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.

Seattle

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.

Copenhagen

- 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.

Milan

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.

Tokyo

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.

Seattle

- 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.

London

- 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

Milan

- 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.

Tokyo

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.

London

- 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.

Copenhagen

- 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.

Milan

- 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.

Seattle

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.

Chicago

- 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.

London

- 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.

Copenhagen

- 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.

Berlin


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.

Tokyo

- 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.


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