Live Music: The Thelonious Monk 2014 International Jazz Competition Gala

November 11, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA. The 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition came to a dramatic conclusion Sunday night in a All-Star Gala event at Dolby Hall in Hollywood. This year, the Competition was for trumpet players. And the three finalists each offered a display of their considerable skills in a setting that allowed each player to perform a pair of selections of their own choice. And it was no surprise that works by Thelonious Monk were popular choices.

Inevitably, there was a winner, a second and a third place finisher, as follows:

1st Place Winner: Marquis Hill from Chicago.

1st Place Winner: Marquis Hill from Chicago.

 

2nd Place Winner: Billy Buss from Berkeley

2nd Place Winner: Billy Buss from Berkeley

3rd Place Winner Adam O’Farrill from Brooklyn

But the prevalent thought that came to mind while hearing these fine young players in action was the firm belief that each of the prodigal musicians had displayed all the skills required for successful careers in the musical world in general and the jazz world specifically. And, win or place as a finalist, they all will benefit from the visibility associated with having placed so high in such a major competition.

In addition to the Competition finals, the Gala presented a concert clearly intended as a celebration of jazz itself, in its many shapes, sizes, styles, disguises and a lot more. As a result, much of the music was far more closely related to pop, blues, rock, soul and beyond. No problem there, except in the passages attempting to shoe horn those genres into a jazz setting.

In its best, moments, however – especially when singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves, and instrumentalists Herbie Hancock, John Beasley, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Stefon Harris, Joshua Redman and others were on stage – the program’s jazz roots were ever present.

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Taj Mahal

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Taj Mahal

The Gala concert was hosted by Kevin Spacey, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Don Cheadle, Goldie Hawn and Billy Dee Williams. It included performances by a multi-generational group of all-stars including Musical Director John Beasley, Pharrell Williams, John Mayer, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wayne Shorter, Queen Latifah, Jimmy Heath, Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Miller, Kenny Burrell, Stefon Harris, T.S. Monk, Joshua Redman, Jon Faddis, Billy Childs, Vinnie Colaiuta, James Genus, Theo Croker, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Dontae Winslow, Melissa Aldana and others.

President Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock

President Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock

As if the presence of all the stellar names on that list wasn’t enough, the Monk Institute also honored President Bill Clinton with the Institute’s 2014 Maria Fisher Founder’s Award. Each year, the Founder’s Award is presented to an individual who has made major contributions to the Institute, the perpetuation of jazz, and the expansion of jazz and music education programs. President Clinton received the award from Herbie Hancock, Chairman of the Monk Institute, with a smile and a wave to the crowd. He did not, apparently, ask to sit in on tenor saxophone.

The Gala ended with a crowded backstage party for participants and friends of the Monk Institute, enlivened by conversations already speculating on possibilities for next year’s Monk Competition.

Which was good news for music education. Proceeds from the All-Star Gala Concerts support the Institute’s jazz education programs in public schools across America.

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Photos courtesy of Steve Mundinger/Thelonious Monk Institute Of Jazz


Picks of the Week: May 27 – June 1

May 27, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Pat Senatore

Pat Senatore

- May 27. (Tues.) Pat Senatore Trio. The stellar Senatore trio – bassist Senatore with pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Mark Ferber have been carrying the torch for solid jazz at its best for years. And their new recording, Ascensione, is a superb display of their effectiveness as a world class jazz trio. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- May 29. (Thurs.) Peter Smith. “Too Marvelous For Words: The Music of Nat “King’ Cole.” Singer/pianist Smith revives one of the most appealing jazz catalogs of song. Don’t miss it. Vitellos.  (818) 769-0905.

- May 30. (Fri.) Angela Parrish. Pianist/singer/songwrier Parrish has been soloing in Vitello’s dining room. But her appealing musical qualities will be on full display when she performs in the club’s warm and engaging upstairs music room. Vitello’s  (818) 769-0905.

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

- May 30. (Fri.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic. A Casual Friday concert with Gustavo Dudamel conducting Mozart’s Symphony No.36 and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, with Helene Grimaud as piano soloist. Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- May 30 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.) Tom Culver’s “Cole Porter Uncorked explores some of the classic items in the Great American Songbook in a program backed by the Rick Hils Trio and directed by Marilyn Maye. The Gardenia. (323) 467-7444.

- May 31. (Sat.) LA Ballet “La Sylphide.” An irresistible evening of ballet at its finest. In addition to La Sylphide, the program features George Balanchine‘s “Serenade..” Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

Miki Howard

Miki Howard

- May 30 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.) Miki Howard. Comfortably expressive in jazz, r&b and pop, Howard had a string of hits in the ’80s and ’90s, and she’s still going strong. Expect to hear some catchy, appealingly familiar melodies. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- June 1. (Sun.) Seth MacFarlane with the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra. Multi-hyphenate MacFarlane balances his successful efforts as an actor, producer, director and comedian with his appealing efforts as a singer. He’ll be at his best with Jones’ briskly swinging Jazz Influence Orchestra. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- May 29 – June 1 (Thurs. – Sun.) Marc Ribot. Guitarist/composer Ribot displays his affection for film in a fascinating score for Charlie Chaplin‘s film, The Kid. An SFJAZZ concert at Miner Auditorium.  (866) 920-5299

Washington D.C.

- May 27 (Tues.) Nicole Henry. Comfortably expressing herself in soul/jazz/pop/r&b stylings, Henry’s charismatic qualities are present in every song she sings. Blues Alley (202) 337-4141.

New York City

Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli

- May 30 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.) John Pizzarelli and Jane Monheit with the Al Jackson Quintet. Among the most gifted of the younger generation interpreters of the Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli and Monheit are even better when they’re performing as a captivating vocal duo. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.(212) 258-9595.

- May 27 – 31. (Tues. – Sat.) BossaBrazil. A pair of Brazil’s finest musical artists – Marcos Valle and Roberto Menescal – team up to showcase some of the finest blends of jazz and Brazilian rhythms. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

London

- May 30 & 31. Jean Luc Ponty & His Band.  Violinist Ponty, one of the leaders in the early stages of jazz fusion, continue to be one of the most intriguing of contemporary jazz performers. Ronnie Scott’s. +44 (0)20 7439 0747

Berlin

- May 27. (Tues.) Billy Hart Quartet. Always an appealing performer, drummer Hart is so popular in Berlin that this booking has been described as “Wegen Des Grossen Andrangs (“Back By Public Demand). A-Trane. 030 / 313 25 50.

Milan

Mayra Andrade

Mayra Andrade

- May 28. (Wed.) Mayra Andrade. Lovely Difficult A native of the musically rich environment of the Cape Verde isands, Andrade – who lives in Paris – has built an impressive career combining her Cape Verde roots with appealing touches of French music and American pop. The Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- May 27 & 28. (Tues. & Wed.) Harvey Mason and “Chameleon.” Hard swinging drummer Mason, leads an especially appealing ensemble in “Chameleon,” featuring the unique musical gifts of Chris Turner, John Beasley, Philip Woo, Kamasi Washington and Jimmy Haslip. The Blue Note Tokyo. +81 3-5485-0088.

 

 

 


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

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- 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.

London

- 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.

Copenhagen

- 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.

Tokyo

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.


Live Music: “Jazz At The Philharmonic.” The KJAZZ Radio Summer Benefit Concert At Walt Disney Concert Hall.

June 26, 2013

By Norton Wright

Los Angeles, CA.  Over eleven hundred jazz buffs streamed into the Walt Disney Concert Hall last Saturday night for the first every KJAZZ Radio Summer Benefit Concert to hear three separate groups, each with its own unique style. There was something for every taste.

Kicking off the evening was Harvey Mason’s powerhouse, cutting-edge fusion sextet “Chameleon” –

Followed by the nostalgia of 60-year-old songstress Diane Schuur backed by pianist Alan Broadbent’s quintet. Schuur’s singing of jazz standards still brave and swinging –

And for the concert’s finale, the smooth jazz of pianist David Benoit’s and his quintet — but with an exciting surprise in store!

Walt Disney Concert Hall is an acoustic marvel, so the performances of the evening’s individual soloists were dramatic and wonderfully defined. You’ve got to love the positionings of the “Chameleon” sextet. Harvey Mason at his drum set stage left — Bill Summers stage right with his confectionary of four conga drums, a giant, rattle shaker gourd. assorted bells, chimes, and whistles and a beer bottle (to be explained)! Two keyboardists upstage, Mark De Clive-Lowe on piano and John Beasley on his two synthesizers — And downstage center, Jimmy Haslip playing his throbbing 5-string electronic bass, and Kamasi Washington, the LeBron James of tenor men, a giant stage presence structuring his solos with the power and finesse of a Dexter Gordon.

Harvey Mason

Harvey Mason

With Mason opening his set with Wayne Shorter’s composition, “Footprints,” the musical exchanges between “Chameleon’s” all-stars took off. Hard-driving arrangements were juxtaposed with diaphanous, almost mystical ballads. At one point, keyboardists Beasley and Clive-Lowe sitting side by side improvised a duet on their separate synthesizer keyboards creating a mosaic of wind-chime beauty.

And when Mason chose to solo toward the end of the set, instead of a show-off  “dreaded drum solo,” his work was organic to the tune being played and a delight to listen to. To fully appreciate the unfolding of Mason’s percussive tapestry, the listener does well to remember the drum figure just played and then hear how it leads on to Mason’s subsequent and inventive variation.

And finally for “Chameleon” fun, Bill Summers abandoned his conga drums, gourd shaker, and tambourine to wow the audience by playing the top of a beer bottle like a flute and creating a series of breathy, reggae-styled whoops and licks. At his solo’s end Summers drank the remaining beer and toasted the audience with his bottle raised on high! He got a standing ovation.

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur has always been for me brave and beautiful. Blind since birth, she still comes on stage in a sparkly gown, wearing dark glasses and guided by a friend. And now after three decades of performing, she gleefully acknowledged the applause by bowing so deeply to the audience that her head almost touched the floor. Affection spilled out over the footlights in both directions.

Seated on a stool and backed by pianist Alan Broadbent’s quintet, Diane kicked into an up-tempo “’S Wonderful” and moved easily into Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” Suddenly it seemed like it was 1985 again. Deedles scatted through “I’ll Remember You” and then wrung our hearts so intensely with “Didn’t We” that Broadbent and his band, Ernie Watts (sax), Larry Koonse (guitar), Scott Steed (bass), and Clayton Cameron (drums) joined the audience in applauding her!

For a finale surprise, onto the stage walked Diane’s old pal, singer Steve Tyrell, and together they winged it on “How High The Moon” with Diane going stratospheric on the last note before she and Tyrell took a final bow to another standing ovation.

There are all kinds of beauty in the world. Certainly Diane Schuur doesn’t possess the physical beauty of the Alicia Keys cadre, but what spirit, gumption, and tenacity she’s displayed over the years! That’s another kind of beauty — and whether it’s Deedles with the Count Basie Orchestra back in 1987 or with Alan Broadbent’s combo today in 2013, she’s given the jazz world a bounty of beauty and meaning with her songs.

A special word is in order about Alan Broadbent who arranged all the songs for Schuur in this KJazz concert. Alan is that rare artist who provides marvelous support for a singer without overshadowing her with his own spectacular talent.

Note: Alan’s extraordinary piano work can most recently be heard on his solo album, Heart to Heart, (available on Amazon.com and on the CD Baby online music store) in which he dazzles with such complex and intricate keyboard work that without overdubbing, it still sounds as if he were playing duets with himself – probably with his rumored twenty-one fingers and a couple of toes!

In the KJazz Concert, Alan and his combo of all-stars provided solid backing for Schuur: Ernie Watts taking a particularly cool sax break on “I Remember You”; Larry Koonse’ guitar solo perfectly attuned to Diane’s bluesy feel on “Didn’t We”; Scott Steed’s bass solo providing a complex and nuanced reprise of the melody on the same number; and throughout Diane’s set, the reserved but tasty brush work of drummer Clayton Cameron.

And to end Diane’s set with a pyrotechnic change of pace, she and the band invited brush master Cameron to explode on “For Once in My Life” with a thunderous and mesmerizing drum solo featuring brushes and sticks on snare and bass drums, tom-toms, timbales, on an array of sparkling cymbals, and with the rarity of brushes played on bongos. Each percussion instrument was played with different combinations of brushes, drumsticks, timpani mallets, and pom pom sticks — each brush or stick set discarded onto the floor after its particular use. At solo’s end, a joyous Cameron sat atop of a mound of his exhausted and discarded brushes and drumsticks. This is a percussionist who is as much fun to watch as he is to hear.

David Benoit

David Benoit

In the concert’s finale, pianist David Benoit and his smooth jazz quintet paid homage to Benoit’s early idol, Vince Guaraldi, with a take on the “Charlie Brown/Peanuts” theme. But a surprise was in the offing as guest artist Christian Scott joined the ensemble with his crackling trumpet reminding so much of Freddy Hubbard’s aggressive drive on “Walking in Space.”  Scott lifted Benoit’s band into unexpected funky territory. Guitarist Grant Geissman caught fire on his solos with the feel of down-home, country blues. Tenor man David Sills, urged on by Benoit and Scott, began to wail. Bassist David Hughes and drummer Jamey Tate followed suit. With his piano lines becoming more muscularly baroque than his expected decorative rococo, Benoit was into robust stride piano licks by evening’s end, and he and his quintet ended the concert up-tempo and gutsy.

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To read more posts by and about Norton Wright click HERE.


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 .

London

- 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.

Copenhagen

- 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.

Milan

- 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

Tokyo

Clementine

Clementine

- 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 John Beasley MONK-estra Upstairs at Vitello’s

February 22, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  John Beasley described the 18 piece ensemble he brought to Vitello’s Wednesday night as a MONK’estra.  He also called it “A Big Modern Jazz Band.”

Both labels were right on target for this performance.  First, the great majority of the program was dedicated to the music of Thelonious Monk.  Second, Beasley’s arrangements, combined with superb individual soloing from virtually every musician, resulted in a definitive display of “Big,” “Modern” and “Jazz Band.”

The John Beasley MONK-estra

The Monk pieces – including such classics as “Epistrophy,” “Little Rootie Tootie,” “Skippy” and “Ask Me Now” – were at their best when Beasley conceived big band settings enhancing, expanding and elaborating on the Monk originals. Often he captured Monk’s unique quirkiness, the offbeat accents, punchy dissonances and surprisingly soaring melodies.  And he did so with stunningly atmospheric ensemble textures, powerfully driven by the propulsive rhythm team of bassist Ricky Minor, drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr., and Beasley’s own melodica playing.

Justo Almario, Ricky Minor, John Beasley

Justo Almario, Ricky Minor, John Beasley

The performance occasionally recalled a famous 1959 concert at New York’s Town Hall, in which Monk performed with a tentet, playing arrangements of his music written by Hall Overton.  But the presence of Monk in the ensemble — along with Overton’s occasional arrangements of previously recorded Monk solos for the horns — was very different from the scope of Beasley’s big band charts.

With maximum-sized horn sections – five trumpets, five doubling saxophones and four trombones – Beasley’s arranging moved into expansive, orchestral textures reaching well beyond both the Overton arrangements and familiar big band riffing.  Like Bill Holman, he worked within his own musical dialect.  Even in the pieces based on Monk works, he found intriguing ways to apply his imaginative perspectives to Monk’s music.

The saxophone section players —  Bob Sheppard, Jeff Driskill, Justo Almario, Tom Luer and Bob Carr – were often called to double on clarinets (including a pair of bass clarinets), bringing a lush, fluid sound to many passages.  Adding more timbral contrast, the trombonists —  Francisco Torres, Wendell Kelly, Andy Martin and Steve Hughes – as well as the powerful trumpet team (Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, Ray Monteiro, Brian Swartz and Gabe Johnson) were frequently asked to play with various mutes.

Interestingly, one of the many appealing products of Beasley’s envelope-stretching arrangements was some equally imaginative soloing from players who clearly seemed stimulated by their musical environment.  The net result was some of the most mesmerizing big band music – individually and collectively – of recent memory.

The only reservation about this remarkable evening was the thought that Beasley’s choice of the title “MONK-estra,” along with the decision to focus so strongly on Monk’s music, had too narrowly delineated his obviously extraordinary orchestrating abilities.  The few pieces that were not based on Monk’s works revealed Beasley’s capacity to deliver the broader, more expansive definition of what he also calls his
”Big Modern Jazz Band.”  It will be fascinating to see what he can do if he moves more convincingly in that distinctive, more personally expressive direction.

Photos by Bobby Colomby.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 27

January 21, 2013

By the iRoM Staff

Los Angeles

Vicky Ray

- Jan. 22. (Tues.)  Vicki RayPiano Spheres.  Exploration of contemporary music is at the heart of the Piano Spheres program.  This time, adventurous pianist Ray (with a chamber ensemble of musician friends) interprets the music of Stravinsky as well as new works by composers from Asia, Europe and the U.S.    Zipper Hall, Colburn School.

- Jan. 22 & 23. (Tues. & Wed.)  Shen Yun 2013 World Tour.  Founded by expatriate Falun Gong practitioners in New York, works to “revive the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture” via extraordinary displays of Chinese classical, ethnic and folk dance.  With Orchestra.  The Fred Kavli Theater in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.   (805) 449-2787.

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour.  High quality music is the basic foundation of the MJF.  And this rare evening underscores how captivating that music can get in the hands of artists such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Lewis Nash, Chris Potter, Ambrose AkinmusireValley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

Mike Lang

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  Mike Lang.  Pianist Lang’s long productive career reaches from Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles to Lee Konitz to Barbra Streisand, John Lennon and dozens of stops in between.  He’s also recorded more than 2000 film scores.  But here’s a chance to hear the ultimate inner Lang, musically up close and personal in a trio setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  “A Jazzy Tribute to the Negro Baseball Leagues.”  Film maker and singer Byron Motley and special guests guitarist Phil Upchurch and pianist Corky Hale-Stoller celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of the great athletes of the Negro Baseball Leagues.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 24. (Thurs.)  John Beasley Residency IIIThe Monk’estra Big Band. Beasley’s impressive skills as a pianist and composer are applied to a fascinating evening of large group jazz.  The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Stanley Clarke

- Jan. 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stanley Clarke Band. The brilliant bass playing of Clarke brings vivid life to wherever he plays.  And it’s even better when he’s leading his own band of talented young artists.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Conductor Ludovic Morlot, leads the L.A. Phil in a program of great classics – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 — and contemporary French composer Henri Dutilleux’s Shadows of Time. Walt Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 26 & 27. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Helmuth Rilling offers a rare performance of Mozart’s poignant Requiem and  his classic Symphony No. 39. With the aid of the USC Thornton Chamber Singers.  Sat: at the Alex Theatre. http://www.alextheatre.org    Sun: At Royce Hall. http://cap.ucla.edu/visit/royce_hall.asp  (213) 622-7001.

Roger Kellaway

 

- Jan 27, 28 and 29.  (Fri., Sat. & Sun.)  The New West Symphony.    The N.W.S., under the baton of Marcelo Lehninger,  performs the West Coast Premiere of “Visions of America: A Photo Symphony.”  Music by Roger Kellaway.  Lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman.  Photography by Joseph Sohm.  Vocals by Judith Hill and Steve Tyrell. With piano by Norman Krieger.   And a recorded narration by Clint Eastwood. Friday at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, Saturday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, and on Sunday at Barnum Hall in Santa Monica.

- Jan. 27. (Sun.)  Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.  The Jazz Influence Orchestra returns to Vitello’s for yet another banquet of big band jazz, played by the Southland’s finest musicians.  To read a recent iRoM review of the Jazz Influence Orchestra click HERE.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Lisa Hilton

Lisa Hilton

- Jan. 27. (Sun.)  Lisa Hilton.  Her highly personal style, as a pianist, a composer and an improviser, has established Hilton as one of the uniquely individualistic performers on the contemporary music scene.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Jan. 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Joe Lovano’s Us Five.   Adventurous saxophonist Lovano leads the way for his current Us Five ensemble, featuring Esperanza Spalding, James Weidmann, Otis Brown III and Francisco MelaYoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- Jan. 26. (Sat.) Turtle Island Quartet.  The Grammy-winning string quartet, always trying out new ideas, offers a program of original works and music inspired by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.  Freight and Salvage.   (510) 644-2020.

New York

- Jan. 22. (Tues.) Taarka.  The husband and wife leaders of  the acoustic group Taarka – the duo of mandolinist David Tiller and violinist Enion Pelta-Tiller — celebrate the release of their new CD, Adventures in Vagabondia.  Barbes in Brooklyn.    (347) 422-0248.

Ann Hampton Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway

- Jan. 22 – 26. )Tues. – Sat.)  Ann Hampton Callaway. Callaway not only has a gorgeous voice, she also knows exactly how to use it.  And it’s especially memorable when she applies it – along with her talents as a musical story teller – to the classics of the Great American Songbook. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Jan. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Omar Sosa and Paolo Fresu. They seem to be an unlikely combination – Cuban keyboardist Sosa and Italian trumpeter Fresu.  But the stirring results of their partnership attest to the true globalization of jazz.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

London

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Fri. & Sat.)  Milton Nascimento. He’s one of the icons of Brazilian music, as a performer and as a composer.  And at 70, he’s still going strong.   Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)7439 0747.

Paris

- Jan. 24. (Thurs.)  Steve Cropper and the Animals. The guitarist in Stax Records legendary house band, Cropper takes his unique blend of soul, blues, funk and beyond on the road with a band of eager associates. New Morningn  01 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

Judy Niemack

- Jan. 22. (Tues.)  Judy Niemack presents “New Voices in Jazz 2013.” A gifted, imaginative singer as well as an admired educator, Niemack introduces a collection of talented, if still relatively unknown young vocal artists: Zola Mennenöh, Laura Winkler, Anna Marlene Bicking and Sophie-Charlott GötteA-Trane.    030/313 25 50.

Milan

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  Philip Catherine.  Belgian jazz guitarist Catherine’s resume reaches from the ‘60s to the present with artists such as Dexter Gordon, Jean-Luc Ponty, Chet Baker, Charlie Mariano, Stephane Grappelli and more.  At 70, his playing continues to be as eclectic as it is accomplished.  Blue Note Milan.    02.6901 6888.


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