Live Jazz: Jane Monheit at Catalina Bar & Grill

December 29, 2013

By Don Heckman

Jane Monheit’s in town again this week for another of her holiday season visits.  She opened at Catalina Bar & Grill on Friday, continued on Saturday and will also perform at the club tonight (Sunday) and Monday, finishing up Tuesday with a New Year’s Eve appearance. And that’s great news for fans of prime jazz vocalizing.

Monheit’s first real visibility in the jazz community took place in the 1998 Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute’s Vocal Competition, when – at 21 – she was the first runner-up to veteran singer Teri Thornton in a field of competitors that also included Tierney Sutton and Roberta Gambarini.

Jane Monheit and RIck Montalbano

Jane Monheit and RIck Montalbano

She’s released a dozen or so recordings since then, and received a pair of Grammy nominations.  But as appealing as all of her CDs have been, there’s nothing like hearing – and seeing – Monheit perform live, especially with the solid backing of her trio: pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Neal Miner and her husband, Rick Montalbano, on drums. Each of the frequent performances she’s done at Catalina Bar & Grill over the past few years has been both unique and memorable. And this one was no exception.

Call it a Great American Songbook set, a program of familiar classics, starting with Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night,” and concluding with Irving Berlin’s “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.” And we can’t overlook the equally memorable “I Was Born To Be Blue,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” and “Never Let Me Go.”

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

Add to that Monheit’s reference to what she described as the jazz aspects of Judy Garland via a richly blended medley of “The Boy Next Door” and “The Man That Got Away.”

All of the above titles are essential elements in the repertoire of most jazz and adult contemporary singers. But the real question lies in what a singer does with such classic items. And Monheit has thoroughly established herself over the past decade as one of the prime imaginative singers of the current music world.

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

In song after song, Monheit’s Saturday night program unfolded with the gripping expressiveness of a true musical story teller. Blessed with an extraordinary instrument, she employed all her vocal skills – a far-reaching range, variable tonal qualities, briskly swinging rhythmic articulation and penetrating emotional intensity – at the service of her interpretations. Topping it off, she dipped into some scat singing on a few tunes, delivered with an inventiveness that would probably have delighted Ella Fitzgerald.

Call it a great evening of music for every member of Monheit’s enthusiastic audience. But I couldn’t help but feel that this was a performance that should be heard by other singers, too – a performance with sufficient creative information to aid anyone with ambitions for a vocal career. With three more performances this week, Catalina’s should draw more full houses to her seminars in the art of expressive vocalizing.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: Roberta Gambarini and Kenny Burrell at Catalina Bar & Grill

September 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Roberta Gambarini didn’t waste any time establishing her impressive jazz credentials at Catalina Bar & Grill Thursday night. Relying on her perfect pitch and her brilliant interpretive skills, she strolled on stage, picked up a microphone and began to sing a stunning version of Cole Porter’s “So In Love” without a whisper of accompaniment from her stellar trio (pianist Eric Gunnison, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Willie Jones III). Nor was anything other than her mesmerizing voice required in an interpretation that thoroughly introduced Gambarini’s extraordinary talents.

Roberta Gambarini

Roberta Gambarini

And it was just the beginning of a night that – for the lucky folks who’d turned out for the show – thoroughly introduced her full range of vocal skills. Singing a capella, romping through swinging up tempos, scatting with the clarity and harmonic accuracy of an instrumentalist, finding the heart of ballads with her trio, dueting with her guest, Kenny Burrell, she gave a performance to remember.

The highlights came one after another: continuing with a high speed romp through “Nobody Else But Me,” followed by Gambarini’s take on the Dizzy Gillespie version of “Sunny Side of the Street”; a deeply moving blend of ”Porgy, I Is Your Woman” and “I Loves You Porgy” from Porgy and Bess.

The arrival of Burrell opened the way to more far-ranging selections of material, starting with a brisk “Just Squeeze Me,” followed by an exquisite Portuguese version of the classic bossa nova, “Chega De Saudade.” Shifting gears, Gambarini offered emotionally intimate renderings of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,” called up memories of Billie Holliday with “Good Morning Heartache,” and followed with a steaming “Day In, Day Out,” delivered in another up-tempo display of her versatility.

Roberta Gambarini, Kenny Burrell and Chuck BerghoferChuck Kenny FFH

Gambarini then gracefully turned the stage over to Burrell. And the veteran guitarist, always a pleasure to hear whenever he takes a break from his multitude of responsibilities running the U.C.L.A. Jazz program, used the opportunity to offer a colorful medley of Duke Ellington songs reaching from “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” and “Prelude To A Kiss” to “A Sittin’ and a Rockin’.”

Appropriately, Gambarini returned to call up images of her native land with the lovely Italian song “Estate” (“Summer”). Finally, the musical banquet wrapped up with another hard-driving offering, this time the familiar blues of “Lester Leaps In.” Along the way, Gambarini used the microphone to create a convincing trumpet sound for a climactic improvised solo once again displaying her extraordinary musical inventiveness.

At a time when the jazz vocal world is overflowing with rapidly arriving young female talent, Gambarini stands well above the crowd. A third place finisher in 1998′s Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal competition, Grammy-nominated Gambarini still hasn’t begun to receive the recognition her remarkable talents fully deserve.

She performs at Catalina Bar and Grill again tonight (Saturday) with Burrell and her world class band. Don’t miss this too-rare opportunity to experience the pleasures of Roberta Gambarini’s music in full living color.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 10 – 15

September 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

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

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

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

Roberta Gambarini

Roberta Gambarini

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

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

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

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

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

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

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

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

San Francisco

Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker

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

Portland, Oregon

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

Seattle

Nellie McCay

Nellie McCay

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

New York City

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

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

Washington D.C.

Gary Burton

Gary Burton

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

London

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

Milan

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

Tokyo

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

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


Picks of the Week: August 21 – 25

August 21, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s a short week of Picks, largely impacted by the end-of-Summer distractions and the frequent August closure of jazz clubs around the world. But there’s still a lot of music happening.

 Los Angeles

- Aug. 21 (Wed.) Buddy Guy and the Funky Meters. The veteran blues great matches classic riffs with the latest installment of the Meters. Read Michael Katz’s iRoM review here tomorrow. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 22. (Thurs.) “Magnificent Mendelssohn.” Nicholas McGegan conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in an evening devoted to the music of Mendelssohn with violinist Ray Chen performing the Violin Concerto. Read my iRoM review here on Friday. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 22. (Thurs.) The John Pisano Quartet. Guitarist Pisano takes a break from his Guitar Night performances to get together with guitarist Jim Fox, drummer Enzo Todesco and bassist Pat Senatore, his old bandmate from the Tijuana Brass. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474.9400.

- Aug. 23 & 24. (Fri. & Sat.) Marilyn Maye. Singer Maye, who has moved smoothly from cabaret to pop music, has been a busy performing artist since she was in her mid-teens. And she’s still going strong. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 24. (Sat.) The Billy Childs Trio. Vitello’s. Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his busy schedule to perform in the appealing format of a piano jazz trio, with bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Gary Novak. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 24. (Sat.) The Memphis Music Fest. It’s an evening of blues, soul and r&b in its many intriguing formats. With Booker T. Jones, the Bar-Kays, William Bell, Eddie Floyd and Jean Knight. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

San Francisco

- Aug. 23 & 24. (Fri. & Sat.) Gary Bartz, Nicholas Payton, Kevin Toney perform selections from the Donald Byrd acoustic and electric sessions. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Chicago

- Aug. 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.) Ira Sullivan Quartet. Multi-instrumentalist Sullivan is one of the rare jazz artists to perform convincingly on brass and woodwind instruments. Here’s a rare opportunity to hear him in action. Jazz Showcase. (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- Aug. 21 – 25. (Wed. – Sun.) Roy Hargrove Big Band with special guest Roberta Gambarini. This is an evening not to be missed – trumpeter Hargrove’s swinging big band providing the perfect setting for the irresistibly appealing singing of Gambarini. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Aug. 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.) Gregory Porter. Convincing male jazz singers have been in short supply lately. But the arrival of Porter has brought a new and appealing aspect to the largely female-oriented current jazz vocal scene. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

London

- Aug. 23 & 24. (Fri. & Sat.) Tania Maria Trio. Rio’s Tanya Maria sings, she plays piano, and she continues to discover attractive linkages between jazz and Brazilian music.  Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- Aug 22 – 24 (Thurs. – Sat.) The Diego Figueiredo Trio. Talented guitarist Figueiredo has been drawing attention with his rapid-fire technique and imaginative improvising. He performs with Yasser Pino, bass and Milton Batera, drums. Jazzhus Montmartre. +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

- Aug.24 & 25. (Sat. & Sun.) Matt Bianco. It sounds like a person’s name, but Matt Bianco is actually a U.K. Band that has been exploring Latin jazz since the mid-’80s. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: July 15 – 21

July 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Kenny Burrell (Photo by Faith Frenz)

- July 15. (Mon.)  L.A. Jazz Orchestra Unlimited.  With Kenny Burrell.  Guitarist/educator Burrell leads an aggregation of some of the Southland’s fine big band players.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- July 16. (Tues.)  Nora Rothman.  With an appealing vocal style, young jazz artist Rothman offers what she describes as her own “unique twist” on jazz standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- July 16 & 17. (Tues. & Wed.)  Aaron Weinstein.  A violinist, mandolinist and arranger, Weinstein’s special talents have been drawing attention lately.  Here’s a chance to check out his skills in the warm musical environment of Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

- July 17. (Wed.)  Sergio Mendes, Lani Hall and Herb Alpert.  After last week’s odd jazz opening night program featuring Queen Latifa, the Bowl summer jazz season finally arrives via an evening of stellar jazz with a Brazilian touch.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- July 18. (Thurs.)  Bob McChesney Quintet.  Trombonist McChesney always does a spectacular job of making other bands sound great.  Here he is in the spotlight leading his own group.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– July 19.  (Fri.) Brantley Gilbert.  Country superstar Gilbert makes his Greek Theatre debut .  Jack Ingram and Rachel Farley open the show.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

Freda Payne

Freda Payne

- July 19 & 20. (Fri. & Sat.)  Freda Payne.  The lovely Ms. Payne makes one of her infrequent Southland appearances, looking great as she applies her special vocal talents to a program of standards as well as her own hits (hopefully including “Band of Gold”) Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- July 19 – 21. (Fri. – Sun. )  Pink Martini with the L.A. Phil.  With singers China Forbes and Storm Large in the foreground, the 12-piece Pink Martini ensemble easily and entertainingly crosses genres from jazz and classical to pop and Latin.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- July 21. (Sun.)  Quattro.  The unique Quattro instrumentation (cello, percussion, violin and guitar), combine with their four-part vocals and imaginative interpretations to produce some of the most intriguing music on the contemporary music scene.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Eddie Daniels (Photo by Bob Barry)

- July 18. (Thurs.)  Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway.  It’s a rare combination – the superb clarinet work of Daniels and the similarly excellent piano of Kellaway – displaying a range of talents reaching easily from jazz to classical and beyond.  SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.

- July 21. (Sun.)  Laurie Antonioli“The Music of Joni Mitchell.”  Antonioli is a pleasure to hear when she’s showcasing her impressive jazz skills.  Singing the songs of Joni Mitchell should stimulate an even more engaging set of creative interpretations. SFJAZZ Center.  Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

New York

Billy Childs (Photo by Faith Frenz)

- July 16 – 20.  (Tues. – Sat.)  The Billy Childs Quartet.  Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his chamber jazz ensemble to showcase his mesmerizing, straight ahead jazz skills.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

- July 17 – 19. (Wed. – Fri.)  Hermeto Pascoal.  Composer/multi-instrumentalist Pascoal has been setting a unique pathway through contemporary Brazilian music for decades. Hearing him in live performance is a memorable experience.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.

Paris

- July 17. (Wed.)  Roberta Gambarini.  She’s one of  the current jazz scene’s most fascinating vocal artists, balancing her superb ballad skills with incomparable scatting abilities. New Morning Paris.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.

- July 18. (Thurs.)  The Steve Swallow-Carla Bley Quintet.  Bassist Swallow and pianist/composer Bley have been at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz for decades.  And they’re still a pleasure to hear in action.  New Morning Paris.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

- July 21. (Sun.)  Dave Douglas “Be Still.”  Always adventurous, trumpeter Douglas leads an ensemble of similarly envelope-stretching players, featuring Jon Irabagon, saxophones, Matt Mitchell, piano, Linda Oh, bass and Rudy Royston, drums.  A-Trane.    +49 30 3132 ext. 550.

Milan

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis

- July 21. (Sun.)  Branford Marsalis.  Not quite as visible as his brother, trumpeter/impresario Wynton, Branford Marsalis is, nonetheless, a compelling, musically creative jazz artist.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- July 17 & 18. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Dionne Warwick.  She’s been one of the hit-makers of the rock era, especially when she’s singing songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  And, at 72, she’s still a mesmerizing performer.  Blue Note Tokyo.   +81 3-5485-0088.


An Appreciation: Remembering Dave Brubeck

December 12, 2012

By Mike Katz

When Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” became a runaway hit, it was 1959 and I was in the third grade.  By the time I started seriously listening to jazz, in the late sixties, Brubeck’s original quartet had broken up and the jazz scene was in a flux. Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis were going electric. Freddie Hubbard and Stanley Turrentine, among others, had gravitated to the CTI label and would soon be flirting with disco. The jazz that found its way onto the college campuses Brubeck once cultivated had been repackaged as fusion, backing up bands like Blood Sweat & Tears or Chicago.

“Take Five,” meanwhile, had become sort of a pre-curser to Pac-Man, munching up everything else the Brubeck quartet had produced.  That would be some considerable munching, since Brubeck, Paul Desmond and company had spent a decade atop the charts, playing to SRO crowds, with Dave becoming the first jazz artist to grace the cover of Time Magazine long before the Time Out LP was ever conceived.  But for the general audience, “Take Five” was Brubeck and to a certain extent always would be.

One 1970-ish day I was idly flipping through a record store in Evanston and found a double album compilation of the Brubeck quartet called Adventures In Time. It had all of the famous Brubeck tunes (most of them unknown to me): “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” “Three To Get Ready,” “It’s a Raggy Waltz,” “Unsquare Dance,” many of them in different takes or performances than the originals. All the songs but one were composed by members of the quartet. All but one were in time signatures other than  4/4.  Listening and listening and listening some more, until the grooves were worn down, I finally figured out what these guys were doing – not that it was really necessary. Incessant foot tapping and aimless humming as I wandered the Northwestern campus were explanation enough.

Looking back, it seems strange that Brubeck endured criticism for not being, for lack of a better word, jazzy enough. Jazz is improvisation and experimentation, and what could be bolder than taking the basic 4/4 march time, not only of jazz but all popular music, and standing it on its ear? And there was more. When Brubeck, in 1957, released “Dave Digs Disney,” there was much sniggering from critics, yet “Someday My Prince Will Come” became a standard for Miles Davis and “Alice In Wonderland” one of Bill Evans’ best known tunes from the Village Vanguard sessions.  Still, while jazz searches for the “next” Miles Davis or John Coltrane or Bill Evans, we never hear about the “next” Dave Brubeck.

Perhaps that is because he really never left.

Although it’s been written that he devoted much of his post-original quartet years to larger orchestrations and cantatas, there was plenty of jazz left in the Brubeck oeuvre. Most musicians would have loved to have the mid-life career Brubeck shared with Gerry Mulligan in his second major quartet.  The baritone sax may seem the polar opposite to Paul Desmond’s “sound of a dry martini,” but it still sounded great. Check out LPs like Last Set At Newport, or some of the tracks with Mulligan on the Monterey Jazz Festival’s  release Live At The MJF. Brubeck continued to compose in the jazz space as well. His 1995 release Young Lions and Old Tigers featured lovely themes for Roy Hargrove, James Moody and flugelhornist Ronnie Buttacavoli, as well as two wonderful tunes with Mulligan and a duet with George Shearing on Brubeck’s classic, “In Her Own Sweet Way.” And that is just one CD out of dozens.

One of the joys of becoming a regular at the Monterey Jazz Festival was getting to see Brubeck perform live in a milieu that had become in many ways a second home for him. He was “discovered” by festival  co-founder Jimmy Lyons, played at MJF 1, MJF 50, MJF 52 and many, many times in between.  Two of my favorite memories are the cantata, co-written with his wife, Iola, based on John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, featuring Roberta Gambarini and Kurt Elling, performed at MJF 49 in 2006; and his MJF 50 duet with Jim Hall the next year. Their rendition of “Take Five” was stunning, and one can only hope both those performances, now in the MJF archives, will someday be shared with the public.

So, finally, Dave Brubeck has left us. Certainly “Take Five” never will, as long as there is someone walking down the street, humming and tapping and daydreaming.

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: 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

.

- 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.

 


Live Jazz: Roberta Gambarini at Catalina Bar & Grill

September 7, 2012

By Don Heckman

Anyone with a more than passing interest in world class jazz singing should make a reservation for tonight or tomorrow night at Catalina Bar & Grill.

Why? To hear Roberta Gambarini offer a set that is an entertaining display of jazz singing at its finest.  Add to that the virtual seminar in the techniques of jazz vocalizing that her performances offer.

Roberta Gambarini

Gambarini may have been born in Italy, but she grew up surrounded by jazz recordings.  Gifted with a magnificent sounding voice, a 3 to 4 octave range and perfect pitch, her natural skills could easily have led her into an operatic career.  But, to the benefit of jazz fans, she chose the improvisational art, and mastered it, on all counts – from inventive scatting, expressive storytelling and the phrasing of a jazz instrumentalist to an irresistible sense of swing.

And all of it was on stunning display at Catalina’s last night – Friday – the opening of a three night run.

Backed by pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Harvey Mason, Gambarini sang a program of surprisingly diverse songs, at a variety of tempos, in English, Italian, French and Spanish.

Looking gorgeous in a shimmering white beaded dress, she started her program with an immediate announcement of the scope of her abilities by singing a completely solo, a cappella version of the hit song from the musical Oliver, “Where Is Love?”  Then, spreading her creative net wide, she signaled Mason to kick off a drum intro, and dug into a high speed romp through Jerome Kern’s “Nobody Else But Me.”

A deeply grooving rendering of “No More Blues,” the English language version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Chega De Saudade,” came next.  Followed by her vocally brilliant version of a recording of Jimmy McHugh’s “Sunny Side of the Street,” including Gambarini’s vocalese versions of solos by Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins.

And that was just the beginning. The balance of the evening was a sumptuous banquet of music.  To mention just a few: a lovely version of a song by Astor Piazzolla, sung in French; a tender interpretation of Benny Carter’s “When Lights Are Low”; her intriguing take on Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade”; a thoroughly authentic Italian reading of “Estate.”

Add to that one of the program’s high points – a dramatically rendered pair of songs from the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess: “Porgy You Are My Man” and “I Loves You Porgy.”  Listening to the way she brought the Gershwin tunes to life, I couldn’t help but hope to hear Gambarini invest her inner jazz sensibilities into more musical theatre pieces in the future.

The backing provided by Wofford, Berghofer and Mason was first rate.  And without a rehearsal.  It’s true, no rehearsal.  World class veterans all, they made the most of Gambarini’s charts and her occasional gestures of guidance.  They watched her approvingly in her ballad work, and responded with occasional glances of astonishment when she took off on one of her high flying vocal excursions.

As I said earlier, “jazz singing at its finest.”  And that’s rare.  Very simply, Roberta Gambarini – true jazz artist that she is, should be heard at every opportunity – by fans and students, as well as her colleagues in the jazz vocal art.

Photo by Faith Frenz.

Roberta Gambarini appears tonight, Sept. 7 and tomorrow night, Sept. 8, at Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 6 – 12

February 6, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Feb. 7. (Tues.)  Misha Piatigorsky and Sketchy Black Dog.  Winner of the 2004 Thelonious Monk Composers’ Competition, Piatigorsky applies his adventurous composition and piano playing skills within the offbeat string quartet sounds of the Sketchy Black Dog. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. http://www.vibratogrilljazz.com  (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 7. (Tues.)  Guitar NightJohn Pisano and Barry Zweig.  The two veteran guitarists share a birthday celebration with a typical evening of Guitar night jamming. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 7. (Tues.)  Joshua Bell in Concert.  Versatile violinist Bell applies his rich interpretive skills to a program of Mendlssohn, Brahms, Ravel, Ysaye and Gershwin.  Pianist Sam Haywood accompanies.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Janis Siegel

- Feb. 9. (Thurs.)  Janis Siegel with the Elliot Deutsch Big Band“Love: Swinging From the Heart.”  The Manhattan Transfer’s eclectic singer takes a break from quartet life for an evening of love songs with Deutsch’s briskly swinging young band.  Old Town Temecula Community Theatre.    (866) 653-8696.

- Feb. 10. (Fri..)  Pete Christlieb.  Every bandleader loves to have tenor saxophonist Christlieb on stage with him (or her), knowing that – whatever the music demands – Christlieb will deliver it in world class style.  Here’s a chance to hear him up front, doing his own thing.  Expect the best.  He’ll be backed by the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 10. (Fri.)  Hugh Masekela. South African trumpeter and human rights activist Masekela and his South African band survey his far reaching career – from “Grazing in the Grass” to straight ahead jazz and Afro-pop. Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.    (310) 825-2101.

- Feb. 10. (Fri.)  The Glendale Pops Orchestra with Kenny Loggins.  “This Is Romance.” Hitmaker and pop superstar Loggins has been producing soft rock romantic tunes since the ’70s, and he’s still going strong.  He’ll be singing some of his classics with the Glendale Pops as the perfect lead-in to Valentine’s day.  Matt Catingub conducts.  The Glendale Pops Orchestra at the Alex Theatre.  (818) 552-2787.

- Feb. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.) and Feb. 16. – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  The warm and fuzzy baritone of Steve Tyrell can always be counted on to add the right romantic touch to an evening of songs for Valentine’s Day.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Jaye Maynard’s Blossom Dearie Songbook. Maynard explores the delightfully whimsical material favored by the one and only Dearie, without falling into the trap of imitating her inimitable singing style.  1 p.m. matinee show.  Also Mon., Feb. 13.  8 p.m.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Judy Collins

- Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Judy Collins. It’s been more than four decades since Grammy winning Collins was first thrilling boomers with songs such as “Both Sides Now,” “Someday Soon,” “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” and much more.  At 72, she continues to bring new life to everything she sings. Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Inner Voices Valentine Show. The Southland’s primo vocal collective brings their lush harmonies and soaring solos to a program of holiday-appropriate love songs. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Pasatono Orquesta.  The first concert in this year’s “Sounds of L.A.” series showcases the indigenous music of Mexico performed on hand-crafted instruments.  The Getty Center. (310) 440-7300.

Ravi Coltrane

- Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Christian McBride Trio and Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Two of the contemporary jazz scene’s most gifted artists share the Royce Hall stage, as well as their individual quests to explore new jazz territories. Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.    (310) 825-2101.

- Feb. 12 (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale. The LAMC take on a pair of compelling choral works: Bruckner’s lush textured Mass in E minor, performed with a wind orchestra, and Stravinsky’s three-movement, neo-classical Symphony of the Psalms.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 12. (Sun.)  Marian Petrescu. Bucharest-born pianist Petrescu brings astonishing technical virtuosity to a jazz style blending mainstream elements with a free flying, fiercely rhythmic improvisational inventiveness. Pierre’s Fine Pianos.  (310) 247-0331.    

- Feb. 12. (Sun.)  Moscow Festival Ballet. Founded in 1989 by Bolshoi Ballet dancer Sergei Radchenko, the Moscow Festival Ballet offers their own version of the magical fairy tale, Cinderella.   Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.     (562) 916-8501.

San Francisco

- Feb. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  “Valentine’s Weekend.” The Transfer offer their richly harmonized versions of songs for the holiday. Singer Margaret Dorn steps in for Cheryl Bentyne, who is recovering from a serious illness. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Miami

- Feb. 11. (Sat.)  The Jacky Terrasson Trio.    Born in Berlin to an American mother and a French father, pianist Terrasson has thoroughly established himself as a world-class jazz artist.  In his first Florida appearance he’s backed by the sturdy swing of bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams The Miniaci Performing Arts Center.  (954) 462-0222.

Washington

- Feb. 10 – 12 (Fri. – Sun.)  Jerry “The Iceman” Butler. One of the original Impressions, Butler – and his smooth baritone — followed up with a string of solo hits. At 72, he’s still going strong, while also serving as a Cook County Board Commissioner.  Blues Alley.    (202) 237-4141.

New York

Roy Hargrove

- Feb. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.)  Roy Hargrove Big Band with Special Guest Roberta Gambarini.  After a string of performances with his quintet, trumpeter Hargrove is back in front of his dynamic big band.  But many of the high points will also be provided by the superb jazz singing of Gambarini.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Feb. 9 – 12.  (Thurs. – Sun.) Benny Golson.  He’s written some of the great jazz standards, but tenor saxophonist Golson also has a lot to say through his horn.  Don’t miss this rare club appearance.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Feb. 10. (Fri.)  The American Symphony OrchestraOrientalism in France”  The ASO takes a close look at the impact that the music of Asia had upon French composers of the late 19th and early 20th cenuries.  The program includes works by Saint-Saens, Franck, Delage, Ravel and Bizet’s rarely heard one act opera, Djamileh. Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, Perelman Stage.   (212) 247-7800.

London

- Feb. 8 & 9. (Tues. & Wed.)  Gilad Atzmon“The Music of Charlie Parker.”  Alto saxophonist Atzmon takes on some of the familiar Parker works, including pieces from the classic Bird with Strings recordings.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Berlin

- Feb. 10. (Fri.)  Gwilym Simcock.  Although he is best known in the U.K., Welsh jazz 30 year old Simcock is one of the most innovative pianists of his generation, applying many of his classical skills to his improvisational excursions.  He performs here on solo piano.   A-Trane.  030/313 25 50

Milan

Billy Cobham

- Feb. 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Billy Cobham Band. Fusion, crossover, whatever one chooses to call it, drummer Cobham is one of the master chefs of the mixed musical stew of jazz, pop, rock and beyond. Blue Note Milano.     02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

Feb. 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  Take 6. The six a cappella singers of Take 6 have taken every element in the history of jazz vocal ensembles, added their own unique talents and created the best new jazz ensemble singing of the 21st century. Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Janis Siegel photo by Bob Barry.


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