Picks of the Week: Dec. 29 – Jan. 3

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jane Monheit

Dec. 29 – Jan. 3. Jane Monheit. There’s no more entertaining jazz way to bring in 2010 than with the gorgeous sound and imaginative phrasing of the always compelling Ms. Monheit. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

Dec. 29. (Tues.) Ron Jones Influence. Jones leads his big, 22 piece orchestra in an evening of large ensemble jazz. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

– Dec. 29. (Tues.) Wayne Bergeron’s Big Band. Trumpeter Bergeron has ample credibility as a big band performer to front his own large jazz collective, and he does it well. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Judy Wexler

– Dec. 30 (Wed.) Billy Mitchell Group starts the holiday early with his pre-New Year’s Eve Celebration, backed by Rob Kyle, Tomas Gargano, and Frank Wilson. Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge. (310) 642-7500.

– Jan. 2. (Sat.) Judy Wexler Quartet. Filling in as an unexpected replacement, Ms. Wexler gives her many fans an early opportunity to hear her briskly swinging vocals in action in the new year. Café Metropol. (213) 613-1537.

Highlight: New Year’s Eve in L.A……………………………………

Dr. Bobby Rodriguez

– Dr. Bobby Rodriguez New Year’s Eve Dance Party. Trumpeter Dr. Bobby knows how to celebrate a holiday, keeping the dance rhythms moving while retaining a firm hold on his admirable jazz chops. The Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside. (310) 649-1776.

– Don Menza, John Heard, Roy McCurdy and Tom Ranier. One couldn’t ask for a better, more seasoned band to spend a holiday evening with — or, for that matter, a better place to spend it than at Charlie O’s. (818) 989-3110.

Veteran guitarist Don Peake brings in the New Year with one of his typically entertaining bands, featuring Ellis Hall, vocals, Earl Gordon, drums, Michael Torres, bass, Aaron Mclain, guitar/vocals and Harlan Spector, keyboards. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

– Janis Mann and Llew Matthews Trio (Paul Kreibich, drums, John Belzaguy, bass). The rich, dark sound, soaring vocals of the under-appreciated Ms. Mann, backed by a sterling trio. Sheraton Gateway Hotel LAX. (310) 642-1111.

– Jerry Vivino’s Quartet from the Tonight Show with Conan Obrien. It’s described as a Masquerade and Dance Party, filled with “glitz, glamour, dancing and music. ” And with saxophonist Vivino leading bassist Mike Merritt, drummer James Wormworth and pianist Scott Healy, the description should be right on target. Upstairs at Vitellos. (818) 769-0905.

– Kleber Jorge. The guitarist/singer from Rio celebrates New Year’s Brazilian style. Crustacean, Beverly Hills. (310) 205-8990.

Louie Cruz Beltran

– Louie Cruz Beltran Latin Jazz Ensemble. Percussionist/singer Beltran is entertaining on any night one hears him. Celebrating New Year’s he’ll no doubt be even better. South Coast Winery Resort and Spa, Temecula. (866) 994-6379.

– Rick Vittallo. The veteran singer/guitarist has been a busy Southland performer since the ’70s, working in far ranging musical settings. Here he works in an intimate small group setting with bassist Pat Senatore and pianist Matt Harris. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Roaring Twenties New Year’s Eve. Marie MacGillis performs classic jazz and swing tunes with Michto Pelo, Tommy Davy and John Reynolds. Chaya Brasserie, Beverly Hills. (310) 859-8833.

– Don Randi & Quest. Keyboardist avoids the holiday traffic by leading his fusion group Quest at his own cozy jazz room, the Baked Potato. (818) 980-1615.


San Francisco

– Dec. 29 – Jan. 2. (Tues. – Sat.) Ledisi. Soul stylist Ledisi has been entertaining audiences with her engaging voice since she was eight. Her latest album, “Turn Me Loose,” adds a touch of funk to her driving vocals. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

McCoy Tyner

– Dec. 29 – Jan. 3. (Tues. – Sun.) McCoy Tyner New Year’s Celebration. And an all-star celebration it is — a rare combination of players not to be missed. With Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding and Francisco Mela. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200

– Dec. 30 – Jan. 3. (Wed. – Sun.) Melba Moore. Moore’s checkered career and sometimes troubled life haven’t diminished the quality of her work as a singer with a unique way with a song. Here’s a rare chance to hear her up close and personal. The Rrazz Room. (415) 394-1189.

New York

(Dec. 29 – Jan. 3) Chris Botti‘s trumpet playing continues in rare form, as he finishes up his epic three week run at the Blue Note. (212) 475-8592

(Dec. 29 – Jan. 3) Struttin’ With Some Barbecue. Straight ahead, hard driving, New Orleans-tinged jazz at its best. With Henry Butler, piano, Donald Harrison, alto sax, Sean Jones, trumpet, Wycliffe Gordon, trombone, Ben Wolfe, bass, Ali Jackson, drums. The Jazz Standard. (212) 447-7733.

HIlary Kole

(Dec. 30 – Jan. 3). The Bad Plus. Still at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz, the trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to be influential pathfinders for imaginative young jazz players. The Village Vanguard. (212) 255-4037.

Dec. 31. Hilary Kole with the Chico O’Farrill Jazz Orchestra. Any night with Kole’s singing is a night to remember. New Year’s Eve with Kole and the O’Farrill Orchestra should be something to preserve in a memory book. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

Dec. 31. (Thurs.)  New Year’s Eve with Liz Callaway.  The mellifluous voice and dramatic interpretive style of Broadway’s Callaway will be heard in two shows: Passage of Time at 8:30, featuring tunes from her recent CD; The Best of Liz at 10:30, with “Meadowlark,” “Memory,” “The Show Goes On” and champagne at midnight.  The Metropolitan Room.  (212) 206-0440.

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