Picks of the Weekend in Los Angeles: Nov. 6 – 9

November 6, 2014

By Don Heckman

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

- Nov. 6 – 9. (Thurs. – Sun.) Steve Tyrell. Add an amiable Texas twang to a jaunty sense of swing and a convincing way with a lyric, and that still doesn’t add up to the magic that happens when Tyrell digs into the Great American Songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill. http://www.catalinajazzclub.com (323) 466-2210.

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

- Nov. 6. (Thurs.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall. The veteran jazz trumpeter/painter/sculptor and his vocally superb wife are back again at their home base – Alpert’s jazz friendly, elegant Bel Air club. They’ll no doubt be working over material for their current touring. And that’ll be a musically captivating gift for anyone who can squeeze into what will no doubt be a full house crowd. But it’ll be worth the effort. Click HERE to read a review of the dynamic duo’s most recent appearance at.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 6. (Thurs.) David Ornette Cherry. He’s the son of trumpeter Don Cherry, who worked frequently with free jazz icon Ornette Coleman– thus David Ornette Cherry’s middle name. A keyboard player with his own unique approach to contemporary improvisation, he’s an imaginative jazz artist who deserves a hearing on his own right. The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Los Lobos

Los Lobos

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys. The mutiple Grammy-winning group from Los Angeles are one of the popworld’s most eclectic ensembles. Blending everything from Latin pop and Chicano rock to TexMex and Americana their music has a fascinating body-moving appeal. Opening the bill, Texas’ Los Lonely Boys follow a similar musical path. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) Dimitri Matheny Quartet. Matheny’s warm, engaging flugelhorn playing has thoroughly established him as one of the most emotionally expressive improvisers of his generation. He performs with the sterling backing of Joe Bagg, piano, Pat Senatore, bass, Dick Weller, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) Johnny Mathis. He doesn’t show up often any more in the Southland, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear the hit-maker of the ’6os and 70s up close in action. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 8. (Sat.) The New West Symphony. Marcelo Lehninger conducts the gifted players of the NWS in Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, and the Dvorak Concerto in B minor for cello and orchestra, featuring cellist Lynn Harrell. The Cavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. (805) 449-2100.

HIGHLIGHT EVENT: SATURDAY AND SUNDAY NOVEMBER 8 & 9

The 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition and All-Star Gala Concert

Thelonious Monk

The annual jazz competitions produced by the Thelonious Monk Institute are among the most celebrated jazz events of the year. And the 2014 installment is no exception. This year’s competition again showcases a talented, ambitious group of young players. The semi-finalists will first meet at U.C.L.A.’s Schoenberg Hall on Saturday, Nov. 8. (The semi-final event is free and open to the public.)

The three finalists will then perform in the Competition’s Gala event on Sunday, Nov. 9 at Dolby Hall. The distinguished panel of judges for both stages of the competition includes trumpeters Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Randy Brecker, Roy Hargrove, Quincy Jones and Arturo Sandoval.

Following the finalists’ performances and the selection of this year’s winner, an All-Star Gala concert will feature Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ron Carter, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Heath, Marcus Miller, Dianne Reeves and others.

In another highlight of the Gala, the Institute will present its prestigious Founders Award to President Bill Clinton.

The Thelonious Monk Institute 2014 International Jazz Trumpet Competition  (310) 206-9700.


Picks of the Week: July 21 – 27 In Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, London, Paris and Tokyo

July 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

It’s another warm Summer week, with many international jazz clubs shuttered in their annual July -August hiatus. But there’s still some fine music to be heard.

Los Angeles

Strunz and Farah

Strunz and Farah

- July 22. (Tues.) Strunz and Farah. The dynamic guitar duo of Costa Rica’s Jorge Strunz and Iran’s Ardeshir Farah, showcase their irresistibly eclectic playing in one of their rare L.A. Appearances. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 22 & 24. (Tues. & Thurs.) Dudamel & Beethoven. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the kinetic conducting of Gustavo Dudmel illuminates a July evening with an all-Beethoven’s program featuring the classic Symphony No. 5 and the fascinating Triple Concerto. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

- July 24. (Thurs,) Robert Davi. “Davi Sings Sinatra.” Actor/singer Davi’s association with Frank Sinatra dates back to the 1977 film Contract on Cherry St. Since then he has become the most musically convincing of the Sinatra-styled singers, applying his own creative imagination to the “Blue Eyes” style. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 24. (Thurs.) Noura Mint Seymali. The compelling voice of Mauritanian singer is featured in the opening event in the Skirball Cultural Center’s 18th Free Sunset Concert Series. The Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.

- July 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.) The Ron Carter Trio. Ron Carter may well be the most recorded bassist in jazz history. But he’s also a fine composer and the leader of his own impressive trios. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan

- July 25 – 26. (Fri. & Sat.) America & Americans Festival: Gloria Estefan. The L.A. Phil’s celebration of the music of North and South America continues with an appearance by Grammy-nominated vocalist Setefan with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Juy 26 (Sat.) Elliott Deutsch Big Band. Trumpeter/arranger/composer Deutsch leads his briskly swinging ensemble with the skills that have made him the arranger of choice for the likes of Cheryle Bentyne, Bill Watrous and others. Vitello’s.  (213) 620-0908.

- July 26 & 27. (Sat. & Sun.) The Central Ave. Jazz Festival. A spectacular assemblage of world class jazz in L.A.’s most memorable jazz setting. Featured artists include Kamasi Washington and Next Step, Patrice Rushen & Ndugu Chancler, Mongorama, The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Michael Session, Ernie Andrews, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez and more. Admission is free. The Central Ave. Jazz Festival.

- July 27. (Sun.) Peggy King and Corky Hale. She may be best known as “pretty, perky Peggy King” on the ’50s George Gobel television show. But in her later career, King’s matured into an impressive vocal artist. She performs with the superb accompaniment of pianist Corky Hale, who has been at the keyboard (or the harp) with everyone from Billie Holiday to Frank Sinatra.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Tierney Sutton

Tierney Sutton

- July 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.) Tierney Sutton. “Songs of Joni Mitchell.” A gifted vocalist with an emotionally rich style of her own, Sutton is one of the rare singers to have the musicality and the interpretive skills to handle the complex Mitchell catalof of songs. Click HERE to read an earlier iRoM review of Sutton singing Mitchell. An SFJAZZ event at Joe Henderson Lab. (866) 920-5299.

New York City

- July 22 – 26. (Tues. – Sat.) John Pizzarelli and the Swing Seven. Singer/guitarist Pizzarelli is in his most appealing medium when he’s digging into the pleasures of Swing, backed by an equally swinging bunch of players – as he is here. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

London

Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker

- July 22 – 24. (Tues. – Thurs.) The Brecker Bros. Reunion Band. Trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Michael Brecker were one of the gifted brother acts in modern jazz. Since the death of Michael in 2007, Randy has kept the memories of the Brecker Bros. Band alive and well. He’s joined by his wife, Ada Rovatti, in the band’s saxophone chair. Ronnie Scott’s. +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Paris

- July 24. (Thurs.) The Mike Stern & Bill Evans Band. Expect some blues grooves and fusion fireworks when Stern and Evans get together with drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Tom Kennedy. New Morning Paris.  +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Tokyo

- July 25 – 27. (Fri. – Sun.) Jose James. In his own unique way, vocalist James is searching for, and often finding, a blend between jazz, soul and hip-hop. Will it please the fans of each genre? Check him out and see. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.

 

 

 


Live Jazz: The 60th Anniversary of Jazz at Massey Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival at Disney Hall

March 16, 2014

By Don Heckman

A pair of memorable jazz celebrations filled Disney Hall Saturday night with an enthusiastic crowd of listeners. Both segments of the performance were dedicated to 60th anniversaries. The first was a rare musical re-imagining of the 1953 Massey Hall (Toronto) performance that featured the brilliantly iconic quintet of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach.

That’s as classic a bebop ensemble as has ever been heard, anywhere. And the challenge facing anyone attempting to simulate the classic Massey Hall performance (which is available on recordings) was to recall the original without falling into mimickry.

Jon Faddis

Jon Faddis

To the credit of the Massey Hall-revisited band at Disney – trumpeter Jon Faddis, alto saxophonist Jesse Davis, pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington – they performed a dynamic set of numbers vividly bringing the bebop era to life.

Faddis’ long-time relationship with Gillespie was present in everything he played. There were passages in which Faddis, like Gillespie, explored the trumpet’s full range of pitch and expressionism, often dominating the stage with ear-tingling high notes and storm clouds of fast-fingered riffing.

Saxophonist Davis brought both an affection for Charlie Parker, as well as a similarity of sound and phrasing, to his full-toned improvisations. Standing side by side with Faddis, ripping through such bebop classics as “Groovin’ High,” “Salt Peanuts,” “All the Things You Are,” “Hot House,” “Night In Tunisia” and more, propulsively driven by the strong rhythm team, he partnered in an effective recalling of one of contemporary jazz’s most memorable musical excursions.

Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

The second half of the bill celebrated the 60th anniversary of the start of the Newport Jazz Festival. This ensemble, with saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen serving as musical director, offered an equally appealing array of players: Cohen, pianist Peter Martin, trumpeter Randy Brecker, singer Karrin Allyson, guitarist Mark Whitfield, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Clarence Penn.

Here, however, there was no special effort to offer contemporized versions of the bebop past. Instead, the ensemble, in its natural diversity, recalled the ever-appealing range of music that has always been an essential element in the colorful history of the Newport Festival.

The first numbers showcased the trumpet virtuosity of Brecker, ably supported by the band’s dynamic rhythm team.

Karrin Allyson

Karrin Allyson

But as the program continued, a different musical direction took over, guided imaginatively by the two women in the ensemble: Cohen and Allyson.  Always as improvisationally expansive as an instrumentalist, Allyson was at her best in a performance of “’Round Midnight” that showcased the full range of her expressive powers.

The highlight of the set, however, as well as the entire evening, was a reading of “La Vie En Rose” featuring Allyson’s lush-toned voice in tandem with the emotionally rich clarinet of Cohen. Singing and playing with expansive creative intensity, often moving with the subtle gestures of dancers, both brought a rarely heard feminine jazz expressiveness to the French classic — and the balance of the program.

In sum, there was a vital appropriateness in the qualities that were constantly present in the efforts of Cohen and Allyson, beautifully enlivening the transformative gender qualities that have become part of the jazz lexicon over the past 60 years.


Here, There & Everywhere: April Williams Resigns from Vitello’s

January 19, 2014

By Don Heckman

Jazz clubs come and go in most major cities. Los Angeles is no exception. The Jazz Bakery lost its home in Culver City in 2009. Charlie O’s in Van Nuys was shuttered in 2011. Both were vital homes for L.A.’s finest jazz artists and valuable destinations for jazz fans.

April Williams

April Williams

This month, Upstairs at Vitello’s, another jazz room, is not closing down. But it is apparently changing its management and its scheduling.  And April Williams, who has been primarily responsible for establishing Upstairs at Vitello’s as a major Los Angeles Jazz venue, is moving on.  To explain her decision, Williams has written a letter to the musicians, the fans and the friends who will all be impacted by her departure from Vitello’s.

* * * * * * * *

Here’s her letter:

Dear Beloved Musicians and Friends

Happy New Year! I wish you good health, happiness and prosperity. I am so grateful for all the great performances, your friendship and the good times we have shared together.

With the New Year there are endings and new beginnings. I am very excited about my plans for 2014.  However, as excited as I am about new projects in the works, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that, due to ongoing artistic differences with the management, I will be terminating my residency at Vitello’s as of February 1, 2014. I thank Vitello’s for the opportunities they extended to me when I knocked on their door in 2009 when the world was economically crashing down. I told them I had a vision that I could create a Jazz Night one day a week..and they gave me that opportunity.

February 2014 is the five-year anniversary of my residency at Vitello’s. We have all done so much uniting and growing the communities involvement with live music. Together we have proven that the music community is a vital entity that survives through the worst economic years of the country. In addition to the audiences we attracted to Vitello’s, I ran and continue to run 5 years of composers’ Study groups, we raised $17k for tsunami relief in Japan, we celebrated Grammy Nominees and winners, Big Bands, Young Artists and night after night the magic of music.

I financed the first 9 months personally, bought the equipment and as the power of the music expanded, Vitello’s joined in. I created over 20,000 jobs for musicians in the last five years. I am proud of what we have achieved together. What we’ve learned in the years at Vitello’s is that there is a dedicated Los Angeles audience for the finest jazz of every style and genre. And my new plans will open the doors to venues eager to provide those audiences with the world-class music they’re eager to hear.

I gratefully thank all of you for your selfless sharing of yourselves and your music. And I thank you, too, for your constant support and extraordinary performances over the last five years. Your playing and singing set the creative bar high. And you always embraced me and delivered on your musical promises. In return, I did the very best I could to give you all the services you deserve to properly honor your music.

The audiences I thank as well. You are musical forces unto yourselves. Composed of musicians, aficionados, writers, photographers, sound teams, and fans, students and educators, you all came forward to preserve the music culture of Los Angeles.

It has been a fantastic run. I am so grateful to have worked alongside the best musicians in the world. Musician Friends, that is, who have all become my closest and dearest associates.

I look forward to working together again with all of you in the near future.

Stay tuned. More news coming shortly.

And remember…the difference between noise and music is the amount of space between the notes.

Love and peace,

April Williams

april@redcarpetjazz.com

www.downbeatentertainment.com

*  * * * * * *

When he heard about Williams’ plans to move on from Vitello’s, Joe LaBarbera, one of the Southland’s finest, busiest players, wrote a response to Williams’ letter with his own commentary about her departure from the room. 

* * * * * * * *

Here’s Joe’s message:

Dear April,

Joe LaBarbera

Joe LaBarbera

5 years ago you took a vacant space in a mediocre Italian restaurant and magically transformed it into a real jazz club. Starting with just one night a week, the reputation of the club grew along with the roster of artists who were happy to play there, local at first and eventually from coast to coast. You improved every aspect of that room to make it THE place to play in Los Angeles.

It’s been true of every great club I have known over the years that the only reason it is successful is because the person in charge loves the music. Max Gordon at the Village Vanguard, Sonny Canterino at the Half Note, Shelly Manne and Rudy Underwieser at the Manne Hole, Mike and Randy Brecker at 7th Ave. These are just a few examples.

Thank you, April for a great run and I look forward to working together in the future.

Love,

Joe LaBarbera 

* * * * *

As Joe LaBarbera’s letter makes abundantly clear, April Williams has had a significant impact upon both the quantity and the quality of jazz in Los Angeles.  And she will continue to play a leading role in the jazz and the music communities that have benefited so much from her presence. As April’s letter clearly indicates: Stay tuned for her future plans.

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Weekend: December 13 – 15

December 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Mike Stern

Mike Stern

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Mike Stern Quartet. Guitarist Stern moves convincingly across jazz styles with ease. And he’s backed by a band – featuring Randy Brecker, Anthony Jackson and Dave Weckl – that is equally versatile – and swinging. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun) “Christmas with Gustavo.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays the Nutcracker Suite (complete), under the celebratory baton of Musical Director Gustavo Dudamel. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 13. (Fri.) Don Menza Quartet. Saxophonist Menza is high on the list of first call players, regardless of style. This time out, she steps into his own musical spotlight. Vibrato. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 13. (Fri.) The Oak Ridge Boys. Christmas Time’s A Comin’” with the iconic country group presenting their own warm and fuzzy Christmas celebration. Valley Performing Arts Center (818) 677-8800

April Williams

April Williams

- Dec. 15. (Sun.) The Ron Jones Influence Jazz Orchestra and April Williams. “It’s A Big Band Holiday.” Christmas music in a big jazz band setting, with Ron Jones 21 piece big band, featuring holiday classics sung by tuneful April Williams. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

- Dec. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.) Sheila E. Birthday Celebration. Singer/percussionist Sheila Escovedo is a compelling performer who is as musically gripping as she is entertaining. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Chicago

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) The Fred Hersch Trio. Pianist Hersch’s playing recalls the engaging aspects of the jazz piano trio style that reaches back to Bill Evans. The Jazz Showcase. (312) 360-0234.

 New York City

Fourplay

- Dec. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun) Fourplay. With Bob James, keyboards, Chuck Loeb, guitar, Harvey Mason, drums, Nathan East, bass, Fourplay continues to maintain its well-deserved reputation as a world class contemporary jazz ensemble. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

 Copenhagen

- Dec. 15. (Sun.) Love & Peace. The Music of Horace Parlan. Bop piano stylist Parlan has had medical problems intruding on his playing in recent years. But his music is being keep alive in Copenhagen by the American/Danish ensemble of Bob Rockwell, tenor saxophone and Doug Raney, guitar, from the U.S. and Jesper Lundgaard, bass, Henrik Gunde, piano and Aage Tanggaard, drums, from Denmark. Jazzhus Montmartre. +45 31 72 34 94.

 Tokyo

Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack

- Dec. 14 & 15. (Sat. & Sun.) Roberta Flack. Singer/songwriter Flack may be in her mature years, but she’s still singing with the vitality of a gifted young artist. Hopefully she’ll include “Killing Me Softly” and ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in her program. The Blue Note Tokyo.+81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 10 – 15

September 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

- Sept. 10 (Tues.) Rachmaninoff and Gershwin. “Romantic Favorites.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya with piano soloist Daniil Trifonov, performs a program of richly colorful, early 20th century music. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 11. (Wed.) George Benson Inspiration Tour. A Tribute To Nat “King” Cole. Guitarist/singer Benson brings convincing life to the Cole song book. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 12 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) Joey DeFrancesco. Jazz organist DeFrancesco is joined by guitarist Steve Cotter and drummer Ramon Banda in a definitive display of jazz organ trio music. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Roberta Gambarini

Roberta Gambarini

- Sept. 12 – 14. (Thurs. – Sat.) Roberta Gambarini.   Italian-born Gambarini continues to assert her musical aulthenticity as one of contemporary jazz’s finest vocalists. She’s joined by special guest, Kenny Burrell. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.) Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. One of the most appealing pop/rock, jazz-influenced bands of the late ’60s, the Oblivion Express, in keyboardist Auger’s hands, still continues to produce exciting music. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

- Sep. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Fireworks Finale: Earth, Wind & Fire with Thomas Wilkins and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. It’s an attractive line-up of talent, enhanced by the usual spectacular fireworks, bringing the 2013 season to a pyrotechnic closure. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 14. (Sat.) Tom Peterson Quartet. Saxophonist/woodwind player Peterson, one of Minnesota’s many gifts to jazz, balances first rate playing with a busy career as a producer, educator, clinician and more. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. r (310) 474-9400.

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

- Sept. 15. (Sun.) Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler. The Manhattan Transfer’s Bentyne teams up with jazz vocalist Winkler to celebrate the CD Release party for their new album, West Coast Cool. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 15. (Sun.) John Proulx. Pianist/vocalist Proulx continues to display a warmly interpretive vocal style, backed by the solid support of his swinging piano work. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 15. (Sun.) Julie Esposito. She’s an attorney/jazz singer, one of the more unlikely hyphenates in the L.A. music scene. And, somehow, Esposito handles both her skill sets with authority and complete authenticity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker

- Sept. 12. (Thurs.) The United Trumpet Summit. The title is exactly right, given the presence in the U.T.S. of a stellar line-up of world class trumpeters, including Randy Brecker, Dr. Eddie Henderson, Jeremy Pelt and Leon Jordan, Jr. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655.5600.

Portland, Oregon

- Sept. 12. (Thurs.) Jacqui Naylor. She’s one of the contemporary jazz vocal world’s most versatile artists, moving easily from straight ahead jazz to folk rock and adult alternative genres. Hear her in action. Jimmy Mak’s.  (503) 295-6542.

Seattle

Nellie McCay

Nellie McCay

- Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Nellie McKay. Singer/actress/humorist MacKay balances a sardonic sense of humor with stunning musicality and an easy comfort with genres reaching from jazz to rap, funk and beyond. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York City

- Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Dave Liebman Expansions Quintet. Always eager to explore new musical territory, saxophonist Liebman leads an adventurous new ensemble. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

- Sept. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Staney Jordan Trio. Guitarist Jordan’s unique, tapping style of playing has created virtual one-man-band sounds. But this time out he expands his possibilities in a trio setting. Iridium (212) 582-2121.

Washington D.C.

Gary Burton

Gary Burton

- Sept. 12 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) The New Gary Burton Quartet.70th Bday Tour.Vibist Burton, one of his instrument’s most gifted practitioners, celebrates his 70th birthday in the company of Julian Lage, guitar, Scott Colley, bass and Antonio Sanchez, drums. Blues Alley (202) 337-4141.

London

- Sept. 10 – 12. (Tues. – Thurs.) Jose Feliciano. Guitarist Feliciano has been a uniquely appealing singer/guitarist since his ’60s hit version of “Light My Fire.” And, at 67, he’s still going strong. Ronnie Scott’s. +44 (0) 7439 0747.

Milan

- Sept. 11. (Wed.) Big One – The European Pink Floyd Show “Biglietto Cumulativo.“ The music of the English art rock band of the ’60s continues to appeal to audiences around the world. Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888. 

Tokyo

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

- Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Chick Corea and The Vigil. The iconic keyboardist/composer has once again organized a new collective to express his ever-curious, creative musical adventures. The Vigil includes the gifted, youthful Tim Garland, Carlitos Del Puerto, Marcus Gilmore, Charles Altura and Luisito Quintero. Blue Note Tokyo. 03-5485-0088. 


LIve Jazz: Amanda Brecker at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

March 21, 2013

By Don Heckman

Amanda Brecker, a new face in the continually expanding jazz vocal field, made a rare Southland appearance Wednesday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  Arriving shortly after the release of her new CD, Blossom (Decca), she spent a substantial portion of her two set-program singing the songs of James Taylor and Carole King that she covers on the album.

That’s a memorable repertoire, one that was the virtual soundtrack for many music fans in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s via songs such as “It’s Too Late Now,” “Sweet Baby James,” and more.

Amanda Brecker

In contrast, Brecker, who plays guitar and piano, also included a substantial serving of her own songs, many from Here I Am, her award-winning first album, released in Japan.

Conceptually, the combination is an intriguing career move for Brecker.  Her youthful energy, soaring vocals and contemporary interpretations open the classic King/Taylor repertoire for a potentially broader demographic than graying, boomer memorabilia seekers.  Probably even a younger audience.  Add to that her own imaginative songs, which have clearly been influenced by the King/Taylor singer/songwriter styles.

But the real key, of course, is how effectively she delivers it.  Her recordings have been well received, the work of a gifted young artist.  (Her creative credentials have clearly been enhanced by the legacy of her parents – Brazilian jazz pianist/singer Eliane Elias and jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker.)

The Amanda Brecker Band

The Amanda Brecker Band

In addition, her performance at Vibrato was backed by the sterling accompaniment of guitarists Jesse Harris (who also produced Blossom) and Anthony Wilson, bassist Lee Sklar (who performed on some of the original King and Taylor recordings), pianist Jon Gilutin and drummer Mike Shapiro.

However, Brecker’s determined effort — along with Jesse Harris, her producer — to remain close, in concept and arrangement, to the original King/Taylor versions tended to somewhat limit her expressive potential.  And I couldn’t help but wonder what she might have done with songs such as “You’ve Got A Friend,” “I Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight, ”So Far Away” and “You Can Close Your Eyes” had she viewed them through the prism of her own creativity.

Nor did her originals, which were unfamiliar items, always emerge with the clarity they deserved.  Brecker is a song writer with a promising future.  But in performance, she would be well advised, at this stage, to frame her songs with the sort of brief introduction that could help draw her listeners into the heart of her musical story telling.

All that said, it was nonetheless a real pleasure to hear Amanda Brecker’s undeniable talents up close and personal. Amid the crowds of arriving female jazz singers, she’s one of a kind.

* * * * * * * *

Amanda Brecker photo by Bobby Colomby.

Amanda Brecker Band photo by Faith Frenz.


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