Picks of the Weekend: December 13 – 15

December 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Mike Stern

Mike Stern

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Mike Stern Quartet. Guitarist Stern moves convincingly across jazz styles with ease. And he’s backed by a band – featuring Randy Brecker, Anthony Jackson and Dave Weckl – that is equally versatile – and swinging. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun) “Christmas with Gustavo.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays the Nutcracker Suite (complete), under the celebratory baton of Musical Director Gustavo Dudamel. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 13. (Fri.) Don Menza Quartet. Saxophonist Menza is high on the list of first call players, regardless of style. This time out, she steps into his own musical spotlight. Vibrato. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 13. (Fri.) The Oak Ridge Boys. Christmas Time’s A Comin’” with the iconic country group presenting their own warm and fuzzy Christmas celebration. Valley Performing Arts Center (818) 677-8800

April Williams

April Williams

- Dec. 15. (Sun.) The Ron Jones Influence Jazz Orchestra and April Williams. “It’s A Big Band Holiday.” Christmas music in a big jazz band setting, with Ron Jones 21 piece big band, featuring holiday classics sung by tuneful April Williams. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

- Dec. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.) Sheila E. Birthday Celebration. Singer/percussionist Sheila Escovedo is a compelling performer who is as musically gripping as she is entertaining. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Chicago

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) The Fred Hersch Trio. Pianist Hersch’s playing recalls the engaging aspects of the jazz piano trio style that reaches back to Bill Evans. The Jazz Showcase. (312) 360-0234.

 New York City

Fourplay

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun) Fourplay. With Bob James, keyboards, Chuck Loeb, guitar, Harvey Mason, drums, Nathan East, bass, Fourplay continues to maintain its well-deserved reputation as a world class contemporary jazz ensemble. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

 Copenhagen

- Dec. 15. (Sun.) Love & Peace. The Music of Horace Parlan. Bop piano stylist Parlan has had medical problems intruding on his playing in recent years. But his music is being keep alive in Copenhagen by the American/Danish ensemble of Bob Rockwell, tenor saxophone and Doug Raney, guitar, from the U.S. and Jesper Lundgaard, bass, Henrik Gunde, piano and Aage Tanggaard, drums, from Denmark. Jazzhus Montmartre. +45 31 72 34 94.

 Tokyo

Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack

- Dec. 14 & 15. (Sat. & Sun.) Roberta Flack. Singer/songwriter Flack may be in her mature years, but she’s still singing with the vitality of a gifted young artist. Hopefully she’ll include “Killing Me Softly” and ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in her program. The Blue Note Tokyo.+81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 14 – 20

October 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Josh Nelson

- Oct. 17. (Thurs.) All Star Quartet. Pat Senatore, bass, Josh Nelson, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Mark Ferber, drums. “All Star” is the right label for this quartet of four of the Southland’s finest players. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun. Steve Gadd Band. Drummer Gadd has played with everyone from pop and rock stars to jazz headliners. This time he’s backed by the equally stellar ensemble of Michael Landau, Larry Goldings, Walt Fowler, & Jimmy Johnson). Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- Oct. 18 – 20. (Fri. – Sun.) Disney Hall 10th Anniversary Celebration. Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to a familiar podium to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a celebratory program of Debussy, Bartok and Lindberg, with cello soloist Anssi Karttunen and the women of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Carol Welsman

Carol Welsman

- Oct. 19. (Sat.) Carol Welsman. “Reflections of Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman.” Pianist/singer Welsman applies her many talents to a program of Swing band classics. She’s joined by versatile saxophonist/vocalist Don Shelton. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 19 (Sat.) Eva Ayllon. Multiple Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, one of Peru’s most honored musicians, makes a rare L.A. Appearance. CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-.2101.

- Oct. 19. (Sat.) Bernadette Peters. Musical theatre star Peters’ many talents reach from film and television to the stage, where her many starring roles include Mack and Mabel, Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy, Into the Woods and more. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

- Oct. 20 (Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Jeffrey Kahane conducts the LACO in works by Britten, Haydn, Mozart and Bruce Adolphe, featuring cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras. CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.  (310) 825.2101.

Brian Wilson

- Oct. 20. (Sun.) Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck. It’s a rare combination of pop music greats, joining with Wilson’s former bandmates, Al Jardine and David Marks in a program that includes a great deal of the Beach Boys classic catalog of songs. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

- Oct. 19 & 20 (Sat. & Sun.) Michel Camilo, solo. The Dominican Republic’s gift to jazz piano playing performs a rare solo display of his rich improvisational skills. An SFJAZZ concert at Miner Auditorium. (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- Oct. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.) Fourplay. Together for more than two decades, the members of Fourplay – Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason and Chuck Loeb continue to lead the way in finding the roots of contemporary jazz. Jazz Alley. (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

Russell Malone

- Oct. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.) Russell Malone Quartet. Guitarist Malone has demonstrated his considerable versatility with the likes of Diana Krall, Harry Connick, Jr. and Jimmy Smith, and he continues to be a player adept with all seasons of jazz styles. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- Oct. 15 & 16. (Tues. & Wed.) Phil Woods Quintet. Still one of the definitive bebop players, veteran alto saxophonist Woods is one of the trune jazz originals. Here he’s joined by the world class backing of Brian Lynch, trumpet, Bill Charlap, piano, Bill Goodwin, drums, Steve Gilmore, bass. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

London

- Oct. 16 – 19. (Wed. – Sun.) Wayne Henderson’s Jazz Crusaders. Trombonist Henderson works hard to keep the classic jazz/funk/soul of the Crusaders alive and well. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Milan

Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander

- Oct. 15. (Tues.) Monty Alexander Trio. Jamaican-born pianist Alexander successfully manages to blend the sounds and rhythms of Jamaica with his extraordinary, Oscar Peterson-influenced jazz stylings. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- Oct. 20 – 22. (Sun. – Tues.) John Scofield’s “Uberjam.” Always in search of new creative ideas, veteran jazz guitarist Scofield’s Uberjam band explores linkages with contemporary pop styles. Blue Note Tokyo. Tokyo Blue Note.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 27 – Jan. 1

December 26, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jane Monheit

- Dec. 27 – Jan 1.  (Tues. through Sunday)  Jane Monheit.  The beautiful Monheit gets an early start, ramping up all week to the big Saturday night New Year’s celebration.  And what better way to bring in 2012 than by hearing her velvet voice and gentle swing delivering “Auld Lang Syne.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 28. (Wed.)  Joe Bagg Organ Trio.  Bagg’s unique approach to the B-3, which happily avoids most of the predictable repetitions often heard from the instrument, makes his gigs especially appealing musical events.  He’s backed by Steve Cotter, bass and Ryan Doyle, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 28. (Wed.)  Gerald Clayton Trio. Pianist Clayton, blessed with musically rich genes (his Dad is bassist/composer/bandleader John Clayton, his uncle alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton) has thoroughly established himself as one of the most important new jazz arrivals of the past few years.  Steamers.   (714) 871-8800.

Luciana Souza

- Dec. 29. (Thurs.)  Luciana Souza.  Brazil’s Souza brings far-ranging musicality to the jazz vocal art, adept in the music of her native land, well-versed in jazz and contemporary classical music, always a pleasure to hear because of her quest to explore fascinating creative territories.  She’ll be well-aided toward that goal by guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist David PiltchBlue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

- Dec. 29. (Turs.)  Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band.  Yes, the filmmaker/comedian really does play the clarinet, and does it well via a deep understanding of the essential elements of New Orleans music in general, and the New Orleans clarinet style in particular.  Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

- Dec. 29. (Thurs.)  Billy Mitchell & Friends.  Pianist and all-around entertaining jazz artist Mitchell is featured at In-House Music’s early New Year’s Eve party, complete with cocktails, party hats, streamers, dancing and more.  With Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet, Rob Kyle, saxophone, Tomas Gargano, bass, Frank Wilson, drums.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza LAX.  Information: In-House Music.   (310) 216-5861.

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Billy Childs

- Dec. 20 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.)  Billy Childs Quartet.  The live performance by pianist Child’s musically compelling quartet — with Childs’ exploratory, ever searching piano playing in company with the saxophones of Bob Sheppard, the bass of Tim Lefebvre and the drums of Gary Novak — will also be delivered over FM radio via a live broadcast on NPR.  Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.) Brazilian New Year’s Eve Celebration.  Here’s a spectacular new way to celebrate the arrival of 2012, aboard the historic ocean liner, The Queen Mary. Rio’s Marcos Ariel, his keyboards and his Quartet will cover the full range of Carioca music — from samba to bossa nova to chorinho.  The samba dancers of Joany’s Samba Show will display the latest dance moves, and DJ Chris Brasil will keep the beat alive.  At midnight, 2012 will come in amid a spectacular fireworks show.  Rio de Janeiro at the Queen Mary.  (818) 566-1111.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Sherry Williams.  The smooth sounding voice, effortless swing and artful interpretive skills of Williams still don’t receive the full attention they deserve.  She’ll be backed in this elegant celebratory night by the Pat Senatore QuartetVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Dec, 31, (Sat.)  Frank Strazzeri. Pianist Strazzeri’s diverse career path has led from Dixieland jazz (with Al Hirt) through the bop years (with Charlie Ventura and Woody Herman), West Coast jazz (with Art Pepper, Chet Baker and more) and still swinging into the present.  This time out, he’ll be leading his stellar Legacy Group, with George Harper, tenor saxophone, Steve Johnson, trombone, Jeff Littleton, bass and Kenny Elliott, drums.   JAX Bar & Grill.    (818) 500-1604.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Jane Monheit.  New Years Eve celebration.  See above.  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

Pink Martini

- Dec. 31. (Sat.) New Year’s Eve with Pink Martini.  The ultimate cabaret act, Pink Martini – mixing their originals with such camp-edged classics as “Amado Mio” from the film Gilda — find common ground between French cabaret, jazz, Latin dance music, Brazilian samba and a lot more.  They’ll bring in the New Year with a memorable collection of songs. Disney Hall.   (323) 650-2000.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Chris Williams Sextet.  Moving freely across mainstream, Latin and bebop territory, Williams spices his vocals with a dramatic ability to find the essential meaning of a song.  Steamers.    (714) 871-8800.

San Francisco

- Dec. 29 – 31. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Maceo Parker’s New Year’s Party. Alto saxophonist Parker has been a definitive voice of funk and soul since his prominent visibility with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic.  And he’s still going strong. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Chicago

Roy Hargrove

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Roy Hargrove Quintet. Grammy winning trumpeter Roy Hargrove has thoroughly established himself – at 42 – as one of the jazz world’s most versatile artists, moving compellingly across jazz and pop styles, from small groups to his own big band.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

Washington, D.C.

- Dec. 28 – 31. (Wed. – Sat.)  Monty Alexander.  Alexander’s articulate jazz skills made him one of the most admired post-Oscar Peterson, bebop-driven pianists.  But more than that, he’s enhanced those skills with fascinating inner tinges of the sounds and rhythms of his native Jamaica.   Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York

Wynton Marsalis

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Wynton Marsalis: ”The Music of Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver.”  Few contemporary jazz artists understand – or even care to understand – the compelling musical delights of the music of Morton as well as Wynton Marsalis does.  And in addition to authenticity, Marsalis brings joyful, timeless swing to his memorable performances of works from these iconic jazz figures.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus.  The trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to carry the torch for ever-evolving new views of the classic piano jazz trio.  Village Vanguard. l  (212) 255-4037.

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Botti.  An epic three week run — with two shows every evening — wraps up with a climactic New Year’s weekend for trumpeter Botti and his all-star collection of players.  Enhancing the music — the far-ranging versatility of singer Lisa Fischer.  Tickets may be hard, even impossible to get.  But it’s worth the effort to hear the best-selling American jazz instrumental artist in action.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Milan

- Dec. 27 – Dec. 31. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Harlem Gospel Choir. The 40-voice choir has established itself over the past 2 ½ decades, in performances around the world, for their expressive interpretations of the classic gospel repertoire. The Blue Note Milano.  02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

- Dec. 29 – 31. Thurs. – Sat.)  Fourplay.  The Fourplay quartet, often identified in the contemporary, even the smooth jazz, arena has always nonetheless maintained a solid connection with mainstream jazz roots.  And the addition of guitarist Chuck Loeb to the original trio of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason has further enhanced Fourplay’s musical solidity.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Billy Childs and Wynton Marsalis photos by Tony Gieske


Picks of the Week: July 25 – 31.

July 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Justo Almario

- July 26. (Tues.)  Justo Almario Quartet.  Saxophonist/flutist Almario is one of the Southland’s great jazz treasures, a player who moves convincingly across every jazz arena. Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 27. (Wed.)  Gladys Knight and James Ingram.  The one and only Grammy-winning Empress of Soul shares the stage with the smooth sounds of balladeer Ingram.   Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2040.

- July 28. (Thurs.)  David Angel’s Saxtet.  Angel continues his quest to showcase the jazz saxophone in all its glories.   Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

- July 28. (Thurs.)  Red Baraat.  The band that has convincingly married the Punjabi bhangra percussion rhythms with spunky New Orleans brass makes its West Coast premiere appearance.  The Skirball Cultural Center.   Free.  Seating on first come basis.  (310) 440-4500.

Ann Hampton Callaway

- July 28 – July 30.  (Thurs. – Sun.) Ann Hampton Callaway.  Blessed with one of the jazz vocal world’s most gorgeous, emotionally pliant voices, Callaway is also a convincing pianist and a masterful musical storyteller. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- July 29. (Fri.)  Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos.  One of the major pop music breakthroughs of the past decade, the Grammy winning, platinum producing Lonely Boys share the stage with the older, more established, but no less compelling Los Lobos. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

- July 29. (Fri.)  John Proulx, Kristin Korb and Dave Tull. Trio’s like this don’t come along very often.  Pianist Proulx, bassist Korb and drummer Tull are all first rate instrumentalists  But each of them is also an appealing jazz vocalist.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- July 29 & 30. (Fri. & Sat.) Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television.  Pianist/singer Feinstein, who matches his musical adroitness with a dedication to the glories of American song, performs with Wayne Brady, Florence Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson and Dick Van Dyke.   Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

- July 30. (Sat.)  Trouble in Tahiti. The too-rarely seen Leonard Bernstein one-act opera receives a rare and unusual performance in a night club setting.  Jessica Marney and Phil Meyer star.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- July 30. (Sat.)  Shoghaken Ensemble and Tigran.  An evening overflowing with the colorful, far-reaching melodies and rhythms of Armenia.  Grand Performances.

(213) 687-2159.

- July 30. (Sat.)  Chuck Manning Quartet.  Versatile tenor saxophonist Manning brings an inventive point of view to his bop-influenced, straight ahead style.  His stellar backing includes Jay Daversa, trumpet, Pat Senatore, bass and Jimmy Branley, drums.  At 6:30 and 10:30, the Otmaro Ruiz duo.   Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

Peter Frampton

- July 30. (Sat.)  Peter Frampton.  One of the icons of classic rock, Frampton was a co-founder of the group Humble Pie when he was only eighteen.  Still a star, this time out he performs his multi-platinum album Frampton Comes Alive! in its entirety.  Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

- July 30 & 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival.  The 16th annual festival, always a showcase for the Southland’s finest, takes place in one of the founding places of Los Angeles jazz.  This year’s line up includes: on Saturday: Pete Escovedo, Kamasi Washington, the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, Karen A. Clark Project, Ashley Siris, Dorian Holley, The LAUSD All-City High School Jazz Band.  On Sunday: The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Katia Moraes and Sambaguru, Deacon Jones with Ray Goren, Ernie Andrews, Jazz America tribute to Buddy Collette.  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival takes place on Central Ave. between 42nd and 43rd streets.  Free.  (213) 473-2309.

San Francisco

New West Guitar Group

- July 27. (Wed.)  New West Guitar Group. A trio of gifted young guitarists – John Storie, Perry Smith and Jeff Stein, the New West players have thoroughly authenticated their ability to move freely and imaginatively across jazz, rock, folk and beyond.  Freight & Salvage.   http://www.thefreight.org  (510) 644-2020.

- July 29. (Fri.)  Lavay Smith’s Crazy in Love with Patsy Cline.  The one and only sultry siren finds entertaining common ground between jazz, blues and country.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.   (510) 644-2020.

- July 31 – 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Fab Four.  Tribute bands seem to be proliferating in every direction.  But none do a more entertaining job of it than the Fab Four’s ear and eye catching versions of the Beatrles. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

New York

- July 26 – 30. (Tues. – Sat.)  Leny Andrade“From Rio With Love.”  The title is great, but it doesn’t say it all.  Andrade, in fact, has for years been one of Brazil’s most proficient jazz vocal artists, combining her deep understanding of Brazilian rhythms with an equally inventive jazz style.  Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.

- July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Fourplay. Guitarist Chuck Loeb joined founding Fourplay members Bob James, keyboards, Nathan East, bass and Harvey Mason, drums in 2010.  The result has been a further musical enhancement of a group that has always had the ability to find the creative heart of whatever style they elect to play.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Claudia Acuna

- July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Claudia Acuna.  In a jazz world overflowing with talented female vocal artists, Acuna continues to soar freely at the highest levels of the art.  Chilean born, she mastered the basics quickly, but what makes her special is the way she has shaped her version of those basics into her own mesmerizing musical story telling. (212) 258-9800.   Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

Paris

- July 29. (Fri.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  Tenor and soprano saxophonist Coltrane has successfully accomplished the difficult task of creating his own convincing musical identity, expanding inventively from year to year, inspired but undistracted by the greatness of his father.  New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.

Justo Amario photo by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: June 21 – 26

June 21, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Misha Piatigorsky

June 21. (Tues.) Misha Piatigorsky with Sketchy Black Dog.  The winner of the 2004 Thelonious Monk Composers Competition, pianist Piatigorsky’s extraordinary skills reach from soundtrack composing for major films to collaborations with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Jon Hendricks and Joe Lovano. His piano trio combines with a string quartet to create the ensemble Sketchy Black Dog.   Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- June 21 (Tues.)  Julian Lage. Guitarist Lage was a child prodigy, the subject of an Academy Award nominated documentary.  Now 23, he has established himself as one of the prime jazz artists of his generation. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 22 (Wed.) Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  In addition to their world class jazz skills, Marsalis and the JLCO also offer an irresistible blend of new music and memorable jazz repertory. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

- June 22. (Wed.)  Carol Welsman.  Singer/pianist Welsman accomplishes the harder-than-it-looks task of blending her intimate vocalizing and her briskly swinging piano with a subtle ease reminiscent of the great Nat “King” Cole. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Alan Chapman and Karen Benjamin

- June 22. (Wed.) CabarabiaMusic For A Midsummer’s Night: An Evening of Cabaret and Jazz”  The title tells it all.  And with a cast like this, expect great results: Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman. Vocal group Fourplay.  Singers Lauren White and Karen G.  And introducing “Johnny Loves Maddie.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 23. (Thurs.)  Alison Kraus and Union Station.  With Jerry Douglas. Back together again, this triple Grammy winning combination returns with their matchless blend of country, rock, pop and Americana. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.

- June 23. (Thurs.)  Theo Saunders Quartet.  The pianist/composer’s resume reaches from gigs with most of the major names in jazz, to music directing for theatre, to composing for dance, theatre, multi-media and beyond.  Here’s a chance to hear him up close and personal with his own quartet. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- June 24. (Fri.)  Deep Purple: The Songs That Built Rock.  The iconic English band, with three original members, makes its first North American tour in four years.  And, for the first time, they’ll perform with the stunning accompaniment of a symphony orchestra.  Blues-driven Ernie and the Automatics open the show. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.

- June 24. (Fri.)  Deborah Pearl.  Writer/lyricist/singer Pearl features selections from her remarkable new album, Souvenir of You: New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics. She’s backed by the sensitive, swinging support of the Lou Forestieri Trio with special guest Don Shelton on saxophone.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Melissa Manchester

- June 24 – 26. (Fri. – Sun.)  Melissa Manchester.  Singer/songwriter Manchester’s high flying career has zoomed from one hit to another.  Her successes with “Through the Eyes of Love,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and “Midnight Blue” thoroughly established her as an artist who knows how to transform a song into a classic.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- June 24. (Fri.)  Kitty Margolis.  With Allison Miller on drums.  Margolis spends an unusual amount of time away from her Bay area home base.  But now, in a rare San Francisco appearance that should please all of her many local fans, she’s finally getting around to making her debut at Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

- June 24 & 25. (Fri. & Sat.)  Generations in JazzEldar Djangirov and Pat Martino.  Young pianist Djangirov and veteran guitarist Martino are, indeed, generations apart, but they find common ground in their jazz encounters. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- June 25. (Sat.)  Ana Moura.  A rich, dark voice combined with a mastery of deeply emotional musical story make Moura one of the world’s finest fado singers.  An SFJAZZ Spring Season event at the Herbst Theatre.    (866) 920-5299.

Chicago

Claudio Roditi

- June 23 – 26. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Claudio Roditi.  Veteran Brazilian trumpeter Roditi has affirmed his jazz creds via his work with the Dizzy Gillespie United Nations Orchestra as well the Grammy nomination s he’s received for his own work. The Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

- June 21 – 25.  (Tues. – Sat.)  The Mike Stern Band featuring Esperanza Spalding.  Guitarist Stern, always expanding his musical horizons, teams up with bassist/singer and rapidly emerging jazz star Spalding.  Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

- June 21 – 26. (Tues. – Sun.)  Barbara Carroll. Her early career as a jazz pianist gradually morphed into Carroll’s later work as an impressive cabaret artist.  At 86, she’s still going strong, and should be in rare form with the backing of Ken Peplowski, Jay Leonhart and Alvin AtkinsonDizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- June 24. (Fri.)  Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet. Born in Pakistan, guitarist Abbasi has lived in New York for nearly two decades.  His music reflects both environments, a synthesis of straight ahead jazz and the improvisational traditions of his native land.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

Washington D.C.

Jon Faddis

- June 24 & 25. (Fri. & Sat.)  Jon Faddis.  Trumpeter Faddis takes a break from his busy schedule as educator, conductor and composer to display his virtuosic instrumental wares.  Blues Alley.     (202) 337-4141.

London

- June 26. (Sun.)  Darius Brubeck Quartet and Claude Deppa.  Eldest son of Dave Brubeck, pianist Darius spent more than 20 years in South Africa establishing jazz programs at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and finding intriguing linkages between African traditional music and jazz.  Trumpeter/composer Deppa roves easily across soul, funk, Afro-jazz and Afro-Cuban musics.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Berlin

June 22 – 24. (Wed. – Fri.) Ramon Valle Trio.  Cuban pianist Valle is yet another extraordinary jazz keyboardist to emerge from the island nation.  He describes himself as a troubadour – “because I tell stories, stories without words.”  A-Trane.   49 30 313 25 50.


Here, There & Everywhere: Guitars Galore at The Playboy Jazz Festival

June 8, 2011

By Don Heckman

The Playboy Jazz Festival returns to the Hollywood Bowl this weekend for the 33rd time with another celebration of America’s great musical art.  And the Festival’s long, remarkable  string of successes, over the course of more than three decades, is best described by Playboy’s founder, Hugh Hefner.

“I’ve had a lot of things to be proud of in my life,” says Hef.  “But nothing more, quite frankly, than the Jazz Festival.”

Most people see the Festival from one or both of two perspectives: As a non-stop parade of world class jazz (and beyond) talent.  And as a similarly continuous party in the Southern California outdoors, reaching from bright afternoon sunlight to cool night breezes.  Combine the two, with the music, the wine coolers, the feasting and the occasional dancing in the aisles, and it’s no wonder why the Festival has been packing the Bowl for so many years.

It’s seems to me, however, that there are other aspects to the weekend that are also intriguing.

Some of those aspects are always present.  Like, for example, the sociology of the Festival.  What do I mean by that?  Take a walk around the entire perimeter of the venue, from bottom to top and down again.  And you’ll see a shifting array of listeners and activities: the up close garden boxes with their catered lunches and fine wines; the devoted jazz fan groups who purchase entire blocks of seats to be together; the folks in the garden chairs, coolers and umbrellas at the very top, viewing the proceedings mostly on the large video screens.

Other aspects are unique to the programming of each Festival.  This year, for example, Sunday’s schedule includes the presence of no less than four extraordinary guitarists, whose styles embrace the full range of the instrument’s jazz identity.

John Scofield

Start with John Scofield, who’s performing in a duet format with Robben Ford halfway into Sunday’s program.  Sco, as he’s called by friends and fans, has been a visible presence on the jazz scene since the ‘70s, performing with everyone from Charles Mingus and Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny.  But he’s also crossed over comfortably into genres.  His website notes, correctly, that his “music generally falls somewhere between post-bop, funk-edged jazz and R & B.”

Robben Ford

Robben Ford’s career also dates back to the ‘70s.  And he’s been crossing boundaries comfortably ever since the beginning.  His blues credentials were established early, backing blues legend Jimmy Witherspoon.  From there he went to Tom Scott’s L.A. Express, backing both George Harrison and Joni Mitchell.  After that, a stint with Miles Davis followed by his own numerous bands.

Buddy Guy

The great, veteran blues guitarist Buddy Guy is in the spotlight for the headliner position on Sunday night.  Although his early career was largely spent in the shadows, backing the likes of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Junior Wells, he finally came into his own in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Since then, his uniquely personal blues style, which can at any time verge into soul music, rock and even a touch of avant-garde, has firmly established him as one of the great blues guitarists.  To read a recent iRoM Q & A with Buddy Guy click HERE.

Stanley Jordan

Stanley Jordan, performing in Harmony 3 with Ronnie Laws and Walter Beasley, is one of the guitar world’s most unusual artists.  Using a two-handed tapping technique on the strings (rather than the plucking or strumming) he has the capability of playing the guitar with the melodic fluency and harmonic textures of a keyboard instrument.  The results are extraordinary, enhanced by the compositional imagination Jordan brings to every solo he takes.

Chuck Loeb

And it’s not just on Sunday that the Festival is showcasing jazz guitarists.  On Saturday’s program, the group Fourplay is now featuring guitarist Chuck Loeb as a vital ingredient in their mix of jazz, pop and r & b elements.  A veteran of Stan Getz’s band, Michael Brecker’s Steps Ahead and his own jazz fusion band, Metro, he has also been a busy studio musician, leading his own groups for a couple of decades before joining Fourplay.

That’s a lot of different views of the jazz guitar over a two day period.  And it’s another example of the many engaging levels of interest present in the programming and the performances at this year’s — and every year’s — Playboy Jazz Festival.

For information about the Playboy Jazz Festival click HERE.  Or call the information line:    (310) 450-1173.


Picks of the Week: June 6 – 12

June 5, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 6. (Mon.)  Candi Sosa: Bolero Meets Jazz.  Cuban born singer Sosa finds surprisingly compatible musical linkages between jazz and the lyrical Latin ballad style. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 7. (Tues.)  Jennifer Leitham Trio.  Bassist/singer Leitham celebrates the release of her DVD, The Real Me Live!, the chronicle of an extraordinary talent and an amazing life.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Sally Kellerman

- June 8. (Wed.) Sally UnpluggedSally Kellerman.  Hot Lips returns with a bundle of songs reaching from jazz and blues to country and pop.  And she does them all with utter authenticity, finding the heart of the story in everything she sings. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- June 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  “Rhapsody in Blue.”  The Pacific Symphony conducted by James Gaffigan, performs a program of Gershwin (the Rhapsody in Blue and Variations on I Got Rhythm) and Rachmaninoff (Symphony No. 2).  Orion Weiss is the piano soloist for the Rhapsody.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

- June 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Diane Schuur.  Deedles, as she is known to friends and fans alike, makes a few of her too-rare appearances in the Southland, celebrating the release of The Gathring, her debut album on Vanguard.  On Thurs. she’ll be at the Grammy Museum.    And on Fri. and Sat. at Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 10. (Fri.)  Julie Kelly.  Versatile in everything from atmospheric Brazilian music to jazz balladry and lively scatting, Kelly’s singing is always a pleasure to hear.  She’s backed by the John Heard Trio.   Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- June 11. (Sat.)  Jethro Tull.  More than four decades since Ian Anderson first demonstrated the potential for the flute as the lead instrument in a rock group, he’s still romping with Jethro Tull.  The band will perform their Aqualung album in its entirety, with a sampling of other hits, as well. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

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- June 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Playboy Jazz Festival.  The Hollywood Bowl.  It’s that time again.  The weekend that jazz fans anticipate with pleasure.  A two day jazz party in the sun, filling every nook and cranny of the Hollywood Bowl with all the amazing sounds grouped under the broad colorful umbrella of contemporary jazz.  This year’s program includes:

Saturday

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves, The Roots with Terence Blanchard, Fourplay, Eddie Palmieri’s Salsa Orchestra, the SFJAZZ Collective, A Night in Treme with the Rebirth Brass Band (and guest artists Donald Harrison, Jr., Kermit Ruffins, Dr. Michael White and Big Sam Williams), Bill Cosby’s Cos of Good Music (featuring Geri Allen, George Bohanon, Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler, Anat Cohen and Babatunde Lea), The Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet and the LASUD All City HS Big Band (directed by Tony White and J.B. Dyas).

Sunday

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy, the Lee Konitz New Quartet, John Scofield and Robben Ford, Naturally 7, Harmony 3 with Ronnie Laws, Walter Beasley and Stanley Jordan, Geri Allen’s Timeline Band, Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown (featuring Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley and Vusi Mahlasela), Bill Cunliffe with the Resonance Big Band in a Tribute to Oscar Peterson, featuring Marian Petrescu, Carlos Varela and the Pullum HS Jazz Big Band (directed by Fernando Pullum).  The Playboy Jazz Festival.     (310) 450-1173.

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- June 12. (Sunday)  Gerald Wilson Orchestra.  One of the great masters of large ensemble jazz composition and orchestration, ninety-two year old Wilson still knows how to lead a band with enviable dynamic energy.  Don’t miss him in action.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- June 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Yellowjackets with special guest Robben Ford.  Fusion, funk, groove masters the Yellowjackets team up with the equally blues-driven guitarist Ford.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

Karrin Allyson

- June 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  Karrin Allyson Quartet.  A singer who brings musicality, believability and a gorgeous vocal instrument to all her songs, Allyson appears on the crest of her new album, ‘Round Midnight.  Pianist Bruce Barth is featured in her fine back-up group. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Healdsburg

Denny Zeitlin

- June 6 – 12. (Mon. – Sun.))  The Healdsburg Jazz Festival continues with its presentation of world class jazz in delightful settings.  Among the highlights: Mon: John Stowell Guitar Trio; Tues.: SF Jazz High School All-Stars; Wed.: Sandy and Natalie Cressman.  Thurs: Geri Allen, solo piano; the Babatunde Lea Quintet in a tribute to Leon Thomas.  Friday: Sangam with Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland.  Saturday: Denny Zeitlin, solo piano; the John Heard Trio; George Cables All Stars.  Sunday: Charlie Haden and Allen Broadbent.  At the Raven Theatre and other locations in Healdsburg, CA.  The Healdsburg Jazz Festival.  (707) 433-4633.

Seattle

- June 9 – 12 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Earl Klugh.   One of Detroit’s finest products, guitarist Klugh’s articulate style brings life and substance to the smooth jazz/fusion genre.  Jazz Alley.    (206)441-9729

New York

Ron Carter

- June 6. (Mon.)  Jim Hall and Ron Carter Duo“Alone Together, Again.”  A pair of the great jazz masters in action.  One only hopes that they continue to do these “Alone Together” gigs – again and again.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- June 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.) The Joe Lovano Nonet.  Saxophonist Lovano’s Grammy winning Nonet admirably carries the torch lit by the Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool band.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- June 9 & 10. (Thurs. & Fri.)  The Steve Cropper Band.  Guitarist, songwriter and producer Cropper has backed the likes of Booker T., Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and many others, while writing tunes good enough to trigger his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

Washington D.C.

- June 12. (Sun.)  Jazz on the National MallClaudia Acuna Quartet, Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, Eddie Palmieri All-Star Orchestra, Frederic Yonnet, Toby Foyeh and Orchestra Africa.  A free, live performance of world class jazz, presented by the D.C. Jazz Festival.  Jazz on the Natonal Mall.    The National Mall, Washington, D.C.  (202) 457-7628.

Jerusalem

Noa

- June 9 & 11. (Thurs. & Sat.) Noa.  Israeli/American singer Noa (her full name is Achinoam Nini) is as comfortable and effective with a symphony orchestra as she is with the guitar of her frequent musical companion, Gil Dor.  But no matter what she’s singing, whether it be rock, blues, Yemenite or folk, in Italian, French, Hebrew or Arabic, she’s one of the world’s great vocal artists.  Here, she performs with Dor, as well as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, celebrating the release of her new album, The Israeli Songbook.  The Henry Crown Hall, Jerusalem.    1-700-70-4000.

London

- Jan 7 – 9. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Michel Legrand.  The French pianist/composer combines an appealing jazz performance style with a catalog of superb, memorable songs.  He’ll be backed in this relatively rare night club performance by Ronnie Scott’s All-Stars.   Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747 4000.

Istanbul

Dervish Aziz

- June 9. (Thurs.)  Yuval Ron Ensemble.  Oud master Yuval Ron has assembled a remarkable array of musicians for  “A Concert For Peace in the Middle East.”  The participants include whirling Dervish Aziz, qawwali master Sukhawat Ali Khan, Armenian woodwind master Norik Manoukian, Israeli-Yemenite singer Maya Haddi, and Virgine Alimian, playing kanoun, Jamie Papish and David Martinelli on percussion.  FREE but reservations for the free tickets are required. Please email for the free tickets to: sevdearpaci@gmail.com. “A Concert For Peace in the Middle East.”   Sultanahmet Square AmpheTheatre. Istanbul.

Tokyo

- June 8 – 11. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Mike Stern Band featuring Randy Brecker.  Guitarist Stern, a six-time Grammy nominee, leads the solid ensemble of bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Dennis Chambers in a multi-layered set of sounds reaching across the spectrum from groove blues to straight ahead jazz.  The Blue Note Tokyo.

Sally Kellerman, Dianne Reeves, Buddy Guy and Ron Carter photos by Tony Gieske.


Here, There & Everywhere: The 33rd Annual Playboy Jazz Festival Artist Line-Up

February 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

It’s no mystery that producing the Playboy Jazz Festival – a two day event for 18,000 listeners (each day) with eight straight hours of music – is a different task from what it was thirty or forty years ago.  After all, at that time it was possible to program schedules including the likes of Count Basie, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald (to name only a few of the available icons).

More recently, as times (and availabilities) have changed, Producer Darlene Chan, has brought a new perspective to her programming choices.  Like many other jazz festival impresarios, she clearly tries to bring star power to her schedules by featuring the contemporary jazz world’s most visible, high level jazz artists as headliners.  But she also works to emphasize the great stylistic and thematic diversity of contemporary jazz, as well as explore the expansion of jazz into the big international umbrella it has become.

Anat Cohen

This year’s line-up moves even farther in its quest for diversity and globalization.  Take, for example, the presence of veteran Latin jazz bandleader Eddie Palmieri, Israeli saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen, Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos Varela, South African singer/songwriter Vusi Mahlasela, Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sanchez, Venezuelan pianist Edward Simon, Swedish guitarist Andreas Oberg and Romanian pianist Marian Petrescu, and the global reach of jazz at the Festival quickly becomes clear.

Television rears its head with the presence of a pair of high visibility ensembles:  The Roots are the hip hop-driven house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. And A Night in Treme draws upon the Rebirth Brass Band music featured in the HBO series Treme.

Rebirth Brass Band

All-star assemblages are all over both days of the Festival.  Fourplay, more than two decades together, arrive with a new member, guitarist Chuck Loeb.  The SFJAZZ Collective will devote its program to a celebration of the music of Stevie Wonder.  Emcee Bill Cosby’s Cos of Good Music will, once again, revive the inspiration and the fun of a jam session format.  John Scofield and Robben Ford illustrate the range of the guitar in jazz.  And Harmony 3 partners saxophonists Ronnie Laws and Walter Beasley with tap-on guitarist Stanley Jordan.

Geri Allen's Timeline Band

Thematic groupings are also present.  Geri Allen’s Timeline Band explores jazz and dance with tap dancer Maurice Chestnut.  The a cappella group Naturally 7 returns for a second year with its startling vocal simulations of jazz instruments.  And “Still Black, Still Proud” is an African tribute to James Brown featuring Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, Mahlasela and other African stars.

Lee Konitz

Add to that, the presence of talented young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.  And pianist/arranger Bill Cunliffe leading the Resonance Big Band with Romanian pianist Petrescu.

What about those headliners?  They’re there too.  At the top of the list, veteran alto saxophone master Lee Konitz, amazingly making his Playboy Festival debut at 83.  As well as blues great Buddy Guy, singer Dianne Reeves and trumpeter Terence Blanchard (performing with The Roots.)

Here’s the line-up by day.

Saturday June 11, 2011. 3 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Bill Cosby

Dianne Reeves

The Roots with special guest Terence Blanchard

Fourplay

Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra

SFJAZZ Collective

A Night In Treme: The Rebirth Brass Band

The Cos of Good Music

Ambrose Akinmusire

The LAUSD All City High School Big Band

Sunday, June 12, 2011.  3 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

Lee Konitz New Quartet

John Scofield and Robben Ford

Naturally 7

Harmony 3

Gerry Allen Timeline Band

Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown

Bill Cunliffe and the Resonance Band with Marian Petrescu

Carlos Varela

Pullum High School Jazz Big Band

Bill Cosby, Master of Ceremonies


Picks of the Week: Nov. 9 – 14

November 9, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 9. (Tues.)  Roy Gaines and His Orchestra.  “Tuxedo Blues” Guitarist/blues singer Gaines’ resume includes stints with Ray Charles, Chuck Willis, Bobby “Blue” Bland and others.  The Living Blues “Comeback Artist of the Year,” he’s still in rare form.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 9 – 13.  (Tues. – Sat.) Jimmie Vaughan.  With a career dating back to the Fabulous Thunderbirds, veteran guitarist/singer Vaughan — the older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan — continues to be an impressive practitioner of the Texas blues style.  He makes a series of stops in the Southland this week  supporting  Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites, his first new album in nine years.  Tues: The Grammy Museum.  Thurs: Belly Up in Solana Beach.  Friday: the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills.  Saturday: Brixton in Redondo Beach.

Lila Downs

- Nov. 10. (Wed.)  Lila Downs and Buika.  A pair of vibrant Latin artists – Mexican-American Downs and Spanish-born Concha Buika explore music reaching from flamenco and morna to traditional Mexican folk in a contemporary setting.  Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 10. (Wed.)  Carol Welsman.  Tall, blonde and beautiful, Welsman is also a singer/pianist with stunning jazz skills as a vocalist and an instrumentalist.  Hopefully her program will include a few selections from her scintillating Peggy Lee tribute album, I Like Men.   Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 10. (Wed.)  Chuck Berghofer’s Midnight Jazz band.  One of the Southland’s most compelling jazz combinations returns to its original line up of Berghofer, bass, Gary Foster, alto saxophone, Joe LaBarbera, drums and Tom Ranier, piano.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 11. (Thurs.)  The Szymanowski Quartet.  The highly regarded quartet demonstrates its versatility with a program of Schubert, Beethoven and a work by its namesake, Polish composer Karol Szymanowski.  Samueli Theatre. Orange County Performing Arts Center.   (714) 556-2787.

Theresa Russell

- Nov. 12. (Fri.)  Mike Melvoin and Theresa Russell.  Veteran jazz pianist Melvoin teams up with singer/actress Russell in an adventurous tour through Great American songs.  Bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland energize the rhythm.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 12. (Fri.) The Littleton Brothers. The two veteran brothers – bassist Jeff and drummer Don – have played with an all-star array of leaders (from Herbie Hancock and Horace Silver to Billy Eckstine and Horace Tapscott).  Here they are, side by side, leading their own sterling group.  LACMA. (323) 857-6000.

- Nov. 12. (Fri.)  Hi-Fi: The Sounds of the 70s.  Featuring B.J. Thomas, Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night) and the 5th Dimension in a memorable evening of hits.  Expect to hear, among others, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Joy To The World” and “Up, Up and Away.”   Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8500.

- Nov. 12. (Fri.) Brian Blade “Fellowship Band.” The superb drummer (guitarist and singer)  Blade is featured in a stellar ensemble of young players – Chris Thomas, Jon Cowherd, Myron Walden, Melvin Butler, Jeff Parker. A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at Zipper Hall.   (310) 271-9039.  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on Wed. & Thurs.)

- Nov. 12. (Fri.)  Nnenna Freelon. Six-time Grammy nominee Freelon is one of the uniquely original voices in the growingly crowded field of female jazz singers.   The Broad Stage. (310) 434-3200.

- Nov. 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicSusanna Malkki conducts a stylistically diverse program reaching from Strauss’ Also Spach Zarathurstra (central to the score of 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the teen-aged Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 1, performed by violinist Martin ChalifourDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

Robert Cray

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  An Evening with Robert Cray.  Five time Grammy winner Cray successfully blends traditional and contemporary blues, while crossing over easily into soul, r&b and pop.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8500.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  Christine Ebersole. Tony Award winner Ebersole is a convincing musical actress, as adept with a tender ballad as she is with a whimsical patter song. The Broad Stage. (310) 434-3200.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  Rita Moreno. Actress, singer and dancer Moreno is one of the few artists to have won a Grammy, an Emmy, an Oscar and a Tony.  She makes a rare, up close and personal club appearance. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  The Assad Brothers.  The gifted, guitar-playing Brazilian brothers, Sergio and Odair Assad belong to a family of talented guitarists.  Their eclectic repertoire reaches from folk, traditional and jazz works to classical standards and transcriptions of the Baroque keyboard literature.  CSUN Performing Arts Center.   (818) 677-3000.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  60th Birthday Party. Dr. Bobby Rodriguez celebrates a landmark birthday in a high spirited musical encounter with Rickey Woodard. Backed by John Heard TrioCharlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  Peter Sprague String Consort.  It’ll be 26 strings and three cymbals in action, as guitarist Sprague’s jazz trio blends sounds and rhythms with string quartet in a program reaching from jazz and classical to Brazilian samba.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Helen Sung

- Nov. 14. (Sun.)  Helen Sung. Pianist Sung’s impressive versatility has served her well in a career that includes gigs with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Clark Terry and others. Here’s a chance to hear her far-ranging musical skills in a piano trio setting. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  http://www.vibratogrilljazz.com

- Nov. 14. (Sun.)  Kim Richmond Quartet +1.  Alto saxophonist/composer Richmond appears with his quartet, enhanced by the added presence of woodwind artist Alex Budman.  Also in the quartet: David Roitstein, piano, Kristin Korb, bass and vocals, Jamey Tate, drums.  The Lighthouse Café.   (310) 376-9833.

- Nov. 14. (Sun.)  “The Grand Romance Riverboat Jazz Cruise” It’s a new Southland way to hear first rate jazz — on a short entertaining cruise on a replica of a Mississippi Paddle Steamer.  And it takes place every Sunday, this week featuring the Rickey Woodard Quintet. With Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet, Llew Matthews, piano, Richard Simon, bass, Roy McCurdy, drums.  Departing from Rainbow Harbor, Long Beach.  1 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.   The Grand Romance Riverboat Jazz Cruise. (562) 628-1600.

San Francisco

- Nov. 10 & 11. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Brian Blade “Fellowship Band.” The superb drummer Blade is featured in a stellar ensemble of young players – Chris Thomas, Jon Cowherd, Myron Walden, Melvin Butler, Jeff Parker. Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.  (Also at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast in Los Angeles on Friday.)

Hiromi

- Nov. 12 – 14.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Hiromi. Pianist Hiromi takes a break from her recent ensemble work with Stanley Clarke to perform as a soloist, showcasing selections from a soon to be released CD. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 14. (Sun.) Vijay Iyer Trio.  Although his jazz skills are world class, Iyer also delves deeply into other musical genres and creative territories.  In 2009, he was voted – with good reason — #1 Rising Star Jazz Artist in Down Beat’s Critics Poll.  An SFJAZZ concert at the YBCA Forum.   (866) 920-5299.

- Nov. 14. (Sun.) Rosanne Cash. The gifted daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash’s superlative career has generated ten Grammy nominations and eleven #1 hit singles.  She’ll perform selections from her 2009 album, The List.   An SFJAZZ concert at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

New York

Jim Hall

- Nov. 9 – 13. (Tues. – Sat.)  Jim Hall Quartet.  Veteran guitarist Hall approaches his 80th birthday (in December) by displaying his still extraordinary chops with the musically challenging ensemble of Greg Osby, alto saxophone, Steve Laspina, bass and Joey Baron, drums.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ottmar Leibert  “Evening of Solo Guitar.” One of the founders of the nouveau flamenco style, Leibert – who is also an ordained Zen Monk – plays an intimate evening of solo selections.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cyrus Chestnut Trio.  Pianist Chestnut says he likes to “construct melodies that tell stories.”  And he’s done that with everything from jazz standards to spirituals and Elvis Presley tunes.  This time out, he’ll offer tunes from his recently released CD, Journeys.  Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.

Freda Payne

Nov. 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.)  Freda Payne Sings Ella Fitzgerald.  Not only will the lovely Ms. Payne channel the songs of Ella (A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Mack the Knife, etc.).  She’ll also add a few Lena Horne specialties, as well.  And — of course — her own inimitable Band of GoldIridium.  (212) 582-2121.

South Carolina

- Nov. 11 – 13. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Earl Klugh’s Weekend of Jazz.  Golf, sun, ocean, jazz and a lot more.  A great way to spend a weekend — especially with a line up that includes Kyle Eastwood, Boney James, Jessy J, Earl Klugh, FourplayKiawah Island Golf Resort.  Kiawah Island, South Carolina.   (800) 576-1570.


Q & A: Nathan East

October 28, 2010

By Devon Wendell

Nathan East’s long, illustrious career has firmly established him as one of the world’s top bass players and an impressive composer.  Recently I had the chance to speak with with him about his latest release with the group Fourplay, “Let’s Touch The Sky,” as well as some of the high points in his work with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder and many other major stars.

DW: Let’s start with the new album, Nathan.  How does it differ from past Fourplay albums?

NE: Let’s Touch The Sky marks the beginning of a new  chapter in the Fourplay songbook with the addition of our newest member, guitarist Chuck Loeb.  Chuck brings a  fresh  energy to the mix with his compelling guitar style and sophisticated compositions.  This project also contains  three vocal songs when we normally only include one.

DW: Your smooth and soulful vocals are featured on your composition “I’ll Still Be Loving You.”  How do you approach singing and vocal arranging?

NE: I have a great deal of respect for a variety of singers like Sam Cook, James Taylor, Nora Jones, even John Mayer and although I’d never try to jump in the ring with them, I imagine how they would approach a vocal and I try to sing with that kind of spirit.  It’s nice to have role models!  I also try to write in a range that I know my voice can handle, so I normally gravitate toward the soft & soulful ballad which suits my voice.

DW: From Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, and Michael Jackson, to Lionel Ritchie, Eric Clapton and Herbie Hancock (To name a few), you’ve recorded with such a diverse list of the greatest musicians ever. What were some of the greatest highlights of your career?

NE: There certainly are many wonderful highlights that I will be forever grateful for, among those is sharing the stage with the late George Harrison who also became a very dear friend.  Hanging out in the studio recording with Quincy Jones & Michael Jackson was very special, everyone involved is at the top of their game, and you know while you’re recording that history is being made .. it’s very exciting!  Performing for the Queen of England and Nelson Mandela at the Royal Albert Hall in London was most memorable especially having the opportunity to meet them after the performance!  But I’d have to say that performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to an audience of two million people at the Inauguration Concert for Barack Obama pretty much tops the list of highlights.  I must admit I’ve been blessed with some good ones!

DW: How has jazz inspired your playing and composing?

NE: Again there are so many wonderful role models like Bob James, Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny & Keith Jarrett that have set such a high standard for playing and composition that it’s easy to be inspired merely at the thought of such excellence. In jazz, you’re always composing whether you’re improvising a solo or writing a song, the creative process never stops and it’s most inspiring to study the greats and try to figure out how they arrived at such masterful conclusions.

DW: Who were some of your earliest influences?

NE: Wes Montgomery (my all time favorite guitarist), Vince Guaraldi, Ron Carter, Ray Brown, Scott LaFaro, Charlie Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley & Quincy Jones to name a few.

DW: Tell me about how Fourplay was formed.

NE: In 1990, Bob James recorded an album called Grand Piano Canyon.  He asked Harvey Mason and Lee Ritenour to recommend a bassist for the project.  As my good fortune would have it, they both recommended me.  Bob,who held an executive position at Warner Bros Records at the time,was so intrigued by our musical chemistry that he proposed the idea of forming a quartet.  He even suggested the name Fourplay.  A few months later we were in the studio recording our quartet as new artists on Warner Bros. otherwise known as Fourplay.  Thank you Bob for that vision.

DW: As a bassist and composer what do you try to bring to the table when recording with other artists?

NE: I try to bring musical integrity and a positive spirit to every session.  My goal is to support and enhance the musical environment whatever it may be.  I shoot for creativity and uniqueness in my performance. There’s an intangible ingredient in music that completes the connection between the mind, heart and soul.

DW: At what moment did you feel you had truly arrived in the big leagues of the music business?

NE: Touring the country with Barry White & The Love Unlimited Orchestra at age 16 was a good indication of things to come.  Also, getting calls from people like Quincy Jones, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Lionel Richie .. a pretty good indicator that you’re in good company.

DW: Usually bass players are either “pocket” players or more melodic. Your style balances both. Do you feel that dichotomy is lost among today’s younger generation of players?

NE: As a young player, you just go for it and stay in the moment which is not a bad thing but with experience comes wisdom and that’s when I think the balance and good instincts come into play.

DW: Name some bass players out today that have caught your ear — if any.

NE: Esperanza Spalding! She’s a bright and shining star with a compelling career ahead of her.  Hadrien Feraud and Dominique Dipiazza .. these two players from France are absolute virtuosos with impressive technique and taste.  I still enjoy Pino Palladino, Marcus Miller and of course Abraham Laboriel Sr.

DW: Name some of your personal favorite recordings you’ve done so far.

NE: With three decades of recordings to draw from, I have quite a few favorites.  I’m very proud of all of our Fourplay recordings including this latest one.  Also all the Anita Baker records especially Compositions.   Birdland from Quincy Jones Back on the Block, Eric Clapton Change  the World and Tears in Heaven, Michael McDonald Motown, Philip Bailey Chinese Wall, Kenny Loggins Love Will Follow and recent CD’s by Andrea Boccelli & Michael Bublé.  These are just a few of my favorites.

DW: Have other instruments other than bass influenced your style?

NE: Absolutely.  I was influenced by the lyrical playing of sax men Cannonball Adderley, Charlie “Bird” Parker & John Coltrane.  I gravitated early on to the piano of Vince Guaraldi, I loved his music on the Charlie Brown specials.  Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Martino & Pat Metheny’s masterful guitar styles are all still very influential.

DW: If you had to classify your style, what would you call it?

NE: That’s a bit tricky because I love playing in different genres, Jazz-R&B-Pop-Rock-Classical but if had to come up with a classification for my style, it might be “Warm-n-Fuzzy”. [He laughs.]

DW: Are there any artists you haven’t recorded with that you’ve always wanted to, if so who are they?

NE: Pat Metheny, Donald Fagen, Sting & Paul McCartney.

DW: What kind of bass are you currently playing?

NE: I play my Yamaha BBNE-2 Signature series 5-String bass.

DW: You started out on cello. What initially made you want to play electric bass?

NE: I’d listen to the high school stage band rehearse from outside the closed door and the bass just sounded so cool supporting all those horns.  The Motown records also caught my ear, mostly because of the genius of James Jamerson’s incredible bass lines.  My ear just gravitated to the bass in most of the music I was listening to and again I’m just thankful for the many role models of the bass.

DW: You were a member of Eric Clapton’s band for quite a number of years from the ’80’s to the ’90’s. Explain what that experience was like.

NE: It’s a wonderful experience on so many levels to make music with such an iconic musician.  Eric became like a brother to me, we had many laughs, shared some tears and covered a lot of ground traveling around the world for more than 20 years.  I’ve learned so much from him about life in general and I’m grateful for the life-long friendship that we established.

DW: Funk pioneers like Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins have certainly influenced most bass players in all genres. How has the funk effected your approach to playing?

NE: I’ll never forget hearing Larry and Bootsy for the first time.  They both blew the roof off of the house when they played and revolutionized the way we all approach the bass.

DW: What lessons do you hope younger bass players will learn from your style?

NE: Well, not necessarily just from my style, but I hope young players become well rounded musicians and continue to push the boundaries of the instrument. Listen to all styles of music and incorporate them into your own development.

DW: What does the future hold in store for Nathan East?

NE: In the immediate future, Fourplay will do a bit of touring in the US and Japan in support of our new project.  (tour dates are listed on www.fourplayjazz.com).

I’m moving more toward writing and producing these days which I really enjoy.  I’m currently in production on a new Anita Baker CD.  We’ve worked together since the early 1980’s and it’s been fun to watch her progress since her very first Songstress album.  You can imagine how honored I was when she called and asked me to produce her.  Anita’s voice is a national treasure and to work with such a gifted artist is a producer’s dream.  I’m also working on a book documenting some of the amazing experiences that have contributed to the blessed life I live and love so much.  Lastly, one of my long time ambitions is to record my own solo project with some of my friends that I’ve made music with over the years, simply celebrating music!

DW: Thanks for taking the time to talk, Nathan.  It’s been a pleasure.

To read more posts by Devon Wendell click HERE.


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