Here, There & Everywhere: The Closing of Charlie O’s

September 3, 2011

By Don Heckman

Charlie O’s closed Wednesday night.  It happened without anticipation, and without warning.

My first awareness of the bad news came with an email from Jo-Ann Ottaviano, who has been running the club – along with her brother Mike – since the death of her husband, Charlie Ottaviano in 2008.  It arrived at 6:19 p.m. with the message “after 11 years of amazing jazz at Charlie O’s, tonight will be our last presentation.  The lights will dim forever after the last set. “

Charlie O's

I’ve seen jazz clubs disappear in the past.  But never with such startling suddenness.  I”ve loved Charlei O’s since the first time I went there, and I described it in the Los Angeles Times as the “ultimate jazz bar and restaurant.”  It reminded me, in many respects, of some of the Greenwich Village rooms I frequented in my New York years.  But it was more than nostalgia that made Charlie O’s a welcome destination for me.  It was also the laid-back ambience, the intimate closeness to the music as it was being made, the bookings that were made with musical, rather than commercial intentions as the primary requirement.

No wonder the long, long list of players who spent time on Charlie O’s up close and personal stage was a virtual directory of the Southland’s finest jazz artists.

Why did it have to happen?

Jo-Ann made it clear yesterday: “The stress of trying to keep it going in this economy was just too much.  The club was just not staying above water.  I realize lots of folks have lost their jobs and money is tight.  I also know that the first thing people stop doing is spending money on entertainment, whether that is going out to see live music, or for dinner and drinks.”

Characteristically, Jo-Ann is far too modest to have mentioned how tough it must have been when Charlie passed away, and the complete management of the club fell into her hands.  Remarkably, she continued to do so, despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2009 – somehow managing to keep Charlie O’s alive and swinging while beating the disease.

But that’s all in the past now, suddenly and unexpectedly.  And maybe not so unexpectedly, given the fact that Charlie O’s shut down a day before the government reported that the economy had generated no new jobs in August.  So, unless someone like a Herb Alpert or a David Geffen steps up to enable the phoenix-like return of Charlie O’s, jazz has lost another vital home.

If nothing else, it went out in style.  When singer Janis Mann was getting ready for her performance Wednesday night the last thing she expected was to serve as Charlie O’s final act.  To her credit, she took it out superbly.  Backed by pianist Andy Langham, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Roy McCurdy, she displayed the musical and lyrical versatility that are her specialties.  Moving convincingly from ballads such as “With Every Breath I Take” and Henry Mancini’s too rarely heard “Slow Hot Wind” to a samba-driven “Never Let Me Go,” a sexy “Evil Gal Blues” and a touching version of Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away, Mann offered an appropriate musical finale — a celebratory program of song.

And a poignant reminder of the eleven years of musical pleasures that took place, almost every night, at the now sadly departed Charlie O’s.

Photo of Charlie O’s by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: Aug 10 – 15

August 10, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

B.B. King

– Aug. 11. (Wed.) B.B. King, Buddy Guy. The blues at its best by a pair of venerable masters.  The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 11. (Wed.) Bennie Maupin Ensemble.  Maupin’s mastery of the tenor saxophone, flute and bass clarinet has reached from Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to his own envelope-stretching outings.  He’s not heard often enough, though, so don’t miss this one.  Armand Hammer Museum, UCLA.

– Aug. 11. (Wed.) Carol Robbins Quartet.  Harp hasn’t had a lot of presence in jazz, but in Robbins’ hands it steps impressively into the spotlight.  She’s backed by Pat Senatore, bass, Josh Nelson, piano and Jimmy Branley, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  .

– Aug. 11 – 15. (Wed. – Sun.)  John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey. Television variety shows featuring the music and humor of, among others, Sonny & Cher, the Smothers Brothers, etc. are a thing of the past.  If anyone has the charm, the wit and the musicality to bring them back, it’s the entertaining husband and wife team of Pizzarelli and Molaskey.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Aug. 12. (Thurs.) Soulive and Breakestra. Jazz funk on the loose, from the organ trio rhythms of Soulive to the hip hop and soul of the ten piece Breakestra.  Twilight Dance at the Santa Monica Pier.   (310) 458-8900.

– Aug. 12. (Thurs.)  La Excelencia.  The twelve piece salsa band with an upfront social awareness bring a revolutionary attitude to a traditional form. The Skirball Center.   (310) 440-4500.

– Aug. 12. (Thurs.)  Charlie O’s 10th Anniversary Party.  Jo-Anne and her staff celebrate ten years of providing first rate jazz in an intimate, up close and personal setting.  Expect to see a lot of familiar faces as Bill Cunliffe leads the Charlie O’s All-Stars.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– Aug. 12. (Thurs.)  Jennifer Hart and Llew MathewsHart & Soul.  The duo of singer Hart and pianist (and sometimes singer) Mathews is bringing new life to everything from Lambert, Hendricks and Ross’ version of “Centerpiece” to their touching take on “Here’s To Life.  .Steamers.   (714) 871-8800.

Robin McKelle

– Aug. 13. (Fri.)  Robin McKelle.  McKelle’s latest album, Mess Around, combines her solid jazz skills with her affection for blues, soul and the music of the ‘60s.  Café Metropol.   (213) 613-1537.

– Aug. 13. (Fri.)  Carlos Santana, Lila Downs, Pete Escovedo and Zach de la Rocha. Latin music in many of its rich, colorful forms, from the blues driven explorations of Santana to Downs’ gripping musical intimacy, Escovedo’s classic Latin jazz and the rap and poetry songs of De la Rocha.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

– Aug. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  Harry Connick, Jr. Connick may have too much talent for his own good, given the many twists and turns of his career.  But when he’s playing piano, singing, leading a big band  in many of his own arrangements, he seems to be exactly where he belongs.  He’ll also perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Hollywood Bowl (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  Erin Boheme. Young, rapidly rising singer Boheme has the chops, the rhythm and the looks to claim a spot for herself in the upper reaches of the jazz vocal constellation.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Aug. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) The Long Beach Jazz Festival.  What a great way to spend a summer weekend, in the laid back setting of Rainbow Lagoon, listening to The Original Jazz Crusaders, a Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr., Dave Koz, Sheila E., Jonathan Butler, George Duke, Marcus Miller, Christian Scott, the Al Williams Jazz Society and many more.  Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach.  The Long Beach Jazz Festival.

Seu Jorge

– Aug. 14. (Sat.) Seu Jorge and Almaz. Jorge has crossed convincingly from his Brazilian samba to a breakout role in global pop, singing the music of David Bowie (among others) with as much panache as his gripping takes on Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, etc.  He’ll feature music, recorded with Almaz, from his new CD, Seu Jorge and AlmazClub Nokia.  (213) 765-7000.

– Aug. 14. (Sat.)  Pasadena Symphony and PopsAll That Jazz. The gifted young Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and jazz singer Valarie Pettiford are featured in a laid back summer jazz evening.  The Lawn adjacent to the Rose Bowl.  All That Jazz. (626)793-7172.

– Aug. 14. (Sat.) Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to move with the jump and jive rhythms of the Voodoo Daddies.  To make the performance even more tempting, the price is right — Free — and the setting is the pleasant environs of the Orange County Great Park.  Flights and Sounds Summer Festival.   (914) 854-4646.

– Aug. 15. (Sun.) Aloha Fest! Songs and Dances From Paradise. Natalie Ai, Hula Hulau O Lilinoe and Nonosina Polynesia bring to life the lush sounds and driving rhythms of Tahiti, Hawaii and beyond.  The Ford Amphitheatre.   (323) 461-3673.

– Aug. 15. (Sun.)  Levon Helm & Jenny Lewis.  With Steve Earle.  An evening of diversity, featuring the soulful voice and crisp drumming of Helm, Lewis’ dynamic voice and songs, and the Grammy-winning Earle in a program of songs by the late Townes Van Zandt (from the new CD, Townes.)  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

– Aug. 15. (Sun.)  John Proulx.  Pianist Proulx is also a gifted songwriter and an intriguing vocalist.  Let’s  hope he performs some selections from his Chet Baker tribute album, Baker’s Dozen: Remembering Chet BakerVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.  .

– Aug. 15. (Sun.)  Smooth Summer Jazz.  The title says it all – a stellar evening for fans of the easygoing rhythms and pleasing timbres of smooth jazz.  Featured artists include Brian McKnight, Rick Braun and Richard Elliot, Patrice Rushen, Spencer DayThe Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Amina Figarova

– Aug. 10. (Tues.)  Amina Figarova.  Azerbaijan pianist and composer Figarova makes a rare West Coast tour, celebrating the release of her musically compelling new CD, Sketches.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.  Also Kuumbwa in Santa Cruz on Thurs., Aug. 12  and the San Jose Jazz Festival (Aug 15)  on Sun., Aug. 15.   

– Aug. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  Betty Buckley and Alice Russell.  An evening of musical delights from a pair of ladies who know how to bring a song to life and an audience to its feet.  Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

– Aug. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.)  Toumani Diabate and the Symmetric Orchestra. Mali’s Diabete performs on the traditional African instrument the kora with such virtuosic energy that he has been called “the Jimmy Hendrix of the kora.”  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200. 

– Aug. 14 – 15. (Sat. & Sun.)  Outside Lands Music & Art Festival.  It’s the kind of event, with tributaries into ecology, technology, activism, food and the counterculture that could probably only take place in San Francisco.  Among the acts: Kings of Leon, Further with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Social Distortion, Al Green, Gogol Bordello, the Levon Helm Band, Sierra Leon’s Refugee All-Stars, Vieux Farka Toure, the Rebirth Brass Band, Garage A Trois and many others.    Outside Lands Music & Art Festival in Golden Gate Park.

San Jose

George Clinton

– Aug. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.)  The San Jose Jazz Festival. Always one of the West Coast’s most attractive summer festivals, San Jose keeps its standards high once again, with programming that includes Amina Figarova, Bobby Matos, George Clinton and Funkadelic, Vijay Iyer, Irma Thomas, John Handy, Maceo Parker, Nnenna Freelon, Pete Yellin, Ray Obiedon, Gretchen Parlato, Marcus Miller, Tower of Power and many others.  The San Jose Jazz Festival.

New York

– Aug. 10. (Tues.)  Art Lillard’s Heavenly Band with Mary Foster Conklin, Andrea Wolper and Alan Esses. Drummer Lillard is carrying the torch for big band music by performing new music in classic Swing style.  Vocalists Conklin, Wolper and Esses add their atmospheric takes to this fascinating blend. The Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.

– Aug. 10 – 14. (Tues. – Sat.)  George Coleman Quartet.  Seventy-five year old Coleman’s resume reaches from Miles Davis the Chet Baker, but he’s never quite received the credit his strong tenor saxophone work deserves.  He performs here with Harold Mabern, piano, John Weber, bass, Joe Farnsworth, drums.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

– Aug. 10 – 15. (Tues. – Sun.)  Cedar Walton Quintet.  Veteran pianist Walton displays his wares with a solid collective of younger stars: Vincent Herring, alto sax, Steve Turre, trombone, David Williams, bass and Willie Jones III, drums.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

– Aug. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.)  Lenny White’s Anomaly. Drummer White features the music of his new recording, also called Anomaly – music which is aimed, he says, “at putting the rock back into jazz rock.”  The Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.

Live Jazz: Ron King at Charlie O’s

April 25, 2010

By Tony Gieske

The myriad kudos Ron King has collected saluting his work as one of the town’s greatest professional trumpet players were nowhere in evidence on the bandstand at Charlie O’s Saturday night. There was not so much as a T-shirt.

He got right down to business with a strange black plastic mute in his horn and a mellow ballad coming out, although without  the customary overtones that give the sound a dusty surface. His usual perch as lead trumpet in a recording orchestra gives him a magisterial perspective on the melody.

Ron King

King’s improvisational output, however, seemed coldly efficient, however brilliantly decorated with impossibly swift and wide gruppeti, which are turns; huge skips from top to bottom and back again in the blink of an eye; and spectacular slides into third base.

Kevin Brandon

The well-chosen rhythm section brought welcome vivacity to the classic number “Sister Sadie.”  King got to swinging pretty good on this one, not all that much of a feat on a great Horace Silver head.  And with Lorca Hart, drums; Jimmy Cox, piano, and the extraordinary Brandino on bass, the forward motion was unstoppable here, as it was on the up-tempo successors “Perdido” and a Woody Shaw original.

Yet I listened in vain for a little bebop from the leader, or a few blues licks. It was just one miraculous technical feat after another, a truly impressive recital of brass-playing skill and power. With an exception: Very skinny above the staff, he was.

Lorca Hart

Cox knew his bebop quite well and improvisational riches flowed from his keyboard, fresh and authoritative.  Brandino, whose usual credit is Kevin Brandon, has backed Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder on some recent Grammy contenders, among other distinguished gigs. He knows just what to do, no matter where, what or when, bebop or not, and Hart partnered him flawlessly.

Picks of the Week: Nov. 16 – 22

November 16, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Nov. 16. (Mon.) Devon Wendell, Kevin Kelly and Tyler Kidd.    Blues on the loose, featuring iRoM’s own “Doc” Wendell playing electric and acoustic guitars and harmonica.  A chance to hear the reviewer in action.   The Viper Room.  (310) 652-7869.

– Nove. 16. (Mon.)  Elvis Schoenberg’s Orchestre Surreal.  Schoenberg’s large collective of L.A. studio players claims to perform music that “fuses classical, jazz, rock, hip hop, world music and just about anything else.”  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.


Charlie O

– Nov. 17. (Tues.)  Remembering  Charlie OThe Bill Cunliffe Trio.  Charlie Ottaviano passed away a year ago.  But his widow Jo-Ann has made sure that the club that bears his name continues to be the Southland’s ultimate jazz bar and restaurant, presenting world-class music seven nights a week.  There will undoubtedly be a few tears and a lot of jamming taking place to celebrate his memory.  Charlie O’s. (818) 989-3110.

– Nov. `17. (Tues) Charlie Haden Family & FriendsRambling Boy.  Bassist Haden, one of the jazz world’s most versatile artists, recalls his early years in country and bluegrass music.  Family members, bluegrass players and Jack Black join the party.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

– Nov. 19. (Thurs.)  John Altman.  Sixtieth Birthday Party. Alto saxophonist/composer/arranger and humorist Altman celebrates a milestone birthday. Charlie O’s (818) 989-3110.

Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan

– Nov. 19. (Thurs.)  Thom Rotella Quartet.  Guitarist Rotella performs with the sterling backing of pianist John Beasley, bassist Kevin Brandon and drummer Roy McCurdy.  Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge.  (310) 642-7500.

– Nov. 19 – 21. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Lainie Kazan.  The star of stage, screen, television and beyond is also a jazz-oriented, always engaging vocalist.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– Nov. 20. (Fri.)  Graham Dechter Trio performs with guest star trumpeter Gilbert CastellanosSpazio. (818) 728-8400.

– Nov. 20 – 21. (Fri. & Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco Trio.  The master of the B-3 keeps alive the tradition of big, blues-driven, irresistibly swinging jazz organ music. Steamers. (714) 871-8800.

– Nov. 21. (Sat.)  The Kronos Quartet, Terry Riley, Matmos and Michael Einziger“Eureka” The opening event in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s West Coast, Left Coast Festival features four artists whose skills were honed in the cultural environment of California.  The evening’s works are frequently interrlated, especially during a combined version of a piece titled “For Terry Riley,”  performed by the Kronos Quartet and the electronica of Matmos.  Walt Disney Concert Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Tommy Tune and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings: “Steps In Time” Dancer, choreographer and director Tune recalls some of the classic, high-stepping moments in Broadway musical history.  CSUN Performing Arts Center (818) 677-5768.

– Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Bernadette Peters. The Broadway musical star, who can command a stage with a sultry phrase and a playful twist of her hips, stars in the 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Thousand Oaks Civic Plaza.   (805) 449-2700.


Hubert Laws

– Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Hubert Laws, Larry Koonse and Tierney Sutton. The Jazz Bakery continues its Moveable Feast series of concerts with a Holiday Celebration featuring veteran flutist Laws, versatile guitarist Koonse and jazz vocalist Sutton.    Fowler Museum.  UCLA.   (310) 271-9039

– Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Bob Sheppard.  Name the style you want to hear from a saxophonist, and Sheppard can deliver it in A-class style.  This time out, he’s doing things his own way, backed by the sturdy support of bassist Pat Senatore’s TrioVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Hans Groiner & Larry Goldings Quartet.  Here’s an intriguing two-fer.  Pianist and humorist Groiner, making his West Coast debut is allegedly a “Thelonious Monk scholar.”   Goldings is a solid talent, one of the Southland’s most imaginative keyboardists.  The Red Carpet Jazz Series.  Upstairs at Vitellos.  (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 22. (Sun.) Suezenne Fordham Chamber Jazz LA. Fordham’s expands upon the lineage of avant-garde jazz reaching back to the ‘60s.  South Pasadena Music Center and Conservatory (626) 403-2300

San Francisco

– Nov. 18. (Tues.)  Fred Hersch.  Solo piano.  Gersh is always a pleasure to hear, but never more so than when he plays alone.  Hopefully he’ll include some selections from his recent album of music by Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Yoshi’s Oakland )510) 238-9200.

– Nov. 20 – 22. (Fri. – Sun.)  Wallace Roney Quintet.  Trumpeter Roney’s playing style flows from the Miles Davis wellspring, but what he does with it is uniquely his own.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

Savion Glover

Savion glover

– Nov. 20 – 22.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Patti Austin.  Who will show up this week?  The Jazz Patti, the Blues Patti, the Soul Patti.  Doesn’t matter.  All of Austin’s musical manifestations are great.  With any luck she’ll include something from all her sources.  Yoshi’s  San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

– Nov. 17 – 22. (Mon. – Sun.)  Savion Glover“Jamming with the Masters” The brilliant tap artist performs with special guests McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Eddie Palmieri, Jack DeJohnette and others TBA.  Check with club for schedules.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– Nov. 17 – 22.  George Wein & the Newport All-Stars.  At 84, Wein – a swinging pianist as well as jazz’s most successful impresario – still loves to get up on the stage and do it himself.  He performs with the true all-star backing of saxophonist Lew Tabackin, trumpeter Randy Sandke, guitarist Howard Alden, drummer Winard Harper and others.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9595.

. – Nov. 21. (Sat.)  Mariza and Friends.  The Portuguese diva and her passionate fado interpretations are joined, in a diverse program, by Peru’s Eva Ayllon and Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo RubalcabaCarnegie Hall

– Nov. 22. (Sun.)  Jean-Michel Pilc Quartet. French pianist is one of the most adventurous members of the new generation of players taking their music beyond the powerful influence of Bill Evans. 55 Bar (212) 929-9883.

Live Jazz: Lew Soloff at Charlie O’s

October 30, 2009

By Don Heckman

Trumpeter Lew Soloff is the very model of a veteran jazz artist — fluent, articulate and imaginative in almost any musical setting. His resume, far too long to list, reaches from Blood, Sweat & Tears to Gil Evans.

But what Soloff brought Thursday to the first of two appearances at Charlielewsoloff_photo O’s had another quality – a quality not always present in the performances of veteran jazz artists. And that quality was a desire to communicate, to apply his many skills to a selection of music that would accomplish the dual task of entertaining his listeners while allowing him the opportunity to explore his ever-active improvisational curiosity.

Working with the solid musical companionship of Jerry Vivino, tenor and soprano saxophones and flute, Larry Goldings, piano, Mike Merritt, bass and James Wormworth, drums, Soloff shared the music, as well as its making, with his receptive audience. Charlie O’s is one of the Southland’s coziest, most amiable places to hear music, and never more so than when Soloff was cracking jokes – describing J.S. Bach as a pretty good composer – restarting a tune when it didn’t move in the right direction, and dedicating numbers to a few of the many musicians in the audience.

The range of his playing was impressive. On “There Is No Greater Love,” he deconstructed the tune, alternating pointillistic fragments with held notes – sometimes very long held notes — gradually bringing it all back together. Bach’s “Air on the G String” was done — hesitantly at first, then more convincingly – with Merrit’s bass. And Soloff’s own “Istanbul” displayed its Middle Eastern qualities with Vivino on flute and Soloff on piccolo trumpet.

Part of the evening was also given over to tributes to other trumpet players. First: a jaunty New Orleans-style tune with Soloff’s atmospheric rendering of Louis Armstrong, and Vivino doing an equally engaging version of Sydney Bechet’s soprano saxophone style. Next, a pair of pieces closely associated with Miles Davis, with Soloff playing Harmon-muted trumpet on “Seven Steps to Heaven” and opening the horn for a lyrical “My Funny Valentine.”

Despite some rough spots here and there, there was no questioning the inventiveness of the playing, or the sheer musicality of the set. Veteran that he is, Soloff brought his life long love of music to every note, from the first to the…last.

Lew Soloff also performs Saturday night with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O’s.

Live Jazz: The Chuck Berghofer Trio

February 27, 2009

By Don Heckman

There’s an often repeated sportscasters’ line about the National Football League which basically says that any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday.  And, while listening to the Chuck Berghofer Trio at Charlie O’s Thursday night, a variation on the phrase kept coming to mind: Great jazz can be heard every night in some location in most major cities.

And no place does it better, or with greater frequency, than Charlie O’s, which is surely among the most engaging of any jazz club, anywhere: small enough for most of the tables to be close to the stage; the walls covered with jazz photos and memorabilia; excellent sound; and the relaxed atmosphere of a living room filled with friends.


Chuck Berghofer

Then add the warm confidence of the Berghofer players.  Although they had worked  together before (see comment below)  it was essentially an ad hoc ensemble, consisting of pianist Terry Trotter and drummer Peter Erskine, performing without rehearsal, depending entirely upon the long experience and extraordinary talent that this trio of veteran artists brings to everything they play.  Aside from an occasional ending that can best be described as whimsical, the program – with its far-ranging selection of material – came together in superb fashion, its impact enhanced by the setting.

Leading the way, Berghofer was an amiable guide, cracking wry jokes between numbers, providing a sturdy, irresistibly propulsive foundation.  His soloing on “Old Folks” and elsewhere was masterful, the work of a bassist who values the importance of melody.


Terry Trotter

Trotter, like Berghofer and Erskine, has a long and distinguished history.  One of the more interesting entries in a resume that reaches back to gigs with Art Pepper, Chet Baker, Phil Woods and others, is a series of recordings devoted to jazz versions of songs by Stephen Sondheim.  And the combination of straight ahead swinging and complex harmonic vision implied by such a lineage was present in everything he played.  Among his finest moments – a tenderly harmonized version of Duke Elllington’s “Come Sunday,” a equally lush, but stylistically different take on “But Not For Me.”  And , perhaps most intriguing of all, his remarkable use of two-handed, octave patterns in many of his improvisations.


Peter Erskine

Erskine, who hasn’t done much in the way of piano trio work since his group with Alan Pasqua and Dave Carpenter was ended by Carpenter’s premature death, was at his musically literate best.  Moving easily from whisper soft brushes to an occasional room shaking, rhythmic tsunami, he proved – as he always does – that first rate drumming is as much about music, timbre and texture as it is about rhythm.

So, as I said earlier, great jazz can be heard every night in some location somewhere.  And the combination of the Chuck Berghofer Trio and Charlie O’s was about as much Thursday night proof as anyone could  ask for.

Berghofer photo by Bob Barry

Picks of the Week: Feb 2 – 8

February 2, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Feb. 2. (Mon.)  Emerson String Quartet.  The veteran, eight Grammy Award-winning ensemble performs amid a major retrospective showing of the art of painter Roberta Eisenberg.  The program includes Beethoven, Ravel, Webern and Schubert.  Cal State Polytechnic.  Pomona. (310) 216-5861.


Jacky Terrasson

– Feb. 4 – 7.  (Wed. – Sat.)  Jacky Terrasson Trio.  The always-intriguing French pianist makes a rare L.A. stop.  The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.

– Feb 5.  (Thurs.)  Klezmerata Fiorentina.  How’s this for eclecticism: Four principal players from Florence’s Orchestra del Maggio Musicale, performing Ukrainian-Jewish instrumental music in an improvisatory style. Expect to hear lots of tapping feet.  Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.

– Feb. 5.  (Thurs.)  Ron Eschete Trio. The master of the seven string jazz guitar in action.    Steamers. (714) 871-8800


Steve Tyrell

– Feb. 5 – 8  (Thurs. – Sun.) and Feb. 12 – 15 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Singer Steve Tyrell does his unique take on the Great American Songbook.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Feb. 6.  (Fri.)  Master Musicians of Jajouka.  William S. Burroughs described it as the “music of a 4,000 year old rock & roll band.”  But even that colorful beat generation description misses the intensity of the Jajoukas’ music, with its plangent reeds, wailing flutes and roiling percussion.  UCLA Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.   (Also Feb. 11 and 12 at Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.


Orchestra Otmani

– Feb. 6.  (Fri. ) Orchestra Otmani of Fes.  A rare opportunity to hear Moroccan music in the Andalusian style.  Orchestra Otmani performs in both secular and Sufi traditions, and features the singing of 21 year old vocal prodigy Marouane Hajji.  Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School.  (866) 468-3399.

– Feb. 6, 8, 13 and 15.  (Fri,, Sun., Fri. & Sun.)   Le Nozze di Figaro.  “Figaro” is always fun.  But rarely more so than in this self-described “boisterous new production” by Opera UCLA.  Schoenberg Hall. (310) 825-2101

– Feb. 6 & 7.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Another jazz saxophone weekend at Charlie O’s, with the boppish stylings of Lanny Morgan on Sat. and the Pink Panther tenor of Plas Johnson on Saturday.  Charlie O’s.  818- 994-3058.

– Feb. 7.  (Fri.)  An Evening with Edward Albee. The great American playwright tells how it’s done.   Royce Hall UCLA.  UCLA Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.


Azam Ali

-Feb. 7.  (Sat.)  Niyaz.  The cross-cultural ensemble of singer Azam Ali, multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian, oud player Naser Musa, tabla player Salar Nadar, bassist Miles Jay and keyboardist Ray Lee explore the surprisingly compatible linkages between Persian, Indian, Turkish and Western dance music.  The El Rey.  (323) 936-6400.   Also Fri., Feb. 7 at Cal State Fullerton Performing Arts Center.  (714) 278-3371.

– Feb. 7.  (Fri.)  Rahim AlHaj and Souhail Kaspar.  Iraqi oud virtuoso AlHaj is joined by Lebanese percussionist Souhail Kaspar in a presentation of music from his latest CD, “Home Again.”  The Getty.



– Feb. 8.  (Sun.) Kodo Drummers.  Disney Hall.  No that’s not the big one you hear, although it sometimes approaches the intensity of a major temblor.  It’s Japan’s Kodo Drummers, filling Disney Hall with their incomparable blend of sheer showmanship and body-shaking percussion sounds.  Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

– Feb. 2 & 3.  (Mon. & Tues.)  Chris Hillman & Herb Pederson with John McEuen.  California country, rock and bluegrass lives.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York City

– Feb. 3 – 8.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The perfect contemporary jazz storm: The Yellowjackets’ irrepressible beat  and Mike Stern’s take-no-prisoners guitar playing. Blue Note.  (No wonder they have two Grammy nominations.)  (212) 475-8592.

– Feb. 4 – 7  (Wed. – Sat.)  Drummer Lewis Nash steps to the front of the stage with his own sterling quintet  (Jeremy Pelt, trumpet, Jimmy Greene, tenor saxophone, Renee Rosnes, piano, Peter Washington, bass)  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

– Feb. 6.  (Fri.)  Up and coming pianist Helen Sung combines her youthful perspective with veteran bassist Ron Carter‘s ever-adventurous overview.  Rubin Museum of Art. (212) 620-5000.

– Feb. 6 & 7.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Pianist Mike Melvoin, bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Bill Goodwin make a convincing case for the fact that jazz can be simultaneously lyrical, elegant, imaginative and hard-swinging.  The Kitano.  (212) 885-7000.  Also at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston on Tues., Feb. 10.  (617) 562-4111.

– Feb. 6 & 7.  (Fri. & Sat..)  (10:30 & 12:00 AM)  Tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake‘s envelope-stretching quintet, with pianist Dave Kikoski, guitarist Lage Lund, drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Matt Clohesy.  Smalls.  (212) 252-5091.

Knoxville, Tennessee

– Feb. 6 – 8  (Fri.  –  Sun.) Big Ears Festival.  A cross-genre music and arts festival combining art installations, exhibitions, performance art, seminars with artists, and interactive experiences.  Confirmed artists include Philip Glass, Jon Hassell, Pauline Oliveros, and numerous others.  At locations around Knoxville, Tenn.    (865).684-1200 Ext. 2.


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