Live Jazz: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

March 20, 2014

By Don Heckman

Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert

Bel Air, CA. It was another rare performance to remember Tuesday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. On stage, veteran jazz trumpeter, band leader and club owner Herb Alpert and his wife, singer Lani Hall, were backed by their fine rhythm team: pianist/keyboardist Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael Shapiro.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Offering a program reaching from jazz classics and Songbook standards to a medley of tunes from the hit recordings of Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, the performance took place at the center of the rich, colorful environment Alpert has been creating for Vibrato since he first bought the Bel Air club and transformed it into his perspective of what a fine jazz club/restaurant can be. In the process, his paintings and sculptures – abstract but visually gripping – combined with the re-designing of the room to provide the perfect setting for his always-engaging music.

There were no real surprises in the program for anyone who’s heard Herb and Lani in their recent performances at Vibrato. But no worries there. Whether Herb was playing “A Taste of Honey” or singing “This Guy’s in Love with You”; whether Lani was singing Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance” or the bossa nova delight “O Pato,” the results were always fascinating.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Hearing repetitions of familiar songs can be less than appealing from artists who basically play their “hits” like living juke boxes. With Herb and Lani, however, hearing them perform over the years –singing and playing together — has provided unique opportunities to experience a pair of gifted artists bring new interpretive perspectives to everything they played and sang. As they did on this memorable evening.

Herb has always had a gift for melodic paraphrasing in his solos, and recent years have seen him find even more expressiveness in his improvising, often suggesting the sort of clear-cut, lyrical melody-making long associated with Miles Davis.

Lani Hall

Lani Hall

Lani has been a fine musical story teller since the release of her first album Sundown Lady in the ’70s. In reviewing that album for the New York Times, I referred to her “mix of drama, song, soul and universal emotion that uncovers the real pathos in the lyrics of a song.” Which is precisely what she did in this performance with a deeply emotional interpretation of “Fly Me To The Moon.”

Add to that the superb support of the rhythm section of Cantos, Jiffry and Shapiro, creating a warm setting for Herb and Lani, with Cantos contributing a briskly rhythmic scat version of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and Jiffry offering some guitar-like bossa nova backing on his bass.

In sum, call it a mesmerizing musical offering performed with dynamic creativity. No wonder that the overflow audience responded enthusiastically to every song, demanding and getting encores, and wishing for more.

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Music: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

October 5, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s always a pleasure to hear Herb Alpert and Lani Hall up close and personal. The veteran showbiz couple, whose prolific careers reach back to the ’60s, are still at the peak of their considerable creative powers.

On Thursday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc., the elegant, Bel Air night club founded by Alpert, they celebrated the release of their new album, Steppin’ Out, with one of their too-rare Southland appearances.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

And the results were memorable – as they so often are when Alpert and Hall are on stage, especially in their own room, working before an enthusiastic, supportive crowd, backed by the stellar accompaniment of pianist/singer Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael Shapiro.

Lani Hall

Lani Hall

The selections reached across the Great American Songbook, providing an especially gripping set of classic tunes for Hall to display her mesmerizing story-telling skills. Among the most compelling interpretations, her songs ranged from “Moondance,” “Fever,” “Fly Me To the Moon” and “Let’s Face the Music” to “All In the Game” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (brightened by a hard grooving scat contribution from Cantos).

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Herb Alpert

On some pieces, Alpert played burnished trumpet solos before joining Hall in intimate vocalizing. On “This Guy’s In Love with You,” he sang (and played) the 1968 Burt Bacharach/Hal David song that resulted in Alpert’s first #1 single. Both his trumpet playing and his singing affirmed the lyricism – vocally and instrumentally – that is at the heart of his music. Gifted with a knack for melody, he applied it to every song he touched, whether singing with a warmly intimate vocal interpretation or arching through his characteristically embracing trumpet lines.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

I’ve been writing about this remarkable couple – individually, paired and collectively (Alpert with the Tijuana Brass, Hall with Brazil 66) – since the late ’60s. And each performance I’ve experienced, live and on recording, was the work of a pair of gifted musical artists. As recently as last July they opened the Hollywood Bowl’s summer jazz schedule on a brilliant program with Sergio Mendes’ Brazil 66.

This time out, more than six months later, they played much of the repertoire heard at the Bowl. But there was no resisting the appeal of whatever they played, however familiar it may have been.

The unforgettable performance ended with an entertaining selection from the new Alpert album, Steppin’ Out, scheduled for release on November 19.  On either side of the stage, big screen projections displayed the album’s prime video, “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” with the music performed live, in perfect sync with the video images. It was the perfect closure for an evening of superb offerings from a pair of the music world’s most creative practitioners.

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Video courtesy of Herb Alpert.

Photos by Faith Frenz.  To see more photos by Faith Frenz click HERE.


Live Jazz: Herb Alpert, Lani Hall and Sergio Mendes at the Hollywood Bowl

July 18, 2013

By Don Heckman

The 2013 summer season of jazz at the Hollywood Bowl clicked into place Wednesday night with the performances of Herb Alpert, Lani Hall and Sergio Mendes.

Alpert and Hall, in particular, offered a musically rich, rhythmically energetic program of material ranging across jazz classics and American Songbook standards spiced with the music of Brazil.

Although he may be best known for the establishment of the Tijuana Brass in the sixties, and for shaping it into one of the most successful groups in pop music history, Alpert has always been a determinedly jazz-focused trumpet player, as well.  And his performance at the Bowl offered an impressive recollection of the depth of his skills as a jazz artist. Add to that his similarly gifted talents as a visual artist, which were on display in the form of a large Alpert painting as a backdrop.

Bill Cantos, Lani Hall, Hussain Jiffry, Herb Alpert and Michael Shapiro

I’ve heard Alpert many times, playing impressively in many settings over the past decades.  But this time out, his opening set was a performance to remember.  Standing alongside his wife, singer Lani Hall — backed by pianist/keyboardist Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael Shapiro – he played with the cool,  musically imaginative aspects that have always been at the heart of who he is as a jazz improviser.  And he revealed the impressive extent of those aspects, no matter what he was playing – in songs reaching from the Tijuana Brass memories of “A Taste of Honey” to such far-ranging song classics as “Besame Mucho,” “Moondance,” “Lets Face the Music and Dance” and “La Vie En Rose.”

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

The always captivating musical presence of Hall added another convincing jazz element to the set.  The lush timbres of her voice, combined with a brisk sense of rhythm, have always been a vital part of her style, reaching back to the early ’70s.  But in recent years, Hall has become an even better musical story-teller, finding the heart of a song in all her expressively intimate performances.  And, in this concert, she did so in deeply musical, lyrically compelling readings of songs such as “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”  The latter tune, in particular was interpreted by Hall with a uniquely personal rendering that reached far more deeply into the song than the jaunty, often-imitated Sinatra version.

Alpert and Hall were extremely well served by the presence of Cantos, Jiffry and Shapiro.  Each is an impressive player in his own right.  But they also added a collective, even symbiotic, coming together to find an utterly memorable approach to each of the songs in their program.

Sergio Mendes Band

Sergio Mendes Band

Less can be said for the Mendes part of the evening.  Performing with an ensemble of singers and instrumentalists comparable to his Brazil 66 (etc.) ensembles, he devoted most of his set to such familiar items as “Waters of March,” Agua De Beber” and “The Look of Love.”

The Brazil 66 sound and style of the ‘60s had its appealing qualities – qualities that underscored the band’s many pop music successes.  But in an apparent effort to reach out to a broader listener demographic, Mendes added a rapper to several tunes.  And the results largely obliterated the most appealing aspects of the Brazil 66 memories.

Fortunately, Alpert, Hall and their fine accompanists had already brought jazz authenticity to the Bowl’s 2013 schedule in their opening set.  Hopefully, their world class program will represent the start of an equally memorable summer at the Hollywood Bowl for Southland jazz fans.

* * * * * * * *

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.

London

- 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.

Paris

- 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.

Berlin

- 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.

Milan

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.

Tokyo

- 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: Lauren White at Vitello’s

April 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City CA.  A loudly expressive full house crowd was waiting for singer Lauren White when she came on stage Saturday night at Vitello’s.  Which was somewhat of a surprise, given White’s still emerging visibility as a jazz artist.  But, although she hasn’t yet found the full audience her singing deserves, she has begun to receive considerable critical accolades.  Veteran jazz critic Scott Yanow has described White as “poised to make a strong impact on the jazz world.”

That achievement may take a little while, but her performance at Vitello’s was filled with enough intriguing moments to underscore White’s impressive potential.

Lauren White

Her program was largely devoted to selections from her new album, Meant To Be. And the far reaching selections underscored the musical curiosity and eclectic interpretive range that are essential elements in White’s growing skills.  Among the many highlights: Matt Dennis’ classic jazz ballad, “Angel Eyes”; Dave Frishberg and Alan Broadbent’s “Heart’s Desire”; Stephen Sondheim’s “Now You Know:’ Bernard Ighner’s Everything Must Change”; and Ivan Lins’ gorgeous “Meant To Be (“Saudades de Casa”), with English lyrics by Lani Hall.

That’s a remarkable collection of  songs, by any definition, and there were that many more, equally remarkable.  White has been described accurately as an adept practitioner in cabaret as well as jazz, with both skills amply present in the selections she chose for her virtually non-stop 90 minute program.

She was backed superbly by pianist Quinn Johnson, saxophonist/flutist Bob Sheppard, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Kevin Winard.  The well-crafted arrangements by Johnson provided precisely the right settings, with brightly rhythmic swing on the faster tunes, and lush, impressionistic harmonies on ballads, enhanced by the soaring tones of Sheppard’s flute.

Lauren White and Trey Henry

Lauren White and Trey Henry

At her best, White made the most of her warm voice and embracing vibrato.  Occasionally, she called up memories of the late Irene Kral.  Although she is a few steps away from the memorable interpretive accomplishments of Kral, White approached each of her selections with a similarly determined effort to reach into the heart of a song.

Often, she succeeded admirably in finding the emotional center of that inner heart beat.  Occasionally, especially in the more unfamiliar numbers, she appeared to be more focused on the beauty of her sound rather than the intimacy of the lyrics.

But she’s on her way.  And when White’s musical story telling skill reaches its fullest level of expressiveness, she may well be positioned to fulfill Yanow’s description of her potential “impact on the jazz world.”

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Here, There & Everywhere: The 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts

May 11, 2012

By Don Heckman

Herb Alpert has had more successes – creative and financial – than most artists can dream of experiencing.  And to his credit he’s handled them with remarkable finesse and generosity.  Music programs at UCLA and CalArts have benefited from his multi-million dollar grants to each institution.

Herb Alpert

Today, another impressive display of the Alpert munificence took place with the presentation of the 2012 Alpert Awards in the Arts, a combined effort of the Herb Alpert Foundation and CalArts. The Awards, now in their 19th installment, recognize mid-career achievements in Music, Dance, Film/Video, Theatre and Visual Arts.

All of the winners — as well as Alpert, CalArts faculty members and some of the panel members who made the Awards selections — were in attendance earlier today for a celebratory party at the Alpert Foundation offices in Santa Monica. Each receives a $75,000 award.

Jazz fans can be especially pleased that the Music Award was granted to pianist/composer Myra Melford, whose ground breaking, exploratory recordings have provided some of the most fascinating improvisational journeys of the past two decades.

Myra Melford

According to Irene Borger, Director of the Alpert Award in the Arts, Melford was honored “for her ascending and expansive trajectory, and great, generous musical mind…her willingness to dive into the deep end of the pool and her ability to take multiple musical traditions into another sphere.”

Ms. Borger also announced the reasoning behind the other awards:

Nora Chipaumire

Dance: Nora Chipaumire, “for her profound movement intellirgence, steaming hot and extraordinary presence, the dialogue she creates with audiences, and her visceral struggles with critical issues of the day.”

* * * *

Kevin Everson

Film/Video: Kevin Everson, “for his relentless curiosity, sustained inquiry, for elevating the visual power of expressive quotidian gestures of working people, and for his aesthetic caring gaze.”

* * * *

Eisa Davis

Theatre: Eisa Davis, “for her profound multiple gifts as playwright, performer and musician, her portrayal of the complex richness of our American character, and her work’s relevance and epic sweep, expanding our notion of how one might live in the 21st century.”

* * * *

Michael Smith

Visual Arts: Michael Smith, “for subversively using the visual languages of popular and corporate culture to take on big issues, for pioneering narrative within video art practice, and for rendering the everyday as truly strange….”

Alpert’s smiling presence underscored the satisfaction he must feel for the display of yet another of his vital contributions to the arts.  He could, after all, have bought an island (or two or three) in the Caribbean and retired to a life of luxurious beach-combing, painting, sculpting and some trumpet playing on the side.  Not that he’s given up on the latter three.  Not at all.  His fascinating paintings and sculptures are omnipresent in the Foundation offices, his home near Malibu and his Bel Air jazz club, Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. And he and his wife, the gifted singer Lani Hall, continue to record and tour with their stellar group.

But Alpert also expresses his creativity via his beneficence – via his generous financial support for the arts as a vital, continually expressive element in American life.

* * * * * *

Photos courtesy of the Herb Alpert Foundation.


Picks of the Week: Nov. 15 – 20

November 15, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Welsman

- Nov. 15. (Tues.)  Carol Welsman.  Pianist/singer Welsman makes her last L.A. area performance of the year, which makes it one not to be missed.  Hopefully she’ll play a few tunes from her soon to be released latest CD.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.)  Jane Harvey.  Veteran singer Harvey, whose extensive resume begins with the Benny Goodman Band in the mid-40s, is still a remarkable performing artist.  To read Tony Gieske’s recent iRoM review of a Harvey performance, click HERE. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall.  They’ve been a jazz/pop power couple for a long time.  But what really makes Alpert and Hall special is the charmed intimacy of the way they make music together.  Here, they perform in their very own jazz club. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 17. (Thurs.)  Doug Webb.  Master reed and flute player Webb concentrates on tenor saxophone and flute, but he is equally adept at numerous other instruments.  No matter what he plays, however, he does it with style, substance and imagination.  Crowne Plaza LAX Jazz Club.  http://www.crowneplaza.com  (310) 642-7500.

Lainie Kazan

- Nov. 17 – 19. (Thurs. – Sat.) Lainie Kazan. Lainie’s done it all – stage, screen, night clubs and recordings — always with the attractive blend of emotional intensity and sardonic wit that are among her many attributes.  And when she applies it to a song…look out.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  Riffat Sultana.  The daughter of the great Pakistani singer Salamat Ali Khan, Sultana ranges from traditional and classical ghazal and qawwali to fascinating cross-cultural blends.  The Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  Bruce Eskovitz Jazz Orchestra. Saxophonist, educator and clinician, Dr. Bruce is also the leader of a big band whose music reflects his quest to create music that blends rhythmic excitement and compelling ensemble textures. LACMA.    (323) 857-6000.

Song of the Angels Flute Orchestra

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  David Shostac and the Song of the Angels Flute Orchestra.  Shostac, principal flutist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra leads one of the music world’s most unique entities – an ensemble made up of the full range of flutes, from the familiar concert C flute to the extremely rare double contrabass flute.  Cypress Recital Hall at the Valley Performing Arts Center.   (818) 677-3000.

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  The Spirit of Django.  Gypsy jazz is at its finest in the hands of Dorado Schmitt, a guitarist with a deep understanding of the irresistible music of the legendary Django Reinhardt.  Segerstrom Center For The Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  Sketchy Black Dog. The off center blend of string quartet with piano jazz trio led by pianist Misha Piatigorsky is liable to play their own take on anything from Jimi Hendrix and Elton John to their own inimitable originals.  Blue Whale.   http://bluewhalemusic.com  (213) 620-0908.

Barbara Morrison

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  Barbara Morrison.  One of the Southland’s vocal treasures, Morrison has moved beyond her profound medical problems by staying in touch with the expressiveness that has always been at the heart of her music.  Steamers. http://www.steamerscafe.com  (714) 871-8800.

- Nov. 19. (Sat.) Wu Man“Return to East – Ancient Dances.”  A virtuoso player of China’s lute-like pipa, and a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road ensemble, Wu Man plays selections from the traditional repertoire, as well as the specially commissioned multi-media work, Ancient Dances.  UCLA Live at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-4401.

San Francisco

Miguel Zenon

- Nov. 15. (Tues.)  Miguel Zenon.  MacArthur grant genius award winner Zenon has been playing a lot in other bands lately.  Here’s a chance to hear this imaginative saxophonist on his own.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.) Kiran Ahluwalia. Singer/composer Ahluwalia blends poetic ghazals and traditional Punjabi songs with contemporary sounds and rhythms generated by her guitarist husband, Rez Abbasi.   Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 16 – 20. (Wed. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  Deedles, as she is known and loved by fans and friends alike, has been reviving her jazz roots lately.  But that doesn’t mean that she can’t find the heart of any other style she decides to explore.  Don’t miss this rare chance to hear her up close and live.  The Rrazz Room.   (415) 394-1189.

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  The Anonymous Four.  This female a cappella quartet has produced some of the most extraordinary examples of pre-1600 vocal music.  Heard in the Grace Cathedral, with its remarkable 7-second reverberation, their singing will produce an authentic display of the polyphonic sound and substance of early music.  Grace Cathedral.    (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

Nov. 18 – 20. (Fri. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. Blessed with one of the most luxurious vocal instruments in jazz, Monheit isn’t often properly appreciated for the rhythmic lift and imaginative phrasing she brings to her performances.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- Nov. 17 – 20 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Barron Trio. He’s every jazz artist’s favorite pianist to have in their rhythm section.  And with plenty of good reasons – all of which are especially apparent when Barron takes the spotlight with his own music.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

Jim Hall

- Nov. 15 – 19. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Jim Hall Quartet.  At a time when the guitar has been making a major comeback in jazz for a decade or two, Hall – whose credentials reach back to the ‘50s – continues to be one of the instrument’s major masters.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 15 – 20.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Chick Corea continues his epic, month long banquet of music from his long, storied career.  Tues. – Thurs: From Miles, with Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette, Wallace Roney and Gary Bartz; Fri. – Sun: Flamenco Heart, with a new band of world-class Latin musicians.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.) John Coltrane’s Ascension. A stellar aggregation of contemporary players, led by Joe Lovano, take on one of the classic works of the adventurous jazz of the ‘60s.  The group includes Donny McCaslin, Sabir Mateen and Vincent Herring, saxophones; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Josh Roseman, trombone; James Weidman, piano; Ben Allison, bass; Billy Drummond and Matt Wilson, drums;   Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. & Sat.)  Denny Zeitlin.  The psychiatrist/jazz pianist from San Francisco makes one of his infrequent stops in New York.  This time around, his considerable talents will on full display via an evening of solo piano (on Friday) followed by a trio performance with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson (on Saturday).  The Jazz Lounge in the Kitano Hotel.   (212) 885-7119.

Boston

Sheila Jordan

- Nov. 17. (Wed.)  Sheila Jordan and Steve Kuhn Duo.  Both Jordan and Kuhn are veteran jazz artists with careers reaching back for decades.  And an especially attractive part of that history is represented by the recordings and live performances they’ve done together.  Call it a symbiotic jazz connection.  The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

London

- Nov. 19. (Sat.)  A Portrait of Jaco.  The Laurence Cottle Big Band performs material from Jaco Pastorious’ “Word of Mouth” band. Celebrating what would have been Jaco’s 60th birthday on Dec. 1. Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Sheila Jordan photo by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: May 17 – 22

May 17, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bill Cunliffe

- May 18 (Wed.)  Bill in Brazil.  Grammy-winning pianist Bill Cunliffe, always unpredictable, displays his fascination with Brazilian music.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 18. (Wed.)  John Proulx Trio.  Pianist/singer Proulx mixes his crisp piano styings with the gentle vocals of his Chet Baker-inspired singing. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- May 18. (Wed.)  Jane Harvey.  Vocalist Harvey brings a lot of music business history to her performances.  She replaced Peggy Lee with the Benny Goodman Band and followed Doris Day with the Les Brown Band.  She’ll know doubt touch on that part of her career, as well as her jazz versions of Sondheim, all of it delivered in her convincing interpretations.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- May 19. (Thurs.)  Terry Trotter and Chuck Berghofer.  Pianist Trotter and bassist Berghofer, a pair of the Southland’s finest veteran players, get down to essential jazz basics. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- May 20. (Fri.)  Johnny Mandel Big Band.  Composer/arranger/songwriter Mandel is a master craftsman of big band writing.  Here’s a chance to hear his work up close and personal.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Lani Hall

- May 20. (Fri.)  Herb Alpert and Lani Hall. The music world power duo are on the road again, blending Hall’s rich, emotional songs with Alpert’s laid back trumpet.  Add a few tunes from the Tijuana Brass book to spice up the evening.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

- May 20 – 22. (Fri. – Sun.)  Lee Ritenour.  Captain Fingers, as he was once called, plays a rare club date showcasing his unique blend of guitar-driven, foot-tapping jazz. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- May 21.  (Sat.)  An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin.  A pair of the Broadway musical theatre’s brightest stars get together for an evening of irresistible song.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

- May 21. (Sat.) A Tribute to Clifford BrownThe Luckman Jazz Orchestra. Brown’s far too brief life nonetheless left behind a memorable catalog of music.  It’s explored here in the passionate big band sounds of the LJO.   Luckman Fine Arts Complex.    (323) 343-6600.

- May 22. (Sun.) Katia Moraes and Sambaguru. There will be Brazilian music in all its many shapes, forms and rhythms when the charismatic Moraes and her energetic Sambaguru players take the stage.  WorldFest at Woodley Park, Lake Balboa   (310) 477-7887.

Duke Ellington

- May 22. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale.  Performs the best of the Duke Ellington sacred concerts.  Ellington’s sacred works, composed near the end of his life, represent significant entries in his vast catalog of music.  They’re no performed often, and rarely by an ensemble with the quality of the LAMC.  So don’t miss this one. Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2040.

- May 22. (Sun.) The Colin Vallon Piano Trio.   Rruga, the debut ECM recording from this intriguing Swiss group, with Vallon, piano, Patrice Moret, bass and Samuel Rohrer, drums, reveals a musically airy, rhythmically subtle, emotionally layered approach to the piano jazz trio.   A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast program at Keyboard Concepts.  (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

- May 18. (Wed.)  Eliza Gilkyson. It’s been over 40 years since folk singer/guitarist Gilkyson released her first album.  And she’s still bringing life to every song she touches.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.   (510) 644-2020.

- May 20 – 22. (Fri. – Sun.)  Four Generations of Miles. A celebration of what would have been Miles’ 85th birthday (May 26, actually) with a set of players who performed with him over many decades: guitarist Mike Stern, alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Jimmy Cobb Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Chicago

Benny Green

- May 19 – 22.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Benny Green Trio. Pianist Green showcases his bop-driven, hard swinging wares in the company of Kenny Washington, drums and Peter Washington, bass.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

May 17 – 22. (Tues. – Sun.)  Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. And an all-star band it is, including, among others, Jimmy Heath, Eric Alexander, Antonio Hart, Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi, Cyrus Chestnut, Lewis Nash and singer Roberta Gambarini The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- May 19 – 22. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Miles Davis: From Birth of the Cool to Bitches Brew.  Another Davis 85th birthday celebration, this time surveying the length and breadth of his music. Featuring  With Jeremy Pelt, George Cables, Lonny Plaxico, Eddie HendersonIridium Jazz.  (212) 582-2121.

- May 22. (Sun.)  Jane Ira Bloom Trio.  Soprano saxophonist Bloom displays her far-ranging improvisational skills, ranging from acoustic settings to electronic tape loops. Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319/

London

- May 19. (Thurs.)  Lullaby of Birdland: Remembering George Shearing. Pianist James Pearson and the Ronnie Scott All Stars celebrate the memory of fellow Brit Shearing with a program of pieces reaching from the early trios to the classic guitar/vibes and rhythm sound.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Paris

Robert Glasper

- May 21. (Sat.)  Robert Glasper.  Pianist Glasper presents one of his “Experiment in Jazz” performances, finding common ground in territories reaching from hip-hop and rap to Thelonious Monk.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Bill Cunliffe photo by Tony Gieske.

Lani Hall photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Live Jazz: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

February 14, 2011

ByDon Heckman

Give Herb Alpert credit.  As one of the most successful musician/entrepreneurs in music history, he could easily kick back in his ocean-side compound, paint his paintings, make his sculptures and play some trumpet on the side, just for fun.

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

But no.  Alpert and his wife, singer Lani Hall still seem compelled to put it all out there, to make new records, play new music and go out on the road.  It’s not exactly the way they were doing it back in the ‘60s, when Alpert was leading the hit-making, chart-topping Tijuana Brass, and Hall was singing with the similarly popular Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.  But it’s still very different from simply settling into the luxurious leisure life that is so available to them.

Lani Hall

And they appear to be digging every onstage minute.  On Sunday night, while the rest of the music world was focusing on the Grammys, Herb and Lani were at Alpert’s Bel Air jazz room, Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc., enthusiastically playing their first gig in a cross country tour celebrating the release of their latest album, “I Feel You.”  By next week around this time, they’ll be performing in Lincoln Center’s Allen Room.

They opened with a funk-driven take on “Besame Mucho,” with the rhythm team of Bill Cantos, piano, Hussain Jiffry, bass and Michael Shapiro, drums laying down a sizzling propulsion that promised (and delivered) good tidings for the rest of the program.

The next few tunes – “Call Me,” “Fever” among them – underscored the premise that energizes Alpert and Hall’s music: the desire to find unique, contemporary interpretations of a full range of familiar pop material.

Bill Cantos, Lani Hall, Hussain Jeffry, Herb Alpert, Michael Shapiro

By the time they got to “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “Black Magic,” “Blackbird” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” the recipe for that musical banquet was was clear.  It started with Alpert’s wispy, atmospheric trumpet sounds, sometimes played open, sometimes channeled through Miles Davis-like muted tones.  Add to that Cantos harmonically subtle backing, occasionally blended with his laid-back vocals the electrifying scat singing, Jiffry’s on-the-mark bass lines and Shapiro’s multi-layered percussive rhythms.  All of it providing a loving embrace for Hall’s mesmerizing vocals – soaring smoothly through touching ballads, briskly swinging rhythm tunes and utterly convincing bossa novas.

It’s a recipe that works well.  So well, in fact, that it provided convincing evidence as to why Herb Alpert, who already has three university music schools named after him, still feels the drive to get out there and do it all again.  And why so many listeners are so delighted to have him do precisely that.

Photos by Bonnie Perkinson.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 8 – 14

February 8, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

John Daversa

- Feb. 8. (Tues.)  The John Daversa Progressive Big Band. Trumpeter/composer/arranger  Daversa takes the big band instrumentation into fascinating new musical areas.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 8. (Tues.)  Lianne Carroll.   BBC Jazz Award winner Carroll, who accompanies her vibrant vocals with equally dynamic piano playing, makes her North American debut. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 9. (Wed.)  The Clare Fischer Voices and Latin Jazz Group. A fascinating blend of vocal and instrumental jazz from Clare Fischer’s prolific musical imagination.  Brent Fischer directs the ensemble.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 9. (Wed.)  The John Altman Quartet.  Busy alto saxophonist Altman takes a break from his composing, arranging and producing for laid back jazz jam with Mike Lang, piano, Frank De Vito, drums, Putter Smith, bass.  Charlie O’s.

Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg

- Feb. 9. (Wed.)  Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with the New Century Chamber Orchestra. Now the conductor of the NCCO, violinist Salerno-Sonneberg joins with the ensemble in a diverse program of Bartok, Piazolla and Tchaikovsky.  The Broad Stage.   (310) 434-3200.

- Feb. 9 & 10. (Wed. & Thurs.) Oz Noy.  Israeli-born guitarist Noy leads a jazz/rock/fusion trio with Dave Weckl on drums and Darryl Jones (of the Rolling Stones) on bass. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 10. (Thurs.)  Kodo.  The entertaining Japanese percussion collective bring their colorful collection of instruments and irresistible rhythms to Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Lorraine Feather

- Feb. 10. (Thurs.)  Lorraine Feather.  Singer/songwriter Feather writes songs in which jazz is the root and poetry the blossom.  There’s no one quite like her, and she should be heard at every opportunity.  Backing her: Russell Ferrante, piano and Mike Valerio, bass.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Natalie Cole. She’s a beyond definition artist, as comfortable with jazz as she is with the blues and classic pop songs.  No doubt she’ll be unforgettable (and probably sing it, as well) with the Pacific Symphony, conducted by Richard Kaufman. Segerstrom Concert Hall (714) 556-2787.

- Feb. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  and Feb. 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Who’s “Tommy. It’s one of the classics of the sixties, still a compelling work of musical art.  This version is a Chance Theatre Production. Segerstrom Concert Hall Segerstrom Center for the Arts. (714) 556-2787.

- Feb. 11 (Fri.)  Tessa Souter.  Souter’s warm sound and intimate interpretive style are backed in this pre-Valentine’s Day celebration, by the solidly supportive playing of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Steve Haas.  Musicians Institute. A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  (310) 271-9039.

Larry Karush

- Feb. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Larry Karush Solo & Quartet. Pianist/composer Karush, ever in search of new musical horizons, displays his creative adventures in both a solo and an ensemble setting.  The Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- Feb. 11 – 14. (Fri. – Mon.) and Feb. 17 – 20 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  Singer Tyrell’s nouveau-pop style, with its traditional pop echoes, is successfully aimed at finding the life in great American song.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 12. (Sat.)  Inner Voices“An A Cappella Valentine Show.” The Southland’s masterful a cappella ensemble apply their extraordinary vocal magic to a program of Valentine standards. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Jazz at Lincoln Center OrchestraLeonard Slatkin conducts Gershwin’s An American In Paris, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No.1 and the West Coast premiere of Wynton MarsalisSwing Symphony (commissioned by the LAPA).  Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 13. (Sun.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall.  The music world’s ultimate power couple.  And they can still deliver it.  Hall has been, and remains, one of the underrated jazz singers.  And trumpeter Alpert knows how to find both the space and the center in an improvisation. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Charmaine Clamor

- Feb. 14. (Mon.)  Charmaine Clamor.  .  Jazz vocalist Clamor is rapidly establishing herself as one of the uniquely creative, rising vocal stars.  The equally incomparable Bubba Jackson hosts.  KJAZZ Valentine’s Day Jazz Dinner The Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood \Hotel.  (562) 985-2999.

San Francisco

Maria Volonte

- Feb. 8. (Tues.) Maria Volonte.  Argentine singer/songwriter/guitarist Volonte’s music is an appealing blend of traditional roots rhythms – tango, candomble, etc. – with the sounds of contemporary jazz, pop and funk.  The Rrazz Room. (415) 394-1189. To read an earlier iRoM review of Volonte click HERE.

- Feb. 8 & 9 (Tues. & Wed.) Kenny Garrett Quartet. Grammy award-winning alto saxophonist Garrett has a resume reaching from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis.  This time out, he offers his envelope-stretching sounds at the front of  his own quintet.  Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

- Feb. 10 – 14. (Thurs. – Mon.)  Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Pete Escovedo and the Escovedo family have been energizing Latin jazz since the ‘60s.  And they’re all still at it.  This time out, the band includes special guests Sheila E. and Peter Michael EscovedoYoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York City

Gato Barbieri

- Feb. 10 – 12 (Thurs. – Sun.) Gato Barbieri.  Tenor saxophonist Barbieri’s long, checkered career has reached from the avant-garde years of the ‘60s through his Grammy-winning score for The Last Tango In Paris to more recent smooth jazz outings.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Feb. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Potter Trio. Tenor saxophonist Potter takes on the familiar Sonny Rollins challenge of performing with only bass and drums as a rhythm team.  His companions: bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland. Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- Feb. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Freddy Cole “Valentine Swing” with Harry Allen.  Cole’s sound and style are clearly, and unabashedly, influenced by his big brother Nat.  But Cole has a way of adapting those qualities to his own engaging musical identity.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (212) 258-9800.

- Feb. 8 – 14. (Tues. – Mon.)  Hilary Kole.  Jazz singer Kole, who usually hosts Birdland’s Sunday Jazz Party, does a full week’s run at the club.  And her rich way with a ballad is the perfect lead-in to Valentine’s Day.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Denise Donatelli

- Feb. 11 & 14. (Fri. & Mon.). Denise Donatelli.   Grammy-nominated singer Donatelli makes a pair of too-rare Manhattan appearances which will inform New York jazz fans about what Angelenos have known for years — that she is a singer with the sound, the skill and the imagination to be included at the top levels of the jazz vocal art.  Donatelli is backed by the Geoff Keezer arrangements and quartet featured on the Grammy-nominated “When Lights Are Low.”  Fri.: Coca-Cola Circle of Fashion Lounge, Time Warner Center, 6:30 p.m.  Mon.: Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, 7:30, p.m.  (212) 258-9800.


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