Live Jazz: Rudresh Mahanthappa with Indo-Pak Coalition and Gamak at Royce Hall

March 3, 2013

By Don Heckman

At first glance, Saturday night seemed to offer one of the intriguing jazz events of the season: alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa appearing with his groups Indo-Pak Coalition and Gamak in a CAP UCLA concert at Royce Hall.  Over the past decade, Mahanthappa, a second generation Indian American, has received significant recognition from the Down Beat Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalists Association, as well as grants from the Guggenheim foundation and the New York Council on the Arts.

His West Coast appearances have been rare.  But anyone who’s dipped into Manhanthappa’s numerous far-ranging, eclectic recordings – as a leader and a sideman – had a fair idea of what to expect at Saturday’s performance.

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Even so, his first soloing with his Indo-Pak Coalition ensemble – a trio consisting of Mahanthappa, Pakistani guitarist Rez Abbasi and American drummer Dan Weiss – had a startling impact.  The alto saxophone is almost never heard as an instrument of Carnatic music.  One of its pioneers in that genre is Kadri Gopalnath, who partnered with Mahanthappa in the crossover 2008 album, Kinsmen. Both have found ways – perhaps using softer reeds – to bend pitches to the semi-tonal demands of Indian ragas.  And Mahanthappa’s playing began from a close Carnatic perspective filled with bright slashes of jazz lighting, enhanced by Weiss’s extraordinary rhythmic mobility as he moved from a standard drum kit to tabla drums.

The rest of Mahanthappa’s set with the Indo-Pak Coalition moved easily across boundary lines.  His alto saxophone solos, which dominated much of the entire performance, expanded its Carnatic aspects into something resembling the free jazz saxophone methods of the ‘60s associated with Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane, among others.

In the second half of the program, Mahanthappa performed with Gamak, which also included bassist Francois Moutin, guitarist David Fiuczynski and Weiss, who played drum set, without the tabla drums. The genre scale weighed more heavily in the direction of jazz and jazz-rock with this ensemble.  And, although Mahanthappa reigned at center stage, the powerful guitar of Fiucznski played a vital role in every selection, often enhanced by dynamic duo exchanges between various members of the group – especially those between Fiucznski and Mahanthappa.

At its best, the music showcased a compelling interaction between East and West, finding the common linkages while maintaining firm contact with each genre.

In its less appealing moments, virtuosity appeared to be the prime goal, especially for Mahanthappa, who displayed extraordinary technique.  Often the fast fingers, multi-phonics and semi-tonal melodic phrases were fascinating, especially to other musicians.

Ultimately, however, he clearly authenticated why he has received so much attention from the jazz media and jazz support groups, becoming one of the most compelling saxophonists of his generation.  But, in this performance at least, one couldn’t help but wonder where, and whom, the real Mahanthappa was, amid the surging rhythms, Indian references and blurring bundles of notes.

Picks of the Week: June 14 – 19

June 14, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– June 14. (Tues.)  Motley Crue. L.A.’s heavy metal stars of the eighties (and beyond) take over the vast expanse of the Bowl for a tour through the many hits that have made them rock icons.   The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

– June 15. (Wed.)  Sachel Vasandani Quartet.  At a time when male jazz vocalists are in surprisingly short supply, Vasandani is carving an intriguing musical pathway of his own.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Angelique Kidjo

– June 16. (Thurs.)  Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N’Dour, Vusi Mahlasela.  A stellar ensemble of great African artists.  Count on them – and Kidjo in particular – to bestow an irresistible display of dynamic, musical excitement on their listeners.  The Greek Theatre.  (323) 554-5857.

– June 15. (Wed.)  Chuck Manning & Sal Marquez Quartet.  Two of the Southland’s most dependably hard swinging players team up for some straight ahead jamming.   Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– June 15 – 19.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The National Ballet of Cuba.  One of the world’s great classical ballet companies, the dancers’ performances reflect the exquisite style established by the founder, prima ballerina Alicia Alonso.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

– June 16. (Thurs.)  Mel Martin Quartet. Saxophonist Martin, who roves freely and impressively across the spectrum from bebop to avant-garde, makes a rare club stop in the Southland.  He’ll be backed by the equally versatile pianist Don Friedman, (who is also rarely seen in L.A., with bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La BarberaVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Hiromi.  The Trio Project.  Keyboardist Hiromi, always exploring new musical territory, has a go at the ever-changing vistas of the piano jazz trio.  She performs with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Steve SmithCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Harry Connick, Jr.

– June 17.   (Fri.) Hollywood Bowl Opening Night.  Opening nights at the Bowl are always memorable events, glowing with stars.  This year, there will be performances by 2011 Hall of Fame inductees Harry Connick, Jr. and Gloria Estefan.  Also on the program: an exclusive live sneak preview of Cirque du Soleil’s first Hollywood production, IRIS – A Journey Through the World of Cinema.  Dame Helen Mirren hosts the evening, and Andy Garcia and Hilary Swank will serve as guest presenters.  Thomas Wilkens conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2040.

– June 18. (Sat.)  Filipina Ladies of Jazz.   Following up on last year’s Filipino Gentlemen of Jazz, this year’s program features a splendid array of female Filipina artists.  Pauline Wilson (of the group Seawind) headlines.  She’ll be joined by two rising young artists, Nicole David (who will duet with her father, singer Mon David) and soul jazz singer Jaclyn Rose.  They’ll be backed by the band of saxophonist Michael Paulo.   Ford Amphitheatre.     (323) 461-3673.

– June 18. (Sat.) Rickey Woodard.   Saxophonist Woodard brings high spirited, hard swinging life to every note he plays.  This time out, he’s backed by the John Heard Trio. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– June 18. (Sat.)  Phil Norman Tentet.  Saxophonist Norman’s eminently listenable ensemble is also a briskly swinging show case for many of the Southland’s (and the world’s) finest composers and arrangers.  Add to that a line up of all-star players, and expect an evening of memorable little big band jazz.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Roseanna Vitro

– June 18. (Sat.)  Roseanna Vitro “The Randy Newman Project”  Vitro, always a fascinating jazz singer, expands her horizons with her new CD, in which she explores the far-ranging, emotionally diverse musical catalog of Randy Newman.  It’s a remarkable album, and the live performance of its selections should make for a compelling musical evening.   Jazz Bakery Moveable Feast at Musicians Institute Concert Hall.    (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

– June 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  Paula Morelenbaum.  Singer Morelenbaum’s deep linkage to the music of her Brazilian homeland in general, and to bossa nova in particular, reaches back to her work as a young singer with Antonio Carlos Jobim in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

– June 18. (Sat.) Nikki Yanofsky. Still only 17, Yanofky’s recordings and live performances have convincingly established her as a rising star with extraordinary potential.   An SFJAZZ Spring Season concert at Herbst Hall.    (866) 920-5299.


– June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ramsey Lewis“The Sun Goddess Tour.”  Keyboardist Lewis leads his electric band in a revisiting of the funk-driven sounds of his cross-over hit album, Sun Goddess.  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.


Rudresh Mahanthappa

June 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa.  Alto saxophonist Mahanthappa, who just received the Jazz Journalists Association Alto Saxophonist of the Year Award, His Indo-Pak Coalition, with Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer Dan Weiss is seeking, and finding, ways to synthesize jazz and the improvised musical forms of South Asia.  The results are often extraordinary.   Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

– June 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Dave Brubeck Quartet.  What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about the Brubeck Quartet.  Hearing the group, playing classic selections as well as new ventures, is tapping into living jazz history.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

– June 14 – 19.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Potter Underground.  One of the most consistently imaginative saxophonists of his generation, Potter leads a band filled with similarly adventurous players – drummer Nate Smith, guitarist Adam Rogers and bassist Fima EphronVillage Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

– June 15 – 19. (Wed. – Sun.)  Monty Alexander and the Harlem-Kingston Express.  Pianist Alexander and his group survey the musically delightful linkages between up town jazz and the rhythms of the Caribbean.   Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

Picks of the Week: April 5 – 10

April 4, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Junko Onishi

– April 5. (Tues.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She kicks off her American tour tonight with the backing of the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323)466-2210  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on April 6.)

– April 5. (Tues.)  Ostad Abbos Kosimov.  Traditional Uzbek and Tajik Percussion Music and Dance. Percussionist Kosimov is one of the world’s masters of the doyra frame drum.  He is joined by the CalArts Persian and World Music ensembles, as well as members of his own Abbos Ensemble in an exploration of the music of Uzbekistan.  Tara Pandeya adds the sensual movements of Central Asian dance.  REDCAT (213) 237-2800.

– April 5. (Tues.)  Lorenzo Lamas.  You may remember him as Jane Wyman’s evil stepson in Falcon Crest. But Lamas (yes, from that family) is also an effective musical purveyor of the romantic side of cabaret.  Vibrato Grill Jazz… (310) 474-9400. 

Kenny Burrell

– April 6. (Wed.) Kenny Burrell Jazz Heritage All Stars.  For once, the label “All-Stars” has real significance.  Veteran guitarist/educator Burrell puts it all together with trumpter (and also educator) Bobby Rodriguez, saxophonist Justo Almario, drummer Clayton Cameron and more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– April 6. (Wed.)  The Kronos Quartet. The creatively eclectic, Grammy winning string quartet celebrates composer Steve Reich’s 75th birthday with the performance of a newly commissioned work.   Segerstrom Center for the Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

Salif Keita

– April 6. (Wed.)  Salif Keita. The voice of Keita, with its soaring tones, penetrating sound and inspiring rhythms, is one of the great glories of African popular music.  The Conga Room.  (213) 745-0162.

– April 6. (Wed.) Blue Lou Marini.  Veteran New York saxophonist Marini makes one of his rare West Coast appearances, performing with trumpeter Walt Fowler, pianist John Campbell, bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Peter Erskine and special guests.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– April 7. (Thurs.)  Big Willie’s Burlesque.  Busy drummer Willie McNeil’s Quartet lays down some classic backbeat sounds to inspire the irresistible moves of dancer Carolina Cerisola.   They call it “old school burlesque with a cutting edge, Latin, new school vibe.”   The Edison Downtown.  (213) 613-0000.

– April 7. (Thurs.) V. R. Smith Sextet.  It’s a Smith Family Night.  With vocalist V.R. Smith backed by the band of her husband, bassist Putter Smith with Gary Foster alto saxophone, Chuck Manning, tenor saxophone, Jim Szilagyi, piano and Tim Pleasant, drums.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– April 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rachelle Ferrell.  Blessed with one of the most impressive voices in the jazz vocal world, Ferrell is also a uniquely appealing song stylist.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

Arlo Guthrie

– April 8. (Fri.)  Arlo Guthrie and Friends.  Folk music patriarch returns to UCLA, this time with his “Journey On” tour, featuring his son, Abe Guthrie and the folk-rock trio The Burns SistersUCLA Live.  Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.

– April 9. (Sat.)  Jazz Fundraiser for Japan.  Vitello’s April Williams has assembled an impressive collection of the Southland’s finest jazz artists for a 12 hour fundraiser for Japan.  Among the participants: Alan Pasqua, Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Darek Oles, Alex Acuna, the Wayne Bergeron Big Band, Denise Donatelli, Joe La Barbera, Larry Koonse, Tom Warrington, Bob Sheppard and many more.  11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– April 9. (Sat.) Plas Johnson.  Although he’s been a vital member of the Southland jazz community for decades, Johnson is best known for his memorable solo work on “The Pink Panther” theme.  But he’s got a lot more than that to offer.  He’ll be playing with pianist Tom Ranier, bassist John Giannelli and drummer Fritz WiseGiannelli Square.  (818) 772-1722.

– April 9. (Sat. ) Wind Soloists of New York and Pedja Muzijevic. The superb wind instrumentalists of this much praised ensemble join with pianist Muzijevic to perform a dynamic program of works by Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Prokofiev and Poulenc.  And they’ll do so in the elegant Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion.  The Da Camera Society.  (213) 477-2929.

– April 10 (Sun.)  Greta Metassa.  Seattle-based singer Metassa is far less known than she should be.  In this rare Southland appearance, she’ll deliver her beautifully crafted vocals  in a plush, private mini concert hall in Beverly Hills.   Hopefully, she’ll include songs from her latest CD, I Wanna be Loved.” Backing her: the world class rhythm section of pianist Mike Garson, bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Bob Leatherbarrow.  To book seats, click on Resonance Records.   Address will be given when the reservation is made.

San Francisco

– April 6. (Wed.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She’ll be backed by the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory HutchinsonYoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

Madeleine Peyroux

– April 8. (Fri.)  Madeleine Peyroux.  Moving beyond the Billie Holiday musical frame that had narrowed her music for too long, Peyroux is now finding her own way, as unique musical persona and an intriguing songwriter.  SF Jazz Spring Season.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (415) 398-5655.

– April 9. (Sat.)  Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester.  The music of the twenties and thirties comes vividly back to life in the hands of Raabe and his extraordinarily versatile musicians.  Always as musically provocative as they are entertaining, they’re one of a kind. SFJAzz Spring Season.  Paramount Theatre, Oakland. .

– April 10. (Sun.)  The Asaad Brothers Da Volta as Raizes” Offspring of a famouns musical family, the two guitar duo of the Asaad brothers play everything from Bach transcriptions and gypsy jazz to Brazilian samba and the music of the Middle East.  SFJAZZ Spring Season. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  (415) 398-5655.

New York

Toshiko Akiyoshi

– April 4 (Mon.) Fund Raising Concert For Japan. The New York jazz community steps up to play a concert in support of the beleaguered people of Japan. Toshiko Akiyoshi; Cecil Bridgewater; Sam Burtis; Jerry Dodgion; Roy Hargrove; Tom Harrell; Barry Harris; Fred Hersch; Rene Manning; Earl McIntyre; Jimmy Owens; Rufus Reid; Marvin Stamm; Lew Tabackin; Kenny Werner and many othersThe Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

– April 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)  Toots Thielemans with Kenny Werner and Oscar Castro-Neves.  As if that weren’t enough, Werner will also do a set each night with his Quintet featuring Lionel Loueke and Miguel ZenonThe Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– April 8. (Fri.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa’s “Gama.” With David Fiuczynski, guitar, Francois Moutin, bass and Dan Weiss, drums.  Altoist Mahanthappa and Fiuczynski have been working together lately in Jack DeJohnette’s band.  Here they dip into some of the fascinating improvisational territory between jazz and Indian music.  Cornelia St. Café.  (212) 989-9319.

Picks of the Week: Mar. 8 – 13.

March 7, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Corky Hale

– Mar. 8. (Tues.)  Corky Hale and Friends.  “I’m Glad There Is You.”  Pianist, harpist, singer and imaginative producer Hale assembles most of the cast of prime talent on her album I’m Glad There Is You. The impressive line up includes Sally Kellerman, Ariana Savalas, Tricia Tahara and Brenna Whitaker, backed by Jeff Lass and Jim DeJulioCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Mar. 8. (Tues.)  Chris Walden Big Band.  The Grammy nominated Walden Big Band play some of their leader’s newly-crafted, jazz-driven arrangements of classic film music.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400. 

– Mar. 9. (Wed.)  Jackson Browne.  Singer/songwriter Browne wrote some of the most memorable songs of the singer/songwriter era.  And he’s still performing them with the emotionally moving qualities they had several decades ago.  The Fred Kavli Theatre in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.  (805) 449-2787.

– Mar. 10. (Thurs.)  Angela Carole Brown. Versatile singer Brown has done everything from voiceovers, movie cues and jingles to back up for artists such as Josh Groban.  Here’s a chance to hear her own estimable skills alive and up close. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Mar. 10. (Thurs.)  Ana Gazzola.  Brazilian born Gazzola is frequently seen as part of the duo (with Sonia Santos) Brasil Brazil.  This time out, singing and playing sax, she leads her own Brazilian jazz-tinged quartet.   Jazz at the LAX Jazz Club.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crown Plaza LAX.  (310) 258-1333.

Gustavo Dudamel

– Mar. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dudamel conducts Tchaikovsky.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel performs three single movement works inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and The Tempest.  Preceding each work, selections form the plays will be read by Orlando Bloom, Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Rhys and Anika Noni Rose Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

– Mar. 11. (Fri.)  A Sixties Evening.  An evening overflowing with nostalgia for the irresistible music of a memorable decade.  Featured acts include Gary Lewis & the Playboys, as well as the lead singers with the Outsiders, the Buckinghams, the Archies and the CufflinksCerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

– Mar. 11. (Fri.)  Swing, Swing, Swing.  It’s a swing era evening packed with talent.  TV actor and singer James Darren headlines, along with Las Vegas entertainer/mujsician Pete Barbutti, the Gene Krupa Tribute Band and the Swingtime Dancers. The Fred Kavli Theatre in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.   (805) 449-2787.

Sheila Jordan

– Mar. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Sheila Jordan.  Here’s one of the special events of the year, featuring one of the jazz vocal art’s most incomparable performers in two different nights of music and memory.  On Fri. night Jordan will share her personal stories through song, while author/singer Ellen Johnson reads excerpts from Jordan’s upcoming biography Jazz Messages: The Sheila Jordan Story. On Sat. night she’ll perform a concert of the songs that have made her one of the classic jazz vocalists.  Pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine back Jordan on both nights.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Mar. 11 – 13  (Fri. – Sun.)  Oleta Adams. Soulful singer Adams displays her lush sound, gospel-driven phrasing and intimate style in one of her too-infrequent Southland appearances.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

Bale Folclorico da Bahia

– Mar. 12. (Sat.)  Bale Folclorico da Bahia.  The colorfully garbed performers from Bahia make their Los Angeles debut with an evening of physically dynamic, erotically charged dances and passionately rhythmic music.  The featured work will be the U.S. premiere of Sacred Heritage.  Wilshire Ebell Theatre.  A Brazilian Nites production.   (818) 566-1111.

– Mar. 13. (Sun.) All Star Spring Jazz Fest.  Celebrate the approaching arrival of Spring with a mid-day jazz program honoring pianist Tom Garvin.  Also on the full bill of music: the Bill Holman Big Band, Sue Raney, Alan Broadbent, Tom Ranier, Bob Sheppard, Madeline Eastman and more.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

– Mar. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Albita.  Grammy and Emmy winning Cuban singer/actress Albita has been transfixing audiences since she arrived in the U.S. in the early ‘90s.  Most recently, she starred in the musical “The Mambo Kings,” but she is an electrifying night club performer, as well.Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

New York

Chris Potter

– Mar. 8. (Tues.)  The Potter Binney Group.  A pair of contemporary jazz’s most gifted saxophonists —  Chris Potter and David Binney — team up for an evening of stimulating musical interaction.  They’ll be backed by David Virelles, keyboards, Eivind Opsvik, bass and Dan Weiss, drums.  55 Bar.   (212) 989-9883.

– Mar. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ann Hampton Callaway. Her lush sound, adept musicality and intimate storytelling abilities one of the contemporary jazz world’s finest – if not as acknowledged as she should be – singers.  She’s backed by pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Tim Horner Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

– Mar. 10. (Thurs.) Alan Pierson and Alarm Will Sound. “1969.” The Beatles and composer Karlheinz Stockhausen never managed to fulfill their plan to get together for a joint concert in the ‘60s.  But here’s a staged event, with music and dialog, imagining what that encounter – along with the added presence of the music of Luciano Berio, Leonard Bernstein and others — might have sounded and looked like.  NY Premiere.  Zankel Hall (212) 247-7800.

Mose Allison

– Mar. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mose Allison Trio.  A true Mississippi original, singer/songwriter/pianist Allison has been combining the blues, the bayou and his own unique lyrical and musical imagination to jazz since the late ‘50s.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.

Picks of the Week: Dec. 15 – 20.

December 15, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Dec. 15. (Wed.) Chuck Manning and Sal Marquez Quartet. A pair of L.A.’s most solidly dependable swingers go horn to horn in an evening guaranteed to keep your jazz soul alive. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

– Dec. 15. (Wed.) Jules Day. Rising young jazz star Day celebrates the release of her new CD, Day Dreams. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Katja Rieckermann

– Dec. 16. (Thurs,.) Katja Rieckermann. German-born alto saxophonist has been one of the favorite back-up players for the likes of Randy Newman, Carole King, Al Green and, most recently, Rod Stewart. She clearly knows where the groove is. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

– Dec. 16. (Thurs.) John Proulx Holiday Music. Singer/pianist Proulx applies his amiable musical blend to a program of mid-winter classics. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

– Dec. 16. (Thurs.) The Vivino Bros. The blues-driven Vivino brothers — saxophonist Jerry and guitarist Jimmy — from the Conan O’Brien show make their first L.A. appearance. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

– Dec. 16 – 18. (Thurs. – Sat.) Andy Williams. He’s back. And that’s good news, since the holiday season is never quite complete without the still sweet sound of the venerable balladeer singing Christmas classics. Orange County Performing Arts Center.  (714) 556-2787.

– Dec. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.) Los Angeles Philharmonic with pianist Robert Levin. Nicholas McGegan conducts the L.A. Phil. In a program reaching from Haydn’s Symphony No. 93 to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, with pianist Levin. Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.  .

– Dec. 17. (Fri.) Inner Voices. The Southland’s primo vocal ensemble combines a celebration of the holidays with selections from their brand new CD, Valentine.. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Debby Boone and John Davidson

– Dec. 17. (Fri.) Debby Boone and John Davidson. “Christmas Memories” A pair of show business veterans get together to bring musical joy to the holiday season. And no doubt Boone’s memorable version of “You Light Up My Life” will be on the program. Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University.  (310) 506-4522.

– Dec. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.) Ben Vereen. When he’s on stage as a solo act, there’s more talent up there than there would be with a crowd of most performers. Vereen can do it all, and he doesn’t do many night club dates. So don’t miss this one. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

Bob Sheppard

– Dec. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.) Bob Sheppard. The gifted saxophonist/flutist has a busy weekend. On Fri. he performs with the Pat Senatore Trio at Vibrato. On Sat. he’ll play selections from his new CD, Close Your Eyes with Alan Pasqua, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Gabe Noel, bass and Steve Hass, drums. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Dec. 19. (Sun.) Los Angeles Master Chorale. Join the LAMC in the ultimate pleasure for frustrated vocalists, the Messiah Singalong. Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.

– Dec. 19. (Sun.) Dave Koz and Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour. Saxophonist Koz and is pals have a lock on the franchise for smooth jazz Christmas sounds. This year’s lineup includes Jonathan Butler, Brian Culbertson, Candy Dulfer and others. Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.  (213) 763-6320.

– Dec. 20. (Mon.) “Candlelight Carols” Judy Wolman’s Sing! Sing! Sing!. If the Messiah’s a bit of a reach for your vocal skills, never fear. Judy’s singalongs are welcome experiences for everyone, and never more so than when you’re singing Christmas Carols in a candle lit room. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Maria Muldaur

Dec. 15. (Wed.) Maria Muldaur’s Christmas Show. She started out as a folkie in the Greenwich Village ’60s, but Muldaur’s always been a lot more eclectic than that. She’ll add selections from her latest album, Yes We Can, to her Christmas program. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

Dec. 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.) Hiroshima. Together for three decades, Hiroshima is still one of the unique sounds in comtemporary music, blending jazz, pop and rock with traditional Japanese sounds. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York

– Dec. 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.) John Pizzarelli Quartet. Pizzarelli’s pretty much established himself as an appealing, contemporary guitar and voice version of the Nat “King” Cole pop jazz style.  Birdland. (212) 591-3080.

– Dec. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.) Samba Jazz & the Bossa Nova Years. One could hardly ask for a more authentic approach to samba, jazz and bossa than this impressive line-up will provide. Featuring Duduka Da Fonseca, Helio Alves, Maucha Adnet, Romero Lubambo, Claudio Roditi and George Mraz. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9800.

Chris Botti

– Dec. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.) Chris Botti begins his annual three week holiday run at the Blue Note. Two shows a night for 21 consecutive nights. And every one of them will be a night to remember.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

– Dec. 16. (Thurs.) Rebecca Martin. Singer/songwriter Martin, who matches her engaging musical skills with equally determined social activism, performs tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry and her husband, bassist Larry Grenadier. Jazz Standard. (212) 576-2232.

Dec. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.) Rez Abbasi’s Invocation. Guitarist Abbasi has assembled a band with high powered creative potential. With Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto saxophone, Johannes Weidenmueller, bass, Dan Weiss, drums. Cornelia St. Café. (818) 989-9319.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 14 – 19.

September 14, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Sept. 14. (Tues.) Michael Bolton. One World One Love Tour.  The title says it all for the music of the two-time Grammy winner, Bolton, whose soft-rock style has been appealing to romantics since the ‘80s.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 915-8501.

– Sept. 14. (Tues.)  John Proulx Trio.  Proulx’s solid skills as a first-call jazz pianist bring an impressive blend of musicality to his highly personal vocals. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

Dolores Scozzesi

– Sept. 15. (Wed.)  Dolores Scozzesi.  Blending the dark timbres of her voice with a thoughtful interpretive style, Scozzessi brings musical illumination to everything she sings. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Sept. 16. (Thurs.) Angela Carole Brown.  Brown’s multi-faceted creativity – musical, poetic, dramatic – are essential elements in her engaging vocal performances.  She’s backed by the Pat Senatore Trio. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 16. (Thurs.)  Sweet Baby Jai Quartet. She does it all – standards, blues, jazz and pop – with a charismatic style that commands a state.  Crowne Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge.   (310) 642-7500.

– Sept. 17. (Fri.)  Bob Mintzer Quartet.  Saxophonist Mintzer is also a prime composer and arranger who invests his far ranging improvisations with imagination and focus.  LACMA.   (323) 857-6000.

Anna Mjoll

– Sept. 17. (Fri.)  Anna Mjoll.  In the mid-‘90s, Mjoll‘s “Sjubidu” (Shoo-Be-Do) was a hit at the Eurovision song festival.  Since then, her rich-toned voice and assertive rhythms have evolved into a uniquely original jazz vocal style. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– Sept. 17 &O 18. (Fri. & Sat.)  Roy Gaines.  The veteran singer/guitarist has been creating classic blues performances – live and on record – since the ‘50s.  Catalina Bar & Grill.

– Sept. 19. (Sun.)  KCRW World FestivalViva Mexico! The Summer’s world music schedule at the Bowl wraps up with a celebration of Mexican music featuring performances from Ozomatli (with Cheech Marin and Cut Chemist), Calexico, the Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles and special guests from various regions of Mexico.  Raul Campos hosts.  The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 19. (Sun.)  Caleb Quaye and the Faculty.  Quaye – who’s played guitar with everyone from Elton John and Mick Jagger to Paul McCartney – leads his own jazz/rock/fusion band.  Bubba Jackson hosts.  KJAZZ Sunday Champagne Brunch.  The Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.


Sept. 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  The 53rd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival. It’s arguably one of the country’s prime musical events.  And its inarguably a sensational way to experience a weekend of non-stop, world-class entertainment.  With 500 artists, 85 performances on 8 stages, along with an instrument petting zoo, percussion playshop and jazzy jumper for the youngest attendees, there’s a list of attractions too long to completely include here.  But the line-up, as always, is stellar.  Among the highlights: Ahmad Jamal, Harry Connick, Jr., Angelique Kidjo, Mino Cinelu, Billy Childs and the Kronos Quartet in the premiere of a new, MJF commisioned work by Childs, Roy Hargrove Big Band, Roberta Gambarini, Marcus Roberts, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Chris Potter, Gretchen Parlato, Fred Hersch, Dianne Reeves and much more.  The Monterey Jazz Festival.    (925) 275-9255.

San Francisco

Rudresh Mahanthappa

– Sept. 15. (Wed.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa & the Indo-Pak Coalition.  Saxophonist Mahanthappa leads Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi and tabla player Dan Weiss in a fascinating collection of Indo-jazz fusion.  Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

– Sept. 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Sadao Watanabe. Japanese alto saxophonist, at 77, is still soaring easily from his bebop roots to the smooth sounds of contemporary jazz.  Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York

– Sept. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  Renee Rosnes Quartet.  Pianist Rosnes showcases her adventurous playing in the stellar company of bassist Peter Washington, drummer Lewis Nash and vibist Steve NelsonVillage Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

– Sept. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Generations in Jazz Festival.  The Generations series continues with a pair of virtuosic jazz veterans: alto saxophonist Charles McPherson and trumpeter Randy Brecker with the New Jersey City University Jazz Ensemble. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

– Sept. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  After several excursions through the pop world, Schuur is solidly back in a jazz groove, displaying the appealing qualities of her early jazz singing years.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

Mose Allison

Washington, D.C.

– Sept. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)   Mose Allison Trio. The Bard of the Bayou still has a lot to say.  Hopefully he’ll include something from his recent album, The Way of the World, his first in more than a decade.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.


– Sept. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip, Will Kennedy.  They may be a quartet with contemporary and crossover references, but these guys can also carry their weight in every aspect of the jazz mainstream.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

Picks of the Week: August 11 – 16

August 11, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Aug. 11. (Tues.) John Pisano Guitar Night. Every Guitar Night — Tuesdays at Spazio — is a great night for music. And this one’s even more special, with Pisano trading licks with the versatile, imaginative Larry Koonse. Tom Warrington‘s bass keeps the dueling guitars in line. Spazio.  (818) 728-8400.

Alfredo Rodriguez

Alfredo Rodriguez

– Aug 12. (Wed.) Alfredo Rodriguez. Pianist Rodriguez, still in his early twenties, gave a brilliant performance at the Playboy Jazz Festival in June. Here he is, making his first Southland appearance since then, performing in an intimate club setting. Not to be missed by anyone curious about the new directions in jazz piano. Vibrato.  (818) 474-9400.

– Aug. 12. (Wed.) Buddy Guy, Dr. John, James Cotton. Blues on the loose. when it comes to an evening of down home, in the pocket, traditional blues of every stripe, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 12. (Wed.) Jackson Browne. The veteran singer-songerwriter arrives in the Southland as part of the summer U.S. tour supporting his latest CD, “Time the Conqueror.” An apt title, perhaps, given the fact that it coincides with his 60th birthday. Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-3125.

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

– Aug. 13. (Thurs.) Omar Faruk Tekbilek Ensemble. One of the great virtuosi of Middle Eastern music, Tekbilek’s performances are masterful displays, embracing his superb playing of the flute-like nay, the double reed zurna, the baglama, a long-necked lute, and various percussion instruments. The Skirball Center.  (31) 440-4500.

– Aug. 13. (Thurs.) Henry Franklin Quartet. The sterling bassist everyone calls the “Captain,” leads a hard-driving ensemble featuring saxophonist Azar Lawrence, pianist Theo Saunders, piano and drummer Ramon Banda. Charlie O’s.  994-3058.

– August 13 – 15. (Thurs. – Sat.) Buster Williams, Patrice Rushen, Cindy Blackman and Bennie Maupin. Nobody’s listed as the leader here, but with a stellar group like this — featuring Maupin’s versatile woodwinds, Rushen’s rich keyboard sounds, Williams’ sturdy bass and Blackman’s propulsive drumming — expect collective music making at its best. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.


Denise Donatelli

– Aug. 14. (Fri.) Denise Donatelli. One of the jazz vocal world’s most eminently listenable talents, Donatelli still doesn’t quite get the attention her superb interpretive talents deserve. She should be at her best backed by pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Kevin Kanner Spazio.  (818) 728-8400.

– Aug. 14. (Fri.) Tamir Hendelman trio with Dan Lutz, bass and Dean Koba, drums. Pianist Hendelman’s international presence, as an arranger, accompanist and gifted talent in his own right, is growing by leaps and bounds. But it’s always a pleasure to hear him on his own, backed by a pair of fine players, revealing the intimate depths of his music. The Culver Club in the Radisson.  (310) 649-1776.

– August 16. (Sun.) Gina Eckstine. The offspring of famous singers aren’t always what one hopes for. But Eckstine, whose father was Billy Eckstine, has the spunk, the spirit and the soul of her family’s patriarch. At her best, she delivers a song with the same intense ability to tell a musical story. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– August 16. (Sun.) Take 6.  The extraordinary a cappella group — who are creating some of the most remarkable vocal moments of the decade — make a rare L.A. appearance for a concert supporting the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra’s “Music in the Schools” program.  Call it an opportunity to do something really valuable, while hearing some superb music.  At the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. Two shows, at 6:15 and 8:15 p.m.   Information click here.

San Francisco

– Aug. 14 & 15. (Fri. & Sat.) Jack Jones. He’s a living, walking, singing classic. A member of the ’50s and ’60s gang of male divos that included Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone and others. Like Bennett, Jones is still going strong, still demonstrating how to bring a song to life. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York


Eliane Elias

– Aug. 12 – 16. (Wed. – Sun.) Eliane Elias Trio. “Tribute To Bill Evans.” The Elias trio — with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Adam Nussbaum — accomplish the difficult task of exploring the Evans musical lexicon while still maintaining their own unique creative identity. The Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

– Aug. 13 & 14. (Thurs. &o Fri.) Judy Wexler. With a pliable voice, a seductive sound and a stirring rhythmic drive, Wexler moves easily from story-telling balladry to briskly swinging vocalese.  Feinstein’s at the Regency.  (212) 339-4095.

– Aug. 13 – 16 (Thurs. – Sun.) Steve Kuhn Trio featuring bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Al Foster. Three masters at work, still at the top of their form, still revealing more enlightening views of the inner mysteries of jazz improvisation. The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2252.

– Aug. 16. (Sun.) The James Carney Group. Carney is a pianist/composer who invests his music with a compelling blend of subtle structure and expansive musical exploration. He performs at one of the city’s great jazz hang-outs with the firsr rate ensemble of Tony Malaby, tenor saxophone, Josh Roseman, trombone, Chris Lightcap, bass and Dan Weiss, drums. The 55 Bar.  (212) 929-9883.


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