Picks of the Week: August 4 – 10 in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, New York City, London, Berlin, Stockholm, Moscow and Tokyo

August 4, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Aug. 5. (Tues.) John Pisano’s Guitar Night. The official release party for Pat Kelley‘s new CD, Overtones 4 Two Guitars. With Pisano, Kelley, Kendall Kay, drums, and John Belzaguy, bass. Viva Cantina. (818) 845-2425.

- Aug. 5 & 6. (Tues. & Wed.) The Gypsy Allstars. If you like the Gipsy Kings, you’ll be equally impressed by the Gypsy All-Stars who play a similar repertoire, energized by Gipsy Kings alumni Ced Leonardi and Mario Reyes. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock

- Aug. 6. (Wed.) Herbie Hancock and Gregory Porter. A classic jazz night at the Bowl. On the bill: orchestral renderings (arranged by Vince Mendoza) of selections from the Hancock songbook; and a program of song by jazz vocal star, Porter. The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 7. (Thurs.) The Haden Triplets. Charlie Haden’s talented three daughters carry on the Haden tradition of family music making Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.

- Aug. 7. (Thurs.) Michael McDonald and Toto. McDonald and Toto have been getting together to make music for years, dating back to the 1986 album, Farenheit.  Expect musical excitement from this compelling musical reunion.  The Greek Theatre. (323) 665-5857

 

Judy Wexler

Judy Wexler

- Aug. 7. (Thurs.) Judy Wexler. The versatile musical story-teller with a briskly swinging style performs with the sterling backing of Jeff Colella, piano, Kenny Wild, bass and Devin Kelly, Drums. The Merc at 42051 Main St. in Temecula. (866) 653-8696.

- Aug. 8. (Fri.) Kamasi Washington and the Next Step. Saxophonist Washington is rapidly establishing himself as one of the Southland’s must-hear jazz artists. Jazz at LACMA. (323) 857-6000.

- Aug. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.) Gladys Knight and Kool and the Gang. Grammy-winning soul queen Knight is joined by funksters Kool and the Gang for an evening of rhythmic and vocal delights. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.) Jay Leonhart and Josh Nelson. Bassist Leonhart is often called “the wittiest man in jazz” for his whimsical narratives, but he’s also a world class player as well. Writing in the L.A. Times, Don Heckman described Leonhart as “the Fred Astaire of jazz.” The pairing of Leonhart with the gifted young pianist Josh Nelson should produce some irresistibly intriguing musical results. On Friday at Vitello’s;  on Saturday at Cornerstone Music Conservatory on West Pico Blvd.

Stanley Jordan

Stanley Jordan

- Aug. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) Stanley Jordan Trio. There’s no one quite like Jordan, who plays guitar with a tapping technique that allows him to create textures, sounds and harmonic clusters rarely heard on the instrument. Add to that his inventive gifts as a jazz improviser. Don’t miss this chance to hear this remarkable artist in action. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 9. (Sat.) The Susie Hansen Latin Jazz Band. Violinist Susie Hansen may be a blonde mid-Westerner, but she’s been leading authentically exciting Latin jazz bands for more than two decades. since the early ’90s. As Don Heckman noted in the L.A. Times, “Susie creates a brand of music that is as physically moving as it is intellectually stimulating.” Knott’s Berry Farm. 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.  (714) 220-5200.

- Aug. 9. (Sat.) The Tom Peterson Quartet. Saxophonist and woodwind artist Peterson is a first call player, with good reasons. Here’s a chance to hear him in the spotlight with a stellar rhythm section. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Seattle

Fourplay

- Aug. 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.) Fourplay. Bob James, Chuck Loeb, Nathan East, Harvey Mason. They’ve got a reputation for funk and contemporary styles, but this veteran band of superb, veteran jazz artists bring everything they have to whatever genre-of-the-moment they’re playing. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- August 7. (Thurs.) Charles McPherson. Well-known for his long run with the Charles Mingus band of the ’60s, alto saxophonist/flutist McPherson is also a convincing practitioner of classic bebop. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- Aug. 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)Django Reinhardt NY Festival “15th Anniversary Celebration.” It’s one of the great annual jazz celebrations, recalling the glories of the great Django Reinhardt with some of his finest musical descendants. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

London

Michel_Legrand

Michel_Legrand

- Aug. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.) Michel Legrand Trio. Pianist/composer/songwriter does it all – writing songs (often with the Bergmans), scoring films, performing with his jazz trio – and he does it with stunning brilliance. He isn’t heard often in clubs, so don’t overlook this rare opportunity to hear him. Ronnie Scott’s  +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Berlin

- Aug. 6 & 7. (Wed. & Thurs.) Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove and his band were in Paris last week. Keeping his numerous European fans happy, Hargrove appears this week in Berlin. A-Trane Jazz. +49 30 3132550.

Stockholm

- Aug. 9. (Sat.) Sonny Fortune Quintet. “In the Spirit of Miles.” Alto saxophonist/woodwind player Fortune, a veteran of Miles Davis’ group of the mid-’70s – brings striking authenticity to his Davis musical celebration. Fasching Jazz Nightclub.  08-20 00 66.

Moscow

- Aug. 5. (Tues.) Alexander Vinitsky. Russian guitarist Vinitsky may not be well-known (yet) in the U.S., but he’s a gifted player who deserves wider international exposure. Igor Butman Jazz Club.  (+7 495) 792-21-09.

Tokyo

- Aug. 9 & 10. (Sat. & Sun.) Akiko Yano Trio. Eclectic artist Yano moves comfortably from piano playing to composition to singing and songwriting. This time out, she’s in a trio setting with bassist Will Lee and drummer Chris Parker. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Live Jazz: International Jazz Day at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz. Etc.

May 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

Bel Air, CA. International Jazz Day was celebrated in high spirited fashion Tuesday night at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  The room’s Music Director and bassist Pat Senatore, who schedules an appealing flow of jazz talent in the attractive Bel Air club, picked many of his regular players to perform in a 3 ½ hour sequence of virtually non-stop spontaneous jazz.

It wasn’t exactly a jam session, but there were times when it came close: the players making spontaneous on-stage decisions about what tunes to play, shifting from number to number and group to group, tossing ideas back and forth, working out endings on the spot.

Bob Sheppard, Putter Smith, Dontae Winslow

Bob Sheppard, Putter Smith, Dontae Winslow

The horn players covered a complete gamut of styles and methods – exactly what one might expect from the presence of such sterling talents as saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Tom Peterson and Chuck Manning, trumpeters Steve Huffsteter and Dontae Winslow and trombonist Bob McChesney.

And with rhythm teams that included pianists Joe Bagg, Ed Czach and Otmaro Ruiz, bassists John Belzaguy, Chris Colangelo, Jeff D’Angelo, Putter Smith and Pat Senatore, and drummers Matt Gordy and Dick Weller, it was no surprise that there was no let-up in the music’s propulsive rhythmic drive.

There were plenty of highlights in this extraordinary evening. To mention a few of the sounds still ringing through my mind after the performance, as we drove down Beverly Glen’s twists and turns to the Valley:

- The opening set by a gifted group of teen-age jazz players, whose convincing program reached from a fast-paced “Donna Lee” to a lyrical “Passion Flower.”

Steve Huffsteter, Pat Senatore, Tom Peterson

Steve Huffsteter, Pat Senatore, Tom Peterson

- A quintet that matched Tom Peterson and Steve Huffsteter in a set of beautifully played versions of “Alone Together,” “Body and Soul” and a simmering bossa nova.

- Another quintet featuring Bob Sheppard and Dontae Winslow – a pair of horn players with fine intuitive interaction, doing their imaginative takes on “Autumn Leaves” and “Straight, No Chaser.”

- Trombonist McChesney’s remarkably fast-paced, articulately expressive soloing in a surprisingly high speed romp through “I Love You,” and Chuck Manning’s similarly fast-paced, spontaneous take on “I Hear Music.”

- And a final set pairing of Sheppard and Huffsteter on a warmly intimate ballad rendering of “I Can’t Get Started” and “Yesterdays” (the Cole Porter, not the Beatles version).

Jazz at its best, in other words.  Precisely the sort of inventive, briskly swinging improvisational music that was being celebrated in locations around the world for International Jazz Day.

Give Pat Senatore, his players and Vibrato lots of credit for the way they handled their share of the celebration, reminding one and all of the Southland’s vital role as one of the important sources of jazz at its finest.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: the Bob Sheppard/Otmaro Ruiz Quartet at Vitello’s

December 24, 2012

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  On any given night in Los Angeles, world class jazz can be found in venues stretching from Orange County to Ventura County, with many stops in between.  And Saturday night was no exception, when the prime quartet of saxophonist Bob Sheppard and pianist Otmaro Ruiz (with bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Jimmy Branly) performed a stirring program at Vitello’s in Studio City.

The selections were varied – Horace Silver’s “Barbara” and Bernie Miller’s “Bernie’s Tune” among them, in addition to originals from both Sheppard and Ruiz.

But the highlights of the evening virtually all traced to the jam session-like improvising, allowing each of the players to stretch out in completely spontaneous fashion.  Sheppard was, as always, articulate, expressive and imaginative, on both tenor and soprano saxophones.  Ruiz’s eclectic style added Latin touches to his solos, occasionally tossing in a rousing montuno in contrast to his authentically boppish single note lines.

Otmaro Ruiz, John Belzaguy, Bob Sheppard, Jimmy Branley

Otmaro Ruiz, John Belzaguy, Bob Sheppard, Jimmy Branley

Give credit, as well, to the rhythm team of Belzaguy and Branley, the engine that kept the band in high gear for most of the set.

What was missing, however, was very little reference to the music promised in the advertising for the evening: “Celebrate the Season! – Latin Night – Feliz Navidad.”  Despite the generally high quality of the playing, there was little in the program specifically oriented to the holiday.  And, with the presence of Venezuelans Ruiz and Belzaguy and Cuban Branly, one might have hoped for something more in the way of Latin jazz excitement.

Also missing was the unannounced but rumored sitting-in presence of some of L.A.’s fine jazz singers.  Several were in the audience, but failed to take the stage.

That said, it was nonetheless an evening of the sort of world class jazz I mentioned above.  And, heard in action, regardless of their selection of material, the Sheppard/Belzaguy quartet’s playing was a potent reminder of the sort of jazz that’s available almost every night in the Southland.


Picks of the Week: Mar. 13 – 18

March 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Willie Nelson

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Willie Nelson and Family. Legendary is a word that actually has some veracity when applied to the music and the career of superstar Nelson.  He makes his first appearance at Disney Hall on a bill that also includes his family members, as well as a group led by his son, Lukas NelsonDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightPat Kelley’s the guest guitarist, celebrating his birthday in Guitar Night’s loose and swinging format.  Bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Kendall Kay lay down the heat that will keep the music cooking.  Lucy’s 51. Toluca Lake.  (818) 763-5200.

Janicey Brar/Billie Holiday

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Janicey Brar. Tribute to Billie Holiday  “Tribute” performers – singers and musicians who take on the persona, the performing style and the image of famous artists – are far more rare in jazz than they are in popular music.  But Milwaukee’s Brar, who spent years impersonating Tina Turner, is one of the exceptions.  The simulation of Billie Holiday that she’s doing for this performance has been praised for its impressive musical and visual qualities.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 14. (Wed.)  Otmaro Ruiz.  Venezuelan-born pianist/composer Ruiz moves comfortably and authentically across stylistic and genre boundaries, playing straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, pop, rock, salsa, fusion and beyond.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400. http://www.in-housemusic.com/calendar.html

- Mar. 15. (Thurs.) Julie Kelly and Stephanie Haynes. A pair of veteran jazz singers, each with her own unique style, get together for an evening of vocal jazz magic. Neither is heard in the Southland as often as they should be, so don’t miss this chance to check out their engaging skills.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 258-1333.

"Casablanca"

- Mar. 15. – 17. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Casablanca.  Here’s the formula for a truly fascinating evening.  Max Steiner’s memorable score for Casablanca performed by the Pacific Symphony under Richard Kaufman, live in sync with a big screen projection of the cinematic masterpiece.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.  (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The T.S. Monk Sextet.  Drummer Monk, blessed with the genetic heritage of his father, Thelonious Monk, has established himself as a solid musical talent in his own right.  Carpenter Performing Arts Center.    (562) 985-7000.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Jose Rizo’s “Mongorama.” Jose Rizo’s knack for assembling solid musical aggregations continues with the nine-piece Mongorama’s exciting explorations of Mongo Santamaria’s charanga-jazz of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Frankie Valli

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  Frankie Valli. The ‘60s teen heartthrob, lead voice of the Four Seasons, revisits some of the iconic group’s hits – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” “Sherry,” and more. Segerstrom Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Mingus Dynasty. More than 30 years after the passing of Charles Mingus, his music is still being kept vividly alive in the hands of the seven piece Mingus Dynasty Band.  Expect to hear such classics from the large Mingus catalog as “Better Git It In Your Soul, “ “Haitian Fight Song” and Pithecanthus Erectus.”  Royce Hall.  A UCLA Live concert.    (310) 825-2101.  To read Michael Katz’s Reflections on Charles Mingus click HERE.

- Mar. 16 – 18. (Fri. – Sun.)  Chuck Loeb Quartet. Guitarist Loeb celebrates the release of his CD, Plain and Simple, hewing to the title with a program of lively, hard swinging music, baked by the stellar ensemble of  Mitchel Forman, keyboards, Lionel Cordew, drums and Eric Marienthal, saxophones. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Johnny Mandel

- Mar. 17. (Sat.) Johnny Mandel Big Band. One of the true treasures of contemporary American music – reaching from jazz to film to song and beyond – Mandel makes one of his too rare club appearance, leading a band of all-stars in a program that will be filled with familiar melody and irresistible rhythm.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 17. (Sat.)  Spectral Scriabin. Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton enliven composer Alexander Scriabin’s desire to blend the spectrum of colors with the full panorama of musical pitches.  The performance includes excerpts from Scriabin’s Poeme Languide in B Major and the Feuillet d’Album in F-sharp Major.  The Broad Stage.    (310) 434-3200.

San Francisco

Dave Grisman

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The Dave Grisman Quartet.  Mandolinist Grisman has been one of the primary shapers of contemporary acoustic music for decades. And he’s still finding new expressive methods – currently with a group that includes bassist Jim Kerwin, flutist Matt Eakle, percussionist George Marsh and guitarist Grant GordiYoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- Mar. 18. (Sun.)  The Uri Caine Trio. Mention an area of musical expression – from early classical to contemporary electronics to staright ahead jazz –  and pianist/composer  Caine has been there at one time or another.  His current interest focuses on his acoustic jazz piano trio, with John Hebert, bass and Ben Perowsky, drums.  The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season Event.     (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

Stanley Jordan

- Mar. 15 – 18.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Stanley Jordan.  Solo guitar.  The master of the tap-on style of jazz guitar playing Jordan is always at his best in a solo setting that allows his improvisational imagination to roam freely.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

- Mar. 13 – 18.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Heath Brothers.  Jazz history comes alive when Jimmy Heath, saxophones, Albert “Tootie” Heath, drums get together to recall the high points of their decades of jazz prominence.  They’ll be backed by Jeb Patton, piano and David Wong, bass.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- Mar. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  Eddie Palmieri.  The veteran pianist/composer/bandleader celebrates  his 75th birthday.  A musical pioneer virtually from the time of his appearance on the scene in the ‘50s, Palmieri has been one of the principal creative forces in the growth of Latin jazz.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Mira Awad and Noa (Achinoam Nini)

- Mar. 15. (Thurs. )  Noa and Mira.  Israeli singers Noa (Achinoam Nini) and Mira Awad are superb artists, dedicated to peaceful coexistence in their country.  Singing in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Israel’s top Jewish (Noa) and Arab (Mira) singer/songwriters perform together on behalf of the Abraham Fund.      The Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center. (212) 258-9800.

Boston

Mar. 17. (Sat.) Betty Buckley.  Tony Award winner (for her role in Cats), Buckley also has a resume listing performances reaching from Broadway musicals to film, television and recordings.  And she is especially compelling when she’s in an up close and personal night club setting, bringing utter believability to every musical story she tells.    The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

London

Iain Mackenzie

Mar. 18. (Sun.)  Iain Mackenzie & Swing City.  Mackenzie, one of the U.K.’s favorite jazz singers uses his strong baritone and brisk sense of swing to carry the torch for the vocal tradition of Mel Torme, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra and more.  He’ll be backed by the solid drive of the eight piece Swing City band.  He’ll do a pair of matinee shows – at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Milan

Mar. 15. (Thurs.)  Miroslav Vitous.  Czech-born Vitous was one of the ground breaking acoustic bassists of the ‘70s, often grouped with the likes of Scott Lafaro, Dave Holland and others. Emphasizing his compositional interests in recent years, he makes one of his rare club appearances.  He’ll perform with Robert Bonisolo, saxophone and Aydin Esen, piano.  Blue Note Milan.    02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

Mar. 14 – 16.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Billy Childs Quartet. Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his Chamber Ensemble performances and his role in Chris Botti’s band to stretch out with the world class companionship of Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, Scott Colley, bass and Brian Blade, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5484-0088.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 20 – 26

September 21, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Sept. 21. (Tues.)  Further. Featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. The music of the Grateful dead still lives, as Lesh and Weir, with an all star band take the classics “further” out.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

- Sept. 21. (Tues.) John Pisano’s Guitar Night. Pisano teams up for an evening of duets with the guitarist Frank Sinatra loved — Ron Anthony. Bassist John Belzaguy keeps the rhythm together.  Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 22. (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman.  “Hot Lips” returns with another display of Kellerman’s entertaining way with a song.  Andy Langham’s piano and arrangements provide the backing.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 23. (Thurs.) Denise Donatelli.  Her enchanting voice and intuitive way with a song are rapidly elevating Donatelli to the highest levels in the crowded field of female jazz vocalists.   Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

Debbie Reynolds

- Sept. 23 – Oct. 3. (Starting Thurs.)  Debbie ReynoldsAlive & Fabulous. The title tells it all.  MGM’s hottest musical property from the ‘50s still knows how to light up a stage. The El Portal Theatre, North Hollywood.   (818) 508-4200.

- Sept. 24. (Fri.)  Kristin Korb.  Versatile bassist/singer Korb supports her new CD, In the Meantime with a free performance and two bands: Llew Mathews and Steve Barnes in the first set; Bruce Forman and Aaron Serfaty in the second.  LACMA.  (323) 857-6000.

- Sept. 24. (Fri.) Phil  Ranelin and Tribe Renaissance.  Trombonist Ranelin and his players apply their own unique mainstream sound and style to a musically stimulating encounter with the veteran trumpeter Marcus BelgraveThe Culver Club at the Radisson.   (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

- Sept. 24. (Fri.)  Willie Nelson & Family. The one and only Willie performs selections from his latest CD, Country Music. Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses open the show.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

- Sept. 24. (Fri.)  Doug Webb.  One of the Southland’s most popular go-to saxophonists, Webb explores the nocturnal selections on his latest CD, MidnightVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 24. (Fri.)  Babatunde Lea Quintet.  With Patrice Rushen, Ernie Watts, Gary Brown and Dwight Trible.  African, Cuban,, Caribbean and South American rhythms are blended into an irresistibly appealing jazz feast by Lea’s world class ensemble. Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Westchester.  (310) 670-4777.

Dave Liebman

- Sept. 24 & 25. (Fri. & Sat.)  Dave Liebman. Saxophonist – and 2011 Recipient of the NEA Masters of Jazz Award – brings his New York Quartet, with guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Marko Marcinko and bassist Tony Marino to a rare Southland club engagement.  Don’t miss this one.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 24 & 25. (Fri. & Sat.)  BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet.  They’ve been performing traditional creole, cajun and zydeco music since the mid’’70s, and they’re still utterly compelling.  On Friday at McCabe’s. (310) 828-4497.  On Sat. in a free concert with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Mardi Gras Indians. at Orange County Great Park.  (949) 854-4646.

- Sept. 25. (Sat.) Sound of Music Singalong. It’s the ultimate singalong, complete with a giant screen to keep everyone on the same beat in the same scene.  There’ll be a pre-show parade for audience members courageous enough to wear costumes.The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

Charles Lloyd

- Sept. 25. (Sat.) Charles Lloyd. Saxophonist/flutist Lloyd, one of the true – if sometimes under-appreciated – originals to emerge from the post-Coltrane era, performs selections from his new CD, Mirror, with the world class backing of pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.   Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  Nate Holden Performing Arts Center.   (310) 271-9039.

- Sept. 25. (Sat.)  Kris Kristofferson.  A solo acoustic show from the Grammy-winning Kristofferson, one of the stellar talents of the singer/songwriter era .  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  http://www.cerritoscenter.com (562) 918-8501.  Also Sept. 26. (Sun.) at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks.   (805) 449-2700.

- Sept. 25. (Sat.)  Symphonic Jazz Orch.  A far too-rare performance by the 67 person SJO, performing jazz, Brazilian music, soul music, classical music and a few world premieres.  With guest stars George Duke, Luciana Souza and Raul Midon. Conducted by Mitch Glickman.  Host for the evening is comedian Tommy DavidsonRoyce Hall. (310) 876-8130.

- Sept. 25. (Sat.)  Fiesta Mexicana VIIISones, Bailes y Cantares. A colorful evening celebrating the rich folkloric music and dance of Mexico.  Among the groups performing – Tamborazo Pancho Villa and Trio Jacaranda.   Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

- Sept. 26. (Sun.)  Red Holloway and Plas JohnsonBubba Jackson hosts.  KJAZZ Sunday Champagne Brunch. The Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. h

- Sept. 26. (Sun.)  17th Annual Brazilian Summer Festival. The spirit of Brazil has been vividly alive in these Summer Festival events for nearly two decades.  And Sunday night will be no exception, with a spectacular performance by the 23-member percussion and dance ensemble Olodum, the group that created samba reggae.  Opening the performance, Brasilidade Samba and Pagode show combine body-moving pagode and samba rhythms with a coterie of stunning Brazilian dancers.  Ford Amphitheater.   (323) 461-3673.

San Francisco

George Wein

- Sept. 20 & 21. (Mon. & Tues.)  George Wein and the Newport All-StarsAn Evening of Conversation and Jazz. The inventor of the outdoor jazz festival displays his chops as a pianist and as an entertaining, anecdote-filled conversationalist. Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

- Sept. 21. (Tues.) Fred Hersch and Nancy King.  Pianist Hersch and singer King, A pair of he jazz world’s most consistently inventive, musically adventurous artists, find common musical ground.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

- Sept. 22 & 23. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Charles Lloyd New Quartet.  Saxophonist/flutist Lloyd, one of the true – if sometimes under-appreciated – originals to emerge from the post-Coltrane era, performs selections from his new CD, Mirror, with the world class backing of pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

- Sept. 23 – 26. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The McCoy Tyner All-Stars. “All-Stars” is precisely the right title, with Roy Hargrove, trumpet, John Patitucci, bass and Willie Jones III, drums on stage with the ever-stellar Tyner.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Geri Allen

- Sept. 24 – 26. (Fri. – Sun.)  Fri. – Sun.)  Geri Allen: Tribute to Eric Dolphy. Allen has assembled the right collection of players for a long overdue tribute to one of jazz’s most remarkable innovators — Oliver Lake, alto sax, Don Byron, bass clarinet, Dwayne Dolphin, bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Sept. 21 – 25. (Tues. – Sat. )  “Coltrane Revisited’ Joe Lovano, Steve Kuhn, Lonnie Plaxico and Andrew Cyrille.  Combine Lovano’s affection for Coltrane with Kuhn’s remembrances of having worked with Coltrane, add the solid bass and drum work of Plaxico and Cyrille, and expect a musically energizing evening.  Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

- Sept. 21 – 26. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet. He comes from noble lineage, but the most intriguing aspect of Coltrane’s saxophone work is the way he has shaped it into a style which is uniquely, creatively his own.  Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

Sept. 23 – 26. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Taylor Eigsti Trio with singer Becca Stevens.  A former child jazz prodigy, now impressively in his mid-‘20s, Eigsti displays his versatility with his own group, with singer Stevens and with special guests Julian Lage, guitar (Thurs.), singer Gretchen Parlato and pianist Gerald Clayton (Sun.).  Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

- Sept. 24. (Fri.)  Mike Melvoin Trio.  L.A.’s master jazz pianists hits the Big Apple with his favorite New York rhythm team, bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Bill GoodwinKitano.   (212) 885-7119.


Picks of the Week: June 1 – 6

May 31, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 1. (Tues.) Guitar Night. John Pisano, Barry Zweig. John Belzaguy.  A pair of veteran guitarists – each with an overflowing resume of memorable appearances – have a typical Guitar Night jam with the solid backing of bassist Belzaguy.   Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Lisa Hilton

- June 1. (Tues.) Lisa Hilton.  Described as a “lioness of jazz” by JazzReview magazine, Hilton is about to release her 12th U.S. recording, Nuance. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.  On Saturday, June 5, Hilton will also give an onstage interview and performance for visually-impaired students from Junior Blind America at the Grammy Museum.  The appearance is part of her continuing efforts to bring music to the visually impaired in Los Angeles, Boston and New York.

- June 2. (Wed.)  Austin Peralta/Javier Santiago Project.  Pianist Peralta had two CDs released in Japan by the age of 16.  Approaching his 20th birthday, the talented young player – the son of legendary skateboarder and film director Stacy Peralta – shows off his wares amid the simmering rhythms of the Javier Santiago Project.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- June 2 & 3. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Partch: Even Wild Horses.  Harry Partch was such an original musical thinker that he re-imagined the concept of musical pitch intervals, then created an array of instruments designed to play those intervals.  John Schneider continues his superb survey of Partch’s extraordinary music with Even Wild Horses–Dance Music for an Absent Drama and Cloud Chambe. Also on the program: Lou Harrison‘s Canticle #3, the West Coast debut of Anne LeBaron‘s Southern Ephemera, and Madeline Tourtelot‘s MiRotate the Body in All Its Planes REDCAT.  (213) 237-2800.

Mike Lang

- June 4. (Fri.) Mike Lang Trio.  PianistLang’s far-ranging career reaches from backing Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald to performing on more than 2,000 film scores.  But here’s a rare opportunity to experience his own music, up close and personal. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- June 4. (Fri.)  Calabria Foti.  Blessed with a rich, multi-hued voice, Foti enhances it with impressive musicality and an engaging sense of phrasing.  The Back Room At Henri’s.   (818) 346-5582.

- June 4. (Fri.)  Sal Marquez with the Pat Senatore Trio.  One of the Southland’s premiere trumpeters, Marguez has found a unique pathway for himself, somewhere between the lyricism of Miles Davis and the fire of Freddie Hubbard.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- June 4. (Fri.)  Bern.  Drummer Bernie Dresel leads his gang of funk and groove driven instrumenalists and singers through the music of Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Prince, the Beatles and beyond.  Vitello’s. m (818) 769-0905.

- June 4 & 5. (Fri. & Sat. )  Sara Gazarek.  Still on the rise, Gazarek has all the qualities that make a prime jazz artist.  She’s won a Down Beat Student Music Award, and hit the top 10 in Billboard jazz charts with her first album.  But she’s still not receiving the full attention that her finely honed talents deserve.  The Café Metropol.

Rita Moreno

- June 5. (Sat.) Rita Moreno.  She completely inhabited the role of Maria in the film version of West Side Story, winning an Academy Award for her work.  And that was only one of the accomplishments in a career that has also produced an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony, as well.  Moreno doesn’t do club dates often, so don’t miss this rare opportunity to see a legendary entertainer in action.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- June 5. (Sat.) Rickey Woodard with the John Heard Trio.  L.A.’s had more than its share of impressive saxophonists over the years.  And Woodard belongs in the very top echelon of that extraordinary group.  Always a pleasure to hear, he’s at his best performing with bassist Heard and his group in the cozy setting of Charlie O’s.    (818) 994-3058.

- June 5. (Sat.)  Grant Geissman.  Busy, versatile guitarist Geissman celebrates Cool Man Cool, the latest in his long string of entertaining recordings.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- June 5. (Sat.)  Gary Lucas solo acoustic. The Grammy-nominated veteran of Captain Beefheart has been described by Rolling Stone as “one of the best and most original guitarists in America.”  And that’s a reasonable description for a musician who’s played with both Leonard Bernstein and Lou Reed (among others).  McCabes. (310) 828-4497.

- June 6. (Sun.)  Graham Dechter and the Adam Schroeder Quartet.  Dechter’s guitar and Schroeder’s baritone sax make for one of the more unique timbral sounds in jazz.  Add to that the sturdy swing capabilities of both players, and expect an evening of high energy.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- June 6. (Sun.)  Element Band.  This entertaining, eclectic ensemble is a living definition of the phrase “World Music.”  Performing in Armenian, French, Greek, Spanish, English, Arabic, Portuguese, Italian, Bulgarian and Farsi, they offer a little something for almost every ethnic or musical taste.  Guest star Italian singer Giovanna Gattuso adds her own elegant touch to the proceedings.  The Ford Amphitheatre. (323) 461-3673

Highlight……………………………………………………………

- June 6. (Sun.)  “Playboy Jazz in Warner Park.” The build-up to the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl on June 12 & 13 continues with another free Playboy community event.  Although the Warner concerts only began a couple of years ago, they’ve already become one of the early Summer’s most popular jazz events.  And the price is right.  This year’s program features four time Grammy nominated singer Oleta Adams, keyboardist Lao Tizer, master jazz trumpeter Sal Marquez, and the Calabasas High School Jazz Band (one of the 15 finalists in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington CompetitionPlayboy Jazz in Warner Park.   (310) 450-1173.

San Francisco

- June 1 & 2. (Tues. & Wed.)  Jane Monheit. Always one of the most gorgeous voices in jazz, Monheit is also an original jazz stylist, approaching everything she sings with a unique combination of rhythmic swing and lyrical imagination. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- June 1 & 2. (Tues. & Wed.)  Pat Martino.  Guitarist Martino has essentially had to learn to play the guitar twice, as the result of a near-fatal brain aneurysm in 1980.  But he’s done it superbly, firmly establishing his position as one of jazz’s finest veteran artists.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

John Handy

- June 3. (Thurs.)  John Handy. Forty-five years after his remarkable performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival made him a highly visible jazz figure, Handy – who has also had a long career as an educator – continues to be a an eminently listenable alto saxophonist.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- June 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun)  Dave Holland Quintet.  Bassist Holland’s interests have taken him in all directions – in recent years with a big band as well as a little big band.  This time, he’s back to basics, with a quintet that includes the all-star line-up of saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibist Steve Nelson, and drummer Nate Smith. Yoshi’s Oakland.(510) 238-9200.

- June 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun.) Dr. John & the Lower 911. One of the music world’s true originals, Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) has been one of the irrepressible symbols of New Orleans for decades.  And he’s still going strong, winning a Grammy last year for “City That Care Forgot.” Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

- June 1 – 5. (Tues. – Sat.)  Stacey Kent.  Wisely focusing her career upon international audiences, Kent has achieved visibility reaching beyond that of many of her contemporaries.  Her latest album, Raconte-Moi, sung in French underscores her global outreach.  Birdland.   581-3080.

- June 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jacky Terrasson Trio. French/American pianist Terrasson – well-regarded since he won the 1993 Thelonious Monk Piano Competition – celebrates the release of his latest album, Push. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

- June 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dee Dee Bridgewater. Her recordings are always a pleasure to hear, and the latest — Eleanor Fagan: To Billie With Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater – is an extraordinary Billie Holiday tribute.  But Bridgewater in person is even more unique, more dynamic.  This is one to place on your “Don’t Miss” list.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

Washington, D.C.

- June 1 – 13.  D.C. Jazz Festival. It was originally titled the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival.  But whatever the name, this is one of the early Summer’s most impressive assemblages of all-star talent.  Among the major names:  Claudio Roditi, Roberta Flack, Eddie Palmieri, Kenny Barron, Paquito D’Rivera, Regina Carter, Roberta Gambarini, Roy Hargrove, and more.  The D.C. Jazz Festival.


Live Jazz: Bill Cunliffe’s Imaginacion Quartet at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

March 14, 2010

By Don Heckman

Bill Cunliffe is a musical adventurer.  His CDs, as well as his live performances reach out in all directions, challenging his pianistic and compositional skills with a compelling range of genres and instrumentations.

On Saturday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. he led his “Imaginación Quartet” in a group of Latin-jazz oriented selections from his Imaginación album.  But he elected, even here, to explore the music with a group that differed from the horns and rhythm orientation of the album.  Working with bassist John Belzaguy, drummer Jimmy Branly and percussionist Scott Breadman, Cunliffe pared the music down to its basics.  And the results were enthralling.

Bill Cunliffe's Imaginacion Quartet at Vibrato Grill Jazz...etc.

The program actually began slowly.  Although the first number, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave,” simmered with the rhythms of bossa nova, and a pair of following pieces by Joe Henderson and Miles Davis added some dynamic contemporary jazz energy, Vibrato’s houseful of conversational diners remained largely out of sync with the music.  But when Cunliffe dipped into some selections from the Imaginación album – the Coots & Gillespie standard “You Go To My Head,” an original titled “El Optimista” and Irving Berlin’s classic “Heat Wave” – the quartet came to life with irresistible rhythmic vigor and creative ingenuity.

Cunliffe was at the center of the music, moving effortlessly from rhythmic tumbaos and montunas to lyrical boleros and superheated sambas.  But, beyond his stylistic versatility, it was his musicality – deeply linked to his ability to improvise in a way that took his lines into new areas without losing touch with their roots – that made every one of his solos into a compelling musical excursion.

He was solidly backed by his associates.  Belzaguy was both a sturdy rhythmic foundation and a consistently inventive soloist.  Branly – as he always does – played his standard drum kit with an ear for timbres and textures that elude many jazz drummers.  And Breadman’s percussion contributions – moving slyly from congas and bongos to shakers and tambourine – kept the Latin jazz rhythms cooking.

Cunliffe ended the set with a hard swinging, bebop-meets-Afro-Cuban rendering of “How High the Moon,” tossing in a quick romp through “Ornithology,” the bebop line based on the song’s chord changes, for good measure.  It was, altogether, a scintillating display of the musical versatility that brought Cunliffe a Grammy last month for his equally adept Best Instrumental Arrangement of a medley of music from West Side Story.

On April 17, he’ll display more of his far-ranging skills, leading a 17-piece big band in a performance of his original compositions and arrangements at Vitello’s in Studio City.  And on May 2, Cunliffe will lead a seven-piece band in a free Playboy Jazz performance at the Beverly Hills Civic Center Plaza.

Photo by Adrienne Tripp


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