Picks of the Week: Oct. 31 – Nov. 4

October 31, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bob Sheppard

– Oct. 31. (Wed.)  Bob Sheppard and FriendsHalloween Party and Jam.  With Larry Koonse, guitar, Dave Robaire, bass, Charles Ruggiero, drums.  Wear a Halloween costume and get in free.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

–  Nov. 2. (Fri.)  David Grisman Sextet.  Special guest David Lindley. Mandolin virtuoso Grisman, moving easily across styles and genres, teams up with similarly eclectic string player Lindley.  A CAP UCLA concert at Royce Hall.   (31) 825-2101.

– Nov. 2. (Fri.) Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez.  Traditional folk music and dance from the rich cultural traditions of Mexico, presented in colorful costumes.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000 Also on Sat. Nov. 3.  (562) 916-8501.

Bill Holman

– Nov. 2. (Fri.)  Bill Holman Big Band.  Holman’s imaginative big band arrangements have been influencing young musicians since the ‘50s.  Hear them live and up close in a great listening room.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 2 – 4 (Fri. – Sun.)  Kenny Burrell Quintet.  Veteran guitarist Burrell takes a break from his responsibilities at the UCLA jazz program to display his potent playing talents.  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

Betty Bryant


– Nov. 4. (Sun.)  Betty Bryant’s Birthday Brunch.  She may be celebrating a birthday in her eighties, but pianist/singer Bryant is still setting examples for jazz singing at its best.    Catalina Bar & Grill.  .   (323) 466-2210.

– Nov. 4. (Sun.)  Llew Matthews and Pat Senatore Duo.  A pair of versatile jazz artists team up for an evening of improvisation, swing and balladry.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

– Nov. 4. (Sun.)  Orquesta Aragon. More than 70 years after they were founded as a danzon ensemble, Orquesta Aragon continues to record and perform in classic Cuban fashion.   An SFJAZZ Concert at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.    (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

– Nov. 1 – 4.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Roberta Gambarini. At her best – which is basically in every performance – Gambarini is doing a convincing job of defining the best in contemporary jazz vocalizing. Click HERE to read a recent kRoM review of Gambarini.   Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York

Anat Cohen

– Nov. 2 & 3. (Fri. & Sat.)  Anat Cohen with Falafel, Freilach & Frijoles – From Mambo to Borscht. Clarinetist Cohen and percussionist Benny Koonyevsky join the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in a musical exploration of the cultural relationships between the Jewish and the Hispanic communities.  Symphony Space.  (212) 864-5400.

– Nov. 2 – 7. (Fri. – Wed.)  The Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke Band.  With Ravi Coltrane, saxophone and Marcus Gilmore, drums.  To call this ensemble an all-star band still wouldn’t quite identify the extraordinary quality of the music they make together.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

– Oct. 31 – Nov. 3. (Wed. – Sat.)  Lee Konitz Quartet.  Into his eighties, a significant force on the jazz alto saxophone since the late ‘40s, Konitz continues to maintain the gifted, individuality he has expressed for his entire, remarkable career.  Birdland.   (212)581-3080.


Vini Iuel

– Nov. 1. (Thurs.)  Vini Iuel sings Jobim.  Danish singer Iuel, backed by pianist Thomas Clausen and bassist Mads Vinding, brings the warm rhythms of Brazil to Denmark just before the arrival of winter.  Making the music even more convincing, she’s invited Brazilian singer/percussionist Robertino Silva to join the celebration.   Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65 65.


– Nov. 2. (Fri.)  Jacky Terrasson.  French-born pianist Terrasson has thoroughly established his credentials as a world class jazz artist.  Blue Note Milano.   02.6901 6888.

Bill Holman photo by Lesley Bohm.


Live Music: Armenia a la carte — a Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra event in Glendale

October 30, 2012

By Don Heckman

The third event in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s a la carte season took place in Glendale Sunday night, at the House of Armenia, a historic mansion now serving as a permanent Consulate General of Armenia and cultural center.  Like other a la carte events, it began with cocktails, continued with a performance of chamber music, and concluded with a dinner offering a delectable array of Armenian dishes.

Armen Ksajikian

The featured musician was cellist Armen Ksajikian, accompanied by pianist Bryan Pezzone. The House of Armenia’s elegant performance space, ornamented with colorful paintings by Armenian artists, provided warm, comfortable seating for an audience of 40 or 45 listeners.  The music that was heard followed in the a la carte tradition of emphasizing the native music of the host country. And one couldn’t have asked for a more authoritative performer of Armenian music than Ksajikian.

The associate principal cellist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Ksajikian’s eclectic resume reaches from his appearances, at age 12, with the National Philharmonic of Abkhazia in the former Soviet Union, to a busy, four decade career in the United States with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and over 900 film soundtracks.

For this program, however, he was not playing such classics as Shostavovich’s Cello Conerto No. 1.  Accompanied by Pezzone’s richly versatile accompaniment,  Ksajikian chose a program of relatively brief, touchingly melodic, song-like works by a group of great Armenian composers. Among them, classical composer Aram Khachaturian, the priest and religious composer Komitas Vardapet, composer and pop song writer Arno Babajanian, folk-oriented composer Alexander Arutiunian, 19th century Armenian composer Makar Ekmalyan and composer/conductor Arashak Adamian.

At one point, Ksajikian was so impressed with the way Pezzone handled some of the compositions’ tricky rhythms and lush harmonic textures that he laughingly identified him as Bryan  Pezzonian (applying the traditional patronymic “ian” suffix for Armenian names).

Together, they presented the program of works in appropriately dramatic fashion, with Ksajikian’s gorgeous tone delivering many of the melodies with the lyrical intensity of an operatic baritone.

The only thing missing, however, from a program of Armenian music was the presence of the double reed duduk, one of the essential sounds associated with Armenia.  (It’s been heard, with telling emotional impact, in the sound tracks of films such as Avatar, Harry Potter, Gladiator and many more.)  One could only imagine how fascinating it would have been to hear Ksajikian’s cello, playing in intimate tandem with a master duduk artist such as Djivan Gasparian.

The performance concluded, the audience retired to tables placed in the House of Armenia’s lush garden.  And, typical of the a la carte concerts, there were more people to meet, more friendships to make.  Seated at a table with four other couples, we spent the next hour or two discussing everything from Armenian music and other memorable a la carte events to hiking in the Sierras and the imminent Presidential election.

The combination that we’d just experienced – the concert in an official consulate, the unusual collection of beautifully articulated music, meeting new friends at a dinner featuring appealing national dishes – is one of the irresistibly unique experiences in Southland music.

Fortunately, there are still more Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra a la carte events to come:

– On Friday, Nov. 16, Austria a la carte takes place in the official Brentwood residence of Karin Proidl, Consul General of Austria.

– On Saturday, Nov. 17, China a la carte takes place in a Pasadena estate.

Photo by Faith Frenz.

Live Jazz: The Ron Carter Quartet and the Robert Glasper Trio at Royce Hall.

October 30, 2012

By Don Heckman

Ron Carter made one of his far too rare Southland appearances Saturday night in a CAP UCLA performance at Royce Hall.  His quartet starred in a long show that also included an extended set by the Robert Glasper Trio.

As the most recorded bassist in jazz history, it would be hard to find a significant jazz artist that Carter hasn’t recorded with.  But it’s equally fascinating to hear him in action in a musical setting of his own.  His adventurous musical ideas have been on display in dozens of recordings under his leadership.  And the group he brought to Royce – with pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Payton Crossley and percussionist Rolando Marales-Matos – offered an intriguing view of the many colors in Carter’s musical palette.

The Ron Quarter Quartet

His musical choices were far ranging — from Brazil to Miles Davis to some compelling stops in between.  One of the most unexpected was a Carter solo version of “You Are My Sunshine,” a remarkable display of his mastery of the bass, both as an instrument and as the voice of his improvisational imagination.

Another memorable moment traced to a lovely exchange between Carter and the always-imaginative Rosnes on “My Funny Valentine,” heightened by a passage featuring her Chopin-tinged embrace of the melody.

From a completely different perspective, much of what the Carter Quartet played was delightfully illuminated by Marales-Matos vast array of hand (and beyond) percussion.  Which he used to produce every imaginable percussive sound, from tiny snips, clicks and rustles to rushing roars and rumbles.  Add to that the stirring rhythmic lift of Crossley’s approach to the jazz drum kit.

To Carter’s credit, he clearly recognized the uniqueness of what Marales-Matos and Crossley had to offer, and freely allowed them to make their unique contributions to the music.  The result was yet another entry in the colorful catalog of Carter groups.

Robert Glasper

Pianist Robert Glasper, opening the show with his trio – with Derrick Hodges, bass and Mark Colenburg, drums – has been receiving rave reviews from much of the jazz critical community.  For the most part, the praise has been related to his efforts to blend his far-reaching jazz chops with an interest in various pop, rock, rap and hip-hop elements.

One could argue whether there’s any real compatibility in that mélange.   But what seemed more compelling to me about the Glasper trio was the virtually symbiotic interaction between the three players.  The piano trio has had many manifestations in jazz – some more successful than others.  And the Glasper trio is doing a convincing job of expressing their own vocabulary in a still-evolving fashion.  It will be worth watching – and listening – over the next few years to hear how effectively Glasper, Hodges and Colenburg  translate that vocabulary into a significant entry in the evolution of the piano jazz trio.

Photos courtesy of CAP UCLA

CD Review: “Paul Simon Live in New York City”

October 28, 2012

Paul Simon

Live in New York City (Hear Music)

 By Brian Arsenault

Deep into Paul Simon Live in New York City, on “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes,” Paul’s voice seems to strengthen and the song becomes one of the jewels of the album.  At least until the gratuitous, hackneyed drum solo at the end.  (More about annoying drumming later.)

The song reminds you of what Paul Simon used to sound like but, at 70, can’t always manage. Just to be sure, I asked Kath who reveres him like she loves no other musician save maybe Bonnie Raitt.  “Does that almost sound like someone else,” I queried. “Put it on another player,” she suggested, but it didn’t sound any different.

Paul Simon

His voice just isn’t what it was.  But does it matter?  Yes, it does.  Even though he’s an American musical treasure, the quality of a performance is always vital.  Willie Nelson admits that he’s more of a guitarist now because the voice isn’t what it used to be.

Paul Simon is also a wonderful guitarist but the soaring voice of Art Garfunkel was part of what made those Simon songs so magnificent. Its absence is all the more noticeable now.

In many places, Paul makes you forget or at least not care.  He plays his guitar wonderfully on not just the intro but the opening verse of “Sound of Silence” and then speak-sings the rest in moving fashion, interrupted only by one of those idiots who thinks he needs to scream out during a great moment in a great song.  This was also one of the few places where it’s just Paul and his guitar. Could have used more of that.

“The Only Living Boy in New York” is pitched low enough to work fine. He’s a little off key in places but always touching.  And finally he gets a little chorus support for his singing.

Paul Simon’s lyrics are always literate, even literary.  At their best they are poetic literature. So we need not really forgive anything as his voice fades. We shouldn’t pretend, though.

The album really shouldn’t open with “The Obvious Child” (guess the concert did) where his voice is weak. And it’s here right off the bat that Jim Oblon’s drumming annoys. He sounds like a wedding band drummer trying to compete with the singer. He hits the snare way too hard and is magnificently mediocre throughout.  Or was there a mixing problem?

Paul makes everything okay on “Dazzling Blue” with controlled and sensitive phrasing.  Same on “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”  “Slip Slidin’ Away” is another highlight, soft enough for his poetic recitation to overcome any voice limitations.

On “Late in the Evening” he and his voice seem to grow younger. Suits the song, doesn’t it?  Still, this is not “Live Rhymin’,” when he was younger and his voice vigorous enough to make us believe Art’s absence didn’t matter.

One of course would expect the show to close with “Still Crazy After All These Years” and it does, but one wonders why the intimacy between artist and audience has to be interrupted by a garish sax solo.

Sigh, Paul singing this tune for all his generations of fans was enough.

The accompanying DVD of the show brings home how caring the audience is and it’s fun to see the generally fine collection of musicians around him.

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

Live Jazz: Eddie Daniels Upstairs at Vitello’s

October 28, 2012

By Don Heckman

Eddie Daniels

Eddie Daniels’ reputation as a gifted jazz clarinetist and saxophonist is secure. Always respected for his remarkable, genre-crossing clarinet abilities, his multi-woodwind work (especially tenor saxophone and clarinet) established him, as far back as the ‘60s, as a player at ease as a sideman and a soloist, comfortably expressive in jazz, classical music and beyond.

Some, but not all, of those attributes were on display Friday night Upstairs at Vitello’s.  Making one of  his infrequent trips to the Southland from his Santa Fe home, Daniels was performing with the backing of the sterling L.A. trio of pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Mike Valerio and drummer Steve Schaeffer.  Despite minimal rehearsal time, the cohesion between the players was an impressive display of prime, improvisational music making.

Starting with a briskly rhythmic arrangement of “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” Daniels played with the high flying pyrotechnics that have stamped him as one of the very few world class practitioners of the jazz clarinet.  Other tunes followed in a similar pattern, with Daniels’ fast fingers setting the pace.

When he switched to tenor saxophone for a few numbers, only the instrument changed; his style, with its emphasis on virtuosic technique, remained constant.

Tom Ranier, Eddie Daniels, Mike Valerio, Steve Schaeffer

Ranier’s soloing often provided an attractive counterpoint, especially in those passages in which he opened his lines to allow space for his improvising to breathe.  So, too, for Valerio and Schaeffer, working as a solid team.  Like Ranier, they provided textures that were supportive, airy and rhythmically alive.

But there was no denying Daniels’ extraordinary mastery of the clarinet.  Classically trained, frequently performing classical pieces, his improvisational range seems limited.  One could wish, however, for him to not make every solo into a note-filled excursion across the entire range of the instruments.  Instead, it would have been intriguing to hear him offer more of the sort of warm sensitivity provided by the woody timbres of the clarinet’s chalumeau register.

Given the rarity of his L.A. performances, however, it was a distinct pleasure to hear Daniels in action, especially with such superb backing.  Hopefully, there will also be an opportunity in the near future to hear him classically, as well.  A presentation of the Copland Clarinet Concerto with, say, the L.A. Philharmonic or the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra would be a great start.

Photos by Bob Barry

Live Music: Sally Kellerman at Vitello’s

October 26, 2012

By Don Heckman

Sally Kellerman started her set Wednesday night at Vitello’s with a gesture toward the season.  Stalking on stage in an all black outfit, she held up her cape and serenaded the packed house crowd with “I Put A Spell On You.”  (All of which she enhanced by sitting in a director’s chair labeled “Live Virgin,” next to a plastic Jack-o-lantern on a stool.)

Sally Kellerman and bassist Lyman Medeiros

Predictably, for anyone who’s heard and seen Sally in action, “I PUt A Spell On You” perfectly indicated what would happen in the next hour and a half or so.  Even when she’s not doing a mini-Halloween celebration, Sally’s performances are all utterly mesmerizing, overflowing with humor, atmosphere and musicality.

And this performance was no exception, despite the fact that she repeated some of the material that she’s been doing regularly over the past few years.  But no problem there.  Hearing (and seeing) Sally wrap up her set with “Don’t You Feel My Leg” is only one of the many pleasures she offers.

There were other repeated tunes: the combining of a pair of Bacharach/David hits, “Walk On By” and “The Look of Love”; “Love Potion #9”; “Sugar In My Bowl”; “The Lies of Handsome Men.”  And there were more, including James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” rendered as Sally strolled seductively through the audience, dispensing foil-wrapped chocolate candy balls.

Sally Kellerman

And what became crystal clear – in these repeated numbers, as well as such newer items in the Kellerman catalog as “Black Coffee” and the Hall & Oates “Say It Isn’t So” — was the utterly appropriate believability that Sally brought to each of her interpretations.

Yes, she’s an experienced actress as well as a singer, but it wasn’t just theatrical skills that she brought to her songs, as she moved with consummate ease across a stunning gamut of musical emotions.  Some were hilarious – as when she wound up singing one of the songs while reclining on the floor.  Others had the bold and brassy touch of a blues singer.  And still others had the intimacy of expressive whispers in one’s ear.

In addition to the older blues-oriented tunes, Sally’s set was enriched by songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s, done in her own fashion.  And one couldn’t help but speculate that a recording devoted to material from the period could help bring Sally’s inimitable talents to an audience that still thinks of her as Hot Lips. Even though she is much more.  At her best, and in a crowded female vocal field, she is one of the rare true originals.

A final gesture of applause for the superb backing provided by pianist Ed Martel, bassist Lyman Medeiros and Dick Weller, drums.  And a special nod to Martel, who is also Sally’s music director, for the subtle, always appropriate arrangement support.

Photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week – Oct. 24 – 28

October 24, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sally Kellerman

– Oct. 34 (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman.  Hot Lips herself, in action.  But Sally’s a one of a kind vocalist, too, bringing interpretive magic to everything she sings. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 24. (Wed.)  Gabriel Johnson.  Emerging jazz trumpeter Johnson has been praised by Clint Eastwood and Chris Botti, and performed with everyone from Gladys Knight to Gerald Albright.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Robert Glasper Experiment.  Adventurous pianist Glasper has been pioneering the territory between jazz and contemporary pop.  His special guests include Jose James, Taylor McFerrin and Austin PeraltaCAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101

– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Ariana Savalas. Singer/songwriter/actress Savalas, the offspring of a show biz family, is making her own way as a rising vocalist.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Kathy Kosins.  “The Ladies of Cool.”  Singer Kosins celebrates the work of such West Coast-oriented jazz vocalists as June Christy, Julie London, Anita O’Day and Chris Connor.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Bob Dylan

– Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.  The legendary Dylan makes a rare appearance in Los Angeles in companionship with the British singer/songwriter/guitarist best known for his work with the band Dire Straits.  The Hollywood Bowl.     (323) 850-2000.

– Oct. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.) Eddie Daniels.  The great clarinetist – and fine saxophonist, as well – makes his annual L.A. appearance, reminding us that the clarinet is still a great jazz instrument.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 26 – 28. (Fri. – Sun.)  Buster Williams Quartet.  Versatile bassist Williams leads a stellar group of Southland players — keyboardist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Mark Gross and drummer Ndugu ChanclerCatalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Oct. 27. (Sat.)  Ron Carter Quartet.  Carter – for decades everyone’s first call bassist — has also offered some breakthrough music of his own. This time out he performs with the cutting edge musical ideas of the Robert Glasper TrioCAP at UCLA Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

– Oct. 27. (Sat.) Michael Feinstein.  “The Sinatra Project.”  One of the champions of the Great American Songbook, singer/pianist Feinstein interprets a program of songs associated with Frank Sinatra.  Segerstrom Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2746.

Leon Russell

San Francisco

– Oct. 24. (Wed.)  Leon Russell.  One of the vital singer/songwriters of the rock era, Russell, at 70 is still going strong.  Don’t miss this rare club appearance.  Yoshi’s Oakland.      (510) 238-9200.

New York

– Oct. 24 – 28. (Wed. – Sun.).  Jimmy Heath 86th Birthday Celebration.  NEA Jazz Master Heath goes back to his roots to celebrate his 86th birthday with the Jimmy Heath Big Band — an assemblage of New York’s stellar players.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Kendra Shank.  The ever-adventurous, always musically engaging  Shank performs the last Friday of every month at the 55 Bar.   (212) 929-9883.


– Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Steve Smith and Vital Information.  Smith has been voted #1 All-Around Drummer by Modern Drummer magazine five years in a row.  In addition to his far-ranging pop and rock activities, he also leads the high energy jazz group Vital Information  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.


– Oct. 24 & 25. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Roditi/Ignatzek/Rassinfosse.  The remarkable trio of trumpeter Claudio Roditi, pianist Klaus Ignatzek and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse have been performing together for 25 years, emphasizing the Brazilian songbook and the repertoire associated with Chet Baker.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65.


– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Kenny Werner.  Versatile pianist, composer and writer arrives in Italy with a world class ensemble: saxophonist David Sanchez, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio SanchezBlue Note Milan.    02. 69016888.


The Manhattan Transfer


– Oct. 24 – 26. (Wed. – Fri.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  Nearly four decades in the jazz world spotlight, and the gifted members of the Transfer continue to produce music that brilliantly defines and expands the potential in vocal ensemble jazz.  Blue Note Tokyo.


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