Live Music: Diana Krall, Gregory Porter and The Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl

August 30, 2015

 

Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

By Devon Wendell

Los Angeles.  It was a night of sheer “crossover” bliss with Gregory Porter and Diana Krall with The L.A. Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl on Friday night.

Diana Krall took the Bowl stage with her current touring band (Anthony Wilson, guitar/arranger, Stuart Duncan, violin, Patrick Warren, keyboards, Dennis Crouch, bass and Karriem Riggins on drums) along with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

It’s already well known that Krall is an amazing singer with a subdued and sultry cool contralto voice but what I noticed the most on Friday night was her incredible piano work which was in the style of Duke Ellington, in fact, I felt the presence of Ellington’s ghost throughout Krall’s entire performance. So few jazz- based artists today play piano in that delicately swinging, stride style of Duke Ellington. Krall is a master at it and it accompanies her breathy and dynamic vocal phrasing wonderfully.

Diana Krall

I thought of Duke from the very start of Krall’s set which opened with Johnny Mercer’s “Day In, Day Out”, which Ellington performed frequently throughout his career. It wasn’t just Krall’s piano playing that conjured up Ellington’s spirit; Stuart Duncan’s violin style was very reminiscent of Ray Nance’s violin work in Ellington’s band during the 1930s, especially on the more jazz oriented standards.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s string and brass section fit Krall’s choice of material like a glove. Krall’s set was extremely diverse; from George Gershwin’s “Do It Again”, and Harold Arlen’s classic “Let’s Fall In Love” to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Quiet Nights”, and Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower” (the title track to Krall’s latest album).  Anthony Wilson’s virtuosic guitar playing was magnificent throughout. He’s easily one of the finest guitarists I’ve heard in a long time.Wilson also arranged Krall’s rendition of Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On” which swung hard. Anthony Wilson is the son of the late great Gerald Wilson and his skill and devotion to jazz is proof that he’s following in his father’s footsteps.

Ellington’s influence on Krall could even be heard on her more pop/rock flavored material from her Wallflower album such as Leon Russell’s “Superstar”, John Phillip’s “California Dreaming”, and Crowder House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Krall would often alternate between acoustic piano and a Wurlitzer.

Karrien Riggin’s versatile and melodic drumming swung beautifully with Dennis Crouch’s thoughtful and steady bass lines.

Krall’s take on Tom Waitts’ “Temptation” was sexy and funky but went on a little too long with some overindulgent solos by Krall and her band.

A highlight of the entire show was an intimate reading of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You”.  Krall has the uncanny ability to make you truly understand and feel the lyrics to any song she chooses to cover and this was certainly the case here. It felt as if she were addressing a dear friend with love and sincerity. It’s obvious that Krall loves, understands, and respects the material she sings, which is rare these days.

I’ve never heard such a meaningful version of Irving Berlin’s “Isn’t This A Lovely Day” in my life. It was like the sweetest lullaby imaginable.

After a delightful big band arrangement of Jesse Greer and Raymond Klages’ “Just You, Just Me” (with more of Krall’s Ellington-esque piano chops), Krall, her band, and The LA Phil returned for an encore of Nat King Cole’s “I’ll String Along With You.” Duncan played an electric violn. This was Krall’s most powerful vocal performance of the evening. I can’t think of a better cover to fit her laid back and refined style.

For the last 6 years, Gregory Porter has been captivating audiences all over the world with his distinct fusion of jazz, R&B, gospel, and pop. Porter’s sensitive soulful vocals and his poignant lyrics make him one of the greatest “crossover” jazz singers to surface in many years. His set at the Bowl on Friday night was magnificent. Porter and his band (Chip Crawford, piano/musical director, Emanuel Harrold, drums, Jahmal Nichols, bass, and Yosuke Sato on alto saxophone) kicked off their part of the evening’s program with a brief set of some of his most familiar material such as “Painted On Canvas”, “On My Way To Harlem”,  and “No Love Dying”. The band was delicate and supportive. Sato’s alto sax work was brilliant and soaring. Porter’s stage presence was poised and charmingly engaging.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

“Liquid Spirit” is pure gospel. Porter tried to get the mellow crown to engage in some call and response but it kind of fell flat. Porter joked; “It worked when I did it at The Newport Jazz Festival.”

The highlight of Porter’s set was  “Wolf Cry”, which is a sweet and tender ballad. Crawford’s tasteful and thematic piano accompaniment added to the romantic atmosphere of the song’s lyrics. Porter’s vocal range and phrasing reminds me of a great tenor saxophone player. He’s the kind of singer that instrumentalists copy.  Porter ended his set with a quick gospel reading of the Temptation’s “Poppa Was A Rolling Stone” and “Musical Genocide” which is Porter’s protesting response to much of the violent content churned out by the hip-hop industry.

Porter’s set was a reminder of the importance and influence of gospel music in pop, soul, and contemporary jazz. No one does it like Gregory Porter.

This was the perfect night at The Hollywood Bowl. Porter and Krall are both masters of the American song. Their dignified and original approach to “crossover” jazz was enjoyed by everyone present and I’m sure Duke was listening and was very proud.

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


The 2015-16 Season of Dance and Classical Music at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills

August 28, 2015

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills opens their 2015-2016 season of dance programming on October 1-3 with:

Twyla Tharp: a 50th Anniversary Celebration, a program of new work by Ms. Tharp, co-commissioned by The Wallis (in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Joyce Theatre, Ravina Festival Association & Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and Texas International Theatrical Arts Society).

Twyla Tharp dancers Matthew Dibble and Rika Okamoto in Yowzie costumes

L.A. Dance Project follows on January 29-30, featuring Hearts and Arrows by LADP Founder Benjamin Millepied with music by Philip Glass; the U.S. premiere of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Harbor Me; and Murder Ballades by Justin Peck.

Ezralow Dance Company performs OPEN on April 29-30, marking the “hometown debut” of Daniel Ezralow’s new dance company. Ezralow has created dances for Hubbard Street Dance Company, Batsheva Dance Company, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Cirque du Soleil/Beatles show LOVE, Julie Taymor’s film Across the Universe, and the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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The Wallis’ diverse classical musical programming – encompassing 17 concerts – starts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under the esteemed leadership of Zubin Mehta (November 10 and 11) with two different programs. A gala fundraising performance on November 10 will feature the Dvorak New World Symphony and the Vivaldi Concerto for 3 Violins (Semion Gavrikov, Dumitru Pocitari and Asaf Maoz soloists); a second subscription concert will include Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Ravel’s La Valse.

Other artists include cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han with The Passionate Cello (January 8), Eagle Rock-based Santa Cecilia Orchestra (January 16) led by Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, with a program featuring Latino and American composers; the return of Keyboard Conversations® with Jeffrey Siegel performing An American Salute celebrating our country’s most beloved composers (February 27); The Jerusalem Quartet (April 14); and Grammy Award-winning violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner (March 26).

A new East/West: Merging Music & Cultures music series will include Wu Man & The Shanghai Quartet (January 23); violinist Cho Liang Lin with Jon Kimura Parker (February 13) and Bing Wang and Ben Hong (February 20).

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Jerusalem Quartet also make up The Soul of Israel series, which is completed by David Olowsky Trio’s The Soul of Klezmer, a masterful expansion of the Klezmer folk music tradition (March 25).

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Colburn at The Wallis: A Concert Series partners The Wallis with the Colburn School, one of the nation’s highest ranked educators of students pursuing rigorous performance training, for an exciting series of concerts throughout the 2015-2016 Season. Featuring rising stars from the Colburn Conservatory of Music alongside celebrated concert artists and Colburn’s renowned faculty, the concerts include Colburn School artist-in-residence, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (October 30), cellist Gary Hoffman (November 7), Music Director and Conductor Yehuda Gilad and Mikyung Soung, double bass (March 6); and the principal brass players of the New York Philharmonic (April 10).

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In an expansion of programming to fulfill its mission to support and celebrate young artists, The Wallis will begin Next Generation @ The Wallis, featuring Taiwanese-American pianist Steven Lin (March 11), jazz pianist Justin Kauflin (January 22) and Sean Chen (February 19), recent winner of UPenn’s eminent 2015 Annenberg arts fellowship for artists – all pianists on the verge of breakthrough.

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The Jazz Bakery will also be presenting concerts at The Wallis with a new partnership, The Jazz Bakery @ The Wallis. As one of the premiere presenters of jazz in Los Angeles, The Jazz Bakery brings a long history of curating and presenting jazz to this new concert series at The Wallis.

For more information about the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts click HERE.

Photo by Ruven Afanador


Doc Wendell’s Prescription For Monk: “Thelonious Monk – Thelonious Himself” (Riverside)

August 26, 2015

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

Thelonious Monk has been labeled “The High Priest of Bebop.” Yes, Monk’s contributions to the bebop era were essential in the development of the music. But Monk was so much more than that. No one played piano like him or thought the way he did when composing or covering even the most popular standards from the American songbook. I don’t like to categorize Monk’s music other than it being Monk’s music; a genre unto itself.

More people play Monk’s compositions today that any other composer in the history of jazz. He’s still my favorite musician and composer in the history of American music. Monk never adhered to the ever changing trends in jazz that took place during his lifetime. He always remained true to his own vision. There are no Monk “fusion” albums or Monk playing “free-form” or trying to please a rock n’ roll audience. Monk’s music was and still is modern and he never had to try too hard to sound that way.

One of the most chillingly intimate recordings Monk ever made was Thelonious Monk-Thelonious Himself on the Riverside label, recorded on April 12th and 16th of 1957. This is a solo piano album, with the exception of “Monk’s Mood,” which features John Coltrane and bassist Wilbur Ware from Monk’s infamous Five Spot Band of that same year.

On “April In Paris,” “(I Don’t Stand) A Ghost Of A Chance,” “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and “I Should Care,” you get the impression that you’re witnessing a man whose sole purpose in life was to play music and to do so his own way and that everything else in his life were mere distractions. The voicings on these standards are so special and brilliant. Monk’s harmonies were and still are unique to this day. His use of pedal tones and dissonant chords altered the way jazz musicians heard and played their instruments.

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk

No one else dared to play these compositions this way. At the time of this recording, it was considered sacrileges to alter these harmonies so drastically. Up until 1956, Monk was often dismissed as an eccentric and nothing more by some critics and jazz aficionados. His relationship with Riverside Records (and later with Columbia Records) helped to change that forever. Musicians like Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins (who was the first to put Monk on record) Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Art Blakey all knew he was a genius; the rest of the world took a little longer to discover this for themselves.

“Functional” is a stride blues. Monk’s sense of dynamics and spacing makes this piece like no other stride blues you’ve ever heard. Monk was inspired by such stride piano greats as James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith, and you can hear tiny traces of those players here, but Monk’s own personality shines through the brightest.

The highlight of the album is Monk doing take after take of his classic “’Round Midnight,” with false starts, breakdowns, studio banter between Monk and Orrin Keepnews, and incomplete takes, lasting over 20 minutes. Each attempt is harmonically different than the last. What you get to hear is a genius and perfectionist pushing and searching within himself for something magical, and often sounding frustrated. All of the takes are magical but Monk’s standards were as high as his level of creativity. It also had to be right for his fans. As complex as Monk’s compositions are from a technical standpoint, his melodies are extremely accessible. You can whistle or hum his melodies very easily in the shower. That dichotomy is what made Monk so amazing. There finally is a complete take of “’Round Midnight” that is breathtaking.

Thelonious Monk

Monk’s take on Irving Berlin’s “All Alone” is so mournful and sincere. When Monk would cover a song, he would understand it completely, the lyrics, the meaning, everything. Monk never made an insincere move during his career. This is harrowing music. Every note and chord has purpose. Monk was never one to thoughtlessly toss his chops around. Duke Ellington’s influence can be heard in Monk’s more delicate nuances.

The album ends with “Monk’s Mood” with John Coltrane on tenor sax and Wilbur Ware on bass. This is the darkest, most beautiful rendition of “Monk’s Mood” ever recorded. Coltrane plays much more thematically than usual, not straying too far from the melody line as he solos briefly. Ware’s bass lines are thoughtful and precise. Monk’s attack on the piano is delicate and less percussive than on the previous selections. With just a piano, tenor sax, and bass, the effect is far more dramatic than if a drummer had been added. Monk knew this would result in something special and timeless.

Thelonious Monk-Thelonious Himself is a clear glimpse into a very intimate session by one of the greatest artists in the history of the American music. Music doesn’t get any better than this.

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


Brian Arsenault Takes On: Ken Bruen’s “Green Hell ” and Erik Larson’s “Dead Wake” (The Sinking of the Lusitania)

August 26, 2015

 

Brian Arsenault

Brian Arsenault

By Brian Arsenault

Ken Bruen’s newest installment in the Jack Taylor series, Green Hell, arrived in that neat little Amazon box a couple days ago and I’m about halfway through it. I could have finished it by now because his writing enters the eyes and brain as easily as breath enters the lungs. But I don’t want to. Bruen’s books are all jewels that sparkle and reflect light in surprising ways.
As Jack might say of his favorite writers, I want to savor it as I have the previous 10 books in the series. If you haven’t read of tortured, battered, Jack drinking his way around Galway while violently seeking justice and goodness, usually unsuccessfully, then you have reason to believe. Start with The Guards and read them all in succession. I envy the uninitiated so much that I almost didn’t provide that recommendation. “Fuck knows,” as Jack would say, I am bitter you might still have that opportunity.

Bruen writes with such sparseness, such economy — not a wasted phrase or pointless digression. No filler, no distractions, no meanderings. Cuts like a knife so sharp that you’d order coffee, tea for Jack, before you realized you were bleeding.

It’s no accident, I think, that the counterpoint character to Taylor in Green Hell has come to Ireland to complete his dissertation on Samuel Beckett. Bruen is the street level cousin of Beckett, not one more word than required, no ornate, decorative phrases or punctuation. Hemingway’s part of the same family.

The only additional step Bruen could take toward minimalism would be to stop using quotation marks like the endlessly wordy Joyce did. No accident there, either, that Beckett assisted Joyce’s efforts to finish Finnegan’s Wake, though Beckett bridled at being referred to as Joyce’s secretary.

But I digress. Back to Bruen. At one point he taught English in Africa. To have taught the language to non-English speaking people Bruen must clearly have known his stuff, such as now obscure aspects of the language as the difference between a gerund and a gerundive. (Look it up if you care. I had to as memory fades from those figures of speech you use even when the reason is forgotten.)

Thanks Miss Cunningham and all those marvelous eighth grade English teachers. To push the language, to shake its foundations, to violate its rules, to write so sparse that you don’t even need complete sentences, you have to have known what the rules are. If not, it’s just babble.

All that dissonance and melodic twists Thelonious Monk brought us were possible because he understood melody, notes, scales. He bent the instrument, the form, in new ways because he completely grasped the old ways. And Monk knew silences are as important as notes.

The silences in Bruen’s writing are to let you breathe.
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The other centerpiece of my summer reading this year has been Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

Like Larson before his exhaustive research, I have carried the notion through my adult life that the German U boat sinking of the Lusitania — killing about 1200 of the 2000 passengers and crew aboard including 120 Americans — took the United States into World War I. In actuality, the Lusitania was sunk in 1915 and the USA didn’t enter the war until 1917 when the cumulative effect of German submarine warfare, which damn near won the war, finally exhausted the bumbling Wilson’s patience.

Wilson was overseeing a recession damn near as bad as the Great Depression, damn little generally known about that as well, while playing golf daily during his adolescent-like pursuit of a second wife.

As with World War II, England led by that S O B Churchill, was trying to draw the United States into the war. Though English intelligence knew that a particular sub was sinking ships directly in the path of the Lusitania the Brits sent no naval vessels to escort the world’s most luxurious ocean liner through the most dangerous waters. They didn’t even give the Lusitania’s captain, William Turner, adequate warnings. Some in English “intelligence” services were nearly giddy that the ship’s sinking might get the States fighting with them in a war with no real reason for being.

True to governments everywhere and at all times, the English Admiralty, again led by Churchill, did everything it could to blame Turner for the sinking. Even after a very serious hearings officer exonerated Captain Turner, Churchill authored a book that included the false accusation. Every time I try to avoid the many conspiracy theorists there are about everything, I run into an historical example that it happens again and again. Lies upon lies until they become twisted truths. Rulers seeking their ends by whatever means. Conspiracies most foul. Governments simply can’t be trusted, any time anywhere.

Human hubris just as bad. A mere three years after the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic in 1912, the “world” didn’t believe any nation would sink the world’s new finest ocean liner. Even if it was carrying war materiel to England and even though the Germans, in fairness to its military high command, had run ads in American newspapers prior to the last embarkation of the Lusitania that said it would be subject to naval attack.

Larson, as he did previously in the marvelous In the Garden of Beasts about the United States ambassador to Nazi Germany trying in vain to get his government to recognize The Beast at the doorway to World War II, brings the enormous tragedy of the Lusitania down to families and individuals about to be plunged into the hell of a sinking ship. Children playing games on the deck, light flirtations at lunch, sumptuous menus in first class all blasted by a torpedo that many passengers saw streaking through the water.

Imagine that, you see it coming. You see it coming but you can hardly believe your eyes. Then it hits. Two explosions, no one is sure what the second one was caused by, then you are reassured by the ship’s officers that the Lusitania can’t sink. Then it promptly sinks and you are thrown into the water with the dead and dying all around you. Imagine a drowned baby floating by you. Imagine trying to find your second child who’s below deck while you try to figure out how to save the one with you.

War of course comes down to countless deaths upon deaths but quoting how many died at the Somme or the Ardennes Forest is just numbers. Larson lets you see that it is people, always people whose hopes and dreams and cares are simply washed away as if they’d never been.

My fear is that the children of the twenty-first century will never learn, because it’s not taught adequately in schools, that the twentieth century from which their parents sprang was one of strife and conflict previously unequalled in the world. And that the “heroes” of the time from Churchill to Wilson to even Roosevelt have damn near as much to answer for as Hitler and Hirohito. Will kids growing up today even learn who they were?

If not, terrible peril awaits. And even if they do.

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To read more reviews, essays and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


Doc Wendell’s Prescription For Saxophone BeBop: “Julian Adderley Quintet – Portrait Of Cannonball”

August 24, 2015

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was making major waves in the jazz world by 1958. He was in the hippest band in the world; Miles Davis’ Sextet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. Like most alto sax players of that time, Adderley was often dismissed by critics as an imitator or Charlie Parker, although he had already developed a distinct style of his own by the mid ‘50s. Adderley’s tone was big, fat, and round and his phrasing stemmed mostly from the blues.
Jazz fans and critics started to give “Cannonball” his proper dues in early 1958, after the release of Miles Davis’ Milestones (Columbia) and Adderley’s first and only “solo” album on Blue Note; Somethin’ Else featuring Miles Davis.

Trumpet master Clark Terry had introduced “Cannonball” and his brother and cornet/trumpet player Nat Adderley to Orin Keepnews (Manager of Riverside Records) shortly after Somethin’ Else was recorded. His first session for Riverside was Julian Adderley Quintet – Portrait Of Cannonball; recorded on July 1, 1958. Adderley is joined by Bill Evans, piano (Evans would later appear with Adderley on Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and Adderley’s Jump For Joy and Know What I Mean), Blue Mitchell, trumpet, Sam Jones, bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. This session is one of the most original and exciting hard-bop albums of the entire genre.

The album starts with three alternate versions of Gigi Gryce’s up-tempo bop masterpiece “Minority.” Some might find this to be excessive but each take is special in its own right. Adderley is on fire. His blues-bop alto lines are bold and burning. Blue Mitchell sounds a lot like Art Farmer, playing very melodic and thoughtfully sparse trumpet lines that are the perfect counterpoint to Adderley’s frenetics. Bill Evans is forced to play a more subtle, subordinate role than usual. Those big classical chords that would establish an entire mood of a composition are traded in for some tasty comping and brief but imaginative solos.

Cannonball Adderley

Cannonball Adderley

On the soulful ballad “Straight Life,” Adderley’s lines remind me of Coleman Hawkins if The Hawk played alto sax instead of tenor. Adderley’s confidence and articulation on this original has always given me that impression. Bill Evans’ true personality shines through a little bit here as he plays some beautiful block chords. Blue Mitchell’s trumpet work is superb. Sam Jones’ bass playing is relaxed and supportive of Philly Joe Jones’ wonderfully bombastic drumming.

“Blues Funk” is a pure 12 bar blues. Adderley opens up all harmonic possibilities of a “simple” blues progression here and there’s plenty of room for Mitchell, Sam Jones, and Philly Joe to stretch out.

“A Little Taste” is one of Adderley’s most exhilarating compositions of that period. He leaps from the lower register of his alto sax to the upper with confidence and ease. Blue Mitchell’s solo is thematic and perfect. Philly Joe Jones’ bebop drumming pushes the band to reach even further.

The band’s rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “People Will Say We’re In Love” is just gorgeous. Adderley’s lines are not only purposeful, but they also tell a story. A truly great jazz soloist can take you on a journey without sounding repetitious. Bird did it, Bean did it, Sonny Rollins is still doing it, and “Cannonball” did it too.

To celebrate Adderley’s first session with Riverside, Miles Davis wrote the modal “Nardis” for the occasion. It’s amazing how Adderley and this group of superb musicians can go from bebop, blues, and standard ballads to a dark and more explorative piece like “Nardis”. There’s a haunting quality to this composition. Adderley’s sound is always joyful, even in a darker setting like this, but Blue Mitchell’s solo here gives me chills. Mitchell’s trumpet lines sounds like they could lead a funeral procession. Evans’ piano accompaniment is equally as menacing, especially as he solos over the minor chords changes. This piece gives the listener a good insight into where Miles Davis was headed as a composer and his plans to utilize the incredible talents of both Adderley and Bill Evans as a part of his new sound that would change jazz forever a year later.

Julian Adderley Quintet-Portrait Of Cannonball is a stellar album, featuring “Cannonball” Adderley’s best hard-bop playing. The album also gives the listener a brief glimpse into Adderley’s illustrious future as he is joined by some of the greatest jazz stylists of the day. This is essential listening.

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


Live Music: Celebrating Frank Sinatra with Leslie Kendall & Friends at the Paschal Winery

August 23, 2015

 

Don Heckman

By Don Heckman

The music of Frank Sinatra was in the air Saturday night in the amiable environs of the Paschal Winery. The music, that is, which Ol’ Blue Eyes vividly brought to life in his long career as an entertainment world icon. The music of the Great American Songbook.

The performers celebrating the centennial of Sinatra’s birth were singer Leslie Kendall and the stellar backing of the Ed Dunsavage Trio featuring drummer Chicken Hirsh and bassist Joe Cohoon with special guests Dmitri Matheny on flugelhorn and Tony Hayes on tenor sax and vocals. It was an immensely entertaining way for the Siskiyou Music Project to wrap up its 2014 – 2015 season.

The catalog of songs associated with Sinatra could have provided enough classics for a week of perfomances. Kendall and the players chose two hours, starting with “Nice & easy” and winding up with “The Lady Is A Tramp.”

Leslie Kendall

Leslie Kendall

Kendall’s interpretations were dynamic and enthusiastic. In the early part of the program, singing songs such as “In the Wee Small Hours,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Come Fly With Me,” she occasionally verged into emulating the Sinatra style, not a wise choice.

In the second half, however, her versions of other tunes – “I Get A kick Out of You,” “Angel Eyes,” “One for My Baby” and others — she was comfortably within her own style, singing warmly, telling the musical stories convincingly and swinging with irresistible rhythmic flow.

Another high point of the program was delivered by saxophonist Hayes, a gifted instrumentalist who also sang appealing versions of “Witch Craft,” “Night and Day,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and more.

Tony Hayes, Dimitri Matheny, Ed Dunsavage and Leslie Kendall

Add to that the stunning work of the entire band. Several instrumental numbers – “You Go To My Head’” and “What Now My Love” showcased the players at their best. Matheny, a jazz artist with a well established reputation, repeatedly demonstrated how worthy he is of the critical praise that has accompanied his high visibility career. He also wrote most of the band’s crisply swinging arrangements for the performance.

Tony Hayes and Dimitri Matheny

Hayes, not yet a well-known figure in the jazz world, is one who will, nonetheless, be heard from in the future. Remember his name.

And some final praise for the Dunsavage trio. Guitarist Dunsavage has done a remarkable job of bringing world class performers to the Siskiyou Project’s program. But beyond that, he and his trio have also provided some of their own fine jazz moments over the course of the entire Project season.

Because of the overflow turnout for this event, Dunsavage announced that the Project’s Sinatra Centennial program may continue on December 12, the actual Sinatra birthdate. For information check the Project’s website HERE.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Doc Wendell’s Prescription for Swing: “Pres And Teddy-The Lester Young And Teddy Wilson Quartet” (Verve)

August 22, 2015
Devon "Doc" Wendell

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

The sound of Lester Young’s tenor saxophone is sheer ecstasy. “Pres” (as he was nicknamed by Billie Holiday) was one of the most important, original, and brilliant musicians in the history of jazz. There’s not much in life better that listening to “Pres” blowing that sweet and burning Kansas City swing in Count Basie’s Orchestra during the 1930s. Young played mostly in the upper or altissimo register of the tenor sax, creating a tender and intimate sound with a smooth and lush tone. His style influenced a countless number of players, including Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, Zoot Sims, Buddy Tate, Hank Mobley, and many, many more.

Teddy Wilson was the quintessential master pianist of the swing era. In the late 1930s, Wilson made some stellar recordings with such jazz masters as Red Norvo, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Billie Holiday and of course, Lester Young. Wilson’s recordings with Holiday (or “Lady Day” as she was nicknamed) and “Pres” are some of the greatest ever made in the history of American music.

During the 1950s, Lester Young was suffering from poor health. The President of Verve records, Norman Granz, had signed Young to his label during this time. Although his chops weren’t always what they used to be, on the right day and time, Young could play better than he ever had in the past. January 13, 1956 was the right day and time and Young was surrounded by the right people. This was a reunion between not only Teddy Wilson and Lester Young, but also Young and bassist Gene Ramey and drummer Jo Jones, both of whom had played with Young during his tenure with Count Basie. The results were assembled into Pres And Teddy-The Lester Young-Teddy Wilson Quartet.

This album is a phenomenal labor of love. “All Of Me” and “Prisoner Of Love” are exquisite. Young’s tenor lines are much more economical than say Coleman Hawkins’. His sense of melody and slight vibrato can only be described as wonderfully decadent; the sound of bliss. Very few instrumentalists could reach that place like “Pres” did. Teddy Wilson cooks behind Young. ‘Louise” and “Love Me Or Leave Me” feature some of the most tasteful yet potent swing piano playing ever put on tape. Wilson had gotten even better with time. It sounds like Young and Wilson had been playing together all of their lives on this album and you add the master of swing drumming, “Papa” Jo Jones, plus Gene Ramey’s steady walking bass lines and you get music that is truly irresistible.

The rendition of Vernon Duke’s “Taking A Chance On Love” is an album highlight. Wilson’ stride style piano lays down the melody and “Pres” plays one of the most superbly lyrical solos that I’ve ever heard on any instrument. His phrasing brings to mind some the greatest singers of all time. I think of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday when I hear “Pres” sing his heart out through his horn on this standard.

I’ve heard many versions of George Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here To Stay” but the one on this album brings tears of joy to my eyes. This is real jazz at its best. Just listen to Teddy Wilson’s spacing and Jo Jones’ subtle drumming as “Pres” caresses you heart and ears with each soulful nuance. This is the stuff that makes life wonderful.

“Press Returns” is a bonus track on the album. It’s a pure Kansas City blues. No one could make a blues swing like “Pres.” Every line played on his saxophone speaks volumes about where this incredible artist had been throughout his life. You can feel all of his joy and his pain and the band is right there with him.

Pres And Teddy-The Lester Young And Teddy Wilson Quartet is an essential classic recording of American art at its best. This is music that sums up an entire genre and takes the listener through the history of jazz with soul, love, and dedication.

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


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