Picks of the Week: Sept. 18 – 22

September 18, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Gina Saputo

Gina Saputo

– Sept. 18. (Wed.) Gina Saputo. Emerging young jazz vocal star Saputo shares the stage with a talented group of L.A.’s finest singers — Courtney Lemmon, Dave Damiani and Mark Christian Miller. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 18. (Wed.) The Sammy Cahn-cert. Vocalist Kurt Reichenbach sings the marvelous far-ranging tunes from the Sammy Cahn songbook. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Sept. 18. (Wed.) Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. It’s been nearly two decades since the Orquesta Buenta players began to enlighten the world about the great music of Cuba. And they’re still at it. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

Annie Trousseau

Annie Trousseau

– Sept. 19. (Thurs.) Annie Trousseau. Multi-lingual singer Trousseau sings in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English, enlivening the tradition of international cabaret styles. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 20. (Fri.) The Bob McChesney Quartet. McChesney’s superb trombone playing has thoroughly established him as one of the instrument’s great jazz masters. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 20. (Fri.) The Bob Sheppard Group. He’s everyone’s first call saxophone and woodwind player and with good reason. Here’s a chance to hear him in action with the stellar aid of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Mike Valerio and drummer Steve Kass. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway

– Sept. 20 & 21. (Fri. & Sat.) Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway. The talented Callaway sisters get together to display talents reaching from jazz and pop to Broadway classics. Catalina Bar & Grill.  466-2210.

– Sept. 21 (Sat.) Sing-a-long Sound of Music. It’s an annual event, inviting enthusiastic audiences to sing along with the memorable songs from the Rogers & Hammerstein musical. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 21. (Sat.) Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Swing music is still alive and well in the hard jiving hands of the Voodoo Daddys. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

Jeffrey Kahane

Jeffrey Kahane

– Sept. 21 & 22. (Sat. & Sun.) Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The gifted players of the LACO begin their season with Jeffrey Kahane conducting a program of Beethoven, Mozart, Lutoslawski and Kodaly. Featured soloist is young violinist Benjamin Beilman. Sat: the Ambassador Auditorium; Sun. Royce Hall. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  (213) 622-7001.

– Sept. 22. (Sun.) Los Angeles Master Chorale. The extraordinary singers of the LAMC celebrate the ensemble’s 50th anniversary with a retrospective look at the highlights in their remarkable performance history. Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

– Sept. 19. (Thurs.) Amjad Ali Khan and Sons. Classical Indian master of the sarod, Khan has passed his skills on to a generation of gifted offpsring. SFJAZZ. Miner Auditorium. (866) 920-5299.


– Sept. 19 – 22 (Thurs. – Sun.) Miguel Zenon and Rhythm Collective. Alto saxophonist and winner of a MacArthur “genius:” award Zenon reveals the far-reaching range of his improvisational skills. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

– Sept, 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.) Coltrane Revisited. Steve Kuhn, a veteran performer with Coltrane, leads a talented band of young players in a revisit to the Coltrane legacy. Birdland.  212) 581-3080.


– Sept. 18 – 19. Wed. & Thurs. Remembering Oscar Peterson. With pianists James Pearson and Dave Newton, Featuring selections from Peterson’s Canadiana Suite. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747 .


– Sept. 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.) French Jazz Festival. Denmark celebrates the high quality of French jazz artists. Among the featured performers: violinist Didier Lockwood, guitarist Michael Felderbaum and saxophonist Lionel Belmondo. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.


– Sept. 20. (Fri.) Jonathan Butler. South African singer Butler has been blending the music of his roots with a gift for crossing over into international pop, soul and blues. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.

Live Music: Zakir Hussain’s Masters of Percussion at Walt Disney Concert Hall

March 23, 2012

By Don Heckman

Despite the title of his performance at Disney Hall Wednesday night – “Masters of Percussion” – Zakir Hussain did a lot more than fill the stage with a company of drummers.  And that’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of propulsive rhythm taking place.

Son of the legendary tabla player, Ustad Alla Rakha, Hussain has become an iconic tabla master in his own right over the past few decades, moving convincingly from Indian classical music to fusions with international jazz and pop artists.

Zakir Hussain

But this night was something else.  Although Hussain’s playing was as brilliantly virtuosic as ever, his goal was to introduce Indian music in a setting that would offer prime entertainment value for Western audiences easily intimidated by (or just disinterested in) the complexities of the raga and tala system.  Neither raga nor tala, in fact, were mentioned over the course of a mesmerizing evening (despite their subliminal presence in parts of the music).

Instead, virtuosity was the primary item on the menu – delivered via high speed, stunningly articulate technical skills, displayed for the most part in challenging exchanges between individual musicians.

One of the high points was the warm interplay between Hussain and his younger brother, Fazal Qureshi, both tabla players, both displaying the rich musical wisdom passed on by their guru and father, Ustad Alla Rakha.  As always, Hussain was simply remarkable, especially impressive with his ability to play pitched melodic bass notes (including a humorously inserted, brief excerpt from the William Tell Overture on his larger tabla drum).

Another duo – Navin Sharma, playing the dholak, a two headed drum, and Abos Kosimov, playing the doyra, frame drum – exchanged phrases with all the visceral energy of a jazz jam session.  Kosimov, in particular, playing three drums simultaneously, balancing one on a finger while playing a second drum with his other hand, was as entertaining as he was virtuosic.

The performances by the ensemble’s two melody instrument artists – bansuri flutist Rakesh Chaurasia and sarangi (a short-necked string instrument played with a bow) player Sabir Khan — were extraordinary,  Playing the complex melodic ornamentations of the Indian classical style with ease, they added a rich emotive contrast to the many layers of percussion sound.

Equally fascinating, T.H.V. Umashankar produced remarkable sounds, while punishing his hands, on the ghatam clay pot drum.  And dancing drummer Ningomban Joy Singh was an extraordinary study in physicality, leaping and bounding across the stage while producing propulsive rhythmic sounds on small hand percussion.

The most intriguing part of the program was a collective work, featuring dancer Antonia Minnecola, one of the rare American-born artists adept at Kathak, the classical dance style of India.  Based upon an important episode in the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic, the work told the story of the kidnapping of the Goddess Sita and her ultimate rescue by her consort, god Rama.

Hussain assigned each individual musician to a role representing one of the characters in the story, with the instruction to play solo passages as their characters came to the forefront in the telling of the story.  In the center of the arc of musicians, dancer Minnecola’s elegantly stylized movements were the focal point for the unfolding saga.  Hussain had introduced the piece, and the way it was done, as a kind of creative experiment in the use of a percussion ensemble as a story-telling medium.  And it worked.

As did everything else in this mesmerizing evening.  Masters of Percussion, yes.   More accurately – Masters of the Art of Music.

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