Live Music: The 2014 Opening Night at the Hollywood Bowl

June 22, 2014

By Don Heckman

The Hollywood Bowl and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins, offered another Hall of Fame, season-opening program Saturday night. And once again did it with the class and creativity that have characterized these annual events. I’ve been covering the season-opening nights at the Hollywood Bowl for years now and each succeeding presentation gets better and better.

Wilkins and the HBO set the stage with performances of Elmer Bernstein’s Fanfare for the Hollywood Bowl and Prokofiev’s March in B-fat Major, opening the way for a program once again glowing with star quality performers.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this richly entertaining evening was the presence of a stunning array of female artists. And extraordinary female artists at that – from The Go-Gos and Pink Martini to Kristin Chenoweth, all of whom were this year’s inductees into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

Add to that the fact that each of the inductees was introduced by high visibility female performers: Taraji P. Henson introduced Pink Martini; Carol Burnett introduced Kristin Chenoweth; and Natasha Bedingfield introduced The Go-Gos.

In addition, Helen Hunt led a tribute to YOLA (The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles); and singer Lea Michele joined Chenoweth in a portion of her performance.

Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth

Emmy and Tony Award winner Chenoweth may be best known for her roles in Wicked, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown and the TV series Glee. But her far-reaching performing skills, all on full display in her relatively brief but exhilarating appearance, were the stuff of legends. Singing, strutting, dueting with Michele, interacting whimsically with the enthusiastic audience, the diminutive but energetic Chenoweth thoroughly affirmed the wisdom of inducting her into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

The Go-Gos

The Go-Gos

The Go-Gos, the first all-female rock band to write their own songs and play their own instruments, startled the music world by reaching the top levels of the Billboard charts in the ’70s and ’80s. Amazingly, they’ve lost none of their skills or their musical panache. Still rocking, still dominating the stage, they once again underscored the capacity of female musicians to be completely competitive in a male-dominated music world. And they did so again on this creatively dynamic evening, romping through some of their most familiar hits.

China Forbes and Tom Lauderdale of Pink Martini

China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini

The final inductees were the gifted players in Pink Martini. Led by pianist Thomas Lauderdale and singer China Forbes, the group’s skills have included collaborations with the likes of Carol Channing, Jimmy Scott, Michael Feinstein, and many more. And it’s not surprising that their international, multi-lingual skills, on full display in this performance, have made them one of pop music’s true boundary-less ensembles.

The Grand Finale of Opening Night 2014 at the Hollywood Bowl

Appropriately, of course, the program came to a typical Hollywood Bowl grand climax with all the inductees on stage together to sing “I’ve Got Rhythm” with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, brightly illuminated by a characteristically spectacular fireworks display, enhanced by beaming laser effects.

It was, in sum, one of the most unforgettable finales of recent memory, showcasing the induction of three perfectly chosen musical artists and ensembles into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

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Photos courtesy of Mathew Imaging/Hollywood Bowl.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 4 – 8

September 4, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s a light, holiday week, with 100-plus temperatures here in L.A.  But there’s still some very fine music to hear in various parts of the world.

Los Angeles

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

– Sept. 4 – 8. (Wed. – Sun.) The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove has appeared frequently with his big band lately. But this time he fronts a straight-ahead quintet, showcasing his fine solo work. Catalina Bar and Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 4. (Wed.) Bruce Forman Quartet. Guitarist, novelist and educator Forman, a true multi-hyphenate, takes a break from his many activities to do a live performance. Don’t miss it. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 6. (Fri.) Richie Cole Quartet. Bebop is always on the loose when alto saxophonist is in the room. And especially so when he’s backed by the propulsive backing of pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Dick Weller. Jazz at the Radisson Hotel.

Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group

– Sept. 6 & 7. (Fri.& Sat.) The Blue Man Group. The musically and visually eccentric members of the Blue Man Group have brought a new supply of unique instruments to an evening of new music with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 8. (Sun.) ABBA Fest. A non-stop evening of music by the hit-making Swedish band. First, via a competition of collegiate a cappella Abba groups; second via a performance by the great tribute band ABBA, the Concert. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.



San Francisco

– Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.). Terence Blanchard is always in search of new musical adventures. This time out, his Sextet features saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and and African jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. SFJAZZ. The SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.  (415) 398-5655.


– Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs., – Sun.) Larry Coryell and the Eleventh House Reunion Band. Guitarist Coryell revives the music of the fusion band he led in the’70s. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

Washington, D.C.

– Sept. 6 – 8. (Fri. – Sun.) Patricia Barber. Singer/pianist Barber continues her quest to find new creative ways to approach the songs of the Great American Songbook. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

– Sept. 4. (Wed.) J.D. Walter. Jazz Standard. Walter is a singer who prefers to take adventurous musical pathways… which may explain why he hasn’t yet received the attention his singing deserves. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Cassandra Wilson– Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.) Cassandra Wilson. The jazz vocal genre has largely been dominated lately by fast-arriving young female artists. But Wilson continues to be a pathfinder with her own inimitable style. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– Sept. 7. (Sat.) Barbara Carroll. She was described in 1947 by Leonard Feather as the “first girl to play bebop piano.” And, at 88, she’s still going strong, performing here in duo with bassist Jay Leonhart. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.


– Sept. 4 – 7. (Wed. – Sat.) Sommerwochenkonzert. Don Grusin and Chuck Loeb. Keyboardist Grusin and guitarist Loeb display their easygoing blend of mainstream and crossover jazz genres.. A-Trane.  +49 30 3132 ext. 550.


– Sept. 6 – 7. (Fri. & Sat.) Dado Moroni, Reuben Rodgers, Alex Riel. The Art of the Trio. Italian jazz pianist Moroni has been delivering his authentic jazz perspectives since the ’80s. He’s backed here by American bassist Rodgers and Danish drummer Alex Riel. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.


– Sept. 3 – 5. (Tues. – Thurs.) Bob James & David Sanborn. James and Sanborn have pioneered their swinging versions of contemporary jazz fusion and crossover for decades – and doing it in memorable fashion. They’re accompanied on this tour by the equally imaginative drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.

Gregory Porter


– Sept. 6. (Fri.) Gregory Porter. At a time when the distaff side has been dominating most of the newly released jazz recordings, the warm baritone of Porter has been bringing impressive new interpretations to the the world of jazz vocalizing. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.

Live Music; Natalie Cole and Chucho Valdes at the Hollywood Bowl

August 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s no mystery that singer Natalie Cole has followed in the musical footsteps of her extrordinary father, pianist/singer Nat “King” Cole. Along the way, she’s won nine Grammy Awards after 21 nominations. Her 1991 album Unforgettable, which included an interactive duet, with her late father, on the song “Unforgettable,” triggering the granting of Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Performance.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole

All that was in mind Wed. night at the Hollywood Bowl, as Cole offered a performance overflowing with her superbly adept singing. Although she’s come through numerous difficult periods, personal and otherwise, Cole has survived, still capable of capturing the affections of a packed house of enthusiastic listeners at the Bowl.

Cole’s performance was driven by dynamic musical energies. Whether she was singing standards such as “Stardust,” “The Very Thought of You” and “Smile,” or some of the Latin songs that have captured her attention recently, she displayed the consummate entertainment abilities that have characterized her work for decades.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole

Arriving on a stage as a bundle full of confident excitement, her skills were functioning at a velocity that never diminished. Backed by the rich timbres of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Gail Deadrick, as well as the rhythmic grooves of her own instrumental sextet and the empathic vocals of her trio of backup singers, Cole didn’t miss a beat along the way, finding the inner musical and emotional heartbeats of everything she sang.

True, there were a few selections with arrangements that tapped a bit too deeply into the soul and r&b stylings that have occasionally characterized Cole’s work over the years. And one can’t argue that she handles the genre with considerable effectiveness. But she was at her best when she was working in the arena of the Great American Songbook, preferably when her performances were brightened by the jazz tinges that she – like her father before her – does so well. No wonder her entranced listeners seemed captivated by everything she did.

The evening was opened by Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes. Much revered as one of his country’s most gifted musical artists, multiple Grammy-winning Valdes was also the founder of the honored Cuban jazz band, Irakere.

Chucho Valdes

Chucho Valdes

For this appearance, however, he played with the accompaniment of his five piece group, with bass and three percussionist-vocalists. And the setting was just right for the full range of Valdes’ rhapsodic piano style, applying lush classical passages to the more lyrical passages in his constantly intriguing improvisations. Add to that his irresistible rhythmic montunos, powerfully driven by his mesmerizing piano lines.

By the time he was finished, Valdes – as in all his performances – underscored the intimate linkages that have long existed between jazz and Cuban music.

As one of the climactic high points of the program, Valdes and Cole performed as a duo on a couple of numbers. Together, they brought a convincing array of jazz, in some of its many forms, to the far-ranging stylistic varieties of the Bowl’s Wednesday night jazz series.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

Record Rack: Spin Doctors, Bracher Brown and Quattro

April 26, 2013

            Sometimes a Reviewer’s Just Lucky

            Three Very Different Albums Connected Only by Their Excellence

 By Brian Arsenault

 Spin Doctors

If the River Was Whiskey (Rufus Records)

DIf you’re a ‘90’s kid, chances are you can still remember the words to Spin Doctors’ “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” and that favorite guy anthem to the hated former girl friend/bitch, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”  I mean was there ever a nastier tune on hit radio and was a band bigger than Spin Doctors in the era?

So 25 years down the road, what is a listener to expect? Maybe not expected, but one sizzling blues album is what you get.

Hey, you can’t be a teen band forever, but these guys can do this till they’ve been around a half century.

“If the River Was Whiskey, (you’d) have no trouble drowning me.”  Hell of a lyric, hell of a song.

Chris Barron’s voice is deeper than in the early days. Whiskey? Cigs? Or just the passage of time. It works.

And Eric Schenkman’s guitar can flash it like he’s playing for Billy Boy Arnold, or do the slow hand. The rhythm section of Aaron Comess on drums and Mark White on bass are tight as can be.

The whole band is.

There’s some Howlin’ Wolf (title song) here and some Allman Brothers feel (“Scotch and Water Blues”)  as well.  Yet the Spin Doctors are their own self.

On tunes like “What My Love?” it’s real hard to sit still. “Scotch and Water Blues” just builds and builds and “About a Train” has a nice Delta flavor suitable for roadhouses.

The album makes you ache a bit for smoky bars smelling of beer and less savory stuff.  But the playing is real clean.

Bracher Brown

Broken Glass and Railroad Tracks (Rock Ridge Music, digital only)

A tough old businessman of Irish heritage that I knew and valued until his death said that one of the worst prejudices was that a young person couldn’t do a good job, maybe better.

So here comes Bracher Brown who makes you think that if the Beatles had been born in America under 20 years ago, this is what they might have sounded like.  Intelligent lyrics about the start of love, the end of love, the desire for love. Rhythms that we used to call infectious.  Seductive guitar licks.

“Singing songs about what life was supposed to be.”

Young but not untested in the furnace of life.

 “Haven’t slept in days but I’m all right.”

Even acquainted with absence that may be death —

“living with your ghost.”

And a love song — “Loving You” — that rings true; a song about what he knows about life at 18 that’s not to be patronized.  After all, we may never know more, we may just shut down and call it experience.

He’s not shut down at all. Thank goodness.


Poppzzical  (Quattro Sound)

Ok, so you know there are four of them on Poppzzical. Mixed gender (two of each), mixed ethnicity, mixed musical backgrounds.  So, of course, all American in all our splendid, confusing mishmash of cultures that often produces remarkable music.

There’s a violin, often gypsy-like (Lisa Dondlinger). She can play for Pavarotti or Dancing with the Stars.

There’s a cello, also an amazing Latin influenced voice (Giovanna Moraga Clayton). Uh, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, New West Symphony).

Are you starting to get the picture?  They can match the exuberance of their own crafted “Good Day” — “try to bring me down will be time wasted” — with some Vivaldi done as classical sound with jazz shifts.

There’s a guitar which can lead and support, strum and sing (Kay-Ta Matsuno) who can play for Baby Face or Natalie Cole and a whole bunch of other folks too numerous to name here.

Finally there’s percussion work born in Tijuana, Mexico (Jorge Villanueva) who’s played on movie scores, in Latino bands and co-owns a film and TV scoring company.

So, as you can imagine, there’s a lot going on in this album they’ve made.

“Silky” is happy and melancholy at the same time.  There’s a guitar solo that resembles a violin piece.  Or is that a violin with cello as bass. Or both.  Ha, I don’t care. It’s music that’s unique.  I can’t think of any assemblage that sounds like Quattro.

Their Spanish language soul and Latino dance music.  If I could samba I would have on “Mi Conguero.“  That may even be the wrong dance but it’s the right feeling.

The album closes with “Hana Bi” and the guitar and violin take flight together.  The cello soars after them.

And maybe that’s it: flying, soaring, breaking free of forms while paying homage to them. In a musical world of too much sameness, the individuality and creativity of this young group is not to be missed.

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

Live Music: The Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl

September 17, 2012

By Mike Finkelstein

On a balmy Friday night still throbbing from a blazing L.A. heat-wave, The Brian Setzer Orchestra played the first of a three-night stand of shows at the packed Hollywood Bowl for the closing Fireworks Finale.  Very early in their set the band played “This Cat’s on a Hot Tin Roof,” and it was surely apropos.

In the early 80’s Brian Setzer led the Stray Cats with a successful and impressive esthetic of ‘50’s style, strong songwriting, and polished musicianship. Their winsome presentation of the period icons was a major factor behind ‘50’s culture becoming hip again in the early ‘80’s. They had hits on the radio and on MTV. Leopard skin and marching band outfits came back into style.  The Stray Cats only lasted about four years out of the gate but the songs were so evocative that they pointed enticingly to the crossing paths of rockabilly and swing music.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra

Setzer certainly was aware of the possibilities and after a somewhat tepid solo stint, he formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra to specialize in revving up ‘40’s and ‘50’s rockin’ music. Going from the three piece Stray Cats to the BSO is like upgrading from a hot rod bucket-T into a long-wing cherry red Cadillac convertible.  Featuring thirteen horns, two backup singers and of course, bass, drums and Setzer’s wailing fleet of guitars over the mix,  the format is too cool to do anything less that rock like gangbusters.

The BSO must make Setzer just giddy with musical options as nearly anything he might choose to arrange with them will sound huge and nuanced.  The mere idea of substituting red-hot electric guitar for brass or wind solos over the big band horn arrangement is cool in and of itself, but Setzer then sells the sound in his performance.    An electric guitar cuts swiftly through the horns and because he plays a big jazz box electric Gretsch through an exemplary Fender amp the sound is clean, brilliant, hot, and definitely vintage.

Brian Setzer

Brian Setzer’s guitar style is rooted in his understanding of the harmony and motion in the chords he plays.   Much of his music tends to use cascading chord scales with beautiful passing diminished tones that really color a set of changes.  A lot of his approach centers on involved chord patterns stretching the entire length and width of the neck and quick linear flurries of notes separating the chords.   The brass arrangements for the BSO seem to grow naturally from these distinctive intervals.  It makes for a very tidy harmonic connection.

Friday night’s program delved into theme music (“Hawaii 5-0,” “Harlem Nocturne”), classic big band snap (“Jump, Jive and Wail”), and soulful instrumentals like Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk.”   “Sleepwalk” is a song that is all about tone and intervals and it was a vehicle for the BSO.  It featured a splendid chord solo and some gorgeous work from Setzer with the vibrato arm of his guitar.  He convincingly summoned up the original’s lap steel vibe on his big ole’ Gretsch and just took off running with it from there.  Just as impressive was the sound of the horns supplying the chord textures to this hauntingly beautiful peace of music.

They also broke out a stable of Stray Cats rockabilly hits ranging from “Rock this Town” to “Fishnet Stockings” and “Runaway Boys.”  Featuring Johnny Hatton on bass and Tommy Pia on streamlined drums, these tunes were performed in stripped down mode at the lip of the stage.   Of course, they couldn’t resist getting the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins,  involved with Stray Cats material…and that’s how we got to see 96 musicians play the “Stray Cat Strut.”

The last song of the evening was a strong cover of Vince Taylor’s “Brand New Cadillac,” a song popularized by the Clash in the ‘80’s on London Calling.  But to hear Brian Setzer and company play it, the tune really sounded like it had been written for them.   Throughout the night it became increasingly obvious that a lot of rock and roll tunes lend themselves well to a big band arrangement. The Brian Setzer Orchestra has carved out a fine niche for themselves making this type of music come alive.

Perhaps because it barely cooled down in the evening the crowd seemed almost muted by the heat. As a result of that heat Setzer didn’t last much past the second tune in his shiny black pinstriped suit coat. It was time to roll up the sleeves and get down to business.  He still wears his hair in a pompadour but it is graying now, not dyed blonde.  He still has a whole lot of pep in his step, and still has the moves and chops of a natural born rock ‘n’ roller… and he’s still playing guitar like a panther.

That the horn players were at times wearing leopard skin blazers, or that there were dancers doing some nicely choreographed ‘50’s rockabilly moves was a formality but it was also icing on the cake for this  rockin’ event.

Photos by Bonnie Perkinson

Picks of the Week: Sept. 11 – 16

September 11, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sarah Chang

– Sept. 11. (Tues.)  Sarah Chang. A gifted child prodigy, violinist Chang has matured into a superb interpretive artist. In this far-reaching program, she performs a suite from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Bramwell Tovey.  Also on the bill – works by Copland and Gershwin.  The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 12. (Wed.)  Dave Matthews Band.  Hollywood Bowl. Twenty years after singer/songwriter/guitarist formed the Band, the Grammy-winning ensemble continues to produce fascinating music – most recently in the just released CD Away From the World.   The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Patrick Berrogain’s Hot Club Combo.  The hard swinging sounds and rhythms of Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz are alive and well in the hands of Berrogain’s Hot Club.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

Itzhak Perlman

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Itzhak Perlman plays Tchaikovsky. The final classical concert of the 2012 Bowl season climaxes, appropriately, with the incomparable Perlman, performing the irresistible Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Bramwell Tovey.  Call it a winning combination.  The Hollywood Bowl.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. “Music and Story” The LACO’s first “Westside Connection” of the new season features writer Mark Salzman in a musical narrative piece describing the way Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 (here performed by Andrew Shulman) relieved his struggles with writers’ block.  The Broad Stage.  (213) 622-7001.

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Sons of Etta.  A celebration of the life and music of the great Etta James.  Featured performers include Thelma Jones, saxophonist/harmonica player Jimmy Z and Donto James – the Grammy-winning son of James and the leader of her Roots Band. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 14. (Fri.)  Sascha’s Bloc Band.  A stirring evening of music tinged with an Eastern European flavor, while reaching out to encompass gypsy jazz, contemporary jazz, flamenco, swing, blues and country.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Fiona Apple

– Sept. 14. (Fri.)  Fiona Apple. The Grammy winning singer/songwriter celebrates the release of The Idler Wheel…, her first album in seven years.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– Sept. 14. (Fri.)  Joe Bagg Organ 4.  Keyboardist Bagg brings some ear-opening new ideas to the traditional organ jazz trio, with the enthusiastic aid of trumpeter Ron Stout, guitarist Jamie Rosenn and drummer Ryan Doyle.  The eminently listenable duo of pianist Jeff Colella and pianist Putter Smith open the evening.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  Brian Setzer OrchestraThe Fireworks Finale.  The Grammy winning rockabilly swingster leads his big band, aided by conductor Thomas Wilkins and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in a glorious, season-topping grand finale.  The Hollywood Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 16. (Sun.)  Phil Norman Tentet.  Swinging West Coast jazz of the ‘50s is alive, well, and completely contemporary in the arrangements and the playing of Norman’s talented Tentet.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

– Sept 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  John Scofield Trio.  Guitarist Scofield’s eclectic musical path has now arrived at a classic musical encounter with a pair of gifted musical associates – bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


Pat Metheny

– Sept. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Pat Metheny Unity Band.  Ever on the lookout for new ideas, guitarist Metheny now finds inspiration in an older instrumentation – the jazz quartet, with the stellar aid of Chris Potter, saxophones, Ben Williams, bass and Antonio Sanchez, drums.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.


– Sept. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mulgrew Miller Trio.  Everybody’s a-list pianist, Miller – active as a musician and an educator – steps into the spotlight to display his invigorating improvisational style.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.


– Sept. 13 & 14. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Joe Lovano “Us Five.”  Saxophonist Lovano’s new band is overflowing with talent: Grammy-winning bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding, pianist James Weidman, and drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown IIIScullers.    (617) 562-4111.

New York

– Sept. 11. (Tues.)  Roz Corral and Judi Silvano.  A pair of the jazz vocal art’s most adventurous practitioners share the stage with equally venturesome accompanists – Alan Broadbent and Boris Kozlov with Corral, and Frank Kimbrough and Ben Allison with Silvano.  Expect to experience some compelling musical surprises.  Cornelia St. Cafe.   (212) 989-9319.

– Sept. 11 – 15.  (Tues. – Sat.)  The Dave Liebman Group. NEA Jazz Master Liebman continues to set the contemporary jazz pace on the soprano saxophone, while adding in some impressive flute and tenor saxophone playing, as well.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Randy Brecker

– Sept. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion.  A revival of one of the jazz world’s great fraternal ensembles, in memory of the incomparable Michael Brecker.  With Randy Brecker, trumpet, Mike Stern, guitar, Rodney Holmes, drums, Ada Rovati, saxophone, George Whitty, keyboards, Will Lee, bass and Oli Rockberger, vocals and keyboards.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Sept. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Oliver Lake.  The veteran alto saxophonist performs in three very different musical settings.  On Thurs. with the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet; on Fri. with the Oliver Lake Big Band; on Sat. and Sun. with the Oliver Lake Trio (with Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille and speial guest Geri Allen).  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.


Frank Sinatra Jr.

– Sept. 13 – 15. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Frank Sinatra, Jr.  The entertainment world is filled with Sinatra tributes and imitators.  But no one comes closer to the original than #1 son, Frank Sinatra, Jr.  Hearing his familiar vocal timbre and well-crafted phrasing in the Sinatra classics is an experience to remember.  Ronnie Scott’s.     (0) 20 7539 0747.


– Sept. 12. (Wed.)  Benny Golson. Saxophonist Golson has composed some memorable jazz classics, among them “I Remember Clifford,” “Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” “Along Came Betty” and more.  Here’s a chance to hear them from the originator. The Blue Note Milano.  02.69016888.


– Sept. 11 &o 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  Joe Sample.  Keyboardist and one of the founders of the Jazz Crusaders, performs selections from his new album, Creole Joe Band.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Aug. 14 – 19

August 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Aug. 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.) Michael Jackson the Immortal World TourCirque du Soleil.  The music and lyrics of Michael Jackson are the foundation for a show that “immerses audiences in Michael’s creative world and literally turns his signature moves upside down,” performed by the incomparable artists of Cirque du Soleil.   Staples Center.   (213) 742-7100.

– Aug. 15. (Wed.)  Joe Cocker and Huey Lewis & The News.  A pair of still vitally active rock icons whose music reaches from the ‘60s to the present make for a rare evening of engaging musical memorabilia.  Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– Aug. 15. (Wed.)  Ron Kalina Trio. He’s a virtuoso jazz harmonica player who also doubles on piano, with a resume including recordings with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Joe Williams, Anita O’Day and dozens of others. Hear him in action, backed by guitarist Barry Zweig, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kendall KayVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

Eddie Palmieri

– Aug. 15. (Wed.)  Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Blades.  A pair of legendary Latin jazz and salsa giants share the stage on a Wednesday jazz night at the Bowl, demonstrating first hand the exciting linkages between jazz and Latin dance rhythms. Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 15 – 18. (Wed. – Sat.)  Terence Blanchard Quintet. Critically praised trumpeter Blanchard takes a break from his busy schedule as a film composer, Artistic Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute and Director of the Henry Mancini Institute, to lead his Grammy-winning jazz group.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Aug. 16. (Thurs.)  De Temps Antan.  The Quebecois ensemble makes its West Coast debut, performing the traditional songs of French Canada.  Skirball Center.     (310) 440-4500.

– Aug. 17. (Fri.)  Wolff & Clark Expedition.  Pianist Michael Wolff’s credits reach from Cannoball Adderley. Sonny Rollins and others to a stint as the bandleader on the Arsenio Hall Show.  He’s backed by the stellar rhythm team of drummer Mike Clark and bassist Brian BrombergVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Aug. 17 & 18. (Fri. & Sat.)  Juanes with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.  Multiple Latin Grammy winning singer/songwriter/guitarist Juanes performs with the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, the Cal Voce Singers and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins.  And with fireworks, too.  Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

Sara Gazarek

– Aug. 18 & 19. (Sat. & Sun.)  Sara Gazarek.  At a time when jazz singers are arriving in waves, Gazarek is one of the rare few whose remarkable potential is apparent in everything she sings.  She celebrates her new album, Blossom & Bee with special guest keyboardist Larry Goldings and the backing of pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Zach Harmon Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Aug. 19. (Sun.)  Gerald Wilson Big Band.  Well into his nineties, Wilson remains one of the iconic figures of big band jazz.  And watching him in action with hits all-star group is one of the pleasures of experiencing live jazz.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Aug. 19. (Sun.)  Dudamel and Domingo.  The Hollywood Bowl’s pairing of charismatic classical music figures continues with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic joining for the first time with the great tenor Placido DomingoHollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Benny Green

– Aug. 16. (Thurs.)  The Benny Green Trio.  A jazz professional as a teen-ager, pianist Green’s career has been expanding ever since, establishing him as one of the most imaginative and listenable players of his generation.  He’s backed by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny WashingtonYoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


– Aug. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Karrin Allyson. Grammy nominated singer-pianist Allyson brings rich layers musicality to everything she sings or plays.  Hopefully she’ll include some selections from her latest album, ‘Round Midnight.   Jazz Alley.    (201) 441-9729.


– Aug. 18. (Sat.)  Kenny Werner. Pianist Werner’s versatility – he is as adept at backing singers as he is at straight ahead jazz playing – no doubt traces to the mind-body techniques explored in his thoughtful book on improvisation, Effortless Mastery.  Regatta Bar.   (617) 661-5000.

New York

John Abercrombie

– Aug. 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  The John Abercrombie Quartet.  Always seeking adventurous new jazz combinations, Abercrombie’s latest group features saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Drew Gess and drummer Adam NussbaumBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– Aug. 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  Enfants Terribles.  Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Gary Peacock and Joey Baron. A stellar array of world-class jazz players celebrate their new CD, Enfants Terribles. The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Aug. 16 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Tierney Sutton Band.  Singer Sutton has been working with her band for nearly two decades, and the results are apparent in the extraordinary music they make together.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2561.


– Aug. 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  Roy Ayers. Vibraphonist Ayers has been, and continues to be, a pioneer in blending jazz with Afro-beat, funk and hip hop.  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.


Aug. 14 & 15.  Joyce.  Brazilian singer/songwriter/guitarist Joyce Moreno has been blending jazz with bossa nova since the late ‘60s.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Eddie Palmieri photo by Tony Gieske. 


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