Here, There & Everywhere: April Williams Resigns from Vitello’s

January 19, 2014

By Don Heckman

Jazz clubs come and go in most major cities. Los Angeles is no exception. The Jazz Bakery lost its home in Culver City in 2009. Charlie O’s in Van Nuys was shuttered in 2011. Both were vital homes for L.A.’s finest jazz artists and valuable destinations for jazz fans.

April Williams

April Williams

This month, Upstairs at Vitello’s, another jazz room, is not closing down. But it is apparently changing its management and its scheduling.  And April Williams, who has been primarily responsible for establishing Upstairs at Vitello’s as a major Los Angeles Jazz venue, is moving on.  To explain her decision, Williams has written a letter to the musicians, the fans and the friends who will all be impacted by her departure from Vitello’s.

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Here’s her letter:

Dear Beloved Musicians and Friends

Happy New Year! I wish you good health, happiness and prosperity. I am so grateful for all the great performances, your friendship and the good times we have shared together.

With the New Year there are endings and new beginnings. I am very excited about my plans for 2014.  However, as excited as I am about new projects in the works, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that, due to ongoing artistic differences with the management, I will be terminating my residency at Vitello’s as of February 1, 2014. I thank Vitello’s for the opportunities they extended to me when I knocked on their door in 2009 when the world was economically crashing down. I told them I had a vision that I could create a Jazz Night one day a week..and they gave me that opportunity.

February 2014 is the five-year anniversary of my residency at Vitello’s. We have all done so much uniting and growing the communities involvement with live music. Together we have proven that the music community is a vital entity that survives through the worst economic years of the country. In addition to the audiences we attracted to Vitello’s, I ran and continue to run 5 years of composers’ Study groups, we raised $17k for tsunami relief in Japan, we celebrated Grammy Nominees and winners, Big Bands, Young Artists and night after night the magic of music.

I financed the first 9 months personally, bought the equipment and as the power of the music expanded, Vitello’s joined in. I created over 20,000 jobs for musicians in the last five years. I am proud of what we have achieved together. What we’ve learned in the years at Vitello’s is that there is a dedicated Los Angeles audience for the finest jazz of every style and genre. And my new plans will open the doors to venues eager to provide those audiences with the world-class music they’re eager to hear.

I gratefully thank all of you for your selfless sharing of yourselves and your music. And I thank you, too, for your constant support and extraordinary performances over the last five years. Your playing and singing set the creative bar high. And you always embraced me and delivered on your musical promises. In return, I did the very best I could to give you all the services you deserve to properly honor your music.

The audiences I thank as well. You are musical forces unto yourselves. Composed of musicians, aficionados, writers, photographers, sound teams, and fans, students and educators, you all came forward to preserve the music culture of Los Angeles.

It has been a fantastic run. I am so grateful to have worked alongside the best musicians in the world. Musician Friends, that is, who have all become my closest and dearest associates.

I look forward to working together again with all of you in the near future.

Stay tuned. More news coming shortly.

And remember…the difference between noise and music is the amount of space between the notes.

Love and peace,

April Williams

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When he heard about Williams’ plans to move on from Vitello’s, Joe LaBarbera, one of the Southland’s finest, busiest players, wrote a response to Williams’ letter with his own commentary about her departure from the room. 

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Here’s Joe’s message:

Dear April,

Joe LaBarbera

Joe LaBarbera

5 years ago you took a vacant space in a mediocre Italian restaurant and magically transformed it into a real jazz club. Starting with just one night a week, the reputation of the club grew along with the roster of artists who were happy to play there, local at first and eventually from coast to coast. You improved every aspect of that room to make it THE place to play in Los Angeles.

It’s been true of every great club I have known over the years that the only reason it is successful is because the person in charge loves the music. Max Gordon at the Village Vanguard, Sonny Canterino at the Half Note, Shelly Manne and Rudy Underwieser at the Manne Hole, Mike and Randy Brecker at 7th Ave. These are just a few examples.

Thank you, April for a great run and I look forward to working together in the future.


Joe LaBarbera 

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As Joe LaBarbera’s letter makes abundantly clear, April Williams has had a significant impact upon both the quantity and the quality of jazz in Los Angeles.  And she will continue to play a leading role in the jazz and the music communities that have benefited so much from her presence. As April’s letter clearly indicates: Stay tuned for her future plans.

Photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: July 1 – 7

July 1, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Susan Krebs

Susan Krebs

- July 1 (Mon.)  Suze’s Birthday FestSusan Krebs celebrates her birthday in the creative company of Rich Eames, piano, Jerry Kalaf, drums and Tom Warrington, bassAdd to that the presence of special guests saxophonist Brian Scanlon and violinist Paul CartwrightVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 2. (Tues.)  Carol Robbins, Pat Senatore and Larry Koonse.  An evening of interactive stringed instruments, with Robbins’ harp, Senatore’s bass and Koonse’s guitar.  Expect to hear some brisk swing combined with some fascinating textures.    Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Josh Groban

Josh Groban


- July 2 – 4. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Josh Groban Fireworks Spectacular. Groban’s warm, baritone voice is featured singing patriotic songs, supported by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Sarah Hicks in this year’s fireworks spectacular.   Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 5. (Fri.)  Joe La Barbera Quintet.  Everyone’s favorite rhythm section drummer steps into the leadership role with a stellar group that includes saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Clay Jenkins, pianist John Beasley and bassist Tom Warrington. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bugs Bunny at the Symphony. An evening of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons along with Tom and Jerry and some new 3D animation.  The video projections will be performed with live music from the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by George DaughertyHollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- July 5 – 7. (Fri. – Sun.)  Ron Carter Trio.  With Russell Malone and Donald Vega.  It’s a cross-generational trio of world class players, from veteran bassist Carter and busy guitarist Malone with the gifted young pianist Vega.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- July 6. (Sat.) Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson plays Thick as a Brick 1 & 2 in a theatrical production with video and additional musicians – including some who are veterans of Jethro Tull. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

– July 7. (Sun.)  LL Cool Jay.  Grammy-winning LL Cool Jay headlines the Kings of the Mic hip-hop tour, joined by Ice Cube, Public Enemy and De La Soul.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- July 7. (Sun.)  David Silverman. Singer/pianist Silverman, who has become a major musical star in Tokyo over the past two decades, performs a program of classics from the Great American Songbook. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- July 6. (Sat.)  Jim Kweskin Jug Band 50th Reunion.  Featured artists include Maria and Jeff Muldaur, Richard Greene and Bill Keith from the original Jug Band, along with guitarist Cindy Cashdollar and bassist Sam Bevan.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.  Berkely, CA.    (510) 644-2020, x120.

New York

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

- July 2 – 4. (Tues. – Thurs.) Jackie Ryan.  The ever-appealing jazz singer Ryan  celebrates the release of her new CD Listen Here  with special guest Harry AllenBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- July 2 – 7.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Jerry Gonzalez & the Fort Apache Band.  The super-heated Latin jazz rhythms of the Fort Apache Band fill the room whenever trumpeter/percussionist Gonzalez and his players perform.  Village Vanguard.   (s12) 475-8592.

Dominick Farinacci

Dominick Farinacci

- July 2 & 3. (Tues. & Wed.)  Dominick Farinacci. Trumpeter Farinacci, one of the most gifted players of his generation, still hasn’t received the attention his fine playing deserves.  He performs with Zaccai Curtis, piano; Ryan Scott, guitar; Yasushi Nakamura, bass; Keita Ogawa, percussion.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9595.


- July 7. (Sun.)  Daryl Sherman“The Songs of Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter.”  Singer/pianist Sherman offers a convincing blend of cabaret and jazz.  She performs here with Alan Barns, woodwinds, Andy Cleyndert, bass, and Steve Brown, drums.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.


- July 4 & 5. (Thurs. & Fri.)  ‘The New Generation Meets the Great Danes.”  Young American jazz pianist Christian Sands performs with a pair of legendary Danish jazz artists, bassist Thomas Fonnesback and drummer Alex RielJazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.


Pat Martino

Pat Martino

- July 1 – 3. (Mon. – Wed.)  The Pat Martino Trio.  Guitarist Martino was striken with amnesia after experiencing after a near-fatal brain aneurysm in 1980.  But over the succeeding years he relearned how to play his instrument, returning to action in 1987 with a sequence of superb recordings.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   +81 3-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: April 2 – 7

April 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin

- Apri. 3. (Wed.)  Bobby McFerrin.  One of the music world’s most uniquely gifted vocal talents, applying his startling skills to a celebration of his father’s gospel singing in a program titled Spirit You All.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- April 3. (Wed.)  Dave Damiani and the No Vacancy Orchestra.  Singer Damiani revives the music of Sinatra and the Rat Pack in an introduction of his latest CD, Watch What Happens.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (223) 466-2210.

- April 3. (Wed.) Sara Gazarek/Josh Nelson Duo. A promising musical encounter between singer Gazarek and pianist Nelson, two of the current jazz generation’s most gifted talents.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 5 (Fri.) Vadim Repin in recital. Russian-Born (now a Belgian citizen) violinist Repin was described by Yehudi Menuhin as the “best and most perfect violinist that I ever had a chance to hear.”  He performs Brahms, Janacek, Grieg and Ravel with the accompaniment of pianist Andrei KorobeinikovValley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

Cheryl Bentyne

Cheryl Bentyne

- April. 5. (Fri.)  Cheryl Bentyne.  Up Close and Personal.  Back in action after surviving a life threatening illness, Bentyne – a valued member of the Manhattan Transfer — illustrates the irresistible appeal of her captivating solo skills.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Helen Reddy. One of the great pop vocal stars of the ‘70s, Australian Reddy makes one of her extremely rare performances.  Hopefully we’ll hear her revisit “I Am Woman” among her many other hits. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- April. 6. (Sat.)  The Wolff and Clark Expedition.  Veteran pianist Michael Wolff and drummer Mike Clark, long time musical companions, team up with L.A. jazz stars Bob Sheppard, saxophones and Tony Dumas, bass.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Katia Moraes

Katia Moraes

- April 6. (Sat.)  Katia Moraes and Brazilian Heart Music“Clara Nunes, A Celebration.”  One of the Southland’s most consistently fascinating Brazilian artists, Moraes visits the memorable music of  ‘70s Brazilian hit-maker Clara Nunes. As always, Moraes’ interpretations will simmer with the dynamic energy of her own, unique expressiveness.  Brasil Brasil Cultural Center.  11928 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066.  (310) 397-3667

- April 7. (Sun.)  Mark Winkler CD Release party.  The Laura Nyro Project.  Always in search of adventurous territory for his jazz-based vocals, Winkler celebrates the release of a new CD featuring his imaginative takes on the Laura Nyro songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

- April 5 – 7  (Fri. – Sun.)  The Stanley Clarke Band.  Bassist Clarke always follows his own pathways, accompanied by stellar musical aggregations.  This time, he’s traveling with John Beasley, piano, Kamasi Washington, saxophone and Ronald Bruner, Jr., drums.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Washington D.C.

- April 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  James Carter Organ Trio.  Multiple reed and woodwind player Carter focuses his wide angle musical perspective on hard driving timbres of the classic jazz organ trio instrumentation.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- April 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Enrico Pieranunzi.  Pianist Pieranunzi has been, since the ‘70s, one of the European jazz pianist most favored by touring American musicians.  Here he’s in the leader’s role himself, backed by Marc Johnson, bass and Joe La Barbera, drums.  The Village Vanguard.     (212) 255-4037.

Randy Weston

Randy Weston

- April 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet 87th Birthday Celebration. Pianist/composer Weston’s fascination with African musical culture continues to produce some of the most fascinating revisits to the deepest jazz roots. And, at 87, he still does so convincingly.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232 .


- April 6. (Sat.)  The London Supersax Project. Alto saxophonist Med Flory was the first to assemble a saxophone section and rhythm section to play harmonized versions of Charlie Parker solos.  Here’s the U.K. version, delivered with the same love of bebop.  Ronnie Scott’s. r  +44 20 7439 0747.


- April 3 & 4. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Diego Figueiredo and Cyrille Aimee. The imaginative duo of guitarist Figueiredo and singer Aimee have already released two albums displaying their far-reaching musical interests, from jazz and bossa nova to looping electronica.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.


- April 3 & 4. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Steve Lukather.  Multiple Grammy-winning guitarist has recorded tracks on more than 1,500 albums, and continues to contrast first-call gigs as a sideman with leadership of his own bands.  The Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888




- April 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  Clementine.  The French singer and song writer Clementine lives in Japan, where her richly diverse style, blending cabaret, jazz, bossa nova and pop has generated a large, enthusiastic following.  The Blue Note Tokyo.     +81 3-5485-0088.

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Bobby McFerrin photo by Carol Friedman.

Live Jazz: the Bob Mintzer and Bill Cunliffe Big Bands

December 3, 2012

By Don Heckman

Anyone who doubts the excitement, the imagination and the contemporary vitality of big band jazz should have been at Vitello’s last weekend.  Over the course of Friday and Saturday nights, two stellar ensembles – the Bob Mintzer Big Band and the Bill Cunliffe Big Band – offered invigorating reminders of the still-potent pleasures of big band jazz.

Friday night’s program featured the Mintzer band in a program titled “Homage To Count Basie.”  And composer/saxophonist/bandleader Mintzer couldn’t have chosen a better model than the iconic Basie band with which to display his group’s impressive musical wares.

The Bob Mintzer Big Band

The Bob Mintzer Big Band

Mintzer opened, appropriately, with the Basie theme song, “One O’Clock Jump.”  And the music began to cook from the first opening passages, as the rhythm section – pianist Russell Ferrante, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Peter Erskine – dug deeply into the classic Basie groove.

There was more Basie to come, including the familiar strains of “April in Paris,” Neal Hefti’s “Cute,” and “Shiny Stockings.”  Topping it off, Mintzer added some Basie-inspired music of his own, including “Lester Jumps Out” and “Home Basie,” an irresistibly swinging musical blending of Basie’s rhythms and James Brown’s effervescence.

Add to that more originals – “Elegant People” and “Havin’ Some Fun” among them – showcasing Mintzer’s broad, far-reaching skills as a composer/arranger.

Bob Mintzer

Bob Mintzer

Also a hard-driving tenor saxophonist, Mintzer added some substantial soloing of his own.  But his band was also filled with other primo soloists, among them saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Keith Fiddmont, Brian Scanlon and Adam Schroeder, trumpeters John Daversa and Wayne Bergeron, and pianist Ferrante, all playing in a manner that honored the Basie style.

And it was fascinating to observe the excitement coursing through the full house crowd as the sounds of big band jazz at its finest filled the room.

On Saturday night it happened all over gagin, as the Bill Cunliffe ensemble offered a “Big Band Holiday Kick Off.”  Toward that end, however, pianist/composer/bandleader Cunliffe began his set with a quartet – featuring his piano along with guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La Barbera – playing a non-stop medley of holiday tunes.  Among them – “Winter Wonderland,” “Silent Night” (featuring seasonally atmospheric soloing from Chiodini) and “Carol of the Bells.”  Cunliffe added a solo piano take on “Christmas Time Is Here,” and singer Dawn Bishop joined the ensemble, singing “The Christmas Song” (and later adding her engaging versions of “Almost Like Being In Love” and “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” — not exactly seasonal songs, but appealing, nonetheless).

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

Cunliffe’s great versatility in big band scoring was also highly visible in the Latin rhythms of “Havana” and an original piece (title unannounced) written for a film about the Celtics.  In it, Cunliffe perfectly captured the driving, big band Swing era style of the late ‘30s.  His version of “Round Midnight,” featuring tenor saxophonist Jeff Elwood, brought traces of Thelonious Monk dissonances into the big band fabric. And there were numerous other fine soloists as well: including trumpeter Bijon Watson, alto saxophonist Bruce Babad and trombonist Alex Isles, among others.

Bill Cunliffe

Bill Cunliffe

The closing piece, whimsically titled “The Goldberg Contraption,” was a work based on various J.S. Bach compositions (including the Goldberg Variations).  In it, Cunliffe adroitly positioned rich Bach harmonies and compelling contrapuntal passages within the colorful textures and surging rhythms of big band jazz.

Call it a brilliant, two-night display of the far-ranging possibilities of the big jazz band format, when it’s in the hands of composer/arrangers as gifted as Bob Mintzer and Bill Cunliffe.  Big Band jazz, in their work, is still very much alive.  Ask anyone who was present in the full house crowds.

Bob Mintzer photos by Faith Frenz.

Bill Cunliffe photos by Bob Barry.

Live Jazz: John Proulx at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 9, 2012

By Don Heckman

It’s no news that female singers have been arriving on the jazz scene in the past few decades with far greater frequency than males.  Which makes it worth noticing when a male jazz singer with credentials as an instrumentalist makes an appearance.

John Proulx isn’t exactly a new jazz artist, either as a pianist or a singer.  In the decade or so since he arrived in Los Angeles, he has rapidly established himself as a first-call pianist with wide-ranging skills.  More recently, he’s won a Grammy award for a song he composed for Nancy Wilson.  And he’s begun to showcase his singing in his albums.

On Wednesday night at Catalina Bar & Grill he introduced selections from his latest album, The Best Thing For You Would Be Me. In fact, he sang and played virtually all of the album’s selections.  Backed by most of the participants on the album – saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Ron Stout, drummer Joe La Barbera, bassist Chuck Berghofer and singer Sara Gazarek, with the added aid of guitarist John Chiodini (who was not on the album) – Proulx made an ambitious presentation of his diverse skills as pianist, singer and songwriter.

The John Proulx Band

Proulx opened the program with a sequence of tunes from a variety of sources: a pair of standards (his album title — “The Best Thing For You Would Be Me” and the Jimmy McHugh classic “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”); Cannonball Adderley’s “Wabash;” Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes;” and Joe Raposo’s Sesame Stree song, “Sing”).

That’s a challenging group of songs, dissimilar enough to call for vocal skills that are lyrically interpretive, rhythmically driven and aurally appealing.

John Proulx

At times, Proulx’s readings touched on all those qualities.  And on the up side, there was always a strong, propulsive swing in his vocals, ranging from a brisk articulation of melody to inventive scat singing.

The second half of the program, broadened to feature six Proulx originals, followed similar patterns.  Here, the interpretations were aided by the beautifully articulate vocal contributions of Gazarek, whose presence on Sarah McLachlin’s “Angel” and  Proulx’s “Love Is For Dreamers” and “Before We Say Goodnight” brought authenticity to each.

The final selections, climaxing with originals, were also enhanced by instrumental contributions from Sheppard, Stout, La Barbera and Chiodini.  One of the most appealing, “Here’s To the Chuckster,” featured Berghofer and Proulx together, in a song dedicated by Proulx to the veteran bassist.

Ultimately, one was left with a view of a musician/singer still working to find the most effective focus for his considerable skills. For that to be achieved, Proulx might consider the application of those skills in more musically expressive directions.  To emphasizing the telling of a musical story, remembering that a song is a musical tale.  To reducing his use of long, sometimes edgy notes (Checking out the master of musical phrasing, Frank Sinatra, might not be a bad idea).  To finding a better balance in his music between sounds and silences, recalling Miles Davis’ classic phrase, “The notes I don’t play are as important as the notes I do.”  It’s a thought that Chet Baker – whom Proulx clearly admires – understood well.

But the potential is already amply visible in Proulx’s work. When he gets all the right pieces together, that potential will reach skyward.

Photos by Bob Barry

Picks of the Week: June 14 – 19

June 14, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 14. (Tues.)  Motley Crue. L.A.’s heavy metal stars of the eighties (and beyond) take over the vast expanse of the Bowl for a tour through the many hits that have made them rock icons.   The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

- June 15. (Wed.)  Sachel Vasandani Quartet.  At a time when male jazz vocalists are in surprisingly short supply, Vasandani is carving an intriguing musical pathway of his own.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Angelique Kidjo

- June 16. (Thurs.)  Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N’Dour, Vusi Mahlasela.  A stellar ensemble of great African artists.  Count on them – and Kidjo in particular – to bestow an irresistible display of dynamic, musical excitement on their listeners.  The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.

- June 15. (Wed.)  Chuck Manning & Sal Marquez Quartet.  Two of the Southland’s most dependably hard swinging players team up for some straight ahead jamming.   Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- June 15 – 19.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The National Ballet of Cuba.  One of the world’s great classical ballet companies, the dancers’ performances reflect the exquisite style established by the founder, prima ballerina Alicia Alonso.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

- June 16. (Thurs.)  Mel Martin Quartet. Saxophonist Martin, who roves freely and impressively across the spectrum from bebop to avant-garde, makes a rare club stop in the Southland.  He’ll be backed by the equally versatile pianist Don Friedman, (who is also rarely seen in L.A., with bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La BarberaVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Hiromi.  The Trio Project.  Keyboardist Hiromi, always exploring new musical territory, has a go at the ever-changing vistas of the piano jazz trio.  She performs with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Steve SmithCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Harry Connick, Jr.

- June 17.   (Fri.) Hollywood Bowl Opening Night.  Opening nights at the Bowl are always memorable events, glowing with stars.  This year, there will be performances by 2011 Hall of Fame inductees Harry Connick, Jr. and Gloria Estefan.  Also on the program: an exclusive live sneak preview of Cirque du Soleil’s first Hollywood production, IRIS – A Journey Through the World of Cinema.  Dame Helen Mirren hosts the evening, and Andy Garcia and Hilary Swank will serve as guest presenters.  Thomas Wilkens conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2040.

- June 18. (Sat.)  Filipina Ladies of Jazz.   Following up on last year’s Filipino Gentlemen of Jazz, this year’s program features a splendid array of female Filipina artists.  Pauline Wilson (of the group Seawind) headlines.  She’ll be joined by two rising young artists, Nicole David (who will duet with her father, singer Mon David) and soul jazz singer Jaclyn Rose.  They’ll be backed by the band of saxophonist Michael Paulo.   Ford Amphitheatre.     (323) 461-3673.

- June 18. (Sat.) Rickey Woodard.   Saxophonist Woodard brings high spirited, hard swinging life to every note he plays.  This time out, he’s backed by the John Heard Trio. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- June 18. (Sat.)  Phil Norman Tentet.  Saxophonist Norman’s eminently listenable ensemble is also a briskly swinging show case for many of the Southland’s (and the world’s) finest composers and arrangers.  Add to that a line up of all-star players, and expect an evening of memorable little big band jazz.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Roseanna Vitro

- June 18. (Sat.)  Roseanna Vitro “The Randy Newman Project”  Vitro, always a fascinating jazz singer, expands her horizons with her new CD, in which she explores the far-ranging, emotionally diverse musical catalog of Randy Newman.  It’s a remarkable album, and the live performance of its selections should make for a compelling musical evening.   Jazz Bakery Moveable Feast at Musicians Institute Concert Hall.    (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

- June 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  Paula Morelenbaum.  Singer Morelenbaum’s deep linkage to the music of her Brazilian homeland in general, and to bossa nova in particular, reaches back to her work as a young singer with Antonio Carlos Jobim in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- June 18. (Sat.) Nikki Yanofsky. Still only 17, Yanofky’s recordings and live performances have convincingly established her as a rising star with extraordinary potential.   An SFJAZZ Spring Season concert at Herbst Hall.    (866) 920-5299.


- June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ramsey Lewis“The Sun Goddess Tour.”  Keyboardist Lewis leads his electric band in a revisiting of the funk-driven sounds of his cross-over hit album, Sun Goddess.  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.


Rudresh Mahanthappa

June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa.  Alto saxophonist Mahanthappa, who just received the Jazz Journalists Association Alto Saxophonist of the Year Award, His Indo-Pak Coalition, with Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer Dan Weiss is seeking, and finding, ways to synthesize jazz and the improvised musical forms of South Asia.  The results are often extraordinary.   Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- June 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Dave Brubeck Quartet.  What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about the Brubeck Quartet.  Hearing the group, playing classic selections as well as new ventures, is tapping into living jazz history.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- June 14 – 19.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Potter Underground.  One of the most consistently imaginative saxophonists of his generation, Potter leads a band filled with similarly adventurous players – drummer Nate Smith, guitarist Adam Rogers and bassist Fima EphronVillage Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- June 15 – 19. (Wed. – Sun.)  Monty Alexander and the Harlem-Kingston Express.  Pianist Alexander and his group survey the musically delightful linkages between up town jazz and the rhythms of the Caribbean.   Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

Picks of the Week: April 5 – 10

April 4, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Junko Onishi

- April 5. (Tues.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She kicks off her American tour tonight with the backing of the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323)466-2210  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on April 6.)

- April 5. (Tues.)  Ostad Abbos Kosimov.  Traditional Uzbek and Tajik Percussion Music and Dance. Percussionist Kosimov is one of the world’s masters of the doyra frame drum.  He is joined by the CalArts Persian and World Music ensembles, as well as members of his own Abbos Ensemble in an exploration of the music of Uzbekistan.  Tara Pandeya adds the sensual movements of Central Asian dance.  REDCAT (213) 237-2800.

- April 5. (Tues.)  Lorenzo Lamas.  You may remember him as Jane Wyman’s evil stepson in Falcon Crest. But Lamas (yes, from that family) is also an effective musical purveyor of the romantic side of cabaret.  Vibrato Grill Jazz… (310) 474-9400. 

Kenny Burrell

- April 6. (Wed.) Kenny Burrell Jazz Heritage All Stars.  For once, the label “All-Stars” has real significance.  Veteran guitarist/educator Burrell puts it all together with trumpter (and also educator) Bobby Rodriguez, saxophonist Justo Almario, drummer Clayton Cameron and more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- April 6. (Wed.)  The Kronos Quartet. The creatively eclectic, Grammy winning string quartet celebrates composer Steve Reich’s 75th birthday with the performance of a newly commissioned work.   Segerstrom Center for the Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

Salif Keita

- April 6. (Wed.)  Salif Keita. The voice of Keita, with its soaring tones, penetrating sound and inspiring rhythms, is one of the great glories of African popular music.  The Conga Room.  (213) 745-0162.

- April 6. (Wed.) Blue Lou Marini.  Veteran New York saxophonist Marini makes one of his rare West Coast appearances, performing with trumpeter Walt Fowler, pianist John Campbell, bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Peter Erskine and special guests.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- April 7. (Thurs.)  Big Willie’s Burlesque.  Busy drummer Willie McNeil’s Quartet lays down some classic backbeat sounds to inspire the irresistible moves of dancer Carolina Cerisola.   They call it “old school burlesque with a cutting edge, Latin, new school vibe.”   The Edison Downtown.  (213) 613-0000.

- April 7. (Thurs.) V. R. Smith Sextet.  It’s a Smith Family Night.  With vocalist V.R. Smith backed by the band of her husband, bassist Putter Smith with Gary Foster alto saxophone, Chuck Manning, tenor saxophone, Jim Szilagyi, piano and Tim Pleasant, drums.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- April 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rachelle Ferrell.  Blessed with one of the most impressive voices in the jazz vocal world, Ferrell is also a uniquely appealing song stylist.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

Arlo Guthrie

- April 8. (Fri.)  Arlo Guthrie and Friends.  Folk music patriarch returns to UCLA, this time with his “Journey On” tour, featuring his son, Abe Guthrie and the folk-rock trio The Burns SistersUCLA Live.  Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.

- April 9. (Sat.)  Jazz Fundraiser for Japan.  Vitello’s April Williams has assembled an impressive collection of the Southland’s finest jazz artists for a 12 hour fundraiser for Japan.  Among the participants: Alan Pasqua, Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Darek Oles, Alex Acuna, the Wayne Bergeron Big Band, Denise Donatelli, Joe La Barbera, Larry Koonse, Tom Warrington, Bob Sheppard and many more.  11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 9. (Sat.) Plas Johnson.  Although he’s been a vital member of the Southland jazz community for decades, Johnson is best known for his memorable solo work on “The Pink Panther” theme.  But he’s got a lot more than that to offer.  He’ll be playing with pianist Tom Ranier, bassist John Giannelli and drummer Fritz WiseGiannelli Square.  (818) 772-1722.

- April 9. (Sat. ) Wind Soloists of New York and Pedja Muzijevic. The superb wind instrumentalists of this much praised ensemble join with pianist Muzijevic to perform a dynamic program of works by Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Prokofiev and Poulenc.  And they’ll do so in the elegant Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion.  The Da Camera Society.  (213) 477-2929.

- April 10 (Sun.)  Greta Metassa.  Seattle-based singer Metassa is far less known than she should be.  In this rare Southland appearance, she’ll deliver her beautifully crafted vocals  in a plush, private mini concert hall in Beverly Hills.   Hopefully, she’ll include songs from her latest CD, I Wanna be Loved.” Backing her: the world class rhythm section of pianist Mike Garson, bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Bob Leatherbarrow.  To book seats, click on Resonance Records.   Address will be given when the reservation is made.

San Francisco

- April 6. (Wed.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She’ll be backed by the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory HutchinsonYoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

Madeleine Peyroux

- April 8. (Fri.)  Madeleine Peyroux.  Moving beyond the Billie Holiday musical frame that had narrowed her music for too long, Peyroux is now finding her own way, as unique musical persona and an intriguing songwriter.  SF Jazz Spring Season.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (415) 398-5655.

- April 9. (Sat.)  Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester.  The music of the twenties and thirties comes vividly back to life in the hands of Raabe and his extraordinarily versatile musicians.  Always as musically provocative as they are entertaining, they’re one of a kind. SFJAzz Spring Season.  Paramount Theatre, Oakland. .

- April 10. (Sun.)  The Asaad Brothers Da Volta as Raizes” Offspring of a famouns musical family, the two guitar duo of the Asaad brothers play everything from Bach transcriptions and gypsy jazz to Brazilian samba and the music of the Middle East.  SFJAZZ Spring Season. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  (415) 398-5655.

New York

Toshiko Akiyoshi

- April 4 (Mon.) Fund Raising Concert For Japan. The New York jazz community steps up to play a concert in support of the beleaguered people of Japan. Toshiko Akiyoshi; Cecil Bridgewater; Sam Burtis; Jerry Dodgion; Roy Hargrove; Tom Harrell; Barry Harris; Fred Hersch; Rene Manning; Earl McIntyre; Jimmy Owens; Rufus Reid; Marvin Stamm; Lew Tabackin; Kenny Werner and many othersThe Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- April 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)  Toots Thielemans with Kenny Werner and Oscar Castro-Neves.  As if that weren’t enough, Werner will also do a set each night with his Quintet featuring Lionel Loueke and Miguel ZenonThe Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

- April 8. (Fri.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa’s “Gama.” With David Fiuczynski, guitar, Francois Moutin, bass and Dan Weiss, drums.  Altoist Mahanthappa and Fiuczynski have been working together lately in Jack DeJohnette’s band.  Here they dip into some of the fascinating improvisational territory between jazz and Indian music.  Cornelia St. Café.  (212) 989-9319.


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