Live Jazz: Sunday at the Monterey Jazz Festival 56

September 26, 2013

Impressions from MJF 56, Sunday

By Michael Katz

Sunday brought its share of legendary virtuosos to the Monterey Fairgrounds, but before we go there, a word about the kids.

Jazz education is the mission of the MJF, and Sunday afternoon demonstrated how successful they have gotten at it. The Night Club had healthy audiences to see the winning high school jazz combos and vocal ensembles. The previous night, the Coffee House had turn-away crowds for the terrific Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors. But the signature group is the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, and they put on a terrific show in the Arena Sunday afternoon. Paul Contos led the band through some fresh arrangements of standards like “Sunny Side of the Street” and Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” Soloists included a fine pair of tenor sax men, Julian Lee and Jyron Walls. Vocalist Brianna Rancour-Ibarra sang “Out of Nowhere,” with polish and verve.

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

It was great seeing Joe Lovano working in the context of a big band again, and his soloing on his own “Streets of Naples,” “The Peacocks” (with more lovely singing by Brianna) and “Birds Eye View” were worthy additions to his work as Artist-In-Resident. Elena Pinderhughes added some swinging flute work on “Got A Match.”

Peter Gabrielides

Peter Gabrielides

A special shout out to guitarist Peter Gabrielides, representing New Trier High School (Winnetka, IL) where this writer once stumbled through many a first period on the tenor sax. Gabrielides, who had several blazing solos, made all of us alums proud.

Bob James and David Sanborn were a perfect antidote for the typical Sunday afternoon heat. Teamed with drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus, they led an acoustic quartet through a combination of previous hits and new compositions from their Quartet Humaine CD.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

Sanborn has one of the more recognizable sounds; it crosses over from smooth to funky jazz and blues. During most of the show the group was pleasant, if not earthshaking, but there were surely some memorable moments. James’ composition, “You’d Better Not Go To College” was a delightful romp. Sanborn’s ballad “Sophia” gave James the opportunity for a sweet piano turn, Sanborn answering with a soulfully plaintive run on his alto. Marcus Miller’s “Maputo” was the source of one of Sanborn’s signature riffs, and “Follow Me” was James’ venture into complicated time signatures, a la the late Mr. Brubeck.

The “hammock” period between arena shows was an opportunity for sampling more from the cornucopia of talent on the grounds. I caught singer Judy Roberts and tenor man Greg Fishman in one of their eight sets from the Yamaha Courtyard stage. This one featured Judy in two of her favorite modes – Brazilian, with an inspired version of “Agua de Beber” (Fishman providing the Stan Getz-inspired accompaniment), and, a few minutes later, a take on Charlie Parker music, testing Roberts’ scatting ability with “Scrapple From The Apple” and a closing Parker vocal riff.

Meanwhile, back at the Garden Stage, the Minnesota group Davina and the Vagabonds, led by Davina Sowers, was tearing things up. Like the California Honeydrops the day before, they had a definite New Orleans sound. Davina is singer, pianist and provocateur, with a little bit of the Divine Miss M in her. Whether belting out a blues like “I’d Rather Go Blind,” or a good-time tune like “I Gotta New Baby,” she was full of life, and the Garden Stage crowd was on its feet for much of the 90 minute show.

MJF 56 was down to its last group of acts, now, and one could be forgiven for making one last trip to the food court and loading up on shrimp-ka-bobs and peach cobblers before they ran out. There were B-3 organs everywhere in the Grounds area, in various concoctions, and even though I was headed for the Arena, I had a vague feeling that I’d be back.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter was leading an 80th Birthday celebration on the main stage, with an all-star group that featured Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blades on drums. Shorter was playing soprano sax, and no one quite gets the lyrical sound out of that difficult instrument like him. With Perez dipping and dancing around him, it was like watching a pair of eagles soaring through the thermals.

Still, I was beginning to feel restless, and with the minutes ticking away from the festival clock, I decided to go back to the grounds and check out Jazz Master Lou Donaldson on his alto. I suppose I shouldn’t have considered that an unexpected treat. Donaldson, at 87, may not get around so easily, but the chops are still there, as is a delightfully raspy blues voice and a deft sense of humor. And what a group he had behind him – guitarist Randy Johnston is a leader in his own right, and Akiko Tsuruga added a lush layer on the B3 organ. When I walked in, Fukushi Tainaka was in the middle of a rousing drum solo; Donaldson then stepped up with a blues vocal, Johnston casually laying off one riff after another. Donaldson’s classic “Alligator Blues” followed, with Lou ripping off the main line and leaving plenty of room for the others. Then, a crack-up blues number, LD singing “It Was Just A Dream.” And finally, a delicious romp through “Cherokee.”

It was back to the Jimmy Lyons Stage for the curtain closer, an extended set with Diana Krall. Diana has had a magical relationship with Monterey, dating back to her debut there at MJF 40. Sunday night she had a new look. Gone was the standard trio, and gone also the full orchestra that had gotten a little stodgy. Her new group provided a fresh perspective, especially with fiddler Stuart Duncan, most recently heard with Yo Yo Ma on the Goat Rodeo sessions. He was a perfect fit for the material from Krall’s new CD, Glad Rag Doll and sparkled throughout.

Diana Krall

Diana Krall

Diana established the tone early with “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye.” She retains the ability to take nearly forgotten material from decades past and bring it to life, as she did a few minutes later with “Just Like A Butterfly Caught In The Rain.” But her diversity is startling, or would be if she didn’t pull it off so effortlessly. She did an extended version of Tom Waits’ “Tempation,” complete with reverb mic, and before the evening was out, would touch base with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Jimmie Rodgers and more.

There was a time when Krall was reticent to talk to the audience, but she has developed an easy rapport now, inviting the crowd in for some family patter and a little musical background. Best of all, she had a sizeable amount of solo time, just her voice and piano playing, which remains first rate. “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” had a freshly dramatic quality, separated from the symphonic background. Then there was the Dave Frishberg classic, “Peel Me A Grape.” When she first performed it here at MJF 40, Krall presented it with a delicious sex kitten mystique. But 16 years later, Diana smartly stepped back and sang it with the brisk irony that Frishberg (and Blossom Dearie) intended. “Frim Fram Sauce,” is still wonderfully saucy, and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” didn’t need much adjustment. It is still the same heartbreaker, full of longing.

The quintet behind provided plenty of support. Aram Bajakian shone on guitar (and ukelele, on “Everything Made For Love”), Patrick Warren filled in the sound on keyboards, and the rhythm section was held down by Dennis Crouch on bass and the estimable Karriem Riggins on the drum set.

Meanwhile, Krall continued on with a remarkable tour through her own particular North American Songbook. There was Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” delivered with touching simplicity, and “Sunny Side of the Street,” with Duncan performing a lively jaunt on his fiddle. Another nod to Nat King Cole with “Just You, Just Me” (not to mention a nod to Bill Evans). And from there, a bluesy blast of The Band’s “Ophelia.”

It is hard to imagine another vocalist who has that kind of range today, and can do it all so movingly.

Finally, Krall shared with us the only song, or so she claims, that her 7 year old twin boys actually like. It was Jimmie Rogers’ “Prairie Lullaby,” delivered again with simplicity and grace. A perfect way to close the curtain. And that was it for MJF 56.

A few closing thoughts on the festival…It’s been noted by some that overall attendance was down a little, thanks mainly to a storm that rattled through the Bay Area Saturday, cutting down on some of the traditional walk-up gate. That’s too bad, because the Grounds line-up was diverse and outstanding from start to finish. There was plenty to like at the Arena, too, but it’s worth noting that practically every act had appeared in LA within the last six months, most of them this summer. Of course it is difficult to book 5 shows of headliners without dipping into the summer tours, but it would nice to have a few more “Made For Monterey” acts that traditionally make the Festival a can’t-miss event for us SoCal types.

The Monterey Shore

The Monterey Shore

So now I type these last words on a Tuesday morning from my B and B in Pacific Grove, where I hung on for an extra day. It seems empty – my friends that came up for the festival are gone. All those wonderful music fans and musicians who reunite the third weekend in September have dispersed, returning to far flung homes, or back on the road. The last chords of music echo from venues now reverted to fairgrounds out-buildings. The Hyatt Lounge is just another bar.

One last walk along the sea shore, listening to seals playfully barking, pelicans on the wing overhead.

See you next year, Monterey.

********

All photos, except Wayne Shorter, by Michael Katz.

Wayne Shorter photo by Tony Gieske.

.

Don’t forget to check out Michael Katz’s new novel, Dearly Befuddled, available in paperback and E-book at Amazon.  And Read Mike’s Blog at Katz of the Day.

 


Video of the Day: Hans Groiner Corrects Thelonious Monk

September 8, 2013

Hans Groiner (Larry Goldings in disguise) offers some new perspectives on the music of the inimitable Thelonious Monk — with a few laughs along the way. 


Book Review: “Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker,” by Chuck Haddix

July 21, 2013

By Brian Arsenault

When I first heard Bird: The Savoy Recordings so many year ago I thought that Charlie Parker must be from a different place, a different planet, somewhere in a galaxy far far way.  And I was sort of right.

He was from the remarkable jazz planet of Kansas City, Missouri in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century. Ben Webster, Lester Young, Count Basie and many others were part of that place and time that spawned the greatest of them all.

In his soon to be released Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker,  Chuck Haddix takes us on Parker’s journey from mediocre musicianship in KC to world renown fame in New York, LA. and Europe. But Haddix starts in that remarkable time in Kansas City.

It is one of the ironies of history that Missouri — from whence vicious rebels, from Quantrill to Bloody Bill Andersen to the James Brothers, raided free state Kansas on behalf of the Confederacy — became in Kansas City a rollicking free wheeling center for black musicians in large black neighborhoods of all kinds of commerce, intermingling with white ethnic neighborhoods, often quite comfortably.  The state of Kansas, meanwhile, stayed largely white, conservative in religion and politics.

Haddix gives us a feel for all that and if he spends too much time listing all the musicians in all the bands that ever played in the city and its environs, well, he is the Director of the Marr Sound Archives at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.  The home of a very fine music department, by the way.

Haddix’s work is very important because Parker is so very important. A history of Bird is, among other things, the history of bop jazz, unimaginable without him. Bird was a very great American artist among other great American artists.

What is it they say near the start of The Lord of the Rings: “History becomes legend. Legend becomes myth.”  Something like that.

And Charlie Parker is shrouded in myth.  The myth of enormous appetites: in alcohol, in drugs in food, in intimate relations.  Haddix notes for one thing that Parker was married simultaneously to Rebecca, Gerri and Doris.  That’s at the same time, folks, while also living in a common law marriage with children with a woman named Chan.

Rather like Jack Kerouac’s character Dean Moriarty and women in On the Road. Dean of course was a huge bop fan.

Haddix doesn’t gloss over any of Parker’s sides — unreliable, not showing up or showing up stoned for gigs, constantly disappearing in an ongoing search for drugs, chumping friends and business associates for money.  But Haddix is never sensational or salacious about it. He also shows us the generous Parker, the loving if frequently absent father, the kindnesses to lesser musicians, the enormous charm and charisma.  How else could he have had so many women, several of whom tolerated his massive infidelities.

With great artists you sometimes get great ranges in behavior.  Hemingway was capable of great kindness and great boorishness.  Joyce’s long suffering wife, Nora, frequently had to seek his drunken self in midnight Trieste, the booze paid for by money he scammed from his brother.

There’s more than a little hint of racism when whites nod sagely at the news that a black musician was, well, you know. Papa Hemingway would have had no trouble keeping up with Bird at the bar.

An artist must ultimately be judged by his work.  Who are we lesser beings to judge a life other than our own (if we dare)?  And in a very readable style Haddix shows us what a significant, brilliant musician Parker was. You may not get all the descriptions of Parker’s musicality if you aren’t musically schooled. I didn’t. But you will get Bird’s significance to American music, our greatest art form.

This is important.  Parts of our own history gets lost to us because they are seldom taught.  And any history of music in America without jazz is simply irrelevant.  And you cannot write a history of American jazz without Bird.

I said at the beginning how dazzled I was on first hearing Parker’s playing.  I was heartened in the book by Dizzy Gillespie’s remark that he’d “never heard anything like it before.  The way he assembled notes together.”  Yeah.

Gillespie is rightly credited by Haddix as the “co-founder” who actually inadvertently coined the name bebop. He and Parker were intense competitors and marvelous collaborators.

Critic and jazz historian Ira Gitler in the liner notes to my battered copy of Bird: The Savoy Recordings quotes drummer Stan Levey who played with Parker in the 1940s:

“My first impression of Charlie’s playing was that he was sort of a Pied Piper. I’d never heard anything like it.  I didn’t really know what he was doing but it made me feel good to listen to him.”

That’s about three of us so far who’d never heard anything like it.  Despite Parker’s many imitators and inheritors, I still haven’t.

I read much of the book listening to those Savoy recordings from the mid-1940s when Parker was arguably at his very best.  There’s a song called “Meandering” and it’s not full of the Parker famed double time and eighths and sixteenths.  It’s simple little ballad, a soft melody. It made me stop reading and just listen. Listen. It’s my greatest hope for the book that people will listen to Bird yet again or for the first time.

Charlie Parker began playing and hanging around clubs at 12.  He was gone at 34. Chuck Haddix has illuminated all that he did in between.

* * * * * * * *

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


Live Jazz: The Kenny Burrell Quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill

June 30, 2013

By Don Heckman

Kenny Burrell took a break Friday night from his academic duties at U.C.L.A., where he has been the driving force behind the establishment – and the expansion –  of the University’s superb jazz program.

Working with his quartet at Catalina Bar and Grill, his far-ranging performance recalled some of the high points in his stellar career as an iconic master of the jazz guitar.

Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell

Moving from electric to acoustic guitars, Burrell played with the engaging mixture of subtle chording, brisk rhythms and arching melodies that have characterized his work since he arrived on the national jazz scene in the early ‘50s.  He combined those elements with particular effectiveness on standards such as “Make Someone Happy” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.”  And when he switched to an acoustic guitar for the classic lyricism of Michel Legrand’s “The Summer Knows” and Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” his musical storytelling reached into even greater areas of expressiveness.

Other tunes, drawing a full set of colors from the Burrell musical palette, included a brief pass into the rhythms of bossa nova and a briskly swinging romp through the jaunty pulse and twisted phrases of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhyhm-a-Ning.”  In each case, he displayed his creative adaptability with élan and imagination.

Llew Matthews, Kenny Burrell, Tony Dumas, Clayton Cameron and Justo Almario

He was superbly aided by the world-class playing of his quintet, with the musically eclectic Justo Almario on tenor saxophone and flute, Llew Matthews on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Clayton Cameron on drums.  Each provided Burrell with the benefits of their special talents: Matthews balanced solid accompaniment and crisp soloing with spontaneous arrangements; Almario moved from fast-fingered tenor saxophone solos to warm flute sounds: Dumas, as always, provided an irresistible foundation; and Cameron’s propulsive drive was ever-present, whether playing laid-back brushes or clamoring sticks.

Call it an appealing musical get together between a gifted group of players.  And give full credit to the versatile Burrell for leading the way through a memorable evening of music.

Tonight, the Kenny Burrell Quintet wraps their three night run at Catalina Bar & Grill. Don’t miss them.  Burrell also returns to Catalina Bar & Grill on Monday, July 15 in a larger setting, leading his L.A Jazz Orchestra Unlimited.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Bob Barry.


Books: Scott Yanow’s “The Great Jazz Guitarists: The Ultimate Guide”

May 23, 2013

By Don Heckman

The jazz encyclopedist is at it again.  Scott Yanow, who must have reviewed every jazz recording released since 1975, when he turned 21, has published his eleventh jazz book. Not to mention the myriad of magazine and newspaper reviews, bios, press releases and more that he has written along the way.

Following in the pattern of  his previous books, The Great Jazz Guitarists:The Ultimate Guide is filled with detailed information.  But this tome is an even more remarkable accomplishment than such Yanow works as as his previous books on Swing, Bebop, Jazz Singers, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Trumpet Kings and Jazz on Film.

In it, Scott includes biographies, musical commentaries and comprehensive recording data about his subjects, managing to assemble an extraordinary amount of information about an equally extraordinary number of guitarists.

He opens with a thoughtful essay about the role of the guitar — and the banjo, as well — in the history of jazz.  Next up, he offers five far-reaching, all-inclusive guitar player segments:

- “The 342 Great Jazz Guitarists”

- “44 Other Historic Guitarists”

- “175 Other Jazz Guitarists on the Scene Today”

- “They Also Played Jazz Guitar” (including such multi-instrumentalists as Bobby Hackett and Bobby Sherword, and such genre-crossover players as Willie Nelson and Peter Frampton).

- “Jazz Guitarists On Film”

In total, it all adds up to just about everything one could ever want to know about the guitar in jazz — from its earliest role to the present, from the banjo to Pat Metheny’s Pikasso Guitar.  In short, like all of Scott Yanow’s previous books, The Great Jazz Guitarists: The Ultimate Guide is a vital reference source, one that belongs in the library of every serious jazz fan.


Live Jazz: Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart at Vitello’s

May 20, 2013

By Don Heckman

Let’s start with full disclosure: I haven’t always been a fan of B-3 organ jazz.  But what I’ve realized over the years is that the problem hasn’t been the instrument, but a few of the instrument’s players.

All of which was fully clarified last night at Vitello’s with the stellar performance of jazz organist (and all around master keyboardist) Larry Goldings and his musical cohorts, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart.

Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart, Larry Goldings

Larry Goldings

Larry Goldings

The opening set, delivered to an overflow full house crowd, began with a high spirited romp through “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”  At its best, it set the tone for the high spirited, energetic tunes to follow.  Among them, a few originals – Goldings’ “Jim Jam” and Bernstein’s “Dragonfly” — showcased the improvisational skills of both composers.  Tossing ideas back and forth, supporting each other’s soloing, they were propelled by a tsunami of rhythmic currents from Stewart.

But it wasn’t until they reached the old standard, “I Surrender, Dear,” that a full range of the trio’s more subtle creative aspects began to emerge.  Beginning with an impressionistic array of tonal coloring from Goldings’ organ, the piece evolved into a creative showcase for Bernstein’s soaring improvisational imagination.

Peter Bernstein

Peter Bernstein

The set continued with more imaginative playing: an untitled tune in 5/4 that appeared to be based on the chord changes of ‘Tea For Two”; a similarly untitled piece resembling an eight bar blues.

But whatever they played, Goldings, Bernstein and Stewart brought it to life with their own unique collective style.

The only distraction in an otherwise appealing collection of contemporary jazz playing at its finest was Stewart’s occasional tendency to play with a volume and an intensity overriding the acoustic limits of Upstairs at Vitello’s.  Drummers who play the club regularly are well aware of the risks of, so to speak, overblowing the room.

Bill Stewart

Bill Stewart

That said, however, it’s worth noting that Stewart’s career has been brightened by a masterful ability to blend swinging rhythms with subtle complexities, offered with a colorful range of dynamics.  And the passages in this set when those qualities were present – as in “I Surrender, Dear,” – were attractive reminders of his impressive skills.

For the enthusiastic audience, the individual players in this trio of gifted jazz artists could do no wrong, with Stewart, in particular, receiving ovations after every solo.

And, from this listener’s perspective, by the time the set was over, both my organ jazz phobia and Stewart’s hyper-intensity had been dissipated by the memorable impact of the trio’s appealing musicality.

Photos by Faith Frenz.  


Video of the Day: “Jazz Dispute” by Jeremiah McDonald,the Weeping Prophet

May 18, 2013

“Jazz Dispute” by Jeremiah McDonald, a film-maker and actor who identifies himself as the “Weeping Prophet,” has been going viral on YouTube since 2006.  If you haven’t seen it, now’s the time.  Starting with the Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie recording, “Leap Frog,” McDonald creates a brilliantly mimetic, one-man musical pantomime.  And in doing so he captures the essence of spontaneously improvisational jazz at its best.  While adding his own oddball humor.

Here it is:


Record Rack: Tine Bruhn & Johnny O’Neal, Jackie Ryan and Karen Souza

March 20, 2013

Three Queens, All Aces

By Brian Arsenault

This is a time of remarkable female jazz singers.  So many who are so good. Undoubtedly changes in social mores have increased the pool of women willing to run the risks of being a jazz singer and the industry‘s willingness to accept them. But I think there’s more than a sociology treatise here. I think there’s magic involved, as there was with the surge in bop jazz musicians in the late 40s and great rock in the second half of the sixties. Leave it to others to explain. We get to enjoy.

 Tine Bruhn & Johnny O’Neal:

 nearness (Burner Records)

Think of a time when a singer simply stood next to the piano.  She sings, he plays and, oh yeah, there’s a great tenor sax on some songs. Now’s the time and Tine Bruhn makes the most of it with the marvelous jazz pianist Johnny O’Neal and young sax player, Stacy Dillard. She’s deep into the American songbook of Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer and others and she has the remarkable ability to make each song hers by the end.  “The Nearness of You,” from which the album title is drawn, is simply seven and a half minutes of bliss.  If an album can glow with light, this one does.

Jackie Ryan with John Clayton & Friends:

 Listen Here (Open Art Productions)

Jackie Ryan, I think, could sing just about anything and on this album she just about does. Jazzy, bluesy, in English and in Spanish, old classics and new compositions. Her “I Loves You Porgy” is nearly overwhelming. Hell, it is overwhelmingly beautiful. So is band mate John Clayton’s “Before We Fall In Love,” lyrics by the great Bergmans to touch the soul. Sidemen? You want sidemen: Gerald Clayton on piano, Graham Dechter on guitar, Gilbert Castellanos on a trumpet born in Mexico and journeyed to American jazz. More. I’m not even sure this is a jazz album. Not completely.  Jackie kind of defies categories.  She’s music.

 Karen Souza:

Hotel Souza (Music Brokers)

We begin in a Paris hotel with an affair, “prisoners of desire” wondering “how did it get this far.” It goes on like that. For the whole album. Sexuality in song. Longing, desire, surrender. This hotel where “I’ve Got it Bad” for “Delectable You” even if you’ll “Break My Heart.” Her version of Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it Through the Grapevine” is 110 degrees in the shade. Phew, well Marvin was about heat after all.  Yet underneath all the physical attraction and consummation there is a sadness at the impermanence of affairs and attraction. In the end, you have to “Lie to Me.”

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


Live Jazz: The John Daversa Quartet at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

August 6, 2012

By Don Heckman

There’s a lot to be said for the kitchen at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  The cuisine is not only haut, it’s also tasty, diversified and appealing.  Just like the music.  And there’s a lot to be said for that, too. Combined, they make for memorable evenings.

The club’s Music Director and resident bassist, Pat Senatore enhances his far-ranging choice of performers with a regular seasoning of L.A.’s finest local artists.  In any given week, there are frequent opportunities to sample the Southland’s extraordinary range of musical talent.

On Saturday night, it was trumpeter John Daversa, backed by the stellar rhythm team of pianist Otmaro Ruiz, drummer Kendall Kay and bassist Senatore.

Otmaro Ruiz, Pat Senatore, John Daversa, Kendall Kay

Daversa comes by his playing skills naturally.  (His father is the well-known trumpeter Jay Daversa, whose playing can be heard on more than 200 movies and television shows.) But John has more than found his own way in the past decades.  Working as a busy sideman, fronting his own groups – including a big band performing his envelope-stretching arrangements – and teaching jazz classes at CalState Northridge, he’s thoroughly established his own significant presence among the L.A. jazz elite.

“But I like gigs like this, too, as much as the more high visibility dates,” said Daversa between sets.  “Sometimes it’s fun to just play tunes.”

Which is exactly the feeling that resonated through the two sets of mostly familiar tunes by Daversa, Ruiz, Kay and Senatore.  Each was a delight in itself.

Opening with “Bye, Bye Blackbird, Daversa’s warm, vocalized tone was applied to the familiar line with the same kind of respect for space present in Miles Davis – clearly an influence on Daversa’s musical thinking.

“Sunny Side of the Street” was done in a gentle groove, with Daversa leading the way, and Senatore stepping to stage center with an articulate bass solo.

On “Corcovado,” Daversa switched to a mellow-sounding flugel horn, and pianist Ruiz uncovered his best, guitar-like bossa nova comping. And here, too, Daversa’s phrasing was everything, telling a melodic story in a style perfectly reflecting Miles Davis’ famous insistence that “the silences are as important as the sounds.”

Other tunes were equally appealing:  among them, an intimate take on Cole Porter’s “I Love You” featuring atmospheric soloing from Ruiz and Kay, and a lyrical, but swinging “Like Someone In Love.”

The only flaw in this otherwise utterly engaging evening – which had opened with the superb duo of pianist Jeff Colella and bassist Putter Smith – was the familiar noisy crowd at Vibrato’s bar.  On most nights, it’s pretty much of a given that anything short of a roaring big band is going to have to deal with waves of competitive, bar-generated audio (noise).

Fortunately, in the capable hands of artists such as the Daversa quartet and the Colella duo, the music has so much of a life of its own that it doesn’t just survive, it triumphs.  And that’s another one of the good things to be said about Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

Photo and video by Faith Frenz.


Brick Wahl: Keeping It Real 2

February 26, 2012

By Brick Wahl

Just realized there are still comments bouncing around on this. Don Heckman’s got clout….

My whole point in that original rant is that if things continue as they are there will be no place left to play. The jazz scene has shrunk by at least two thirds in the past ten years. Clubs literally cannot afford to book the stuff. It not only does not draw people, but it literally drives them away. People leave. They listen a bit, get bored, pay their tab and leave. More leave than don’t leave in many, if not most cases. You book jazz and you will have empty rooms. The exception is the Blue Whale, but that exists because USC is nearby and has such a strong jazz program. It’s the hang for all those kids and their friends, and for jazz fans who can’t believe there is a club booking such cool crazy shit like you can see at the Blue Whale. The downside of that is that those kids don’t buy a lot of drinks and even less food. College kids are broke, and college kids who study jazz are, um, bookish….and party they don’t. If people don’t party the club doesn’t make any money. And if clubs don’t make money they close….or change music. Even the Blue Whale complains about a lot of lousy turn outs (though they seem to be doing well whenever I’m there.) .

Brick Wahl

And, oh yeah….the Movable Feasts are big successes…but they are concerts…. They are presented as concerts, marketed as concerts, structured as concerts. Concerts have always done much better than clubs. They feature well known names from NYC or Europe. Plus the place has, I believe, student rush tickets. And most importantly of all…the Jazz Bakery does not rely on bar tabs and door money for its funding. It is supported by patrons. That’s how it stayed open all those years when no one was showing up a lot of nights. But as far as genuine jazz clubs — not performance spaces but clubs that try to feature jazz a few nights a week — well, those are disappearing fast. Vibrato makes its money off its menu. Blue Whale by being a hip college joint with a vast pool of young talent to feature.. And there’s scattered other spots that have the weekly jazz night that does well. But they are few and far between, and certainly not part of any city-wide jazz scene, a scene that existed a few years ago.

So players can say that they play for themselves and don’t worry about whether people like it or not (and I think that is the general attitude)…..but that means that within a couple years there will be virtually nowhere to play And certainly almost nowhere to play for pay. I used to fully support that attitude, I loved it. Then I noticed that all the clubs were gone.

Btw…one of the signs of the shrinking jazz scene is its fragmentation….there’s a young experimental scene that’s centered at the Blue Whale; there’s a very white mainstream jazz scene that finds a home at Vitello’s, and the black cats hang on at Nola’s and a couple other small spots. There always was a young cat-old cat divide and a white cat-black jazz divide in LA, certainly in the seven or eight years I was writing things up. I was always trying to get the scenes together more. To mix ideas, influences, players. But the opposite has occurred. I don’t know what to say about that. Except that I don’t think it’s a good thing.

Incidentally, saw Jon Mayer at a bare Desert Rose a couple Saturdays ago. He was brilliant as ever. Highly recommend seeing him there if you’re near Los Feliz on a Saturday night. And Ben Wendel and combo at a very packed Blue Whale a couple weeks ago was a thrill, man. Loved every second of it. And so sorry to see that Mssrs. Melvoin and Holloway slipped away this past week. Oh well.

OK…..I’ve run outta words…..take care everybody….

To read Brick Wahl’s Keeping It Real 1 click HERE.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers