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


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.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: May 14 – 19

May 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Brenna Whitaker

Brenna Whitaker

- May 15. (Wed.)  Brenna Whitaker.  She could have been a ‘30s platinum blond star.  But Whitaker doesn’t just look good; she can sing, too.  This time out she picks a set of tunes to enhance the birthday of Vibrato co-owner Eden Alpert.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- May 15. (Wed.)  Lado B Project.  A lively evening of Brazilian music, featuring Otmaro Ruiz, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Edwin Livingston, bass, Aaron Serfaty, drums and Catina DeLuna, voice.  Brazilian music.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 16. (Thurs.)  Lisa Hilton. The ever adventurous pianist/composer Hilton continues her quest for new musical territories for her to explore. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 16. (Thurs.)  John Proulx.  Singer/pianist Proulx has begun to claim a position in the rare category of male jazz singer.  Proulx, like his musical role model, Chet Baker, brings the flowing phrases of his instrumental playing to his vocal interpretations.    H.O.M.E. (House of Music and Entertainment)   (310) 271-4663.

- May 17. (Fri.)  Jim Snidero Group.  Saxophonist Snidero’s lengthy resume reaches from his own numerous recordings to performances with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Frank Wess. The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester

- May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Melissa Manchester. She’s been producing memorable music since the ‘70s, including “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.”  Here’s a chance to catch her in one of her rare club appearances. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.  This is a stellar organ trio if ever there was one.  Each of the players is an influence in his own right.  Don’t miss them.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 17 – 19, 23 & 25. (Fri. – Sun., Thurs., Sat.)  Mozart/Da Ponte TrilogyThe Marriage of Figaro. The second of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s three year trilogy of opera by Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The great comic opera is performed in a concert staged version by the Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- May 19. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Concerto Finale.  The LACO players offer a fascinating evening of concertos, including Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto, and an offbeat bassoon concerto performed with a 1927 silent film.  Add the Beethoven Coriolan Overture and anticipate an engaging program.   CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-4321.

- May 19. (Sun.)  Deborah Voigt.  Critically acknowledged as one of the classical music world’s dramatic sopranos, Voigt – who roves freely from Wagner to Puccini – offers an intimate recital of works by Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein and more.  Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

San Francisco

Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck

- May 16 – 19 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Bela Fleck solo.  Banjo master Fleck has performed in every imaginable setting.  But he is especially compelling musically when he plays in the creative intimacy of a solo performance.  SFJAZZ Center Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.


- May 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  John Hammond.  Praised by the likes of Tom Waits and T-Bone Burnett, Grammy-winning guitarist/singer/harmonica player Hammond keeps the blues alive in everything he plays.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York City

- May 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  Bossabrasil.  Featuring Dori Caymmi with special guest, Joyce.  Rio comes to Manhattan in the form of a pair of Brazil’s most versatile and gifted musical artists.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- May 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Gil Evans Project.  Directed by Ryan Truesdell.  An amazing week of music, featuring a large ensemble exploring the full range of Gil Evans’ extraordinary talents.  The selections for each night include Gil Evans’ music for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, “Out of the Cool,” “New Bottle, Old Wine,” “Great Jazz Standards,” “The Individualism of Gil Evans,” “Miles Ahead,” “Porgy and Bess,” Check with the club for scheduling.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.


Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes

- May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band. The Fountain of Youth has had the biggest impact upon the leader, drummer and role model in this band.  At 88, Haynes is still playing with the imagination and energy of youth.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.


- May 17 & 18.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Lee Ritenour.  He used to be called “Captain Fingers” in honor of his high-speed dexterity.  But guitarist Ritenour has a more lyrical side as well, often employing octave melody style of his favorite musical model, Wes Montgomery.  A-Trane.    +49 30 3132 ext. 550


- May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Mark Whitfield.  Dubbed the “best young guitarist in the business” by the New York Times, Whitfield performs with a trio of prime Danish jazz musicians: Henrik Gunde, piano, Kasper Vadsholt, bass and Rasmus Kihlberg, drums.  Jazzhus Montmartre.   +45 31 72 34 94


Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

- May 18. (Sat.) Anat Cohen.  Clarinetist/saxophonist Cohen is in the forefront of an impressive generation of female jazz instrumentalists.  She’s backed by Jason Lindner, piano, Stefano Bellani, bass and Daniel Freedman, drums.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.


- May 14 – 16. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Benny Golson Quartet.  Tenor saxophonist/composer Golson is still, at age 84, a player with a lot of music to express.  Hopefully he’ll also play some of his jazz hits such as “Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” “Along Came Betty” and more.  The Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Mar. 19 – 24

March 19, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Dorothy Dale Kloss

Dorothy Dale Kloss

- Mar. 20. (Wed.)  “Three For the Show.”  A trio of veteran performers celebrate the music of Broadway, cabaret and beyond: Dorothy Dale Kloss, at 89, is described as the world’s oldest, still performing show girl; Suzy Cadham was a Golddigger on the Dean Martin Show, and Ken Prescott starred on Broadway in 42nd St. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 20. (Wed.)  Amanda Brecker. Singer/songwriter Brecker has an impressive lineage – her mother is Brazilian pianist/singer Eliane Elias, her father is jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker.  But Amanda has her own unique musicality, as well.  Her current project is Blossom, a new CD honoring the 40th anniversary of Carole King’s Tapestry. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 22 & 23. (Fri. & Sat.)  Julie Esposito.  She’s a rare hyphenate – attorney/singer, but she manages to fulfill both roles impressively.  Julie’s current show, “Open Your Window,” is a musical celebration of life—through the songs of Sondheim, Bernstein and more – delivered with the stylish, story-telling qualities that are the essence of her art.  The Gardenia.  (323) 467-7444.

Savion Glover

Savion Glover

- Mar. 22. (Fri.)  Savion Glover.  Watching, and hearing, tap dancer Glover is like experiencing a world class drummer in tap shoes.  There’s no one quite like him, so don’t miss one of his rare Southland appearances. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501

- Mar. 23. (Sat.)  Frank Stallone.  Vitello’s. Grammy and Golden Globe-nominated actor/singer Stallone follows convincingly in the classic styles of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and others.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 24. (Sun.)  Yuja Wang.  Pianist Wang makes her Disney Hall recital debut with a challenging program reaching from Mendelssohn and Ravel to Debussy, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff.   Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Mar. 24. (Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  “Mostly Baroque.”  The title is right on target for a LACO program encompassing Bach, Handel, Mozart and Stravinsky.  Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will conduct from the keyboard, with soloists Margaret Batjer, violin, and David Shostac, flute.  A CAP UCLA concert at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

San Francisco

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

- Mar. 20 – 22. (Wed, – Fri.)  Sheila E.  She comes from a high visibility music world family, but she’s learned how to dominate a stage with her magnetic skills as a percussionist, singer, vocalist, songwriter and a lot more, while looking sensational.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

New York City

- Mar. 19 – 23. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Tierney Sutton Band.  Grammy-nominated Sutton approaches every song she sings with an imaginative overview, superbly aided by the Band that is an essential element in her deeply expressive musical story telling.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux

- Mar. 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Madeleine Peyroux.  Always an unusual vocal talent, Peyroux has moved well beyond the Billie Holiday influences in her early recordings, into a versatile singer with the skill and the imagination to embrace everything from classic standards to Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, John Hartford and beyond.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.


Mar. 20. (Wed.)  Kai Hoffman.  The glamorous vocalist Hoffman celebrates the release of her new CD, Do It While You Can.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of the album.    Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747


- Mar. 22. (Fri.) Marilyn Mazur.  Percussionist Mazur was American-born, but she’s lived in Denmark since the age of 6.  She performs here with Celestial Circle — a group of stellar European jazz artists that includes vocalist Josefine Cronholm, pianist John Taylor and bassist Anders Jormin. Jazzhus Montmarte.   +45 31 72 34 94.


- Mar. 21. (Thurs.)  Frank Gambale Natural High Trio.  Australian fusion guitarist Gambale moves comfortably across genre lines, from rock shredding to straight ahead jazz.  He’s joined in his Natural High Trio by pianist Otmaro Ruiz and bassist Alain CaronFasching.    08-534 829 60.


Sandro Albert

Sandro Albert

- Mar. 24. (Sun.)  The Sandro Albert Quartet.  Guitarist Albert is one of Brazil’s most convincing jazz artists.  He’s backed here by a prime American rhythm section – keyboardist James Weidman, bassist Michael O’Brian and drummer Tom BrechtleinA-Trane.   +49 30 3132 ext. 550.


- Mar. 23. (Sat.)  The Ron Carter Trio.  Iconic bassist Carter has spent his life playing for world class artists.  And he continues to do so here with his own group, featuring pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone.  Click HERE to read a recent iRom review of Carter.  Blue Note Milano.   +39 02 6901 6888


- Mar. 19 – 24. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ulysses Owens Jr. Quintet. Grammy-winning drummer Owens has already established himself – in his ‘20s – as first call player whose resume is already filled with world-class performances.  Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha.    +974.4446.0000.





- Mar. 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Hiromi Uehara Solo.  Performing in a solo setting, the gifted Hiromi finds ways to transform her keyboards – from acoustic to electric – into a virtual orchestra for the fullest expression of her improvisational ingenuity.  Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: the Bob Sheppard/Otmaro Ruiz Quartet at Vitello’s

December 24, 2012

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  On any given night in Los Angeles, world class jazz can be found in venues stretching from Orange County to Ventura County, with many stops in between.  And Saturday night was no exception, when the prime quartet of saxophonist Bob Sheppard and pianist Otmaro Ruiz (with bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Jimmy Branly) performed a stirring program at Vitello’s in Studio City.

The selections were varied – Horace Silver’s “Barbara” and Bernie Miller’s “Bernie’s Tune” among them, in addition to originals from both Sheppard and Ruiz.

But the highlights of the evening virtually all traced to the jam session-like improvising, allowing each of the players to stretch out in completely spontaneous fashion.  Sheppard was, as always, articulate, expressive and imaginative, on both tenor and soprano saxophones.  Ruiz’s eclectic style added Latin touches to his solos, occasionally tossing in a rousing montuno in contrast to his authentically boppish single note lines.

Otmaro Ruiz, John Belzaguy, Bob Sheppard, Jimmy Branley

Otmaro Ruiz, John Belzaguy, Bob Sheppard, Jimmy Branley

Give credit, as well, to the rhythm team of Belzaguy and Branley, the engine that kept the band in high gear for most of the set.

What was missing, however, was very little reference to the music promised in the advertising for the evening: “Celebrate the Season! – Latin Night – Feliz Navidad.”  Despite the generally high quality of the playing, there was little in the program specifically oriented to the holiday.  And, with the presence of Venezuelans Ruiz and Belzaguy and Cuban Branly, one might have hoped for something more in the way of Latin jazz excitement.

Also missing was the unannounced but rumored sitting-in presence of some of L.A.’s fine jazz singers.  Several were in the audience, but failed to take the stage.

That said, it was nonetheless an evening of the sort of world class jazz I mentioned above.  And, heard in action, regardless of their selection of material, the Sheppard/Belzaguy quartet’s playing was a potent reminder of the sort of jazz that’s available almost every night in the Southland.

Picks of the Week: Dec 19 – 23

December 19, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Katja Rieckermann

Katja Rieckermann

- Dec. 19 (Wed.)  Katja Rieckermann.  German-born saxophonist Rieckermann has a resume reaching from Rod Stewart and Al Green to Carole King and Randy Newman.  But she’s best heard in her own musical settings, as she will be here.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 19. (Wed.)  Street Corner Renaissance.  A quintet of singers whose age ranges from 50 to 72, singing the sort of lush a cappella harmonies and crisp rhythms that recall the sound of groups such as the Ink Spots and the Chiffons.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 21. (Fri.)  A Swinging Christmas with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Winter solstice (and the end of the world?) arrives with an appropriate evening of jumping and jiving from one of the great Swing revival bands.  Disney Hall.      (323) 850-2000.

Judy Collins

- Dec. 21. (Fri.)  An Evening with Judy Collins.  She’s one of the true originals of pop and folk music, still applying her lovely sound and rich interpretive skills to an appealing collection of songs.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

- Dec. 21 & 22., (Fri. & Sat.)  Rufus and Martha Wainwright Christmas 101 Brother and sister Rufus and Martha celebrate the life of their mother, Kate McGarrigle, with an extraordinary evening of music performed with guest artists Emmylou Harris, Van Dyke Parks and Carrie Fisher.  CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2101.

- Dec. 22. (Sat.)  The Los Angeles Master Chorale.  The superb voices of the L.A. Master Chorale continue their winter’s eves tour of great Christmas music.  Click HERE to read the iRoM review of the LAMC’s recent performance of Bach and Vivaldi.  This time it’s another one of the great classics — Handel’s Messiah.  Disney Hall.       (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 22. (Sat.) Otmaro Ruiz and Bob Sheppard. “Feliz Navidad Latin Night.” Pianist Ruiz and saxophonist/flutist Sheppard team up to celebrate the season in a Latin jazz way.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 22 and 23. (Sat. & Sun.)  Los Angeles Ballet  “The Nutcracker.”  It’s that time of year, when The Nutcracker sets the stage for the holiday season.  And the L.A. Ballet does Tchaikovsky’s classic with great authenticity.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane

- Dec. 23. (Sun.)  Seth MacFarlane with the Ron Jones Influence Jazz Orchestra. He may be best known as the producer and creator of Family Guy. But MacFarlane also prides himself on his ability to sing a song in the classic crooner style of Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, Dean Martin, etc.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400


- Dec. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus.  The adventurous trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to redefine the piano jazz trio.  Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Dec. 19 – 22. (Wed. – Sat. )  Freddy Cole.  Yes, there’s a trace of the Cole family (Nat and Natalie) sound in Freddy’s singing, but he uses it in his own appealing style.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Chris Botti

Chris Botti

- Dec. 19 – 23. (Wed. – Sun.)  Chris Botti.  Trumpeter Botti takes a break from his almost incessant traveling for his annual holiday appearance at The Blue Note.  His continuous run of two shows a night is scheduled through Jan. 6.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of last year’s Botti performances at  The Blue Notel   (212) 475-8592.

- Dec. 21 – 23. (Fri. – Sun.)  New York Voices.  More than two decades together, the Voices continue to apply their lush jazz harmonies to a program reaching from pop and folk to songbook standards.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.


- Dec. 21 & 22.   (Fri. & Sat.)  Dwight Trible and the Paul Zauner Sextet.  “Dwight Christmas.”  It’s a punning title, but it’s a good description of what to expect when the vocally imaginative Trible sings a program of holiday tunes.  A-Trane.  030/313 25 50.


Chiara Civelo

Chiara Civelo

- Dec. 21 & 22.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Chiara Civello. Sicilian singer/guitarist Civello, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, returns to her native country for a holiday celebration of her many talents.  Blue Note Milan.    02.69016888.


- Dec. 19 & 20.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  Maria Schneider Orchestra.  There’s nothing in big band jazz quite like the sounds, the textures and the imagination in the music Schneider writes and arranges for her talented group of players. Tokyo Blue Note.   03-5485-0088.

- Dec,. 21 – 23.  (Fri. – Sun.)  John Pizzarelli.  Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli’s latest album, Double Exposure, finds some unusual connections via medleys of pop songs and jazz lines.  The results are the latest example of Pizzarelli’s imaginative musicality.  Tokyo Blue Note.   03-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: Jackie Ryan at Vitello’s

August 12, 2012

By Don Heckman

Jackie Ryan made one of her too-rare Southland appearances Thursday night.  And it’s a fair bet that most of her entranced listeners left Vitello’s with the fervent hope that she’ll return, and soon.

Why?  Because Jackie is both musical and passionate.  Because her rich, dark-toned voice is the perfect vehicle for her dramatic, story-telling style.  Because her phrasing can flow with rhythmic lift and swing as easily as it can create atmospheric romance.  And because her performances are passionate and alive musical interactions with her listeners.

Jackie Ryan

She did all that and a lot more at Vitello’s, backed with the solid capabilities of tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Otmaro Ruiz, bassist Ryan McGillicuddy and drummer Dean Koba.  And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also offered an intriguingly diverse set of songs, mixing familiar standards with less often heard, but equally appealing selections.

For example: Singing Abby Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” she captured the song’s deepest zen qualities.  On the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer classic, “Accentuate the Positive,” she revived the gospel swing that is at its heart

The Gershwins’ “I Loves You Porgy” was sung with a passionate understanding of the song’s inner meaning.  And “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” recalled the soulful qualities of the Ray Charles version.

And there was more: the Sherman brothers’ “To the Ends of the Earth,” a hit for Nat “King” Cole, expressed here in Jackie’s own gripping interpretation; a grooving take on “The Gypsy In My Soul”: a tender, Portuguese version of a Jobim classic; and a poignant, intimate and utterly memorable “Two For the Road,” from the Henry Mancini songbook.

Add it all up and the total result was a remarkable musical evening.  And, as I said above, a rare one at that.  Not just because of Jackie’s too few appearances in L.A., but also because of the uniquely appealing qualities of her performance.  As I also said above, let’s hope she returns soon.

Photo courtesy of OpenArt Records. 

Live Jazz: The John Daversa Quartet at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

August 6, 2012

By Don Heckman

There’s a lot to be said for the kitchen at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  The cuisine is not only haut, it’s also tasty, diversified and appealing.  Just like the music.  And there’s a lot to be said for that, too. Combined, they make for memorable evenings.

The club’s Music Director and resident bassist, Pat Senatore enhances his far-ranging choice of performers with a regular seasoning of L.A.’s finest local artists.  In any given week, there are frequent opportunities to sample the Southland’s extraordinary range of musical talent.

On Saturday night, it was trumpeter John Daversa, backed by the stellar rhythm team of pianist Otmaro Ruiz, drummer Kendall Kay and bassist Senatore.

Otmaro Ruiz, Pat Senatore, John Daversa, Kendall Kay

Daversa comes by his playing skills naturally.  (His father is the well-known trumpeter Jay Daversa, whose playing can be heard on more than 200 movies and television shows.) But John has more than found his own way in the past decades.  Working as a busy sideman, fronting his own groups – including a big band performing his envelope-stretching arrangements – and teaching jazz classes at CalState Northridge, he’s thoroughly established his own significant presence among the L.A. jazz elite.

“But I like gigs like this, too, as much as the more high visibility dates,” said Daversa between sets.  “Sometimes it’s fun to just play tunes.”

Which is exactly the feeling that resonated through the two sets of mostly familiar tunes by Daversa, Ruiz, Kay and Senatore.  Each was a delight in itself.

Opening with “Bye, Bye Blackbird, Daversa’s warm, vocalized tone was applied to the familiar line with the same kind of respect for space present in Miles Davis – clearly an influence on Daversa’s musical thinking.

“Sunny Side of the Street” was done in a gentle groove, with Daversa leading the way, and Senatore stepping to stage center with an articulate bass solo.

On “Corcovado,” Daversa switched to a mellow-sounding flugel horn, and pianist Ruiz uncovered his best, guitar-like bossa nova comping. And here, too, Daversa’s phrasing was everything, telling a melodic story in a style perfectly reflecting Miles Davis’ famous insistence that “the silences are as important as the sounds.”

Other tunes were equally appealing:  among them, an intimate take on Cole Porter’s “I Love You” featuring atmospheric soloing from Ruiz and Kay, and a lyrical, but swinging “Like Someone In Love.”

The only flaw in this otherwise utterly engaging evening – which had opened with the superb duo of pianist Jeff Colella and bassist Putter Smith – was the familiar noisy crowd at Vibrato’s bar.  On most nights, it’s pretty much of a given that anything short of a roaring big band is going to have to deal with waves of competitive, bar-generated audio (noise).

Fortunately, in the capable hands of artists such as the Daversa quartet and the Colella duo, the music has so much of a life of its own that it doesn’t just survive, it triumphs.  And that’s another one of the good things to be said about Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

Photo and video by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: May 22 – 27

May 22, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Kathleen Grace

- May 22. (Tues.)  Kathleen Grace Group.  Singer Grace, a true musical adventurer, combines the folk-based methods of the ‘70s singer songwriters with her jazz roots in her new album, Mirror.   Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908

- May 22. (Tues.) Otmaro Ruiz/Aaron Serfaty Quartet.  Versatile pianist Ruiz and drummer Serfaty – musical partners for three decades — get together with the solid bass playing of Edwin Livingstone and the lush vocals of Brazilian singer/composer Catina De Luna. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 24. (Thurs.)  Vardan Ovsepian.  Armenia-born pianist/composer Ovsepian celebrates his birthday with a release party for his new CD, ChromaticityBlue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- May 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Four consecutive nights of Mozart compositions conducted by Gustavo Dudamel,  Thurs. and Sat. will begin the three year Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy with Don Giovanni. Friday night and Sun. afternoon will feature Exultate, jubilate and the Posthorn Serenade (K. 320) with soprano Kiera DuffyDisney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Tierney Sutton

- May 25 – 27. (Fri. – Sun.) Tierney Sutton Band. It’s one of the finest musical partnerships in all of jazz – the almost symbiotic connection between Sutton’s warm, pliable voice and the complimentary responsiveness of her Band.  Hopefully they’ll play some selections from her latest CD, American Road.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- May 26. (Sat.)  War and Tower of Power. Two of the heavy rhythm, hard charging rock bands of the late ‘60s and beyond, War and Tower of Power impacted much of the crossover music that followed.  And they’re still at it. Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- May 27. (Sun.) Alan Broadbent.  The gifted pianist/composer Broadbent, long one of the Southland’s jazz benefits, moved to the east coast last year.  Fortunately he comes back from time to time, so don’t miss this visit, in which he’ll be backed by bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kendall Kay Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

* * * * * *       HIGHLIGHT      * * * * * *

May 27. (Sun.) The 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival’s Second Community Concert. The Playboy Jazz Festival’s annual free concerts leading up to the Festival itself — which takes place on June 16 & 17 at the Hollywood Bowl – are some of the Southland’s greatest jazz bargains. And this year is no exception.  The second free concert of the 2012 Festival takes place at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.  The featured act is the Jeff Lorber Fusion.

Jeff Lorber

Founded in 1977, the Fusion was a pacemaker in transforming cross-over pop- and rock-influenced jazz into a convincing musical blend.  Since then, Lorber’s done everything from solo recording and production and session work to r&b and video game music.  But his many fans are always delighted on the rare occasions when he once again revives the inimitable Jeff Lorber Fusion.

Also on the bill, the fine playing of the Washington Preparatory High School Jazz Ensemble, another collective of Southland young players convincingly proving that the future of jazz is in fine hands.,  The Second Free Playboy Community Concert at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.        (310) 450-1173.

 San Francisco

- May 25 – 27. (Fri. – Sun.)  Joshua Redman’s James Farm group examines some of the far reaching connections between jazz and contemporary pop sounds.  With pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric HarlandYoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.


- May 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Gerald Clayton Trio.  Already an impressive pianist when he was in his teens, the twentysomething Clayton has matured into one of the gifted jazz artists of his generation.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

Joe Lovano

- May 22 – 26. (Tues. – Sat.)  Joe Lovano US Five. The dynamic tenor saxophonist’s talented young band checks out the music from his Bird Songs album – the still potent pleasures of bebop and its memories.  Birdland.    Bird Songs.  Album  *212( 581-3080.

- May 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.)  Fred Hersch Duos & Trio. Pianist Hersch continues his fascinating journey through classically-oriented jazz territories via his work with duos and a trio. The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- May 277. (Sun.)  Ravichandra Kulur.  South Indian flutist Kulur is a master of the Carnatic ragas and talas of his homeland.  His improvisational excursions are aided by Arun Ramamurthy, violin, and Akshay Anantapadmanabhan, mridangam.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.


- May 27. (Sun.)  Sunday Jazz Lunch Celebrating the Modern Jazz Quartet.  The ensemble of Jim Hart, Barry Green, Matt Ridley and Steve Brown perform the memorable music of the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.


Anat Cohen

- May 22 (Tues.)  The Three Cohens.  The gifted Cohen siblings Anat, clarinet and tenor saxophone, Yuval, soprano saxophone, and Avishai, trumpet, display their extraordinary jazz skills in the company of pianist Yonatan Avishai, bassist Omer Avital and drummer Jonathan BlakeA-Trane.  030 / 313 25 50.


- May 23 – 25. (Wed. – Fri. )  The Yellowjackets.  After more than three decades of musical togetherness, the Yellowjackets continue to bring some impressive jazz essence to their unique blend of fusion and smooth jazz.  Blue Note Milano.


- May 22 & 23. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Brian Blade Fellowship Band. Always a much in demand jazz sideman, drummer Blade has recently begun – with his Fellowship Band — to reveal his significant skills as singer and a songwriter.  Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5485-0088.

* * * * * *

Tierney Sutton photo by Tony Gieske.  

Picks of the Week: April 4 – 8

April 4, 2012

 By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Kyle Eastwood

- April 4. (Wed.)  Kyle Eastwood.  Bassist Eastwood came to jazz from a highly supportive background.  His father is actor/director/composer/pianist and jazz lover Clint Eastwood.  And Kyle has transformed that lineage into an impressive jazz career of his own.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- April 4. (Wed.) Otmaro Ruiz.  Venezuela-born pianist Ruiz’s diverse skills have taken him across the spectrum from areas of pop, rock, fusion and straight ahead jazz.  This time out, he’s in an airy duo setting with bassist Pat SenatoreVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- April 4. (Wed.) Kait Dunton.  Gifted young composer/pianist Dunton celebrates at a CD release party for Mountain Suite, a collection of works amply illustrating her impressive compositional skills.  Her stellar ensemble includes John Daversa, trumpet, Bob Mintzer, tenor sax, Darek Oles, bass, Peter Erskine, drums.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Anthony Wilson

- April 4. (Wed.)  Anthony Wilson.  Versatile guitarist/composer Wilson takes a break from his busy touring schedule with a four night – every Wednesday – residency at the Blue Whale.  For this opening night Part l, he will perform with bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and special guest pianist Champian FultonBlue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

- April 4 – 7. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Blues Brothers. The original cast from London’s West End production of the hit musical based on the characters created by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.  Irvine Barclay Theatre.    (949) 854-4646.

- April 5. (Thurs.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  The ever-entertaining programming of the LACO has come up with an especially intriguing idea for this installment of their Westside Connections series.  “Music and the Culinary Arts” is the theme, with performances of works by Saint-Saens, Martinu and Ravel, and conversation from chef/restaurateur Susan Feniger.  The Broad Stage.   (213) 622-7001 x1.

- April 5 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  The one and only “Deedles,” as she is known to fans and friends, makes one of her infrequent night club appearances.  Don’t miss this chance to hear her up close and personal in the pleasant environs of Catalina Bar & Grill.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Ted Nash

- April 6. (Fri.)  Ted Nash.  Saxophonist/composer/arranger Nash, well known from his high visibility appearances with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, makes a rare L.A. Appearance to feature music from his new quartet The Creep.  He’ll perform with trumpeter Ron Horton, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Ulysses Owens. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 6. (Fri.)  Carolina Chocolate Drops.  The Grammy-winning Chocolate Drops are keeping alive the tradition of high spirited old South string bands.   The Mexo-Americana folk duo David Wax Museum open the show.  UCLA Live.   (310) 825-2101.

- April 6. (Fri.) Sara Serpa. Portugal-born singer Serpa has established herself, in a few brief years, as one of New York City’s most innovative new vocalists, capable of moving freely and creatively in sync with instrumentalists.  No wonder Ran Blake described her as “the magical voice.” Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Barbara Morrison

- April 7 & 8. (Sat. & Sun.) The Barbara Morrison Performing Art Center Big Band Easter Weekend.  A collection of the Southland’s fine big band players get together for an Easter Weekend celebration, featuring the ever-engaging vocals of  Barbara Morrison herself with the big bands of Rod Harris and John Stephens. BMPAC.   (310) 462-1439.

San Francisco

- April 4. (Wed.)  Brass Menazeri.  San Francisco based, the Menazeri nonetheless cruises energetically – and often authentically – through the Roma-based music of Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia and beyond. Be prepared to dance. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- April 7. (Sat.) Hermeto Pascoal.  A vital figure in Brazilian music since the ‘60s, multi-instrumentalist/composer Pascoal, a dramatic figure whenever he steps on stage, was a leader in the blending of jazz and the rhythms of Brazil.  He rarely appears in the Bay area, so don’t miss this one.  SFJAZZ.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

Charmaine Clamor

- April 8. (Sun.)  Charmaine Clamor.  She has come to be known as the Queen of Jazzipino, and her innovative blending of jazz with Filipino traditional music has produced some extraordinary results.  But Clamor’s remarkable talents reach beyond labeling into some of the most compelling jazz vocalizing of recent memory.  Appropriately, she debuts her new show, “Hallelujah: A Celebration of Rebirth,” on Easter Sunday.  The Rrazz Room.   (415) 394-1189.

 New York

- April 3 – 8. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ron Carter Quartet.  One of the great veterans of contemporary jazz, bassist Carter has played on more than 2,000 recordings.  And he brings youthful vitality and imagination to everything he does.  His quartet includes Renee Rosnes, piano, Payton Crossley, drums, Rolando Morales-Matos, percussion. The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- April 7. (Sat.)  Ellery Eskelin Trio New York.  Eskelin’s bold, muscular tenor saxophone is showcased in the similarly brawny setting provided by Gary Versace, organ and Rudy Royston, drums.  The Cornelia St. Cafe.  (212) 989-9319.


- April. 7. (Sat.)  The African Jazz All-Stars.  A musical collective including players from South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and beyond, the All-Stars pride themselves on their unique blend of African rhythms, funk and high energy soloing. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Gretchen Parlato

April 4. (Wed.)  Gretchen Parlato. In a crowded field of female jazz singers, with more arriving every day, Parlato continues to hold her own as an utterly unique talent.  At her best, she invests every song with compelling musicality and intimate lyricism.  Blue Note Milano.    02 69 01 68 88.


- April 5. (Thurs.)  Alan Broadbent Trio. The names on pianist/composer Broadbent’s resume – Charlie Haden, Chet Baker, Irene Krall, Sheila Jordan, Woody Herman and many others – attest to the remarkable breadth of his abilities.  But an intimate setting with his own trio is the best way to hear the full range of Broadbent’s engaging creativity.  The A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.

* * * * *

Anthony Wilson photo by Bob Barry.

Picks of the Week: Mar. 13 – 18

March 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Willie Nelson

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Willie Nelson and Family. Legendary is a word that actually has some veracity when applied to the music and the career of superstar Nelson.  He makes his first appearance at Disney Hall on a bill that also includes his family members, as well as a group led by his son, Lukas NelsonDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightPat Kelley’s the guest guitarist, celebrating his birthday in Guitar Night’s loose and swinging format.  Bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Kendall Kay lay down the heat that will keep the music cooking.  Lucy’s 51. Toluca Lake.  (818) 763-5200.

Janicey Brar/Billie Holiday

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Janicey Brar. Tribute to Billie Holiday  “Tribute” performers – singers and musicians who take on the persona, the performing style and the image of famous artists – are far more rare in jazz than they are in popular music.  But Milwaukee’s Brar, who spent years impersonating Tina Turner, is one of the exceptions.  The simulation of Billie Holiday that she’s doing for this performance has been praised for its impressive musical and visual qualities.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 14. (Wed.)  Otmaro Ruiz.  Venezuelan-born pianist/composer Ruiz moves comfortably and authentically across stylistic and genre boundaries, playing straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, pop, rock, salsa, fusion and beyond.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 15. (Thurs.) Julie Kelly and Stephanie Haynes. A pair of veteran jazz singers, each with her own unique style, get together for an evening of vocal jazz magic. Neither is heard in the Southland as often as they should be, so don’t miss this chance to check out their engaging skills.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 258-1333.


- Mar. 15. – 17. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Casablanca.  Here’s the formula for a truly fascinating evening.  Max Steiner’s memorable score for Casablanca performed by the Pacific Symphony under Richard Kaufman, live in sync with a big screen projection of the cinematic masterpiece.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.  (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The T.S. Monk Sextet.  Drummer Monk, blessed with the genetic heritage of his father, Thelonious Monk, has established himself as a solid musical talent in his own right.  Carpenter Performing Arts Center.    (562) 985-7000.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Jose Rizo’s “Mongorama.” Jose Rizo’s knack for assembling solid musical aggregations continues with the nine-piece Mongorama’s exciting explorations of Mongo Santamaria’s charanga-jazz of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Frankie Valli

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  Frankie Valli. The ‘60s teen heartthrob, lead voice of the Four Seasons, revisits some of the iconic group’s hits – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” “Sherry,” and more. Segerstrom Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Mingus Dynasty. More than 30 years after the passing of Charles Mingus, his music is still being kept vividly alive in the hands of the seven piece Mingus Dynasty Band.  Expect to hear such classics from the large Mingus catalog as “Better Git It In Your Soul, “ “Haitian Fight Song” and Pithecanthus Erectus.”  Royce Hall.  A UCLA Live concert.    (310) 825-2101.  To read Michael Katz’s Reflections on Charles Mingus click HERE.

- Mar. 16 – 18. (Fri. – Sun.)  Chuck Loeb Quartet. Guitarist Loeb celebrates the release of his CD, Plain and Simple, hewing to the title with a program of lively, hard swinging music, baked by the stellar ensemble of  Mitchel Forman, keyboards, Lionel Cordew, drums and Eric Marienthal, saxophones. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Johnny Mandel

- Mar. 17. (Sat.) Johnny Mandel Big Band. One of the true treasures of contemporary American music – reaching from jazz to film to song and beyond – Mandel makes one of his too rare club appearance, leading a band of all-stars in a program that will be filled with familiar melody and irresistible rhythm.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 17. (Sat.)  Spectral Scriabin. Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton enliven composer Alexander Scriabin’s desire to blend the spectrum of colors with the full panorama of musical pitches.  The performance includes excerpts from Scriabin’s Poeme Languide in B Major and the Feuillet d’Album in F-sharp Major.  The Broad Stage.    (310) 434-3200.

San Francisco

Dave Grisman

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The Dave Grisman Quartet.  Mandolinist Grisman has been one of the primary shapers of contemporary acoustic music for decades. And he’s still finding new expressive methods – currently with a group that includes bassist Jim Kerwin, flutist Matt Eakle, percussionist George Marsh and guitarist Grant GordiYoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- Mar. 18. (Sun.)  The Uri Caine Trio. Mention an area of musical expression – from early classical to contemporary electronics to staright ahead jazz —  and pianist/composer  Caine has been there at one time or another.  His current interest focuses on his acoustic jazz piano trio, with John Hebert, bass and Ben Perowsky, drums.  The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season Event.     (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

Stanley Jordan

- Mar. 15 – 18.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Stanley Jordan.  Solo guitar.  The master of the tap-on style of jazz guitar playing Jordan is always at his best in a solo setting that allows his improvisational imagination to roam freely.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

- Mar. 13 – 18.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Heath Brothers.  Jazz history comes alive when Jimmy Heath, saxophones, Albert “Tootie” Heath, drums get together to recall the high points of their decades of jazz prominence.  They’ll be backed by Jeb Patton, piano and David Wong, bass.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- Mar. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  Eddie Palmieri.  The veteran pianist/composer/bandleader celebrates  his 75th birthday.  A musical pioneer virtually from the time of his appearance on the scene in the ‘50s, Palmieri has been one of the principal creative forces in the growth of Latin jazz.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Mira Awad and Noa (Achinoam Nini)

- Mar. 15. (Thurs. )  Noa and Mira.  Israeli singers Noa (Achinoam Nini) and Mira Awad are superb artists, dedicated to peaceful coexistence in their country.  Singing in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Israel’s top Jewish (Noa) and Arab (Mira) singer/songwriters perform together on behalf of the Abraham Fund.      The Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center. (212) 258-9800.


Mar. 17. (Sat.) Betty Buckley.  Tony Award winner (for her role in Cats), Buckley also has a resume listing performances reaching from Broadway musicals to film, television and recordings.  And she is especially compelling when she’s in an up close and personal night club setting, bringing utter believability to every musical story she tells.    The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.


Iain Mackenzie

Mar. 18. (Sun.)  Iain Mackenzie & Swing City.  Mackenzie, one of the U.K.’s favorite jazz singers uses his strong baritone and brisk sense of swing to carry the torch for the vocal tradition of Mel Torme, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra and more.  He’ll be backed by the solid drive of the eight piece Swing City band.  He’ll do a pair of matinee shows – at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Mar. 15. (Thurs.)  Miroslav Vitous.  Czech-born Vitous was one of the ground breaking acoustic bassists of the ‘70s, often grouped with the likes of Scott Lafaro, Dave Holland and others. Emphasizing his compositional interests in recent years, he makes one of his rare club appearances.  He’ll perform with Robert Bonisolo, saxophone and Aydin Esen, piano.  Blue Note Milan.


Mar. 14 – 16.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Billy Childs Quartet. Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his Chamber Ensemble performances and his role in Chris Botti’s band to stretch out with the world class companionship of Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, Scott Colley, bass and Brian Blade, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5484-0088.


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