Picks of the Week: May 22 – 27

May 22, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Kathleen Grace

- May 22. (Tues.)  Kathleen Grace Group.  Singer Grace, a true musical adventurer, combines the folk-based methods of the ‘70s singer songwriters with her jazz roots in her new album, Mirror.   Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908

- May 22. (Tues.) Otmaro Ruiz/Aaron Serfaty Quartet.  Versatile pianist Ruiz and drummer Serfaty – musical partners for three decades — get together with the solid bass playing of Edwin Livingstone and the lush vocals of Brazilian singer/composer Catina De Luna. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 24. (Thurs.)  Vardan Ovsepian.  Armenia-born pianist/composer Ovsepian celebrates his birthday with a release party for his new CD, ChromaticityBlue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

- May 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Four consecutive nights of Mozart compositions conducted by Gustavo Dudamel,  Thurs. and Sat. will begin the three year Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy with Don Giovanni. Friday night and Sun. afternoon will feature Exultate, jubilate and the Posthorn Serenade (K. 320) with soprano Kiera DuffyDisney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Tierney Sutton

- May 25 – 27. (Fri. – Sun.) Tierney Sutton Band. It’s one of the finest musical partnerships in all of jazz – the almost symbiotic connection between Sutton’s warm, pliable voice and the complimentary responsiveness of her Band.  Hopefully they’ll play some selections from her latest CD, American Road.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- May 26. (Sat.)  War and Tower of Power. Two of the heavy rhythm, hard charging rock bands of the late ‘60s and beyond, War and Tower of Power impacted much of the crossover music that followed.  And they’re still at it. Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- May 27. (Sun.) Alan Broadbent.  The gifted pianist/composer Broadbent, long one of the Southland’s jazz benefits, moved to the east coast last year.  Fortunately he comes back from time to time, so don’t miss this visit, in which he’ll be backed by bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kendall Kay Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

* * * * * *       HIGHLIGHT      * * * * * *

May 27. (Sun.) The 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival’s Second Community Concert. The Playboy Jazz Festival’s annual free concerts leading up to the Festival itself — which takes place on June 16 & 17 at the Hollywood Bowl – are some of the Southland’s greatest jazz bargains. And this year is no exception.  The second free concert of the 2012 Festival takes place at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.  The featured act is the Jeff Lorber Fusion.

Jeff Lorber

Founded in 1977, the Fusion was a pacemaker in transforming cross-over pop- and rock-influenced jazz into a convincing musical blend.  Since then, Lorber’s done everything from solo recording and production and session work to r&b and video game music.  But his many fans are always delighted on the rare occasions when he once again revives the inimitable Jeff Lorber Fusion.

Also on the bill, the fine playing of the Washington Preparatory High School Jazz Ensemble, another collective of Southland young players convincingly proving that the future of jazz is in fine hands.,  The Second Free Playboy Community Concert at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.        (310) 450-1173.

 San Francisco

- May 25 – 27. (Fri. – Sun.)  Joshua Redman’s James Farm group examines some of the far reaching connections between jazz and contemporary pop sounds.  With pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric HarlandYoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Chicago

- May 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Gerald Clayton Trio.  Already an impressive pianist when he was in his teens, the twentysomething Clayton has matured into one of the gifted jazz artists of his generation.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

Joe Lovano

- May 22 – 26. (Tues. – Sat.)  Joe Lovano US Five. The dynamic tenor saxophonist’s talented young band checks out the music from his Bird Songs album – the still potent pleasures of bebop and its memories.  Birdland.    Bird Songs.  Album  *212( 581-3080.

- May 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.)  Fred Hersch Duos & Trio. Pianist Hersch continues his fascinating journey through classically-oriented jazz territories via his work with duos and a trio. The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- May 277. (Sun.)  Ravichandra Kulur.  South Indian flutist Kulur is a master of the Carnatic ragas and talas of his homeland.  His improvisational excursions are aided by Arun Ramamurthy, violin, and Akshay Anantapadmanabhan, mridangam.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

London

- May 27. (Sun.)  Sunday Jazz Lunch Celebrating the Modern Jazz Quartet.  The ensemble of Jim Hart, Barry Green, Matt Ridley and Steve Brown perform the memorable music of the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Berlin

Anat Cohen

- May 22 (Tues.)  The Three Cohens.  The gifted Cohen siblings Anat, clarinet and tenor saxophone, Yuval, soprano saxophone, and Avishai, trumpet, display their extraordinary jazz skills in the company of pianist Yonatan Avishai, bassist Omer Avital and drummer Jonathan BlakeA-Trane.  030 / 313 25 50.

Milan

- May 23 – 25. (Wed. – Fri. )  The Yellowjackets.  After more than three decades of musical togetherness, the Yellowjackets continue to bring some impressive jazz essence to their unique blend of fusion and smooth jazz.  Blue Note Milano.   02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

- May 22 & 23. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Brian Blade Fellowship Band. Always a much in demand jazz sideman, drummer Blade has recently begun – with his Fellowship Band — to reveal his significant skills as singer and a songwriter.  Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5485-0088.

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Tierney Sutton photo by Tony Gieske.  


Here, There & Everywhere: The 2012 Jazz Grammy Winners

February 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

The 2012 Grammys are in, and once again there’s not much sound of surprise in the results.  Certainly nothing in the same ballpark as last year’s Best New Artist award for Esperanza Spalding.  That’s not to say that any of the wins were undeserved.  Because they all were the products of gifted artists doing their best. Nor were any of the nominees any less deserving than the winners.

Still, both the awards and the Recording Academy’s current approach to jazz raise some questioning observations.  Take, for example, the inclusion of Terri Lyne Carrington’ s The Mosaic Project in the Jazz Vocal grouping.  Doesn’t it seem inevitable that a collection of songs by such major names as Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cassandra Wilson and, yes, Esperanza Spalding (among others) is going to have a major head start in any competition against recordings by single artists?  What chance did the other nominees – especially the unusually superlative trio of albums from Tierney Sutton, Roseanna Vitro and Karrin Allyson – have against a full line-up of such musical heavyweights?

Notice, too, some of the repetitions: multiple nominations for Randy Brecker, Fred Hersch and Sonny Rollins.  Great artists, all, but where are the nominations for the youngest generation of jazz players?  It’s worth noting that Gerald Clayton is the only nominee still in his twenties.  And Miguel Zenon is the only nominee still in his thirties.

Add to that several aspects in this year’s awards procedures that underscore the diminishing role that jazz is playing in the Grammy overview.  Start with the reduced number of categories.  In 2011 there were six: Contemporary Jazz Album, Vocal Album, Improvised Jazz Solo, Jazz Instrumental Album (Individual or Group), Large Jazz Album and Latin Jazz Album.

This year, there are four: Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Some jazz fans won’t miss the Contemporary category, despite the fact that its absence eliminates the presence of some fine, pop-oriented jazz stylists.  But the Latin Jazz omission is unforgivable, and should receive careful re-consideration in the planning for next year’s Grammys.

In the listings below, I’ve also included Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best Instrumental Composition, because, in these nominees, the emphasis is almost completely in the direction of jazz.  They could easily have had different orientations — pop, rock, electronica, classical and otherwise — given the all-inclusive nature of the descriptions “Instrumental Arrangement” and “Instrumental Composition.”

Ultimately, the single word that comes to mind in considering all the above is “irrelevant.”  Receiving a Grammy award continues to be one of the music world’s greatest honors – for the individual artist.  And every jazz player –like every other musical artist – has to be delighted to receive the gold statuette.  But the overall significance of the Grammys to jazz, the Awards’ full commitment to honoring one of America’s greatest cultural contributions, continues to diminish.  And if it continues in its current direction, the long, historical Grammy/jazz connection won’t just be irrelevant, it’ll be non-existent.

Here are this year’s awards:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

 Winner.  Chick Corea : “Five Hundred Miles Highfrom Forever.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker: “All or Nothing at All” from The Jazz ballad Song Book

Ron Carter: “You Are My Sunshine” from This Is Jazz.

Fred Hersch: “Work” from Alone at the Vanguard.

Sonny Rollins: “Sunnymoon For Two: from Road Shows, Vol. 2.

Best Jazz Vocal album

Winner: Terri Lyne Carrington and Various Artists: The Mosaic Project.

Other Nominees:

Tierney Sutton Band: American Road

Karrin Allyson: ‘Round Midnight.

Kurt Elling: The Gate.

Roseanna Vitro: The Music of Randy Newman.

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Winner: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke & Lenny White.  Corea, Clark & White.

Other Nominees:

Gerald Clayton: The Paris Sessions.

Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard.

Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs.

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol.2

Yellowjackets: Timeline.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Winner: Christian McBride Big Band. The Good Feeling.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker with the WDR Big Band: The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: 40 Acres and a Burro.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra; Legacy.

Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Best Instrumental Arrangement

Winner: Gordon Goodwin: Rhapsody in Blue.

Other Nominees:

Peter Jensen: ‘All or Nothing At All” (for Randy Brecker with the GDR Big Band)

Clare Fischer: “In the Beginning: (from the Clare Fischer Big band’s Continuum.)

Bob Brookmeyer: “Nasty Dance.” (from the Vanguard Jazz Orchstra’s Forever Lasting).

Carlos Franzetti: “Song Without Words” (from Alborada).

Best Instrumental Composition

Winner: Bela Fleck and Howard Levy: “Life In Eleven” from Rocket Science.

Other Nominees:

John Hollenbeck: “Falling Men” from Shut Up and Dance.

Gordon Goodwin: “Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn) from That’s How We Roll.

Randy Brecker: “I Talk To The Trees” from The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Russell Ferrante: “Timeline” from Timeline.


Picks of the Week: June 6 – 12

June 5, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 6. (Mon.)  Candi Sosa: Bolero Meets Jazz.  Cuban born singer Sosa finds surprisingly compatible musical linkages between jazz and the lyrical Latin ballad style. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- June 7. (Tues.)  Jennifer Leitham Trio.  Bassist/singer Leitham celebrates the release of her DVD, The Real Me Live!, the chronicle of an extraordinary talent and an amazing life.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Sally Kellerman

- June 8. (Wed.) Sally UnpluggedSally Kellerman.  Hot Lips returns with a bundle of songs reaching from jazz and blues to country and pop.  And she does them all with utter authenticity, finding the heart of the story in everything she sings. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- June 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  “Rhapsody in Blue.”  The Pacific Symphony conducted by James Gaffigan, performs a program of Gershwin (the Rhapsody in Blue and Variations on I Got Rhythm) and Rachmaninoff (Symphony No. 2).  Orion Weiss is the piano soloist for the Rhapsody.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

- June 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Diane Schuur.  Deedles, as she is known to friends and fans alike, makes a few of her too-rare appearances in the Southland, celebrating the release of The Gathring, her debut album on Vanguard.  On Thurs. she’ll be at the Grammy Museum.    And on Fri. and Sat. at Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- June 10. (Fri.)  Julie Kelly.  Versatile in everything from atmospheric Brazilian music to jazz balladry and lively scatting, Kelly’s singing is always a pleasure to hear.  She’s backed by the John Heard Trio.   Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- June 11. (Sat.)  Jethro Tull.  More than four decades since Ian Anderson first demonstrated the potential for the flute as the lead instrument in a rock group, he’s still romping with Jethro Tull.  The band will perform their Aqualung album in its entirety, with a sampling of other hits, as well. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

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- June 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Playboy Jazz Festival.  The Hollywood Bowl.  It’s that time again.  The weekend that jazz fans anticipate with pleasure.  A two day jazz party in the sun, filling every nook and cranny of the Hollywood Bowl with all the amazing sounds grouped under the broad colorful umbrella of contemporary jazz.  This year’s program includes:

Saturday

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves, The Roots with Terence Blanchard, Fourplay, Eddie Palmieri’s Salsa Orchestra, the SFJAZZ Collective, A Night in Treme with the Rebirth Brass Band (and guest artists Donald Harrison, Jr., Kermit Ruffins, Dr. Michael White and Big Sam Williams), Bill Cosby’s Cos of Good Music (featuring Geri Allen, George Bohanon, Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler, Anat Cohen and Babatunde Lea), The Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet and the LASUD All City HS Big Band (directed by Tony White and J.B. Dyas).

Sunday

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy, the Lee Konitz New Quartet, John Scofield and Robben Ford, Naturally 7, Harmony 3 with Ronnie Laws, Walter Beasley and Stanley Jordan, Geri Allen’s Timeline Band, Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown (featuring Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley and Vusi Mahlasela), Bill Cunliffe with the Resonance Big Band in a Tribute to Oscar Peterson, featuring Marian Petrescu, Carlos Varela and the Pullum HS Jazz Big Band (directed by Fernando Pullum).  The Playboy Jazz Festival.     (310) 450-1173.

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- June 12. (Sunday)  Gerald Wilson Orchestra.  One of the great masters of large ensemble jazz composition and orchestration, ninety-two year old Wilson still knows how to lead a band with enviable dynamic energy.  Don’t miss him in action.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- June 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Yellowjackets with special guest Robben Ford.  Fusion, funk, groove masters the Yellowjackets team up with the equally blues-driven guitarist Ford.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

Karrin Allyson

- June 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  Karrin Allyson Quartet.  A singer who brings musicality, believability and a gorgeous vocal instrument to all her songs, Allyson appears on the crest of her new album, ‘Round Midnight.  Pianist Bruce Barth is featured in her fine back-up group. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Healdsburg

Denny Zeitlin

- June 6 – 12. (Mon. – Sun.))  The Healdsburg Jazz Festival continues with its presentation of world class jazz in delightful settings.  Among the highlights: Mon: John Stowell Guitar Trio; Tues.: SF Jazz High School All-Stars; Wed.: Sandy and Natalie Cressman.  Thurs: Geri Allen, solo piano; the Babatunde Lea Quintet in a tribute to Leon Thomas.  Friday: Sangam with Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland.  Saturday: Denny Zeitlin, solo piano; the John Heard Trio; George Cables All Stars.  Sunday: Charlie Haden and Allen Broadbent.  At the Raven Theatre and other locations in Healdsburg, CA.  The Healdsburg Jazz Festival.  (707) 433-4633.

Seattle

- June 9 – 12 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Earl Klugh.   One of Detroit’s finest products, guitarist Klugh’s articulate style brings life and substance to the smooth jazz/fusion genre.  Jazz Alley.    (206)441-9729

New York

Ron Carter

- June 6. (Mon.)  Jim Hall and Ron Carter Duo“Alone Together, Again.”  A pair of the great jazz masters in action.  One only hopes that they continue to do these “Alone Together” gigs – again and again.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- June 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.) The Joe Lovano Nonet.  Saxophonist Lovano’s Grammy winning Nonet admirably carries the torch lit by the Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool band.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- June 9 & 10. (Thurs. & Fri.)  The Steve Cropper Band.  Guitarist, songwriter and producer Cropper has backed the likes of Booker T., Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and many others, while writing tunes good enough to trigger his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

Washington D.C.

- June 12. (Sun.)  Jazz on the National MallClaudia Acuna Quartet, Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, Eddie Palmieri All-Star Orchestra, Frederic Yonnet, Toby Foyeh and Orchestra Africa.  A free, live performance of world class jazz, presented by the D.C. Jazz Festival.  Jazz on the Natonal Mall.    The National Mall, Washington, D.C.  (202) 457-7628.

Jerusalem

Noa

- June 9 & 11. (Thurs. & Sat.) Noa.  Israeli/American singer Noa (her full name is Achinoam Nini) is as comfortable and effective with a symphony orchestra as she is with the guitar of her frequent musical companion, Gil Dor.  But no matter what she’s singing, whether it be rock, blues, Yemenite or folk, in Italian, French, Hebrew or Arabic, she’s one of the world’s great vocal artists.  Here, she performs with Dor, as well as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, celebrating the release of her new album, The Israeli Songbook.  The Henry Crown Hall, Jerusalem.    1-700-70-4000.

London

- Jan 7 – 9. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Michel Legrand.  The French pianist/composer combines an appealing jazz performance style with a catalog of superb, memorable songs.  He’ll be backed in this relatively rare night club performance by Ronnie Scott’s All-Stars.   Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747 4000.

Istanbul

Dervish Aziz

- June 9. (Thurs.)  Yuval Ron Ensemble.  Oud master Yuval Ron has assembled a remarkable array of musicians for  “A Concert For Peace in the Middle East.”  The participants include whirling Dervish Aziz, qawwali master Sukhawat Ali Khan, Armenian woodwind master Norik Manoukian, Israeli-Yemenite singer Maya Haddi, and Virgine Alimian, playing kanoun, Jamie Papish and David Martinelli on percussion.  FREE but reservations for the free tickets are required. Please email for the free tickets to: sevdearpaci@gmail.com. “A Concert For Peace in the Middle East.”   Sultanahmet Square AmpheTheatre. Istanbul.

Tokyo

- June 8 – 11. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Mike Stern Band featuring Randy Brecker.  Guitarist Stern, a six-time Grammy nominee, leads the solid ensemble of bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Dennis Chambers in a multi-layered set of sounds reaching across the spectrum from groove blues to straight ahead jazz.  The Blue Note Tokyo.

Sally Kellerman, Dianne Reeves, Buddy Guy and Ron Carter photos by Tony Gieske.


Live Jazz: The Bob Mintzer Big Band at Vibrato

December 24, 2010

By Tony Gieske

From all the things I’d been hearing about the Bob Mintzer Big Band — a New York guy!  — a Yellowjacket! — I thought I should bring my mind-plugs to Vibrato Tuesday to keep my head from bursting.

The Bob Mintzer Big Band at Vibrato

But no! On first acquaintance, Mintzer turned out to have a gentle tenor saxophone voice and his charts were more like Claude Thornhill than Stan Kenton, not that there weren’t plenty of fortissimi. But the best of the charts — a slow blues that I think was called “Lester Swings Out” — did not include a lot of  intricate invention. Rather, it left plenty of room for the soloists.

Bob Mintzer and Keith Fiddmont

And they were awesome. Keith Fiddmont, who plays Charlie O’s regularly, was overflowing with intricate and irregular invention on his alto saxophone. But then so was another familiar Los Angeles bandstand figure, Bob Sheppard, on his rarely heard alto instrument.

I also liked the big band veteran Bruce Fowler, a Frank Zappa alumnus, on bass trombone, and the great bandleader and professor Dr.  John Daversa on trumpet, who started out twisted and got involuted.

Peter Erskine

The exceptionally versatile Peter Erskine played  drums with vigor and accuracy, dropping accents and guiding momentum as he read intently from the Mintzer score, and fellow Yellowjacket Russell Ferrante came out with some stone bebop when he soloed on piano.

Naturally, it was the individualism of the ad lib players that redeemed the industrialized writing from the pen of a writer who created a jazz version of Brian Wilson.

Welcome to L.A., Bob Mintzer.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE


Picks of the Week: Nov. 1 – 7

November 1, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 2. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightBrasil Night.  Pisano expands his usual two-guitar format into an evening simmering with the irresistible rhythms of Brazil. With Federico Ramos, guitar, Jose Marino, bass, Enzo Todesco, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Ornette Coleman

- Nov. 3. (Wed.) Ornette Coleman.  Jazz in the post-bebop era wouldn’t have been what it was without the arrival of alto saxophonist and creative revolutionary Coleman on the scene.  More than fifty years after  he startled the New York City jazz crowd — musicians and fans — with his improvisationally free-flying ensemble, he’s still insists upon stretching the envelope of what jazz can’t and can do.  As one of the important iconic figures in jazz history, he should be heard at every opportunity.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101l.

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Sally Kellerman. Hot Lips is back.  With hot jazz, cool jazz, a seasoning of country and a lot of stops in between.   Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Scott Whitfield Quartet.  Trombonist Whitfield takes time off from his busy arranging, conducting and producing chores to lead a stellar L.A. ensemble featuring Roger Neumann, reeds, Corey Allen, piano, Adam Cohen, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums. And with luck, maybe Ginger Berglund will sit in for a number or two.  Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.) The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning Orchestra, led by keyboardist/arranger Oscar Hernandez revives and re-interprets the sounds and the rhythms of New York City’s salsa duraThe Conga Room.  (213) 745-0162.  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on Tues. & Wed.)

- Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Betty Bryant. She’s celebrating her 81st birthday, but Bryant’s ability to combine her smoky voice with her lush and rhythmic piano is as appealing as every.  She’ll be aided by the engaging vocals of her special guest, singer Mark MillerJazz at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 642-7500.

- Nov. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  Multi music hyphenate Tyrell has moved from the business side to a performance persona aimed at keeping the American songbook alive via recordings and performances dedicated to the great standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Djavan

- Nov. 5. (Fri.) Djavan.  Brazilian superstar Djavan has successfully blended Brazilian rhythms with pop, jazz, funk and beyond.  Magnetic as a performer, he also has written memorable songs covered by the likes of Carmen McRae, Al Jarreau, the Manhattan Transfer and others. Club Nokia.   (213) 765-7000.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Denise Donatelli.  Performing in support of her new album, When Lights Are Low, Donatelli performs in the warm and friendly atmosphere of Charlie O’s laid-back jazz bar.   To read a recent iRoM review of Donatelli click HERE. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Cheryl Wheeler. Folk singer/songwriter Wheeler’s songs recall a folk era when ideas and points of view were essential elements in a songwriter’s bag of musical tools.  McCabes. (310) 828-4497.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Ryuchi Sakamoto.  El Rey.  Pianist, composer, environmental activist Sakamoto performs pieces that reach from his catalog of film music to his fascination with the link between ambient sound and composed textures.  The El Rey.   (323) 936-4790.

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Dontae Winslow Quartet.  Trumpeter, composer and all around musical renaissance man Winslow’s resume reaches from USC’s Monk Institute of Jazz to gigs with Queen Latifah, Snoop Dog, Christina Aguilera and more.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 6. (Sat.)  Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.  It’s big band Saturday night, with the added pleasures of vocalists Calabria Foti and Seth MacFarlane.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.  To read a recent iRoM review of the Jazz Influence Orchestra click HERE.

Pablo Heras-Casado

- Nov. 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicPablo Heras-Casado conducts Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Debussy’s Jeux, Takemitsu’s riverrun and Stravinsky’s Concerto For Piano and Winds with pianist Peter Serkin Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 7. (Sun.)  Bobby Vinton.  It’s hard to believe, but true, that singer Vinton – now 75 – had more Billboard #1 hits between 1962 and 1972 than any other male artist.  His soaring voice, at its best in songs such as “Roses Are Red” and “Blue Velvet” are among the most memorable items from the soundtrack of the ‘60s.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8500.

San Francisco

- Nov. 2 & 3. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning Orchestra, led by keyboardist/arranger Oscar Hernandez revives and re-interprets the sounds and the rhythms of New York City’s salsa duraYoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.  (Also at the Conga Room in Los Angeles on Thurs.)

- Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers.  Keyboardist and co-founder of The Doors Manzarek gets together with premier slide guitarist Rogers in search of some new takes on classic Doors songs.  Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

Gil Scott-Heron

- Nov. 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Gil Scott-Heron.  Before there was rap and hip-hop there was the remarkable blend of politically charged poetry that made Scott-Heron one of the important voices of the ‘70s civil rights movement.  He’ll be performing selections from an upcoming album, his first since the early ‘90s.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 6. (Sat.)  Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band.  At 85, drummer Haynes – who’s worked with everyone from Charlie Parker to Pat Metheny – continues to lead and usually outshine groups of players two generations younger than he.   An SF Jazz Festival event at the Herbst Theatre.  (866) 920-5299.

- Nov. 7. (Sun.)  The Yellowjackets and the Jeff Lorber Fusion. A pair of bands who successfully prove that popularity doesn’t have to mean diminished musicality.  Lorber’s Fusion features the dynamic presence of trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Eric Marienthal.  But expect fireworks from both these fine ensembles. An SF Jazz Festival event at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

New York

- Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Lou Donaldson Quartet.  Alto saxophonist Donaldson, at 84, continues to perform impressively with the ear-catching combination of bebop, the blues and soul that have characterized his playing since the ‘50s.  Village Vanguard. (212) 929-4589.

- Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars.  Gillespie’s ability to surround himself with extraordinary young talent is on full display in this memorable celebration of his birthday. Featuring Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Randy Brecker, Eric Alexander, Antonio Hart and Claudio Roditi.  (Check club for schedule.)  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  The 11th Annual Django Reinhardt N.Y. Festival.  “Schmitt Family Tributel” Night after night of gypsy jazz, featuring guitarists Dorado Schmitt and Samson Schmitt with special guests Anat Cohen, Miguel Zenon and others.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Eliane Elias

- Nov. 3 – 7. (Wed. – Sun.)  Eliane Elias Quartet. Sao Paulo-born Elias’ most recent albums Bossa Nova Stories and Eliane Elias Plays Live reveal how completely she has merged her remarkable jazz instrumental skills with the Brazilian heartbeat of her warmly intimate vocals.   She’s truly one of a kind.  Iridium.      (212) 582-2121.


Picks of the Week: Aug. 18 – 23

August 18, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Aug. 18. (Tues.) John Altman Quartet. The English saxophonist/composer has a line of credits reaching from Monty Python to bebop (with all stops in between). And with pianist Mike Lang, bassist Harvey Newmark and drummer jennifer LeighamFrank De Vito on hand, he has the backing to support his every musical move. Charlie O’s (818) 994-3058.

- Aug. 20. (Thurs.) Jennifer Leitham. The Southland’s prima singing, left-handed bassist makes her last appearance as an Angeleno before moving to the New York City area. The presence of her regular sidekicks Josh Nelson, piano, and Randy Drake, drums, should make for a poignantly swinging evening. Cafe 322. (626) 836-5414.

- Aug. 20. (Thurs.) Flexible Reality. It would be hard to beat this instrumentation for an evening of intriguing sounds, with Richard Todd on French horn, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Frank Marocco on accordion, Michael Valerio and Abraham Laboriel on bass and Alex Acuna on drums. But beyond that, each of these guys is a first rate player, so this is one not to miss. Give April Williams credit for bringing increasingly fine programming to this Studio City venue. Vitello’s Upstairs (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 21. (Fri.) Mel Martin Band with Don Friedman. Here’s one of the most interesting pairings of the summer — versatile woodwind/saxophone artist Martin and the versatile, veteran pianist Friedman in what promises to be a fascinating musical encounter. Bassist John Heard and drummer Lorca Hart provide solid support. The Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside. (310) 649-1776.

Diana Krall

- Aug. 21 – 22. (Fri. & Sat.) Diana Krall and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Krall sings and plays selections from her “Quiet Nights” collection of bossa nova tunes with the L.A. Phil. under the very able direction of Alan Broadbent. In the opening half of the program, the Philharmonic, directed by Benjamin Wallfisch performs selections by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 22. (Sat.) Carmen Lundy. The gifted and still far too unrecognized singer appears with the dynamic backing of pianist Billy Childs, bassist Ryan Cross and drummer Lorca Hart. Expect musical magic. The Culver Club for Jazz. The Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside. (310) 649-1776.

- Aug. 23. (Sun.) Smooth Summer Jazz. It used to be called the JVC Festival, but this new label provides a more accurate description of melodiously rhythmic music on the program. Featured acts are Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Peabo Bryson, George Duke, Tower of Power and Doc Powell. The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

Country Joe Aug. 23. (Sun.) Woodstock Tribute. It’s a weekend after the 40th anniversary of the legendary concert in the fields, but this tribute performance will be no less memorable, given the line-up. True, most of the bands are not exactly what they were in 1969, but there’s no denying the nostalgia that will be in the air when the familiar melodies begin to roll from Jefferson Starship, 10 Years After, Canned Heat and Big Brother and the Holding Company, with the inimitable Country Joe McDonald as the host. The Greek Theatre.

- Aug. 23. (Sun.) Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Band. Drummer Gibbs and his six piece band (playing 40 different instruments) bring rhythmic drive and improvisational enthusiasm to a performance of all the original music from their latest CD on RKM Records, “Moving On.” Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

San Francisco

- Aug. 20 – 22. (Thurs. – Sat.) Brass, Bows and Beats. A Hip Hop Symphony by Adam Theis and the Jazz Mafia Symphony. The first performance by Theis’ 40 piece ensemble at the Palace of Fine Arts was an s.r.o. event. And the work, with its extraordinary compatible assemblage of seemingly disparate musical genres, clearly deserves more performances. Here’s an opportunity to hear it live and up close. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

- Aug. 21 – 23. (Fri. – Sun.) Chuck Mangione. The flugelhorn-playing Mangione has been defining melodic jazz for decades, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200. .

New York

- Aug. 18 – 23. (Tues. – Sun.) Kevin Eubanks. Here’skevin_eubanks a chance to hear Eubanks’ fine guitar live and in person, playing full tunes rather than interstitial segments on a late night television talk show. He’s aided by Marvin “Smitty” Smith, drums, Rene Camacho, bass, Bill Pierce, saxophone, ad Gerry Etkins, keyboards. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592. .

- Aug. 19 – 22. (Wed. – Sat.) Richie Beirach Quintet. A veteran of gigs with Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Dave Liebman and others, pianist Beirach leads a stellar group of players: Tim Hagans, trumpet (8/19 only), Randy Brecker, trumpet (8/20-22), George Mraz, bass, Billy Hart, drums, Gregor Huebner, violin. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

- Aug. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.) Joanne Brackeen Quartet with special guest Eddie Gomez. The irresistibly swinging music of pianist Brackeen has been praised — justifiably — by everyone from Bill Evans to Tony Bennett. In addition to Gomez, her first rate band includes Ravi Coltrane, tenor saxophone, Adam Cruz (8/21 only) and E.J. Strickland, drums (8/20, 8/22 & 8/23). The Jazz Standard. (212) 576-2252.


Here, There & Everywhere: The Jazz Grammy Awards

February 8, 2009

By Don Heckman

The jazz Grammy awards are in.  Early as usual, of course, since the Recording Academy again didn’t choose to present any of the awards for this great American art form during the prime time telecast (which hasn’t quite begun as I write these thoughts).  Here’s the list of winners, along with the nominees and some random comments.  Followed by a few other worthy honorees.

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

Grammy Award: Randy Brecker:  “Randy in Brasil.”randy-brecker-cd

“Floating Point,” John McLaughlin

“Cannon Re-Loaded: All-Star Celebration Of Cannonball Adderley,” Various Artists

“Miles From India,” Various Artists

“Lifecycle,” Yellowjackets featuring Mike Stern

No argument from me on this one, since it was my choice, as well.  But the category itself is a grab bag.  Every nomination is worthy, in its own context.   And the “Miles From India” project deserves special notice for originality of concept, if nothing else.  But how can one possible evaluate it in comparison with CDs from the Yellowjackets and John McLaughlin?

Best Jazz Vocal Album

Grammy Award: Cassandra Wilson:  “Loverly.”cassandra-wilson-cd

“Imagina: Songs of Brasil,” Karrin Allyson

“Breakfast on the Morning Train,” Stacey Kent

“If Less is More … Nothing is Everything,” Kate McGarry

It’s a quality field of jazz vocalists, any one of whom would have made a solid choice.  But it’s good that it was won by an artist who brings a rare quality of authenticity to everything she touches.   And whom, despite what the Los Angeles Times seems to think, hasn’t been at all influenced by Norah Jones.

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo

Grammy Award:  Terence Blanchard:  “Bebop.”monterey-jazz-fest-cd

“Seven Steps to Heaven,” Till Bronner

“Waltz for Debby,” Gary Burton & Chick Corea

“Son of Thirteen,” Pat Metheny

“Be-Bop,” James Moody

Another of the Academy’s weird categories.  How many voting members can honestly say that they’ve heard enough jazz solos to place one above all the others.  Using what criteria?  Certainly Terence deserves an award.  But what about Moody, who played superbly on the same track?  And how does one evaluate these individual solos in the context of Chick Corea and Gary Burton playing together?

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group

Grammy Award: Chick Corea and Gary Burton:chick-corea-gary-burton-cd “The New Crystal Silence”

“History, Mystery,” Bill Frisell

“Brad Mehldau Trio: Live,” Brad Mehldau Trio

“Day Trip,” Pat Metheny With Christian McBride & Antonio Sanchez

“Standards,” Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio

My choice here would either have been Frisell’s “History, Mystery” or the lovely album of standards by the Pasqua, Carpenter, Erskine trio.  But it’s unlikely that these West Coast-based guys (including Carpenter, who died at a far too early age in June) could have received the national (and East Coast) support to grab the award.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Grammy Award: The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: vanguard-jazz-orch-cd“Monday Night at the Village Vanguard”

“Appearing Nightly,” Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band

“Act Your Age,” Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

“Symphonica,” Joe Lovano With WDR Big Band & Rundfunk Orchestra

“Blauklang,” Vince Mendoza

It’s a shame that Carla Bley’s wild-eyed group of players were overlooked.  Yes, the Vanguard Orchestra is doing an impressive job of carrying the baton for straight ahead big band jazz.  But it sure would have been nice for Carla’s envelope stretching work to receive the notice it deserves.

Best Latin Jazz Album

Grammy Award: Arturo O’Farrill &and the Afro-chico-ofarrill-cdLatin Jazz Orchestra: “Song for Chico”

Afro Bop Alliance,” Caribbean Jazz Project

“The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter,” Conrad Herwig & The Latin Side Band

“Nouveau Latino,” Nestor Torres

“Marooned/Aislado,” Papo Vázquez The Mighty Pirates

No argument here, either.  Arturo O’Farrill”s been doing an impressive job of keeping alive the memory of his father, the great jazz arranger/composer , Chico O’Farrill.

Best Traditional World Music Album

Grammy Award: Ladysmith Black Mambazo: ladysmith-cd“Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu,”

“Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey,” Debashish Bhattacharya
“The Mandé Variations,” Toumani Diabaté
“Dancing In The Light,” Lakshmi Shankar

The other entries didn’t stand much of a chance, given Ladysmith’s international visibility.  But they’re a great ensemble, always worth hearing.  Even though the most fascinating album musically was surely the remarkable slide guitar playing of Bhattacharya.

Best Contemporary World Music Album

Grammy Award: Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiruglobal-drum-project Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo: “Global Drum Project”

“Shake Away,” Lila Downs
“Banda Larga Cordel.” Gilberto Gil
“Rokku Mi Rokka (Give And Take),” Youssou N’Dour
“Live At The Nelson Mandela Theater,” Soweto Gospel Choir

Pretty hard to make a choice here.  Given the range of possibilities and the genre of styles, it could have gone to any one of these fine acts.   But the most intriguing, from my perspective, is the fascinating work being done by Downs, whose career has matured by leaps and bounds over the past few years.

A Few Other Interesting Awards:

Best New Age Album

Jack DeJohnette:  “Peace Time”

Yes, it’s that Jack De Johnette, bringing the same thoughtful sensitivity to an atmospheric collection of New Age sounds that he does to his work with Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock.

Best Album Notes

Francis Davis: “Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition”

As any jazz writer knows, “Kind of Blue” was a great project to work with, but give Francis Davis credit for writing about it with sensitivity, insight and knowledge.

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist

Nan Schwartz.  “Here’s That Rainy Day” from Natalie Cole’s “Still Unforgettable.”

Nan Schwartz has been crafting superb arrangements, making singers and instrumentalists sound their best, for years. This is a much-deserved acknowledgment of her impressive skills.


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