Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 26

January 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Jan.21. (Tues.) The Pat Senatore Trio. Bassist Senatore, Josh Nelson, piano, and Mark Ferber, drums, assemble to celebrate a CD release party for the Trio’s new album, Ascensione. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

Aaron Weinstein

Aaron Weinstein

- Jan. 22. (Wed.) Aaron Weinstein. Violinist Weinstein, still not a highly visible jazz artist, is rapidly establishing himself as one of his instrument’s rare jazz masters. Click HERE to read an earlier iRoM review of Weinstein. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 22 – 24. (Wed- Fri.) Lenny White and Friends. Eclectic drummer White, a vital veteran of Return to Forever, leads his own solid ensemble, including bassists Foley and Victor Bailey, woodwind player Bennie Maupin and keyboardist George Colligan. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

John Proulx

John Proulx

- Jan. 23. (Thurs.) John Proulx Trio. He’s a fine pianist and an in-demand rhythm section player. And Proulx is now beginning to prove his skills as a fine interpretive jazz singer, as well. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Master Chorale performs the Bach B Minor Mass in an interpretation that Music Director Grant Gershon says will “blow the roof off Disney Hall.”  (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) Average White Band. More than 40 years after their arrival on the pop music scene the A.W.B. still conjurs up an irresistible blend of funk, soul and r&b. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

- Jan. 25. (Sat.) Chita Rivera: A Legendary Celebration. And, yes, Rivera is indeed one of the musical theatre’s most unique, memorable and legendary performers. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800.

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra offer an inviting program of Mozart & Beethoven. On Saturday at the Alex Theatre.  On Sunday at Royce Hall.

- Jan. 26. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe. Grammy-nominated Cunliffe offers a “Night at the Grammys with a stellar ensemble – saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Adam Czerwinski.  (818) 769-0905.  Vitello’s.

 San Francisco

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter

- Jan. 24. (Fri.) Cameron Carpenter. Organist Carpenter is one of classical music’s most dynamic performers, bringing an astounding blend of virtuosic technique and entertaining showmanship to everything he plays. SFJAZZ at Grace Cathedral.  (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

- Jan. 21 – 22. (Tues. – Wed.) Grace Kelly with the Marc Seales Trio. A jazz saxophone prodigy as a teen-ager, Kelly – now 21 – has matured into a gifted creative artist. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

 New York City

- Jan. 22 & 23. (Wed. & Thurs.) Pat Martino and Eldar. A cross generational team – veteran guitarist Martino and talented young pianist Eldar – get together in search of common improvisational ground. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

Copenhagen

- Jan. 23-25 (Thurs. – Sat.) Paolo Fresu Special Quartet. Italian trumpeter/flugelhornist Fresu has assembled an aggregation of some of Europe’s finest jazz players, among them Paolo Russo, piano, Thomas Fonnesbaek, bass, and Alex Riel, drums. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- Jan. 23 – 25. (Thurs. – Sat.) Diane Schuur. “Deedles,” as she is known by friends, fans and musicians alike, continues to sing with the Sarah Vaughan influenced style that has characterized her imaginative work ever since Stan Getz discovered her in the late ’70s. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

Jan. 23 & 24. (Thurs. & Fri.) Avishai Cohen Trio. Israeli jazz bassist Cohen – not the Israeli jazz trumpeter by the same name – leads his new trio in a rare Japanese appearance. The Blue Note Tokyo. +81 3-5485-0088.


Live Jazz: The Bill Cunliffe Big Band and Quartet with Harry Allen at Vitello’s

December 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Bill Cunliffe’s accomplishments are many. Not only is he a world class jazz pianist, composer and arranger. He’s also acknowledged for his many skills by his musical compatriots. He’s been honored with a Grammy Award, a Down Beat Award, multiple Grammy nominations, and several Emmy nominations. Add to that a winner’s award from the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano competition.

Bill Cunliffe

Bill Cunliffe

It’s unlikely that either Cunliffe or his full house audience at Vitello’s Saturday night were giving much thought to his many attainments. The focus on this engaging evening of music was on the here and now of Cunliffe’s multiple skills, as he opened the performance with his sterling quartet and topped off the evening with a big band full of the Southland’s finest players digging into his rich textured, briskly swinging music for large jazz ensemble.

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The performance was enhanced by the presence of tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, one of the rare contemporary masters of traditional and swing style improvising. Working with Cunliffe’s quartet in a program of tunes ranging from standards (“But Not For Me”) to Christmas tunes (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”), his soloing flowed with the captivating lyricism of such predecessors as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster.

Harry Allen

Harry Allen

Like them, Allen’s playing recalled the old admonition that jazz improvisers, when playing standards and ballads, should also be familiar with the words of the songs. Each melody he played came to life with the intimate, story-telling connectivity of a jazz vocalist.

Allen also soloed brilliantly with Cunliffe’s big band, as well, playing with such appealing musicality that the band’s five saxophonists – whenever they had a rest – were completely focused on his warm, inventive improvising.

But the band, playing Cunliffe’s ever-fascinating compositions and arrangements, also offered their own superb playing. The charts, which included selections from a soon to be released Cunliffe big band recording, were definitive displays of his far-reaching creative imagination. The high points included the bossa nova classic, “The Girl From Ipanema, a hard-driving Cunliffe original – titled “Bonecrusher” – from his Latin CD, and a glorious take on “’Round Midnight” featuring Allen at his finest. Topping off the big band set, guest artist Grammy-winning composer/arranger Nan Schwartz conducted her own briskly swinging arrangement of “Sunny Side of the Street,” and dedicated it to her mother, a former Swing era big band singer.

Memorable musical nights at Vitello’s are not unusual. And this one was no exception. How could it be, with Cunliffe in the command position, aided by the stellar work of Allen, the superbly crafted arranging of Schwartz, and – above all – the splendid playing of the gifted musicians, including the Southland’s finest, in the Cunliffe band.

So give thanks to April Williams, Vitello’s music manager, for opening the door for Cunliffe, his music, his guests and his players. Let’s hope they return again, soon.


Picks of the Weekend: Nov. 8 – 10

November 8, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Bill Holman

Bill Holman

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Bill Holman Big Band. Holman’s music is always a pleasure to hear live. And this is an even better opportunity, since the band will be performing (on the first set only) its highly praised all-Thelonious Monk album, Brilliant Corners, in its entirety. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Anna Mjoll. Iceland’s gift to jazz is also one of the Southland’s intriguing female jazz vocalists. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fr. – Sun.) Steve Tyrell. Bringing his own musical gifts to the Great American Songbook, Tyrell’s appealing interpretations are always a pleasure to hear. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, with trumpet soloist Alison Balsom, perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. and Tovey’s trumpet concerto, Songs of the Paradise Saloon. Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 9. (Sat.) Lee Hartley. Jazz singer Hartley surrounds her self with a stellar collection of world class artists, including the great Les McCann and the grooving Alphonse Mouzon Band. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 9. (Sat.) Susan Marshall & Company. Featuring Marshall’s Play/Pause, described as the “ultimate mash-up: postmodern dance-theater meets indie rock on both real and virtual stages.” A CAP UCLA event at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-4401.

Judy Wexler

Judy Wexler

- Nov. 10. (Sun.) Judy Wexler. Always a pleasure to hear in action, the small, but musically exciting Wexler celebrates a CD release party for her new album, What I See. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 10. (Sun. Brunch Performance) Betty Bryant. Veteran singer/pianist Bryant celebrates her anniversary with a Birthday Bash Brunch and CD release party. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 10. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe and Imaginacion. Grammy-winning pianist/composer/arranger Cunliffe digs into his Latin jazz perspectives. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

 San Francisco

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) Paula West. A standout among the Bay area’s many fine female jazz artists, West displays her virtuosity with an appealing set of songs, including her take on June Christy’s version of “Something Cool.” SFJAZZ at Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

 New York City

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

- Nov. 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.) Steve Kuhn Trio. Pianist Kuhn has been carving out his own musical directions since he played with John Coltrane as a young arrival. Here he’s backed by the propulsive accompaniment of Buster Williams, bass and Billy Drummond, drums. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

- Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) The Django Reinhardt New York Festival recalls the inimitable jazz artistry of the great Django Reinhardt with an ensemble featuring the Django Festival All-Stars. With Special Guests: Cyrille Aimee, Freddie Cole, James Carter & Edmar Castaneda. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

 Boston

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Jackie Ryan. In the crowded field of female jazz vocalists, Ryan continues to be a standout, an imaginative artist who still hasn’t quite received the accolades her extraordinary talents deserve. She celebrates the release of her latest CD. Regatta Bar.  (617) 661-5000.

 London

- Nov. 8 & 9. Fri. & Sat. Soul Jazz Alliance. You can bet that the title of this group is an accurate description of what to expect from a world class collection of players, featuring Vincent Herring and Jeremy Pelt and special guest Sachal Vasandani. Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Paris

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

- Nov. 8. (Fri.) Sheila E. Gifted with jazz skills inherited from her Escovedo family background, Sheila E. can do just about anything, from her driving percussion work to her ability to musically dominate a stage. New Morning.  +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Milano

- Nov. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.) Maceo Parker. A saxophone star with James Brown, Parker is still – at 70 – a master of the soul, funk and bebop genres. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.


Picks of the Week: August 12 – 18

August 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

- Aug. 13 & 15. (Tues. & Thurs. Dudamel conducts Verdi’s Requiem. The Los Angeles Philharmonic players, under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, apply their superb versatility to Verdi’s magnificent work. Hollywood Bowl,. (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 13. (Tues.) John Pisano’s Guitar night. It’s been a virtual Southland jazz institution for decades. And now John Pisano’s Guitar Night moves to a new location. But the quality of music, as always, will be great. Cody’s Viva Cantina in Burbank.  (818) 845-2425.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole

- Aug. 14. (Wed.) An Evening With Natalie Cole. Nat “King” Cole’s daughter is a major talent in her own right, applying the gifts of her legacy to a far-reaching musical repertoire. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 14 & 15. (Wed. & Thurs.) Bill Cunliffe Big Band. Something intriguing happens whenever pianist/composer/arranger Cunliffe writes for his big band. This time, the performance will be a live recording session at Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905

- Aug. 15. (Thurs.) Cat, Sip and Chiodini. They’re back. Singer Cat Connor, saxophonist/clarinetist Gene “Cip” Cipriano and guitarist John Chiodini have found another location for their always-engaging evenings of vocal and instrumental jazz pleasures. Spoonful Restaurant,  (323) 512-4800.

John Daversa

John Daversa

- Aug. 16. (Fri.) John Daversa Big Band. Trumpeter Daversa is also a gifted composer, writing some of the most compelling big band charts on the contemporary music scene. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 16 & 17. (Fri. & Sat.) Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks. It’s one of the major summer highlights at the Bowl, with the L.A. Phil performing everything from Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italiene to the 1812 Overture. Robert Moody conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic with brass and drum corps. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 17. (Sat.) MUSE/IQUE. Always performing in adventurous fashion, Muse/Ique wraps “Summer of Sound” 2013 with “Lose Your Senses,” featuring Ellis Hall, Tower of Power’s lead singer and keyboardist. Expect to hear music embracing Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and even Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi. Caltech’s Beckman Mall.  (626) 395-4652.

Jazz in the Pines

- Aug. 17 & 18. (Sat. & Sun.).  Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines.  The 20th anniversary of a jazz festival that balances great music programs with an appealing summer weekend in the mountains.  The highlights of this year include: On Saturday: Diane Schuur, Harvey Mason, John Daversa, Janis Mann, Denise Donatelli, Tim Weissberg, Clayton Cameron’s Clifford Brown-Max Roach Project, and more.  On Sunday: Izzy Chait, Amina Figarova, the Euphoria Brass Band, Mark Winkler, and a lot more here, too.  Don’t miss this one.   Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines.

Patti Labelle

Patti Labelle

- Aug. 18. (Sun.) Patti Labelle. Grammy Hall of Famer Labelle has been a prominent pop music figure since the ’60s, and she’s still going strong. Cerritons Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

- Aug. 18. (Sun.) Robert Davi. No one does the Sinatra with the sort of musical and lyrical authenticity that Davi brings to every performance of his tributes to Ol’ Blue Eyes. Vibrato.  (310) 474.9400

San Francisco

- Aug. 15 & 16. (Thurs. & Fri.) Eliane Elias. She’s always been a superb jazz pianist. And over the past few years she’s emerged as an eminently listenable jazz singer, as well. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655.5600.

New York City

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Aug. 15 – 18. (Thurs, – Sun.) Dr. Lonnie Smith. One of the definitive jazz organists, Smith has assembled a talented array of young jazz players for his ”In the Beginning Octet.” The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Washington D.C.

- Aug. 16 – 18., (Fri.- Sun,) The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet & Richie Cole. The lush vocal harmonies and articulate vocalese of the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet are the perfect blend for the equally exploratory alto saxophone of Richie Cole. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

Berlin

- Aug. 15 & 16. (Thurs. & Fri.,) Joao Bosco. Guitarist/composer Bosco’s playing has been described – with good cause – as among the most auspicious in Brazilian music.” A-Trane.  030 / 313 25 50.

Tokyo

- Aug. 16 – 18, (Fri., – Sun.) Terence Blanchard. Trumpeter Blanchard spends part of his busy schedule as Artistic Director of the Monk Institute and the Henry Mancini Institute. But he’s one of his generation’s major players of his instrument, and should be heard at every opportunity. Tokyo Blue Note.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: July 23 – 28.

July 23, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– July 23.  (Tues.)  The Postal Service.  The electropop band – featuring Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello – celebrate their 10th anniversary.  Greek Theatre   (323) 665-5857.

- July 24. (Wed.)  Dave Damiani and the No Nonsense Orchestra.  Vocalist and leader Damiani sings with the colorful sounds and swinging rhythms of his No Nonsense Orchestra.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

- July 24. (Wed.) Josh Nelson: A Tribute to Mulgrew Miller.  Pianist Nelson, rapidly emerging as one of the stellar pianists of his generation offers a tribute to one of his influences.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Bill Cunliffe’s Imaginacion Quintet. Composer/arranger/pianist Cunliffe displays his affection for Latin jazz in a collection of his fine arrangements. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 26. (Fri.)  Geoffrey Keezer “Heart of the Piano.”  Grammy-nominated Keezer celebrates the release of his CD, Heart of the Piano, his first solo project in 13 years.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 27 & 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  Chicago: The MusicalThe six Tony Award-winning show receives a sensational production on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl.  Brooke Shields directs, and Samantha Barks performs the role of Velma.  The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant

- July 28. (Sun.)  Amy Grant.  Grammy Award-winning Grant stretches her appealing vocal skills from gospel to pop.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

- July 27 – 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  The John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jessica Molaskey.  Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli and his wife, musical thatre star Molaskey have become an always-entertaining, musically fascinating performance act.  Yoshi’s Oakland.     (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Diane Schuur. As she approaches 60, Schuur continues to develop the musical possibilities of a beautifully soaring voice and a Sarah Vaughan-influenced style. Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- July 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.)   The Ron Blake Quartet. Fast-fingered, improvisationally adept saxophonist Blake continues to expand his impressive jazz skills.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- July 23 – 28.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Fred Hersch Trio with Joe Lovano. A pair of jazz veterans, each a deeply imaginative artist get together for a rare and compelling exchange of improvisational ideas.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- July 23 – 27. )Tues. – Sat.)  The Masters Quartet.  The title – “Masters” – doesn’t overstate it at all.  How else to describe a quartet that includes pianist Steve Kuhn, saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy HartBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

- July 23 & 24. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Wynton Marsalis Quintet. London is gifted with a very rare opportunity to hear the always-compelling playing of trumpet/impresario Marsalis in a night club setting. Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.

Paris

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

- July 25 & 26.  (Thurs. & Fri.)  Robert Glasper Experiment. Pianist/composer Glasper is in an exploratory phase, producing live performances and recordings revealing a creatively curious, musically questioning mind.  Paris New Morning.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Tokyo

Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander

- July 27 (Sat.)  Eric Alexander Quartet. Saxophonist Alexander finished just behind Joshua Redmand and ahead of Chris Potter in the 1991 Monk Saxophone Competition.  And he’s been aiming for the sun ever since with his articulate, hard-swinging style. Tokyo Blue Note.   +81 3-5485-0088.

* * * * * * * *

Wynton Marsalis photo by Tony Gieske

Robert Glasper photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Here, There & Everywhere: The 2013 Jazz Grammy Awards

February 11, 2013

By Don Heckman

The 55th annual Grammy Awards are now history.  But not exactly history-making, especially in the Jazz categories.  It’s hard to imagine anyone being surprised by most of the results.  Or, in fact, by most of nominations.

That’s not to demean, in any way, the work of the jazz artists who did receive Grammy statuettes yesterday.  The list of winners includes Chick Corea and Gary Burton, Esperanza Spalding, Pat Metheny, Arturo Sandoval and the late Clare Fischer’s Latin Jazz Big Band, in the five Jazz categories; and Chick Corea, the late Gil Evans and Spalding and Thara Memory in the Composing and Arranging categories, which have become virtual adjuncts to the Jazz listings.  One could never dispute their skill, artistry or worthiness as winners.

On the upside, it’s good to see the Latin Jazz Category returned to the line-up this year.  But the overall process itself is still uneven, to say the least.  Start with the first category, “Best Improvised Solo.”  What in the world are the standards a voter should use to make choices here?  Improvisation, by definition, is improvised.  How does one determine which spontaneous musical invention is “Best”?

“The Best Jazz Vocal Album” category mixes male and female singers in the same group.  Aside from the reduced number of possible nominees that can be chosen in a gender non-specific category, is it really fair or logical to ask voters to make comparisons between, say, Esperanza Spalding and Al Jarreau?

“The Best Instrumental Jazz Album” is a fairly straight-forward category.  But there are a pair of Chick Corea nominations in this group (especially since he also has two other nominations and a couple of wins in this year’s Awards).  Chick is one of the world’s finest jazz artists, and always worthy of being heard.  But, with the relatively small acknowledgment of jazz in the overall Grammy Award process, shouldn’t the honors be spread around a bit more?

The “Best Large Jazz Album” is hard to figure. It includes only three nominees – especially odd given the surprising numbers of large ensemble jazz recordings that have been arriving lately.

The ”Best Latin Jazz Album” winning choice is a much-deserved acknowledgement of the prolific and musically compelling Latin jazz work of the late Clare Fischer.  And it is done so amid a gifted group of artists reaching across the wide territory of Latin jazz.

Finally, the Best Instrumental Composition, Best Instrumental Arrangement, and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) categories can all be praised for the high quality of the nominations, all much deserved.  And it’s especially rewarding to see the honoring of the late master arranger Gil Evans – with nominations and a win – for selections from the Centennial album, a collection of previously unrecorded Evans compositions and arrangements.

Last year I signed off on my Grammy comments by underscoring the fact that every jazz player –like every other musical artist – has to be delighted to receive a gold statuette.  The same applies this year, and every year.  But once again the significance of the Grammys to jazz, and the Awards’ commitment to truly honoring one of America’s greatest cultural contributions, continues to diminish.  Jazz deserves better care.

Here are the Nominees and the Award Winners:

JAZZ AWARDS

31. BEST IMPROVISED SOLO

.

***WINNER:CHICK COREA AND GARY BURTON

”Hot House”  (Track from  Hot House Concord Jazz)

.

.

- RAVI COLTRANE

“Cross Roads” (Track from Spirit Fiction Blue Note)

- CHICK COREA

“Alice in Wonderland” (Track from Further Explorations Concord Jazz)

- KENNY GARRETT

“J.Mac” (Track from Seeds From the Underground Mack Avenue Records)

- BRAD MEHLDAU

“Ode” (From Ode Nonesuch)

 * * * * * * * * * *

 32. BEST JAZZ VOCAL ALBUM

.

***WINNER: ESPERANZA SPALDING

Radio Music Society (Heads Up International)

.

.

.

DENISE DONATELLI

Soul Shadows (Savant Records)

 - KURT ELLING

1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project Concord Jazz)

-  AL JARREAU  (and the Metropole Orkest)

Live (Concord)

- LUCIANA SOUZA 

The Book of Chet (Sunnyside Records)

 * * * * * * * * * *

 33. BEST INSTRUMENTAL JAZZ ALBUM

.

***WINNER: PAT METHENY UNITY BAND

Unity Band (Nonesuch)

.

.

- CHICK COREA, EDDIE GOMEZ, PAUL MOTIAN

Further Explorations (Concord Jazz)

- CHICK COREA AND GARY BURTON

Hot House (Concord Jazz

- KENNY GARRETT

Seeds From the Underground (Mack Avenue Records)

 - AHMAD JAMAL

Blue Moon (Jazz Village)

* * * * * * * * * *

34. BEST LARGE JAZZ ENSEMBLE ALBUM

.

***WINNER: ARTURO SANDOVAL BAND

Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You) (Concord Jazz)

.

.

.

- GIL EVANS PROJECT

Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans (ArtistShare)

- BOB MINTZER BIG BAND

For The Moment (MCG Jazz)

 * * * * * * * * * *

 35. BEST LATIN JAZZ ALBUM

C

,

***WINNER: THE CLARE FISCHER LATIN JAZZ BIG BAND

Ritmo! (Clare Fischer Productions/Clavo Records)

,

,

- CHANO DOMINGUEZ

Flamenco Sketches (Blue Note)

- BOBBY SANABRIA BIG BAND

Multiverse (Jazzheads)

- LULCIANA SOUZA

Duos III (Sunnyside Records)

- MANUEL VALERA NEW CUBAN EXPRESS

New Cuban Express (Mavo Records)

* * * * * * * * * *

 59. BEST INSTRUMENTAL COMPOSITION

.

.

***WINNER: CHICK COREA

“Mozart Goes Dancing” (from Hothouse, Concord Jazz)

.

.

- CHUCK LOEB

“December Dream” (from Esprit De Four Heads Up International.)

 - CHRIS BRUBECK AND DAVE BRUBECK

“Music of Ansel Adams: America” with the Temple University Symphony Orchestra (BCM&D Records)

- BILL CUNLIFFE

Overture, Waltz and Rondo” with the Temple University Symphony Orchestra (BCM&D Records)

- BILL HOLMAN

“Without A Paddle” (from High On You Bosco Records)

 * * * * * * * * * *

 60. BEST INSTRUMENTAL ARRANGEMENT

.

***WINNER: GIL EVANS (Gil Evans Project)

“How About You” (from Centennial:Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans ArtistShare)

.

.

- MICHAEL PHILIP MOSSMAN (for the Bobby Sanabria Big Band)

“Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite For Ellington” (from Multiverse Jazzheads)

- BOB MINTZER  (for the Bob Mintzer Big Band)

“Irrequieto” (from For The Moment MCG Jazz)

-WALLY MINKO (for Arturo Sandoval Band)

“A Night In Tunisia (Actually An Entire Weekend!) (from Dear Diz (Every Day I Think Of You Concord Jazz)

- GORDON GOODWIN  (for Arturo Sandoval Band)

“Salt Peanuts (Mani Salado)”  (from Dear Diz (Every Day I Think Of You Concord Jazz)

 * * * * * * * * * *

 61. BEST INSTRUMENTAL ARRANGEMENT ACCOMPANYING VOCALIST (S)

.

***WINNER – THARA MEMORY & ESPERANZA SPALDING (for Esperanza Spalding)

“City of Roses” (from Radio Music Society Heads Up International)

.

.

- NAN SCHWARTZ  (for Whitney Claire Kaufman)

“ Wild Is the Wind”  (from The Greatest Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin” LSO Live)

- GIL EVANS  (for Gil Evans Project and Luciana Souza)

“Look To the Rainbow” (from Centennial:Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans ArtistShare)

- SHELLY BERG  (for Lorraine Feather)

“Out There” (from Tales of the Unusual Jazzed Media)

- VINCE MENDOZA  (for Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest)

“Spain (I Can Recall)” (from Live  Concord Records)


Live Jazz: A Busy Friday Night at Vitello’s and the Out Take Bistro

February 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  Sometimes a music reviewer just has to do a lot in a single night – often unexpectedly.  As I did on Friday.  Even though it hadn’t actually started out that way.

My schedule for the evening originally included a stop at Vitello’s  to hear the Bill Cunliffe big band in action.  I”d written about the band fairly recently, but with Cunliffe nominated for a Grammy in today’s 2013 Awards (after winning a statuette in the 2012 Grammys), it seemed a good time to give another listen to his richly textured big band writing.  Add that the fact that he’d promised to include more selections from his jazz interpretation of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and it was a performance that clearly offered some fascinating musical attractions.

The most gripping big band arrangements and compositions are usually well crafted combinations of inspired writing and inventive soloing.  And Cunliffe’s composing and arranging have always blended those qualities into irresistibly appealing musical banquets, enhanced by the playing of a world class assemblage of Southland players.

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

On this night, as always, the Cunliffe band was overflowing with fine artists.  All deserve mention for their ensemble and solo playing.  But I have to highlight the especially impressive work of Bob Sheppard, playing lead alto (and lead soprano) in the saxophone section, the strong tenor saxophone soloing of Rob Lockart and Jeff Ellwood, the always superb trumpeting of Bob Summers and Carl Saunders, the equally sterling trombone work of Bob McChesney and Andy Martin, and the propulsive rhythm section work of drummer Joe LaBarbera, bassist Jonathan Richards and guitarist Larry Koonse.

Bill Cunliffe

Bill Cunliffe

The first part of the set was mostly dedicated to Cunliffe’s originals, which roamed freely across a gamut of styles, delivering them with convincing jazz authenticity.   Next, a pair of vocals added a different perspective: first, Dawn Bishop soaring through “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”; next, April Williams – who, as Vitello’s jazz producer, has transformed the club into a major jazz venue – sang a delightfully evocative version of “You Can Always Count On Me” from the musical City of Angels.  Listening to her, one couldn’t help but wish that she would make more singing appearances in the room, especially with the musical theatre material she does so well.

There was also an unexpected, but welcome performance by a guest artist – trombonist/composer Chris Brubeck.  Nominated (with his late father, Dave Brubeck) for a Grammy in the same category as Cunliffe, Chris was invited to share the stage the day before the Awards.  Chris responded with a warmly ingratiating trombone solo on the lovely ballad written by his father and mother, “In Your Own Sweet Way.”

The Cunliffe Band’s set closed with his re-imagining of the Bach Goldberg Variations, which he has re-titled The Goldberg Contraption.  But it was far more than a “Contraption” – more like a smoothly functioning Swiss watch, with Cunliffe’s transformation of Bach’s flowing harmonies and shifting counterpoint into an utterly believable jazz framework.

And there was more on the Vitello’s agenda before we could leave.  When the Cunliffe Band set concluded in the upstairs room, more jazz sounds were heard downstairs, where pianist John Campbell was playing for late diners and bar-hoppers in the club’s just-added musical setting, “Downstairs Piano Nights.”  No one interprets the Great American Songbook with more imaginative readings than Campbell.  And, even in a room filled with chatting listeners, he easily managed the demanding task of entertaining his audience, while approaching each song with fascinating creativity.

Cat Conner

Cat Conner

But we had another stop to make before our evening was over.  Leaving Vitello’s, heading straight down Tujunga to a right on Ventura Blvd., we quickly arrived for the last few tunes at the Out Take Bistro.    It’s a Friday night gig usually featuring “Cat & Cip” — the vocals of Cat Conner and the saxophone and clarinet of Gene “Cip” Cipriano.

On this night, however, they were joined by a stellar array of players in a virtual jam session format.  The group included trombonist Dick Nash and guitarist John Chiodini (frequent partners of Cat and Cip), as well as clarinetist Alex Budman, soprano saxophonist John Altman and trumpeter Brian Swartz.

Gene Cipriano and John Chiodini

Gene Cipriano and John Chiodini

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We arrived just in time for an all-join-in jam on “Take the A Train” allowing plenty of space for the talented crew to stretch out.  And the final wrap up reached out to feature Cat’s warm, engaging vocal in a jaunty song reaching back more than a hundred years – “Hello, Ma Baby.” It was the perfect ending to a musical evening embracing everything from big band jazz and the music of J.S. Bach to the Great American Songbook, ragtime, and beyond.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: A Christmas Card to the Sensational Sidemen of Paul McDonald’s Big Band

December 20, 2012

By Norton Wright

A jazzhead pal living in Europe just e-mailed me asking if he could find some big-band jazz in America when he comes vacationing this summer. Without hesitation I replied that lucky for us Los Angelinos, L.A. has become the nation’s showplace center for an abundance of jazz orchestras. Our treasures include Gerald Wilson, Gordon Goodwin, Johnny Mandel, Bill Holman, Poncho Sanchez, Tom Kubis, Bob Mintzer, Bill Cunliffe, Ron Jones, Johnny Vana, Pat Longo, et al. So it was no surprise a week or so ago that Vitello’s was ground zero for the explosive ensemble output of Paul McDonald’s Big Band playing both a 2pm and 5pm set.

In a show saluting the works of great jazz arrangers, this 13-piece orchestra was so swinging and exact in handling the array of challenging charts that it makes this writer question the accuracy of the sometimes-used phrase “sidemen.” With the Paul McDonald Big Band, “all-stars” would be a more appropriate description.

Every one of these band members delivered extraordinary performances in both ensemble work and soloing, and the result was the groovy, multi-layered jazz tapestry of sound and tempos that marks the excellence of a BIG band’s brass, woodwind, and percussion sections.

The Paul McDonald Big Band

The Paul McDonald Big Band

Kicking off the show, the multi-talented bandleader & pianist Paul McDonald led his troops through a rousing, 7-minute intro with his own up-tempo arrangements of “This Can’t Be Love” and “Sink or Swim”. Showmanship was at the fore as Eric “The Viking” Jorgensen, brandishing his Chinese-red trombone, rose and soloed with abandon, his challenge answered by a ferocious trumpet section headed by Jon Papenbrook and featuring  crackling-fast soloing by Jeff Jarvis (so reminiscent of the powerful exactitude of the late Lee Morgan!).  Then Barbara Loronga put us all away with a flugelhorn solo so mellow it sounded like a mix of  bourbon and honey.

Singer Bonnie Bowden, lissome in black glitter and tights, joined the set with her up-tempo “I Love Being Here With You.” Up next, the Nelson Riddle arrangement of the ballad, “Unforgettable,”featuring the blissed-out tenor sax soloing of Dean Roubicek, who later doubled on clarinet with his compatriots, first alto sax and flute Gary Herbig and second alto & flutist Darrell Winseman, for a romp through “Here Comes Santa Claus” anchored by baritone saxist, Ken Fisher. What a woodwind section!

One of the joys of Vitello’s is that there are so many jazz greats in the audiences, as well as on stage.  At this performance, legendary saxophonist Dave Pell was nodding knowing approval of the band’s sax section; Jack Redmond toe-tapped along to the band’s trombone leader Paul Young and the intense chops of the band’s bass trombonist Paul Rivera; and Roger Kellaway was so into the show’s groove that he joined Bowden on stage to accompany her on piano in his new composition, “A Place You Want to Call Home” with lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman.

The McDonald Band continued on, lighting up arrangements by Tom Kubis (“Let It Snow”), Patrick Williams (“Cry Me A River” and  “Livin’ The Canary Life”), and John Clayton (“You Are So Beautiful”).  The charmingly casual Bowden then joined the audience to just enjoy the show, as Paul McDonald took his band through his own arrangement of “West Side Story” tunes driven by the band’s powerhouse drummer, Dave Tull, as at home in 4/4 as in the wiggy, mixed 6/8 & 3/4 meter of Leonard Bernstein’s semi-habanera, “I Like To Be In America”:

Finally, no big band can cook without a solid and inventive bass player, and it was young, acoustic bassist, Cooper Appelt, who provided a mainstay of rhythmic and harmonic support for his McDonald Big Band colleagues – and especially in his unison accompaniment of Bowden’s stratospheric scatting on Don Menza’s arrangement of “I Just Found Out About Love” and Sammy Nestico’s chart for “Just Friends.”

The set ended with the timely finale of a jazzy  arrangement by Dave Wolpe of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and the audience rose in standing ovation for this all-out, 80-minute show, not by sidemen, but by the best in the business. Los Angeles is fortunate to have such and wishes each and every one of them a Happy and Much Appreciated New Year!

To read more posts by Norton Wright, click HERE.


Live Jazz: the Bob Mintzer and Bill Cunliffe Big Bands

December 3, 2012

By Don Heckman

Anyone who doubts the excitement, the imagination and the contemporary vitality of big band jazz should have been at Vitello’s last weekend.  Over the course of Friday and Saturday nights, two stellar ensembles – the Bob Mintzer Big Band and the Bill Cunliffe Big Band – offered invigorating reminders of the still-potent pleasures of big band jazz.

Friday night’s program featured the Mintzer band in a program titled “Homage To Count Basie.”  And composer/saxophonist/bandleader Mintzer couldn’t have chosen a better model than the iconic Basie band with which to display his group’s impressive musical wares.

The Bob Mintzer Big Band

The Bob Mintzer Big Band

Mintzer opened, appropriately, with the Basie theme song, “One O’Clock Jump.”  And the music began to cook from the first opening passages, as the rhythm section – pianist Russell Ferrante, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Peter Erskine – dug deeply into the classic Basie groove.

There was more Basie to come, including the familiar strains of “April in Paris,” Neal Hefti’s “Cute,” and “Shiny Stockings.”  Topping it off, Mintzer added some Basie-inspired music of his own, including “Lester Jumps Out” and “Home Basie,” an irresistibly swinging musical blending of Basie’s rhythms and James Brown’s effervescence.

Add to that more originals – “Elegant People” and “Havin’ Some Fun” among them – showcasing Mintzer’s broad, far-reaching skills as a composer/arranger.

Bob Mintzer

Bob Mintzer

Also a hard-driving tenor saxophonist, Mintzer added some substantial soloing of his own.  But his band was also filled with other primo soloists, among them saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Keith Fiddmont, Brian Scanlon and Adam Schroeder, trumpeters John Daversa and Wayne Bergeron, and pianist Ferrante, all playing in a manner that honored the Basie style.

And it was fascinating to observe the excitement coursing through the full house crowd as the sounds of big band jazz at its finest filled the room.

On Saturday night it happened all over gagin, as the Bill Cunliffe ensemble offered a “Big Band Holiday Kick Off.”  Toward that end, however, pianist/composer/bandleader Cunliffe began his set with a quartet – featuring his piano along with guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La Barbera – playing a non-stop medley of holiday tunes.  Among them – “Winter Wonderland,” “Silent Night” (featuring seasonally atmospheric soloing from Chiodini) and “Carol of the Bells.”  Cunliffe added a solo piano take on “Christmas Time Is Here,” and singer Dawn Bishop joined the ensemble, singing “The Christmas Song” (and later adding her engaging versions of “Almost Like Being In Love” and “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” — not exactly seasonal songs, but appealing, nonetheless).

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

Cunliffe’s great versatility in big band scoring was also highly visible in the Latin rhythms of “Havana” and an original piece (title unannounced) written for a film about the Celtics.  In it, Cunliffe perfectly captured the driving, big band Swing era style of the late ‘30s.  His version of “Round Midnight,” featuring tenor saxophonist Jeff Elwood, brought traces of Thelonious Monk dissonances into the big band fabric. And there were numerous other fine soloists as well: including trumpeter Bijon Watson, alto saxophonist Bruce Babad and trombonist Alex Isles, among others.

Bill Cunliffe

Bill Cunliffe

The closing piece, whimsically titled “The Goldberg Contraption,” was a work based on various J.S. Bach compositions (including the Goldberg Variations).  In it, Cunliffe adroitly positioned rich Bach harmonies and compelling contrapuntal passages within the colorful textures and surging rhythms of big band jazz.

Call it a brilliant, two-night display of the far-ranging possibilities of the big jazz band format, when it’s in the hands of composer/arrangers as gifted as Bob Mintzer and Bill Cunliffe.  Big Band jazz, in their work, is still very much alive.  Ask anyone who was present in the full house crowds.

Bob Mintzer photos by Faith Frenz.

Bill Cunliffe photos by Bob Barry.


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.

Chicago

- 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.

London

- 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.

Copenhagen

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.

Milan

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

Tokyo

- 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.


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