Live Jazz: Roberta Gambarini and Kenny Burrell at Catalina Bar & Grill

September 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Roberta Gambarini didn’t waste any time establishing her impressive jazz credentials at Catalina Bar & Grill Thursday night. Relying on her perfect pitch and her brilliant interpretive skills, she strolled on stage, picked up a microphone and began to sing a stunning version of Cole Porter’s “So In Love” without a whisper of accompaniment from her stellar trio (pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Willie Jones III). Nor was anything other than her mesmerizing voice required in an interpretation that thoroughly introduced Gambarini’s extraordinary talents.

Roberta Gambarini

Roberta Gambarini

And it was just the beginning of a night that – for the lucky folks who’d turned out for the show – thoroughly introduced her full range of vocal skills. Singing a capella, romping through swinging up tempos, scatting with the clarity and harmonic accuracy of an instrumentalist, finding the heart of ballads with her trio, dueting with her guest, Kenny Burrell, she gave a performance to remember.

The highlights came one after another: continuing with a high speed romp through “Nobody Else But Me,” followed by Gambarini’s take on the Dizzy Gillespie version of “Sunny Side of the Street”; a deeply moving blend of ”Porgy, I Is Your Woman” and “I Loves You Porgy” from Porgy and Bess.

The arrival of Burrell opened the way to more far-ranging selections of material, starting with a brisk “Just Squeeze Me,” followed by an exquisite Portuguese version of the classic bossa nova, “Chega De Saudade.” Shifting gears, Gambarini offered emotionally intimate renderings of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,” called up memories of Billie Holliday with “Good Morning Heartache,” and followed with a steaming “Day In, Day Out,” delivered in another up-tempo display of her versatility.

Roberta Gambarini, Kenny Burrell and Chuck BerghoferChuck Kenny FFH

Gambarini then gracefully turned the stage over to Burrell. And the veteran guitarist, always a pleasure to hear whenever he takes a break from his multitude of responsibilities running the U.C.L.A. Jazz program, used the opportunity to offer a colorful medley of Duke Ellington songs reaching from “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” and “Prelude To A Kiss” to “A Sittin’ and a Rockin’.”

Appropriately, Gambarini returned to call up images of her native land with the lovely Italian song “Estate” (“Summer”). Finally, the musical banquet wrapped up with another hard-driving offering, this time the familiar blues of “Lester Leaps In.” Along the way, Gambarini used the microphone to create a convincing trumpet sound for a climactic improvised solo once again displaying her extraordinary musical inventiveness.

At a time when the jazz vocal world is overflowing with rapidly arriving young female talent, Gambarini stands well above the crowd. A third place finisher in 1998′s Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal competition, Grammy-nominated Gambarini still hasn’t begun to receive the recognition her remarkable talents fully deserve.

She performs at Catalina Bar and Grill again tonight (Saturday) with Burrell and her world class band. Don’t miss this too-rare opportunity to experience the pleasures of Roberta Gambarini’s music in full living color.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: July 15 – 21

July 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Kenny Burrell (Photo by Faith Frenz)

- July 15. (Mon.)  L.A. Jazz Orchestra Unlimited.  With Kenny Burrell.  Guitarist/educator Burrell leads an aggregation of some of the Southland’s fine big band players.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- July 16. (Tues.)  Nora Rothman.  With an appealing vocal style, young jazz artist Rothman offers what she describes as her own “unique twist” on jazz standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- July 16 & 17. (Tues. & Wed.)  Aaron Weinstein.  A violinist, mandolinist and arranger, Weinstein’s special talents have been drawing attention lately.  Here’s a chance to check out his skills in the warm musical environment of Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

- July 17. (Wed.)  Sergio Mendes, Lani Hall and Herb Alpert.  After last week’s odd jazz opening night program featuring Queen Latifa, the Bowl summer jazz season finally arrives via an evening of stellar jazz with a Brazilian touch.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 18. (Thurs.)  Bob McChesney Quintet.  Trombonist McChesney always does a spectacular job of making other bands sound great.  Here he is in the spotlight leading his own group.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– July 19.  (Fri.) Brantley Gilbert.  Country superstar Gilbert makes his Greek Theatre debut .  Jack Ingram and Rachel Farley open the show.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

Freda Payne

Freda Payne

- July 19 & 20. (Fri. & Sat.)  Freda Payne.  The lovely Ms. Payne makes one of her infrequent Southland appearances, looking great as she applies her special vocal talents to a program of standards as well as her own hits (hopefully including “Band of Gold”) Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- July 19 – 21. (Fri. – Sun. )  Pink Martini with the L.A. Phil.  With singers China Forbes and Storm Large in the foreground, the 12-piece Pink Martini ensemble easily and entertainingly crosses genres from jazz and classical to pop and Latin.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- July 21. (Sun.)  Quattro.  The unique Quattro instrumentation (cello, percussion, violin and guitar), combine with their four-part vocals and imaginative interpretations to produce some of the most intriguing music on the contemporary music scene.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Eddie Daniels (Photo by Bob Barry)

- July 18. (Thurs.)  Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway.  It’s a rare combination – the superb clarinet work of Daniels and the similarly excellent piano of Kellaway – displaying a range of talents reaching easily from jazz to classical and beyond.  SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.

- July 21. (Sun.)  Laurie Antonioli“The Music of Joni Mitchell.”  Antonioli is a pleasure to hear when she’s showcasing her impressive jazz skills.  Singing the songs of Joni Mitchell should stimulate an even more engaging set of creative interpretations. SFJAZZ Center.  Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

New York

Billy Childs (Photo by Faith Frenz)

- July 16 – 20.  (Tues. – Sat.)  The Billy Childs Quartet.  Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his chamber jazz ensemble to showcase his mesmerizing, straight ahead jazz skills.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.


- July 17 – 19. (Wed. – Fri.)  Hermeto Pascoal.  Composer/multi-instrumentalist Pascoal has been setting a unique pathway through contemporary Brazilian music for decades. Hearing him in live performance is a memorable experience.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.


- July 17. (Wed.)  Roberta Gambarini.  She’s one of  the current jazz scene’s most fascinating vocal artists, balancing her superb ballad skills with incomparable scatting abilities. New Morning Paris.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.

- July 18. (Thurs.)  The Steve Swallow-Carla Bley Quintet.  Bassist Swallow and pianist/composer Bley have been at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz for decades.  And they’re still a pleasure to hear in action.  New Morning Paris.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.


- July 21. (Sun.)  Dave Douglas “Be Still.”  Always adventurous, trumpeter Douglas leads an ensemble of similarly envelope-stretching players, featuring Jon Irabagon, saxophones, Matt Mitchell, piano, Linda Oh, bass and Rudy Royston, drums.  A-Trane.    +49 30 3132 ext. 550.


Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis

- July 21. (Sun.)  Branford Marsalis.  Not quite as visible as his brother, trumpeter/impresario Wynton, Branford Marsalis is, nonetheless, a compelling, musically creative jazz artist.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.


- July 17 & 18. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Dionne Warwick.  She’s been one of the hit-makers of the rock era, especially when she’s singing songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  And, at 72, she’s still a mesmerizing performer.  Blue Note Tokyo.   +81 3-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: The Kenny Burrell Quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill

June 30, 2013

By Don Heckman

Kenny Burrell took a break Friday night from his academic duties at U.C.L.A., where he has been the driving force behind the establishment – and the expansion –  of the University’s superb jazz program.

Working with his quartet at Catalina Bar and Grill, his far-ranging performance recalled some of the high points in his stellar career as an iconic master of the jazz guitar.

Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell

Moving from electric to acoustic guitars, Burrell played with the engaging mixture of subtle chording, brisk rhythms and arching melodies that have characterized his work since he arrived on the national jazz scene in the early ‘50s.  He combined those elements with particular effectiveness on standards such as “Make Someone Happy” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.”  And when he switched to an acoustic guitar for the classic lyricism of Michel Legrand’s “The Summer Knows” and Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” his musical storytelling reached into even greater areas of expressiveness.

Other tunes, drawing a full set of colors from the Burrell musical palette, included a brief pass into the rhythms of bossa nova and a briskly swinging romp through the jaunty pulse and twisted phrases of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhyhm-a-Ning.”  In each case, he displayed his creative adaptability with élan and imagination.

Llew Matthews, Kenny Burrell, Tony Dumas, Clayton Cameron and Justo Almario

He was superbly aided by the world-class playing of his quintet, with the musically eclectic Justo Almario on tenor saxophone and flute, Llew Matthews on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Clayton Cameron on drums.  Each provided Burrell with the benefits of their special talents: Matthews balanced solid accompaniment and crisp soloing with spontaneous arrangements; Almario moved from fast-fingered tenor saxophone solos to warm flute sounds: Dumas, as always, provided an irresistible foundation; and Cameron’s propulsive drive was ever-present, whether playing laid-back brushes or clamoring sticks.

Call it an appealing musical get together between a gifted group of players.  And give full credit to the versatile Burrell for leading the way through a memorable evening of music.

Tonight, the Kenny Burrell Quintet wraps their three night run at Catalina Bar & Grill. Don’t miss them.  Burrell also returns to Catalina Bar & Grill on Monday, July 15 in a larger setting, leading his L.A Jazz Orchestra Unlimited.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Bob Barry.

Live Jazz: A Tribute to Bill Henderson at Catalina Bar & Grill

April 20, 2013

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA.  The line waiting to get in to Catalina Bar & Grill at 7:30 Thursday night stretched all the way back to the jazz venue’s nearby garage.  And it was moving slowly.  But there was no sign of anyone leaving.  Not for this performance.  Not with a stellar assemblage of talented performers awaiting their turns to celebrate the remarkable life and musical accomplishments of veteran singer/actor Bill Henderson.

Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson

And the anticipation was enhanced by the awareness that the 87 year old Henderson was already in the club, surrounded by friends, waiting for the music to begin.

Before the live entertainment began, however, the full house audience was treated to a video documentary.  Produced by Merle Kreibich, the video chronicled the remarkable Henderson career – as a singer and an actor whose impressive talents were apparent even in the black and white images of his youthful appearances on film and recordings.

But the live show was the heart of the evening, a  procession of singers and musicians, all eager to offer their own unique tributes to Henderson. Here’s the line up:

Melissa Morgan

Melissa Morgan


First up: singer Melissa Morgan offering soul styled renditions of ‘Sleeping Bee” and “Accentuate the Positive.”  Filled with energy and spunk, she got the evening underway with a hard driving take off.

Denise Donatelli

Denise Donatelli


Next: Denise Donatelli applied her warm, embracing  voice and intimate story-telling to a contrasting pair of appealing tunes, “Social Call” and “Skylark.” Donatelli can do no wrong as an interpretive vocalist.  And her reading of the Mercer/Carmichael standard was one of the evening’s memorable highlights.

Billy Valentine’s two songs – “I’ve Got A Woman” and “You Don’t Know Me” – delivered with convincing intensity – were reminders of the blues roots in Henderson’s music.

The musical emphasis shifted dramatically with the arrival on stage of Finis Henderson, Bill Henderson’s nephew.  Offering a soaring, musically dramatic interpretation of Puccini’s tenor aria “Nessun Dorma” from the opera Turandot, he affirmed the diverse musical talent in the Henderson genes.

Janis Mann

Janis Mann

Jazz singer Janis Mann added her soaring, Sarah Vaughan influenced style to a diverse pair of tunes, moving from the rhythmic groove of “Old Devil Moon” to the lyricism of  “You Taught My Heart To Sing.”  She was backed by Eric Reed, ably replacing Mike Lang in the piano chair.

Mark Winkler was up next, enjoying every minute of his delightful encounter with Bobby Troup’s “I’m Such A Hungry Man,” and wrapping his solo set with a selection from his new album of Laura Nyro songs.

Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne

Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne

Before he left the stage, however, he was joined by Cheryl Bentyne, pairing up on a joyous romp through Paul Desmond’s “Take Five.”

Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell

Next, in the evening’s highlight instrumental set, veteran guitarist Kenny Burrell showcased his always appealing blend of rhythmic swing and melodic tenderness with a .  warm take on “It Might As Well Be Spring.”

Ernie Andrews

Ernie Andrews

Appropriately, the non-stop music reached a climax with the arrival on stage of the inimitable Ernie Andrews.  Two years younger than Henderson, but very much the same generation, Andrews recalled an era in which jazz artists were not embarrassed to reach out to their audiences in entertaining fashion.  His jaunty versions of “Time After Time” and “All Blues” were the perfect climax for a memorable musical tribute.

Live performance photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: April 17 – 21

April 17, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Corky Hale plays for Billie Holiday

Corky Hale plays for Billie Holiday

- April 17. (Wed.)  Corky Hale and special guest Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge perform selections from the Billie Holiday songbook. Pianist/harpist Hale, who accompanied Holiday in the ‘50s, is well qualified for the job.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

April 17. (Wed.)  Julian Coryell.  The son of fine veteran guitarist Larry Coryell, Julian – an impressive guitarist in his own right, as well as a singer – is carving out a prime career. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 17. (Wed.)  Andras SchiffThe Bach Keyboard Cycle.  Schiff performs the French Suites and the French Overture as part of his survey of the complete solo keyboard works of J.S. Bach.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- April 18. (Thurs.)  Judi Wexler Birthday Bash.  The critically praised Wexler displays the far ranging, richly interpretive qualities that are at the heart of her singing.  Mambo’s Café.   (818) 545-8613.

Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson

- April 18. (Thurs.)  A Tribute to Bill Henderson.  A celebration of the music and life of the creative versatility of 87 year old singer/actor Henderson.  The program features the Eric Reed Trio, with special guests Denise Donatelli, Kenny Burrell, Janis Mann, Ernie Andrews, Mark Winkler, Cheryl Bentyne  and others.  Bubba Jackson hosts the performance.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- April 20. (Sat.)  Jimmy Cobb and the So What Band.  Drummer Cobb is the last surviving member of the Miles Davis band that created the best selling album, Kind of Blue.  Here, leading a world class band, he revisits the classic numbers from that iconic jazz recording.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

- April 21. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Music Director Jeffrey Kahane conducts and performs the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22. The program also includes Handel’s Concerto Grosso in A Major, Ginastera’s Variaciones Cncertantes and a newly commissioned work by Andrew NormanCAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101.

Catalina Popescu

Catalina Popescu

- April 21. (Sun.)  The Arturo Sandoval Big Band is the centerpiece in the California Jazz Foundation’s annual Benefit Concert, this time honoring the decades of jazz support from Catalina Popescu, the owner of Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- April 21. (Sun.)  Sherry Williams. With a voice as smooth and sweet as honey, Williams is always a pleasure to hear in her blues-tinged interpretations.  She’ll be backed by Joe Bagg, piano, Pat Senatore, bass, Mark Ferber, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- April 19. (Fri.)  Raquel Bitton. With special guest Rebeca Mauleon. Paris Meets Havana is the subtitle of a program featuring Bitton’s French and Mauleon’s Cuban classics, performed with full orchestra. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- April 20. (Sat.)  Bill Frisell.  The ever-adventurous guitarist/composer Frisell provides original music for a reading of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Kentucky Derby.  An SFJAZZ program at Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.


Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- April 18 – 21. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  “Deedles,” as she is known to friends and fans alike, still possesses one of the most musically malleable voices in jazz – always a pleasure to hear. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

Washington D.C.

- April 17. (Wed.)  The Stan Kenton Alumni BandMike Fax conducts a program of music ranging across the full musical panorama of Kenton’s remarkable big band history.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- April 17 – 20. (Wed. – Sat.)  The John Scofield “Hollow Body Band” is an aptly titled musical exchange with special guest guitarist Mike SternBirdland.      (212) 581-3080.

Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson

- April 18 – 21. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Wilson Quintet.  Alto saxophonist Wilson’s resume includes recordings and performances ranging from Chick Corea and Lionel Hampton to Joe Henderson, Ron Carter and beyond.  But it’s always great to hear him on his own.  In this case he’s backed by Alex Sipiagin, trumpet, George Cables, piano, Larry Grenadier, bass and Ulysses Owens, Jr., drums.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- April 19. (Fri.)  Ana Popovic.  A blues guitarist and singer from Serbia may seem unlikely, but Popovic has been solidly proving her skills in both those areas.  The Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.


- April 21 (Sunday)  Joyce.  Described by Antonio Carlos Jobim as “one of the greatest singers of all times” Brazil’s Joyce has convincingly blended jazz and Brazilian music in her far-reaching recordings and performances.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.


Judy Niemack

Judy Niemack

- April 18. (Thurs.)  Judy Niemack.  She has been praised for the beauty of her voice, but Niemack is also a superb interpretive singer, who blends technical skill and far-reaching imagination.  A-Trane.   030 / 313 25 50.


- April 20. (Sat.)  Dave Holland with the Pepe Habichuela Flamenco Quintet. Always in search of new areas of musical expression, bassist Holland dips into the pleasures of flamenco.  The Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.

Buenos Aires

Maria Puga Lareo

Maria Puga Lareo

- April 18. (Thurs.)  Maria Puga Lareo and Bob Telson.  Argentine singer Lareo, highly regarded for her jazz skills, performs every Thursday night in April with American jazz and film composer/pianist Telson.   Clasica Y Moderna.   +54 11 4813-9517.


- April 19 & 20.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Karen Souza.  Latin American singer Souza’s fascination with the jazz swing era is an essential element in her music.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of Karen Souza.   Tokyo Blue Note.   +81 3-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: Kenny Burrell 80 Years Young at Royce Hall

November 14, 2011

By Don Heckman

It was all about Kenny Burrell Saturday night at UCLA’s Royce Hall.  Burrell the guitarist, Burrell the founder of the University’s jazz studies program, Burrell the teacher, Burrell the all around good guy.  More than three months after the actual date – July 31 – the UCLA Live event celebrated his 80th birthday with a gathering of musical participants from both inside and outside of Westwood.

Kenny Burrell

And with good reason.  Burrell’s far-reaching career reaches from high visibility as a major jazz artist to a vital role in the creation of U.C.L.A.’s Jazz Studies program – an influential pathfinder in the expanding world of jazz education.

The program resembled, in several respects, the Royce Hall 2006 salute to Burrell on his 75th birthday. Like the earlier tribute, Saturday’s program blended appearances by major artists with performances from a variety of student ensembles.  And, also like the 2006 show – it ran at marathon length, largely causing the otherwise engaging program to come to a grinding halt when yet another of his many present and past associates made his way to the microphone to offer praise for Burrell.

The speech-making aside, it was the music itself that offered the best tribute to Burrell, as an artist and as an educator.  An opening set by the Jazz Heritage All-Stars – an aggregation of familiar Southland jazz luminaries – offered a view of the solid, straight-ahead sort of jazz that Burrell was instrumental in helping to create.  And when B.B. King and his band arrived on stage and the blues took over, the exchanges between King and Burrell were classic displays of the blues roots of the jazz art.

D.D. Bridgewater, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King and Kenny Burrell

At that point, what was shaping up to be the high point of the show went up another level with the surprise arrival of Stevie Wonder on stage.  And the all-star glow brightened even more when Dee Dee Bridgewater – scheduled to appear later – dashed out to share the fun in a jam session format with Burrell, King and Wonder.  It was a remarkable musical moment – one for the memory books.

Lalo Schifrin also performed with a trio, offering a longish view of his busily rhapsodic jazz perspectives. And Michelle Weir led the Tribute Vocal Ensemble – as she did in the 2006 show – in a performance of music based on Burrell compositions.

Other highlights included the introduction of the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited, a stellar ensemble of prime Southland players described by Burrell as an important new musical entity with a continuing role in the growing U.C.L.A. jazz program.  The program wrapped with a performance by the UCLA Philharmonia of composer Paul Chihara’s Pax Humana, a tribute to Burrell, and the combined Philharmonia and L.A. Jazz Orchestra Unlimited rendering of Suite For Peace, a collaborative work featuring segments by Burrell, John Clayton, Charley Harrison and others.

It was, in other words, a night that successfully celebrated the continuing creativity of Kenny Burrell – as artist and educator — with the sort of wide ranging, imaginative musical views that have characterized his own work over the years.

Photos by Reed Hutchinson courtesy of UCLA Live.

Picks of the Week Nov. 8 – 13

November 8, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 8. (Tues.) Rick Braun Sings.  Trumpeter Rick Braun, a high visibility instrumentalist in the smooth jazz arena, displays his engaging vocal skills on his latest album, the appropriately titled Rick Braun Sings With Strings. Vitello’s.      (818) 769-0905.

-  Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Phil Norman Tentet CD release party.  The Norman Tentet’s 21st century take on the West Coast sounds of the ‘50s is enhanced in the new album – Encore – by a set of arrangements from some of the world’s finest jazz arrangers.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Phil Upchurch

- Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Phil Upchurch and Grace Kelly.  Veteran blues artist Upchurch joins his solid skills with the rapidly growing talent of young alto saxophonist Kelly.  They’re joined by Ernest Tibbs on bass.  The Coffee Gallery.    (626) 798-6236.

- Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Marc Cohn.  Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Cohn features selections from his new album, Listening Booth 1970 in which he finds vibrant life in that storied year via his transformations of songs by Cat Stevens, John Lennon, Van Morrison, Smokey Robinson and others.  The Irvine Barclay.    (949) 854-4607.

- Nov. 10. (Thurs.) Patrick Berrogian’s Hot Club Combo.  French guitarist Berrogian recalls the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt with the hard driving support of Combo from the Hot Club of San Diego.  Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

CHita Rivera

- Nov. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Chita Rivera: My Broadway.  The title is right on target.  Who knows Broadway better than Rivera, whose credits reach from West Side Story to Kiss of the Spiderwoman and beyond.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.      (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 11. (Fri.)  Evelyn Glennie and Maya Beiser.  The gifted Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and cello goddess Beiser perform individual sets defining their extraordinary talents before coming together for a climactic world premiere of Stuttered Chant, composed for them by David Lang.  Royce Hall. UCLA Live.   (310) 825-2101.

- Nov. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.) Strunz & Farah.  Performing together since 1980, the duo guitar team of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah create incomparable musical banquets overflowing with sounds and rhythms reaching from jazz and flamenco to the Middle East, spiced with their own musically rich imaginations.  Click HERE to read iRoM’s most recent review of Strunz & Farah.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

The Labeque Sisters

- Nov. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bychkov and the Labeques.  The musically vivacious Labeque sisters – Katia and Marielle — s are joined by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Semyon Bychkov at Disney Hall in a performance of Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and the world premiere of Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Double OrchestraDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 12. (Sat.) Denise Donatelli.  Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Donatelli performs material from her radio-favorite album When Lights Are Low  as well as the standards she sings with such musical authenticity.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 12. (Sat.)  Three GuitarsFrank Potenza, Bruce Forman and Pat Kelley. Guitar togetherness doesn’t get much better than this blending of three of the instrument’s most gifted masters.  Boulevard Music, Culver City.  Info: (310) 398-2583.

Kenny Burrell

- Nov. 12. (Sat.)  Kenny Burrell.  “80 Years Young.” He may be turning 80, but guitarist Burrell continues a full schedule reaching from his work with the UCLA’s jazz studies program to his continuing live performances.  Celebrants include B.B. King, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Lalo Schifrin, as well as the UCLA Philharmonia, the UCLA Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Heritage All-Stars.  The program features new compositions by Dr. Roger Bourland, Dr. Paul Chihara, John Clayton, James Newton, Burrell and others.  Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.  (310) 825-2101.

Mark Miller and Betty Bryant

- Nov. 13. (Sun.)  Betty Bryant and Mark Miller.  Singer/pianist Bryant’s entertaining style embraces pleasures of jazz reaching back to the ‘50s.  She celebrates her birthday by joining with singer Miller in a performance of songs from their new duo album, Together.  Matinee.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- Nov. 8 (Tues.)  New West Guitar Group.  The talented young guitar virtuosos of the NWGG, equally adept at acoustic and electric styles, celebrate the recent release of their latest CD, Round Trip Ticket.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 12.  Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur and Suzy Thompson. Folk revival heroes of the ‘60s, Kweskin and Muldaur, along with the Jug Band, brought the spirit of Americana to the world of rock music.  Thompson’s dynamic singing and spirited fiddling add solid roots touches to the mix.  Freight & Salvage.    (510) 644-2020.

- Nov. 13. (Sun.)  “Melody Monsters.”  Dave Grisman and Frank Vignola Duo. It’s a uniquely appealing combination – Grisman’s sweetly lyrical mandolin and Vignola’s dependable jazz guitar.  Don’t miss this one.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.


Rickie Lee Jones

- Nov. 6 & 9. (Tues. & Wed.)  Rickie Lee Jones.  Singer and songwriter of styles beyond definition Jones – approaching 60 – may not have the visibility she once did, but she nevertheless continues to be one of pop music’s most intriguing performers.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

Maureen McGovern

- Nov. 8 – 12. (Tues. – Sat.)  Maureen McGovern. Her soaring vocals have been delighting audiences with her imaginative views of the American Songbook over four decades.  Now she’s offering tunes from a new CD – dangling conversations  – featuring music by more recent additions to the Songbook – Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Webb among them.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chick Corea continues his epic, month long run at the Blue Note.  This week, he’ll be in the company of Bobby McFerrin (Tues. – Thurs.) and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 11. (Fri.)  “The 50th Anniversary of West Side Story: The Movie.”  Yes, it’s been half a century since the magnificent Bernstein/Sondheim hit musical of the ‘50s made its way into a classic film musical.  Celebrating that extraordinary production, the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra and Justin DiCioccio will feature arrangements crafted by Dave Grusin, Michael Abene and Don Sebesky, as well as the Buddy Rich West Side Story Suite by Bill Reddie and a pair of Johnny Richards arrangements for Stan Kenton’s West Side Story album.  Borden Auditorium at the Manhattan School of Music.   (917) 493-4428.

Tierney Sutton

- Nov. 13. (Sun.)  Turtle Island Quartet and Tierney Sutton.   They’re a seemingly unlikely combination, but both the TIQ and Sutton have a sparkling history of musical adventurousness.  And when they get together – as they do here – to perform the music of John Coltrane, expect creative fireworks.  Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.


- Nov. 9 – 12 (Wed. – Sat.)  Brubecks Play BrubeckDarius, Chris and Dan Brubeck plus special guest.  The musical genealogy is a potent element in this aggregation of Dave Brubeck’s sons.  Each is an accomplished, envelope-stretching player in his own right.  Together, they recall some of their old man’s finest efforts.  (I wonder who the special guest will be.)  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Photos of  Kenny Burrell, Rickie Lee Jones and Tierney Sutton by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: July 19 – 24

July 19, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

July 20. (Wed.)  John Daversa Big Band.  Trumpeter Daversa’s adventurous, often unpredictable charts make his big band appearances into engaging musical events.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 21. (Thurs.)  Bruce Forman Quartet.  Guitarist/educator/novelist Forman is one of the jazz world’s true multi-hyphenates.  Here he is, with his guitar, getting down to basics.Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- June 21. (Thurs.)  Kate Reid with the John Heard Trio.  Singer/pianist Dr. Kate Reid, head of the jazz program at Cypress College also has a resume with gigs reaching from John Hendricks and Mark Murphy to Bobby McFerrin and Tito Puente. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

Maria de Barros

- June 21. (Thurs.)  Maria de Barros. The musically eclectic de Barros reveals Cape Verdean influences in her Cesaria Evora-influenced style.  But she also brings elements of Latin and international pop to performances rich with dynamic musical energy. Skirball Center.    (310) 440-4500.

- July 22. (Fri.) Phil Upchurch and Sonya Maddox Upchurch.  The Upchurch couple get together for some guitar and voice displays from Phil Upchurch’s new catalog of songs.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 22. (Fri.)  Peter Cetera.  He’s probably best known for the hits he was instrumental in creating for the rock group Chicago.  But singer/songwriter Cetera’s had a busy career since then, with Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy nominations.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

- July 22. (Fri.)  Gina Saputo.  She still doesn’t have the visibility her impressive talents deserve, but Saputo continues to make a case for herself as one of the vocal standouts of her still youthful generation.  Steamers.    (714) 871-8000.

- July 22 & 23. (Fri. & Sat.)  Dolly Parton. The Queen of Country and one of the inconic musical artists of the past few decades, makes an appearance in the only Southern California venue large enough for her celebrity stature.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Kenny Burrell Quintet. Veteran guitarist and all around musical influence Burrell takes a break from this teaching chores at U.C.L.A. to celebrate his 80th birthday.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Don McLean

- July 23. (Sat.) Don McLean.  Writer of some of American song’s most memorable hits – “American Pie,” “Vincent,” “And I Love You So” among them – McLean makes one of his too rare Southland appearances. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- July 24. (Sun.) Global Soul.  With Rickey Minor, Stevie Wonder, Rocky Dawuni, Sharon Jones, Janelle Monae and others..  Overlook the fact that its booked as one of the Bowl’s World Music events, and just sit back and enjoy the international reach of American soul music.  Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

July 23 & 24. (Sat. & Sun.)  Dee Dee Bridgewater.  With her lush, dark sound, her irresistible on-stage energy,  and her adventurous interpretations, a night with Dee Dee is always a night to remember. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

July 19 – 23. (Tues. – Sat.)  Louis Hayes Quintet“Cannonball Adderley Legacy”  Drummer Hayes, a veteran of six years with the Adderley quintet, offers some authentic musical memories of Adderley’s unique music, with alto saxophonist Vincent Herring playing a key role. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Tierney Sutton

- July 19 – 24. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Tierney Sutton Band.  Sutton’s extraordinary musicality resonates through every thing she sings, enhanced by her equally engaging ability to tell a story.  She performs with Christian Jacob, piano, Kevin Axt, bass and Ralph Humphrey, drums.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

July 19 – 24.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Fred Hersch Trio.  Pianist Hersch, fully returned to action after some severe medical problems, continues to affirm his compelling vision of the jazz piano art.  With John Hebert, bass and Eric McPherson, drums.  Village Vanguard.    (212) 255-4037.


- July 23. (Sat.)  Gregory Porter.  Grammy-nominated Porter’s lush sound and far-reaching style are bringing vitality to the still small coterie of male jazz vocal artists.  Regatta Bar.   (617) 395-7757.

Washington D.C.

- July 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cyrus Chestnut Trio.  Versatile pianist Chestnut has a far ranging catalog of material to offer on any given gig – from spirituals and Elvis Presley tunes to straight ahead bebop.  Expect to be well entertained.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.


James Carter

- July 21 & 22. (Thurs. & Fri.)  The James Carter Organ Trio.  Saxophonist Carter’s ability to generate super heated improvisational energies is the perfect stimulus for the jazz organ trio format.  He performs with Gerard Gibbs, B-3 organ and Leonard King, drums.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


- July 21. (Thurs.)  David Krakauer and Klezmer Madness. Clarinetist Krakauer continues on his quest to blend traditional klezmer music with everything from pop and jazz to soul, funk and beyond.   New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.

Tierney Sutton photo by Tony Gieske.

Live Jazz: KPFK 90.7′s First Annual Hero Award Tribute to Billy Higgins at Catalina Bar & Grill

May 3, 2011

By Tony Gieske

You wouldn’t figure that an event honoring the late Billy Higgins would have drawn a full house to Catalina’s on a Sunday night.

Billy Higgins

We here in musician-creamy Los Angeles understand that Higgins — always smiling! — was the go-to guy if you wanted to record with a cat who was there mainly to help you.  A sideman.  His name was never the biggest one on an album cover.  That spot would go to someone like Max Roach, or Art Blakey, or Elvin Jones.

True, Higgins, who died 10 years ago, did headline with his friend Ornette Coleman back in the late 1950s.  But more often his name inhabited the small type on albums such as the ones with Donald Byrd, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Milt Jackson, Jackie McLean, Pat Metheny, Hank Mobley, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, David Murray, Art Pepper, Sonny Rollins, Mal Waldron, and Cedar Walton.

But you had to be deeply dyed in the jazz wool to think of him as the star he actually was.

Yet here was this bowl-you-over turnout, cars filling the four-story parking lot next door, with KPFK, the radio station that was putting on their first  annual fund-raiser, charging $75 per person and turning folks away.  The rejects fostered a brisk trade in slick programs and posters with Higgins’ picture in glorious black and white.

Eric Reed

Inside, there came in glorious live or taped audio such jazz figures as Clayton Cameron, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Burrell,  John Beasley (the musical director), Gerald Wilson, Leon Mobley,  Will Calhoun, Phil Ranelin, Richard Grant, Charles Owens, Eric Reed and of course Coleman.

“Billy was one of the most special human beings,” the white plastic alto man said in a message read on the stand. “He had something to do with the reason we’re all alive.”

“He was very, very pure,” Coleman added. “He could make me feel so good and proud of the way he executed (on the stand). And (most important) he never had one derogatory or unappreciative thing to say about anybody.”

“He didn’t really want to take a lot of drum solos,” said Reed. ” ‘It’s my job to make everybody else sound good,’ he seemed to feel. And in some kind of way Billy Higgins made it all sound amazing.”

Kamau Da'ood and Charles Lloyd

Poet Kamau Da’ood, the Horace Tapscott alumnus who co-founded the ground-breaking performance space World Stage in Leimart Park with Higgins, shouted a passionate poem about bones, and John Densmore, a founding member of the Doors, did likewise.

But it was the saxophonist Charles Lloyd who transcended the verbal — although he first spoke a few words with undeniable  conviction — in a moving unaccompanied instrumental elegy to his longtime traveling mate in the land of the jazz future.  It is a future toward which, he seemed to mourn, his old friend can journey no longer.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.

Picks of the Week: April 5 – 10

April 4, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Junko Onishi

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

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

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

Kenny Burrell

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

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

Salif Keita

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

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

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

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

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

Arlo Guthrie

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco

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

Madeleine Peyroux

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

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

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

New York

Toshiko Akiyoshi

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

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

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers