Picks of the Week: Sept. 25 – 29

September 25, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Joe Pass

Joe Pass

- Sept. 25. (Wed.)  A Joe Pass Tribute.  The great jazz guitarist’s life is celebrated with a screening of the jazzumentary, A Not So Average Joe, followed by a live performance featuring Frank Potenza, John Pisano, Jim Hughart and Colin BaileyCatalina Bar & Grill.

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Pat Senatore Trio. Veteran bassist Senatore plays with a different band almost every night at Vibrato. This time he applies his versatility to the jazz trio setting with Josh Nelson, piano and Mark Ferber, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Isabel Rose

Isabel Rose

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Isabel Rose. Jazz/cabaret singer Rose has been compared to everyone from Peggy Lee to Ann-Margret and Bette Midler. She’ll introduce some new songs from her album Trouble in Paradise. The Mint.  323) 954-9400.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart. Expect a great jazz evening listening to this trio of world class players in action. Vitello’s.

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Singer Harris and guitarist/songwriter Crowell first got together as musical associates in the mid-’70s. Here, they revive their long creative partnership. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Gary Peacock. They’re one of jazz history’s great ensembles, continuing to bring imaginative ideas to the classic piano jazz trio. Royce Hall.  (310) 825-0768.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Composer/arranger/bandleader Wilson may be 95 years old, but he’s still going strong, still a masterful model of jazz creativity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Free Family Concert. The far-reaching skills of the SJO are on full display in a free concert aimed at all ages. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center.  (310) 876-8130.

 San Francisco

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun,) Regina Carter. Jazz violinist Carter performs a four day sequence of far ranging music. On Thurs. with Jenny Scheinman and Sara Caswell. On Fri. with the Pablo RZiegler Quartet. On Sat. with Kenny Barron. And on Sun. with Carla Cook & SFJAZZ High School All-Stars. SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium.  (866) 920-5299.

 Seattle

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Following in the footsteps of his father – John Coltrane – saxophonist Ravi has gradually, and successfully, begun to establish his own independent creative style. Jazz Alley.  (312) 360-0234.

 New York City

- Sept. 25 – 29. (Wed. – Sun.) Chick Corea and the Vigil. After seasoning his new band in an international tour, Chick showcases it for American audiences. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Vinicius Cantuaria Quintet. Brazilian guitarist /singer Cantuaria started out as a percussionist, and his rhythmic skills continue to bring propulsive swing to his guitar work. The Jazz Standard. http://jazzstandard.net/red (212) 576-2232.

 London

- Sept. 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat,.) The Rebirth Brass Band. Thirty years after they were founded, New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band continues to sustain the musical memories of the classic jazz brass band style. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Milan

Patti Austin

Patti Austin

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Patti Austin. A protege of Quincy Jones, who was her godfather, the musically eclectic Austin brings imaginative perspectives to whatever style she’s singing.  Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888.

Copenhagen

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Eddie Gomez Trio. Bassist Gomez, a prominent musical associate of Bill Evans in the ’60s and ’70s, sustains the piano jazz trio style on an international basis with Swedish pianist Stefan Karlsson and American drummer Billy Drummond. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

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HIGHLIGHT EVENT OF THE WEEK

Alessandra Belloni’s Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop

By Faith Frenz

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni is an Italian shaman dancer, singer, performer and healer extraordinaire. This week, she’s in Los Angeles for one of her biannual visits. Among her various activities, she will share — by instruction and performance — her unique talent and understanding of the ancient rituals of the tarantella Spider Dance. Alessandra presents the chants and songs sung as devotion to the Black Madonna (tracing to the ancient rites for the Earth Goddess Cybele), an ancient female healing tradition which uses a powerful tambourine style combined with singing and dancing.

I had the pleasure of taking her brief workshop last week at the North Hollywood Remo Recreational Center, where she has her own line of signature series tambourines made by Remo. Alessandra is a small, intensely sensual and beautiful woman, devoted to her goal of sharing these ancient devotionals around the world for their healing gifts. She is a gifted teacher of a very challenging ritual which taps into the essence of femininity.

 Alessandra has a packed schedule here in Los Angeles with numerous opportunities to experience her passionate performance and healing energy. And I urge everyone who reads this to choose an opportunity to witness her up close and personal: 

– Sept. 27. (Fri.) Tarantata at the Goddess Temple Orange County.  (949)651-0564 or (714) 392-0558.

- Sept. 28 (Sat.) DAY OF THE DRUM, WATTS TOWERS FESTIVAL,11:30 a.m. Los Angeles Watts Towers.   213.847.4646

- Sept. 29. (Sun.)  Tarantata at Hollywood Feast of San Gennaro  12:00 p.m.

- Oct. 1. (Tues.) Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop at CalArts.  (661) 255-1050

We will be doing an iRoM Q&A with Alessandra during her stay this week, so look for it in the next few days. There is so much to learn from this amazing woman.

For more information about Alessandra Belloni click HERE to check her website.

 


Picks of the Week: July 23 – 28.

July 23, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– July 23.  (Tues.)  The Postal Service.  The electropop band – featuring Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello – celebrate their 10th anniversary.  Greek Theatre   (323) 665-5857.

- July 24. (Wed.)  Dave Damiani and the No Nonsense Orchestra.  Vocalist and leader Damiani sings with the colorful sounds and swinging rhythms of his No Nonsense Orchestra.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

- July 24. (Wed.) Josh Nelson: A Tribute to Mulgrew Miller.  Pianist Nelson, rapidly emerging as one of the stellar pianists of his generation offers a tribute to one of his influences.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Bill Cunliffe’s Imaginacion Quintet. Composer/arranger/pianist Cunliffe displays his affection for Latin jazz in a collection of his fine arrangements. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 26. (Fri.)  Geoffrey Keezer “Heart of the Piano.”  Grammy-nominated Keezer celebrates the release of his CD, Heart of the Piano, his first solo project in 13 years.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 27 & 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  Chicago: The MusicalThe six Tony Award-winning show receives a sensational production on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl.  Brooke Shields directs, and Samantha Barks performs the role of Velma.  The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant

- July 28. (Sun.)  Amy Grant.  Grammy Award-winning Grant stretches her appealing vocal skills from gospel to pop.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

- July 27 – 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  The John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jessica Molaskey.  Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli and his wife, musical thatre star Molaskey have become an always-entertaining, musically fascinating performance act.  Yoshi’s Oakland.     (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Diane Schuur. As she approaches 60, Schuur continues to develop the musical possibilities of a beautifully soaring voice and a Sarah Vaughan-influenced style. Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- July 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.)   The Ron Blake Quartet. Fast-fingered, improvisationally adept saxophonist Blake continues to expand his impressive jazz skills.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- July 23 – 28.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Fred Hersch Trio with Joe Lovano. A pair of jazz veterans, each a deeply imaginative artist get together for a rare and compelling exchange of improvisational ideas.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- July 23 – 27. )Tues. – Sat.)  The Masters Quartet.  The title – “Masters” – doesn’t overstate it at all.  How else to describe a quartet that includes pianist Steve Kuhn, saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy HartBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

- July 23 & 24. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Wynton Marsalis Quintet. London is gifted with a very rare opportunity to hear the always-compelling playing of trumpet/impresario Marsalis in a night club setting. Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.

Paris

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

- July 25 & 26.  (Thurs. & Fri.)  Robert Glasper Experiment. Pianist/composer Glasper is in an exploratory phase, producing live performances and recordings revealing a creatively curious, musically questioning mind.  Paris New Morning.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Tokyo

Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander

- July 27 (Sat.)  Eric Alexander Quartet. Saxophonist Alexander finished just behind Joshua Redmand and ahead of Chris Potter in the 1991 Monk Saxophone Competition.  And he’s been aiming for the sun ever since with his articulate, hard-swinging style. Tokyo Blue Note.   +81 3-5485-0088.

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Wynton Marsalis photo by Tony Gieske

Robert Glasper photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Picks of the Week: July 9 – 14

July 9, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson Thomas

- July 9. (Tues.)  Michael Tilson-Thomas conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Mahler Symphony No. 2. “Resurrection.”  With soprano Kiera Duffy, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 10. (Wed.)  Queen Latifa. Roy Ayers.  The 2013 jazz summer season at the Bowl opens with the soaring vocals of Queen Latifa and the irresistible funk rhythms of vibist Ayers. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- July 10. (Wed.)  Diane Marino. Classically trained pianist/singer Marino makes a rare Southland appearance.  She’s backed by Clayton Cameron, drums, Frank Marino, bass and Rickey Woodard, saxophone & flute.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 10. (Wed.)  Josh Nelson and Pat Senatore Duo.  A cross-generational jazz partnership combines rapidly emerging pianist Nelson with veteran bassist Senatore.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

WTrevor Mcshane

WTrevor Mcshane

- July 11. (Thurs.)  Trevor McShane.  It’s really the nom de plume of  singer/songwriter Neville Johnson, an attorney who has been pursuing his musical ambitions since the release of his first album in 2000.  Molly Malones. (323) 935-1577.

- July 12. (Fri.)  Cat Conner, Gene Cipriano, Robert Chiodini and Dick Nash.  This impressive collection of L.A. jazz stars finish up their two year run at the Studio City venue, which is closing for renovations. The Out Take Bistro.   (818) 760-1111.

- July 12. (Fri.)  David Ornette Cherry. Pianist/composer Cherry, the son of adventurous jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, showcases his own ambitious talents in a program combining his original works with compositions by his father. LACMA.    (323) 857-6000.

Barbara Morrison

Barbara Morrison

- Jan. 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.)  Barbara Morrison.  The remarkable Ms. Morrison, recovering courageously from serious medical problems, celebrates the release of her new CD, A Sunday Kind of Love.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (223) 466-2210.

- July 13. (Sat.)  Songfest Sings America: Celebrating Leonard Bernstein.  A stirring evening dedicated to the far-ranging music of Bernstein, from West Side Story to On the Town and much more.   Michael Barrett conducts and there will be a pre-performance conversation between Alan Chapman and Bernstein’s daughter, JamieGrand Performances.    (213) 687-2159.

- July 14. (Sun.)  ‘70s Soul JamThe Stylistics, Peaches & Herb, Rose Royce, Main Ingredient featuring Cuba Gooding Sr. and more in an evening of body-moving soul rhythms.  Greek Theatre.     (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

Halie Loren

Halie Loren

- July 11. (Thurs.)  Halie Loren.  Award-winning singer/songwriter has been establishing herself as one of the most intriguing talents of her generation.  Check HERE to read a recent iRoM review of a Loren CD.     Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

Seattle

July 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  John Mayall.  He’s not leading his Blues Breakers, but veteran blues rock guitarist is still a dynamically exciting blues performer.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

New York

- July 9. (Tues.)  Geoff Keezer.  Grammy-nominated pianist/arranger/composer Keezer, always a uniquely fascinating performer, celebrates the release of his solo piano album, Heart of the Piano.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- July 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Yes, it’s a “ghost” band, striving with respectful musicality to keep the Ellington repertoire alive and swinging.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

London

Cassandra WIlson

Cassandra WIlson

- July 9 – 11.  (Tues. – Thurs.)  Cassandra Wilson.  There are plenty of good reasons why jazz vocalist Wilson is a Grammy award winner – all of them present in her intimately engaging sound and rich musicality.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.

Paris

- July 11. (Thurs.)  The Terence Blanchard Quintet.  Trumpeter/composer Blanchard’s far-reaching career has balanced his hard-driving jazz style with frequent assignments (often with Spike Lee) as a film composer. New Morning.    +33 1 45 23 51 41

Tokyo

- July 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.)  Pablo Ziegler New York Quartet.  Argentine pianist/composer Ziegler leads his New York players in a program of captivating Nuevo tango.  Tokyo Blue Note.  +81 3-5485-0088.

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Barbara Morrison photo by Bonnie Perkinson. 


CD Review: The Jacob Szekely Trio

June 27, 2013

By Brian Arsenault

I think that the Jacob Szekely Trio, if based in Europe, would be recording for ECM.  I say that as a giant compliment because of ECM’s attention to purity of sound. No where is that more evident than in the spaces between pianist Josh Nelson’s notes on the self titled album’s closing song, “Postlude: Houston.”

ECM respects silences like no other label.  Their motto after all is the “Most Beautiful Sound Next to Silence.” But this review is about Szekely and his trio and the sounds here, as well as the silences, are superb.

Jacob Szekely

Jacob Szekely

The cello in Szekely’s special hands is transformative, literally.  At times a guitar, a bass guitar, a violin, a harp. But always, always a cello.  Is there anyone else in the world who plays the instrument like this. A musician who could clearly play classical — and at times nearly does here — but is broadly considered a jazz musician.

Better to forget labels. To paraphrase Duke Ellington, there really is only good music and bad music.  This is the good stuff.

What I think about Szekely and his cohorts — the aforementioned Nelson and drummer Christopher Allis — is that they are reaching, reaching for something better.  They are magic together but magic in the sense of something that lifts the spirit, that touches all the emotions from melancholy to buoyancy. There are no sidemen here, there are three excellent musicians playing together.

Cerebral and soulful in combination.  If you think I’m going to write at some point that this is music that’s not for everybody, I’m not.  It is for everybody but you have to let it flow over you without expectations.

Perhaps play it on a Sunday morning when there’s less noise in your life and in your head, maybe while cooking breakfast or just savoring a soft morning. It is not to be hurried.

During part of my listening, the damn street cleaner went by with its loud jarring sound.  I hit the pause button and if I’d had a rocket launcher I swear my town’s streets would be dirtier for a long time.

There is delicacy herein but delicacy is strength not weakness. There are also robust moments, poetic ones, enchanting ones. Music to entice deeper thoughts and feelings.

And as I said above, reaching, reaching.  I’m not sure I know for what but Szekely himself says in a note in the CD jacket that he hopes “you will hear three musicians stretching themselves in new directions and hopefully finding something beautiful in the end.”

Exactly.

A footnote: I have no right to suggest this but I’d love to hear this trio work with a singer and I have a suggestion.  Play with Little Lonely (Julie Cain).  These are the two most beautiful albums I’ve heard so far this year however different they may be.  The combination might be marvelous but such things almost never happen because great talents must almost always go their own way.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


Live Jazz: The 35th Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Day #1

June 17, 2013

Review by Michael Katz

Photos by Bonnie Perkinson

Hollywood CA. One happy problem with an eight hour music fest that runs uninterrupted through the shifting temperatures of a near-summer’s day at the Hollywood Bowl is a lineup so strong you don’t want to leave your seat. That was the occasion on Saturday, Day 1 of the 35th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival. It was a show that featured some bright new names in the jazz realm, a blur of world music and vocal skills, plus cameos and guest appearances from jazz legends and LA icons.

George Lopez

George Lopez

The most notable new face was comedian and actor George Lopez, who took over the emcee duties from Bill Cosby. Lopez smartly kept his patter brief and enthusiastic. Cosby, himself, never tried to upstage the music, and although his Cos of Good Music bands are dearly missed, their spirit was reflected in some adventurous booking, particularly a powerhouse mid-day lineup that had the sold-out house dancing in the aisles.

Some snarling traffic (not to mention my Park and Ride bus that broke down halfway between Westwood and the Bowl) resulted in a crowd filtering in through the first several acts. I entered to a pleasant set by percussionist Pedrito Martinez, with Ariacne Trujillo on keyboards and vocals. Their Latin rhythms set up a relaxed atmosphere as the crowd gathered and settled into party mode. But things got down to business immediately thereafter, with the appearance of Grace Kelly and her quintet.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

The vivacious Kelly, only 21 years of age, has a half-dozen albums already to her credit. She plays mostly alto sax and doubles as a vocalist, excelling at both. Her alto tones are clean and driving, her own compositions melodic and well served by her lovely voice. Her band included one of LA’s premier young pianists, Josh Nelson, and an outstanding young trumpeter from Boston, Jason Palmer, who gave us some of the handful of great trumpet licks of the afternoon.

Grace Kelly and Phil Woods

Grace Kelly and Phil Woods

It takes plenty of self-assurance for a young musician to invite Phil Woods on as a guest and then stand up to him, lick for lick, but Kelly was up to the task. They dueted on her composition “Man In A Hat,” (from the CD of the same name) written as an homage to Woods. His presence seemed to inspire Ms. Kelly, and I don’t think a blindfold test could have separated the two of them. They later romped through a medley of “How High The Moon” and “Ornithology” with equally fine results. Bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Bill Goodwin rounded out this terrific band. Grace Kelly, originally from Boston, has settled here in the LA area, which is great news for local jazz fans – if they can catch her on a break from an ambitious touring schedule.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

I had caught the end of an electrifying set by Gregory Porter last September at the Monterey Jazz Festival (where he will be the opening act this year), so it was no surprise to see him light up the Playboy stage, even in the shank of the warm afternoon. Porter has it all. His deep, evocative voice has the authority of a Joe Williams; he has an engaging stage presence that can command even a crowd settling down for wine and hors d’oeuvres. Porter was in a romantic mood, with a ballad, “No Love Dying,” from a soon-to-be-released album. His band features a sparkplug in altoist Yosuke Sato, who whipped the crowd up with ascending riffs that arced into the pungent afternoon air like tracers. Porter continued on, imploring the audience to “Hold On,” while segueing into Oscar Brown Jr.’s lyrics to Nat Adderley’s “Work Song.” The title song to his new CD, Liquid Spirit, featured some terrific piano work by Chip Crawford. Porter’s closer, (as in the Monterey set), was “1960 What,” an ode to the unrest in sixties Detroit, sung with a gospel fervor that recalled Les McCann’s vocals from the seventies. Porter shone throughout. The LA native, by way of Bakersfield, is clearly on the cusp of something special.

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper has been a ubiquitous presence lately, bridging the gap between jazz and pop with his straight ahead jazz trio and his “Robert Glasper Experiment,” which usually includes a guest from the hip hop world. On Saturday he featured Casey Benjamin on sax and vocoder, as well as the terrific jazz bassist Derrick Hodge and Mark Colenburg on drums. I’ll freely admit that I prefer the “jazz trio” – I put that in quotes because whatever Glasper does has a spirit of adventure to it. Glasper has a quick wit and engaging patter – he’s clearly the jazz performer most likely to host his own TV show. The Experiment is, no surprise, amped up and electronic, and went over fine with the crowd. But Glasper still found the occasion to invite Bowl favorite Dianne Reeves onstage. True to the Experimental spirit, she sang Oscar Brown Jr.’s lyrics to “Afro Blue,” circling on and off the beat, letting the audience find their way into the song.

Angelique Kidjo greets her 18,000 fans at the Playboy Jazz Festival

Angelique Kidjo greets her 18,000 fans at the Playboy Jazz Festival

It’s hard to imagine a more exciting performer for a music festival than Angelique Kidjo, from Benin. I’ve seen her twice, now – the first time anchoring the Sunday afternoon stage show at Monterey a few years ago. Her unique blend of African rhythms, elucidated in several languages, French, Yoruba and Swahili among them, is intoxicating. The pulsating rhythms and percussions, familiar to U. S. audiences through such artists as Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mumbazo, were highlighted by a terrific guitarist, Dominic James, and percussionists Magatte Sow and Yayo Serka, along with Itaiguara Brandao on bass.

As if that was not enough, Hugh Masekela joined the group for several numbers. Kidjo exudes warmth – even if you can’t decipher her lyrics, the spirit of inclusiveness permeates everything she does.

Anglelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela

Anglelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela

Masekela’s flugelhorn remains deceptively simple, his tones clear and bold. His gravelly voice counteracted with Kidjo’s, and the two of them brought the crowd to their feet early and for the duration. Kidjo’s finale included promenading into the crowd and bringing back selected audience members onto the stage – I don’t know whether she does some magical on-the-spot scouting or just counts on divine inspiration, but it works wonderfully. Magatte Sow took center stage on his conga drum and provided the transformational spell, while the audience had a blast, onstage and off.

I’ve always thought that the Playboy Jazz Festival might benefit from a ten or fifteen minute break sometime during the show. It would give the audience a chance to wind down, break out the picnic baskets, talk to their friends without having to shout over the music. If there was ever a time to do it, it would have been after Angelique Kidjo’s set, which was impossible to follow. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band would seem to be a perfect candidate, with the impressive sound of a 20 piece ensemble.

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band

They opened with two burners and a great solo on alto sax by Eric Marienthal, but the audience wasn’t ready to be engaged by what is basically a performance band. They finally found a little traction with Goodwin’s Grammy-winning arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Gershwin, after all this time, can still make people sit up and pay attention. After a brief appearance by “The Voice” vocalist Judith Hill, the band found some more familiar and appealing ground when they were joined by guitarist Lee Ritenour. Ritenour brought one of his most successful arrangements, his adaptation of Jobim’s “Stone Flower” into the Big Phat Band groove. His second number was a tight Goodwin arrangement of his tribute to the late Les Paul, simply titled L.P. That was the Big Phat Band and Ritenour at their best, weaving smart guitar licks into the larger sound. They kept the audience with them for the final tune, “Race To The Bridge,” with sax player Brian Scanlon and Andy Martin on trombone leading the way out.

Naturally 7 is a contemporary vocal band, sort of a capella meets hip hop, led by baritone Roger Thomas. This was their third Playboy appearance in four years, so they were warmly received throughout their set. The group combines elements of Doo-Wop, Hip Hop, and McFerriana. Their “vocal play” extends past the traditional vocal levels and instruments; it includes “DJ” and “Beat Box.” Whatever the simulation, it was pretty heavily amplified from the start, proving it is possible to have too much bass, even if you don’t have a bass. But it was a tight and lively show, emphasizing Doo – Wop in “Summer Breeze” and providing a playful narrative with “Englishman In New York.”

Naturally 7 with Herbie Hancock

Naturally 7 with Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock joined them with one of his “keytars;” it seemed altogether fitting that he would jam with them on “Chameleon.” The opening bass line to that Herbie classic still galvanizes an audience, and Hancock continued with splashes of electronica throughout his appearance.  The group finished off with George Harrison’s Beatles classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” At that point you could look back pleasingly at the versatility of the entire Saturday lineup; in a matter of a few hours you could go from Gershwin to Jobim to Herbie Hancock to George Harrison and somehow fit it all under the jazz tent.

And there was still some Coltrane to come. Maybe not quite enough; Poncho Sanchez’s set was entitled Ole’ Coltrane, after the 1961 Coltrane album of the same name, though the set was more Ole’ than Coltrane. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending an hour with Poncho’s band, whatever the circumstances. Along with Sanchez’s formidable conga work, his group featured Musical Director Francisco Torres, doing double duty (he also soloed with the Big Phat Band.)

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

But I was especially impressed by Ron Blake, who delivered some feisty trumpet cadenzas in the opening Latin numbers. We didn’t hear a lot of lead work from the staple jazz instruments over the day’s program, which was heavy on vocals and large ensembles, so it was a pleasure to hear Blake and then James Carter, who provided the Fest’s primary blast on the tenor sax.  Carter provided scorching work on a Latinized arrangement of Trane’s “Giant Steps,” and more laid back and melodic playing on Duke Ellington’s “The Feeling of Jazz,” which Ellington recorded with Coltrane. Poncho’s version had a tinge of the Mingus Latin feel to it, with some excellent supporting work by Torres. That was it, though, for the Coltrane material. Carter rejoined the band for a final number, Poncho’s always entertaining version of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.”

Regrets to George Duke, whose final blasts into the night came after much of the crowd had left, thoroughly sated by such a pleasing mixture of jazz and funk, performed by ensembles large and small, and by players seasoned and refreshingly new. It was one of the best days at the Playboy Jazz Festival in recent memory and a great start for the two day event.

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To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

Read Michael Katz’s latest novel,

    Dearly Befuddled.


Picks of the Week: June 5 – 9

June 5, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Barbara Morrison

Barbara Morrison

- June 5. (Wed.) Barbara Morrison.  Despite her difficult medical problems, the courageous, musically versatile Ms. Morrison continues to make her ever-appealing singing available to Los Angeles audiences.  Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  She also performs at Steamers in Fullerton on June 7 & 8 (Fri. & Sat.).  (714) 871-8800.

- June 5. (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman.  Hot Lips is back again to display her inimitable way with a song.  She’s backed by the superb support of the Andy Langham TrioVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 6. (Thurs.)  The Josh Nelson Trio with Anthony Wilson.  Pianist Nelson, one of the Southland’s important first-call players, is always a pleasure to hear with his own trio – especially when gifted guitarist Wilson is a musical guest..  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 6. (Thurs.)  Joanne Tatham“Soundtrack New York” Music From Movies Made in Manhattan.”  Vocalist Tatham, adept at both cabaret and jazz has created a program of appealing songs based on an intriguing premise. Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com  (323) 466-2210.

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

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- June 7. (Fri.) The Jon Mayer Trio with Jackie Ryan.  It’s a great combination: Pianist Mayer’s far-ranging versatility, rooted in his deeply authentic jazz skills; and Ryan’s similarly sophisticated musicality and lyrical story-telling qualities.  Hear them together in this rare booking. Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Jackie Ryan.   Jazz at LACMA.  (323) 857-6000.

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- June 7. (Fri.)  Dolores Scozzesi and Mark Winkler“The Great Singer/Songwriters of the Seventies.”  Scozzesi and Winkler sing the songs of Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and more.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

- June 7. (Fri.)  Prairie Home Companion. The entertaining Garrison Keillor  and his live radio-in-living-color program make one of their rare appearances in the Southland.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- June 8. (Sat.)  An Evening with Rufus Wainwright.  Singer/songwriter has an impressive lineage: Loudon Wainwright III is his father; Kate McGarrigle is his mother.  But he has already established a musical voice of his own.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

- June 8. (Sat.)  Brenda Russell.  The musically eclectic singer/songwriter Russell, whose career has moved through soul, pop, jazz and dance genres, is also a gifted lyricist and songwriter.  Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com  (323) 466-2210.

- June 8. (Sat.)  Andrea Bocelli.  The hugely popular Italian singer performs with soprano Maria Aleida and the Los Angeles Festival Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Kohn. (Note that this is a lease event.)  The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

- June 9. (Sun.)  Bill Cosby.  The wit, the humor and the engaging personality of Bill Cosby are irresistible.  Retired from his role as emcee of the Playboy Jazz Festival, he performs in Los Angles a week before this year’s Festival takes place.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

Chicago

- June 6 – 9. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Turre Quartet.  Trombonist Turre is always a pleasure to hear, whether he’s playing his primary instrument or displaying his remarkable ability to make music from conch shells. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

Washington D.C.

Tuck & Patti

Tuck & Patti

- June 7 – 9.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Tuck & Patti.   After more than three decades together, the duo of guitarist Tuck and singer Patti (who were married in 1983) continue to make remarkable music together.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Tuck & Patti in an L.A. performance.   Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York City

June 5 – 9. (Wed. – Sun.)  Stefano Bollani Trio and the Paolo Fresu-Uri Caine Duo.  An evening of prime jazz from some of Italy’s world-class artists, sponsored by Umbria Jazz and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

Copenhagen

- Junes 7. (Friday)  Hugo Rasmussen Trio.  Bassist Rasmussen, an icon of Danish jazz, blends his masterful musical maturity with the youthful energies of tenor saxophonist Jakob Dinesen, pianist Heine Hansen and drummer Morten Ero Jazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

eTokyo

- June 6 – 8. (Thurs. – Sat.) Chick Corea/Stanley Clarke Trio with drummer Marcus Gilmore.  All-star trios don’t get any better than this one combining the long-term creative linkage of Corea and Clarke with the enthusiastic drumming of Gilmore.  Blue Note Tokyo. 6  +81 3-5485-0088.

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Barbara Morrison photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Jackie Ryan photo and Tuck & Patti photo by Faith Frenz.


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.


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