Live Jazz: Ken Peplowski and the Ed Dunsavage Trio in a Siskiyou Music Project Concert

May 30, 2015

By Don Heckman

Ashland, Oregon. In a fast happening program Wednesday night, a full collection of jazz perspectives were showcased in an entertaining evening of music reaching from small groups to the Rogue Valley All-Star Big Band. Topping it off, there was the stellar presence of veteran, award-winning clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski and the briskly swinging playing of the Ed Dunsavage Trio (guitarist Dunsavage, basist Joe Cohoon and drummer Gary Hirsch).

The Rogue Valley All-Star Big Band was all that and more, alternating their hard-driving big band sounds with various smaller groupings in groove-driven, solo-filled selections reaching from Count Basie to Cannonball Adderley.

The Rogue Valley All Star Big Band

The Rogue Valley All Star Big Band

The young, student-level players were mostly at the stage of finding themselves as improvisers. But they were doing so with high-spirited enthusiasm, eager to find their way in fascinating offerings articulately played under the adept guidance of the group’s conductor, Martin Behnke.

Ken Peplowski and the Ed Dunsavage Trio

Ken Peplowski and the Ed Dunsavage Trio

The evening’s musical high point began with the arrival of Peplowski and the Dunsavage Trio. In an era in which the clarinet has not been

Ken Peplowski and Ed Dunsavage

one of the primary jazz wind instruments, Peplowski is one of the few clarinetists working to keep the instrument’s remarkable creative potential alive and well. And he kept its roots vividly alive in this set by playing “Let’s Dance,” the Benny Goodman theme song and Artie Shaw’s “Moon Ray.”

Peplowski was backed superbly by the Dunsavage Trio, dynamically driving Peplowski’s finger-busting up-tempos, and finding the lyricism in a set of Billy Strayhorn/Duke Ellington tunes climaxing with a romp through “A-Train.”

Ken Peplowski

Ken Peplowski

And Peplowski didn’t stop there. On a few numbers he displayed his warm engaging adeptness as a tenor saxophonist.

Add in the whimsical, wry sense of humor in his between tunes commentaries. And equally important for the evening’s young jazz players, there were Peplowski’s warm, supportive efforts to personally interact with various collections of players. Simultaneously an inspiration, a mentor and a fatherly leader, he gave the young players an evening of musical memories that will be with them for many years.

For the numerous players’ parents who were in the audience, as well as the dedicated jazz fans, it was the best sort of musical evening – one which underscored the timelessness of America’s improvisational art.

All best to Ed Dunsavage for having created another memorable Siskiyou Music Project. The Summer Series 2015 begins June 6 & 7. Click HERE for more information.

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Photos by Faith Frenz. To see more photos by Faith Frenz click HERE.

Funeral: For Clark Terry

February 25, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

10:00 a.m.

Officiated by Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III

The Abyssinian Baptist Church

132 Odell Clark Place

(West 138th Street between Lenox Ave.

& Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.)

New York, New York 10030

The services will take place on Saturday to send home our beloved Clark Terry.  Clark peacefully went home to God on Saturday, February 21st in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, surrounded by his family, students and friends.  He was known internationally for his signature musicianship and gratitude for his love from many.  For nearly half a century, Clark’s greatest passion was helping to make young musicians’ dreams come true.  He was a tremendous source of inspiration, of love, of respect, of decency, and of human rights.  He was one of the first recruits of the United States Navy when black musicians were given the Rating of Musician in 1942.  From being one of the few musicians who played as a featured soloist in both the Count Basie and the Duke Ellington Orchestras, to being the first black staff musician at NBC, Clark had multiple bands including big bands, youth bands and other ensembles.  He was one of the most recorded jazz musicians in history on more than 900 albums.

Clark’s devotion towards mentoring young musicians influenced the lives of worldwide master talents such as Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dianne Reeves amongst countless others.  Clark inspired everyone by example.  As he was quoted in the documentary about his life and love for mentoring students, Keep on Keepin’ On, “Your mind is a powerful asset.  Use it for positive thoughts and you’ll learn what I’ve learned.  I call it getting on the plateau of positivity.”

Clark will be laid to rest at the Woodlawn Cemetery following the service. Funeral services entrusted to P.K. Miller Mortuary, Pine Bluff, Arkansas and George H. Weldon Funeral Home, New York City.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the Jazz Foundation of America which has helped over the years to make sure that Clark’s needs were met.  Please note on donations that they be made “In Honor of Clark Terry” to help them continue this work.

Picks of the Week: July 29 – Aug. 3 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York City, London, Paris and Tokyo

July 29, 2014

By Don Heckman

It’s another hot week, with a lot of venues still in the midst of their Summer hiatuses.  But there’s still some fine, selective music to hear.

Los Angeles

Amanda McBroom

Amanda McBroom

– July 29. (Tues.) Amanda McBroom and George Ball. Musical theatre and cabaret star Amanda McBroom and actor/singer George Ball present a program of classic songs. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– July 30. (Wed.) Lola Haag, Mark Massey and Friends. The sultry voice of Lola Haag is backed by the jazz piano stylings of Mark Massey and his stellar group. Steamers7.  (714) 871-8800.

– July 31. (Thurs.) Chuck Manning & Steve Huffsteter Quartet. A pair of Los Angeles’ world class jazz artists – saxophonist Manning and trumpeter  Huffsteter take a break from their busy bookings as sidemen to step into the spotlight.  They perform in a piano-less quartet with bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Matt GordyVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Aug. 1 – 3. (Fri. – Sun.) “Hair.”  The classic rock musical of the sixties takes over the Bowl for a rare three night run. A must-see for all boomers. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

Strunz and Farah

Strunz and Farah

– Aug. 2. (Sat.) Strunz & Farah. The dynamic guitar duo of Costa Rica’s Jorge Strunz and Iran’s Ardeshir Farah are back, making a second L.A. appearance in the past two weeks. Don’t miss them. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

(July 31 – Aug. 3.(Thurs. – Sun.) Vinicius Cantuaria Sings Jobim. Guitarist/singer Canturia, one of bossa nova’s most authentic interpreters, illuminates the Antonio Carlos Jobim catalog of songs. SFJAZZ event at Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

Melba Moore

Melba Moore

– Aug. 1 & 2. (Friday & Sat.) Melba Moore. Grammy-nominated, Tony-Award winning r&b, soul, and blues singer Moore is a master of contemporary pop music styles with hits reaching back to the ’70s. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

 New York City

– July 31 – Aug. 3. (Thurs. – Sun.) The legendary Count Basie Orchestra. The irresistible rhythms and big band classics of the Count Basie Orchestra live on, with trumpeter Scotty Barnhart leading the way. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.


– July 28 – Aug. 2 (Mon. – Sat.) The Average White Band. Four decades after their hit-making years of the ’70s and ’80s, the Scottish Average White Band is still playing their soul, r&b and funk classics. Two original members – Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre – are still present, along with three new members from the U.S. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 (0)20 7439 0747.


Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

Aug. 1 ;& 2. (Fri. & Sat.) The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Versatile trumpeter Hargrove steps away from his big band to lead a swinging quintet of jazz stars. Paris New Morning.  +33 1 45 23 51 41.


– July 29.  ( Tues.)  The Preservation Hall Jazz Band.  The classic sounds of New Orleans jazz are alive and well in the swinging playing of the preservation Hall Jazz Band.  The Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Live Jazz: “To Ella With Love” at the Hollywood Bowl, featuring the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Patti Austin

July 11, 2014

By Don Heckman

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald

The L.A. Philharmonic came up with a great celebration of the memory of Ella Fitzgerald at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night.

The evening began with a stirring big band salute from the always-exciting Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra – an appropriate beginning, given the long association Ella had with big bands, from her early years with Chick Webb to frequent associations with the likes of Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

Count Basie

Count Basie

It was additionally appropriate that most of the program was enlivened by the crisp, swinging backing of the current Count Basie Orchestra, now led by trumpeter Scotty Barnhart.

Add to that the stirring presence of singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and Patti Austin. Not only are both ladies at the very top echelon of the current jazz vocalist world; they also are imaginative musical artists, fully capable of bringing the same sort of mesmerizing interpretations in their singing that were always present in Fitzgerald. Which is exactly what they did on this memorable evening.

Also present, adding the sort of musical versatility that Ella always favored,  contributing their own impressive skills, the evening’s guests included young Malaysian pop singer Yuna, the musically versatile singer Clint Holmes, pianist Shelly Berg (offering his authentic view of the Basie piano style) and drummer Gregg Field.

And, in one of the night’s most touching moments, singer Carmen Bradford tearfully recalled visiting Fitzerald’s home after Ella’s death, and discovering that her latest recording was present on Ella’s CD player. Still captivated by her feelings, Bradford then delivered an emotionally vibrant version of “I Love Being Here With You” – a highlight in an evening glowing with highlights.

Among the many other stellar moments, here are a few that will no doubt remain in the memory banks of the enthusiastic, near capacity audience:

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra

– The Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra only played four numbers, including “Cottontail” and “Basie/Ella Blues,” an improvised scat vocal transformed into a hard-driving big band number by John Clayton. But everything they offered provided convincing testimony of the still-vital big jazz band genre.

– The same could be said of the Count Basie Orchestra, repeatedly providing glorious memories of an era when big jazz bands and jazz vocalists represented marriages made in musical heaven.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater

– Dee Dee Bridgewater, as always, was masterful with every phrase she sang. And she sang a bunch, from her solo renderings of “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Mack the Knife” “Tea For Two” and “Blues in the Night” to duet pairings with Holmes on songs from “Porgy and Bess” and a soaring, scat-filled duo with Austin on the Fitzgerald classic, “Mr. Paganini.”

Patti Austin

Patti Austin

– Patti Austin was equally versatile, equally articulate musically. In addition to her duet with Bridgewater, she paired with Holmes on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Her solo moments (with the Basie Orchestra backing) glowed on “Satin Doll,” “Them There Eyes” and “I’m Beginnig to See the Light.” And Austin was the chosen voice to recall Fitzgerald with the unforgettable classic, “A Tisket A Tasket.”

– The less familiar guest vocalists made their own engaging tributes to Ella. In addition to his duos, Holmes scatted with tons of swing and enthusiasm on “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” and Yuna added a personal touch to “You’ve Changed” and “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me.”

As I said earlier, it was a memorable night, surely one that touched the heart strings (and the rhythm strings) of Ella Fitzgerald’s many fans.

So, kudos to the L.A. Phil for its marvelously entertaining tribute to the “First Lady of Song.”


Live Jazz: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center.

March 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have been making regular appearances in the Southland for the past few years. And it’s always a musical delight to hear this stellar assemblage of jazz artists in action. On Sunday night they took the stage at the acoustically accurate environment of the Valley Performing Arts Center, once again reminding us of the great music that exists in the nearly century-old repertoire of big jazz bands.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

Marsalis’ carefully planned programming reached from Duke Ellington to Count Basie, while making additional stops at the efforts of Benny Carter, Henry Mancini, Gerald Wilson and Charles Mingus. The results were extraordinary.

I’m tempted to name (and praise) the impressive soloists who stepped into the spotlight. But the fact is that virtually every member of the JLCO displayed world-class improvisational skills. Suffice to say that the combination of extraordinary ensemble playing, blended with superb individual artistry, led by Marsalis’ deep historical overview (which he offered between numbers) of the creative potential of the big jazz band, resulted in an incomparable evening of music.

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

And the thought that kept surfacing throughout the memorable two hour program was the JLCO’s far ranging capacity to remind us of the big bands’ historical role as the symphony orchestra of American music. Evolving over the decades from the ’20s to the present, the big bands have provided one composer/arranger after another with the instrumentation to express musical creativity comparable to the work of European symphonic composers.

In the hands of jazz artists such as Marsalis and the gifted members of the JLCO, performing some of the great, jazz-oriented big band works of the 20th century, the music left little to be desired. Add to that the opportunity to compare the big band works of such iconic composers as Ellington, Mingus, Carter and Wilson, among numerous others.

And the result, in this extraordinary performance, was a musical night to remember – a beautifully articulated, inventively played display of big band jazz at its finest.

A Twist Of Doc: Hank Mobley – The Unsung Hero Of Bop.

February 7, 2014

By Devon Wendell

For tenor sax players, the late ‘50s and early ‘60s were a time for hard blowing, fitting in as many notes as possible within a few bars, and trying to break free from familiar patterns.

Sonny Rollins was the reigning king of articulation and might on tenor sax until Coltrane’s second stay with Miles. Although his was more of a cult-like following at the time, and there were plenty of people who didn’t like what he was playing, Coltrane would change the direction of the instrument forever. Rollins was still loved and began to play even harder and faster as a result of Coltrane’s impact on jazz.

Rollins, Coltrane and Johnny Griffin were considered to be the fastest tenor men in the game. Although these men were genius players and writers, many other fantastic contributors were left in the shadows. It’s always been difficult for music journalists and the media to pay attention to more than a few groundbreaking artists at once.

Hank Mobley

Hank Mobley

One such artist who never seemed to get his fair due during his time was Hank Mobley, who died in 1986 at 55. Mobley’s round tone and nimble, melodic blues based phrasing helped define the entire hard-bop genre.

Not only was Mobley a member of the original Jazz Messengers led by Horace Silver, he recorded and composed some of the most original, hard swinging compositions in the entire history of jazz. He also recorded with the top musicians of the day, both new on the scene like Lee Morgan, Grant Green, and Freddie Hubbard, as well as older legends such as Art Blakey, Art Taylor, and Kenny Dorham.

His two most heralded albums, Soul Station and Roll Call, both recorded in 1960 on Blue Note are among the most sophisticated and thoughtful albums recorded for the label.

The albums consist mostly of Mobley originals. And the most amazing thing about compositions like “Cattin’,” “B For B.B.” (recorded in 1956 with Donald Byrd on The Jazz Message Of Hank Mobley on Savoy Records), or “Take Your Pick” and “The Breakdown,” both from the Roll Call album, is that one can easily hear these as big band arrangements. Which is hard to say about many of Mobley’s contemporaries, especially as the ‘60s drew near. That sense of the blues that swung all night long that Count Basie, Duke Ellington, as well as Monk, and Dizzy kept with them when composing and playing, were present in Mobley’s writing and blowing. And his sound is immediately identifiable.

Someone could blind fold me and play me a Mobley composition that I’ve never heard, covered by an artist that I’ve never heard and I’d know it was his within the first four bars. There’s still something sweet and endearing to Mobley’s “High And Flighty” tone and his big, bright arrangements. I first noticed it on “Hankerin’” from Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers and Curtain Call (Both on Blue Note) which were given to me by a friend when I was 14.

Leonard Feather may have penned Mobley as “The middleweight champion of the tenor sax,” but I don’t think Feather meant it as a put down. Stan Getz was great and he played softer than Rollins or Coltrane. What’s great about jazz is that there’s room for many styles and sounds. The media may not grab onto it at first or ever, but the musicians and music lovers do. Mobley could and did play hard throughout different periods of his career. Check out his bold, angular lines on Freddie Hubbard’s Goin’ Up album on Blue Note from 1961 or “Hank’s Shout” from Introducing Lee Morgan With Hank Mobley’s Quintet on Savoy. Hank comes out swinging and never stops.

Mobley stayed true to the game until he retired with respiratory problems in the mid-’70s but his music continues to grab the attention of new jazz aficionados’ and keep the love of longtime, loyal fans like myself.

Thanks Hank.

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

Record Rack: The Michael Treni Big Band, Hadiza Dockeray

July 31, 2013

Summer at the Ocean and a Box of Chocolates

 By Brian Arsenault

The Michael Treni Big Band

 Pop-Culture Blues

My favorite piece on Pop-Culture Blues is “Summer Blues.”  Maybe because it’s still summer, the very heart of it.

The tune begins on a languorous afternoon with a beverage — perhaps several — looking at the ocean. A flock of seabirds rises and soars on Jerry Bergonzi’s tenor sax solo.

Freddie Hendrix’ flugelhorn takes us back to the beach, first quiet after the noisy flock is gone but then the waves start to crash as the tide comes in. Then evening.  Peaceful as the light dims but maybe a brief fierce summer storm rises. Quickly dispelled by a warm summer breeze. The moon rises.

On the other hand, my affection could originate in the song’s inspiration, the music of John Coltrane. Who better to draw inspiration from.

Well, you’ll also find songs on the album inspired by the Duke, the Count, cool master Mulligan, Mingus, McCoy Tyner and others.

The Michael Treni Big Band has given us a kind of orchestral history of American jazz as tied to the blues. Complete with sort of a textbook. Treni calls the work a Suite in 10 Parts and it earns that conceit.

It’s hard enough to do a single quality work in tribute to the music of one of the greats.  More than a half dozen is heady stuff. And to interweave jazz with its base the blues as the greats did. Whew.

But don’t be put off by the album’s lofty ambition.  The music  is just delicious.  The high points?  I’m sure to omit several but here’s a short list:

Ÿ         Treni himself taking the trombone lead on “Minor Blues.”

Ÿ         Pianists Jim Ridl (who I think channels Bill Evans on the album’s opener) and Charles Blensig all over the place.

Ÿ         Chris Persad’s trumpet on “BQE Blues”.

Ÿ         And of course Bergonzi and Hendrix on “Summer Blues.”

So what are we to make of the title?  In his “textbook,” Treni gives us three choices that you can read for yourself.  I’ll venture a two-part fourth.

That jazz should be part of popular culture and not retire to academia and that the blues was part of pop music before white folks much even knew it.  White audiences didn’t get to hear much real blues because of Jim Crow, racist radio and well, cut to the chase, prejudice, which is just another word for stupidity.

It’s the real reason Elvis was so important. He pushed opened a door that couldn’t then be fully closed again. Even though his art was eventually co-opted to pop, often junk pop, the base in the blues could not be denied.

A decade or so later, artists like the Stones and Hendrix and Paul Butterfield kicked that door wide open. Even the originals came sliding through, some before they could die.

Large bands are enjoying a renaissance in various forms and shapes these days.  I just wish my Dad were here for it. He’d be listening for the influence of the big swing bands like Tommy Dorsey’s and Glenn Miller’s. That’s out there, too, except that there can’t be another Sinatra.

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 Hadiza Dockeray

 Chapter 4

Currently available only digitally, Hadiza Dockery’s LP Chapter 4 is a lot like a sample box of real good chocolates.  Different flavors. Different tastes. Different moods.

There’s a Carol King reminder on “Too Long” which Hadiza says in her notes was intended to be 1970s soft rock. Mission accomplished.

There’s a little bossa nova on “The Other Voice” where guitarist Steve Bargonetti makes his best contribution on acoustic.  His electric playing elsewhere sounds like a derivative only house guitarist.

In fact, that’s a problem I have with this short album.  The musicians were assembled.  It’s not “her” band. While assembly for studio work sometimes works, it doesn’t completely here.

In fact, even on a strong bluesy number like “Somebody Better,” Hadiza seems a bit restrained, contained. Is it the band?  Is it the studio?

I was going to suggest another producer before I saw that she produced it herself. Well, artists do like control. . .

Maybe a concert album. She is reputed to be unbridled and powerful in concert. I haven’t seen her.  Would like to.

This is a big voice. Big as in great tonality, diction, phrasing. All the elements are there.

On “Off the Grid” they come up, they rock out.  There’s power, complexity, nifty shifts.

She needs to move further off the grid. And get her own band. And make them hers. And record with them. And maybe a producer who isn’t her, at least in second chair to shake her head when it’s not quite right.

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


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