The 2015-16 Season of Dance and Classical Music at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills

August 28, 2015

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills opens their 2015-2016 season of dance programming on October 1-3 with:

Twyla Tharp: a 50th Anniversary Celebration, a program of new work by Ms. Tharp, co-commissioned by The Wallis (in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Joyce Theatre, Ravina Festival Association & Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and Texas International Theatrical Arts Society).

Twyla Tharp dancers Matthew Dibble and Rika Okamoto in Yowzie costumes

L.A. Dance Project follows on January 29-30, featuring Hearts and Arrows by LADP Founder Benjamin Millepied with music by Philip Glass; the U.S. premiere of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Harbor Me; and Murder Ballades by Justin Peck.

Ezralow Dance Company performs OPEN on April 29-30, marking the “hometown debut” of Daniel Ezralow’s new dance company. Ezralow has created dances for Hubbard Street Dance Company, Batsheva Dance Company, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Cirque du Soleil/Beatles show LOVE, Julie Taymor’s film Across the Universe, and the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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The Wallis’ diverse classical musical programming – encompassing 17 concerts – starts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under the esteemed leadership of Zubin Mehta (November 10 and 11) with two different programs. A gala fundraising performance on November 10 will feature the Dvorak New World Symphony and the Vivaldi Concerto for 3 Violins (Semion Gavrikov, Dumitru Pocitari and Asaf Maoz soloists); a second subscription concert will include Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Ravel’s La Valse.

Other artists include cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han with The Passionate Cello (January 8), Eagle Rock-based Santa Cecilia Orchestra (January 16) led by Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, with a program featuring Latino and American composers; the return of Keyboard Conversations® with Jeffrey Siegel performing An American Salute celebrating our country’s most beloved composers (February 27); The Jerusalem Quartet (April 14); and Grammy Award-winning violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner (March 26).

A new East/West: Merging Music & Cultures music series will include Wu Man & The Shanghai Quartet (January 23); violinist Cho Liang Lin with Jon Kimura Parker (February 13) and Bing Wang and Ben Hong (February 20).

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Jerusalem Quartet also make up The Soul of Israel series, which is completed by David Olowsky Trio’s The Soul of Klezmer, a masterful expansion of the Klezmer folk music tradition (March 25).

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Colburn at The Wallis: A Concert Series partners The Wallis with the Colburn School, one of the nation’s highest ranked educators of students pursuing rigorous performance training, for an exciting series of concerts throughout the 2015-2016 Season. Featuring rising stars from the Colburn Conservatory of Music alongside celebrated concert artists and Colburn’s renowned faculty, the concerts include Colburn School artist-in-residence, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (October 30), cellist Gary Hoffman (November 7), Music Director and Conductor Yehuda Gilad and Mikyung Soung, double bass (March 6); and the principal brass players of the New York Philharmonic (April 10).

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In an expansion of programming to fulfill its mission to support and celebrate young artists, The Wallis will begin Next Generation @ The Wallis, featuring Taiwanese-American pianist Steven Lin (March 11), jazz pianist Justin Kauflin (January 22) and Sean Chen (February 19), recent winner of UPenn’s eminent 2015 Annenberg arts fellowship for artists – all pianists on the verge of breakthrough.

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The Jazz Bakery will also be presenting concerts at The Wallis with a new partnership, The Jazz Bakery @ The Wallis. As one of the premiere presenters of jazz in Los Angeles, The Jazz Bakery brings a long history of curating and presenting jazz to this new concert series at The Wallis.

For more information about the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts click HERE.

Photo by Ruven Afanador


LA Opera Announces its 2015/16 Season

August 21, 2015

LA Opera Opens the 2015/16 Season with Gianni Schicchi, Staged by Woody Allen

LA Opera’s thirtieth anniversary season opens with the double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci (September 12 through October 3, 2015). Placido Domingo, LA Opera’s general director, will sing the title role in Woody Allen’s staging of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

Wody Allen rehearses Gianni Schicchi

The opera will be conducted by Grant Gershon, the company’s resident conductor, and will feature Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rinuccio, Andriana Chuchman as Lauretta, and Meredith Arwady as Zita. After the intermission, Mr. Domingo will move to the orchestra pit to conduct Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, starring Marco Berti as Canio, Ana María Martínez as Nedda, and George Gagnidze as Tonio.

Pagliacci

Gianni Schicchi

 

LA Opera’s music director James Conlon had this to say: “I’m proud to be part of LA Opera for this thirtieth anniversary season, and to mark the occasion by conducting the celebratory gala with Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming. I am also thrilled to welcome my colleague and friend Gustavo Dudamel, who is making his debut with our company. As part of our commitment to contemporary opera, I relish the opportunity to conduct Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. I also look forward to collaborating again with Barrie Kosky for The Magic Flute as well as welcoming back Ana María Martínez and Stefano Secco in Madame Butterfly, after their previous successes in our 2012 Simon Boccanegra. As part of LA Opera’s expanding bel canto repertory, the return of Norma for the first time since 1996 is an important event.”

Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick comes to Los Angeles October 31 through November 28, 2015. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris stars as Captain Ahab in performances conducted by James Conlon and directed by Leonard Foglia. The cast also includes tenor Joshua Guerrero in the leading role of Greenhorn as well as baritone Morgan Smith as Starbuck, a role he created at the work’s 2010 premiere.

LA Opera will present Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, Norma, (November 21 through December 13, 2015) in a production conducted by James Conlon and directed by Anne Bogart. Soprano Angela Meade, who made her LAO debut in 2012 as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, returns to lead a quartet of principals that includes mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as Adalgisa, along with tenor Russell Thomas as Pollione, and bass Morris Robinson as Oroveso.

Conducted by James Conlon, The Magic Flute returns (February 13 through March 6, 2016) with its evocation of the silent film era. The production is directed by Barrie Kosky and by Suzanne Andrade of the British theater company 1927. Onstage performers, including tenor Benjamin Bliss as Tamino, interact with projected hand-drawn animation, to capture Mozart’s delightful blend of high comedy and fairy tale.

In a production new to Los Angeles, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (March 12 through April 3, 2016) will be conducted by James Conlon and directed by Lee Blakeley. In her second leading appearance in the season, soprano Ana María Martínez stars as Cio-Cio-San, one of her signature roles, with tenor Stefano Secco as the faithless Pinkerton and mezzo-soprano Milena Kitic as Suzuki.

Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze returns for her sixth leading role at LA Opera, singing her first performances as Mimi in La Bohème (May 14 through June 12, 2016). Speranza Scappucci will make her LAO debut conducting six of the eight performances. The final two performances will feature the company debut of conductor Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This revival of the Herbert Ross production features Abdellah Lasri and Mario Chang sharing the role of Rodolfo and Janai Brugger and Amanda Woodbury sharing the role of Musetta. Moldavian soprano Olga Busuioc performs the role of Mimi on May 19 and 25.

On March 18, 2016, LA Opera presents a 30th Anniversary Concert starring Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming. Conducted by James Conlon, the concert features many of opera’s greatest arias and duets.

Off Grand

LA Opera’s Off Grand initiative was developed to expand on traditional ideas of the operatic experience by experimenting with performance spaces, creative artists new to the genre, and a variety of musical styles. Here is a look at the 2015/16 Season:

  • The West coast premiere of Song from the Uproar, by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, explores the fascinating life and death of adventurer Isabelle Eberhardt and will be performed at REDCAT from October 8 through 11, 2015.
  • Philip Glass’s contemporary score for Bela Lugosi’s classic 1931 film Dracula will be performed live by the composer, joined by the Kronos Quartet, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, a 1927 Spanish Gothic movie palace, from October 29 through 31, 2015.
  • On December 12, 2015, Erwin Schrott returns in Rojotango in Concert, a tribute to the music of his native South America in a program featuring tangos by Astor Piazzola and Pablo Ziegler as well as Argentinean and Brazilian folk songs.
  • Free performances of a community opera for families, The Festival Play of Daniel, will be conducted by James Conlon and performed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on March 4 and 5, 2016.

The season concludes with the world premiere of Anatomy Theater by composer David Lang and visual artist Mark Dion, presented at REDCAT. Based on actual 18th-century texts, Anatomy Theater follows the progression of an English murderess from confession to execution and, ultimately, public dissection before a paying audience of fascinated onlookers.*

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Photos courtesy of LA Opera.


HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEKEND IN LOS ANGELES

August 18, 2015

By Don Heckman

Wednesday August 19 at Catalina Bar & Grill

Sally Kellerman

Sally Kellerman

She may be best known for her high visibility role as “Hot Lips Houlihan” in the film M*A*S*H.  But Sally Kellerman has been a gifted singer since she was a teen-ager.  And in her post-acting career, Sally has displayed the qualities of a musical artist with the imaginative skills to move across genres reaching from pop and country to blues and jazz.  Appropriately, and convincingly, her current performances are headlined “A Little Jazz, a Little Blues, a Little Rock ‘n’ Roll.”  Expect to enjoy every minute.

Catalina Bar & Grill  (323) 466-2210.

 

Wednesday August 19 at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

Pat Senatore

Pat Senatore

Veteran bassist Pat Senatore has played with just about every performer in the music world, regardless of genre, whenever he isn’t serving as the music director for Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. or providing solid backing for the club’s diversified line up of acts.  This time, however, Pat takes center stage for an evening he describes as “Pat Senatore’s Big Bad B-Day Celebration.” Joining him is a stellar list of players, including Steve Hufsteter, Chuck Manning, Tina Raymond, his Ascensione Trio, featuring Josh Nelson, and probably more.  Don’t miss the fun.

Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Friday August 21 at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist in Goleta CA.

Teka

Singer/guitarist Teka is most frequently heard in her home territory around Santa Barbara.  As she will for this performance.  But it’s well worth a trip north for Angelenos to hear this extraordinarily gifted performer in live action with her New Bossa group. The Southland is blessed with a plethora of Brazilian artists.  But Teka is one of a kind, an artist who balances a strikingly authentic foundation of Brazilian roots, tracing to her youthful years in Sao Paulo, with the imaginative inventiveness of a mature jazz artist.  Experience the live thrills of Brazil up close and swinging.

Live Oak Unitarian Universalist in Goleta CA.

Friday August 21 at Catalina Bar & Grill

Mark Winkler

Mark Winkler

Mark Winkler

Singer/lyricist Winkler celebrates the release of his latest album, the appropriately titled, Jazz and Other Four Letter Words.  The whimsical Winkler isn’t kidding about the importance of his commitment to jazz, which has evolved into the foundation of his vocal art.   And he underscores the title of the album by listing a few of the “Four Letter Words” he has in mind — words such as Jazz, Cool, Neat, Bird, Duke, Prez and Mark.  All will no doubt be present in this exhilarating jazz evening, no doubt enhanced by the guest star presence of his frequent singing partner, Cheryl Bentyne.

Catalina Bar & Grill  (323) 466-2210.

Saturday August 22 at Catalina Bar & Grill

Terry Bozio

Terry Bozio

Terry Bozio

In a career reaching back to the seventies, dynamic rock drummer Terry Bozio has been an especially high voltage performer with Missing Persons and Frank Zappa.  Always an exciting performer to hear in his appearances with a range of bands, he now reveals his leadership qualities as well, bringing his irresistible groove to a rare Southland club performance.

Catalina Bar & Grill  (323) 466-2210.

Sally Kellerman photo by Bonnie Perkinson, Pat Senatore photo by Bob Barry.

 


Musical Theatre: “A Night With Janis Joplin” at the Pasadena Playhouse

August 10, 2015
Mike Finkelstein

Mike Finkelstein

By Mike Finkelstein

If you have even a kernel of curiosity about the legend of Janis Joplin or if you simply want to see some great rock-related live musical theater, you will want to get to the Pasadena Playhouse and see A Night with Janis Joplin before it closes on August 23. Putting this production into this beautifully restored venue in Old Towne Pasadena is a superb match.

They nailed the hippie esthetic — a classy set in a classy theater. The stage was covered with some of the snazziest hippie tapestries available, an iconic Egyptian-styled chair that Janis made famous, several very groovy, fringed lamps, and of course the velvet, boas, fringes, and beads in the costuming.

This production, created, written and directed by Randy Johnson, is signed, sealed and delivered with the uncanny performance by Tony-nominated Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin.

Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin

To say she becomes Janis Joplin for the role may sound clichéd, but it was downright mesmerizing to watch Davies nail all of Janis’ mannerisms, quirks, and nuances in speech, song, and posture. Her speaking voice had the same giggling, twang and her hair even hung down from her temples just the way Janis’ did when she bent down to belt out a phrase. It seemed to me that Davies didn’t need to stretch much to carry the role of Janis Joplin.

And Davies was hardly in a talent bubble with a supporting cast of similarly powerful girl singers surrounding her as the Joplinaires. The girls also played the part of the girl group the Chantels, whose haunting gem “Maybe” was a huge influence on young Janis’ appreciation of how well music can put across powerful emotions. Yvette Cason (Aretha Franklin/Nina Simone), Sylvia MacCalla (Bessie Smith/Odetta), and Jenelle Lynne Randall (Etta James) all did justice to the luminaries they portrayed.

A Night With Janis Joplin is not a plot heavy show. In fact, the format is more or less like a VH1 Storytellers show, where the performer chooses material, introduces it anecdotally, and then performs it with a band. In A Night With Janis Joplin, Janis affably welcomes us into her life and presents us with the songs and the emotions that powered them for her. Because it’s musical theater, we get to see her talk about Etta James, Nina Simone, Odetta, Aretha Franklin and Bessie Smith, and then have these characters come out and proceed to lay down exactly what Janis is talking about.

The script is cleverly written to allow Davies to welcome us with stories from Janis’ vantage point. She leads with stories like when she and her siblings made their house cleaning chores into a production, performing Porgy and Bess and other musicals to records supplied by their mother as they worked. Following this lead-in is a great comparison of “Summertime,” sung bluesy and powerfully by Jenelle Randall and then rearranged by Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band’s version of this ubiquitous song was an early glimpse of the possibilities in interpreting traditional tunes with a rock slant. The elegantly busy bass lines, the beautiful harmony guitar lines, and the wonderful dynamics of the new version were an innovative high water mark at the time. Janis’ vocal on it was classic and to watch Davies sing it Friday was to know that she has been doing it for most of her life. She owned it. The band gave “Summertime” a real workout as they also did to “Piece of My Heart,” and “Cry Baby.”

A Night with Janis Joplin - Photo by Joan Marcus

A Night with Janis Joplin – Photo by Joan Marcus

Janis brought up the notion that songwriters ask so many good questions…but don’t answer them. The choices of songs like “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Down on Me,” and “Tell Mama,” give us a sense of what rang true to Janis in other people’s music. One major theme of Janis Joplin’s life was that though she yearned for real love, she also needed to be on stage to be whole. And these considerations were often at odds with each other. She made the point that she just might not choose a good man over a good audience. This was a person who would not hesitate to go against the grain if it meant being true to herself.

It’s impossible to think about Janis Joplin without confronting the fact that alcohol and drug abuse led to her untimely death at the young age of 27. There’s no way around the fact that she was one of the founding members of the “27 club,” which also tragically includes mega-talents like Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Though she casually picks up a bottle once in the show, the subject of booze, drugs, and self-medication are just not part of the program. It would have been fun to listen to the spunky and insightful rationale for this behavior that Davies’ Janis could surely have supplied.

Towards the end of her abruptly shortened career, Janis severed ties with Big Brother and took on Full Tilt Boogie as her backing band. It was with them that she made some of her most appealing and tastefully arranged music. Songs like “Half Moon,” and “Move Over,” and “Get It While You Can” would have been worthy of making the cut in the production, even though “Kozmic Blues,” and “Bobby McGee” did. Still it’s six of one and half dozen of the other. The material in the production is top flight, and it’s played and sung impeccably. Davies is a true dynamo as Janis, and transcended the show into something very special.

A NIght With Janis Joplin, photo by Earl Gibson III

A NIght With Janis Joplin, photo by Earl Gibson III

Walking out of the Pasadena Playhouse, I felt like I’d gotten to experience more of Janis than I had anticipated, both musically and spiritually. As I watched people sporting flowers in their hair, bell bottoms, and headbands like it was a costume party, I had to once again realize that the hippie days were, at their purest, a very creative time in history, and Janis Joplin was as iconic a hippie personality as there ever will be. But those days are long gone and a show like this is the closest most people will probably come to connecting with it. I’m delighted to have known her music years before she died and to know that a show like this one does real justice to her legacy. And what could be more important than that?

A Night With Janis Joplin continues at the Pasadena Playhouse through August 23.

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


Live Jazz: The Jennifer Scott Trio in a Siskiyou Music Project performance at the Paschal Winery.

August 4, 2015

By Don Heckman

Talent, Oregon. Singer/pianist Jennifer Scott drove through the forest fire smoke in southern Oregon Sunday to perform a memorable evening of jazz versions of Great American Songbook classics – and a lot more. Her Trio included her husband, bassist Rene Worst, and guitarist Ed Dunsavage.

As the creative director of the Siskiyou Music Project‘s programming, Dunsavage has produced dozens of fine jazz programs. And this was one of his best, in part because of the superb musicality of the Canadian couple of Scott and Worst. But also, too, due to Dunsavage’s own impressive jazz skills.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott

The Scott Trio has been playing dates together recently, and the blend between these three gifted players might best be described as creatively symbiotic music-making.

Scott was the focus of an essentially vocal evening of music. And with good reason. Blessed with a voice that soars across octaves, she also possesses a warmth and intimacy of tone, and the interpretive musical skills of a born story teller. And she sounded completely at home in the company of her Trio’s bass, guitar and her piano, a setting that also provided ample space for each player to solo freely.

Well thought-out arrangements added an additional touch to an evening of music further enhanced by the colorful setting of the Paschal Winery.

Rene Worst and Ed Dunsavage

Rene Worst and Ed Dunsavage

Scott’s choice of songs was superb, ranging from blues to bossa nova, from standards to songs of the sixties. And she handled each genre with interpretive authenticity.

The blues came early, starting with “Rocks In My Bed” followed much later by a closing jam showcasing Scott’s impressive scat singing.

The Brazilian material included “Sonho Meu,” a song associated with Maria Bethania, and the Jobim classic “Agua De Beber.” Add to this the gorgeous Italian song “Estate,” often sung with a bossa nova foundation. And here, too, Scott revealed yet another convincing musical perspective – with the aid of Worst and capturing the subtle flow of Brazilian rhythms.

And there was more: An impressive display of Scott’s solid jazz skills in stunning romps through Thelonious Monk’s “Play Twice” and Chick Corea’s “Armandos Rhumba.” Here, as elsewhere, her piano comping and soloing also provided full and equal improvisational partnership to the bass and guitar.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott

Add to that the stylistic authenticity of Scott’s interpretations of standards such as “I’m Old Fashioned,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “My Foolish Heart,” as well as such ’60s items as James Taylor’s “The Secret of Life.”

Then, calling upon her enthusiastic listeners to join in, she offered an emotionally touching reading of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” with everyone joining in on the chorus. It was the perfect climax to a perfect musical evening. Thanks to the Siskiyou Music Project for showcasing the Jennifer Scott Trio in a performance to remember.

The Siskiyou Music Project’s 2015 season closes on August 22 with “Celebrating Sinatra: Leslie Kendall and Friends.”

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

 


HIGHLIGHT OF THE NEW YORK WEEKEND: SINGER/SONGWRITER/PIANIST ELLA LEYA PERFORMS SUNDAY NIGHT AT JOE’S PUB

July 31, 2015

By Don Heckman

Singer/songwriter and pianist Ella Leya makes her New York debut at Joe’s Pub on Sunday night.  It’s a rare performance by a gifted artist who should not be missed.

“It’s the voice of Ella Leya that first grabs you,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in reviewing her first album releases. “Simmering with a dark timbre, its velvet surface is occasionally tinged with flashes of sunlight.”

Add to that gently floating rhythms, and the story telling phrases which bring every song she sings vividly to iife.

Ella Leya

Ella Leya

Ella, who was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and emigrated to the U.S. in 1990, eventually reaching the current identity she describes humorously as a “Russian/Californian living in London.”

All of which is true, as well as a creative history which reaches from a career as a well-known Russian jazz singer to more jazz singing in the U.S., followed by a sequence of albums that includes such well reviewed titles as Queen of Night, Secret Lives of Women and Russian Romance., film and television music for Ocean’s Twelve, Dirty, Sexy Money and more.

Her recent album, Russian Romance showcases one of the most irresistibly passionate Russian art song forms, often described as “Russian blues.” The album features combinations of  the lyrical music she has composed to the passionate, often erotic, poetry of some of her favorite Russian poets, including Alexander Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova and others.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Ella’s first novel, The Orphan Sky — which takes place in Communist Baku of the ’70s and ’80s — was described by the New York Journal of Books as “visceral and exotic as any spy novel and as authentically convincing as The Kite Runner.”

Ella Leya’s performance at Joe’s Pub will touch upon the full range of her creative life, including her captivating vocals, songs and piano stylings as well as a brief reading or two from The Orphan Sky.

Her set will also include a special guest artist: Janina Gavankar, star of True Blood and the Mysteries of Laura.

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Ella Leya sings her song “I Wish I Could” (from The Secret Lives of Women) in a video featuring Janina Gavankar.


The Central Avenue Jazz Festival This Weekend

July 25, 2015
Brick Wahl

Brick Wahl

By Brick Wahl

In my heart of hearts, my favorite jazz festival ever has always been the one held every year on Central Avenue in the shadow of the Dunbar Hotel. It’s close to the roots of jazz in this town, it has band after swinging band, the musicians play like their lives depended on it, and the crowd is serious jazz loving people. Not college kids or rich westsiders or hipsters or tourists or even jazz critics, just people. Jazz people.

And it’s back again this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, for the twentieth time. Not sure how many I’ve been to but enough that I keep bumping into people I remember on the street there. I’m gonna run through the acts and time and location and incredibly groovy parking set up (Secure lots! Shuttles! Free!) but if you’re already bored by my banter you can head straight through this link to the Central Avenue Jazz Festival itself and read the same thing but with less words and better graphics.

First, where is it? It takes place on Central Avenue, the epicenter for all that was glorious in west coast jazz in the thirties and forties and even into the fifties, between Vernon Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Take the 110 to the MLK exit and head east to Central Avenue. You’ll run right into it.

Parking info is linked here and it’s dreamy. A block shy of Central Avenue on Martin Luther King is Wadsworth Elementary School. It’s free, secure, plentiful and best of all there’s a regular air conditioned shuttle service to carry you the three city blocks to the Festival. It winds you through the charming neighborhood and then stops and the doors open and the sounds of pure jazz fill the bus. You are there. And there’s even another elementary school–Harmony Elementary–that is the same thing. Secure, free and only a block away from the grounds. There’s even a shuttle from there as well, though you can walk the block faster. It’s up to you and your aging knees.

Food and non-alcoholic drink galore, all of it good, some awesome. Peach cobbler to die for. The bean pie man. All that soul food your doctor warned you about. Who knows what else. Plus fruit drinks you are not allowed to pour anything stronger into by law. You read it here first.

There is lots of seating, lots and lots, but never enough. Feel free to bring your own. It is so casual and live-and-let-live no one will care. While people listen here, seriously listen, the vibe is more like the very back of the Hollywood Bowl during the Playboy Jazz Festival, but without the inflatable furniture. Or spliffs. Or smooth jazz.

The Central Avenue Jazz Festival

Because there will be no smooth jazz at the Central Avenue Festival. None that I can see on the schedule this year. Evil types had forced some bogus stuff on the bill the last couple years but from the looks of the schedule this year, all those evil types have been purged. There is not an act this year that is not 100% the real thing. If I am wrong, I will eat my hat, and it’s a big hat.

There are two stages, one at either end, and acts will be appearing in shaded comfort in the lobby of the Dunbar Hotel as well. One stage has more of the main acts, the other more of the newer acts. That varies a bit but that is the gist. Let’s look at the line up on Saturday:

MAIN STAGE 

Saturday, July 25 

11:45 am   LAUSD Beyond The Bell All-City Jazz Big Band–the newest jazz generation cooks.
1:00 pm  Henry Franklin: The Skipper and Crew–They call him Skipper (dig the hat) and he has a kicking quintet that wails in a mid-period kind of John Coltrane way. This crowd brings out the best in them.
2:30 pm Alfredo Rodriguez Trio A phenomenal young pianist from Cuba (if I remember right), he puts on a ferocious show of virtuosity and energy and is a blast to watch. Nice guy, and another of Quincy Jones’ discoveries, and lets hope Quincy is there to dig the scene as well.

 4:00 pm Gerald Wilson Orchestra—We just lost Gerald who would be a ninety-something dervish in front of the most exciting big band on the planet, and between tunes he’d regale the crowd of his days living at the Dunbar hotel seven decades ago and playing at the Club Alabam just next door. It never got more magical than that for me. His extraordinarily talented son Anthony Wilson is leading the band now, and the talent on stage are all superstars, even if the jazz world isn’t yet aware of it. Kamasi Washington–a genuine star–should be there too, just erupting in molten tenor flight the likes of which you have not heard in a long time. (And then he’s over at California Plaza the same night!)

5:30 pm And Poncho Sanchez takes us out, and my guess is he’ll really be working the Stax soul and bugulu as well as his signature Latin jazz sound. Groovin’ to say the least.
And that’s only one stage, there’s another:

 2ND STAGE

  Saturday, July 25

There’s three great sounding saxophonists in a row here. I’ve written about the astonishing talent of Glendale’s own Christopher Astoquilca, and caught Aaron Shaw and Braxton Cook on YouTube. All three are highly recommended so tear yourself away from the main stage for a spell and check some of each. I love how the Festival is booking these brand new jazz artists like this. And the crowd pleasing teenaged bluesman Ray Goran plays some searing guitar to finish out the day on the second stage.

12:00 pm saxist Aaron Shaw Quintet
1:00 pm Christopher Astoquilca A-Tet
2:20 pm Saxophonist Braxton Cook Quartet
3:40 pm 15 years old blues guitarist Ray Goran

And then inside The Dunbar Hotel there are two acts, both featuring community programs nurturing the youngest jazz player:

 Saturday, July 25
  A Place Called Home’s band

2:00 pm Beyond the Bell Combo (LAUSD jazz with I believe Ndugu Chancler directing)
OK, that was all just Saturday. Sunday is just as brilliant:

 MAIN STAGE

Sunday, July 26
11:30 am Jazz America–more of the scary talented young people

12:45 pm  Barbara Morrison The indomitable singer–one of LA’s best ever–will lord it over the stage and owning every song she performs, no matter who did it first. Essential viewing.

2:15 pm John Beasley & MONK ‘estra It’s hard to say too much about how great this band is. It’s pure John Beasley, in that’s he’s taken all the Monk compositions, rendered them new without reducing their Monkishness one iota, and the result is thrilling. State of the art jazz that never gets bogged down by art…this is maybe the best new big band on the planet. Not that I’ve heard every new big band on the planet, but I’d be shocked as hell to hear anything better than Beasley’s mad contraption. Basically, ya gotta be there.

3:40 pm Arturo O’Farrill Quintet The son of NYC latin jazz legend Chico O’Farrill, he had been leading an orchestra doing his pop’s arrangement. Can’t wait to see what this five piece will do.

5:10 pm  Kenny Burrell Big Band You’ve heard of this absolutely legendary jazz guitar player (who, if I remember right, was Duke Ellington’s favorite guitarist). This band recently did a wildly successful show at the John Anson Ford and here he is repeating that success. As you might have guessed, when an icon is leading a band, the ranks are filled with incredible players. What a way to finish he weekend on the main stage.
Of course, there’s a whole other stage:

2ND STAGE

Sunday, July 26 

12:00 pm Saxist Tony White Quintet. Apparently this outfit cooks. Old pals of mine Gary Fukushima (on piano) and Mike Alvidrez (bass) are in the ranks so I will be down there taking notes and making them nervous.

1:25 pm Excellent young pianist Jamael Dean and his quintet.

2:50 pm I’ve seen violinist Dayren Santamaria steal the show at a couple Mongorama gigs and here she is with her own band  Made In Cuba. Can’t imagine this being less than great.

4:20 pm Trombonist Ryan Porter and his group shook the festival to the foundations last year.You’ve seen him with Kamasi Washington, and Kamasi and much the same crew should be back for this one, grooving massively.

And then inside The Dunbar Hotel on Sunday: 

12:00 pm Very talented, very young saxophonist Devin Daniels

2:00 p  A Place Called Home group back one more time.
OK….be there. Hell, it’s free, the parking is there, there’s a freaking shuttle, and the jazz should be absolutely wonderful. Get off the couch and go. OK, gotta run, I’m late for a klezmer gig. (I am, seriously.)

See ya down there people. It’ll be good to see so many of you again….
Brick


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