Picks of the Week: May 14 – 19

May 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Brenna Whitaker

Brenna Whitaker

– May 15. (Wed.)  Brenna Whitaker.  She could have been a ‘30s platinum blond star.  But Whitaker doesn’t just look good; she can sing, too.  This time out she picks a set of tunes to enhance the birthday of Vibrato co-owner Eden Alpert.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– May 15. (Wed.)  Lado B Project.  A lively evening of Brazilian music, featuring Otmaro Ruiz, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Edwin Livingston, bass, Aaron Serfaty, drums and Catina DeLuna, voice.  Brazilian music.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– May 16. (Thurs.)  Lisa Hilton. The ever adventurous pianist/composer Hilton continues her quest for new musical territories for her to explore. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– May 16. (Thurs.)  John Proulx.  Singer/pianist Proulx has begun to claim a position in the rare category of male jazz singer.  Proulx, like his musical role model, Chet Baker, brings the flowing phrases of his instrumental playing to his vocal interpretations.    H.O.M.E. (House of Music and Entertainment)   (310) 271-4663.

– May 17. (Fri.)  Jim Snidero Group.  Saxophonist Snidero’s lengthy resume reaches from his own numerous recordings to performances with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Frank Wess. The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester

– May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Melissa Manchester. She’s been producing memorable music since the ‘70s, including “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.”  Here’s a chance to catch her in one of her rare club appearances. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.  This is a stellar organ trio if ever there was one.  Each of the players is an influence in his own right.  Don’t miss them.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– May 17 – 19, 23 & 25. (Fri. – Sun., Thurs., Sat.)  Mozart/Da Ponte TrilogyThe Marriage of Figaro. The second of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s three year trilogy of opera by Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The great comic opera is performed in a concert staged version by the Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists.  Disney Hall.  http://www.laphil.com  (323) 850-2000.

– May 19. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Concerto Finale.  The LACO players offer a fascinating evening of concertos, including Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto, and an offbeat bassoon concerto performed with a 1927 silent film.  Add the Beethoven Coriolan Overture and anticipate an engaging program.   CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-4321.

– May 19. (Sun.)  Deborah Voigt.  Critically acknowledged as one of the classical music world’s dramatic sopranos, Voigt – who roves freely from Wagner to Puccini – offers an intimate recital of works by Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein and more.  Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

San Francisco

Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck

– May 16 – 19 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Bela Fleck solo.  Banjo master Fleck has performed in every imaginable setting.  But he is especially compelling musically when he plays in the creative intimacy of a solo performance.  SFJAZZ Center Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.


– May 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  John Hammond.  Praised by the likes of Tom Waits and T-Bone Burnett, Grammy-winning guitarist/singer/harmonica player Hammond keeps the blues alive in everything he plays.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York City

– May 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  Bossabrasil.  Featuring Dori Caymmi with special guest, Joyce.  Rio comes to Manhattan in the form of a pair of Brazil’s most versatile and gifted musical artists.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– May 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Gil Evans Project.  Directed by Ryan Truesdell.  An amazing week of music, featuring a large ensemble exploring the full range of Gil Evans’ extraordinary talents.  The selections for each night include Gil Evans’ music for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, “Out of the Cool,” “New Bottle, Old Wine,” “Great Jazz Standards,” “The Individualism of Gil Evans,” “Miles Ahead,” “Porgy and Bess,” Check with the club for scheduling.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.


Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes

– May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band. The Fountain of Youth has had the biggest impact upon the leader, drummer and role model in this band.  At 88, Haynes is still playing with the imagination and energy of youth.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.


– May 17 & 18.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Lee Ritenour.  He used to be called “Captain Fingers” in honor of his high-speed dexterity.  But guitarist Ritenour has a more lyrical side as well, often employing octave melody style of his favorite musical model, Wes Montgomery.  A-Trane.    +49 30 3132 ext. 550


– May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Mark Whitfield.  Dubbed the “best young guitarist in the business” by the New York Times, Whitfield performs with a trio of prime Danish jazz musicians: Henrik Gunde, piano, Kasper Vadsholt, bass and Rasmus Kihlberg, drums.  Jazzhus Montmartre.   +45 31 72 34 94


Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

– May 18. (Sat.) Anat Cohen.  Clarinetist/saxophonist Cohen is in the forefront of an impressive generation of female jazz instrumentalists.  She’s backed by Jason Lindner, piano, Stefano Bellani, bass and Daniel Freedman, drums.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.


– May 14 – 16. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Benny Golson Quartet.  Tenor saxophonist/composer Golson is still, at age 84, a player with a lot of music to express.  Hopefully he’ll also play some of his jazz hits such as “Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” “Along Came Betty” and more.  The Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Nov. 27 – Dec. 2

November 27, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Welsman

– Nov. 27 & 28. (Tues. & Wed.)  “And Then She Wrote.”  With Peter Marshall, Carol Welsman and Denise Donatelli.  A new version of an entertaining show dedicated to the female composers and lyricists of the Great American Songbook.  Tuesday night the duo of Marshall and Welsman perform; on Wednesday, Donatelli joins them in a trio.  She replaces Calabria Foti from the original cast.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Nov 27 – 30. (Tues. – Fri.)  Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio.  It may sound like an odd combination, but banjoist Fleck and pianist Roberts are both dedicated musical adventurers.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Louie Cruz Beltran

– Nov. 29. (Thurs.)  Louie Cruz Beltran.  The busy percussionist and bandleader adds vocals to his impressive array of entertainment talents, singing and playing Latin Standards, American classics and a few surprises.  He’ll be backed by pianist Carlos Vivas, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Ramon Banda.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– Nov. 29 – Dec. 2.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Marcus Shelby Quartet.  Bassist Shelby offers a program celebrating “the evolution of American social movements through music.”  The Skirball Cultural Centert   (310) 440-4500.

– Nov. 30. (Fri.) Bob Mintzer.  “Homage to Count Basie Band.”  Saxophonist Mintzer leads an evening of big band music dedicated to the classic rhythms of the Basie Band, and featuring some of the Southland’s finest players. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Dec. 1 (Sat.)  The Anonymous 4. The all-female vocal quartet, well-known for their Renaissance music performances, take a different tack with  “Love Fail,” a contemporary work composed by David LangCAP UCLA Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2101.

Bill Cunliffe

– Dec. 1. (Sat.) Bill Cunliffe’s Big Band “Holiday Kick-Off.”  The Big Band weekend at Vitello’s continues with pianist/arranger/composer Cunliffe’s celebration of the holiday season. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Dec. 1. (Sat.)  8th Annual Fil-Am Jazz Festival. An evening celebrating the growing numbers of fine Filipino jazz artist.  Heading the line-up, Charmaine Clamor, the Queen of Jazzipino.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

– Dec. 2. (Sun.) The Blind Boys of Alabama. The multiple Grammy-winning gospel singers, performing for decades, are a musical inspiration.  An SFJAZZ event at the Herbst Theatre.    (866) 920-5299.


– Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Tom Harrell Quintet. Trumpeter Harrell leads a stellar ensemble in a program displaying his extensive talents as an instrumentalist and composer.   Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

Eliane Elias

– Nov. 27 – Dec. 1. (Tues. – Sat.)  Eliane Elias   Brazilian pianist/singer Elias makes her Birdland debut.  Expect an evening ranging from Elias’ superb jazz piano to her authentically Brazilian way with a song.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– Nov. 27 – Dec. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  Geri Allen ‘s Timeline Band.  Pianist Allen honors the connection between jazz and tap dancing in a performance featuring the rhythmic stepping of dancer Maurice Chestnut. Jazz Standard.   (212) 889-2005.


– Nov. 27 – Dec. 1. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Mingus Big Band.  The music of composer/bassist Mingus is kept vividly alive, in all its many manifestations by the Mingus Big Band.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)20 7439 0747.


Kenny Barron

– Nov. 28 & 29. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Kenny Barron Solo Piano. He’s been everyone’s first call jazz pianist for decades, but the most intriguing way to hear the free-roving Barron improvisational imagination is in this kind of solo piano performance. Jazzhus Montmartre.   (+45) 70 15 65 65.


– Nov. 29. (Thurs.)  Carmen Lundy.  Jazz singer Lundy’s superb interpretive artistry is enhanced by her original songs.  Blue Note Milano.   02.690 16888.


– Nov. 30 – Dec. 3. (Fri. – Mon.)  David Sanborn.  Alto saxophonist Sanborn’s unique, blues-driven style has impacted the past few decades of arriving saxophonists.  He performs selections from his new, 2-CD album, AnthologyBlue Note Tokyo.  03-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Aug. 27 – Sept. 2

August 27, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jason Marsalis

– Aug. 27. (Mon.)  Jason Marsalis Quartet. He may be the youngest member of the illustrious Marsalis jazz family, but drummer/vibraphonist Jason has already established his own impressive musical identity.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Aug. 28 & Aug. 30/ (Tues. & Thurs.)  Carmina Burana. German composer Carl Orf’s cantata, a dramatic setting of medieval poems, is performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Childrens’ Chorus, directed by Spanish conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de BurgosHollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000

– Aug. 28. (Tues.)  Sachsa’s Bloc.  An eclectic group of musicians from countries across Europe offer a collection of music ranging freely across gypsy jazz, contemporary jazz, flamenco, swing, blues and country. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400

Wayne shorter

– Aug. 29. (Wed.)  Celebrating Peace.  Herbie Hancock has gathered a stellar array of musicians to join together in a musical celebration of the pleasures of peace.  The cast includes Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Zakier Hussain, Dave Holland, Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos Santana and others.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 31 and Sept 1. (Fri. & Sat.)  John Williams Maestro of the Movies.  “Musical Maestro” would be a more accurate title for Williams, whose film scores reach from Star Wars and Superman to E.T. and Harry Potter.  He’ll conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in selections from many of his hit films, including a film sequence from E.T. accompanied live by the Philharmonic.  The guest artist is violinist Gil Shaham. Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 31. (Fri.)  Wolfgang Schalk Quartet.  Guitarist Schalk celebrates the release of his new CD Word of Ear with pianist Andy Langham, bassist Michael Valerio and drummer Tom BrechtleinUpstairs at Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Sept. 1. (Sat.)  Wendy Fraser.  Singer-songwriter Fraser has been described by the LA jAzz Scene as a “diamond in the rough” and “a musical force to be reckoned with.”  She makes one of her rare appearances, backed by guitarist John Chiodini, saxophonist Rob Lockhart, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Kendall Kay. Upstairs at Vitallo’s.  http://www.vitellosjazz.com/event/wendy-fraser  (818) 769-0905.

Barbara Morrison

– Sept. 1 & 2. (Sat. & Sun.)  Barbara Morrison returns to Catalina’s for an exciting weekend featuring a pair of different settings: With the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center Big Band (Sat.), and the Barbara Morrison Quartet (Sun.)  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 2. (Sun.)  John Proulx and Pat Senatore.  Pianist/singer Proulx’s laid-back vocals recall the intimate singing of Chet Baker.  He’s backed by the ever-versatile, always supportive Senatore on bass.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 2. (Sun.)  Madeleine Peyroux“The Party Oughta be Comin’ Soon!”  Singer/songwriter/guitarist Peyroux has been one of the music world’s most unique talents since she first arrived on the scene in the mid-‘90s.  And she’s still charting her own creative pathway through song. The Broad Stage.   (310) 434-3200.

Louie Cruz Beltran

– Sept. 2. (Sun.)  The Fourth Annual La Vida Music Festival. La Vida returns with its annual celebration of the great pleasures of Latin music, in all its forms.  And what better time to do it than during National Hispanic Heritage Month.  This year’s far-ranging music features Louie Cruz Beltran and his Latin Jazz Ensemble, Incendio, the Plaza de la Raza Youth Mariachi and the Ted and Pablo Choro Ensemble with special guest Chalo Eduardo.  The Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

San Francisco

– Aug. 29 – Sept. 2. (Wed. – Sat.)  Bela Fleck & the Marcus Roberts Trio. It’s an off-beat combination – Fleck’s unique banjo playing and the straight ahead jazz trio of pianist Roberts, drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Rodney Jordan. They’ll no doubt play selections from their new recording together – Across the Imaginary Divide. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Washington D.C.

– Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mose Allison. The inimitable Bard of the Bayou and his suitcase full of songs can always be counted on to provide a swinging, blues-driven evening of song and wisdom. Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

– Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Jenny Scheinman Quartet.  Violinist Scheinman showcases her eclectic musical interests with pianist Jason Moran, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Rudy RoystonVillage Vanguard.  (212) 929-4589.

– Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  Charlie Parker Birthday Celebration.  What would have been the 92nd birthday week (the actual birthday is Aug. 29) of the legendary alto saxophonist is celebrated with a musical tribute from Tom Harrell, trumpet, Vincent Herring, alto saxophone, George Cables, piano, Victor Lewis, drums and Lonnie Plaxico, bass.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Ron Carter

– Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Ron Carter Big Band.  Bassist Carter has played with everyboy and led a variety of his own ensembles.  But this, his first big band, wasn’t established until 2011, with arrangements by Bob Freedman.  Featuring a line of major NYC players on stage and Carter up front, expect musical magic to take place.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 889-2005.


– Sept. 2. (Sun.)  The Story So FarRonnie Scott’s Jazz OrchestraPete Lang leads an assemblage of the U.K.’s finest jazz players in an exploration of the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, the Rat Pack and Benny Goodman.  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.


– Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Mingus Big Band.  The rich musical legacy of bassist/composer Charles Mingus continues to find new musical expression in the hands of the superb Mingus Big Band. The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter photos by Tony Gieske. 

Here, There & Everywhere: The 2012 Jazz Grammy Winners

February 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

The 2012 Grammys are in, and once again there’s not much sound of surprise in the results.  Certainly nothing in the same ballpark as last year’s Best New Artist award for Esperanza Spalding.  That’s not to say that any of the wins were undeserved.  Because they all were the products of gifted artists doing their best. Nor were any of the nominees any less deserving than the winners.

Still, both the awards and the Recording Academy’s current approach to jazz raise some questioning observations.  Take, for example, the inclusion of Terri Lyne Carrington’ s The Mosaic Project in the Jazz Vocal grouping.  Doesn’t it seem inevitable that a collection of songs by such major names as Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cassandra Wilson and, yes, Esperanza Spalding (among others) is going to have a major head start in any competition against recordings by single artists?  What chance did the other nominees – especially the unusually superlative trio of albums from Tierney Sutton, Roseanna Vitro and Karrin Allyson – have against a full line-up of such musical heavyweights?

Notice, too, some of the repetitions: multiple nominations for Randy Brecker, Fred Hersch and Sonny Rollins.  Great artists, all, but where are the nominations for the youngest generation of jazz players?  It’s worth noting that Gerald Clayton is the only nominee still in his twenties.  And Miguel Zenon is the only nominee still in his thirties.

Add to that several aspects in this year’s awards procedures that underscore the diminishing role that jazz is playing in the Grammy overview.  Start with the reduced number of categories.  In 2011 there were six: Contemporary Jazz Album, Vocal Album, Improvised Jazz Solo, Jazz Instrumental Album (Individual or Group), Large Jazz Album and Latin Jazz Album.

This year, there are four: Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Some jazz fans won’t miss the Contemporary category, despite the fact that its absence eliminates the presence of some fine, pop-oriented jazz stylists.  But the Latin Jazz omission is unforgivable, and should receive careful re-consideration in the planning for next year’s Grammys.

In the listings below, I’ve also included Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best Instrumental Composition, because, in these nominees, the emphasis is almost completely in the direction of jazz.  They could easily have had different orientations — pop, rock, electronica, classical and otherwise — given the all-inclusive nature of the descriptions “Instrumental Arrangement” and “Instrumental Composition.”

Ultimately, the single word that comes to mind in considering all the above is “irrelevant.”  Receiving a Grammy award continues to be one of the music world’s greatest honors – for the individual artist.  And every jazz player –like every other musical artist – has to be delighted to receive the gold statuette.  But the overall significance of the Grammys to jazz, the Awards’ full commitment to honoring one of America’s greatest cultural contributions, continues to diminish.  And if it continues in its current direction, the long, historical Grammy/jazz connection won’t just be irrelevant, it’ll be non-existent.

Here are this year’s awards:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

 Winner.  Chick Corea : “Five Hundred Miles Highfrom Forever.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker: “All or Nothing at All” from The Jazz ballad Song Book

Ron Carter: “You Are My Sunshine” from This Is Jazz.

Fred Hersch: “Work” from Alone at the Vanguard.

Sonny Rollins: “Sunnymoon For Two: from Road Shows, Vol. 2.

Best Jazz Vocal album

Winner: Terri Lyne Carrington and Various Artists: The Mosaic Project.

Other Nominees:

Tierney Sutton Band: American Road

Karrin Allyson: ‘Round Midnight.

Kurt Elling: The Gate.

Roseanna Vitro: The Music of Randy Newman.

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Winner: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke & Lenny White.  Corea, Clark & White.

Other Nominees:

Gerald Clayton: The Paris Sessions.

Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard.

Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs.

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol.2

Yellowjackets: Timeline.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Winner: Christian McBride Big Band. The Good Feeling.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker with the WDR Big Band: The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: 40 Acres and a Burro.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra; Legacy.

Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Best Instrumental Arrangement

Winner: Gordon Goodwin: Rhapsody in Blue.

Other Nominees:

Peter Jensen: ‘All or Nothing At All” (for Randy Brecker with the GDR Big Band)

Clare Fischer: “In the Beginning: (from the Clare Fischer Big band’s Continuum.)

Bob Brookmeyer: “Nasty Dance.” (from the Vanguard Jazz Orchstra’s Forever Lasting).

Carlos Franzetti: “Song Without Words” (from Alborada).

Best Instrumental Composition

Winner: Bela Fleck and Howard Levy: “Life In Eleven” from Rocket Science.

Other Nominees:

John Hollenbeck: “Falling Men” from Shut Up and Dance.

Gordon Goodwin: “Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn) from That’s How We Roll.

Randy Brecker: “I Talk To The Trees” from The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Russell Ferrante: “Timeline” from Timeline.

Live Music: Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain at Royce Hall

October 23, 2009

By Don Heckman

The idea of assembling a trio consisting of banjo, string bass and tabla drums doesn’t, on the face of it, appear to be one of the more intriguing musical concepts of recent memory.  When the players, however, consist of banjoist Bela Fleck, string bassist Edgar Meyer and tabla drummer Zakir Hussain, the notion suddenly appears to have some doable possibilities.

Bela Fleck Zakir Hussain  Edgar Meyer

Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer

Many of those possibilities were realized in impressively musical fashion Thursday night during the trio’s performance in a UCLA Live program at Royce Hall. Each member of the group is, of course, a virtuoso player in his own right, and they have collaborated with each other in the past via various stylistic and ensemble formats. That previous familiarity with each other undoubtedly contributed to the sense of musical ease between the players, the relaxed feeling of almost symbiotic creative compatibility that pervaded the evening’s programming.

The music moved freely across boundaries associated with each player – Western classical music, bluegrass, jazz, Indian classical music, even an occasional taste of funk and groove.  On “Canon,” Fleck and Meyer worked their way through a startlingly complex musical round, with Hussain finding ways to emphasize the shifting rhythmic highlights.  “E-Minor” verged playfully toward a blues groove.  Other pieces dipped into raga-like melodies and tala-like rhythms reminiscent of Indian Classical music, the busy-fingered excitement of bluegrass and a few instances in which the timbres of the three instruments were combined to produce startlingly lush, near-orchestral sounds.

Given the virtuosic skills of the players, it was only appropriate that each was assigned a technique-displaying showcase opportunity.  And the results were extraordinary.  Meyer’s segment included an astonishing display of blindingly rapid arco laying.  Fleck, in his solo, displayed a range of sounds, textures and harmonic density that I’ve rarely – if ever – heard emanating from the banjo.  Hussain’s offering was both musically startling and entertainingly witty, ranging from the swift, precise rhythmic articulation and palm-driven pitch changes characteristic of the Indian classical style to a humorous (but musically serious) romp through the vocal solfege that is part of the complex Indian percussionist’s drumming technique.

What Fleck, Meyer and Hussain have done with this unique congregation is to open a door to fascinating new musical possibilities.  And I wonder how soon it will be before some enterprising composers – beyond the imaginative members of the trio themselves – explore the remarkable potentials in timbre, rhythm and pitch range that exists in this disparate, but compelling instrumental combination.

Picks of the Week: Oct 20 – 25

October 19, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Oct. 20. (Tues.)  Kelly Mittleman.  A former journalist and correspondent for NPR and CBS, Mittleman is also a songwriter of striking originality and a singer with a sound and style all her own.  She makes her West Coast debut in this one-nighter at Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.  .

Andrea Wolper

Andrea Wolper

– Oct. 21 – 23. (Wed. – Fri..)  Andrea Wolper.  Versatile singer/actress/writer Wolper brings her atmospheric interpretations to every song she sings – including her own.  She  rarely performs in the  Southland, but this week Wolper appears in several locations.  None, unfortunately, are in L.A.  But she can be heard  at Dizzy’s Jazz in San Diego (Wed.); Jazz at the Merc in Temecula (Thurs.); Time in a Bottle Wine Merchants in Redlands (Fri.).

– Oct. 22. (Thurs.)  Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer. Three players from utterly different musical backgrounds make a seemingly unlikely combination, with Fleck’s banjo, Hussain’s Indian percussion and Meyer’s bass coming together to affirm music’s utter universality.  UCLA live at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-4401

– Oct. 22. (Thurs.)  Joe La Barbera Quartet.  Versatile drummer La Barbera steps out front to lead his own band.  And what a band it is: Bob Sheppard, reeds, Clay Jenkins, trumpet, Bill Cunliffe, piano, Tom Warrington, bass.  Vitellos Restaurant.  (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 22. (Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli.  A honey and whiskey sound, a rhythmic lift and a boundless musical imagination – that’s Donatelli.  Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge.  (310) 642-7500.

Omara Portuondo

Omara Portuondo

– Oct. 23. (Fri.) Omara Portuando. In her first U.S. tour since 2004, Portuando – a veteran Cuban artist who first came to the attention of American audiences with the Buena Vista Social Club – is, at 78, still singing the history of Cuban music.  UCLA live at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-4401

– Oct. 23.  (Fri.)  Phil Ranelin & Tribe Renaissance. Trombonist Ranelin has discovered a wealth of interesting timbres, harmonies and sheer energy in his trombone, woodwinds and rhythm Tribe Renaissance.  The Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside.  (310) 649-1776.

– Oct. 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.)  Lee Ritenour.  “Captain Fingers” – so called for both his technical skill and his musical virtuosity – continues to find new jazz adventures.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.


Gal Costa

– Oct. 24. (Sat.) Gal Costa. She’s been a star of Brazilian music since the days of Tropicalismo.  Costa’s skills as a singer are beyond time and style, a uniquely authentic expression of the heart and soul of Brazil.   UCLA live at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-4401

– Oct. 24. (Sat.)  Lavay Smith and Her Hot Skillet Lickers.  Don’t let the name fool you.  Smith sings blues and Swing Era tunes with impressive authenticity, and the Skillet Lickers back her with Basie style rhythms.  CSUN Performing Arts Center (818) 677-1200.

– Oct. 24. (Sat.)  Larry Goldings.  Goldings brings a world of experience and an ever curious musical imagination to his unique approach to both piano and organ.  He’ll be backed by Bob Sheppard, tenor sax,  Gabe Noelk bass, Charles Ruggerio ,drums.  Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

San Francisco

– Oct. 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.)  Billy Cobham and Friends.  Drummer Cobham performs in the company of a solidly contemporary, all-star band: Patrice Rushen, piano, Donald Harrison, alto sax, Lew Soloff, trumpet, Essiet Okon Essiet, bass.  Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200. .

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

– Oct. 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sun.)  David Sanborn. Sanborn has been too rarely credited for the fact that he is the most stylistically influential alto saxophonist of the past two or three decades.  Aspects of his sound and phrasing can be heard in the work of most altoists under the age of 40.  Here’s a chance to hear the original, in his debut performance at Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

– Oct. 20 – 24. (Tues. – Sat.)  Phil Woods Quintet. Still one of the great bebop players, Woods’ alto saxophone is teamed up with Brian Lynch, trumpet, Bill Mays, piano, Steve Gilmore, bass and Bill Goodwin, drums.  Birdland. (212)  581-3080

james_moody right

James Moody

– Oct. 20 – 25.(Tues. – Sun.)  Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars.  It’s a bit of a stretch to call all this line-up “Gillespie Alumni,” but there’s no denying their love for, and understanding of, Dizzy’s musical canon.  The All-Stars include James Moody, tenor sax, Roy Hargrove, trumpet, Roberta Gambarini, vocals,  Steve Davis, alto sax, Cyrus Chestnut, piano, John Lee, bass, Lewis Nash, drums.  Blue Note.   (212)  475-8592.

Oct. 21 – 25.  (Wed. – Sun)  Joshua Redman Trio.  Redman displays his extraordinary skills in the most difficult of horn soloist settings, performing with Matt Penman, bass and Greg Hutchinson, drums.  Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.

Picks of the Week: June 9 – 14

June 9, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– June 9. (Tues.) Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra. The sixth annual KKJZ-sponsored Wine, Jazz & Moonlight Series at Hollywood & Highland features a performance by saxophonist Kim Richmond’s 23-piece Concert Jazz Orchestra. From 7 – 9 p.m. in the Central Courtyard. Free admission. A donation of $10 to Project Angelfood will get you two classes of wine and a box of cheese and crackers. Wine, Jazz & Moonlight. (323) 467-6412.

– June 9. (Tues.) The John Altman Quartet. Altman’s resume reaches from composing and arranging for films (“Titanic”), television (“Peak Practice”), thousands of commercials and writing the now famous arrangement for Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” to leading a big jazz band, as well as session work and gigs with the likes of Jimi Hendrix Phil Collins, Sting and Fleetwood Mac. Amazingly, he also manages to keep up his chops as a first rate jazz alto saxophonist. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

– June 10. (Wed.) Elaine Miles’ velvet-dark sound and exquisite way with a song aren’t nearly as well known as they should be. Here’s an opportunity to experience the gifted, Connecticut-born singer’s compelling take on standards, both old and new. Steamers. (714) 871-8800

– June 10 (Wed.) Ron Stout Quartet. A third generation musician and a professional since he was 15, Stout’s first call skills combins imaginative soloing with superb craftsmanship as a section player. Here’s a chance to hear him stretch out on his own. Sangria. (310) 990-0323.


Brian Blade

– June 10 – 13. (Wed. – Sat.) Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band. Blade has been at the top of everyone’s list of musically sensitive drummers – and performing superbly as a regular member of Wayne Shorter’s quartet. But he’s also reserved some imaginative creativity for his own Fellowship Band and, most recently, for his debut as a singer/songwriter on his new CD, “”Mama Rosa.” Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

– June 11. (Thurs.) Playboy Jazz on Film. Every year, jazz film historian Mark Cantor assembles a fascinating array of clips displaying jazz artists in action. The program is the final event in the free jazz programs leading up to this weekend’s Playboy Jazz Festival. Expect to see clips of Freddie Hubbard, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Louis Bellson, Fats Waller, Lennie Tristano and others. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

– June 11. (Thurs.) Dale Fielder Quartet. The versatile Fielder handles four saxophones with ease, from soprano down to baritone. And he does so with the rare ability to play in a style that is characteristic to each of the instruments. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400

– June 11 (Thurs.) Denise Donatelli applies her captivating vocal style to selections from her latest CD, “What Lies Within,” backed by an all-star band – guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Bill Cunliffe, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Mark Ferber. Upstairs at Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– June 11, 12, 13 and 19. (Thurs., Fri. Sat. and Fri.) Boston-based jazz singer Amanda Carr makes a string of Southland stops. Crowne Plaza Hotel, Thurs. (310) 642-7500; Spaghettini in Seal Beach, (562) 596-2199, Fri.; Café Metropol, Sat. (213) 613-1537

– June 11 – 21. (Thurs.,… ) La Didone. Cavalli’s 1641 Baroque opera from 1641 is performed by the Wooster group in a radical production that blends in electric guitar, elements from Mario Bava’s 1965 Sci-FI Cult film, Planet of the Vampires. REDCAT (213) 237-2800.

– June 12. (Fri.) James Newton The virtuosic jazz flutist, composer and educator makes a rare appearance. The World Stage. (323) 293-2451.

– June 12 (Fri.) “When Love Happens: The Loving Day Concert.” Singer Sandra Booker, pianist Tamir Hendleman and the Elevation Strings in a performance “celebrating the legalization of interracial marriage, couples and families in America.” The Madrid Theatre. (818) 347-9419.

Highlight: The Playboy Jazz Festival

-June 13 & 14 (Sat. & Sun.) It’s that time of year. The annual two day, non-stop, let’s-have-a-ball jazz party featuring a pair of gold anniversary celebrations. First: the 50th anniversary of the first Playboy JazzPlayboy logoFestival in Chicago, in 1959. Next: the 50th anniversary of the release of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” the best selling jazz album of all time – with Jimmy Cobb (the sole surviving member of the original “Kind of Blue” ensemble) leading his So What Band in a celebration of the music from that classic recording. Saturday’s festivities include (in addition to Cobb’s group) the Neville Brothers, the Jon Faddis Quartet, the Jack Sheldon Orchestra, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, the Pete Escovedo Orchestra, Esperanza Spalding, the New Birth Brass Band, Summer Storm, the Cos of Good Music and the L.A. County High School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble. Sunday’s line-up includes the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Kenny G, Patti Austin, King Sunny Ade, the Dave Holland Big Band, Monty Alexander’s Jazz & Roots, Oscar Hernandez and the Conga Room All-Stars, the Anat Cohen Quartet, Alfredo Rodriguez and the North Hollywood High School Jazz Ensemble. Bill Cosby is in his usual role as Master of Ceremonies and the conductor (and organizer) of the Cos of Good music group. The Playboy Jazz Festival. The Hollywood Bowl. (310) 450-1173.

San Francisco

– June 8 – 10. Charlie Haden, Bobby Hutcherson and George Cables. The first ever meeting of a group of veteran all-stars who describe their trio as “The Three Friends.” (Yoshi’s has a special deal for this and other Charlie Haden shows. Buy one ticket and get a voucher for a future Yoshi’s San Francisco show — at equal or lesser value.) For information, click here: Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

– June 9 – 27. (Tues. – ) “Porgy and Bess.” Eric Owens and Laquita Mitchell star in Francesca Zambello’s highly praised Washington National Opera version of the classic Gershwin work. The San Francisco Opera version will include an expanded chorus and orchestra and an expanded scenic setting. The War Memorial Opera House. San Francisco. (415) 864-3330.

– June 10 – 12. “Kind of Blue at 50” Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band. Recalling the pleasures of “Kind of Blue,” the best selling jazz record of all time. With Wallace Roney, Javon Jackson, Vincent Herring, Larry Willis, Buster Williams. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.


Lee Konitz

– June 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.) Charlie Haden, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Lee Konitz. A rare combination of seemingly disparate elements – in an exclusive set of performances that someone will hopefully have the good sense to record. (This also is another of the special deals for Charlie Haden shows. Buy one ticket and get a voucher for a future Yoshi’s San Francisco show — at equal or lesser value.) For information, click here: Yoshi’s San Francisco (415) 655-5400.

– June 13 & 14. (Sat. & Sun.) Christian McBride and Inside Straight. Bassist McBride’s new group – featured on the just-released album “Kind of Brown,” brings him back into the acoustic contemporary mainstream, after various flirtations with funk and groove. But McBride, as any musician who’s worked with him will tell you, can play anything with authenticity and imagination. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 2389200.

Santa Rosa

– June 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.) The Harmony Festival. Thirty-one years after founder Debra Giusti started it all at Sonoma State University, the Harmony Festival continues to the pleasures of a music festival with the values of “new ideas, community activism, environmental awareness, spiritual wisdom and holistic products.” The far reaching programs of music and seminars include Michael Franti & Spearhead, India.Arie, Matisyahu, The Refugee All Stars, Balkan Beat Box, The Spirit of Miles Davis (feat. Airto, Mike Stern, Eddie Henderson, Azar Lawrence, etc.), Kitaro, Julia Butterfly Hill, Starhawk, and many others. The Harmony Festival. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa.


– June 11 – 14. (Thurs. Sun.) Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. A four-day, camp-out, multi-stage, 100 acre, Tennessee version of Woodstock. The stellar line-up of acts includes Bruce Springsteen, Phish, Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, David Byrn, Al Green, Snoop Dog, Elvis Costello, Erykah Badu, Merle Haggard, Ani DiFranco, Bela Fleck, Femi Kuti and dozens of others. Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Manchester, Tennessee.

New York City

– June 8. (Mon.) Guitarist Andreas Oberg still doesn’t have very high visibility. But if there’s any justice in the jazz world, the spotlight should be brightening soon. He performs with pianist Donald Vega, bassist James Genus and drummer Billy Kilson. The Blue Note.(212) 475-8592.

Lisa Sokolov

Lisa Sokolov

– June 9 – 14. (Tues. – Sun.) The Vision Festival. As it opens its 14th year, the Vision Festival is now New York City’s only summer jazz festival. The six day event, with its strong orientation toward cutting edge music, features performances by, among others, Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arkestra, Peter Brotzmann’s Full Blast, Roy Campbell’s Ayler project, the Milford Graves Quartet, Joe McPhee’s Trio X, the Lisa Sokolov Trio, Jason Kao Hwang’s Spontaneous River (a 25 piece string ensemble) and Lawrence (Butch) Morris’ performance of Conductions No. 187: Erotic Eulogy with a chorus of poets and a string ensemble. The Abrons Art Center @ the Henry St. Settlement. (212) 766-9200.

Highlight June 12 (Fri.) The Russians Are Coming

Cyril Moshkow, Russia’s best-known jazz journalist contacted me recently to let me know about a performance in Brooklyn by an especially interesting Russian jazz group, The Second Approach. Rather than say something about the band myself, I asked Cyril – who knows the players personally — to make a few comments, and he was kind enough to send some information about the band. Here are his thoughts:

The Russians Are Coming: The Second Approach in Brooklyn
By Cyril Moshkow

A great new jazz trio from Moscow, The Second Approach, is going to perform at Brooklyn’s Ibeam Studio on June 12. Yes, they are friends of mine, but that’s not the point. The point is that they are great musicians — not exactly straight-ahead jazz, but still thoroughly enjoyable, and their only NYC performance is not to be missed (they also play at the Rochester Jazz Festival on June 15 and 16.) Russia has a new jazz scene, however small it may Second Approachbe, with musicians who do not imitate anybody; they follow their own patterns. For that reason, it’s quite difficult to put the Second Approach on a narrow genre shelf. What they play includes jazz, modern classical, and post-modern ethno/jazz crossover at the same time, rooted in native Russian music rather than in anything else. For a few tunes the trio (Andrey Razin, the piano player and composer; Tatiana Komova, the singer; and Igor Ivanushkin, the bass player) will be joined by the great American trombonist Roswell Rudd, who is also featured on the Second Approach’s new CD, “The Light” (SoLyd Records, 2009). If you can come and see them, please do. It’ll be worth it. And if you can help spread a word about it, please do that, too. We want as many people as possible to experience and appreciate the musical values of Russian jazz and The Second Approach. Ibeam Music Studio.

– June 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.) Miles Okazaki’s “Generations.” With Dan Weiss, drums, Jen Shyu, voice, Hans Glawischnig, bass and David Binney, Miguel Zenon and Chrisof Knoche, alto saxophones. The Jazz Gallery. (212) 242-1063


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