Live Music: “Jazz At The Philharmonic.” The KJAZZ Radio Summer Benefit Concert At Walt Disney Concert Hall.

June 26, 2013

By Norton Wright

Los Angeles, CA.  Over eleven hundred jazz buffs streamed into the Walt Disney Concert Hall last Saturday night for the first every KJAZZ Radio Summer Benefit Concert to hear three separate groups, each with its own unique style. There was something for every taste.

Kicking off the evening was Harvey Mason’s powerhouse, cutting-edge fusion sextet “Chameleon” –

Followed by the nostalgia of 60-year-old songstress Diane Schuur backed by pianist Alan Broadbent’s quintet. Schuur’s singing of jazz standards still brave and swinging –

And for the concert’s finale, the smooth jazz of pianist David Benoit’s and his quintet — but with an exciting surprise in store!

Walt Disney Concert Hall is an acoustic marvel, so the performances of the evening’s individual soloists were dramatic and wonderfully defined. You’ve got to love the positionings of the “Chameleon” sextet. Harvey Mason at his drum set stage left — Bill Summers stage right with his confectionary of four conga drums, a giant, rattle shaker gourd. assorted bells, chimes, and whistles and a beer bottle (to be explained)! Two keyboardists upstage, Mark De Clive-Lowe on piano and John Beasley on his two synthesizers — And downstage center, Jimmy Haslip playing his throbbing 5-string electronic bass, and Kamasi Washington, the LeBron James of tenor men, a giant stage presence structuring his solos with the power and finesse of a Dexter Gordon.

Harvey Mason

Harvey Mason

With Mason opening his set with Wayne Shorter’s composition, “Footprints,” the musical exchanges between “Chameleon’s” all-stars took off. Hard-driving arrangements were juxtaposed with diaphanous, almost mystical ballads. At one point, keyboardists Beasley and Clive-Lowe sitting side by side improvised a duet on their separate synthesizer keyboards creating a mosaic of wind-chime beauty.

And when Mason chose to solo toward the end of the set, instead of a show-off  “dreaded drum solo,” his work was organic to the tune being played and a delight to listen to. To fully appreciate the unfolding of Mason’s percussive tapestry, the listener does well to remember the drum figure just played and then hear how it leads on to Mason’s subsequent and inventive variation.

And finally for “Chameleon” fun, Bill Summers abandoned his conga drums, gourd shaker, and tambourine to wow the audience by playing the top of a beer bottle like a flute and creating a series of breathy, reggae-styled whoops and licks. At his solo’s end Summers drank the remaining beer and toasted the audience with his bottle raised on high! He got a standing ovation.

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur has always been for me brave and beautiful. Blind since birth, she still comes on stage in a sparkly gown, wearing dark glasses and guided by a friend. And now after three decades of performing, she gleefully acknowledged the applause by bowing so deeply to the audience that her head almost touched the floor. Affection spilled out over the footlights in both directions.

Seated on a stool and backed by pianist Alan Broadbent’s quintet, Diane kicked into an up-tempo “’S Wonderful” and moved easily into Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” Suddenly it seemed like it was 1985 again. Deedles scatted through “I’ll Remember You” and then wrung our hearts so intensely with “Didn’t We” that Broadbent and his band, Ernie Watts (sax), Larry Koonse (guitar), Scott Steed (bass), and Clayton Cameron (drums) joined the audience in applauding her!

For a finale surprise, onto the stage walked Diane’s old pal, singer Steve Tyrell, and together they winged it on “How High The Moon” with Diane going stratospheric on the last note before she and Tyrell took a final bow to another standing ovation.

There are all kinds of beauty in the world. Certainly Diane Schuur doesn’t possess the physical beauty of the Alicia Keys cadre, but what spirit, gumption, and tenacity she’s displayed over the years! That’s another kind of beauty — and whether it’s Deedles with the Count Basie Orchestra back in 1987 or with Alan Broadbent’s combo today in 2013, she’s given the jazz world a bounty of beauty and meaning with her songs.

A special word is in order about Alan Broadbent who arranged all the songs for Schuur in this KJazz concert. Alan is that rare artist who provides marvelous support for a singer without overshadowing her with his own spectacular talent.

Note: Alan’s extraordinary piano work can most recently be heard on his solo album, Heart to Heart, (available on Amazon.com and on the CD Baby online music store) in which he dazzles with such complex and intricate keyboard work that without overdubbing, it still sounds as if he were playing duets with himself – probably with his rumored twenty-one fingers and a couple of toes!

In the KJazz Concert, Alan and his combo of all-stars provided solid backing for Schuur: Ernie Watts taking a particularly cool sax break on “I Remember You”; Larry Koonse’ guitar solo perfectly attuned to Diane’s bluesy feel on “Didn’t We”; Scott Steed’s bass solo providing a complex and nuanced reprise of the melody on the same number; and throughout Diane’s set, the reserved but tasty brush work of drummer Clayton Cameron.

And to end Diane’s set with a pyrotechnic change of pace, she and the band invited brush master Cameron to explode on “For Once in My Life” with a thunderous and mesmerizing drum solo featuring brushes and sticks on snare and bass drums, tom-toms, timbales, on an array of sparkling cymbals, and with the rarity of brushes played on bongos. Each percussion instrument was played with different combinations of brushes, drumsticks, timpani mallets, and pom pom sticks — each brush or stick set discarded onto the floor after its particular use. At solo’s end, a joyous Cameron sat atop of a mound of his exhausted and discarded brushes and drumsticks. This is a percussionist who is as much fun to watch as he is to hear.

David Benoit

David Benoit

In the concert’s finale, pianist David Benoit and his smooth jazz quintet paid homage to Benoit’s early idol, Vince Guaraldi, with a take on the “Charlie Brown/Peanuts” theme. But a surprise was in the offing as guest artist Christian Scott joined the ensemble with his crackling trumpet reminding so much of Freddy Hubbard’s aggressive drive on “Walking in Space.”  Scott lifted Benoit’s band into unexpected funky territory. Guitarist Grant Geissman caught fire on his solos with the feel of down-home, country blues. Tenor man David Sills, urged on by Benoit and Scott, began to wail. Bassist David Hughes and drummer Jamey Tate followed suit. With his piano lines becoming more muscularly baroque than his expected decorative rococo, Benoit was into robust stride piano licks by evening’s end, and he and his quintet ended the concert up-tempo and gutsy.

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To read more posts by and about Norton Wright click HERE.


Picks of the Week: May 14 – 19

May 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Brenna Whitaker

Brenna Whitaker

- May 15. (Wed.)  Brenna Whitaker.  She could have been a ‘30s platinum blond star.  But Whitaker doesn’t just look good; she can sing, too.  This time out she picks a set of tunes to enhance the birthday of Vibrato co-owner Eden Alpert.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- May 15. (Wed.)  Lado B Project.  A lively evening of Brazilian music, featuring Otmaro Ruiz, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Edwin Livingston, bass, Aaron Serfaty, drums and Catina DeLuna, voice.  Brazilian music.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 16. (Thurs.)  Lisa Hilton. The ever adventurous pianist/composer Hilton continues her quest for new musical territories for her to explore. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 16. (Thurs.)  John Proulx.  Singer/pianist Proulx has begun to claim a position in the rare category of male jazz singer.  Proulx, like his musical role model, Chet Baker, brings the flowing phrases of his instrumental playing to his vocal interpretations.    H.O.M.E. (House of Music and Entertainment)   (310) 271-4663.

- May 17. (Fri.)  Jim Snidero Group.  Saxophonist Snidero’s lengthy resume reaches from his own numerous recordings to performances with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Frank Wess. The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester

- May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Melissa Manchester. She’s been producing memorable music since the ‘70s, including “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.”  Here’s a chance to catch her in one of her rare club appearances. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.  This is a stellar organ trio if ever there was one.  Each of the players is an influence in his own right.  Don’t miss them.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 17 – 19, 23 & 25. (Fri. – Sun., Thurs., Sat.)  Mozart/Da Ponte TrilogyThe Marriage of Figaro. The second of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s three year trilogy of opera by Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The great comic opera is performed in a concert staged version by the Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists.  Disney Hall.  http://www.laphil.com  (323) 850-2000.

- May 19. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Concerto Finale.  The LACO players offer a fascinating evening of concertos, including Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto, and an offbeat bassoon concerto performed with a 1927 silent film.  Add the Beethoven Coriolan Overture and anticipate an engaging program.   CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-4321.

- May 19. (Sun.)  Deborah Voigt.  Critically acknowledged as one of the classical music world’s dramatic sopranos, Voigt – who roves freely from Wagner to Puccini – offers an intimate recital of works by Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein and more.  Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

San Francisco

Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck

- May 16 – 19 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Bela Fleck solo.  Banjo master Fleck has performed in every imaginable setting.  But he is especially compelling musically when he plays in the creative intimacy of a solo performance.  SFJAZZ Center Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- May 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  John Hammond.  Praised by the likes of Tom Waits and T-Bone Burnett, Grammy-winning guitarist/singer/harmonica player Hammond keeps the blues alive in everything he plays.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York City

- May 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  Bossabrasil.  Featuring Dori Caymmi with special guest, Joyce.  Rio comes to Manhattan in the form of a pair of Brazil’s most versatile and gifted musical artists.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- May 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Gil Evans Project.  Directed by Ryan Truesdell.  An amazing week of music, featuring a large ensemble exploring the full range of Gil Evans’ extraordinary talents.  The selections for each night include Gil Evans’ music for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, “Out of the Cool,” “New Bottle, Old Wine,” “Great Jazz Standards,” “The Individualism of Gil Evans,” “Miles Ahead,” “Porgy and Bess,” Check with the club for scheduling.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

London

Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes

- May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band. The Fountain of Youth has had the biggest impact upon the leader, drummer and role model in this band.  At 88, Haynes is still playing with the imagination and energy of youth.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.

Berlin

- May 17 & 18.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Lee Ritenour.  He used to be called “Captain Fingers” in honor of his high-speed dexterity.  But guitarist Ritenour has a more lyrical side as well, often employing octave melody style of his favorite musical model, Wes Montgomery.  A-Trane.    +49 30 3132 ext. 550

Copenhagen

- May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Mark Whitfield.  Dubbed the “best young guitarist in the business” by the New York Times, Whitfield performs with a trio of prime Danish jazz musicians: Henrik Gunde, piano, Kasper Vadsholt, bass and Rasmus Kihlberg, drums.  Jazzhus Montmartre.   +45 31 72 34 94

Milan

Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

- May 18. (Sat.) Anat Cohen.  Clarinetist/saxophonist Cohen is in the forefront of an impressive generation of female jazz instrumentalists.  She’s backed by Jason Lindner, piano, Stefano Bellani, bass and Daniel Freedman, drums.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

- May 14 – 16. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Benny Golson Quartet.  Tenor saxophonist/composer Golson is still, at age 84, a player with a lot of music to express.  Hopefully he’ll also play some of his jazz hits such as “Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” “Along Came Betty” and more.  The Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: April 10 – 14

April 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

- April 10 – 14.  (Wed. – Sun.)  Chick Corea Trio.  With bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr.  Corea’s musical activities lately have ranged in all directions.  But here’s an irresistible opportunity to hear his uniquely inventive playing in an illuminating piano trio setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- April 10. (Wed.)  Max Raabe and the Palast Orkester.  The glorious jazz and pop music of the ‘20s and ‘30s comes vividly to life in the early big band music of Germany’s Palast Orkester and singer/leader Raabe.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- April 10. (Wed.)  Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble. The seven gifted young musicians of the Monk Institute Jazz Ensemble – Mike Cottone, Josh Johnson, Eric Miller, Jonathan Pinson, David Robaire, Miro Sprague and Diego Urbano – make a rare public performance. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 10 & 11. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Gypsy All Stars.  Gypsy Kings alumni Ced Leonardi and Mario Reyes are keeping alive the surging rhythms and soaring melodies of the Indo-Gypsy fusion of the original Kings. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- April 14. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale. The stunningly versatile singers of the LAMC take on the music of  Poulenc and Vaughan Williams, a pair of composers stylistically positioned on opposite sides of the English Channel.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Ute Lemper

- April 10 & 11. (Wed. – Thurs.)  Ute Lemper.  The amazing Ms. Lemper calls up memories of German cabaret in general and the music of Kurt Weill in particular.   SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.   (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- April 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Garrett Quintet.  Grammy-winning alto saxophonist Garrett’s resume reaches from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis.  At 52, he’s one of the most inventive players of the post-Coltrane generation.   Jazz Alleyt (312) 360-0234.

Boston

- April 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.)  Michel Camilo Trio. Born in the Dominican Republic, pianist Camilo brings the panoramic rhythms and hues of the Caribbean to his inventive jazz stylings.  Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

New York City

Al DiMeola

April 10 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba Duo.  Guitarist DiMeola and pianist Rubalcaba are a well-matched musical team, moving amiably across jazz stylels.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- April 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Eric Harland and Voyager. Drummer Harland, a first-call jazz rhythm section player, steps into the spotlight with his own group of talented young players, including Julian Lage, guitar, Taylor Eigsti, piano, Harish Raghavan, bass, Walter Smith III, tenor saxophone.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

London

- April 14. (Sun.) Natalie Williams Soul Family.  Call it a delightful evening of soul music at its finest with Williams, her band and special guest JP CooperRonnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747

Copenhagen

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

- April 11 – 13. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stefano Bollani.  Milan-born pianist Bollani moves eclectically from jazz to classical music and beyond, establishing himself as one of Europe’s most gifted musical artists.  He performs here with bassist Jesper Bodlisen and drummer Morten LundJazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- April 13. (Sat.)  Kazumi Watanabe, Jeff Berlin and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.  Guitarist Watanabe, one of Japan’s most prominent fusion/jazz-rock artists, has performed with players ranging from Wayne Shorter to Richard Bona.  He’s backed by the equally versatile bassist Berlin and drummer Hernandez.  Blue Note Milano.     +39 02 6901 6888

Tokyo

Helen Merrill

Helen Merrill

- April 10 – 12.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Helen Merrill. Jazz vocalist Merrill’s imaginiative skills have established her as a musicians’ singer, highly regarded by Japanese jazz fans.  She sings with the Masahiko Satoh Trio and special guest Hozan YamamotoBlue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

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Chick Corea photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Live Music: Bobby McFerrin at Disney Concert Hall

April 4, 2013

By Don Heckman

There’s one thing that can almost always be anticipated about a Bobby McFerrin appearance: that there’s no telling what to expect. His performance at Disney Hall Wednesday night, for example, seemed to be specifically on track, with the whimsical title, “Spirityouall,” announcing a program honoring his father, Robert McFerrin, Sr., an operatic baritone and interpreter of spirituals.

And the evening did indeed overflow with spirituals, from classics such as “Wade in the Water” to McFerrin originals. But the songs – as always in a McFerrin performance – were just the starting points for startlingly creative musical expeditions.

Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin

At the center of each song was the astonishing McFerrin voice. Blessed with an extraordinary instrument, reaching over several octaves, capable of leaping giant intervals in a single bound, there were no limits to his expressive potential. Whether simply arching warmly through a familiar melody, adding his own inventive variations or showcasing his remarkable vocal gymnastics, he was utterly fascinating. And he enhanced his appeal with a wry sense of humor and compelling interaction with his musicians.

Which raises another vital aspect of this mesmerizing evening – the presence of a quintet of musical artists completely in sync with McFerrin’s every subtle improvisational twist and turn. At the keyboards (and accordion) Gil Goldstein also served as musical director and arranger; David Mansfield doubled on guitar, mandolin and violin; Armand Hirsch also played guitar and mandolin; Jeff Carney payed contrabass; and Louis Cato doubled impressively on drum set, percussion and back up vocals.

There were far too many high points to mention them all. Among the most memorable:

  • A version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” ranging from pensive to gently swinging.
  • “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho”: enhanced by McFerrin’s high flying scatting; it’s hard to name any current jazz singer who can vocally improvise with his rhythmic elan and melodic inventiveness.
  • The emotionally touching originals, “Woe” and “Jesus Makes It Good” (performed by McFerrin at the piano).
  • A stunning, bebop-driven trio medley with bassist Carney and drummer Cato.
  • And another medley, this time with a distinctly bluegrass slant, featuring violinist Mansfield and keyboardist Goldstein.
  • Add to all that McFerrin’s frequent singalong interactions with his receptive audience, as well as a living room moment in which he asked any listeners who so desired to join him at the stage to share a song. And a few did, enthusiastically doing their best with “Amen.”

McFerrin wrapped the program with an encore version of “Wade in the Water,” a final reminder of his extraordinary creative gifts, and a delightfully conclusive ending to a memorable musical adventure.


Picks of the Week: Feb. 12 – 17

February 13, 2013

By The iRoM Staff

Los Angeles

Valentine’s Day

Steve Tyrell- Feb. 13 – 17. (Wed. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  Vocalist Tyrell applies his appealing, jazz-driven style, enhanced by his warm Texas roots, to five evenings of memorable Valentine’s Day celebrating.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 14 (Thurs.)  Dream Street & Bobbi Page.  The combination of guitarist Stan Ayeroff, the amiable acoustic chamber music of Dream Street, and the tender, evocative singing of Page is a welcome choice for another celebration of the day of love.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  Carol RobbinsTony Gala.  Harpist Robbins sets the Valentine’s Day mood in the first set, followed by the romantic vocals of Gala.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 14. (Thurs.) Nancy Sanchez.  Award-winning jazz vocalist Sanchez displays her many impressive talents.  Steamers.     (714) 871-8800.

Denise Donatelli

Denise Donatelli

- Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli.  She was nominated again, but Denise didn’t win a Grammy this year, although she should have.  And here’s a great opportunity to hear why her singing is so special, as she applies her lustrous sound and intimate interpretations to a program of Valentine love songs.  Prestons at the Loew’s Hotel Hollywood.   (323) 491-1000.

- Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  Taylor Eigsti.  Once a youthful piano prodigy, Eigsti is now a fully matured jazz artist.  He’s joined by Dayna Stephens, saxophone, Harish Raghavan, bass and Eric Harland, drums.  Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Sue Raney

Sue Raney

- Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  “A Gershwin Valentine.”  And a colorful Valentine at that, enhanced by a full spectrum of musical vocalizing from Sue Raney, Michael Dees, Kurt Reichenbach and Pinky WintersA Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.    (310) 271-9039.

- Feb. 14 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  “Romance at the Phil”  Celebrate a classical music Valentine’s week with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Charles Dutoit, with soloists Gautier Capucon, cello, and Carrie Dennis, viola, in a program of romantic classics from Mendelssohn, Mozart and Strauss.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The 13th Annual Newport Beach Jazz Party. It would take much more space than we have to mention all the world-class jazz talent at the annual Newport event.  But trust that – as always – the four engaging days of the Party will offer non-stop jazz at its finest.  The Newport Beach Jazz Party at the Marriott Newport Beach Hotel and Spa.  For details, check the web site.    (949) 759-5003.

And More

Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island Quartet

Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island Quartet

- Feb. 15. (Fri.)   Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island Quartet. “Poets and Prayers.” The unique combination of vocalist Sutton and the Turtle Island players finds inspiration in the music of Joni Mitchell and John Coltrane, and the poetry of Hafiz and Rumi.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at Zipper Hall.    (310) 271-9039.

- Feb. 17. (Sun.)  The Chieftains. The irresistible playing and singing of the Chieftains remind us of the many pleasures of Irish music.  Disney Hall. http://www.laphil.com/tickets/calendar  (323) 850-2000.

- Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Tim Weisberg Band.  Vitello’s.  Flutist Weisberg leads the fine musical collective of keyboardist Barnaby Finch,  bassist David Hughes, drummer David Derge and guitarist/vocalist Chuck AlvarezVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Pat Senatore Trio with Josh Nelson.  Jazz crosses the generations via the well-crafted, veteran bass work of Senatore and the adventurous piano playing of the youthful Nelson.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Paco Pena Flamenco Vivo” The brilliant Flamenco guitarist Pena is joined by a dynamic band of guitarists, singers and dancers.   Fri.: Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.      Sat.: Valley Performing Arts Center. (562) 916-8501.     (818) 677-3000.

San Francisco

The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer

- Feb. 15 – 17.  (Fri. – Sun.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  No one does jazz vocal ensemble singing better than the Transfer.  And they’re back to their best with the welcome return (from an illness hiatus) of the superb singing of Cheryl BentyneYoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 128-9200.

Washington D.C.

- Feb. 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jerry “The Iceman” Butler.  Once the lead singer of the Impressions, soul singer Butler – at 73 – is still out there, fully justifying his entry into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

- Feb. 12 – 18. (Tues. – Mon.)  The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.  Monday night big band jazz was a favorite, for years, on the Vanguard stage.  This time, the swinging ensemble is in residency for a week.   The Village Vanguard.    (212) 255-4037.

- Feb. 14 – 17. )Thurs. – Sun.)  Rachelle Ferrell. With a remarkable vocal range and a simmering, blues-driven style, Ferrell knows how to apply it all to her intriguing jazz interpretations.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

London

Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias

- Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera.  A world class jazz trio, with Elias’ imaginative piano lines backed by the dynamic rhythm of bassist Johnson and drummer LaBarbera.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Berlin

- Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Cedar Walton Trio.  Pianist Walton, everyone’s favorite rhythm section player, steps out in front, backed by bassist David Williams and drummer Willie Jones III.  A-Trane.  030/313 25 50.

Tokyo

- Feb. 13 – 16. (Wed. – Sat.)  Nicola Conte and Till Bronner.  Versatile Italian guitarist Conte teams up with the equally eclectic German trumpeter Bronner.  The Tokyo Blue Note.     03-5485 0088.

Steve Tyrell photo by Bob Barry

Denise Donatelli and Sue Raney photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: The Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra with April Williams at Vitello’s

December 18, 2012

By Don Heckman

On the way home from Disney Hall Sunday, the traffic on the 101 magically – and unexpectedly –  opened up, and we suddenly realized we could reach Vitello’s just in time to catch the second set by the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.

Call it an unusual sequence – from the Christmas music of Bach and Vivaldi, performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, to a big jazz band in action.  And “big” is precisely the right word for this organization, which expands the usual 17 to 18 piece big band instrumentation to 22 players, including a French horn section.

Add to that the announcement the evening would include an extremely rare performance by singer April Williams, whose management of Vitello’s Upstairs Jazz Room has established one of the Southland’s important new jazz venues.

April Williams with the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Band

April Williams with the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Band

Combined, it was all too good to miss.

Vitello’s was jammed when we arrived, the tables and booths overflowing with listeners, as the Jones players filled the stage from one side of the room to the other. Fortunately we found a nook where we could sit, drink some wine, and prepare to expand our evening of Christmas music from Baroque to bebop.

Not all bebop, that is.  But plenty of it in the vigorous soloing of players such as saxophonists Fred Selden, Pete Christlieb, Doug Webb and Gene Cipriano, pianist Alan Steinberger, trumpeter Bob Summers and trombonist Bob McChesney.

Most of the music in the set, however, was dedicated to Christmas songs, arranged to apply the rich tonal resources and jazz-driven rhythms of the 22 piece ensemble to the familiar canon of Christmas classics.,

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” arrived in a lushly harmonized medley with “Silent Night.”  Contrastingly, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” surfaced with a briskly jaunty rhythmic underpinning, driven by Dave Tull’s energetic drumming.

Thad Jones’ lovely “A Child Is Born” was next.  It hasn’t become a Christmas classic yet, but it should.  Especially via the beautifully arranged version by the Jones Influence Orchestra, with musically touching contributions from pianist Steinberger.

Johnny Mandel’s Grammy- and Academy Award-winning “The Shadow Of Your Smile” generated yet another perspective. Not exactly a Christmas item, it added a unique touch to the fascinating program via an arrangement featuring the fine French horn playing of Tawnee Lillo and Jean Marinelli.

The performance peaked with the arrival of April Williams on stage with a puckish smile on her face, clearly in the mood to have fun.  And she did, singing Steve Allen’s “Cool Yule,” making the most of lyrics announcing the arrival of St. Nick:

           “From Coney Island to The Sunset Strip
           Somebody’s gonna make a happy trip
          Tonight, while the moon is bright.”

Clearly enjoying every moment she had with the backing of the Jones Jazz Influence Band, April topped off the number with a call for everyone to:

“Have a Yule that’s cool
Yeah, a cool Yule.”

It was the perfect climax to an evening that had begun with Bach and Vivaldi and wound up with big band jazz, all of it illuminating the far-ranging musical inspiration that Christmas has created over the centuries.  And there’s still another week and a half to hear even more Christmas music before the joyous day arrives.

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To read the iRoM review of the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall click HERE or scroll up.


Picks of the Week: May 9 – 13

May 9, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- May 10 & 11. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Peter Eldridge: Foolish Hearts.  Grammy winning pianist/vocalist Eldridge is joined by bassist Matt Aronoff for an intimate musical excursion through originals and standards.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Gustavo Dudamel

- May 10 – 12. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicGustavo Dudamel conducts a sparkling evening of Mozart (the Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro and the Posthorn Serenade), and a featured appearance by young virtuoso violinist Alina Pogostkina performing Distant Light by Latvian composer Peteris VasksDisney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- May 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Garrett Quintet.  Cutting edge alto saxophonist Garrett makes his musical intentions clear when he says, “Don’t look for me to sound like my last record.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 11. (Fri.)  Danny Janklow.  Rapidly rising jazz alto saxophonist Janklow is backed by solid support from the trio of pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Jimmy BranleyVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- May 12. (Sat.)  Kristin Chenowith.  Emmy and Tony Award winner Chenowith, a Broadway star of the highest voltage, launches her debut world tour with a stop at the Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

John Pizzarelli and Jane Monheit

- May 12 (Sat.)  John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jane Monheit. What a great pairing – the loose, swinging guitar playing and jaunty vocals of Pizzarelli combining perfectly with the gorgeous sound and soaring intimacy of Monheit’s singing.   Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

New York

- May 9 – 12. (Wed. – Sat.)  Steve Kuhn, Steve Swallow and Joey Baron.  There’s a lot of musical history between pianist Kuhn and bassist Swallow, and it all pays off musically with the dynamic addition of drummer Baron.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- May 9 – 13. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big BandPaquito Rivera conducts an assemblage of the Big Apple’s finest jazz talent in a program celebrating the memory and the music of the incomparable Gillespie.  The Blue Note.    (212)  475-8592.

Paula West

- May 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.) Paula West“A Tribute To George Mesterhazy.”  The superb San Francisco-based jazz singer, never fully appreciated for her extraordinary talents, performs in honor of her late accompanist, musical director and close friend.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

London

- May 9 – 12. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Kyle Eastwood Band.  Bassist Eastwood, an impressive talent who seems to improve with every outing, bringing some tough, straight ahead qualities to a listenable contemporary sound.  Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Milan

Ernie Watts

- May 10. (Thurs.)  Ernie Watts Quartet. The saxophone playing jazz pride of Los Angeles displays his considerable talents – on tenor and soprano – with a trio of first rate European players.  The Blue Note Milano.    02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

- May 10 – 12. (Thurs. – Sat.)  STAX!.  The incomparable groove of the famous Stax sound is alive and well in the gifted hands of veterans Steve Cropper, guitar, Duck Dunn, bass and Eddie Floyd, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo. 03-5485-0088.


Live Music: Keith Jarrett performs solo at Walt Disney Concert Hall

March 28, 2012

By Michael Katz

Keith Jarrett and Disney Hall were a perfect match Tuesday night. It wasn’t just the pristine acoustics of the hall, its warm interiors surrounding Jarrett’s solo piano. An adoring capacity house brought him back for three encores, even coaxing Jarrett to converse gently with them on several occasions.

The performance itself was a series of improvisations, in the spirit of his recent CD Rio, a 2 disc set from a live performance in Rio De Janeiro. The connection was evident in the opening piece, which began with Jarrett plucking the piano wires and tapping the frame, giving the audience a visceral feeling that they were embarking on a journey, if not into Amazonia, then at least into Jarrett’s own musical imaginings. There was a sense of taking a few bends in the river, then being untethered from workaday boundaries.

What followed was a series of musical meanderings – at one point Jarrett remarked that critics had described it as the “short new me.”

Looking through my own notes is like trying to trace back bread crumbs: “hints of blues…sentimental theme, bright riffing…subdued and introspective….elegiac…gospel-ly…sounds like Something I Should Know…” At no point did Jarrett indulge in pyrotechnics, no breathless runs through the keyboard; neither did he veer into the atonal. There was no sense of wasted chords, or even notes; he is spare without being simple. Returning to the river analogy, I felt like I was rafting down the Colorado with a guide who would say, “Let’s see what this side canyon looks like.” And off we would go, drifting along, picking up pace through the eddies, then rejoining the river, listening for rapids ahead.

There were times when I had an uneasy feel, that Something Should Be Happening. Jarrett would build tension with a dance through the piano’s upper registers, or a few impending bass notes. It seemed like a score in search of a scene. Unlike a standard tune with its familiar lyrics, improvisation leaves the audience to find its own frame of reference. And before the vague discomfort settled in, Jarrett would dart off somewhere else. After the intermission, he settled into some slightly longer themes. A bluesy, foot tapping riff energized the crowd, there were moments of gospel in a later piece that nominally closed the show.

If the second half seemed too short, the encores filled out the evening. The first one was clearly anticipated. It was a lovely elegy, ebbing and flowing, providing what would have been a perfectly satisfying end to the journey. But the audience was clearly not ready to disembark, and Jarrett returned and took them on another brief trip around the harbor. When a third encore was demanded, the pianist contemplated the situation, took a few false steps, then settled into the familiar bridge to “Over The Rainbow.”

Jarrett has devoted plenty of attention to American standards, mostly in his familiar trio format, but it is still remarkable what he can do with them. His version of Harold Arlen’s “Rainbow” was exquisite, starting with the bridge, melding it into the familiar melody,  probing into the chordal structure of the piece, then returning to the theme. After an evening of exploring the uncharted recesses of his imagination, “Over The Rainbow,” was a perfect coda. The audience pulled him back for one more bow and a simple “Thank You.” Nothing more was required.

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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 Music: Zakir Hussain’s Masters of Percussion at Walt Disney Concert Hall

March 23, 2012

By Don Heckman

Despite the title of his performance at Disney Hall Wednesday night – “Masters of Percussion” – Zakir Hussain did a lot more than fill the stage with a company of drummers.  And that’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of propulsive rhythm taking place.

Son of the legendary tabla player, Ustad Alla Rakha, Hussain has become an iconic tabla master in his own right over the past few decades, moving convincingly from Indian classical music to fusions with international jazz and pop artists.

Zakir Hussain

But this night was something else.  Although Hussain’s playing was as brilliantly virtuosic as ever, his goal was to introduce Indian music in a setting that would offer prime entertainment value for Western audiences easily intimidated by (or just disinterested in) the complexities of the raga and tala system.  Neither raga nor tala, in fact, were mentioned over the course of a mesmerizing evening (despite their subliminal presence in parts of the music).

Instead, virtuosity was the primary item on the menu – delivered via high speed, stunningly articulate technical skills, displayed for the most part in challenging exchanges between individual musicians.

One of the high points was the warm interplay between Hussain and his younger brother, Fazal Qureshi, both tabla players, both displaying the rich musical wisdom passed on by their guru and father, Ustad Alla Rakha.  As always, Hussain was simply remarkable, especially impressive with his ability to play pitched melodic bass notes (including a humorously inserted, brief excerpt from the William Tell Overture on his larger tabla drum).

Another duo – Navin Sharma, playing the dholak, a two headed drum, and Abos Kosimov, playing the doyra, frame drum – exchanged phrases with all the visceral energy of a jazz jam session.  Kosimov, in particular, playing three drums simultaneously, balancing one on a finger while playing a second drum with his other hand, was as entertaining as he was virtuosic.

The performances by the ensemble’s two melody instrument artists – bansuri flutist Rakesh Chaurasia and sarangi (a short-necked string instrument played with a bow) player Sabir Khan — were extraordinary,  Playing the complex melodic ornamentations of the Indian classical style with ease, they added a rich emotive contrast to the many layers of percussion sound.

Equally fascinating, T.H.V. Umashankar produced remarkable sounds, while punishing his hands, on the ghatam clay pot drum.  And dancing drummer Ningomban Joy Singh was an extraordinary study in physicality, leaping and bounding across the stage while producing propulsive rhythmic sounds on small hand percussion.

The most intriguing part of the program was a collective work, featuring dancer Antonia Minnecola, one of the rare American-born artists adept at Kathak, the classical dance style of India.  Based upon an important episode in the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic, the work told the story of the kidnapping of the Goddess Sita and her ultimate rescue by her consort, god Rama.

Hussain assigned each individual musician to a role representing one of the characters in the story, with the instruction to play solo passages as their characters came to the forefront in the telling of the story.  In the center of the arc of musicians, dancer Minnecola’s elegantly stylized movements were the focal point for the unfolding saga.  Hussain had introduced the piece, and the way it was done, as a kind of creative experiment in the use of a percussion ensemble as a story-telling medium.  And it worked.

As did everything else in this mesmerizing evening.  Masters of Percussion, yes.   More accurately – Masters of the Art of Music.

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Picks of the Week: Mar. 13 – 18

March 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Willie Nelson

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Willie Nelson and Family. Legendary is a word that actually has some veracity when applied to the music and the career of superstar Nelson.  He makes his first appearance at Disney Hall on a bill that also includes his family members, as well as a group led by his son, Lukas NelsonDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightPat Kelley’s the guest guitarist, celebrating his birthday in Guitar Night’s loose and swinging format.  Bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Kendall Kay lay down the heat that will keep the music cooking.  Lucy’s 51. Toluca Lake.  (818) 763-5200.

Janicey Brar/Billie Holiday

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Janicey Brar. Tribute to Billie Holiday  “Tribute” performers – singers and musicians who take on the persona, the performing style and the image of famous artists – are far more rare in jazz than they are in popular music.  But Milwaukee’s Brar, who spent years impersonating Tina Turner, is one of the exceptions.  The simulation of Billie Holiday that she’s doing for this performance has been praised for its impressive musical and visual qualities.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 14. (Wed.)  Otmaro Ruiz.  Venezuelan-born pianist/composer Ruiz moves comfortably and authentically across stylistic and genre boundaries, playing straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, pop, rock, salsa, fusion and beyond.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400. http://www.in-housemusic.com/calendar.html

- Mar. 15. (Thurs.) Julie Kelly and Stephanie Haynes. A pair of veteran jazz singers, each with her own unique style, get together for an evening of vocal jazz magic. Neither is heard in the Southland as often as they should be, so don’t miss this chance to check out their engaging skills.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 258-1333.

"Casablanca"

- Mar. 15. – 17. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Casablanca.  Here’s the formula for a truly fascinating evening.  Max Steiner’s memorable score for Casablanca performed by the Pacific Symphony under Richard Kaufman, live in sync with a big screen projection of the cinematic masterpiece.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.  (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The T.S. Monk Sextet.  Drummer Monk, blessed with the genetic heritage of his father, Thelonious Monk, has established himself as a solid musical talent in his own right.  Carpenter Performing Arts Center.    (562) 985-7000.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Jose Rizo’s “Mongorama.” Jose Rizo’s knack for assembling solid musical aggregations continues with the nine-piece Mongorama’s exciting explorations of Mongo Santamaria’s charanga-jazz of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Frankie Valli

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  Frankie Valli. The ‘60s teen heartthrob, lead voice of the Four Seasons, revisits some of the iconic group’s hits – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” “Sherry,” and more. Segerstrom Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Mingus Dynasty. More than 30 years after the passing of Charles Mingus, his music is still being kept vividly alive in the hands of the seven piece Mingus Dynasty Band.  Expect to hear such classics from the large Mingus catalog as “Better Git It In Your Soul, “ “Haitian Fight Song” and Pithecanthus Erectus.”  Royce Hall.  A UCLA Live concert.    (310) 825-2101.  To read Michael Katz’s Reflections on Charles Mingus click HERE.

- Mar. 16 – 18. (Fri. – Sun.)  Chuck Loeb Quartet. Guitarist Loeb celebrates the release of his CD, Plain and Simple, hewing to the title with a program of lively, hard swinging music, baked by the stellar ensemble of  Mitchel Forman, keyboards, Lionel Cordew, drums and Eric Marienthal, saxophones. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Johnny Mandel

- Mar. 17. (Sat.) Johnny Mandel Big Band. One of the true treasures of contemporary American music – reaching from jazz to film to song and beyond – Mandel makes one of his too rare club appearance, leading a band of all-stars in a program that will be filled with familiar melody and irresistible rhythm.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 17. (Sat.)  Spectral Scriabin. Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton enliven composer Alexander Scriabin’s desire to blend the spectrum of colors with the full panorama of musical pitches.  The performance includes excerpts from Scriabin’s Poeme Languide in B Major and the Feuillet d’Album in F-sharp Major.  The Broad Stage.    (310) 434-3200.

San Francisco

Dave Grisman

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The Dave Grisman Quartet.  Mandolinist Grisman has been one of the primary shapers of contemporary acoustic music for decades. And he’s still finding new expressive methods – currently with a group that includes bassist Jim Kerwin, flutist Matt Eakle, percussionist George Marsh and guitarist Grant GordiYoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- Mar. 18. (Sun.)  The Uri Caine Trio. Mention an area of musical expression – from early classical to contemporary electronics to staright ahead jazz –  and pianist/composer  Caine has been there at one time or another.  His current interest focuses on his acoustic jazz piano trio, with John Hebert, bass and Ben Perowsky, drums.  The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season Event.     (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

Stanley Jordan

- Mar. 15 – 18.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Stanley Jordan.  Solo guitar.  The master of the tap-on style of jazz guitar playing Jordan is always at his best in a solo setting that allows his improvisational imagination to roam freely.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

- Mar. 13 – 18.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Heath Brothers.  Jazz history comes alive when Jimmy Heath, saxophones, Albert “Tootie” Heath, drums get together to recall the high points of their decades of jazz prominence.  They’ll be backed by Jeb Patton, piano and David Wong, bass.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- Mar. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  Eddie Palmieri.  The veteran pianist/composer/bandleader celebrates  his 75th birthday.  A musical pioneer virtually from the time of his appearance on the scene in the ‘50s, Palmieri has been one of the principal creative forces in the growth of Latin jazz.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Mira Awad and Noa (Achinoam Nini)

- Mar. 15. (Thurs. )  Noa and Mira.  Israeli singers Noa (Achinoam Nini) and Mira Awad are superb artists, dedicated to peaceful coexistence in their country.  Singing in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Israel’s top Jewish (Noa) and Arab (Mira) singer/songwriters perform together on behalf of the Abraham Fund.      The Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center. (212) 258-9800.

Boston

Mar. 17. (Sat.) Betty Buckley.  Tony Award winner (for her role in Cats), Buckley also has a resume listing performances reaching from Broadway musicals to film, television and recordings.  And she is especially compelling when she’s in an up close and personal night club setting, bringing utter believability to every musical story she tells.    The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

London

Iain Mackenzie

Mar. 18. (Sun.)  Iain Mackenzie & Swing City.  Mackenzie, one of the U.K.’s favorite jazz singers uses his strong baritone and brisk sense of swing to carry the torch for the vocal tradition of Mel Torme, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra and more.  He’ll be backed by the solid drive of the eight piece Swing City band.  He’ll do a pair of matinee shows – at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Milan

Mar. 15. (Thurs.)  Miroslav Vitous.  Czech-born Vitous was one of the ground breaking acoustic bassists of the ‘70s, often grouped with the likes of Scott Lafaro, Dave Holland and others. Emphasizing his compositional interests in recent years, he makes one of his rare club appearances.  He’ll perform with Robert Bonisolo, saxophone and Aydin Esen, piano.  Blue Note Milan.    02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

Mar. 14 – 16.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Billy Childs Quartet. Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his Chamber Ensemble performances and his role in Chris Botti’s band to stretch out with the world class companionship of Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, Scott Colley, bass and Brian Blade, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5484-0088.


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