Live Music: Diana Krall, Gregory Porter and The Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl

August 30, 2015

 

Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

By Devon Wendell

Los Angeles.  It was a night of sheer “crossover” bliss with Gregory Porter and Diana Krall with The L.A. Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl on Friday night.

Diana Krall took the Bowl stage with her current touring band (Anthony Wilson, guitar/arranger, Stuart Duncan, , Patrick Warren, keyboards, Dennis Crouch, bass, and Karriem Riggins on drums) along with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

It’s already well known that Krall is an amazing singer with a subdued and sultry cool contralto voice but what I noticed the most on Friday night was her incredible piano work which was in the style of Duke Ellington, in fact, I felt the presence of Ellington’s ghost throughout Krall’s entire performance. So few jazz- based artists today play piano in that delicately swinging, stride style of Duke Ellington. Krall is a master at it and it accompanies her breathy and dynamic vocal phrasing wonderfully.

Diana Kral

I thought of Duke from the very start of Krall’s set which opened with Johnny Mercer’s “Day In, Day Out”, which Ellington performed frequently throughout his career. It wasn’t just Krall’s piano playing that conjured up Ellington’s spirit; Stuart Duncan’s    style was very reminiscent of Ray Nance’s violin work in Ellington’s band during the 1930s, especially on the more jazz oriented standards.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s string and brass section fit Krall’s choice of material like a glove. Krall’s set was extremely diverse; from George Gershwin’s “Do It Again”, and Harold Arlen’s classic “Let’s Fall In Love” to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Quiet Nights”, and Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower” (the title track to Krall’s latest album).  Anthony Wilson’s virtuosic guitar playing was magnificent throughout. He’s easily one of the finest guitarists I’ve heard in a long time.Wilson also arranged Krall’s rendition of Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On” which swung hard. Anthony Wilson is the son of the late great Gerald Wilson and his skill and devotion to jazz is proof that he’s following in his father’s footsteps.

Ellington’s influence on Krall could even be heard on her more pop/rock flavored material from her Wallflower album such as Leon Russell’s “Superstar”, John Phillip’s “California Dreaming”, and Crowder House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Krall would often alternate between acoustic piano and a Wurlitzer.

Karrien Riggin’s versatile and melodic drumming swung beautifully with Dennis Crouch’s thoughtful and steady bass lines.

Krall’s take on Tom Waitts’ “Temptation” was sexy and funky but went on a little too long with some overindulgent solos by Krall and her band.

A highlight of the entire show was an intimate reading of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You”.  Krall has the uncanny ability to make you truly understand and feel the lyrics to any song she chooses to cover and this was certainly the case here. It felt as if she were addressing a dear friend with love and sincerity. It’s obvious that Krall loves, understands, and respects the material she sings, which is rare these days.

I’ve never heard such a meaningful version of Irving Berlin’s “Isn’t This A Lovely Day” in my life. It was like the sweetest lullaby imaginable.

After a delightful big band arrangement of Jesse Greer and Raymond Klages’ “Just You, Just Me” (with more of Krall’s Ellington-esque piano chops), Krall, her band, and The LA Phil returned for an encore of Nat King Cole’s “I’ll String Along With You.” Crouch played an electric . This was Krall’s most powerful vocal performance of the evening. I can’t think of a better cover to fit her laid back and refined style.

For the last 6 years, Gregory Porter has been captivating audiences all over the world with his distinct fusion of jazz, R&B, gospel, and pop. Porter’s sensitive soulful vocals and his poignant lyrics make him one of the greatest “crossover” jazz singers to surface in many years. His set at the Bowl on Friday night was magnificent. Porter and his band (Chip Crawford, piano/musical director, Emanuel Harrold, drums, Jahmal Nichols, bass, and Yosuke Sato on alto saxophone) kicked off their part of the evening’s program with a brief set of some of his most familiar material such as “Painted On Canvas”, “On My Way To Harlem”,  and “No Love Dying”. The band was delicate and supportive. Sato’s alto sax work was brilliant and soaring. Porter’s stage presence was poised and charmingly engaging.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

“Liquid Spirit” is pure gospel. Porter tried to get the mellow crown to engage in some call and response but it kind of fell flat. Porter joked; “It worked when I did it at The Newport Jazz Festival.”

The highlight of Porter’s set was  “Wolf Cry”, which is a sweet and tender ballad. Crawford’s tasteful and thematic piano accompaniment added to the romantic atmosphere of the song’s lyrics. Porter’s vocal range and phrasing reminds me on a great tenor saxophone player. He’s the kind of singer that instrumentalists copy.  Porter ended his set with a quick gospel reading of the Temptation’s “Poppa Was A Rolling Stone” and “Musical Genocide” which is Porter’s protesting response to much of the violent content churned out by the hip-hop industry.

Porter’s set was a reminder of the importance and influence of gospel music in pop, soul, and contemporary jazz. No one does it like Gregory Porter.

This was the perfect night at The Hollywood Bowl. Porter and Krall are both masters of the American song. Their dignified and original approach to “crossover” jazz was enjoyed by everyone present and I’m sure Duke was listening and was very proud.

* * * * * * * *

To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


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.

 


Live Music: Buddy Guy At UCLA’s Royce Hall

August 14, 2015

By Devon Wendell

 

 

Los Angeles. Buddy Guy kicked off the 2015-2016 Center For the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Thursday night with a truly mesmerizing performance.

Buddy Guy is the last true prophet of the blues, especially since we recently lost B.B. King. Buddy and his Damn Right Blues Band (Marty Sammon, keyboards, Orlando Wright, bass, Ric Hall, guitar, and Tim Austin on drums) performed a blistering set of no-nonsense Chicago Blues and much more. Since the early ‘60s, Guy has performed and recorded with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Son House and B.B. King (to name only a few). He has the uncanny ability to channel them all in a single performance. This is exactly what he did at Royce Hall on Thursday night.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

This was one of the most focused and coherent Buddy Guy shows I’ve ever witnessed. Guy is often forced to play a medley of familiar blues standards due to the time restraints of the blues festival circuit. The good people at Royce Hall gave Guy and his band an entire hour and forty-five minutes to stretch out and that’s exactly what he did.

Guy played songs in their entirety, opening his set with “Damn Right I Got The Blues,” Eddie Boyd’s slow and pleading “Five Long Years” and Muddy Waters’ boastful “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Sure, Guy would occasionally fall back on his bag of stage tricks, like walking through the audience during a long guitar solo, playing the guitar behind his back and with his teeth, and even playing the guitar with his crotch. However, the greatest moments of the show were when Guy would just stand there onstage and play.

Buddy Guy

Guy also has the greatest backing band. Marty Sammon played some brilliant keyboard solos, even dipping into some apparent jazz influences on “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Orlando Wright and Tim Austin act as the anchors, keeping the groove no matter how wild Guy’s playing can go. Ric Hall is a stellar guitarist with his own distinct sound as well.

Carlos Santana once told me that Buddy Guy is “The Ornette Coleman of electric blues guitar” and he was right. Guy played some piercing, lightning fast runs and a furry of gut wrenching string bends which created tones that no other guitarist can emulate. And these are things that only happen at that exact moment and never repeated again.

A perfect example of this was Guy’s rendition of Guitar Slim’s “The Things I Used To Do.” Slim was one of Guy’s earliest and most potent influences. Guy learned a lot of his stage antics from watching Slim play in Louisiana in the ‘50s. Guy’s version was true to the original and like Guitar Slim, his guitar had gotten way out of tune during this performance. But his tone was so harsh and beautifully evil that it didn’t matter.

The performance started to lose some of its focus during a brief acoustic portion of Guy’s set. Guy and Ric Hall played acoustic guitars and were joined by Wright and Austin on Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say,” “Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” and Cream’s “Strange Brew.” It would have been more fitting if Guy performed some deep Delta blues on acoustic like he did on his 2003 album “Blues Singer” (Silvertone), but it was still a lot of fun.

The highlight of Guy’s set was the title track from his new album Born To Play Guitar (RCA) which was a pure Chicago blues in the style of his former mentors and employers Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers. On this number, Guy preaches about his love for his instrument and where it’s taken him throughout his incredible life.

Guy played an electric sitar on his 2008 soul ballad “Skin Deep.” He didn’t play the electric sitar in an “orthodox” manner, and thank God for that. He conjured up sounds on the instrument that no one would have thought possible when it was invented in the late ‘60s.

Guy finished his show with his baby-boomer crowd pleasing medley of Jimi Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child”, and Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” This was a beautiful performance. Guy is still one of the most powerful singers in the history of American music.

Opening up for Guy was Los Angeles’s own The Record Company (Chris Vos, vocals, guitar, lap-steel guitar, pedal steel guitar, harmonica), Alex Stiff, (bass, guitars, piano, vocals), and Marc Cazorla, (drums, piano, and vocals.)

The Record Company

The Record Company

This band sounds like a cross between The Yardbirds of the late ‘60s, Elmore James, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Their performance was electrifying. Chris Voss played some incredible slide guitar on his lap, using an acoustic guitar that the late Johnny Winter had given him. He alternated between guitar, harmonica, and lead vocals. Alex Stiff’s bass playing was tight and funky and Marc Cazorla’s drumming was hypnotic and in the pocket.

The band played such original material as “Goodbye Sad Eyes,” “Got Me On The Move,” “Feel So Good”and finally “Don’t Let Me Get Lonely” during their brief set which truly rocked the house. Voss is a magnetic front-man whose dedication to the blues was apparent during the band’s entire performance. The Record Company was raw, loud, nasty, and the perfect band to start the evening’s festivities. This is a band to look out for if you haven’t already.

This was a perfect evening of raw blues performed by both a band of newcomers dedicated to the heart and soul of the music, and a true legend and master who is the last of the “old” bluesmen. I can’t imagine a better way to kick off UCLA’s CAP new concert season.

* * * * * * * *

To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


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.

* * * * * * * *

To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


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


Live Impressions: Rich Little at the Laugh Factory

July 21, 2015

By James DeFrances

Las Vegas. Last week, veteran master impressionist Rich Little premiered his new show at the Laugh Factory in the Las Vegas Tropicana Hotel and Casino.

The brand new show “Rich Little Live” tells his life story through a series of archived video clips, live impressions and music. Often billed as the greatest impressionist of all time, Little soared through plenty of his most famous impersonations.

On the bill were his impersonations of legends such as Jack Benny, Jack Lemmon, Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Ronald Reagan and more. In a career that spans over five decades Little had the privilege to call many of the stars he impersonates his personal friends.

Rich Little as Jack Benny

Rich Little as Jack Benny

An enthralled capacity level crowd beamed at the impressive video montage being shown on the large monitors. Excerpts shown included Little guest hosting The Tonight Show (which he did 12 times), The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts (of which he appeared in 24), The Judy Garland Show (his first television appearance) and The Dinah Shore Show to name a few. One of the highlights of the night was Little singing an updated parody version of Judy Garland’s “The Man That Got Away” as Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood and Willie Nelson.

An excellent singer in his own right, Little went on to perform Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” Frank Sinatra’s “My Kind of Town” (with the original seldom heard verse) and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” The musical segments were directed superbly by Little’s personal arranger and conductor Chuck Hoover who played every instrument on his synthesized keyboard.

Rich Little as Richard Nixon

Rich Little as Richard Nixon

Most famously known for his impersonation of Richard Nixon, Little also portrayed a re-enactment of the Ronald Reagan White House press conference (which he filled in for) and Bill Clinton, who Little explained was “a man who wrote a lot of material for me.”

In an hour long show that ended almost too soon, Little closed by thanking the audience for their support over the years and sang the self-penned torch song “I’ll Be Here Till The Bitter End” sitting on a bar stool accompanied by just a piano.

Little appears in the Laugh Factory theatre every night at 7PM except for Mondays and Fridays and will be performing his “Jimmy Stewart and Friends” show at The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on July 31st.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by James DeFrances. To read more reviews by (and about) James DeFrances click HERE.

 

 


Picks of the Weekend in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York City

July 10, 2015

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Barbara Morrison

Barbara Morrison

– July 10 and 11. (Fri. & Sat. Barbara Morrison. She’s been busy around town lately, but Barbara Morrison is always a musical pleasure to experience. Here’s another welcome opportunity to hear her up close in action. Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

– July 10 and 11. Fri. & Sat. Jack Jones. Grammy winner Jones, still sounding great in his late seventies, delivers songs in the classic pop and jazz style of the ’60s. Catalina Bar and Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Macy Gray

Macy Gray

– July 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.) Macy Gray. Multiple Grammy award winner singer/songwriter Gray celebrates her latest album The Way. Yoshi’s.  (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

– July 10 -12. (Fri. – 12.) Boney James. Jazz Alley. Smooth jazz acts don’t often make the Picks of the Week here at iRoM. But if we’re going to choose one, there’s none more popular in ths genre than saxophonst Boney James.  (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

Pharez Whitted

Pharez Whitted

– July 10 – 12`. 9Fri. – Sun.) Pharez Whitted Quintet. Chicago’s trumpeter Whitted doesn’t yet have the visibility his skills deserve, but he’s doing his best to keep hard bop alive. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234

New York City

– July 12 (Sun.) The Cast of Phantom Sings Andrew Lloyd Webber. The current Phantom on Broadway, James Barbour joins the hit show’s cast in a tribute to the show’s composer. Birdland.

Washington D.C.

Jean Carne

Jean Carne

 

– July 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.) Jean Carne. ‘The 40 Year Tour). Veteran singer Carne celebrates a career that reaches across jazz, blues, pop and beyond. Blues Alley.   337-4141.

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 255 other followers