Live Music: Cat Conner at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA.  Jazz vocalist Cat Conner‘s performance at Catalina Bar & Grill last week was clearly expected to be a special event, which is precisely how it turned out.

Cat Conner

It was, first of all, a release party for Cat’s new CD, appropriately titled Cat House. Add to that the fact that any of her performances are exciting events for fans of jazz singing. And, adding memorable jazz icing to the cake, she was accompanied by a collection of the Southland’s finest, most versatile jaz musicians.

The latter aspect was no surprise, since her stellar six piece band – saxophonist woodwind artist Gene “Cip” Cipriano, pianist Tom Ranier, guitarist John Chiodini, trumpeter Ron Stout, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe La Barbera – are all present on Cat’s new album. And it was also no surprise that Cat – like all singers hosting a CD release party – devoted her program to a collection of songs from the CD.

The Cat Cpnner Band

The Cat Cpnner Band

Any of Cat’s many fans will attest to the fact that the Canadian-born songstress is always a joy to hear, regardless of the circumstances. And even more so when all the musical elements are firmly in place, as they were in this outing. Appearing comfortable, relaxed and completely at ease from the first moment she stepped on stage, Cat underscored the appealing musical empathy of her program with an equally engaging interaction with her audience.

Cat Conner sings with her band

Cat Conner sings with her band

The musical highlights of her performance were especially present in her choice of songs from the album. And especially so in such varied selections as a briskly swinging ‘How Much Do I Love You,” a vocalese version of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” and such varied American Songbook classics as “You Are My Everything,” “Baltimore Oriole” and “What A Little Moonlight Can Do”

Cat Conner

Cat Conner

Topping off her program, Cat added a poignant original song, “People Say (Song For Rob).” Written for the infant son she gave up for adoption many years ago, she introduced it as “a song to finally allow me to say how I felt for all the years of yearning for him.”

It was an extraordinary ending for a memorable musical evening, an evening glowing with convincing evidence of Cat’s ability to find the heart of a song – from jaunty swing tunes to richly emotional ballads.

All of which is equally present, as well, on her new CD Cat House. And fans of jazz singing who were not present to share the pleasures of her CD release party are hereby advised to check out the album for a full musical offering of Cat Conner’s vocal artistry.

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Photos by Faith Frenz


Pick of the Night in L.A.: Cat Conner at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 11, 2014

By Don Heckman

Singer Cat Conner is one of the high visibility members of L.A.’s impressive assemblage of jazz vocal artists. She’s also another gifted Canadian jazz performer who’s brought her considerable jazz skills south of the border.

All of which will be self-evident tonight when Cat offers her warm, luxurious voice, convincing musical story telling and floating swing at Catalina Bar & Grill in the company of some of the Southland’s most masterful jazz instrumentalists: saxophone/woodwind artist Gene “Cip” Cipriano, guitarist John Chiodini, pianist Tom Ranier, trumpeter Ron Stout, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe La Barbera.

 

The program celebrates the release of Cat’s new CD, Cat House. And Cat is quick to promise that it will be a big time launch party. “We are going to be playing,” she says,” with the joy of five year olds.” And singing, too.

Since most of the band of masters playing with her at Catalina’s are also on the new album, she’ll no doubt showcase selections from the CD. So expect some memorable moments. Who knows, maybe the versatile “Cip” Cipriano will also tell some of his stories and offer some amazing sounds on his bass oboe. How often do you get to hear that in a jazz club?

Don’t miss this one. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.


Picks of the Week: May 19 – 25

May 19, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Welsman

Carol Welsman

- May 20. (Tues.) Carol Welsman. She sings with an utter mastery of jazz vocalizing. Add to that Carol’s equally impressive piano playing, always imaginative, always swinging. She doesn’t do a lot of club dates, so don’t miss this one. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- May 20. (Tues.) Guitar Night. With John Pisano and special guests guitarist Tim May, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Kendall Kay. Viva Cantina.  (818) 845- 2425.

- May 21. (Wed.) Lauren White with the Quinn Johnson Trio. Special Guests include Dolores Scozzesi and  Chambers, Herbert & Ellis. An evening of jazz vocals reaching from the superb soloing of Lauren and Dolores to the jaunty trio of Chambers, Herbert & Ellis. Catalina Bar & Grill. (223) 466-2210.

Bianca Rossini

Bianca Rossini

- May 21. (Wed.) Bianca Rossini. Brazilian singer/songwriter Rossini enhances her intimate bossa novas with the moves of a born dancer. Click HERE  to read a recent review of Rossini in action. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.+

- May 21. (Wed.) Jennifer Leitham Trio. With Rich Eames, piano and Randy Drake, drums. Leitham is a first call bassist with the versatility to perform in any setting. This time out, she does it her way, with her own trio. Jazz at the Cap.

 

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

- May 22. (Thurs.) Robert Davi. In a music world becoming over populated with Sinatra wannabes, Davi is the real deal, intimately familiar with the Sinatra style. Blessed with a voice rich with operatic qualities, Davi uses it in memorable excursions through the Great American Songbook. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- May 22. (Thurs.) Billy Joel. It’s not often that one has the chance to hear Joel anywhere, much less the Hollywood Bowl. Don’t miss this chance to hear some of his classics. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- May 23. (Fri,) Kenny Burrell Quintet. One of the iconic jazz guitarists of his generation, Burrell, also an educator, takes a break from his UCLA responsibilities to remind us of his still potent playing skills. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- May 23. (Fri.) Azar Lawrence. Saxophonist Lawrence’s impressive resume reaches from Miles Davis and McCoy Tyner to Freddie Hubbard and beyond. Still a hard swinging, potent improviser, he should be heard at every opportunity. LACMA. (323) 857-6000.

- May 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.) Los Angeles Philharmonic. Gustavo Dudamel conducts the grand finale of the L.A. Phil’s Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy – Cosi Fan Tutti. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- May 24. (Sat.) Mark Christian Miller. Although he spends a lot of time working in music management and guidance, Miller is a fine vocalist in his own right. The Gardenia.  (323) 467-7444.

Cheryl Bentyne

Cheryl Bentyne

- May 24. (Sat.) Cheryl Bentyne. She’s back and all fans of world class jazz vocalizing should be delighted. After recovering from a serious illness, Bentyne is in the groove, singing with the imagination and the buoyant sense of swing that have always been essential to her art. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- May 24 & 25. (Sat. & Sun.) John Daversa’s Contemporary Big Band. Trumpeter/composer/arranger Daversa is producing some of the most fascinating big band writing on the current jazz scene. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

San Francisco

- May 21 & 22. (Wed. & Thurs.) Jane Monheit Sings Judy Garland. The title of this performance alone tells us that it’s going to be a fascinating experience. And there’s more on the bill: in the lounge on Wed.: Pianist Gaea Schell. In the lounge on Thurs: the Karen Marguth Trio. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York City

- May 20 – 24. (Tues. – Sat.) Karrin Allyson. Always a musically intriguing singer, Allyson has matured into a creatively expressive vocal artist. Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent L.A. Appearance by Allyson. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

London

Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias

May 19 & 20. (Mon. & Tues.) Eliane Elias Quartet. Elias has been a superb jazz pianist since she first moved from Brazil to the U.S. But in recent years she’s displayed equally captivating skills as a singer, as well. Click HERE  to read a recent iRoM review of an Eliane Elias performance in Los Angeles. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 (0) 20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- May 24. (Sat.) Fredrik Kronkvist. “The Cannonball Adderley Songbook.” Danish saxophonist Kronkvist displays the extent to which European jazz artists have convincingly proven themselves as world class performers. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- May 21 (Wed.) Geri Allen. Name some iconic jazz artists of the past few decades, and pianist Allen has probably worked with them (Think Ornette Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Charles Lloyd, Betty Carter and more). Although she spends part of the time these days as a college professor, she continues to assert her status as one of the fine jazz artists of her generation. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

Jack DeJohnette

Jack DeJohnette

- May 20 – 22. (Tues. – Thurs.) Jack DeJohnette Trio. With saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Matthew Garrison. Drummer/percussionist DeJohnette is one of the current jazz world’s most creatively curious players. And, for this tour, he’s chosen to work alongside players with equally inquisitive creativity. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.

 

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Photos of Bianca Rossini, Robert Davi, Cheryl Bentyne and Eliane Elias by Faith Frenz.

 

 

 


Live Music: Deana Martin at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

May 5, 2014

By Don Heckman

Bel Air, CA. Deana Martin was back at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. Sunday night. And it was a welcome event for fans of the sort of warm, engaging musical entertainment associated with her father, Dean Martin, and his Rat Pack pals.

No wonder every table at Vibrato was filled.

Deana Martin

Raised in an environment that exposed her to some of the most gifted popular music artists of the ’50s and ’60s, Deana has matured into a musical performer fully capable of following in the footsteps of such masterful artists and entertainers as the men she called “Uncle” Frank Sinatra and “Uncle” Sammy Davis, Jr., along with Joey Bishop, Judy Garland and Peter Lawford.

That’s a stellar list of names. But Deana Martin has thoroughly established her full-fledged ability to follow in their footsteps.

I’ve seen Deana several times, and had the pleasure of reviewing her performances in a variety of settings. Each of those appearances has been memorable. As was her Sunday presentation at Vibrato.

Once again, the performance began with a video introduction of his daughter by Dean Martin.

What followed was a program of songs associated with her father and other Rat Pack members.

Deana Martin

Deana Martin

Most of the titles were amply familiar to fans of Martin (especially) and Sinatra. Songs such as “Ain’t That A Kick in the Head,” “Memories,” “Destination Moon” (done via an electronic duet with her father), “Memories Are Made of This,” “Everybody Loves Somebody” and Italian songs such as “That’s Amore” and “Volare.”

Add to that more far-ranging titles, including “I Love Being Here With You,” “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Miss Otis Regrets.”

That’s a group of songs that would challenge the skills of most artists in the contemporary pop music world. And Deana handled it with an illuminating blend of musicality and interpretive skill.

Singing songs associated with some of the most iconic figures in American popular music is a challenge daunting enough to intimidate most vocalists.

But not Deana Martin. Her performance captivated the dynamic energy associated with her Dad and the Rat Pack, while enhancing it with her own non-stop creative electricity. Interacting with her audience, which was filled with fans and other showbiz celebrities, she transformed Vibrato, with its enthusiastic, full house audience, into a virtual living room performance.

Deana Martin and her Band

Deana Martin and her Band

She was superbly backed by a band sparkling with L.A.’s finest players, including bassist Chuck Berghofer (who managed to insert his classic bass line when Deana took on Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking”), guitarist John Chiodini and drummer Kendall Kay.

Call it another winner for Deana Martin. I would willingly wager that most of her Vibrato audience members (including this one) will eagerly return for her next L.A. Performance. And with good reason. So if you haven’t as yet had the good fortune to experience her in action, don’t miss her next Southland appearance.

Click HERE to check Deana Martin’s future schedule.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: Cat & Cip and More at Jazz at the Cap

April 26, 2014

By Don Heckman

Sherman Oaks, CA. Call it a welcome double value for jazz fans Wednesday night at Jazz at the Cap.

Why? First of all because it offered a performance by a group of the Southland’s prime jazz artists. And second, because they were appearing at an attractive new jazz venue.

Let’s start with the music. Cat & Cip – perhaps better known as singer Cat Conner and multi-woodwind artist Gene “Cip” Cipriano – have become one of L.A.’s most appealing musical duos. Their performances are usually enhanced by the presence of such fine veteran players as pianist Tom Ranier, guitarist John Chiodini and bassist Chuck Berghofer. All of whom were present Thursday night. And, with the solid support of drummer Sinclair Lott (more on him later) they delivered another of their memorable evenings of music.

Tom Ranier, Cat Conner, Chuck Berghofer, Gene “Cip” Cipriano and Dick Nash

A good part of the program was devoted to standards – “Indiana,” “After You’ve Gone,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?” “Body and Soul” and “How Deep Is The Ocean?” among them.

Cat Conner

Cat Conner

But there was a lot more, in a program of songs that was enhanced by a blending of less familiar, but equally engaging material such as Peggy Lee’s “Sans Souci,” Dave Frishberg and Alan Broadbent’s “Heart’s Desire,” Cole Porter’s rarely heard “Everything I Love,” a version of “Pretty Girl” rewritten by Cat and Chiodini as “Handsome Man” and more.

Cat cruised through everything she sang with the soaring vocals, interpretive magic and enthusiastic musicality that are essential aspects of her vocal art.

Add to that such high points of the evening as a briskly swinging, two clarinet instrumental romp through “After You’ve Gone” featuring Cip and Ranier (taking a break from the piano to display his licorice stick chops), a guest appearance by trombonist Dick Nash in a high spirited “What Is This Thing Called Love?” more solid clarinet from Ranier on “Body and Soul,” the unexpected sounds of a bass oboe from Cip. And, among Cat’s many offbeat selections, her welcome decision to offer stellar versions of “Baltimore Oriole” and a driving “What A Little Moonlight Can Do.”  Between musical numbers, Cip added his hilarious stories about life as a professional musician,.

Tom Ranier and Gene "Cip" Cipriano

Tom Ranier and Gene “Cip” Cipriano

And I can’t overlook another vocal highpoint – the unexpected, delightfully whimsical “The Three Bears,” wittily sung by bassist Berghofer.

In sum, it was one of the most rich and varied, beautifully performed collection of songs I’ve heard in recent memory. Would that more jazz artists planned their sets this well.

But I can’t overlook part 2 of the evening’s double value. At a time when jazz clubs in L.A. have come and gone in the past years, it was a distinct pleasure to spend an evening in a new room – Jazz at the Cap — with its large, theatrical stage and up close seating. And the credit for bringing the room to life goes to the drummer I mentioned above – Sinclair Lott – who brings his musician’s knowledge and skill to the challenging task of making a new jazz room happen.

Jazz at the Cap’s programming, at the moment, is limited to only a few nights (or less) a week. But the bookings have been well chosen.

And it’s up to us, as fans of live jazz and beyond, to give Jazz at the Cap the support and the turnout that it deserves. Tonight (Sat.), Jazz at the Cap features Brazilian star Katia Moraes & Brazilian Hearts in a celebration of renowned Brazilian artist Maria Bethania. Next Tuesday, percussionist Ignacio Berroa showcases “Afro-Cuban Jazz and Beyond.”

Jazz at the Cap is in the Cap Studio Theatre at 13752 Ventura Blvd. (818) 990-2001.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 26 – 29

December 26, 2013

By Don Heckman

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always light on performances. And this week is no exception. But numerous events, nonetheless, are well worthy of listeners’ attention. Here’s a selective group of some of the many highlights.

Los Angeles

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

- Dec. 26. (Thurs.) Robert Davi. Actor/singer Davi has thoroughly established himself as a Sinatra-inspired vocalist, when he isn’t building an impressive career as a film actor, as well. But he’s also a gifted singer who has created an engaging style of his own. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 26. (Thurs.) Vocalist Peggie Perkins, a Los Angeles jazz favorite for decades, performs with the Llew Matthews Quartet, featuring tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, bassist John B Williams, guitarist Doug MacDonald and drummer Jimmy Ford. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905

- Dec. 27. (Fri.) The Midnight Jazz Band. A quartet of veteran jazz all-stars, Gary Foster, alto saxophone, Tom Ranier, piano, Chuck Berghofer, bass and Peter Erskine, drums have been among the Southland musical aristocracy for decades. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Dec, 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat. ) Broadway on Ice. An impressive holiday presentation, featuring a dynamic creative partnership between Olympic Gold Medalist skater Ekaterina Gordeeva and Broadway singing star Davis Gaines. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8510.

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

 – Dec. 27 – 31. (Fri. – Tues.) Jane Monheit. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of her recording career, Monheit has thoroughly established herself as a uniquely gifted jazz artist with deep roots in the Great American Songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

 Washington, D.C.

- Dec. 27 – 31. (Fri. – Tues.) Monty Alexander. Jamaica’s Alexander, a prime jazz artist, enlivens much of his music with the appealing rhythms of the Caribbean. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-414.

New York City

Michael Feinstein

Michael Feinstein

- Dec. 26 – 28. (Thurs. – Sat.) Michael Feinstein. The master of the Great American songbook, singer/pianist Feinstein is also a superb entertainer, leading his audiences through the expressive intimacies of every song he offers. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Dec. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Carmen Lundy. Vocalist Lundy has a full range of creative skills, a rare example of a jazz singer who is also a gifted songwriter. Catch her in action. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

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Chris Botti

- Dec. 26 – Jan. 5. (Thurs. – Sun.) Chris Botti. Trumpeter Botti, a stellar performer in his own right, leads an equally world class jazz ensemble in an extended holiday run. Expect to hear some extraordinary music. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

Milan

- Dec. 26 – 31. Angels in Harlem Gospel Choir. The touring ensemble of the Harlem Gospel Choir, one of the world’s most prominent gospel groups, the Angels offer a special blend of high spirited gospel music at its finest. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

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Hiromi

.-

Dec. 28 – 31. (Sat. – Tues.) Hiromi Trio Project. The highly imaginative keyboardist returns to her home country in the company of bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.


Live Jazz: Roberta Gambarini and Kenny Burrell at Catalina Bar & Grill

September 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Roberta Gambarini didn’t waste any time establishing her impressive jazz credentials at Catalina Bar & Grill Thursday night. Relying on her perfect pitch and her brilliant interpretive skills, she strolled on stage, picked up a microphone and began to sing a stunning version of Cole Porter’s “So In Love” without a whisper of accompaniment from her stellar trio (pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Willie Jones III). Nor was anything other than her mesmerizing voice required in an interpretation that thoroughly introduced Gambarini’s extraordinary talents.

Roberta Gambarini

Roberta Gambarini

And it was just the beginning of a night that – for the lucky folks who’d turned out for the show – thoroughly introduced her full range of vocal skills. Singing a capella, romping through swinging up tempos, scatting with the clarity and harmonic accuracy of an instrumentalist, finding the heart of ballads with her trio, dueting with her guest, Kenny Burrell, she gave a performance to remember.

The highlights came one after another: continuing with a high speed romp through “Nobody Else But Me,” followed by Gambarini’s take on the Dizzy Gillespie version of “Sunny Side of the Street”; a deeply moving blend of ”Porgy, I Is Your Woman” and “I Loves You Porgy” from Porgy and Bess.

The arrival of Burrell opened the way to more far-ranging selections of material, starting with a brisk “Just Squeeze Me,” followed by an exquisite Portuguese version of the classic bossa nova, “Chega De Saudade.” Shifting gears, Gambarini offered emotionally intimate renderings of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,” called up memories of Billie Holliday with “Good Morning Heartache,” and followed with a steaming “Day In, Day Out,” delivered in another up-tempo display of her versatility.

Roberta Gambarini, Kenny Burrell and Chuck BerghoferChuck Kenny FFH

Gambarini then gracefully turned the stage over to Burrell. And the veteran guitarist, always a pleasure to hear whenever he takes a break from his multitude of responsibilities running the U.C.L.A. Jazz program, used the opportunity to offer a colorful medley of Duke Ellington songs reaching from “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” and “Prelude To A Kiss” to “A Sittin’ and a Rockin’.”

Appropriately, Gambarini returned to call up images of her native land with the lovely Italian song “Estate” (“Summer”). Finally, the musical banquet wrapped up with another hard-driving offering, this time the familiar blues of “Lester Leaps In.” Along the way, Gambarini used the microphone to create a convincing trumpet sound for a climactic improvised solo once again displaying her extraordinary musical inventiveness.

At a time when the jazz vocal world is overflowing with rapidly arriving young female talent, Gambarini stands well above the crowd. A third place finisher in 1998’s Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal competition, Grammy-nominated Gambarini still hasn’t begun to receive the recognition her remarkable talents fully deserve.

She performs at Catalina Bar and Grill again tonight (Saturday) with Burrell and her world class band. Don’t miss this too-rare opportunity to experience the pleasures of Roberta Gambarini’s music in full living color.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


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