Record Rack: Spin Doctors, Bracher Brown and Quattro

April 26, 2013

            Sometimes a Reviewer’s Just Lucky

            Three Very Different Albums Connected Only by Their Excellence

 By Brian Arsenault

 Spin Doctors

If the River Was Whiskey (Rufus Records)

DIf you’re a ‘90’s kid, chances are you can still remember the words to Spin Doctors’ “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” and that favorite guy anthem to the hated former girl friend/bitch, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”  I mean was there ever a nastier tune on hit radio and was a band bigger than Spin Doctors in the era?

So 25 years down the road, what is a listener to expect? Maybe not expected, but one sizzling blues album is what you get.

Hey, you can’t be a teen band forever, but these guys can do this till they’ve been around a half century.

“If the River Was Whiskey, (you’d) have no trouble drowning me.”  Hell of a lyric, hell of a song.

Chris Barron’s voice is deeper than in the early days. Whiskey? Cigs? Or just the passage of time. It works.

And Eric Schenkman’s guitar can flash it like he’s playing for Billy Boy Arnold, or do the slow hand. The rhythm section of Aaron Comess on drums and Mark White on bass are tight as can be.

The whole band is.

There’s some Howlin’ Wolf (title song) here and some Allman Brothers feel (“Scotch and Water Blues”)  as well.  Yet the Spin Doctors are their own self.

On tunes like “What My Love?” it’s real hard to sit still. “Scotch and Water Blues” just builds and builds and “About a Train” has a nice Delta flavor suitable for roadhouses.

The album makes you ache a bit for smoky bars smelling of beer and less savory stuff.  But the playing is real clean.

Bracher Brown

Broken Glass and Railroad Tracks (Rock Ridge Music, digital only)

A tough old businessman of Irish heritage that I knew and valued until his death said that one of the worst prejudices was that a young person couldn’t do a good job, maybe better.

So here comes Bracher Brown who makes you think that if the Beatles had been born in America under 20 years ago, this is what they might have sounded like.  Intelligent lyrics about the start of love, the end of love, the desire for love. Rhythms that we used to call infectious.  Seductive guitar licks.

“Singing songs about what life was supposed to be.”

Young but not untested in the furnace of life.

 “Haven’t slept in days but I’m all right.”

Even acquainted with absence that may be death —

“living with your ghost.”

And a love song — “Loving You” — that rings true; a song about what he knows about life at 18 that’s not to be patronized.  After all, we may never know more, we may just shut down and call it experience.

He’s not shut down at all. Thank goodness.


Poppzzical  (Quattro Sound)

Ok, so you know there are four of them on Poppzzical. Mixed gender (two of each), mixed ethnicity, mixed musical backgrounds.  So, of course, all American in all our splendid, confusing mishmash of cultures that often produces remarkable music.

There’s a violin, often gypsy-like (Lisa Dondlinger). She can play for Pavarotti or Dancing with the Stars.

There’s a cello, also an amazing Latin influenced voice (Giovanna Moraga Clayton). Uh, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, New West Symphony).

Are you starting to get the picture?  They can match the exuberance of their own crafted “Good Day” — “try to bring me down will be time wasted” — with some Vivaldi done as classical sound with jazz shifts.

There’s a guitar which can lead and support, strum and sing (Kay-Ta Matsuno) who can play for Baby Face or Natalie Cole and a whole bunch of other folks too numerous to name here.

Finally there’s percussion work born in Tijuana, Mexico (Jorge Villanueva) who’s played on movie scores, in Latino bands and co-owns a film and TV scoring company.

So, as you can imagine, there’s a lot going on in this album they’ve made.

“Silky” is happy and melancholy at the same time.  There’s a guitar solo that resembles a violin piece.  Or is that a violin with cello as bass. Or both.  Ha, I don’t care. It’s music that’s unique.  I can’t think of any assemblage that sounds like Quattro.

Their Spanish language soul and Latino dance music.  If I could samba I would have on “Mi Conguero.“  That may even be the wrong dance but it’s the right feeling.

The album closes with “Hana Bi” and the guitar and violin take flight together.  The cello soars after them.

And maybe that’s it: flying, soaring, breaking free of forms while paying homage to them. In a musical world of too much sameness, the individuality and creativity of this young group is not to be missed.

* * * * * * * *

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

Picks of the Week: July 15 – 21

July 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Kenny Burrell (Photo by Faith Frenz)

– July 15. (Mon.)  L.A. Jazz Orchestra Unlimited.  With Kenny Burrell.  Guitarist/educator Burrell leads an aggregation of some of the Southland’s fine big band players.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– July 16. (Tues.)  Nora Rothman.  With an appealing vocal style, young jazz artist Rothman offers what she describes as her own “unique twist” on jazz standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– July 16 & 17. (Tues. & Wed.)  Aaron Weinstein.  A violinist, mandolinist and arranger, Weinstein’s special talents have been drawing attention lately.  Here’s a chance to check out his skills in the warm musical environment of Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

– July 17. (Wed.)  Sergio Mendes, Lani Hall and Herb Alpert.  After last week’s odd jazz opening night program featuring Queen Latifa, the Bowl summer jazz season finally arrives via an evening of stellar jazz with a Brazilian touch.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– July 18. (Thurs.)  Bob McChesney Quintet.  Trombonist McChesney always does a spectacular job of making other bands sound great.  Here he is in the spotlight leading his own group.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– July 19.  (Fri.) Brantley Gilbert.  Country superstar Gilbert makes his Greek Theatre debut .  Jack Ingram and Rachel Farley open the show.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

Freda Payne

Freda Payne

– July 19 & 20. (Fri. & Sat.)  Freda Payne.  The lovely Ms. Payne makes one of her infrequent Southland appearances, looking great as she applies her special vocal talents to a program of standards as well as her own hits (hopefully including “Band of Gold”) Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– July 19 – 21. (Fri. – Sun. )  Pink Martini with the L.A. Phil.  With singers China Forbes and Storm Large in the foreground, the 12-piece Pink Martini ensemble easily and entertainingly crosses genres from jazz and classical to pop and Latin.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– July 21. (Sun.)  Quattro.  The unique Quattro instrumentation (cello, percussion, violin and guitar), combine with their four-part vocals and imaginative interpretations to produce some of the most intriguing music on the contemporary music scene.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Eddie Daniels (Photo by Bob Barry)

– July 18. (Thurs.)  Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway.  It’s a rare combination – the superb clarinet work of Daniels and the similarly excellent piano of Kellaway – displaying a range of talents reaching easily from jazz to classical and beyond.  SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.

– July 21. (Sun.)  Laurie Antonioli“The Music of Joni Mitchell.”  Antonioli is a pleasure to hear when she’s showcasing her impressive jazz skills.  Singing the songs of Joni Mitchell should stimulate an even more engaging set of creative interpretations. SFJAZZ Center.  Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

New York

Billy Childs (Photo by Faith Frenz)

– July 16 – 20.  (Tues. – Sat.)  The Billy Childs Quartet.  Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his chamber jazz ensemble to showcase his mesmerizing, straight ahead jazz skills.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.


– July 17 – 19. (Wed. – Fri.)  Hermeto Pascoal.  Composer/multi-instrumentalist Pascoal has been setting a unique pathway through contemporary Brazilian music for decades. Hearing him in live performance is a memorable experience.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.


– July 17. (Wed.)  Roberta Gambarini.  She’s one of  the current jazz scene’s most fascinating vocal artists, balancing her superb ballad skills with incomparable scatting abilities. New Morning Paris.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.

– July 18. (Thurs.)  The Steve Swallow-Carla Bley Quintet.  Bassist Swallow and pianist/composer Bley have been at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz for decades.  And they’re still a pleasure to hear in action.  New Morning Paris.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.


– July 21. (Sun.)  Dave Douglas “Be Still.”  Always adventurous, trumpeter Douglas leads an ensemble of similarly envelope-stretching players, featuring Jon Irabagon, saxophones, Matt Mitchell, piano, Linda Oh, bass and Rudy Royston, drums.  A-Trane.    +49 30 3132 ext. 550.


Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis

– July 21. (Sun.)  Branford Marsalis.  Not quite as visible as his brother, trumpeter/impresario Wynton, Branford Marsalis is, nonetheless, a compelling, musically creative jazz artist.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.


– July 17 & 18. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Dionne Warwick.  She’s been one of the hit-makers of the rock era, especially when she’s singing songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  And, at 72, she’s still a mesmerizing performer.  Blue Note Tokyo.   +81 3-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Nov. 14 – 18

November 14, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

David Sanborn

– Nov 14. (Wed.)  David Sanborn.  Alto saxophonist Sanborn is the star of pop jazz, r & b and crossover.  But at the heart of his playing is a deep involvement with the essential elements of straight ahead jazz.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Nov. 14. (Wed.) Alan Bergman.  In partnership with his wife, Marilyn Bergman, Alan has written the lyrics for some of the most memorable songs of the past five or six decades.  And they’re often best heard in his own quietly lyrical interpretations.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Nov. 14. (Wed.) Barbara Cook. Tony Award-winning singer/actress Cook celebrates her long, productive career – she was 85 in October – with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of great American song. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Nov. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  A highly successful producer before he embarked on a singing career of his own, Tyrell has emerged as a vocalist with an appealing, jazz-driven style enhanced by the warmth of his Texas roots. Catalina Bar & Grill  (323) 466-2210.

Janis Paige

– Nov. 16. (Fri.)  Janis Paige. If you remember the movie musicals of the ‘50s, then you’ll remember Paige from such films as Silk Stockings and Please Don’t Eat The Daisies.  Decades in musical theatre and television followed, and the 90 year old Paige is still a delightfully effective vocal artist.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 16. (Fri.) Cip & Cat.  Saxophonist Gene Cipriano (Cip) and  vocalist Cat Conner (Cat), backed by guitarist John Chiodini with special guest trombonist Dick Nash celebrate their fifth anniversary together and their first anniversary at the venue.  Out Take Bistro.       (818) 760-1111.

– Nov. 16 – 18. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic.  An evening rich with musical variations.  The Phil, conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, performs Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 and Cello Concerto in C, Albeniz’s Suite Espanola and Ravel’s Bolero Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Johnny Mandel

– Nov. 17. (Sat.) Johnny Mandel Big Band.  Composer, arranger, band leader and songwriter, Mandel’s resume includes stints with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee and many more.  At 86, Mandel is now best heard leading his own band, playing his own well-crafted arrangements and compositions. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 17. (Sat.)  Buika.  Spanish singer Buika, a native of Equatorial Guinea, who sings flamenco with an appealing blend of soul music and jazz rhythms, makes a rare Southland appearance.  Luckman Fine Arts Complex.    (323) 343-6610.

– Nov. 18. (Sun.)  Quattro.  The four talented members of Quattro – cellist Giovanna Clayton, violinst Lisa Dondlinger, guitarist Kay-Ta Matsuno and percussionist Jorge Villanueva (all of whom also sing) – have written and arranged all the diverse works they describe as Popzzical music. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 18. (Sun.)  Jackson Browne. He’s been writing memorable songs since the ‘70s, still producing prime selections.  He’s joined in this performance by Sara Watkins, Jonathan Wilson and other special guests.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

– Nov. 18. (Sun.) The Los Angeles Master Chorale performs Monteverdi’s Vespers.  This will be a concert to remember, with the gorgeous voices of the LAMC applying their magical touch to the lush vocal lines of Renaissance polyphony.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Ornette Coleman

– Nov. 17. (Sat.) Ornette Coleman.  Since his arrival on the international jazz scene in the late ‘50s, Coleman’s compositions and alto saxophone playing have been among the music’s most persistently exploratory voices.  An SFJAZZ event at the Herbst Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

New York

– Nov. 18 & 19. (Sun. & Mon.)  An Intimate Evening with Stanley Jordan Solo. Jordan’s remarkable mastery of the guitar tap-on style has provided him with a virtual orchestral instrument.  And he makes the most of it.  The Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

– Nov. 19. (Mon.)  Sheila Jordan and Steve Kuhn Duo. Their history together goes back decades.  And they continue to make music together with a symbiotic creative togetherness.  The performance celebrates Sheila’s 84th birthday.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

Washington  D.C.

– Nov. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Tuck & Patti.  Guitarist Tuck and singer Patti have been together for nearly three decades.  And their deeply intimate musical and personal relationship seems to improve and mature like fine wine.  Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.


– Nov. 16. (Fri.)  John Scofield Trio.  Always on the search for new ideas, guitarist Scofield gets down to the absolute jazz basics with his current trio.  New Morning  01 45 23 51 41.


Judy Niemack

– Nov. 16. (Fri.)  Judy Niemack & Jay Clayton2 Voices Flying.  Niemack, a constantly captivating singer, bringing musicality, imagination and interpretive excellence to everything she touches, teams up with the equally adventurous and inventive Clayton.  A-Trane.    030/313 25 50.


– Nov. 16. (Fri.)  Tony Levin.  “Stick Men”.  Bassist Levin, who’s worked with a stellar list of artists in virtually every genre, steps out front with his own vocals.  He’ll be backed by drummer Pat Mastelliotto and touch guitarist Markus ReuterBlue Note Milano.    +39.02.69016888.


– Nov. 18 & 19. (Sun. & Mon.)  Michel Camilo and Tomatito. The dynamic duo of pianist Camilo and flamenco guitarist Tomitito come together with a magical blend of jazz and traditional Spanish music.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Picks of the Week: July 5 – 10

July 5, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ernie Andrews

– July 6. (Wed.)  The Ernie Andrews Quartet. The stylish, versatile Andrews – as convincing with a ballad standard as he is with the blues — performs with the bebop-driven alto saxophone of Richie Cole, and the stellar rhythm section of Art Hllary, piano, Richard Simon, bass and Ralph Penland, drums.  “Sunset Jazz at Newport.”   The Rose Garden of the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa.  (949) 759-5003.

– July 6. (Wed.)  Chieli Minucci.  Guitarist/composer/producer divides his time between his Grammy nominated contemporary jazz group Special EFX and his busy schedule as an A-list sideman and composer for television and film.  He makes his first Special EFX appearance at the Baked Potato with special guest, keyboardist Lao TizerBaked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

– July 6. (Wed.)  Quattro.  With four skilled player/singers – Giovanna Clayton, cello, Lisa Dondlinger, violin, Kayta Matsuno, guitar and Jorge Villanueva, percussion – and an unusual instrumentation, Quattro is all set to produce an evening of fascinating sounds. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– July 7. (Thurs.)  The Fred Horn Quintet“A Tribute to Horace Silver.”  The inimitable Brick Wahl describes saxophonist Horn’s Silver tribute with a single, laudatory word: Cool.  And Brick, as usual, is right on target.  LAX Jazz Club in the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel.    (310) 642-7500.

– July 7. (Thurs.) Bobbi Page & Dream Street.  Singer Page receives beautifully textured support from the lush timbres and subtle swing of Dream Street.  It’s a great combination.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– July 8. (Fri.)  The 18th Annual Brazilian Summer Festival.  Call it Carnaval in the Summertime.  A celebration of the irresistible rhythms of Brazil — samba, frevo, bossa nova, batucada.  Headlining the festivities — Grammy winner Diogo Nogueira, the singing offspring of a family of samba artists.  Also on the program, the dynamic music of Chalo Eduaro’s “Brazilian Beat” band and the shimmering costumes and energetic choreography of the Brazilian Nites Samba Dancers.  A Brazilian Nites production at the Roxy Theatre.  (818) 566-1111.

– July 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.)  Steely Dan.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers perform two separate, but equally compelling programs.  On Friday night they perform Aja and their greatest hits.  On Saturday, a fan-voted set list.  Greek Theatre.  Special guest Sam Yahel.    (323) 665-5857.

Nellie McKay

– July 9. (Sat.)  Nellie McKay.  The seemingly limitless talents of McKay – singer, pianist, songwriter, actress, satirist and more – are currently focused on an inventive musical reconstruction of the 1958 film, I Want To Live. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– July 9. (Sat.)  Gary Foster/Alan Broadbent Quartet. It’s a combination that’s guaranteed to produce jazz at its finest.  Foster’s saxophone playing and Broadbent’s piano come from the same imaginative perspective.  And, with Broadbent planning to move to New York, he should be heard at every opportunity.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– July 9 & 10. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles“Totally: Our ‘80s Show”  The vocally adept, musically eclectic singers of the GMCLA call up plenty of memories with a program of songs by Cindy Lauper, Michael Jackson,  Depeche Mode, Pat Benatar and more.   The Avalon Hollywood.    (424) 239-6514.

San Francisco

– July 8 – 10 (Fri. –Sun.)  Michael Franks. It’s been more than three decades since Franks’ “Popsicle Toes” and “Lady Wants To Know” announced the arrival of a skilled new singer/songwriter witj a distinct jazz orientation.  And he’s still going strong. Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New York

– July 5. (Tues.)  Leni Stern.  Guitarist Stern showcases her fascination with African rhythms with an ensemble that comfortably crosses the boundaries between jazz and Africa.  55 Bar.   (212) 929-9883.

Carmen Lundy

– July 8 – 10.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Carmen Lundy.  The many musical gifts of Lundy have been apparent for years.  But she’s never put them quite as prominently up front as she does on her latest album, Solamente, on which she plays all the instruments, sings all the songs and has written most of the music.  She is truly one of a kind. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.


– July 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mose Allison. The bayou philosopher manages to sneak a bit of home grown wisdom into most of his songs.  And he does so with memorable melodies, buoyant swing and an ever present sense of humor.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.  (206) 441-9729.


– July 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Judy Roberts Trio.  Chicago’s favorite female jazz singer/pianist  gets together with frequent musical companion, saxophonist/flutist Greg FishmanJazz Showcase  (312) 360-0234.


Jeff Lorber

– July 6. (Wed.)  Jeff Lorber Fusion. Keyboardist Lorber’s pioneering Fusion group of the ‘70s and ’80 set the pattern for many of the contemporary jazz groups to follow.  But none did it any better than the music Lorber has produced, then and now.  Ronnie Scott’s  020 7439 0747.


– July 6 & 7. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Bitches Brew Beyond.   Trumpeter Wallace Roney’s mastery of the Miles Davis trumpet style makes him the ideal candidate for this re-imagining of the classic Bitches Brew material.  Further enhancing the authenticity, Vince Wilburn, Jr. (Davis’ nephew) is in the drum chair.   New Morning. 


– July 8 – 10. )Fri. – Sun.)  Bob James Trio.  Keyboardist James takes a break from his heavy schedule with Fourplay to dig into a straight ahead, piano jazz trio set.  He’ll also feature bassist Shadu ShahBlue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 255 other followers