CD Review: David Basse’s “Uptown”

April 24, 2012

David Basse

Uptown (Cafe Pacific Records)

By Brian Arsenault

Uptown opens with another (yawn) jazz ode to Manhattan which is made more curious by the fact that David Basse is the acknowledged “leader” of the Kansas City jazz scene.  In fact, two of the first three tracks are New York-centric which would be a little bit tedious even by a New York based jazz singer. And a mention of stepping out in a top hat, really, in 2012?

I don’t mean to be disrespectful and I know that Mike Melvoin — who penned five tunes, including the New York songs, on the album and lends his considerable talents on piano — unfortunately passed away in February.  But I can’t help feeling I’ve heard this all before. Basse is compared by some critics and the album’s publicity to Mel Torme, Ray Charles and Dr. John (Dr. John, really?) but in truth he’s a lot closer to Harry Connick, Jr. without as much sparkle and wit.

Oh, Basse can sing all right. He’s sly on Mark Winkler’s “Like Jazz,” a tribute to some other jazz luminary. And he’s wry about the aftermath of a break up on the clever “Living Without You.”  There’s some welcome emotional depth on Melvoin’s “You Won’t Hear Me Say Goodbye,” but the song is still more tenderly sentimental than sharply insightful.

That’s the best stuff.  His version of “Slow Boat to China” is pretty much like every other treatment you’ve heard over how many decades.  By the obligatory Gershwin tune, “Bidin’ My Time,” I had pretty much emotionally checked out of the album.  You can do old stuff, standards as they say, but it’s a lot more satisfying when you bring something new to the depth or pacing or phrasing, like Halie Loren provides on her recent CD, Heart First.

Still, one of my favorite tracks on the album is Harold Arlen’s familiar “I’ve Got The World On A String” where some subtle piano work by Mr. Melvoin and Bill Goodwin’s precise drumming support Basse’s subtle vocal. The piano break is a little long on a four and a half minute studio version.  It would have worked better on a concert recording of eight to nine minutes, no doubt.

Or maybe I just wanted Basse to sing more, he’s so good here. How about a nine minute studio version?

Everyone associated with this album — including alto saxophonist/clarinetist Phil Woods and bassist Steve Gilmore — is top shelf in his own right.  For me, though, the album just doesn’t come together as tightly as it should. Seems like a collaborative effort where everyone was just being too nice to everyone else.  Here, you take a solo, then me, then him.

And I just couldn’t escape my initial reaction to the opening bars of the first tune, “Uptown,” which was “I wonder if this album would have sounded exactly the same if it was recorded in 1959, even the new stuff?” That, of course, would still be darn good if not uptown exciting.

A final word on Mike Melvoin, whose song writing and piano work contributed so much to this album:

I have an old vinyl record which I believe is Coleman Hawkins’ last studio album.  As such, for me it has a value well beyond gold or diamonds or critic’s comments. I expect that if this is Mike’s final studio work his many fans and admirers will feel the same about Uptown.


An Appreciation: Mike Melvoin

February 29, 2012

By Brick Wahl

Mike Melvoin

I got a few wonderful emails from Mike Melvoin over the years. Beautiful things.  He wrote just as he talked, which is my favorite kind of writing, and then talked a lot like he played. Jazz players write the coolest emails sometimes, just perfect little written things, honest and funny and down to the bone true.  Anyway, this was the last one I got from Mike Melvoin. He was responding to my first Keeping It Real post. As usual, I was incapable of saying something intelligent in return. I get so flustered when a jazz master writes anything back, I don’t know what to say and I don’t think I said anything in reply to Mike except maybe a thanks. I had no idea he was so sick. You can’t tell from what he wrote here.  It’s from Jan 20th, just a month before he died.

Here’s what Mike wrote:

Dead on, Brick!

I pass along a couple of defining ideas to the occasional student I meet.

First: “The only thing more important than having a good time is having good time.”

And the former is dependent on the latter. The core purpose of our music hasn’t changed since we were hired to grease up Saturday night. If we achieved that, the music had a healthy fan base. If we put some other purpose in front, the fan base was sure to desert us as you are so right in observing. Those of us players who fire the blood pulse with the historic language of the blues put asses in seats. Not just geriatric or academic ones but across the board asses who come to us to feel good. 

And second: “There are no points for being admired, only for being believed.” 

I don’t do this to be thought of as a good player. I do this to get those who hear me to feel as good as I do.  Jazz well played is a physical music first and foremost.  Thank you for the much needed reminder.

Hoping your Saturday night is delicious and our music helped make it so.

Best,

Mike Melvoin

That last line says it all.  No wonder everyone’s missing him.  Very sorry to see him go.


Picks of the Week: Nov. 29 – Dec. 4

November 29, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sting

- Nov. 30. (Wed.)  Sting. One of the iconic masters of popular song makes a rare Southland appearance as part of his extended, “Back To Bass” tour.   The  Wiltern.     (877) 686-5366.

- Nov. 30. (Wed.)   The Ron McCurdy Collective.  Trumpeter/educator McCurdy blends his soaring trumpet sounds with the lush harmonies of the four-voice Collective.  Catalina Bar *& Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 30 – Dec. 4. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Blue Man Group.  The blue-skinned, multi-media specialists blend comedy, music, technology into an evening of sheer audio-visual excitement.  Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.   (805) 449-2787.

- Dec. 1. (Thurs.)  Chris Walden Quintet.  Arranger/composer/conductor/trumpeter Walden, a true musical multi-hyphenate, takes a break from his large ensemble chores to lead a quintet of stellar L.A. players: featuring saxophonist Rob Lockhart, pianist Josh Nelson and bassist Pat Senatore. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Mike Stern Band.  Always an exciting, compelling player in his own right, guitarist Stern takes it up to an even higher level when he’s working – as he is here – in the company of players such as drummer Dave Weckl, bassist Richard Bona and saxophonist Bob Franceschini Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Mike Melvoin

- Dec. 2. (Fri.).  A Celebration of 50 Years of the Music of Mike Melvoin. A much deserved tribute to pianist/composer/activist Melvoin – a vital figure in the jazz and music world and a supporter of aid for musicians and entertainers for decades.  Participants include pianist Mike Lang, singer David Basse, saxophonist Pete Christlieb, bassist Jim Hughart, drummer Ralph Penland and more. Culvers Club For Jazz.  6161 W. Centinela Ave.  Inside the Double Tree Hotel.  Presented by In-House Music.

- Dec. 2 (Fri.)  The Shanghai Quartet.  Together since the mid-‘80s, the highly praised Chinese string quartet performs the Mozart Quartet No. 17 (“The Hunt”) and Schubert’s Quartet No. 15 in the beautifully atmospheric setting of the Doheny Mansion.  A Da Camera Society “Chamber Music in Historic Sites” program.    (213) 477-2929.

- Dec. 2 (Fri.)  “Holiday Doo-Wop.”  An evening of sheer doo-wop nostalgia, featuring The Crystals, Johnny Tillotson, Kenny Vance & the Pianotones, and Cleve Duncan (from the Penguins).  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

- Dec. 3. (Sat.) Holiday Wonders: Festival of Carols.  The Los Angeles Master Chorale.  Disney Hall.  It’s one of the great holiday musical blessings – a program of favorite Christmas carols, performed by one of the world’s finest vocal ensembles.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Jane Birkin

- Dec. 3. (Sat.)  “An Evening With Jane Birkin.”  The image of ‘60s mod style, singer/actress Jane Birkin had a long, passionate, professional and personal relationship with iconic French singer Serge Gainsbourg. Her performance recalls the drama of their connection and the impact it had upon the ‘60s and ‘70s.   Luckman Fine Arts Complex.   (323) 343-6600.

San Francisco

- Dec. 1 – 4.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra.  The rhythms will be provocative, and there’ll be a great desire to get up and salsa.  But Latin jazz great Palmieri also adds an irresistible seasoning of jazz to almost everything he plays.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.

Chicago

Benny Green

- Dec. 1 – 4 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Benny Green Trio. Pianist Green has been carrying the banner for straight ahead, bebop-driven jazz in his dynamic playing since he was an emerging jazz star in the ‘80s.  And he’s still at it.   Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Dec. 1. (Thurs.) Shane Endsley and the Music Band.  Versatile trumpeter Endsley was a founder of the Grammy nominated band, Kneebody.  But his colorful resume includes gigs reaching from Ani DiFranco and Pearl Jam to Steve Coleman and Slavic Soul Party.  For this gig, he leads a group that includes pianist Uri Caine, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown. Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

SPECIAL EVENT

- Dec. 1. (Thurs.)  Jackson Browne.  Veteran rock singer/songwriter Browne takes up the cause of Occupy Wall St. with a live performance in Zuccotti Park at 1 p.m.  Also on the program — the California band Dawes.  Zuccotti Park at Liberty Plaza between 6th Ave. & Broadway.  Backpacks, camping gear and large bags are reportedly not permitted. 

- Dec. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  “Tango Meets Jazz Festival.”  For the 11th year in a row, the Festival explores the surprisingly compatible common ground between tango and jazz.  This time out, the featured performers are nuevo tango master Pablo Ziegler with his quartet, jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke and jazz violinist Regina CarterThe Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Dec. 2 & 3.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Tudo Isto E Fado (“All This Is Fado”). Like American blues, Argentine tango and Brazilian samba, the fado is deeply rooted in the emotional expressiveness of its native culture.  Here, in two extraordinary nights of music, every aspect of fado – from  historical to contemporary – is on full display.  Performers include: On Fri.: Lisboa Soul and Camane.  On Sat.: Deolinda and Amalia Hoje.   The Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.    (718) 636-4100.

- Dec. 4. (Sun.)  Bobby Avey Quartet. Winner of the Thelonious Monk Competition for Composition in 2011, pianist Avey is a certified emerging jazz star.  His impressive group includes MacArthur “genius” award winner, Miguel Zenon on saxophone, bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Cornelia St. Café.    (212) 989-9319.

Berlin

Jeff Lorber

- Dec. 2 (Fri.)  Jeff Lorber Fusion.  Keyboardist Lorber’s original fusion band virtually defined the crossover styles that led to contemporary groove jazz, smooth jazz and more.  But Lorber’s music – past and present – has also always simmered with swinging jazz authenticity.  Expect the same, from a group that includes saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Gary Novak A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.

Tokyo

- Dec. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  David Sanborn.  Not only does alto saxophonist Sanborn have one of the most unique sounds in jazz, he also has one of the most influential.  Transforming the blues styles of Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman, he’s been among the most imitated saxophonists of the past four decades.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: May 10 – 15

May 10, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Perla Batalla

- May 11. (Wed.)  Perla Batalla.  Blessed with a rich-toned voice, fascinated with a broad range of music, Batalla tells an engaging story with everything she sings.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.     (562) 916-8501.

- May 11. (Wed.)  Julia Gottlieb.  Emerging young singer Gottlieb does a showcase performance with a the scintillating backing of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 11. (Wed.)  Annie Trousseau.  Colombian-American singer Ana Maria Lombo leads her curiously-titled ensemble in a collection of multi-lingual world music reaching from Edith Piaf to Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- May 12. (Thurs.)  The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Del McCoury Band.  UCLA Live begins to wrap its 2010-2011 season with a typically fascinating blend of musical genres – the traditional jazz of the Preservation Hall players and the buoyant bluegrass of the McCoury Band.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-4401.

- May 12. (Thurs.)  John Altman Quartet.  British saxophonist Altman takes a break from his busy career as composer/arranger/conductor/film scorer for an evening of straight ahead jamming in the relaxed environment of Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- MaY 12. (Thurs.) Dances and Music from Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijani dancers and musicians celebrate the ancient cultural traditions of the Caucasus, blending the traditional mugham with the contemporary rhythms of jazz.  The National Dance Ensemble of Azerbaijan, performing with jazz pianist Emil Afrasiab and Masters of Mugham make their only performance in Los Angeles.  A rare and fascinating musical event. The Wilshire Ebell.  (310) 650-9054

Stanley Clarke

- May 12 – 14. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stanley Clarke.  By any measure, Clarke is one of the most admired musicians in jazz.  And with 40 albums, 60 film scores a Grammy award for his most recent album, and the foundation of his own record label – The Roxboro Entertainment Group, he’s also one of the music world’s most eclectic Renaissance men  He celebrates his 60th birthday in the company of his own crisply swinging band and some surprise guest artists.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210. .

- May 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bill Charlap Trio with special guest Freddy Cole.  Nothing but the best from the Great American Songbook when these two masters of song get together.  Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- May 14. (Sat.)  The Rova Saxophone Quartet. More than three decades together, the four members of Rova continue to adventure through musical areas encompassing free jazz, contemporary classical music, rock, traditional and pop music.  Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Mamak Khadem

- May 14. (Sat.)  Mamak Khadem & Ensemble.  The gorgeous voice and stunning musical virtuosity of singer Khadem explore the compelling sounds of Persian classical music and beyond.  She performs in the company of the far-ranging sounds of Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek and the lithe dancing of Sharokh Moshkinghalam. Wilshire Ebell Theatre.     (310) 650-9054.

- May 14. (Sat.)  Billy Childs Chamber Ensemble.  The ever imaginative pianist/composer/arranger is back, continuing to find new expressive adventures with his jazz chamber ensemble.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 14. (Sat.)  The 3rd Annual Jazzy Jam 2011.  What better way to spend a Spring weekend than in a Pasadena Park, listening to the attractively melodic sounds of Everette Harp, Johnny Polanco, Karen Briggs, Freddie Fox, the Pasadena Citywide Gospel Choir, Rapid Response and a lot more.   Hosted by the irrepressible Bubba JacksonJazzy Jam 2011.  Old Pasadena Central Park.

Taylor Eigsti

- May 15. (Sun.)  Taylor Eigsti Quartet. A jazz prodigy at age 12, pianist Eigsti – now in his mid-‘20s – has matured into a significant talent.  He performs with singer Becca Stevens, an extraordinary singer/composer who is too little known beyond her New York base. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

 Seattle

May 11 & 12. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli.  L.A.’s Grammy nominated Donatelli takes her lush sound, propulsive swing and intimate story telling style on the road, building her audience wherever she goes.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.  Donatelli also performs at Yoshi’s Oakland on May 15 (see below).

San Francisco

- May 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman.  One of the definitive smooth jazz/instrumental pop bands to emerge in the ‘80s, the Rippingtons, with a revolving array of players – except for Freeman – continue to produce melodically entertaining sounds.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- May 15. (Sun.)  Denise DonatelliYoshi’s Oakland   (510) 238-9200.  Donatelli also performs at Seattle’s Jazz Alley on Wed. & Thurs  (see above).

 New York

- May 10 – 15. (Tues. – Sun.)  The George Duke Trio. Pianist Duke, always masterful with singers, works with a pair of the best. With Al Jarreau on Tues, Wed., Sat. & Sun.  And with Brenda Russell on Thurs. & Fri.  The Blue Note.    (310) 475-8592.

- May 10 – 15. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Music of Count Basie. The Julliard Jazz Orchestra. Some of the important, still-vital works in the jazz repertoire are brought vividly to life by the J.J.O.  The presence of special guest Frank Foster, who composed some of the classics, brings even more authenticity to the program.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

 London

Claire Martin

- May 14. (Sat.)  Claire Martin.  Often described as England’s finest jazz singer, Martin as that and more, with performances that reach out to add interpretations of other musical forms to the jazz vocal canon.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

 Paris

- May 14. (Sat.)  The Harold Lopez Nussa Trio with David Sanchez.  Rising young Cuban pianist Lopez-Nussa may be best known as the pianist for Omara Portundo’s band.  But he’s showing all the signs of being the next vital jazz pianist to emerge from the island nation.  He’s joined here by Puerto Rican saxophonist Sanchez in a program of Latin-oriented jazz.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Stanley Clarke photo by Scott Mitchell.


Live Jazz: Mike Melvoin & Theresa Russell at Vitello’s

November 13, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Theresa Russell of “Bad Timing” was the dame I worshiped until Anne Parillaud of “La Femme Nikita” took over.

Theresa Russell

So you couldn’t have kept me away from Vitello’s Friday when Russell began her new career as a torch singer. Sure enough, she resumed her place on my altar.

“Stupid thing to take up when you’re 50,” Russell said. She was apologizing, in her side-of-the-mouth way, for some little miscue in announcing the next song, which was written by her friend, the great pianist Mike Melvoin.

Mike Melvoin

This was a pretty little ditty that the veteran movie actress got right into, just like the other two Melvoin songs she sang while he played.

You couldn’t pull much better from the backup pool than Melvoin, who began performing  this role with vocalists such as Bill Henderson and Tom Waits after breaking on recordings with Joe Williams and Peggy Lee.

He got an authoritative and hard-swinging sound in a couple of opening instrumentals, backed by Tony Dumas and Ralph Penland on bass and drums, and he closed the set with a flowing, satisfying tribute to Count Basie.

The familiar pop ballads Russell brought out for the reasonably full house were reasonably convincing for a beginner. She has a husky and alluring voice with which she tenderized the brutally simplistic words of the pre-war popsters. The result was not always as moving as one would hope – but, hey, she was facing a very tough town.

And with only a touch of first night jitters, maybe a wonky phrase or  two, she felled them — and me.  In this, Russell was almost as accurate as Parillaud was when she took the rifle out of her bathtub in Venice to do her postprandial assassination.

Killers. My killers.

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: Nov. 9 – 14

November 9, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 9. (Tues.)  Roy Gaines and His Orchestra.  “Tuxedo Blues” Guitarist/blues singer Gaines’ resume includes stints with Ray Charles, Chuck Willis, Bobby “Blue” Bland and others.  The Living Blues “Comeback Artist of the Year,” he’s still in rare form.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 9 – 13.  (Tues. – Sat.) Jimmie Vaughan.  With a career dating back to the Fabulous Thunderbirds, veteran guitarist/singer Vaughan — the older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan — continues to be an impressive practitioner of the Texas blues style.  He makes a series of stops in the Southland this week  supporting  Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites, his first new album in nine years.  Tues: The Grammy Museum.  Thurs: Belly Up in Solana Beach.  Friday: the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills.  Saturday: Brixton in Redondo Beach.

Lila Downs

- Nov. 10. (Wed.)  Lila Downs and Buika.  A pair of vibrant Latin artists – Mexican-American Downs and Spanish-born Concha Buika explore music reaching from flamenco and morna to traditional Mexican folk in a contemporary setting.  Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 10. (Wed.)  Carol Welsman.  Tall, blonde and beautiful, Welsman is also a singer/pianist with stunning jazz skills as a vocalist and an instrumentalist.  Hopefully her program will include a few selections from her scintillating Peggy Lee tribute album, I Like Men.   Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 10. (Wed.)  Chuck Berghofer’s Midnight Jazz band.  One of the Southland’s most compelling jazz combinations returns to its original line up of Berghofer, bass, Gary Foster, alto saxophone, Joe LaBarbera, drums and Tom Ranier, piano.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 11. (Thurs.)  The Szymanowski Quartet.  The highly regarded quartet demonstrates its versatility with a program of Schubert, Beethoven and a work by its namesake, Polish composer Karol Szymanowski.  Samueli Theatre. Orange County Performing Arts Center.   (714) 556-2787.

Theresa Russell

- Nov. 12. (Fri.)  Mike Melvoin and Theresa Russell.  Veteran jazz pianist Melvoin teams up with singer/actress Russell in an adventurous tour through Great American songs.  Bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland energize the rhythm.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 12. (Fri.) The Littleton Brothers. The two veteran brothers – bassist Jeff and drummer Don – have played with an all-star array of leaders (from Herbie Hancock and Horace Silver to Billy Eckstine and Horace Tapscott).  Here they are, side by side, leading their own sterling group.  LACMA. (323) 857-6000.

- Nov. 12. (Fri.)  Hi-Fi: The Sounds of the 70s.  Featuring B.J. Thomas, Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night) and the 5th Dimension in a memorable evening of hits.  Expect to hear, among others, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Joy To The World” and “Up, Up and Away.”   Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8500.

- Nov. 12. (Fri.) Brian Blade “Fellowship Band.” The superb drummer (guitarist and singer)  Blade is featured in a stellar ensemble of young players – Chris Thomas, Jon Cowherd, Myron Walden, Melvin Butler, Jeff Parker. A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at Zipper Hall.   (310) 271-9039.  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on Wed. & Thurs.)

- Nov. 12. (Fri.)  Nnenna Freelon. Six-time Grammy nominee Freelon is one of the uniquely original voices in the growingly crowded field of female jazz singers.   The Broad Stage. (310) 434-3200.

- Nov. 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicSusanna Malkki conducts a stylistically diverse program reaching from Strauss’ Also Spach Zarathurstra (central to the score of 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the teen-aged Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 1, performed by violinist Martin ChalifourDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

Robert Cray

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  An Evening with Robert Cray.  Five time Grammy winner Cray successfully blends traditional and contemporary blues, while crossing over easily into soul, r&b and pop.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8500.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  Christine Ebersole. Tony Award winner Ebersole is a convincing musical actress, as adept with a tender ballad as she is with a whimsical patter song. The Broad Stage. (310) 434-3200.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  Rita Moreno. Actress, singer and dancer Moreno is one of the few artists to have won a Grammy, an Emmy, an Oscar and a Tony.  She makes a rare, up close and personal club appearance. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  The Assad Brothers.  The gifted, guitar-playing Brazilian brothers, Sergio and Odair Assad belong to a family of talented guitarists.  Their eclectic repertoire reaches from folk, traditional and jazz works to classical standards and transcriptions of the Baroque keyboard literature.  CSUN Performing Arts Center.   (818) 677-3000.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  60th Birthday Party. Dr. Bobby Rodriguez celebrates a landmark birthday in a high spirited musical encounter with Rickey Woodard. Backed by John Heard TrioCharlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 13. (Sat.)  Peter Sprague String Consort.  It’ll be 26 strings and three cymbals in action, as guitarist Sprague’s jazz trio blends sounds and rhythms with string quartet in a program reaching from jazz and classical to Brazilian samba.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Helen Sung

- Nov. 14. (Sun.)  Helen Sung. Pianist Sung’s impressive versatility has served her well in a career that includes gigs with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Clark Terry and others. Here’s a chance to hear her far-ranging musical skills in a piano trio setting. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  http://www.vibratogrilljazz.com

- Nov. 14. (Sun.)  Kim Richmond Quartet +1.  Alto saxophonist/composer Richmond appears with his quartet, enhanced by the added presence of woodwind artist Alex Budman.  Also in the quartet: David Roitstein, piano, Kristin Korb, bass and vocals, Jamey Tate, drums.  The Lighthouse Café.   (310) 376-9833.

- Nov. 14. (Sun.)  “The Grand Romance Riverboat Jazz Cruise” It’s a new Southland way to hear first rate jazz — on a short entertaining cruise on a replica of a Mississippi Paddle Steamer.  And it takes place every Sunday, this week featuring the Rickey Woodard Quintet. With Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet, Llew Matthews, piano, Richard Simon, bass, Roy McCurdy, drums.  Departing from Rainbow Harbor, Long Beach.  1 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.   The Grand Romance Riverboat Jazz Cruise. (562) 628-1600.

San Francisco

- Nov. 10 & 11. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Brian Blade “Fellowship Band.” The superb drummer Blade is featured in a stellar ensemble of young players – Chris Thomas, Jon Cowherd, Myron Walden, Melvin Butler, Jeff Parker. Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.  (Also at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast in Los Angeles on Friday.)

Hiromi

- Nov. 12 – 14.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Hiromi. Pianist Hiromi takes a break from her recent ensemble work with Stanley Clarke to perform as a soloist, showcasing selections from a soon to be released CD. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 14. (Sun.) Vijay Iyer Trio.  Although his jazz skills are world class, Iyer also delves deeply into other musical genres and creative territories.  In 2009, he was voted – with good reason — #1 Rising Star Jazz Artist in Down Beat’s Critics Poll.  An SFJAZZ concert at the YBCA Forum.   (866) 920-5299.

- Nov. 14. (Sun.) Rosanne Cash. The gifted daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash’s superlative career has generated ten Grammy nominations and eleven #1 hit singles.  She’ll perform selections from her 2009 album, The List.   An SFJAZZ concert at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

New York

Jim Hall

- Nov. 9 – 13. (Tues. – Sat.)  Jim Hall Quartet.  Veteran guitarist Hall approaches his 80th birthday (in December) by displaying his still extraordinary chops with the musically challenging ensemble of Greg Osby, alto saxophone, Steve Laspina, bass and Joey Baron, drums.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ottmar Leibert  “Evening of Solo Guitar.” One of the founders of the nouveau flamenco style, Leibert – who is also an ordained Zen Monk – plays an intimate evening of solo selections.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cyrus Chestnut Trio.  Pianist Chestnut says he likes to “construct melodies that tell stories.”  And he’s done that with everything from jazz standards to spirituals and Elvis Presley tunes.  This time out, he’ll offer tunes from his recently released CD, Journeys.  Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.

Freda Payne

Nov. 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.)  Freda Payne Sings Ella Fitzgerald.  Not only will the lovely Ms. Payne channel the songs of Ella (A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Mack the Knife, etc.).  She’ll also add a few Lena Horne specialties, as well.  And — of course — her own inimitable Band of GoldIridium.  (212) 582-2121.

South Carolina

- Nov. 11 – 13. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Earl Klugh’s Weekend of Jazz.  Golf, sun, ocean, jazz and a lot more.  A great way to spend a weekend — especially with a line up that includes Kyle Eastwood, Boney James, Jessy J, Earl Klugh, FourplayKiawah Island Golf Resort.  Kiawah Island, South Carolina.   (800) 576-1570.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 12 – 17

October 12, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Oct. 13. (Wed.)  Wayne Bergeron Big Band. Trumpeter Bergeron, whose skills reach from superb section work to solid soloing, steps into the spotlight as a leader.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 13. (Wed.)  Ed Vodicka Big Band with Marlene VerPlanck. New York singer VerPlanck brings an imaginative slant to the Great American Songbook, backed by Vodicka’s stirring ensemble. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

Ludovico Einaudi

- Oct. 13 – 17. (Wed. – Sun.) (H)IT Week. The pop music of Italy – from rock to dance to electronica — fills the Los Angeles air in four dynamic evenings.  Oct. 14: singer Ludovico Einaudi and Oct. 15: Singer Elisa and La Blanche Alchimie at The Ford Amphitheatre. Oct. 16: Rock band Negrita and Oct. 17: Pianist Giovanni Allevi at The El Rey.  (323) 936-6400.

- Oct. 14. (Thurs.)  Ann Walsh Quartet.  Walsh’s expressive vocals display a unique empathy for the music of Brazil.  Crowne Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge.   (310) 642-7500.

- Oct. 14 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stanley Clarke.  Bassist Clarke, always looking in different musical directions, performs with a quartet that includes keyboardist Deron Johnson, pianist Ruslan Sirota and drummer Ronald BrunnerCatalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 14 & 16. (Thurs. & Sat.)  Chucho Valdes and the Afro-Cuban Messengers.  The great Cuban pianist returns to the U.S. for the first time in seven years, fronting an ensemble that digs into the irrepressible links between jazz and Afro-Cuban music. Thurs.: Irvine Barclay Theatre.  (949) 854-4646    Sat.: Luckman  Fine Arts Complex.   (323) 343-6600.

Gustavo Dudamel

- Oct. 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicGustavo Dudamel conducts a rare performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphonie, a ten-movement, 80 minute work, written when Messiaen – who described the composition as a “love song” — was focusing on the Tristan and Isolde story.  In addition to full orchestra and piano, the score also includes the ondes Martenot, one of the earliest electronic instruments.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Oct. 14 & 17. (Thurs. & Sun.) Oran Etkin.  Clarinetist Etkin celebrates the release of his CD Wake Up, Clarinet! in a pair of Southland performances. On Thursday he’s at The Skirball Center he appears with his group, Kelenia.  (310) 440-4500.  On Sunday he presents a children’s/family show at McCabe’s. (310) 828-4497.

Charmaine Clamor

- Oct. 15 – 17. (Fri. – Sun.) The Asian American Music Festival. The music of the Pacific rim provides a bountiful collection of sounds and rhythms for this creatively eclectic, far-ranging festival.  Friday’s program features hip-hopster Kero One, Dana Leong’s Milk & Jade’s electronica sounds, and Japanese rapper Shing02.  The inimitable Leroy Downs is the host.  Saturday afternoon’s bill includes two extraordinary pianists, Jon Jang and Gary Fukushima.  The Pan Asian Arkestra and the Taiko Project will also present the world premiere of Jang’s Concerto For Jazz Orchestra and Taiko.  Saturday night showcases the amazing ukulele playing of Jake Shimabukuro and the quartet of Abe Lagrimas, Jr. and Noel Okimoto.  Sunday afternoon features the Japanese-American pop-jazz singer Ernie Meyer and the hip-hop electronica of the Shanghai Restoration Project.  And the festival soars to a close on Sunday night when a pair of extraordinary jazz vocalists take center stage: Charmaine Clamor and Sachel Vasandani, with the amiable Bubba Jackson hosting.  The Asian American Music Festival.  The Japanese American National Museum.  (213) 545-1330.

- Oct. 15. (Fri.)  Peter Erskine Quartet.  Erskine follows up last year’s Grammy-nominated Standards album with selections from his new CD, Standards 2: Movie Music. LACMA (323) 857-6000.

Chris Bennett

- Oct. 15. (Fri.)  Chris Bennett Band.  Bennett, who brings style and substance to everything she sings, will feature selections from her recently released album Sail Away: The Tahiti Sessions. The Culver Club at the Radisson.  (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

- Oct. 16. (Sat.)  Madeline Eastman with the Randy Porter Trio.  Bay area jazz singer Eastman is always a pleasure to hear.  She doesn’t come south often, so don’t miss this one.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 16. (Sat.) Paul Weitz.  Guitarist Weitz and his quartet perform  with the gifted singer/songwriter Jelsa PalaoBack Room at Henri’s. (818) 348-5582.

- Oct. 16. (Sat.)  Gary Foster and Putter Smith.  It’s an unusual combination – alto saxophone and bass – but Foster and Smith have the skills and the imagination to make it into a fascinating musical encounter.  Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  At the Boston Court in Pasadena. (310) 271-9039.

- Oct. 17. (Sun.)  Judy Wolman’s Sing! Sing! Sing! Wolman’s singalong afternoons offer spirited opportunities to share the memories and the pleasures of the Great American Songbook.  This time it’s the arching melodies and sophisticated word play of Rodgers and Hart.  12 – 3 p.m.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Chick Corea

- Oct. 12 – 14. (Tues. – Thurs.) Chick Corea Trio (w. Christian McBride and Brian Blade). It’s as all-star as it gets, and a chance to hear Corea in a basic, piano trio setting. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Oct. 13. (Wed.) Tom Harrell Quintet.  Trumpeter Harrell’s warm sound, rich melodic imagination and rhythmic drive lead the way for his stellar quintet. Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

- Oct. 15 – 17. (Fri. – Sun.)  Michael Franks. Singer/songwriter Franks has been coming up with memorable songs for more than three decades.  Expect to hear “Popsicle Toes,” “The Lady Wants To Know” and, hopefully, a few of his Brazilian inspired works. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Oct. 12. (Tues.)  Italian Jazz Days. The title says it all.  A quintet of Italy’s finest jazz descendants in action: Saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, pianist Antonio Ciacca, bassist Joseph Lepore, drummer Luca SantanielloDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

- Oct. 12 – 17. (Tues. – Sun.) John Abercrombie Quartet. Guitarist Abercrombie has a long history of stretching the musical envelope, and he continues to do so with his current players – violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron. Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Oct. 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Apex: Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green. A pair of alto saxophonists with very different musical roots work – with remarkable success – at finding common ground. The Jazz Standard.   (212) 447-7733.

Chick Corea photo by Tony Gieske


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