Picks of the Week: January 5 – 11

January 6, 2015

As we move into the first weeks of 2015, the iRoM Picks of the Week will begin to reach beyond the Los Angeles-centric choices of the past few years. We will, of course, continue to survey L.A.’s ever-changing banquet of musical pleasures. But we will also begin to highlight and emphasize a broad range of choices reflecting the International perspective which is at the heart of our mission and our name.

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Michael TIlson Thomas

Michael TIlson Thomas

– Jan. 9 – 11. (Fri. – Sun.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Michael Tilson Thomas celebrates his 70th birthday by conducting the L.A. Phil. and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a spectacular, world premiere production of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with video and lighting design. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Jan. 9 – 11. (Fri. – Sun.) The Lee Ritenour Band. He’s been called “Captain Fingers” for his impressive guitar technique, but Ritenour is also an imaginative, hard swinging jazz artist. He performs here with the fine backing of Dave Weckl, drums, Tom Kennedy, bass and pianist Makoto Ozone. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Jan. 6. (Tues.) John Proulx Trio. Proulx is on many first-call lists for his fine piano work. But Proulx is an engaging vocalist as well, building a career as a prime entry in the slowly growing cadre of male jazz singers. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Carol Bach-y-Rita

Carol Bach-y-Rita

– Jan. 11. (Sun.) Carol Bach-y-Rita. A singer with a voice to remember, Bach-y-Rita (her name is Catalan) brings convincing interpretations and rhythmic ease to songs reaching from samba and salsa to crisp jazz rhythms, often in 4 or 5 languages. She’s especially worth seeing and hearing in the elegant setting of Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz..etc. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

– Jan. 8 – 11, (Thurs. – Sun.) Pharoah Sanders. The far-reaching jazz explorations of the avant-garde ’60s are still alive and well in Sanders’ adventurous tenor saxophone. An SFJAZZ event at Miner Auditorium (866) 920-5299.

- Jan. 9. (Fri.)  The San Francisco Symphony and The Godfather.  Justin Freer conducts the Symphony in a live orchestral performance of Nino Rota’s film score in sync with a screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s film masterpiece.  Davies Symphony Hall.  (415) 864-6000.

Oregon

Portland – Jan. 7. (Thurs.) The Mel Brown B3 Organ Group has been playing at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland for more than 16 years. No wonder George Benson once said “if this band played in New York City, they’d be a sensation.” Jimmy Mak’s.  (503) 295-6542.

Ashland – Jan. 9 & 10. (Fri. @ 7:30 p.m. & Sat. @ 3 p.m.) The Tesla Quartet. The stellar young artists in the Tesla Quartet have established themselves as a significant international chamber ensemble in the few years since they graduated from Julliard. They’ll perform works by Bartok, Dvorak, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Webern, Beethoven and others. Chamber Music Concert Series at Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall.  (541) 552-6154.

New York City

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

– Jan. 6 – 11. (Tues. – Sun.) The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour. Here’s a rare chance to experience some of the impressive music from what is arguably one of the finest jazz festivals in the world. The featured players in this stellar aggregation include trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and the Gerald Clayton Trio. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– Jan. 8 – 10. (Thurs. – Sat.) The 2015 NYC Winter Jazzfest. The three day Jazzfest, which takes place at theatres and clubs across Greenwich Village offers a rare display of jazz eclecticism. With talent ranging from iconic names to new arrivals, with stylistic explorations of every jazz genre, it provides a brilliant survey of jazz in all its irresistible shapes and forms. The 2015 Winterjazz Fest.

-Jan. 11. (Sun.) Lisa Hilton. Composer-pianist Hilton debuts new compositions from her album Horizons in a live performance with saxophonist J.D. Allen, drummer Rudy Royston, bassist Ben Street, and Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn. Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall).

London

– Jan. 5 – 7. (Mon. – Wed.) Scott Hamilton Quartet. Jazz history, past and present is vividly alive in Hamilton’s buoyant tenor saxophone work. The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho.

Tania Maria

Tania Maria

Milan

- Jan. 9 – 11. (Fri. – Sun.) Tania Maria. The loving partnership between Brazilian music and American jazz is on full display with everything the versatile Tania Maria sings and plays. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Switzerland

– Jan. 11. (Sun.) Lang Lang. The gifted young Chinese pianist makes one of his rare European appearances. Stadt-casino – Hans Huber Saal, Basel.

Andorra

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

– Jan. 9. (Fri.) Joshua Bell and his violin take center stage with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields European Tour: Andorra. The dynamic program reaches from Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor, Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. The tour also includes performances in Mannheim (Jan. 14), Vienna (Jan. 15) and Hamburg (Jan. 16).

 

Moscow

– Jan. 5 – 11. (Mon. – Sun. The Nutcracker: A Ballet in Two Acts. The Bolshoi Ballet accompanied by the Bolshoi Theatre Symphony Orchestra.

The Bolshoi Ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet

What will surely be a memorable performance in the Bolshoi Ballet and Opera Theatre.

Tokyo

Richard-Bona

Richard-Bona

– Jan. 10 & 11. (Sat. & Sun.) The Richard Bona Group. Bassist Bona, born in Cameroon, burst onto the New York jazz scene in the mid-’90s, quickly establishing his uniquely original style with the likes of George Benson, Branford Marsalis, Chaka Kahn Randy Brecker and others. Since then he’s led a sequence of his own musically compelling ensembles. Tokyo Blue Note.  +81 3-5485-0088.


A Christmas Jazz Tale

December 24, 2014

by Don Heckman

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the gig was running late;
No sugar plums, no candy canes, just another overtime club date,
Holidays are work days in a jazz musician’s life,
A chance to make some extra bucks to take home to the wife.

Chanukah’s over, Kwaanza starts tomorrow,
The Ramadan fast just ended,  and I’ll forget the others to my sorrow.
If you want to make a living in the music world these days,
You’d better learn to celebrate in many different ways.

The clock slowly turned toward the midnight hour,
As we played a jazzed up version of the “Waltz of the Flowers.”
We labored on, “White Christmas,” “Frosty” and “Silent Night”;
And I wondered if we’d still be jamming “My Favorite Things” at first light.

But we finally got lucky, as the leader kicked off the last medley.
The singer mauled “The Christmas Song,” a version Mel would have found deadly,
We did the “Jingle Bell Mambo” and the “Drummer Boy Bossa Nova,”
And wrapped it all up, with a rock “Hallelujah” coda.

I packed my horn, gave the guys my best wishes and headed into the night.
The streets were dark and quiet, the stores closed up tight.
Not that it would have mattered, since the gig barely paid the rent,
And whatever I could afford for presents had already been spent.

I walked through the falling snow, filled with memories of Christmas past,
Of marching bands and Christmas parades, of lighted trees and times too good to last.
And I wondered if my kids, when adulthood beckons,
Would remember their holidays with the same sweet affection.

My footsteps led me home to a house warm and cozy,
Where my wife and my children lay innocently dozing.
So I sat for a while in the late night still,
Watching the snow fall gently on the hill.

When I suddenly heard a familiar sound in the distance,
A rhythm section swinging with hard driving persistence.
But this one was strange, something I’d never heard before,
A brisk and spirited clatter I can only describe as hoof beats galore.

Then a new sound, one both familiar yet odd,
Called out through the snowflakes, like a leader commanding a squad.
“On Trane! On Dizzy! On Monk! On Duke!
On Sonny! On Bird! On Miles! On Klook!”

The next thing I heard was just as amazing,
A set of riffs, hard-swinging and blazing,
Played on an instrument that was new to me,
The sting of a trumpet, the silk of a sax, the tone of a bone, all blended with glee.

I ran to the window to see what was coming,
And was met with a sight incredibly stunning,
What looked like a bright red ’57 Chevy,
Pulled through the sky by eight reindeer in a bevy.

They landed in my yard and the driver leaped out;
Grabbing a pack from the back he quickly turned about.
I blinked my eyes at this strange apparition,
His cheeks like Dizzy, his smile like Pops, as natty as Miles, a man on a mission.

“Call me Father Jazz,” he said as he came through the door, “musicians are my specialty.
I’ll even make a stop tonight with a little something for Kenny G.”
Then, opening his pack, he lightly danced to our tree,
Placing presents beneath it, ever so gently.

“There’s a drum set for Alex,” he said, “that kid has great time.
And a guitar for Allegra, ’cause the songs she writes are so fine.
And the books and the wristwatch you wanted for your wife,
That you couldn’t afford, living a jazz musician’s life.”

This is way too weird, I thought, it must be a dream;
Something like this is too good to be what it seems.
“Oh, it’s the real deal,” said Father Jazz, with a riff-like snap of his fingers.
“You’re on my list of serious jazz swingers.”

Moving to the doorway he turned back for a final review:
“And if you’re wondering why no box has been left for you,
It’s because your present has already been given.
You know what it is? It’s the spirit that makes your imagination so driven.”

“Musicians like you know that the gift of music is the gift of love.
It’s a gift that can only have come from above.
And those non-jazz Beatles had it right, for all our sakes,
When they said, ‘The love you take is equal to the love you make’.”

He bounded lightly through the snow to his flying red Chevy,
Blew a celestial riff on his amazing horn — so heavy!
And urged his team forward with a rallying command,
“On Dizzy! On Bird! On Miles! On Trane!”

As his eager steeds rose into the winter sky,
Father Jazz called out one last stirring cry.
Looking down with a radiant smile and a farewell wave:
“Stay cool, Bro’ and keep the music playing.”


Picks of the Week: December 1 – 7 in L.A. and Beyond

December 1, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Eloise Laws nd Corky Hale

Eloise Laws nd Corky Hale

– Dec. 3. (Wed.) Corky Hale and Eloise Laws. Pianist/harpist and all around music master Hale gets together with the engaging, Laws family vocalist Eloise for an evening of prime time music making. Her appropriate title for the evening is “Sisters! A Salute to the Great Women of Jazz, featuring a special suprise guest. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

– Dec. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.) Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Mussorgsky’s always compelling Pictures at an Exhibition. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Dec. 5. (Fri. ) Vijay Ayer: The Rites of Holi and Mutations I – X. Pianist/composer Ayer’s Rites of Holi was inspired by the Hindu Rite of Spring celebration and based upon Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (on the classic work’s 100th anniversary).  The Music of Transformation, written for piano, string quartet and electronics is Ayer’s first classically oriented work, driven by the improvisational imagination central to his creativity.   A CAP UCLA at Royce Hall event.  (310) 825-2101.

Dr. John

Dr. John

– Dec. 6. (Sat.) Dr. John. New Orlean’s jazz piano/vocal master and his Night Trippers can be counted on to produce an evening filled with sounds to remember. A CAP UCLA at Royce Hall event.   (310) 825-2101.

– Dec. 6. (Sat.) Judy Collins. Any performance by Judy Collins is a special event. And even more so when she does her warmly captivating program of holiday songs. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

– Dec. 6. (Sat.) Bill Cunliffe nnd Imaginacion. Pianist, composer and Grammy winner Cunliffe displays his mastery of the rhythmic pleasures of Latin jazz. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Brad Mehldau

– Dec. 6. (Sat.) The Brad Mehldau Trio and The Bad Plus. Here’s an intriguing program contrasting the differing, but fascinating jazz adventuring of pianist Mehldau and the piano oriented trio work of The Bad Plus. Valley Performing Arts Center (818) 677-8800.

-Dec. 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Ron Carter Golden Striker  Trio and Kenny Barron with Dave Holland.  Once again, the Jazz Bakery is offering a weekend of music to remember.  And it doesn’t get any better than this.  Saturday’s program features the iconic bassist Ron Carter with pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone.  On Sunday, a pair of jazz masters — pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland — meet in what will surely be a primal jazz encounter.  Don’t miss this extraordinary weekend.  A pair of Jazz Bakery Movable Feasts — at Zipper Concert Hall in the Colburn School Saturday, and at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on Sunday.  (310) 275-8961.

– Dec. 7. (Sun.) The Canadian Brass. First organized in 1970, the Canadian Brass quintet has gone through numerous personnel changes. But the quintet’s musical versatility has continued to increase. And they’re particularly engaging with their annual holiday program. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800.

San Francisco and Oakland

– Dec. 4. (Thurs.) Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet. Yet another talented member of the musically adept Marsalis family takes center stage, first as a drummer, more recently displaying his capacity to bring new life to the jazz vibraphone. SFJAZZ Center. (866) 920-5299.

Denny Zeitlin solo.

– Dec. 5. (Fri.) Denny Zeitlin. An Evening exploring the Seminal Early Compositions of Wayne Shorter. Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland. Pianist and composer Zeitlin has been one of the music world’s true multi-hyphenates for years, balancing a career as a psychiatrist/educator with decades of masterful jazz performances and recordings. This time out, he finds inspiration in a probing, inventive exploration of the music of Wayne Shorter. The Piedmont Piano Company.  (510) 547-8188.

Seattle

– Dec. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.) The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove takes a break from his big band to display his always top level skills in the jazz quintet format. Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

New York City

– Dec 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.) Pat Metheny Unity Group. Guitarist, like most world class jazz artists, is at his best when he’s leading a group of prime players, as he is here, with the sterling ensemble of saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Antonio Sanchez and multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias

– Dec. 2 – 6. (Tues. – Sat.) Eliane Elias. As her many fans know, one can’t get enough of the piano and vocals of Elias, who is one of the true masters of an appealing blend of the lush pleasures of Brazilian music with imaginative excursions into jazz. Birdland.  212) 581-3080.

London

– Dec. 3. (Wed.) The London Philharmonic. Rachmaninoff: Inside Out. The Philharmonic explores the creative similarities of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 1, Scriabin’s Piano Concerto in F# minor and Szymanowski’s Concert Overture. Vladimir Jurowski conducts, with pianio soloist Igor Levit. Royal Festival Hall Southbank Centre  +44 844 875 0073.

Copenhagen

– Dec. 3. (Wed.) Aaron Goldberg Trio. Pianist Goldberg’s long term relationship with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland is resulting in a convincingly contemporary incarnation of the classic jazz piano trio. Jazzhus Montmatre.  +45 31 72 34 94

Milan

Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola

– Dec. 3 – 6. (Wed. – Sat.) Al di Meola. Always creatively curious, in search of new jazz territory, guitarist di Meola leads an ensemble rich with harmonic settings, surging rhythms and intriguing textures. His musical companions include Argentine pianist Mario Parmisano, Moroccan percussionist Rhani Krija and Hungarian drummer Peter KaszasBlue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888.

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Eliane Elias photo by Bonnie Perkinson

Brad Mehldau photo by Tony Gieske.


Live Music: Cat Conner at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA.  Jazz vocalist Cat Conner‘s performance at Catalina Bar & Grill last week was clearly expected to be a special event, which is precisely how it turned out.

Cat Conner

It was, first of all, a release party for Cat’s new CD, appropriately titled Cat House. Add to that the fact that any of her performances are exciting events for fans of jazz singing. And, adding memorable jazz icing to the cake, she was accompanied by a collection of the Southland’s finest, most versatile jaz musicians.

The latter aspect was no surprise, since her stellar six piece band – saxophonist woodwind artist Gene “Cip” Cipriano, pianist Tom Ranier, guitarist John Chiodini, trumpeter Ron Stout, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe La Barbera – are all present on Cat’s new album. And it was also no surprise that Cat – like all singers hosting a CD release party – devoted her program to a collection of songs from the CD.

The Cat Cpnner Band

The Cat Cpnner Band

Any of Cat’s many fans will attest to the fact that the Canadian-born songstress is always a joy to hear, regardless of the circumstances. And even more so when all the musical elements are firmly in place, as they were in this outing. Appearing comfortable, relaxed and completely at ease from the first moment she stepped on stage, Cat underscored the appealing musical empathy of her program with an equally engaging interaction with her audience.

Cat Conner sings with her band

Cat Conner sings with her band

The musical highlights of her performance were especially present in her choice of songs from the album. And especially so in such varied selections as a briskly swinging ‘How Much Do I Love You,” a vocalese version of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” and such varied American Songbook classics as “You Are My Everything,” “Baltimore Oriole” and “What A Little Moonlight Can Do”

Cat Conner

Cat Conner

Topping off her program, Cat added a poignant original song, “People Say (Song For Rob).” Written for the infant son she gave up for adoption many years ago, she introduced it as “a song to finally allow me to say how I felt for all the years of yearning for him.”

It was an extraordinary ending for a memorable musical evening, an evening glowing with convincing evidence of Cat’s ability to find the heart of a song – from jaunty swing tunes to richly emotional ballads.

All of which is equally present, as well, on her new CD Cat House. And fans of jazz singing who were not present to share the pleasures of her CD release party are hereby advised to check out the album for a full musical offering of Cat Conner’s vocal artistry.

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Photos by Faith Frenz


Live Music: The Thelonious Monk 2014 International Jazz Competition Gala

November 11, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA. The 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition came to a dramatic conclusion Sunday night in a All-Star Gala event at Dolby Hall in Hollywood. This year, the Competition was for trumpet players. And the three finalists each offered a display of their considerable skills in a setting that allowed each player to perform a pair of selections of their own choice. And it was no surprise that works by Thelonious Monk were popular choices.

Inevitably, there was a winner, a second and a third place finisher, as follows:

1st Place Winner: Marquis Hill from Chicago.

1st Place Winner: Marquis Hill from Chicago.

 

2nd Place Winner: Billy Buss from Berkeley

2nd Place Winner: Billy Buss from Berkeley

3rd Place Winner Adam O’Farrill from Brooklyn

But the prevalent thought that came to mind while hearing these fine young players in action was the firm belief that each of the prodigal musicians had displayed all the skills required for successful careers in the musical world in general and the jazz world specifically. And, win or place as a finalist, they all will benefit from the visibility associated with having placed so high in such a major competition.

In addition to the Competition finals, the Gala presented a concert clearly intended as a celebration of jazz itself, in its many shapes, sizes, styles, disguises and a lot more. As a result, much of the music was far more closely related to pop, blues, rock, soul and beyond. No problem there, except in the passages attempting to shoe horn those genres into a jazz setting.

In its best, moments, however – especially when singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves, and instrumentalists Herbie Hancock, John Beasley, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Stefon Harris, Joshua Redman and others were on stage – the program’s jazz roots were ever present.

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Taj Mahal

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Taj Mahal

The Gala concert was hosted by Kevin Spacey, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Don Cheadle, Goldie Hawn and Billy Dee Williams. It included performances by a multi-generational group of all-stars including Musical Director John Beasley, Pharrell Williams, John Mayer, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wayne Shorter, Queen Latifah, Jimmy Heath, Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Miller, Kenny Burrell, Stefon Harris, T.S. Monk, Joshua Redman, Jon Faddis, Billy Childs, Vinnie Colaiuta, James Genus, Theo Croker, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Dontae Winslow, Melissa Aldana and others.

President Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock

President Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock

As if the presence of all the stellar names on that list wasn’t enough, the Monk Institute also honored President Bill Clinton with the Institute’s 2014 Maria Fisher Founder’s Award. Each year, the Founder’s Award is presented to an individual who has made major contributions to the Institute, the perpetuation of jazz, and the expansion of jazz and music education programs. President Clinton received the award from Herbie Hancock, Chairman of the Monk Institute, with a smile and a wave to the crowd. He did not, apparently, ask to sit in on tenor saxophone.

The Gala ended with a crowded backstage party for participants and friends of the Monk Institute, enlivened by conversations already speculating on possibilities for next year’s Monk Competition.

Which was good news for music education. Proceeds from the All-Star Gala Concerts support the Institute’s jazz education programs in public schools across America.

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Photos courtesy of Steve Mundinger/Thelonious Monk Institute Of Jazz


In Conversation: Herbie Hancock and Don Heckman at Book Soup

November 9, 2014

By Bonnie Perkinson

On November 3rd,  a rare event took place in West Hollywood. The kind and welcoming staff of Book Soup had an In Conversation event with two giants of jazz: the singular genius, Herbie Hancock; and the soft spoken, elegant, musician and music critic Don Heckman.

The aisles were filled with people of all ages, delighted to have  the opportunity to hear the wise and ever youthful Mr. Hancock, share stories from his life and autograph his new book.

His memoir, Possibilities, written with the fine assistance of Lisa Dickey and published by Viking, will soon be read  by lovers of jazz and music worldwide.

Herbie Hancock gestures with hand 2

The crowd was taken by Mr. Hancock’s kindness, wit and contagious optimism, while deeply moved by his strength and capacity to visit and discuss the rougher waters of his life.  As well as his patient willingness to autograph dozens of new copies of Possibilities.

With the mindless worship of idiotic celebrities in our time, what a privilege it was to spend an evening with a legend of such inventiveness, so lacking in pretense, and brave as a man and musician. We should all feel fortunate to be living while Mr. Hancock is here to lift us up with his joyous sound and horizons of possibilities.

A great deal of thanks should be given to KPFK – 90.7 FM, a proud sponsor of the evening. The station has brilliant and diverse musical programming and delivers news with no corporate funding.

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Photos by photo-journalist Bonnie Perkinson.


Live Jazz: Bob Sheppard with the Pat Senatore Trio at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

November 2, 2014

By Don Heckman

Bel Air, CA.  Some of the best nights for jazz in Los Angeles take place on the week nights when the city’s prime jazz destinations – Catalina Bar & Grill, Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc., the Blue Whale and beyond – schedule appearances by the Southland’s finest side men (and side women). By the players, in other words, who spend most of their time working as back-ups, rhythm sections and big band section players. Many of whom are also busy studio musicians, performing daily on the sound tracks for films and television, on recordings for everything from country music and the blues to jazz, pop and classical music.

Bob Sheppard and Pat Senatore

Bob Sheppard and Pat Senatore

Friday night at Vibrato was a good example. Bob Sheppard, a master of woodwind instruments of every shape and size, gave a full fledged display of his far-ranging jazz skills, backed by bassist Pat Senatore’s equally skillful trio of masterful instrumentalists (Senatore, bass; Tom Ranier, piano; Ramon Banda, drums).

At its best – which was throughout the entire set – the music had the laid back, spontaneous creativity of a jam session. And with good reason. Sheppard and the Senatore trio players have plenty of familiarity with each other, in all sorts of musical settings. And a relaxed, laid back gig in the amiable environs of Vibrato’s jazz-friendly setting allowed plenty of room for the music to flow freely.

With good reason, Sheppard was at the center of it all. And watching him proceed from one instrument to the other was not just a display of versatile technique. It was also an opportunity to enjoy the work of a masterful jazz artist – one who hasn’t yet received the widespread recognition that his talent deserves.

Bob Sheppard

Bob Sheppard

And there was another aspect as well. Sheppard played tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and clarinet. Many multi-instrument doublers, when they shift instruments, tend to play each from the same musical perspective (despite their inherent differences). But not Sheppard. Switching easily from soprano to tenor, for example, he was always firmly in touch with the unique qualities of each – and so, too, for his approach to the flute and the clarinet. The results were compelling, a fascinating display of imaginative versatility.

Sheppard and the Senatore Trio played their way through an appealing program: some floating bossa nova, airy flute sounds on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave”; lyrical soprano saxophone on “In Your Own Sweet Way”; hard driving tenor on “Easy Living”; a pairing of “Perdido” with “I Want To Be Happy.” And a lot more.

An evening, in other words, that was a reminder of how much fine jazz can be heard on any given week night in the Southland. Check the informative calendar of LA Jazz  and you’ll find something appealing on virtually every night.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


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