’s rich imagination reaches out to embrace the contributions of saxophonists Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani and poet Carl Hancock.  That’s a diverse collection of musical sounds, styles and substance – a challenge fully met by a pianist well on his way toward the top of his field.

Steve Kuhn: The Vanguard Date (Sunnyside)

With a track record that reaches from John Coltrane in the ‘60s into the multi-hued present, Steve Kuhn has been a pianist whose creative accomplishments embrace the entire jazz spectrum, from bebop to avant-garde.  The Vanguard Date, first released in 1986 on the Owl label is a stunning display of Kuhn in his fully mature mode, moving with utter confidence from the grooving bop of Tadd Dameron’s “Superjet” to the soaring lyricism of his own “Lullaby.” At the heart of the program — his virtually symbiotic interaction with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster.

Roberta Piket: Solo (Thirteenth Note Records)

The rich thoughtfulness that characterizes Roberta Piket’s inventive improvising is immediately apparent on the first track of Solo, in which she plays a darkly moody version of “I See Your Face Before Me” in a style reminiscent of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1.  Her previous three albums have ranged through strings and woodwinds, electric instruments and the classic piano trio.  But this time out she approaches the piano in the classic solo sense, as a virtual orchestra in itself.  In the process she brings new light to such familiar jazz lines as “Monk’s Dream” (in two variations), Chick Corea’s “Litha,” Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti” and Duke Ellington’s “Something To Live For.”  Add to that a lyrical rendering of “Estate” and a final, gently blues-driven piece by her father, Frederick Piket.  The result, in sum, is an intriguing overview of a jazz pianist who still hasn’t quite received the ovations that her unique talents deserve.


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