Live Music: Mark Winkler and Dolores Scozzesi at Vitello’s

June 9, 2013

By Don Heckman

Singers Mark Winkler and Dolores Scozzesi were the headliners at Vitello’s Friday night.  And that was good news, since both are among L.A.’s most appealing jazz-oriented singers.  But the evening promised even more with a sub-headline announcing that they would be singing songs by “Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman: The Great Singer/Songwriters of the ‘70s.”

Dolores Scozzesi and Mark Winkler

Dolores Scozzesi and Mark Winkler

An intriguing idea. The singer/songwriter era – of both the ‘60s and the ‘70s – was one of the most significant, if occasionally underestimated, chapters in the Great American Songbook.  Add names such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Carole King, Leonard Cohen, among others, to the list and the result is a repertoire of songs fully capable of standing alongside the likes of Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, etc.

Mark Winkler

Mark Winkler

Winkler and Scozzesi, however, chose a somewhat narrower collection.  Most of what Winkler sang in his solo segments were drawn from his recent album, The Laura Nyro Project.

Nothing wrong with that, given the Nyro repertoire.  And Winkler, backed by the superb accompaniment of pianist Rich Eames, guitarist Pat Kelley, drummer Dave Tull and bassist Kevin Axt, thoroughly explored some of Nyro’s most compelling works.  A few were familiar tunes, covered by other artists as well – “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “And When I Die” and “He’s A Runner.”  Add to that the somewhat less frequently heard “California Shoe Shine Boy,” “Billy’s Blues” and “Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp.”

But no matter what song Winkler was singing, he approached it with a musically intimate approach, always in search of the multi-layered emotions of  the Nyro catalog.

Dolores Scozzesi

Dolores Scozzesi

Scozzesi took a broader view of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Her program reached from Joni Mitchell’s “River” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” to Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man.”

The selections, along with a few others, were perfectly chosen for Scozzesi’s rich interpretive style.  Whether she was finding the sardonic whimsy in the Newman tune or the poignancy of Dylan, she did so with brilliantly expressive story-telling and convincing musicality.

The only missing elements were the presence of a few more duet numbers and, even more importantly, a broader overview of the “Great Singer/Songwriters of the ‘70s.”  Hearing Winkler sing songs by, say, James Taylor or Paul Simon, and – similarly – hearing Scozzesi do a few more from the Joni Mitchell catalog, along with a Leonard Cohen tune or two, would also have been a welcome addition to this otherwise entertaining evening.

So let’s call it an advance promise of a future, more far-reaching performance of singer/songwriter music from the talented Winkler and Scozzesi.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.  To see more photos by Faith Frenz click HERE.


Here, There & Everywhere: Dolores Scozzesi at Vitello’s

June 21, 2012

By Don Heckman

The Playboy Jazz Festival, as well as the lead-in to the Festival, tended to dominate our view screens here at iRoM for the last week or so.  And that’s cool.  It is, after all, one of the major musical events of the year.

But other music has been taking place, as well.  And now that the Playboy Festival madness is over, I want to be sure to call attention to another performance that took place last Tuesday.  It may not have been high visibility, and — in its single night at Vitello’s — it drew a considerably smaller crowd than the 18,000 who showed up for each of the Festival’s two days.  But for listeners attuned to fine music, convincingly done, it was a memorable night.

 

So let’s take a look back at Tuesday, and the appearance of jazz singer Dolores Scozzesi, backed by Andy Langham, piano, Lyman Medeiros, bass, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., drums, at Vitello’s.

It became apparent, almost immediately, that there was stunning musical empathy between Scozzesi and her musicians.  At its best, it recalled the kind of creative intimacy that exists in the Tierney Sutton Band, a group that’s been together for two decades.

Add to that the range of selections in the program.  Scozzesi’s first few choices, reaching from “Listen Love,” a tender song by the too little acknowledged singer/songwriter of the ‘70s, Jon Lucien, to Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and such standards classics as “Night and Day,” “Body and Soul” and “What Now My Love?” underscored both her creative eclecticism and her far ranging musical interests.

As intriguing as her song choices were – also embracing such equally compelling tunes as “When Did You Leave Heaven?” “I’m Going To Sit Right Down and Right Myself A Letter” and “Love Look Away” – what really mattered was what Scozzesi did with this abundant collection.  Gifted with a mature, dark timbred voice, capable of using it across a rich emotional palette, she reached deeply into the heart of each song’s story.  And with especially convincing intensity in an English and French version of “Autumn Leaves” that included a newly conceived segment inspired by a Stan Getz solo, with lyrics by Scozzesi.  Call it a highlight in an evening of memorable songs.

I learned a long time ago that one of the most meaningful estimates of a performance’s impact often lies in the feelings it generates after the program.  Sure, one wants to be captivated by the music while it’s taking place.  But it’s equally important, maybe even more so, to be so stimulated by what one has heard that it stays with you, triggering new feelings and thoughts long after the performance is over.

The experience, to me, is similar to what it used to be like to see an especially impactful movie, back in the time before “films” became the operative word.  In those days, coming out of a movie theatre with a companion, eagerly discussing high points in the story, re-living aspects of the plot, feeling strongly – pro or con – about what we had just seen, was an essential part of seeing a movie.

Driving home from Scozessi’s performance at Vitello’s, Faith and I experienced similar feelings, recalling the pleasure of hearing such a fine array of songs, delivered with so much musical authenticity.  We even had a small disagreement, disputing whether or not Scozessi had tended to make too liberal use of her sometimes edgy chest tones.  But there was no dispute over the quality of the strains of music that remained with us, soothing our ears well into the high decibel sounds of the Playboy Jazz Festival weekend.

Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for Dolores Scozessi’s album, “A Special Taste.”  Fortunately writing liner notes does not cause me to lose my sense of musical objectivity.


PIcks of the Week: Aug. 9 – 14

August 9, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

George Cables

- Aug. 9. (Tues.)  George Cables Trio. Pianist Cables doesn’t make a lot of L.A. club appearances, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear the veteran artist in action.  He’ll be backed by Pat Senatore and Joe LaBarberaVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Aug. 9. (Tues.)  Jennifer Leitham.  It’s a birthday celebration for bassist/singer Leitham who’ll be aided in her far-reaching skills by the solid backing of Andy Langham, piano and Randy Drake, drums.  Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.  www.charlieos.com

- Aug. 10. (Wed.)  Blues Night.  The title of this stellar evening is almost an understatement.  With Robert Cray. Keb’ Mo’ and Mavis Staples on hand, it’ll be the blues in all its extraordinary manifestations.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Nuriya.  The Skirball Center continues its high energy, Thursday night free concerts with an appearance by Mexican-born vocalist Nuriya, whose singing encompasses the sounds of her native land, as well as the Jewish, Middle Eastern traditions of her heritage.  She’ll be backed by a high energy ten piece ensemble.  Skirball Center.    (310) 440-4500.

- Augs. 11. (Thurs.)  Aaron Novik.  Bass clarinetist Novik’s chamber ensemble crosses freely from jazz and pop to Jewish and Eastern European traditional musics.  The Hammer Museum.    Also at the Press Restaurant in Claremont on Friday.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Dee Dee Bridgewater.  Dynamic singer actress Bridgewater is a Tony and Grammy award winner.  But even those honors don’t fully encompass the creative and musical excitement that is present every time she steps in front of an audience.  The Grammy Museum.  (213) 765-6800.

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Claudio Roditi. Brazilian trumpeter Roditi has been blending elements from his Brazilian roots with an impressive grasp of straight ahead jazz for three decades.  LAX Jazz Club Crowne Plaza Hotel.    (310) 642-7500.

- Aug. 12. (Fri.)  Christian Jacob Trio. The all-star jazz trio pianist Jacob, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker have been performing in impressive synchronicity with singer Karrin Allyson.  Here, they show off their stuff in a pure piano jazz trio setting.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 12 (Fri.)  Tizer.  Versatile keyboardist Lao Tizer leads his unique band, Tizer, in a groove-driven, eclectic blend of jam based fusion and contemporary jazz.  Violinist Karen Briggs is also on hand, and a few “special guests” may show up, as well.  The Baked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

- Aug. 13. (Sat.)  World Classic Rockers.  The title pretty much says it all.  It’ll be an evening featuring players from such high visibility rock bands as Steppenwolf, Santana, Boston, Journey, TOTO and Lynard Skynard.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

- Aug. 13. (Sat.)  Dolores Scozzesi.  Jazz vocalist Scozzesi brings rich musicality, dramatic illumination and an eclectic overview to everything she sings.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 13 & 14. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Gipsy Kings.  There’s nothing quite like the music of the flamenco-driven, gypsy-styled music of the Gipsy Kings, for decades one of world music’s most engaging ensembles.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

Dave Koz

- Aug. 14. (Sun.)  Smooth Summer Jazz. Featuring Dave Koz, Bobby Caldwell, Sheila E., Larry Graham, Spyro Gyra. Phil Perry.  The Bowl’s annual tribute to smooth jazz and instrumental pop, with some of the genres’ highest visibility performers bringing the evening to life.   Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 14. (Sun.)  The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, conducted by Noreen Green“Exaltation! Biblical Stories Through Music.”  The LAJS presents a colorful evening of music — from classical, film and musical theatre sources — celebrating music inspired by the Bible.  Special guests include Grammy nominee singer Amick Byram and 15 year old violinist Stephen Waarts.  Selections include works by Andrew Lloyd Weber, Steven Schwartz, Jerry Bock, Alan Menken and Shuki LevyThe Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

San Francisco

- Aug. 9. (Tues.)  Big Bad Voodoo DaddyHow Bad Can You Get:100 Years of Cab Calloway. The Voodoo Daddys recall Cab Calloway and the hard-driving, swing-based, dance jazz of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  http://www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco/jazzclub/artist/show/1972   (415) 655-5600.  

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Martin Taylor.  A guitarist’s guitarist, admired by his contemporary artists, Taylor is arguably one of the finest solo guitarists you’ll ever hear.  The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.    (510) 644-2020.

- Aug. 14. (Sun.)  Buffy Sainte-Marie.  She’s been a compelling performer for decades, and Saint-Marie’s charisma – musically and dramatically – is still as powerful as ever.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Karrin Allyson

Aug. 11 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  Karrin Allyson.  Jazz singer Allyson, one of the jazz vocal art’s most musically credible performers, celebrates the release of her latest CD,  ‘Round Midnight,   Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

New York

- Aug. 9 – 10. (Tues. – Sat.)  Kurt Rosenwinkel with OJM (the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos).  The ever versatile guitarist Rosenwinkel, always in search of musical challenges, performs with an intriguing musical ensemble from Portugal.Birdland.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Aug. 9 – 14. (Tues. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. Blessed with one of the most gorgeous sounding voices in jazz, Monheit supplements her rich timbres with solid musicality and lively sense of swing.  Her special guest will be the remarkably eclectic violinist Mark O’ConnorThe Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

Cedar Walton

- Aug. 9 – 14. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Cedar Walton Quintet. Pianist Walton has assembled a convincingly creative ensemble, featuring the impressive artistry of trombonist (and conch shell player) Steve Turre, alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, bassist David Williams and drummer Willie Jones III Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

Washington D.C.

-Aug. 12 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  Jerry Gonzalez and Ft. Apache.  They’ve been generating high voltage performances, spiced with Latin jazz rhythms, for three decades.  This time out, the groove will no doubt be even more pyrotechnic with the presence of Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

London

- Aug 11. (Thurs.)  Gwilym Simcock Trio. His name may not be familiar (or even pronounceable) to most American jazz fans, but Simcock is one of the finest recent arrivals on the global jazz stage.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Dave Koz photo by Greg Allen.


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