Live Music: Teka And The New Bossa Trio At The Gardenia Restaurant and Lounge

May 1, 2014

 By Devon Wendell

Hollywood, CA. Today many Bossa Nova acts just phone it in and the romantically poetic aspects of the music are lost amidst an array of overly subdued and pedestrian vocals and redundant arrangements. This was not this case with Teka and her New Bossa Trio (featuring Chris Judge on guitar and Ruben Martinez on flute and percussion) as they performed a dynamic set of both Brazilian and American standards, as well as new material from her latest album So Many Stars at The Gardenia Wednesday evening.

This was also a rare Los Angeles appearance by the Brazilian born Teka and her group, who have made Santa Barbara their home base. The Gardenia’s small and warm ambiance was the perfect fit for this music.

Teka smile spotlight Gardenia 2 FH

The trio opened with many Antonio Carlos Jobim classics such as “So Danco Samba,”, “Aguas De Marco” and “Ela E Carioca.” The sensually hypnotic mood was set from the first note on Teka’s acoustic guitar. Her right hand comping was delicate and on par with a master jazz guitarist. Her rich vocal vibrato and tender yet powerful phrasing brought to mind some of the great instrumentalists in jazz history. Hearing Teka’s voice, I wondered how much better Stan Getz would have played if he had lived to hear her.

Chris Judge’s melodic, jazz influenced guitar leads and Ruben Martinez’s beautifully sparse percussion and angular flute solos gelled sweetly with each thoughtful nuance performed by Teka.

Performances such as Ivan Lins’ “Comecar De Novo” and Marcos Valle’s “Summer Samba” were mesmerizing. Martinez’s percussion was at just a slightly lower volume level than both Teka and Chris Judge’s guitar which created an ethereal dreamlike effect and accompanied the music tightly and melodically.

.

There’s a stark yet wonderfully haunting quality to Teka’s vocals and the overall sound of the trio that is totally original. She and the band know how to extract and communicate the dark romanticism which lies beneath the surface of every composition they chose to tackle.

This was certainly the case in one of the most mournfully powerful renditions of the Kurt Weil/Ogden Nash standard “Speak Low” that I’ve ever heard. Martinez’s solo weaved in and out of the melody line with grace and skill. Judge’s bluesy arpeggios accentuated Teka’s masterful chord comping and pleading vocals.

Teka’s ability to alter melodies and arrangements to fit her unique Bossa style was jaw dropping.

Her arrangement of the Nacio Herb Brown/Gus Kahn standard “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” (which is featured on her CD “So Many Stars”) exemplified Teka’s gift in covering a song and making it her own. Her chromatic breaks, gracefully played on her guitar, were among the night’s many highlights.

Teka would also fearlessly sing in both Portuguese and English on most of the performances. This was quite an impressive feat as she was equally engaging as an artist and performer in both languages. Jobim often wrote in both Portuguese and English and the sincerity of Jobim’s lyrics were felt on her reading of “Once I Loved,” which also had Chris Judge playing some Wes Montgomery flavored guitar octaves atop Teka’s sweet yet commanding vocals.

Teka final shot

Although most of the set was comprised of ballads such as a playful cover of Burt Bacharach’s ‘The Look Of Love:” and a melancholic version of Djavan Caetana Viana’s “Flor De Lis,” it was Teka and her band’s up-tempo explorations that were often the most fascinating. “April Child” from her new album displayed Teka’s more percussive guitar chops and her often mature sultry vocals had a dash of childhood wonder to them. Martinez played his most lyrical flute solo of the night on this number.

Teka And the band closed with Hermeto Pascoal’s familiar instrumental “Valle De Ribeila.” Chris Judge got to show off more of his jazz licks as Teka sang the song’s melody along with the song’s changes. Martinez’s tasteful percussion flourishes gave both Teka and Judge room to improvise. This was pure jazz in its spirit and in its exploratory fashion.

As the final notes faded away, Teka and her New Bossa Trio released us from their spell, hopefully only for a short time. She and her band are truly brilliant artists that everyone should keep their ears and eyes on and they are deserving of a much wider audience. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated International Jazz Day.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.

 


A Twist Of Doc: Hank Mobley – The Unsung Hero Of Bop.

February 7, 2014

By Devon Wendell

For tenor sax players, the late ‘50s and early ‘60s were a time for hard blowing, fitting in as many notes as possible within a few bars, and trying to break free from familiar patterns.

Sonny Rollins was the reigning king of articulation and might on tenor sax until Coltrane’s second stay with Miles. Although his was more of a cult-like following at the time, and there were plenty of people who didn’t like what he was playing, Coltrane would change the direction of the instrument forever. Rollins was still loved and began to play even harder and faster as a result of Coltrane’s impact on jazz.

Rollins, Coltrane and Johnny Griffin were considered to be the fastest tenor men in the game. Although these men were genius players and writers, many other fantastic contributors were left in the shadows. It’s always been difficult for music journalists and the media to pay attention to more than a few groundbreaking artists at once.

Hank Mobley

Hank Mobley

One such artist who never seemed to get his fair due during his time was Hank Mobley, who died in 1986 at 55. Mobley’s round tone and nimble, melodic blues based phrasing helped define the entire hard-bop genre.

Not only was Mobley a member of the original Jazz Messengers led by Horace Silver, he recorded and composed some of the most original, hard swinging compositions in the entire history of jazz. He also recorded with the top musicians of the day, both new on the scene like Lee Morgan, Grant Green, and Freddie Hubbard, as well as older legends such as Art Blakey, Art Taylor, and Kenny Dorham.

His two most heralded albums, Soul Station and Roll Call, both recorded in 1960 on Blue Note are among the most sophisticated and thoughtful albums recorded for the label.

The albums consist mostly of Mobley originals. And the most amazing thing about compositions like “Cattin’,” “B For B.B.” (recorded in 1956 with Donald Byrd on The Jazz Message Of Hank Mobley on Savoy Records), or “Take Your Pick” and “The Breakdown,” both from the Roll Call album, is that one can easily hear these as big band arrangements. Which is hard to say about many of Mobley’s contemporaries, especially as the ‘60s drew near. That sense of the blues that swung all night long that Count Basie, Duke Ellington, as well as Monk, and Dizzy kept with them when composing and playing, were present in Mobley’s writing and blowing. And his sound is immediately identifiable.

Someone could blind fold me and play me a Mobley composition that I’ve never heard, covered by an artist that I’ve never heard and I’d know it was his within the first four bars. There’s still something sweet and endearing to Mobley’s “High And Flighty” tone and his big, bright arrangements. I first noticed it on “Hankerin’” from Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers and Curtain Call (Both on Blue Note) which were given to me by a friend when I was 14.

Leonard Feather may have penned Mobley as “The middleweight champion of the tenor sax,” but I don’t think Feather meant it as a put down. Stan Getz was great and he played softer than Rollins or Coltrane. What’s great about jazz is that there’s room for many styles and sounds. The media may not grab onto it at first or ever, but the musicians and music lovers do. Mobley could and did play hard throughout different periods of his career. Check out his bold, angular lines on Freddie Hubbard’s Goin’ Up album on Blue Note from 1961 or “Hank’s Shout” from Introducing Lee Morgan With Hank Mobley’s Quintet on Savoy. Hank comes out swinging and never stops.

Mobley stayed true to the game until he retired with respiratory problems in the mid-’70s but his music continues to grab the attention of new jazz aficionados’ and keep the love of longtime, loyal fans like myself.

Thanks Hank.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


Radio Jazz: Time To Get Sirius?

July 29, 2013

By Michael Katz

There is nothing like driving around in a remote area to underline the virtues of good music. So I’d like to say a few kind words about Sirius XM. And also Avis, whose rental car was equipped with it. I recently spent a week in Yellowstone National Park, the setting for my new novel, Dearly Befuddled.

Yellowstone is a driver’s paradise or nightmare, depending on the vagaries of bison and elk, and the tourists who want to photograph them. A typical day checking out the geyser basins, waterfalls and hiking trails involves at least several hours on the road. Thanks to Sirius, I was able to share them with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and many others.

I’m sure those of you with functioning long term memories can remember when driving across lonesome stretches of the West meant searching through the vast emptiness of AM radio, where the choices were country music, country music, Jesus, Jesus en Espanol, country music en Espanol, and a fading baseball game from Mars. Sirius offers something for everyone, and multiple versions of it. There are several jazz channels, but Channel 67 (Real Jazz) seemed to be more Straight Ahead, as the late, great DJ Chuck Niles would have said. In addition to Miles and Stan and Freddie, my relatively brief sampling had favorites such as Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley, Dave Brubeck, as well as current names like Warren Wolf, Marcus Miller, the Clayton Brothers and Roy Hargrove.   The DJs, including Miller and Mark Ruffin, are knowledgeable, although chat is at a minimum. There are live recordings of concerts, too, from Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center.

I’ve got to admit it is pretty amazing to walk  away from the eruption of Giant Fountain Geyser and listen to Shirley Horn sing “I’ve Got The World On A String.”

Giant Fountain Geyser

Or drive away from the Black Sand Basin as Jackie Terrason plays “Smile.”

Black Sand Basin

Then there is the question, what do you do while you are stuck in traffic, while, unknown to you, a bison is playing Grand Marshal to the Road To West Yellowstone Parade.

I am somewhere behind the bison.

The answer is, you switch to B.B. King’s Bluesville on Channel 70 and listen to Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Doug MacLeod. “Got them Wanderin’ Bison, Rubberneck Tourist Blues.” The time just flies by, really.

This begs the question, should I pay up and subscribe at home. I’ve tried to be loyal to our local station, KJazz 88.1. I understand the importance of a local station, promoting local players and events (if only…). In Kjazz’s defense, they cannot run separate channels for blues and smooth jazz as Sirius does. But in the end, we all vote with our feet (or our index fingers). And Kjazz needs to spend more time with current and/or local artists, and less time recycling the same hackneyed playlist over and over.

In the meantime, if you are hitting the road, don’t leave home without Sirius.

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.


Live Jazz: The Chick Corea/Stanley Clarke Trio with Hubert Laws at Catalina Bar & Grill

April 11, 2013

By Michael Katz

Let’s start with this: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, an acoustic jazz trio, a nightclub appearance. Fill out the trio with an energetic young drummer, Marcus Gilmore, grandson of Roy Haynes, no less.

Enough?

Hardly. Make it a quartet with Hubert Laws sitting in on flute. Jam an appreciative overflow crowd into the sprawl of Catalina Bar & Grill on a Tuesday night. Sprinkle in good vibes from all the players. Shake, stir, and Voila! One of those nights you won’t soon forget.

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

Chick Corea has cut such a wide swath in his career that it rightly took him several weeks and ten concerts to celebrate his 70th birthday in New York in 2011. For the opening of a weeklong gig here in LA, he presented a mini-tour of his acoustic work, in the splendid company of Clarke and Gilmore (to begin with), touching on his early trio work with the opening Steve Swallow tune, “Eiderdown.” Corea made it a point a few times during the show to thank the audience for attending a “rehearsal,” and although the players know each other quite well, there are always some bugs to be worked out in an opening show. I thought the piano sounded a tad muffled during the early going, though that may have come from sitting in the extended wing that reaches behind the piano and towards the bar area. On the other hand, it presented an excellent perspective for Clarke’s lithe bass work – at 61, he looks like he could step in and play defensive back somewhere.

“Bud Powell,” a Corea composition from Chick’s Remembering Bud Powell CD, had all the musical dexterity of Powell’s signature tunes: the darting ebbs and flows that fill up a space like a tidal pool, then whoosh back out, leaving Clarke and Gilmore to fill in the void, while Corea moves on, looking for musical eddies to stir up.

Hubert Laws

Hubert Laws

Hubert Laws joined the trio for the rest of the set, starting with Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica.” For those of us who discovered jazz in the late sixties and early seventies, Laws’ playing defined the jazz flute.  Re-united with Corea and Clarke he sounded every bit in his prime, full of the lilting riffs, tinged with classical arpeggios that have always characterized his playing. Following Chick’s intro, Laws entered with the Monk line crisp and clear, leaving the others room for solos in an atmosphere that was casual and cool.

And then there was “Windows.”  I suppose we all  have our favorite songs, but “Windows” is unabashedly one of mine.  It’s not just one of Chick Corea’s best compositions, but a perfect construction for Hubert Laws’ expressive tones. From the plaintive opening notes, to the improvisational flights that follow and the dovetailing denouement, it still captivates. Simply put, hearing Laws perform it with Corea, Clarke and the young Gilmore behind him was, for me, a singular musical moment.

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

There was much more, in a set that stretched over ninety minutes. “Captain Marvel” is a tune from Return To Forever’s second LP, but I first heard it on Stan Getz’s album of the same name, with Corea and Clarke as sidemen. Laws introduced the theme, giving it a soulful boost, then let the rhythm section take the forefront. Stanley Clarke would be in dynamic mode the rest of the evening.  Here, sandwiched between two terrific drum explorations by Gilmore, he took command of the acoustic bass,  while Corea laid out harmonic layers behind him.

That was nominally the end of the set, but the crowd wasn’t ready to disperse, not by any means, and the band continued with Joe Henderson’s “Recorda-Me.” Again, Clarke was out front, perhaps most noticeable because he had laid back earlier, but by this time it was four great musicians swinging separately and together. Young Gilmore provided a verve and youthful enthusiasm that kept the others on their toes. Hubert Laws reminded us that after all this time, no one plays the flute better.

And then there’s the leader of this group, Chick Corea, who has hit every musical touchstone imaginable, getting right to the heart of the matter: a piano, a melody, the intrinsic syncopation of swing, a classic trio plus one. The Corea/Clarke Trio will play through Sunday with Hubert Laws sitting in tonight.

This is an event you don’t want to miss.

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

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


Live Jazz: Luciana Souza at the Broad Stage

September 3, 2012

By Michael Katz

 Luciana Souza opened the Broad Stage season Saturday night in Santa Monica, celebrating the release of two CDs, Duos III and The Book of Chet, the latter featuring the music of Chet Baker.  Backed up by a superb California rhythm section of Larry Koonse on guitar, Derek Oles on bass and the Bay Area’s Scott Amendola on percussion, Ms. Souza moved seamlessly between the two collections, mixing Brazilian numbers with her interpretations of the Baker-influenced standards.

Luciana Souza

Ms. Souza has a rich, lyrical style that moves beyond the light, airy vocals often associated with Brazilian music. This allows her to explore the nuances of these compositions, as well as interpreting the lyrics, (with some translation beforehand) in a way that goes beyond the bright rhythms of the samba. “Doralice,” for example, is a tune I’ve heard many times, but after explaining that the title character was trying to prod her boyfriend toward a marriage proposal, Souza’s delightful reading was musical theatre,  reminiscent of Rita Moreno.

The show began with two numbers from The Book of Chet. “The Thrill Is Gone,” seemed an unlikely way to start the show – it doesn’t seem like a 7:30 kind of song to me, though it also opens the CD. But it did establish Ms. Souza’s venture into territory unfamiliar to the audience at the cozy Broad Stage. Once again, her rich style added  texture to the tunes. Ironically, the very things that she attests attracted her to the music – the kind of asexual stream of consciousness in Baker’s presentation – afford her the opportunity to up the ante and weave her own expressionistic style through the songs.

The middle of the program was devoted to Brazilian tunes, mostly from the Duos III CD. A few words here about guitarist Larry Koonse. It’s possible we in the LA area take Koonse for granted, having seen him in so many combinations with his own groups and others. But Saturday night, up against the ghost of Joao Gilberto and the shadows of Ms. Souza’s usual accompanists, Marco Pereira and Romero Lubambo, he shone at every turn, offering subtle support to her vocals on familiar tunes like Jobim’s “Dindi” and providing lively accompaniment on a new piece by Pereira, “Dona Lu,” as well as a lovely introduction to Paul Simon’s “Amulet.” On “Eu Vim da Bahia,” you could almost hear the tenor of Stan Getz in Koonse’s middle tones. All these tunes rippled with the sensitivity of Souza, who communicated the poetry in them with minimal interpretation.

Scott Amendola returned to the stage, hand-drumming the tops of his snares, then switching to soft mallets and finally brushes in his most artistic turn of the night, an introduction to “Circus Life,” a Souza original from her Tides album. It’s a spirited, brightly melodic composition which brought to mind Joni Mitchell.

From there on out, the program centered on music from The Book of Chet, including a Derek Oles solo intro to “The Very Thought Of You” and Souza’s luscious reading of “He Was Too Good To Me.” Like the earlier “Forgetful,” these songs allowed Souza to augment the Baker songbook but by now, having heard her more familiar Brazilian melodies, the audience was attuned to the change in perspective. As she switched to mainly English lyrics, Ms. Souza showed a complete command of the language, projecting only the barest  Brazilian inflection as she explored this music.

The nominal end of the program was “Adeus America, (Goodbye America),” somewhat ironic in that she now resides here, and the crowd brought her back for an encore from the Chet Baker oeuvre, “I Fall In Love Too Easily.”

It’s hard enough these days for an artist to put together one collection of inspired material for a CD, much less two programs of quite different emphasis. It’s equally difficult to bring together a quartet on short notice that can perform the music as sensitively as Luciana Souza did Saturday night with the backing of Larry Koonse, Scott Amendola and Derek Oles. All in all, a delightful opening to the Broad’s new season.

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

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


Here, There & Everywhere: Dolores Scozzesi at Vitello’s

June 21, 2012

By Don Heckman

The Playboy Jazz Festival, as well as the lead-in to the Festival, tended to dominate our view screens here at iRoM for the last week or so.  And that’s cool.  It is, after all, one of the major musical events of the year.

But other music has been taking place, as well.  And now that the Playboy Festival madness is over, I want to be sure to call attention to another performance that took place last Tuesday.  It may not have been high visibility, and — in its single night at Vitello’s — it drew a considerably smaller crowd than the 18,000 who showed up for each of the Festival’s two days.  But for listeners attuned to fine music, convincingly done, it was a memorable night.

 

So let’s take a look back at Tuesday, and the appearance of jazz singer Dolores Scozzesi, backed by Andy Langham, piano, Lyman Medeiros, bass, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., drums, at Vitello’s.

It became apparent, almost immediately, that there was stunning musical empathy between Scozzesi and her musicians.  At its best, it recalled the kind of creative intimacy that exists in the Tierney Sutton Band, a group that’s been together for two decades.

Add to that the range of selections in the program.  Scozzesi’s first few choices, reaching from “Listen Love,” a tender song by the too little acknowledged singer/songwriter of the ‘70s, Jon Lucien, to Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and such standards classics as “Night and Day,” “Body and Soul” and “What Now My Love?” underscored both her creative eclecticism and her far ranging musical interests.

As intriguing as her song choices were – also embracing such equally compelling tunes as “When Did You Leave Heaven?” “I’m Going To Sit Right Down and Right Myself A Letter” and “Love Look Away” – what really mattered was what Scozzesi did with this abundant collection.  Gifted with a mature, dark timbred voice, capable of using it across a rich emotional palette, she reached deeply into the heart of each song’s story.  And with especially convincing intensity in an English and French version of “Autumn Leaves” that included a newly conceived segment inspired by a Stan Getz solo, with lyrics by Scozzesi.  Call it a highlight in an evening of memorable songs.

I learned a long time ago that one of the most meaningful estimates of a performance’s impact often lies in the feelings it generates after the program.  Sure, one wants to be captivated by the music while it’s taking place.  But it’s equally important, maybe even more so, to be so stimulated by what one has heard that it stays with you, triggering new feelings and thoughts long after the performance is over.

The experience, to me, is similar to what it used to be like to see an especially impactful movie, back in the time before “films” became the operative word.  In those days, coming out of a movie theatre with a companion, eagerly discussing high points in the story, re-living aspects of the plot, feeling strongly – pro or con – about what we had just seen, was an essential part of seeing a movie.

Driving home from Scozessi’s performance at Vitello’s, Faith and I experienced similar feelings, recalling the pleasure of hearing such a fine array of songs, delivered with so much musical authenticity.  We even had a small disagreement, disputing whether or not Scozessi had tended to make too liberal use of her sometimes edgy chest tones.  But there was no dispute over the quality of the strains of music that remained with us, soothing our ears well into the high decibel sounds of the Playboy Jazz Festival weekend.

Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for Dolores Scozessi’s album, “A Special Taste.”  Fortunately writing liner notes does not cause me to lose my sense of musical objectivity.


An Appreciation: Jimmy Bond 1933 – 2012

May 10, 2012

Mike Lang has been a busy member of the Los Angeles musicians’ community for most of his adult life.  He’s been an accompanist for performers reaching from Ella Fitzgerald to John Lennon.  He’s recorded more than 2000 film scores And he’s written songs for Stan Getz, Fourplay, Herb Alpert and numerous others.  On many of those dates, he worked musically hand in hand with his good friend, Jimmy Bond.

By Mike Lang

Jimmy Bond left us on April 26th. He was and is arguably as close a friend as I could ever wish for, always on the lookout for ways to help others…. in music, in laughter, in living a full vibrant life of which he was “the benchmark” (!). I was a major recipient of his warmth, extraordinary generosity and humor…. Hanging out with “007” was special!

Jimmy was mentored in Philadelphia, a jazz mecca, and the purity and swing of his bass playing was the result we’ve all enjoyed throughout the years. Jimmy made some historic recordings with Chet Baker, including the special presence of Bobby Timmons… his star was rising….

Jimmy Bond

When Jimmy came to LA, he quickly became in demand for all kinds of work…. live and recorded jazz, and then…. freelance recording gigs with an incredibly diverse list of artists in so many fields:  jazz, pop, rock, folk, gospel, R&B and more (!)….. Here’s a sampling:

Henry Mancini, Ella Fitzgerald, The Crusaders, Johnny Griffin, Maya Angelou, George Shearing, Paul Horn, Eric Dolphy, Chico Hamilton, Nina Simone, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa (Lumpy Gravy), Jimmy Witherspoon, Gerry Mulligan, Harry Nilsson, Lou Rawls, Quincy Jones, Tim Buckley, Sam Cook, Sonny Rollins, Tony Bennett, B B King, Don Shirley, Leon Russell, Terry Gibbs, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Brownie McGhee, Johnny Hartman, The Stone Poneys, Ike and Tina Turner. He was the “standup bass” fixture in many of Phil Spector’s recording sessions (now labeled “The Wrecking Crew”), and, if I’m not mistaken, that’s about when we met…. (two “Jazzers” on a rock date… perfect!)

As time evolved, Jimmy became busy as an arranger, working for producers Nick Venet, David Axelrod, Ed Michel and others with artists Linda Ronstadt, The Turtles, The Knickerbockers, Linda Ronstadt, Fred Neill and others.  Also, he was active as a composer and arranger of national jingles for Herman Edel, with film and television opportunities to follow.

His playing career continued to flourish, as he got busier and busier in film and television recording work… playing for the major studio orchestras including Alfred Newman at Fox, Joseph Gershenson at Universal and many others. At a time when very few African-American musicians were established in this field, Jimmy’s incredible grace, warmth, humor and skill opened all doors.

I am grateful to have shared so much with this incredible friend and musician. I miss him in all ways…. Thanks, Jimmy…. for all that you have done…

A memorial service for Jimmy Bond will take place at the Skirball Cultural Center on Saturday, May 26.  For more information, click HERE. 


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