Live Jazz: Jane Monheit at Catalina Bar & Grill

December 29, 2013

By Don Heckman

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

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

Jane Monheit and RIck Montalbano

Jane Monheit and RIck Montalbano

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

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

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

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

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

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

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

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

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 26 – 29

December 26, 2013

By Don Heckman

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always light on performances. And this week is no exception. But numerous events, nonetheless, are well worthy of listeners’ attention. Here’s a selective group of some of the many highlights.

Los Angeles

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

- Dec. 26. (Thurs.) Robert Davi. Actor/singer Davi has thoroughly established himself as a Sinatra-inspired vocalist, when he isn’t building an impressive career as a film actor, as well. But he’s also a gifted singer who has created an engaging style of his own. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 26. (Thurs.) Vocalist Peggie Perkins, a Los Angeles jazz favorite for decades, performs with the Llew Matthews Quartet, featuring tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, bassist John B Williams, guitarist Doug MacDonald and drummer Jimmy Ford. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905

- Dec. 27. (Fri.) The Midnight Jazz Band. A quartet of veteran jazz all-stars, Gary Foster, alto saxophone, Tom Ranier, piano, Chuck Berghofer, bass and Peter Erskine, drums have been among the Southland musical aristocracy for decades. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Dec, 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat. ) Broadway on Ice. An impressive holiday presentation, featuring a dynamic creative partnership between Olympic Gold Medalist skater Ekaterina Gordeeva and Broadway singing star Davis Gaines. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8510.

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

 - Dec. 27 – 31. (Fri. – Tues.) Jane Monheit. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of her recording career, Monheit has thoroughly established herself as a uniquely gifted jazz artist with deep roots in the Great American Songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

 Washington, D.C.

- Dec. 27 – 31. (Fri. – Tues.) Monty Alexander. Jamaica’s Alexander, a prime jazz artist, enlivens much of his music with the appealing rhythms of the Caribbean. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-414.

New York City

Michael Feinstein

Michael Feinstein

- Dec. 26 – 28. (Thurs. – Sat.) Michael Feinstein. The master of the Great American songbook, singer/pianist Feinstein is also a superb entertainer, leading his audiences through the expressive intimacies of every song he offers. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Dec. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Carmen Lundy. Vocalist Lundy has a full range of creative skills, a rare example of a jazz singer who is also a gifted songwriter. Catch her in action. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

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Chris Botti

- Dec. 26 – Jan. 5. (Thurs. – Sun.) Chris Botti. Trumpeter Botti, a stellar performer in his own right, leads an equally world class jazz ensemble in an extended holiday run. Expect to hear some extraordinary music. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

Milan

- Dec. 26 – 31. Angels in Harlem Gospel Choir. The touring ensemble of the Harlem Gospel Choir, one of the world’s most prominent gospel groups, the Angels offer a special blend of high spirited gospel music at its finest. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

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Hiromi

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Dec. 28 – 31. (Sat. – Tues.) Hiromi Trio Project. The highly imaginative keyboardist returns to her home country in the company of bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.


Picks of the Week: May 28 – June 2

May 28, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Alan Broadbent

Alan Broadbent

- May 28. (Tues.) Alan Broadbent.  Pianist/composer/arranger Broadbent was one of the Southland’s most gifted jazz artists for years.  But he’s moved to New York, and his L.A. appearances are rare.  Here’s one not to miss, as he performs in a duo with bassist Pat Senatore..  Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- May 29. (Wed.)  Carol Duboc and Jeff Lorber.  A CD release party in which singer/guitarist Duboc introduces her new album, Smile with the solid support of co-producer and keyboardist Lorber and bassist Jimmy Haslip.   Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

- May 29 & 30.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  Robert Davi.  No one does Sinatra songs better than singer/actor Davi, who brings authenticity to his interpretations while still retaining his own musical identity.  Davi’s one of a kind, a rare and engaging talent.  Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- May 30 – June 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the baton of Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, performs Mozart’s Symphonies No. 3 and No. 40, and Brahms’ Three Hungarian Dances. Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

- May 30 – June 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit.  Yet another CD release event, this time celebrating Monheit’s The Heart of the Matter, an album overflowing with her interpretations of a broad range of contemporary songs. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 31 – June 2. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Newport Beach Jazz Festival.  The emphasis of this year’s Festival is on contemporary and smooth jazz via a program that includes Al Jarreau, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Brian Culbertson, Jonathan Butler, Norman Brown, Najee, Poncho Sanchez, Earl Klugh and more.  The Newport Beach Jazz Festival.    (949) 360-7800.

- June 1.  (Sat.)  The Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra“Artistry – A Tribute to Stan Kenton.”  Saxophonist Richmond’s assemblage of L.A.’s world-class instrumentalists apply their imagination and skill to an evening of Kenton’s finest charts.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

June 1 (Sat.)  Teka.  Los Angeles has an impressive population of Brazilian musical artists.  And Sao Paulo’s singer/guitarist Teka is one of the finest.  As I wrote in an LA Times review, “she [brings] everything into a unified expression, combining her vocal lines and rhythmic guitar accompaniments into a distinct buoyant musical blend.” Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  https://www.lacma.org/event/t%C3%A9ka-0 (323) 857-6000.

Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler

Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler

- June 2. (Sun.) 1+One. Here’s this year’s second concert in the Playboy Jazz Festival’s annual programs of exciting jazz events free to the public  Keyboardist Patrice Rushen and percussionist Ndugu Chancler team up with special guest Paul Jackson Jr. in a program simmering with jazz, soul and r&b.  Also on the bill, the Harmony Project, which aids at-risk children with the study and performance of music, will showcase its talented young Harmony Project Jazz Ensemble.  At Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.    (310) 450-1173.

San Francisco

Sara Gazarek

Sara Gazarek

- May 28. (Tues.)  Sara Gazarek. Blessed with a superb vocal instrument and an expressive interpretive style, Gazarek is one of the most listenable jazz singers of her generation.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- May 28 & 29. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Seasons Guitar QuartetAnthony Wilson, Julian Lage, Chico Pinheiro and Larry Koonse. One couldn’t ask for a more gifted quartet of guitarists, performing together.  Expect to hear an intriguing program reaching from Wilson’s compositions to Brazilian classics and more.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729

Washington D.C.

- May 29. (Wed.)  Eldar Djangirov Trio.  A child prodigy as a pianist, Djangirov, born in Kyrgystan, was performing on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz when he was 12 years old.  Now, at 26, he’s become a mature jazz artist with an adventurous style of his own. .Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141

New York City

- May 28. (Tues.)  Terese Genecco and her Little Big Band.  With special guest KJ Denhert. Genecco and her three horns and five rhythm “put on an unstoppable juggernaut of a set,” wrote critic Will Friedwald in the Wall St. Journal.   Iridium.  (212) 582-2121 t

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

- May 28 – June 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Joe Lovano Nonet“Streams of Expression” is Lovano’s current expressive ensemble, loaded with some of NYC’s finest players, among them Lovano, tenor sax, Tim Hagans, Barry Ries, trumpets, Steve Slagle, alto sax, Ralph Lalama, tenor sax, Gary Smulyan, baritone sax, Larry Farrell, trombone, James Weidman, piano, Cameron Brown, bass, Steve Williams, drums.  Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- June 1. (Sat.)  Barbara Carroll with bassist Jay Leonhart. Pianist/singer Carroll has been displaying her impressive jazz skills since the ‘40s.  At 88, she continues to offer her still fine-tuned musical wares. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

- May 29 & 30. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Claire Martin.  Often described – with good reason – as England’s finest jazz singer, Martin has been offering solid evidence to justify the label since the early ‘90s.  She performs with the Dave Newton TrioRonnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- May 30 – 31. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Scandinavian jazz at its best in this stellar trio of Denmark’s Christina Von Bulow, alto saxophone, and Thomas Clausen, piano, with Sweden’s Palle Danielsson, bass.  Jazzhus Montmarte.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson

- May 31. (Fri.)  Cassandra Wilson. One of the rare contemporary jazz singers with a style and imagination that have placed her among the new millenium’s  uniquely adventurous vocal stylists. Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 15 – 20

January 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Eloise Laws

Eloise Laws

- Jan. 16. (Wed.)  Eloise Laws.  A member of the musically prominent Laws family (Hubert, Ronnie and Debra among others) Eloise Laws makes a rare live performance in the Southland.  Her warm and expressive vocals are backed by members of the Laws family and their talented friends.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 16. (Wed.) Windy Karigianes.  It’s a busy month for international jazz singers to make appearances in L.A.  Denmark’s superb vocal artist Sinne Eeg was here last week, Australia’s Chris McNulty is at Vitello’s tomorrow.  And today there’s Karigianes, whose background is Greek, Portuguese and Italian, bringing a musically diverse perspective to her mellow, evocative singing.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Jan 16. (Wed.)  John Beasley Residence II.  Pianist Beasley’s second event in his January residence features his trio – with bassist Carlitos del Puerto and drummer Gary Novak, plus guests — playing a program of Brazilian Music.  The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

- Jan. 17 & 18. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Chris McNulty.  Australian jazz singer McNulty celebrates the release of her latest CD, The Song That Sings You Here.  With guitarist Paul Bollenback and bassist Trey HenryVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- Jan. 17 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  Veteran jazz vocalist Schuur – called “Deedles” by friends and fans alike – continues to sing with the appealing, Sarah Vaughan influences that she has transformed into her own unique style. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 18 – 19. (Fri. & Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco Trio.  The master of contemporary jazz organ always has something new to bring to his classic organ trio performances.  He’ll perform with the Banda Brothers, Steve Cotter and Steve WilkersonSteamer’s.  (714) 871-8800.

- Jan. 19. (Sat.)  Freddy Cole.  There’s an immediately recognizable trace of the Cole sound in Freddy’s vocals and piano work.  And he’s retained the musical memories while exploring new musical horizons. The  Kirk Douglas Theatre.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 20. (Sun.)   Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuaria.   A pair of very different guitarists with styles reaching from American folk to Brazilian rhythms perform selections from their 2012 album, Lagrimas Mexicanas.  Skirball Center.     (310) 440-4500.

John Daversa

John Daversa

- Jan. 20. (Sun.)  The John Daversa Contemporary Big Band.  Trumpeter/composer Daversa, a true musicall adventurer – as a soloist and as a writer/composer – showcases some of his especially ground-breaking writing for his stellar big band.  Baked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

San Francisco

- Jan. 19 & 20. (Sat. & Sun.) Jane Monheit. She’s always had a gorgeous voice, but Monheit – now in her ‘30s – also brings a compelling musicality to everything she sings.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of a Monheit performance in Los Angeles. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Jan. 15. (Tues.)  Tammy Faye Starlight IS Nico in the show Chelsea Madchen, singing legendary Velvet Underground songs in a Warhol-tinged setting.  Special guest: Steve EarleThe Cutting Roomk  (212) (877) 987-6487.

Ken Peplowski

Ken Peplowski

- Jan. 15 – 20.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Benny Goodman Reinvented: 75th Anniversary Carnegie Hall Concert.  Clarinetist Ken Peplowski assembles a 10 piece all-star ensemble to revisit Goodman’s memorable Swing Era performance in January, 1938. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Jan. 16. (Wed.) Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz Revisited.  Anther live, musical re-imagining performance.  This time the subject is one of the classic recordings of the ‘60s free-jazz era.  Players include  Jaleel Shaw, Joe Lovano, saxophones; Jeremy Pelt, Tim Hagans, trumpets, Ben Allison, Lonnie Plaxico, basses, Billy Drummond, Matt Wilson, drums.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2561.

London

- Jan. 16 – 19. (Wed. – Sat.) Deodato.  Brazilian pianist/composer/arranger has produced and/or arranged hundreds of albums for everyone from Bjork to k.d. lang.  Here’s a rare opportunity to hear him up close in his own personal musical environment.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Berlin

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

- Jan. 14 & 15. (Mon. & Tues.)  Steve Kuhn Trio.  With a resume that reaches back to John Coltrane and the avant-garde ‘60s, Kuhn – at 74 – has thoroughly established himself as one of the contemporary jazz scene’s most original piano voices.  His trio includes Buster Williams and Joey BaronA-Trane.   030/313 25 50.

Panama

- Jan. 14 – 19.  Panama Jazz Festival.  The 10th Annual Panama Jazz Festival once again assembles a stellar line up of performers in a warm and welcoming Central American setting.  The artist roster includes Herbie Hancock, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Ruben Blades, Susana Baca, Bill Frisell, John Patitucci, Brian Blade and Danilo PerezThe Panama Jazz Festival.    (507) 317-1466.


Live Jazz: Jane Monheit at Catalina Bar & Grill

December 28, 2012

By Don Heckman

Jane Monheit is at Catalina Bar & Grill this week, following up on last year’s stellar performance at the venue.  Once again, she’ll be there for the rest of the week, through New Year’s Eve on Monday night.  And her opening night appearance on Wednesday was a superb display of the warm, engaging style that has become more and more expressive over the 12 years since the release of her first album, Never Never Land.

When I reviewed that initial recording in the Los Angeles Times, I wrote “OK, the name isn’t familiar, but here’s a flat-out guarantee that it will be within the year.”  As it has in fact become, and with good cause.  And now, at 35, Monheit brings a mature creative perspective to the rich musicality that has always been an essential characteristic of her vocal art.

Jane Monheit

Backed by the warm, embracing support of her regular band — Michael Kanan, piano, Neal Miner, bass, and her husband, Rick Montalbano, drums – she opened her six night run at Catalina’s with a program overflowing with a range of songs best suited for her interpretive magic.

She began with the Gershwin’s “Soon,” before swinging into Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night.”  The latter tune was transformed into a showcase for Monheit’s improvisational imagination, especially during the passages in which she sang wordless melodic paraphrases.

Other fascinating versions of familiar material followed: “Born to Be Blue,”  “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” (appropriate, given the date), “Tea For Two,” “Taking A Chance On Love,” “Nobody Else But Me” and “Cheek To Cheek.”

Among the offbeat choices in her program – a jaunty version of “Little Man You”ve Had A Busy Day” and “I Won’t Dance” (missing only the presence of Michael Buble from their duet version), and a surprisingly dark interpretation of the Bergman’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”  And, as she did a year ago, a richly felt “Over the Rainbow,” done – like her other songs – with the intimacy of a born musical story-teller.

As I mentioned earlier, Monheit continues at Catalina’s through Monday night and New Year’s Eve.  That adds up to four more opportunities to hear this gifted artist in action.  And great singers should be heard at every opportunity.  Add Jane Monheit to that stellar list and enjoy the New Year’s revelry in her delightful company.

Photo by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 26 – 31.

December 26, 2012

By the iRoM Staff

With only a few short days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and with numerous clubs (especially in Europe) closed for the holiday week, we’ve decided to concentrate this week’s Picks on the celebratory musical pleasures of bringing in 2013.

NEW YEAR’S EVE (DEC. 31)

Los Angeles

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

- Dec. 26 – 31. (Wed. – Mon.) Jane Monheit.  Monheit’s glorious voice and briskly swinging style make a welcome return holiday visit to the club that perfectly showcases her many talents.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 31. (Mon.) Frank Stallone.  Grammy and Golden Globe nominated actor/singer Stallone is an entertaining performer, with material reaching from standards to his own originals.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 31. (Mon.)  Idina Menzel.  Tony Award-winning singer/actress Menzel, the star of Broadway’s Wicked, was also in the original production of Rent.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 31. (Mon.) Don Randi and Quest.   Keyboardist Randi – who also owns the Baked Potato – has played on hundreds of recording sessions and numerous hit recordings.  Here he celebrates the holiday with his own band, in  his own venue, with many special guests.  The Baked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

Anna Mjoll

Anna Mjoll

- Dec. 31. (Mon.) Anna Mjoll.  Iceland’s gift to jazz continues to affirm her vocal jazz authenticity with every performance.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 31. (Mon.)  Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble with special guest David Binney. Armenia-born pianist Ovsepian brings a view to jazz that is colorfully enhanced by his classical and Eastern European background.  Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

San Francisco

- Dec. 28 – 31. (Fri. – Mon.)  Pete Escovedo & Sons Latin Jazz Orchestra. Expect musical fireworks and an exciting transition to 2013 while enjoying the irresistible rhythms of the Escovedo family.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Dec. 28 – 31. (Fri. – Mon.)  Maceo Parker’s Funky New Year’s Party.  James Brown and the Funkadelics wouldn’t have been quite the same without the funk-driven saxophone of Parker.  He’s doing it on his own now, but he’s no less soulful than he was four decades ago.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Chicago

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

- Dec. 26 – 31. (Wed. – Mon.)  The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove continues to display his versatility in a busy touring schedule featuring his various groups.  This time it’s his always exciting quintet.  Jazz Showcaset  (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Dec. 26 – 31.  Wed. – Mon.) (Continuing through Sun. Jan. 6.)  Chris Botti. Trumpeter Botti – whose dedicated following has made him one of the world’s most popular jazz artists – continues his annual long holiday run at the Blue Note.  Don’t miss the chance to hear him up close and personal.   Click HERE.To read iRoM’s review of Chris’s New Year’s Eve performance at the Blue Note in 2012    The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Dec. 31.  (Mon.)  The Mingus Big Band.  What better way to celebrate the newly arriving year than with the ever-appealing music of Charles Mingus, performed accurately by the ensemble that continues to keep his classic jazz catalog alive.  Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

- Dec. 31.  (Mon.)  Wynton Marsalis Meets Vince Giordano.  Trumpeter Marsalis honors one of his great influences with The Louis Armstrong Continuum – Music of the Hot Fives and the Hot Sevens.   Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

Washington D.C.

– (Dec. 27 – 31).  Thurs. – Mon.)  Monty Alexander.  Jamaican-born pianist Alexander brings it all together – convincing bebop, a solid blues foundation and gently floating Caribbean rhythms.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.


Picks of the Week: July 31 – Aug. 5

July 31, 2012

 By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Overtone

- July 31. (Tues.)  Overtone.  This impressive sextet of a cappella singers from South Africa are on the verge of breaking onto the international music scene.  Discovered by Clint and Dina Eastwood, they’ve got the right support to match their extraordinary potential.  Let’s hope they have a few more dates in the Southland. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Aug. 1. (Wed.)  Bob McChesney Quintet.  If there’s a better trombonist than McChesney – technically, creatively and inventively – I’d like to hear him (her).  In the meantime, here’s a chance to hear Bob in action, backed by the fine support of pianist Andy Langham, saxophonist Rob Lockart, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter ErskineVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

The Neville Bros.

- Aug. 1. (Wed.)  The Neville Bros. Farewell Tour.  The inimitable Neville’s celebrate their more than three decades of prominence as a New Orleans icon.  Also on the bill, the funky exuberance of Trombone Shorty and the Crescent City roots-rock of Roddie RomeroThe Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 1. (Wed.)  Miles Evans Big Band.  Trumpeter Evans is the son of the legendary arranger/composer Gil Evans.  The mission of his band, he says, is to “pick up where Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorious and Rashied Ali left the notes on the page.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 2. (Thurs.)  All Beethoven.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lionel Bringuier conducting, perform Beethoven’s lively Symphony No. 7.  And violinist Renaud Capucon joins the ensemble for Beethoven’s only Violin Concerto. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 2. (Thurs.)  The Alaev Family.  The Tajikistani Alaev Family, with eight, multi-generational musicians and drummers, performs the music of Central Asia, Turkey, Persia and Russia, along with the Jewish music of Bukhara.  Expect a party atmosphere. Skirball Center Sunset Concerts.   (310) 440-4500.

Ravi Coltrane

- Aug. 2 – 5.) Thurs. – Sun.  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  The son of the iconic jazz great, John Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane – also playing the tenor and soprano saxophones – has carved out a uniquely inventive style of his own.  His playing deserves to be heard at every opportunity.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 3. (Fri.) Sony Holland.  Her singing has been critically praised, but Holland has not yet received the popular response that she deserves.  She’ll be performing with the prime ensemble of pianist Andy Langham, bassist Hussain Jiffrey, drummer Kendall Kay and her husband, guitarist Jerry HollandVitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 3 – 5. (Fri. – Sun.)  Pixar in Concert.  The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins presents an evening of music and video celebrating characters from such memorable Pixar films as Toy Story, Cars, Wall-E and more.  The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

Strunz & Farah

- Aug. 4. (Sat.)  Strunz and Farah.  Niyaz.  A pair of superb groups – early leaders in the emergence of the World Music genre appear on the same stage.  Strunz and Farah with their remarkable 2-guitar excursions; Niyaz led by the soaring vocals of Azam Ali.  Grand Performances.    Niyaz also appears Aug. 9 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Orange County.

- Aug. 4. (Sat.)  “Cosmic Oscar” The Music of Oscar Brown, Jr.  One couldn’t ask for a more entertaining and illuminating program than the songs of Oscar Brown.  Add that the presence of precisely the right performers: Dwight Trible & Co., with Trevor Ware, bass; Breeze Smith, percussion and soundscape artist; Paul Lagaspi, drums; John Beasley, piano.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at Boston Court. (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

- Aug. 4 & 5. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Family Stone. Still keeping alive the memory and the music of one of the great groups of the ‘60s and ‘70s, some of the original members revive the great Stone classics.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- Aug. 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  More than three decades since they arrived on the New Orleans seen, the DDBB is continuing to prove that traditional New Orleans style has plenty of room to encompass bebop, funk and beyond.  Jazz Alley.  http://www.jazzalley.com/calendar.asp  (206) 441-9729.

New York

Jane Monheit

- Aug. 1 – 5. (Wed. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. The mellow-voiced Monheit celebrates her first decade as a performer a five night run, singing selections from the 10th anniversary album, Home. The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Aug. 2 – Sat. (Thurs.- Sat. )  Irabagon Fest. Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk saxophone competition, demonstrates his creative versatility on three  consecutive nights, with three different ensembles: Thurs., Jon Irabagon Trio; Fri.,, the Barry Altschul Group; and Sat., the Jon Irabagon Jazz Quartet.    Cornelia St. Café.  (212) 989-9319.

- July 31 – Aug. 4. (Sat.)  The Masters Quartet.  For the line up of Steve Kuhn, Dave Liebman, Steve Swallow and Billy Drummond, “Masters” is the only appropriate title.  Expect to hear music as rich and bracing as a vintage bottle of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild..  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

- Aug. 3 & 4. (Fri. & Sat.)  Legends of Latin Jazz.  The Classic Jazz Series, celebrating the 1012 Olympics, features two evenings of great Latin jazz, performed by the U.K.’s top jazz artists.    Ronnie Scott’s.    (0) 20 7439 0747.

Paris

Patti Austin

- Aug. 2 (Thurs.)  Patti Austin Group.   Versatile Patti Austin can sing anything from pop to soul to r&b, blues and jazz.  And do so with authenticity, swing and sheer entertainment panache.  She may not be a huge name, but she’s a great vocal artist.  New Morning.    01 45 23  51 41.

Tokyo

- Aug. 5 – 7. (Sun. – Tues.)  The Count Basie Orchestra.  Yes, the Count Basie Orchestra still lives – with vibrancy and rhythm, performing some of the most memorable big band classics in the history of jazz.  Don’t miss this one.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03. 5485.0088.


Live Jazz: Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli at the Valley Performing Arts Center

May 14, 2012

By Don Heckman

I pushed aside one of my rules Saturday night – the rule that says once a year is enough to review most artists.  When I saw that Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli were performing together at the shiny new Valley Performing Arts Center, I decided to make an exception to the fact that I’d written about both of them well within the past year.  The idea of hearing these two uniquely gifted artists working off each other was too much to resist.

As it turned out, however, they weren’t exactly doing an evening’s performance together.  Each did their own set, with the Monheit/Pizzarelli togetherness of the evening consisting of only three songs.  I”d obviously hoped for more, and the response of the full house crowd suggested that they would have been happy for more, as well.

But there are no complaints about what we got during the brief duo segment: A lovely rendering of “Tonight You Belong To Me,” the duet Monheit sings with Pizzarelli on her new album, Home. A gorgeous vocal by Monheit on Ivan Lins’ “Love Dance,” with Pizzarelli’s guitar providing the rhythm.   And a brisk pairing – backed by the Pizzarelli band – on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

Jane Monheit

Beyond that, the evening consisted, as I’ve already noted, of two individual sets.  And Monheit came close to stealing the show with hers.  Blessed with extraordinary vocal skills, she used them all at the service of her musical storytelling.

On her opening “Old Devil Moon,” she swung briskly with bassist Neal Miner, matching and joining him in phrase after phrase.  Her version of “Look For The Silver Lining,” was a stunning display of musical paraphrase, transforming the original into a unique improvisation.  The same was true of “Stardust,” in which Monheit came up with one brilliantly spontaneous line after another – jazz singing at its finest.

And there was more: A touching “I Wish You Love,” a reading of “Every Time We Say Goodbye” that displayed the full gamut of her gift for far-reaching emotional dynamics.  A jaunty “I Won’t Dance,” recalling her video duet on the same tune with Michal Buble.  And another Brazilian delight – Antonio Carlos Jobim’s soaring “Samba de Avaio.”  All of it supported superbly by her pianist/arranger Michael Kanan, drummer (and husband) Rick Montalbano and bassist Miner.

John Pizzarelli

Pizzarelli’s set overflowed with his characteristic rhythmic buoyancy.  Opening with “Will You Still Be Mine,” he proceeded with a rapid fire romp through the Great American Songbook: “It Wouldn’t Be Make Believe,” “Just You, Just Me” and “Will You Still Be Mine,” often tossing in segments of his high spirited, guitar and voice riffing

`           The balance of the program surveyed material from his new album, Double Exposure, in which he combines seemingly disparate songs into unlikely musical marriages.  Among them, Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” was blended with the standard of the same name.  Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” was musically cut and pasted with Tom Waits’ “Drunk On the Moon.”  And John Lennon’s “I Feel Fine” came together with Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder.”

The result had a certain kind of novelty value, sometimes more than that.  But more often, one simply hoped for one or the other of the two songs within any of the blendings to simply come to life on its own.  Pizzarelli delivered it all with his usual panache.  But – recalling his charming December program at Disney Hall — I kept missing the musical byplay and the witty banter with his wife, the talented Broadway singer, Jessica Molaskey.

A final word about the new Valley Performing Arts Center, which is a stunning addition to the artistic life of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.  Pleasing architecturally, it also offers a large warm and inviting people space inside a stunning marble, tile and glass environment.  Add to that the hall’s excellent acoustics and generously comfortable seating, and one can expect that audiences from the other side of the hill will soon discover the pleasures of this impressive cultural destination.


Picks of the Week: May 9 – 13

May 9, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- May 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Peter Eldridge: Foolish Hearts.  Grammy winning pianist/vocalist Eldridge is joined by bassist Matt Aronoff for an intimate musical excursion through originals and standards.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Gustavo Dudamel

- May 10 – 12. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicGustavo Dudamel conducts a sparkling evening of Mozart (the Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro and the Posthorn Serenade), and a featured appearance by young virtuoso violinist Alina Pogostkina performing Distant Light by Latvian composer Peteris VasksDisney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- May 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Garrett Quintet.  Cutting edge alto saxophonist Garrett makes his musical intentions clear when he says, “Don’t look for me to sound like my last record.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 11. (Fri.)  Danny Janklow.  Rapidly rising jazz alto saxophonist Janklow is backed by solid support from the trio of pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Jimmy BranleyVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- May 12. (Sat.)  Kristin Chenowith.  Emmy and Tony Award winner Chenowith, a Broadway star of the highest voltage, launches her debut world tour with a stop at the Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

John Pizzarelli and Jane Monheit

- May 12 (Sat.)  John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jane Monheit. What a great pairing – the loose, swinging guitar playing and jaunty vocals of Pizzarelli combining perfectly with the gorgeous sound and soaring intimacy of Monheit’s singing.   Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

New York

- May 9 – 12. (Wed. – Sat.)  Steve Kuhn, Steve Swallow and Joey Baron.  There’s a lot of musical history between pianist Kuhn and bassist Swallow, and it all pays off musically with the dynamic addition of drummer Baron.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- May 9 – 13. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big BandPaquito Rivera conducts an assemblage of the Big Apple’s finest jazz talent in a program celebrating the memory and the music of the incomparable Gillespie.  The Blue Note.    (212)  475-8592.

Paula West

- May 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.) Paula West“A Tribute To George Mesterhazy.”  The superb San Francisco-based jazz singer, never fully appreciated for her extraordinary talents, performs in honor of her late accompanist, musical director and close friend.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

London

- May 9 – 12. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Kyle Eastwood Band.  Bassist Eastwood, an impressive talent who seems to improve with every outing, bringing some tough, straight ahead qualities to a listenable contemporary sound.  Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Milan

Ernie Watts

- May 10. (Thurs.)  Ernie Watts Quartet. The saxophone playing jazz pride of Los Angeles displays his considerable talents – on tenor and soprano – with a trio of first rate European players.  The Blue Note Milano.    02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

- May 10 – 12. (Thurs. – Sat.)  STAX!.  The incomparable groove of the famous Stax sound is alive and well in the gifted hands of veterans Steve Cropper, guitar, Duck Dunn, bass and Eddie Floyd, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo. 03-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: April 10 – 15

April 10, 2012

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Carol Welsman

- April 12. (Thurs.) Carol Welsman. Traveling the world is at the heart of singer/pianist Welsman’s engaging new CD, Journey. She celebrates its release with an evening’s sampling of the rich, emotionally far-reaching songs from the album. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- April 11. (Wed.) Pacifica Quartet. The talented young, Grammy-winning players of the Pacifica Quartet take on a challenging, era-leaping program of quartets by Beethoven and Shostakovich. Royce Hall. A UCLA Live program.  (310) 825-2101.

- April 11. (Wed.) Oz Noy. The Israeli-born guitarist’s iconoclastic jazz view is enhanced by the presence of drummer Dave Weckl and bassist Darryl Jones. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- April 11. (Wed.) Anthony Wilson . Versatile guitarist Wilson showcases his far-reaching skills in the second week of his four-performance, month long residency. Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

- April 11. (Wed.) The Soweto Gospel Choir. South Africa’s inspirational, 26 voice vocal ensemble makes a return appearance at Disney in a performance rich with color, melody and jubilant energy. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- April 12. (Thurs.) Lisa Hilton. Pianist/composer Hilton’s new recording American Impressions, features her deeply considered, impressionistic compositions, inspired by everyday American life. Her stellar band includes saxophonist JD Allen, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Nasheet Waits. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Chris Botti

- April 12 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) Chris Botti. Trumpeter Botti, the best-selling instrumental jazz artist, and now a Los Angeles resident, takes a break from his virtually non-stop global touring for an Orange County appearance. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- April 13. (Fri.) Brian Auger Organ jazz trio. Veteran keyboardist Auger’s long career traces b.ack to his influential ’70s jazz-rock band, Oblivion Express. His current band features his son, Karma Auger, on drums with Dan Lutz on bass. Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

- April 14. (Sat.) Chris Walden Quintet. Grammy-nominated composer/arranger/bandleader Walden takes a break from his studio activities to feature his trumpet and flugelhorn in a small group setting. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- April 15 (Sun.) Seth McFarlane and the Ron Jones Orchestra. The creator of Family Guy steps into the vocal spotlight, backed by the swinging Ron Jones ensemble, to offer his take on the Sinatra/King Cole/Dean Martin song book. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

Benny Golson

- April 11 – 13. (Wed. – Fri.) Benny Golson Quintet featuring Nnenna Freelon. It’s a jazz pairing to remember – Golson’s hardy tenor saxophone and classic jazz tunes matched with Freelon’s scintillating way with a jazz vocal. The Rrazz Room.  (415) 394-1189.

- April 12. (Thurs.) Peggy Seeger. The offspring of a great American musical family – her siblings are Pete and Mike Seeger – Peggy is a compelling performer of American and European folk, while continuing the family’s activist traditions. Freight & Salvage.  (510) 644-2020.

- April. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) The Bad Plus. The adventurous Bad Plus players – pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King – continue their efforts to redefine the creative elements of the jazz piano trio. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

Chicago

- April 12 – 15. (Thus. – Sun.) Miguel Zenon. Winning a MacArthur “genius” award hasn’t slowed down Zenon’s creative advances as one of the finest jazz alto saxophonists of his generaion. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

 New York

- April 10 – 15. (Tues. – Sun.) Vijay Ayer Trio. Pianist/composer Ayer blends elements from his Indian background, his far-reaching compositional interests and his straight-ahead jazz skills into compelling musical results. No wonder he’s a critics’ favorite. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- April 11. (Wed.) Pilc-Bona-Hoenig. The full names of the members of this impressive trio are Michel Pilc (piano), Richard Bona (guitar) and Ari Hoenig (drums); together, they blend powerful individual skills into an innovative ensemble blend. 55 Bar. (212) 929-9883.

 Boston

Gerald Clayton

- April 14. (Sat.) The Gerald Clayton Trio. Hearing his Dad, bassist John Clayton, and his uncle, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, when he was first discovering the wonders of jazz clearly had a significant impact on Gerald Clayton, who has rapidly established himself as a rising young star. The Regatta Bar.  (617) 395-7757.

 Montreal

- April 14. (Sat.) Halie Loren. Singer/songwriter Loren still isn’t as visible as her impressive talents deserve. But she clearly impressed iRoM reviewer Brian Arsenault. Click HERE to read his review of her new recording.  Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill. (514) 931-6808.

 London

- April 10 – 12. (Tues. – Thurs.) Michel Legrand. The great French artist Legrand is an ultimate hyphenate, with a career reaching from film music and song writing to theatre, film and production. Add to that his always listenable jazz piano work. This is one of his rare club appearances – do whatever it takes to obtain a ticket. Ronnie Scott’s.,  020 7439 0747.

 Berlin

- April 12. (Sat.) Defne Sahin. Singer/songwriter Sahin, born in Berlin to Turkish parents, found her way into jazz as an expression of her quest for the open spaces of musical freedom. Her latest recording features songs based on the writing of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. A-Trane. 030 / 313 25 50.

 Tokyo

- April 10 – 12 (Tues. – Thurs.) Jane Monheit and Ivan Lins. Could anyone ask for a more delightful musical partnership than this – the gorgeous timbres and intimate interpretive style of Monheit and the memorable songs and uniquely personal singing of Lins. They should take this show on the road in the U.S., too. Blue Note Tokyo. 03-5485-0088.

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Chris Botti photo by Tony Gieske.


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