Picks of the Week: June 12 – 16

June 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– June 12. (Wed.)  Julian Coryell.  He’s received an impressive guitar-playing legacy from his father, Larry Coryell.  But Julian has thoroughly developed a creative style of his own.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Cindy Lauper

Cindy Lauper

– June 13. (Thurs.)  Cindy Lauper.  30th Anniversary: She’s So Unusual Tour.  The inimitable Cindy Lauper celebrates the anniversary of her debut album.  She’ll be joined by the all-girl alternative rock band, Hunter ValentineGreek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

June 13. (Thurs.)  Upright Cabaret’s LEATHER & LACE: Music of Don Henley, Stevie Nicks & Neil Young!  An entertaining evening of some unusual songs.  Starring Yvette Cason, Jake Simpson and more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– June 13. (Thurs.)  Annie Trousseau offers some impressive musical reminders of the legendary Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– June 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  Barry Manilow.  It may be Southern California, but Manilow revives his critically acclaimed “Barry Manilow on Broadway” concert, with all its hit songs, to Southland listeners.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– June 15 & 16. (Sat. & Sun.)  Playboy Jazz Festival.  The 35th installment in Playboy’s annual tribute to jazz arrives with its usual stellar line-up of talent.  Among the highlights on Sat.: Gregory Porter, Angelique Kidjo, Gordon Goodwin with Lee Ritenour, Naturally 7 with guest Herbie Hancock and George Duke.  On Sunday: the Brubeck Brothers, Taj Mahal, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Bob James and David Sanborn, India.Arie, Sheila E. and Trombone Shorty Hollywood Bowl.     (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

– June 13. (Thurs.)  Enrico Rava Tribe.  Featuring Gianluca Petrella.   Veteran Italian jazz trumpeter Rava leads his band Tribe, a European collection of some of Europe’s finest young players, including trombonist Petrella.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Washington D.C.

Patrice Rushen

Patrice Rushen

– June 13 – 16 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Buster William’s “Something More Quartet.”  And a pretty impressive quartet it is, with keyboardist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Steve Wilson and drummer Cindy Blackman-SantanaBlues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

– June 12 & 13. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Kenny Werner Coalition.  Pianist Werner, always in search of new ideas, plays with the versatile, adventurous aid of guitarist Lionel Loueke, saxophonists Miguel Zenon and Benjamin Koppel, and drummer Ferenc NemethThe Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Ravi COltrane

Ravi COltrane

– June 12 – 15. (Wed. – Sat.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  Saxophonist Coltrane is another second generation jazz artist.  And, like his father, the iconic John Coltrane, he is an imaginative, cutting edge performer.  He’s backed by  Adam Rogers, guitar, Dezron Douglas, bass, Johnathan Blake, drums.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080


– June 15 & 16. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The veteran New Orleans brass band keeps the incomparably high spirited New Orleans jazz tradition alive. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.


Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri

– June 14. (Fri.)  Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra.  Pianist Palmieri, sometimes described as the Thelonious Monk of Latin jazz, is an irresistibly appealing jazz artist.  Paris New Morning.    +33 1 45 23 51 41

A Twist Of Doc: Devon “Doc” Wendell’s Musical Highlights of 2012

January 3, 2013

By Devon Wendell

Now I must push through those big barriers that keep a thinking/nerdy musician like myself stagnant and trapped in one or two musical eras or genres, far from today and far from this exact moment in history. I must dissolve the bitterness and the frustration, and the notion that it’s all nothing more than blurry, recycled fragments of musical shades and rudiments created so long ago. The nothing new today but newly done old music is so easy to live in, to cocoon myself in the warmth of familiarity and sentimentality.  2012 was a concrete year like all others behind us with its own unique fingerprint in time, so I look back at some of my favorite moments in the music of 2012.


Let’s start where it all begins: the blues. This past year Shemekia Copeland released one of the most powerful and poignant blues albums I’ve ever heard. Copeland’s 33 1/3 (Telarc) not only displayed Copeland’s confident tenor blues vocals, and stellar arrangements — which combine not only blues, but also country, funk, gospel, and rock —  it also showed she is a true blues poet. The lyrics on 33 1/3 deal with such topics as poverty on the loud and angry “Lemon Pie” and domestic violence on the chilling “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo” (Which features slashing blues guitar leads by Buddy Guy.)

The blues began as a poetic art form as heard in the early country blues of Bukka White, Skip James, and Blind Willie McTell, but those elements got lost for the most part in modern blues, so it’s a refreshing sign to hear an artist as popular as Copeland help bring it all back.  33 1/3 has received a Grammy nomination for best blues album of 2012.


In the jazz category, innovative pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal returned to the studio with a bright new quartet (Reginald Veal: bass, Herlin Riley: drums, and 22 year old percussionist Jamal “Conguero” Manolo Badrena) on Blue Moon (Jazz Village).  The quartet on Blue Moon has that tightness, focus and groove demonstrated by Jamal’s trio (Jamal: piano, Israel Crosby: bass, and Vernell Fournier on drums) on his classic album Ahmad Jamal: But Not For Me: Live At The Pershing Lounge, 1958 (Originally issued on Argo).  Jamal’s sense of dynamics, discipline, harmony and space (which transformed jazz forever in the late to mid 50s, influencing everyone from Miles Davis and Red Garland to Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock) is more prevalent now than ever before.

He and his quartet enhance the one-of-a-kind Jamal sound with new twists to such classics as Johnny Mercer’s “Laura,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody’ N You” (which Jamal had recorded on the But Not For Me album 54 years ago), as well as some originals: “This Is The Life” and “Invitation.” Jamal’s wonderfully transformative adaptation of Rodgers and Hart’s “Blue Moon,” like a Thelonious Monk cover, shows how this jazz master can take a standard and make it his own with the use of syncopation, strong pedal points, and altered harmonies, which alone makes the album worth purchasing. The track earned Jamal a Grammy nomination for best jazz instrumental.

 Rock ‘n’ Roll

In Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bob Dylan’s Tempest (Columbia) deals with violence, rage, mortality, and lost love. Although these universal themes have been used time and time again by Dylan since the beginning of his career, he always makes his misery and anger feel fresh to the masses. This is certainly the case on Tempest. It is also important to note that his band swings hard.  From the jump blues of “Duquesne Whistle,” the Delta blues of The Mississippi Sheik’s “Narrow Way,” and the Celtic rhythms of “Tempest,” Dylan’s band (Tony Garnier: bass, Donnie Herron: steel guitar, banjo, violin, mandolin, David Hidalgo: guitar, accordion, violin, Stu Kimball: guitar, George G. Receli: drums, and Charlie Sexton: guitar) proves that they can follow the man anywhere he wanders while adding strong melodic texturing to every phrase and song.  This may not be a musical romp through the park but it’s pure Dylan, attitude and all.

* * * * *

The release of Carole King’s Legendary Demos (Hear Music/Concord Music Group) was the most shocking hidden treasure to surface this past year.   This collection consists of demos recorded in New York City’s Brill building both with her ex-writing partner and ex- husband Gerry Goffin in the early to mid 60s, all the way through her infamous Tapestry sessions in 1970. King was writing hits for such artists as the Monkees, The Turtles, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Vee, the Righteous Brothers, Gene Pitney, and dozens of others.

There’s a mournful intimacy to the sound of King, both alone with her piano and with studio session players. This is especially true on the demos for Tapestry. King has every phrase and nuance figured out for the multitude of artists who will be recording her songs. But the power of King’s warm vocals and her gospel-fueled piano playing makes classics like “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “So Goes Love,” “Take Good Care Of My Baby” and “Yours Until Tomorrow” feel as if they should only have been recorded by King, which most of us would not have expected. Before hearing the demos, it was hard for me to even imagine her singing these songs at all. There’s none of the schmaltz on King’s demos that many of the 60s pop bands would later add to her songs.  This compilation gives an insight to King’s genius as a writer, arranger, and most of all, as a brilliant musician in her own right.

* * * * *

Another highlight in the category of rock is Donald Fagen’s Sunken Condos (Reprise) and I say this not because I once worked for the man, but because Fagen’s fusing of hip/sly lyrics with slick funk and jazz harmonies has an irresistible groove throughout the entire album. There’s a more dissonant sonic quality to this album than Fagen’s work with Steely Dan and this sounds nothing like Fagen’s three previous solo recordings.

Steely Dan trumpeter Michael Leonhart co-produced the album with Fagen as well as playing drums (under the alias of Earl Cook Jr.) plus adding keys and even contributing to the crisp engineering.  And Kurt Rosenwinkel’s guitar solo on “Planet D’Rhonda” sounds like Kenny Burrell on acid, which every guitar player must check out.

 Live Performance

I’ve include one exhilarating live performance on my list of highlights: Eddie Palmieri and his Salsa Orchestra At The Hollywood Bowl on August 17th.  Although Palmieri’s set was painfully short (under 45 minutes), in order to give way for the more pop oriented Ruben Blades, this master of Latin jazz got cooking from the second he took the Bowl stage. Palmieri and his Orchestra performed such classics as “La Liberta Logica,” “Pa La Ocha Tamba,” and his biggest hit, “Azucar Pa Ti.” Palmieri was joined by the stellar jazz trumpeter Brian Lynch, whose frenetic style was the perfect counterpoint to Palmieri’s sparse, percussive, and syncopated piano playing – a style that has earned him the title; “The Latin Thelonious Monk.”

Palmieri lit a fire under the band on this hot August night. On his first solo during “La Liberta Logica,” he played very few notes but they were more brilliantly executed than a thousand notes could ever be played by anyone else. The energy from this solo spread to the percussionists (Joes Clauselle: timbales, Little Johnny Rivero: congas, Joseph Gonzalez: maracas, and Orlando Vega on bongos) who generated a tidal wave of polyrhythms and Afro-Cuban hooks that felt as if they had always been a part of my entire being.  This was a performance not only to remember in 2012, but for a lifetime.

* * * * * * * * * *

These are my musical highlights of 2012. I know what many of you are asking after reading this or anything else I’ve written for The International Review Of Music: “No Justin Bieber, No Chris Brown or Katie Perry?” “What’s Up Doc?!” Well, don’t hold your breath, and there’s always 2013, so stay tuned folks.

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

Live Jazz: Monterey Jazz Festival Notebook; Day #1

September 22, 2012

By Michael Katz

At about a quarter to eight last night, a line snaked down the midway at the Monterey Fairgrounds leading to the Coffee House, the smallest of the grounds venues at the Monterey Jazz Festival. I have been attending this festival since the mid-nineties, and as much as I love the sound and feel of the small combos that are staged there, I can’t remember such a line for the Coffee House opener.  Then again, Mulgrew Miller had never fronted a trio there before.

Mulgrew Miller

Miller commanded the stage from the opening notes. There was an undercurrent of blues in his crisp, clear tones, as he launched into a standard, “If I Should Lose You.” It was more evident in the next number, one of his own  compositions, “When I Got There.” Not recognizing the tune, I could sense a Monkish spirit, with a little bit of Fats Waller oozing out. The trio, with Ivan Taylor on bass and Rodney Green on drums, was tight throughout, bouncing between Jobim’s “O Grande Amor” and Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream.” It was just classic piano trio music, a perfect way to kick off the festival. An homage to Charlie Parker, “Relaxin’ At Camarillo” finished off the set, and then it was back off into the evening.

Tammi Brown

And it was a chilly evening. Layers came on as early as the opening set at the Garden Stage, where Santa Cruz singer Tammi Brown kicked off MJF 55 with a soulful set, fronting a group full of Bay Area musicians, leading off with her version of a couple of Hal David/Burt Bacharach tunes, “What The World Needs Now” and “Look of Love,” before wowing the early arrivals with an extended jam session. In the backdrop was a gorgeous Monterey sunset, the clouds turning a deep pink behind Brown and her group.

Jack DeJohnette

Every MJF presents strategic options, given the four basic grounds venues and the main Arena show.  Last night I spent little time with the headliners, which is not to slight the Arena line-up. I heard the Big Phat Band was great, but I’ve seen them plenty in LA. After the Mulgrew Miller set, I dropped in for about twenty minutes of Jack DeJohnette’s eclectic group featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto and David Fiuczinski on guitar. I caught most of an extended flight into Shorter-like territory, noteworthy for DeJohnette’s spatial patter on the drum set. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but I’ll catch the drummer at least once more over the weekend; I was eager to hear Gregoire Maret’s set across the way at the Night Club, so off I went.

Gregoire Maret

To say that harmonica player Maret’s sound bears a resemblance to Toot’s Thielemans makes it distinctly different than anyone else. It’s a haunting sound, full within the limited confines of the instrument. You can close your eyes and imagine yourself in a small club in Paris, the sound wafting into a summer’s night. At first I thought Maret had trouble making the sound heard above his quartet, with Matt Brewer starting on electric bass and Clarence Penn on drums.  I sensed a little uncertainty from the audience as well. Maret was the least-known performer of anyone I heard Friday, and the venue was only about half full to start. But as the set progressed, the sound balance was solved, and Maret seemed to find his audience – more people were sifting in, and more people were staying than leaving.

I thought the quartet worked best when pianist Shedrick Mitchell was given some room to stretch out. The harmonica is a small instrument; even Toots doubles on guitar (and he whistles, too). Stevie Wonder, whose “Secret Life of Plants” was the second number, sings and plays keyboards, among other things. So the more Mitchell expounded, the more Maret had to riff against. You could see the quartet working better on “The Man I Love,” and things really started cooking on the last two numbers. Brewer had switched to acoustic bass, and Penn had an effective drum solo on the penultimate number, with Maret soaring now, splashing riff after riff towards the growing audience. I don’t know what it would have been like to see Toots when he was in his twenties, but I surely got a sense that Maret was someone who will be a dominating voice on jazz harmonica for years to come.

Gregory Porter

I thought I would settle nicely into Eddie Palmieri’s closing set at the Arena, given the reports I’d heard from his concert at the Hollywood Bowl. He had a terrific band that included trumpeter Brian Lynch and trombonist Conrad Herwig. But somehow I just felt restless, or maybe I just needed to hear something new and different. A little voice inside was saying, “You really ought to hear Gregory Porter.” Now I am of an age where hearing little voices is not necessarily a good thing.  But I wanted to find out what the fuss about Porter was all about – I’d heard him a little on the radio, mostly ballads that had a Johnny Hartman feel to them. But I was in for a revelation, if only for the last third of a set. I walked into a packed Night Club to hear him finish a rousing version of “Skylark.” Wearing what is apparently a trademark cap with earflaps, Porter has a vocal timbre that is somewhere between Hartman and Joe Williams. He had complete command of the audience, and he performed with a soulful funkiness that brought to mind Les McCann. His closing number was a recall of the Detroit riots, “1960 What” – yes, definitely a McCann influence here – which had the audience on its feet. There was no way they were going to let him leave, so back he came with a soulful “Water,” from his most recent CD.

That concluded a wonderful first night. More tomorrow with Trombone Shorty,  Michael Wolff’s Cal Tjader band, Pat Metheny, Tony Bennett and more.

Photos courtesy  of the Monterey Jazz Festival.

To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.

Live Jazz: Mike Katz’s Monterey Jazz Festival Top Ten

September 13, 2012

By Mike Katz

Every year the Monterey Jazz Festival program features a Top Ten list from Artistic Director Tim Jackson, and I always think that’s interesting, but what does he tell everybody else? And how can he not mention (your favorite here). So I figured I’d take a stab at my own Top Ten, but with a slightly different angle, for this year’s Festival, which begins Fri. Sept. 21.  Here in LA we get to see a good deal of the major touring names (Trombone Shorty, Esperanza Spalding, Eddie Palmieri) as well as others who live or have lived here (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Tierney Sutton, Gerald Clayton, among others.)

I always look forward to new configurations of talent, and introductions to new players, as well as a few familiar names that we don’t see too often on the Left Coast. So here’s my list, in order of appearance, with a special effort to highlight most of the festival’s venues.

1. Mulgrew Miller,  Coffee House.  8, 9:30, 11, Friday night.   Every year I promise myself I will get to see at least one set in the cozy Coffee House, which features small groups playing before appreciatively quiet audiences. What better way to start off  the festival than with Mulgrew Miller, whose bright, swinging touch belies his impressively large physique.

Jack DeJohnette

2. Jack DeJohnette, Dizzy’s Den. 8:30 Friday night; Arena w/ Pat Metheny and Christian McBride, 9:20 Sat. night; Dizzy’s Den, Sunday night, 7:30 with Bill Frisell. The Festival’s Showcase artist, DeJohnette’s multi-faceted talents are reflected in these three different settings. I don’t know yet who the personnel will be in the Friday night  group but it is bound to be interesting; the Metheny trio can’t help but be great and I hope to catch at least part of the duet with guitarist Frisell on Sunday.

3. Gregoire Maret Quartet, Night Club, 9:30 Friday night. When you think about the harmonica in jazz, Toots Thielemans comes to mind, and then there is a long pause. Maret, from Geneva, Switzerland, has been getting some attention as Toots’ heir apparent, so here’s a chance to check him out.

Ali Ryerson and Mimi Fox

4. Ali Ryerson-Mimi Fox Duo, Night Club, 2:30 Saturday Afternoon. Take a break from the raucous atmosphere at the Arena and check out flutist Ali Ryerson and guitarist Mimi Fox, both of them notable for exquisite phrasing. You’ll still have time to get back for most of Trombone Shorty’s set.

5. Tribute To Cal Tjader, Dizzy’s Den, 8  Saturday night.  Pianist Michael Wolff, who played with Tjader in the ‘70s, has assembled an all-star group that features Warren Wolf on vibes, along with Pete Escovedo, John Santos, Robb Fisher and Vince Lateano.

Bill Frisell


6. Bill Frisell Big Sur Quintet, Arena, 8  Saturday night.  Night Club, 10:30 p.m. I know, you can’t be two places at once. Frisell’s commissioned piece promises to be a highlight. Visit the special Cloning Tent right next to the funnel cake stand.7.

Pat Metheny


7. Pat Metheny, Arena, 9:20 Saturday night (See above) and 7 Sunday night. Unity Band with Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, Ben Williams. Two arena appearances for Metheny. The trio appeals to me the most, but you can’t lose with either one.


8. Tony Bennett, Arena, 10:50 Saturday night. Need we say more?

9. Next Generation Band, Arena, 1:10 Sunday Afternoon. Yes, you have tickets for Esperanza Spalding. Don’t think it’s cool to skip the opening student groups. Last year’s NGB knocked everybody out. Artist-in-Residence trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire sits in.

10.  Mads Tolling Quartet. Garden Stage, 4 Sunday afternoon. The mid-afternoon sets at the Garden Stage are always great fun. Turtle Island Quartet violinist Tolling fronts his own group.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

11.  MJF ALL-STARS w/ Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chris Potter. Bennie Green, Christian McBride, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lewis Nash, Arena, 9  Sunday night and Dizzy’s Den, 11 Saturday Night. This super group closes out the festival at the Arena, but you might have just as much fun seeing them Saturday night at Dizzy’s Den.

Okay, that’s 11. And I didn’t even mention Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman at the Courtyard Stage throughout the Festival.

But…but…what about…Melody Gardot, Christian Scott, Robert Randolph?….excuse me, I’ve got to run. See ya next week.

To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 4 – 9

September 4, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

B.B. King

– Sept. 5. (Wed.)  Blues Night: B.B. King and the Tedeschi/Trucks Band.  A great program, with a banquet of blues running the gamut from the masterful B.B. King to the Tedeschi/Trucks Band, with their spicy servings of blues, soul, rock and funk.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 5. (Wed.)  Jennifer Leitham Trio. Bassist Leitham’s career has reached across the full panorama of the music business.  But she may be at her best, both playing and singing in a trio setting, especially with high quality players such as Andy Langham, piano and Dave Tull, drums.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Sept. 5. (Wed.)  Pat Senatore Trio.  Bassist Senatore’s versatility is on display many nights as the bassist in the house rhythm section at Vibrato. Here, he’ll work with a challenging trio of rising young players: Josh Nelson, piano and Zach Harmon, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

WRoberta Gambarini

– Sept. 6 – 8. (Thurs. – Sat.) Roberta Gambarini. Italian-born singer Gambarini sings jazz with spirit and  authenticity, moving comfortably from lush balladry to high speed scat singing.  She’ll be backed by Mike Wofford, piano, Chuck Berghofer, bass and Harvey Mason, drums.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 6 – 9.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cage 100 FestivalJohn Cage, Henry Cowell, Erik Satie,   Thurs: First Presbyterian Santa Monica.  Fri: Miles Playhouse in Reed Park.  Sat: Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club.  Sunday: Annenburg Community Beach House.  Jacaranda: Music at the Edge.  (323) 483-0216.

– Sept. 7. (Fri.)  Crosby, Stills & Nash.  What is there to say about this classic trio of gifted artists?  Forty three years after Woodstock, they’re still going strong, with the old songs and with the new.  Don’t miss this opportunity to see and hear them in living color.  Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– Sept. 7 & 8. (Fri. and Sat.)  The Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks.  The Los Angelesl Philharmonic, conducted by Bramwell Tovey.  This annual program, matching a spectacular set of works by Tchaikovksy with the Bowl’s pyrotechnic geniuses.  The Grand Finale will feature the Philharmonic, with dancers from the American Ballet Theatre, the L.A. Children’s Chorus and the USC Trojan Marching Band performing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 OvertureThe Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000,

– Sept. 8. (Sat.)  The Gilbert Castellanos Quartet. Trumpeter Castellanos has a musical resume reaching from Dizzy Gillespie and Natalie Cole to Willie Nelson and Michael Buble.  He’s been in such demand because of his ability to illuminate a song with everything he possesses. Castellanos performs with pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Ramon BandaVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Billy Childs

– Sept. 8. (Sat.)  Billy Childs Trio.  Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his chamber jazz with strings, and digs into the piano trio format with the world class support of John Clayton, bass and Jeff Hamilton, drums.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Sept. 8. (Sat.) Anthony Wilson Nonet.  First call guitarist on every jazz promotors’ list, Wilson is also a first rate composer.  And the Nonet – a kind of big/little (but very versatile) band format – is the perfect vehicle for the expression of his far ranging imagination.  Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

– Sept. 9. (Sun.)  Pink Martini.  Call their music retrospective or call it old-fashioned, it’s still an eminently listenable pastiche of pop, standards, blues, cabaret and beyond.  This will be a debut for Pink Martini and China Forbes, who will be making their first appearances at the Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857

San Francisco

– Sep. 5 – 9. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Jack DeJohnette Trio featuring Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke.  It would be hard to find a more engaging jazz evening than this one.  Three world class players who move with utter ease from straight ahead jazz across genre lines.  It doesn’t get any better than this. Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.


Halie Loren

– Sept. 4 & 5. (Tues. & Wed.)  Halie Loren.  The rave reviews keep coming in about the extraordinary jazz skills of this gifted young singer.  To read more about Halie Loren, read iRoM’s revew of her latest CD by clicking HERE.    Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.


– Sept. 5. (Wed.)  Cyrille Aimee.  She has one of the great voices among her twentysomething jazz generation.  And Aimees’ work – as a singer and a writer – is rapidly establishing her as a voice to watch in her generation.  Scullers  Jazz Club.  Also on Sept. 7 & 8 at the Iridium jazz club.    (617) 562-4111.

New York

– Sept. 3. (Mon.)  Amram & CoDavid Amram.  He plays a lot of instruments – French Horn, flute, keyboards, hand percussion.  But Amram’s six decade career took him through waves of newly emerging music and ideas.  And it’s all there in his performances.  Amram will be backed by Kevin Twigg, drums, John de Witt, bass and Adam Amram, percussion.  Cornelia St. Café.    (212) 989-9319.

– Sept. 4. (Tues.) David Binney. Adventurous alto saxophonist Binney is always in search of the newest sound, melody or rhythm,  This time out, he’s exchanging all three of those elements with keyboardist Jacob Sacks, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Dan Weiss55 Bar.   (212) 929-2883,

– Sept. 4 – 8. (Tues. – Sat.)  Oregon. It’s a band that has been together for four decades, and is still bringing new musical seasoning to various combinations of jazz and world musics.  The results are always utterly compelling.  Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.


Claire Martin

– Sept. 4. (Tues.)  Claire Martin with Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. Martin’s been called, with good reason, “England’s finest jazz singer.”  It should make for a compelling musical evening to hear her with Bennett, a veteran composer/musician with a lots of jazz experience. Ronnie Scott’s. (0) 20 7439 0747.


–  Sept. 4. (Tues.)  Chieli Minucci Trio.  A-Trane Jazz.  I addition to his visibility in smooth jazz, guitarist Minucci also has a busy career as a film and television composer.  He’ll be performing with the stellar rhythm team of bassist Gerald Veasley and drummer Dennis Chambers. A-Trane Jazz   030/313 25 50.


– Sept. 7 (Fri.) – Sept. 11 (Tues.)  Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra.  The great keyboardist and composer takes his swingingly authentic Salsa Orchestra on a tour that should produce many more Japanese fans. To read a recent iRoM review of Eddie Palmieri at the Hollywood Bowl, click HERE. The Blue Note Tokyo.

Live Latin Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl: The Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra and Ruben Blades

August 17, 2012

By Devon Wendell

To many, it would seem to make perfect sense to have Latin jazz pioneer Eddie Palmieri and Latin pop music, movie star, and political activist Ruben Blades both on the same bill, but it proved to be an odd mish mash at The Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night.

This was mainly due to both the extreme opposites in the energy generated by both performers and the unequal amount of time allotted to both acts.

Opening the night’s program was Eddie Palmieri and his Salsa Orchestra. Although their set was tragically too short, Palmieri and his band put on an amazingly energetic and stellar performance – one that would prove to be a hard act to follow.

Eddie Palmieri

Palmieri and company kicked off their set with “La Libertad Logica,” which had a more complex rhythm arrangement than the original 1971 version from the album Vamonos Pal Monte.  Palmieri began by playing an elegant piano solo, followed by a tornado of percussion and marvelously structured horn hooks.

Lead vocalist Herman Olivera joined the band once the groove was established.  Olivera proved to be one of the most powerful vocalists in Latin jazz today from the first verse of this Palmieri classic. Palmieri came in unexpectedly with a few of his signature cluster of chords, adding even more colorful layers to the composition.

On “Lindo Yomba”, Palmieri played more of a subordinate role as far as his piano playing goes, but his skills as a band leader shined throughout this piece. The interplay between the percussionists (Jose Clauselle: timbales, Little Johnny Rivero: congas, Joseph Gonzalez: maracas, and Orlando Vega on bongos) was flawless and hypnotic.  Olivera shared vocals with tres guitarist Nelson Gonzalez. Gonzalez soon followed with a tres solo that danced around the groove locked in by Palmieri’s piano comping and the pulsating bass line delivered by Luques Curtis.

The band’s rendition of “Pa La Ocha Tambo” rivaled the excitement of the version featured on Eddie Palmieri With  Harlem River Drive Recorded Live At Sing Sing from 1971.  This was the highlight of the entire evening.  Palmieri played one of his distinct solos filled with space, percussive surprise twists, and dynamics (ala Thelonious Monk), which lit a fire under the already charged up band. As soon as his soloing was finished, the percussionists played more aggressively and trombonist Jimmy Bosch’s fluid yet delightfully syncopated solo felt like an inspired response to what Palmieri had played. This was a conversation amongst true musicians, the kind that could only take place between jazz players – despite their cultural background.

Palmieri and his orchestra didn’t let the mood cool down, performing the classic “La Malanga.” As Olivera, Nelson Gonzalez and Joseph Gonzalez sang the chorus in unison, Palmieri played the melody line. And the percussionists and horn section wove separate counter melodies on top of Palmieri’s, creating wonderful polyrhythms.

The set closed with a new reading of one of Palmieri’s greatest masterpieces; “Azucar Pa Ti” (which was inducted into the National Recording Registry of The Library Of congress in 2009), in which Palmieri and his Orchestra displayed their unique sense of harmonic layering between the piano, horns and vocalists. This version was sophisticated in its orchestration yet loose and funky at the same time. In a moment of sheer bliss, Palmieri, ran from the piano to the timbales and played them with the same focused imagination and skilled genius of his piano style.  Each member of the horn section swapped solos. Trumpeter Brian Lynch’s Dizzy Gillespie inspired bop- chops gelled beautifully with the salsa rhythms.

Unfortunately, however, just as the band was reaching its peak, it was time for them to stop. And it was truly painful watching Palmieri and the band exit the stage so early.

After a brief intermission, Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel introduced Latin music super star Ruben Blades. Blades was backed by Roberto Delgado and His Orchestra.

Though politically charged in his lyrics, Blades set felt stale and lackluster. The fire had been lit by the virtuosity of Palmieri and his Orchestra, but Blades’ usually charismatic stage presence seemed missing, and he unfortunately let that fire die quickly.

Ruben Blades

Blades performed many of his most popular songs — “Plastico,” “Calles,” Decisiones” and “Caina” among them. The band was tight and featured a strong horn section (Juan Carlos Lopez: trumpet, Francisco Antonio Delveccio: trombone, Idigoras Bethancourt: trombone, and Avenicio Nunez on trombone ).  But between Blades’ surprisingly monotone vocals and material that fell back on ‘80s pop synthesizer clichés (performed by keyboardist Luis Enrique Beccerra), the set mostly fell flat and lasted too long.

The few interesting and soulful moments of the set were provided by “Ojos De Perro Azul,”  (which was a soulful Salsa homage to the short stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez), “Todos Vuelven” (which featured a slick Afro-Cuban horn arrangement), and Blades’ hit rendition of  Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s standard “Mack The Knife.” But even on these numbers, Blades seemed tired and detached from the material.

Blades’ energy did start to gain some momentum towards the end of his program, especially on “Muevette,” with Blades beginning by singing the first verse of Lionel Ritchie’s “All Night Long,” with which this piece shared some melodic similarities. The chorus was catchy and fun. Drummer Ademir Antonio Berrocal’s r&b flavored style fit the song perfectly.

The show closed with “Patria” (Fatherland), Blades’ loving anthem to his homeland of Panama – a theme that is widely considered to be a second national anthem. This was the most emotionally charged performance of the set, with Blades looking teary eyed as he sang each verse.

Eddie Palmieri and Ruben Blades are stars in the world of Latin jazz. Both artists combine salsa, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and r&b.  But at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night, Palmieri proved to be the more creatively innovative and musically exciting performer (without any of the pop music trappings) of the two.  He clearly deserved much more stage time than he was given.

Eddie Palmieri photo by Juan Cruz.
To read more reviews and posts by Devon Wendell click HERE.

Profile: Eddie Palmieri

August 14, 2012

 Eddie’s Space

By Devon Wendell

Very few people in the history of Latin music and jazz have blended those two genres as successfully as pianist, composer, and band leader Eddie Palmieri has over the past 50 years. The New York born offspring of Puerto Rican parents, Palmieri has fearlessly broken down musical cultural barriers throughout his illustrious career.

The open, airy style that Palmieri has created in his piano playing has earned him the title of “The Latin Thelonious Monk.” Reaching across all musical genres with its respect for both sounds and silences, it’s the use of space that was present in Monk and Miles Davis, as well as James Brown and Bootsy Collins.

As a multi-instrumentalist myself, I think of Palmieri and his spaces especially when I play the bass, because, as he has demonstrated, there can be an entire universe between the notes one chooses. That’s where the true groove lives.

At times, Palmieri will create complete musical paragraphs on the piano.  Then, just as he reaches that final sentence and you think you know what he’s saying and where he’s going, he’ll hit one percussive note that changes the meaning of a phrase in an instant. And somehow it ends up making even more sense than what you had originally imagined he would say. As with Monk, the fact that it almost feels as if he’s going to miss the mark makes it all the more intriguing when he pulls it all together.

Palmieri never rushes or forces an idea. Every phrase and nuance is carefully and beautifully crafted. But it’s not enough to just listen to his classic recordings.  You should also watch the master at work in order to get the full experience. Whether you’re a musician or not, his playing will forever change your perception of both orchestrated and improvised music.

Tomorrow night at the Hollywood Bowl you can have the opportunity to hear Palmieri and his Salsa Orchestra in action, sharing a double bill with fellow Latin music star, Ruben Blades.

Born in 1936, Palmieri came to music early, soaking up not only the Latin rhythms prevalent in the South Bronx at the time, but also the powerful big Apple jazz sounds of the day.

Studying classical music, he performed his first concert at Carnegie Hall when he was only 11 years old.  But his passion for the textures, harmonies, and dynamics of American jazz pianists such as Monk, Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner changed his musical approach and direction and he spent much of the ‘50s playing with a succession of local bands, including a short tenure with the great Tito Rodriguez.

By 1961, Palmieri was ready to make his first innovative musical statement as a band leader when he formed Conjunto La Perfecta, recording his debut album that year under the same name. Taking the traditionally established musical structure of charanga (one of the primary influences on Latin music at the time)  with its focus on violins and flutes, he added trombonist Barry Rogers (co-founder of Conjunto La Perfecta) and vocalist Ismael Quintana.  He also added trumpets and jazz accents to the Cuban rhythms known as Mozambique.

Over the years, Palmieri never lost sight of his traditional musical roots, merely supplementing them with his own sounds and ideas.  He continued to break ground in the ‘60s, recording  Azucar Pa Ti, which remains one of the most influential Latin jazz recordings ever made. In 2009, the album, which combined Afro-Cuban styles with jazz, was inducted into The National Recording Registry of the Library Of Congress.

Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, Palmieri began fusing Salsa rhythms with funk, psychedelic soul, jazz, and early incarnations of fusion. This blend can be heard on Palmieri’s 1971 masterpiece Harlem River Drive, an experimental band project that is widely considered a classic. Palmieri played an electric Fender Rhodes on this recording, and the funky musical setting freed him up to emphasize his open, syncopated spaces, as well as a new array of musical tones and colors.

In 1975, Palmieri was the first artist to win the Grammy for Best Latin Recording for The Sun Of Latin Music. Here, Palmieri took salsa to new heights with massive percussion and perfectly orchestrated brass arrangements. The composition “Nada De Ti” is still recognized as one of the greatest Salsa recordings.  Over the next few decades he continued to record, appeared with the Fania All-Stars, formed a new La Perfecta II, and won a Grammy in 2007 for Best Latin Jazz recording.

He has won a total of nine Grammy awards, and is set to receive the National Endowment Of The Arts Jazz Master award in 2013.

Palmieri continues to tour and record vigorously, his right hand still on the pulse of all things new and youthful.  Most recently, he has provided music for a basketball movie, Doin’ It In the Park, by the young DJ, basketball player, and filmmaker Bobbito Garcia. At 75, Eddie Palmieri shows no signs of slowing down, still a vital force in American music.

Eddie Palmieri and Ruben Blades perform tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the Hollywood Bowl.


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