CD Review of the Day: Teka’s “So Many Stars”

April 16, 2014


So Many Stars (Blue in Green Productions)

By Brian Arsenault

I think my biggest miss of 2013 may have been not hearing Teka’s marvelous bossa nova infused album So Many Stars. If you missed it too, here’s another chance. Especially for those of us in northern climes in this cold, cold endless winter.



Bossa nova almost always warms with its calls to romance and dance. In a harsh world it shows that the finer tender emotions are still possible. So there really is some place other than LA it’s warm this March. Really. And it may be the heart.

Good example, Teka and her teen daughter Luana Psaros provide two slightly different shades of sunlight on water in Aguas de Marco (Waters of March). Luana sounds like a younger skylark, not a lesser one, on this achingly alluring duet.

The album’s title song is also its message. So many stars, so many dreams. Taken as a whole, the album is rather dreamlike and it is a sweet dream.

For one reason, a different band member is featured in combination with Teka’s voice on nearly every song:
Randy Tico’s bass on “So Many Stars,” Doug Webb’s sax on “You Stepped Out of Dream” and “April Child”, Ruben Martinez bass flute on “April Child,” Ian Bernard’s piano on “Skylark.” More. All first rate.

Teka is a fine guitarist in her own right as amply demonstrated on “Bluesette.”



“Skylark” is one of the highlights of the album and one of the few non-bossa nova styled songs. Rather it is a wonderful slow jazz arrangement of the great Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael tune.

The Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful” closes the album with Teka teaming again with Luana for a light hearted take. Smiles all around. Chuckles at the end.   For most of the time, though, we are in the world of Mendes and Jobim and, as noted, it is a warm world of dancing in the dark and counting stars.

Teka has a summer evening breeze quality to her voice always. She is as smoooooooooooth as bossa nova can be and that is very smooth indeed.

Surprises on the album? Maybe one. Her choice to include Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low,” lyrics by Ogden Nash. The central lyric of the song, though, fits the mold: “Speak low when you speak of love” for fear it might disappear.

There is a longing in bossa nova as well as a sweetness.  Teka sings in both English and Portuguese on the album but it is the Portuguese that best brings us the poetry of the music. Even if you don’t speak the language.

The pacing is where American audiences have their biggest problem. Bossa nova after a burst of popularity in the States in the 60s has been largely relegated to secondary status except among aficionados and Brazilian and other Latin communities.

Part of its charm is a pace that is never fast, never hurried and Norteamericanos sometimes need things hot and fast, not warm and romantic.

Still, we are open to “so many dreams,” aren’t we?

Teka and her New Bossa Trio perform at The Gardenia in Hollywood on Wednesday Ap[ril 30.  The Gardenia is at 7066 Santa Monica Blvd.  The phone number is (323) 467-7444.

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

Picks of the Weekend: Jan. 30 – Feb. 2

January 30, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke

- Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 (Thurs. – Sat.) Stanley Clarke Trio and the Harlem Quartet. Eclectic bassist and band leader Clarke blends his always-fascinating trio work with the unique sounds of the Harlem
Quartet. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 30. (Thurs. Lauren Kinhan. A CD Release party for a young singer with a voice to remember. Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 31. (Fri.) Billy Childs Electric Band. Pianist/composer Childs’ versatility runs the complete gamut of jazz genres. This time out, it’s all electric. The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn

- Jan. 31. (Fri.) Hilary Hahn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Russian conductor Andrey Boreyko leads violinist Hahn and the L.A. Phil in a program of Nordic music by Sibelius, Nielsen and Swedish composer Anders Hillborg. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 31. (Fri.) Gina Saputo. A rising star if there ever was one, Saputo’s vocals are the product of a compelling young talent. Steamer’s.  (714) 871-8800.

Gary Foster

Gary Foster

- Feb. 1. (Sat.) Gary Foster Quartet. Saxophonist Foster has been one of L.A.’s prime first call players for years. Here, he’s in action fronting his own band. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

- Feb. 2. (Sun.) The Webb All-Stars. All-Stars is an appropriate title for a band featuring Doug Webb, saxophones, Mitch Forman, keyboards, John Ziegler, guitar, Jimmy Earl, bass, Danny Carey, drums. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.


Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell

- Jan. 30 – Feb. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.) Bill Frisell’s “Guitar in the Space Age.” Always on the crest of trying something new, Frisell’s latest effort features Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen. Jazz Alley,  (206) 441-9729.

Washington D.C.

- Jan. 29. (Wed.) Diane Marino. The warm and engaging voice of singer Marino offers a performance celebrating the relese of her latest CD, Loads of Love. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie

- – Jan. 30 – Feb. 1. (Thurs. – Sat.) John Abercrombie Quartet. Guitarist Ambercrombie does a convincing job of blending fun, fusion and straight ahead bebop. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 447-7733.


- Jan. 30 – 31. (Thurs & Fri.) Dado Moroni: “The Legacy of John Coltrane.” An international all-star jazz ensemble commemmorates the incomparable music of the great John Coltrane. Featuring pianist Moroni from Italy, vibist Joe Locke from the U.S., tenor saxophonist Max Ionata and bassist Marco Panascia from Italy, and drummer Morten Lund from Denmark. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.


Billy Cobham

Billy Cobham

= Jan. 30 – Feb. 1. (Thurs. – Sat.) Billy Cobham Spectrum 40. Drummer Cobham’s crisply rhythmic Spectrum features the guitar work of Dean Brown, the keyboards of Gary Husband and the bass of Ric Fierabracci. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Picks of the Week: October 2 – 6

October 2, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Diane Hubka

Diane Hubka

- Oct. 2. (Wed.) Diane Hubka. Singer/guitarist Hubka celebrates the release of her new CD, West Coast Strings. She’ll be backed by a prime group of players: Guitarists John Pisano, Barry Zweig & David Eastlee, organist Bobby Pierce, bassist Jeff D’Angelo and drummer Kendall Kay. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 2. (Wed.) Teka & New Bossa. Brazilian singer/guitarist Teka displays her authentic view of Brazilian music, backed by Quinn Johnson on piano, Kevin Winard on percussion, Doug Webb on saxophone and Randy Tico on bass. Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

Christian McBride

Christian McBride

- Oct. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun. Christian McBride Trio. Bassist Christian McBride, every leader’s first call for a world class rhythm section, plays selections from his album Out There with pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr,. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 4. (Fri.) Lucy Guerin Inc. Weather. Australia’s much-honored choreographer presents a new work that “embodies human patterns within those of the elements.” CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.  (310) 825.2101.

Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

- Oct. 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun.) The 6th Annual Angel City Jazz Festival begins with a weekend brim full of musical activity. On Fri.: Free concert at LACMA with the Zach Ramacier Group and Nicole Mitchell Sun Dial Ensemble. On Sat: Dave Holland Prism and the John Scofield Uberjam Band. CAP UCLA at Royce Hall. On Sun: Richard Sears group, Albert Tootie Heath, Kneebody, Yosvany Terry Quintet, Greg Osby Group with special guest Anat Cohen. Ford Amphitheatre. The Angel City Jazz Festival.

- Oct. 5. (Sat.) Sandi Patty. One of the major stars of Christian music, Patty is a uniquely talented singer whose work is not limited by her popularity in the Christian music genre. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501

- Oct. 6. (Sun.) Carol Duboc. Versatile Duboc, a singer/composer and actress, celebrates the release of her latest album, Smile, in the musical companionship of Jeff Lorber, keyboards, and Jimmy Haslip, bass. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Miguel Zenon

Miguel Zenon

- Oct. 5. (Sat.) SFJAZZ Collective Jam Session. The SFJAZZ Collective has thoroughly established itself as one of the irresistiblly appealing contemporary jazz ensembles. The gifted players include Miguel Zenón alto saxophone, David Sánchez tenor saxophone, Warren Wolf vibraphone, Edward Simon piano, Matt Penman bass, and Obed Calvaire, drums. An SFJAZZ event at the Joe Henderson Lab. (866) 920-5299.


- Oct. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.) Karrin Allyson. Grammy-nominated jazz singer Allyson continually reveals a musical curiosity that has taken her from bossa nova and the blues to John Coltrane. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729


- Oct. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.) Bobby Watson Quartet. Eclectic alto saxophonist Watson has moved convincingly from bebop and hard bop to cutting edge contemporary jazz. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

Donald Harrison

Donald Harrison

- Oct. 3 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.) The Messenger Legacy Celebrating Blakey. Drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers legacy is celebrated by Brian Lynch, trumpet, Donald Harrison and Billy Pierce, saxophones, Donald Brown, piano, Reggie Workman, bass, Ralph Peterson, drums. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

- Oct. 4 & 5. ( Fri. & Sat.) John Mayall and Friends. The influential English blues artist, whose influence reaches from Eric Clapton to Mick Fleetwood and beyond, celebrates his 80th birthday. The Iridium. h ( 212) 582-2121.


- Oct. 3. (Thurs.) Soren Kristiansen. Pianist Kristiansen, largely viewed as one of Denmark’s finest, most imaginative jazz artist, displays influence from Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Art Tatum in a stellar evening of solo piano jazz improvisations. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.


- Oct. 3. (Thurs.) Nicholas Payton. Trumpeter Payton, a world class, Grammy-winning product of New Orleans music, is always a pleasure to hear in action. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Live Jazz: The Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra with April Williams at Vitello’s

December 18, 2012

By Don Heckman

On the way home from Disney Hall Sunday, the traffic on the 101 magically – and unexpectedly –  opened up, and we suddenly realized we could reach Vitello’s just in time to catch the second set by the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.

Call it an unusual sequence – from the Christmas music of Bach and Vivaldi, performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, to a big jazz band in action.  And “big” is precisely the right word for this organization, which expands the usual 17 to 18 piece big band instrumentation to 22 players, including a French horn section.

Add to that the announcement the evening would include an extremely rare performance by singer April Williams, whose management of Vitello’s Upstairs Jazz Room has established one of the Southland’s important new jazz venues.

April Williams with the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Band

April Williams with the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Band

Combined, it was all too good to miss.

Vitello’s was jammed when we arrived, the tables and booths overflowing with listeners, as the Jones players filled the stage from one side of the room to the other. Fortunately we found a nook where we could sit, drink some wine, and prepare to expand our evening of Christmas music from Baroque to bebop.

Not all bebop, that is.  But plenty of it in the vigorous soloing of players such as saxophonists Fred Selden, Pete Christlieb, Doug Webb and Gene Cipriano, pianist Alan Steinberger, trumpeter Bob Summers and trombonist Bob McChesney.

Most of the music in the set, however, was dedicated to Christmas songs, arranged to apply the rich tonal resources and jazz-driven rhythms of the 22 piece ensemble to the familiar canon of Christmas classics.,

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” arrived in a lushly harmonized medley with “Silent Night.”  Contrastingly, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” surfaced with a briskly jaunty rhythmic underpinning, driven by Dave Tull’s energetic drumming.

Thad Jones’ lovely “A Child Is Born” was next.  It hasn’t become a Christmas classic yet, but it should.  Especially via the beautifully arranged version by the Jones Influence Orchestra, with musically touching contributions from pianist Steinberger.

Johnny Mandel’s Grammy- and Academy Award-winning “The Shadow Of Your Smile” generated yet another perspective. Not exactly a Christmas item, it added a unique touch to the fascinating program via an arrangement featuring the fine French horn playing of Tawnee Lillo and Jean Marinelli.

The performance peaked with the arrival of April Williams on stage with a puckish smile on her face, clearly in the mood to have fun.  And she did, singing Steve Allen’s “Cool Yule,” making the most of lyrics announcing the arrival of St. Nick:

           “From Coney Island to The Sunset Strip
           Somebody’s gonna make a happy trip
          Tonight, while the moon is bright.”

Clearly enjoying every moment she had with the backing of the Jones Jazz Influence Band, April topped off the number with a call for everyone to:

“Have a Yule that’s cool
Yeah, a cool Yule.”

It was the perfect climax to an evening that had begun with Bach and Vivaldi and wound up with big band jazz, all of it illuminating the far-ranging musical inspiration that Christmas has created over the centuries.  And there’s still another week and a half to hear even more Christmas music before the joyous day arrives.

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To read the iRoM review of the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall click HERE or scroll up.

Live Jazz: The Bill Holman Big Band Upstairs at Vitello’s

November 4, 2012

By Don Heckman

Bill Holman and his big band made one of their rare but always welcome Southland appearances Friday night at Vitello’s.  And, with a packed house listening avidly to every note, Holman once again displayed his remarkable mastery of the big band format.

One could make a good case for big band instrumentation – trumpet, trombone and saxophone sections supported by a three or four person rhythm section – as the symphony orchestra of America’s twenty century jazz and pop music, reaching from the Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and Paul Whiteman bands of the ‘20s and ‘30s through Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Oliver Nelson into the present. Whether it was performing music for dancing, for backing singers, for sheer jazz excitement or for movie soundtracks, classic big band sounds have been (and continue to be) an assemblage of tonal textures and rhythms with a seemingly limitless array of possibilities.

And Bill Holman has explored the full fledged expression of those qualities for six decades with a seemingly limitless range of inventive creativity.  As he did at Vitello’s.

The Bill Holman Big Band

Standing amid the tables to implement his characteristically modest conducting, he led his assemblage of world class L.A. master players in a stunning collection of classic big band arrangements and originals.

Holman’s unique style, first heard during his early writing for Stan Kenton in the ‘50s, has remained one of the most uniquely original big band arranging techniques.  Combining contrapuntal methods rarely heard in big jazz band arranging, often interlacing individual instruments from different sections, Holman does so while still retaining deeply intimate contact with the propulsive rhythmic swing essential to jazz.

Given both the challenges and the pleasures of performing his charts, it’s no wonder that Holman’s band was a stellar gathering, glittering with the presence of some of the finest, most musically sophisticated musicians in Los Angeles (or anywhere).

Pete Christlieb and Doug Webb

The program of Holman arrangements and originals kept offering one fascinating piece after another.  Among the many high points:

- A hard-driving, entertaining tenor battle between saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Doug Webb.

- An unlikely, but delightfully offbeat new view of the ‘30s Dorothy Lamour hit, “The Moon of Manakoora.”

- “No Joy In Mudville,” a jaunty Holman original inspired by the popular baseball-inspired poem, Casey at the Bat.

- Holman’s atmospherically perfect interpretations of several jazz classics, including Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso” and Sonny Rollins” “St. Thomas” and “Airegin.”

- A rendering of “Lover Man” featuring Bruce Babad’s superb, bebop-driven soloing.

- Along with prime solo contributions from, among numerous others, Ron Stout, Carl Saunders and Bob Summers

But, as always, it was the combination of Holman’s uniquely stylistic writing, performed by an impressive array of players, that made the program so memorable.  Which is usually the case when the Holman Big Band performs.

Reminding us of the importance of hearing the live music of a jazz giant – Holman, in this case – whenever the opportunity arises.

To read an iRoM Q & A with Bill Holman, click HERE.

Photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: Jan. 24 – 29

January 24, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

The Jazz & Blules Review: Courtney Lemmon, Gina Saputo, Dianne Wright, George Kahn

- Jan. 25. (Wed.) The Jazz and Blues Review.  Featuring Courtney Lemmon, Gina Saputo and Dianne Wright.  Backed by the George Kahn Quintet.  They’ve been called “a journey through blues and jazz, from New York to Los Angeles, from the Andrews Sisters to the Pointer Sisters at the intersection of Jump St. and Boogaloo Ave.”  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 25. (Wed.)  The London Handel Players.  The English ensemble makes its West Coast debut performing the music of Handel (of course), J.S. Bach and C.P.E. Bach in one of the Southland’s grand locations.  Chamber Music in Historic Sites.  The Grand Salon at the Ebell of Los Angeles.     (213) 477-2929.

- Jan. 25 – 29. (Wed. – Sun.)  Roy Hargrove Quintet.  The versatile, pocket rocket trumpeter gets into a straight ahead grove with his dynamic quintet.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 26. (Thurs.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra“Baroque Conversations 1”  The first of the LACO’s performances of Baroque music – mostly Bach in this case – with music introduced from the stage by the artists, and open questioning from the audience to conclude the evening.  Oboist Alan Vogel leads the 14 piece ensemble of singers and instrumentalists.  Zipper Concert Hall.    (213) 622-7001 ext. 1.

- Jan. 26. (Thurs.)  Frank Potenza Quartet.  Guitarist Potenza has assembled an intriguing international ensemble, with the versatile Doug Webb, saxophones, ever-swinging Paul Kreibich, drums and – from New Caledonia – Michel Benebig, Hammond organ and Shem Benebig, vocals.  Brasserie Jazz Lounge, Crowne Plaza Hotel.  (310) 258-1333.

Lucinda Williams

- Jan. 27. (Fri.)  Lucinda Williams and Blake Mills. Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Williams – named “America’s best songwriter” in 2002 – shares the stage, in solo and duo sets, with young guitarist Mills.  UCLA Live.  Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

- Jan. 27. (Fri.)  Chuck Manning . Tenor saxophonist Manning’s versatility is always on display.  “No matter what the context, his mix of smarts and heart will get two you,” wrote Brick Wahl in the L.A. Weekly.  He’s backed by Theo Saunders, piano, Pat Senatore, bass and Jimmy Branley, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 28. (Sat.)  Simplexity.  What is Simplexity?  An assemblage of all-star, first-call jazz players, led by bassist John von Seggern, coming together in a project that blends electronic ambient sounds and textures, contemporary dance beats and the soul of jazz improvisation.  Should be an evening to remember. Blue Whale. (213) 620-0908.

- Jan. 28. (Sat.)  They Might Be Giants.  The pioneering alternative rock band celebrates its 30th anniversary with a pair of Royce Hall appearances.  The family show, at 3 p.m. will draw on award-winning kids’ albums.  The evening program, at 8 p.m. will be highlighted by their latest album, Join Us.  Folk singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulter opens the show.  UCLA Live.  Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

San Francisco

Wesla Whitfield

- Jan. 26. (Thurs.)  Wesla Whitfield with the Mike Greensil Trio.  Cabaret singer Whitfield and her husband, pianist Greensil have been offering definitive interpretations of classics from the Great American Songbook for decades.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Jan. 26 – 28. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Stanley Clarke Band.  Always adventuring into new combinations, the current Clarke band includes regulars Ruslan Sirota, keyboards and Ronald Bruner, drums, with the added contributions of the eclectic young violinist, Zach BrockYoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

New York

- Jan. 24 – 28. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Tierney Sutton Band.  There’s nothing quite like the combination of Sutton’s airy vocals with the ever-compatible musical embrace of the players – pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Kevin Axt and Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker — she has been performing with for two decades. Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Jan. 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Billy Childs Quartet.  Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his jazz chamber ensemble to groove hard with Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, Hans Glawischnig, bass and Eric Harland, drums.  Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

- Jan. 27. (Fri.)  Manhattan School of Music Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra.  Conducted by Justin DiCioccio.  A celebration the Stan Kenton Centennial, featuring the music of Kenton’s Innovations Orchestra.  Among the works that will be featured are Bill Russo’s “Improvisation,” Pete Rugolo’s “Interlude,” Robert Graettinger’s “City of Glass” and Stan Kenton’s “Artistry in Rhythm.”  RoBorden Auditorium at the Manhattan School of Music.  (917) 493-4428.


Ron Carter

- Jan. 27 – 28. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Ron Carter Trio. Every version of the Carter Trio is classy, and none more so than this high flying combination of bassist Carter, Russell Malone, guitar and Donald Vega, piano.  Regatta Bar.


- Jan. 28. (Sat.)  Renaud Garcia-Fons.  The brilliant bassist has created one of the unique sounds and styles in contemporary music, playing his five stringed acoustic instrument in works that blend, jazz, flamenco, folk music, classical and “new musette.”  New Morning.  01 45 23 51 41.


- Jan. 26 & 27. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Jacky Terrasson.  French pianist Terrasson leads a stellar European jazz piano trio, with Thomas Fonnesbaek, bass and Alex Riel, drums.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65 65.

Jazz & Blues Review photo by Mara Zaslove.

Ron Carter photo by Tony Gieske

Picks of the Week: Nov. 15 – 20

November 15, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Welsman

- Nov. 15. (Tues.)  Carol Welsman.  Pianist/singer Welsman makes her last L.A. area performance of the year, which makes it one not to be missed.  Hopefully she’ll play a few tunes from her soon to be released latest CD.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.)  Jane Harvey.  Veteran singer Harvey, whose extensive resume begins with the Benny Goodman Band in the mid-40s, is still a remarkable performing artist.  To read Tony Gieske’s recent iRoM review of a Harvey performance, click HERE. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall.  They’ve been a jazz/pop power couple for a long time.  But what really makes Alpert and Hall special is the charmed intimacy of the way they make music together.  Here, they perform in their very own jazz club. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 17. (Thurs.)  Doug Webb.  Master reed and flute player Webb concentrates on tenor saxophone and flute, but he is equally adept at numerous other instruments.  No matter what he plays, however, he does it with style, substance and imagination.  Crowne Plaza LAX Jazz Club.  (310) 642-7500.

Lainie Kazan

- Nov. 17 – 19. (Thurs. – Sat.) Lainie Kazan. Lainie’s done it all – stage, screen, night clubs and recordings — always with the attractive blend of emotional intensity and sardonic wit that are among her many attributes.  And when she applies it to a song…look out.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  Riffat Sultana.  The daughter of the great Pakistani singer Salamat Ali Khan, Sultana ranges from traditional and classical ghazal and qawwali to fascinating cross-cultural blends.  The Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  Bruce Eskovitz Jazz Orchestra. Saxophonist, educator and clinician, Dr. Bruce is also the leader of a big band whose music reflects his quest to create music that blends rhythmic excitement and compelling ensemble textures. LACMA.    (323) 857-6000.

Song of the Angels Flute Orchestra

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  David Shostac and the Song of the Angels Flute Orchestra.  Shostac, principal flutist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra leads one of the music world’s most unique entities – an ensemble made up of the full range of flutes, from the familiar concert C flute to the extremely rare double contrabass flute.  Cypress Recital Hall at the Valley Performing Arts Center.   (818) 677-3000.

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  The Spirit of Django.  Gypsy jazz is at its finest in the hands of Dorado Schmitt, a guitarist with a deep understanding of the irresistible music of the legendary Django Reinhardt.  Segerstrom Center For The Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  Sketchy Black Dog. The off center blend of string quartet with piano jazz trio led by pianist Misha Piatigorsky is liable to play their own take on anything from Jimi Hendrix and Elton John to their own inimitable originals.  Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Barbara Morrison

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  Barbara Morrison.  One of the Southland’s vocal treasures, Morrison has moved beyond her profound medical problems by staying in touch with the expressiveness that has always been at the heart of her music.  Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

- Nov. 19. (Sat.) Wu Man“Return to East – Ancient Dances.”  A virtuoso player of China’s lute-like pipa, and a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road ensemble, Wu Man plays selections from the traditional repertoire, as well as the specially commissioned multi-media work, Ancient Dances.  UCLA Live at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-4401.

San Francisco

Miguel Zenon

- Nov. 15. (Tues.)  Miguel Zenon.  MacArthur grant genius award winner Zenon has been playing a lot in other bands lately.  Here’s a chance to hear this imaginative saxophonist on his own.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.) Kiran Ahluwalia. Singer/composer Ahluwalia blends poetic ghazals and traditional Punjabi songs with contemporary sounds and rhythms generated by her guitarist husband, Rez Abbasi.   Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 16 – 20. (Wed. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  Deedles, as she is known and loved by fans and friends alike, has been reviving her jazz roots lately.  But that doesn’t mean that she can’t find the heart of any other style she decides to explore.  Don’t miss this rare chance to hear her up close and live.  The Rrazz Room.   (415) 394-1189.

- Nov. 18. (Fri.)  The Anonymous Four.  This female a cappella quartet has produced some of the most extraordinary examples of pre-1600 vocal music.  Heard in the Grace Cathedral, with its remarkable 7-second reverberation, their singing will produce an authentic display of the polyphonic sound and substance of early music.  Grace Cathedral.    (866) 920-5299.


Nov. 18 – 20. (Fri. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. Blessed with one of the most luxurious vocal instruments in jazz, Monheit isn’t often properly appreciated for the rhythmic lift and imaginative phrasing she brings to her performances.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.


- Nov. 17 – 20 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Barron Trio. He’s every jazz artist’s favorite pianist to have in their rhythm section.  And with plenty of good reasons – all of which are especially apparent when Barron takes the spotlight with his own music.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

Jim Hall

- Nov. 15 – 19. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Jim Hall Quartet.  At a time when the guitar has been making a major comeback in jazz for a decade or two, Hall – whose credentials reach back to the ‘50s – continues to be one of the instrument’s major masters.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 15 – 20.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Chick Corea continues his epic, month long banquet of music from his long, storied career.  Tues. – Thurs: From Miles, with Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette, Wallace Roney and Gary Bartz; Fri. – Sun: Flamenco Heart, with a new band of world-class Latin musicians.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 16. (Wed.) John Coltrane’s Ascension. A stellar aggregation of contemporary players, led by Joe Lovano, take on one of the classic works of the adventurous jazz of the ‘60s.  The group includes Donny McCaslin, Sabir Mateen and Vincent Herring, saxophones; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Josh Roseman, trombone; James Weidman, piano; Ben Allison, bass; Billy Drummond and Matt Wilson, drums;   Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

- Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. & Sat.)  Denny Zeitlin.  The psychiatrist/jazz pianist from San Francisco makes one of his infrequent stops in New York.  This time around, his considerable talents will on full display via an evening of solo piano (on Friday) followed by a trio performance with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson (on Saturday).  The Jazz Lounge in the Kitano Hotel.   (212) 885-7119.


Sheila Jordan

- Nov. 17. (Wed.)  Sheila Jordan and Steve Kuhn Duo.  Both Jordan and Kuhn are veteran jazz artists with careers reaching back for decades.  And an especially attractive part of that history is represented by the recordings and live performances they’ve done together.  Call it a symbiotic jazz connection.  The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.


- Nov. 19. (Sat.)  A Portrait of Jaco.  The Laurence Cottle Big Band performs material from Jaco Pastorious’ “Word of Mouth” band. Celebrating what would have been Jaco’s 60th birthday on Dec. 1. Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Sheila Jordan photo by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: Oct. 24 – 30

October 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Goran Bregovic

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Goran Bregovic Wedding and Funeral Orchestra.  Sarajevo’s wildly eclectic bandleader Bregovic leads an orchestra that combines Roma gypsy music, a brass band, strings, a male choir, Bulgarian back-up singers and traces of rock into an inimitable evening of mind-bending music.   Disney Hall.   (323) 8502000.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette.  Three decades together and Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette are still going strong, still bringing stunning improvisational illumination to everything they play.  Firmly established as one of the iconic groups of the post-bop era, they should be heard at every opportunity.  Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.    (310) 825-2101.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  The Thom Rotella Quartet. Guitarist Rotella has a resume covering virtually every area of the music world — from performances with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra, to composing for shows such as Sex and the City and China Beach and performances on the sound tracks of The Simpsons,Family Guy and much more.  Here’s a chance to hear him in an up close setting, backed by the Pat Senatore TrioVibrato Jazz Grill…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Celtic Thunder.  The five dynamic singers of Celtic Thunder are the male version of Celtic Woman, their immense popularity triggered by the blend of powerful solo work, engaging collective ensembles combined with a program of memorable Irish song.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

- Oct. 26. (Wed.)  Rob Mullins Quartet.  He started out as a drummer, picked up several other instruments along the way during his prodigal career as a young professional, and wound up as a versatile pianist, composer and educator, with multiple accomplishments in all those areas.  This time out, he’s joined by a stellar ensemble: Doug Webb, reeds, Brian Bromberg, bass and Bernie Dresel, drums.  Vitello’s.     (818) 769-0905.

Inga Swearingen

- Oct. 28. (Fri.)  Inga Swearingen. You’ve probably heard Swearingen singing her uniquely personal song interpretations on the Prairie Home Companion. But her imaginative view of jazz still hasn’t received the audience her rare talent deserves.  Here’s a good chance to sample it.  LACMA.    (323) 857-6000.

- Oct. 28. (Fri.)  Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra featuring Phillippe Jaroussky.  “Handel and Vivaldi Fireworks.”  At 33, Jaroussky – a French sopranist countertenor –has firmly established himself as one of the star performers of the Baroque repertoire composed for the extraordinary male soprano voices.  He sings with the highly praised, period instrument ensemble, Apollo’s Fire.  UCLA Live.

- Oct. 28 – 30. (Fri. – Sun.)  Riverdance.  Nearly two decades since it made its first appearance at a Eurovision song contest, the spectacular step dances and enchanting Irish music of Riverdance continue to delight audiences in appearances around the world.  Segerstrom center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

- Oct. 28 – 30. (Fri. – Sun.)  Soka Blueport Jazz Festival.  The first festival at Soka University in Orange County has all the looks of a major jazz event.  The three days of programming are loaded with many of the Southland’s major artists as well as a healthy sampling of players from the East Coast and other parts of the world.  Fri.: The Geoffrey Keezer/Peter Sprague Band; Trio Da Paz starring singer Maucha Adnet.  Sat.: The Bert Turetzsky- Chuck Perrin Dynamic Duo; singer Tierney Sutton with pianist Mike Garson; The Charles McPherson Quintet with Gilbert Castellanos; Trio Da Paz starring clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen. Sun.: The Ron Eschete Trio; The Mike Garson Sextet starring Komel Fekete-Kovac Soka Blueport Jazz Festival, Aliso Viejo.  (949) 480-4278.


- Oct. 29. (Sat.) Tinariwen. The musical collective from Northern Mali has been blending the sounds, the rhythms and the instruments of their Taureg roots with the energy and dynamism of Western rock music for more than a decade.  Luckman Fine Arts Complex.   (323) 343-6600.

- Oct. 29. (Sat.) “We Four: Celebrating Coltrane”  Javon Jackson, tenor saxophone, Mulgrew Miller, piano, Nat Reeves, bass, Jimmy Cobb, drums.  John Coltrane’s music should always be celebrated, of course.  But it’s a very special celebration, indeed, when it’s handled by four players with the credentials to do it full justice.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center.

- Oct. 30 (Sun.) Linda Eder with Tom Wopat.  Broadway and cabaret singer Eder joins her scintillating soprano with the rich baritone of actor/singer Wopat.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

San Francisco

- Oct. 27. (Thurs.)  Mose Allison.  The one and only musical philosopher of the bayou always has a message worth hearing.  Returning to the studio last year for The Way of the World, his first album in a decade, he was good as ever – which is very good indeed. YBCA Forum.  SFJAZZ  Festival.    (866) 920-5299.

- Oct. 28. (Fri.)   Goran Bregovic Wedding and Funeral Orchestra.  See above.  Paramount Theatre.  SFJAZZ Festival. (866) 920-5299.

Oct. 28. (Fri.)  “We Four: Celebrating Coltrane”  Javon Jackson, tenor saxophone, Mulgrew Miller, piano, Nat Reeves, bass, Jimmy Cobb, drums.  See above.  SFJAZZ Festival.  (866) 920-5299.

- Oct. 29. (Sat.) Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette.  See above.  Zellerbach Hall at U.C. Berkley.  (510) 642-9988.


Russell Malone

- Oct. 27 – 30. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Russell Malone Trio.  Guitarist Malone has devoted a good portion of his career to making other performers sound great.  But on his own, he’s even better.  Check him out and you’ll see.   Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Oct. 25 – 30.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Jimmy Heath’s 85th birthday celebration.  The veteran saxophonist shares a milestone birthday with a string of celebratory musical encounters.    Featuring Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart, Steve Davis, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash and many others.  Special guest Bill Cosby appears on Tues. at the early show.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Oct. 25 – 30. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Wycliffe Gordon Quintet & Friends“Hello Pops!  The Music of Louis Armstrong.”  Trombonist Gordon’s enthusiastic playing style combines with his convincing vocals to create a musically entertaining tribute to Sachmo.  Special guest Anat Cohen (Tues. & Wed.) adds her clarinet delights.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 259-9800.


- Oct. 27 & 28. (Thurs. & Fri.)  The Bad Plus.  Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King have been transforming the familiar jazz piano trio into a vehicle for genre-busting musical excitement for more than a decade. Regatta Bar.    (617) 395-7757.


THeo Bleckmann

- Oct. 27. (Thurs.)  Theo Bleckmann“Hello Earth: The Music of Kate Bush.”  A major figure in contemporary avant-garde music, singer/composer Bleckmann has performed with everyone from Laurie Anderson and Anthony Braxton to Meredith Monk and Phillip Glass.  Here he presents selections from his recently released album exploring the songs of eclectic singer/songwriter Kate Bush.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.


- Oct. 27 – 29. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Ramsey Lewis Electric Band. Multiple Grammy winner Lewis has been leading high visibility trios since the mid-‘50s.  This time out, he revives the electric sounds of his classic, top charting Sun Goddess album of the ‘70s.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Live Jazz: The Steve Huffsteter Big Band at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

April 25, 2011

By Tony Gieske

Let’s talk about that undermeditated topic, lighting. The lighting at Vibrato’s voluminous listening room, for instance, is without stain and healthy, which is to say clean and well.

Equally clean and well lighted, if you’ll forgive the segue, was the Steve Huffsteter big band, a precision ensemble that played the room last week.

They did not take their cue from the leader, whose trumpet playing was not at all clean and well lighted. On the contrary, his tactic, as he stood quietly in darkness before the gentlemen and lady of the ensemble, was to glitter with intelligence and gleam with subtlety.

Not that he learned that from his first foray into the big time as a member of the Stan Kenton trumpet section, the echoes of which still lurk in various L.A. crannies. He just seems to have it in him to glitter, not that he’s gay.

We’re talking about a guy who also played with the bands of Sy Zentner, Les Brown, Ray Charles, Louis  Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Mike Barone, Kim Richmond, Bill Berry, Benny Carter, Bill Watrous, Bill Holman, Shorty Rogers, Clare Fischer, Bob Florence, Gordon Brisker, Matt Cattingub and Tom Talbert. Quite a learning process.

The sidemen who soloed were not to be disdained by comparison with the maestro, either.

These included the great Doug Webb, Jerry Pinter and Rick Keller on saxophones, whose dueling musketry was rich and urgent — make that trueling. Fine trombone solos came from Andrew Lippman and Les Benedict. Dave Tull, drums, and Chris Conner, bass, kept the going targeted and unobstructed, assisted by the silver-haired D Huffsteter on congas.

“Steamroller” opened the set I caught, and it lived up to its title, which could fortunately not be said for many of the other numbers.”7th Heaven” was a good example, an earthy passage all in 7th chords. The stars on the stand raised it to the skies.

“Backseat 56″ celebrated that funkless decade, the one in which Eisenhower and Miles Davis ruled, with a decidedly 21st century vibe.

Tull, the poor man’s Dave Frishberg, did not favor us with song, but made sure the shape of things that were coming stayed more than accessible.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.

Live Jazz: The Johnny Mandel Big Band at Vibrato

November 18, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Johnny Mandel, of whom we all know who that is, is quite a sight when he conducts a big band, first of all because he does this standing up for two entire sets.

Johnny Mandel

This is of course  remarkable for a guy who will be 85 years old next Tuesday [Nov. 23]. Another remarkable thing is the way he registered his delight at how his stuff was being played by a big band full of the speediest fast guys from the studios, which is to say matchlessly. Surely he’s heard it all before.

“Shadow of Your Smile,” “Suicide is Painless,” and “Emily,” among the monumental Mandel works the band tried, came out remarkable in their unashamed — and successful — efforts to woo the ear with assonance and dimension.

And among the wooed was the conductor himself, who accepted the players’ aural outcome with a charming little half smile.

Famed, honored and you might even say beloved for showcasing such singers as Sinatra, Bennett, Shirley Horn, Diana Krall and Barbra Streisand — not that they needed all that much help — Mandel brought intelligence and honest emotion to the best of late 20th century American pop.

Among other feats, this is the cat who doped out the charts for the Grammy-winning Natalie and Nat King Cole hit “Unforgettable,” in which Natalie dueted with her deceased father. Mandel didn’t kill him, of course. There are limits.

Not much you need to add about the brilliant work of the band, which had in it stars like Bob Efford on baritone, Doug Webb and Pete Christlieb on reeds, Ron Stout and Carl Saunders on trumpet, Bernie Dressel on drums, Chuck Berghoffer on bass and Christian Jacob on piano.

The Johnny Mandel brass section

They spoke as one under the Mandel baton, sporting a precision that refreshed  the ear.

Among the awed listeners was the trumpet master Uan Rasey, a pioneer of the movie soundstage, whom we all remember from his solo at the opening of   “Chinatown.” Mandel, who started out as a trumpet man in Boyd Raeburn’s band, joined Rasey for a post-set chat.  And that was a tribute in itself, right?

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE


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