Live Music; Natalie Cole and Chucho Valdes at the Hollywood Bowl

August 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s no mystery that singer Natalie Cole has followed in the musical footsteps of her extrordinary father, pianist/singer Nat “King” Cole. Along the way, she’s won nine Grammy Awards after 21 nominations. Her 1991 album Unforgettable, which included an interactive duet, with her late father, on the song “Unforgettable,” triggering the granting of Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Performance.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole

All that was in mind Wed. night at the Hollywood Bowl, as Cole offered a performance overflowing with her superbly adept singing. Although she’s come through numerous difficult periods, personal and otherwise, Cole has survived, still capable of capturing the affections of a packed house of enthusiastic listeners at the Bowl.

Cole’s performance was driven by dynamic musical energies. Whether she was singing standards such as “Stardust,” “The Very Thought of You” and “Smile,” or some of the Latin songs that have captured her attention recently, she displayed the consummate entertainment abilities that have characterized her work for decades.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole

Arriving on a stage as a bundle full of confident excitement, her skills were functioning at a velocity that never diminished. Backed by the rich timbres of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Gail Deadrick, as well as the rhythmic grooves of her own instrumental sextet and the empathic vocals of her trio of backup singers, Cole didn’t miss a beat along the way, finding the inner musical and emotional heartbeats of everything she sang.

True, there were a few selections with arrangements that tapped a bit too deeply into the soul and r&b stylings that have occasionally characterized Cole’s work over the years. And one can’t argue that she handles the genre with considerable effectiveness. But she was at her best when she was working in the arena of the Great American Songbook, preferably when her performances were brightened by the jazz tinges that she – like her father before her – does so well. No wonder her entranced listeners seemed captivated by everything she did.

The evening was opened by Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes. Much revered as one of his country’s most gifted musical artists, multiple Grammy-winning Valdes was also the founder of the honored Cuban jazz band, Irakere.

Chucho Valdes

Chucho Valdes

For this appearance, however, he played with the accompaniment of his five piece group, with bass and three percussionist-vocalists. And the setting was just right for the full range of Valdes’ rhapsodic piano style, applying lush classical passages to the more lyrical passages in his constantly intriguing improvisations. Add to that his irresistible rhythmic montunos, powerfully driven by his mesmerizing piano lines.

By the time he was finished, Valdes – as in all his performances – underscored the intimate linkages that have long existed between jazz and Cuban music.

As one of the climactic high points of the program, Valdes and Cole performed as a duo on a couple of numbers. Together, they brought a convincing array of jazz, in some of its many forms, to the far-ranging stylistic varieties of the Bowl’s Wednesday night jazz series.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Week: August 12 – 18

August 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

- Aug. 13 & 15. (Tues. & Thurs. Dudamel conducts Verdi’s Requiem. The Los Angeles Philharmonic players, under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, apply their superb versatility to Verdi’s magnificent work. Hollywood Bowl,. (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 13. (Tues.) John Pisano’s Guitar night. It’s been a virtual Southland jazz institution for decades. And now John Pisano’s Guitar Night moves to a new location. But the quality of music, as always, will be great. Cody’s Viva Cantina in Burbank.  (818) 845-2425.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole

- Aug. 14. (Wed.) An Evening With Natalie Cole. Nat “King” Cole’s daughter is a major talent in her own right, applying the gifts of her legacy to a far-reaching musical repertoire. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 14 & 15. (Wed. & Thurs.) Bill Cunliffe Big Band. Something intriguing happens whenever pianist/composer/arranger Cunliffe writes for his big band. This time, the performance will be a live recording session at Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905

- Aug. 15. (Thurs.) Cat, Sip and Chiodini. They’re back. Singer Cat Connor, saxophonist/clarinetist Gene “Cip” Cipriano and guitarist John Chiodini have found another location for their always-engaging evenings of vocal and instrumental jazz pleasures. Spoonful Restaurant,  (323) 512-4800.

John Daversa

John Daversa

- Aug. 16. (Fri.) John Daversa Big Band. Trumpeter Daversa is also a gifted composer, writing some of the most compelling big band charts on the contemporary music scene. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 16 & 17. (Fri. & Sat.) Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks. It’s one of the major summer highlights at the Bowl, with the L.A. Phil performing everything from Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italiene to the 1812 Overture. Robert Moody conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic with brass and drum corps. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 17. (Sat.) MUSE/IQUE. Always performing in adventurous fashion, Muse/Ique wraps “Summer of Sound” 2013 with “Lose Your Senses,” featuring Ellis Hall, Tower of Power’s lead singer and keyboardist. Expect to hear music embracing Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and even Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi. Caltech’s Beckman Mall.  (626) 395-4652.

Jazz in the Pines

- Aug. 17 & 18. (Sat. & Sun.).  Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines.  The 20th anniversary of a jazz festival that balances great music programs with an appealing summer weekend in the mountains.  The highlights of this year include: On Saturday: Diane Schuur, Harvey Mason, John Daversa, Janis Mann, Denise Donatelli, Tim Weissberg, Clayton Cameron’s Clifford Brown-Max Roach Project, and more.  On Sunday: Izzy Chait, Amina Figarova, the Euphoria Brass Band, Mark Winkler, and a lot more here, too.  Don’t miss this one.   Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines.

Patti Labelle

Patti Labelle

- Aug. 18. (Sun.) Patti Labelle. Grammy Hall of Famer Labelle has been a prominent pop music figure since the ’60s, and she’s still going strong. Cerritons Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- Aug. 18. (Sun.) Robert Davi. No one does the Sinatra with the sort of musical and lyrical authenticity that Davi brings to every performance of his tributes to Ol’ Blue Eyes. Vibrato.  (310) 474.9400

San Francisco

- Aug. 15 & 16. (Thurs. & Fri.) Eliane Elias. She’s always been a superb jazz pianist. And over the past few years she’s emerged as an eminently listenable jazz singer, as well. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655.5600.

New York City

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Aug. 15 – 18. (Thurs, – Sun.) Dr. Lonnie Smith. One of the definitive jazz organists, Smith has assembled a talented array of young jazz players for his ”In the Beginning Octet.” The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Washington D.C.

- Aug. 16 – 18., (Fri.- Sun,) The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet & Richie Cole. The lush vocal harmonies and articulate vocalese of the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet are the perfect blend for the equally exploratory alto saxophone of Richie Cole. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

Berlin

- Aug. 15 & 16. (Thurs. & Fri.,) Joao Bosco. Guitarist/composer Bosco’s playing has been described – with good cause – as among the most auspicious in Brazilian music.” A-Trane.  030 / 313 25 50.

Tokyo

- Aug. 16 – 18, (Fri., – Sun.) Terence Blanchard. Trumpeter Blanchard spends part of his busy schedule as Artistic Director of the Monk Institute and the Henry Mancini Institute. But he’s one of his generation’s major players of his instrument, and should be heard at every opportunity. Tokyo Blue Note.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Live Jazz: Alan Broadbent at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

May 30, 2013

By Don Heckman

The stage was almost empty Tuesday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  Almost, that is, except for one notable exception.

Seated at the club’s large concert grand, pianist/arranger/composer Alan Broadbent performed several generous sets over a memorable three hours.  Originally scheduled as a duo with bassist Pat Senatore, it became a solo night for Broadbent when Senatore had to remain at home to fight the flu.

All of which made for a considerably different musical evening, one that was completely focused on Broadbent’s gifted, far-ranging talents as a pianist, an improviser, a composer and arranger.  All those skills were present, as Broadbent framed each tune – fast or slow with spontaneous arrangements, embraced the melodies, dug into improvised passages, and brought every song he touched vividly to life.

Alan Broadbent

Alan Broadbent

A master of the diverse music in the Great American Songbook, Broadbent filled his sets with classic items, thoughtfully shaping songs such as “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” “Spring Is Here,” “They Asked About You,” “You Go To My Head,” “Sophisticated Lady” and more.  Some of the ballads were offered with soaringly lyrical melodic phrases; some were tinged with rhapsodic classical touches.  And some were propelled forward via Broadbent’s laid-back, easy-going sense of swing. An occasional bebop line such as Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” moved intriguingly from forward-driving bop to a reminder of the ragtime which is at its roots.

There were offbeat choices, as well: Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” called up memories of its role as the theme song of the Benny Goodman orchestra. A medley of film themes focused on the atmospheric sounds of “Laura.” And John Lewis’ “Django,” a tribute to the great Gipsy jazz guitarist, was played with a sensitive awareness of its roots in J.S. Bach.

A Grammy nominee and a Grammy winner, the New Zealand-born Broadbent had been, until very recently, one of L.A.’s busiest first call musicians.  In addition to his briskly swinging, straight ahead jazz skills, singers such as Irene Kral, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and others have deeply valued his ability to provide the perfect settings for their very different styles.  And his work with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West has produced some extraordinarily musical recordings and live performances ranging from Broadbent’s imaginative instrumental settings, some of them orchestral, to his compelling vocal arrangements on recordings such as Sophisticated Ladies.

Pianists performing either solo or in duos or trios at Vibrato have been known to be overwhelmed by audience noise, especially from the bar.  But on this evening, Broadbent’s playing was so musically mesmerizing that his listeners seemed completely in tune with the magic he brought to each song.

And, as the evening got thoroughly underway, there was no sense of emptiness on the stage. Operating on his own, with no back up players, Broadbent – on his own — nonetheless filled Vibrato with an irresistible sense of imaginative musical completeness.

Broadbent’s performance at Vibrato was a rare Southland appearance since his move to New York City a year or so ago.  But this listener (and no doubt many others) will happily welcome any future Broadbent L.A. visits – either on his own, or blending with the right compatible players, backing a singer, or displaying the rich complexities of his extraordinary arranging and composing skills.  He is truly one of a kind.

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Photo by Faith Frenz.  To see more of her photos click HERE.

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Live Music: The Lado B Project at Vitello’s

May 17, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  Brazilian music nights are not uncommon in Los Angeles.  Not with the city’s substantial population of world class Brazilian players – along with the American musicians who have developed considerable competence with Brazilian music over the years.

The Lado B Project is a combination of both, blending a collection of players who brought a full palette of musical perspectives to a compelling musical evening.  Their performance at Vitello’s on Wednesday night was a magical display, underscoring the rich, panoramic qualities of Brazilian music.

Catina DeLuna

It could only have been done this way by some of L.A.’s most versatile musical artists.

Start with Brazilian-born singer/pianist/composer Catina DeLuna, whose many diverse activities include the founding in Sao Paulo of Serenata Braxileira, which specialized in classic Brazilian songs from the ‘20s and ‘30s.  Singing solo, playing hand percussion, occasionally moving to the piano to accompany herself, she was the central focus for most of the songs.

Otmaro Ruiz

Otmaro Ruiz

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Add the eclectic Venezuelan pianist/accordionist/arranger Otmaro Ruiz, whose resume, overflowing with credits reaching from Herb Alpert and John McLaughlin to  Arturo Sandoval and John McLaughlin, underscores his remarkable, genre-crossing skills. In addition to his solid piano accompaniment, he brought some atmospheric accordion playing to a few of the selections.

The guitar is an essential element in Brazilian music, and one couldn’t have asked for a more skilled player than guitarist Larry Koons, who is at the top of the list for virtually all music contractors, largely because he brings so much musicality to whatever genre of music he plays.  On this night, he used acoustic guitar, roving freely across the many Brazilian rhythms filling the evening’s program.

Larry Koonse and Catina DeLuna

The rhythm team added their own appealing qualities. Aaron Serfaty was a first call drummer in his native Venezuela before he moved to Los Angeles.  And bassist Edwin Livingston, also with an impressive resume, lists the Marsalis brothers, David “Fathead” Newman, Natalie Cole and Stanley Jordan among his many associations.

Directed by DeLuna’s informative musical guidance, with Ruiz’s arrangements, Koonse’ authentic guitar work, and the propulsive rhythms of Serfaty and Livingston, the music came vividly to life.  Much of it, reaching back to songs of the ‘20s and ‘30s, was unfamiliar to American audiences.  But there was no denying its appeal – or, for that matter, the appeal of more easily identifiable songs from Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others.

The only thing missing was some background on the earlier musical selections.  Printed programs are rarely present in night club performances.  But a list of song titles, composers’ names and genre descriptions of the selections from the pre-WWII years would have further enhanced this otherwise fascinating evening.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Record Rack: Spin Doctors, Bracher Brown and Quattro

April 26, 2013

            Sometimes a Reviewer’s Just Lucky

            Three Very Different Albums Connected Only by Their Excellence

 By Brian Arsenault

 Spin Doctors

If the River Was Whiskey (Rufus Records)

DIf you’re a ‘90’s kid, chances are you can still remember the words to Spin Doctors’ “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” and that favorite guy anthem to the hated former girl friend/bitch, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”  I mean was there ever a nastier tune on hit radio and was a band bigger than Spin Doctors in the era?

So 25 years down the road, what is a listener to expect? Maybe not expected, but one sizzling blues album is what you get.

Hey, you can’t be a teen band forever, but these guys can do this till they’ve been around a half century.

“If the River Was Whiskey, (you’d) have no trouble drowning me.”  Hell of a lyric, hell of a song.

Chris Barron’s voice is deeper than in the early days. Whiskey? Cigs? Or just the passage of time. It works.

And Eric Schenkman’s guitar can flash it like he’s playing for Billy Boy Arnold, or do the slow hand. The rhythm section of Aaron Comess on drums and Mark White on bass are tight as can be.

The whole band is.

There’s some Howlin’ Wolf (title song) here and some Allman Brothers feel (“Scotch and Water Blues”)  as well.  Yet the Spin Doctors are their own self.

On tunes like “What My Love?” it’s real hard to sit still. “Scotch and Water Blues” just builds and builds and “About a Train” has a nice Delta flavor suitable for roadhouses.

The album makes you ache a bit for smoky bars smelling of beer and less savory stuff.  But the playing is real clean.

Bracher Brown

Broken Glass and Railroad Tracks (Rock Ridge Music, digital only)

A tough old businessman of Irish heritage that I knew and valued until his death said that one of the worst prejudices was that a young person couldn’t do a good job, maybe better.

So here comes Bracher Brown who makes you think that if the Beatles had been born in America under 20 years ago, this is what they might have sounded like.  Intelligent lyrics about the start of love, the end of love, the desire for love. Rhythms that we used to call infectious.  Seductive guitar licks.

“Singing songs about what life was supposed to be.”

Young but not untested in the furnace of life.

 “Haven’t slept in days but I’m all right.”

Even acquainted with absence that may be death –

“living with your ghost.”

And a love song — “Loving You” — that rings true; a song about what he knows about life at 18 that’s not to be patronized.  After all, we may never know more, we may just shut down and call it experience.

He’s not shut down at all. Thank goodness.

Quattro

Poppzzical  (Quattro Sound)

Ok, so you know there are four of them on Poppzzical. Mixed gender (two of each), mixed ethnicity, mixed musical backgrounds.  So, of course, all American in all our splendid, confusing mishmash of cultures that often produces remarkable music.

There’s a violin, often gypsy-like (Lisa Dondlinger). She can play for Pavarotti or Dancing with the Stars.

There’s a cello, also an amazing Latin influenced voice (Giovanna Moraga Clayton). Uh, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, New West Symphony).

Are you starting to get the picture?  They can match the exuberance of their own crafted “Good Day” — “try to bring me down will be time wasted” — with some Vivaldi done as classical sound with jazz shifts.

There’s a guitar which can lead and support, strum and sing (Kay-Ta Matsuno) who can play for Baby Face or Natalie Cole and a whole bunch of other folks too numerous to name here.

Finally there’s percussion work born in Tijuana, Mexico (Jorge Villanueva) who’s played on movie scores, in Latino bands and co-owns a film and TV scoring company.

So, as you can imagine, there’s a lot going on in this album they’ve made.

“Silky” is happy and melancholy at the same time.  There’s a guitar solo that resembles a violin piece.  Or is that a violin with cello as bass. Or both.  Ha, I don’t care. It’s music that’s unique.  I can’t think of any assemblage that sounds like Quattro.

Their Spanish language soul and Latino dance music.  If I could samba I would have on “Mi Conguero.“  That may even be the wrong dance but it’s the right feeling.

The album closes with “Hana Bi” and the guitar and violin take flight together.  The cello soars after them.

And maybe that’s it: flying, soaring, breaking free of forms while paying homage to them. In a musical world of too much sameness, the individuality and creativity of this young group is not to be missed.

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


Picks of the Week: Sept. 26 – Oct. 2

September 27, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Herbie Hancock

- Sept. 27. (Tuesday)  Opening Night Gala at Disney Hall.  The new season kicks off with a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, performed by the stellar combination of Herbie Hancock, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.  Also on the program, An American in Paris and the Cuban Overture. Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 27. (Tuesday).  Barbara Morrison Benefit.  Another opportunity to help one of Southland jazz’s greatest jazz vocal treasures in her hour of need.  Morrison’s medical expenses – the result of surgery associated with diabetes – have escalated, and she needs support.  The program of performers is unannounced at the moment.  Check with the club for details.  Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 27. (Tues.)  Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys.  12-time Grammy winner Harris brings rich expressiveness to everything she sings – whether interpreting other songwriters’ works or her own emotionally illuminating songs.  Also on the program – special guests Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. The Greek Theatre.

- Sept. 28. (Wed.)  Marilyn Scott.  Veteran singer Scott has moved easily across the boundaries between jazz and pop, creating expressive pleasures wherever she goes.  She performs with Jimmy Haslip, Mitch Forman, Gary Novak and Mike Miller.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 29. (Thurs.)  “Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project”  Mary Wilson of the Supremes applies her elegant vocal skills to songs associated with the legendary actress/singer,  James Gavin narrates material from his Horne biography, accompanied by rare audio and video clips.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  The Musicians Institute.  (310) 271-9039.

Ravi Shankar

- Sept. 29. (THurs.)  Ravi Shankar.  The pioneer of Indian classical music, Pandit Shankar has been – since the ‘50s – bringing the subtle, complex, but immensely engaging music and rhythms of ragas and talas to Western audiences.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 29 – Oct. 1. (Thurs. – Sat.) Tierney Sutton Band. Note that the title is not “Tierney Sutton and her Band.”  Because Sutton’s long term relationship with pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker has been one of complete musical (and practical) togetherness.  The results show up in every expressive note the band plays (and Sutton sings).  The performance celebrates her new recording – American Road, a compelling tour through musical Americana.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 30. (Fri.)  Bill Cantos. He sings, and plays piano with the kind of subtle support that delights any one who works with him – especially singers. Add to that Cantos’ skill at crafting original songs with the sensitivity and rich lyricism of the Great American Songbook.  He’ll be in the company of his wife — singer/pianist Mari Falcone, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael ShapiroVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Esperanza Spalding

- Sept. 30. (Fri.)  Esperanza Spalding. “Chamber Music Society.”   Singer/bassist Spalding is the hottest property in jazz after her 2011 Grammy award for Best New Artist.  But there’s a depth of art in her musicality that reaches well beyond her current visibility.  Still in her twenties. Spalding’s career looks to be long and fulfilling – for her, for her listeners and for jazz.  The Orpheum Theatre.    (877) 677-4386.

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 2. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Angel City Jazz Festival.  On Friday: The Nick Mancini Trio with Otmaro Ruiz and the Edgar Castaneda Trio with Andrea Tierra at Zipper Hall in the Colburn School of Music.  On Saturday: The Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura, The Kandinsky Effect and Rudresh Mahanthappa & Samdhi at the Ford Amphitheatre.  On Sunday: For People in Sorrow – an Homage to Alex Cline, and the Roscoe Mitchell Trio at REDCAT.  The Angel City Jazz Festival.

- Oct. 1. (Sat.)  The Strawbs and the Zombies.  Original Zombies members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone headline the 2011 incarnation of the sixties hit-makers.  The pop-rock Strawbs, who have passed through numerous editions since the sixties are also n the bill. The Canyon Club. (818) 879-5016.

- Oct. 2. (Sun.)  The New Directions Veterans Choir.  Made up of formerly homeless veterans of American military services, the Choir has appeared on America’s Got Talent, at the White House, on YouTube and numerous television shows.  Even more importantly, the members have found the choir to be a vehicle to help them find the help they need.  They are currently recording their first album, produced by veteran singer/arranger/a cappella expert Morgan Ames.    Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

James Carter

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 2. (Fri. – Sun.)  James Carter Organ Trio. Master of a full range of saxophones, Carter sets up in the blues driven environment of the classic jazz organ trio format. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- Sept. 27 – 29. (Tues. – Thurs.)  James Farm.  Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, Eric Harland. Redman’s too modest to describe James Farm as an all-star ensemble, but that’s what it is – a quartet made up of four of the contemporary jazz world’s most musically adventurous artists.  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- Sept. 29 – Oct. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Eric Reed. Pianist Reed spent some of his growing up years in L.A.  But, after Wynton Marsalis discovered him, while still a teen-ager, his career took off on a rising arc – everyone’s A-list piano player of choice. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Sept. 27 – Oct. 1. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Music of Bud PowellEthan Iverson, piano, Tim Hagans, trumpet, Greg Osby, alto saxophone, Joey Baron, drums, Lonnie Plaxico, bass, perform the music of one of bebop’s Olympian figures.  Expect to hear such classics as “Tempus Fuget,” “Un Poco Loco,” “Bouncin’ With Bud” and more. Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Daryl Sherman

- Sept. 27. (Tues.) Daryl Sherman.  Gifted singer/pianist Sherman brings wit, lyrical insights and musicality to everything she does.  This time she ushers in Rosh Hashanah with Cab Calloway’s “A Bee Gezindt” (“Abi Gezunt” ).  Don’t Tell Mama.      (212) 757-0788.

- Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Coca Cola Generations in Jazz Festival: Gerald Wilson and the Julliard Jazz Orchestra.  The Legacy Suite, with Anthony Wilson and Eric Otis.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.  (212) 258-9800.

- Oct. 2. (Sun.)  Creole Choir of Cuba.  Cuban only begins to describe this musical melting pot of singers/instrumentalists from the Camaguey.  Descendants of Haitians, they have created music rich with Cuban rhythms – the son and salsa – and Creole melodies, underscored by rich African chants and dance movements.  This is their first American tour.  Symphony Space.    (212) 864-5400.

Boston

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 1. (Fri. & Sat.)  Kenny Barron.  The lyrical, imaginative pianist has a resume reaching from Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson to Stan Getz and Ella Fitzgerald.  But he’s best heard on his own, when his soaring melodies and pastel harmonies are front and center. Regatta Bar Jazz.    (617) 395-7757.

Miami

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 2.  Gunther Schuller. The full scope of composer/writer/educator/French horn player Schuller is hard to imagine.  His commentaries on jazz, classical music, ragtime and French horn technique have had a powerful influence throughout the music world.  His extensive activities (including several compositions that led the way during the Third Stream era) have earned him such recognitions as a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “genius” award and acknowledgment as an NEA Jazz Master.  Schuller’s long weekend appearance at the University of Miami Frost School of Music includes: Friday: a lecture in Clarke Recital Hall; Sat: a concert featuring Schuller’s Concerto No. 1 for Horn; Sun. The Frost Chamber Players, with Schuller conducting his new composition Quintet for Horn and Strings  Gunther Schuller at the University of Miami.      (305) 284-4940.

London

Roberta Gambarini

- Sept. 27. (Tues.) Roberta Gambarini.  She may have been born in Italy, but Gambarini’s mastery of jazz singing stamps her as a world class original, regardless of origin.  Whether she’s finding the emotional heart of an American Songbook standard or scatting with the most fleet, swinging precision since the salad days of Ella Fitzgerald, she should be heard, at every opportunity.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- Sept. 26 – Oct. 3. (Mon. – Mon.)  Natalie Cole.  Very much Nat “King” Cole’s daughter, Natalie Cole cruises the same eclectic musical waters, a convincing pop artist who has no difficulty dipping into the rhythms of jazz.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03-5485-0088.

Herbie Hancock photo by Faith Frenz.

Esperanza Spalding photo by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: Aug. 23 – 28

August 23, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Aug. 23. (Tues.)  Clay JenkinsGood Signs  CD concert.  Trumpeter Jenkins celebrates the September release of his new CD with the stellar band on the album — guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe LaBarbera Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 24. (Wed.)  Alan Ferber Quartet. Versatile trombonist Ferber moves easily across numerous jazz styles, always with imaginative creativity.  Here he makes one of his rare Southland appearances, working with bassist Pat Senatore, pianist Josh Nelson, and his brother, Mark FerberVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Omara Portuondo

- Aug. 24. (Wed.)  Arturo Sandoval, Natalie Cole, the Buena Vista Social Club with Omara Portuondo and Ninety Miles, featuring Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott.  The Bowl sizzles with a far-ranging evening of Latin jazz in a wide array of manifestations and styles.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000

- Aug. 25. (Thurs.) Theo Saunders Quartet with Dave Binney.  Pianist Saunders, a probing musical artist on his own, gets together with alto saxophonist Binney, whose career has been filled with adventurous musical explorations.   Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- Aug. 25. (Thurs.)  Mr. Vallenato.  The Skirball’s free Sunset  Concerts for 2011 close with a performance by Jorge Villarreal. a Mexican-American accordion virtuoso whose emotional romps through cumbia and vallenato music have prompted some reviewers to compare the excitement of his playing to that of the legendary Jimi Hendrix.  The Skirball Cultural Center.   Free.  Doors open at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. performance.  (310) 440-4500.

- Aug. 25. (Thurs.)  Ken Peplowski.  Clarinetist Peplowski has been doing an effective job of keeping the jazz clarinet alive (along with his equally impressive tenor saxophone work.  He’s backed by pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Paul Kreibich LAX Jazz Club Crowne Plaza Hotel.    (310) 642-7500.

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.

- Aug. 25 – 27. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.  Married for more than forty years, McCoo and Davis continue to celebrate the entertaining music of the group that brought them together, the Fifth Dimension.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.) John Williams, Maestro of the Movies.  With one of the most impressive catalog of film scores in his resume, Williams fully deserves the “Maestro” title.  He conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a collection of his memorable music.  In an added highlight, James Taylor will be guest narrator.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 27. (Sat.)  Brian Wilson.  One of the rock music figures who truly warrant the label “legendary” makes a rare concert appearance.  Wilson – whose awards reach from Kennedy Center honors to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – will offer selections from many of his greatest Beach Boys hits.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

San Francisco

Oliver Lake

- Aug. 25. (Thurs.)  Oliver Lake Organ Quartet.  Alto saxophonist Lake, a true Renaissance man, is also a poet, painter and performance artist.  For this appearance, he’ll focus on expanding the arena of the jazz organ quartet with organist Jared Gold, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and drummer Chris Beck. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Chicago

- Aug. 25 – 31. (Thurs. – Wed.)  Ira Sullivan and Friends. Eighty year old multi-instrumentalist Sullivan has always been one of jazz’s most impressive, but also elusive performers, sticking close to the Chicago area.  Here he is again in his home territory, displaying his remarkable skills as a trumpeter, saxophonist, flutist and composer.   Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Aug. 23 – 27. (Tues. – Sat.)  Richie Beirach Quintet. Veteran pianist Beirach burst onto the jazz scene in the early ‘70s with Stan Getz.  And his multi-layered style is still a marvel of improvisational imagination.  He performs with the cutting edge ensemble of Randy Brecker, trumpet, Gregor Huebner, violin, George Mraz, bass and Billy Hart, drums.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

Jon Faddis

- Aug. 23 – 28. (Tues. – Sun.)  Jon Faddis Quartet with special guests Sean Jones and Terell Stafford.  Trumpeter Faddis, a protégée of Dizzy Gillespie, does his own mentoring in the company of young trumpeters Jones and Stafford.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

London

- Aug. 23. (Tues.)  Buddy Greco and Lezlie Anders.  Veteran pianist/singer Greco, who turned 85 earlier this month, is still adeptly offering the blend of bop-tinged piano and soaring vocals that have characterized his music since he left the Benny Goodman band in the late ‘40s for a solo career.  He’ll perform with his wife, singer Lezlie Anders.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- Aug. 23 – 25. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Ramsey Lewis Electric Band.  Pianist/keyboardist Lewis continues to tour with his five piece electric band, mixing standards and new works with material from his 1974 gold album, Sun Goddes.   The Blue Note Tokyo.   03-5485-0088.


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.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 7 – 12

December 7, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Neil Sedaka

- Dec. 8. (Tues.)  Neil Sedaka.  Hitmaker Sedaka showcases his memorable catalog of songs in a performance replacing a date cancelled in late October. Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 8. (Wed.)  Carol Welsman Canadian-born Welsman has the rare ability to surround the supple timbres of her voice with an intimate piano style.  Her versatility reaches from American standards to songs in French, Italian and Portuguese.  With any luck, she’ll offer her intimate version of the lovely Italian song, “Estate.”  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 8. (Wed.)  Emil Richards/Joe Porcaro Quartet.  Featuring Abraham Laboriel, bass and Mike Lang, piano. A quartet of veteran players reveal the broad, generational reach of masterful jazz.  Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- Dec. 8. (Wed.)  The Celtic Tenors Holiday Show. An evening of musical holiday cheer from the soaring voices of the Celtic tenors, embracing classical, Celtic, Americana and pop music.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

Natalie Cole

- Dec. 9. (Thurs.)  Natalie Cole.  The eclectic Cole, who – like her Dad – reaches convincingly across genres from jazz to blues and pop, makes her Disney Hall debut.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 9. (Thurs.)  Adam Schroeder.  Rising star jazz saxophonist Schroeder hosts a pair of release parties for his new CD, A Handful of Stars.  W. Graham Dechter, guitar, John Clayton, bass, Jeff Hamilton, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.   Also Dec. 10 (Fri.) at the The Culver Club for Jazz at the Radisson L.A. West Side Hotel.   (310) 649-1776 Ext. 4137.

- Dec. 9. (Thurs.)  Eric Reed Trio.  Once a teen-age pianistic jazz prodigy, Reed is now firmly established as mature jazz star.  He performs with Hamilton Price, bass, Kevin Yokota, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 9. (Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli. The Southland is blessed with an impressive array of gifted jazz vocalists.  Donatelli’s one of the best – here and elsewhere.  To read a recent iRoM performance review click HERE. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- Dec. 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Pacific Symphony with pianist Kirill Gerstein in an evening of memorable classics.  On the program: the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2 and Dvorak Symphony #9 (from the New World).  Segerstrom Concert Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center.   (714) 556-2787.

- Dec. 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mike Stern Quartet.  Guitarist Stern leads an ensemble of guys, all of whom, fly freely across a colorful array of jazz genres.  With Randy Brecker, trumpet, Dennis Chambers, drums and Anthony Jackson, bass.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.)  Hilary Hahn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Hahn applies her rich, interprettive style to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos conducts the LA Phil in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

James Ingram

- Dec. 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Colors of Christmas.  It’s been one of the annual pleasures of Christmas for nearly two decades, with Peabo Bryson, James Ingram, Oleta Adams and Stephanie Mills bringing holiday musical joy to the season.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- Dec. 12. (Sun.)  Red Holloway and Plas Johnson.  Two of the most inimitable jazz tenor saxophonists in the business team up for a holiday jazz celebration.  The irrepressible Bubba Jackson hosts.   KJAZZ Sunday Champagne Brunch.   (323) 491-1000.

- Dec. 12. (Sun.)  Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz.  Grammy-nominated McGarry performs selections from her album, Less Is More, Nothing is Everything, with her husband, guitarist Keith Ganz.  The Royal T. (310) 559-6000.

San Francisco

Charlie Hunter

- Dec. 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Charlie Hunter.  Guitarist Hunter, who sometimes manages to make his diverse guitar playing sound like a one man band, arrives for his eleventh annual December appearance at Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

- Dec. 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Los Van Van.  The great Cuban band, crossing genres in every stylistic direction, and doing it with vitality and substance, makes a rare San Francisco appearance.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Dec. 7. (Tues.)  Theo Bleckmann & Ben Monder Duo.  The unique duo of Bleckmann and Monder trigger musical magic via the blending of voice, live electronics and guitar.  The Cornelia St. Café. (212) 989-9319

- Dec. 7 – 11. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Roy Haynes Quartet.  Ageless, 85 year old drummer Haynes, continues to give seminars in the art of swinging, backed by his Fountain of Youth Quartet.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Dec. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.)  Robert Glasper Trio.  Pianist Glasper is one of the rare young jazz artists who can bring authenticity to the combination of jazz, rock, hip hop and more.   Village Vanguard.   (212) 929-4589.

Manhattan Transfer

- Dec. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Manhattan Transfer. Vocal music – jazz, pop, blues and beyond – doesn’t get any better than the Transfer. Forty years together and their performances are still utterly mesmerizing.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

- Dec. 9 – 12. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Patricia Barber. Pianist/singer Barber is one of a kind, opening new vistas in every song she sings.  Hopefully she’ll play an advance tune or two from her upcoming album, The Storyteller, due out in 2011.   Jazz Standard (212) 576-2232.


Live Jazz: The Johnny Mandel Big Band at Vibrato

November 18, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Johnny Mandel, of whom we all know who that is, is quite a sight when he conducts a big band, first of all because he does this standing up for two entire sets.

Johnny Mandel

This is of course  remarkable for a guy who will be 85 years old next Tuesday [Nov. 23]. Another remarkable thing is the way he registered his delight at how his stuff was being played by a big band full of the speediest fast guys from the studios, which is to say matchlessly. Surely he’s heard it all before.

“Shadow of Your Smile,” “Suicide is Painless,” and “Emily,” among the monumental Mandel works the band tried, came out remarkable in their unashamed — and successful — efforts to woo the ear with assonance and dimension.

And among the wooed was the conductor himself, who accepted the players’ aural outcome with a charming little half smile.

Famed, honored and you might even say beloved for showcasing such singers as Sinatra, Bennett, Shirley Horn, Diana Krall and Barbra Streisand — not that they needed all that much help — Mandel brought intelligence and honest emotion to the best of late 20th century American pop.

Among other feats, this is the cat who doped out the charts for the Grammy-winning Natalie and Nat King Cole hit “Unforgettable,” in which Natalie dueted with her deceased father. Mandel didn’t kill him, of course. There are limits.

Not much you need to add about the brilliant work of the band, which had in it stars like Bob Efford on baritone, Doug Webb and Pete Christlieb on reeds, Ron Stout and Carl Saunders on trumpet, Bernie Dressel on drums, Chuck Berghoffer on bass and Christian Jacob on piano.

The Johnny Mandel brass section

They spoke as one under the Mandel baton, sporting a precision that refreshed  the ear.

Among the awed listeners was the trumpet master Uan Rasey, a pioneer of the movie soundstage, whom we all remember from his solo at the opening of   “Chinatown.” Mandel, who started out as a trumpet man in Boyd Raeburn’s band, joined Rasey for a post-set chat.  And that was a tribute in itself, right?

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


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