Live Jazz: Highlights from the 36th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival At The Hollywood Bowl

June 17, 2014

By Devon Wendell

So it’s that time again folks; another annual Playboy Jazz Festival has come and gone. As most of us know, the first rule when attending the festival is that we pissed off jazz enthusiasts must check our inner jazz- purist at the security gate before the festivities begin because you could actually count the number of true jazz acts on one hand at most over the two days.

Although looking for real jazz at The Playboy Festival has increasingly become like searching for sushi at a Southern barbecue restaurant, there was plenty of jazz-influenced music such as funk/fusion, jazz/fusion, Rock/fusion, jazz/funk/rock/fusion, Latin jazz, and even enough modern R&B and pop to make the Grammy people jump for joy.

So let’s get started. Here are my Playboy Jazz Festival highlights for both Saturday, June 14th, and Sunday, June 15th.

Saturday

Who would have thought that actor Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas could actually swing in a jump blues format? Not me until I heard Fargas’ The New Jump Blues Band perform as the opening act of Saturday’s program. Fargas and his band ran through such jump blues classics as “Keep On Churnin’,” “All She Wants To Do Is Mambo” and “Train Kept A Rollin’.” Fargas shared vocals with Adrian Battle and Airreal Watkins. The horn section consisting of Bill Ungerman on tenor sax, Jim Jediken on baritone sax and clarinet, and Javier Gonzales on trumpet swung hard enough that they would have made Jump blues pioneers Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, and Tiny Bradshaw proud. Fargas’ confident vocals, dance moves, and overall stage presence went perfectly with the music and mood.

This was pure jump blues delivered with love and dedication.

Allen Stone

Allen Stone

Although Allen Stone looked like another pseudo-hippie burn out on Venice Beach, this Washington State born son of a preacher delivered a powerful set of gospel-inflected soul and country rock. Stone could go from sounding like Prince on R&B burners like “Love,” and “Say So” to a more Black Crows Southern fried rock on songs such as “Voodoo” and “Mama.” Stone is an astoundingly powerful vocalist. Stone’s band rocked, especially Greg Ehrlich’s rollicking Hammond B3 chops, and Trevor Larkin’s screaming blues guitar leads. Stone is a fresh new presence in the rock world and proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

The second Kenny Barron and Ravi Coltrane took the Bowl stage and started playing it was like a breath of fresh air. Finally some actual jazz! And this was the real thing from the first note of Barron’s “And Then Again” which was pure bebop in the realm of Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation.” Ravi Coltrane’s tenor sax work was soulful, daring, and it was evident that he has done his homework and truly respects this music. This was certainly the case on the Thelonious Monk classic “Ask Me Now” which brought to mind Joe Henderson’s version.

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

Coltrane’s angular tenor lines unraveled in a beautiful and dynamic fashion. Barron’s masterful piano on Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” was closer to McCoy Tyner and the late great Cedar Walton than Monk’s approach to piano, though there were plenty of Monk-like voicings on the piece entitled “Calypso.” Jonathan Blake’s melodic bop drumming paid homage to Max Roach and Roy Haynes, and Kiyoshi Kittigawa was magnificent on bass. This was one of the festival’s finest moments. Everyone was swinging hard and having true musical conversations.

The Playboy Jazz Festival always includes some real New Orleans music in its program and nothing could be more authentic than seeing legendary New Orleans pianist Henry Butler with trumpeter Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9. This was the real deal. Bernstein and Butler got together to form this band after Butler moved from New Orleans to Brooklyn. I’ve never heard pure New Orleans music like this in a live setting, which combined big band swing, Dixieland jazz, blues, and New Orleans funk.

Henry Butler

Henry Butler

Hearing Henry Butler sing and play piano on the Jelly Role Morton classic “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” was a real treat and nasty in all the best ways. Bernstein on trumpet along with Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Charlie Burnham on violin, Doug Wieselman on E-flat clarinet and tenor sax, Peter Apfelbaum on tenor & soprano saxes, and Erik Lawrence on baritone and soprano sax, all demonstrated just how modern, adventurous, and endlessly valid composer’s like Fats Waller, and Jelly Role Morton still are today, long after their deaths.

Examples of this were the band’s performance of Jelly Role Morton’s “Viper Drag” and “Wolverine Blues” which sounded more avante-garde than any jazz that came out of the ‘60s.

Henry Butler played some of the greatest, most creative piano I’ve ever heard in any genre of music in my life. I could have listened to his constant flow of ideas and straight blues vocals all day long.

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves is still the queen of jazz-soul. Her set at the festival was stellar. When Reeves covers another artist’s song, she owns it as she did on Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.” Reeves’ unique scat singing, in which she jumps from the lower register of her voice to the upper with ease and confidence, gave these classics a jazzier sultry appeal. Trumpeter Sean Jones’ was terrific, especially on the Marvin Gaye number. Reeves’ relaxed, funky sound was accentuated by her amazing band of Peter Martin on piano, Geoffrey Keezer on electric keyboards, Romero Lubanbo on guitar, and Nadia Washington on backing vocals.

Arturo Sandoval and his Big Band brought back a set of much needed jazz. Although many of the performances were marred by sound problems, Sandoval and his Big Band swung hard. Actor Andy Garcia added some tasty congas on a set which combined bebop and Latin jazz in a Big band setting with some of the finest musicians in Los Angeles.

Trumpeter Wayne Bergeron engaged in a swinging and powerful trumpet duel with Sandoval on a Dizzy Gillespie big band inspired blues. Both players were in top form, especially Sandoval who hit those high notes that players half his age struggle with.

Henry Mancini’s daughter Monica sang a few of her dad’s compositions with the band, including the Brazilian flavored “Perhaps, Perhaps.” Sandoval’s “Having Fun” was a highlight of the set. Ed Calle’s tenor sax solo weaved in and out of the arrangements by the amazing horn sections (Dan Higgins, Rusty Higgins, Bob Sheppard, Greg Huckins on saxophones, Andy Martin, Bob McChesney, Charlie Morrilas, Craig Gosnell on trombones, Wayne Bergeron, Gary Grant, Dan Fornero, and Jeff Bunnell on trumpets) beautifully while sticking with the thematic quality of the piece.

Patti Austin

Patti Austin

Patti Austin sat in for a few standards including an amazing reading of “Lady Be Good” in which she channeled Ella Fitzgerald’s voice in a delightfully frightening manner while the band swung hard behind her. On “Mambo Caliente” (From The Mambo Kings film) Sandoval played one of the most powerful trumpet solos I’ve ever heard him play, wailing away in the upper register with a virtuosity and command over the demanding instrument.

George Duke

George Duke

When I think of love, fun, and funk, I think of the late great George Duke. Keyboard extraordinaire and composer John Beasley put together a group of some of the greatest George Duke alumni players for an ultra-funky and loving tribute to the late master who passed away in August of last year. Although guest stars Al Jarreau, and Stanley Clarke sounded great on “Summer Breezing,” “Someday” (A duet between Al Jarreau and Dianne Reeves) and “Wild Dog,” it was the old school funk of “Dukie Stick” (With Ndugu Chancler) “Morning Sun” and “Reach For It” that were the most fun and got the Bowl crowd up and dancing. Keyboard legend Greg Phillinganes’ voice harmonized beautifully with singer Josie James on “Morning Sun” and a heartfelt version of Duke’s soul ballad masterpiece “Sweet Baby.” Bassist Bryon Miller held down the groove tightly throughout the set and Paul Jackson Jr. proved to everyone why he’s one of the best guitarists in the World on “Hot Fire.” This was truly a festival highlight.

Sunday

Kicking off Sunday’s program was the legendary James Cotton. Cotton is the greatest living legend of Chicago blues harmonica. Cotton and his band (Darrell Nulisch on vocals, Tom Holland on guitar, Noel Neal on bass, and Jerry Porter on drums) played a set of straight ahead, no-nonsense Chicago blues, including such classics as Cotton’s own “How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong,” plus Muddy Waters’ “Blow Wind Blow” and Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright,” both of which Cotton had played on the original recordings with Waters and Rogers.

Things really got jumping when Cotton and his band were joined by the great Big Jay McNeely. Although McNeely is in his 80s, he sounded stronger than ever, playing some now standard blues lines on tenor sax. His voice has aged in all the best ways for a blues singer; still smooth but raw and nasty. McNeely sang about his love of the bigger ladies on “Big Fat Mama.” McNeely and Cotton traded solos and a few laughs. Unfortunately as McNeely sang his classic blues ballad “There Is Something On Your Mind,” he and the band were cut off as the stage rotated for another act. This was one of the finest moments of the day and it was sad to see these legends disrespected by being given way less time than Fantasia from American Idol, or at least it felt much shorter.

At first I didn’t know what to make of actor Jon Batiste (Star of HBO’s Treme) and his group Stay Human, joined by members of the LAUSD Beyond The Bell All District Honor Marching Band. I could tell he was a magnetic front-man and vocalist inspired by Sly Stone but he started off all over the place, combining R&B with a solo piano rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” and Benny Goodman’s theme song “Goodbye” and a little bit of Duke Ellington tossed in. And drummer Joe Saylor reciting Lord Byron’s poem “She Walks In Beauty” before a rock version of “Saint James Infirmary.” Yes folks, this started out messy but there was a refreshingly adventurous nature to Batiste and his band as they delivered one of the most exciting moments of the day. Batiste (on melodica) ascended onto the Bowl crowd while playing “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” with Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba, Brad Allen Williams, on banjo, Eddie Barbash on alto sax, and Jamison Ross on tambourine. The combination of instruments created a wonderful, swinging harmony in a true New Orleans style. This was one of the day’s purest and most enjoyable moments.

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Although there was a lot of funk throughout Sunday’s program, especially bad fusion and rock funk by artists I chose not to cover, Dr. Lonnie Smith is still one of the most sincerely funky beings on the planet. He brought his one of a kind James Brown meets Jimmy Smith Hammond B3 style to the Bowl with a perfectly relaxed arrogance that only a true funk master can get away with. His set consisted of originals such as; “Falling In Love”, “Track 9”, and “Mama Wailer.” The horn section (Andy Gravish on trumpet, John Ellis on tenor sax, Alan Ferber on trombone, and James Marshall on baritone sax) sounded just like the JB’s of the early ‘70s with those distinct Fred Wesley inspired horn hooks. Ed Cherry’s James Nolen meets Wes Montgomery electric guitar work was the perfect match for these compositions. Smith’s syncopated B3 solos were imaginative, in fact, his playing was more complex than his compositions and arrangements which, for the most part stayed on the one chord and rarely left.

After a long day of almost no jazz, it became clear that George Benson was as close as I was going to get by the end of the night. Benson was in particularly fine form Sunday evening. One of the highlights of the entire festival this year was Benson performing his hit originally written by Leon Russell “Masquerade.” He scat sang along with an extremely intense minor key guitar solo that was mesmerizing in every way.
George and his band also sounded great on his R&B hits “Living Inside Your Love,” “The Mambo Inn,” “Turn Your Love Around,” “Let Me Love You One More Time” and “Give Me The Night.” Benson’s energy was infectious, inspiring the festival audience to shake what they brought. Benson’s slick vocals sounded better than ever and he’s still a master guitarist in a class of his own.

George Benson and Earl Klugh

George Benson and Earl Klugh

Although Earl Klugh sounded good on a few instrumentals at the start of the set, it was his guitar duel with Benson on the colossal hit “On Broadway” that was the most enthralling moment between the two guitarists. Klugh’s harmonic explorations on acoustic guitar during this final number truly gave Benson a run for his money.

And so that’s it, the end of the 36th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival. Sure the festival could’ve used some more authentic jazz acts but what else is new? The Festival is less about the music and more about partying it up on a beautiful sunny Los Angeles weekend. See you next year folks.

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Photos courtesy of Mathew Imaging/Hollywood Bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Live Jazz: The 36th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl

June 16, 2014

By Don Heckman

What is there to say about a Festival that loses its way?

It’s a question that kept running through my mind during the 36th annual Playboy Jazz Festival Saturday and Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl.

That’s not to challenge the quality of the sounds beamed from the Bowl stage to a capacity audience. Whatever the genre of music being offered from the rotating center stage, it was true to its essential identity.

But back to that question. Am I implying that the Playboy Jazz Festival lost its way in this latest installment?

Let’s take a look at the programming to see if it provides an answer.

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval

Saturday’s bill included pianist Kenny Barron and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, singer Dianne Reeves, singer/pianist Jamie Cullum, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and his Big Band with vocalists Monica Mancini and Patti Austin, and vocalist Al Jarreau with Stanley Clarke in a tribute to George Duke.
On Sunday, the program featured bassist Dave Holland’s PRISM, and guitarist/singer George Benson with specical guest Earl Klugh.

Both days opened with stirring sets from a pair of Los Angeles High School jazz bands: the Beyond the Bell Jazz Band and the Esperanza High School Jazz Band.

Dianne Reeves and Al Jarreau

Dianne Reeves and Al Jarreau

No doubt that this list is a prime assemblage of authentic jazz artists, a list consistent with the Playboy Jazz Festival’s history of offering memorable jazz performances in every year’s programming.

But let’s take a look at the remaining line up:

The additional acts on Saturday’s program included: the New Jump Blues Band, saxophonist Tia Fuller, singer/songwriter Allen Stone, and the Hot 9 with singer/pianist Henry Butler and trumpeter Steven Bernstein.

The additional acts on the Sunday program included the James Cotton Blues Band, Juan DeMarcos & the Afro-Cuban all Stars, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, singer/songwriter Jose James and dynamic singer Fantasia, and Los Amigos Invisibles.

These latter two lists include a far-ranging assemblage of musical styles, all of it delivered with effective dedication to a color array of stylistic performances embracing the blues, funk, Latin rhythms, performance music and beyond.

Jamie Cullum

Jamie Cullum

Did it all – no matter how well it was done – belong on a program titled “Playboy Jazz Festival?

That’s an easy question to ask, and hard to answer. But my first response is “Not really.” Some of it was intriguing, some gripping, some annoying, some doing its best to include jazz influences here and there. But an overview of the entire program would have to identify the first artists I’ve listed above – from Jamie Cullum and Kenny Barron to Arturo Sandoval and Al Jarreau to Dave Holland and George Benson – as the most authentic jazz highlights of this year’s Festival.

To give credit to Festival 36 producers, it’s worth noting that the sort of iconic, stellar jazz artists (from Dizzy Gillespie to Ella Fitzgerald and beyond) who were available to past Festival programmers are no longer with us. In addition, this year’s Festival production has moved from Playboy to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And a glimpse at the overall program line-up seems to suggest a desire to reach an audience beyond the jazz demographic.

Nothing wrong with that, so long as the jazz roots that have been essential elements in past Festivals continue to be a vital, far-reaching presence. Which was not always the case with Saturday and Sunday’s program.

So, to wrap up with my first question, did the Festival lose its way this year, with its uneven programming?

And the answer is “No.”

But this listener, who has attended and reviewed many Playboy Festivals  over the past few decades, hopes that next year’s production – in the hands of the L.A. Phil – will pay closer attention to the dedication to jazz that has consistently made the Playboy Jazz Festival one of the year’s most memorable jazz experiences.

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Photos courtesy of Mathew Imaging/Hollywood Bowl.

 

 


Picks of the Week: Sept. 25 – 29

September 25, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Joe Pass

Joe Pass

- Sept. 25. (Wed.)  A Joe Pass Tribute.  The great jazz guitarist’s life is celebrated with a screening of the jazzumentary, A Not So Average Joe, followed by a live performance featuring Frank Potenza, John Pisano, Jim Hughart and Colin BaileyCatalina Bar & Grill.

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Pat Senatore Trio. Veteran bassist Senatore plays with a different band almost every night at Vibrato. This time he applies his versatility to the jazz trio setting with Josh Nelson, piano and Mark Ferber, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Isabel Rose

Isabel Rose

- Sept. 26. (Thurs.) Isabel Rose. Jazz/cabaret singer Rose has been compared to everyone from Peggy Lee to Ann-Margret and Bette Midler. She’ll introduce some new songs from her album Trouble in Paradise. The Mint.  323) 954-9400.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart. Expect a great jazz evening listening to this trio of world class players in action. Vitello’s.

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Singer Harris and guitarist/songwriter Crowell first got together as musical associates in the mid-’70s. Here, they revive their long creative partnership. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Gary Peacock. They’re one of jazz history’s great ensembles, continuing to bring imaginative ideas to the classic piano jazz trio. Royce Hall.  (310) 825-0768.

Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Composer/arranger/bandleader Wilson may be 95 years old, but he’s still going strong, still a masterful model of jazz creativity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 29. (Sun.) Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Free Family Concert. The far-reaching skills of the SJO are on full display in a free concert aimed at all ages. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center.  (310) 876-8130.

 San Francisco

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun,) Regina Carter. Jazz violinist Carter performs a four day sequence of far ranging music. On Thurs. with Jenny Scheinman and Sara Caswell. On Fri. with the Pablo RZiegler Quartet. On Sat. with Kenny Barron. And on Sun. with Carla Cook & SFJAZZ High School All-Stars. SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium.  (866) 920-5299.

 Seattle

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Following in the footsteps of his father – John Coltrane – saxophonist Ravi has gradually, and successfully, begun to establish his own independent creative style. Jazz Alley.  (312) 360-0234.

 New York City

- Sept. 25 – 29. (Wed. – Sun.) Chick Corea and the Vigil. After seasoning his new band in an international tour, Chick showcases it for American audiences. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Sept. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Vinicius Cantuaria Quintet. Brazilian guitarist /singer Cantuaria started out as a percussionist, and his rhythmic skills continue to bring propulsive swing to his guitar work. The Jazz Standard. http://jazzstandard.net/red (212) 576-2232.

 London

- Sept. 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat,.) The Rebirth Brass Band. Thirty years after they were founded, New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band continues to sustain the musical memories of the classic jazz brass band style. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Milan

Patti Austin

Patti Austin

- Sept. 27. (Fri.) Patti Austin. A protege of Quincy Jones, who was her godfather, the musically eclectic Austin brings imaginative perspectives to whatever style she’s singing.  Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888.

Copenhagen

- Sept. 28. (Sat.) Eddie Gomez Trio. Bassist Gomez, a prominent musical associate of Bill Evans in the ’60s and ’70s, sustains the piano jazz trio style on an international basis with Swedish pianist Stefan Karlsson and American drummer Billy Drummond. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

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HIGHLIGHT EVENT OF THE WEEK

Alessandra Belloni’s Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop

By Faith Frenz

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra Belloni is an Italian shaman dancer, singer, performer and healer extraordinaire. This week, she’s in Los Angeles for one of her biannual visits. Among her various activities, she will share — by instruction and performance — her unique talent and understanding of the ancient rituals of the tarantella Spider Dance. Alessandra presents the chants and songs sung as devotion to the Black Madonna (tracing to the ancient rites for the Earth Goddess Cybele), an ancient female healing tradition which uses a powerful tambourine style combined with singing and dancing.

I had the pleasure of taking her brief workshop last week at the North Hollywood Remo Recreational Center, where she has her own line of signature series tambourines made by Remo. Alessandra is a small, intensely sensual and beautiful woman, devoted to her goal of sharing these ancient devotionals around the world for their healing gifts. She is a gifted teacher of a very challenging ritual which taps into the essence of femininity.

 Alessandra has a packed schedule here in Los Angeles with numerous opportunities to experience her passionate performance and healing energy. And I urge everyone who reads this to choose an opportunity to witness her up close and personal: 

– Sept. 27. (Fri.) Tarantata at the Goddess Temple Orange County.  (949)651-0564 or (714) 392-0558.

- Sept. 28 (Sat.) DAY OF THE DRUM, WATTS TOWERS FESTIVAL,11:30 a.m. Los Angeles Watts Towers.   213.847.4646

- Sept. 29. (Sun.)  Tarantata at Hollywood Feast of San Gennaro  12:00 p.m.

- Oct. 1. (Tues.) Rhythm is the Cure Percussion Workshop at CalArts.  (661) 255-1050

We will be doing an iRoM Q&A with Alessandra during her stay this week, so look for it in the next few days. There is so much to learn from this amazing woman.

For more information about Alessandra Belloni click HERE to check her website.

 


Preview: The 56th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

September 15, 2013

By Michael Katz

Every year I head up to the Monterey Jazz Festival with a battle plan for seeing as much of the three days and over 500 artists as reasonably possible, and every year that plan gets shredded almost from the opening notes. Musicians whom I’d intended to sample (like Gregory Porter last year) keep me riveted for the duration of a set; a soft breeze and a bluesy band at the outdoor Garden Stage finds me hopelessly planted in my lawn chair; a piano trio at the Coffee House Gallery (Bill Carrothers, two years ago) holds me spellbound into the witching hour.

My initial take for MJF 56, coming up next weekend, was that the Arena line-up is so strong I’d be doing less wandering than usual. Certainly Friday night, with Gregory Porter opening the show, followed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck and then the Buena Vista Social Club is all too good to miss – unless I want to catch a little of pianist Uri Caine at the Coffee House or Carmen Lundy at the Night Club. Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano are playing separately on the grounds Friday night, but together Saturday night at the Arena.

Decisions, decisions….

Saturday presents lots of conundrums. There’s the traditional blues/roots program that leads off with the Relatives at the Arena, (with a late afternoon encore at the Garden Stage) and the usual collection of funky sounds all afternoon at the Garden. George Benson is the featured afternoon act at the Arena. But a young woman I haven’t heard, baritone player Claire Daly, is doing a Monk program at 2:30 in the Night Club, so I’m already figuring out how to catch most of that, and still see the last half of Benson’s show. Meanwhile, during the break between the Arena Shows, bassist Charnett Moffett will be holding forth, and by 8 PM a flood of talent hits the festival, with the Lovano/Douglas group, Marc Cary, Ravi Coltrane, Craig Taborn and Orrin Evans all performing in various venues at the same time.

Later on that night, after more potential bouncing between Dave Holland, Charlie Hunter, Mary Stallings and others, another dilemma is at hand. Bobby McFerrin is sui generis, and I surely won’t want to miss him. But the Brubeck Brothers, Chris, Daniel and their band, will be performing at the Night Club at about the same time. I saw Chris a few years ago at MJF with his funky blues band Triple Play, as well as with his Dad in the memorable Cannery Row Cantata. He’s a wonderful and spirited performer on bass and trombone, as is Daniel on the drums. Given their Dad’s lasting contributions to MJF, I get the sense that their show Saturday will be a heart stopper.

I issue my annual alert for Sunday: don’t miss the Next Generation Band. This group of all-star high school age kids opens the Arena Show Sunday, and they are a great reason to brave the midday Monterey sun. Joe Lovano will be joining them for a couple of guest solos. The Bob James-David Sanborn group will be anchoring the show, for what figures to be a fun session of funky, bluesy jazz. The “hammock” time between Arena shows is always a perfect occasion to hang out at the Garden Stage. This year Bay Area vocalist Tammy Hall performs between 4 and 5, while the Twin Cities’ Davina and the Vagabonds has the 5:30 – 7 slot. And if you haven’t caught Chicago’s own Judy Roberts with sax player Greg Fishman at one of their eight performances on the Courtyard Stage, check them out between 5 and 5:30.

Whew! We haven’t even talked about the food. About this time, if I haven’t had my ribs and peach cobbler, I’m loading up, to say nothing of a last Margarita. Meanwhile, the Festival will end with a blast. The annual Hammond B-3 showcase has guitarist Anthony Wilson’s Trio featuring Larry Goldings on the organ and drummer Jim Keltner at Dizzy’s Den, followed by MJF favorite Lonnie Smith. Over in the Night Club, altoist Lou Donaldson opens, and vibist Bobby Hutcherson follows with a tribute to the late, great Cedar Walton, who had been scheduled to appear in that slot.

With all that, it’s still hard to pass up the Arena’s final show, with Wayne Shorter celebrating his 80th birthday backed up by his superb quartet featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade. There are certain performers who always seem to save their best for Monterey. Diana Krall has had a love affair with MJF, dating back to her knockout debut at MJF 40, and her curtain-lowering show Sunday night promises to keep everyone in their seats until the end.

Sorry, I know I’ve left out more than a few of the MJF 500 +. Find your way up to the Monterey Peninsula and discover it all for yourself.

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Don’t forget to check out Michael Katz’s new novel, Dearly Befuddled, available in paperback and E-book at Amazon.  Read Mike’s Blog, Katz of the Day.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 4 – 8

September 4, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s a light, holiday week, with 100-plus temperatures here in L.A.  But there’s still some very fine music to hear in various parts of the world.

Los Angeles

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

- Sept. 4 – 8. (Wed. – Sun.) The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove has appeared frequently with his big band lately. But this time he fronts a straight-ahead quintet, showcasing his fine solo work. Catalina Bar and Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 4. (Wed.) Bruce Forman Quartet. Guitarist, novelist and educator Forman, a true multi-hyphenate, takes a break from his many activities to do a live performance. Don’t miss it. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 6. (Fri.) Richie Cole Quartet. Bebop is always on the loose when alto saxophonist is in the room. And especially so when he’s backed by the propulsive backing of pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Dick Weller. Jazz at the Radisson Hotel.

Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group

- Sept. 6 & 7. (Fri.& Sat.) The Blue Man Group. The musically and visually eccentric members of the Blue Man Group have brought a new supply of unique instruments to an evening of new music with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 8. (Sun.) ABBA Fest. A non-stop evening of music by the hit-making Swedish band. First, via a competition of collegiate a cappella Abba groups; second via a performance by the great tribute band ABBA, the Concert. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

ABBA Fest

ABBA Fest

San Francisco

- Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.). Terence Blanchard is always in search of new musical adventures. This time out, his Sextet features saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and and African jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. SFJAZZ. The SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.  (415) 398-5655.

Seattle

- Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs., – Sun.) Larry Coryell and the Eleventh House Reunion Band. Guitarist Coryell revives the music of the fusion band he led in the’70s. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

Washington, D.C.

- Sept. 6 – 8. (Fri. – Sun.) Patricia Barber. Singer/pianist Barber continues her quest to find new creative ways to approach the songs of the Great American Songbook. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- Sept. 4. (Wed.) J.D. Walter. Jazz Standard. Walter is a singer who prefers to take adventurous musical pathways… which may explain why he hasn’t yet received the attention his singing deserves. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Cassandra Wilson- Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.) Cassandra Wilson. The jazz vocal genre has largely been dominated lately by fast-arriving young female artists. But Wilson continues to be a pathfinder with her own inimitable style. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

- Sept. 7. (Sat.) Barbara Carroll. She was described in 1947 by Leonard Feather as the “first girl to play bebop piano.” And, at 88, she’s still going strong, performing here in duo with bassist Jay Leonhart. Birdland. http://www.birdlandjazz.com/event/350551-barbara-carroll-new-york (212) 581-3080.

Berlin

- Sept. 4 – 7. (Wed. – Sat.) Sommerwochenkonzert. Don Grusin and Chuck Loeb. Keyboardist Grusin and guitarist Loeb display their easygoing blend of mainstream and crossover jazz genres.. A-Trane.  +49 30 3132 ext. 550.

Copenhagen

- Sept. 6 – 7. (Fri. & Sat.) Dado Moroni, Reuben Rodgers, Alex Riel. The Art of the Trio. Italian jazz pianist Moroni has been delivering his authentic jazz perspectives since the ’80s. He’s backed here by American bassist Rodgers and Danish drummer Alex Riel. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

- Sept. 3 – 5. (Tues. – Thurs.) Bob James & David Sanborn. James and Sanborn have pioneered their swinging versions of contemporary jazz fusion and crossover for decades – and doing it in memorable fashion. They’re accompanied on this tour by the equally imaginative drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.

Gregory Porter

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- Sept. 6. (Fri.) Gregory Porter. At a time when the distaff side has been dominating most of the newly released jazz recordings, the warm baritone of Porter has been bringing impressive new interpretations to the the world of jazz vocalizing. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.


Preview: The Monterey Jazz Festival 56

April 6, 2013

By Michael Katz

MFor those of us in love with the Monterey Jazz Festival, the longest six months of the year are the time between the final note of the last Sunday night show at the fairgrounds and the April 1 announcement of artists for the next MJF. That wait ended Monday morning with the lineup for MJF 56, on September 20-22. Putting together a festival of this repute is no small task for Artistic Director Tim Jackson. He’s got to book enough legitimate headliners to satisfy a sometimes prickly Arena ticket base, while maintaining the diversity and inventiveness that makes MJF such a treasure.

My immediate reaction: good news for Arena season ticket holders, with jazz virtuosos at every stop; good news for Grounds attendees, with the usual mix of big names and intriguing new performers visiting the four smaller venues, and challenging news for those of us who like to float between stages. There are just too many shows that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

The three evening Arena lineups are especially loaded.  For those of us who caught part of vocalist Gregory Porter’s rousing set at the Night Club last fall and wished we had seen more, wish granted. Porter will be opening the show Friday night. Next up is the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, playing a specially commissioned tribute to the late Dave Brubeck. Filling out the usual Latin jazz spot capping the Friday night program is Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. That is quite an opening night slate.

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

Saturday evening promises to be one of the most creative in recent memory. Leading off is Artist-In-Residence saxophonist Joe Lovano, teaming with trumpeter Dave Douglas, performing Sound Prints, music inspired or composed by Wayne Shorter. The middle slot is led by bassist Dave Holland, an MJF favorite. He brings his quartet, Prism, featuring guitarist Kevin Eubanks, pianist Craig Taborn and superb drummer Eric Harland. Closing out the show is Bobby McFerrin, touring with his Spirityouall release.

Diana Krall

Diana Krall

The Sunday show is opened by Wayne Shorter, celebrating his 80th birthday, with his all-star quartet featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blades. Closing the festival is Diana Krall. There’s little need to embellish; you clearly wouldn’t want to miss any of these shows. And yet…

And yet, check out a few of the artists performing at the Grounds venues: Friday night has pianist Uri Caine playing three sets at the Coffee House and vocalist Carmen Lundy at the Night Club, as well as a reprise performance by Gregory Porter, and separate ensemble appearances by Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas. Saturday night has the Brubeck Brothers quartet with a tribute to their dad; Ravi Coltrane, the Charlie Hunter-Scott Amendola duo, pianists Marc Cary and Craig Taborn, the Douglas-Lovano Sound Prints band, and classic vocalist Mary Stallings.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Sunday features perhaps the festival’s greatest dilemma.  You wouldn’t dare miss Wayne Shorter or Diana Krall, but the annual B-3 organ blowout at Dizzy’s Den opens with guitarist Anthony Wilson’s trio featuring Larry Goldings and Jim Keltner,  and closes with the great Dr. Lonnie Smith. Meanwhile, over in the Night Club, alto player Lou Donaldson opens, and pianist Cedar Walton brings his latest Eastern Rebellion to close the show.  Usually music fans are too exhausted to be running between venues by Sunday night, but MJF 56 may prove to be the exception.

The two afternoon schedules offer their own pleasures: an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, kids, world music and a few things that defy description.  The Saturday line-up has morphed over the years from blues to roots music, to none-of-the-above. This year The Relatives, a gospel-funk group, leads off the Arena show and also gets the 5:30 slot at the Garden Stage. If you haven’t heard them before the festival, don’t worry, you will — along with the hundreds of fans hanging from tree limbs and lined up behind the bleachers.

George Benson

George Benson

George Benson has the headline billing at the Arena.  Benson was on the short list of great post-Wes Montgomery guitarists in the seventies before changing his orientation to R and B type vocals, but he can still “play this-here guitar,” as evidenced by his recent Guitar Man CD. Out on the grounds, the Saturday Garden Stage show is always a blast from start to finish, even if you aren’t familiar with any of the acts. And if you are looking for some straight ahead jazz amidst all the blues-funk-whatever, bari sax and flutist Claire Daly has a Monk-influenced program at 4 pm in the Night Club. And, as per the last several years, one of our favorite vocalists, Judy Roberts, will be performing with sax man Greg Fishman throughout the festival on the Yamaha AvantGrand stage.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

Sunday afternoon features college and high school bands, highlighted by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, which will feature a guest appearance by the ubiquitous Mr. Lovano. As usual, I warn all of you not to miss this band – these kids will amaze you. Bob James and David Sanborn are the headliners for the Sunday afternoon show. I’ve always loved Sanborn’s blues and funky rock-tinged tenor sax, and James has done some great work as a composer and keyboardist. They have sometimes tailed off into the Ooze of Smooth, but their band, featuring drummer Steve Gadd, is hitting the major jazz festival circuit this summer, including the Playboy Jazz Festival in LA and the Blue Note Festival in New York, so here’s hoping for some classic jazz riffs from these guys.

I know I’ve left out a few highlights.  There are always acts I haven’t heard of that turn out to be knockouts, and new combinations that enthrall. Add that in with the usual mix of festival food, lovely Monterey weather and the camaraderie of new and old friends, and you’ve got an unforgettable experience.

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To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 26 – Mar. 3

February 27, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson

- Feb. 27. (Wed.)  Willie Nelson & Family.  The inimitable Willie Nelson performs his memorable hits with the musical companionship of his talented family members. Click HERE to read an earlier iRoM review of Willie Nelson and his Family.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

= Feb. 27. (Wed.)  Shofar. The three Polish musicians in the group Shofar are questing after a “common denominator shared by Hasidic music and free jazz.”  Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

- Feb. 27. (Wed.)  Sascha’s Bloc. An entertaining band of players, many from Russia, who bring new perspectives to a musical approach that blends traditional sounds and rhythms with far-ranging contemporary music. Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent Saschas’s Bloc performance.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

- Feb. 28 – 3. . (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dudamel Conducts Stravinsky’s Firebird. The ever-dynamic Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in an adventurous approach to one of the 20th century’s intrepid musical works. Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 28 – Mar. 2.  (Thurs. – Sat.)  Oleta Adams.  Versatile singer Adams moves freely – and convincingly – across genres, from soul and gospel to rhythm & blues and jazz.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Anna Mjoll

Anna Mjoll

- Mar. 1. (Fri.)  Anna Mjoll.  Iceland’s gift to jazz applies her warm, embracing voice to everything from jazz classics to the Great American Songbook.  She performs with the Pat Senatore TrioVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Mar. 1. (Fri.)  Juan de Marcos & the Afro-Cuban All-Stars.  The Grammy-nominated All-Stars cover a full range of Latin music, including bolero, cha-cha-cha, salsa, rumba, danzon, timba and beyond.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

- Mar. 1 – 3.(Fri. – Sun.)  Oguri and Wadada Leo Smith.  Adventurous trumpeter Smith and his band interact creatively with Japanese dancer Oguri.  Electric Lodge, Venice.   (310) 306-1854.

- Mar. 2. (Sat.) Patricia Barber. One of the jazz vocal world’s most uniquely individual artists, Barber will sing selections from her new album, Smash.  To read the iRoM review of the album, click HERE.  She performs in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute Concert Center.   (310) 275-8961.

- Mar. 2. (Sat.)  An Evening With Rudresh Mahanthappa. Alto saxophonist/composer Mahanthappa works at synthesizing South Indian elements with a variety of other international musical genres. He does so here in the company of two ensembles – the Indo-Pak Coalition and Gamak. A  CAP-UCLA concert at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2101.

Katia Moraes

Katia Moraes

- Mar. 3. (Sun.)  Katia Moraes.  Los Angeles is filled with musically diverse Brazilian artists.  And the dynamic Moraes, who invests her singing with the stimulating energies of her dancing, continues to be one of the best.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent performance by Moraes.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 3. (Sun.)  Patrick Tuzzolino Trio.  Singer/keyboardist Tuzzolino is an impressive talent who has not yet received the full acknowledgement he deserves.  Here’s a rare chance to hear him in action, performing with trombonist Bob McChesney and drummer Billy Paul Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Feb. 28 – Mar. 1 (Thurs & Fri.)  Ana Moura.  Fado is being revived by a gifted generation of young Portuguese singers.  And Ana Moura is one of the best.  An SFJAZZ event at Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.

Washington, D.C.

- Feb. 28 – Mar. 3. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mike Stern and Dave Weckl.  Jazz fusion in all its many invigorating forms is at its best in the talented hands of guitarist Stern and drummer Weckl.  They’re ably supported by bassist Anthony Jackson and saxophonist Bob FranceschiniBlues Alley.    (202)337-4141.

New York

- Feb. 27 – Mar. 2. (Wed. – Sat.)  Gary Peacock, Marc Copland and Joey Baron.  It’s an all-star jazz trio, by any definition, with pianist Copland, bassist Peacock and drummer Baron triggering a continuing flow of imaginative improvisation.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

- Feb. 27 – Mar. 3. (Wed. – Sun.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  Saxophonist Coltrane, who makes the most of his genetic gifts as the son of John Coltrane, plays with the superb backing of Billy Childs, Fender Rhodes, Lonnie Plaxico, bass, Nikki Glaspie, drums.  Trumpeters Tim Hagans and Jason Palmer trade off on Thurs.(28) and Fri.(1).  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

London

- Feb. 27 – Mar. 3. (Wed. – Sun.)  Arturo Sandoval. Versatility doesn’t begin to describe trumpeter/pianist/percussionist/singer Sandoval’s remarkable talents.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of a Sandoval performance.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 0(20) 7439 0747.

Paris

- Feb. 27. (Wed.)  The Robert Cray Band.  Five time Grammy award winner Cray has throroughly established himself as one of the most convincingly authentic contemporary blues artists.  Paris New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

Jason Moran

- Mar. 3. (Sun.)  Jason Moran & the Bandwagon.  Pianist Moran, the winner of a MacArthur “genius” award, takes time away from his role as jazz advisor for the Kennedy Center to lead his gifted Bandwagon trio, with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet WaitsA-Trane.    030/313 25 50.

Copenhagen

- Mar. 1 & 2. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bobo Moreno.  Highly praised Danish singer performs with pianist Ole Kock Hansen, bassist Bo Stief and American drummer Adam NussbaumJazzhus Montmartre.   (+45) 70 263 267.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 19 – 24.

February 20, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ron Kobayashi

Ron Kobayashi

- Feb. 20 (Wed.)  The Ron Kobayashi Trio.  Versatile pianist Kobayashi’s resume reaches from Mel Torme and Margaret Whiting to Teddy Edwards and Kenny Burrell.  Here he’s on his own and in the spotlight.  Steamers.

- Feb. 20. (Wed.) Monk’estra.  A Big Modern Jazz Band.  John Beasley.  Pianist/composer/arranger Beasley displays his imaginative musical wares with a big band featuring the works of Thelonious Monk.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Larry Goldings

Larry Goldings

- Feb. 21/ (Thurs.)  Larry Goldings Piano Trio.  He’s an impressive jazz organist, but this time Goldings applies his keyboard skills to the classic jazz piano trio.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dudamel, Shaham and the Los Angeles Philharmonic with German Romanticism.  Dudamel and violinist Shaham dip into the rich, emotionally textured music of the Romantic era.  On the program — Wagner: Music from Gotterdammerung; Brahms: Violin Concerto; Schuman: Symphony No. 3 (“Rhenish). Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 22 – 24.  (Fri. – Sun.)  The New West Symphony and violinist Rachel Barton Pine.  The New West Symphony presents another weekend of music across the Southland.  Boris Brott conducts Ms. Pine and the NWS in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, followed by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).  Performances take place:  Fri. at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center.   Sat. at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.  And Sunday at Santa Monica’s Barnum Hall.   (805) 497-5800.

Bebe Neuwirth

Bebe Neuwirth

- Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Bebe Neuwirth.  Stories With Piano.  You know her from her long run on the hugely successful sitcom, Cheers.  But Neuworth’s also an appealing cabaret singer and dancer.  Scott Cady, piano.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000. 

- Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Cecilia Coleman Quartet.  Pianist Coleman, a much-favored Southland jazz regular before moving to New York, Coleman makes a rare L.A. appearance.  She performs with Steve Huffsteter, trumpet, Pat Senatore, bass and Kendall Kay, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 23. (Sat.) Robert Randolph presents the Slide Brothers.  With special guests: the Otis Taylor Band. The pedal steel guitar in all its glory, led by master player Randolph and the four Slide Steel Brothers.   CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.

- Feb. 23. (Sat.) The Los Angeles Chamber OrchestraJeffrey Kahane, multi-talented Music Director of the LACO, opens the evening with an in-depth discussion of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #4 at the Orchestra’s annual “Discover” concert.  In the second half, he conducts the work from the piano.  Ambassador Auditorium.  (626) 354-6407.

Trevor McShane

Trevor McShane

 - Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Trevor McShane.  His real name is Neville Johnson, and he’s also one of the entertainment world’s highly regarded attorneys, as well as an ambitious performer.  He describes his songs as rock-folk-country-pop, but a more accurate description would be a contemporary singer/songwriter in the classic mode of James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, etc.  McSHane/Johnson will be joined by Lloyd Price and the Fleetwoods’ Gretchen ChristopherMcCabes.     (310) 821-5858.

- Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Roadwork Ahead.  Featuring Bill Mays, piano, Peter Sprague, guitar, Bob Magnusson, bass, Jim Plank, drums.  Pianist/composer Mays is well known for his accompaniment work.  But he’s also a prime jazz artist on his own.  He’s not in L.A. often, so take this opportunity to check him out. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson

- Feb. 21 – 23.  (Thurs. – Sat.)  Cassandra Wilson. Blessed with a warm and intimate voice, Wilson makes the most of it with her intimate, musical story-telling skills. Yoshi’s San Francisco.

Portland, Oregon

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

Feb. 20 – 24.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The Portland Jazz Festival.  Always one of the best-planned, best-programmed jazz events of the year, the Festival continues to offer some irresistible music.  But it sells out fast.  Still available for this week: On Wed. Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts.  On Fri. A Tribute to Art Blakey including Javon Jackson, Bobby Watson, Curtis Fuller and more.  Also on Fri., the Steve Kuhn Trio.  On Sat., Steven Bernstein’s Sex Mob.  On Sun., Nancy King.  Check the PDX website for complete information.  The Portland Jazz Festival.  (503) 228-5299.

Seattle

- Feb. 19 & 20. (Tues. & Wed.)  Jack DeJohnette Quartet featuring Don Byron.  Jazz Alley. Drummer DeJohnette has found the perfect reed player for his Quartet in the imaginative playing of the versatile Byron.  Jazz Alley.

New York

- Feb. 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Benny Green Trio.  He’s played with everyone, and with good reason – his ability to bring captivating inventiveness to his jazz mainstream style.  Green With Georgos Antoniou, bass, Kenny Washington, drums.  Jazz Standard.

  London

Billy Cobham

Billy Cobham

- Feb. 20 – 24.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The Billy Cobham Band: Tales From the Skeleton Coast. The always dynamic drumming of Billy Cobham celebrates his latest album with an electrifying band including two keyboards, violin, guitar and steel pans.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)20 7437 5081.

Copenhagen

- Feb. 22 (Fri.)  The Bjorn Ingelstam 5Tet.  “Tribute to Lee Morgan.”  Trumpeter Ingelstam leads a quintet of Denmark’s finest young players in a tribute to the iconic jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45)70 263 267.

Milan

- Feb. 20 (Wed.)  The Bill Charlap Trio. He comes from a highly successful musical family closely associated with the musical theatre.  But Charlap’s focus has been, and continues to be the jazz piano that he plays with complete authenticity. The Blue Note Milano.    02.6901 6888.

Palermo

Noa

Noa

- Feb. 20. (Wed.)  Noa and Gil Dor.  The irresistible Israeli musical partnership of singer Noa and guitarist Dor enhance their intimate musical togetherness with the string quartet of Vincenzo Di Donna and Luigi Di Maio, violins, Gerardo Morrone, viola, Anonio Di Francia, cello.    Teatro Jolly di Palermo.  091.6376336.

Tokyo

- Feb. 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Fourplay.  Grammy-nominated Fourplay has had some personnel changes in the guitar chair over the past two decades.  But the addition of Chuck Loeb to the regulars – keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason – has invigorated the band’s always lively style.  Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Nov. 21 – 25

November 21, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 23. (Fri.)  Chuck Manning-John Daversa Quartet.  Saxophonist Manning and trumpeter Daversa get together for an evening of adventurous improvisation.  They’re backed by Pat Senatore, bass and Dick Weller, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 23. (Fri.)  Deana Martin.  Yes, she’s Dean Martin’s daughter.  But Deana has transformed her musical inheritance into an appealing style of her own.  Catalina Bar & Grill  (323) 466-2210.

Ahmad Jamal

- Nov. 24. (Sat.) Ahmad Jamal.  The great jazz pianist, admired by Miles Davis, as well as  his legions of fans, makes a rare Southland appearance.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.    (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 25. (Sun.)  Harry Allen and Larry Goldings.  Tenor saxophonist Allen combines a mainstream style with a contemporary imagination.  Keyboardist Goldings provides ideal backing, along with Chuck Berghofer, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 25. (Sun.)  “A Tribute To Dinah Washington: Queen of the Blues.  Barbara Morrison with the BMPAC All Stars Band conducted by John Stephens. Who better than the versatile blues mistress Barbara Morrison to honor the Dinah Washington musical memory. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Chicago

Roberta Gambarini

- Nov. 21 – 25. (Wed. – Sun.)  Roberta Gambarini. Italian native Gambarini has thoroughly established herself as one of the world’s finest jazz singers, regardless of origin. Hear her whenever you can.  Jazz Showcase.  http://www.jazzshowcase.com  (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Nov. 21 – 24. (Wed. – Sat.) Cyrille Aimee. With a French gypsy background and Dominican roots, Aimee – a runner up in the Thelonious Monk vocal competition – enhances her jazz skills with world music seasoning.  Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 21 – 25.  (Wed. – Sun.)  Jason Moran and the Bandwagon. Currently one of the most critically praised jazz pianist/composers, Moran performs in a classic trio setting with  Taurus Mateen, bass, and Nasheet Waits, drums.  Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

Maria Schneider

- Nov. 20 – 25. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Maria Schneider Orchestra.  Schneider’s far-reaching musical imagination has brought compelling new timbres and adventurous performances to the classic big band setting. Jazz Standard.    (212) 889-2005.

Copenhagen

- Nov. 22 – 24. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Sinne Eeg.  One of Denmark’s – and Europe’s – most admired jazz singers, Eeg celebrates the release of her new album, The Beauty of Sadness, recorded with a Danish national orchestra and her own quartet.   Jazzhus Montmartre.  (+45) 70 15 65 65.

Paris

Ravi Coltrane

- Nov. 23. (Fri.) The New Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  John Coltrane’s gifted, saxophone playing son Ravi is keeping the creative legacy of his father alive and well.  Paris New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Milan

- Nov. 21 – 24. (Wed. – Sat.)  Al Di Meola. Master guitarist Di Meola has an impressive  resume, reaching from his electric jazz fusion with Return to Forever to his superb solo acoustic outings.   Blue Note Milano.   02.69016888.

Tokyo

Nov. 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sun.) and Nov. 27 & 28. (Tues. & Wed.)  Natalie Cole.  Nat ‘King” Cole’s daughter is a major star in her own right, singing with the authentic jazz inflections characteristic of her father’s finest work.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 31 – Nov. 4

October 31, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bob Sheppard

- Oct. 31. (Wed.)  Bob Sheppard and FriendsHalloween Party and Jam.  With Larry Koonse, guitar, Dave Robaire, bass, Charles Ruggiero, drums.  Wear a Halloween costume and get in free.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

-  Nov. 2. (Fri.)  David Grisman Sextet.  Special guest David Lindley. Mandolin virtuoso Grisman, moving easily across styles and genres, teams up with similarly eclectic string player Lindley.  A CAP UCLA concert at Royce Hall.   (31) 825-2101.

- Nov. 2. (Fri.) Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez.  Traditional folk music and dance from the rich cultural traditions of Mexico, presented in colorful costumes.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000 Also on Sat. Nov. 3.  (562) 916-8501.

Bill Holman

- Nov. 2. (Fri.)  Bill Holman Big Band.  Holman’s imaginative big band arrangements have been influencing young musicians since the ‘50s.  Hear them live and up close in a great listening room.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 2 – 4 (Fri. – Sun.)  Kenny Burrell Quintet.  Veteran guitarist Burrell takes a break from his responsibilities at the UCLA jazz program to display his potent playing talents.  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

Betty Bryant

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- Nov. 4. (Sun.)  Betty Bryant’s Birthday Brunch.  She may be celebrating a birthday in her eighties, but pianist/singer Bryant is still setting examples for jazz singing at its best.    Catalina Bar & Grill.  .   (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 4. (Sun.)  Llew Matthews and Pat Senatore Duo.  A pair of versatile jazz artists team up for an evening of improvisation, swing and balladry.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Nov. 4. (Sun.)  Orquesta Aragon. More than 70 years after they were founded as a danzon ensemble, Orquesta Aragon continues to record and perform in classic Cuban fashion.   An SFJAZZ Concert at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.    (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

- Nov. 1 – 4.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Roberta Gambarini. At her best – which is basically in every performance – Gambarini is doing a convincing job of defining the best in contemporary jazz vocalizing. Click HERE to read a recent kRoM review of Gambarini.   Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York

Anat Cohen

- Nov. 2 & 3. (Fri. & Sat.)  Anat Cohen with Falafel, Freilach & Frijoles – From Mambo to Borscht. Clarinetist Cohen and percussionist Benny Koonyevsky join the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in a musical exploration of the cultural relationships between the Jewish and the Hispanic communities.  Symphony Space.  (212) 864-5400.

- Nov. 2 – 7. (Fri. – Wed.)  The Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke Band.  With Ravi Coltrane, saxophone and Marcus Gilmore, drums.  To call this ensemble an all-star band still wouldn’t quite identify the extraordinary quality of the music they make together.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Oct. 31 – Nov. 3. (Wed. – Sat.)  Lee Konitz Quartet.  Into his eighties, a significant force on the jazz alto saxophone since the late ‘40s, Konitz continues to maintain the gifted, individuality he has expressed for his entire, remarkable career.  Birdland.   (212)581-3080.

Copenhagen

Vini Iuel

- Nov. 1. (Thurs.)  Vini Iuel sings Jobim.  Danish singer Iuel, backed by pianist Thomas Clausen and bassist Mads Vinding, brings the warm rhythms of Brazil to Denmark just before the arrival of winter.  Making the music even more convincing, she’s invited Brazilian singer/percussionist Robertino Silva to join the celebration.   Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65 65.

Milan

- Nov. 2. (Fri.)  Jacky Terrasson.  French-born pianist Terrasson has thoroughly established his credentials as a world class jazz artist.  Blue Note Milano.   02.6901 6888.

Bill Holman photo by Lesley Bohm.

 


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