Picks of the Week: July 23 – 28.

July 23, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– July 23.  (Tues.)  The Postal Service.  The electropop band – featuring Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello – celebrate their 10th anniversary.  Greek Theatre   (323) 665-5857.

- July 24. (Wed.)  Dave Damiani and the No Nonsense Orchestra.  Vocalist and leader Damiani sings with the colorful sounds and swinging rhythms of his No Nonsense Orchestra.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

- July 24. (Wed.) Josh Nelson: A Tribute to Mulgrew Miller.  Pianist Nelson, rapidly emerging as one of the stellar pianists of his generation offers a tribute to one of his influences.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Bill Cunliffe’s Imaginacion Quintet. Composer/arranger/pianist Cunliffe displays his affection for Latin jazz in a collection of his fine arrangements. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 26. (Fri.)  Geoffrey Keezer “Heart of the Piano.”  Grammy-nominated Keezer celebrates the release of his CD, Heart of the Piano, his first solo project in 13 years.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 27 & 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  Chicago: The MusicalThe six Tony Award-winning show receives a sensational production on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl.  Brooke Shields directs, and Samantha Barks performs the role of Velma.  The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant

- July 28. (Sun.)  Amy Grant.  Grammy Award-winning Grant stretches her appealing vocal skills from gospel to pop.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

- July 27 – 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  The John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jessica Molaskey.  Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli and his wife, musical thatre star Molaskey have become an always-entertaining, musically fascinating performance act.  Yoshi’s Oakland.     (510) 238-9200.


Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Diane Schuur. As she approaches 60, Schuur continues to develop the musical possibilities of a beautifully soaring voice and a Sarah Vaughan-influenced style. Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.


- July 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.)   The Ron Blake Quartet. Fast-fingered, improvisationally adept saxophonist Blake continues to expand his impressive jazz skills.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- July 23 – 28.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Fred Hersch Trio with Joe Lovano. A pair of jazz veterans, each a deeply imaginative artist get together for a rare and compelling exchange of improvisational ideas.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- July 23 – 27. )Tues. – Sat.)  The Masters Quartet.  The title – “Masters” – doesn’t overstate it at all.  How else to describe a quartet that includes pianist Steve Kuhn, saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy HartBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.


Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

- July 23 & 24. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Wynton Marsalis Quintet. London is gifted with a very rare opportunity to hear the always-compelling playing of trumpet/impresario Marsalis in a night club setting. Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.


Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

- July 25 & 26.  (Thurs. & Fri.)  Robert Glasper Experiment. Pianist/composer Glasper is in an exploratory phase, producing live performances and recordings revealing a creatively curious, musically questioning mind.  Paris New Morning.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.


Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander

- July 27 (Sat.)  Eric Alexander Quartet. Saxophonist Alexander finished just behind Joshua Redmand and ahead of Chris Potter in the 1991 Monk Saxophone Competition.  And he’s been aiming for the sun ever since with his articulate, hard-swinging style. Tokyo Blue Note.   +81 3-5485-0088.

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Wynton Marsalis photo by Tony Gieske

Robert Glasper photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Live Jazz: The 35th Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Day #1

June 17, 2013

Review by Michael Katz

Photos by Bonnie Perkinson

Hollywood CA. One happy problem with an eight hour music fest that runs uninterrupted through the shifting temperatures of a near-summer’s day at the Hollywood Bowl is a lineup so strong you don’t want to leave your seat. That was the occasion on Saturday, Day 1 of the 35th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival. It was a show that featured some bright new names in the jazz realm, a blur of world music and vocal skills, plus cameos and guest appearances from jazz legends and LA icons.

George Lopez

George Lopez

The most notable new face was comedian and actor George Lopez, who took over the emcee duties from Bill Cosby. Lopez smartly kept his patter brief and enthusiastic. Cosby, himself, never tried to upstage the music, and although his Cos of Good Music bands are dearly missed, their spirit was reflected in some adventurous booking, particularly a powerhouse mid-day lineup that had the sold-out house dancing in the aisles.

Some snarling traffic (not to mention my Park and Ride bus that broke down halfway between Westwood and the Bowl) resulted in a crowd filtering in through the first several acts. I entered to a pleasant set by percussionist Pedrito Martinez, with Ariacne Trujillo on keyboards and vocals. Their Latin rhythms set up a relaxed atmosphere as the crowd gathered and settled into party mode. But things got down to business immediately thereafter, with the appearance of Grace Kelly and her quintet.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

The vivacious Kelly, only 21 years of age, has a half-dozen albums already to her credit. She plays mostly alto sax and doubles as a vocalist, excelling at both. Her alto tones are clean and driving, her own compositions melodic and well served by her lovely voice. Her band included one of LA’s premier young pianists, Josh Nelson, and an outstanding young trumpeter from Boston, Jason Palmer, who gave us some of the handful of great trumpet licks of the afternoon.

Grace Kelly and Phil Woods

Grace Kelly and Phil Woods

It takes plenty of self-assurance for a young musician to invite Phil Woods on as a guest and then stand up to him, lick for lick, but Kelly was up to the task. They dueted on her composition “Man In A Hat,” (from the CD of the same name) written as an homage to Woods. His presence seemed to inspire Ms. Kelly, and I don’t think a blindfold test could have separated the two of them. They later romped through a medley of “How High The Moon” and “Ornithology” with equally fine results. Bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Bill Goodwin rounded out this terrific band. Grace Kelly, originally from Boston, has settled here in the LA area, which is great news for local jazz fans – if they can catch her on a break from an ambitious touring schedule.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

I had caught the end of an electrifying set by Gregory Porter last September at the Monterey Jazz Festival (where he will be the opening act this year), so it was no surprise to see him light up the Playboy stage, even in the shank of the warm afternoon. Porter has it all. His deep, evocative voice has the authority of a Joe Williams; he has an engaging stage presence that can command even a crowd settling down for wine and hors d’oeuvres. Porter was in a romantic mood, with a ballad, “No Love Dying,” from a soon-to-be-released album. His band features a sparkplug in altoist Yosuke Sato, who whipped the crowd up with ascending riffs that arced into the pungent afternoon air like tracers. Porter continued on, imploring the audience to “Hold On,” while segueing into Oscar Brown Jr.’s lyrics to Nat Adderley’s “Work Song.” The title song to his new CD, Liquid Spirit, featured some terrific piano work by Chip Crawford. Porter’s closer, (as in the Monterey set), was “1960 What,” an ode to the unrest in sixties Detroit, sung with a gospel fervor that recalled Les McCann’s vocals from the seventies. Porter shone throughout. The LA native, by way of Bakersfield, is clearly on the cusp of something special.

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper has been a ubiquitous presence lately, bridging the gap between jazz and pop with his straight ahead jazz trio and his “Robert Glasper Experiment,” which usually includes a guest from the hip hop world. On Saturday he featured Casey Benjamin on sax and vocoder, as well as the terrific jazz bassist Derrick Hodge and Mark Colenburg on drums. I’ll freely admit that I prefer the “jazz trio” – I put that in quotes because whatever Glasper does has a spirit of adventure to it. Glasper has a quick wit and engaging patter – he’s clearly the jazz performer most likely to host his own TV show. The Experiment is, no surprise, amped up and electronic, and went over fine with the crowd. But Glasper still found the occasion to invite Bowl favorite Dianne Reeves onstage. True to the Experimental spirit, she sang Oscar Brown Jr.’s lyrics to “Afro Blue,” circling on and off the beat, letting the audience find their way into the song.

Angelique Kidjo greets her 18,000 fans at the Playboy Jazz Festival

Angelique Kidjo greets her 18,000 fans at the Playboy Jazz Festival

It’s hard to imagine a more exciting performer for a music festival than Angelique Kidjo, from Benin. I’ve seen her twice, now – the first time anchoring the Sunday afternoon stage show at Monterey a few years ago. Her unique blend of African rhythms, elucidated in several languages, French, Yoruba and Swahili among them, is intoxicating. The pulsating rhythms and percussions, familiar to U. S. audiences through such artists as Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mumbazo, were highlighted by a terrific guitarist, Dominic James, and percussionists Magatte Sow and Yayo Serka, along with Itaiguara Brandao on bass.

As if that was not enough, Hugh Masekela joined the group for several numbers. Kidjo exudes warmth – even if you can’t decipher her lyrics, the spirit of inclusiveness permeates everything she does.

Anglelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela

Anglelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela

Masekela’s flugelhorn remains deceptively simple, his tones clear and bold. His gravelly voice counteracted with Kidjo’s, and the two of them brought the crowd to their feet early and for the duration. Kidjo’s finale included promenading into the crowd and bringing back selected audience members onto the stage – I don’t know whether she does some magical on-the-spot scouting or just counts on divine inspiration, but it works wonderfully. Magatte Sow took center stage on his conga drum and provided the transformational spell, while the audience had a blast, onstage and off.

I’ve always thought that the Playboy Jazz Festival might benefit from a ten or fifteen minute break sometime during the show. It would give the audience a chance to wind down, break out the picnic baskets, talk to their friends without having to shout over the music. If there was ever a time to do it, it would have been after Angelique Kidjo’s set, which was impossible to follow. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band would seem to be a perfect candidate, with the impressive sound of a 20 piece ensemble.

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band

They opened with two burners and a great solo on alto sax by Eric Marienthal, but the audience wasn’t ready to be engaged by what is basically a performance band. They finally found a little traction with Goodwin’s Grammy-winning arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Gershwin, after all this time, can still make people sit up and pay attention. After a brief appearance by “The Voice” vocalist Judith Hill, the band found some more familiar and appealing ground when they were joined by guitarist Lee Ritenour. Ritenour brought one of his most successful arrangements, his adaptation of Jobim’s “Stone Flower” into the Big Phat Band groove. His second number was a tight Goodwin arrangement of his tribute to the late Les Paul, simply titled L.P. That was the Big Phat Band and Ritenour at their best, weaving smart guitar licks into the larger sound. They kept the audience with them for the final tune, “Race To The Bridge,” with sax player Brian Scanlon and Andy Martin on trombone leading the way out.

Naturally 7 is a contemporary vocal band, sort of a capella meets hip hop, led by baritone Roger Thomas. This was their third Playboy appearance in four years, so they were warmly received throughout their set. The group combines elements of Doo-Wop, Hip Hop, and McFerriana. Their “vocal play” extends past the traditional vocal levels and instruments; it includes “DJ” and “Beat Box.” Whatever the simulation, it was pretty heavily amplified from the start, proving it is possible to have too much bass, even if you don’t have a bass. But it was a tight and lively show, emphasizing Doo – Wop in “Summer Breeze” and providing a playful narrative with “Englishman In New York.”

Naturally 7 with Herbie Hancock

Naturally 7 with Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock joined them with one of his “keytars;” it seemed altogether fitting that he would jam with them on “Chameleon.” The opening bass line to that Herbie classic still galvanizes an audience, and Hancock continued with splashes of electronica throughout his appearance.  The group finished off with George Harrison’s Beatles classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” At that point you could look back pleasingly at the versatility of the entire Saturday lineup; in a matter of a few hours you could go from Gershwin to Jobim to Herbie Hancock to George Harrison and somehow fit it all under the jazz tent.

And there was still some Coltrane to come. Maybe not quite enough; Poncho Sanchez’s set was entitled Ole’ Coltrane, after the 1961 Coltrane album of the same name, though the set was more Ole’ than Coltrane. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending an hour with Poncho’s band, whatever the circumstances. Along with Sanchez’s formidable conga work, his group featured Musical Director Francisco Torres, doing double duty (he also soloed with the Big Phat Band.)

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

But I was especially impressed by Ron Blake, who delivered some feisty trumpet cadenzas in the opening Latin numbers. We didn’t hear a lot of lead work from the staple jazz instruments over the day’s program, which was heavy on vocals and large ensembles, so it was a pleasure to hear Blake and then James Carter, who provided the Fest’s primary blast on the tenor sax.  Carter provided scorching work on a Latinized arrangement of Trane’s “Giant Steps,” and more laid back and melodic playing on Duke Ellington’s “The Feeling of Jazz,” which Ellington recorded with Coltrane. Poncho’s version had a tinge of the Mingus Latin feel to it, with some excellent supporting work by Torres. That was it, though, for the Coltrane material. Carter rejoined the band for a final number, Poncho’s always entertaining version of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.”

Regrets to George Duke, whose final blasts into the night came after much of the crowd had left, thoroughly sated by such a pleasing mixture of jazz and funk, performed by ensembles large and small, and by players seasoned and refreshingly new. It was one of the best days at the Playboy Jazz Festival in recent memory and a great start for the two day event.

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

Read Michael Katz’s latest novel,

    Dearly Befuddled.

Live Jazz: The Ron Carter Quartet and the Robert Glasper Trio at Royce Hall.

October 30, 2012

By Don Heckman

Ron Carter made one of his far too rare Southland appearances Saturday night in a CAP UCLA performance at Royce Hall.  His quartet starred in a long show that also included an extended set by the Robert Glasper Trio.

As the most recorded bassist in jazz history, it would be hard to find a significant jazz artist that Carter hasn’t recorded with.  But it’s equally fascinating to hear him in action in a musical setting of his own.  His adventurous musical ideas have been on display in dozens of recordings under his leadership.  And the group he brought to Royce – with pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Payton Crossley and percussionist Rolando Marales-Matos – offered an intriguing view of the many colors in Carter’s musical palette.

The Ron Quarter Quartet

His musical choices were far ranging — from Brazil to Miles Davis to some compelling stops in between.  One of the most unexpected was a Carter solo version of “You Are My Sunshine,” a remarkable display of his mastery of the bass, both as an instrument and as the voice of his improvisational imagination.

Another memorable moment traced to a lovely exchange between Carter and the always-imaginative Rosnes on “My Funny Valentine,” heightened by a passage featuring her Chopin-tinged embrace of the melody.

From a completely different perspective, much of what the Carter Quartet played was delightfully illuminated by Marales-Matos vast array of hand (and beyond) percussion.  Which he used to produce every imaginable percussive sound, from tiny snips, clicks and rustles to rushing roars and rumbles.  Add to that the stirring rhythmic lift of Crossley’s approach to the jazz drum kit.

To Carter’s credit, he clearly recognized the uniqueness of what Marales-Matos and Crossley had to offer, and freely allowed them to make their unique contributions to the music.  The result was yet another entry in the colorful catalog of Carter groups.

Robert Glasper

Pianist Robert Glasper, opening the show with his trio – with Derrick Hodges, bass and Mark Colenburg, drums – has been receiving rave reviews from much of the jazz critical community.  For the most part, the praise has been related to his efforts to blend his far-reaching jazz chops with an interest in various pop, rock, rap and hip-hop elements.

One could argue whether there’s any real compatibility in that mélange.   But what seemed more compelling to me about the Glasper trio was the virtually symbiotic interaction between the three players.  The piano trio has had many manifestations in jazz – some more successful than others.  And the Glasper trio is doing a convincing job of expressing their own vocabulary in a still-evolving fashion.  It will be worth watching – and listening – over the next few years to hear how effectively Glasper, Hodges and Colenburg  translate that vocabulary into a significant entry in the evolution of the piano jazz trio.

Photos courtesy of CAP UCLA

Picks of the Week – Oct. 24 – 28

October 24, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sally Kellerman

- Oct. 34 (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman.  Hot Lips herself, in action.  But Sally’s a one of a kind vocalist, too, bringing interpretive magic to everything she sings. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 24. (Wed.)  Gabriel Johnson.  Emerging jazz trumpeter Johnson has been praised by Clint Eastwood and Chris Botti, and performed with everyone from Gladys Knight to Gerald Albright.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Robert Glasper Experiment.  Adventurous pianist Glasper has been pioneering the territory between jazz and contemporary pop.  His special guests include Jose James, Taylor McFerrin and Austin PeraltaCAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101

- Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Ariana Savalas. Singer/songwriter/actress Savalas, the offspring of a show biz family, is making her own way as a rising vocalist.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Kathy Kosins.  “The Ladies of Cool.”  Singer Kosins celebrates the work of such West Coast-oriented jazz vocalists as June Christy, Julie London, Anita O’Day and Chris Connor.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Bob Dylan

- Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.  The legendary Dylan makes a rare appearance in Los Angeles in companionship with the British singer/songwriter/guitarist best known for his work with the band Dire Straits.  The Hollywood Bowl.     (323) 850-2000.

- Oct. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.) Eddie Daniels.  The great clarinetist – and fine saxophonist, as well – makes his annual L.A. appearance, reminding us that the clarinet is still a great jazz instrument.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 26 – 28. (Fri. – Sun.)  Buster Williams Quartet.  Versatile bassist Williams leads a stellar group of Southland players — keyboardist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Mark Gross and drummer Ndugu ChanclerCatalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 27. (Sat.)  Ron Carter Quartet.  Carter – for decades everyone’s first call bassist — has also offered some breakthrough music of his own. This time out he performs with the cutting edge musical ideas of the Robert Glasper TrioCAP at UCLA Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

- Oct. 27. (Sat.) Michael Feinstein.  “The Sinatra Project.”  One of the champions of the Great American Songbook, singer/pianist Feinstein interprets a program of songs associated with Frank Sinatra.  Segerstrom Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2746.

Leon Russell

San Francisco

- Oct. 24. (Wed.)  Leon Russell.  One of the vital singer/songwriters of the rock era, Russell, at 70 is still going strong.  Don’t miss this rare club appearance.  Yoshi’s Oakland.      (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Oct. 24 – 28. (Wed. – Sun.).  Jimmy Heath 86th Birthday Celebration.  NEA Jazz Master Heath goes back to his roots to celebrate his 86th birthday with the Jimmy Heath Big Band — an assemblage of New York’s stellar players.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Kendra Shank.  The ever-adventurous, always musically engaging  Shank performs the last Friday of every month at the 55 Bar.   (212) 929-9883.


- Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Steve Smith and Vital Information.  Smith has been voted #1 All-Around Drummer by Modern Drummer magazine five years in a row.  In addition to his far-ranging pop and rock activities, he also leads the high energy jazz group Vital Information  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.


- Oct. 24 & 25. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Roditi/Ignatzek/Rassinfosse.  The remarkable trio of trumpeter Claudio Roditi, pianist Klaus Ignatzek and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse have been performing together for 25 years, emphasizing the Brazilian songbook and the repertoire associated with Chet Baker.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65.


- Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Kenny Werner.  Versatile pianist, composer and writer arrives in Italy with a world class ensemble: saxophonist David Sanchez, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio SanchezBlue Note Milan.    02. 69016888.


The Manhattan Transfer


- Oct. 24 – 26. (Wed. – Fri.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  Nearly four decades in the jazz world spotlight, and the gifted members of the Transfer continue to produce music that brilliantly defines and expands the potential in vocal ensemble jazz.  Blue Note Tokyo.

Picks of the Week: Oct. 11 – 16

October 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Oct. 11. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  It’s a Los Angeles jazz institution, combining veteran guitarist Pisano with some of the Southland’s (and the world’s) finest guitarists.  This week, he’s trading riffs with Pat Kelley.  Vitello’s.     (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 11 – 13. (Tues. – Thurs.)  HIT Week.  Italian pop music in its many forms makes a three day stop in L.A.  And there’s a lot to hear.  On Tues. at Catalina Bar & Grill: Erica Mou and Nicola Conte.  Wed. at the El Rey: Apres la Classe and Caparezza.  Thurs. at The Key Club: Casino Royale and SubsonicaHIT Week in L.A. 

Daniela Mercury

- Oct. 13. (Thurs.)  Daniela Mercury.  One of Brazil’s true musical superstars, singer/dancer Mercury balances the creation of memorable hit records with live performances simmering with dynamic excitement. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.


- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  James Carter. There isn’t a saxophone – from soprano to bass – that Carter can’t make music with.  And impressive music at that, ranging from driving bebop to irresistible blues, with all stops between.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 14. (Fri.)  Lesa Terry Quartet.  Dr. Lesa Terry is a jazz/classical violinist, educator, composer and scholar.  And when she gets on stage with her quartet, she brings it all together into a fascinating musical mélange.  Jazz at LACMA.   (323) 857-6000.

Barbara Morrison

- Oct. 14 & 15. (Fri. & Sat.)  Barbara Morrison.  Recovering from severe medical problems, Morrison – one of Southland jazz’s crown jewels – does what she does best: bring life and vigor to everything she sings.  She’ll be celebrating Steamer’s 17th anniversary.  Steamer’s.     (714) 871-8800.

- Oct. 15. (Fri.)  Bryan Ferry.  Roxy Music’s Ferry makes his first solo U.S. tour in a decade, celebrating the release of his current studio album, Olympia.  Expect to hear new songs from the album, as well as Ferry’s take on tunes by Tim Buckley and Traffic.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- Oct. 15 & 16. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber OrchestraJeffrey Kahane conducts the LACO in an engaging program of music, featuring soprano Karina Gauvin performing works by Benjamin Britten.  The ensemble also plays Dvorak’s Nocturne in B Major and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3.  Sat. at the Alex Theatre.  Sun. at Royce Hall.  (213) 622-7001.  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

San Francisco

- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  Stanley Jordan Trio.  No one plays the guitar quite like Jordan, who taps the strings, producing sounds more pianistic than guitar-like.  And he does so with imagination and swing.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Steve Kuhn

- Oct. 13. (Thurs.)  Steve Kuhn.  Solo piano.  The list of names on Kuhn’s resume is a virtual history of the last fifty years of jazz.  Adept and creative in any style, he’s rarely heard in a solo setting.  So don’t miss this opportunity to hear his improvisational artistry in its most intimate form.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  Oregon.  Before world music was a genre, Oregon was blending elements from around the globe with jazz, producing one of the authentically original improvisational styles of the last four decades.  And they’re still at it.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729


- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.) Robert Glasper Trio.  Pianist Glasper continues to draw young listeners by finding ways to explore straight ahead jazz from a contemporary perspective.  Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

Washington, D.C.

- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jonathan Butler.  South African singer/songwriter/guitarist Butler has been delighting audiences with his sweet-sounding voice and energetic guitar work since the mid-‘80s.  Blues Alley.     (202) 337-4141.

New York

Pat Metheny

- Oct. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  An Evening with Pat Metheny. Guitarist and musical innovator Metheny gets back to basics in a week of improvisational adventure, with bassist Larry Grenadier as his only companion.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Oct. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  Renee Rosnes.  Always a pleasure to hear, Rosnes’ dynamic piano work is in first rate company here, with the presence of vibist Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis NashDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.) Vinicius Cantuaria.  Brazilian guitarist Cantuaria started out as a percussionist, and it shows in the intensely passionate rhythms of his playing style.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Oct. 15. (Sat.)  Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau Duo.  Saxophonist Redman and pianist Mehldau, two of the true jazz superstars of their generation, celebrate the 25th anniversary of the jazz program at the New School.  Tishman Auditorium.  (212) 229-54-88.


Cedar Walton

- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Cedar Walton Quartet. Veteran jazz pianist Walton, now 77, has played with an iconic, all-star list of great jazz artists.  Listen to one set and you’ll understand why he’s been in such demand.   Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747


- Oct. 11. (Tues.)  The Billy Cobham Quartet. Drummer Cobham was one of the driving forces of jazz fusion, and he’s still going strong.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.


- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.) Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Time Machine.  Guitarist Rosenwinkel expands his musical horizons with a band that features saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo, bassist Eric Revis, drummer Nasheet Waits and Rosenwinkel doubling on piano.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 20.


Oct. 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  Sophie Milman.  Young Russian/Canadian singer Milman has been successfully finding a prominent place for her intriguing style amid the currently crowded field of female jazz vocalists.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: The 54th Monterey Jazz Festival — Friday Night

September 17, 2011

By Michael Katz

Monterey, California.  The weather was chilly and overcast for the opening of the 54th Monterey Jazz Festival Friday night, but it did nothing to dampen the spirits of jazz fans who were treated to a superb series of performances. There was anticipation in the air from the opening chords, as Featured Performer Robert Glasper, because of a scheduling quirk, took over the 6:30 slot at the outdoor Garden Stage. Usually this set has in informal feel, as old friends gather and schmooze, while a young local talent performs. But Glasper and his trio of bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Chris Dave had the crowd at rapt attention.

Robert Glasper

Glasper is an engaging talent. When he plays on the acoustic piano, his style is impressionistic, with a sometimes dense chordal structure, building themes dramatically, filling them in with scintillating runs. Playing his own compositions, “No Worries” and “North Portland,” he had the crowd on the edge of their seats. He was ably assisted by bassist Hodge, but especially by drummer Dave, who was something of a revelation. Dave has a crisp, emphatic, rapid fire delivery. His physique and intensity reminded me a little of former NBA star Alan Iverson.

When Glasper switches to the Fender Rhodes, his style turns funky.  He did another extended original, with a nod to Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly,” and later ended up with a Monkish tune that again highlighted Chris Dave’s stickwork.  Glasper has two more performances scheduled with his Experiment version of the band, which will feature Lionel Loueke and vocalist Bilal.  In addition to his playing, he has a sense of humor and a stage presence – you could see him hosting Saturday Night Live.

As usual MJF has so much happening at once that you are forced to make choices.  Hiromi was opening the Arena stage at 8:30, but I didn’t want to miss young pianist Helen Sung, so I ducked into the Coffee House Gallery for her 8 o’clock set. When you haven’t seen a performer before and note that her trio consists of Marvin “Smitty” Smith on drums and Reuben Rogers on bass, it’s a good bet you’re in for a treat.

Helen Sung

Sung more than lived up to my hopes, performing the type of trio music that invites comparisons to Bill Evans, Chick Corea and George Shearing. She has a deft touch on the keyboard and a soft, bright style. She opened with a reimagining of Shearing’s “Conception,” which she called “Reconception.” She moved on to an original composition, “Touch,” which was more dense and mysterious, then segued into Monk’s “Bye Ya.” Sung studied at the Monk Institute of Jazz Performance and the next few numbers were a nod to that experience, most notably “In Walked Bud.” The interplay between these three suberb players was exquisite, but I’d draw special attention to the duet work between Sung and bassist Rogers. Rogers is lithe and melodic, and the two of them interlocked themes magically during the last two numbers. You could see many in the intimate Coffee House Gallery had dropped in for a peek prior to the Arena’s opening – a few were drifting off, but I wasn’t going anywhere until “In Walked Bud” reached its rousing conclusion.


When I walked into Hiromi’s performance about midway through her set, the stylistic differences couldn’t have been more apparent. She was standing in front of the piano, which had an electric keyboard on top of it, alternating between the two, trading licks with electric bassist Anthony Jackson. The drummer, Simon Phillips, was barely visible behind a massive drum set that featured six cymbals. But it was clear the audience was fully behind her.  If Sung was perfect for the Coffee House, Hiromi’s trio was equally so for an opening set at the Arena.  She has complete command of the piano – even her more reflective pieces are projected with an emphatic tone, and her arpeggios, visually dramatic, all seem to make perfect sense musically. She moves seamlessly from the funky, bluesy tunes to the more personally intense, even incorporating a Latin feel to her closing number.

I’ve seen the criticism of Hiromi’s playing, that she seems to have absorbed every aspect of jazz and fires it back out in a sort of random way, but I don’t buy it. I’ve seen her twice in live performance, once as a solo act and this time with her trio, and each time she has utterly captivated the audience. Yes, she has the pyrotechnics, but practically everything she does is original, there are no standards for the audience to hang their hats on, yet they are with her for every note. She didn’t speak much to the audience, but her virtuosity and flair didn’t require much in the way of interpretation.

Jessica Molasky and John Pizzarelli

John Pizzerelli’s First Family of Cool followed, and it spoke to the diversity in styles that can be absorbed by the Monterey audience.  If you were lamenting the absence of wit and sophistication on the American scene in general and music in particular, you couldn’t have had a more delightful respite.  The opening numbers featured John and his wife, Jessica Molaskey,  weaving together pairs of songs, the lyrics intersecting wonderfully.  First there was Irving Berlin’s “The Best Things Happen While You Dance,” paired with Bobby Troup’s “Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast,” then George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and the Roberta Flack hit “Killing Me Softly.”  Then Molaskey singing “I Want To Be Happy” with Pizzerelli dropping in the lines from “Sometimes I’m Happy.” Larry Fuller did terrific work on the piano, particularly when they moved into Ellingtonia later on in the show with a brooding version of “Don’t Get Around Much Any More”/”East Saint Louis Toodle-oo.”  Martin Pizzerelli on bass and Anthony Tedesco rounded out the tight rhythm section and they all shined on a rollicking “C Jam Blues.”

The emotional and artistic highlight of the night came when Bucky Pizzerelli, John and Martin’s dad, came onstage for a series of guitar duets with John. From Bucky’s first few notes, he had the crowd captivated. Playing mostly lead to John’s rhythm,  he introduced “Body and Soul,” demonstrating the emotive qualities that can still be wrung out of that standard. They romped through “Tangerine” and then returned to the Ellington songbook in closing for “In a Mellow Tone.” If there was a common theme for the evening, it was how a great performer, no matter the age or the style, can take command of an audience.  There is certainly a sentimental quality to father and son up there on stage, but what raises it to a memorable performance is when you’ve got the chops,  and Bucky still has them.

Poncho Sanchez

Pancho Sanchez’s Latin Band closed the show with a tribute to the Cubano oeuvre of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo.  Sanchez is a terrific conguero and his eight piece band is filled with talent, particularly Francisco Torres on trombone and the whole rhythm section, but it was the addition of trumpeter Terence Blanchard that really lit the place up.  Blanchard had been honored the night before in the MJF Gala event, and he was in splendid form, beginning with a medley of Gillespiana, highlighting “Tin Tin Deo,” “Manteca,” and  “Wachiwado,” which Pancho performed countless times with Cal Tjader as “Soul Sauce.”  Sanchez,  who had earlier left the conga chair for vocals and cowbell,  was back on the drums for the remainder of the set. They moved on to “Con Alma,” with Blanchard augmenting the sweet familiar melody with a nice uptempo interlude before returning to the theme. The highlights of the set were the next two numbers, Dizzy’s “Groovin’ High” and the Pancho standard, “Besame Mama.” Blanchard’s fiery playing raised the level of everyone around him, especially the band’s front line. Robert Hardt contributed a spirited tenor sax solo, but it was the trumpet duels between Blanchard and Ron Blake that really stole the show.  Blanchard set the tone,  sending out spiraling cadenzas and Blake reached deep inside of himself to answer, bringing the crowd to its feet.

All in all it was a spectacular night, and of course there were was much else going on – it was overall the most loaded Friday night I can remember in my 12 festivals.  MJF 54 is certainly off to an auspicious start.

To read Michael Katz’s review of Monterey Jazz Festival Saturday click HERE

To read Michael Katz’s review of Monterey Jazz Festival Sunday click HERE.

A Guide to the 54th Monterey Jazz Festival

September 8, 2011

By Michael Katz

In 1995 I decided on a whim that it might be fun to drive up the coast and see the Monterey Jazz Festival. A bunch of my favorites were performing there: Chick Corea, Gene Harris, Toots Thielemans and John Scofield. I hadn’t been to the Monterey Peninsula since a family trip in high school. I didn’t have tickets. I didn’t know where to stay. By sheer luck I found a B & B just off Del Monte Beach, about a twenty minute walk from the Monterey County Fairgrounds, where the festival takes place. After a brief encounter with some friendly scalpers, I found myself sitting in the Arena on a lovely fall evening, listening to a Friday night program from the side boxes. I was in Jazz Heaven. Everybody around me loved jazz, breathed jazz, spoke jazz. As I moved from the main arena into the smaller venues on the grounds, I noticed a phenomenon unheard of on the club scene: people listened to the music. They knew the players, or if they didn’t,  were willing to give them a chance. I heard Stephane Grappelli play hot jazz on the violin. I heard Steve Turre play cool jazz on a conch shell.

For the next several years I was an on-again off-again attendee, making my plans around family events and other interventions of life. By 2003, I noticed that an empty feeling pervaded when I missed the festival. I’d made friends in the Arena, among the regulars who sold me their extra seats. I’d made friends kibitzing around the festival. Even the scalpers remembered me. I became a regular, and next week will mark my 12th MJF. For those of you who are going for the first time, or are thinking about it, this year presents a great opportunity. The lineup is terrific, the economy has left some tickets available. So here’s one man’s guide to getting the most out of one of the world’s great music events.

MJF 54 takes place September 16-18. You could analyze the festival by days or music styles or food groups, but I’m going to approach it by venues, starting out with the Arena, also known as the Jimmy Lyons Stage. An Arena ticket gets you into all the venues at the festival, though if you only have a ticket for Saturday or Sunday night, you can’t gain admission onto the grounds until 4 pm. A Grounds ticket gets you into everywhere but the Arena, and is good all day.


The Arena, located on the west end of the fairgrounds, is the original venue for the festival. It seats 6500 and the tickets are renewable;  the audience thus includes many long term festival goers, which is great for financial continuity, but presents challenges for Artistic Director Tim Jackson, who must satisfy a loyal but aging base, while continuing to pump new blood into the lineup.

Joshua Redman

The headliners you see on the ad banners   all appear in the Arena: Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Joshua Redman, though many of them appear on the grounds as well. There are five concert blocks, three evenings and two afternoons, with themes that run throughout the festival. Friday night has an international flavor, with Japanese virtuoso Hiromi opening the session on piano and Poncho Sanchez closing with a Cubano Bop salute to Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie featuring festival favorite Terence Blanchard. In between is John Pizzerelli with his wife, Jessica Molaskey and his dad Bucky; don’t be surprised if they get in with the international spirit of things. Saturday afternoon is the blues/roots program. Last year Trombone Shorty tore up the place, and this year the New Orleans jazz/funk returns with “An Afternoon in Treme,” an all-star collection of musicians from the HBO series, with Huey Lewis and the News bravely following.

One tradition at the Arena is the commissioned piece. It’s a particular challenge for an artist to compose something for a single performance. I’ve always found it a hit or miss proposition — try and be too profound and you will lose the spontaneity that jazz requires. Some of my favorites over the years were Gerald Wilson’s 40th Anniversary “Theme For Monterey,” Carla Bley’s 2005 “Appearing Nightly At The Black Orchid” and Dave and Iola Brubeck’s “Cannery Row  Suite” in 2006.

Geri Allen and Timeline

This year Geri Allen and Timeline will present a tribute Saturday night to Sammy Davis with tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. Following them is the MJF’s  Artist-in-Residence Joshua Redman, who will appear with his band James Farm. Herbie Hancock closes out the program. ‘Nuff said.

Sunday afternoon is dedicated to the high school and college bands. It tends to be a harder sell to veteran audiences, but it’s lots of fun. The Next Generation Band, a touring all-star group, has young musicians that will make you wonder just what the heck you were doing in high school and college. Chipping in will be three of the band’s alumni, the aforementioned Redman, pianist Benny Green and saxophonist Donnie McCaslin.

The second part of the program is designed to bring younger audiences in, and traditionalists sometimes chafe at the programming. They are often delightfully surprised;   two years ago young Brit Jamie Cullen gave a thoroughly engaging performance and last year West Africa’s Angelique Kidjo lit up the audience with her world rhythms. This year features Israeli keyboardist Idan Raichel and vocalist India.Arie. Sunday night closes the festival with a re-creation of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans oeuvre featuring Terence Blanchard and Miles Evans, followed by the indomitable Sonny Rollins.


I’ve always felt that the soul of the festival can be found at the Garden Stage, a small amphitheatre with bench and bleacher seating. There’s plenty of room to recline on blankets or set up portable chairs – some folks even climb into the oaks that surround the bowl. The festival opens up there Friday with a 6:30 set.

Robert Glasper

Usually a local Monterey area artist has that spot, but this year Featured Artist pianist Robert Glasper performs with his trio. Glasper will present different combos each night on the Grounds and Friday provides a wonderful opportunity for Arena ticket holders to catch him. The Garden Stage rollicks on Saturday afternoon with the blues/roots line-up. It’s great fun all day long, highlighted by the Treme group coming over from the Arena at 5:30. Saturday night, Cameroonian bassist/singer Richard Bona and Columbian singer/guitarist Raul Midon are a must see (they also perform Friday in Dizzy’s Den). I’ve always loved the late afternoon Sunday shows at the Garden Stage. The Festival seems to catch a second wind, with creative and sometimes unusual groupings. This year guitarist Bruce Forman brings his western themed Cow Bop in at 4, followed by saxophonist Tia Fuller at 5:30. Steve Coleman, who has been turning a lot of heads with his self-described “Spontaneous” music, closes the Garden slate at 7:30.



1. Bring a seat cushion. Both the Arena card chairs and the Garden benches are hard on the keister. There’s usually some freebies given out by sponsors or themed ones for sale, but if you are like me and tend to donate your cushion to the person who follows you, it helps to have extras.

2. Dress for excess. You may find the fairgrounds shrouded in fog upon arrival in the afternoon, but the sun can be intense when it burns through. Bring a hat, shades, sun tan lotion and light long sleeves. At night, it can get downright chilly. I usually bring light-weight polypro layers in a rucksack and a warm hat. Remember, if you have a grounds pass you may not be able to leave the fairgrounds and come back.


These two venues, located across from each other on the east end of the grounds, are spacious yet intimate compared to the arena. When Arena artists come over for their late set, it is like a second set at a club– loose and swinging. While the Arena sticks to it’s time limitations, these venues give them room to stretch out. A few years ago Dee Dee Bridgewater started late and went well into the night.


This year Hiromi and Joshua Redman will follow up their Arena performances with late sets at Dizzy’s Den, and the Pizzarelli family will also perform a Saturday night set there. Friday night has a Latin feel in the Night Club, kicked off by vocalist Carmen Souza. Vocalists tend to do better in the intimacy of these venues. Check out Pam Rose and her “Wild Women of Song” at the Night Club on Saturday. Earlier this year I saw adventurous drummer Antonio Sanchez with his Migration band featuring bassist Scott Colley and tenor player Donnie McCaslin put on a great show in LA. Saturday night at the Night Club, Sanchez plays under Colley’s leadership, with another MJF favorite, Chris Potter on tenor. Donnie McCaslin follows with his own group.

Sunday afternoon has the dynamite high school bands at the Night Club. I heartily recommend that you support these kids and urge you not to forget that music programs in the schools are in jeopardy everywhere. Once at the festival, you can help simply by purchasing a program, and you will hear about other ways as well.

There are some great pairings Sunday night. The traditional B-3 organ blowout is in Dizzy’s Den, starting with Will Blades and concluding with Joey DeFrancesco and  renowned vibist Bobby Hutcherson. Over at the Night Club, Benny Green leads a program of Monk tunes with Donald Harrison on the sax. The Robert Glasper Experiment concludes with Stokely Williams.


There may not be a better place to hear small combos than the Coffee House, located between the Arena and the Garden Stage, annexed to a photo gallery. The place is usually packed, the audiences cued in; you can hear a pin drop during the performances. Pianists are featured each night, playing multiple sets.

Helen Sung

Helen Sung, a native Houstonian who has been getting lots of attention in New York, brings her trio in Friday night, with the versatile Bill Carrothers leading a trio on Saturday night and former prodigy Eldar Djangirov, from K.C. via Kyrgyzstan, playing two solo sets Sunday night. There’s an eclectic assortment of music in the afternoon sessions, including this year’s Berklee College of Music group, a Flamenco quintet. If I have one regret at the festival’s end, it’s usually the failure to spend enough time at the Coffee House.


Known to us Chicago folk as the Backroom West, this small stage just off the main entrance features our favorite singer/pianist Judy Roberts playing seven sets over the course of the festival accompanied by Greg Fishman on sax. Judy is a delight whether singing or playing the Yamaha AvantGrand, so take your dinner to the nearby picnic tables and check her out.


1. There’s all sorts of great food on the fairgrounds midway. I’m partial to barbecue and peach cobbler, but there’s everything from salads to Thai to kabobs. Eat ‘N Enjoy. Plenty of beer and wine, too.

2. There are also panel discussions and films shown mostly during the afternoon. Check the schedule for details.

3.  Amoeba Music has taken over the festival CD sales, so look for a dramatic improvement over the last couple of years when Best Buy had the concession.

4. If you want a tee shirt, get it Friday night, when all the sizes and colors are in stock.

5. It ain’t over til it’s over. If you’re coming out of the Arena, check out the grounds venues on your way out. Last year drummer Roy Haynes’ extended closing set provided a perfect coda to the festival.

 All the MJF information is available at: http://www.montereyjazzfestival.org/2011/home

Joshua Redman photo by Tony Gieske

Picks of the Week: Sept 5 – 11

September 5, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Quincy Jones

- Sept. 7. (Wed.)  Quincy Jones Band featuring the Global Gumbo All-Stars and Friends.  No one knows how to put together an evening of immensely entertaining music as well as Quincy Jones.  And he’s assembled one of his characteristically spectacular programs for an event that easily promises to be one of the principal highlights of this summer’s programs at the Bowl.  The line-up, reaching from jazz to soul to pop, hip-hop and beyond includes Patti Austin, the Brothers Johnson, Richard Bona, James Ingram, Alfredo Rodriguez, Nikki Yanofksky, Gloria Estefan, an all-star big band and a lot more.  Thank you, Q.  It just doesn’t get much better than that.  So don’t miss this one. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 7. (Wed.)  Teka Brazilian Jazz.  Brazilian born singer/guitarist Teka brings striking authenticity to the mixture of jazz and Brazilian rhythms she calls New Bossa.  She performs with Aaron Serfaty, drums and Jeff Elliot, trumpet and keyboards.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 8. (Thurs. )  Mark Dresser and Jen Shyu.  Bass and voice duos have appeared from time to time in the jazz world, but rarely with the adventurousness of this remarkable pair of talents.  Dresser has had an extensive career as a bass soloist, and Shyu’s vocalizing has been impressing audiences for nearly a decade with Steve Coleman’s Five Elements.  Together, they make a memorable musical experience.  This time out, they’re celebrating the release of Synastry, their new CD on Pi Recordings.  The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Due Voc:

- Sept. 8. (Thurs.)  Due Voci.  Diane Warren, who’s probably written more memorable songs than anyone in the past few decades, showcases her remarkable catalog in a performance by the superb vocal duo of Kelly Levesque and Tyler HamiltonVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 9 & 10. (Fri. & Sat.)  Tchaikovsky Spectacular with FireworksBramwell Tovey conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic one of the Bowl’s great annual audio and visual spectaculars.  On the program: Romeo and Juliet, Rococo Variations, Swan Lake and the 1812 Overture, complete with fireworks, cannons and the assistance of the U.S.C. Trojan Marching BandThe Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 9 & 10 (Fri. & Sat.)  Miles Evans Band.  Trumpeter Evans returns to Catalina’s, leading his band in a set of his own compositions, as well as arrangements of works by Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and Buddy Miles, written by his father, Gil EvansCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 10 (Sat).  Don Rader quartet.  Trumpeter Rader’s resume includes gigs with the stellar big bands of Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Louis Bellson, Terry Gibbs, Henry Mancini and Frank Foster, among others.  But he’s also led his own fine small groups, and here he is, on his own in the spotlight, backed by pianist Tom Ranier and bassist Pat SenatoreVibrato Jazz Grill…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Arturo Sandoval

- Sept. 10. (Sat.)  Arturo Sandoval“Tribute To My Friend Dizzy Gillespie.”  Inspired by Gillespie, musical Renaissance man Sandoval has evolved into a brilliant jazz trumpeter, pianist, percussionist, vocalist and more.  Let’s hope there’s room on this program to display the full range of his far-reaching talents.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818( 677-3000.

San Francisco

- Sept. 7 – 9 (Wed. – Fri.)  Dr. John and the Lower 911.  Multiple Grammy award winner Dr. John has been storming through pop music, investing it with his own combination of blues, rock, Zydeco and more since ‘70s.  And he’s still going strong. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Sept. 6 – 10. (Tues. – Sat.)  Dave Liebman.  The veteran saxophonist/composer celebrates his 65th birthday with performances by his small group on Tues. and Wed., and with his big band on Thurs. though Sat.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Roy Haynes

- Sept. 7 – 11. (Wed. – Sun.)  Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band.  The Fountain of Youth in drummer Haynes’s band is primarily centered around his own amazing playing.  At 86, with a career reaching back to Charlie Parker, he’s bringing astonishing young vitality to every beat he plays.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

- Sept. 8 – 11. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Robert Glasper Trio. Pianist Glasper, whose credits reach from Mos Def and Jay-Z to Carly Simon and Roy Hargrove, has been successfully searching for ways to open pathways into jazz for youthful listeners. Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.


- Sept. 8. (Thurs.)  The Either/Orchestra.  The eclectic, musically adventurous E/O has been stretching the limits of large (ten pieces, actually) jazz for more than two decades.  They kick off their 2011-2012 season with a performance at their home base.  Regatta Bar.   (617) 395-7757.


Eliane Elias

- Sept. 8 – 11. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Eliane Elias.  Always a superb pianist, Elias has gradually matured into a  convincing singer as well.  And her latest album, Light My Fire, is a rich, mesmerizing collection of eclectic material (including a gripping version of the title track) that demands a Grammy nomination (and more).  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.


- Sept. 6 – 9.  (Tues. – Fri.)  Till Bronner.  The Grammy nominated German trumpeter Bronner has established himself as one of his country’s most visible, most honored jazz artists, as well as a top selling pop star.  Here he puts on his jazz cap.  A-Trane. Charlottenburg.  /  030/313 25 50.


- Sept. 6 – 9. (Tues. – Fri.)  The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra.  Few ensembles deserve the title “Legendary” as much as the still vital, still swinging Basie Orchestra.  With a first rate set of players, performing some of the greatest classic big band jazz repertoire, it’s hard to go wrong. Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5485-0088.

Quincy Jones photo by Greg Gorman.

Picks of the Week: May 17 – 22

May 17, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bill Cunliffe

- May 18 (Wed.)  Bill in Brazil.  Grammy-winning pianist Bill Cunliffe, always unpredictable, displays his fascination with Brazilian music.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 18. (Wed.)  John Proulx Trio.  Pianist/singer Proulx mixes his crisp piano styings with the gentle vocals of his Chet Baker-inspired singing. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- May 18. (Wed.)  Jane Harvey.  Vocalist Harvey brings a lot of music business history to her performances.  She replaced Peggy Lee with the Benny Goodman Band and followed Doris Day with the Les Brown Band.  She’ll know doubt touch on that part of her career, as well as her jazz versions of Sondheim, all of it delivered in her convincing interpretations.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- May 19. (Thurs.)  Terry Trotter and Chuck Berghofer.  Pianist Trotter and bassist Berghofer, a pair of the Southland’s finest veteran players, get down to essential jazz basics. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- May 20. (Fri.)  Johnny Mandel Big Band.  Composer/arranger/songwriter Mandel is a master craftsman of big band writing.  Here’s a chance to hear his work up close and personal.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Lani Hall

- May 20. (Fri.)  Herb Alpert and Lani Hall. The music world power duo are on the road again, blending Hall’s rich, emotional songs with Alpert’s laid back trumpet.  Add a few tunes from the Tijuana Brass book to spice up the evening.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

- May 20 – 22. (Fri. – Sun.)  Lee Ritenour.  Captain Fingers, as he was once called, plays a rare club date showcasing his unique blend of guitar-driven, foot-tapping jazz. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- May 21.  (Sat.)  An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin.  A pair of the Broadway musical theatre’s brightest stars get together for an evening of irresistible song.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

- May 21. (Sat.) A Tribute to Clifford BrownThe Luckman Jazz Orchestra. Brown’s far too brief life nonetheless left behind a memorable catalog of music.  It’s explored here in the passionate big band sounds of the LJO.   Luckman Fine Arts Complex.    (323) 343-6600.

- May 22. (Sun.) Katia Moraes and Sambaguru. There will be Brazilian music in all its many shapes, forms and rhythms when the charismatic Moraes and her energetic Sambaguru players take the stage.  WorldFest at Woodley Park, Lake Balboa   (310) 477-7887.

Duke Ellington

- May 22. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale.  Performs the best of the Duke Ellington sacred concerts.  Ellington’s sacred works, composed near the end of his life, represent significant entries in his vast catalog of music.  They’re no performed often, and rarely by an ensemble with the quality of the LAMC.  So don’t miss this one. Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2040.

- May 22. (Sun.) The Colin Vallon Piano Trio.   Rruga, the debut ECM recording from this intriguing Swiss group, with Vallon, piano, Patrice Moret, bass and Samuel Rohrer, drums, reveals a musically airy, rhythmically subtle, emotionally layered approach to the piano jazz trio.   A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast program at Keyboard Concepts.  (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

- May 18. (Wed.)  Eliza Gilkyson. It’s been over 40 years since folk singer/guitarist Gilkyson released her first album.  And she’s still bringing life to every song she touches.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.   (510) 644-2020.

- May 20 – 22. (Fri. – Sun.)  Four Generations of Miles. A celebration of what would have been Miles’ 85th birthday (May 26, actually) with a set of players who performed with him over many decades: guitarist Mike Stern, alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Jimmy Cobb Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


Benny Green

- May 19 – 22.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Benny Green Trio. Pianist Green showcases his bop-driven, hard swinging wares in the company of Kenny Washington, drums and Peter Washington, bass.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

May 17 – 22. (Tues. – Sun.)  Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. And an all-star band it is, including, among others, Jimmy Heath, Eric Alexander, Antonio Hart, Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi, Cyrus Chestnut, Lewis Nash and singer Roberta Gambarini The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- May 19 – 22. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Miles Davis: From Birth of the Cool to Bitches Brew.  Another Davis 85th birthday celebration, this time surveying the length and breadth of his music. Featuring  With Jeremy Pelt, George Cables, Lonny Plaxico, Eddie HendersonIridium Jazz.  (212) 582-2121.

- May 22. (Sun.)  Jane Ira Bloom Trio.  Soprano saxophonist Bloom displays her far-ranging improvisational skills, ranging from acoustic settings to electronic tape loops. Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319/


- May 19. (Thurs.)  Lullaby of Birdland: Remembering George Shearing. Pianist James Pearson and the Ronnie Scott All Stars celebrate the memory of fellow Brit Shearing with a program of pieces reaching from the early trios to the classic guitar/vibes and rhythm sound.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Robert Glasper

- May 21. (Sat.)  Robert Glasper.  Pianist Glasper presents one of his “Experiment in Jazz” performances, finding common ground in territories reaching from hip-hop and rap to Thelonious Monk.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Bill Cunliffe photo by Tony Gieske.

Lani Hall photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Picks of the Week: April 19 – 24

April 19, 2011

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

- April 19. (Tues.)  Dave Damiani Orchestra.  Singer Damiani celebrates the Swing Era and the songs of Frank Sinatra.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- April 19. (Tues.)  Steve Huffsteter Big Band.  Trumpeter Huffsteter steps out of the section to lead his own collective of all-stars. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Raya Yarbrough

- April 20. (Wed.)  Raya Yarbrough.  Singer/songwriter Yarbrough, a Southland musical treasure, deserves much wider recognition.  She performs here in the intriguing setting of a jazz rhythm section and a string quartet.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 20. (Wed.) Sam Most.  A cool-sounding tenor saxophone, articulate clarinet and innovative flute playing – all characteristics of the ever-adventurous octogenarian Most.  He’s backed by the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Kayhan Kalhor

- April 21. (Thurs.)  Ghazal: Kayhan Kalhor, Shujaat Husain Khan and Samir Chatterjee.  Royce Hall. Persian and Indian music find extraordinary common ground in this challenging encounter between Klhor’s kamancheh and the sitar of Khan (with tabla accompaniment from Chatterjee).  UCLA Live at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101.

- April 22. (Fri.) Charles Owens.  Versatile saxophonist Owens shares a jazz birthday celebration.  Backing him — the John Heard Trio.  Charlie O’sl (818) 994-3058.

- April 22. (Fri.)  The Sejong Soloists.  The New York-based Sejong string orchestra revives the compelling musical notion that an ensemble can produce fascinating interpretations without benefit of a conductor’s choreographing.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

Katia Moraes and Sambaguru

- April 22. (Fri.)  Sambaguru with Katia Moraes. The fiery Brazilian singer/dancer  Moraes and her band bring the spirit, the spunk and the sensuality of Rio to every note they play and sing. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 23. (Sat.)  Grant Geissman and the Cool Man band. Guitarist Geissman showcases live versions of selections from his Cool Man Band CD, featuring the stellar ensemble of Emilio Palame, piano, Brian Scanlon, saxophone, Trey Henry, bass and Ray Brinker, drums.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 23. (Sat.)  Miles Evans Band.  Evans, son of the great arranger/composer Gil Evans, eager to pick up “where Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, etc. left off,” performs selections from his new CD. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210. .

Robert Plant

- April 23. (Sat.) Robert Plant and the Band of Joy.  Led Zeppelin’s Plant presents music from his highly praised solo album, Band of Joy, performed by the same ensemble – featuring Patty Griffin – featured on the CD.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- April 23. (Sat.) Richie Cole.  Bebop lives in the flying fingers and inventive musicality of alto saxophonist Cole.  Giannelli Square.   (818) 772-1722.


- April 19 & 20.  (Tues. & Wed.)  Gail Pettis.  Another affirmation of the too often unheralded high quality of jazz in the Northwest.  Pettis has all the right ingredients – a pliable voice, a brisk sense of swing and an embracing story telling ability.   Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.   She hosts a Fundraiser for Japanese Red Cross Relief.

San Francisco

Randy Newman

- April 22. (Fri.)  Randy Newman.  He spends a lot of his time around the film business these days, but Newman is still one of the great singer/songwriter/storytellers. He performs here in a rare solo concert. SFJazz Spring Season at Davies Symphony Hall.    (866) 920-5299.

- April 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Thirty five years together, the a cappella singers of Sweet Honey are still among the most compelling of vocal ensembles.  This time out they celebrate the lives and music of Nina Simone, Odetta and Miriam Makeba.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.


Danilo Perez

- April 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Danilo Perez Trio.  Panamanian born, Grammy winning pianist/composer Perez spices his impressive jazz chops with the subtle musical seasonings of the Caribbean and beyond.  The Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

 New York

April 19. (Tues.)  Malika Zarra.  She’s been described, with good reason, as “Morocco’s Jazz Jewel.”  Zarra debuts her new CD, Berber Taxi with     The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- April 19. (Tues.)  Blue Note Jazz Benefit For Japan. The extraordinary line up of performers includes Ron Carter, John Scofield, Michel Camilo, Kenny Barron, Paquito D’Rivera, Robert Glasper, Roy Hargrove, Dave Valentin, Roberta Gambarini, Richard Bona, Lionel Loueke, Gretchen Parlato, Gregoire Maret, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jose James, Alex Brown and Ferenc Nemeth.  100% of the ticket proceeds will go to the Japan Relief and Recovery Fund.  The Blue Note’s Highline Ballroom.   (818) 414-5994.

- April 19 – 24. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus with special guest Joshua Redman.  A musical encounter between two different, but equally gripping, jazz perspectives.  Expect musical fireworks.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- April 20 – 24. (Wed. – Sun.)  George Coleman and Joey DeFrancesco.  Veteran tenor saxophonist Coleman reaches across a generation to share a jazz journey with B-3 master DeFrancesco.  They’re backed by Warren Wolf, vibes, Paul Bollenback, guitar and Byron Landham, drums.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- April 20 – 24.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The Jazz Standard presents a Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Impulse! Records via contemporary performances based on some of the classic Impulse! Albums.

Ravi Coltrane

- Wed. John Coltrane: Africa Brass.  Featuring Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane.

- Thurs. Oliver Nelson: The Blues and the Abstract Truth. Featuring Roy Hargrove, David Sanchez, George Cables, Dwayne Burno and Gregory Hutchinson.

- Fri. Gil Evans: Out of the Cool. Curated by conductor/composer Ryan Truesdell with a 12 piece ensemble of Manhattans’ finest players.

- Sat.  Kai Winding & J.J. Johnson: The Great Kai & J.J. + The Incredible Kai Winding Trombone Curated by Robin Eubanks, with trombonist Andy Hunter.

- Sun.  Ray Charles: Genius + Soul= Jazz.  Curated by Henry Butler, piano and vocals, with Vincent Herring, alto saxophone, Cocoran Hart, bass and Ali Jackson, drums.

The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.


Kyle Eastwood

- April 20 – 23. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Kyle Eastwood Band.  Bassist Eastwood has moved well beyond his identity as Clint Eastwood’s son, and into a well-earned presence as an imaginative, musically adventurous jazz artist.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


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