Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 26

January 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Jan.21. (Tues.) The Pat Senatore Trio. Bassist Senatore, Josh Nelson, piano, and Mark Ferber, drums, assemble to celebrate a CD release party for the Trio’s new album, Ascensione. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

Aaron Weinstein

Aaron Weinstein

- Jan. 22. (Wed.) Aaron Weinstein. Violinist Weinstein, still not a highly visible jazz artist, is rapidly establishing himself as one of his instrument’s rare jazz masters. Click HERE to read an earlier iRoM review of Weinstein. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 22 – 24. (Wed- Fri.) Lenny White and Friends. Eclectic drummer White, a vital veteran of Return to Forever, leads his own solid ensemble, including bassists Foley and Victor Bailey, woodwind player Bennie Maupin and keyboardist George Colligan. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

John Proulx

John Proulx

- Jan. 23. (Thurs.) John Proulx Trio. He’s a fine pianist and an in-demand rhythm section player. And Proulx is now beginning to prove his skills as a fine interpretive jazz singer, as well. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Master Chorale performs the Bach B Minor Mass in an interpretation that Music Director Grant Gershon says will “blow the roof off Disney Hall.”  (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) Average White Band. More than 40 years after their arrival on the pop music scene the A.W.B. still conjurs up an irresistible blend of funk, soul and r&b. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

- Jan. 25. (Sat.) Chita Rivera: A Legendary Celebration. And, yes, Rivera is indeed one of the musical theatre’s most unique, memorable and legendary performers. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra offer an inviting program of Mozart & Beethoven. On Saturday at the Alex Theatre.  On Sunday at Royce Hall.

- Jan. 26. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe. Grammy-nominated Cunliffe offers a “Night at the Grammys with a stellar ensemble – saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Adam Czerwinski.  (818) 769-0905.  Vitello’s.

 San Francisco

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter

- Jan. 24. (Fri.) Cameron Carpenter. Organist Carpenter is one of classical music’s most dynamic performers, bringing an astounding blend of virtuosic technique and entertaining showmanship to everything he plays. SFJAZZ at Grace Cathedral.  (866) 920-5299.


Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

- Jan. 21 – 22. (Tues. – Wed.) Grace Kelly with the Marc Seales Trio. A jazz saxophone prodigy as a teen-ager, Kelly – now 21 – has matured into a gifted creative artist. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

 New York City

- Jan. 22 & 23. (Wed. & Thurs.) Pat Martino and Eldar. A cross generational team – veteran guitarist Martino and talented young pianist Eldar – get together in search of common improvisational ground. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.


- Jan. 23-25 (Thurs. – Sat.) Paolo Fresu Special Quartet. Italian trumpeter/flugelhornist Fresu has assembled an aggregation of some of Europe’s finest jazz players, among them Paolo Russo, piano, Thomas Fonnesbaek, bass, and Alex Riel, drums. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.


Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- Jan. 23 – 25. (Thurs. – Sat.) Diane Schuur. “Deedles,” as she is known by friends, fans and musicians alike, continues to sing with the Sarah Vaughan influenced style that has characterized her imaginative work ever since Stan Getz discovered her in the late ’70s. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.


Jan. 23 & 24. (Thurs. & Fri.) Avishai Cohen Trio. Israeli jazz bassist Cohen – not the Israeli jazz trumpeter by the same name – leads his new trio in a rare Japanese appearance. The Blue Note Tokyo. +81 3-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Mar. 27 – 31.

March 26, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sascha's Bloc Band

Sascha’s Bloc Band

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

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

Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield

Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charmaine Clamor

Charmaine Clamor

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

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

San Francisco

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


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

New York City

Kyle Eastwood

Kyle Eastwood

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

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


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


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


Tuck & Patti

Tuck & Patti

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

Live Jazz: Sinne Eeg Upstairs at Vitello’s

January 13, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  One of the great pleasures of writing about music arises on those rare occasions when a relatively unknown artist makes an unheralded, but irresistibly appealing first appearance.

As happened Friday night in the performance of Danish singer Sinne Eeg (pronounced ‘Seen-uh Eeg) at Vitello’s upstairs jazz room.  Although Eeg is a highly regarded jazz artist in Europe, she is little known in the U.S., and the Vitello’s gig was one of her initial performances in this country.

Sinne Eeg with Roger Neumann, Larry Koonse, Darek Oles and Peter Erskine

In a two set program encompassing standards as well as her own originals, she sang with the enthusiastic support of saxophonist Roger Neumann, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine.  The lyrics, as well as her between song comments, were delivered in flawless English.  Sinne’s choice of material embraced a range of songs demanding rich interpretive skills, lyrically, musically and dramatically.  And she delivered, on all counts.

Sinne Eeg

Sinne Eeg

There were far too many high points to mention them all.  But some should be noted.  In the first set, she quickly displayed her extraordinary improvisational scatting in a delightful romp through “It Might As Well Be Spring” and a briskly rhythmic “What A Little Moonlight Can Do.”  Her balladry was equally appealing on “Detour Ahead” and her own tune, “Last Ride.”

The second set was even more impressive, featuring another pair of beautifully crafted originals – the lovely “My Treasure,” sung with Oles’ sensitive bass accompaniment, and the equally memorable “Love Is A Time of Year.” She also offered her exquisite renderings of six more standards, reaching from a bossa nova version of  “Secret Love” and a jaunty take on “Better Than Anything” to an intimate reading of  “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” (Too bad the Bergmans weren’t in the audience; they would have loved Sinne’s interpretation.)

As she sang one mesmerizing tune after another, I couldn’t help but wonder why this remarkable jazz artist has had such minimal visibility outside of Europe.  She has released six albums in the past ten years – the latest being The Beauty of Sadness in which she performs with a full orchestra.  And both her recorded and her live performances merit the full attention of jazz fans (and jazz journalists) around the world.

Sinne is one of the rare jazz vocalists who fully deserve the label of “musicians’ musician.  Why?  Because everything she sings issues from a treasure trove of interpretive story telling and multi-layered musicality.  In this performance, her scatting reached far beyond the white-note be-bopping characteristic of many – maybe even most – jazz singers.  Sinne, who played alto saxophone as a youth – scatted with the adventurous harmonic subtlety and rhythmic drive of a world class horn player.  And she did so while remaining in full contextual contact with the inner meaning of a song.

The name – Sinne Eeg – maybe hard to remember, at first.  But anyone who listens to her album, The Beauty of Sadness, as well as her similarly appealing Don’t Be Blue, or hears her in live performance will have no difficulty recalling either the name or the unforgettable music of this remarkable artist.  If there’s any justice in the world, Grammy nominations will be beckoning to Sinne in 2013 and beyond.

Performance photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: Jan. 7 – 13

January 8, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ariana Savalas

Ariana Savalas

- Jan. 9.  (Wed.)  Ariana Savalas and Corky Hale.  Yes, the name “Savalas” is familiar; Ariana is the daughter of the veteran actor Telly Savalas.  But as a singer, she has an appealing style that is uniquely her own.  She’s backed by the musically supportive accompaniment of pianist/harpist Hale. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  Betty Bryant.  Singer/pianist Betty Bryant gives another seminar in jazz piano and vocals, as entertaining and swinging as she is musically inventive.  H.O.M.E.  Beverly Hills.   (310) 271-4663.

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  John Beasley.  Pianist/composer Beasely begins a January residency at the Blue Whale, starting with a duo with the unique vocalist Dwight TribleThe Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.) Gerald Wilson Orchestra. At 94, arranger/composer/bandleader Wilson still brings his Orchestra vividly to life everytime he gives the down beat on one of his memorable arrangements.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Amadeus Leopold

Amadeus Leopold

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.)  Amadeus Leopold.  The brilliant young Korean violinist Leopold – whose original name was Hahn-Bin – applies his technical prowess and emotional imagination to a uniquely imaginative view of the classical repertoire.  CAP UCLA.  Royce Hall.

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.)  Ibrahim Maalouf Quintet. (Concert cancelled due to visa problems.) Lebanese trumpeter Maalouf effectively blends Arabic traditional sounds and rhythms with contemporary jazz funk and roots rock.  Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 11. (Fri.)  Sinne Eeg.  Highly praised Danish singer Eeg performs with the stellar backing of Larry Koonse, Peter Erskine, Darek Oles and Roger NeumannVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 11. (Fri.)  Los Lobos. The multiple Grammy-winning band from East L.A. continues to continue to find linkages between Chicano rock, Tex-Mex, r&b and traditional Hispanic styles.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan

- Jan. 11 – 13. (Fri. – Sun.)  Lainie Kazan.  Actress/singer Kazan’s checkered career reaches from understudying Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl to dozens of high visibility film roles.  But she’s also a uniquely gifted singer with a lush sound and a gift for richly emotional interpretations of the book of standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  Steve Ross.  Puttin’ on the Ritz.  “The Music of Fred Astaire.  Singer Ross presents a cabaret show to remember, with some of the greatest songs from film musicals.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Curtis Stigers

Curtis Stigers

- Jan. 13. (Sun.)  Curtis Stigers & His Band.  Saxophonist/singer Stigers has spent most of his career emphasizing his vocal skills, producing some memorable, jazz-tinged, charting songs since the release of his self-titled, platinum debut recording in 1991.  Kirk Douglas Theatre.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 13. (Sun.)  Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour.  The MJF prides itself on the iconic line up of performers for the annual September Festival programs.  And here’s an equally iconic group of artists – Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Lewis Nash, Chris Potter and Ambrose Akinmusire – proudly carrying the MJF banner in the off season.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.   (The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour also performs at the Valley Performing Arts Center on Jan. 23.

San Francisco

Wesla Whitfield

Wesla Whitfield

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  Wesla Whitfield with the Mike Greensil Trio.  Whitfield has been offering her view of the Great American Songbook for more than three decades, most often with the backing of her husband, pianist Greensil.  Together they provide an irresistible evening of memorable music.Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Jan. 10.  (Thurs.) Janis Ian.  Singer/songwriter Ian made her breakthrough with “Society’s Child” in the mid-‘60s, followed by her Grammy Award-winning “At Seventeen” in the mid-‘70s.  At 81, she’s still going strong.  City Winery.    (212) 608-0555.

- Jan. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  The 2013 NYC Winter Jazzfest.  Six venues around Greenwich Village feature performers such as James Carter, Monty Alexander, Claudia Acuna, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi and numerous others, young and mature.  The Winter Jazzfest.

Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli

Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli

- Jan. 11 – 14. (Fri. – Mon.) “And Then She Wrote.”  With Peter Marshall, Carol Welsman and Denise Donatelli.  Emmy Award-winner singer/actor Marshall has created an entertaining overview of the many memorable songs in the Great American Songbook written by women.  And he couldn’t have chosen a better pair of singers to join him in a delightful evening of music, dance and humor than Juno Award nominee Welsman and Grammy nominee Donatelli.   Click HERE to read an iRoM review of the Los Angeles performance of And Then She Wrote.”  The Metropolitan Room.   (212) 206-0440.

- Jan. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli.  Straighten Up and Fly Right: A Tribute to Nat “King” Cole.  What a great combination: the spirited piano work of Lewis, the lively singing and guitar of Pizzarelli, and the great book of songs associated with Nat Cole.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Washington D.C.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

- Jan. 8. (Tues.)  Grace Kelly.  Korean/American alto saxophonist and singer Kelly, who just turned 20 in 2012, has firmly established herself as one of the gifted jazz artists of her generation.  Blues Alley.     (202) 337-4141.


- Jan. 9 & 10.  (Wed, & Thurs.)  Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.  Described in the ‘90s by the New York Times as the “best organ trio of the last decade,” the Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart combination continues to get better and better.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.


- Jan. 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  “A Tribute to Anita O’Day.”   Signe Juhl and the Nikolaj Bentzon 3. Singer Juhl, backed by pianist Bentzon’s prime trio, celebrates the lively musical history of Anita O’Day.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 263 267.


- Jan. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Tania Maria.  Grammy-nominated Brazilian singer/pianist and composer has been described as Brazil’s finest native jazz artist.  At 64, she continues to produce memorable recordings and live performances.  The Blue Note Milano.     02.6901 6888.

Live Jazz: The Carol Robbins Sextet Upstairs at Vitello’s

September 24, 2012

By Don Heckman

Among the many instruments listed in jazz polls as “miscellaneous,” the harp is surely one of the most rare participants. As unlikely an actual jazz voice as it may seem, however, the instrument has been played in strikingly innovative fashion by the likes of Alice Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby, Corky Hale and Betty Glamann (among a very few others).

Carol Robbins

Add Carol Robbins to that list.

A busy L. A. studio player whose resume embraces everything from film, television and recordings to celebrity weddings, she has also gradually positioned herself as an intriguing jazz harpist, composer and band leader. On Sunday night at Vitello’s, all those skills were on full display in a performance celebrating the release of her new CD, Moraga.

Her six piece ensemble was a congregation of state of the art Southland players including – in addition to Robbins – guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Billy Childs, saxophonist Rob Lockart, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Dan Schnelle. Childs, Koonse and Oles are on the recording. And most of the evening’s generous, two hour program was devoted to selections from Moraga.

Billy Childs and Larry Koonse

Starting the evening with four original works, Robbins introduced the essence of her style, as composer, player and leader. Each piece was articulately conceived, ranging from crisp jazz lines to lush, floating impressionist harmonies.

Darek Oles and Rob Lockart

Soloing was intrinsic to each work. Childs was the principal soloist in the first two, his far reaching dissonances and surging rhythms providing gripping counterpoint to the layered emotions of Robbins’ writing.

Dan Schnelle

For the balance of the program, the close wedding of composition and improvisation was essential to Robbins’ compositional perspective. And with soloists such as Lockart, Koonse and Oles, strongly supported by Schnelle’s propulsive – but never intrusive, drumming – the music unfolded like the mesmerizing chapters of a much loved novel.

Among the high points: The intimate dueting between Koonse (especially on acoustic guitar) and Robbins, the blending textures of their strings and the lyrical interplay of their solo lines on pieces such as “Dolore” and “Mojave.” Robbins’ exquisite rendering of the Cole Porter classic, “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” her instrumental expressions perfectly recalling the poignant lyrics.

Equally remarkable was the way in which she brought Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Caminhos Cruzados” to life, playing the clustered harmonies of the Joao Gilberto guitar style on her harp. The ease with which she outlined one bebop phrase after another – a seemingly near-impossible task on her large, many-stringed instrument.

Larry Koonse and Carol Robbins

And, perhaps most important of all, the intrinsic blend of rich musicality, inventive soloing and warm creative comradeship that is intrinsic to Robbins’ art.

After hearing her generate an evening of such immensely entertaining music with her harp in the central role, it was hard to imagine anyone ever referring to Carol Robbins’ grand-looking, beautiful-sounding instrument as “miscellaneous.”

All photos by Bonnie Perkinson.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 18 – 23

September 18, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Catharine Russell

- Sept 19. (Wed.) Catharine Russell.  Her resume includes gigs and recordings with the likes of Paul Simon, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Michael Feinstein.  But she’s very much the “real thing” according to critic Nat Hentoff.  And why not?  Her father, pianist Luis Russell, was Louis Armstrong’s music director.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 20. (Thurs.)  Stephanie Haynes & the Karen Hammack Trio. A decade or two ago Haynes was one of the Southland’s most admired jazz singers.  Now, after a too-long absence, she’s on the comeback trail, backed by the vocalist-friendly pianist Hammack and her trio.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 20. (Thurs.)  Gabriel Johnson.  Yet another trumpeter/vocalist, Johnson – highly praised by Clint Eastwood – celebrates the release of his new CD, Introducing Gabriel Johnson. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 21 & 22.  (Fri. & Sat.) Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionescu.  U.C.L.A.’s new performing arts entity – “Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA” – begins its debut season with Ionescu’s classic absurdist play, as performed by the Theatre de la Ville-Paris.  It’s done in French with English supertitles.   CAP UCLA.  Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

Karrin Allyson

- Sept.21–23. (Fri. – Sun.)  Karrin Allyson. Admired by musicians as well as her enthusiastic audiences for her far reaching musicality, Allyson moves convincingly across stylistic lines while always maintaining her jazz roots.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 22. (Sat.) Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Greg Hutchinson.  A classic jazz organ trio – with Goldings at the B-3, Bernstein on guitar and Hutchinson on drums – at its very best.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 22. (Sat.) Sing-A-Long Sound of Music. If you wake up on Sat. morning with an irresistible urge to sing some of the songs from Sound of Music, here’s the solution – the Bowl’s annual all-join-in event.  And don’t forget to wear your costume.  Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 22. (Sat.)  Gregory Porter.  It’s an L.A. week filled with impressive jazz vocal performances, and Porter’s warm, engaging voice and sturdy jazz vocalizing are among its major highlights. The Mint.   (323) 954-9400.

- Sept. 22. (Sat.)  Pianist Laurence Hobgood is rightly praised for his excellent work as an accompanist and arranger.  But there are other equally impressive aspects to his skills, and they’ll all be on display in this quartet performance with saxophonist Ernie Watts, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Dan SchnelleThe Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard

- Sept. 22. Sat.) Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson.  “Legendary” is a word that actually makes sense when applied to these great folk and country music artists.  Hearing them together will be one of the memorable musical experiences of a lifetime  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Haggard and Kristofferson in action. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677- 3000.

- Sept. 22. (Sat.) Emil Richards Quartet.  Veteran vibist’s resume is covered with all-star performances.  But he’s at his best when he steps into the spotlight with equally stellar backing from the likes of Mike Lang, piano, Mike Valerio, bass and Ralph Humphrey, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 23. (Sun.) Carol Robbins.  She’s everyone’s first call harpist, as well as one of the rare practitioners of jazz on her instrument.  Robbins will be celebrating the release of her new CD in the company of Billy Childs, Larry Koonse, Rob Lockart, Darek Oles and Dan SchnelleVitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

- Sept. 19 – 21. (Wed. – Fri.)  Pat Metheny Unity Band.  Always in search of challenging new musical settings, Metheny finds an exciting new musical environment with Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez and Ben WilliamsYoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.


Jeff Lorber

- Sept. 20 – 23.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jeff Lorber Superband. The label is right on target.  Keyboardist Lorber’s led some impressive bands over the course of his long career.  Add this one to the list, with Brian Bromberg, bass, Everette Harp, saxophones, Gary Novak, drums.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.


- Sept. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Fred Hersch Trio. With John Hebert, bass, Eric McPherson, drums. Pianist Hersch, a master of the jazz piano trio format, celebrates the release of his new album Live at the Vanguard.  The Jazz Showcase.   (212) 360-0234.

New York

- Sept. 18 – 22.  (Tues. – Sat.)  Coltrane Revisited. Pianist Steve Kuhn’s Coltrane credentials reach back to his early days on the jazz scene.  He makes the journey back in the company of trumpeter Tom Harrell, saxophonist Eric Alexander, drummer Andrew Cyrille and bassist Lonnie PlaxicoBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Anat Cohen

- Sept. 18 – 23. (Tues. – Sun.)  Anat Cohen Quartet. The lovely Anat Cohen isn’t just re-inventing the clarinet in contemporary jazz, she’s also a powerfully original tenor saxophonist, as well.  She performs with Jason Lindner, piano, Joe Martin, bass, Daniel Freedman, drums.  Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.


- Sept. 18. (Tues.)  Patricia Barber.  Pianist/singer/songwriter Barber’s adventurous music – with her own works as well as the interpretations of others – is always a fascinating display of creative imagination.  Ronnie Scott’s.    (0) 020 7439 0747.

- Sept. 21 – 23. (Fri. – Sun.)  Mindi Abair. Smooth jazz saxophonist Abair finds intriguing areas of expression within the instrumental pop format.  Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho. 0845 6027 017.


- Sept. 20 & 21. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Nicola Stilo Jazz & Latin Quartet. Versatile Italian musician Stilo (he plays adroitly on guitar, flute and piano) came to maturity as a regular with Chet Baker and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.   Jazzhus Montmartre.  http://www.jazzhusmontmartre.dk/home.html  (+45) 70 15 65 65.


Chris Bennett

- Sept. 20 & 21. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Chris Bennett. Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/pianist Bennett has proven her far-ranging skills with Tina Turner, Donna Summer and others.  But she’s also an impressive and imaginative jazz artist.  A Trane Jazz.  030/313 25 50.


- Sept. 21 & 22. (Fri. & Sat.)  Richard Galliano.  “Piazzolla Forever.”   French accordionist Galliano, a master of the instrument in his own right, honors the music of the great Argentine composer/accordionist. Blue Note Tokyo.    03.5485.0088.

Live Jazz: April Williams with Alan Pasqua, Bob Sheppard, Darek Oles and Peter Erskine at Vitello’s.

July 23, 2012

By Don Heckman

April Williams spends a lot of nights – and a few afternoons, too – at Vitello’s Restaurant in Studio City.  Under her guidance, Upstairs at Vitello’s has become one of L.A.’s best new jazz venues.

She was there on Saturday night, as well.  But not for her usual routine of cruising the room to make sure everything’s working the way it should, while occasionally darting backstage to be certain that the performers are ready to go with everything they need.

That’s not to say that she didn’t do a few of those chores on Saturday, too.  But her real focus was with the evening’s performers, who included pianist Alan Pasqua, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine.

Along with the featured singer: April Williams.

April Williams with Alan Pasqua and Bob Sheppard

That’s right, April took a break from booking and supervising the music to have a little fun with something she loves to do: sing.  She does so with a substantial background in musical theatre, and a weekly exposure to some of the Southland’s finest vocal artists in action.

But what quickly became apparent was the fact that April has a unique style of her own, based upon a quest to illuminate the story within every song she sings.

After her stellar musicians romped through a jaunty rendering of “How Much Do I Love You?” April began her set with an atmospheric take on “Love For Sale.” Followed by a sparkling arrangement of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.”

April Williams

She sang “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in harmonized phrasing with Sheppard’s soprano saxophone – accomplishing the demanding task while capturing the song’s tricky lyrics.  Her jazz phrasing was front and center in the classic “Honeysuckle Rose,” which also featured a stunning, full-chorus solo from Erskine.

Another jazz classic, “Angel Eyes,” was on shakier ground.  But April more than made up for it with a delightfully raucous “Don Juan” from the musical Smokey Joe’s Café.  In the mood for more humor, she followed with a whimsical take on Dave Frishberg’s “Peel Me A Grape.”

Still displaying her versatility, she then sang a warm and intimate “We’ll Be Togrther Again,” her musical narrative enhanced by a lovely solo from bassist Oles.  And she wrapped up her far-ranging set of songs with a pair of classic Jobim bossa novas: “Sad” (“Triste”) and “No More Blues” (“Chega De Saudade).  Neither song has an English translation as touching as the original Portuguese.  But to April’s credit, she delivered the English version of both with convincing believability.

Tonight, April Williams will no doubt be back at her task of keeping  Upstairs at Vitello’s jazz programming alive and cooking.  And she can be pleased that on Saturday night, she accomplished that task superbly – not just as a music room manager, but as a featured artist, and a good one. Let’s hope she steps on stage again, and soon.

Performance photo by Bob Barry.

Picks of the Week: July 18 – 22

July 18, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- July 18. (Wed.) The  Chris Walden Big Band with special guest Tierney Sutton. Walden takes a break from his busy schedule of studio arranging and composing to lead his always dynamic big band.  And it will be especially fascinating to hear the versatile Ms. Sutton singing in a setting very different – but no doubt equally compelling — from that of her own band.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

John Pizzarelli

- July 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.)  John Pizzarelli Quartet.  He plays the guitar, he sings, he’s as witty and humorous as a stand-up comic.  And he does it all with warm amiability.  If all that isn’t enough, check out his ear-grabbing scatting in unison with his fast-fingered guitar soloing.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- July 19. (Thurs.)  Joshua Bell and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  The gifted violinist performs the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and joins up with Edgar Meyer to perform the bassists Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass. The Philharmonic, under Ludovic Morlot, also plays Weber’s Der Freischutz and Oberon overtures. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- July 19. (Thurs.) Nick Mancini.  Vibes artist Mancini, one of L.A.’s busiest studio players, takes a break to showcase his own Mancini Collective.  And what better way to hear first rate  jazz than in Descanso Gardens.  Bring a blanket, picnic food and friends for a laid-back, relaxed musical evening.  Seating on a first come basis.  Descanso Gardens.  (818) 949-4200.

- July 19. (Thurs.)  Judi Silvano.  One never knows what to expect from singer/composer Silvano other than the certainty that she will offer an evening of music that constantly intrigues and entertains.  She’ll be working with pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kendall Kay. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- July 20. (Fri.)  The Josh Nelson Group. Pianist Nelson is in the vanguard of the Southland’s most gifted young jazz artists, releasing  his first recording at 19.  This time out he’s stretching the envelope in the company of guitarist Larry Koonse, trumpeter John Daversa and live sci-fi video art.  The Blue Whale.     (213) 620-0908.

Smokey Robinson

- July 20 & 21. (Fri. & Sat.)  Smokey Robinson.  Blessed with superb songwriting skills and one of the most warm and soothing voices in all of pop music, it’s no wonder Robinson has long been called the King of Motown. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- July 21. (Sat.)  The Gift: the stellar assemblage of pianist Alan Pasqua, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Darek Oles offer the gift of their world class accompaniment as a belated birthday present to singer April Williams, in the room she has established as one of L.A.’s best jazz venues.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 21. (Sat.)  The Pasadena POPS with Marvin Hamlisch and Michael Feinstein.  Conductor Hamlisch and the POPS open the summer season with a program featuring the master of the Great American Songbook.  The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.  The Pasadena Symphony and Pops.   (626) 793-7172.

San Francisco

Leo Kottke

- July 22. (Sun.)  Leo Kottke.  Veteran guitarist Kottke is an entertaining artist, illuminating his vocals with humorous monologues.  But it is his impressive, finger-picking guitar playing that is the centerpiece of his performances.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

New York

- July 17 – 22. (Tues. – Sun.)  Igor Butman & the Moscow State Jazz Orchestra.  Saxophonist/bandleader Butman is the Wynton Marsalis of Russia, using his connections with the power elite to support the growing presence of jazz in his country.  His Orchestra includes some of Russia’s finest players. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- July 18. (Wed.)  A CIM Faculty Concert.  Four cutting edge improvisational artists from the Center for Improvisational Music — pianist Andy Milne, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tom Rainey – will perform works by all members of the group.  The Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

- July 19. (Thurs.)  An Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Richard Rodgers. “Enchanted” is the right word to describe an evening of Rodgers performed by the ensemble of Bill Charlap, piano / Barbara Carroll, piano & vocals / Sachal Vasandani, vocals / Warren Vaché, cornet /Jon Gordon, alto sax / John Allred, trombone / Jay Leonhart, bass / Sean Smith, bass / Tim Horner, drums.  The 92nd St. Y.   (212) 415-5500.


Stanley Clarke

- July 20 & 21.  (Fri. &.  Sat.)  The Stanley Clarke/Stewart Copeland Band.  A pair of world class jazz individualists – bassist Clarke and drummer Copeland – combine their unique visions into an irresistible blend of jazz, fusion and rock with an occasional tinge of classical.  They’re joined by keyboardist Ruslan Sirota and guitarist Brady Cohen.    Ronnie Scott’s.


- July 21. (Sat.)  The Christian Scott Quintet. Trumpeter Scott has been a vital new figure on the jazz scene since his first album, Rewind That, was released in 2006.  He’ll no doubt feature pieces from his latest album, Christian aTunde Adjua. arrival in   New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.


- July 21. (Sat.) Esperanza Spalding. Winner of the Best New Artist award in the 2011 Grammys, bassist/singer Spalding has been crossing genres ever since.  She has modeled her career, she says, on those of Madonna and Ornette Colema.  Blue Note Milan.


Dionne Warwick

- July 19 – 21. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Dionne Warwick. Iconic pop singer Warwick was one of the big hit-makers of the rock era.  Best known for association with songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, she is a five-time Grammy winner (plus seven other nominations). And she’s still going strong. Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Picks of the Week: Feb. 14 – 19

February 14, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Feb. 14. (Tues.)  Nedra Wheeler.  Bassist/vocalist Wheeler is a convincing performer as an instrumentalist and a singer. and she’ll no doubt be in rare form with the backing of  Lanny Hartley, piano, Clarence Webb, saxophone and Munyungo Jackson, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Spanky Wilson

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  Spanky Wilson. With a style that runs the gamut from soul, blues and funk to warmly communicative jazz, Wilson has always been one of a kind.  She makes a rare Los Angeles appearance, backed by pianist Dennis Hamm, saxophonist/flutist Louis Van Taylor and drummer Lyndon Rochelle.  Culvers Club for Jazz.  (310) 216-5861.

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  The Assads.  Brothers Sergio and Odair, offspring of an extraordinary family of musicians, have been performing world class duo guitar music – of every style — since the late ‘70s.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  The John Proulx Duo.  Pianist/singer Proulx combines solidly swinging pianistic skills with a mellow voice and a rich understanding of musical storytelling.  The other half of the duo is the ever-dependable bassist Pat Senatore, whose far-reaching resume (from Stan Kenton and the Tijuana Brass to Freddy Hubbard, Joe Henderson and beyond) underscores his great creative versatility.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  The Phil Norman Tentet.  West Coast jazz of the fifties, with its cool and swinging sound, is vividly alive in the music of the Tentet, enhanced by a contemporary view that convincingly blends old and new.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of the Norman Tentet.   Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Itzhak Perlman

- Feb. 16. (Thurs.)  Itzhak Perlman.  16-time Grammy winner (including a Lifetime Achievement Award), Perlman’s virtuosic skills are still in full bloom.  Performing with pianist Rohan De Silva, a frequent partner, he will play Schubert, Brahms and Prokofief.  Royce Hall.  A UCLA Live concert.    (310) 825-2101.

- Feb. 16. (Thurs.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  “Baroque Conversations: The Art of Baroque Dance.”  The LACO’s Baroque Conversations programs are both entertaining and musically illuminating, never more so than in this engaging view of the Baroque era linkages between music (by the LACO players) and dance (by dancers Jill Chadroff and Linda Tomko).  Zipper Concert Hall. (212) 622-7001.

- Feb. 16. (Thurs.) Chucho Valdes and the Afro Cuban Messengers, Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band with Terence Blanchard.  The great Cuban pianist Valdes teams up with Sanchez and Blanchard to dig into the roots of Latin jazz via a tribute to the legendary conguero Chano Pozo and the incomparable bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.   Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 17. (Fri.)  Jessy J.  Saxophonist/singer Jessy J. mixes the hot rhythms of her Mexican heritage with her cool but intense saxophone stylings.  Hopefully she’ll hit some of the irresistible highlights from her latest album, the appropriately titled Hot Sauce, Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Bob Sheppard

- Feb. 18. (Sat.)  The Lounge Art Ensemble.  It’s an amusing name for a band, but when it comes right down to basics, it’s saxophone jazz at its finest, with Bob Sheppard taking on the challenging task of performing with only bass and drums – capably handled by Darek Oles and Peter Erskine. Sonny Rollins did it beautifully.  So will Sheppard. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 18. (Sat.)  The Shoemake/Morgan Jazz Ensemble.  The “Famous Jazz Artist Series” – one of the primo jazz events of the Central Coast – begins a monthly run in Solvang.  Featured performers are Charlie and Sandi Shoemake, vibes and vocals, Lanny Morgan, alto saxophone, Joe Bagg, piano, Tony Dumas, bass and Steve Schaeffer, drums.  The Terrace Dinner Theatre. Solvang.    (805) 691-9137

San Francisco

- Feb. 16 & 17. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Leo Kottke.  He’s a guitarists’ guitarist, at the cutting edge of improvisatory acoustic guitar playing since the 70’s  Plagued by tendonitis in later years, he developed a new playing style to compensate, and he remains one of the definitive acoustic guitar masters.   Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- Feb. 17. (Fri.)  Enrico Rava Tribe and the John Abercrombie Trio. Italian trumpeter Rava leads an assemblage of talented young European improvisers.  And the current Abercrombie trio takes on the classic jazz organ trio sound, with B-3 star Gary Versace and drummer Adam NussbaumThe Herbst Theatre.  An SFJAZZ Spring Season event.    (866) 920-5299.

Portland, Oregon

Branford Marsalis

- Feb. 17 – 26. (Fri. – Sun.(26)).  The Portland Jazz Festival.  Rapidly becoming one of the counry’s most attractively programmed jazz festivals, Portland offers a banquet of musical delights.  This year’s line-up includes Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Roy Haynes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bill Frisell, Charles McPherson, Charlie Hunter, Vijay Iyer, Enrico Rava and many more. The Portland Jazz Festival.    (503) 228-5299.  To read more about the Festival in a Q & A with Managing Director Don Lucoff click HERE.


- Feb. 16. (Thurs.)  Tim Berne. Alto saxophonist Berne has built an extensive career emphasizing the outer limites of jazz improvisation.  He celebrates the release of his new album, Snakeoil. Regatta Bar.    (617) 395-7757.

New York

Jay Clayton

- Feb. 14. (Tues.)  Jay Clayton.  With John di Martino, piano.  jazz vocal artists have been coming and going with great frequency in the last few years.  But Clayton, like Sheila Jordan, continues to be a standard of creativity that sets the pace.  One of the great originals, she should be heard at every opportunity.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

- Feb. 14 – 16. (Tues. – Thurs.  Sachel Vasandani.  Chicago-born singer Vasandani is gradually establishing himself as one of the significant voices in the relatively slim gathering of male jazz singers.  The Jazz Standard.     (212) 576-2232.

- Feb. 14 – 19.  Tues. – Sun.  David Sanborn.  The Blue Note.  One of the  most influential  alto saxophonists of the past few decades, Sanborn’s blues based, passionately vocalized sound is heard, to varying degrees, in many of the best new young saxophonists.   The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.


Steve Kuhn

- Feb 14. (Tues.)  Steve Kuhn.  Pianist Kuhn’s long, checkered career has journeyed through every aspect of jazz, from the envelope-stretching sixties to authoritative mainstream playing.  His innate lyricism was especially apparent during a long musical partnership with singer Sheila Jordan, and his solo playing reveals the true depths of his creative imagination.  New Morning.   01 45 23  51 41.S


- Feb.15 – 18.  (Wed. – Sat.)  Billy Cobham Band.  The drumming engine that propelled both the Miles Davis band and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Cobham remains one of the definitive masters of rock and funk-driven fusion jazz.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Itzhak Perlman photo by Akira Kinoshita.

Bob Sheppard photo by Tony Gieske.

Live Jazz: The Eddie Daniels Quartet at Vitello’s

October 22, 2011

By Don Heckman

Clarinetist Eddie Daniels’ masterful performance at Vitello’s Friday was – as his appearances often are – a gripping reminder of his instrument’s adventurous jazz past, present and future.

Eddie Daniels

For the first half of the jazz century, the clarinet was one of the music’s key voices.  Vital to the New Orleans style, a virtual celebrity instrument in the hands of Swing bandleaders such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman, its presence remained high, until it ran into hard times – and diminished interest — with the arrival of bebop in the ‘40s and beyond.

A few hardy souls labored on through the forests of bop, with Buddy DeFranco one of the principal pathfinders.  Others arrived over the next few decades, with the numbers of adroit clarinetists increasing in recent years.

Daniels, who was celebrating his 70th birthday two days earlier, has been producing memorable work – on tenor saxophone, as well as clarinet – since he arrived on the scene with the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Orchestra in the mid-‘60s.  An authentic classical artist as well as a superb improvising musician, the only thing missing from his Vitello’s performance would have been his own unique take on something such as the Larghetto from the Mozart Clarinet Quintet.

Tom Ranier, Eddie Daniels, Darek Oles

But no matter.  What renaissance man Daniels did play was largely astounding, sometimes even more than that.

Joe LaBarbera

Start with his utter mastery of an instrument whose technical demands more often produce mediocre results than the sort of articulate clarity that Daniels tossed off with almost casual ease.  Backed by the confident, interactive support of pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Joe LaBarbera, he concentrated upon clarinet – except for a pair of jovial jaunts on his tenor saxophone through “They Say That Falling In Love Is Wonderful” and an original Daniels piece that somehow managed to convincingly blend tango with bossa nova.

Tom Ranier

Among the clarinet highlights: Ranier’s delightfully re-invented version of the old Benny Goodman classic, “Stealin’ Apples”; and a wildly audacious flight through an equally new-view version of Charlie Parker’s “Bye-Bye Blues.”

And ultimately it was Daniels’ clarinet soloing that dominated the spotlight – as it should.  One fleet solo after another, rendered with an irresistible flow of swing, affirmed his consummate blend of dexterous technical skills and vivid improvisational inventiveness.

No wonder that, with Daniels in the forefront, the clarinet once again seems to be finding its rightful place in the jazz hierarchy.

Photos by Bob Barry.  To view more of his jazzography, click HERE.


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