Here, There & Everywhere: Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 (From the Archives)

June 29, 2009

By Don Heckman

Michael Jackson’s unfortunate, premature passing last week reminded me of the first time I’d seen him, thirty seven years ago, performing with his brothers at Madison Square Garden. At the time, I Jackson 5was covering rock and pop music for the New York Times, and the Jackson 5 performance was just another stop in my busy review schedule. Remembering absolutely nothing about either the program or the review, I pulled it out of my files today, curious to read what I had written. In retrospect, there’s nothing particularly unusual about what I had to say. It was no mystery that Michael and the Jackson 5 were rapidly ascending new stars. But there was one sentence in particular that startled me. It’s the sentence that begins “Watching him move across the stage….”

When I looked at it, I had to reread it several times before I could fully believe what I had written, nearly 40 years ago. I’ve never been accused of having prescient abilities, but there it was. I have no idea why I wrote “the next 40 years” other than the fact that something about the performance obviously reached out to me, and found its way through my rush to make a midnight deadline for the morning edition. But the real truth is that it undoubtedly says a lot more about the aura of Michael Jackson’s extraordinary presence — even then — than it does about my skills as a visionary. Here’s the complete review, with the sentence in bold face:

From the The New York Times (June 1972)

The Jackson 5

By Don Heckman

Like most groups whose appeal is focused toward young audiences, the Jackson 5 provide as much theatre as they do music. At Madison Square Garden Friday night, the ushers found it difficult to keep the young soul singers’ program from turning into a mixed media event for audience and performers.

Young as they are – and none is out of his teens yet, the Jackson 5 are consummately professional entertainers. They dance, joke, sing, play instrumental backing for themselves (except for a drummer) and produce some superbly voiced five part vocal harmonies.

But despite the emphasis placed upon the Jackson five as a group of talented brothers – and they are – the real standout of the show was the lead singer, and the youngest member of the group, Michael Jackson.

In a field that includes such stalwarts as James Brown, Isaac Hayes and Wilson Pickett, Michael Jackson has to be considered one of the legitimate heirs to major stardom. Watching him move about the stage with the poise of an old pro, listening to his appealing vocals on “I’ll Be There” and “Got To Be There,” one becomes vividly aware of observing a performer who could well be a dominant force in the entertainment business for the next 40 years.

At the moment, the balance is just right. Michael Jackson is a perfect lead singer; his brothers back and fill for him, and provide a few solo spots of their own. In combination, the Jackson 5 offers something more than one can usually expect from music aimed at very youthful audiences – talent, professionalism and personal magnetism.

©1972: The New York Times

Picks of the Week: June 29 – July 5

June 29, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– June 29. (Mon.) Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio. Saxophonist Garland’s remarkable accomplishments reach from orchestral works to choir music to commissions for an African dance company and pairings with Chick Corea. Hearing him with his Lighthouse Trio reveals the inner essence of his art. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210 .

– July 1 – 3. (Wed. – Fri.) Vital Information with Steve Smith. Drummer Smith’s interests in percussion reach around the globe and across musical genres. And Vital Information – with Smith, bassist Baron Browne, guitarist Vinny Valentino and keyboardist Tom Coster – cover most of those bases in their always-changing sets. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210

– July 2. (Thurs.) “Playing for Change.” The 25th Annual Twilight Dance Series at the Santa Monica Pier opens with the live band version of the startling “Playing for Change” phenomenon that has rapidly moved from the #1 rated YouTube video to a Top 10 release of their 2-disc CD/DVD. Santa Monica Pier Twilight Dance Series. And if you haven’t seen the YouTube video, with its marvelous revelation of the power of music, you should  Here it is: .

john fogerty

John Fogerty

– July 2 – 4. (Thurs. – Sat.) The Hollywood Bowl’s annual Fireworks Spectacular. Featuring John Fogerty with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by John Morris Russell. Fogarty’s reportedly working on a new country album, but the Bowl audience no doubt will expect a large serving of such Creedence Clearwater Revival hits as “Susie Q” and “Proud Mary.” The fireworks, as always, will be spectacular. Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

– July 3. (Fri.) Viver Brasil. “Feet on the Ground/Aiye.” A spectacular evening of sight and sound, with the invigorating songs of Katia Moraes and the high-spirited, roots rhythms and dancing of the amazing artist in the Viver Brasil company. Ford Amphitheatre. (323) 461-3673.

Highlight: July 3 (Fri.)

It’s a great night for jazz canaries in L.A., with three impressive ladies offering their very different, but utterly compelling views of the art of jazz vocalizing at locations across the Southland. (Ahh…for a personal helicopter).

Jackie Ryan. The ever-fascinating, multi-jackie ryan culingual Ryan has emerged, in the past few years as a singer with a stunning blend of creative imagination, musicality and captivating story-telling abilities. She arrives in town celebrating the upcoming release of her latest album, the 2-CD “Doozy” (Openart Records). (Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for the set.) She’s at the Culver Club at the Radisson. (310) 649-1776. To sample Jackie Ryan’s recordings, click here.

Carol Welsman. Across the county, Canadian singer/pianist Welsman applies her superb blend of voice and instrument to a carolwelsman2repertoire that is as imaginative and far-reaching as any vocalist on the scene. (Maybe even more so.) Blessed with a whisper-in-your-ear warm sound and a rich harmonic sense, she uses them both to bring a compelling lyricism to her songs. Let’s hope she includes some of the engaging selections from her as yet unreleased tribute to Peggy Lee. Steamers. (714) 871-8800. To sample Carol Welsman’s recordings, click here.

Susan Krebs. Meanwhile, out in the Valley, Krebs brings to her songs her belief that “Being a jazz gardener is really about the art of susankrebs4becoming…whether working with plants or music or with oneself.” Her outdoors fascination reaches up to jazz-in-flight, as well, in her album, “Jazz Aviary,” which features such classics as “Baltimore Oriole,” “Skylark,” and, of course, “Ornithology,” She’s backed by pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Ryan McGillicuddy and drummer Sinclair Lott. Spazio. (818) 728-8400 To sample Susan Krebs’ recordings, click here.

– July 4. (Sat.) Shin Hae Chul and N.E.X.T. The South Korean pop star and his band make a rare American appearance. A liberal political icon as well as a musical headliner, often compared to John Lennon, he is one of the founders of the country’s contemporary Kpop genre. The Ford Amphitheatre. (323) 461-3673.

San Francisco

– July 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.) Mose Allison & Bob Dorough. What a treat – two of the deans of hip jazz vocalizing, on the same stage. The Mississippi blues meet cool urban sophistication. Dorough also does a matinee on Sunday featuring selections from his “Schoolhouse Rock.” Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

– July 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.) Gerald Albright. The multiple Grammy-nominated saxophonist brings jazz authenticity to the too-often tepid waters of the smooth and contemporary jazz styles. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600

New York City


Jack DeJohnette

– June 29. (Mon.) Ravi Coltrane & Jack DeJohnette with guests: “A Benefit for JazzReach.” Talk about an opportunity to make a contribution to something worthwhile, and experience some remarkable music in the process – here it is. Two of the jazz world’s most adventurous players, taking an exploratory road together. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– June 30. (Tues.) Terese Genecco & Her Little Big Band. Retro swing comes alive in the hands of the energy-packed Geneco and her irresistibly swinging seven piece band. Also on the bill, Scott Barbarino & the Bev-Naps re-imagine a combination of Dean Martin-revisited with a doo-wop, a capella vocal group.. The Iridium. (212) 582-2121. (Also the last Tuesday of every month.)


Anat Cohen (photo by Tony Gieske)

– June 30 – July 5. (Tues. – Sun.) Anat Cohen. “Clarinet work: Benny Goodman and Beyond. “ It’s been a long time since the clarinet has had an advocate as convincing as the gifted Cohen. Although her work on tenor and soprano saxophones is always a joy to hear, her love for the clarinet, combined with the ability to bring its rich resources of sound to life, is one of the pleasures of the 21st century jazz scene. It’ll be intriguing to hear what she does with Goodman. The Village Vanguard. (212) 255-4037

– July 1 – 4. (Wed. – Sat.) Lew Tabackin & Toshiko Akiyoshi Quartet. The gifted couple – with Tabackin’s envelope-stretching saxophone work and Toshiko’s compositionally structured piano have long been – and continue to be – models of new vista jazz improvisation. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.


Pulitzer Arts

Ornette Coleman

– June 30 – July 12. The Montreal Jazz Festival. There are those who fervently believe that the Montreal Fest is North America’s finest music event. And they may be right (although I’d have to place the Monterey Jazz Festival at a similar level). But with settings placed in and around a beautiful city, and a line up like this, it’s hard to go wrong: Ornette Coleman, Oliver Jones, Joe Cocker, Al Jarreau, Jeff Beck, Jackson Brown, Buddy Guy, Tony Bennett, Brian Setzer, Burning Spear, Melody Gardot, Charlie Haden, Jamie Cullum, Al Di Meola, Joshua Redman, Chris Botti, Esperanza Spalding, Dave Brubeck, Madeleine Peyroux and more. The Montreal Jazz Festival. (888) 525-0515

Rothbury, Michigan

– July 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.) The Rothbury Festival. Rothbury describes its mission as a “commitment to harnessing the spirit of the music festival community into a durable social movement.” A lot of performers and fans agree, especially when the Festival is placed in an amiable outdoor setting, and the program includes The Dead, Bob Dylan, String Cheese Incident, Willie Nelson, the Black Crowes, Ani DiFranco, Matisyahu, Femi Kuti and more. The Rothbury Festival. At the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, Michigan.

Live Jazz: Kenny Burrell at Catalina Bar & Grill

June 26, 2009

By Devon Wendell

When Kenny Burrell took the stage for the start of a four-night stint at Catalina Bar & Grill Thursday night, he also brought along a lineage of musical ghosts that echoed through his every note and choice of material. Nearing his 78th birthday, Kenny and his quartet (Mike Melvoin, piano; Ralph Penland, drums; Tony Dumas, bass; and Tivon Pennicott, tenor sax) came out swinging with the sense of historical purpose that has driven Burrell’s long recording legacy and his tenure as head of jazz studies at UCLA.

As in Burrell’s teaching, Ellington was the focus for much of the set, Kenny Burrellstarting with the initial number, “Main Stem.” From the first note, Kenny’s uniquely lyrical, understated, after-hours guitar style was a soulful reminder that the blues is truly the center of all jazz. Penland’s drumming stayed in the pocket, while Burrell and the amazing 24-year old Georgia native Pennicott created melodic lines as a returning point for each soloist.

For the standard “Tenderly,” Burrell started off solo, with his amazing sense of tonal dynamics, chordal voicing, and space that has influenced guitarists in all musical genres for over half a century. As the band came in at just the right moment, Melvoin’s subtle piano fit perfectly under Pennicott’s adventurous solo flights. The saxophonist’s “pecking” was reminiscent of a young Sonny Rollins, journeying effortlessly through the upper register – unlike many tenorists today twice his age.

A highlight of the evening was the group’s tribute to Michael Jackson, who had passed away only hours before the show. Mike Melvoin told the audience how he had worked with Jackson and noted what a consummate artist he was. Burrell added that, “Michael was a musician like us,” and proceeded to lead the band in a minor key, gospel, grits and gravy flavored version of “Billy Jean.” This was one of the more cohesive pieces of the night, with Pennicott and Burrell playing Jackson’s vocal lines, supported by the very loose and funky backup by Penland’s Louis Hayes-like drumming.

The Kurt Weill standard “Speak Low” gave Burrell a chance to show off his mastery of arpeggios and Wes Montgomery-inspired octaves, while proving that if he were a vocalist, he’d be one of the world’s greatest singers. He dedicated his composition “Bass Face” (from the album Lucky So And So) to Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson. Though bassist Tony Dumas strayed far from Brown’s style and went a bit overboard at times, Burrell’s funky syncopated lines, doubled up by Pennicott, made this an exciting tribute to old comrades.

Burrell and company took off into bop-land with his classic “Mark One” (from the 1964 album Soul Call) with Penland’s Tony Williams-like enthusiasm pushing Pennicott’s virtuosity to ever greater heights. Surprisingly, however, the band’s version of the Duke classic “In A Sentimental Mood” ventured too far from the melodic structure of the piece, even though Burrell’s ability to comp Ellington’s piano changes effortlessly on guitar made up for some over indulgences.

Tackling Thelonious Monk is always a difficult task and involves bold choices. But Burrell, Pennicott, Penland, and Dumas dove right into those risky waters with “Rhythm-A-Ning.” Melvoin’s piano playing wisely avoided going into overt “Monkisms”; instead, he chose to continue his gentle, mostly tonal style – imagining Monk from a George Shearing perspective. Burrell, meanwhile, once again proved the value of a single note in the right place while keeping everything centered. Charlie Parker’s venerable “Now’s The Time” closed the set, with Kenny lovingly introducing each band member as they soloed. Here, as everywhere else in this memorable evening, Kenny’s love of, and endless dedication to, jazz emanated from the music, calling to mind the magic of jazz voices past and present.

Kenny Burrell and his quartet will be performing at Catalina Bar &  Grill through Sunday, June 28th.

Quotation of the Week: Salman Rushdie

June 24, 2009

Salman Rushdie

“The note, the scale, the chord; melodies, harmonies, arrangements; symphonies, ragas, Chinese operas, jazz, the blues; that such things should exist, that we should have discovered the magical intervals and distances that yield the poor cluster of notes, all within the span of a human hand, from which we can build our cathedrals of sound, is as alchemical a mystery as mathematics, or wine, or love.”

Salman Rushdie, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”

To read other Quotations of the Week click Here.

Q & A: Larry Rosen — music entrepreneur, producer and musician, Part II

June 23, 2009

By Fernando Gonzalez

This is the second part of a conversation in Miami Beach Larry Rosenwith music entrepreneur, producer and musician Larry Rosen. Part I addressed the state of the music business. This second and final installment focuses on Rosen’s work as a live jazz producer in Miami.

Rosen, who has been living in Miami since 2,000, is the producer of the jazz series Jazz Roots, now in its second season, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

PART II: The Next Important Thing: Selling jazz in Miami — and selling jazz.

FG: You are now producing a jazz series for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Looking at the history of Miami as a jazz market, what did you think would be the challenges now, and what that made you think it could work now?

LR: Running GRP records I had artists traveling all over the world. So when artists had a record out, they would go out and promote it in different cities. We would know what the sales were in those cities; I knew what kind of market [that city] was. So when I came here, after leaving GRP, I certainly knew what it was like for jazz here. Anyone who’s in the jazz business knows that Miami is not a jazz market. But you don’t really understand Miami unless you live here. So once I started living here I got a much better understanding of the ethnic mixture of Miami, what audiences go to see, what’s happening, where is it happening and what the general vibe is, and I understood why this is not a jazz market.

FG: What are some of the issues that you see as particular to Miami?

LR For starters, among the majority of the population here, there is no real history to listening to jazz when they were growing up. And then, there are no jazz clubs. The thing with New York City, or most cities, is that there are clubs, audiences build through those clubs, and then they’d go to the record retail store and buy the music, go to concerts, and listen to the stations that would support [jazz]. But not here. So the reality in Miami is a very limited audience experience in a changing environment.

FG How did you then approach selling jazz in Miami?

LR When I came here I got a better understanding of why this was not a jazz market, and I also started to understand the dynamics of the market more. At the time the Performing Arts Center was being built, so when I thought of jazz here, and considering that there are no clubs, it sounded like the Performing Arts Center is the place. But I also knew that it had to be different from other jazz programs at performing arts centers in other cities. I felt here it had to be catered to this community not only in that [the program] had to present world-class artists but also that there would have to be an educational component.
You had to educate the audience — at all levels. It wasn’t just for the person that would spend $100 in a ticket but the young people in school. So an education program had to be a very important piece because education is a way to reach out to a community in a much more in-depth way.

FG: So by “education” you mean not only work with the schools and creating educational activities but also a certain approach to the marketing.

LR: My approach was to connect the dots. In New York you say ‘Tonight at the Village Vanguard: Sonny Rollins,’ you don‘t need to say anything else. They know. Any place else you do need to connect the dots. You need an over-arching theme. ‘Jazz at the Center’ is not going to sell the program to people. You need to make connections [about the music] for people, and for that you have to go to the roots. And the roots of all the music of the [Atlantic side of the] Americas are the drums. It came from Africa and became the roots of Brazilian music, Cuban music, Puerto Rican music, reggae, calypso, and in the United States it developed into blues and jazz and gospel and rock and rap. So the pitch that I wanted was Jazz Roots meaning these are the roots of much of the music of the Americas and given the ethnicity of Miami if we tell that story well, we connect the dots: if you like samba you should like Sonny Rollins; and if you like Sonny Rollins you should like Machito and if you like Machito you should like [Tom] Jobim — because everything is coming from the same source. From a musical point of view we are all related, we are all cousins. That was kind of the main focus. So the series would touch on all these different styles that are all related to jazz.

FG: Do you see this as a strategy that can be used elsewhere besides Miami?

LR: I think what is happening in Miami is something of a beta test of this idea of using the performing arts center [as the hub of the marketing jazz in the city], and also involving NPR radio, the PBS television affiliate here, going out and creating educational programs, and creating marketing packages. Packaging becomes extremely important.

FG: What kind of work has been developed in the schools in Miami?

LR: With the schools we started with different ideas. We found out that in Miami-Dade [the county where the cities of Miami and Miami Beach are located] there are 900 kids in jazz bands. So there are jazz bands in every single high school, and they may play Afro Cuban jazz or Latin jazz. Other might play Duke Ellington. So one of the things we decided was: we’re going to bring every one of these kids to these concerts. We raised $280,000 and the first thing we did was to bring in these kids. So working with the performing arts center, we reached out to the school system and figured out how to put group schools together and bring them to the shows, 150 kids to each concerts.

They would come in the afternoon for the sound check, meet the artist, then we’d take them to the educational center and have someone from FIU [Florida International University] or some of the schools to give them a talk about the roots of the music and how this related to this particular show and this particular artist. And after that we’d give them dinner and bring them in to sit in the audience, experience the show and then get back in the bus and their community. Realize that 99% of these kids would never go to a performing arts center because their parents would never go to a performing arts center because they think of them as some sort of expensive, elitist place to go. You can change kids lives by doing this.

FG: Is there also a curriculum component to this?

LR: Next year we are writing a curriculum for the whole Miami School System that would be both in middle school and high school that’s going to take about the culture related to the music. So [through] the University of Miami doctoral department we are working in conjunction, writing this curriculum that’s going to meet the regulation of the state of Florida so — when a teacher is teaching History, English, Social Studies or anything else — they can then utilize this information and integrate it into their curriculums. This is not just for music teachers. I’m making music samples for them and there will be a turnkey thing where to get this information so Jazz Roots becomes much more in depth as an educational program in Miami. And if it works here, it’s another beta test, we’ll move it to other cities.

FG: You have been living in Miami for awhile now so that might be reason enough, but still, you are a business person, why Miami and why Miami now?

LR: If you look at musical movements in America they’ve all come from some city that’s going through some social change: think New Orleans, think New York City, obviously; or Chicago and the blues; Kansas City at a certain time, Nashville of course, Los Angeles, San Francisco during the ‘60s.

I think the next place is Miami. I totally believe this is where the next music in the United States is going to be formulated. Something is going to come out of here that’s going to go around the world.

Because [to create that] you need certain things: you need ethnic mixture, cultures rubbing together, you need art, and we have Art Basel, the biggest art market in the world, and you have the style thing of South Beach, plus you have financial wealth.
And you have the Performing Arts Center, which can be the centerpiece of this whole thing, and you have a city looking to reach out to the arts to create something here.
That’s’ why I think the next thing is going to happen here. And that’s why I think it’s so important to organically build what has to be built here in order for this new music to come out. Jazz is going to have a part of it, Latin music is going to have a part of it, electronics will have a part of it, and it all fuses here to create something that entrepreneurs can step into.

And I think something really important is going to happen here…in Miami.

To read Part l of the Larry Rosen Q & A click here.

Picks of the Week: June 23 – 28

June 22, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles


Mundell Lowe

– June 23. (Tues.) John Pisano and Mundell Lowe. Always one of the Southland’s most pleasing jazz evenings, Pisano’s Guitar Night this week features a musical encounter with one of the masters of the art of jazz guitar. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

– June 23. (Tues.) Yanni. One of the founders of the atmospheric, New Age piano style, Yanni — now wearing short hair and no mustache — is drawing devoted crowds with his new “Voices” tour. Nokia Theatre. (213) 763-6030.

– June 24. (Wed.) Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Patti Griffin, Buddy Miller. The show is billed as “Three Girls and Their Buddy,” and the title is right on target. Expect lots of engaging songs. The Greek Theatre.

– June 25. (Thurs.) Andy Garcia and the Cineson All Stars. Actor Garcia is never happier than when he’s jamming on the bongos with some world class Latin musicians – and the Cineson All Stars have more than a few. The Conga Room. (213) 749-0162.

Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell

– June 25. (Thurs.) Tom Warrington, Larry Koonse and Joe La Barbara. Class, musicality, inventiveness and swing – they’ll all be on the bill when this fine trio steps on stage. Upstairs at Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– June 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.) Kenny Burrell Quartet. Kenny would probably resist being described as a jazz icon, but that’s what he is. And when he takes a break from his teaching duties at UCLA to play a club gig, no one should miss the opportunity to hear him, still at the top of his form. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

– June 26. (Fri.) Steve Huffsteter. Trumpeter Huffsteter’s beautifully lyrical style keeps him on everyone’s A-list. His graceful lines will be backed by the able support of the Pat Sentore Trio. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

– June 26. (Fri.) Mark Winkler. The celebration of Winkler’s new CD, “Till I Get It Right” continues. But Winkler – as good a songwriter as he is – always likes to spread his musical net widely. He’ll reportedly be doing some Bobby Troup and Laura Nyro, and inside word has it that Janis Mann will join him on a song or two. The Gardenia. 7066 Santa Monica Blvd. (323) 467-7444.

– June 26. (Fri.) The Four Freshmen. Before there were the Beach Boys, before there were the Hi-Los, there were the Four Freshman, singing gorgeous harmonies on tunes such as “It’s a Blue World.” Sixty-one years after the group first got together, the personnel has changed. But the lush vocal sound remains the same. Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Westside. (310) 649-1776.  Also at Steamers on Sunday, June 28.  (714) 871-8800.

– June 26. (Fri.) Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul makes her first appearance in 31 years at the The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

– June 27. (Sat.) ABBA the music and Super Diamond. The hits will just keep on coming from this pair of tribute bands — Waterloo doing ABBA, and Super Diamond singing the Neil Diamond songbook. The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly

– June 28. (Sun.) Julie Kelly. The versatile, always entertaining Kelly applies her vocal stylings and her guitar to “A Night in Brazil,” with pianist Otmaro Ruiz, bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Devin Kelly and percussionist Walter Rodriguez. Charlie O’s.

San Francisco

– June 22 – 23. (Mon. & Tues.) “Go Left Fest: Where Creative Arts Collide” The inaugural event of a festival celebrating jazz adventurousness. With the extraordinary line up of Marshal Allen, Roswell Rudd, the Myra Melford/Mark Dressor Duo, Matthew Shipp, Joe Morris, Sunny Murray and more. Yoshi’s SanFrancisco.

– June 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.) Pharoah Sanders Quartet with Zakir Hussain. A potentially fascinating encounter between two superb musical individualists. Yoshi’s San Francisco.

New York City

– June 23 – 27. (Tues. – Sat. ) John Pizzarelli and Pizza Party. I don’t know if they’ll be serving pizza, but there will be plenty of Pizzarelli talent on stage, led by the always musical, always witty John Pizzarelli – plus Dad Bucky Pizzarelli, brother Martin Pizzarelli, and wife Jessica Molaskey. Birdland. (212) 581-6500.

– June 23 – 28. (Tues. – Sun.) The 3 Cohens Sextet. Okay, so it’s a week for family jazz ensembles. And here’s another great one; clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen, saxophonist Yuval Cohen and trumpeter Avishai Cohen. With Aaron Goldberg, piano Matt Penman, bass, Greg Hutchinson, drums. The Village Vanguard. (212) 255-4037.


Mary Foster Conklin

– June 28 (Sun.) Mary Foster Conklin. She’s a jazz singer in cabaret disguise, her skills apparent in a new recording, “Blues For Breakfast: Remembering Matt Dennis.” Conklin appears accompanied only by guitarist Tony Romano, a setting guaranteed to give full rein to her vocal story telling. Nios Restaurant in the Muse Hotel. Also July 5, 12 and 19.


– June 27 – 28. (Sat. & Sun.) Friehofer’s Jazz Festival. There’s no better way to spend an early summer afternoon than on the lawn at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, enjoying the entertaining lineup Friehofer’s has assembled. Featured acts includ Patti Labelle, George Benson, Gary Burton Quartet featuring Pat Metheny, Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band with a Kind of Blue Tribute, a Time Out Tribute with Dave Brubeck, Kendra Shank, and SMV (with Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten). Saratoga Performing Arts Center. (518) 587-3330.

Live World Music: Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra at Royce Hall

June 21, 2009

By Don Heckman

UCLA Live couldn’t have made a better choice to wrap its 2008-2009 concert series than Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra. The large, celebratory ensemble of the Sarajevo-born Bregovic – a composer, guitarist, singer and actor – delivered a 2 ½ hour, non-stop collection of music from the Balkans and Eastern Europe that filled Royce Hall’s aisles Saturday night with wildly enthusiastic members of the audience, eager to express their familiarity with the dance steps of Serbia, Croatia, Romania and beyond.

goran and wedding bandBregovic has been a prominent figure in European music for more than three decades, initially with the rock group White Button in the country once known as Yugoslavia, later as a film composer and leader of an immensely popular touring ensemble that has drawn huge crowds in Europe, the Middle East and South America. His successes – in other parts of the world as well as at Royce on Saturday – may well trace to the fact that his music represents a collective expression of the disparate cultural elements that fragmented in all directions with the demise of Yugoslavia.

For his debut appearance in Los Angeles, Bregovic arrived with a group consisting of a string quartet, a six piece Gypsy brass band (which made its entrance marching down Royce’s aisles), a male vocal sextet and a pair of female Bulgarian singers. And it was enough to cover all the high points in a collection of music reaching from passionately keening Romany gypsy sounds to utterly irresistible rhythmic party music. Selections – most composed by Bregovic – often began with something approaching Serbian blues, expressed in slowly unfolding legato fashion before erupting into pounding, propulsive rhythms. Satire occasionally surfaced in pieces such as “Kalashnikov” (with a chorus that said “Boom, boom, boom!”), occasional phrases recalled Bregovic’s rock ‘n’ roll background, and a song or two – rendered in his surprisingly sweet-toned voice – shifted gears into contemporary singer/songwriter style.

Along the way, each of the horn players had a chance to shine: Stojan Dimov with his fast-fingered alto saxophone and wailing, klezmer-like clarinet; Bokan Stankovic and Dalibor Lukic, playing rotary valve trumpets with heart-rending emotional cries; and the baritone horn pair of Milos Mihajlovic and Aleksandar Rajkovic alternating pumped out rhythmic figures with occasional martial blasts. The string quartet added fragments of sound tinctured with traces of Bartok, and the male vocal ensemble did everything from gentle harmonies to operatic dramatics.

Amid all this extraordinary array of music, the most remarkable stand-out was drummer/singer Alen Ademovic, playing a minimal set-up featuring the traditional goc drum. His percussion work was the driving heart beat of the music, his accordion playing added occasional atmospheric timbres. And, beyond that, his singing, clearly inspired by the microtonal melismas of Middle Eastern vocal styles, provided fascinating improvisational  enhancements to many of the songs. At only 22, Ademovic is clearly a star in the making. .

By the time the program ended, Bregovic, Ademovic and company had transformed the venerable auditorium into an all-join in celebration. Only UCLA Live’s David Sefton, always eager to surprise his audiences, could have come up with the notion of winding up a season with a Serbo-Croatian dance party.


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