Live Jazz: Janis Mann at The Gardenia

April 27, 2014

By Don Heckman

Any night at The Gardenia is a musical night to remember.

The West Hollywood supper club at the corner of LaBrea and Santa Monica has been one of the Southland’s rare cabaret destinations for three decades. Showcasing sophisticated musical artists reaching from musical theatre to jazz and the Great American songbook, The Gardenia – in any given performance – offers memorable music in a warm, intimate setting.

Which is exactly what happened on Saturday night with the appearance of jazz vocalist Janis Mann and the trio of pianist Raymond DeFelitta (including bassist Jim DiJulio and drummer Dick Weller).

Janis Mann with Dick Weller, Raymond DeFelitta and Jim DiJulio at The Gardenia

The blending of Mann’s convincing jazz singing — rich with imaginative interpretations buoyed by a lithe sense of swing — and The Gardenia’s warm and intimate setting made for an irresistible combination.

Janis Mann

Janis Mann

Mann’s selection of material was perfect, embracing such classic Songbook items as “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “The Man I Love,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “That Old Devil Moon” and more. Add to that her captivating rendering of Abby Lincoln’s “Throw It Away” and her occasional scat passages in tunes such as “That Old Devil Moon.”

 

Janis Mann

Janis Mann

Each was offered with the enthralling qualities of a gifted musical story teller. And Mann further mesmerized her enthusiastic listeners with whimsical between-songs patter that virtually transformed the Gardenia into the environs of a living room performance.

Seated at the rear of the room, Tom Rolla, the founder and entrepreneur of The Gardenia watched Mann’s set with a warm, approving gaze. Once a performer in Broadway musicals himself, Rolla handles his bookings at The Gardenia with an insistence upon finding and presenting the highest quality musical talent.

As he did with Janis Mann’s superb set.

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Janis Mann, a jazz artist who should be heard at every opportunity, can next he seen and heard at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach on May 18.

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The next major event at Tom Rolla’s Gardenia takes place on Wednesday, April 30, with the performance of the brilliant Brazilian singer/guitarist Teka and her group, New Bossa. Don’t miss this one.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.

 

 


Picks of the Week: Sept. 4 – 8

September 4, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s a light, holiday week, with 100-plus temperatures here in L.A.  But there’s still some very fine music to hear in various parts of the world.

Los Angeles

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

- Sept. 4 – 8. (Wed. – Sun.) The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove has appeared frequently with his big band lately. But this time he fronts a straight-ahead quintet, showcasing his fine solo work. Catalina Bar and Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 4. (Wed.) Bruce Forman Quartet. Guitarist, novelist and educator Forman, a true multi-hyphenate, takes a break from his many activities to do a live performance. Don’t miss it. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 6. (Fri.) Richie Cole Quartet. Bebop is always on the loose when alto saxophonist is in the room. And especially so when he’s backed by the propulsive backing of pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Dick Weller. Jazz at the Radisson Hotel.

Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group

- Sept. 6 & 7. (Fri.& Sat.) The Blue Man Group. The musically and visually eccentric members of the Blue Man Group have brought a new supply of unique instruments to an evening of new music with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 8. (Sun.) ABBA Fest. A non-stop evening of music by the hit-making Swedish band. First, via a competition of collegiate a cappella Abba groups; second via a performance by the great tribute band ABBA, the Concert. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

ABBA Fest

ABBA Fest

San Francisco

- Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.). Terence Blanchard is always in search of new musical adventures. This time out, his Sextet features saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and and African jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. SFJAZZ. The SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.  (415) 398-5655.

Seattle

- Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs., – Sun.) Larry Coryell and the Eleventh House Reunion Band. Guitarist Coryell revives the music of the fusion band he led in the’70s. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

Washington, D.C.

- Sept. 6 – 8. (Fri. – Sun.) Patricia Barber. Singer/pianist Barber continues her quest to find new creative ways to approach the songs of the Great American Songbook. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- Sept. 4. (Wed.) J.D. Walter. Jazz Standard. Walter is a singer who prefers to take adventurous musical pathways… which may explain why he hasn’t yet received the attention his singing deserves. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Cassandra Wilson- Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.) Cassandra Wilson. The jazz vocal genre has largely been dominated lately by fast-arriving young female artists. But Wilson continues to be a pathfinder with her own inimitable style. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

- Sept. 7. (Sat.) Barbara Carroll. She was described in 1947 by Leonard Feather as the “first girl to play bebop piano.” And, at 88, she’s still going strong, performing here in duo with bassist Jay Leonhart. Birdland. http://www.birdlandjazz.com/event/350551-barbara-carroll-new-york (212) 581-3080.

Berlin

- Sept. 4 – 7. (Wed. – Sat.) Sommerwochenkonzert. Don Grusin and Chuck Loeb. Keyboardist Grusin and guitarist Loeb display their easygoing blend of mainstream and crossover jazz genres.. A-Trane.  +49 30 3132 ext. 550.

Copenhagen

- Sept. 6 – 7. (Fri. & Sat.) Dado Moroni, Reuben Rodgers, Alex Riel. The Art of the Trio. Italian jazz pianist Moroni has been delivering his authentic jazz perspectives since the ’80s. He’s backed here by American bassist Rodgers and Danish drummer Alex Riel. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

- Sept. 3 – 5. (Tues. – Thurs.) Bob James & David Sanborn. James and Sanborn have pioneered their swinging versions of contemporary jazz fusion and crossover for decades – and doing it in memorable fashion. They’re accompanied on this tour by the equally imaginative drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.

Gregory Porter

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- Sept. 6. (Fri.) Gregory Porter. At a time when the distaff side has been dominating most of the newly released jazz recordings, the warm baritone of Porter has been bringing impressive new interpretations to the the world of jazz vocalizing. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.


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.


Live Music: Sally Kellerman at Vitello’s

October 26, 2012

By Don Heckman

Sally Kellerman started her set Wednesday night at Vitello’s with a gesture toward the season.  Stalking on stage in an all black outfit, she held up her cape and serenaded the packed house crowd with “I Put A Spell On You.”  (All of which she enhanced by sitting in a director’s chair labeled “Live Virgin,” next to a plastic Jack-o-lantern on a stool.)

Sally Kellerman and bassist Lyman Medeiros

Predictably, for anyone who’s heard and seen Sally in action, “I PUt A Spell On You” perfectly indicated what would happen in the next hour and a half or so.  Even when she’s not doing a mini-Halloween celebration, Sally’s performances are all utterly mesmerizing, overflowing with humor, atmosphere and musicality.

And this performance was no exception, despite the fact that she repeated some of the material that she’s been doing regularly over the past few years.  But no problem there.  Hearing (and seeing) Sally wrap up her set with “Don’t You Feel My Leg” is only one of the many pleasures she offers.

There were other repeated tunes: the combining of a pair of Bacharach/David hits, “Walk On By” and “The Look of Love”; “Love Potion #9”; “Sugar In My Bowl”; “The Lies of Handsome Men.”  And there were more, including James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” rendered as Sally strolled seductively through the audience, dispensing foil-wrapped chocolate candy balls.

Sally Kellerman

And what became crystal clear – in these repeated numbers, as well as such newer items in the Kellerman catalog as “Black Coffee” and the Hall & Oates “Say It Isn’t So” — was the utterly appropriate believability that Sally brought to each of her interpretations.

Yes, she’s an experienced actress as well as a singer, but it wasn’t just theatrical skills that she brought to her songs, as she moved with consummate ease across a stunning gamut of musical emotions.  Some were hilarious – as when she wound up singing one of the songs while reclining on the floor.  Others had the bold and brassy touch of a blues singer.  And still others had the intimacy of expressive whispers in one’s ear.

In addition to the older blues-oriented tunes, Sally’s set was enriched by songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s, done in her own fashion.  And one couldn’t help but speculate that a recording devoted to material from the period could help bring Sally’s inimitable talents to an audience that still thinks of her as Hot Lips. Even though she is much more.  At her best, and in a crowded female vocal field, she is one of the rare true originals.

A final gesture of applause for the superb backing provided by pianist Ed Martel, bassist Lyman Medeiros and Dick Weller, drums.  And a special nod to Martel, who is also Sally’s music director, for the subtle, always appropriate arrangement support.

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Here, There & Everywhere: Sing! Sing! Sing!

December 23, 2011

By Don Heckman

Christmas caroling was a regular seasonal activity in my young life.  Growing up in an Eastern Pennsylvania rust belt city, singing carols while slip-sliding our way across icy sidewalks was as necessary to the holiday as going to Mass on Christmas eve.  In a way, it was an equally necessary counter to the darker side of what we’d done on Halloween, when enacting tricks was a lot more common than  asking for treats.

All of which went through my mind last night when Faith and I took our lovely ten year old granddaughter, Maia, to the Victorian Mansion for “Candlelight Carols” by Judy Wolman, Howard Lewis and “Sing! Sing! Sing!”  And one couldn’t have asked for a more delightfully atmospheric setting to join in a holiday music singalong than the elegant wood-paneled room that jazz fans will recall as the former site of the much-missed jazz club, “The Vic.”

At the beginning, Wolman reminded me that she, Lewis and their group of singers had been doing these holiday celebrations for 20 years.  Not only that, of course, but also their continuing programs of participatory jaunts through the rich musical landscape of the Great American Songbook.  (Programs devoted to Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael and others are already scheduled for 2012.)

The “Candlelight Carols” program characteristically reached out to embrace the Songbook – with selections from Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc. — as well as a collection of traditional carols.  And the format was as comfortable and inviting as a holiday evening in a close friend’s living room.

Lewis introduced each number with some fascinating background, often including nuggets of insight into the song, as well as its creators.  Then Wolman — a superb piano accompanist, backed by Chris Conner’s bass, Dick Weller’s drums and some warm melody-making from harmonica player Ron Kalina – led the way into the song.

Maia

The audience, using lyric sheets provided by Wolman, sang along enthusiastically, sometimes even more than that.  And our granddaughter, Maia, not especially familiar with all the standards, nonetheless applied her already burgeoning musicality to every song, singing, smiling, enjoying every minute of this engaging new experience.

And what a collection of songs it was: “It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “My Favorite Things,” “White Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” “The Christmas Song,” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”  As well as “Silent Night,” “We Three Kings,” “The First Noel” and much, much more.

Between the singalong segments, individual singers from the Sing! Sing! Sing! vocal ensemble – Chuck Marso, Anita Royal, Jackie Manfredi and Ruth Davis – soloed.  And songwriter Jim Mann presented a brand new Christmas song, “Cheers! Cheers! Cheers!”

The sidewalks weren’t icy, and there was no snow in the forecast as we left the Victorian.  But the wind was blowing, and, as we walked hand in hand to our car, the words to one of the evening’s songs – with their perfect holiday sentiments — kept coming to mind.

           “The wind is blowing

           But I can weather the storm

            What do I care how much it may storm?

            I’ve got my love to keep me warm.”


Picks of the Week: Dec. 19 – 25

December 19, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Dec. 19. (Mon.)  The Klezmatics.  Somewhere between Eastern European Jewish music, ecstatic Middle Eastern sounds and the rhythmic lift and improvisations of jazz is the territory in which the Klezmatics practice their musically creative magic.  Disney Hall.

Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli

- Dec. 20. (Tues.) Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli A Swingin’ Christmas. One of the jazz world’s most engaging couples.  Individually and together, Molaskey and Pizzarelli bring a warm amiability, a sometimes wild sense of humor, and irresistible musicality to everything they do.   Disney Hall.

- Dec. 20. (Tues.)  The 6th Annual Broadway Christmas.  Once again, Upright Cabaret and Catalina’s celebrate the holiday with a stellar line up of Broadway stars singing a program of familiar favorites.  With Sam Harris, Lesli Margherita, Jake Simpson, Kelli Provart, Carla Renata, Arielle Jacobs and many more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 22. (Thurs.)  Candlelight Carols.  If it’s the week before Christmas, it’s time to be a part of the annual Christmas carol singalong with pianist Judy Wolman and the Sing! Sing! Sing! Singers.  This year’s celebration takes place in the atmospheric, candle-lit setting of Santa Monica’s beautiful Victorian Mansion.  Sing! Sing! Sing!.

Nancy Sanchez

Dec. 23. (Fri.)  Nancy Sanchez.  Still young enough to be finding her way, jazz singer Sanchez is displaying all the signs of possessing a significant musical future.  Catch her now, so you can say you saw her when… Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

- Dec. 24. (Sat.) The Tom Ranier Quartet. Ranier, always fascinating to hear, turns up the creative intensity in the company of trumpeter Steve Huffstetter, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Dick WellerVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Seattle

- Dec. 22 – 23. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Tingstad and Rumbel.  An acoustic holiday celebration with the long-together duo of guitarist Eric Tingstad and oboeist Nancy Rumbel, performing seasonal songs in the warm and intimate acoustic style that has been heard on 19 albums since the mid-‘80s.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

New York

- Dec. 19 – Jan. 1, 2012. (Mon. – Mon.)  Chris Botti.  The hugely popular jazz trumpeter  continues his epic, three week-long string of  holiday performances, celebrating the season with two sets a night of memorable music, climaxing on the first night of the new year.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Freddy Cole

- Dec 20 – 24. (Tues. – Sat.)  Freddy Cole.  The appealing singing and piano playing of Cole, who turned 80 in October, has been having a much-deserved rush of popularity lately, as audiences have begun to appreciate that he is far more than the younger brother of Nat “King” Cole.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

- Dec. 19 – 23 (Mon. – Fri.)  Ray Gelato and the Giants.  Saxophonist/singer/bandleader and all-around entertainer, Gelato’s performances recall the upbeat, delightfully engaging music of Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, Louis Prima and more.  The London Evening Standard, rightfully describes him as “arguably the only British jazz artist with a proper stage show.”  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- Dec. 21 – 23. (Wed. – Fri.)  The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.  One of the Southland’s great musical contributions to the world of big band jazz, the CHJO players bring their intriguing arrangements (mostly written by John Clayton) and irresistibly swinging ensemble playing to the jazz fans of Japan.  The Blue Note Tokyo.    03 5485 0088.


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