Picks of the Week: January 8 – 12

January 8, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Jan. 8. (Wed.) Jim Cox Trio. Pianist Cox has long been one of the Southland’s first call pianists and arrangers. Here he is, on his own, backed by bassist Domenic Genova and drummer John Ferraro. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti

- Jan. 8 & 9. (Wed. & Thurs.) Laura Benanti. Tony Award-winning Broadway star Benanti starred in last year’s NBC-TV production of The Sound of Music. This week, she celebrates the release of her album, In Search of the Right Kind of Attention. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 9. (Thurs.) Frank Petrilli Quartet.The accordion is very much alive and swinging in the hands of the gifted Petrilli. He’s backed by the equally stellar playing of John Chiodini, guitar, Pat Senatore, bass and Enzo Todesco, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Tom Wopat

Tom Wopat

- Jan. 10. (Fri.) Jan. 10. (Fri.) Tom Wopat.  Actor/singer Wopat’s busy career reaches from his starring role in the hit TV series The Dukes of Hazard to prominent appearances in Broadway musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun.  But his warm baritone and buoyant rhythms are also well heard in recordings — most recently, I’ve Got Your Number – showcasing his jazz-tinged interpretations.  Rockwell Table and Stage.  (323) 669-1550.

- Jan. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic performs a gripping program of Dvorak and Beethoven. Edo de Waart conducts Symphony No. 9 (New World) with violinist Augustin Hadelich soloing in the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

Lee Ritenour

Lee Ritenour

- Jan. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.) Lee Ritenour. He’s a guitarist for all seasons, earning Ritenour the nickname of “Captain Fingers. And in this three night run, he’s surrounded by a line up of all-star guests. On Friday and Sunday: Patrice Rushen, Abe Laboriel and Sonny Emory. And on Saturday: Dave Grusin, Ernie Watts and John Beasley. Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 11. (Sat.) Jennifer Logan and Bryan Pezzone. “A Different Quiet.”The title should be right on target for this intriguing ensemble, with Bezzone, piano, Logan, electro-acoustics, Tim Emmons, bass and MB Gordy, percussion. Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 11. (Sat.) Tom Peterson. Saxophonist/woodwind player Peterson, one of Minnesota’s many gifts to jazz, balances first rate playing with a busy career as a producer, educator, clinician and more. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Lenore Raphael

Lenore Raphael

- Jan. 11. (Sat.)  Lenore Raphael Quartet. Pianist Raphael’s briskly rhythmic style has earned her the title of “Queen of Swing.”  And with Howard Alden, guitar, Chris Colangelo, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums, she’ll fully justify the label.  She’ll also play selections from the Oscar Peterson Songbook and share anecdotes about Peterson himself.   Jazz at the Radisson LAX.  (310) 670-9000.

San Francisco

- Jan. 10 – 12 (Fri. – Sun.) Tower of Power. The horn-driven funk, blues, soul and jazz of Tower of Power reach back to the ‘sixties, and they’re still going strong. Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Jeff Lorber

Jeff Lorber

- Jan 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.) Jeff Lorber Fusion. Keyboardist Lorber, one of the innovative artists of the crossover and fusion era. His all star band includes bassist Brian Bromberg, saxophonist Patrick Lamb and drummer Gary Novak. Jazz Alley (206) 441-9729.

Washington D.C.

- Jan. 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.) Gerald Albright. Blues Alley. http://www.bluesalley.com/events.cfm (202) 337-4141. Saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Albright is a versatile master of styles reaching across the gamut of contemporary jazz styles. Blues Alley. (202) 337-4141

New York City

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli

- Jan. 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.) The John Pizzarelli Quartet with special guest Jane Monheit. A pair of the contemporary jazz world’s finest vocalists team up for a scintillating tour through the pleasures of the Great American Songbook. The Blue Note (212) 475-8592.

Paris

- Jan. 10. (Fri.) Naturally 7. There’s nothing quite like the remarkable a cappella vocals of Naturally 7, who call their rich-textured, mesmerizing performances “Vocal Play.” New Morning +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.) The Steen Rasmussen Quartet Plays Jobim. Brazilian sounds at their finest come to Denmark in the capable hands of Steen Rasmussen, (piano), Josefine Cronholm (vocals), Fredrik Damsgaard (bass ) and Alfonso Corrêa, (drums, percussion). Jazzhus Montmartre +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Tania Maria

Tania Maria

Jan. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.) Tania Maria Trio. Pianist/singer Maria is one of the world’s most engaging ambassadors of Brazilian music. Blue Note Milano +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- Jan.12. (Sun.) Edmar Castaneda and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. It’s a fascinating musical encounter, blending the far-ranging harp music of Castaneda and the stillunder-appreciated jazz piano of Rubalcaba. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Radio: Further Thoughts About KJAZZ

June 26, 2013

By Norton Wright

Some final words about the KJazz benefit concert at Disney Hall providing much needed financial funding for KJazz Radio, the station which in various incarnations has been serving the southern California listenership for over 30 years.

Here are ten, perhaps little known facts about the station provided by Station Manager, Stephanie Levine –

1. The KJazz annual operating budget is just under $2 million and is judged to be a very efficient operation given its 24/7 programming and its live DJ staff of 10… Jazz radio stations in NYC and other areas have higher operating budgets.

2. As a listener supported station, KJazz raises about 85% to 90% of its annual operating budget from its audience donors via three pledge drives per year, primarily in Southern California but also around the nation and world.

3. But even with that strong listener support and some modest grants, the station often runs at an annual shortfall of $200,000 to $300,000 — that shortfall being covered by the generous financial contributions of Saul Levine, the station’s General Manager…Incidentally, Mr. Levine takes no salary from KJazz.

4 In the year 2007, Mr. Levine stepped in to reorganize the station and brought it back from the financial straits that threatened its closure, all on behalf of the licensee of KKJZ -= the California State University, Long Beach Foundation, for whom the station is operated.

5. In any given week, the station’s Arbitron Cumulative Audience is over 458,000 listeners making KJazz the most listened to full-time jazz station in the nation. The station also has a large number of listeners on the Internet – approximately 100,000 listeners in any given month.

6. A typical KJazz listener listens to the station’s programming, off and on each day, for about 1 hour.

7. KJazz daily play lists of tunes are particularly organized to provide a satisfying jazz experience for that listener who switches between radio news, traffic & weather reports, and other programs and tunes in to KJazz for that 1 hour each day. The reason that the station often repeats the same tune in the course of a week’s programming is to increase the chances that its typical listener will catch some of his/her favorite jazz tunes in the course of a day’s or week’s listening.

8. KJazz DJs make suggestions about the play lists for their shows, but the playlists for the weekday DJ’s shows are organized under the direction of General Manager Saul Levine. The music in specialty programs is determined by the programs’ hosts, e.g. John Pizzarelli’s Radio Deluxe, Ramsey Lewis’ Legends of Jazz, Bob Parlocha, et al.

9. Last Saturday night’s First Ever KJazz Summer Benefit Concert raised substantial funding, and the station has already received considerable positive feedback from donors asking that the event be made an annual one.

10. Whenever you are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to KJazz, the station’s telephone pledge line is (800) 767-3688.

* * * * * * * *

As noted above, sometimes KJazz Radio is criticized for what a steady, all-day listener considers too many repeats of the same tune in the course of a day’s or a week’s programming. But it’s helpful to remember that the station’s daily play lists are designed to please that listener who gets to listen to the station for only 1 hour a day and wants a chance to hear some of his/her favorite tunes during that one hour. For the steady, all-day listener, it may be an occasional drag to hear the same tune several times a week on KJazz, but do all-day listeners really object to hearing some jazz classics played two or three times in the course of a seven-day week?

Sometimes criticism arises regarding KJazz’s play lists that emphasize modern jazz standards rather than the new work of up-and-coming artists or those newcomers pushing the jazz envelope. Yup, I personally would like to hear  KJazz play more of today’s new and super talented artists (e.g. Jason Moran, Halie Loren, Jenny Scheinman, Graham Dechter, Nik Bartsch, et al.) — and KJazz may already be leaning in that direction. Given that the station chose to open last Saturday night’s Benefit Concert with Harvey Mason’s new, fusion sextet, “Chameleon,” much to the delight of the audience, maybe those kinds of successful experiments will prompt the station to schedule a weekly hour or two focusing on new jazz talents — or at least infuse its weekly playlists with more of the jazz scene’s promising newcomers. Wasn’t it Dizzy who said, “With the eating, comes the appetite.” Or was it, “If you play it, they will come.”

All of which is to suggest that, in today’s America, there is occasionally the tendency to make perfection the enemy of the good. KJazz may not be perfect, but it is very good station, and in return for a contribution of modest dollars a year, we get some very heavy and satisfying jazz programming.

Congratulations and thanks are due to General Manager Saul Levine and his lean, hard-working KJazz staff who are keeping the jazz torch burning in southern California, across America, and around the world.

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


Picks of the Week: Jan. 30 – Feb. 3

January 31, 2013

By the iRoM Staff

Los Angeles

Don Williams

Don Williams

- Jan. 31. (Thurs.) The Don Williams Group.  Percussionist Williams, a busy studio musician (not the country singer), takes a break to lead an all-star collective featuring saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Carl Saunders, trombonist Bill Reichenbach, pianist Christian Jacob and bassist Dave StoneVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 31. (Thurs.) The Miro Quartet.  The award-winning Miro quartet performs a program dedicated to three far-ranging Beethoven string quartets: Op. 18, , Op. 95 and Op. 131.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

- Jan. 31. (Thurs.) Frank Petrilli.  A protégé of the late jazz accordionist Frank Marocco, Petrilli also emphasizes the rich musical potential of an instrument not always appreciated for what it can do.  He’s backed by guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Enzo TedescoVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.)  Stanley Jordan Trio.  One of the true jazz guitar innovators, Jordan has spent a great deal of time as a solo performer, emphasizing his tapping technique.  But here he performs in a more musically diverse trio setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis

- Feb. 2. (Sat.) An Evening with Branford Marsalis. One of the high visibility members of the high achieving Marsalis family of New Orleans, saxophonist Marsalis makes a rare Southland appearance, backed by pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin FaulknerThe Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

San Francisco

- Feb. 3. (Sun.)  Vieux Farka Toure.  The son of the great Malian guitarist/singer Ali Farka Toure, the younger Toure continues to carry the torch for a contemporary blend of blues, funk, rock and traditional rhythms.  Also on the bill, American blues artist Markus JamesYoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

Seattle

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 3. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dr. John and his All-New Band.  There’s never a boring moment when Dr. John leads his new band in a definitive display of the rich, rhythmic gumbo of New Orleans music at its best.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 2. (Thurs. – Sat.)  John Pizzarelli Quartet. Always engaging, guitarist/singer Pizzarelli has done a convincing job of following in the footsteps of such iconic artists as Nat “King” Cole, George Benson and others, while maintaining his own appealing style.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 2. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Patricia Barber Quartet. Pianist/songwriter Barber has thoroughly established herself as one of the jazz world’s rare singer/songwriters. Click HERE to read a current iRoM review of Patricia Barber’s new CD, Smash.   Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Feb. 1. (Fri.) Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with the Wayne Shorter Quartet.  A classic evening of far-ranging music, one of many scheduled in various parts of the world to celebrate Shorter’s 80th birthday in August.  The program features three Shorter original works, along with Beethoven’s Overture: Creatures of Prometheus, and Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 3.  Carnegie Hall.  (212) 247-7800.

Berlin

Lily Dahab

Lily Dahab

- Jan. 31 – Feb. 1  (Thurs. – Fri.)  Lily Dahab.  Argentine singer Dahab has lived in Berlin, Madrid and Barcelona.  Along the way, she performed as a jazz singer and a musical theatre artist, defining one of contemporary world music’s most uniquely interpretive styles. A-Trane.    030/313/25 50.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 7 – 13

January 8, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ariana Savalas

Ariana Savalas

- Jan. 9.  (Wed.)  Ariana Savalas and Corky Hale.  Yes, the name “Savalas” is familiar; Ariana is the daughter of the veteran actor Telly Savalas.  But as a singer, she has an appealing style that is uniquely her own.  She’s backed by the musically supportive accompaniment of pianist/harpist Hale. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  Betty Bryant.  Singer/pianist Betty Bryant gives another seminar in jazz piano and vocals, as entertaining and swinging as she is musically inventive.  H.O.M.E.  Beverly Hills.   (310) 271-4663.

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  John Beasley.  Pianist/composer Beasely begins a January residency at the Blue Whale, starting with a duo with the unique vocalist Dwight TribleThe Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.) Gerald Wilson Orchestra. At 94, arranger/composer/bandleader Wilson still brings his Orchestra vividly to life everytime he gives the down beat on one of his memorable arrangements.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Amadeus Leopold

Amadeus Leopold

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.)  Amadeus Leopold.  The brilliant young Korean violinist Leopold – whose original name was Hahn-Bin – applies his technical prowess and emotional imagination to a uniquely imaginative view of the classical repertoire.  CAP UCLA.  Royce Hall.

- Jan. 10. (Thurs.)  Ibrahim Maalouf Quintet. (Concert cancelled due to visa problems.) Lebanese trumpeter Maalouf effectively blends Arabic traditional sounds and rhythms with contemporary jazz funk and roots rock.  Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 11. (Fri.)  Sinne Eeg.  Highly praised Danish singer Eeg performs with the stellar backing of Larry Koonse, Peter Erskine, Darek Oles and Roger NeumannVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 11. (Fri.)  Los Lobos. The multiple Grammy-winning band from East L.A. continues to continue to find linkages between Chicano rock, Tex-Mex, r&b and traditional Hispanic styles.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan

- Jan. 11 – 13. (Fri. – Sun.)  Lainie Kazan.  Actress/singer Kazan’s checkered career reaches from understudying Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl to dozens of high visibility film roles.  But she’s also a uniquely gifted singer with a lush sound and a gift for richly emotional interpretations of the book of standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  Steve Ross.  Puttin’ on the Ritz.  “The Music of Fred Astaire.  Singer Ross presents a cabaret show to remember, with some of the greatest songs from film musicals.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Curtis Stigers

Curtis Stigers

- Jan. 13. (Sun.)  Curtis Stigers & His Band.  Saxophonist/singer Stigers has spent most of his career emphasizing his vocal skills, producing some memorable, jazz-tinged, charting songs since the release of his self-titled, platinum debut recording in 1991.  Kirk Douglas Theatre.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 13. (Sun.)  Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour.  The MJF prides itself on the iconic line up of performers for the annual September Festival programs.  And here’s an equally iconic group of artists – Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Lewis Nash, Chris Potter and Ambrose Akinmusire – proudly carrying the MJF banner in the off season.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.   (The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour also performs at the Valley Performing Arts Center on Jan. 23.

San Francisco

Wesla Whitfield

Wesla Whitfield

- Jan. 9. (Wed.)  Wesla Whitfield with the Mike Greensil Trio.  Whitfield has been offering her view of the Great American Songbook for more than three decades, most often with the backing of her husband, pianist Greensil.  Together they provide an irresistible evening of memorable music.Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Jan. 10.  (Thurs.) Janis Ian.  Singer/songwriter Ian made her breakthrough with “Society’s Child” in the mid-‘60s, followed by her Grammy Award-winning “At Seventeen” in the mid-‘70s.  At 81, she’s still going strong.  City Winery.    (212) 608-0555.

- Jan. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  The 2013 NYC Winter Jazzfest.  Six venues around Greenwich Village feature performers such as James Carter, Monty Alexander, Claudia Acuna, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi and numerous others, young and mature.  The Winter Jazzfest.

Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli

Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli

- Jan. 11 – 14. (Fri. – Mon.) “And Then She Wrote.”  With Peter Marshall, Carol Welsman and Denise Donatelli.  Emmy Award-winner singer/actor Marshall has created an entertaining overview of the many memorable songs in the Great American Songbook written by women.  And he couldn’t have chosen a better pair of singers to join him in a delightful evening of music, dance and humor than Juno Award nominee Welsman and Grammy nominee Donatelli.   Click HERE to read an iRoM review of the Los Angeles performance of And Then She Wrote.”  The Metropolitan Room.   (212) 206-0440.

- Jan. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli.  Straighten Up and Fly Right: A Tribute to Nat “King” Cole.  What a great combination: the spirited piano work of Lewis, the lively singing and guitar of Pizzarelli, and the great book of songs associated with Nat Cole.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Washington D.C.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

- Jan. 8. (Tues.)  Grace Kelly.  Korean/American alto saxophonist and singer Kelly, who just turned 20 in 2012, has firmly established herself as one of the gifted jazz artists of her generation.  Blues Alley.     (202) 337-4141.

London

- Jan. 9 & 10.  (Wed, & Thurs.)  Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.  Described in the ‘90s by the New York Times as the “best organ trio of the last decade,” the Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart combination continues to get better and better.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  “A Tribute to Anita O’Day.”   Signe Juhl and the Nikolaj Bentzon 3. Singer Juhl, backed by pianist Bentzon’s prime trio, celebrates the lively musical history of Anita O’Day.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 263 267.

Milan

- Jan. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Tania Maria.  Grammy-nominated Brazilian singer/pianist and composer has been described as Brazil’s finest native jazz artist.  At 64, she continues to produce memorable recordings and live performances.  The Blue Note Milano.     02.6901 6888.


Picks of the Week: Dec 19 – 23

December 19, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Katja Rieckermann

Katja Rieckermann

- Dec. 19 (Wed.)  Katja Rieckermann.  German-born saxophonist Rieckermann has a resume reaching from Rod Stewart and Al Green to Carole King and Randy Newman.  But she’s best heard in her own musical settings, as she will be here.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 19. (Wed.)  Street Corner Renaissance.  A quintet of singers whose age ranges from 50 to 72, singing the sort of lush a cappella harmonies and crisp rhythms that recall the sound of groups such as the Ink Spots and the Chiffons.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 21. (Fri.)  A Swinging Christmas with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Winter solstice (and the end of the world?) arrives with an appropriate evening of jumping and jiving from one of the great Swing revival bands.  Disney Hall.      (323) 850-2000.

Judy Collins

- Dec. 21. (Fri.)  An Evening with Judy Collins.  She’s one of the true originals of pop and folk music, still applying her lovely sound and rich interpretive skills to an appealing collection of songs.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

- Dec. 21 & 22., (Fri. & Sat.)  Rufus and Martha Wainwright Christmas 101 Brother and sister Rufus and Martha celebrate the life of their mother, Kate McGarrigle, with an extraordinary evening of music performed with guest artists Emmylou Harris, Van Dyke Parks and Carrie Fisher.  CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2101.

- Dec. 22. (Sat.)  The Los Angeles Master Chorale.  The superb voices of the L.A. Master Chorale continue their winter’s eves tour of great Christmas music.  Click HERE to read the iRoM review of the LAMC’s recent performance of Bach and Vivaldi.  This time it’s another one of the great classics — Handel’s Messiah.  Disney Hall.       (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 22. (Sat.) Otmaro Ruiz and Bob Sheppard. “Feliz Navidad Latin Night.” Pianist Ruiz and saxophonist/flutist Sheppard team up to celebrate the season in a Latin jazz way.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 22 and 23. (Sat. & Sun.)  Los Angeles Ballet  “The Nutcracker.”  It’s that time of year, when The Nutcracker sets the stage for the holiday season.  And the L.A. Ballet does Tchaikovsky’s classic with great authenticity.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane

- Dec. 23. (Sun.)  Seth MacFarlane with the Ron Jones Influence Jazz Orchestra. He may be best known as the producer and creator of Family Guy. But MacFarlane also prides himself on his ability to sing a song in the classic crooner style of Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, Dean Martin, etc.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400

Chicago

- Dec. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus.  The adventurous trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to redefine the piano jazz trio.  Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Dec. 19 – 22. (Wed. – Sat. )  Freddy Cole.  Yes, there’s a trace of the Cole family (Nat and Natalie) sound in Freddy’s singing, but he uses it in his own appealing style.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Chris Botti

Chris Botti

- Dec. 19 – 23. (Wed. – Sun.)  Chris Botti.  Trumpeter Botti takes a break from his almost incessant traveling for his annual holiday appearance at The Blue Note.  His continuous run of two shows a night is scheduled through Jan. 6.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of last year’s Botti performances at  The Blue Notel   (212) 475-8592.

- Dec. 21 – 23. (Fri. – Sun.)  New York Voices.  More than two decades together, the Voices continue to apply their lush jazz harmonies to a program reaching from pop and folk to songbook standards.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Berlin

- Dec. 21 & 22.   (Fri. & Sat.)  Dwight Trible and the Paul Zauner Sextet.  “Dwight Christmas.”  It’s a punning title, but it’s a good description of what to expect when the vocally imaginative Trible sings a program of holiday tunes.  A-Trane.  030/313 25 50.

Milan

Chiara Civelo

Chiara Civelo

- Dec. 21 & 22.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Chiara Civello. Sicilian singer/guitarist Civello, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, returns to her native country for a holiday celebration of her many talents.  Blue Note Milan.    02.69016888.

Tokyo

- Dec. 19 & 20.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  Maria Schneider Orchestra.  There’s nothing in big band jazz quite like the sounds, the textures and the imagination in the music Schneider writes and arranges for her talented group of players. Tokyo Blue Note.   03-5485-0088.

- Dec,. 21 – 23.  (Fri. – Sun.)  John Pizzarelli.  Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli’s latest album, Double Exposure, finds some unusual connections via medleys of pop songs and jazz lines.  The results are the latest example of Pizzarelli’s imaginative musicality.  Tokyo Blue Note.   03-5485-0088.


Live Jazz: Bonnie Bowden and Bill Jones at Leisure Village, Camarillo

October 19, 2012

By Norton Wright

New to the L.A. jazz scene is the all-singing, intensely swinging, dynamic duo of “Bonnie & Bill.” That’s Grammy-nominated Bonnie Bowden and songster Bill Jones of Fox TV’s Glee staging their own jazz show of over 20 songs backed by Pat Longo’s Hollywood Big Band last weekend at the Leisure Village Auditorium in Camarillo. It’s rare to have a boy-girl twosome singing front and center for an entire show. John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey come to mind, but Bonnie & Bill perform on a larger scale in that they have a gigantor-sounding, big, swing band fueling their singing for over 75-minutes of up-tempos and ballads from the Great American Songbook.

Bonnie Bowden

In the past, it was always an exciting change of pace when a big jazz orchestra brought out a star singer to do one or two numbers in a set. Think of the Stan Kenton band bringing out Chris Connor for “Jeepers Creepers” or Count Basie punctuating his set with Joe Williams wailing “Every Day I Have The Blues”.

What makes the Bonnie Bowden-Bill Jones duo different and unique is that they’re the stars of their show throughout, constantly gracing the stage and leading their big-band pals through jazz vocals at their best.

With vivacity and movie-star looks, Bonnie & Bill kicked off their show with “Ain’t We Got Fun”, segued into “Till The End Of Time” (Bill singing in English, Bonnie countering in Spanish), and Bonnie tagged the medley with “I Love Being Here With You.” Taking a cue from Andrea Marcovicci’s cabaret chats, Bowden introduced her songs with some choice historical tid-bits:

Was it really Dinah Washington who first had the hit, “I Just Found Out About Love And I Like It” (some of us thought it was Deedles and Basie!). Was Doris Day really only 19-years-old when she sang “Sentimental Journey” with the Les Brown Band  — back in 1944! ).

And Bowden paced herself well, swinging with ease through “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You” and “Just Friends” and then wrapping up both with her torrid and signature scatting into the musical stratosphere.

Bill A. Jones

Bill Jones is a Renaissance Man, deftly handling master of ceremonies patter, delivering ballads like “Come Rain Or Come Shine” and  “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (and melding this rendition with a fine trombone solo by the band’s Jack Redmond).  Belting Bobbie Darin-fashion through “Mack The Knife.”   Giving the Longo Band  its own solo on  Sy Oliver’s “Opus One” with powerhouse breaks by trumpet ace Carl Saunders and tenor saxist Dean Roubicek.  And joining Bowden in a well-chosen closing duet of “Something’s Gotta Give” and a rollicking “Just A Gigolo” recalling another dynamic singing duo, Louis Prima and Keely Smith. In addition, Jones was the producer of the show, bringing Pat Longo’s high-energy band to the festivities and adding a giant projection screen adjacent to the proscenium stage to provide close-ups of the performance to all 600 seats in the auditorium.

Though it may be that there are only a few venues in Los Angeles large enough to host the “Bonnie & Bill” show with its big-band entourage, there are markets that enterprising L.A. jazz groups can find if they are willing to foray out to auditoriums, community centers, senior villages, and other locales such as Leisure Village in Camarillo, The American Legion Post in Woodland Hills, The Gardens Of The World in Conejo Valley,  The Arthur Newman Theater in Palm Desert, The Mission Courtyard in San Juan Capistrano, and the like.

HAVE JAZZ, WILL TRAVEL! is the idea.

P.S. Plaudits to bandleader Pat Longo and his Hollywood Big Band all of whom swing with exactitude and passion and who soared right along with “Bonnie & Bill”. The band members are:

Pat Longo, Dr. Thom Mason, Dean Roubicek, Lanny “Pete” Aplanalp, saxophones, Carl Saunders, Jeff Kaye, Ira Pete DeSiena, trumpets, Ira Nepus, Jack Redmond, Robbie Hioki, trombones, Ben DiTosti, electric piano, Jeff Takiguchi, bass, Steve Pemberton drums, Rob Holt, band assistant and roadie.

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

 


Live Jazz: Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli at the Valley Performing Arts Center

May 14, 2012

By Don Heckman

I pushed aside one of my rules Saturday night – the rule that says once a year is enough to review most artists.  When I saw that Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli were performing together at the shiny new Valley Performing Arts Center, I decided to make an exception to the fact that I’d written about both of them well within the past year.  The idea of hearing these two uniquely gifted artists working off each other was too much to resist.

As it turned out, however, they weren’t exactly doing an evening’s performance together.  Each did their own set, with the Monheit/Pizzarelli togetherness of the evening consisting of only three songs.  I”d obviously hoped for more, and the response of the full house crowd suggested that they would have been happy for more, as well.

But there are no complaints about what we got during the brief duo segment: A lovely rendering of “Tonight You Belong To Me,” the duet Monheit sings with Pizzarelli on her new album, Home. A gorgeous vocal by Monheit on Ivan Lins’ “Love Dance,” with Pizzarelli’s guitar providing the rhythm.   And a brisk pairing – backed by the Pizzarelli band – on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

Jane Monheit

Beyond that, the evening consisted, as I’ve already noted, of two individual sets.  And Monheit came close to stealing the show with hers.  Blessed with extraordinary vocal skills, she used them all at the service of her musical storytelling.

On her opening “Old Devil Moon,” she swung briskly with bassist Neal Miner, matching and joining him in phrase after phrase.  Her version of “Look For The Silver Lining,” was a stunning display of musical paraphrase, transforming the original into a unique improvisation.  The same was true of “Stardust,” in which Monheit came up with one brilliantly spontaneous line after another – jazz singing at its finest.

And there was more: A touching “I Wish You Love,” a reading of “Every Time We Say Goodbye” that displayed the full gamut of her gift for far-reaching emotional dynamics.  A jaunty “I Won’t Dance,” recalling her video duet on the same tune with Michal Buble.  And another Brazilian delight – Antonio Carlos Jobim’s soaring “Samba de Avaio.”  All of it supported superbly by her pianist/arranger Michael Kanan, drummer (and husband) Rick Montalbano and bassist Miner.

John Pizzarelli

Pizzarelli’s set overflowed with his characteristic rhythmic buoyancy.  Opening with “Will You Still Be Mine,” he proceeded with a rapid fire romp through the Great American Songbook: “It Wouldn’t Be Make Believe,” “Just You, Just Me” and “Will You Still Be Mine,” often tossing in segments of his high spirited, guitar and voice riffing

`           The balance of the program surveyed material from his new album, Double Exposure, in which he combines seemingly disparate songs into unlikely musical marriages.  Among them, Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” was blended with the standard of the same name.  Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” was musically cut and pasted with Tom Waits’ “Drunk On the Moon.”  And John Lennon’s “I Feel Fine” came together with Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder.”

The result had a certain kind of novelty value, sometimes more than that.  But more often, one simply hoped for one or the other of the two songs within any of the blendings to simply come to life on its own.  Pizzarelli delivered it all with his usual panache.  But – recalling his charming December program at Disney Hall — I kept missing the musical byplay and the witty banter with his wife, the talented Broadway singer, Jessica Molaskey.

A final word about the new Valley Performing Arts Center, which is a stunning addition to the artistic life of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.  Pleasing architecturally, it also offers a large warm and inviting people space inside a stunning marble, tile and glass environment.  Add to that the hall’s excellent acoustics and generously comfortable seating, and one can expect that audiences from the other side of the hill will soon discover the pleasures of this impressive cultural destination.


Picks of the Week: May 9 – 13

May 9, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- May 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Peter Eldridge: Foolish Hearts.  Grammy winning pianist/vocalist Eldridge is joined by bassist Matt Aronoff for an intimate musical excursion through originals and standards.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Gustavo Dudamel

- May 10 – 12. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicGustavo Dudamel conducts a sparkling evening of Mozart (the Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro and the Posthorn Serenade), and a featured appearance by young virtuoso violinist Alina Pogostkina performing Distant Light by Latvian composer Peteris VasksDisney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- May 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Garrett Quintet.  Cutting edge alto saxophonist Garrett makes his musical intentions clear when he says, “Don’t look for me to sound like my last record.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 11. (Fri.)  Danny Janklow.  Rapidly rising jazz alto saxophonist Janklow is backed by solid support from the trio of pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Jimmy BranleyVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- May 12. (Sat.)  Kristin Chenowith.  Emmy and Tony Award winner Chenowith, a Broadway star of the highest voltage, launches her debut world tour with a stop at the Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

John Pizzarelli and Jane Monheit

- May 12 (Sat.)  John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jane Monheit. What a great pairing – the loose, swinging guitar playing and jaunty vocals of Pizzarelli combining perfectly with the gorgeous sound and soaring intimacy of Monheit’s singing.   Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

New York

- May 9 – 12. (Wed. – Sat.)  Steve Kuhn, Steve Swallow and Joey Baron.  There’s a lot of musical history between pianist Kuhn and bassist Swallow, and it all pays off musically with the dynamic addition of drummer Baron.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- May 9 – 13. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big BandPaquito Rivera conducts an assemblage of the Big Apple’s finest jazz talent in a program celebrating the memory and the music of the incomparable Gillespie.  The Blue Note.    (212)  475-8592.

Paula West

- May 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.) Paula West“A Tribute To George Mesterhazy.”  The superb San Francisco-based jazz singer, never fully appreciated for her extraordinary talents, performs in honor of her late accompanist, musical director and close friend.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

London

- May 9 – 12. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Kyle Eastwood Band.  Bassist Eastwood, an impressive talent who seems to improve with every outing, bringing some tough, straight ahead qualities to a listenable contemporary sound.  Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Milan

Ernie Watts

- May 10. (Thurs.)  Ernie Watts Quartet. The saxophone playing jazz pride of Los Angeles displays his considerable talents – on tenor and soprano – with a trio of first rate European players.  The Blue Note Milano.    02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

- May 10 – 12. (Thurs. – Sat.)  STAX!.  The incomparable groove of the famous Stax sound is alive and well in the gifted hands of veterans Steve Cropper, guitar, Duck Dunn, bass and Eddie Floyd, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo. 03-5485-0088.


Live Music: A Jimmy McHugh Celebration at Vitello’s

March 1, 2012

By Don Heckman

The subtitle for this splendid program of song at Vitello’s Wednesday night was “A Salute to Black History Month.”  And both the title and the subtitle were right on target.  The performance was dedicated to selections from the extraordinary song catalog of Jimmy McHugh – who is surely one of the least acknowledged major composers in the Great American Songbook.  And the Black History salute was directly linked via McHugh’s songwriting for Harlem’s 1920’s Cotton Club revues and the all-black Broadway musical, Blackbirds of 1928 (which included one of McHugh’s classics, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”).

John Proulx

Although the real star of the evening was, of course, McHugh, the singing – by pianist/vocalist John Proulx, Sherry Williams and Deana Martin (backed by the sturdy support of bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera) – brought entertaining illumination to the songs.  And it was full testimony to the timeless appeal of McHugh’s works that they provided unique inspiration to the individual styles of each singer.

Proulx, who put the program together, has been emerging as one of the present jazz scene’s rare – too rare – male singer/instrumentalists.  Like John Pizzarelli, his performances are enriched by authentic credibility in both those areas.  “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “I Just Found Out About Love” were delivered with a solid rhythmic groove.  On “Can’t Get Out of This Mood,” Proulx scatted in unison with his piano lines, calling up similarities to Pizzarelli’s jazz and guitar improvisations. “Too Young To Go Steady” had just the right amount of teen-aged angst.  And “Let’s Get Lost” suggested cool, laid-back Chet Baker-inspired phrasing.  (The song was included in Proulx’s Baker tribute album, Baker’s Dozen.)

Sherry Williams

Williams’ honey-rich voice was at its best on a jaunty “Exactly Like You” and a beautifully lyrical reading of the soaring melody McHugh wrote for “Where Are You.”

Proulx and Williams then teamed up for one of the evening’s highlights, a close harmonized “I’m In The Mood For Love” and a rock-tinged “On The Sunny Side of the Street.”

Deana Martin

Special guest Deana Martin, who is McHugh’s goddaughter, added her own, uniquely expressive version of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and a delightful interpretation of the McHugh and Dorothy Fields version of “I Won’t Dance,” recalling the song’s dynamic presence in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers version of Roberta.

That’s a lot of songs for one night club set.  But Jimmy McHugh’s musical accomplishments were so profuse – over 279 songs and five Academy Award nominations — that one could easily mention a dozen of his memorable songs that didn’t make it into the program.

Several members of the McHugh family, including his granddaughter, Judy McHugh Larkin – who initiated the celebration — were present for the performance.  Hopefully, Judy can be encouraged to plan another evening of McHugh’s music, including some of his lesser known but equally listenable songs, for a future program.  May 23, the 108th anniversary of his birth, would be a good date to do it.

Photos by Bob Barry.  To see more of Bob’s Jazzography, click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 28 – Mar. 4

February 28, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Robbins

- Feb. 29. (Wed.)  Carol Robbins. She’s that rare musical combination – a jazz harpist.  And Robbins has brought it off in convincing style, playing with everyone from Frank Sinatra and the Manhattan Transfer to Billy Childs and Dianne Reeves.  This time out, Robbins does it her way. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 29. (Wed.)  Jimmy McHugh Music Celebrates Black History Month.  He doesn’t seem to be mentioned as often as Gershwin, Porter and Kern, but McHugh’s list of contributions to the Great American Songbook is just as impressive.  To mention only  a few: “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “I’m in the Mood For Love” and dozens more.  The McHugh songs will be interpreted by John Proulx, piano and vocals, singers Sherry Williams and Deana Martin (McHugh’s goddaughter), with Chuck Berghofer, bass, Joe LaBarbera, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 1 (Thurs.)  Aaron Serfaty/Otmaro Ruiz Quartet, Drummer Serfaty and keyboardist Ruiz, long-time musical companions, have assembled a new quartet, featuring Catina De Luna, voice/percussion, and Johnathan Richards, bass, blending Brazilian rhythms with a Venezuelan twist.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 1. (Thurs.)  Raya Yarbrough. CD release party.  Singer Yarbrough’s far-reaching musical skills – as a performer, a songwriter, arranger and more — shine through in everything she sings.  She’ll be featuring selections from a new album. Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Oleta Adams

- Mar. 1 – 3 (Thurs. – Sat.)  Oleta Adams.  The evocative, soul-filled voice of Adams has been a memorable experience since her 1991 debut album, Circle of One, with its impassioned single, “Get Here.”  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear her up close and personal. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 2. (Fri.)  Danny Janklow.  Twenty-two year old alto saxophonist Janklow has already been acknowledged by Wynton Marsalis as an outstanding talent, and he’s performed with the likes of Benny Golson, James Moody, and Marsalis, among others.  The gifted young artist displays his skills here in the company of Theo Saunders, piano, Pat Senatore, bass, and Kendall Kay, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Bernadette Peters

- Mar. 3. (Sat.)  An Evening with Bernadette Peters.  Fresh off a six month run of the revived Follies on Broadway, Peters does a solo stint, recalling some of her stellar moments from Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George and others.  The inimitable Peters will no doubt also include something from Follies, as well.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

- Mar. 3. (Sat.)  The Estrada Brothers Latin Jazz Band.  Together for decades, the Estrada Brothers Band has seen some shifting personnel.  But the group’s fundamental ability to bring life, spirit and believability to their view of Latin jazz has continued to get better over the years. Steamer’s.   (714) 871-8800.

San Francisco

- Mar. 3. (Sat.)  Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  The South African choral group made its international breakthrough via their presence on Paul Simon’s Graceland.  Since then, they have established their own credibility, introduced the world to the fascinating choral sounds and musical culture of South Africa, and won three Grammys.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season event. (866) 920-5299.

- Mar. 4. (Sun.)  Liz Story.  One of Windham Hill’s early New Age artists, Story’s piano playing and composing possessed far more compelling musical elements than most of the wallpaper music of the style.  Her current work is even better, finding the compatible territory between classical, jazz, pop and pure contemplative sounds. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Benny Golson

- Feb. 28 & 29. (Tues. & Wed.)  Benny Golson Quartet. Tenor saxophonist and composer of a string of jazz classics, Golson seems to like nothing better than getting on stage and playing a straight ahead jazz set.  As he does here, backed by bassist Ray Drummond, drummer Jason Marsalis and pianist Sharp RadwayJazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

Washington, D.C.

- Mar. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mike Stern & Dave Weckl.  A pair of jazz fusion masters, guitarist Stern and drummer Weckl find common jazz cause with the empathic assistance of bassist John Pattitucci and saxophonist Bob Francheschini.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York

John Pizzarelli

- Feb. 28 – Mar. 3. (Tues. – Sat.) John Pizzarelli Quartet.  Singer guitarist Pizzarelli, as musically intriguing as he is entertaining, is always fun to hear in the intimacy of a night club setting.  Hopefully he’ll play some of the intriguing musical collages from his new CD, Double Exposure.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent Pizzarelli performance.    Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Feb. 28 – Mar. 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  Monty Alexander continues his musically eclectic residency at the Blue Note.  With special guests Sly & Robbie, Harlem Kingston Express and others.  (Check club website for schedule).  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Feb. 28 – Mar. 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  Matt Wilson Arts & Crafts Quartet. There’s plenty of artfulness and a lot of craft, too, in the all-star band drummer Wilson has put together, with trumpeter Terell Stafford, keyboardist Gary Versace and bassist Martin Wind Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

Sheila Jordan

- Feb. 29. (Wed.)  Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton. A summit meeting of two great jazz masters.  Jordan and Clayton are utterly unique stylists, but they share the singular belief in the limitless possibilities of the jazz vocal art.  They’re backed by Cameron Brown, bass and Jack Wilkins, guitar.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

- Mar. 3. (Sat.)  Maria Jacobs.  A jazz-driven singer, Jacobs brings musicality, persuasive story-telling skills and a warm and supple voice to her intimate readings of the Great American Songbook.  The Metropolitan Room.    (212) 206-0440.

Berlin

- Mar. 3. (Sat.)  Chris Potter Quartet.  Saxophonist Potter is arguably one of the most gifted practitioners on his instrument of the past decade or two.  He’s at his best backed by the solid rhythm team of Adam Rogers, guitar, Craig Taborn, keyboards, Nait Smith, drums.  A-Trane.   030/313 25 50.

Tokyo

- Mar. 1 – 4.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Helen Merrill.  Veteran singer Merrill, whose remarkable skills have not always received the attention they deserve in her native U.S.  But wise Japanese jazz fans have accorded her much warranted musical stardom.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03.5485.0088.


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