Live Jazz: The Sounds of Shearing at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

June 30, 2010

By Tony Gieske

It seems needlessly nutrition conscious to sneer at George Shearing because of the candy-like character of his music. The Centers for Disease Control has recorded not a single case of diabetes attributable to its consumption, for one thing.

Shearing’s innocence was well established by a sweet evening with The Sounds of Shearing Tuesday on a misty night at Vibrato.  A quintet of local heroes captured the famed radio-friendly sound exquisitely, and it proved in the age of television to be a sound that still comforts the ear and nourishes  the spirit.

Ron Anthony and Charlie Shoemake

Charlie Shoemake, the vibraharpist, and Ron Anthony, the electric guitarist, were the principal providers of this feat, and Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton could not have done any better.  Chuck Wayne and Majorie Hyams were the role models in the original Shearing group.

The part of the entertainment world’s first Denzil, Shearing drummer Denzil Best, was ably filled by Colin Bailey.  Joe Bagg rode the piano bench, wisely steering clear of Shearing’s famed locked-hands style but providing his own patented songlike improvisations.

Joe Bagg, Colin Bailey, Luther Hughes (clockwise from left)

Bassist Luther Hughes played the part of the great John Levy, deploying a force quite a bit more vigorous. Pizzacato he was fun, but arco came out sharp.

Shoemake’s improvisation seemed to come from a great distance, but Anthony pulled the listener in and filled him or her with the promise of joy, not infrequently achieving the thing itself.

Sir George himself, coming up on age 91 this year at his Massachusetts farm, has recovered from the tumble that felled him a few years ago, walks with a cane, and plays at home alone every day.

I wish I could be there to ask him how he ever thought up that unique instrumentation: piano, electric guitar, vibraharp, bass and drums. Really!  Would he say you had to be a blind man?

Photos by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site

Picks of the Week: June 29 – July 4

June 29, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sally Kellerman

-June 30. (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman. Hot Lips is back. And, as convincing as she was in M*A*S*H, she’s even more so as a singer, crafting tunes simmering with traces of jazz, folk, soul and country.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– June 30. (Wed.)  Open Hands.  One of the Southland’s authentic all-star jazz ensembles, featuring the invigorating bass work of Abraham Laboriel and the dynamically versatile tenor saxophone of Justo Almario, with Greg Mathieson, keyboards and Bill Maxwell, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– June 30. (Wed.)  Kevin Eubanks Group. He’s no longer on the air with Leno, but Eubanks is still one of the most listenable guitarists in jazz.  And on this gig you won’t have to worry about being interrupted by a commercial break. Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

– June 30. (Wed.) Nancy Sanchez.  She may have been a mariachi singer as a teen-ager, but Sanchez is now an intriguing, up and coming jazz vocalist who comfortably combines some pop and crossover elements in her coolly expressive vocalizing.  Steamers. (714) 871-8800.

Linda Ciofalo

– July 1. (Thurs.)  Linda Ciofalo. With an appealing voice and a perky rhythmic manner, Ciofalo is the right interpreter for the Johnny Mercer tunes on her brand new CD, Dancing With Johnny.  She’s backed by pianist Otmaro Ruiz, bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Jimmy Branley.  Crowne Plaza. (310) 642-7500.

– July 2. (Fri.)  Charles Owens Quartet. The versatile Owens can play any saxophone, in almost any style, and do it with utter believability.  But the best time to hear him is on a gig like this, when he’s up front, doing everything his own way.  The Culver Club in the Raddison.   (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

– July 2 – 4. (Fri. – Sun.)  July 4th Fireworks SpectacularVince Gill, with twenty Grammy Awards and more than 22 million albums sold, is the perfect headliner for the annual pyrotechnical celebration.  Expect to hear such country hits as “I Still Believe In You” and “One More Last Chance.”  Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– July 3. (Sat.)  Ira Nepus and Friends.  Trombonist, Nepus, one of L.A.’s fine first-call players, steps into the spotlight with his own group.  And the set will be even more highlighted by the engaging vocals of Bonnie Bowden.  Willy’s BBQ and Grill.  Agoura Hills.   (818) 991-7227.

San Francisco

– June 29 & 30 (Tues. & /Wed,)  Joyce (Joyce Moreno) The Brazilian singer/guitarist is keeping the bossa nova flame still burning, while adding her own more contemporary tunes to programs rich with the rhythms of Rio. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

– July 4. (Sun.) Kiosk.  There’s something appropriate about the presence of the highly praised Iranian rock band, Kiosk, at Yoshi’s on Independence Day.  Prevented from performing in public in their native land (because of “inappropriate” lyrics), they re-formed outside Iran and now perform around the globe.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

Lew Tabackin and Toshiko Akiyoshi

– June 29 – July 3. (Tues. – Sat.) Lew Tabackin & Toshiko Akiyoshi Quartet. The husband and wife team, innovative figures in the contemporary jazz world for decades, make a too-rare live appearance.  They’re backed by bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Mark TaylorBirdland. (212) 581-3080.

June 29 – July 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  Fourplay.  Grammy-nominated Fourplay – Bob James, Chuck Loeb, Nathan East and Harvey Mason – have successfully created an audience-pleasing crossover jazz style without sacrificing any of their substantial array of pure jazz skills. The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Q & A: Herbie Hancock and “The Imagine Project”

June 27, 2010

By Don Heckman

Herbie Hancock’s storied career has been one of the most remarkable in jazz history.  An influential pianist for more than four decades, moving freely from the most esoteric improvisational forms to the entertaining arenas of pop crossovers, he has been in the vanguard of expanding the horizons of jazz expressiveness.  Last year, his album River: The Joni Letters, a transformative collection of the music of Joni Mitchell, became the first jazz-oriented album to win the Grammy Album of the Year award.

On Tuesday, June 22, the release of his newest audio and DVD  album, The Imagine Project, opened far wider creative territories, illuminating Hancock’s fascination with the global universality with which music reaches from culture to culture. Recorded in locations reaching from India, Brazil, Colombia and Mali to Paris, London and Los Angeles, Hancock joins with an international list of music superstars that includes Dave Mathews, Anoushka Shankar, Jeff Beck, the Chieftains, John Legend, Seal, Pink, Wayne Shorter, Susan Tedeschi, Juanes, Derek Trucks, India Arie, Chaka Khan, K’Nan, James Morrison and Lisa Hannigan.

Last week, we sat in the sunlit patio of Hancock’s home in the Hollywood hills, as he described some of the unusual, often humorous adventures of creating an album in worldwide locations.

DH:  Herbie, as I understand it, the concept for The Imagine Project actually began to materialize while you already were in a far corner of the world.

HH: It was an interesting piece of serendipity, or synchronicity.  When I was first putting the concept for the record together and pulled Larry Klein in as the primary producer, and we were just laying the foundation of it down, the decision was made that it would be great to go to various countries to get the flavor of the culture.  You get the taste of the food, the atmosphere, the people. And if we’re really going to honor various cultures, it makes sense to be there.  And it turned out that I was already scheduled to go to India with Martin Luther King III as a partnership between the Thelonious Monk Institute and the State Department with the student band from the Monk Institute to represent America’s culture in a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s decision to travel to India to study Gandhi’s non-violent methods.

DH: But doing the album wasn’t actually a scheduled part of that trip?

HH: No, but I thought, “Hmm, I got this trip coming up to India.”  But it was coming up right away, like in about ten days or a couple of weeks.  And we hadn’t really decided on songs or anything.  We hadn’t gotten that far.  But we decided to see if there was a day off where we might be able to record in India.  Then Larry thought about this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke with references to music.  And I liked it.  You know,  It’s deep.

DH: A German poem, that Larry Klein adapted into a piece called “The Song Goes On” to record in India.  That’s getting global pretty fast, I’d say.

HH:  Right.  But it gets better.  What we initially saw was the English version.  Now what’s funny is that, you know, these ideas are forming as we’re going along.  First there was the idea of doing it in India.  And conceptually doing it in Hindi.  But we didn’t actually implement that until we were in the studio.  There was a guy there that actually did a translation from the English into Hindi, using the Erdu written language.  Then we discovered that Erdu uses the same written characters that are read in Arabic.

DH: Ah, the international plot thickens.

HH: Right, and even more.  We were looking for a singer with a warm, round tone, and Larry found an Indian singer named K.S. Chithra, and she agreed to do it.  So she gets to the studio, she looks at the Erdu lyrics, and we come to find out she’s from South India, where they speak Tamil.  They don’t speak Hindi.  [Laughter].  So the decision was made to do a phonetic translation of the Erdu phonetically using Roman characters of English, because English is the common language in India.  And she could read the characters phonetically the way we do.

DH: But Wayne Shorter’s on that track, too, and he wasn’t in India with you.

HH:  Nope.  That happened later.  He happened to come over one day for a completely different purpose. But he had his horn with him.  And so I asked  him, “Do you have a minute to listen to something, and see if you feel comfortable about playing on it.” I was actually thinking about the song, “Don’t Give Up.”  So he listened to some of it, but I could see in his face it wasn’t really right for where his head was at the moment.  So anyway we wound up instead just starting to play ‘The Song Goes On.’  Just a few bars went by.  And he stopped us.  He said, “Okay, okay.  Let’s go.”  And he goes in the booth, we press the record button, and he’s listening to the track, first time, and just responded.  One take.  That’s what you hear on the record.  It doesn’t get better than that.  He acts like he was there in the room as part of the orchestration of the moment.”  So we got Wayne Shorter involved, we got German involved, we got English, we got ancient Roman and we got Erdu and we got Hindi.

DH: With a slight connection with Arabic, too.

HH: Right.  All that involved in one piece.  And with all that going on, everything pointed toward the fact that this was the right direction to go in.

DH: Having realized that, did you then make a grand plan of what the rest of the album was going to be?  Or did you just take things one step at a time?

HH: Well, we had decided to take advantage of that one opportunity and we were now in a different stage of the project.  You gotta start somewhere.  Like Miles said to Gil Evans when they were planning that album, Miles Ahead + 19.  Gil was scratching his head and he said, ‘Well, Miles, what should I do?’  And Miles said ‘Start it off!’

DH: Count on Miles to put it succinctly.

HH:  Yeah, so to speak. [Laughter] Anyhow, we came back to the States and then we started figuring out some other cultural combinations.  One idea was I wanted to have Africa involved.  For several reasons.  Not just because of my own personal heritage, but because that continent is the ancestral home of humanity.  That’s the common bond between all human beings on the planet.  And so we were looking into that.  Larry did some research and found out that there was new music happening in Mali, where they’re being influenced by the blues.  And by rhythm ‘n’ blues from here.  It’s gone back there and creating a new kind of hybrid music.

DH: And on John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which opens the album, you bring some of those elements together, with a line-up that includes Mali’s Oumou Sangare, India Arie, Pink and Seal.

HH: Right.  And Jeff Beck, too.  The interesting thing about the song “Imagine” is that the intro, which opens the whole record, came way after the fact.  What happened was Pink and Seal went into the studio to do “Don’t Give Up” and they both were excited about what was happening, and the concept behind the record.  But they both were kind of sad that they were playing on top of a track that I was already on.  They had both kind of expected that they would be able to record with me.  So we came up with the idea, “Hey, why don’t we make an intro for “Imagine?”  And just do it in the studio that way.  Which we did.

DH: What about Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’?”  That’s another interesting combination, with the Chieftains, Lisa Hannigan and Toumani Diabate, also from Mali.

HH: I got this hare-brained idea that we could put some kind of African foundation with some Celtic music.  Actually, it wasn’t because I knew in advance it would work.  It was because it was the farthest thing I could think of from African music.  ‘Cause I was looking for something that would be the most far-fetched, at least to a lot of Western ears.  Or a lot of American ears.  So I went on iTunes to see if I could find something. So I found one of those world beat radio stations, one that was particularly dedicated to Celtic music.  I’m listening to different things, and all of a sudden I hear one section in one of the pieces, and I said, “Wait a minute.  Am I crazy, but I think this can work.”  So I glued something together with an African piece.  It didn’t fit perfectly, because the tempo didn’t match, but it was close enough where Larry Klein came in the next day and I showed him what I was messing with.  And he said, “I hear it! I think this can work.”

DH: There actually is a kind of rhythmic correlation between Celtic and some kinds of African music, isn’t there?  Especially in the 6/8 patterns?

HH: Right.  And that’s when we decided we were going to try it.  It was Larry’s idea to add the Chieftains, if they’d be interested.  What I didn’t know, until I talked to Paddy Moloney, the leader of the Chieftains, was that they’d done a lot of things with various cultures.  With Asia, with Japan, with Spain.  And he told me there was a definite cultural link between the folk music of certain of those areas – that they have the same roots.

DH: You actually began to assemble that track in Paris, though, didn’t you?

HH: We were there for three days working on some other songs, including “Tamatant Tilay/Exodus” with the African group Tinariwen.  But Larry did a scratch track for “The Times They Are a-Changin” and sent it to Paddy, the day before we were flying to Dublin.  When we got there, Paddy was freaked out.  Because he had originally heard just the scratch track that Larry had done, and then when he heard the real one that we were going to use, he didn’t know what to do.  He was kind of shook up.  So I come to the studio and I say to Larry, “Play it again.  Play the piano track.”  And he did that, and Paddy was fine.  So we added the bass and the drums, and now we had a kind of patterny thing going.  I mean [guitarist] Lionel Loueke had added some variations, but it didn’t throw Paddy off.  So then we recorded on top of that,   When we got the take that we thought we wanted, we brought in the Chieftains.  And right off the bat it went perfectly.  I went, “whew!”  And Paddy went, “Oh, I see!” The other thing that he did is, at the end of the vocal on “The Times They Are a-Changing,” he played a little kind of Celtic melody.  I don’t know if Paddy wrote that, or if it’s a folk melody.  But I remember when he played it, I had tears in my eyes.  It was so pretty. Every time I heard that melody, it would just touch me.  Actually, part of my heritage is Irish, and I was wondering, “could it be reaching into my own Irish roots?”  Whatever!  I don’t know.

DH: But isn’t that the whole point of the recording?

HH: Right. Exactly.

DH: What about some of the other tunes?  “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke’s song.

HH: This was around the end of the project.  We didn’t have time to fly into London. We made a kind of basic track, because I had never met James and I didn’t know what he would be comfortable with.  I didn’t want to throw any curves at him.  So we made a fairly simple kind of track for him to sing over and we sent that over the Internet.  And because of the time difference, they got it the next morning.  It was evening for us.  So he was able to record that day.  And they were able to send it back.

DH: Doesn’t Morrison sort of represent what’s going on here, too?  Because when you hear him talk, he has a sort of sweet, high voice, with a strong English accent.  And then he starts to sing…

HH.  And it’s like he’s from Detroit!

DH:  [Laughing]  Exactly.

HH: That’s a hybrid right there.

DH: Serious hybrid.

HH: Right, but we had to do some work on that track. James did a great job.  And I thought it worked with the basic track that we had put down.  Then Larry listened to it and he said, “I think you should do another track.”  And I said, “Oh.” Because I had a couple of little twists and turns in the rhythm.  Nothing to throw him.  But I just… I had to do something.  And Larry said, “I don’t think you need to have those.”  Larry actually had another idea that he got from something I had played.  And, you see, Larry’ll say something, and I trust his judgment now.  If he has an idea, there’s something there, and I have to find it.  We tried a few takes and we were on to something.  And finally it started to kick in, and it works. I can’t even divine or describe how it works.  But it makes James’ singing have another dimension.  The end of that piece, by the way – because the words say “A change is going to come” — I wanted it to evolve into something more toward the future.  I mean that piece was written during the civil rights movement.  Somebody said it was the last piece that Sam Cooke recorded, and the last piece that he wrote before he was killed.  And it was inspired by Bob Dylan.  So there’s another linkage.

DH: This album is not really just about music, is it?

HH: It’s an important message about the family of man.  That we are all the same people.  We need to build a future where we work together.  And it takes our willingness to be open to cultures outside of our own, and embrace those cultures.  Because guess what?  Those are our cultures.  We’re Americans, we’re immigrants.  Those are our cultures.  They’re not foreign.  They’re where we came from.

DH: But this is also not a Herbie Hancock record, at least not as a soloist.

HH:  Right.  I’ve made Herbie Hancock records already.  I don’t feel I have to do that any more.  It’s not about me, it’s about we.  But I could say that it’s my vision.  So in that sense I connected the pieces.

DH: What’s the bounce back for you, when you’re doing something else?  What do you take away from this when you are doing a strictly Herbie Hancock performance?

HH: Interestingly enough — in a lot of cases – the pieces have a very rudimentary harmonic foundation, .  And you know me, I like to re-harmonize.  But the chord structures are real simple, like folk music.  In some cases there are exotic elements like African rhythmic things going on and all that.  And just folk things too. This Celtic thing sounds to me in essence like the root of some American folk music.  Blue grass and so forth.  Because of all this, I learned new ways of playing while I’ve been doing this record.  And so I’ve added to my experience of improvisation.  And I had to pull it out of myself.  I had to do it the way an actor has to do a part in a movie. You gotta find it in yourself.  Maybe it’s that commonality that you have with the music of another culture.  Because it all comes from the human spirit.  We all have babies, and we all have spouses and partners.  I mean we’re more similar than we are different.  It’s in each of us, even though it’s not always that easy to find.

DH: You know the old definition of country music.  It’s three chords and the truth.

HH: [laughter]  That is valid.  The truth is that’s the key, right there.  But I’m really fortunate in that I didn’t have any doubt that I could find it.  It didn’t have anything to do with ego. I believe we have infinite capacity.  But it was a challenge, and I just had to find solutions.  And I learned.  I didn’t try to force it into bebop, or force it into any of those more natural choices that I might make.  That would have been easy, but it wouldn’t have fit.

DH: You’re saying The Imagine Project represents another part of you.

HH  Right, right, right.  So that’s what I can take away.  A broader palette that I can choose from.

DH: Sounds like the first step toward the next album.  Thanks, Herbie.

Photos by Faith Frenz

Live Jazz: Clare Fischer’s Clarinet Choir at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

June 26, 2010

By Tony Gieske

The main thing about Clare Fischer’s Clarinet Choir is its unprecedented sound, the freshest thing in reed literature since the Four Brothers sound devised by Shorty Rogers and Ralph Burns for Woody Herman’s band, which we all know from the unforgettable “Keen & Peachy.”

Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, and Al Cohn were the brothers, and while the guys in Fischer’s choir were not such stellar soloists, they got a blend that was mellowly entrancing, if way cooler than the one the bop era tenormen achieved.

Clare Fischer's Clarinet Choir: Alex Budman, Don Shelton, Billy Kerr, Sean Franz, Phil Feather

And deeper. On the stand at Vibrato the other night, in addition to four garden variety B-flat clarinets, were an E-flat alto clarinet, a B-flat bass clarinet with Cip Cipriano on the business end, and a pair of contrabass clarinets, one played by the stalwart sideman Lee Callet. He made you think of the great Harry Carney.

Indeed, these lowboys gave out an amazing amount of bottom, saving the tuttis from any trace of shrillness, although the four virtuoso conventional clarinet players found that possibility no great danger. Once in a while during their solos, their over-the-staff register skinnied up for an instant or two.

Anyway, that’s eight top flight clarinetists in one group, preceded in recent weeks by two top flight soloists on the instrument leading their own bands, Eddie Daniels at Vitello’s and Anat Cohen at Catalina’s.  Jazz seems to be floating through the reeds around here.

“Jeru” was a highlight at Vibrato, weightless as a butterfly but stinging like a bebopper. “Basic Blues” gave all the aces a chance to show what they had in the pot, which was plenty. Not real radical, but comprehensive, much like their scorer.

Clare Fischer and Brent Fischer

Son of scorer, Brent Fischer, also did some arranging and composing, played electric bass to underpin it all, called the charts and cued the soloists. Did the dirty work, in other words, while Pop sat and listened.

By the way, it was Johannes Brahms who brought the clarinet into classical music’s Romantic Movement.  So does that make the elder Fischer the Brahms of bebop? Just asking.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site

Live Jazz: John Pisano’s Guitar Night with Laurence Juber at Vitello’s

June 24, 2010

By Mike Finkelstein

Guitar Night at Vitello’s in Studio City is the 13 year, ongoing pet project of journeyman jazz guitarist John Pisano.  The format can vary. On Tuesday, the guest guitarist, Laurence Juber, played several solo numbers before he was joined by Pisano and bassist Domenic Genova for several more numbers in a two set format that gave the players plenty of room to stretch things out musically.

John Pisano

Since there were no vocals, there was no PA system, just three tiny amps on a narrow riser. Though all three instruments were amplified, the overall feel and sound of the set was acoustic. The levels were just right in this room, not too loud and yet loud enough to catch all the nuances in an acoustic performance. There were close to 50 people in the room with space for several more. But even at capacity everyone has a comfortable place to sit, room to move all of their appendages, and save for one corner booth, a good sight line.   It was a bit difficult to hear what little the performers said to the audience depending on where one sat.   Still, this night was all about playing.

The living room vibe in Vitello’s is a very special thing.  Juber walked in, looked for a place to put his jacket, fine tuned his guitar, tweaked a dial or two on his small pedal board and amp, and then proceeded to warm up while the audience settled in and focused.   And quite a warm up it was, finger picking his way through blues, boogie-woogie and jazz and even crossing his arms, right hand towards the nut and left hand towards the bridge, for some tapping work.

Laurence Juber

The first section of the set was played in DADGAD tuning.  It’s no secret that Juber was a member of Paul McCartney’s Wings, and that he does remarkable solo instrumental versions of Beatles songs. On a song like “Strawberry Fields” and later on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” he synced up the physical and harmonic possibilities of the open tuning beautifully.    He had all the familiar bass lines, chord progressions and melody lines in the song popping up, hammering and sliding together with polished care.  In his arrangements, vocal lines and instrumental lines were trimmed, tapered, and spliced into beautiful versions of the originals.

Whenever one sees a guitar played this way, it gives the eyes and ears a lot to follow.   It wouldn’t seem that so many voicings could come out of the same guitar at once.  Some guitarists floor us with jaw dropping technique and showmanship.  Juber is so skilled that his showmanship lies in simply making it all look easy.   Particularly in open tuning, his ergonomics take things to a very high level.

Domenic Genova

Several tunes into the set, Juber was joined by bassist Domenic Genova, who played some wonderful acoustic bass through a small amp.    The standup bass in a pair of capable hands like his is a simple beauty to appreciate.  There is something very fundamentally musical to find in the postures of the player and the bass itself. In the end, they work together to make rich music.   Throughout the set Genova would slide tastefully along the smooth fingerboard from one position to the next for a new phrase.   This sound brought out the warm acoustic nature of the instrument.  At times, on the bluesier sections, the groove between Juber and Genova evoked Hot Tuna.  At other times, Genova would adjust his attack to bring out the dynamics of the song.   He had several lead spots during the evening and shined in them, always letting the timbre of his instrument take the music further.   After one particular romp through some perhaps untested territory, Juber and Genova congratulated each other with tapped hands for a job well done in getting through with style.

John Pisano appeared about half way through both sets this evening, and at this point Juber returned to standard “missionary” tuning on guitar.  Pisano has been playing jazz guitar for more than 65 years, performing with many legends including, but certainly not limited to, the Tijuana Brass, Sergio Mendes, Peggy Lee and Joe Pass.   He played an absolutely beautiful custom made personal model Eastman guitar.  His style was very deliberate and even paced.  His tone was as soft and warm as it gets.  It was a nice contrast to Juber’s much brighter tone on his signature model Martin guitar.  On their first tune together they swung right into a Django Reinhardt groove with Juber playing quick skipping lines over Pisano’s vamps.

Pisano, like Juber, is so accomplished that he makes challenging playing appear quite effortless. But this could be deceiving, especially during one simply amazing chord vamping solo that he pulled off towards the end of the second set.  Chord after chord, beat after beat, and contorted fingerings one after the other, he took us up, down, inside and out and all over the ebony fingerboard. Later in the set he and Juber pulled off several remarkable unison runs that also went in many directions at once.  Even they seemed amazed that they nailed so much of it. When Pisano vamped, it was interesting to watch his right hand, which seemed to roll laterally rather than simply moving back and forth.   It seemed obvious that this motion would work towards such smooth sound.

To watch these three guys swing through blues, standards, jazz and improvisation together was special.  From a side view, you could compare all three of their expressions.  None of them were looking at each other’s face or ax; in fact their eyes were nearly shut.   They all had that far away look of being transported by the music.   And the audience was right there with them.  It was yet another example of the fact that – if you’re inclined to enjoy great guitar playing, you really should check out Guitar Night at Vitello’s.

To read more reviews by Mike Finkelstein click here.

Quotation of the Week: Albert Camus

June 23, 2010



Truly fertile Music, the only kind that will move us, that we shall truly appreciate, will be a Music conducive to Dream, which banishes all reason and analysis. One must not wish first to understand and then to feel. Art does not tolerate reason.

Albert Camus


To read more Quotations of the Week click here.

Picks of the Week: June 21 – 27

June 21, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– June 22. (Tues.) The Clare Fischer Clarinet Choir. Conducted by Brent Fischer. Fischer thoroughly understands the extraordinary tonal possibilities of the clarinet family, from the Eb contrabass to the familiar Bb “licorice stick.” Don’t miss this one. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

– June 22. (Tues.) John Pisano’s Guitar Night. Laurence Juber and bassist Domenic Genova. Juber played lead guitar with Paul McCartney’s Wings for a few years. But this setting will display his highly regarded chops as a finger style guitarist. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– June 22. (Tues.) John Proulx. Tribute to Chet Baker. Pianist Proulx, whose skills as instrumentalist are well established, is now moving skillfully into the low populated arena of male jazz singers. Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

Cassandra Wilson

– June 22- 23. (Tues. – Wed.) Cassandra Wilson. She doesn’t make a lot of Southland appearances, which makes this gig a welcome opportunity to hear Wilson’s unique vocal stylings in an up close and personal setting. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– June 23. (Wed.) Peggy Duquesnel. The multi-talented Duquesnel — singer/songwriter/pianist — celebrates the recent release of her CD, Summertime Lullaby. Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

– June 24. (Thurs.) Excursion. Pianist Peter Deneff and bassist Vik Momjian lead ensemble that specializes in a richly blended combination of Middle Eastern and Latin jazz styles. Excursion also includes saxophonist Robert Kyle and drummer Dimitri Matsis. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

– June 24. (Thurs.) Julie Kelly/Tom Garvin Samba Happy Hour Hang. What better way to simmer down at the end of a wearying day than with Kelly’s intimate bossa nova vocals backed by Garvin’s subtle piano textures. The Lounge at Vitello’s. 5:30 – 8 p.m. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– June 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.) Otmar Liebert and Luna Negra. Liebert’s lyrical guitar style is on full display in his just-released, appropriately titled new CD, Petals on the Path. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– June 26. (Sat.) ABBA Fest. Hollywood Bowl. And an ABBA festival it will be, with what is described as the “world’s best ABBA tribute band, direct from Sweden.” Warming things up, the 140 voice Orange County Gay Men’s Chorus will do their own versions of the greatest hits. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– June 27. (Sun.) Andy Milne and Dapp Theory. Pianist Andy Milne’s unique contemporary jazz style, fusing disparate elements with ease, deserves more attention than it gets. He’s one of his generation’s true originals. Royal/T Cafe. (310) 559 6300.

Herb Jeffries

– June 27. (Sun.) Annual Dini Jazz Awards 2010. Honoree: Herb Jeffries. Jazz singer (“Flamingo”) and Western film star (the “Bronze Buckaroo”) from the ’30s, 96 year old Jeffries deserves every accolade the entertainment world (and beyond) can offer to celebrate his remarkable career. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– June 27. (Sun.) KCRW World Festival. Goldfrap. Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club with Omara Portuando. tUnE-yArDs. It’s a world music celebration of women performers — from electro-pop to the queen of Cuban song. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

San Diego

– June 23 & 24. (Wed. & Thurs.) Keiko Matsui. A pioneer of the smooth jazz movement, Matsui’s elegant playing has also been enlivened by subtle traces of mainstream jazz.  Anthology, San Diego. l (619) 595-0300

San Francisco

– June 22 – 23. (Tues. & Wed.) Tierney Sutton Band. Fifteen years together and singer Sutton and her band know how to perform as an empathic musical entity. Expect to be entranced. Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

– June 22 – 23. (Tues. & Wed.) Kronos Quartet. Always adventurous in their choice of repertoire, Kronos reaches in all directions this time out, with works from John Zorn Maria Schneider, Charles Mingus, Hamza El Din and Philip Glass. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

– June 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.) Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet. He’s been stretching contemporary jazz sounds in many directions, sonically and thematically Rosenwinkel lives in Germany these days, so here’s a rare chance to catch him in action.Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

– June 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.) Jane Monheit. Generally acknowledged as having one of the most gorgeous vocal sounds in jazz, Monheit is also a gifted interpreter with an intuitive feeling for the beat. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Joao Gilberto

– June 22. (Tues.) Joao Gilberto. . The legendary Brazilian singer/guitarist, the first master of bossa nova, performs as part of the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York. Also on the Carnegie schedule: A Tribute to James Moody on Wed.(22), Herbie Hancock on Thurs.(23) and Cesaria Evora on Fri.(24). Carnegie Hall. Gilberto also makes two more rare U.S. appearances at Symphony Hall in Boston, June 25 and Symphony Center in Chicago, June 29.


– June 27. (Sun.) An Evening with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Madeleine Peyroux. Two of contemporary pop vocal music’s most original artists, performing on the same stage. Can we expect some sort of duet? One hopes so. Symphony Hall, Boston.

(617) 266-1492.


– June 25 – July 6. (Fri. – Tues.) Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. Arguably one of the western hemispheres most engaging jazz festivals, presented in an irresistibly appealing setting. Among the artists: Vijay Iyer, Cassandra Wilson, David Sanborn, Brian Setzer, Paolo Fresu and Ralph Towner, Manhattan Transfer, Lionel Ritchie, Nikki Yanofsky, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Smoky Robinson, Bobby McFerrin, Cesaria Evora and dozens of others.  Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.   (888) 515-0515.


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