Live Jazz: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center.

March 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have been making regular appearances in the Southland for the past few years. And it’s always a musical delight to hear this stellar assemblage of jazz artists in action. On Sunday night they took the stage at the acoustically accurate environment of the Valley Performing Arts Center, once again reminding us of the great music that exists in the nearly century-old repertoire of big jazz bands.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

Marsalis’ carefully planned programming reached from Duke Ellington to Count Basie, while making additional stops at the efforts of Benny Carter, Henry Mancini, Gerald Wilson and Charles Mingus. The results were extraordinary.

I’m tempted to name (and praise) the impressive soloists who stepped into the spotlight. But the fact is that virtually every member of the JLCO displayed world-class improvisational skills. Suffice to say that the combination of extraordinary ensemble playing, blended with superb individual artistry, led by Marsalis’ deep historical overview (which he offered between numbers) of the creative potential of the big jazz band, resulted in an incomparable evening of music.

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

And the thought that kept surfacing throughout the memorable two hour program was the JLCO’s far ranging capacity to remind us of the big bands’ historical role as the symphony orchestra of American music. Evolving over the decades from the ’20s to the present, the big bands have provided one composer/arranger after another with the instrumentation to express musical creativity comparable to the work of European symphonic composers.

In the hands of jazz artists such as Marsalis and the gifted members of the JLCO, performing some of the great, jazz-oriented big band works of the 20th century, the music left little to be desired. Add to that the opportunity to compare the big band works of such iconic composers as Ellington, Mingus, Carter and Wilson, among numerous others.

And the result, in this extraordinary performance, was a musical night to remember – a beautifully articulated, inventively played display of big band jazz at its finest.


Live Jazz: The Gerald Wilson Big Band at Catalina Bar & Grill

March 14, 2014

(Editor’s note)  Jazz critic, author and historian Scott Yanow joins the International Review of Music reviewing staff with this characteristically thoughtful commentary.  We look forward to more posts and essays from Scott’s thoughtful perspective.

By Scott Yanow

Gerald Wilson probably does not know it but he is the last survivor. The 95-year old bandleader-arranger-composer first recorded in 1939 when he was a 20-year old trumpeter with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Although a few other living performers preceded him onto records (including singer Herb Jeffries who is now 100, violinist Svend Asmussen and singer Kay Starr), they have all retired. Wilson stands alone as the only active jazz musician to have recorded before 1940. He outlasted everyone else.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

At Catalina Bar & Grill, Wilson led his 17-piece orchestra through a long set of his arrangements. While Gerald Wilson’s recounting of his familiar stories to the audience found him occasionally forgetting names and details, he looked pretty healthy and, amazingly enough for someone in his mid-nineties, he did not sit down once during the entire two-hour set.

Inspired by his presence, Wilson’s big band played at their very best throughout the night. “Blues For The Count” had many solos including one from violinist Yvette Devereaux, who always adds a lot to the band’s power and ensemble sound.

Carl Saunders

“Blues For Yna Yna” included four choruses full of musical miracles from trumpeter Carl Saunders (who consistently plays the impossible flawlessly), and some enjoyable Stanley Turrentine moments from the soulful tenor-saxophonist Louis Van Taylor. Taylor and altoist Randall Willis starred on “Perdido” while many soloists (including the fine high note trumpeter Winston Byrd) were featured on a driving “Milestones.” John Coltrane’s “Equinox” was intense and had strong spots for Devereaux and tenor-saxophonist Kamasi Washington.  Other selections including “Viva Tirado,” the majestic “Carlos” (with Carl Saunders in the spotlight), and a closing medium-tempo blues.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

Throughout the night, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra was inspired. Kamasi Washington on tenor was consistently fiery and inventive, creating his own version of sheets of sound. The trumpet section, led by Winston Byrd’s stratospheric notes, never let up, the trombonists (with Les Benedict often having the solos) had a unified sound, and the rhythm section, which included Wilson’s long-time pianist Brian O’Rourke, kept the music swinging.

Gerald Wilson’s last few recordings have found him leading an all-star group of East Coasters through some of his classic charts, but he should really document his real band, particularly after this recent performance. They kept him smiling and youthful for the full two hours.

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Scott Yanow (www.scottyanow.com) is the author of 11 books on jazz and over 750 liner notes. He can be reached at scottyanowjazz@yahoo.com.


Picks of the Week: March 5 – 9

March 5, 2014

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Betty Bryant

Betty Bryant

- March 6. (Thurs.) Betty Bryant. Singer/pianist Bryant’s engaging style recalls an era of briskly swinging, warmly interpretive jazz cabaret. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Savion Glover

Savion Glover

- March 7. (Fri.) Savion Glover’s StePz. Tap dancer Glover has brought more jazz qualities to contemporary tap dancing than anyone since Fred Astaire. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-3000.

- Mar. 7 & 8. (Fri. & Sat.) West Side Story. The Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim classic musical rendering of the Romeo and Juliet story in a Nuyorican setting is a memorable theatre piece that should be seen by everyone – at least once or more. The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8500.

Les Ballets De Monte Carlo

Les Ballets De Monte Carlo

- March 7 – 9. (Fri. – Sun.) Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. The highly praised Monte Carlo ensemble returns to Segerstrom after their acclaimed 2011 debut. This time, they perform Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- March 8. (Sat.) “The Marvelous Music Box.” Young Musicians Foundation 59th Benefit Gala. Some of the Southland’s finest young classical musicians assemble for a benefit program featuring the music of Bach, Saint-Saens, Bernstein, Stravinsky and more. CAP UCLA at Royce Hall. .  (310) 825-4401.

Gerald Wilson

- March 9. (Sun.) Gerald Wilson Big Band. At 95, arranger/composer/bandleader brings irresistible musical vitality to every performance with his hard swinging big band. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- March 9. (Sun.) Fred Hersch and Julian Lage. Innovative jazz pianist Hersch, always in search of new creative ventures, finds an intriguing young musical partner in highly praised young guitarist Lage. Schoenberg Hall. A CAP UCLA event.  (310) 825-4401.

San Francisco

- March 6 – 9. (Thurs. – Sun.) Lavay Smith. Bay area songstress Smith offers a four night survey of songs associated with Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Etta James and Sarah Vaughan. An SFJAZZ event at the Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- March 6 – 9 . (Thurs. – Sun.) Sergio Mendes and Brazil 2014. Half a century after he arrived on the music scene with Brazil ’66, Mendes reforms the vocal/instrumental Brazilian format that first brought Brazilian sambas and bossa novas to an international audience. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

- March 6 – 9. (Thurs. – Sun.) Lee Ritenour. Versatile guitarist Ritenour showcases his articulate ease with jazz genres reaching from straight ahead swing to contemporary grooves. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

Eliane Elias

- March 5 – 9. (Wed. – Sun.) Eliane Elias and her Trio. After a four night run drawing overflow audiences to Catalina Bar & Grill, Brazil-born Elias takes her irresistibly appealing piano stylings and intimate vocalizing to Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) 258-9595.  To read an earlier iRoM review of Elias’ L.A. Performance, click HERE.

- March 6 & 7. (Thurs. & Fri.) Jimmy Webb. Singer/songwriter Webb is understandably on everyone’s Hall of Fame list. Songs such as “Wichita Line Man,” “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” and “MacArthur Park” (to name only a few) have become Songbook Classics. Here’s a rare chance to hear him perform in a club setting. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

London

- March 5 & 6. (Wed. & Thurs.) Claire Martin. Alert fans of jazz singing view Martin (with good reason) as one of England’s finest jazz artists. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

Benny Green

- March 5 & 6. (Wed. & Thurs.) Benny Green Trio. The fast-fingered, hard-swinging Oscar Peterson style is vividly alive in the technically adept, improvisationally inventive hands of Green. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Moscow

- March 5. (Wed.) Igor Butman Quartet. Saxophonist/band leader/club owner Butman takes a break from his big band to lead a propulsively hard driving quartet in his own club. Igor Butman Jazz Club.  (+7 495) 632-92-64.

Milan

- Mar 5 – 7. (Wed. – Fri.) Paolo Fresu Quintet. Highly regarded jazz trumpeter Fresu leads a quintet of stellar players, underscoring the lyrical qualities Italian artists have always brought to their jazz interpretations. +39 02 6901 6888.  Blue Note Milano. 

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Eliane Elias photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Benny Green photo by Ron Hudson.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 25 – 29

September 25, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Joe Pass

Joe Pass

- Sept. 25. (Wed.)  A Joe Pass Tribute.  The great jazz guitarist’s life is celebrated with a screening of the jazzumentary, A Not So Average Joe, followed by a live performance featuring Frank Potenza, John Pisano, Jim Hughart and Colin BaileyCatalina Bar & Grill.

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Pat Senatore Trio. Veteran bassist Senatore plays with a different band almost every night at Vibrato. This time he applies his versatility to the jazz trio setting with Josh Nelson, piano and Mark Ferber, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Isabel Rose

Isabel Rose

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Isabel Rose. Jazz/cabaret singer Rose has been compared to everyone from Peggy Lee to Ann-Margret and Bette Midler. She’ll introduce some new songs from her album Trouble in Paradise. The Mint.  323) 954-9400.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart. Expect a great jazz evening listening to this trio of world class players in action. Vitello’s.

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Singer Harris and guitarist/songwriter Crowell first got together as musical associates in the mid-’70s. Here, they revive their long creative partnership. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Gary Peacock. They’re one of jazz history’s great ensembles, continuing to bring imaginative ideas to the classic piano jazz trio. Royce Hall.  (310) 825-0768.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Composer/arranger/bandleader Wilson may be 95 years old, but he’s still going strong, still a masterful model of jazz creativity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Free Family Concert. The far-reaching skills of the SJO are on full display in a free concert aimed at all ages. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center.  (310) 876-8130.

 San Francisco

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun,) Regina Carter. Jazz violinist Carter performs a four day sequence of far ranging music. On Thurs. with Jenny Scheinman and Sara Caswell. On Fri. with the Pablo RZiegler Quartet. On Sat. with Kenny Barron. And on Sun. with Carla Cook & SFJAZZ High School All-Stars. SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium.  (866) 920-5299.

 Seattle

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Following in the footsteps of his father – John Coltrane – saxophonist Ravi has gradually, and successfully, begun to establish his own independent creative style. Jazz Alley.  (312) 360-0234.

 New York City

- Sept. 25 – 29. (Wed. – Sun.) Chick Corea and the Vigil. After seasoning his new band in an international tour, Chick showcases it for American audiences. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Vinicius Cantuaria Quintet. Brazilian guitarist /singer Cantuaria started out as a percussionist, and his rhythmic skills continue to bring propulsive swing to his guitar work. The Jazz Standard. http://jazzstandard.net/red (212) 576-2232.

 London

- Sept. 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat,.) The Rebirth Brass Band. Thirty years after they were founded, New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band continues to sustain the musical memories of the classic jazz brass band style. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Milan

Patti Austin

Patti Austin

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Patti Austin. A protege of Quincy Jones, who was her godfather, the musically eclectic Austin brings imaginative perspectives to whatever style she’s singing.  Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888.

Copenhagen

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Eddie Gomez Trio. Bassist Gomez, a prominent musical associate of Bill Evans in the ’60s and ’70s, sustains the piano jazz trio style on an international basis with Swedish pianist Stefan Karlsson and American drummer Billy Drummond. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

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HIGHLIGHT EVENT OF THE WEEK

Alessandra Belloni’s Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop

By Faith Frenz

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni is an Italian shaman dancer, singer, performer and healer extraordinaire. This week, she’s in Los Angeles for one of her biannual visits. Among her various activities, she will share — by instruction and performance — her unique talent and understanding of the ancient rituals of the tarantella Spider Dance. Alessandra presents the chants and songs sung as devotion to the Black Madonna (tracing to the ancient rites for the Earth Goddess Cybele), an ancient female healing tradition which uses a powerful tambourine style combined with singing and dancing.

I had the pleasure of taking her brief workshop last week at the North Hollywood Remo Recreational Center, where she has her own line of signature series tambourines made by Remo. Alessandra is a small, intensely sensual and beautiful woman, devoted to her goal of sharing these ancient devotionals around the world for their healing gifts. She is a gifted teacher of a very challenging ritual which taps into the essence of femininity.

 Alessandra has a packed schedule here in Los Angeles with numerous opportunities to experience her passionate performance and healing energy. And I urge everyone who reads this to choose an opportunity to witness her up close and personal: 

– Sept. 27. (Fri.) Tarantata at the Goddess Temple Orange County.  (949)651-0564 or (714) 392-0558.

- Sept. 28 (Sat.) DAY OF THE DRUM, WATTS TOWERS FESTIVAL,11:30 a.m. Los Angeles Watts Towers.   213.847.4646

- Sept. 29. (Sun.)  Tarantata at Hollywood Feast of San Gennaro  12:00 p.m.

- Oct. 1. (Tues.) Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop at CalArts.  (661) 255-1050

We will be doing an iRoM Q&A with Alessandra during her stay this week, so look for it in the next few days. There is so much to learn from this amazing woman.

For more information about Alessandra Belloni click HERE to check her website.

 


Picks of the Weekend: May 3 – 5 in Los Angeles

May 3, 2013

By Don Heckman

Electricity and internet problems in iRoM land prevented the posting of a full week of International Picks.  But now we finally have enough power and web access to list some Picks of the Weekend here in L.A.  Next week, Picks of the Week will be back on track with our global overview.

Los Angeles

Billy Childs

Billy Childs

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- May 3. (Fri.)  Billy Childs Allstar Jazz.  Pianist Childs is constantly in search of new musical adventures.  His All Star Jazz Group, with bassist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Joey Heredia and saxophonist/flutist Katisse Buckingham is his latest jaunt into new creative territory.  The Baked Potato.   (818) 980-1615.

- May 3. (Fri.)  Brandon Fields.  He’s been a first-call session saxophonist for decades, with a resume filled with stellar relationships.  But Fields is a fine jazz artist in his own right, which will be self-evident in this headlining gig, backed by bassist Pat Senatore, drummer Mark Ferber, and pianist tba. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. http://www.vibratogrilljazz.com  (310) 474-9400.

- May 3 & 4. (Fri. & Sat.)  Andy Garcia and the Cine Son All Stars.  An Academy Award-nominated actor, director and writer, Garcia has also had a fascinating parallel career as a convincing Latin jazz percussionist and musician.  Here’s one of the rare opportunities to see him in high powered musical action. Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com  (323) 466-2210.

Lang Lang

Lang Lang

- May 3 – 5. (Fri. – Sun.)  Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Lang Lang.  It’s a world-class combination, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert No. 1. and Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4.   Disney Hall. http://www.laphil.com/tickets/dudamel-and-lang-lang/2013-05-02  (323) 850-2000.

- May 3 – 5. (Fri. – Sun.)  Deana Martin. She’s had a career as an actress and a singer, with a top selling workout video.  But her father’s memory is most present in her engaging singing style.  This time out, she celebrates that relationship with “Deana Sings Dino: A Tribute to Her Father.”  Pianist/arranger John Proulx conducts.  Vitello’s.  http://www.vitellosrestaurant.com  (818) 769-0905.

- May 4. (Sat.)  Brad Mehldau and The Bad Plus with special guest Joshua Redman. Three of the contemporary jazz world’s most cutting edge musical entities get together for a compelling evening of wide open improvisational exploration.  A CAP UCLA concert at Royce Hall.  http://cap.ucla.edu  (310) 825-4321.

- May 5. (Sun.)  The Playboy Jazz Festival’s Free Community Concert in Beverly Hills.  Featuring the New Jump Blues Band with Antonio Fargas.  He’s best known for his role as Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch¸but he’s currently leading the New Jump Blues band in their dynamic romps through jazz, blues, calypso and a lot more.  Also on the bill: the Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band under the direction of Bill Bradbury.  The Beverly Hills Civic Center Plaza.  Playboy Festival Hotline: (310) 450-1173.  http://www.playboyjazzfestival.com/events2013.html

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

- May 5. (Sun.) Gerald Wilson Orchestra.  94 year old Gerald Wilson is still a compelling band leader, inspiring vitality and swing in his large jazz ensemble whenever he steps to the front of the stage and gives a down beat. Hear him at every opportunity, and anticipate the pleasures of his memorable compositions and arrangements as well.  Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com  (323) 466-2210.

- May 5. (Sun.)  2nd Annual Los Lobos Cinco de Mayo Festival. The Greek Theatre 2013 schedule begins with a spectacular line-up of Southland favorites, Los Lobos, Robert Randolph, Los Super 7, Willie G of The Midnighters.  The full day of music and celebration begins at 3 p.m.  The Greek Theatre.  http://www.greektheatrela.com/events/event_details.asp?id=2516  (323) 665-5857.

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Billy Childs photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 7 – 13

January 8, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ariana Savalas

Ariana Savalas

- Jan. 9.  (Wed.)  Ariana Savalas and Corky Hale.  Yes, the name “Savalas” is familiar; Ariana is the daughter of the veteran actor Telly Savalas.  But as a singer, she has an appealing style that is uniquely her own.  She’s backed by the musically supportive accompaniment of pianist/harpist Hale. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  Betty Bryant.  Singer/pianist Betty Bryant gives another seminar in jazz piano and vocals, as entertaining and swinging as she is musically inventive.  H.O.M.E.  Beverly Hills.   (310) 271-4663.

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  John Beasley.  Pianist/composer Beasely begins a January residency at the Blue Whale, starting with a duo with the unique vocalist Dwight TribleThe Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.) Gerald Wilson Orchestra. At 94, arranger/composer/bandleader Wilson still brings his Orchestra vividly to life everytime he gives the down beat on one of his memorable arrangements.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Amadeus Leopold

Amadeus Leopold

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.)  Amadeus Leopold.  The brilliant young Korean violinist Leopold – whose original name was Hahn-Bin – applies his technical prowess and emotional imagination to a uniquely imaginative view of the classical repertoire.  CAP UCLA.  Royce Hall.

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.)  Ibrahim Maalouf Quintet. (Concert cancelled due to visa problems.) Lebanese trumpeter Maalouf effectively blends Arabic traditional sounds and rhythms with contemporary jazz funk and roots rock.  Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 11. (Fri.)  Sinne Eeg.  Highly praised Danish singer Eeg performs with the stellar backing of Larry Koonse, Peter Erskine, Darek Oles and Roger NeumannVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 11. (Fri.)  Los Lobos. The multiple Grammy-winning band from East L.A. continues to continue to find linkages between Chicano rock, Tex-Mex, r&b and traditional Hispanic styles.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan

- Jan. 11 – 13. (Fri. – Sun.)  Lainie Kazan.  Actress/singer Kazan’s checkered career reaches from understudying Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl to dozens of high visibility film roles.  But she’s also a uniquely gifted singer with a lush sound and a gift for richly emotional interpretations of the book of standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  Steve Ross.  Puttin’ on the Ritz.  “The Music of Fred Astaire.  Singer Ross presents a cabaret show to remember, with some of the greatest songs from film musicals.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Curtis Stigers

Curtis Stigers

- Jan. 13. (Sun.)  Curtis Stigers & His Band.  Saxophonist/singer Stigers has spent most of his career emphasizing his vocal skills, producing some memorable, jazz-tinged, charting songs since the release of his self-titled, platinum debut recording in 1991.  Kirk Douglas Theatre.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 13. (Sun.)  Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour.  The MJF prides itself on the iconic line up of performers for the annual September Festival programs.  And here’s an equally iconic group of artists – Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Lewis Nash, Chris Potter and Ambrose Akinmusire – proudly carrying the MJF banner in the off season.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.   (The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour also performs at the Valley Performing Arts Center on Jan. 23.

San Francisco

Wesla Whitfield

Wesla Whitfield

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  Wesla Whitfield with the Mike Greensil Trio.  Whitfield has been offering her view of the Great American Songbook for more than three decades, most often with the backing of her husband, pianist Greensil.  Together they provide an irresistible evening of memorable music.Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Jan. 10.  (Thurs.) Janis Ian.  Singer/songwriter Ian made her breakthrough with “Society’s Child” in the mid-‘60s, followed by her Grammy Award-winning “At Seventeen” in the mid-‘70s.  At 81, she’s still going strong.  City Winery.    (212) 608-0555.

- Jan. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  The 2013 NYC Winter Jazzfest.  Six venues around Greenwich Village feature performers such as James Carter, Monty Alexander, Claudia Acuna, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi and numerous others, young and mature.  The Winter Jazzfest.

Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli

Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli

- Jan. 11 – 14. (Fri. – Mon.) “And Then She Wrote.”  With Peter Marshall, Carol Welsman and Denise Donatelli.  Emmy Award-winner singer/actor Marshall has created an entertaining overview of the many memorable songs in the Great American Songbook written by women.  And he couldn’t have chosen a better pair of singers to join him in a delightful evening of music, dance and humor than Juno Award nominee Welsman and Grammy nominee Donatelli.   Click HERE to read an iRoM review of the Los Angeles performance of And Then She Wrote.”  The Metropolitan Room.   (212) 206-0440.

- Jan. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli.  Straighten Up and Fly Right: A Tribute to Nat “King” Cole.  What a great combination: the spirited piano work of Lewis, the lively singing and guitar of Pizzarelli, and the great book of songs associated with Nat Cole.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Washington D.C.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

- Jan. 8. (Tues.)  Grace Kelly.  Korean/American alto saxophonist and singer Kelly, who just turned 20 in 2012, has firmly established herself as one of the gifted jazz artists of her generation.  Blues Alley.     (202) 337-4141.

London

- Jan. 9 & 10.  (Wed, & Thurs.)  Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.  Described in the ‘90s by the New York Times as the “best organ trio of the last decade,” the Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart combination continues to get better and better.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  “A Tribute to Anita O’Day.”   Signe Juhl and the Nikolaj Bentzon 3. Singer Juhl, backed by pianist Bentzon’s prime trio, celebrates the lively musical history of Anita O’Day.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 263 267.

Milan

- Jan. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Tania Maria.  Grammy-nominated Brazilian singer/pianist and composer has been described as Brazil’s finest native jazz artist.  At 64, she continues to produce memorable recordings and live performances.  The Blue Note Milano.     02.6901 6888.


Live Jazz: A Christmas Card to the Sensational Sidemen of Paul McDonald’s Big Band

December 20, 2012

By Norton Wright

A jazzhead pal living in Europe just e-mailed me asking if he could find some big-band jazz in America when he comes vacationing this summer. Without hesitation I replied that lucky for us Los Angelinos, L.A. has become the nation’s showplace center for an abundance of jazz orchestras. Our treasures include Gerald Wilson, Gordon Goodwin, Johnny Mandel, Bill Holman, Poncho Sanchez, Tom Kubis, Bob Mintzer, Bill Cunliffe, Ron Jones, Johnny Vana, Pat Longo, et al. So it was no surprise a week or so ago that Vitello’s was ground zero for the explosive ensemble output of Paul McDonald’s Big Band playing both a 2pm and 5pm set.

In a show saluting the works of great jazz arrangers, this 13-piece orchestra was so swinging and exact in handling the array of challenging charts that it makes this writer question the accuracy of the sometimes-used phrase “sidemen.” With the Paul McDonald Big Band, “all-stars” would be a more appropriate description.

Every one of these band members delivered extraordinary performances in both ensemble work and soloing, and the result was the groovy, multi-layered jazz tapestry of sound and tempos that marks the excellence of a BIG band’s brass, woodwind, and percussion sections.

The Paul McDonald Big Band

The Paul McDonald Big Band

Kicking off the show, the multi-talented bandleader & pianist Paul McDonald led his troops through a rousing, 7-minute intro with his own up-tempo arrangements of “This Can’t Be Love” and “Sink or Swim”. Showmanship was at the fore as Eric “The Viking” Jorgensen, brandishing his Chinese-red trombone, rose and soloed with abandon, his challenge answered by a ferocious trumpet section headed by Jon Papenbrook and featuring  crackling-fast soloing by Jeff Jarvis (so reminiscent of the powerful exactitude of the late Lee Morgan!).  Then Barbara Loronga put us all away with a flugelhorn solo so mellow it sounded like a mix of  bourbon and honey.

Singer Bonnie Bowden, lissome in black glitter and tights, joined the set with her up-tempo “I Love Being Here With You.” Up next, the Nelson Riddle arrangement of the ballad, “Unforgettable,”featuring the blissed-out tenor sax soloing of Dean Roubicek, who later doubled on clarinet with his compatriots, first alto sax and flute Gary Herbig and second alto & flutist Darrell Winseman, for a romp through “Here Comes Santa Claus” anchored by baritone saxist, Ken Fisher. What a woodwind section!

One of the joys of Vitello’s is that there are so many jazz greats in the audiences, as well as on stage.  At this performance, legendary saxophonist Dave Pell was nodding knowing approval of the band’s sax section; Jack Redmond toe-tapped along to the band’s trombone leader Paul Young and the intense chops of the band’s bass trombonist Paul Rivera; and Roger Kellaway was so into the show’s groove that he joined Bowden on stage to accompany her on piano in his new composition, “A Place You Want to Call Home” with lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman.

The McDonald Band continued on, lighting up arrangements by Tom Kubis (“Let It Snow”), Patrick Williams (“Cry Me A River” and  “Livin’ The Canary Life”), and John Clayton (“You Are So Beautiful”).  The charmingly casual Bowden then joined the audience to just enjoy the show, as Paul McDonald took his band through his own arrangement of “West Side Story” tunes driven by the band’s powerhouse drummer, Dave Tull, as at home in 4/4 as in the wiggy, mixed 6/8 & 3/4 meter of Leonard Bernstein’s semi-habanera, “I Like To Be In America”:

Finally, no big band can cook without a solid and inventive bass player, and it was young, acoustic bassist, Cooper Appelt, who provided a mainstay of rhythmic and harmonic support for his McDonald Big Band colleagues – and especially in his unison accompaniment of Bowden’s stratospheric scatting on Don Menza’s arrangement of “I Just Found Out About Love” and Sammy Nestico’s chart for “Just Friends.”

The set ended with the timely finale of a jazzy  arrangement by Dave Wolpe of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and the audience rose in standing ovation for this all-out, 80-minute show, not by sidemen, but by the best in the business. Los Angeles is fortunate to have such and wishes each and every one of them a Happy and Much Appreciated New Year!

To read more posts by Norton Wright, click HERE.


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