Picks of the Week: Feb. 14 – 19

February 14, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Feb. 14. (Tues.)  Nedra Wheeler.  Bassist/vocalist Wheeler is a convincing performer as an instrumentalist and a singer. and she’ll no doubt be in rare form with the backing of  Lanny Hartley, piano, Clarence Webb, saxophone and Munyungo Jackson, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Spanky Wilson

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  Spanky Wilson. With a style that runs the gamut from soul, blues and funk to warmly communicative jazz, Wilson has always been one of a kind.  She makes a rare Los Angeles appearance, backed by pianist Dennis Hamm, saxophonist/flutist Louis Van Taylor and drummer Lyndon Rochelle.  Culvers Club for Jazz.  (310) 216-5861.

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  The Assads.  Brothers Sergio and Odair, offspring of an extraordinary family of musicians, have been performing world class duo guitar music – of every style — since the late ‘70s.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  The John Proulx Duo.  Pianist/singer Proulx combines solidly swinging pianistic skills with a mellow voice and a rich understanding of musical storytelling.  The other half of the duo is the ever-dependable bassist Pat Senatore, whose far-reaching resume (from Stan Kenton and the Tijuana Brass to Freddy Hubbard, Joe Henderson and beyond) underscores his great creative versatility.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 15. (Wed.)  The Phil Norman Tentet.  West Coast jazz of the fifties, with its cool and swinging sound, is vividly alive in the music of the Tentet, enhanced by a contemporary view that convincingly blends old and new.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of the Norman Tentet.   Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Itzhak Perlman

- Feb. 16. (Thurs.)  Itzhak Perlman.  16-time Grammy winner (including a Lifetime Achievement Award), Perlman’s virtuosic skills are still in full bloom.  Performing with pianist Rohan De Silva, a frequent partner, he will play Schubert, Brahms and Prokofief.  Royce Hall.  A UCLA Live concert.    (310) 825-2101.

- Feb. 16. (Thurs.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  “Baroque Conversations: The Art of Baroque Dance.”  The LACO’s Baroque Conversations programs are both entertaining and musically illuminating, never more so than in this engaging view of the Baroque era linkages between music (by the LACO players) and dance (by dancers Jill Chadroff and Linda Tomko).  Zipper Concert Hall. (212) 622-7001.

- Feb. 16. (Thurs.) Chucho Valdes and the Afro Cuban Messengers, Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band with Terence Blanchard.  The great Cuban pianist Valdes teams up with Sanchez and Blanchard to dig into the roots of Latin jazz via a tribute to the legendary conguero Chano Pozo and the incomparable bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.   Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 17. (Fri.)  Jessy J.  Saxophonist/singer Jessy J. mixes the hot rhythms of her Mexican heritage with her cool but intense saxophone stylings.  Hopefully she’ll hit some of the irresistible highlights from her latest album, the appropriately titled Hot Sauce, Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Bob Sheppard

- Feb. 18. (Sat.)  The Lounge Art Ensemble.  It’s an amusing name for a band, but when it comes right down to basics, it’s saxophone jazz at its finest, with Bob Sheppard taking on the challenging task of performing with only bass and drums – capably handled by Darek Oles and Peter Erskine. Sonny Rollins did it beautifully.  So will Sheppard. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 18. (Sat.)  The Shoemake/Morgan Jazz Ensemble.  The “Famous Jazz Artist Series” – one of the primo jazz events of the Central Coast – begins a monthly run in Solvang.  Featured performers are Charlie and Sandi Shoemake, vibes and vocals, Lanny Morgan, alto saxophone, Joe Bagg, piano, Tony Dumas, bass and Steve Schaeffer, drums.  The Terrace Dinner Theatre. Solvang.    (805) 691-9137

San Francisco

- Feb. 16 & 17. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Leo Kottke.  He’s a guitarists’ guitarist, at the cutting edge of improvisatory acoustic guitar playing since the 70’s  Plagued by tendonitis in later years, he developed a new playing style to compensate, and he remains one of the definitive acoustic guitar masters.   Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- Feb. 17. (Fri.)  Enrico Rava Tribe and the John Abercrombie Trio. Italian trumpeter Rava leads an assemblage of talented young European improvisers.  And the current Abercrombie trio takes on the classic jazz organ trio sound, with B-3 star Gary Versace and drummer Adam NussbaumThe Herbst Theatre.  An SFJAZZ Spring Season event.    (866) 920-5299.

Portland, Oregon

Branford Marsalis

- Feb. 17 – 26. (Fri. – Sun.(26)).  The Portland Jazz Festival.  Rapidly becoming one of the counry’s most attractively programmed jazz festivals, Portland offers a banquet of musical delights.  This year’s line-up includes Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Roy Haynes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bill Frisell, Charles McPherson, Charlie Hunter, Vijay Iyer, Enrico Rava and many more. The Portland Jazz Festival.    (503) 228-5299.  To read more about the Festival in a Q & A with Managing Director Don Lucoff click HERE.

Boston

- Feb. 16. (Thurs.)  Tim Berne. Alto saxophonist Berne has built an extensive career emphasizing the outer limites of jazz improvisation.  He celebrates the release of his new album, Snakeoil. Regatta Bar.    (617) 395-7757.

New York

Jay Clayton

- Feb. 14. (Tues.)  Jay Clayton.  With John di Martino, piano.  jazz vocal artists have been coming and going with great frequency in the last few years.  But Clayton, like Sheila Jordan, continues to be a standard of creativity that sets the pace.  One of the great originals, she should be heard at every opportunity.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

- Feb. 14 – 16. (Tues. – Thurs.  Sachel Vasandani.  Chicago-born singer Vasandani is gradually establishing himself as one of the significant voices in the relatively slim gathering of male jazz singers.  The Jazz Standard.     (212) 576-2232.

- Feb. 14 – 19.  Tues. – Sun.  David Sanborn.  The Blue Note.  One of the  most influential  alto saxophonists of the past few decades, Sanborn’s blues based, passionately vocalized sound is heard, to varying degrees, in many of the best new young saxophonists.   The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Paris

Steve Kuhn

- Feb 14. (Tues.)  Steve Kuhn.  Pianist Kuhn’s long, checkered career has journeyed through every aspect of jazz, from the envelope-stretching sixties to authoritative mainstream playing.  His innate lyricism was especially apparent during a long musical partnership with singer Sheila Jordan, and his solo playing reveals the true depths of his creative imagination.  New Morning.   01 45 23  51 41.S

London

- Feb.15 – 18.  (Wed. – Sat.)  Billy Cobham Band.  The drumming engine that propelled both the Miles Davis band and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Cobham remains one of the definitive masters of rock and funk-driven fusion jazz.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Itzhak Perlman photo by Akira Kinoshita.

Bob Sheppard photo by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 16 – 22

January 15, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Clare Fischer

- Jan. 16. (Mon.)  Clare Fischer Big Band.  The multiple Grammy-winning composer/arranger/pianist (and more) has a resume reaching from Dizzy Gillespie and Donald Byrd to Prince and Paul McCartney, with numerous stops in between.  His own groups have reached from small to large, covering a brilliantly eclectic array of creative styles.  This time out, it’s his dynamic, colorful music for big band.  However, because Fischer is recovering from a recent heart attack, the performance will be conducted by his son, arranger/composer Brent FischerVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 17. (Tues.)  Pia Zadora. Singer, actress, Golden Globe winner and Grammy nominee Zadora has always been at her best in live performances, when her natural skills as an entertainer are on full display, as they undoubtedly will be here. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 17 – 21. (Tues. – Sat.)  Gilad Hekselman.  Critically praised Israeli jazz guitarist Hekselman is the winner of the 2005 Gibson Guitar Competition.  This week he introduces himself to the Southland via a string of appearances around L.A., mostly with Ben Wendel, tenor saxophone, Dave Robair, bass and Ferenc Nemeth, drums.  On Tues. with John Pisano and Robair at Vitello’s.  On Wed. with the Matt Otto Quartet at the Blue Whale.  On Thurs. with his Quartet at Alva’s Showroom.  On Friday with his Trio  at Agoura High School.  And on Saturday with his Quartet at the Blue Whale.

- Jan. 19. (Thurs.) Billy Childs Electric Band.  Ever eager to take his probing musical curiosity into different territories, pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his chamber jazz ensemble to turn on the switches of his Electric Band.  The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

- Jan. 19 – 21. (Thurs. – Sat. ) Chris Minh Doky.  Danish bassist/producer Doky has thoroughly established himself – via his own groups, his producing, and the band he formed with his brother, Chris – as one of the vital players in today’s contemporary, crossover jazz scene.  His group, the Nomads, is energized by the vibrant drumming of Dave Weckl. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 20. (Fri.) OVOCirque d’Soleil’s latest extraordinary adventure opens at the Santa Monica Pier. This time out, the company’s incredibly gifted performers, musicians and artists take on the world of insects, a world enlivened by elements that are “tender and torrid, noisy and quiet, peaceful and chaotic. ” All of which becomes even more engaging when a mysterious egg appears in their midst.  Cirque d’Soleil’s  OVO.  Under the big top at the Santa Monica Pier.

- Jan. 20. (Fri.) KALPA.  A fascinating multi-media event takes place in the wide open spaces of the Getty Center Entrance Hall Steps and Arrival Plaza.  Created by Hirokazu Kosaka, it has a score by Yuval Ron.  Performers include Tetsuya Nakamura, harmonica and Japanese circular pan flute, Yuval Ron, autoharp and electronics, Rafael Lopez-Barrentez, vocals.  The Getty Center.    (310) 440-7300.

Elis Regina

- Jan. 21.  (Sat.)  “Elis: A Celebration.”  Singer/dancer Katia Moraes has assembled a tribute to the legendary Brazilian singer, Elis Regina – an influence on Moraes’ musical growth from the time she was a teen-ager.  The event includes a photo art exhibition, a video screening, and a live performance, all focused on memories of the remarkable Elis.  Brasil Brasil Cultural Center.   (310_ 397-3667.

- Jan. 21. (Sat.) Kathleen Battle.  The gorgeous voice of soprano Battle is applied to a program of spirituals, backed by pianist Cyrus Chestnut and the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers.  Royce Hall. UCLA Live.    (310) 825-2101.

Gretchen Parlato

- Jan. 21. (Sat.)  Gretchen Parlato.  In a jazz world populated by a continuing line of newly arriving female singers, Parlato continues to hold her own.  Applying her subtle range of vocal sounds with creative insights, telling musical stories enriched with flowing rhythms, she is a memorable performer – one of a kind. The Musicians Institute Concert Center.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

Jan. 21 – 22. (Sat. & Sun.)  New Shanghai Circus.  Acrobats, tumblers, contortionists and strong men, aerial ballet and flying trapeze acts  – and that’s just the beginning of the astonishing sights presented by this extraordinary collection of talented artists.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

- Jan. 22.  (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber OrchestraMostly MozartAndrew Shulman conducts the versatile and gifted players of the LACO in Mozart’s Symphony No. 29, the Violin Concerto No. 3 (featuring violinist Nigel Armstrong) and the Walton Sonata For Strings. Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.   (310) 825-2101.

Ojai

Ron Eschete

- Jan. 21. (Sat.)  Ron Eschete Trio.  Seven string guitar master Eschete joins forces with Joe Bagg, B-3 organ and piano and Paul Kreibich, drums, to generate an irresistible example of the musical pleasures of the classic jazz organ/guitar/drums trio,.  Ojai Jazz Concerts at the Ojai Valley Community Church.    (805) 746-0936.

San Francisco

- Jan. 20 – 21. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bobby Hutcherson Birthday.  The veteran vibist shares the excitement of his 71st birthday (On Jan. 27) via a musical celebration featuring a musical encounter with the impressive young vibes player, Warren WolfYoshi’s San Francisco.     (415) 655-5600.

Santa Cruz

- Jan. 19. (Thurs.)  Mads Tolling.  A Grammy-winning, former member of the Turtle Island String Quartet, Danish-American violinist Tolling offers a musical tribute to electric violin path-finder, Jean-Luc Ponty.   Kuumbwa Jazz.   (831) 427-2227.

San Diego

- Jan. 18. (Wed.)  The Family Stone. Some of the most electrically exciting music of the ‘70s is still vibrantly alive in the hands of original members of Sly’s Family Stone: Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini and Greg ErricoAnthology.    (619) 595-0300.

Seattle

- Jan 19 – 22. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jeff Lorber Fusion.  When keyboardist Lorber first came up with the concept of jazz fusion in the late ‘70s, it was invigorated by deep jazz roots.  As it is today, especially with a line up like this, with Randy Brecker, trumpet, Eric Marienthal, alto saxophone, Lionel Cordew, drums and Ron Jenkins, bass.  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.

Washington, D.C.

Rudresh Mahanthappa

- Jan. 19. (Thurs.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa.  Rapidly establishing himself as one of the most critically praised new voices on the jazz alto saxophone, Mahanthappa is bringing new ideas and sounds to jazz.  He’s featured here as one of four India-related jazz artists (with Sachel Vasandani, Sanjay Mishra and Rez Abbasi) appearing in the “Indian Jazz Series” from Monday through Thursday.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

Boston

- Jan. 21. (Sat.)  Pat Martino Organ Trio. Despite a pair of career absences that took him completely away from music for more than a decade (the first due to a brain aneurysm, the second when his parents became ill) Martino – one of jazz’s most virtuosic guitarists – has continued to build a solid musical career.  Here he performs in classic organ trio setting. Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

New York

- Jan. 17 – 22. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Chris Potter Quartet.  Sometimes taken for granted, for his ability to make other groups sound compelling, tenor saxophonist Potter is nonetheless a unique talent in his own right, one who deserves every jazz listener’s full attention.  The Village Vanguard.    (212) 255-4037.

- Jan 17 – 22.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Bill Frisell, Ron Carter and Joey Baron. It would be hard to imagine a more inventively adept, musical versatile trio of players than this stellar group.  Expect something new and magical every night. The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

Lou Donaldson

- Jan. 19 – 22. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Lou Donaldson Quartet.  At 85, alto saxophonist Donaldson is still going strong.  The traces of his early allegiance to Charlie Parker are still present, but Donaldson long ago embraced them with his own stirring improvisational methods.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 889-2005.

- Jan. 22. (Sun.)  Carnatic Sundays.  South Indian music is on full display in this intriguing evening of music.  Karavika is a string and tabla ensemble exploring the intersection between Carnatic music and American blues, jazz and folk music. The Arun Ramumurthy Quartet features the virtuosic violin of Ramumurthy in a quartet with bass, jazz drum set and the two-headed South Indian mridangam drum.  Cornelia St. Café.    (212) 989-9319.

London

- Jan. 16 & 17. (Mon. & Tues.)  Carmen Lundy. Singer/songwriter/actress Lundy is a jazz rara avis, a female  vocalist who also writes her own songs.  And who does so with imaginative skill.  Add to that the fact that Lundy also finds new stories in the standard jazz songbook, bringing fascinating perspectives to material old and new.  Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Milan

- Jan 17. (Tues.)  John Abercrombie and Mark CoplandSpeak To Me, the first duo recording of guitarist Abercrombie and pianist Copland, released late 2011, was a classic display of subtle, thoughtfully conceived jazz interplay at its most mesmerizing.  The Blue Note Milano.   02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

Pat Metheny

- Jan. 20 – 28.  (Fri. – Sat.)  An Evening With Pat Metheny.  With frequent musical associate bassist Larry Grenadier on hand, inventive Metheny will no doubt offer the  full range of sounds and music – hopefully including his 42 string Pikasso guitar – he’s been exploring lately in his constant creative adventuring.   The Blue Note Tokyo.    03.5485.0088.

Ron Eschete photo by Bob Barry.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 27 – Jan. 1

December 26, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jane Monheit

- Dec. 27 – Jan 1.  (Tues. through Sunday)  Jane Monheit.  The beautiful Monheit gets an early start, ramping up all week to the big Saturday night New Year’s celebration.  And what better way to bring in 2012 than by hearing her velvet voice and gentle swing delivering “Auld Lang Syne.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 28. (Wed.)  Joe Bagg Organ Trio.  Bagg’s unique approach to the B-3, which happily avoids most of the predictable repetitions often heard from the instrument, makes his gigs especially appealing musical events.  He’s backed by Steve Cotter, bass and Ryan Doyle, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 28. (Wed.)  Gerald Clayton Trio. Pianist Clayton, blessed with musically rich genes (his Dad is bassist/composer/bandleader John Clayton, his uncle alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton) has thoroughly established himself as one of the most important new jazz arrivals of the past few years.  Steamers.   (714) 871-8800.

Luciana Souza

- Dec. 29. (Thurs.)  Luciana Souza.  Brazil’s Souza brings far-ranging musicality to the jazz vocal art, adept in the music of her native land, well-versed in jazz and contemporary classical music, always a pleasure to hear because of her quest to explore fascinating creative territories.  She’ll be well-aided toward that goal by guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist David PiltchBlue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

- Dec. 29. (Turs.)  Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band.  Yes, the filmmaker/comedian really does play the clarinet, and does it well via a deep understanding of the essential elements of New Orleans music in general, and the New Orleans clarinet style in particular.  Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

- Dec. 29. (Thurs.)  Billy Mitchell & Friends.  Pianist and all-around entertaining jazz artist Mitchell is featured at In-House Music’s early New Year’s Eve party, complete with cocktails, party hats, streamers, dancing and more.  With Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet, Rob Kyle, saxophone, Tomas Gargano, bass, Frank Wilson, drums.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza LAX.  Information: In-House Music.   (310) 216-5861.

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Billy Childs

- Dec. 20 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.)  Billy Childs Quartet.  The live performance by pianist Child’s musically compelling quartet — with Childs’ exploratory, ever searching piano playing in company with the saxophones of Bob Sheppard, the bass of Tim Lefebvre and the drums of Gary Novak — will also be delivered over FM radio via a live broadcast on NPR.  Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.) Brazilian New Year’s Eve Celebration.  Here’s a spectacular new way to celebrate the arrival of 2012, aboard the historic ocean liner, The Queen Mary. Rio’s Marcos Ariel, his keyboards and his Quartet will cover the full range of Carioca music — from samba to bossa nova to chorinho.  The samba dancers of Joany’s Samba Show will display the latest dance moves, and DJ Chris Brasil will keep the beat alive.  At midnight, 2012 will come in amid a spectacular fireworks show.  Rio de Janeiro at the Queen Mary.  (818) 566-1111.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Sherry Williams.  The smooth sounding voice, effortless swing and artful interpretive skills of Williams still don’t receive the full attention they deserve.  She’ll be backed in this elegant celebratory night by the Pat Senatore QuartetVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Dec, 31, (Sat.)  Frank Strazzeri. Pianist Strazzeri’s diverse career path has led from Dixieland jazz (with Al Hirt) through the bop years (with Charlie Ventura and Woody Herman), West Coast jazz (with Art Pepper, Chet Baker and more) and still swinging into the present.  This time out, he’ll be leading his stellar Legacy Group, with George Harper, tenor saxophone, Steve Johnson, trombone, Jeff Littleton, bass and Kenny Elliott, drums.   JAX Bar & Grill.    (818) 500-1604.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Jane Monheit.  New Years Eve celebration.  See above.  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

Pink Martini

- Dec. 31. (Sat.) New Year’s Eve with Pink Martini.  The ultimate cabaret act, Pink Martini – mixing their originals with such camp-edged classics as “Amado Mio” from the film Gilda — find common ground between French cabaret, jazz, Latin dance music, Brazilian samba and a lot more.  They’ll bring in the New Year with a memorable collection of songs. Disney Hall.   (323) 650-2000.

- Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Chris Williams Sextet.  Moving freely across mainstream, Latin and bebop territory, Williams spices his vocals with a dramatic ability to find the essential meaning of a song.  Steamers.    (714) 871-8800.

San Francisco

- Dec. 29 – 31. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Maceo Parker’s New Year’s Party. Alto saxophonist Parker has been a definitive voice of funk and soul since his prominent visibility with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic.  And he’s still going strong. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Chicago

Roy Hargrove

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Roy Hargrove Quintet. Grammy winning trumpeter Roy Hargrove has thoroughly established himself – at 42 – as one of the jazz world’s most versatile artists, moving compellingly across jazz and pop styles, from small groups to his own big band.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

Washington, D.C.

- Dec. 28 – 31. (Wed. – Sat.)  Monty Alexander.  Alexander’s articulate jazz skills made him one of the most admired post-Oscar Peterson, bebop-driven pianists.  But more than that, he’s enhanced those skills with fascinating inner tinges of the sounds and rhythms of his native Jamaica.   Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York

Wynton Marsalis

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Wynton Marsalis: ”The Music of Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver.”  Few contemporary jazz artists understand – or even care to understand – the compelling musical delights of the music of Morton as well as Wynton Marsalis does.  And in addition to authenticity, Marsalis brings joyful, timeless swing to his memorable performances of works from these iconic jazz figures.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus.  The trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to carry the torch for ever-evolving new views of the classic piano jazz trio.  Village Vanguard. l  (212) 255-4037.

- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Botti.  An epic three week run — with two shows every evening — wraps up with a climactic New Year’s weekend for trumpeter Botti and his all-star collection of players.  Enhancing the music — the far-ranging versatility of singer Lisa Fischer.  Tickets may be hard, even impossible to get.  But it’s worth the effort to hear the best-selling American jazz instrumental artist in action.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Milan

- Dec. 27 – Dec. 31. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Harlem Gospel Choir. The 40-voice choir has established itself over the past 2 ½ decades, in performances around the world, for their expressive interpretations of the classic gospel repertoire. The Blue Note Milano.  02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

- Dec. 29 – 31. Thurs. – Sat.)  Fourplay.  The Fourplay quartet, often identified in the contemporary, even the smooth jazz, arena has always nonetheless maintained a solid connection with mainstream jazz roots.  And the addition of guitarist Chuck Loeb to the original trio of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason has further enhanced Fourplay’s musical solidity.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Billy Childs and Wynton Marsalis photos by Tony Gieske


Picks of the Week: Aug. 30 – Sept. 4

August 30, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

MIchael Wolff

- Aug. 30 & 31. (Tues. & Wed.)  Michael Wolff Quartet.  Pianist and television personality Wolff does a live recording with the stellar ensemble of trumpeter/film composer Mark Isham, bassist John B. Williams and drummer Mike ClarkVitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 31. (Wed.)  George Benson, George Duke, Marcus Miller and David Sanborn.   It’s an evening of blues, funk, crossover and smooth jazz.  But straight ahead jazz fans can rest assured that all of these high visibility artists are also firmly rooted in traditional jazz skills.  The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2040.

Janis Mann

- Aug. 31. (Wed.)  Janis Mann Quartet.  Versatile singer Mann’s soaring vocals are underscored by solid musicality and a masterful story-telling skills.  She performs with pianist Andy Langham, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Roy McCurdyCharlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

- Sept. 1. (Thurs.)  Pat Tuzzolino.  Watching Tuzzolino in action is to marvel at his eclectic skills, as he plays a synth keyboard with one hand, a bass synth with the other, while delivering warm, engaging, hard swinging vocals.  He performs with guitarist Barry Zweig and drummer Billy PaulVitello’s.  (818) 769-0905

- Sept. 1. (Thurs.)  The Ron Eschete Trio.  Seven string guitarist Eschete manages to generate the sort of rich, harmonic textures and flowing rhythms that would seem to only be possible on a keyboard instrument. And he does so with far reaching creative imagination. Keyboardist Joe Bagg and drummer Kendall Kay will back him.  Steamer’s.    (714) 871-8800.

Charlie Haden's Quartet West

- Sept. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Charlie Haden’s Quartet West.  Haden’s veteran, all-star band, one of the West Coast’s great jazz ensembles, celebrates their 25th anniversary.  And it comes at an appropriate time, with pianist/arranger Alan Broadbent moving to the New York area in the near future.  Hopefully Haden will find a way to keep the Quartet together, from time to time.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 2 – 5. ) Fri. – Mon.  Sweet & Hot Music Festival.  The 16th annual celebration of the timeless pleasures of classic jazz.  The names are too numerous to mention.  But suffice to say there’ll be over 200 musicians, 20 bands, 8 venues, 180 scheduled events and 4 dance floors – all sizzling with everything from New Orleans jazz to Swing and Bebop.  The LAX Marriott Hotel.  http://www.sweethot.org

- Sept. 3. (Sat.)  Steve Huffsteter.  Trumpeter Huffsteter’s extensive resume includes appearances with a complete lexicon of jazz and pop artists.  Much honored by his musical associates, he’s too rarely heard on his own, in the spotlight.  Here’s a great opportunity to experience the articulate subtlety of his playing.  He’s backed by the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato.

San Francisco

- Sept. 1 – 3. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Ivan Lins Quartet.  Singer/songwriter/pianist Lins has been one of Brazil’s – and the world’s – great musical treasures for decades.  Like all iconic artists, he should be heard at every opportunity – especially in a musically compatible setting such as Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

Ron Carter

- Aug. 30 – Sept. 4 (Tues. – Sun.)  Ron Carter Big Band.  At the pinnacle of a career that has embraced every imaginable musical setting, bassist Ron Carter celebrates the release of an album expressing his affection for classic big band jazz: Ron Carter’s Great Big Band.  His assemblage of horn-playing all stars will be backed by the solid rhythm team of Carter, guitarist Russell Malone, pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Willie Jones III.   Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Sept. 1. (Thurs.)  Roseanna VitroThe Music of Randy Newman.  Vitro’s jazz-driven exploration of the emotionally multi-layered songs of Newman has been one of the headline items of 2011’s vocal CDs.  Hopefully the Recording Academy voters will have the good sense to give it a Grammy nomination.  Here, she offers her interpretations up close and live.  The Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.


The Bill Holman Big Band at Vitello’s

February 2, 2011

By Tony Gieske

Bill Holman

The great Bill Holman writes all his own charts, as we know. So the bounty being bestowed from the bandstand at Vitello’s Monday night had mostly to do with the creative stovetop of the silver-haired bandleader drinking it all in as he stood a few feet away amid the tables.

Watching his gentle, 83 year old face, you did not feel self-satisfaction there. This was more like gratitude, as the little dots he had applied to the scoring pad came to fierce and undeniable life.

Tonight he was hearing a double barreled volley of goodies: The tunes by Thelonious Monk,  the redevelopment by his own fine hand.

Andy Martin

Bruce Babbad

Monk’s great asset is his mastery of space, and that is a friendly and familiar world to the Holman talent as well. So the ear feasted on rich bold tuttis (some of them perhaps modeled on long-ago Holman tenor saxophone improvisations), section counterplay, delicious rests, and linear solos from the top talents manning the horns and rhythm instruments.  Pete Christlieb’s tenor saxophone outpourings, Andy Martin’s trombone devisings, Bruce Babad’s alto heat and trumpeter Ron Stout’s warm hearted  balladry were unassailably astute; Carl Saunders, or whoever was playing lead, topped the trumpet section up there in Ernie Royal territory.

Carl Saunders

Driven by the drum power from Kevin Kanner, the movable bass feasts of Joel Hamilton and the spare bluesy piano work of  Joe Bagg, the band got itself up there in Duke Ellington territory; they even made Ellington’s “Raincheck”  into a new delight all their own.

For which we were all grateful.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.


Live Jazz: Jack Sheldon’s Birthday Bash at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 29, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Jack Sheldon began his birthday serenade to himself Saturday night with one of his favorite rousers, “Yo Mama,” his 16 piece band riffing behind him in their boisterous way, the crowd at Catalina’s cheery and full of good wishes for the guy celebrating the first moments of his 79th year.

Jack Sheldon conducts

Naturally, he was being risque.  His listeners expected as much. They had been around for many previous such fetes, but tonight they were about to be wowed by a relative newcomer, the drummer Ray Brinker.  From his drum set came not only rattles and rolls, but a kind of parallel serenade to whatever the other 15 guys were doing, whether tutti or soli.

Ray Brinker

You should have heard him when Ron Stout took one of his magnificently adept trumpet solos: Brinker was his shadow and his headlight.  And when trumpeter Stan Martin made a romantic bouquet from “Beauty and the Beast,” presumably for the many silver haired grandfathers and grandmothers present.

Brinker stoked the fire for tenor man Brian Williams on a jump chart; he lit blue flames beneath Scott Whitman during “Cherokee,” (although Sheldon forgot to war whoop in his customary slot), and he subtly gave an overall shape when Whitman played fellow trombonist Juan Tizol’s classic “Caravan.”

(The latter forms, if I’m not mistaken, the basis for Dizzy Gillespie’s equally classic, “Night in Tunisia,” from the forgotten Oscar Pettiford adaptation, “Interlude.” Bet Brinker knew that.)  Neither the rap spectre nor the rock spook dared visit on this night.

Jack Sheldon sings

No, the tunes rolled down the lanes of memory for the seniors present: Gravelly vocals struggled from Sheldon’s 78-year-old throat on “They Can’t  Take That Away From Me,” “I Can’t Give You Anything  But Love,” “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”

Jack Sheldon plays

Then would come his incomparable trumpet sound, rich and full as something I wish I could think of to compare it to — a bunch of dewy green grapes?

But that band! One big voice — never  noisy — that just ambled amiably along with such grand old charmers as “When You’re Smiling” and “Tangerine.” And why was that?  Brinker. Although everyone helped, bassist Bruce Lett and pianist Joe Bagg, to name two.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE


Picks of the Week: Sept. 7 – 12

September 7, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Tierney Sutton

- Sept. 7. (Tues.)  Chris Walden’s Big Band with Tierney Sutton.  The combination of Walden’s well-crafted arrangements, a band full of L.A.’s finest players, and the superb musicality of Sutton’s vocals should make for a memorable, entertaining  evening.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 9. (Thurs.) Music of the Dance. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, explores music created for the dance stage, including Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. The evening’s special event features the Diavolo Dance Theatre in a newly commissioned work set to John Adams’ Fearful SymmetriesThe Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 9. (Thurs.)  Salaam Ensemble.   Music of the Near and Middle East is the specialty of the Salaam players, who bring authenticity to their rendering of selections from Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Armenian traditions.  Levitt Pavilion.  Free concert in MacArthur Park.  (213) 384-5701.

- Sept. 9. (Thurs.)  Phil Norman Tentet.  It’s West Coast cool jazz revisited in the contemporary setting of Norman’s stellar Tentet.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- Sept. 9. (Thurs.)  Bruce Babad’s Jazz Cadre.  Alto saxophonist Babad, a first call sideman, steps into the spotlight as a leader, backed by Joe Bagg, piano, Dr. Joe Jewell, guitar, Roger Shew, bass, Matt Johnson, drums.  Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

- Sept. 10. (Fri.) Sheryl Crow.   Nine-time Grammy award winner Crow leads a new band in a performance showcasing 100 Miles From Memphis, her new, eighth top-ten album.  Also on the bill, singer-songwriter Colbie CaillatThe Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

Maria de Barros

- Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Maria de Barros.  Although she’s often associated with the morna songs of Cape Verde, de Barros’ musical versatility and charismatic stage presence are the qualities of a world class performer.  Don’t miss this one – it’s one of the bargains of the week.  The Levitt Pavilion.  A free concert in MacArthur Park.   l (213) 384-5701.

- Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Janis Siegel. The Manhattan Transfer’s Siegel makes a rare, solo night club appearance.  Superb as an ensemble singer, she’s equally entrancing in her own unique musical persona. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Dave Pell & Med Flory Jazz Quintet. Two of the Southland’s finest veteran jazz saxophonists display their wares.  Expect a combination of musical fun and fireworks. The Backroom at Henri’s (818) 348-5582.

- Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Richie Cole & Alto Madness.  Bebop lives in Cole’s energized alto saxophone, backed by a sextet that somehow manages to produce the drive and the power of a big jazz band.  The Culver Club at the Radisson.   (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

Les McCann

- Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Les McCann with the Javon Jackson Quintet.  Iconic jazz pianist McCann receives the 2nd “LA Jazz Treasure” award. Hopefully he’ll also perform a few of his classics with the Jackson Quintet. LACMA.   (323) 857-6000.

- Sept. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.)  Freda Payne.  She brings a stage to life no matter what she’s singing, but she’ll undoubtedly be even more vibrant when she gives her own musical spin to songs associated with Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- Sept. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.)  Pink Martini.  The Fireworks Finale of the 2010 Hollywood Bowl season features the eclectic stylings of Oregon’s entertaining Pink Martini.  Accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins, the program will no doubt range from French chanson and Argentine Tango to meringue, bolero and Pink Martini’s own version of vintage lounge.  Also on the bill, singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright.   The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 11. (Sat.)  Don Preston Tribute Concert. A collection of adventurous players – from LA. And beyond – celebrate the life and music of keyboardist Preston.  Among the participants: Tony Levin, Roberto Miranda, Putter Smith, Bobby Bradford, Alex Cline, Bunk Gardener, Vinnie GoliaSouth Pasadena Music Center and Conservatory.  (626) 403-2300.  

- Sept. 12. (Sun.)  Jacqui Naylor.  Her engaging vocals slip and slide easily across boundaries, bringing imagination and emotion to jazz, pop, folk and all stops in between.    Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 12. (Sun.)  Opera & Broadway Gala“Music of the Night.” It’ll be a grand banquet of songs, from favorite arias to some of the most celebrated musical theatre melodies.  Featuring soprano Demetra George and tenor Eduardo Villa with Music Director Frank Fetta. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 12. (Sun.)  5th Annual Brazilian Day in L.A.  A celebration of everything Brazilian – which is a lot, embracing art, dance, music, cuisine and much more.  Performers include the samba funk group Muamba, singer Renni Flores and the samba/pagode band Sambajah.  The gardens of the Page Museum.  Free.  5th Annual Brazil Day.

San Francisco

Issac Delgado

- Sept. 10 – 12 (Fri. – Sun.)  Issac Delgado with Freddy Cole.  It’s an unusual but intriguing combination: a live presentation of a new album from Cuba’s superstar Delgado recreating – with Cole’s aid – 12 Spanish songs originally sung by Nat “King” Cole.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Sept. 7 – 11. (Tues. – Sat.)  Steve Kuhn, Dave Liebman, Steve Swallow, Billy Drummond.  Four great jazz veterans, all still at their peak performance levels, bringing the wisdom of experience to everything they play. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Sept. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Count Basie Orchestra .  The hits will just keep coming from this current installation of the Basie ensemble.  Their performance at the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks ago affirmed the vitality of their dedication to the classic Basie canon. ( Click HERE to see a review of that performance.)  Special guest, Ledisi, will fill in the vocal chores.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.


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