Live Music: “Jazz At The Philharmonic.” The KJAZZ Radio Summer Benefit Concert At Walt Disney Concert Hall.

June 26, 2013

By Norton Wright

Los Angeles, CA.  Over eleven hundred jazz buffs streamed into the Walt Disney Concert Hall last Saturday night for the first every KJAZZ Radio Summer Benefit Concert to hear three separate groups, each with its own unique style. There was something for every taste.

Kicking off the evening was Harvey Mason’s powerhouse, cutting-edge fusion sextet “Chameleon” –

Followed by the nostalgia of 60-year-old songstress Diane Schuur backed by pianist Alan Broadbent’s quintet. Schuur’s singing of jazz standards still brave and swinging –

And for the concert’s finale, the smooth jazz of pianist David Benoit’s and his quintet — but with an exciting surprise in store!

Walt Disney Concert Hall is an acoustic marvel, so the performances of the evening’s individual soloists were dramatic and wonderfully defined. You’ve got to love the positionings of the “Chameleon” sextet. Harvey Mason at his drum set stage left — Bill Summers stage right with his confectionary of four conga drums, a giant, rattle shaker gourd. assorted bells, chimes, and whistles and a beer bottle (to be explained)! Two keyboardists upstage, Mark De Clive-Lowe on piano and John Beasley on his two synthesizers — And downstage center, Jimmy Haslip playing his throbbing 5-string electronic bass, and Kamasi Washington, the LeBron James of tenor men, a giant stage presence structuring his solos with the power and finesse of a Dexter Gordon.

Harvey Mason

Harvey Mason

With Mason opening his set with Wayne Shorter’s composition, “Footprints,” the musical exchanges between “Chameleon’s” all-stars took off. Hard-driving arrangements were juxtaposed with diaphanous, almost mystical ballads. At one point, keyboardists Beasley and Clive-Lowe sitting side by side improvised a duet on their separate synthesizer keyboards creating a mosaic of wind-chime beauty.

And when Mason chose to solo toward the end of the set, instead of a show-off  “dreaded drum solo,” his work was organic to the tune being played and a delight to listen to. To fully appreciate the unfolding of Mason’s percussive tapestry, the listener does well to remember the drum figure just played and then hear how it leads on to Mason’s subsequent and inventive variation.

And finally for “Chameleon” fun, Bill Summers abandoned his conga drums, gourd shaker, and tambourine to wow the audience by playing the top of a beer bottle like a flute and creating a series of breathy, reggae-styled whoops and licks. At his solo’s end Summers drank the remaining beer and toasted the audience with his bottle raised on high! He got a standing ovation.

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur has always been for me brave and beautiful. Blind since birth, she still comes on stage in a sparkly gown, wearing dark glasses and guided by a friend. And now after three decades of performing, she gleefully acknowledged the applause by bowing so deeply to the audience that her head almost touched the floor. Affection spilled out over the footlights in both directions.

Seated on a stool and backed by pianist Alan Broadbent’s quintet, Diane kicked into an up-tempo “’S Wonderful” and moved easily into Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” Suddenly it seemed like it was 1985 again. Deedles scatted through “I’ll Remember You” and then wrung our hearts so intensely with “Didn’t We” that Broadbent and his band, Ernie Watts (sax), Larry Koonse (guitar), Scott Steed (bass), and Clayton Cameron (drums) joined the audience in applauding her!

For a finale surprise, onto the stage walked Diane’s old pal, singer Steve Tyrell, and together they winged it on “How High The Moon” with Diane going stratospheric on the last note before she and Tyrell took a final bow to another standing ovation.

There are all kinds of beauty in the world. Certainly Diane Schuur doesn’t possess the physical beauty of the Alicia Keys cadre, but what spirit, gumption, and tenacity she’s displayed over the years! That’s another kind of beauty — and whether it’s Deedles with the Count Basie Orchestra back in 1987 or with Alan Broadbent’s combo today in 2013, she’s given the jazz world a bounty of beauty and meaning with her songs.

A special word is in order about Alan Broadbent who arranged all the songs for Schuur in this KJazz concert. Alan is that rare artist who provides marvelous support for a singer without overshadowing her with his own spectacular talent.

Note: Alan’s extraordinary piano work can most recently be heard on his solo album, Heart to Heart, (available on and on the CD Baby online music store) in which he dazzles with such complex and intricate keyboard work that without overdubbing, it still sounds as if he were playing duets with himself – probably with his rumored twenty-one fingers and a couple of toes!

In the KJazz Concert, Alan and his combo of all-stars provided solid backing for Schuur: Ernie Watts taking a particularly cool sax break on “I Remember You”; Larry Koonse’ guitar solo perfectly attuned to Diane’s bluesy feel on “Didn’t We”; Scott Steed’s bass solo providing a complex and nuanced reprise of the melody on the same number; and throughout Diane’s set, the reserved but tasty brush work of drummer Clayton Cameron.

And to end Diane’s set with a pyrotechnic change of pace, she and the band invited brush master Cameron to explode on “For Once in My Life” with a thunderous and mesmerizing drum solo featuring brushes and sticks on snare and bass drums, tom-toms, timbales, on an array of sparkling cymbals, and with the rarity of brushes played on bongos. Each percussion instrument was played with different combinations of brushes, drumsticks, timpani mallets, and pom pom sticks — each brush or stick set discarded onto the floor after its particular use. At solo’s end, a joyous Cameron sat atop of a mound of his exhausted and discarded brushes and drumsticks. This is a percussionist who is as much fun to watch as he is to hear.

David Benoit

David Benoit

In the concert’s finale, pianist David Benoit and his smooth jazz quintet paid homage to Benoit’s early idol, Vince Guaraldi, with a take on the “Charlie Brown/Peanuts” theme. But a surprise was in the offing as guest artist Christian Scott joined the ensemble with his crackling trumpet reminding so much of Freddy Hubbard’s aggressive drive on “Walking in Space.”  Scott lifted Benoit’s band into unexpected funky territory. Guitarist Grant Geissman caught fire on his solos with the feel of down-home, country blues. Tenor man David Sills, urged on by Benoit and Scott, began to wail. Bassist David Hughes and drummer Jamey Tate followed suit. With his piano lines becoming more muscularly baroque than his expected decorative rococo, Benoit was into robust stride piano licks by evening’s end, and he and his quintet ended the concert up-tempo and gutsy.

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To read more posts by and about Norton Wright click HERE.

Op Ed Commentary: Morgan Ames on Millennium Women and A Cappella

June 17, 2011

Morgan Ames apprenticed with Quincy Jones; sang/contracted singers for Queen Latifah for opening of 2010 Super Bowl; sang backgrounds on 2011 Oscar telecast and with Celine Dion for 9/11 telethon, conducted singers onstage for Paul McCartney at a Green Peace concert at the Hollywood Bowl (“Hey Jude”); has written songs with Johnny Mandel, Bob James, Dori Caymmi; co-wrote “Baretta’s Theme” (“Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow”) with Dave Grusin (now a popular ringtone); has had songs recorded by Roberta Flack, Peggy Lee, Djavan; co-produced Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra which was #1 for 33 weeks and garnered two Grammys;  has performed with Chaka Kahn, Mariah Carey, John Williams and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; sung in “King Kong,” “Spider-Man,” “Matrix Reloaded” and “Revolutions,” “Sister Act” I and II, etc.; has sung and/or written vocal arrangements on recordings with David Foster, David Benoit, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, etc.  Here, Morgan’s comments about vocalists and vocal arrangers include insights broad enough to reach across the full breadth of creative activities.

By Morgan Ames

I have been the leader/arranger of an a cappella group (Inner Voices) for over 20 years and the music environment never sits still.  For instance, clever vocal work with choreography is currently in fashion, thanks to TV’s Glee.  Smirk-free a cappella is heard regularly on TV talent shows and schools everywhere.  Group singing will go out of favor again, you watch.  No point worrying about it and I don’t think most vocal arrangers do.  When you love voices suspended by their own weight, all alone, a cappella, you just do.

The path of women vocal arrangers follows the path of evolution for women generally.  If you think you can do it, you do it.  But good vocal arranging is an art that comes slowly.  You have to acquire a taste for heartbreak, which is to say, hang onto your sense of humor.  Most important, build up your craft skills.  My experience as a music professional all these years is that in certain areas of music there is no mercy relative to craft skills, not for women.

Skill breeds respect and without it, professional work is sparse and not much fun once you’re out of your 20s — your early 30s if you’re really cute.  It’s a good thing too.  You spend a lot more time in your career older than younger. The lion’s share of artistic satisfaction comes later.  It deepens as you do.  When I hear groups at a vocal faire or whatever, I often wish they would rethink their arrangements, or think them at all.  Vocal percussion is omnipresent and some groups think that if someone has a microphone in his mouth, the song is arranged.  It isn’t.  Another trap is the wall-of-sound approach.  Someone in the group picks a time feel, often repetitive (thank you, acid jazz), falls into a familiar chord pattern and just keeps cycling.  Someone else scats like a balloon losing air.  Then: end big and stop.  But there is an ocean of difference between finishing an arrangement and stopping because it’s long enough.  A stop happens and a finish is earned.

If you’re a woman musician out there now, believe me, craft skills are the secret.  They build your confidence and neutralize intimidation – especially from the guys.  Music schools and classes are everywhere.  If you’re a singer, and the majority of vocal arrangers are, you already have a good start.  Of course, the music style of your particular group impacts your arranging choices, but even styles which appear relatively simple, doo wop or folk, for instance, are not.  The work of great groups just sounds simple.  The era of doo woppers hanging out on the front porch in Philly is pretty much played out.  On the other hand, if you don’t know what you’re doing, arrangements can get ridiculously over-complicated, driving everyone in the group crazy, and sucking energy out of the song.

I never start writing an arrangement until I see it in my head.  I kind of meditate on the song, in silence.  For me it’s important to cast a song like a movie among the brilliant singers in my group.  I get a feel pretty quickly about who should stand out, whose persona fits the lyric.  I’m not afraid of space.  I vary from block chords to one voice to a duet in sixths all in maybe eight bars. It’s called dynamics.  Four voices have an entirely different weight and color than two.  One singing loudly versus four singing softly or vice versa gives surprise and dimension.

Here’s a good exercise: pick a classic vocal or background vocal arrangement  (some killers: Bobby McFerrin’s new Vocabularies, Mervyn Warren’s Hallelujah from Soulful Messiah, Respect by Aretha Franklin, I Just Want to Stop by Gino Vannelli,  O Brother Where Art Thou with music put together by T-Bone Burnett).  Then do some serious analysis.  Why do you love it?  Why in detail.  Really go there.  Arranging is about problem solving, note after note.  I grew up doing this obsessively, and still do it.  I have listened to the first Take 6 album hundreds of times and still learn from it.  If you’re drawn to southern sounds, T Bone Burnett knows everything about bluegrass and other mountain vocal styles.  The late Gene Puerling is still the Bach of vocal arrangers.

One more tip if you want to be really good: don’t ignore that, uh, well, that funky little spot in the arrangement that never quite worked.  Come on, figure it out and do it right.  What separates the pros from the non-pros is the polishing, the finishing up, the unglamorous part.

Vocal arranging is harrowing if you do it right, but you get to love the process eventually because of what it gives back to you. You may find, like me, that the more you arrange, put out fires caused by the last chord you wrote, etc., the more you fall in love with the art.  Welcome to the subtlest, silkiest club in music.

Picks of the Week: Feb. 22 – 27

February 22, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Anthony Wilson

- Feb. 22. (Tues.)  Anthony Wilson Quartet.  Wilson’s skills reach well beyond his impressive guitar chops and into his primo abilities as a composer and arranger. Diana Krall’s been lucky to have him in her band for the last few years.  Here he is in the spotlight. Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 24. (Thurs.)  Terry Trotter and Chuck Berghofer.  The Dynamic Duo of pianist Trotter and bassist Berghofer combine decades of jazz experience and far reaching improvisational imagination in everything they play.  Charlie O’s. (818) 914-3058.

- Feb. 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco.  The master of the Hammond B-3 has been Down Beat’s top jazz organist every year since 2003.  Listen to the first tune he plays and you’ll know why.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 25. (Fri.) Phil Ranelin Jazz Ensemble.  Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave is a special guest with trombonist Ranelin’s always-energized ensemble.  The performance celebrates Black History Month as well as the release of the new Ranelin CD, Perserverance. Culver’s Club for Jazz in the Radisson LA Westside Hotel.   (310) 649-1776 Ext. 4137.

Joyce Cooling

- Feb. 26. (Sat.)  Joyce Cooling and Earl Klugh.  A pair of smooth jazz/fusion/crossover guitarists are featured in a double evening of hard-swinging, melodically lyrical and groove-oriented music.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (800) 300-4345.

- Feb. 26. (Sat.) Betty Buckley and Marvin Hamlisch.  Broadway star Buckley (Cats, Triumph of Love, Sunset Blvd. etc.) teams up with pianist/songwriter Hamlisch.  Expect to hear one memorable hit after another.  Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800.

- Feb. 26. (Sat.)  Helen Sung and the David Benoit Trio.  Pianist Sung performs a diverse program of jazz, classical and pop with the Benoit Quartet and members of the Asia America Youth Orchestra.  The award-winning composer/pianist’s Southland appearances are rare, so don’t miss this especially intriguing performance.   Norris Pavilion, Rolling Hills Estates.

San Francisco

- Feb. 24 & 25. (Thurs. & Fri.) PSP.  The international jazz trio of pianist Philippe Saisse, bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Simon Phillips – in demand players as individuals – come together with an imaginative musicality affirming the truly global reach of jazz.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Feb. 27. (Sun.)  Women in Jazz.  Featuring Ruth Davies, Roberta Donnay, Brenda Wong Aoki and Destiny Muhammad.  A stellar line up of the Bay area’s fine distaff jazz artists perform a benefit concert for the Jazz Heritage Center.  Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York

Dave Liebman

- Feb. 22 – 26. (Tues. – Sat.) Quest.  All-Star is the appropriate phrase to use when describing this impressive jazz collective, whose members include saxophonist Dave Liebman, pianist Richie Beirach, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Billy HartBirdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Feb. 23 – 27. (Wed. – Sun.)  Monk’s Dream: Fifty Years Fresh.  The Music of Thelonious Monk & the Expanding Universe of Bebop.  It’s a long title, but the music makes it worthwhile, as pianist Benny Green explores Monk’s ever-vital music in the company of Jesse Davis, alto saxophone, Peter Washington, bass and Kenny Washington, drums. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

Lionel Loueke

- Feb. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Lionel Loueke Trio with special guest Jason Moran.  Anticipate a remarkable evening of world class music with this group.  Loueke is one of the most versatile guitarists of recent memory, pianist Moran last year received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, and bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth are a dynamic rhythm team.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

Picks of the Week: Aug. 24 – 29

August 24, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Aug. 24. (Tues.) Sarah Chang.  The gifted young violinist takes on the fascinating musical demands of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Slatkin,  plays the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 24. (Tues.)  Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. The Southland’s always compelling contribution to the top tiers of big band jazz makes an infrequent club engagement. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Aug. 24. (Tues.) Otmaro Ruiz Quartet.  Versatile pianist Ruiz shares his views of Latin jazz with the talented vibraphonist, Nick Mancini.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

Monica Mancini

- Aug. 25. (Wed.) Gershwin Across America.  What could be more entertaining than a warm summer night at the Hollywood Bowl, listening to the timeless melodies of Gershwin sung and played by a cast of musical all-stars.  Featured artists include Monica Mancini, Jason Mraz, BeBe Winans, Nancy Wilson, St. Vincent, Shelly Berg, Arturo Sandoval, Tom Scott, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and others.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 25. (Wed.)  Dale Fielder Angel City Quartet.  Saxophonist Fielder leads his quartet in an evening dedicated to a tribute to Wayne Shorter as well as selections from his own Suite ClarityCatalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.  .

- Aug. 25. (Wed.)  Larry Goldings Quintet.  Film music is on the menu for pianist Goldings, who leads his players – guitarist Anthony Wilson, trumpeter Josh Welchez bassist Gabe Noel and drummer Kevin Kanner in a program of music by the likes of Bernard Hermann, Henry Mancini, Nino Rota, Leonard Bernstein and more.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Norah Jones

- Aug. 25. (Wed.)  Norah Jones. She burst onto the music scene with almost no advance warning.  And she’s been spreading her wings musically ever since, revealing the broad, eclectic reach of her performing, playing and composing skills. The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

- Aug. 25 & 26. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Jeremy Siskind.  The talented young pianist offers a tribute to Oscar Peterson, backed by guitarist Graham Dechter and bassist Will Snyder.  Wed. at Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.  Thursday at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Aug. 26. (Thurs.)  BeatlesfestLed Zepagain. It’s tribute night on the Pier, with the sounds of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin spreading musical memories in every direction.   Twilight Dance at the Santa Monica Pier.   (310) 458-8900.

- Aug. 26. (Thurs.)  Peter Erskine and Friends. Expect high quality, world class jazz whenever drummer Erskine is leading the way.  And once again he’s got a band that knows how to deliver it. With Alan Pasqua, piano, Derek Oles, bass and Bob Mintzer, saxophones.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 26. (Thurs.)  Galway Plays Mozart.  Flutist John Galway – his instrument’s most visible performer — plays the Mozart Flute Concerto No 2, as well as Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Piston’s Incredible Flutist Suite.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, offers the Overture to Mozart’s The Magic FluteThe Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

Frank Sinatra, Jr.

- Aug. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Frank Sinatra Jr.  The Sinatra sound is alive and well in the voice and the style of son Frank, Jr.   At a time when Sinatra imitators are showing up everywhere, it’s good to hear the music coming from such an original source.  (323) 466-2210.    Catalina Bar & Grill.

- Aug. 27. (Fri.)  Cyndi Lauper. With 13 Grammy nominations, a pair of Emmys and a ton of MTV awards, Lauper continues to sustain musical stardom that reaches back to her hits of the ‘80s.  Her guest stars are New Orleans’ Allen Toussaint and guitarist David RhodesThe Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

- Aug. 27. (Fri.)  Dena DeRose. It took injuries to her hands to convince DeRose that she had vocal skills to match the quality of her piano playing.  Fortunately recovered, she now does both.  What she doesn’t do very often, however, is make Southland appearances.  So don’t miss this one.  Crowne Plaza Hotel.   (310) 642-7500.

- Aug. 28. (Sat.)  The Turtle Island Quartet.   The ever-adventurous Turtle Islanders perform music from their new CD, Have You Ever Been… — featuring the music of Jimi Hendrix and founder/composer in residence David BalakrishnanGrand Performances.  (213) 687-2190.

Charmaine Clamor

- Aug. 28. (Sat.) Charmaine Clamor.  The Philippines’ gift to the world of jazz singing gets better and better with every performance, spreading her extraordinary musical versatility in all directions.  Hopefully she’ll offer a glimpse into the songs on her soon to be released new album, Something Good. And this time out, it won’t cost a penny to hear and see this world class artist at the  Levitt Pavilion in a free concert in MacArthur Park.   (213) 384-5701

- Aug. 28. (Sat.)  Jeri Brown.  Brown, whose voice is one of the jazz world’s most remarkable instruments, takes a break from her teaching activities in Canada to make a very rare Southland appearance.  If you haven’t heard her yet, you should start now.  Café Metropol.   (213) 613-1537.

- Aug. 28. (Sat.)  Ashley Maher.  Imagine the lyrical depths of Joni Mitchell embraced by the vital rhythms of Africa, and it still won’t quite describe the songs and singing of Maher, who deserves far more attention than she has received.  She performs with Haiti’s Jean-Paul.  The Kara Mack Band opens.  The Talking Stick, Venice.

- Aug. 28 & 29. (Sat. & Sun.)  Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines.  A great way to spend a late Summer weekend – an entertaining program of music in a delightful outdoor setting.  Featured artists include Tom Scott, Kenny Washington, Oscar Hernandez and David Benoit.  But there’s much more, from the Peter Sprague String Consort and the Jeff Tower Big band to Henry Franklin, Yves Evans, Graham Dechter and many others.  The inimitable Bubba Jackson is the master of ceremonies.  Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines.

= Aug. 29. (Sun.) Kleber Jorge.  Brazilian singer/guitarist Jorge, former lead guitarist with Sergio Mendes,  has also performed with everyone from Dori Caymmi to John Patitucci.  He celebrates the opening of a new Sunday brunch series at the Tiato Market Garden Cafe in Santa Monica.   (310) 866-5228.

San Francisco

- Aug. 24 & 25. (Tues. & Wed.)  Lenny White and Anomaly. Drummer White celebrates the release of Anomaly, his first album in ten years,  Determined to “put the rock back into jazz-rock,” he thoroughly succeeds in the task.  For a review of his performance at Catalina Bar & Grill last weekend, click here.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Bob Dylan

- Aug. 25. (Wed.)  Bob Dylan and His Band. A rare and special event.  And it begins with what will surely be a virtual “happening” outside the theatre before the show begins.  Why?  Because all tickets are general admission and will be sold only on the day of the show.  $60, cash only, no credit cards, and no advance tickets will be sold.  Box office and doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show.  Line-ups will be allowed no earlier than noon on the day of the show.  The Warfield, San Francisco.

Aug. 26 – 28. (Thurs. – Sat.) John Zorn.  A three night Zorn festival.  On Thursday he performs in a duo with composer Terry Riley; on Friday he plays Alhambra love songs at 8, and is joined by the Aleph Trio at 10; on Saturday he appears with the Rova Saxophone QuartetYoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Aug. 24 – 28. (Tues. – Sat.) Richie Bierach.  Pianist Bierach, a favorite of Stan Getz and Chet Baker, among others, performs with trumpeter Randy Brecker, violinist Gregor Huebner, bassist George Mraz and drummer Billy HartBirdland.  (212) 581-3080.

-Aug. 24 – 29. (Tues. – Sun.)  Saxophone Summit: Salute to James Moody.  Special guests: Tues. — Chris Potter; Wed. – Eric Alexander and Antonio Hart; Thurs – Jimmy Heath; Fri. – Lew Tabackin; Sat. – Ada Rovatti; Sun. – Joe LovanoThe Blue Note. (212) 475-8592

- Aug. 24 – 29. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. An evening of works by the man who created some of the most memorable songs of the late 20th century. Performed expertly by The Trio Da Paz, with Joe Locke, Harry Allen and Maucha AdnetDizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

Lee Konitz

- Aug. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.) Lee Konitz.  The veteran alto saxophonist, one of the jazz world’s true original artists, displays his extraordinary improvisational skills in the company of the alternating rhythm section teams of Ethan Iverson/Larry Grenadier (Thurs. & Sun.) and Reid Anderson/Jorge Rossy (Fri. & Sat.)  Iridium.   (212) 582-2121.

- Aug. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Gerald Clayton Quintet. Rapidly rising young pianist Clayton expands his trio with a pair of equally promising young instrumentalists – trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and alto saxophonist Logan RichardsonThe Jazz Standard. l (212) 576-3323.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 22 – 27

September 22, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Sept. 23. (Wed.) Mike Lang Trio. Lang has played piano on thousands of film scores, backed everyone from Aretha Franklin to John Lennon and written songs for Stan Getz, Herb Alpert and others. Here’s a chance to hear him doing his own thing with bassist Abraham Laboriel and drummer Walter Rodriguez. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 23. (Wed.) Slavic Soul Party! Brooklyn’s best brass band, in the tradition of Eastern European brass band ensembles, applies a massive amount of energy to their blend of traditional music, jazz, funk and gospel. The Echo.  (213) 413-8200.jack sheldon

- Sept. 23. (Wed.) Jack Sheldon California Cool Quartet. California’s coolest trumpeter leads his own appropriately titled group, mixing his potent trumpet with atmospheric vocals and — depending o his mood — some of his uniquely sardonic humor. Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058

- Sept. 23. (Wed.) Alan Broadbent & Pat Senatore. Pianist/composer/arranger Broadbent brings compositional insights, a sensitive touch for tone and a rhythmic lift to everything he touches. Senatore’s bass adds a sturdy sound, a propulsive groove and an empathetic musical ear. Expect to hear music that is as thoughtful as it is swinging. Vibrato Grill Jazz… etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 24. (Thurs.) The Yuval Ron Ensemble performs “Days of Awe” featuring vocalist Maya Haddi in a program of “Sacred music and stories for the Season of Renewal.” Electric Lodge, Venice.

- Sept. 24. (Thurs.) The Dave Brubeck Quartet. Fifty years after “Take Five” and more than sixty years after he started recording, Brubeck still has something fascinating to say, musically, wheneveer he sits down at the piano.The Cerritos Center.  (562) 916-8501.

- Sept. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.) The John Patitucci Trio. Patitucci takes time out from his busy schedule as one of jazz’s A-list bassist to lead his own world class trio featuring tenor saxophonist George Garzone and up and coming drummer Marcus Gilmore (grand son of the ageless Roy Haynes). Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Sally Kellerman Sept. 25. (Fri.) Sally Kellerman. Yes, of course you know her as the original Hot Lips in the film verson of M.A.S.H. But Kellerman’s always had at least one foot in the music world. And over the past decade she’s thoroughly established herself as an entertaining diva who easily finds the linkages between jazz, folk, country and pop. She performs with the Joel Scott Quartet. The Culver Club for Jazz. Radisson Hotel.  (310) 649-1776.

- Sept. 25.& 26 (Fri. & Sat.) Gladys Knight. Grammy-winning Knight has had a stellar career, with and without the Pips. Although she was named one of the “100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll,” Knight’s singing transcends any single genre, reaching easily from jazz and soul to torch songs and beyond. The Cerritos Center.  (562) 916-8501.

- Sept. 25 & 26. (Fri. & Sat.) Ahmad Jamal Quartet. The one and only, the pianist whose sense of time had a profound effect upon Miles Davis, and who still comes up with ear opening musical ideas every time he performers. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. (323) 964-9766.

- Sept. 25 & 26. (Fri. & Sat.) Wavefest. Smooth jazz and more smooth jazz, performed by some of its best known artists. Among the line-up: On Friday: Brian McKnight, Al Jarreau, David Benoit, James Torme. On Saturday: Kenny G, Vanessa Williams and Jesse Cook. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-3125.

- Sept. 26. (Sat.) Iliana Rose.  She’s not Iliana Rosewell known yet, but Rose’s extraordinary skills — as a singer, songwriter, composer and arranger, mark her as a soon-to-break-out, potential major talent. Here her now, before the cover charge goes up, and you can brag that you saw a new star in her ascendance.  The 322 Cafe.  (626) 836-5414.

- Sept. 26. (Sat.) Phil Norman Tentet. A 14th anniversary Party for the band that has kept alive the briskly swinging, compact and contrapuntal styles of ’50s West Coast jazz. Radisson Hotel. The Culver Club for Jazz.  (310) 649-1776.

- Sept. 26. (Sat.) Grant Geissman Quartet. There isn’t a guitar style that the versatile Geissman can’t handle with ease. But with the band he’s working with on this gig, expect some stirring, straight ahead jazz. With Brian Scanlon, alto saxophone, Emilio Palamo, piano, Trey Henry, bass and Ray Brinker, drums. Spazio.  (818) 728-8400.

- Sept. 27. (Sun.) Bill Cosby. The master, story-telling stand up comic, who drives his tales with the improvisational spontaneity of the jazz musician he’s always wanted to be. The Cerritos Center.  (562) 916-8501.

Louie Cruz Beltran- Sept. 27. (Sun.) Louie Cruz Beltran. “Dancing on the Water” Beltran’s enthusiastic performances, ranging across r&b, salsa, reggae, Latin jazz, Brazilian bossa nova and rock should stimulate plenty of dancing during this cruise through Long Beach Harbor. On the Hornblower yacht, Endless Dreams, 5:30 p.m. boarding at Rainbow Harbor, Long Beach, cruising from 6 – 8 p.m.  (888) 467-6256.

San Francisco

Sept. 23. (Wed.) “India & Africa: A Birthday Tribute to John Coltrane” Another celebration of the iconic saxophonist’s birthday on Sept. 23. This one features percussionist/composer Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra with special guests. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

- Sept. 25 – 27. (Fri. – Sun.) Stanley Jordan Trio. Jordan’s tap-on style continues to be one of the jazz world’s most unique styles. This time out, he enhances the setting with the backing of bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Eddie Barattini. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

james_moody right- Sept. 26 & 27. (Sat. & Sun.) Roberta Gambarini and James Moody. The gifted Italian jazz singer and the veteran tenor saxophonist perform together with irresistible musical affinity. Hopefully “Moody’ Mood For Love” will surface somewhere during one of the sets. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.


Sept. 25 & 26. (Fri. & Sat.) Globalquerque! Fifth annual world music highlight of the Southwest. The far-ranging line-up of artists includes Roberto Mirabal, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Novalima, Maria de Barros, Mamek Khadem, Blick Bassy, Vasen with Mike Marshall & Darol Anger, Lorin Sklamberg & Susan McKeown. Globalquerque! (505) 724-4771.

New York

- Sept. 22 – 25 and Sept. 27. (Wed. – Fri. and Sun.) Billy Hart Quartet. Drummer Hart has played in every imaginable style during his nearly five decade career. This time out he works with younger generation stalwarts — Ethan Iverson, piano, Mark Turner, tenor saxophone and Ben Street, bass. The Village Vanguard. h (212) 255-4037.

- Sept. 23 – 26. (Wed. – Sat.) “Coltrane Revisited” A team of ultimate all-stars celebrate John Coltrane’s 83rd birthday with former Coltrane sideman Kuhn leading the way. Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, Steve Kuhn, piano, Lonnie Plaxico, bass, Andrew Cyrille and Billy Drummond, drums. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Sept. 24. (Thurs.) “Jazz Guitars Meetsheryl-bailey2009 Hendrix” With Sheryl Bailey and Vic Juris, guitars, Brian Charette, keyboards, George Gray, drums. The 55 should be rocking happily when Bailey and Juris take on high flying pleasures of the Hendrix songbook. 55 Bar.  (212) 929-9883.

- Sept. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.) Barry Harris Trio. The masterful bebop pianist spends a lot of his time teaching these days, so he should be heard at every opportunity. He performs with Ray Drummond, bass and Leroy Williams, drums. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

- Sept. 26. (Sat.) Barbra Streisand. The diva of all divas does a one-nighter to hype her new album.  Tickets were handed out long ago.  it will nevertheless undoubtedly cause some major paparazzi-induced traffic jams on Seventh Avenue. The Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

Picks of the Week: March 30 – April 5

March 29, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- March 30 (Mon.) The Frank Capp Juggernaut Big Band. It’s a juggernaut, all right – a hard driving, deeply swinging collection of L.A.’s finest players, working through the scintillating repertoire of the Great American Big Band Book. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- April 1. (Wed.) The Alan Broadbent Trio. Broadbent is a superb arranger and a much-valued accompanist. But best of all, he’s a jazz pianist with the voice, the sensitivity and the imagination to produce constantly compelling music. Jazz Bakery (310) 271-9039.

- April 1. (Wed.) Jenny Scheinman. Violinist Scheinman showcases material from her recent album, “Crossing the Field,” with guitarists Nels Cline and Moe Hawk. “Crossing the Field.” Largo.


– April 2. (Thurs.) Bill Frisell’s Disfarmer Project. The ever-curious Frisell presents an original compositional suite based upon photographer Mike Disfarmer’s stunning, Depression era images of rural Arkansas life. (310) 440-4500.

- April 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.) Omar Sosa. Sosa’s new CD, “Across the Divide: A Tale of Rhythm and Ancestry” – inspired by the Middle Passage of African slaves to the U.S.– is a richly textured blend of jazz, folk songs, hymns and spoken word, celebrating the American confluence of cultures. Jazz Bakery (310) 271-9039.

- April 3. (Fri.) Charmaine Clamor. She may be the pathfinder for “Jazzipino” music, but Clamor’s career ignites in other directions as well. On April 18 , she’ll reprise her English/Tagalog performance of “The Vagina Chronicles” in New York; in June, she’ll receive a Filipino “Oscar” from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences as the “Philippine Pride Best Jazz Vocalist.” But first, she’ll be in L.A. for a not to be missed one nighter at Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.


Kendra Shank

- April 3. (Fri.) Kendra Shank with the Geoff Keezer Trio. The songs on the versatile Shank’s new album, “Mosaic,” run the gamut from Carole King to Johnny Mandel to Bill Evans to a poem by Rumi. Steamers. (714) 871-8800 Shank also performs at the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel on Thursday, April 1 (310) 642-7500.

- April 4. (Sat.) Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider. Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle) master Kalhor teams up with the envelope-stretching string Quartet, Brooklyn Rider to perform selections from their new CD, “The Silent City.” UCLA Live at Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.

- April 4. (Sat.) Chango Spasiuk. Don’t let the name fool you. Accordionist Spasiuk, the offspring of Ukrainian immigrants, is one of the masters of northeast Argentina’s dancing, schottische-like chamamé music. The Getty.

- April. 4 & 5. (Sat. & Sun.) The Duke Ellington 110th birthday Anniversary Festival of Music. Various UCLA music department ensembles explore the full range – from small group jazz to sacred music – of the Ellington repertoire. Open to the public and free of charge. UCLA’s. Schoenberg Hall. (310) 206-3033.

- April 5. (Sun.) Jazz Brunch with the John and Jeanne Pisano. The briskly swinging sounds of the Flying Pisanos – vocalist Jeanne and guitarist John – and an overflowing buffet. Call it a great way to highlight a weekend. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

- April 5. (Sun.) Organica with Christophe Bull. The 10th anniversary celebration of Bull’s always compelling multi-media illuminations of the pipe organ. Special guests include Norton Wisdom, I-Chin Feinblatt, Lili Haydn, Paulist Choristers of California, Richard Martinez and Robert Woolsey UCLA Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101. 7 p.m.

- April 5. (Sun.) Page Cavanaugh Tribute. Leonard Maltin leads an afternoon celebration of the life of the pianist/Singer whose airy instrumental work and whisper vocals created a template for cool, swinging night club jazz. 11 a.m. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco


Joshua Redman

- April 1 – 5. (Wed. – Sun.) Joshua Redman‘s appropriately titled new album, “Compass,” continues his expansive journey through the possibilities of the saxophone/bass/drums trio format. His partners here are Matt Penman and drummer Greg Hutchinson. Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

- April 4 & 5. (Sat. & Sun.) Oregon. Three decades together, and Paul McCandless and his associates continue to produce music that is as stylistically inclusive as it is creatively compelling. The band’s newest release, Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York City

- March 31 – April 2. (Tues. – Thurs.) Ted Nash and Odeon. A rare appearance by saxophonist Nash’s eclectic ensemble, performing music that finds the common ground between jazz, tango, country music and a variety of ethnic sounds from the Middle East. The Jazz Standard (212) 576-2252.

- March 31 – April 4. (Tues. – Sat.) Jessica Molaskey and the John Pizzarelli Quartet. One of the jazz world’s most visible married couples, Molaskey and Pizzarelli have all the entertaining amiability of Keely Smith and Louis Prima, with a lot more to say musically. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.


Lee Konitz

- March 31 – April 5. (Tues. – Sun.) Lee Konitz and Friends. Regardless of who the “Friends” may be, any chance to hear Konitz in person is a chance to tap into the essence of what jazz is all about. More than an iconic figure, Konitz is one of jazz history’s great creators, still in rare form, still offering masterful new information. The Village Vanguard (212) 255-4037.

- March 31 – April 5. (Tues. – Sun.) The Wonderful World of Armstrong. Saxophonist Victor Gaines and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon recall the glories of Satchmo, with Gordon adding his atmospheric vocals for good measure. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. (212) 258-9595. .

- April 2. (Thurs.) Bang on a Can All-Stars. The no-boundaries chamber ensemble premiers works by Lok Yin Tang, Kate Moore and Lee Ranaldo (who also appears as a special guest), as well as the always-fascinating Fred Frith’s “Snakes and Ladders.” Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center. (212) 501-3330.

Reading, Pennsylvania

March 27 – April 5. The 19th Annual Berks Jazz Fest. Smooth jazz and a lot more at this annual musical delight in a pleasant old southeast Pennsylvania city (my home town) along the Schuylkill River. Featured randybrecker1performers in the expansive program include David Benoit, Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Brian Bromberg, Anat Cohen, Brian Culbertson, Bela Fleck, Bobby Lyle, Paul Jackson Jr., Mitch Forman, Chieli Minucci, Andy Narell, Randy Brecker, Joyce Cooling, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Smith & Vital Information, Phoebe Snow, Tierney Sutton Band, Take 6, Derek Trucks, McCoy Tyner Quartet, Gerald Veasley, Nnenna Freelon, Peter White, Mindi Abair, Victor Wooten and many others. At locations around Reading, PA. Tickets from Ticketmaster: (800) 745-3000 Festival information:

Bill Frisell photo by Ralph Gibson
Randy Brecker photo by Rusty Russell

Picks of the Week: Feb. 16 – 22

February 16, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles


Mon David

- Feb. 17. (Tues.)  Mon David.  The Filipino singer has all the skills to emerge as one of the breakout male jazz vocal talents of the year.  Vibrato.   (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 17. (Tues.)  “Tales From the Diva Den” featuring Kristin Korb, Inga Swearingen, Kathleen Grace.  They may be divas, but they’re jazz artists first, with each offering a unique slant on how to bring a song alive. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.)  Mose Allison and Tom Warrington.  The inimitable Bard of the Bayou, his songs and his piano.  With the impeccable support of Warrington’s bass playing.  Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.


Joan Baez, photo by Dana Tynan

- Feb. 19. (Thurs.)  Joan Baez.  A pop icon if there ever was one.  Baez’s latest CD, “Day After Tomorrow,” was her first to chart on the Billboard Top 200 in 28 years.  And with good reason; her voice is still a musical marvel.  UCLA Live.  Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.

- Feb. 19. (Thurs.)  Houston Person.  He was great with Etta Jones, and he’s even better up front, bringing swinging soul to everything he touches. Jazz Brasserie at the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel.  (310) 642-7500.

- Feb. 19 – 22. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Pianist David Benoit in a rare, up close and personal night club run.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Feb. 20. (Fri.)  Israel-born pianist Tamir Hendleman proves that good jazz is boundary-less.  Steamers.  (714) 871-8800

- Feb. 20 – 21. (Fri. & Sat.)  Another saxophone weekend at Charlie O’s, featuring a pair of the Southland’s most versatile tenorists: Azar Lawrence on Friday, and Justo Almario on Saturday.  With the John Heard Trio.  Charlie O’s.  [818] 994-3058.



- Feb. 21. (Sat.)  Brazilian Carnaval 2009 It’s as close as L.A. can get to the irresistible, high voltage excitement of Rio and carnival time.  The non-stop, six hour line-up of performers includes Katia Moraes and the Pure Samba Band, Nation Beat‘s frevo and maracatu, Flavio Ribeiro and Unidos of California Samba School, Mestre Amen‘s acrobatic capoeira show, The Tropidanza company and the Viver Brasil Dance Company.  Hollywood Palladium.  [818] 566-1111,

- Feb. 21. (Sat.)  The Munich SymphonyPhilippe Entremont, conductor and pianist, performing Wagner, Tchaikovsky (Symphony #2) and a Mozart Piano Concerto.  UCLA Live. Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.

- Feb. 22. (Sun.)  Ethel Merman’s BroadwayRita McKenzie‘s spot-on salute to the Queen of Broadway, complete with the vibrato, the intensity and the fun.  Cerritos Center.  (562) 467-8818

San Francisco


Richard Bona

- Feb. 19 – 22. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Richard Bona.  Hopefully the gifted African bassist will combine his instrumental prowess with his atmospheric vocals.  A very limited number of tickets are on sale for $10, while supplies last.  Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

- Feb. 20 – 22. (Fri – Sun.) Larry Coryell, Joey DeFrancesco and Alphonse Mouzon in a hard to top combination of body-moving jazz.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York City

- Feb. 17 – 22. (Tues. – Sun.)  David Sanborn in a rare club gig, reminding us that passion and imagination can be more important than fast fingers.  Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Feb. 17 – 22. (Tues. – Sun.)  Terence Blanchard takes a break from film composing.  Village Vanguard  (212) 255-4037.

- Feb/ 17 – 22/ )Tues. – Sun.)  Ann Hampton Callaway supports her brand new album, “At Last.”  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. (212) 258-9595.

- Feb. 18 (Wed.) Medeski, Martin & Wood, still making a convincing case for fusion.  Le Poisson Rouge. (212) 796-0741.

- Feb. 18. (Wed.)  Anat Cohen Group.  Reviving the clarinet as an authentic jazz instrument.  Small’s   (212) 252-5091.


Randy Weston, photo by Oumar Fall

- Feb. 18 – 22.  (Wed. – Sun.)  Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Quintet.  Weston’s music was described by Langston Hughes as “an ebb and flow of sound seemingly as natural as the waves of the sea.”  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2252.

- Feb. 19. (Thurs.)  Leonard Cohen.  Beacon Theatre.  NYC.  The Canadia poet/songwriter’s first US show in 15 years.  Beacon Theatre. (212).465-6500.

- Feb. 22. (Sun.)  Chico O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra Directed by Arturo O’Farrill:  “The most seamless blend of clavè rhythm and bebop harmony anywhere.” (Time Out)  Birdland. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.


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