Preview: The 56th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

September 15, 2013

By Michael Katz

Every year I head up to the Monterey Jazz Festival with a battle plan for seeing as much of the three days and over 500 artists as reasonably possible, and every year that plan gets shredded almost from the opening notes. Musicians whom I’d intended to sample (like Gregory Porter last year) keep me riveted for the duration of a set; a soft breeze and a bluesy band at the outdoor Garden Stage finds me hopelessly planted in my lawn chair; a piano trio at the Coffee House Gallery (Bill Carrothers, two years ago) holds me spellbound into the witching hour.

My initial take for MJF 56, coming up next weekend, was that the Arena line-up is so strong I’d be doing less wandering than usual. Certainly Friday night, with Gregory Porter opening the show, followed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck and then the Buena Vista Social Club is all too good to miss – unless I want to catch a little of pianist Uri Caine at the Coffee House or Carmen Lundy at the Night Club. Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano are playing separately on the grounds Friday night, but together Saturday night at the Arena.

Decisions, decisions….

Saturday presents lots of conundrums. There’s the traditional blues/roots program that leads off with the Relatives at the Arena, (with a late afternoon encore at the Garden Stage) and the usual collection of funky sounds all afternoon at the Garden. George Benson is the featured afternoon act at the Arena. But a young woman I haven’t heard, baritone player Claire Daly, is doing a Monk program at 2:30 in the Night Club, so I’m already figuring out how to catch most of that, and still see the last half of Benson’s show. Meanwhile, during the break between the Arena Shows, bassist Charnett Moffett will be holding forth, and by 8 PM a flood of talent hits the festival, with the Lovano/Douglas group, Marc Cary, Ravi Coltrane, Craig Taborn and Orrin Evans all performing in various venues at the same time.

Later on that night, after more potential bouncing between Dave Holland, Charlie Hunter, Mary Stallings and others, another dilemma is at hand. Bobby McFerrin is sui generis, and I surely won’t want to miss him. But the Brubeck Brothers, Chris, Daniel and their band, will be performing at the Night Club at about the same time. I saw Chris a few years ago at MJF with his funky blues band Triple Play, as well as with his Dad in the memorable Cannery Row Cantata. He’s a wonderful and spirited performer on bass and trombone, as is Daniel on the drums. Given their Dad’s lasting contributions to MJF, I get the sense that their show Saturday will be a heart stopper.

I issue my annual alert for Sunday: don’t miss the Next Generation Band. This group of all-star high school age kids opens the Arena Show Sunday, and they are a great reason to brave the midday Monterey sun. Joe Lovano will be joining them for a couple of guest solos. The Bob James-David Sanborn group will be anchoring the show, for what figures to be a fun session of funky, bluesy jazz. The “hammock” time between Arena shows is always a perfect occasion to hang out at the Garden Stage. This year Bay Area vocalist Tammy Hall performs between 4 and 5, while the Twin Cities’ Davina and the Vagabonds has the 5:30 – 7 slot. And if you haven’t caught Chicago’s own Judy Roberts with sax player Greg Fishman at one of their eight performances on the Courtyard Stage, check them out between 5 and 5:30.

Whew! We haven’t even talked about the food. About this time, if I haven’t had my ribs and peach cobbler, I’m loading up, to say nothing of a last Margarita. Meanwhile, the Festival will end with a blast. The annual Hammond B-3 showcase has guitarist Anthony Wilson’s Trio featuring Larry Goldings on the organ and drummer Jim Keltner at Dizzy’s Den, followed by MJF favorite Lonnie Smith. Over in the Night Club, altoist Lou Donaldson opens, and vibist Bobby Hutcherson follows with a tribute to the late, great Cedar Walton, who had been scheduled to appear in that slot.

With all that, it’s still hard to pass up the Arena’s final show, with Wayne Shorter celebrating his 80th birthday backed up by his superb quartet featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade. There are certain performers who always seem to save their best for Monterey. Diana Krall has had a love affair with MJF, dating back to her knockout debut at MJF 40, and her curtain-lowering show Sunday night promises to keep everyone in their seats until the end.

Sorry, I know I’ve left out more than a few of the MJF 500 +. Find your way up to the Monterey Peninsula and discover it all for yourself.



Don’t forget to check out Michael Katz’s new novel, Dearly Befuddled, available in paperback and E-book at Amazon.  Read Mike’s Blog, Katz of the Day.

Record Rack: Robin Bessier, Eliane Elias (and a few words for Boones the Cat)

June 14, 2013

Two Songbirds and the American Songbook

 By Brian Arsenault

The so-called American Songbook doesn’t get old.  It gets better.  Because artists of the day keep reinterpreting and expanding it.  The branches of the tree grow gracefully and the songbirds perch higher.

Robin Bessier

other side of forever (Whispering River)

In  On the Road,  Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac in thin disguise) walks outside in the early evening at a small Mexican village and says he feels “the softest air” he ever felt. I think I just heard it.

I succumbed to that soft air on the second song on Robin Bessier’s album other side of forever. And actually heard what soft feels like when she sang Bobby McFerrin’s “Jubilee.”

The song alone is justification for the album with its alternating trumpet and soprano sax, both by Jay Thomas, I think (nice trick). There’s also a little Manhattan Transfer sound on the chorus.  But mostly, there is Bessier’s warm, enticing voice.

A delight.

And daring.  She does both “God Bless the Child” and “Prelude to a Kiss.”  We’re talking Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington here, folks, so the standard is very high.  Add to that the technical difficulties of “Prelude to a Kiss” wherein a singer can just get lost. But not Bessier.

Later, she heats it up on “Too Nice” by producer Barney McClure, then cools down to a “Whisper” on the next track. She swings the great 1930s jazz composition “The Very Thought of You.”  Really swings it.

Bessier takes us out of the album with the title song, also written by McClure and you might play it again so you won‘t have to let it go.

How to characterize this remarkable tune?  Think of the most beautiful song you have ever heard in a Broadway show; the one that ties it all together, that touches the heart, that causes a pause, a moment of pure silence before the thunderous applause.  I wouldn’t want to take away from your first hearing of it by saying more.

After a promising career start, Robin Bessier had to deal with some life stuff that perhaps held back recognition of her great gifts and limited her time for music.  But now she’s back and she sings about it on “Right Here, Right Now.” That’s right.  Here and now and very, very good.

Eliane Elias

 I Thought About You — A Tribute to Chet Baker (Concord Music Group)

So you are a leading Bossa Nova singer.  Can you also do all those jazz classics associated with Chet Baker?

If you are Eliane Elias, you can. With voice and piano.  So how and why does someone get to be a terrific jazz singer and top shelf piano player?  I don’t know.  I just listen and count myself lucky.

Because on this album, Elias isn’t just paying homage to Baker, she’s covering the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers and Hoagy Carmichael.  Among others.

The first five or six songs are like an American classic Master Class.

The title song, “There Will Never Be Another You,” “This Can’t Be Love,” “Embraceable You,” “That Old Feeling” . . . I’m almost out of breath and I’m just typing.  (You can still say “typing” can’t you?  “I’m word processing” sounds so wrong to my ear.)

Is there a lovelier song than the Gershwin’s “Embraceable You”?  If you have any doubts, you won’t be after you hear Elias’ version.

“There Will Never Be Another You” is so damn good because you can hear the bossa nova that is her as well as the jazz.  You hear them both and know that they are so closely related, cousins from different but attached hemispheres.  And when Randy Brecker’s trumpet comes in . . . just great.

The album never lets up and finishes with two of the album’s strongest:

* A quick-step paced “Just In Time” — usually done by a laid-back Sinatra at his most laid back pace — which features Elias’ husband Marc Johnson’s bass, her piano and her voice. Just the two of them in a kinda delightful musical quickie.

* Hoagy Carmichael’s plaintive, ironic “I Get Along Without You Very Well.”  I don’t know that it’s ever been treated better, almost whispered in places.  Like the best bossa nova songs and singers, there’s a depth of emotion here unrivaled elsewhere.  A heart can break in two.

Throughout the album, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s Elias on piano as well as singing so great.  That could be gender bias on my part, hard to shake that off completely in a single lifetime.  Or it could be the feeling that you just shouldn’t be so damn good at both.

* * * * * * * *

 Go Softly Into That Dark Earth

Boones the Cat left today.  We’ll bury her under a tree in the yard and be a little the less for it.  She was my surest barometer of a good album.  If she came in to listen, I knew the work was fine.  If my reviews aren’t quite so sharp from now on it’s because I’ve lost her.  She was 17 so we have no complaint.  Not that a complaint would make a damn bit of difference.

Bye, Boones

* * * * * * * *

To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

Preview: The Monterey Jazz Festival 56

April 6, 2013

By Michael Katz

MFor those of us in love with the Monterey Jazz Festival, the longest six months of the year are the time between the final note of the last Sunday night show at the fairgrounds and the April 1 announcement of artists for the next MJF. That wait ended Monday morning with the lineup for MJF 56, on September 20-22. Putting together a festival of this repute is no small task for Artistic Director Tim Jackson. He’s got to book enough legitimate headliners to satisfy a sometimes prickly Arena ticket base, while maintaining the diversity and inventiveness that makes MJF such a treasure.

My immediate reaction: good news for Arena season ticket holders, with jazz virtuosos at every stop; good news for Grounds attendees, with the usual mix of big names and intriguing new performers visiting the four smaller venues, and challenging news for those of us who like to float between stages. There are just too many shows that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

The three evening Arena lineups are especially loaded.  For those of us who caught part of vocalist Gregory Porter’s rousing set at the Night Club last fall and wished we had seen more, wish granted. Porter will be opening the show Friday night. Next up is the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, playing a specially commissioned tribute to the late Dave Brubeck. Filling out the usual Latin jazz spot capping the Friday night program is Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. That is quite an opening night slate.

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

Saturday evening promises to be one of the most creative in recent memory. Leading off is Artist-In-Residence saxophonist Joe Lovano, teaming with trumpeter Dave Douglas, performing Sound Prints, music inspired or composed by Wayne Shorter. The middle slot is led by bassist Dave Holland, an MJF favorite. He brings his quartet, Prism, featuring guitarist Kevin Eubanks, pianist Craig Taborn and superb drummer Eric Harland. Closing out the show is Bobby McFerrin, touring with his Spirityouall release.

Diana Krall

Diana Krall

The Sunday show is opened by Wayne Shorter, celebrating his 80th birthday, with his all-star quartet featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blades. Closing the festival is Diana Krall. There’s little need to embellish; you clearly wouldn’t want to miss any of these shows. And yet…

And yet, check out a few of the artists performing at the Grounds venues: Friday night has pianist Uri Caine playing three sets at the Coffee House and vocalist Carmen Lundy at the Night Club, as well as a reprise performance by Gregory Porter, and separate ensemble appearances by Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas. Saturday night has the Brubeck Brothers quartet with a tribute to their dad; Ravi Coltrane, the Charlie Hunter-Scott Amendola duo, pianists Marc Cary and Craig Taborn, the Douglas-Lovano Sound Prints band, and classic vocalist Mary Stallings.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Sunday features perhaps the festival’s greatest dilemma.  You wouldn’t dare miss Wayne Shorter or Diana Krall, but the annual B-3 organ blowout at Dizzy’s Den opens with guitarist Anthony Wilson’s trio featuring Larry Goldings and Jim Keltner,  and closes with the great Dr. Lonnie Smith. Meanwhile, over in the Night Club, alto player Lou Donaldson opens, and pianist Cedar Walton brings his latest Eastern Rebellion to close the show.  Usually music fans are too exhausted to be running between venues by Sunday night, but MJF 56 may prove to be the exception.

The two afternoon schedules offer their own pleasures: an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, kids, world music and a few things that defy description.  The Saturday line-up has morphed over the years from blues to roots music, to none-of-the-above. This year The Relatives, a gospel-funk group, leads off the Arena show and also gets the 5:30 slot at the Garden Stage. If you haven’t heard them before the festival, don’t worry, you will — along with the hundreds of fans hanging from tree limbs and lined up behind the bleachers.

George Benson

George Benson

George Benson has the headline billing at the Arena.  Benson was on the short list of great post-Wes Montgomery guitarists in the seventies before changing his orientation to R and B type vocals, but he can still “play this-here guitar,” as evidenced by his recent Guitar Man CD. Out on the grounds, the Saturday Garden Stage show is always a blast from start to finish, even if you aren’t familiar with any of the acts. And if you are looking for some straight ahead jazz amidst all the blues-funk-whatever, bari sax and flutist Claire Daly has a Monk-influenced program at 4 pm in the Night Club. And, as per the last several years, one of our favorite vocalists, Judy Roberts, will be performing with sax man Greg Fishman throughout the festival on the Yamaha AvantGrand stage.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

Sunday afternoon features college and high school bands, highlighted by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, which will feature a guest appearance by the ubiquitous Mr. Lovano. As usual, I warn all of you not to miss this band – these kids will amaze you. Bob James and David Sanborn are the headliners for the Sunday afternoon show. I’ve always loved Sanborn’s blues and funky rock-tinged tenor sax, and James has done some great work as a composer and keyboardist. They have sometimes tailed off into the Ooze of Smooth, but their band, featuring drummer Steve Gadd, is hitting the major jazz festival circuit this summer, including the Playboy Jazz Festival in LA and the Blue Note Festival in New York, so here’s hoping for some classic jazz riffs from these guys.

I know I’ve left out a few highlights.  There are always acts I haven’t heard of that turn out to be knockouts, and new combinations that enthrall. Add that in with the usual mix of festival food, lovely Monterey weather and the camaraderie of new and old friends, and you’ve got an unforgettable experience.

* * * * * * * *

To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.

Live Music: Bobby McFerrin at Disney Concert Hall

April 4, 2013

By Don Heckman

There’s one thing that can almost always be anticipated about a Bobby McFerrin appearance: that there’s no telling what to expect. His performance at Disney Hall Wednesday night, for example, seemed to be specifically on track, with the whimsical title, “Spirityouall,” announcing a program honoring his father, Robert McFerrin, Sr., an operatic baritone and interpreter of spirituals.

And the evening did indeed overflow with spirituals, from classics such as “Wade in the Water” to McFerrin originals. But the songs – as always in a McFerrin performance – were just the starting points for startlingly creative musical expeditions.

Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin

At the center of each song was the astonishing McFerrin voice. Blessed with an extraordinary instrument, reaching over several octaves, capable of leaping giant intervals in a single bound, there were no limits to his expressive potential. Whether simply arching warmly through a familiar melody, adding his own inventive variations or showcasing his remarkable vocal gymnastics, he was utterly fascinating. And he enhanced his appeal with a wry sense of humor and compelling interaction with his musicians.

Which raises another vital aspect of this mesmerizing evening – the presence of a quintet of musical artists completely in sync with McFerrin’s every subtle improvisational twist and turn. At the keyboards (and accordion) Gil Goldstein also served as musical director and arranger; David Mansfield doubled on guitar, mandolin and violin; Armand Hirsch also played guitar and mandolin; Jeff Carney payed contrabass; and Louis Cato doubled impressively on drum set, percussion and back up vocals.

There were far too many high points to mention them all. Among the most memorable:

  • A version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” ranging from pensive to gently swinging.
  • “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho”: enhanced by McFerrin’s high flying scatting; it’s hard to name any current jazz singer who can vocally improvise with his rhythmic elan and melodic inventiveness.
  • The emotionally touching originals, “Woe” and “Jesus Makes It Good” (performed by McFerrin at the piano).
  • A stunning, bebop-driven trio medley with bassist Carney and drummer Cato.
  • And another medley, this time with a distinctly bluegrass slant, featuring violinist Mansfield and keyboardist Goldstein.
  • Add to all that McFerrin’s frequent singalong interactions with his receptive audience, as well as a living room moment in which he asked any listeners who so desired to join him at the stage to share a song. And a few did, enthusiastically doing their best with “Amen.”

McFerrin wrapped the program with an encore version of “Wade in the Water,” a final reminder of his extraordinary creative gifts, and a delightfully conclusive ending to a memorable musical adventure.

Picks of the Week: April 2 – 7

April 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin

– Apri. 3. (Wed.)  Bobby McFerrin.  One of the music world’s most uniquely gifted vocal talents, applying his startling skills to a celebration of his father’s gospel singing in a program titled Spirit You All.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

– April 3. (Wed.)  Dave Damiani and the No Vacancy Orchestra.  Singer Damiani revives the music of Sinatra and the Rat Pack in an introduction of his latest CD, Watch What Happens.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (223) 466-2210.

– April 3. (Wed.) Sara Gazarek/Josh Nelson Duo. A promising musical encounter between singer Gazarek and pianist Nelson, two of the current jazz generation’s most gifted talents.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– April 5 (Fri.) Vadim Repin in recital. Russian-Born (now a Belgian citizen) violinist Repin was described by Yehudi Menuhin as the “best and most perfect violinist that I ever had a chance to hear.”  He performs Brahms, Janacek, Grieg and Ravel with the accompaniment of pianist Andrei KorobeinikovValley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

Cheryl Bentyne

Cheryl Bentyne

– April. 5. (Fri.)  Cheryl Bentyne.  Up Close and Personal.  Back in action after surviving a life threatening illness, Bentyne – a valued member of the Manhattan Transfer — illustrates the irresistible appeal of her captivating solo skills.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– April 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Helen Reddy. One of the great pop vocal stars of the ‘70s, Australian Reddy makes one of her extremely rare performances.  Hopefully we’ll hear her revisit “I Am Woman” among her many other hits. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– April. 6. (Sat.)  The Wolff and Clark Expedition.  Veteran pianist Michael Wolff and drummer Mike Clark, long time musical companions, team up with L.A. jazz stars Bob Sheppard, saxophones and Tony Dumas, bass.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Katia Moraes

Katia Moraes

– April 6. (Sat.)  Katia Moraes and Brazilian Heart Music“Clara Nunes, A Celebration.”  One of the Southland’s most consistently fascinating Brazilian artists, Moraes visits the memorable music of  ‘70s Brazilian hit-maker Clara Nunes. As always, Moraes’ interpretations will simmer with the dynamic energy of her own, unique expressiveness.  Brasil Brasil Cultural Center.  11928 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066.  (310) 397-3667

– April 7. (Sun.)  Mark Winkler CD Release party.  The Laura Nyro Project.  Always in search of adventurous territory for his jazz-based vocals, Winkler celebrates the release of a new CD featuring his imaginative takes on the Laura Nyro songbook. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

– April 5 – 7  (Fri. – Sun.)  The Stanley Clarke Band.  Bassist Clarke always follows his own pathways, accompanied by stellar musical aggregations.  This time, he’s traveling with John Beasley, piano, Kamasi Washington, saxophone and Ronald Bruner, Jr., drums.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Washington D.C.

– April 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  James Carter Organ Trio.  Multiple reed and woodwind player Carter focuses his wide angle musical perspective on hard driving timbres of the classic jazz organ trio instrumentation.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York City

– April 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Enrico Pieranunzi.  Pianist Pieranunzi has been, since the ‘70s, one of the European jazz pianist most favored by touring American musicians.  Here he’s in the leader’s role himself, backed by Marc Johnson, bass and Joe La Barbera, drums.  The Village Vanguard.     (212) 255-4037.

Randy Weston

Randy Weston

– April 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet 87th Birthday Celebration. Pianist/composer Weston’s fascination with African musical culture continues to produce some of the most fascinating revisits to the deepest jazz roots. And, at 87, he still does so convincingly.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232 .


– April 6. (Sat.)  The London Supersax Project. Alto saxophonist Med Flory was the first to assemble a saxophone section and rhythm section to play harmonized versions of Charlie Parker solos.  Here’s the U.K. version, delivered with the same love of bebop.  Ronnie Scott’s. r  +44 20 7439 0747.


– April 3 & 4. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Diego Figueiredo and Cyrille Aimee. The imaginative duo of guitarist Figueiredo and singer Aimee have already released two albums displaying their far-reaching musical interests, from jazz and bossa nova to looping electronica.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.


– April 3 & 4. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Steve Lukather.  Multiple Grammy-winning guitarist has recorded tracks on more than 1,500 albums, and continues to contrast first-call gigs as a sideman with leadership of his own bands.  The Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888




– April 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  Clementine.  The French singer and song writer Clementine lives in Japan, where her richly diverse style, blending cabaret, jazz, bossa nova and pop has generated a large, enthusiastic following.  The Blue Note Tokyo.     +81 3-5485-0088.

* * * * * * * *

Bobby McFerrin photo by Carol Friedman.

CD Review: Larkin McLean

January 11, 2012

Larkin McLean

If You’re A Wild Girl Say Aye (Best Day Ever Records)

by Brian Arsenault

I always approach a CD I am going to review wanting to like it.  Anyone not essentially nasty is always hoping for that “this is great” kind of 40 minutes or so.

However, when Larkin McLean’s newest arrived in the standard plain brown shipping envelope — heck, even earlier, when I received the publicity piece on  it — I was having a real hard time maintaining a positive expectation. I mean, that title?  Along with a publicity release about “butt usage” and g-strings?  This was just going to be silly, right?

Larkin McLean

Well, yeah, If You’re A Wild Girl Say Aye is silly in places. But it’s also genuinely funny, often clever, occasionally close to touching (in just about every way imaginable), and musically varied and satisfying. The stylings range from the fast honky tonk “48 Hours in Vegas” to a unique tempo version of the jazz standard “Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be).”  McLean says it’s in a “jazz waltz” style. Oh, okay.

You’ll also hear some faux reggae, some semi-bluesy and some very jazzy tracks. All provided by some highly competent studio musicians.

The problem with this CD for McLean is that the prejudice I approached it with is fairly typical of the critical and even mass feelings about humor within the rock/pop and even jazz genres.  We don’t like our artists to take it too lightly. Are they making fun of the music, the audience? What’s going on here?

You can be sexy but bawdy is suspect.  You can be overly self-conscious, serious and even threatening, but be careful with laugh time stuff.

The light hearted almost never make it to the top. When I think back over a couple decades and more, one of the few songs with a smile — at least on the surface — that made it big was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  And that was by a serious musician, singer and conductor, Bobby McFerrin.

Ms. McLean, though, has a not so secret weapon against too serious critics and listeners, as exposed in “My Bottom’s Gonna Get Me to the Top.” This slow Texas Swing tribute to shaking it makes me wish Eartha Kitt was still with us to do a cover.

Unfortunately, the song with its wry exposure of what men want also brings me to my second problem in approaching this album.  Should a guy even be doing the review?

I mean “Bachelorette,” with its jazz standard feel, is a take on the traditional theme of leave the creep – but with a twenty-first century consciousness.  It pairs, though, with the immediately following “I’m Going To Love You So You Never Forget” from a woman who wants to make it clear that attention is desired and welcome. And the next song, “Pasties and a G-string,” takes you into the back room of a strip joint.

Well, there’s a not unknown male fantasy.

So maybe a guy is perfect to review this CD.  If he can keep from leering. As a later song says, “we’re all programmed, it’s not your fault but get out now” or words to that effect.  I will get out of here soon with one more maybe nutso comment.

I think it’s possible that this CD may be a bit like a Buster Keaton silent film.  Funny, engaging, fast paced and oh so very well constructed.  And like a Keaton film, it may not be taken seriously until much later.

To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

Larkin McLean photo by Larry Barretta. 

Picks of the Week Nov. 8 – 13

November 8, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Nov. 8. (Tues.) Rick Braun Sings.  Trumpeter Rick Braun, a high visibility instrumentalist in the smooth jazz arena, displays his engaging vocal skills on his latest album, the appropriately titled Rick Braun Sings With Strings. Vitello’s.      (818) 769-0905.

–  Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Phil Norman Tentet CD release party.  The Norman Tentet’s 21st century take on the West Coast sounds of the ‘50s is enhanced in the new album – Encore — by a set of arrangements from some of the world’s finest jazz arrangers.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Phil Upchurch

– Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Phil Upchurch and Grace Kelly.  Veteran blues artist Upchurch joins his solid skills with the rapidly growing talent of young alto saxophonist Kelly.  They’re joined by Ernest Tibbs on bass.  The Coffee Gallery.    (626) 798-6236.

– Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Marc Cohn.  Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Cohn features selections from his new album, Listening Booth 1970 in which he finds vibrant life in that storied year via his transformations of songs by Cat Stevens, John Lennon, Van Morrison, Smokey Robinson and others.  The Irvine Barclay.    (949) 854-4607.

– Nov. 10. (Thurs.) Patrick Berrogian’s Hot Club Combo.  French guitarist Berrogian recalls the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt with the hard driving support of Combo from the Hot Club of San Diego.  Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

CHita Rivera

– Nov. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Chita Rivera: My Broadway.  The title is right on target.  Who knows Broadway better than Rivera, whose credits reach from West Side Story to Kiss of the Spiderwoman and beyond.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.      (714) 556-2787.

– Nov. 11. (Fri.)  Evelyn Glennie and Maya Beiser.  The gifted Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and cello goddess Beiser perform individual sets defining their extraordinary talents before coming together for a climactic world premiere of Stuttered Chant, composed for them by David Lang.  Royce Hall. UCLA Live.   (310) 825-2101.

– Nov. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.) Strunz & Farah.  Performing together since 1980, the duo guitar team of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah create incomparable musical banquets overflowing with sounds and rhythms reaching from jazz and flamenco to the Middle East, spiced with their own musically rich imaginations.  Click HERE to read iRoM’s most recent review of Strunz & Farah.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

The Labeque Sisters

– Nov. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bychkov and the Labeques.  The musically vivacious Labeque sisters – Katia and Marielle — s are joined by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Semyon Bychkov at Disney Hall in a performance of Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and the world premiere of Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Double OrchestraDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

– Nov. 12. (Sat.) Denise Donatelli.  Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Donatelli performs material from her radio-favorite album When Lights Are Low  as well as the standards she sings with such musical authenticity.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 12. (Sat.)  Three GuitarsFrank Potenza, Bruce Forman and Pat Kelley. Guitar togetherness doesn’t get much better than this blending of three of the instrument’s most gifted masters.  Boulevard Music, Culver City.  Info: (310) 398-2583.

Kenny Burrell

– Nov. 12. (Sat.)  Kenny Burrell.  “80 Years Young.” He may be turning 80, but guitarist Burrell continues a full schedule reaching from his work with the UCLA’s jazz studies program to his continuing live performances.  Celebrants include B.B. King, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Lalo Schifrin, as well as the UCLA Philharmonia, the UCLA Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Heritage All-Stars.  The program features new compositions by Dr. Roger Bourland, Dr. Paul Chihara, John Clayton, James Newton, Burrell and others.  Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.  (310) 825-2101.

Mark Miller and Betty Bryant

– Nov. 13. (Sun.)  Betty Bryant and Mark Miller.  Singer/pianist Bryant’s entertaining style embraces pleasures of jazz reaching back to the ‘50s.  She celebrates her birthday by joining with singer Miller in a performance of songs from their new duo album, Together.  Matinee.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

– Nov. 8 (Tues.)  New West Guitar Group.  The talented young guitar virtuosos of the NWGG, equally adept at acoustic and electric styles, celebrate the recent release of their latest CD, Round Trip Ticket.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

– Nov. 12.  Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur and Suzy Thompson. Folk revival heroes of the ‘60s, Kweskin and Muldaur, along with the Jug Band, brought the spirit of Americana to the world of rock music.  Thompson’s dynamic singing and spirited fiddling add solid roots touches to the mix.  Freight & Salvage.    (510) 644-2020.

– Nov. 13. (Sun.)  “Melody Monsters.”  Dave Grisman and Frank Vignola Duo. It’s a uniquely appealing combination – Grisman’s sweetly lyrical mandolin and Vignola’s dependable jazz guitar.  Don’t miss this one.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.


Rickie Lee Jones

– Nov. 6 & 9. (Tues. & Wed.)  Rickie Lee Jones.  Singer and songwriter of styles beyond definition Jones – approaching 60 – may not have the visibility she once did, but she nevertheless continues to be one of pop music’s most intriguing performers.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

Maureen McGovern

– Nov. 8 – 12. (Tues. – Sat.)  Maureen McGovern. Her soaring vocals have been delighting audiences with her imaginative views of the American Songbook over four decades.  Now she’s offering tunes from a new CD – dangling conversations  — featuring music by more recent additions to the Songbook – Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Webb among them.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

– Nov. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chick Corea continues his epic, month long run at the Blue Note.  This week, he’ll be in the company of Bobby McFerrin (Tues. – Thurs.) and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

– Nov. 11. (Fri.)  “The 50th Anniversary of West Side Story: The Movie.”  Yes, it’s been half a century since the magnificent Bernstein/Sondheim hit musical of the ‘50s made its way into a classic film musical.  Celebrating that extraordinary production, the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra and Justin DiCioccio will feature arrangements crafted by Dave Grusin, Michael Abene and Don Sebesky, as well as the Buddy Rich West Side Story Suite by Bill Reddie and a pair of Johnny Richards arrangements for Stan Kenton’s West Side Story album.  Borden Auditorium at the Manhattan School of Music.   (917) 493-4428.

Tierney Sutton

– Nov. 13. (Sun.)  Turtle Island Quartet and Tierney Sutton.   They’re a seemingly unlikely combination, but both the TIQ and Sutton have a sparkling history of musical adventurousness.  And when they get together – as they do here – to perform the music of John Coltrane, expect creative fireworks.  Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.


– Nov. 9 – 12 (Wed. – Sat.)  Brubecks Play BrubeckDarius, Chris and Dan Brubeck plus special guest.  The musical genealogy is a potent element in this aggregation of Dave Brubeck’s sons.  Each is an accomplished, envelope-stretching player in his own right.  Together, they recall some of their old man’s finest efforts.  (I wonder who the special guest will be.)  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Photos of  Kenny Burrell, Rickie Lee Jones and Tierney Sutton by Tony Gieske.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 255 other followers