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

May 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

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

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

Bob Sheppard, Putter Smith, Dontae Winslow

Bob Sheppard, Putter Smith, Dontae Winslow

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

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

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

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

Steve Huffsteter, Pat Senatore, Tom Peterson

Steve Huffsteter, Pat Senatore, Tom Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


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.


Picks of the Week: June 20 – 24

June 20, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jane Harvey

- June 20. (Wed.)  Jane Harvey.  The remarkable Jane Harvey’s career dates back to gigs with Benny Goodman in the ‘40s.  Now well into her ‘80s she continues to draw critical raves for her performances.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of a Harvey appearance.   Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- June 21 – 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Joey DeFrancesco.  The master of the B-3 has been placing at the top of the critics’ polls in Down Beat and with the Jazz Journalists association for years.  And with good reason.  He’ll be performing with Steve Cotter, bass and Ramon Banda, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- June 21 – 23. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Melissa Manchester. Grammy-winning singer-songwriter scored her biggest, chart-topping hits in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.  And her dramatic renderings of tunes such as “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud” are still classics.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 21. (Thurs.)  Chuck Manning.  Tenor saxophonist Manning’s resume includes gigs with everyone from Anthony Wilson and Branford Marsalis to Cedar Walton and Charlie Haden.  This time out, he takes on the most challenging setting for a horn player – a trio gig with bass, drums and no harmony instrument.  He’ll be backed by Pat Senatore, bass and Jimmy Branley, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Reba McEntire

- June 22. (Fri.)  Opening Night of the 2012 Season at the Hollywood Bowl. Julie Andrews hosts an evening featuring Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame inductees Reba McEntire and Chaka Khan, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins.  Additional guests and presenters are yet to be announced..   (323) 850-2000.  Hollywood Bowl.

- June 22. (Fri.)  Mary Stallings.  An underappreciated jazz vocalist for years, Stallings has been producing first rate recordings since a 1961 duet album with Cal Tjader.  Still in rare form, she’ll no doubt sing some selections from her latest release Don’t Look Back.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.  .  (310) 271-9039.

- June 23. (Sat.) Jazz Journalist Association Awards Party.  In celebration of the 2012 JJA Awards, a Jazz Hero Award will be granted to Catalina Popescu, proprietor of L.A.’s pre-eminent jazz club, Catalina Bar & Grill.  The Blue Whale, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.  The Ferenc Nemeth Trio perform at 9 p.m.   The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Katia Moraes

- June 24. (Sun.)  Katia Moraes.  There’s no one quite like this Brazilian bundle of musical dynamite.  Bringing irresistible vitality to every song she sings, Katia celebrates her birthday with her original quartet, the lively Sambaguru, featuring Bill Brindle, keyboards, Hussain Jiffry, bass and Tony Shoren, drums.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- June 24. (Sun.)  Sing! Sing! Sing!  “Giving Our Regards to Broadway.”  It’s just after the Tony Awards, and what better time to join the Southland’s engaging singalong in a tour through some of the most memorable Broadway songs as well as a sampling of the latest numbers on the Great White Way.  At Keyboard Concepts in West L.A. Sing! Sing! Sing!     (310) 990-2405.

Glen Campbell

- June 24. (Sun.)  Glen Campbell.  The Goodbye Tour.  Veteran singer/guitarist Campbell has produced 12 gold albums and 4 platinum albums while receiving a string of Grammy awards (including four in 1967).  A year ago, he announced he had been diagnosed with Altzheimer’s disease.  The Goodbye Tour, which he says will be his last, features the group Dawes, with Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams and others.  (323) 850-2000.  Hollywood Bowl.

 

San Francisco

- June 22. (Fri.)  Ceu.  Grammy-nominated Brazilian singer/songwriter Ceu has carved a unique musical pathway for herself, combining Brazilian roots rhythms with everything from soul and funk to afrobeat and electronica.  An SFJAZZ event at the Herbst Theatre.    (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- June 21 – 24. (Thur. – Sun.)  Spectrum Road.  After producing a spectacular climax to the Playboy Jazz Festival on Sunday night, Spectrum Road takes off for Seattle with their explosive reminders of drummer Tony Williams’ Lifetime group.  The band consists of bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Vernon Reid, keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. Click HERE to read iRoM’s review of the Playboy Jazz Festival and Spectrum’s Festival performance.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

Samson Schmitt

- June 20 – 24. (Wed. – Sun.) The Django Reinhardt New York Festival.  Featuring rising gypsy jazz star Samson Schmitt, guitarist son of the iconic Dorado Schmitt, leading a collective of European jazz artists.  They’ll be joined by a trio of the finest female jazz artists: Anat Cohen on Wed., Grace Kelly on Thurs. & Fri., and Cyrille Aimee on Sat. and Sunday.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- June 20 – 24. (Wed. – Sun.)  Barbara Carroll.  Jazz pianist/singer Carroll is still going strong at 87, her upbeat style recalling her high visibility in New York’s jazz clubs of the ‘50s and ‘60s. She performs with the stellar backing of Ken Peplowski, Jay Leonhart and Neal SmithDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

- June 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  McCoy Tyner and the Charles Tolliver Big band get together to recreate John Coltrane’s vital 1961 album, Africa Brass, more than fifty years after its original release.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

London

- June 21 – 23. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Jean Carne and Doug Carn.  Four decades ago, jazz and soul singer Carne and her then-husband, pianist/composer, Doug Carn, produced a series of fusion jazz and soul albums strongly influenced by John Coltrane. After decades in which their lives and music took different paths, they’re back with a Reunion Performance of their ‘70s classics. Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- June 20 – 23 (Wed. – Sat.)  Bob Mintzer Big Band.  A vital member of the Yellowjackets, saxophonist/composer Mintzer is also an innovative big band arranger, producing a book full of gripping arrangements for his collection of fine players. Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

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Jane Harvey photo by Tony Gieske.  Katia Moraes photo by Caesar Lima.


Picks of the Week: March 6 – 11

March 6, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

John Pisano

- Mar. 6. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s “Guitar Night.” Pisano takes his ever-entertaining, ever-popular  “Guitar Night” to a new venue.  To celebrate the move, the featured guest is veteran guitarist Mundell Lowe.  Lucy’s 51. Toluca Lake.  (818) 763-5200.

Mar. 6. (Tues.)  The Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.  Guitarist Bergara and his crew bring Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz firmly into the 21st century.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 6. (Tues.)  Hod O’Brien and Stephanie Nakasian.  Pianist O/Brien is one of the authentic beboppers, continuing to mine the still rich sounds and rhythms of bop for new musical discoveries.  Here, he also backs his wife, singer Nakasian. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 6. (Tues.)  The CJS Quintet in a “Tribute to Dexter Gordon.”  The CJS Quintat, always eager keep mainstream jazz alive and swinging, explore the muscular music of Dexter Gordon.  CJS is Chuck Johnson, saxes, James Smith, trumpet, Koji Ono, piano, Trevor Ware, bass, Kenny Elliott, drums. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 6 – 11. (Tues. – Sun.)  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Dance at its finest is a fundamental aspect of every performance by the Ailey dancers.  Three programs are offered, featuring Ailey classics and contemporary works.  Check website for schedule.   Segerstrom Hall  (714) 556-2787..

Jeffrey Kahane

Mar. 7. (Wed.)  Jeffrey Kahane and members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra present a 15th Anniversary Celebration of Kahane’s tenure as Director of the LACO.  The program showcases Kahane’s far reaching skills as a pianist in the Bach French Suite, the Brahms Piano Trio No. 1, a broad selection of Chopin works and a new Gabriel Kahane composition.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Mar. 7. (Wed.)  Tull, Korb, Proulx. An evening featuring a sterling trio of jazz instrumentalist/singers – drummer Dave Tull, bassist Kristen Korb, pianist John Proulx.  To read a recent iRoM review of a Proulx performance, click HEREVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Nellie McCay

- Mar. 9. (Fri.)  Nellie McKay.  Singer, pianist songwriter McKay is one of a kind, making every performance into a compelling creative adventure.  To read an iRoM review of a recent McKay performance, click HERE. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 10. (Sat.)  Cecelia Coleman Quartet. L.A. native Coleman, who has been living in New York, returns to remind us of the intriguing qualities of her piano style. She performs with trumpeter Steve Huffsteter, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Ramon Banda.   Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 11. (Sun.)  Billy Childs Quartet and the Kronos QuartetBill Frisell’s Beautiful Dreamers.  A fascinating evening of jazz and jazz-oriented chamber music.  The Childs Quartet and Kronos play individual sets and then combine to perform a Childs composition.  Frisell opens the show with the engaging sounds of his guitar, viola and drum trio.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

- Mar. 8 & 9.  (Thurs. & Fri.) Patricia Barber. Pianist, singer, songwriter Barber brings emotional and intellectual illumination to everything she plays and sings — whether it’s from the Great American Songbook or her own folio of works. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Mar. 10. (Sat.)  Lynne Arriale Trio.  Pianist Arriale combines an airy harmonic imagination with a briskly effervescent rhythmic feeling.  Yoshi’s San Francisco. .  The trio also appears at Jazz Alley in Seattle on Mar. 13 & 14.   (206) 441-0729.

- Mar. 10. (Sat.)  “Salute to Toots Thielemans.”  A stellar assemblage of players,  led by harmonica player Gregoire Maret, come together to celebrate the life and work of the one and only Toots.  The group also includes Oscar Castro-Neves, guitar, Kenny Werner, piano and Airto Moreira, percussion.  Herbst Theatre.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season event.  Salute to Toots Thielemans.  (866) 920-5299.

Chicago

David Sanchez

- Mar. 8 – 11. (Thurs. – Sun.)  David Sanchez Quartet. Puerto Rican-born Sanchez, one of the finest saxophonists of his generation, enhances his inventiveness with traces of his Caribbean roots.  Jazz Showcase (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Mar. 6 – 11. (Tues. – Sun.)  Freddy Cole Sextet.  Cole’s conversational vocal style is backed by the richly melodic improvising of saxophonist Harry Allen in a showcase of Cole’s new album, Talk To Me. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

- Mar. 6 & 7. (Tues. & Wed.)  Edmar Castaneda, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Miguel Zenon.  Expect musical fireworks from this encounter between Castaneda’s fiery harp playing, Rubalcaba’s adventurous piano work and Zenon’s far-ranging saxophone playing.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Berlin

- Mar. 8. (Thurs.)  Dino Saluzzi, Anja Lechner and Felix Saluzzi Trio. The trio of prominent Argentine musical artists – bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi, his saxophonist brother Felix Saluzzi and cellist Anja Lechner – assemble to play selections from their fine ECM album, Navidad de Los Andes.  A-Trane.   030/313 25 50.

Tokyo

Lou Donaldson

- Mar. 7 – 10. (Wed. – Sat.)  Lou Donaldson. The playing of veteran alto saxophonist Donaldson, still in rare form at 85, provides a compelling link to the bebop era of Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03-5485-0088.

Milan

- Mar. 10. (Sat.)  The Ron Carter Quartet. Bassist Carter, who has played with virtually every major jazz artist of the past five decades, steps out with a group reflecting his own musical thinking: pianist Renee Rosnes, percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos and drummer Payton Crossley.  The Blue Note Milan    02.69.01.68.88.

John Pisano photo by Bob Barry.

Nellie McCay poto by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: July 25 – 31.

July 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Justo Almario

- July 26. (Tues.)  Justo Almario Quartet.  Saxophonist/flutist Almario is one of the Southland’s great jazz treasures, a player who moves convincingly across every jazz arena. Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 27. (Wed.)  Gladys Knight and James Ingram.  The one and only Grammy-winning Empress of Soul shares the stage with the smooth sounds of balladeer Ingram.   Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2040.

- July 28. (Thurs.)  David Angel’s Saxtet.  Angel continues his quest to showcase the jazz saxophone in all its glories.   Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

- July 28. (Thurs.)  Red Baraat.  The band that has convincingly married the Punjabi bhangra percussion rhythms with spunky New Orleans brass makes its West Coast premiere appearance.  The Skirball Cultural Center.   Free.  Seating on first come basis.  (310) 440-4500.

Ann Hampton Callaway

- July 28 – July 30.  (Thurs. – Sun.) Ann Hampton Callaway.  Blessed with one of the jazz vocal world’s most gorgeous, emotionally pliant voices, Callaway is also a convincing pianist and a masterful musical storyteller. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- July 29. (Fri.)  Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos.  One of the major pop music breakthroughs of the past decade, the Grammy winning, platinum producing Lonely Boys share the stage with the older, more established, but no less compelling Los Lobos. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

- July 29. (Fri.)  John Proulx, Kristin Korb and Dave Tull. Trio’s like this don’t come along very often.  Pianist Proulx, bassist Korb and drummer Tull are all first rate instrumentalists  But each of them is also an appealing jazz vocalist.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- July 29 & 30. (Fri. & Sat.) Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television.  Pianist/singer Feinstein, who matches his musical adroitness with a dedication to the glories of American song, performs with Wayne Brady, Florence Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson and Dick Van Dyke.   Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

- July 30. (Sat.)  Trouble in Tahiti. The too-rarely seen Leonard Bernstein one-act opera receives a rare and unusual performance in a night club setting.  Jessica Marney and Phil Meyer star.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- July 30. (Sat.)  Shoghaken Ensemble and Tigran.  An evening overflowing with the colorful, far-reaching melodies and rhythms of Armenia.  Grand Performances.

(213) 687-2159.

- July 30. (Sat.)  Chuck Manning Quartet.  Versatile tenor saxophonist Manning brings an inventive point of view to his bop-influenced, straight ahead style.  His stellar backing includes Jay Daversa, trumpet, Pat Senatore, bass and Jimmy Branley, drums.  At 6:30 and 10:30, the Otmaro Ruiz duo.   Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

Peter Frampton

- July 30. (Sat.)  Peter Frampton.  One of the icons of classic rock, Frampton was a co-founder of the group Humble Pie when he was only eighteen.  Still a star, this time out he performs his multi-platinum album Frampton Comes Alive! in its entirety.  Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

- July 30 & 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival.  The 16th annual festival, always a showcase for the Southland’s finest, takes place in one of the founding places of Los Angeles jazz.  This year’s line up includes: on Saturday: Pete Escovedo, Kamasi Washington, the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, Karen A. Clark Project, Ashley Siris, Dorian Holley, The LAUSD All-City High School Jazz Band.  On Sunday: The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Katia Moraes and Sambaguru, Deacon Jones with Ray Goren, Ernie Andrews, Jazz America tribute to Buddy Collette.  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival takes place on Central Ave. between 42nd and 43rd streets.  Free.  (213) 473-2309.

San Francisco

New West Guitar Group

- July 27. (Wed.)  New West Guitar Group. A trio of gifted young guitarists – John Storie, Perry Smith and Jeff Stein, the New West players have thoroughly authenticated their ability to move freely and imaginatively across jazz, rock, folk and beyond.  Freight & Salvage.   http://www.thefreight.org  (510) 644-2020.

- July 29. (Fri.)  Lavay Smith’s Crazy in Love with Patsy Cline.  The one and only sultry siren finds entertaining common ground between jazz, blues and country.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.   (510) 644-2020.

- July 31 – 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Fab Four.  Tribute bands seem to be proliferating in every direction.  But none do a more entertaining job of it than the Fab Four’s ear and eye catching versions of the Beatrles. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

New York

- July 26 – 30. (Tues. – Sat.)  Leny Andrade“From Rio With Love.”  The title is great, but it doesn’t say it all.  Andrade, in fact, has for years been one of Brazil’s most proficient jazz vocal artists, combining her deep understanding of Brazilian rhythms with an equally inventive jazz style.  Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.

- July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Fourplay. Guitarist Chuck Loeb joined founding Fourplay members Bob James, keyboards, Nathan East, bass and Harvey Mason, drums in 2010.  The result has been a further musical enhancement of a group that has always had the ability to find the creative heart of whatever style they elect to play.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Claudia Acuna

- July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Claudia Acuna.  In a jazz world overflowing with talented female vocal artists, Acuna continues to soar freely at the highest levels of the art.  Chilean born, she mastered the basics quickly, but what makes her special is the way she has shaped her version of those basics into her own mesmerizing musical story telling. (212) 258-9800.   Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

Paris

- July 29. (Fri.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  Tenor and soprano saxophonist Coltrane has successfully accomplished the difficult task of creating his own convincing musical identity, expanding inventively from year to year, inspired but undistracted by the greatness of his father.  New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.

Justo Amario photo by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: June 14 – 19

June 14, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 14. (Tues.)  Motley Crue. L.A.’s heavy metal stars of the eighties (and beyond) take over the vast expanse of the Bowl for a tour through the many hits that have made them rock icons.   The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

- June 15. (Wed.)  Sachel Vasandani Quartet.  At a time when male jazz vocalists are in surprisingly short supply, Vasandani is carving an intriguing musical pathway of his own.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Angelique Kidjo

- June 16. (Thurs.)  Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N’Dour, Vusi Mahlasela.  A stellar ensemble of great African artists.  Count on them – and Kidjo in particular – to bestow an irresistible display of dynamic, musical excitement on their listeners.  The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.

- June 15. (Wed.)  Chuck Manning & Sal Marquez Quartet.  Two of the Southland’s most dependably hard swinging players team up for some straight ahead jamming.   Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- June 15 – 19.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The National Ballet of Cuba.  One of the world’s great classical ballet companies, the dancers’ performances reflect the exquisite style established by the founder, prima ballerina Alicia Alonso.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

- June 16. (Thurs.)  Mel Martin Quartet. Saxophonist Martin, who roves freely and impressively across the spectrum from bebop to avant-garde, makes a rare club stop in the Southland.  He’ll be backed by the equally versatile pianist Don Friedman, (who is also rarely seen in L.A., with bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La BarberaVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Hiromi.  The Trio Project.  Keyboardist Hiromi, always exploring new musical territory, has a go at the ever-changing vistas of the piano jazz trio.  She performs with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Steve SmithCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Harry Connick, Jr.

- June 17.   (Fri.) Hollywood Bowl Opening Night.  Opening nights at the Bowl are always memorable events, glowing with stars.  This year, there will be performances by 2011 Hall of Fame inductees Harry Connick, Jr. and Gloria Estefan.  Also on the program: an exclusive live sneak preview of Cirque du Soleil’s first Hollywood production, IRIS – A Journey Through the World of Cinema.  Dame Helen Mirren hosts the evening, and Andy Garcia and Hilary Swank will serve as guest presenters.  Thomas Wilkens conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2040.

- June 18. (Sat.)  Filipina Ladies of Jazz.   Following up on last year’s Filipino Gentlemen of Jazz, this year’s program features a splendid array of female Filipina artists.  Pauline Wilson (of the group Seawind) headlines.  She’ll be joined by two rising young artists, Nicole David (who will duet with her father, singer Mon David) and soul jazz singer Jaclyn Rose.  They’ll be backed by the band of saxophonist Michael Paulo.   Ford Amphitheatre.     (323) 461-3673.

- June 18. (Sat.) Rickey Woodard.   Saxophonist Woodard brings high spirited, hard swinging life to every note he plays.  This time out, he’s backed by the John Heard Trio. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- June 18. (Sat.)  Phil Norman Tentet.  Saxophonist Norman’s eminently listenable ensemble is also a briskly swinging show case for many of the Southland’s (and the world’s) finest composers and arrangers.  Add to that a line up of all-star players, and expect an evening of memorable little big band jazz.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Roseanna Vitro

- June 18. (Sat.)  Roseanna Vitro “The Randy Newman Project”  Vitro, always a fascinating jazz singer, expands her horizons with her new CD, in which she explores the far-ranging, emotionally diverse musical catalog of Randy Newman.  It’s a remarkable album, and the live performance of its selections should make for a compelling musical evening.   Jazz Bakery Moveable Feast at Musicians Institute Concert Hall.    (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

- June 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  Paula Morelenbaum.  Singer Morelenbaum’s deep linkage to the music of her Brazilian homeland in general, and to bossa nova in particular, reaches back to her work as a young singer with Antonio Carlos Jobim in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- June 18. (Sat.) Nikki Yanofsky. Still only 17, Yanofky’s recordings and live performances have convincingly established her as a rising star with extraordinary potential.   An SFJAZZ Spring Season concert at Herbst Hall.    (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ramsey Lewis“The Sun Goddess Tour.”  Keyboardist Lewis leads his electric band in a revisiting of the funk-driven sounds of his cross-over hit album, Sun Goddess.  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

Rudresh Mahanthappa

June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa.  Alto saxophonist Mahanthappa, who just received the Jazz Journalists Association Alto Saxophonist of the Year Award, His Indo-Pak Coalition, with Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer Dan Weiss is seeking, and finding, ways to synthesize jazz and the improvised musical forms of South Asia.  The results are often extraordinary.   Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- June 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Dave Brubeck Quartet.  What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about the Brubeck Quartet.  Hearing the group, playing classic selections as well as new ventures, is tapping into living jazz history.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- June 14 – 19.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Potter Underground.  One of the most consistently imaginative saxophonists of his generation, Potter leads a band filled with similarly adventurous players – drummer Nate Smith, guitarist Adam Rogers and bassist Fima EphronVillage Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- June 15 – 19. (Wed. – Sun.)  Monty Alexander and the Harlem-Kingston Express.  Pianist Alexander and his group survey the musically delightful linkages between up town jazz and the rhythms of the Caribbean.   Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.


Picks of the Week: April 5 – 10

April 4, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Junko Onishi

- April 5. (Tues.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She kicks off her American tour tonight with the backing of the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323)466-2210  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on April 6.)

- April 5. (Tues.)  Ostad Abbos Kosimov.  Traditional Uzbek and Tajik Percussion Music and Dance. Percussionist Kosimov is one of the world’s masters of the doyra frame drum.  He is joined by the CalArts Persian and World Music ensembles, as well as members of his own Abbos Ensemble in an exploration of the music of Uzbekistan.  Tara Pandeya adds the sensual movements of Central Asian dance.  REDCAT (213) 237-2800.

- April 5. (Tues.)  Lorenzo Lamas.  You may remember him as Jane Wyman’s evil stepson in Falcon Crest. But Lamas (yes, from that family) is also an effective musical purveyor of the romantic side of cabaret.  Vibrato Grill Jazz… (310) 474-9400. 

Kenny Burrell

- April 6. (Wed.) Kenny Burrell Jazz Heritage All Stars.  For once, the label “All-Stars” has real significance.  Veteran guitarist/educator Burrell puts it all together with trumpter (and also educator) Bobby Rodriguez, saxophonist Justo Almario, drummer Clayton Cameron and more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- April 6. (Wed.)  The Kronos Quartet. The creatively eclectic, Grammy winning string quartet celebrates composer Steve Reich’s 75th birthday with the performance of a newly commissioned work.   Segerstrom Center for the Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

Salif Keita

- April 6. (Wed.)  Salif Keita. The voice of Keita, with its soaring tones, penetrating sound and inspiring rhythms, is one of the great glories of African popular music.  The Conga Room.  (213) 745-0162.

- April 6. (Wed.) Blue Lou Marini.  Veteran New York saxophonist Marini makes one of his rare West Coast appearances, performing with trumpeter Walt Fowler, pianist John Campbell, bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Peter Erskine and special guests.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- April 7. (Thurs.)  Big Willie’s Burlesque.  Busy drummer Willie McNeil’s Quartet lays down some classic backbeat sounds to inspire the irresistible moves of dancer Carolina Cerisola.   They call it “old school burlesque with a cutting edge, Latin, new school vibe.”   The Edison Downtown.  (213) 613-0000.

- April 7. (Thurs.) V. R. Smith Sextet.  It’s a Smith Family Night.  With vocalist V.R. Smith backed by the band of her husband, bassist Putter Smith with Gary Foster alto saxophone, Chuck Manning, tenor saxophone, Jim Szilagyi, piano and Tim Pleasant, drums.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- April 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rachelle Ferrell.  Blessed with one of the most impressive voices in the jazz vocal world, Ferrell is also a uniquely appealing song stylist.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

Arlo Guthrie

- April 8. (Fri.)  Arlo Guthrie and Friends.  Folk music patriarch returns to UCLA, this time with his “Journey On” tour, featuring his son, Abe Guthrie and the folk-rock trio The Burns SistersUCLA Live.  Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.

- April 9. (Sat.)  Jazz Fundraiser for Japan.  Vitello’s April Williams has assembled an impressive collection of the Southland’s finest jazz artists for a 12 hour fundraiser for Japan.  Among the participants: Alan Pasqua, Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Darek Oles, Alex Acuna, the Wayne Bergeron Big Band, Denise Donatelli, Joe La Barbera, Larry Koonse, Tom Warrington, Bob Sheppard and many more.  11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 9. (Sat.) Plas Johnson.  Although he’s been a vital member of the Southland jazz community for decades, Johnson is best known for his memorable solo work on “The Pink Panther” theme.  But he’s got a lot more than that to offer.  He’ll be playing with pianist Tom Ranier, bassist John Giannelli and drummer Fritz WiseGiannelli Square.  (818) 772-1722.

- April 9. (Sat. ) Wind Soloists of New York and Pedja Muzijevic. The superb wind instrumentalists of this much praised ensemble join with pianist Muzijevic to perform a dynamic program of works by Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Prokofiev and Poulenc.  And they’ll do so in the elegant Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion.  The Da Camera Society.  (213) 477-2929.

- April 10 (Sun.)  Greta Metassa.  Seattle-based singer Metassa is far less known than she should be.  In this rare Southland appearance, she’ll deliver her beautifully crafted vocals  in a plush, private mini concert hall in Beverly Hills.   Hopefully, she’ll include songs from her latest CD, I Wanna be Loved.” Backing her: the world class rhythm section of pianist Mike Garson, bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Bob Leatherbarrow.  To book seats, click on Resonance Records.   Address will be given when the reservation is made.

San Francisco

- April 6. (Wed.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She’ll be backed by the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory HutchinsonYoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

Madeleine Peyroux

- April 8. (Fri.)  Madeleine Peyroux.  Moving beyond the Billie Holiday musical frame that had narrowed her music for too long, Peyroux is now finding her own way, as unique musical persona and an intriguing songwriter.  SF Jazz Spring Season.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (415) 398-5655.

- April 9. (Sat.)  Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester.  The music of the twenties and thirties comes vividly back to life in the hands of Raabe and his extraordinarily versatile musicians.  Always as musically provocative as they are entertaining, they’re one of a kind. SFJAzz Spring Season.  Paramount Theatre, Oakland. .

- April 10. (Sun.)  The Asaad Brothers Da Volta as Raizes” Offspring of a famouns musical family, the two guitar duo of the Asaad brothers play everything from Bach transcriptions and gypsy jazz to Brazilian samba and the music of the Middle East.  SFJAZZ Spring Season. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  (415) 398-5655.

New York

Toshiko Akiyoshi

- April 4 (Mon.) Fund Raising Concert For Japan. The New York jazz community steps up to play a concert in support of the beleaguered people of Japan. Toshiko Akiyoshi; Cecil Bridgewater; Sam Burtis; Jerry Dodgion; Roy Hargrove; Tom Harrell; Barry Harris; Fred Hersch; Rene Manning; Earl McIntyre; Jimmy Owens; Rufus Reid; Marvin Stamm; Lew Tabackin; Kenny Werner and many othersThe Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- April 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)  Toots Thielemans with Kenny Werner and Oscar Castro-Neves.  As if that weren’t enough, Werner will also do a set each night with his Quintet featuring Lionel Loueke and Miguel ZenonThe Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

- April 8. (Fri.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa’s “Gama.” With David Fiuczynski, guitar, Francois Moutin, bass and Dan Weiss, drums.  Altoist Mahanthappa and Fiuczynski have been working together lately in Jack DeJohnette’s band.  Here they dip into some of the fascinating improvisational territory between jazz and Indian music.  Cornelia St. Café.  (212) 989-9319.


Picks of the Week: Mar. 22 – 27

March 21, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Lisa McClowry

- Mar. 22. (Tues.)  Lisa McClowry.  Eclectic singer McClowry –nominated for International Vocalist of the Year in the 2011 Wave Awards — ranges freely across pop, rock, jazz and folk boundary lines.  She’ll be backed by a group that features guitarist/singer/Grammy winning songwriter Jim Peterik. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 22. (Tues.)  Alfredo Rodriguez Trio. The brilliant young Cuban pianist, a protégé of Quincy Jones, returns to Vibrato a year after he made his first impressive debut at the Bel Air club.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of that performance.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 22. (Tues.)  Barry Manilow in Concert.  Singer/pianist/songwriter Manilow, one of the icons of American pop, performs on a program supporting the work of the Reprise Theatre Company.  Royce Hallhttp://www.uclalive.org/calendar/event_detail.asp?id=111 (310) 825-2101.

Andre Watts

- Mar. 23. (Wed.)  Andre Watts. A prodigy at the age of nine, pianist Watts has matured into a gifted artist, especially adept at interpreting the dramatic piano repertoire of Franz Liszt.  In this performance, he concentrates completely upon Liszt compositions. Performing a program of Liszt.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562)  916-8501.

- Mar. 23. (Wed.)  Chuck Berghofer’s Midnight Jazz Band. Bergohofer  could easily have included “All-Star” in the name of this stellar ensemble. With Berghofer, bass, Gary Foster, saxophones, Terry Trotter, piano, and Joe LaBarbera, drums, expect to hear imaginative jazz improvising at its best.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

- Mar. 24. (Thurs.)  The Lori Bell Quartet.  Flutist Bell leads her group in a celebration of pianist Dave MacKay’s birthday.  They’re backed by the solid rhythm team of  Bob Magnussen, bass and Paul Kreibich, drums.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crown Plaza LAX.  (310) 258-1333.

- Mar. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Christian McBride Quartet. The versatile, musically imaginative bassist makes one of his rare L.A. club appearances in the company of  Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, Warren Wolf, vibes, Peter Martin, piano and Carl Allen, drums.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

Sarah Chang

- Mar. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kurt Masur, Sarah Chang and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Masur’s sturdy, dependable baton leads the L.A. Phil in a program of 19th century classics by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Dvorak.  The gifted young violinist Sarah Chang performs the Brahms Violin Concerto. Disney Concert Hall.  (213) 972-7211.

- Mar. 25. (Fri.) Michael Wolff Quartet.  Pianist Wolff’s adventurous career resume includes a long run as the bandleader on the Arsenio Hall Show, a co-starring role with his two sons on The Naked Brothers television series and the leadership of his musically eclectic Impure Thoughts group.  This time out, he displays his solid, straight ahead jazz talents in the solid company of Bob Sheppard, saxophones, John B. Williams, bass and Mike Clark, drums.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 25. (Fri.)  Tord Gustavsen Ensemble. Norwegian pianist Gustavsen, bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad illuminate the piano trio lineage reaching through Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett with a unique blend of European subtleties and classic improvisational drive.  The Skirball Center.  (310) 440-4500.

- Mar. 25. (Fri.) David Crosby and Graham Nash.  The classic sounds of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young simmer with strikingly engaging authenticity in the still enchanting singing and playing of two iconic musical figures of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Long Beach Terrace Theatre.   (562) 436-3636.

- Mar. 26. (Sat.)  Jim Hall Quartet.  The veteran guitarist celebrates his 80th birthday (a few months late) in a far too rare appearance in Los Angeles.  He’ll be backed by a generation crossing ensemble: alto saxophonist Greg Osby, bassist Steve Laspina and drummer Joey Baron.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast concert at Musicians Institute Concert Center.  (310) 271-9039.

Leni Stern

- Mar. 26. (Sat.)  Leni Stern. Singer guitarist Stern has been described as “Marlene Dietrich borrowing Billie Holiday’s phrasing.”  And that doesn’t begin to fully portray the far-reaching musical interests of Stern, who also brings a rich affection for African roots music to her own inventive vocal and instrumental explorations. The Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Mar. 26. (Sat.)  Tom Peterson and Don Rader Quartet.  Saxophonist Peterson and trumpeter Rader are first call players for every kind of jazz setting, from small groups to big bands.  But here they step to the front of the stage to stretch out in their own musical setting. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Oliver Mtukudzi

- Mar. 26. (Sat.)  Acoustic AfricaHabib Koite, Oliver Mtukudzi. Afel Bocoum. The return of Acoustic Africa in a second incarnation showcases the imaginative sounds of the guitar in African music.  Koite, a superstar from Mali, Mtukudzi, the best-selling artist in Zimbabwe, and Bocoum, a Malian traditionalist perform with the companionship of a traditional African band.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall (310) 825-2101.

- Mar. 27. (Sun.) “Awakening: Spring and Otherwise.” Singer  Susan Krebs hosts an afternoon of music & song, poetry & spoken word.  With Rich Eames, Jerry Kalaf, Ken Wild and special guests Chuck Manning, Cory O’Brien and projectionist Marc RosenthalThe Skylight Theatre. 3 p.m.   (702) 582-8587.

New York

- May 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.) The Bill Charlap Trio.  Scion of a musical family, pianist Charlap has taken his family’s creative torch and carried it into ever-fascinating new musical territories.  He performs with Peter Washington and Kenny WashingtonDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.  (212) 258-9800.

- May 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.) Charlie Haden’s Quartet West with Haden, bass, Ernie Watts, saxophones, Alan Broadbent, piano and Rodney Green, drums, celebrates its 25th anniversary, as well as the release of their new CD, Sophisticated Ladies. Birdland (212) 581-3080.

Jeff Lorber

- Mar. 23 & 24. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Jeff Lorber Fusion.  When keyboardist Lorber formed his group Fusion in the late seventies, he created a model that eventually led to contemporary jazz and smooth jazz.  But Lorber himself has always retained his connection with the solid jazz skills at the heart of his music. Iridium.   (212) 582-2121.

- Mar. 25. (Fri.)  Jon Irabagon.  Saxophonist Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition has been fully authenticating that achievement in the past two years, forging an impressive personal musical pathway.  He performs in the demanding bass and drum format, backed by bassist John Hebert and drummer Mike Pride.  Cornelia St. Café. (212) 989-9319.

- Mar. 27. (Sun.)  Jazz Guitars Meet Hendrix. Jimmy Hendrix has always been an inspiration and a challenge to jazz guitarists.  Here, a pair of guitarists deeply inspired by Hendrix — Sheryl Bailey and Vic Juris – take on the incendiary challenges of  his music.  They’re backed by Lincoln Goines, bass and Anthony Pinciotti, drums.  55 Bar.  (212) 929-9883.

San Francisco

- Mar. 24. (Thurs.)  “How Sweet the Sound” With Jane Siberry, Barbara Higbie and Linda Tillery.  “Sweet” will only begin to describe the sounds, rhythms and emotions produced by this extraordinary trio of musicians:  Siberry, the hit-making (“Calling All Angels”) singer/songwriter; Grammy-nominated pianist and long-time Windham Hill star Higbie; and Tillery, leader of the Cultural Heritage Choir, percussionist and a masterful blender of soul, blues, gospel and jazz.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 15 – 20.

December 15, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Dec. 15. (Wed.) Chuck Manning and Sal Marquez Quartet. A pair of L.A.’s most solidly dependable swingers go horn to horn in an evening guaranteed to keep your jazz soul alive. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 15. (Wed.) Jules Day. Rising young jazz star Day celebrates the release of her new CD, Day Dreams. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Katja Rieckermann

- Dec. 16. (Thurs,.) Katja Rieckermann. German-born alto saxophonist has been one of the favorite back-up players for the likes of Randy Newman, Carole King, Al Green and, most recently, Rod Stewart. She clearly knows where the groove is. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 16. (Thurs.) John Proulx Holiday Music. Singer/pianist Proulx applies his amiable musical blend to a program of mid-winter classics. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- Dec. 16. (Thurs.) The Vivino Bros. The blues-driven Vivino brothers — saxophonist Jerry and guitarist Jimmy — from the Conan O’Brien show make their first L.A. appearance. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

- Dec. 16 – 18. (Thurs. – Sat.) Andy Williams. He’s back. And that’s good news, since the holiday season is never quite complete without the still sweet sound of the venerable balladeer singing Christmas classics. Orange County Performing Arts Center.  (714) 556-2787.

- Dec. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.) Los Angeles Philharmonic with pianist Robert Levin. Nicholas McGegan conducts the L.A. Phil. In a program reaching from Haydn’s Symphony No. 93 to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, with pianist Levin. Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.  .

- Dec. 17. (Fri.) Inner Voices. The Southland’s primo vocal ensemble combines a celebration of the holidays with selections from their brand new CD, Valentine.. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Debby Boone and John Davidson

- Dec. 17. (Fri.) Debby Boone and John Davidson. “Christmas Memories” A pair of show business veterans get together to bring musical joy to the holiday season. And no doubt Boone’s memorable version of “You Light Up My Life” will be on the program. Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University.  (310) 506-4522.

- Dec. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.) Ben Vereen. When he’s on stage as a solo act, there’s more talent up there than there would be with a crowd of most performers. Vereen can do it all, and he doesn’t do many night club dates. So don’t miss this one. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

Bob Sheppard

- Dec. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.) Bob Sheppard. The gifted saxophonist/flutist has a busy weekend. On Fri. he performs with the Pat Senatore Trio at Vibrato. On Sat. he’ll play selections from his new CD, Close Your Eyes with Alan Pasqua, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Gabe Noel, bass and Steve Hass, drums. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 19. (Sun.) Los Angeles Master Chorale. Join the LAMC in the ultimate pleasure for frustrated vocalists, the Messiah Singalong. Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 19. (Sun.) Dave Koz and Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour. Saxophonist Koz and is pals have a lock on the franchise for smooth jazz Christmas sounds. This year’s lineup includes Jonathan Butler, Brian Culbertson, Candy Dulfer and others. Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.  (213) 763-6320.

- Dec. 20. (Mon.) “Candlelight Carols” Judy Wolman’s Sing! Sing! Sing!. If the Messiah’s a bit of a reach for your vocal skills, never fear. Judy’s singalongs are welcome experiences for everyone, and never more so than when you’re singing Christmas Carols in a candle lit room. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Maria Muldaur

Dec. 15. (Wed.) Maria Muldaur’s Christmas Show. She started out as a folkie in the Greenwich Village ’60s, but Muldaur’s always been a lot more eclectic than that. She’ll add selections from her latest album, Yes We Can, to her Christmas program. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

Dec. 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.) Hiroshima. Together for three decades, Hiroshima is still one of the unique sounds in comtemporary music, blending jazz, pop and rock with traditional Japanese sounds. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Dec. 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.) John Pizzarelli Quartet. Pizzarelli’s pretty much established himself as an appealing, contemporary guitar and voice version of the Nat “King” Cole pop jazz style.  Birdland. (212) 591-3080.

- Dec. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.) Samba Jazz & the Bossa Nova Years. One could hardly ask for a more authentic approach to samba, jazz and bossa than this impressive line-up will provide. Featuring Duduka Da Fonseca, Helio Alves, Maucha Adnet, Romero Lubambo, Claudio Roditi and George Mraz. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9800.

Chris Botti

- Dec. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.) Chris Botti begins his annual three week holiday run at the Blue Note. Two shows a night for 21 consecutive nights. And every one of them will be a night to remember.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Dec. 16. (Thurs.) Rebecca Martin. Singer/songwriter Martin, who matches her engaging musical skills with equally determined social activism, performs tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry and her husband, bassist Larry Grenadier. Jazz Standard. (212) 576-2232.

Dec. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.) Rez Abbasi’s Invocation. Guitarist Abbasi has assembled a band with high powered creative potential. With Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto saxophone, Johannes Weidenmueller, bass, Dan Weiss, drums. Cornelia St. Café. (818) 989-9319.


LIVE JAZZ: The Playboy Jazz Festival Free Community Concert at Warner Park featuring Oleta Adams, the Sal Marquez Quintet, Tizer and the Calabasas High School Jazz Band A

June 10, 2010

by Devon Wendell

The 32nd annual Playboy Jazz festival ended this year’s free community concert series at Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills on Sunday 6th with a ceremony of soul, gospel, post-bop, and pop jazz hosted by KJAZZ’s LeRoy Downs.

Kicking off the show, the 25 piece Calabasas High School Jazz Band A under the watchful eye of conductor and instructor Joshua Barroll played its last gig before graduation. And they proved how well they’d done their homework with a diverse set of big band classics, opening with Harold Arlen’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” featuring trombonist Cole Weatherson’s tasty solo around the melody line.

The nervous but focused band of teens also swung their way through Jelly Roll Morton’s “Black Bottom Swamp,” the Moten Brother’s “Moten Swing” and an imaginative big band twist on Pat Metheny’s “It’s Just Talk,” showcasing strong solos by tenor saxophonist Max Gaspin, trumpeter Jason Schrieber and clarinetist Nick Latman. But it was the timeless guidance of Duke Ellington that could be felt in every selection — especially in the blend of the master’s own “Dukish”/”Rockin’ In Rhythm,” with strong, Duke-like economical piano playing by Michael Cusano.

Sal Marquez and Chuck Manning

Up next: veteran trumpet player Sal Marquez’s Quintet, featuring tenor saxophonist Chuck Manning, electric guitarist Rick Zunigar, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Steve Haas, was a good band that took a while to find its focus.

On Marquez’s rendition of Miles Davis’ “If I Were A Bell” (from Marquez’s tribute to Miles, One For Dewey), Marquez’s muted trumpet solo felt too close to Davis’ 1956 recording. And Manning, following along, dove right into blatant Traneisms without displaying his own musical identity.

Steve Haas and Rick Zunigar were the early standouts in this group, playing with unparalleled imagination and energy. On Joe Henderson’s “Punjab,” Haas’s original sense of rhythmic coloring and Zunnigar’s inspiring ability to play both tight rhythm and aggressive lead guitar simultaneously drew attention away from everything around them.

Unfortunately, Marquez and Manning didn’t get around to playing their best, meeting Haas and Zunigar’s energy level, until the two closing numbers, the highlight of the set. The first was a stark version of Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin’,” the second was Joe Henderson’s “Mojo” – a pair of tunes in which the entire band was starting to gel and feed off of each other. Marquez’s solo on “Mojo” was brilliant, simmering with Lee Morgan-like slurs and an impeccable sense of space and dynamics. But, sadly, when it was over, there was no more time left to stretch out any further.

After a short break, keyboardist Lao Tizer took the stage with his self-titled band Tizer. From the opening number “Uptown,” it was apparent that the group (keyboardist Lao Tizer, guitarist Jeff Kollman, bassist Andre Manga, drummer Raul Pineda and Steve Nieves on saxophone, percussion, and vocals) would be quick to fall back on overdone rock and smooth jazz clichés.

“Fire and Ice” had a Latin rock fusion feel that started off strong, driven by Pineda’s bombastic drumming. But it soon fell into overindulgence. Kollman’s guitar solo sounded like another jazz rocker going for that Santana sound. Tizor alternated between synthetic Fender Rhodes and clavinet keyboard presets ala Herbie Hancock. Though melodic and funky at times, his playing gave the impression that it was being held down by the stale compositions.  The rhythm team of Manga and Pineda with Nieves adding tasteful percussion, seemed as though they were waiting for something to inspire them. And Nieves’s soprano sax work gave the music a Kenny G, feel, especially on “Diversity,” in which he added some schmaltzy upper register, pop-jazz scat singing.

The band ended its thankfully short set with “What It Is,” featuring special guest Jeff “Big Red” Marshall on guitar. Feeling at first like Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way,” era fusion, it quickly moved into the marketable realms of light jazz. Manga’s slap bass and the wailing guitar solos from Kollman and Marshall felt forced and lacked focus. Which, unfortunately, summed up Tizer’s whole set – a set in which these talented musicians seemed to play with constraint instead of inspiration.

Oleta Adams

Headlining the show, Oleta Adams took the stage with grace, elegance, and confidence. Backed by her slick and soulful band, consisting of guitarist Harrah, bassist John Peña and drummer John Cushon, Adams sat at the grand piano and began with “Feelin’ Good” (from her latest CD, Let’s Stay Here). The tune immediately established Adams’s one-of-a-kind, thick vibrato and her aggressive, gospel-tinged piano playing.

The dichotomy between her often mournful vocals and her songs of joy, hope, romance and survival proved to be a powerful mix on numbers such as “I Hope You Dance,” “Picture You The Way I Do,” and “Rhythm Of Life,”  Too often, however, the band was also subtle and funky in the same way, sticking to a set theme and mood for each song. And the pre-recorded backing vocals were both distracting and unnecessary, especially so, given the power of her own vocal delivery.

Adam’s slow, sexy, no-nonsense reading of Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind” was the most powerful performance of the evening. It no doubt would have charmed the “Piano Man” and it surely left all the Big Apple deserters in the crowd feeling home sick. The hip churning r&b mood continued with “Let’s Stay Here,” dedicated to her drummer and husband John Cushon. The song combined romance and joy, and Adams’s interpretation fit the lyrics of the song — “sipping Mojitas and listening to Miles.” Her strength as a pianist equaled the power of her vocals.  On Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” she sang of yearning and loneliness with sincerity and raw sensuality.

The show closed with a slower version of Adam’s first hit from 1990 — Brenda Russell’s “Get Here” – in which she started off singing solo with her piano as the band came in softly at just the right moment. Her encore was the up-tempo gospel number “Act of Forgiveness,” which was intended, she said,” to get the audience “up and dancing,” And it did – like a cool breeze after a hot day. Adams’ fusion of positive jazz and gospel-inspired soul was the perfect way to wrap up an event filled with joyful traditions, musical adventure, and fun.

Sal Marquez and Chuck Manning photo by Tony Gieske


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