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.


Picks of the Week: Aug. 14 – 19

August 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Aug. 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.) Michael Jackson the Immortal World TourCirque du Soleil.  The music and lyrics of Michael Jackson are the foundation for a show that “immerses audiences in Michael’s creative world and literally turns his signature moves upside down,” performed by the incomparable artists of Cirque du Soleil.   Staples Center.   (213) 742-7100.

- Aug. 15. (Wed.)  Joe Cocker and Huey Lewis & The News.  A pair of still vitally active rock icons whose music reaches from the ‘60s to the present make for a rare evening of engaging musical memorabilia.  Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- Aug. 15. (Wed.)  Ron Kalina Trio. He’s a virtuoso jazz harmonica player who also doubles on piano, with a resume including recordings with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Joe Williams, Anita O’Day and dozens of others. Hear him in action, backed by guitarist Barry Zweig, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kendall KayVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

Eddie Palmieri

- Aug. 15. (Wed.)  Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Blades.  A pair of legendary Latin jazz and salsa giants share the stage on a Wednesday jazz night at the Bowl, demonstrating first hand the exciting linkages between jazz and Latin dance rhythms. Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 15 – 18. (Wed. – Sat.)  Terence Blanchard Quintet. Critically praised trumpeter Blanchard takes a break from his busy schedule as a film composer, Artistic Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute and Director of the Henry Mancini Institute, to lead his Grammy-winning jazz group.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 16. (Thurs.)  De Temps Antan.  The Quebecois ensemble makes its West Coast debut, performing the traditional songs of French Canada.  Skirball Center.     (310) 440-4500.

- Aug. 17. (Fri.)  Wolff & Clark Expedition.  Pianist Michael Wolff’s credits reach from Cannoball Adderley. Sonny Rollins and others to a stint as the bandleader on the Arsenio Hall Show.  He’s backed by the stellar rhythm team of drummer Mike Clark and bassist Brian BrombergVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.)  Juanes with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.  Multiple Latin Grammy winning singer/songwriter/guitarist Juanes performs with the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, the Cal Voce Singers and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins.  And with fireworks, too.  Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

Sara Gazarek

- Aug. 18 & 19. (Sat. & Sun.)  Sara Gazarek.  At a time when jazz singers are arriving in waves, Gazarek is one of the rare few whose remarkable potential is apparent in everything she sings.  She celebrates her new album, Blossom & Bee with special guest keyboardist Larry Goldings and the backing of pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Zach Harmon Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 19. (Sun.)  Gerald Wilson Big Band.  Well into his nineties, Wilson remains one of the iconic figures of big band jazz.  And watching him in action with hits all-star group is one of the pleasures of experiencing live jazz.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 19. (Sun.)  Dudamel and Domingo.  The Hollywood Bowl’s pairing of charismatic classical music figures continues with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic joining for the first time with the great tenor Placido DomingoHollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Benny Green

- Aug. 16. (Thurs.)  The Benny Green Trio.  A jazz professional as a teen-ager, pianist Green’s career has been expanding ever since, establishing him as one of the most imaginative and listenable players of his generation.  He’s backed by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny WashingtonYoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- Aug. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Karrin Allyson. Grammy nominated singer-pianist Allyson brings rich layers musicality to everything she sings or plays.  Hopefully she’ll include some selections from her latest album, ‘Round Midnight.   Jazz Alley.    (201) 441-9729.

Boston

- Aug. 18. (Sat.)  Kenny Werner. Pianist Werner’s versatility – he is as adept at backing singers as he is at straight ahead jazz playing – no doubt traces to the mind-body techniques explored in his thoughtful book on improvisation, Effortless Mastery.  Regatta Bar.   (617) 661-5000.

New York

John Abercrombie

- Aug. 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  The John Abercrombie Quartet.  Always seeking adventurous new jazz combinations, Abercrombie’s latest group features saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Drew Gess and drummer Adam NussbaumBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Aug. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  Enfants Terribles.  Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Gary Peacock and Joey Baron. A stellar array of world-class jazz players celebrate their new CD, Enfants Terribles. The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Aug. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Tierney Sutton Band.  Singer Sutton has been working with her band for nearly two decades, and the results are apparent in the extraordinary music they make together.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2561.

London

- Aug. 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  Roy Ayers. Vibraphonist Ayers has been, and continues to be, a pioneer in blending jazz with Afro-beat, funk and hip hop.  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.

Tokyo

Aug. 14 & 15.  Joyce.  Brazilian singer/songwriter/guitarist Joyce Moreno has been blending jazz with bossa nova since the late ‘60s.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Eddie Palmieri photo by Tony Gieske. 


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

May 7, 2012

By Michael Katz

Gerald Wilson took a near-capacity crowd at Catalina’s on a Tour De Jazz Thursday night. The 93 year old composer/arranger/leader,  possessed of undiminished enthusiasm, spun musical and verbal tales that began with his days in the Jimmie Lunceford Band and included Basie and Ellington, with deft nods to Stravinsky, Puccini and Miles Davis, not to mention two more generations of his own family.

Gerald Wilson

The opening number, “Blues For The Count,” mixed in tributes to Basie and Lunceford, starting with Brian O’Rourke’s bouncy piano intro and opening splashes by Randall Willis on alto sax and Jeff Kaye, the first of three trumpeters to solo during the evening. Anthony Wilson kept up the rhythm, Freddie Green-like, and the band featured a new wrinkle with violinist Yvette Devereaux. Amplifying a violinist to stand up to an 18 piece band is a challenge; while the first go around was a bit strident, Devereaux adapted as the show progressed, with some splendid work later in the evening.

Wilson’s 18 piece band has a rhythm backbone that features his son, Anthony, well-established on the national scene by now as guitarist for Diana Krall, and  O’Rourke, for two decades his regular pianist.  The dominant section of the band, though,  is the saxophones, a Wilson trademark, blending harmonies over a six man group. Kamasi Washington was the lead voice on tenor with Carl Randall close behind; Willis and Mike Nelson split up the alto duties, with Nelson doubling on flute; and Louis Taylor and Terry Landry filled out the bottom on baritones.

Anthony Wilson took over the band’s direction for his composition, “Virgo,” written for his father’s 90th birthday. It began with a lovely intro by O’Rourke, backed by muted trumpets, then gave way to Wilson’s upbeat soloing. The sax front line took over from there, featuring dueling altoists Nelson and Willis.

Gerald Wilson’s latest album, Legacy (Mack Avenue), features several adaptations of classical works. “Variations on a Theme by Stravinsky” is based on “Firebird.” The performance had an intense, urban feel to it, reminiscent of some of the film scores of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Kamasi Washington provided the fire on tenor sax and Ron Barrows contributed a piercing trumpet solo.

Wilson then handed the baton over to the third generation of his family, grandson Eric Otis, whose paternal grandfather was R&B great Johnny Otis. Eric led his composition, “September Sky,” a soft-toned elegy that featured Mike Nelson on flute, as well as the third trumpet soloist Harry Kim.

Wilson, weaving stories from his days with Basie and Ellington, held forth for nearly two hours, only stepping aside the two aforementioned times. The breadth of his work is enormous. There was another classical piece, “Variations on a Theme by Puccini,” which featured violinist Devereaux, now comfortably adapted into the sound mix, as well as the two bari sax players, Taylor and Landry.  There were a couple of standards, brought to life by Wilson’s arrangements. “Perdido,” by Ellington and Juan Tizol, was ushered in by O’Rourke and the sax section, with some rousing solos by Nelson and Carl Randall. The trombone section, led by Les Benedict, didn’t get a lot of soloing this evening, but provided stout section playing throughout. Then there was “Milestones,” another Wilson arrangement which turned the Miles Davis tune into a terrific big band piece, featuring some great give and take with tenors Washington and Randall, and Anthony Wilson breaking loose on guitar.

Wilson closed with “Viva Tirado,” which he wrote in 1962 and was turned into a top forty hit by El Chicano in 1970. For the Wilson band it remains a signature, blow-the-roof-off –the-joint finale. It started with the familiar theme, then Jeff Kaye delivered a trumpet burst and Kamasi Washington belted out another funky tenor solo. Anthony Wilson and Yvette Devereaux took over from there with a down and dirty string duel that had the audience howling. By the end, all the horns were standing, drummer Mel Lee was maintaining some type of order in the back, and the crowd was on their feet as well.

Gerald Wilson presided over it all, a living testament to the vibrancy of Jazz Past, Present and Future.

* * * * * *

To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


Picks of the Week: May 2 – 6

May 1, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Arturo Sandoval

- May 2. (Wed.)  Arturo Sandoval Big Band. He plays the trumpet, the piano and the drums, and he sings, too.  The musical multi-hyphenate from Cuba showcases his dynamic versatility in the second installment of the new jazz series at The Federal.    (818) 980-2655,

- May 2. (Wed.) Llew Matthews and Pat Senatore.  Pianist Matthews is a much desired singers’ accompanist and a valued first call sideman.  But he’s also an engaging solo artist as well.  Here he performs with the equally sensitive backing of bassist Senatore. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– May 3. (Thurs.)  Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Watching the marvelously energetic, 93 year old Wilson lead a band of L.A. all-stars through a program of his compositions and arrangements is one of the truly memorable jazz experiences. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Simon Rattle

- May 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Return of Simon Rattle.  Rattle conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Disney Hall for the first time.  The Central European-oriented program includes works by Ligeti, Wagner, Mahler and Bruckner.  Rattle’s wife, mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozena sings Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- May 4. (Fri.)  Mark Winkler and Mary Foster Conklin.  When a pair of beyond-definition singers – who move easily from cabaret to jazz standards — get together for a vocal jam session, expect an unusually enlightening evening of song.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 4 & 5. (Fri. & Sat.)  Strunz and Farah.  Performing together since 1980, the duo guitar team of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah create incomparable musical banquets overflowing with sounds and rhythms reaching from jazz and flamenco to the Middle East, spiced with their own musically rich imaginations.  Click HERE to read iRoM’s most recent review of Strunz & Farah. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Perla Batalla

- May 5. (Sat.)  Perla Batalla.  Blessed with a rich-toned voice, fascinated with a broad range of music, Batalla tells an engaging story with everything she sings.  Broad Stage.   (310) 424-3200.

- May 5. (Sat.)  Reflections on Frank Sinatra.  A band of Southland all-stars — Ralph Penland, Jim Hughart, Ron Anthony, Llew Matthews and Bill Kerr – team up with singers Melodye and Luca Ellis, and comedian Tony Russell in a tribute to the Chairman of the Board. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- May 6. (Sun.) Bonnie Bowden and Sony Holland.  Vitello’s.  It’s a day filled with some prime jazz vocalizing.  In the afternoon, Bowden displays her airy timbre, soaring range and convincing way with a song.  In the evening, Holland adds her tender, gripping voice and subtle rhythmic swing.  Sony Holland.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- May 6. (Sun.) Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra“Mozart and Me.”  Another of the LACO’s delightful introduction to classical music for young people.  The program features LACO musicians with the Pasadena Master Chorale, a talented ten year old pianist from the Colburn School and an actor garbed as Mozart himself.  The Alex Theatre.  2 p.m.  (213) 622-7001 Ext 1.

Susan Egan

- May 6. (Sun.) Susan Egan.  She starred on Broadway and has proven herself as a convincing cabaret artist.  This time, Egan uses both those skills in an intimate presentation of some of Broadway’s greatest hits.  The Carpenter Theatre.    (562) 985-7000.

- May 6. (Sun.)  REO Speedwagon, Styx and Ted Nugent.  Three classic rock groups, Greek Theatre favorites, return for yet another episode in their long-running musical shows.  Greek Theatre.

- May 6. (Sun.) The 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival First Community Concert. The Playboy Jazz Festival’s annual free concerts leading up the the Festival itself — which takes place on June 16 & 17 at the Hollywood Bowl – are some of the Southland’s greatest jazz bargains. And this year is no exception. Sunday’s program at the Beverly Hills Civic Center Plaza, featuring a performance by Jose Rizo’s Mongorama, is a tribute to one of the great innovators of Latin jazz: Mongo Santamaria.

Jose Rizo’s Mongorama

Mongorama offers a stunning revival of Mongo’s music, discovering vividly alive qualities still coursing through the legendary percussionist’s greatest hits. Also on the bill, the remarkably mature playing of the Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band, a collective of young players convincingly proving that the future of jazz is in fine hands., The First Playboy Free Community Concert at the Beverly Hills Civic Plaza. (310) 450-1173.

San Francisco

- May 5. (Sat.)  Rosanne Cash.  The daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash has thoroughly established herself as an artist whose skills embrace far more than country music.  A writer and novelist, she invests her music with the far-reaching subtleties of her literary viewpoints.  An SFJAZZ concert in the Herbst Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

Chicago

- May 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cyrus Chestnut Trio.  Pianist Chestnut’s musical roots are deeply invested in the Rgospel music that invests his playing with a rich, creatively passionate intensity and a solid rhythmic drive. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- May 2 – 5. (Wed. – Sat.)   The Heath Brothers. Saxophonist Jimmy Heath and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath are the surviving members of the musically gifted Heath family, still going strong after a century-plus experience and more than 900 recordings. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Randy Brecker

- May 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  Randy Brecker and Pop.  Versatile trumpeter Brecker, who’s played with the finest jazz and pop artist leads his now group “Pop,” featuring an all-star band performing the songs of Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Bette Midler, Paul Simon, The Average White Band, Blood Sweat & Tears, and others, arranged and re-imagined by Kenny Werner.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- May 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Julliard Jazz Orchestra with Frank Wess.  Veteran saxophonist Wess is the headliner in a performance of the msic of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.  Conducted by James Burton IIIDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9595.

London 

- May 3 – 5 (Thurs. – Sat.)  Manu Dibango and Soul Makossa.  Dibango is an iconic master of world music/funk/jazz crossover.  He’ll lead the Soul Makossa gang in a stirring evening of everything from pop, electro rock, hip hop and beyond.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Berlin

Judy Niemack

- May 5. (Sat.)   Judy Niemack.  She’s a constantly captivating singer, bringing musicality, imagination and interpretive excellence to everything she touches.  Which makes for a perfect musical marriage in this program devoted to the music of Miles Davis – “All Blues,” “Time After Time,” Boplicity,” “Round Midnight” and more.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.

Tokyo 

- May 3 – 5. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Omara Portuondo and Chucho Valdes.  A pair of legendary Cuban artists blend their dynamic abilities into an evening rich with traditional rhythms and soaring musical delights.  Blue Note Tokyo.   02-5485-0088.


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