Live Music: Lynda Carter at Catalina Bar & Grill

April 15, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA.  A full house doesn’t completely describe the crowd that was virtually overflowing the room at Catalina Bar & Grill Saturday night. But it wasn’t surprising, given the fact that the headliner was Lynda Carter. And that was exciting news for anyone who was a television fan back in the seventies.

Why? Because Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman. Add to that, she also won the Miss World USA Pageant in 1972 and appeared in numerous television specials, as well.

Lynda Carter

Lynda Carter

Carter did not, of course, take the stage at Catalina’s wearing her Wonder Woman costume. (Although it would have pleased a substantial number of fans – especially males – if she had.) But the truth is that many in the full house crowd seemed pleased to see and hear Lynda Carter the singer, rather than Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman.

And with good reason. Although she continues to draw value out of her past Wonder Woman identity, Carter has become a world class performer who moves with impressive musicality through genres reaching from pop and r&b to country music.

Lynda Carter and her band

Lynda Carter and her band

Backed by a stellar band and an equally skilled group of back up singers, she was also a convincing entertainer. Gracing the stage with her lithe movements, communicating warmly with her listeners between numbers, she convincingly affirmed performing skills that reached well beyond her role as a superhero.

Lynda Carter and her back up singers

Lynda Carter and her back up singers

Carter’s program underscored the range of her many abilities. Among the richly varied tunes she included The Black Peas’s “Lonely Boy,” a new Sam Cooke song, Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and Christina Aguilera’s “Candy Man.”

Lynda Carter

Lynda Carter

Add to that such familiar items as “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Fever,” and “God Bless The Child,” capping her show with “Let the Good Times Roll.”

Carter and her fine musicians and singers handled the varied styles with an ease that generated enthusiastic audience responses all the way to the final encore.

No, it wasn’t Wonder Woman. But when Lynda Carter stepped to the microphone, it was all music, and memorable music at that.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Photo Review: Bianca Rossini at Vibrato Grill Jazz etc…

April 6, 2014

By Don Heckman

Photos By Faith Frenz

Bel Air, CA. Bianca Rossini brought a colorful touch of Brazil to Vibrato Grill Jazz..etc. Thursday night. The busy actress/singer/songwriter and author makes rare live performances. But when she does, they showcase all of her many skills, enlivened by the rich, emotional Brazilian roots that are at the heart of her art.

Most of her selections, chosen from Rossini’s growing collection of original songs, were sung with the solid backing of keyboardist Yuko Tamura, guitarist Capital Violao Guitarra, bassist Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu and drummer Aaron Rafael Serfaty.

The songs covered everything from captivating bossa novas to ballads and rhythm tunes. Understandably, the often uneven aspects of the material reflected the fact that Rossini works with a range of writing partners. But it was her dark-toned voice and dramatic presentation that brought all the music together into one engaging interpretation after another.

Since Rossini’s performance was so visually oriented, emphasizing her lithe and expressive skills as a dancer and actress, it seemed appropriate to call in our stellar photographer, Faith Frenz, to provide a colorful photo essay of Bianca Rossini in action.

Bianca Rossini and her band

Bianca Rossini and her band

Bianca Rossini

Bianca Rossini

 

Bianca Rossini

Bianca Rossini

 

Bianca Rossini

Bianca Rossini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Live Music: James DeFrances at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

April 3, 2014

By Don Heckman

Bel Air, CA. “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

The line kept coming to mind Tuesday night at Herb Alpert’s elegant restaurant and jazz club Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc, while we were listening to singer James DeFrances.  No, not because DeFrances was thinking – or even singing – about New York. He’s actually from the Philadelphia area.

James DeFrances

James DeFrances

But the fresh-faced, ambitious young vocalist (he’s 24) performed with the sort of enthusiasm present in the classic Kander/Ebb song about the Big Apple. Except that – for DeFrances – the line applied to his rapidly accelerating career in Los Angeles.

His performance at Vibrato also had another “New York, New York” connection. And that, of course, was the impact that Frank Sinatra has had upon DeFrances’ musical vision.

It’s not surprising that a talented young male singer would choose Sinatra as a model – especially when such highly successful performers as Michael Buble and Harry Connick, Jr. have preceded him in his affection for Ol’ Blue Eyes.

On Tuesday night DeFrances, appropriately tuxedoed, sang a program of songs overflowing with Sinatra references. Starting with “The Girl From Ipanema” he shifted quickly into a hard-driving “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

Pat Senatore and James DeFrances

Pat Senatore and James DeFrancis

He followed with “The Way You Look Tonight,” “ They Can’t Take That Away From Me” before winding up with “All The Way” and “Just In Time.”

DeFrances sang the ballads – especially “All The Way” – with warm musicality. And rhythm tunes such as “Witchcraft” and “It Had To Be You” were done with propulsive, briskly swinging energy.

The Sinatra inspiration was present in most of the tunes. At his best, DeFrances made the most of the connection, usually shaping his interpretation well within the templates of the original Sinatra versions.

But the finest moments came in the passages in which his own warm, youthful sound and lyrical expressiveness took charge of his singing. And one could sense the impressive future that DeFrances faces, especially as he moves beyond the Sinatra references into his own mature interpretations.

Still relatively unfamiliar to the wider pop audience, DeFrances’ performance clearly showcased his growing skills as one of the significant male artists rapidly emerging into the arena of jazz and big band oriented pop music.

Pat Senatore, James DeFrances and Tina Raymond

He was superbly backed by the trio of pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Tina Raymond. Filling in before the show opened and on the set breaks, the trio romped through their own program of standards, bringing dynamic enthusiasm to songs reaching from “Emily” and “Autumn Leaves” to “The More I See You.”

Working closely with the solid musical embrace of Ranier, Senatore and Raymond, DeFrances clearly established his future potential, thoroughly underscoring his ability to “make it anywhere.”

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Music: Liza Minnelli at Walt Disney Hall

March 26, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles. Liza Minnelli’s performance at Disney Hall Tuesday night was dramatically different from her most recent previous Southland appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in August of 2012.

Reviewing that show, I wrote that “it was her convincing dramatic abilities as well as her ever-dependable ability to tell a story, rather than her undependable vocalizing, that carried her through the show.”

Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli

This time out, however, Minnelli was at her best in every aspect, including her richly interpretive singing, while delivering a warmly engaging performance that was understandably greeted with responsive enthusiasm by the overflow crowd at Disney. Although she clearly did not demonstrate the dancing skills that have been a strong element of past performances, she nonetheless moved with the elegant stage mastery that has been so present in earlier appearances.

Backed by a sterling seven piece band led by pianist/composer/singer Billy Stritch, Minnelli offered an hour and a half program of songs stretching across her long, impressive career. The range of selections was far reaching – from an opening “Teach Me Tonight” and a definitive “Liza With a Z” to “Come to the Cabaret” and “New York, New York.” Add to that a pair of Charles Aznavour songs and such standard classics as “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” “Maybe This Time,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (done as a superb duet with Stritch) and “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”

Good songs, all of them. But what really made this evening so captivating was the way Minnelli brought all of them vividly to life. Once again, her interpretations were driven by her gripping musical story telling. Yes, there were a few times in which she pushed her voice to its limits. But more often than not, her performance recalled the stunning work that has earned Minnelli – over the past decades – Grammy, Tony, Golden Globe and Oscar awards.

And let’s not overlook the highly supportive contributions of her extraordinary musicians, as well as the  piano playing, singing, musical partnership and whimsical humor provided by Stritch.

Call it another Minnelli performance to remember. One that was eminently listenable. And one that solidly affirmed Minnelli’s still potent skills as one of the music and dramatic world’s incomparable entertainers.

 


Live Jazz: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

March 20, 2014

By Don Heckman

Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert

Bel Air, CA. It was another rare performance to remember Tuesday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. On stage, veteran jazz trumpeter, band leader and club owner Herb Alpert and his wife, singer Lani Hall, were backed by their fine rhythm team: pianist/keyboardist Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael Shapiro.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Offering a program reaching from jazz classics and Songbook standards to a medley of tunes from the hit recordings of Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, the performance took place at the center of the rich, colorful environment Alpert has been creating for Vibrato since he first bought the Bel Air club and transformed it into his perspective of what a fine jazz club/restaurant can be. In the process, his paintings and sculptures – abstract but visually gripping – combined with the re-designing of the room to provide the perfect setting for his always-engaging music.

There were no real surprises in the program for anyone who’s heard Herb and Lani in their recent performances at Vibrato. But no worries there. Whether Herb was playing “A Taste of Honey” or singing “This Guy’s in Love with You”; whether Lani was singing Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance” or the bossa nova delight “O Pato,” the results were always fascinating.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Hearing repetitions of familiar songs can be less than appealing from artists who basically play their “hits” like living juke boxes. With Herb and Lani, however, hearing them perform over the years –singing and playing together — has provided unique opportunities to experience a pair of gifted artists bring new interpretive perspectives to everything they played and sang. As they did on this memorable evening.

Herb has always had a gift for melodic paraphrasing in his solos, and recent years have seen him find even more expressiveness in his improvising, often suggesting the sort of clear-cut, lyrical melody-making long associated with Miles Davis.

Lani Hall

Lani Hall

Lani has been a fine musical story teller since the release of her first album Sundown Lady in the ’70s. In reviewing that album for the New York Times, I referred to her “mix of drama, song, soul and universal emotion that uncovers the real pathos in the lyrics of a song.” Which is precisely what she did in this performance with a deeply emotional interpretation of “Fly Me To The Moon.”

Add to that the superb support of the rhythm section of Cantos, Jiffry and Shapiro, creating a warm setting for Herb and Lani, with Cantos contributing a briskly rhythmic scat version of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and Jiffry offering some guitar-like bossa nova backing on his bass.

In sum, call it a mesmerizing musical offering performed with dynamic creativity. No wonder that the overflow audience responded enthusiastically to every song, demanding and getting encores, and wishing for more.

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: Betty Bryant at Vibrato Jazz…etc.

March 8, 2014

By Don Heckman

Bel Air CA. There was music in the air Thursday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. Not that it was especially unusual to hear an engaging program of songs at Herb Alpert’s elegant Bel Air jazz club. But on this evening, with singer/pianist Betty Bryant displaying the full range of her remarkable skills, backed by the stellar support of bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Ramon Banda, every note was memorable.

Betty Bryant

Betty Bryant

Start with Bryant’s far reaching piano playing. Suffice to say that she is a superb master of the Great American songbook, both as an accompanist (for her vocals) and as an appealing instrumental soloist.

In piece after piece, she punched out piano lines propulsively driven by her bop articulations, blues grooves and crisp, imaginative improvising. Senatore and Banda, world class rhythm section players, provided Bryant with every bit of creative support a soloist could desire.

But it was when Bryant was combining her inimitable blend of vocals and piano backing that she displayed the highlights in this musically gripping performance.

A veteran artist, Bryant was preceeded in the singer/pianist genre by the likes of Nina Simone, Shirley Horn, Carmen McRae, among many others. And like those illustrious predecessors, Bryant used her instrumental skills to provide the perfect settings for her vocals.

Throughout the program, Bryant demonstrated imaginative creative versatility, moving easily and convincingly from bossa nova and the blues to Songbook standards, while displaying her gift for finding the intimate story within a song.

Betty Bryant and Pat Senatore

Betty Bryant and Pat Senatore

Urged forward by Senatore and Banda, she was fully in touch with bossa nova subtleties in her renderings of “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Corcovado.” And her love for the blues was fully apparent in the way she blended instrumental riffs with pointed vocalizing on “My Man Don’t Love Me” and an especially captivating “St. Louis Blues.”

Add to that Bryant’s equally effective readings of such Songbook classics as “I Thought About You,” “Squeeze Me,” Easy Living” and “I Got Rhythm.” In effective contrast, she offered instrumental versions of “Some Other Time” and “I’ll Remember April.”

And in a performance filled with high points, Bryant was especially effective with a climactic “Something Cool,” a song long associated with June Christy. In Bryant’s hands (and voice), the Billy Barnes’ classic was presented with the musical story telling qualities that are at the heart of her musical art.

Call it a rare evening of song, performed with musical alacrity. It’s worth keeping in mind that Betty Bryant doesn’t have a high volume of performances in L.A. So don’t miss any opportunity to hear her in action.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: Eliane Elias and Her Trio at Catalina Bar & Grill

February 28, 2014

By Don Heckman

Eliane Elias’ memorable performance at Catalina Bar & Grill last night was an impressive reminder of the creative interpretations that the Brazilian-born pianist/singer brings to every song she touches.

It recalled the first time I heard Eliane in action, several decades ago at the original Catalina Bar & Grill, when it was still at a location on Cahuenga. She was a relatively unknown young artist at that time. But when she sat down at the piano and delivered a gripping solo rendering of “Body and Soul” she immediately established the fact that she would be one of the most imaginative jazz artists of her generation.

Graham Dechter, Marc Johnson, Eliane Elias and Mauricio Zottarelli

Last night, working with her regular trio – bassist Marc Johnson, guitarist Graham Dechter and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli – Eliane delivered a collection of tunes thoroughly illustrating the maturity that has continued to grow within her work.

Eliiane Elias

Eliiane Elias

Any performance by Eliane is rich with Brazilian authenticity. Born in Sao Paulo, she was still a teenager when she began performing with such iconic figures as composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and lyricist/poet Vinicius de Moraes, while equally fascinated by American jazz.

And this time out she covered both areas, singing such bossa nova classics as “Chega de Saudade,” “Rosa Morena,” “So Danco Samba”and “Desafinado.”

Eliane Elias

Add to that some Great American songbook selections from her latest album, I Thought About You, inspired by and dedicated to Chet Baker. Here, she brought intimate lyricism and brightly swinging rhythmic emphasis to, among others, “This Can’t Be Love,” the title track, “I Thought About You” and “Embraceable You.”

Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias

Early in her career, Eliane was reluctant to showcase herself as a singer, preferring to emphasize her abilities as a jazz pianist. But as she’s matured, applying her warm tone and convincing musical story telling qualities, she’s released her hesitance to emphasize her always mesmerizing vocal interpretations. And the results, fully on display in this captivating appearance, were constantly appealing.

Eliane has two more performances scheduled at Catalina Bar & Grill, tonight and tomorrow (Saturday) night. They should be seen and enjoyed by all fans of the jazz vocal art, which Eliane has mastered, blending her exquisite singing and irresistible piano jazz.

Don’t miss these last two opportunities to hear Eliane Elias highlight the pleasures of vocal jazz at its finest.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Bonnie Perkinson.


An Appreciation: Devon Wendell and Don Heckman Remember Tony Gieske

February 27, 2014

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

Tony Gieske

Tony Gieske

Tony Gieske was right there amongst the greats that I grew up worshiping. He had photographed, Interviewed, or reviewed the masters like John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie to name just a few. His stellar career spanned over half a century.

As a student at NYU, I used to go to The New York Public Library and read his terrific interviews and articles for The Washington Post, The New York Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, and The Hollywood Reporter while listening to the great artists he covered on my walkman. Tony’s humility, love, and seemingly limitless knowledge of jazz came through in his writing. He also stayed current on the jazz scene.

Many years later I was blessed to be able to be a colleague of Tony’s while working for Don Heckman and The International Review Of Music.

I got to know Tony while covering The Playboy Jazz Festival for Don and iRoM. He was an unassuming, charming man who was running all over The Hollywood Bowl taking amazing photos. He’d ask me who I was covering for the day’s program and then I’d see him in front of the stage snapping away. Most of the photos on my articles, Q&A’s, and reviews were taken by Tony. His photos always captured the fire of the performance.

I told him in 2011 how much of a fan of his I had been most of my life. He thanked me very humbly. I knew he loved Dizzy Gillespie and played cornet and I mentioned that I’d rather be playing trumpet like Dizzy, Fats, Lee Morgan, or Freddie Hubbard (All of whom he had witnessed in person) than play the guitar. He said with that one of a kind smile; “You know your stuff. I can tell by your writing. You could learn the trumpet fast.”

And then he was off to take some more photos. I felt elated. He had read my stuff.

He never boasted or bragged about his prolific career. He just smiled and kept doing what he loved. Tony Gieske will be missed and he will always be loved by musicians and the musically obsessed like myself.

* * * * * * * *

By Don Heckman

I’ve been around writers, photographers and editors all my working life. But I never met anyone who combined the roles of writer/photographer any better than Tony Gieske did.

Tony Gieske

Tony Gieske

I was familiar with his work while we were both deeply involved with the ’60s music scene in New York — Tony at the Herald Tribune, me at the Voice and the NY Times . Our paths crossed frequently in those ever-exciting years. And we quickly discovered that we had similar approaches to our writing and reviewing, founded on the fact that we both had been, and occasionally continued to be, professional musicians.

Like Tony, I believed that music critic/reviewers should be trained, experienced musicians. And his reviews continually triggered responses from the musicians he reviewed, expressing their pleasure that their work had been covered by someone who “got” what it was they were doing creativel.

In recent years, we ran into each other after we both relocated to L.A., where Tony worked for the Hollywood Reporter while I wrote for the L.A. Times.

In more recent years, I was proud to have Tony as a regular contributor, as a reviewer and a photographer, for my International Review of Music blog.

His writing style – with its literary qualities, his deep understanding of the music and his constant sense of whimsical humor – were among the best-, most frequently-read posts on iRoM.

And while you’re reading some of his reviews, be sure to look closely at his photos. We have many contributing phographers for iRoM, and Tony was one of the most unique. Like the great French photgrapher Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tony believed that a picture should be taken at “The Decisive Moment.” With jazz artists, capturing the “decisive moment” is vital, and no one did it better than Tony Gieske.

Add to that all of his warm, engaging personal qualities, ever-present even on the most stressful job environments, always quick with a jibe, eager to discuss some inside aspect of the music we were hearing.

Tony passed away Saturday after a long illness. He had been missing from the music scene for many months dealing with his malady. It was never quite the same without my dear friend. And it never will be.

Tony Gieske was one of a kind.


Here, There & Everywhere: April Williams Resigns from Vitello’s

January 19, 2014

By Don Heckman

Jazz clubs come and go in most major cities. Los Angeles is no exception. The Jazz Bakery lost its home in Culver City in 2009. Charlie O’s in Van Nuys was shuttered in 2011. Both were vital homes for L.A.’s finest jazz artists and valuable destinations for jazz fans.

April Williams

April Williams

This month, Upstairs at Vitello’s, another jazz room, is not closing down. But it is apparently changing its management and its scheduling.  And April Williams, who has been primarily responsible for establishing Upstairs at Vitello’s as a major Los Angeles Jazz venue, is moving on.  To explain her decision, Williams has written a letter to the musicians, the fans and the friends who will all be impacted by her departure from Vitello’s.

* * * * * * * *

Here’s her letter:

Dear Beloved Musicians and Friends

Happy New Year! I wish you good health, happiness and prosperity. I am so grateful for all the great performances, your friendship and the good times we have shared together.

With the New Year there are endings and new beginnings. I am very excited about my plans for 2014.  However, as excited as I am about new projects in the works, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that, due to ongoing artistic differences with the management, I will be terminating my residency at Vitello’s as of February 1, 2014. I thank Vitello’s for the opportunities they extended to me when I knocked on their door in 2009 when the world was economically crashing down. I told them I had a vision that I could create a Jazz Night one day a week..and they gave me that opportunity.

February 2014 is the five-year anniversary of my residency at Vitello’s. We have all done so much uniting and growing the communities involvement with live music. Together we have proven that the music community is a vital entity that survives through the worst economic years of the country. In addition to the audiences we attracted to Vitello’s, I ran and continue to run 5 years of composers’ Study groups, we raised $17k for tsunami relief in Japan, we celebrated Grammy Nominees and winners, Big Bands, Young Artists and night after night the magic of music.

I financed the first 9 months personally, bought the equipment and as the power of the music expanded, Vitello’s joined in. I created over 20,000 jobs for musicians in the last five years. I am proud of what we have achieved together. What we’ve learned in the years at Vitello’s is that there is a dedicated Los Angeles audience for the finest jazz of every style and genre. And my new plans will open the doors to venues eager to provide those audiences with the world-class music they’re eager to hear.

I gratefully thank all of you for your selfless sharing of yourselves and your music. And I thank you, too, for your constant support and extraordinary performances over the last five years. Your playing and singing set the creative bar high. And you always embraced me and delivered on your musical promises. In return, I did the very best I could to give you all the services you deserve to properly honor your music.

The audiences I thank as well. You are musical forces unto yourselves. Composed of musicians, aficionados, writers, photographers, sound teams, and fans, students and educators, you all came forward to preserve the music culture of Los Angeles.

It has been a fantastic run. I am so grateful to have worked alongside the best musicians in the world. Musician Friends, that is, who have all become my closest and dearest associates.

I look forward to working together again with all of you in the near future.

Stay tuned. More news coming shortly.

And remember…the difference between noise and music is the amount of space between the notes.

Love and peace,

April Williams

april@redcarpetjazz.com

www.downbeatentertainment.com

*  * * * * * *

When he heard about Williams’ plans to move on from Vitello’s, Joe LaBarbera, one of the Southland’s finest, busiest players, wrote a response to Williams’ letter with his own commentary about her departure from the room. 

* * * * * * * *

Here’s Joe’s message:

Dear April,

Joe LaBarbera

Joe LaBarbera

5 years ago you took a vacant space in a mediocre Italian restaurant and magically transformed it into a real jazz club. Starting with just one night a week, the reputation of the club grew along with the roster of artists who were happy to play there, local at first and eventually from coast to coast. You improved every aspect of that room to make it THE place to play in Los Angeles.

It’s been true of every great club I have known over the years that the only reason it is successful is because the person in charge loves the music. Max Gordon at the Village Vanguard, Sonny Canterino at the Half Note, Shelly Manne and Rudy Underwieser at the Manne Hole, Mike and Randy Brecker at 7th Ave. These are just a few examples.

Thank you, April for a great run and I look forward to working together in the future.

Love,

Joe LaBarbera 

* * * * *

As Joe LaBarbera’s letter makes abundantly clear, April Williams has had a significant impact upon both the quantity and the quality of jazz in Los Angeles.  And she will continue to play a leading role in the jazz and the music communities that have benefited so much from her presence. As April’s letter clearly indicates: Stay tuned for her future plans.

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: Jane Monheit at Catalina Bar & Grill

December 29, 2013

By Don Heckman

Jane Monheit’s in town again this week for another of her holiday season visits.  She opened at Catalina Bar & Grill on Friday, continued on Saturday and will also perform at the club tonight (Sunday) and Monday, finishing up Tuesday with a New Year’s Eve appearance. And that’s great news for fans of prime jazz vocalizing.

Monheit’s first real visibility in the jazz community took place in the 1998 Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute’s Vocal Competition, when – at 21 – she was the first runner-up to veteran singer Teri Thornton in a field of competitors that also included Tierney Sutton and Roberta Gambarini.

Jane Monheit and RIck Montalbano

Jane Monheit and RIck Montalbano

She’s released a dozen or so recordings since then, and received a pair of Grammy nominations.  But as appealing as all of her CDs have been, there’s nothing like hearing – and seeing – Monheit perform live, especially with the solid backing of her trio: pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Neal Miner and her husband, Rick Montalbano, on drums. Each of the frequent performances she’s done at Catalina Bar & Grill over the past few years has been both unique and memorable. And this one was no exception.

Call it a Great American Songbook set, a program of familiar classics, starting with Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night,” and concluding with Irving Berlin’s “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.” And we can’t overlook the equally memorable “I Was Born To Be Blue,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” and “Never Let Me Go.”

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

Add to that Monheit’s reference to what she described as the jazz aspects of Judy Garland via a richly blended medley of “The Boy Next Door” and “The Man That Got Away.”

All of the above titles are essential elements in the repertoire of most jazz and adult contemporary singers. But the real question lies in what a singer does with such classic items. And Monheit has thoroughly established herself over the past decade as one of the prime imaginative singers of the current music world.

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

In song after song, Monheit’s Saturday night program unfolded with the gripping expressiveness of a true musical story teller. Blessed with an extraordinary instrument, she employed all her vocal skills – a far-reaching range, variable tonal qualities, briskly swinging rhythmic articulation and penetrating emotional intensity – at the service of her interpretations. Topping it off, she dipped into some scat singing on a few tunes, delivered with an inventiveness that would probably have delighted Ella Fitzgerald.

Call it a great evening of music for every member of Monheit’s enthusiastic audience. But I couldn’t help but feel that this was a performance that should be heard by other singers, too – a performance with sufficient creative information to aid anyone with ambitions for a vocal career. With three more performances this week, Catalina’s should draw more full houses to her seminars in the art of expressive vocalizing.

 * * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


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