Brian Arsenault’s Short Takes: CD Reviews of Luis Munoz, The Sweet Remains and Chris Potter

March 2, 2013

Of the Allure of Light, Harmony and Sirens (the dangerously beautiful ones)

By Brian Arsenault

Luis Munoz

Luz  (Pelin Music)

If she won’t kiss you while this plays and the lights are down, things just aren’t going to work out.

Percussionist, composer and arranger Luis Munoz in Luz (Light) brings us beautiful instrumentation, often in unique combinations, and two Latin singers to run away with if the girl above just won’t warm.

Laura Hackstein‘s violin, that sometimes sounds like an accordion (honest) plays duet with the round notes of Jonathan Dane’s trumpet on “Amarilis,”  Teka Peterniche holds notes so long and perfectly on “Al Silencio” that her voice morphs into a muted cornet. (There’s one of those on the album as well.)

Strengths come in twos a couple times on this album.  Magos Herrera is the other fine vocalist featured. She brings so much warmth to “Testamento/Mass Alla,” Munoz’s tribute to wife Holly Ann. This is where you should get at least one kiss.

On Vals De La Luz, one pianist takes the first solo and a different pianist the second.  How often have you heard that on a jazz album?

I’m resisting the perhaps not inaccurate description Latin jazz, because while Munoz was born in Costa Rica and certainly brings a Latin sensibility to his work, I always feel that such terms put music in a box.  OK, that’s Latin jazz and that’s African pop, and so on, is so inadequate in an age when musicians are affected by so many cross currents. I mean there’s a pedal steel guitar on this album.

And tell me, do Hackstein, Friedenthal and Judge sound like Latin names to you? Methinks Munoz picks his musicians for their depth, not their point of national origin.

The Sweet Remains

North & Prospect (Sweet Remains Inc.)

Sweet is the right name for this sorta folky rocky trio and their three part harmonies on North & Prospect.  Think sunny summer afternoon in your favorite park and some band somewhere between C,S&N and America (or acoustic Eagles) just seems to go right.

You hear all kinds of familiar touches with these guys.  A bit of Jackson Browne, a dash of Dicky Betts, a sprinkle of Hall & Oates.  But part way through it struck me that you hear bits of so many others because there just isn’t anything that distinctive going down.

A little edginess would also be welcome.

There are some fine tunes here, though. “1000 Little Pieces” is the closest thing to a true rocker and more of such on the album would have been welcome. C,S&N could cover this one to great effect.

“Sweet Love” is not saccharine, it’s longing. And they push the harmonic combinations more than on most of the tunes.  More of that also, please.

There’s also something curiously out of time about Sweet Remains.  Early 70s, yeah that’s it. Maybe they were born later than planned.

But the biggest miss on the album is their rendition of the Beatles/Lennon tune “Come Together.” I’d have thought they’d have chosen something more like “Blackbird.” They funk up “Come Together” a little bit but I was disinterested by the end as they seem to miss its psychedelic derelict edge.

As they say, “Don’t look too close because the cracks appear.” Still, I can feel that summer day and breathe in the air and the fine harmonies together and be pleased.

Chris Potter

The Sirens (ECM Records)

Well, how brave is it to take on Homer and his Odyssey in a modern jazz interpretation?  Pretty damn courageous, I’d say.

Of course with Ulysses’ journey one has to start with the sea, in this case the “Wine Dark Sea” that appears only right before or right after a storm. Wayfinder Hermes points the way to other ports in and out of the storm.

It’s the females of the Odyssey who get the most attention here.  The Sirens call, as does Penelope.  But for different reasons.

Kalypso uses her wiles to keep Ulysses on her island, some say for a year. others say for several. But bigger gods intervene and she must let him go.

And the more demure and reflective Nausikka, daughter of a king, admires brave Ulysses but knows he has to journey home, finally, to butcher the suitors and be reunited to the faithful Penelope.

Potter’s saxophone, as ably supported as Ulysses by his crew, tells all these stories and more.

A very serious recording but a richly beautiful one as well. And are there more of the books of the Odyssey ahead?

To read more reviews, posts and columns from Brian Arsenault click HERE


Picks of the Week: Nov. 14 – 18

November 14, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

David Sanborn

- Nov 14. (Wed.)  David Sanborn.  Alto saxophonist Sanborn is the star of pop jazz, r & b and crossover.  But at the heart of his playing is a deep involvement with the essential elements of straight ahead jazz.  Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 14. (Wed.) Alan Bergman.  In partnership with his wife, Marilyn Bergman, Alan has written the lyrics for some of the most memorable songs of the past five or six decades.  And they’re often best heard in his own quietly lyrical interpretations.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   http://www.vibratogrilljazz.com  (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 14. (Wed.) Barbara Cook. Tony Award-winning singer/actress Cook celebrates her long, productive career – she was 85 in October – with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of great American song. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  A highly successful producer before he embarked on a singing career of his own, Tyrell has emerged as a vocalist with an appealing, jazz-driven style enhanced by the warmth of his Texas roots. Catalina Bar & Grill  (323) 466-2210.

Janis Paige

- Nov. 16. (Fri.)  Janis Paige. If you remember the movie musicals of the ‘50s, then you’ll remember Paige from such films as Silk Stockings and Please Don’t Eat The Daisies.  Decades in musical theatre and television followed, and the 90 year old Paige is still a delightfully effective vocal artist.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 16. (Fri.) Cip & Cat.  Saxophonist Gene Cipriano (Cip) and  vocalist Cat Conner (Cat), backed by guitarist John Chiodini with special guest trombonist Dick Nash celebrate their fifth anniversary together and their first anniversary at the venue.  Out Take Bistro.       (818) 760-1111.

- Nov. 16 – 18. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic.  An evening rich with musical variations.  The Phil, conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, performs Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 and Cello Concerto in C, Albeniz’s Suite Espanola and Ravel’s Bolero Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Johnny Mandel

- Nov. 17. (Sat.) Johnny Mandel Big Band.  Composer, arranger, band leader and songwriter, Mandel’s resume includes stints with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee and many more.  At 86, Mandel is now best heard leading his own band, playing his own well-crafted arrangements and compositions. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 17. (Sat.)  Buika.  Spanish singer Buika, a native of Equatorial Guinea, who sings flamenco with an appealing blend of soul music and jazz rhythms, makes a rare Southland appearance.  Luckman Fine Arts Complex.    (323) 343-6610.

- Nov. 18. (Sun.)  Quattro.  The four talented members of Quattro – cellist Giovanna Clayton, violinst Lisa Dondlinger, guitarist Kay-Ta Matsuno and percussionist Jorge Villanueva (all of whom also sing) – have written and arranged all the diverse works they describe as Popzzical music. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 18. (Sun.)  Jackson Browne. He’s been writing memorable songs since the ‘70s, still producing prime selections.  He’s joined in this performance by Sara Watkins, Jonathan Wilson and other special guests.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

- Nov. 18. (Sun.) The Los Angeles Master Chorale performs Monteverdi’s Vespers.  This will be a concert to remember, with the gorgeous voices of the LAMC applying their magical touch to the lush vocal lines of Renaissance polyphony.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Ornette Coleman

- Nov. 17. (Sat.) Ornette Coleman.  Since his arrival on the international jazz scene in the late ‘50s, Coleman’s compositions and alto saxophone playing have been among the music’s most persistently exploratory voices.  An SFJAZZ event at the Herbst Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

New York

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Sun. & Mon.)  An Intimate Evening with Stanley Jordan Solo. Jordan’s remarkable mastery of the guitar tap-on style has provided him with a virtual orchestral instrument.  And he makes the most of it.  The Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

- Nov. 19. (Mon.)  Sheila Jordan and Steve Kuhn Duo. Their history together goes back decades.  And they continue to make music together with a symbiotic creative togetherness.  The performance celebrates Sheila’s 84th birthday.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

Washington  D.C.

- Nov. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Tuck & Patti.  Guitarist Tuck and singer Patti have been together for nearly three decades.  And their deeply intimate musical and personal relationship seems to improve and mature like fine wine.  Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

Paris

- Nov. 16. (Fri.)  John Scofield Trio.  Always on the search for new ideas, guitarist Scofield gets down to the absolute jazz basics with his current trio.  New Morning  01 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

Judy Niemack

- Nov. 16. (Fri.)  Judy Niemack & Jay Clayton2 Voices Flying.  Niemack, a constantly captivating singer, bringing musicality, imagination and interpretive excellence to everything she touches, teams up with the equally adventurous and inventive Clayton.  A-Trane.    030/313 25 50.

Milan

- Nov. 16. (Fri.)  Tony Levin.  “Stick Men”.  Bassist Levin, who’s worked with a stellar list of artists in virtually every genre, steps out front with his own vocals.  He’ll be backed by drummer Pat Mastelliotto and touch guitarist Markus ReuterBlue Note Milano.    +39.02.69016888.

Tokyo

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Sun. & Mon.)  Michel Camilo and Tomatito. The dynamic duo of pianist Camilo and flamenco guitarist Tomitito come together with a magical blend of jazz and traditional Spanish music.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.


Picks of the Week: June 20 – 24

June 20, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jane Harvey

- June 20. (Wed.)  Jane Harvey.  The remarkable Jane Harvey’s career dates back to gigs with Benny Goodman in the ‘40s.  Now well into her ‘80s she continues to draw critical raves for her performances.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of a Harvey appearance.   Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- June 21 – 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Joey DeFrancesco.  The master of the B-3 has been placing at the top of the critics’ polls in Down Beat and with the Jazz Journalists association for years.  And with good reason.  He’ll be performing with Steve Cotter, bass and Ramon Banda, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- June 21 – 23. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Melissa Manchester. Grammy-winning singer-songwriter scored her biggest, chart-topping hits in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.  And her dramatic renderings of tunes such as “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud” are still classics.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 21. (Thurs.)  Chuck Manning.  Tenor saxophonist Manning’s resume includes gigs with everyone from Anthony Wilson and Branford Marsalis to Cedar Walton and Charlie Haden.  This time out, he takes on the most challenging setting for a horn player – a trio gig with bass, drums and no harmony instrument.  He’ll be backed by Pat Senatore, bass and Jimmy Branley, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Reba McEntire

- June 22. (Fri.)  Opening Night of the 2012 Season at the Hollywood Bowl. Julie Andrews hosts an evening featuring Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame inductees Reba McEntire and Chaka Khan, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins.  Additional guests and presenters are yet to be announced..   (323) 850-2000.  Hollywood Bowl.

- June 22. (Fri.)  Mary Stallings.  An underappreciated jazz vocalist for years, Stallings has been producing first rate recordings since a 1961 duet album with Cal Tjader.  Still in rare form, she’ll no doubt sing some selections from her latest release Don’t Look Back.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.  .  (310) 271-9039.

- June 23. (Sat.) Jazz Journalist Association Awards Party.  In celebration of the 2012 JJA Awards, a Jazz Hero Award will be granted to Catalina Popescu, proprietor of L.A.’s pre-eminent jazz club, Catalina Bar & Grill.  The Blue Whale, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.  The Ferenc Nemeth Trio perform at 9 p.m.   The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Katia Moraes

- June 24. (Sun.)  Katia Moraes.  There’s no one quite like this Brazilian bundle of musical dynamite.  Bringing irresistible vitality to every song she sings, Katia celebrates her birthday with her original quartet, the lively Sambaguru, featuring Bill Brindle, keyboards, Hussain Jiffry, bass and Tony Shoren, drums.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- June 24. (Sun.)  Sing! Sing! Sing!  “Giving Our Regards to Broadway.”  It’s just after the Tony Awards, and what better time to join the Southland’s engaging singalong in a tour through some of the most memorable Broadway songs as well as a sampling of the latest numbers on the Great White Way.  At Keyboard Concepts in West L.A. Sing! Sing! Sing!     (310) 990-2405.

Glen Campbell

- June 24. (Sun.)  Glen Campbell.  The Goodbye Tour.  Veteran singer/guitarist Campbell has produced 12 gold albums and 4 platinum albums while receiving a string of Grammy awards (including four in 1967).  A year ago, he announced he had been diagnosed with Altzheimer’s disease.  The Goodbye Tour, which he says will be his last, features the group Dawes, with Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams and others.  (323) 850-2000.  Hollywood Bowl.

 

San Francisco

- June 22. (Fri.)  Ceu.  Grammy-nominated Brazilian singer/songwriter Ceu has carved a unique musical pathway for herself, combining Brazilian roots rhythms with everything from soul and funk to afrobeat and electronica.  An SFJAZZ event at the Herbst Theatre.    (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- June 21 – 24. (Thur. – Sun.)  Spectrum Road.  After producing a spectacular climax to the Playboy Jazz Festival on Sunday night, Spectrum Road takes off for Seattle with their explosive reminders of drummer Tony Williams’ Lifetime group.  The band consists of bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Vernon Reid, keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. Click HERE to read iRoM’s review of the Playboy Jazz Festival and Spectrum’s Festival performance.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

Samson Schmitt

- June 20 – 24. (Wed. – Sun.) The Django Reinhardt New York Festival.  Featuring rising gypsy jazz star Samson Schmitt, guitarist son of the iconic Dorado Schmitt, leading a collective of European jazz artists.  They’ll be joined by a trio of the finest female jazz artists: Anat Cohen on Wed., Grace Kelly on Thurs. & Fri., and Cyrille Aimee on Sat. and Sunday.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- June 20 – 24. (Wed. – Sun.)  Barbara Carroll.  Jazz pianist/singer Carroll is still going strong at 87, her upbeat style recalling her high visibility in New York’s jazz clubs of the ‘50s and ‘60s. She performs with the stellar backing of Ken Peplowski, Jay Leonhart and Neal SmithDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

- June 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  McCoy Tyner and the Charles Tolliver Big band get together to recreate John Coltrane’s vital 1961 album, Africa Brass, more than fifty years after its original release.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

London

- June 21 – 23. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Jean Carne and Doug Carn.  Four decades ago, jazz and soul singer Carne and her then-husband, pianist/composer, Doug Carn, produced a series of fusion jazz and soul albums strongly influenced by John Coltrane. After decades in which their lives and music took different paths, they’re back with a Reunion Performance of their ‘70s classics. Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- June 20 – 23 (Wed. – Sat.)  Bob Mintzer Big Band.  A vital member of the Yellowjackets, saxophonist/composer Mintzer is also an innovative big band arranger, producing a book full of gripping arrangements for his collection of fine players. Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

* * * * * * * * *

Jane Harvey photo by Tony Gieske.  Katia Moraes photo by Caesar Lima.


CD Review: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie

September 10, 2011

Note of Hope, A Celebration of Woody Guthrie (429 Records)

By Brian Arsenault

So what do you do when reviewing the words of an icon set to music and recorded by other icons, legends and even Studs Terkel?  Well, first of all you wonder why a major recording of Woody’s words — and Woody was all about words even more than music — begins with an instrumental piece and a rather boring one at that.

The piece that should have begun the CD is “There’s a Feeling in the Music” if for no other reason that it’s principally by Pete Seeger, Woody’s contemporary and pal.  But there’s an even bigger reason.

Woody Guthrie

It’s probably the most poetic piece of music on the album, a reflection on “feeling” by an artist who hadn’t been corrupted by the notion that feeling is suspect in art. And it’s an ode to music in a way that is self defining by Woody’s words and sung with just the right feeling by Seeger, even if I do hate his banjo playing and all banjo playing.

There’s a lot more on this album to like.

Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux is of course terrific with a what everybody wants anthem “Wild Card in the Hole.”  Her smooth, smooth voice with Rob Wasserman’s bass perfect underneath.  And thematically there’s that wonderful dichotomy of despair and hopefulness that typifies Woody Guthrie’s work.

Lou Reed’s “The Debt I Owe” knows that most of us are in hock to life. This is a short story set to music about owing much more than you can ever pay back while wishing the debt was only about money.

Ani DiFranco

“Voice,” wonderfully sung/spoken by Ani DiFranco, is about alienation from popular culture wherein Woody’s words are about not being able to hear authentic voices in the movies or on the radio.  Imagine his horror today.  Woody is able to say “This is my language” only after talking to a waitress in a deli and listening to a customer.  At a higher level, this song poem is about an artist striving for what is true. More good Wasserman.

Studs is cast perfectly as the voice of a petty theft who just isn’t enjoying stealing as much as he used to, hoping that he will again “when this damn war is over.”  World War II is the setting here but pick a war, any war.  And for accusations you just can’t top “your a damn fool for being with a damn fool.”

And there’s more:

“Peace Pin Boogie” is a hilarious send up of political correctness in all its silly forms. “Boogie for Peace” may be an even more relevant line in terms of the ‘60s and certainly today than it was in Woody’s 1940s and ‘50s America.

Even St. Peter won’t let you in Heaven without your “peace pin on.”  Good stuff. And the converse is true too.  Remember when the Prez said you didn’t need an American Flag pin to be patriotic and shortly thereafter started wearing one.

The late Chris Whitley’s “On the High Lonesome” explores Woody’s notion of the nasty edges couples can take each other to when they “toss shit back and forth.” Gritty and insightful and Whitley delivers the goods like he’s lived them.

Jackson Browne

 

The CD closes with that comforting voice of Jackson Brown rising to sing “You Know the Night” about when Woody first met his second wife.  The first marriage evidently didn’t inspire him to such levels of poetry.  And poetry there is, with the yearning for someone who “hopes like I hope, sees the same kind of dreams I see.”

But 15 minutes? Really? Hey, Jackson, even with all the beautiful words here it just can’t help but get a little boring.  You know, kind of like that song you did about the roadies closing up after the show.  Didn’t that ever hit you?

They’re doing a four minute edit of “You Know the Night” for the radio and that’s probably a good idea.

The publicity release says Woody’s daughter, Nora Guthrie, conceived the project based on writings from Woody during his New York Period from 1942-1954 and asked Wasserman to lead the task. She chose well.  His ear and eye for the right artists for the pieces that match their skills was unerring. The accompanying musicians are fine throughout.

Our sense of Woody Guthrie is enriched and renewed. Good enough.

To read more reviews by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Mar. 8 – 13.

March 7, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Corky Hale

- Mar. 8. (Tues.)  Corky Hale and Friends.  “I’m Glad There Is You.”  Pianist, harpist, singer and imaginative producer Hale assembles most of the cast of prime talent on her album I’m Glad There Is You. The impressive line up includes Sally Kellerman, Ariana Savalas, Tricia Tahara and Brenna Whitaker, backed by Jeff Lass and Jim DeJulioCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 8. (Tues.)  Chris Walden Big Band.  The Grammy nominated Walden Big Band play some of their leader’s newly-crafted, jazz-driven arrangements of classic film music.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400. 

- Mar. 9. (Wed.)  Jackson Browne.  Singer/songwriter Browne wrote some of the most memorable songs of the singer/songwriter era.  And he’s still performing them with the emotionally moving qualities they had several decades ago.  The Fred Kavli Theatre in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.  (805) 449-2787.

- Mar. 10. (Thurs.)  Angela Carole Brown. Versatile singer Brown has done everything from voiceovers, movie cues and jingles to back up for artists such as Josh Groban.  Here’s a chance to hear her own estimable skills alive and up close. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 10. (Thurs.)  Ana Gazzola.  Brazilian born Gazzola is frequently seen as part of the duo (with Sonia Santos) Brasil Brazil.  This time out, singing and playing sax, she leads her own Brazilian jazz-tinged quartet.   Jazz at the LAX Jazz Club.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crown Plaza LAX.  (310) 258-1333.

Gustavo Dudamel

- Mar. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dudamel conducts Tchaikovsky.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel performs three single movement works inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and The Tempest.  Preceding each work, selections form the plays will be read by Orlando Bloom, Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Rhys and Anika Noni Rose Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- Mar. 11. (Fri.)  A Sixties Evening.  An evening overflowing with nostalgia for the irresistible music of a memorable decade.  Featured acts include Gary Lewis & the Playboys, as well as the lead singers with the Outsiders, the Buckinghams, the Archies and the CufflinksCerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- Mar. 11. (Fri.)  Swing, Swing, Swing.  It’s a swing era evening packed with talent.  TV actor and singer James Darren headlines, along with Las Vegas entertainer/mujsician Pete Barbutti, the Gene Krupa Tribute Band and the Swingtime Dancers. The Fred Kavli Theatre in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.   (805) 449-2787.

Sheila Jordan

- Mar. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Sheila Jordan.  Here’s one of the special events of the year, featuring one of the jazz vocal art’s most incomparable performers in two different nights of music and memory.  On Fri. night Jordan will share her personal stories through song, while author/singer Ellen Johnson reads excerpts from Jordan’s upcoming biography Jazz Messages: The Sheila Jordan Story. On Sat. night she’ll perform a concert of the songs that have made her one of the classic jazz vocalists.  Pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine back Jordan on both nights.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 11 – 13  (Fri. – Sun.)  Oleta Adams. Soulful singer Adams displays her lush sound, gospel-driven phrasing and intimate style in one of her too-infrequent Southland appearances.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

Bale Folclorico da Bahia

- Mar. 12. (Sat.)  Bale Folclorico da Bahia.  The colorfully garbed performers from Bahia make their Los Angeles debut with an evening of physically dynamic, erotically charged dances and passionately rhythmic music.  The featured work will be the U.S. premiere of Sacred Heritage.  Wilshire Ebell Theatre.  A Brazilian Nites production.   (818) 566-1111.

- Mar. 13. (Sun.) All Star Spring Jazz Fest.  Celebrate the approaching arrival of Spring with a mid-day jazz program honoring pianist Tom Garvin.  Also on the full bill of music: the Bill Holman Big Band, Sue Raney, Alan Broadbent, Tom Ranier, Bob Sheppard, Madeline Eastman and more.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

- Mar. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Albita.  Grammy and Emmy winning Cuban singer/actress Albita has been transfixing audiences since she arrived in the U.S. in the early ‘90s.  Most recently, she starred in the musical “The Mambo Kings,” but she is an electrifying night club performer, as well.Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

New York

Chris Potter

- Mar. 8. (Tues.)  The Potter Binney Group.  A pair of contemporary jazz’s most gifted saxophonists –  Chris Potter and David Binney — team up for an evening of stimulating musical interaction.  They’ll be backed by David Virelles, keyboards, Eivind Opsvik, bass and Dan Weiss, drums.  55 Bar.   (212) 989-9883.

- Mar. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ann Hampton Callaway. Her lush sound, adept musicality and intimate storytelling abilities one of the contemporary jazz world’s finest – if not as acknowledged as she should be – singers.  She’s backed by pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Tim Horner Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

- Mar. 10. (Thurs.) Alan Pierson and Alarm Will Sound. “1969.” The Beatles and composer Karlheinz Stockhausen never managed to fulfill their plan to get together for a joint concert in the ‘60s.  But here’s a staged event, with music and dialog, imagining what that encounter – along with the added presence of the music of Luciano Berio, Leonard Bernstein and others — might have sounded and looked like.  NY Premiere.  Zankel Hall (212) 247-7800.

Mose Allison

- Mar. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mose Allison Trio.  A true Mississippi original, singer/songwriter/pianist Allison has been combining the blues, the bayou and his own unique lyrical and musical imagination to jazz since the late ‘50s.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.


Live Rock: Jackson Browne and David Lindley at the Greek Theatre

July 25, 2010

By Mike Finkelstein

A quick glance at the billing of David Lindley opening up for Jackson Browne Friday night at the sold out Greek Theater couldn’t help but make fans eagerly anticipate the two sharing the stage at some point.   After all, Lindley had been a member of Browne’s band and a key player in the signature sound of Browne’s most iconic songs for most of the ‘70’s.   The Greek, major venue that it is, always seems to offer an intimate vibe, and pairing these two engaging and accessible personalities set the table for a very memorable and satisfying show.

One of the most successful singer/songwriters ever, Jackson Browne is a very impressive cat both artistically and now, physically.   Time has been good to him.   When he walked onstage with his band you had to remind yourself that the man is coming up on 62 years of age, because he has the same gait and physical presence he had perhaps 30 years ago.  Clad in various hues of black he and the band wove their way through a set that delivered standards like “Rock Me On The Water,” “Doctor My Eyes,” and “The Pretender” as well as delving below the surface for songs like “Time the Conqueror” and “Shape of a Heart.”

Jackson Browne (Photo by Craig O'Neal)

The band was seven pieces large and included Kevin McCormick on bass, Mauricio Lewak on drums, Jeffrey Young on keyboards and backing vocals, Mark Goldenberg on guitar, and the angelic voices of Chavonne Stewart and Alethea Mills on backing vocals.  Browne’s songs are full of dynamic shifts and the band shined as they framed one musical mood after another behind him.   Judging from his body language, he clearly relished leading them through the changes.  Mills and Stewart also added a remarkably beautiful sense of dimension to the vocal mix under Browne’s voice.  Goldenberg, assigned to deliver Lindley’s original lap steel lines on his six string electric, had his work cut out for him.   And he did it skillfully, putting his own style into the solos while staying true to the original lines.

Several songs into the show, Lindley walked onstage and sat down on a chair to play some slide.   On “Your Bright Baby Blues” he played a mesmerizing solo on a multi-neck lap steel guitar.   During musical moments like these you could literally feel the audience members’ spirits rising.   Similarly, later in the set the band played and Browne sang a cover of “Mercury Blues,” which was a considerable hit in the early ‘80’s for Lindley and El Rayo X.   The song roared on lap steel like the open throttled engine of the ‘49 Mercury it celebrates.

Though Browne’s songs often deal with the stickiest and most complicated dynamics of relationships, finding one’s direction, and political issues, they are beautifully constructed works.   His lyrics are layered poetically to go progressively deeper.    His musical arrangements feature stylized signature vocals and instrumentation such as Lindley’s lap steel sound.   On Friday, Browne’s songs of emotional torment and angst were delivered with a dynamic musical style that was always true to the lyrics, playing up the core emotion of the moment. On “In The Shape Of A Heart” he told us the metaphorical tale of a doomed, heart-shaped ruby of a relationship that he finally dropped away for good into a fist-sized hole in the wall.  The poignancy of a song like “Too Many Angels,” which elegantly described a home filled with ornamental angels watching the surrounding dysfunctions, was one of several profound moments of both beauty and melancholy. It was Browne’s poised and warm voice that was so soothingly winsome in conveying the heaviness.  Nearly everyone at the Greek seemed to know the words, and had quite likely lived some version of the emotions behind them. Browne sings with grace of the difficult emotions that are so often the raw materials for making great music.

While what is said between songs at a concert is often just filler, Browne’s banter was so engaging, witty and warm that he really did make one forget they were part of a group of thousands.    The topics ranged from plastic waste at the bottom of the ocean to lost love letters.   At one point on Friday, Browne actually responded to a playful request for “Free Bird” by beginning to sing the first stanza of the Lynrd Skynrd tune over his piano.   It sounded nothing like the original and every bit like a new Jackson Browne song. The band appeared ready to run with it and the audience was certainly curious and game, but an enticing tease was all we would hear. Still, his musical delivery is so distinctive that he had us all going.

David Lindley

David Lindley was billed as Friday’s opening act, although he and Browne played both sets together.   He is truly one of a kind, performing in some of the loudest, most gaudy polyester togs known to man.   With his long gray hair, a pair of very long mutton chop sideburns and wearing spectacles, he sat regally on his chair under a lap steel guitar, looking like a psychedelic version of Ben Franklin.   The huge, full sound that he pulls from his many instruments is the bottom foundation of his music.  Lindley has a well-deserved reputation for being able to play beautifully bluesy music on any instrument he gets his hands around.  For his hour-long set he rotated between acoustic lap steel guitar, bouzouki, and oud.  The latter two — Middle Eastern instruments that he simply delights in playing — have attractive and warm middle range timbres that responded beautifully to the hammering and nuanced bends that he used with them.

His set featured songs by Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon and also his own funny tune called “Cat Food Sandwiches,” about dubious backstage cuisine and the beauty of headcheese.  Like Browne, Lindley, too was charming and entertaining between songs.

The sun had been barely setting when the show began with Browne and Lindley warming up their open-tuned instruments.  Three hours later, with a near-full moon rising, both men were still on stage together, wrapping up a great show.

To read more of Mike Finkelstein’s reviews click here.


Picks of the Week: July 19 – 25

July 19, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- July 19. (Mon.)  Rachael Sage.  The music of New York singer/songwriter Sage has been described as “Elton John Meets Kate Bush,” but she’s a lot more unique than that – a musical happening in her own right.  Genghis Cohen.  (323) 653-0640.

- July 19. (Mon.) Elvis Schoenberg’s Orchestre Surreal.  With a stage name derived from Elvis Presley and Arnold Schoenberg, composer Ross Wright has assembled a 20+ piece ensemble for whom “eclectic” only begins to describe what they do. Typhoon Restaurant. (310) 390-6565.

The Labeque Sisters

- July 20. (Tues.) and July 22 (Thurs.)  Magnificent Mozart. Mozart is always “magnificent,” of course.  And especially so when Katia and Marielle Labèque are playing the Concerto for Two Pianos, K.365.  Nicholas McGegan also conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Symphony No. 36. (Linz), K.425.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 20. (Tues.) James Taylor and Carole King.  For anyone who remembers the ‘70s, it doesn’t get any more nostalgic than this.  Taylor and King may be in their sixties, but they still know how to get to the heart of a song.  The Honda Center, Anaheim.   (714) 704-2500.

- July 20. (Tues.) John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  Pisano and guitarist Federico Ramos bring a touch of Rio to Studio City, backed by bassist Jose Marino and drummer Enzo TodescoVitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- July 20. (Tues.)  Johnny Crawford Orchestra.  Crawford and his line-up of veteran big band players celebrate the Artie Shaw centennial with “Begin the Beguine” and much more.  Typhoon Restaurant.   (310) 390-6565.

- July 21. (Wed.)  Melissa Sweeney and Bill Cunliffe. Singer Sweeney and pianist Cunliffe are both show biz hyphenates – Sweeney as a film producer (Split Ends), Cunliffe as a Grammy winning arranger/composer.  Performing together, their unique talents combine into an impressive musical blend. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Jamie Cullum

- July 21. (Wed.)  Jamie Cullum.  Every Cullum performance is an adventure, enlivened by his intriguing vocals and his unpredictable piano work (sometimes on the keys, sometimes on the strings, sometimes elsewhere.  He’s a true original, quirky, but always musical and always a pleasure to hear.  Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

- July 21. (Wed.)  Joe Bagg Organ Trio. Keyboardist Bagg displays his proficiency on the B-3, backed by guitarist Jamie Rosenn and drummer Ryan Doyle. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- July 21. (Wed.)  Lee Ritenour and Dave GrusinJazz at the Bowl brings an impressive group of six-stringers to interact with Ritenour and Grusin: Keb Mo, Taj Mahal and John Scofield. Dianne Reeves adds her virtuosic vocal stylings.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 22. (Thurs.) Jovanotti.  One of Italy’s most charismatic performers brings his highly personal blend of song, funk, rapping and an occasional classical touch to Twilight Dance at the Santa Monica Pier.   (310) 458-8900.

- July 22. (Thurs.)  Pinky Winters.  With a career that reaches back to the ‘50s, Winters’ fine jazz singing has been in action only intermittently over the decades.  But she’s back in action and very much worth hearing.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

- July 22. (Thurs.)  Parno Graszt.  The Skirball’s Sunset Concert Series opens with a no doubt high spirited performance by a Hungarian Gypsy folk band that always manages to get a crowd to their feet.  The Skirball Center.   (310) 440-4500.

Billy Childs

- July 23. (Fri.)  Billy Childs Trio.  Taking a break from his globe-hopping gig with Chris Botti, Childs gets down to piano trio basics.  Expect the best.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- July 22 – 24. (Thurs. – Sat.) Joan Rivers Live! Yes, live, to be sure.  The one and only, as sardonic as ever, making an extremely rare Los Angeles club appearance.  Don’t miss this one.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- July 23. (Fri.)  Tom Peterson Quartet. Saxophonist Peterson is everyone’s first call player, fully capable of fitting into any setting.  But here we get to hear him in his own solidly swinging, ever-inventive mode, backed by the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- July 23. (Fri.) “Music at the Zoo: Classic Rock Night” And classic rock it will be, with Eagles, Beatles, the Grateful Dead and Heart tribute bands, as well as the songs of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and more.  The Los Angeles Zoo.  6 p.m.   (323) 644-6042.

- July 23. (Fri.) Jackson Browne and special guest David Lindley.  Singer/songwriter Browne and guitarist Lindley have been making music together at various times for nearly 40 years.  Their current appearance celebrates the release of the dynamic duo’s Love Is Strange. a 2-CD live recording of their Spanish tour in 2006. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-3125.

Ernie Andrews

- July 23. (Fri.) Ernie Andrews.  The male jazz singer field may be relatively sparse these days, but we can always be thankful for the presence of Andrews, who sings anything and everything with style and substance.  The Culver Club in the Raddison. (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

- July 23 (Fri.)  Bern.  Drummer Bernie Dresel leads his wildly versatile band of singers and musicians in the first appearance at The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

- July 24. (Sat.)  Mercury Falls and painter Norton Wisdom. Mercury Falls – saxophonist Patrick Cress, guitarist Roger Riedlbauer, bassist Eric Perney and drummer Tim Bulkley – perform their ambient jazz textures, while Wisdom paints spontaneous images to capture the musical moment.  Royal-T.  (310) 559-6300.

- July 25. (Sun.) Louis Prima: Star on Hollywood Blvd. Trumpeter Prima, whose career reached from his mid-‘30s hit, “Sing, Sing, Sing” to his ‘50s trend-setting lounge act with Keely Smith, receives his star on the Walk of Fame.  Prima’s son, Louis Prima, Jr., performs some of the classics after the ceremony.  11617 Vine St., south of Hollywood Blvd.  11:30 a.m.

San Francisco

- July 19 & 20. (Mon. & Tues.)  Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca. Lemvo’s turbulent Congolese percussion rhythms are skillfully blended by his Makina Loca players into a tasty gumbo of salsa, rumba and soukous. Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

- July 21. (Wed.) Etran Finatawa. The trance-like grooves of Niger’s “Stars of Tradition” are as mesmerizing as ever in their new album, Tarkat Tajje/Let’s Go!Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

New York

Carol Welsman

- July 19. (Mon.)  Carol Welsman Quartet with Harry Allen.  Welsman’s velvety vocals, rich sense of swing and embracing balladry are backed by saxophonist Allen’s driving mainstream style.   Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9595.  

- July 20 – 24. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Maria Schneider Orchestra. Arguably among the most adventurous of the contemporary big bands, Schneider’s stellar players make the most of her atmospheric charts.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- July 20 – 25. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Barry Harris Trio. Bebop still lives, in every sense of the word, in Harris’ ineffable piano.  Village Vanguard. (212) 255-4037.

- July 20 – 25. (Tues. – Sun.)  Monty Alexander: Harlem-Kingston Express. Jamaica’s Alexander finds common ground between uptown jazz and Caribbean rhythms. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9595.  

- July 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sun.) Larry Willis Quintet.  Keyboardist Willis has proved his chops in every imaginable setting, from Jackie McLean and Stan Getz to Carmen McRae and Blood, Sweat & Tears.  This time out, he leads the quintet of saxophonist Joe Ford, trombonist Steve Davis, bassist Steve Novosel and drummer Billy Williams. The Jazz Standard. (212) 576-2232.

- July 21 & 22. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Jeff Lorber Fusion. Keyboardist Lorber led the way in the early years of fusion, and he continues to stretch the envelope, this time celebrating the appropriately titled new recording, Now is the Time, dipping into the jazz roots that have always been the foundation of his music.  Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.

- July 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.) Geri Allen and Timeline. Pianist Allen showcases selections from a pair of new albums – the tap dancing sounds of Live (Dig) and the solo piano excursions of Flying Toward the Sound. Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.


Picks of the Week: August 11 – 16

August 11, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Aug. 11. (Tues.) John Pisano Guitar Night. Every Guitar Night — Tuesdays at Spazio — is a great night for music. And this one’s even more special, with Pisano trading licks with the versatile, imaginative Larry Koonse. Tom Warrington‘s bass keeps the dueling guitars in line. Spazio.  (818) 728-8400.

Alfredo Rodriguez

Alfredo Rodriguez

- Aug 12. (Wed.) Alfredo Rodriguez. Pianist Rodriguez, still in his early twenties, gave a brilliant performance at the Playboy Jazz Festival in June. Here he is, making his first Southland appearance since then, performing in an intimate club setting. Not to be missed by anyone curious about the new directions in jazz piano. Vibrato.  (818) 474-9400.

- Aug. 12. (Wed.) Buddy Guy, Dr. John, James Cotton. Blues on the loose. when it comes to an evening of down home, in the pocket, traditional blues of every stripe, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 12. (Wed.) Jackson Browne. The veteran singer-songerwriter arrives in the Southland as part of the summer U.S. tour supporting his latest CD, “Time the Conqueror.” An apt title, perhaps, given the fact that it coincides with his 60th birthday. Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-3125.

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

- Aug. 13. (Thurs.) Omar Faruk Tekbilek Ensemble. One of the great virtuosi of Middle Eastern music, Tekbilek’s performances are masterful displays, embracing his superb playing of the flute-like nay, the double reed zurna, the baglama, a long-necked lute, and various percussion instruments. The Skirball Center.  (31) 440-4500.

- Aug. 13. (Thurs.) Henry Franklin Quartet. The sterling bassist everyone calls the “Captain,” leads a hard-driving ensemble featuring saxophonist Azar Lawrence, pianist Theo Saunders, piano and drummer Ramon Banda. Charlie O’s.  994-3058.

- August 13 – 15. (Thurs. – Sat.) Buster Williams, Patrice Rushen, Cindy Blackman and Bennie Maupin. Nobody’s listed as the leader here, but with a stellar group like this — featuring Maupin’s versatile woodwinds, Rushen’s rich keyboard sounds, Williams’ sturdy bass and Blackman’s propulsive drumming — expect collective music making at its best. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

509DENISE

Denise Donatelli

- Aug. 14. (Fri.) Denise Donatelli. One of the jazz vocal world’s most eminently listenable talents, Donatelli still doesn’t quite get the attention her superb interpretive talents deserve. She should be at her best backed by pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Kevin Kanner Spazio.  (818) 728-8400.

- Aug. 14. (Fri.) Tamir Hendelman trio with Dan Lutz, bass and Dean Koba, drums. Pianist Hendelman’s international presence, as an arranger, accompanist and gifted talent in his own right, is growing by leaps and bounds. But it’s always a pleasure to hear him on his own, backed by a pair of fine players, revealing the intimate depths of his music. The Culver Club in the Radisson.  (310) 649-1776.

- August 16. (Sun.) Gina Eckstine. The offspring of famous singers aren’t always what one hopes for. But Eckstine, whose father was Billy Eckstine, has the spunk, the spirit and the soul of her family’s patriarch. At her best, she delivers a song with the same intense ability to tell a musical story. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- August 16. (Sun.) Take 6.  The extraordinary a cappella group — who are creating some of the most remarkable vocal moments of the decade — make a rare L.A. appearance for a concert supporting the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra’s “Music in the Schools” program.  Call it an opportunity to do something really valuable, while hearing some superb music.  At the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. Two shows, at 6:15 and 8:15 p.m.   Information click here.

San Francisco

- Aug. 14 & 15. (Fri. & Sat.) Jack Jones. He’s a living, walking, singing classic. A member of the ’50s and ’60s gang of male divos that included Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone and others. Like Bennett, Jones is still going strong, still demonstrating how to bring a song to life. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

elaine1

Eliane Elias

- Aug. 12 – 16. (Wed. – Sun.) Eliane Elias Trio. “Tribute To Bill Evans.” The Elias trio — with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Adam Nussbaum — accomplish the difficult task of exploring the Evans musical lexicon while still maintaining their own unique creative identity. The Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

- Aug. 13 & 14. (Thurs. &o Fri.) Judy Wexler. With a pliable voice, a seductive sound and a stirring rhythmic drive, Wexler moves easily from story-telling balladry to briskly swinging vocalese.  Feinstein’s at the Regency.  (212) 339-4095.

- Aug. 13 – 16 (Thurs. – Sun.) Steve Kuhn Trio featuring bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Al Foster. Three masters at work, still at the top of their form, still revealing more enlightening views of the inner mysteries of jazz improvisation. The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2252.

- Aug. 16. (Sun.) The James Carney Group. Carney is a pianist/composer who invests his music with a compelling blend of subtle structure and expansive musical exploration. He performs at one of the city’s great jazz hang-outs with the firsr rate ensemble of Tony Malaby, tenor saxophone, Josh Roseman, trombone, Chris Lightcap, bass and Dan Weiss, drums. The 55 Bar.  (212) 929-9883.


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