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

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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.


Live Music: Deana Martin at Vitello’s

May 5, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  Second, even third, generation careers in show business aren’t exactly uncommon in the entertainment world.  And singer Deana Martin’s name alone indicates a legacy powerful enough to open the right doors.

But Martin, who began a three night run at Vitello’s on Friday night, has the skills to build a career on, regardless of her lineage.

That said, however, she titled this presentation – which she’s been doing in locations across the country —  “Deana Sings Dino” honoring her father, “The King of Cool”  And she was introduced from the stage, by her father’s video announcement.

Deana Martin

Deana Martin

She further underscored the connection by performing such songs identified with Dean Martin as  “Memories Are Made of This,” “That’s Amore,” ”You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You,” “Ain’t That A Kick in the Head,” “Everybody Loves Somebody” and “Volare.”  And she topped off the paternal references with a video duet on “True Love” that included a fascinating montage and photos of Martin family life.

Inevitably, one couldn’t help but listen to Deana’s interpretations with distant, but recurring, memories of how they were sung by her father.  Memories that were further revived by the arrangements played by her world class group – led by pianist and music director John Proulx, and featuring bassist Chuck Berghofer and guitarist John Chiodini.  Often emphasizing a gently swinging groove, the charts were reminiscent of those used by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and the other partners in the Rat Pack.

John Proulx and Deana Martin

John Proulx and Deana Martin

Add to that Deana’s amiable and laid back manner in her between songs commentaries.  Quick jokes came one after the other, interspersed with personal recollections of Dean Martin and such Rat Pack “uncles” as Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Observing her father and the “uncles” in action as she grew up in a show biz environment, Deana has clearly mastered all the entertainment elements that work for her as a performing artist.  To her credit – and unlike some of the singers in her generation – her performance overflowed with the confident, communicative manner of an utterly engaging entertainer.

Beyond all the legacy elements emphasized by the “Deana Sings Dino” aspects of the performance, there was the appealing musicality and interpretive lyricism present in everything she sang – nostalgic or otherwise.  In songs such as “Beyond the Sea,” “The Lady Is A Tramp” and “I’d Love To Get You On A Slow Boat To China,” she displayed the very special qualities that are uniquely her own.

And one suspects that Dean Martin, had he been present at Vitello’s, would have been proud of the fine, convincingly imaginative artist that his daughter has become.

Deana Martin and “Deana Sings Dino” continues at Vitello’s tonight.

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Photos by Bob Barry


Live Jazz: Cat Conner’s “Birthday Bash” at Vitello’s

April 26, 2013

By Don Heckman

Jazz singer Cat Conner gave a birthday party to remember at Vitello’s Thursday night.  Actually, a “Birthday Bash,” as she described it, in which she and her close friend, Lee Hartley, sang their way through a delightful evening of song.

Christian Jacob. Cat Conner, Chuck Berghofer

Christian Jacob. Cat Conner, Chuck Berghofer

Cat Conner

Backed by the stellar trio of pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Ray Brinker, with creative contributions from saxophonist/clarinetist Gene “Cip” Ciprano, Conner and Hartley were clearly enjoying each of the numbers they sang in a nearly two hour program.

After the trio’s opening romp through “Stella By Starlight,” Conner dug into a jaunty “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” following it with “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” and Dave Frishberg’s whimsical blues, “I Can’t Take You Nowhere” (which she dedicated to her mother.)  Here, as elsewhere, Conner displayed her warm, intimate way with a song.

Cat Conner and Lee Hartley

Cat Conner and Lee Hartley

Hartley, an impressive jazz artist in her own right, added her gently swinging “I Love Being Here With You” and an original song inspired by Nat “King” Cole.

There was much more to come, including “My Wish For You,” an intriguing version of a lovely Luis Bonfa melody from the film, Black Orpheus, with lyrics by Peggy Lee.  And a romp through “Mr. P.C.” featuring Berghofer’s articulate soloing.  Along with the occasional pairing of Conner and Hartley on tunes such as “I Mean You” and a lyrically revised “Girl Talk.”

Cat Conner, Gene "Cip" Cipriano and Lee Hartley

Cat Conner, Gene “Cip” Cipriano and Lee Hartley

Cipriano, playing clarinet (and calling up images of Artie Shaw), joined Conner and the rhythm section to duet on “Moonglow” and “Squeeze Me.”  Conner was also especially on target, continuing to focus on her musical storytelling via warm interpretations of “How Deep is The Ocean?” and “Embraceable You.”  She wound up the celebration with a high spirited romp through Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomsas.”

The birthday party climaxed with, appropriately, some birthday cake, and a lot of celebratory hugs between Conner and her listeners, most of whom seemed to be close friends and musical acquaintances.

Which wasn’t exactly what one expects from a mid-week gig.  But on this enjoyable evening, Conner, Hartley and their back-up trio found all the pleasant linkages between the music and the birthday celebration.  And, as oten happens at Vitello’s, the performance had the relaxed feeling of a living room jam session among close friends.

No wonder Cat was smiling for most of this night to remember.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: The Johnny Mandel Big Band

March 18, 2013

By Don Heckman

Johnny Mandel was at Vitello’s again Saturday night, leading a big band at the venue for the third time in a year.  Despite the familiarity of the music – or, perhaps, because of it — one couldn’t ask for better evidence of the long term quality of his achievements, as a composer, an arranger and a songwriter.

As in the previous appearances, the program was largely divided into two sets, with the first including most of the best-known Mandel classics, the second exploring some of his less familiar works.  In both sets, the music was utterly compelling, performed in dynamic fashion by an enthusiastic assemblage of Los Angeles’ finest players.

Johnny Mandel

Johnny Mandel

At 87, leading the musicians from behind a music stand positioned in front of the saxophone section, Mandel touched upon the many high points of his extraordinary career.  They came in engaging fashion, one memorable melody after another: “The Shadow of Your Smile,” played lyrically by trumpeter Carl Saunders; the theme music from “I Want To Live,” featuring the baritone saxophone of Bob Efford; the lovely film song, “Emily”; “Suicide is Painless” (the theme song from “M*A*S*H”).

Add to that Mandel’s fiery flag waver, “Not Really the Blues,” originally written for the Woody Herman Band, a quirky chart for the Artie Shaw Band inspired by the Crazy Cat cartoon show, and an equally hard swinging arrangement of “Centerpiece.”  And let’s not forget Mandel’s gift for writing classic song melodies: including a gorgeous arrangement of his “Close Enough For Love, written with Paul Williams, performed here with saxophonist Steve Wilkerson in the solo role; and an equally lyrical “Where Do You Start,” composed with the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

Looking back over my previous reviews of the Mandel big band appearances at Vitello’s, I can see the potential for redundancy in my comments.  But there was no redundancy in the music.  Mandel’s originals, along with his arrangements, sound fresh and new each time they’re played.  And the pleasures of hearing them were aided by a stellar array of world class musicians.

Johnny Mandel leads his band

I won’t make a simple list of them.  But, in addition to those I’ve already mentioned, I can’t overlook the fine solo and section efforts of trumpeters Ron Stout, Bob Summers and Adolfo Acosta, trombonists Ira Nepus, Scott Whitfield, Phil Teele and Ryan Porter, and the extraordinarily versatile offerings of saxophonists/flutists/clarinetists Carol Chaikin, Keith Fiddmont and Ricky Woodard.  And, of course, the propulsive foundation provided by pianist John Campbell, guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Zach Albetta (playing the Mandel book for the first time).

So, as it turned out, three performances in a year were not too many. Not for Mandel’s music, which is always a delight to experience in bold, living colors.  Here’s looking forward to his next Vitello’s appearance with his Big Band – hopefully as a celebration of Johnny Mandel’s 88th birthday in November, along with the publication of his biography, which is reportedly in the works.

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Music: Deana Martin at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 25, 2012

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA.  As if her name wasn’t enough to identify her, Deana Martin was introduced in her Christmas show at Catalina Bar & Grill Friday night by a big screen video projection of her father.  That’s right, the late Dean Martin.

2nd and 3rd generation celebrity performers are nothing new in Los Angeles (and New York, for that matter).  Some have built successful careers on their own, despite (or because of?) their well-known names.  Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Natalie Cole come to mind among numerous others.

Deana Martin

But the enhanced visibility generated by names and lineage isn’t enough to create a career as a performer. It takes talent, as well.

A quality that Deana Martin has in abundance.

Performing with a sterling quartet – pianist/singer John Proulx, bassist Chuck Berghofer, guitarist John Chiodini and drummer M.B. Gordy – she was a non-stop dynamo of musical energy.

Blessed with a warm, intimate vocal quality, a gifted lyrical story-teller, Martin convincingly found her way into the musical heart of everything she sang.  Although one could detect – in an occasional tune – the timbres or the phrasing of her father, she clearly had her own interpretations of everything she sang.

Since it was her Christmas show, the seasonal items blossomed in abundance: “Silver Bells,” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” “Let It Snow,” “It’s Christmas Once Again.”  And one of the high points of the show, reserved for the final segment, was an audio/video presentation of Martin singing “White Christmas” with the late Andy Williams..

Between songs, she was an engaging raconteur, telling tales about growing up in Beverly Hills, about greeting – and participating in — celebrity carol singing groups going from door to door at Christmas time.

Martin also sang numbers associated with her father or his friends.  Among them: “Come On-A My House” (Rosemary Clooney); “I Won’t Dance” (Frank Sinatra and/or Fred Astaire).  As well as – from her father’s songbook — “Volare,” “That’s Amore” and “Memories Are Made of This” (done with a Dean Martin video).

Further widening her presentation, she teamed up, humorously, with a few performers who had worked with her father, and sang a warm duet with pianist Proulx.  Her final song, appropriately, was her father’s signature “Everybody Loves Somebody.”

Well-planned, well-crafted and well-delivered, the show was the work of a performer whose talents reach well beyond her celebrity roots.  Entertaining as it was, however, one couldn’t help but wish to hear Martin some time in a setting that has nothing to do with her lineage, singing songs unrelated to her father or the Rat Pack, thoroughly revealing the unique talents that are her own.

Photo by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Week: Nov. 21 – 25

November 21, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 23. (Fri.)  Chuck Manning-John Daversa Quartet.  Saxophonist Manning and trumpeter Daversa get together for an evening of adventurous improvisation.  They’re backed by Pat Senatore, bass and Dick Weller, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 23. (Fri.)  Deana Martin.  Yes, she’s Dean Martin’s daughter.  But Deana has transformed her musical inheritance into an appealing style of her own.  Catalina Bar & Grill  (323) 466-2210.

Ahmad Jamal

- Nov. 24. (Sat.) Ahmad Jamal.  The great jazz pianist, admired by Miles Davis, as well as  his legions of fans, makes a rare Southland appearance.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.    (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 25. (Sun.)  Harry Allen and Larry Goldings.  Tenor saxophonist Allen combines a mainstream style with a contemporary imagination.  Keyboardist Goldings provides ideal backing, along with Chuck Berghofer, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 25. (Sun.)  “A Tribute To Dinah Washington: Queen of the Blues.  Barbara Morrison with the BMPAC All Stars Band conducted by John Stephens. Who better than the versatile blues mistress Barbara Morrison to honor the Dinah Washington musical memory. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Chicago

Roberta Gambarini

- Nov. 21 – 25. (Wed. – Sun.)  Roberta Gambarini. Italian native Gambarini has thoroughly established herself as one of the world’s finest jazz singers, regardless of origin. Hear her whenever you can.  Jazz Showcase.  http://www.jazzshowcase.com  (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Nov. 21 – 24. (Wed. – Sat.) Cyrille Aimee. With a French gypsy background and Dominican roots, Aimee – a runner up in the Thelonious Monk vocal competition – enhances her jazz skills with world music seasoning.  Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 21 – 25.  (Wed. – Sun.)  Jason Moran and the Bandwagon. Currently one of the most critically praised jazz pianist/composers, Moran performs in a classic trio setting with  Taurus Mateen, bass, and Nasheet Waits, drums.  Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

Maria Schneider

- Nov. 20 – 25. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Maria Schneider Orchestra.  Schneider’s far-reaching musical imagination has brought compelling new timbres and adventurous performances to the classic big band setting. Jazz Standard.    (212) 889-2005.

Copenhagen

- Nov. 22 – 24. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Sinne Eeg.  One of Denmark’s – and Europe’s – most admired jazz singers, Eeg celebrates the release of her new album, The Beauty of Sadness, recorded with a Danish national orchestra and her own quartet.   Jazzhus Montmartre.  (+45) 70 15 65 65.

Paris

Ravi Coltrane

- Nov. 23. (Fri.) The New Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  John Coltrane’s gifted, saxophone playing son Ravi is keeping the creative legacy of his father alive and well.  Paris New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Milan

- Nov. 21 – 24. (Wed. – Sat.)  Al Di Meola. Master guitarist Di Meola has an impressive  resume, reaching from his electric jazz fusion with Return to Forever to his superb solo acoustic outings.   Blue Note Milano.   02.69016888.

Tokyo

Nov. 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sun.) and Nov. 27 & 28. (Tues. & Wed.)  Natalie Cole.  Nat ‘King” Cole’s daughter is a major star in her own right, singing with the authentic jazz inflections characteristic of her father’s finest work.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.


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