Picks of the Week: Mar. 20 – 25

March 20, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Zana Messia

– Mar. 21. (Wed.)  Zana Messia and the Balkan Soul Orchestra. Yugoslavian singer-songwriter Messia celebrates the release of her new album, Balkan Soul, featuring the arching melodies and gypsy rhythms of her songs.  Guest  performers will reportedly be in attendance as well.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Mar. 21. (Wed.)  Zakir Hussain’s “Masters of Percussion.”   Tabla master Hussain, whose resume reaches from classical Indian music to jazz and pop fusion, displays his virtuosic skills in a setting that embraces high energy percussion, meditative ragas and Indian dance. Walt Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Mar. 22. (Thurs.)  Joe LaBarbera Quintet.  The veteran drummer steps into a leadership role with an all-star band: saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpter Clay Jenkins, pianist Bill Cunliffe and bassist Tom Warrington. That’s for the 8 p.m. set.  At 10 p.m. pianist Josh Nelson’s trio takes over, with Dave Robaire, bass, Dan Schnelle, drums.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Mar. 22. (Thurs.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Westside Connections 2. Special guest: Food critic Jonathan Gold.  Why a food critic at an LACO concert?  Because the subject of the evening is food references in music.  And L.A. Weekly food critic Gold will discuss them as part of a program of music dedicated to food-related compositions by J.S. Bach, Bernstein, William Bolcom, Timothy Andres and DohnanyiThe Broad Stage.    (310) 434-3200.

– Mar. 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sunday)  Rachelle Ferrell. The soulful, far-ranging voice of Ferrell has been one of the wonders of contemporary jazz and pop for more than two decades, still reaching well above high C.   Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Mar. 23 & 24. (Fri. & Sat.)  SFJAZZ CollectiveThe Music of Stevie Wonder.  The all-star members of the Collective take on the songs of Stevie Wonder, and add their original works – inspired by Wonder.  Samueli Theatre, Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

– Mar. 24. (Sat.)  Noa (Achinoam Nini).  Adept in a dozen languages, imaginatively expressive in music of every genre, Israeli singer Noa (as she is professionally known) will display the full range of her creative versatility, while emphasizing music from the Israeli songbook.  She’ll be accompanied by her long-time partner, guitarist/arranger/producer, Gil Dor.  Click HERE to read an iRoM Q & A with Noa.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2102.

Savion Glover

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Savion Glover.  Always searching for new creative dance expressions, Glover – backed by his new “Bare Soundz” band – explores the fascinating connections between flamenco and tap dancing.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818( 677-3000.

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Tom Peterson Quartet.  Saxophonist Peterson, a versatile player who is on everyone’s first-call list, steps into the spotlight with the able support of bassist Pat Senatore, pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Kendall KayVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Jackie Ryan

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Jackie Ryan.  A standout in a crowded field of singers that seems to be growing larger by the day, Ryan is a uniquely appealing jazz vocal artist.  Always responsive to the inner heartbeat of the words and the music, she is a songwriter’s delight.  Ryan performs with the Tamir Hendelman Trio.  Pierre’s Fine Piano Salon.  (310) 216-5861.

Mumiy Troll

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Mumiy Troll.  Russia’s best-known, most popular rock band makes a rare Southland appearance, celebrating the upcoming release of their first English language album, Vladivostok, recorded in Los Angeles.  The Viper Room.          (310) 358-1881.

– Mar. 25. (Sun.) Pat Martino and Eldar.  It’s a cross generational performance, with the superb, 67 year old veteran guitarist Martino exchanging musical ideas with former prodigy, now 25 year old pianist, Eldar.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  Musicians Institute.   (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

– Mar. 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.)  The James Cotton Superharp Band featuring Elvin Bishop.  Cotton, the Grammy-winning master of the blues harmonica, leads a band featuring the similarly gifted blues singer/guitarist Bishop.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Washington D.C.

– Mar. 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kevin Eubanks.  He may have had his greatest visibility leading the Tonight Show band from 1995 – 2010, but guitarist Eubanks’ world class abilities reach far beyond the television screen.   Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

Pharoah Sanders

– Mar. 20 – 24 (Tues. – Sat.)  Pharoah Sanders Quartet. Tenor saxophonist Sanders, one of the prime musical offspring of John Coltrane, has taken the style and shaped it into a uniquely personal creative expression. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– Mar. 23. (Fri.)  “Bird Amongst the Blossom: A Tribute to the Blossom Dearie Songbook.”  Singer Jaye Maynard, fascinated by both the romance and the whimsy in Dearie’s repertoire, has shaped the songs into a fascinating musical tribute.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.


– Mar. 21 & 22. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Mike Stern Band.  He moves freely and imaginatively across the boundaries of jazz, blues, fusion and beyond.  And guitarist Stern is at his best when he’s surrounded by fine players.  As he is here, with French violinist Didier Lockwood, bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Dave WecklThe Milan Blue Note. 


Ambrose Akinmusire

– Mar. 21. (Wed.)  Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet. Not yet 30, trumpeter Akinmusire has already been chosen by a large number of critics as the cream of his generation, and potentially the next major jazz trumpeter.  He performs with Walter Smith III, saxophones, Sam Harris, piano, Harish Raghavan, bass, Justin Brown, drums.  A-Trane.    030/313 25 50.

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Ambrose Akinmusire photo by Tony Gieske.

Live Jazz: The Johnny Mandel Big Band at Vitello’s

March 19, 2012

By Don Heckman

Vitello’s was packed to the gills Saturday night.  And with good reason.  Johnny Mandel was making one of his rare appearances, leading an assemblage of Southland jazz all-stars in an evening surveying his long, productive career as a composer, arranger and songwriter.

At 86, recovering from hip problems and walking with a cane, Mandel nonetheless was a dynamic bandleader, conducting from a cramped position directly in front of the saxophones, standing between two tables full of guests.   His whimsical sense of humor was switched on, and he introduced many of the pieces with a wry, occasionally sardonic, recollection.

Johnny Mandel

The familiar Mandel items were on full display: “Emily,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Suicide Is Painless” (the theme from M*A*S*H), several selections from his score for the film, I Want To Live. Most featured the band’s many stellar soloists – tenor saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Steve Wilkerson, baritone saxophonist Bob Efford, trombonists Scott Whitfield and Alan Kaplan, trumpeters Bob Summers, Ron King and Carl Saunders, pianist John Campbell, among others..

And there was more, reaching across decades of composing and arranging for films, television, recording and big bands: a hard swinging piece he wrote for the Woody Herman band in the ’40s – “Not Really The Blues”; a bossa nova done for Sergio Mendes: “Cinnamon and Cloves”; a muscular arrangement of drummer Tiny Kahn’s “T.N.T.”; a tune inspired by the Krazy Kat cartoon, written for the Artie Shaw Band.  All of it, individually and in sum, providing a fascinating gallery of musical portraits from an extraordinarily creative career.

Sue Raney

Interestingly, the band didn’t pick up their instruments for one of the evening’s most mesmerizing moments.   With no advance notice, Mandel introduced singer Sue Rany to sing “Where Do You Start?” backed only by Campbell’s quietly intimate piano accompaniment. The song, with music by Mandel and lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, is a stunning example of lyrical musical/poetic songwriting at it finest.  And so, too, was Raney’s exquisite, story-telling interpretation, capturing the essence of the song’s poignant tale.

Other contributions added to the non-stop pleasures of this memorable musical evening.  Start with Carol Chaikin’s fine lead alto playing, driving Mandel’s richly harmonized saxophone section passages with ease.  Add to that the energetic drive of the rhythm section – with the firm flow of bassist Chuck Berghofer, the energetic drive of drummer Ray Brinker, the Freddie Green-like strumming of guitarist John Chiodini and the all-purpose comps and fills of Campbell.

And don’t forget the collective participation of every member of the Band (including those whose names I haven’t mentioned).  Most are among L.A.’s A-list studio players.  Given an opportunity to play an evening-full of superb music, they not only provided their unerring craftsmanship, they made every note come alive.

No wonder Johnny Mandel was smiling so much.

* * * * *

Johnny Mandel photo by Tony Gieske.

Sue Raney photo by Bob Barry.

Live Jazz: Mingus Dynasty in a UCLA Live Concert at Royce Hall

March 18, 2012

By Michael Katz

UCLA’s Royce Hall had a nightclub-like feel to it Friday night, as a modest but enthusiastic crowd gathered on a rainy night to hear the Mingus Dynasty, a septet of New York based players exploring the oeuvre of the late bassist and composer Charles Mingus. Most of the group are veterans of the 16 piece Mingus Big Band, which is widely recorded and a more familiar brand.  But the Dynasty, with the young Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen joining the fray, provided a spirited voice to tunes that were originally presented by Mingus’s smaller groups.

The opening number, “Just For Laughs,” was recorded on the 1975 Changes One album as “Remember Rockefeller at Attica,” but the re-titling fits the theme, which is bright and vigorous, allowing the band members to establish themselves. First Cohen and then Alex Foster on alto sax did some aggressive riffing, with Frank Lacy sliding    harmonic counter tones underneath them on his trombone. Drummer Donald Edwards and bassist (and co-leader) Boris Kozlov kept things sizzling behind the front line.

Mingus Dynasty

Pianist David Kikoski and Seamus Blake laid back in the opening number, but Kikoski began “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jiveass Slippers” with an extended and beautiful piano interlude, setting the stage for  Blake on tenor sax. Blake has a muscular, robust, style. He’s able to explore the full range of the instrument with a melodic instinct that fits in well with the compositions of Mingus. The ninety-plus minute set allowed everyone to stretch out, and given how little we see of these players, it was a gift the audience gladly accepted.

Frank Lacy provided the vocals for the group. His growling, bluesy voice complements his slide trombone nicely. He took the lead on “Lonesome Woman Blues,” but had plenty of help.  Cohen backed up Lacy’s vocals with a muted horn, then Lacy picked up his trombone for a rampaging solo, followed by the band’s other co-leader, Foster, on alto and then Cohen again with the muted trumpet.

It was no surprise that ‘Haitian Fight Song” would be the highlight of the evening. Boris Kozlov started it out with a serpentine bass solo that wove its way into the familiar surging bass line. From there the front line took over, first Lacy, then Blake, then Alex Foster on soprano sax and Cohen on trumpet, the four of them providing a pulsating harmonized rendition of one of Mingus’s most familiar themes. Foster’s terrific soprano solo was augmented by Kikoski on piano. Kozlov had another slow building bass solo, and  Lacy swept back in on the slide trombone to bring things to a rousing conclusion.

The spotlight turned to Blake for “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” Mingus’ lamentation on the passing of tenor great Lester Young. Blake delivered a soulful rendition, gently weaving from the instrument’s lower depths to the upper octaves.  Lacy stepped in with his interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics. It was a nice contrast to Blake’s tenor work, though the lyrics lost a little in his gruff reading,  compared to Mitchell’s own version or Mark Murphy’s memorable cover on the LP  Bop For Kerouac.

Lacy was back in more hospitable surroundings with “Don’t Let It Happen Here,” the last scheduled number. He voiced Mingus’ poem about saying nothing while others are being persecuted, while the band simmered behind him. The political sentiments jibed easily with current circumstances, and the Royce Hall crowd was behind him. The band had a round of solos, most notably trumpeter Cohen. They left to a standing ovation for the elongated single set. Their encore, “Consider Me,” was based on Mingus’ collaboration with the poet Langston Hughes. It seemed a little subdued – by the end the audience didn’t quite seem to know it was over, or want it to be, but nobody walked away feeling cheated.

*****              *****              *****

            In my preview article for the concert, I looked back at a Mingus performance in Madison, Wisconsin, in the mid-seventies, and related Sue Mingus’s story that Charles had received the key to the city while performing at the Good Karma, a small club in the basement of a health food store. I mentioned that the mayor at the time was a youthful Paul Soglin, elected on the tide of the anti-war movement in Madison.  I wrote, “it’s not surprising that Soglin would have considered Mingus a kindred spirit, whatever his level of jazz sophistication.” I received a gracious letter from Mayor Soglin, (he was elected for the third time in 2011) and here are some of his comments:

I was introduced to Mingus’ work by Ben Sidran who worked at Discount Records on State Street.

            He pointed me to “Mingus Ah Um,” a lot of Eric Dolphy, and other Blue Note artists. In February, 1966 I was fortunate to attend a John Coltrane performance at the UW Union Theater.

            It was a great honor  to give Mingus the key to the city, especially since we shared the same birthday, April 22nd.

            When he played Madison he stayed with Ben and Judy Sidran and that night, as Ben relates in his book “A Life in The Music,” Mingus held up the key and  asked, “OK, where is the lock?”

*****              *****              *****

            Finally, it was fun to read the comments (posted on iRoM) from folks who had attended those Good Karma dates. Jazz, at its best, is a communal experience, and it was heartening to read how Mingus’ performances in 1974 had left such an imprint. Play on!

Photo by Brian Hatton courtesy of UCLA Live.

To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz click HERE.

Click HERE to visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, Katz of the Day.

Stories To Tell: “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”

March 16, 2012

By Brick Wahl

I was watching Going My Way on TCM for the first time in ages a couple nights ago. It’s about as Irish as it gets…Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. It so reminds me of my mom’s side, my grandfather, the whole bit. We were raised on that side. My pop was German, raised fiercely Lutheran and German speaking. Kein englisch in diesem Haus.  Immer deutsch. Even though that house was in Flint, Michigan. Catholics were verboten, too. The Thirty Years War was still being fought in those days in some places. Every German Lutheran Church was a battlefield, a besieged city.  As if the America all around it didn’t exist.

Brick Wahl

Brick Wahl

My Dad, though, met my Mom. It was at a party at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey; he had a new blue Buick. She had blue eyes, a hint of a brogue and was lovely and Irish Catholic to her very bones. The laugh, the temper, the father who drank a wee bit. Old Germans had listened to Hitler on the shortwave, while the old Irish boys hung out in bars and sang. Can’t you meet a nice Irish boy? he grumbled. But he didn’t mean it. They never did. Didn’t even mind he wasn’t Catholic. The kids were going to be going to Mass, don’t you worry Pop. They’d all be confirmed by a priest. He drank port to that and sang and a little bit of heaven fell out the sky that day. So my folks were married. In Ankara, Turkey. And then Istanbul. It’s complicated. NATO and all that. But they found a priest somewhere over there and the neighbors threw them a big wedding party. Dad had a zillion photos of it, racked up in slides. A local Roman Catholic priest pronounced them man and wife. Martin Luther spun in his grave. A black lamb was slaughtered, as if it were still ancient Greece. The blood was vivid red in the photo. Dad said some of the kids got the eyeballs. It’s a delicacy. All us kids went ewwww. Mom just winced. That poor thing, she said. The poor little lamb. The party went on for days, everyone in the village was there, plus some. Hundreds of people. Those were the days. They thought they’d never end.Fifty some years later Dad was long dead (and died Catholic, and got a wake), and all of us were hanging out with Mom. We’d driven out to Arizona to see her. The nuns had said if we want to see her one last time we’d better get there as fast as possible. We left at four or five in the morning, driving across the Mojave as the sun was rising over it. Desert dawns are the most beautiful things you can ever see. Pastels and shadows. Birds. A zillion butterflies. Rocks in crazy piles and jagged mountains promising no water at all. Buzzards smell sweet death in the air.

The party began as soon as we got there. Five of the six siblings, a couple wives, an energetic swarm of grandsons. Plus dogs, birds, turtles, fish and a cat. The piano was played, some guitars, a saxophone, whatever made or tried to make music. We talked and talked and talked. The food was endless. We joked and talked and ate and mom, riddled with bone cancer, talked and joke and even ate. Her imminent death was just a given, something to be discussed, even kidded about. It was normal. Sad but normal. The order of things. Not much you can do about it she told me. And laughed. Her kids were there, their kids were there, there could not be a better way to go. At one point the priest came by and all became solemn as he delivered Last Rites. We all stood around her bed. The ceremony was ancient and beautiful. Two thousand years of beauty. You could see the worry released in her face. Afterword he switched to his civvies and joined the party. Everyone talking, looking in on Mom, letting her sleep. Eventually it broke up. Mom was awake. I said so long, we’ll see you tomorrow, and kissed her on the forehead. She smiled.

She died the next morning. My brother Jon was in  the room with her, playing Mozart on the piano. She slept uneasily. Mumbled about home. Home, home, home. Then she let out a little gasp, breathed hard for a minute, and was gone.

The wake began immediately, just a small wake, her kids, her brother, the wives and grandsons and nephews. It was sad, but it was nice. We had the bigger, boozy wake later, after the internment. This was just the family hanging out. The priest came by. The sisters. She just decided it was the time to go, one of the sisters told me. She worked in a hospice. We thought Mom’d hang on for weeks, she said, a slow horrible bone cancer death. But she decided it was time, with all of you out here. She smiled at the thought. That’s the way it should be. I nodded.So now it’s a couple years later and I’m watching Going My Way. At one point Bing, the young priest, is trying to get Barry Fitzgerald, the ornery old priest, to fall asleep for chrissakes. So he sings the old Irish lullaby “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.” Some of my earliest memories are of my mother singing me off to sleep with it. The melody sways in the breeze, the words loll, and sometimes it sounds like the most beautiful tune you ever heard.

And it took me back to the morning Mom had died. She was still in the bed, looking peacefully asleep. We had each of us slipped in alone throughout the morning to bid her farewell. No one made a big deal about it, we’d sort of break off from the chatter and walk in for a few minutes. At some time that morning I entered and there she was sleeping, looking beautiful. Just like you want the dead to look, just how we want ourselves to look. I gazed at her a minute, and began singing “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” in a hushed voice, so as not to wake her. Just a couple choruses. Then I said Goodbye, Mom, kissed her forehead one last time and stepped out again to join the living.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

* * * * *

Happy St. Patrick’s Day is the first entry in “Stories To Tell,” a new iRoM platform that will feature reminiscences, fiction, tall tales and short stories with musical references. 

CD Review: Mark Abel’s “The Dream Gallery: Seven California Portraits”

March 14, 2012

Mark Abel

The Dream Gallery: Seven California Portraits (Delos Records)

 By Brian Arsenault

When you live in Maine as I do, the whole North American continent away, California is a dream, a myth.  Endless summers, movie stars, L.A. freeways, L.A. Woman.  Haight-Ashbury and noir novels from Raymond Chandler to Robert Crais.  It’s there somewhere over the horizon with a sea on the left instead of the right. Sunsets over water not sunrises.

So I approached Mark Abel’s The Dream Gallery with a real sense of anticipation.  What can I learn about this mythical place that so many bright, creative people call home?

What I got were cardboard cutout characters framed by awkward lyrics crammed into uncomfortable musical boxes.  I mean I am glad I didn’t read Abel’s self descriptive phrases “postmodern art song” and “alternative classic” (Really?) before I listened, or I would have really loathed this album.

Herein we have a shallow housewife from San Diego and a smug one in Berkeley. I could get as much depth from watching “Housewives of Orange County.”  We have a punk kid who hates his elders for bankrupting Social Security and a town “named for a hefty ex-president.”  Hint, Taft is dead.

The singers are capable enough, but they struggle with lyrics that seem failed attempts at Broadway stylings. Or are they “postmodern” poetics? Often, the pompous, ponderous “classical” orchestra seems in almost comic juxtaposition — as with an LA rich bitch bemoaning her husband’s affair with a much younger woman “so lithe and smart, a walking tribute to the plastic surgeon’s art.”  We have moved on to “Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Maybe Abel needed an Elton John to his Bernie Taupin, although Taupin never wrote lyrics so awkward and obvious.  If he did Elton threw them away. Or maybe Abel could have just published his lyrics as prose/poetry.  Some could even have even appeared in The New Yorker for highbrow Easterners to “look down on everyone.”

As noted, there are some more than capable singers here.  Carver Cossey is a basso profundo whose song — “Lonnie ” —  comes closest to being touching. And Tom Zohar is just the right mix of resentful and youthful for “Adam.” The women are all good.  Mezzo soprano Delaney Gibson promises so much more in “Carol,” with her opening line “My husband is a killer” than the rest of the see-how-trite-I-am song manages.  And so it goes.

Talent overcome with cumbersome arrangements, pretentious “alternative classic” orchestration and lyrics that just don’t illuminate California and Californians or move the listener. Honestly, you’ll understand at least Southern California better listening to late Beach Boys.  Maybe even early Beach Boys.

Hey, maybe a second review from a Californian would be fair.  He or she might like it better. Or dislike it more.

To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

Katz of the Day: Reflections on Charles Mingus

March 13, 2012

By Michael Katz

 This Friday night’s appearance of Mingus Dynasty in a UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall brings to mind the first and only time I saw Charles Mingus perform.  It was at a small club called the Good Karma, in the basement of a health food store in Madison, Wisconsin, circa 1976.  I’d guess that Mingus was presenting work from the Changes One and Changes Two albums that were released around then, though Sue Mingus suggests he might have been performing Cumbia and Jazz Fusion, which I recall most distinctly from the Mingus Big Band’s Que Viva Mingus.  What I do remember was getting there early and seeing Mingus sitting alone in front of his bass, going over music that would be played that night, the rest of the band nowhere in sight. He was a large man in a small room – it couldn’t have seated more than a hundred folks, if that. I had seen other big jazz names there — Mose Allison, Eddie Harris, George Benson – but none of them would fill the place like Mingus and his band.

I didn’t know, as Sue Mingus related recently, that he had just been given the key to the city. If that seems a little incongruous to someone performing in the basement of a health food store, consider that the mayor was (and currently is again) Paul Soglin. In 1975, Soglin would have been barely 30, having arisen from the anti-war movement that swept over Madison to become mayor in 1973. The Changes albums had songs titled “Remember Rockefeller at Attica” and “Free Cell Block F, Tis Nazi USA,” so it’s not surprising that Soglin – whatever his level of jazz sophistication — would have considered Mingus a kindred spirit.

The fusion of jazz and politics was an essential part of the Mingus ouevre, but it shouldn’t obscure the fact that he was one of the great composers of our time. He could be growling, or soulful, or bluesy, often all at the same time. His more contemplative, elegiac work, most notably “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” the homage to Lester Young, as well as “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love,” were stirring and memorable. His compositions featured complex weavings of the horns and piano in his basic quartet or quintet, but they were engaging and immensely listenable.

Some of the more overtly political themes were clearly reflected in the music.   “Haitian Fight Song,” suggests the undercurrents of struggle and darkness in that historically beset land. (Though it also showed up in a VW Jetta commercial a few years ago). “Medititations on a Pair of Wire Cutters,” is similarly brooding and conspiratorial as it builds to a crescendo.

In other tunes, such as the above-mentioned titles from the Changes albums, it’s harder to see the connections, or maybe the issues have just lost currency over the years. “Rockefeller” and “Cell Block F” are bright, aggressive compositions that still sound great, if somewhat disconnected from their original source. And of course there is no shortage of gospel and blues. “Mingus Ah Um,” which was recorded in 1959, leads off with “Better Git It In Your Soul” and includes, in addition to “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,”  “Fables of Faubus” and “Pussy Cat Dues.” The recent reissue CD, which also includes the albums The Clown and Pithecanthropus Erectus is a must for anyone’s desert island list.

All this leads up to Friday night’s Royce Hall concert by the Mingus Dynasty septet. By supporting groups such as Mingus Dynasty and the Mingus Big Band, Sue Mingus has kept alive the legacy of her husband, who was diagnosed with ALS in 1977 and died in 1979 at the age of 56. Here in LA we don’t get the weekly exposure to the music that the Mingus Big Band provides in New York, though they have toured here on occasion. The smaller Dynasty is closer in size to the classic Mingus groups, and features stellar personnel. Alex Foster on reeds and Boris Kozlov on bass are co-leaders, along with fellow Mingus Big Band stalwarts Seamus Blake on tenor, Ku-umba Frank Lacy on trombone and vocals, Donald Edwards on drums and David Kikoski on piano. Rounding things out is emerging trumpet star Avishai Cohen. The opportunity to see this group playing Charles Mingus’s compositions is sure to be a rare treat.

To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz click HERE.

Click HERE to visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, Katz of the Day.


Picks of the Week: Mar. 13 – 18

March 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Willie Nelson

– Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Willie Nelson and Family. Legendary is a word that actually has some veracity when applied to the music and the career of superstar Nelson.  He makes his first appearance at Disney Hall on a bill that also includes his family members, as well as a group led by his son, Lukas NelsonDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

– Mar. 13. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightPat Kelley’s the guest guitarist, celebrating his birthday in Guitar Night’s loose and swinging format.  Bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Kendall Kay lay down the heat that will keep the music cooking.  Lucy’s 51. Toluca Lake.  (818) 763-5200.

Janicey Brar/Billie Holiday

– Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Janicey Brar. Tribute to Billie Holiday  “Tribute” performers – singers and musicians who take on the persona, the performing style and the image of famous artists – are far more rare in jazz than they are in popular music.  But Milwaukee’s Brar, who spent years impersonating Tina Turner, is one of the exceptions.  The simulation of Billie Holiday that she’s doing for this performance has been praised for its impressive musical and visual qualities.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Mar. 14. (Wed.)  Otmaro Ruiz.  Venezuelan-born pianist/composer Ruiz moves comfortably and authentically across stylistic and genre boundaries, playing straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, pop, rock, salsa, fusion and beyond.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400. http://www.in-housemusic.com/calendar.html

– Mar. 15. (Thurs.) Julie Kelly and Stephanie Haynes. A pair of veteran jazz singers, each with her own unique style, get together for an evening of vocal jazz magic. Neither is heard in the Southland as often as they should be, so don’t miss this chance to check out their engaging skills.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 258-1333.


– Mar. 15. – 17. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Casablanca.  Here’s the formula for a truly fascinating evening.  Max Steiner’s memorable score for Casablanca performed by the Pacific Symphony under Richard Kaufman, live in sync with a big screen projection of the cinematic masterpiece.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.  (714) 556-2787.

– Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The T.S. Monk Sextet.  Drummer Monk, blessed with the genetic heritage of his father, Thelonious Monk, has established himself as a solid musical talent in his own right.  Carpenter Performing Arts Center.    (562) 985-7000.

– Mar. 16. (Fri.) Jose Rizo’s “Mongorama.” Jose Rizo’s knack for assembling solid musical aggregations continues with the nine-piece Mongorama’s exciting explorations of Mongo Santamaria’s charanga-jazz of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Frankie Valli

– Mar. 16. (Fri.)  Frankie Valli. The ‘60s teen heartthrob, lead voice of the Four Seasons, revisits some of the iconic group’s hits – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” “Sherry,” and more. Segerstrom Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

– Mar. 16. (Fri.) Mingus Dynasty. More than 30 years after the passing of Charles Mingus, his music is still being kept vividly alive in the hands of the seven piece Mingus Dynasty Band.  Expect to hear such classics from the large Mingus catalog as “Better Git It In Your Soul, “ “Haitian Fight Song” and Pithecanthus Erectus.”  Royce Hall.  A UCLA Live concert.    (310) 825-2101.  To read Michael Katz’s Reflections on Charles Mingus click HERE.

– Mar. 16 – 18. (Fri. – Sun.)  Chuck Loeb Quartet. Guitarist Loeb celebrates the release of his CD, Plain and Simple, hewing to the title with a program of lively, hard swinging music, baked by the stellar ensemble of  Mitchel Forman, keyboards, Lionel Cordew, drums and Eric Marienthal, saxophones. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Johnny Mandel

– Mar. 17. (Sat.) Johnny Mandel Big Band. One of the true treasures of contemporary American music – reaching from jazz to film to song and beyond – Mandel makes one of his too rare club appearance, leading a band of all-stars in a program that will be filled with familiar melody and irresistible rhythm.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Mar. 17. (Sat.)  Spectral Scriabin. Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton enliven composer Alexander Scriabin’s desire to blend the spectrum of colors with the full panorama of musical pitches.  The performance includes excerpts from Scriabin’s Poeme Languide in B Major and the Feuillet d’Album in F-sharp Major.  The Broad Stage.    (310) 434-3200.

San Francisco

Dave Grisman

– Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The Dave Grisman Quartet.  Mandolinist Grisman has been one of the primary shapers of contemporary acoustic music for decades. And he’s still finding new expressive methods – currently with a group that includes bassist Jim Kerwin, flutist Matt Eakle, percussionist George Marsh and guitarist Grant GordiYoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

– Mar. 18. (Sun.)  The Uri Caine Trio. Mention an area of musical expression – from early classical to contemporary electronics to staright ahead jazz —  and pianist/composer  Caine has been there at one time or another.  His current interest focuses on his acoustic jazz piano trio, with John Hebert, bass and Ben Perowsky, drums.  The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season Event.     (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

Stanley Jordan

– Mar. 15 – 18.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Stanley Jordan.  Solo guitar.  The master of the tap-on style of jazz guitar playing Jordan is always at his best in a solo setting that allows his improvisational imagination to roam freely.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

– Mar. 13 – 18.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Heath Brothers.  Jazz history comes alive when Jimmy Heath, saxophones, Albert “Tootie” Heath, drums get together to recall the high points of their decades of jazz prominence.  They’ll be backed by Jeb Patton, piano and David Wong, bass.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

– Mar. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  Eddie Palmieri.  The veteran pianist/composer/bandleader celebrates  his 75th birthday.  A musical pioneer virtually from the time of his appearance on the scene in the ‘50s, Palmieri has been one of the principal creative forces in the growth of Latin jazz.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Mira Awad and Noa (Achinoam Nini)

– Mar. 15. (Thurs. )  Noa and Mira.  Israeli singers Noa (Achinoam Nini) and Mira Awad are superb artists, dedicated to peaceful coexistence in their country.  Singing in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Israel’s top Jewish (Noa) and Arab (Mira) singer/songwriters perform together on behalf of the Abraham Fund.      The Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center. (212) 258-9800.


Mar. 17. (Sat.) Betty Buckley.  Tony Award winner (for her role in Cats), Buckley also has a resume listing performances reaching from Broadway musicals to film, television and recordings.  And she is especially compelling when she’s in an up close and personal night club setting, bringing utter believability to every musical story she tells.    The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.


Iain Mackenzie

Mar. 18. (Sun.)  Iain Mackenzie & Swing City.  Mackenzie, one of the U.K.’s favorite jazz singers uses his strong baritone and brisk sense of swing to carry the torch for the vocal tradition of Mel Torme, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra and more.  He’ll be backed by the solid drive of the eight piece Swing City band.  He’ll do a pair of matinee shows – at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Mar. 15. (Thurs.)  Miroslav Vitous.  Czech-born Vitous was one of the ground breaking acoustic bassists of the ‘70s, often grouped with the likes of Scott Lafaro, Dave Holland and others. Emphasizing his compositional interests in recent years, he makes one of his rare club appearances.  He’ll perform with Robert Bonisolo, saxophone and Aydin Esen, piano.  Blue Note Milan.


Mar. 14 – 16.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Billy Childs Quartet. Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his Chamber Ensemble performances and his role in Chris Botti’s band to stretch out with the world class companionship of Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, Scott Colley, bass and Brian Blade, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5484-0088.


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