Live Jazz: Janis Siegel at Vitello’s

January 17, 2014

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA. Taking a break from her full time job with the Manhattan Transfer, Janis Siegel made one of her rare solo appearances Tuesday night before a full house crowd at Vitello’s. And the result was an extraordinary display of her irresistibly appealing musicality. By the time her performance had wound to a close, she had delivered a set of far-ranging songs demanding an array of unique interpretive skills.

Janis Siegel

Janis Siegel

Given the demands of singing the Transfer’s rich repertoire, it’s no surprise that Siegel chose a diverse program of works that would have challenged any singer. But the key point was not what she did, but how she did it.

Among the numerous highlights in a performance superbly backed by the stellar trio of pianist John Di Martino, bassist Boris Koslov and drummer Steve Haas:

– A gorgeously expressive reading of Billy Strayhorn’s classic “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing.

– The sophisticated musical pleasures of Ann Hampton Callaway’s original tune, “Slow.”

– Antonio Carlos Jobim’s memorable bossa nova,” Inutil Paisagem” (“Useless Landscape,”) with bassist Koslov managing to produce guitar-like bossa rhythms on his instrument.

– A number that was introduced by Siegel as a “Bach Improvisation.” And it began with Siegel scatting a convincingly Baroque-sounding set of inventions that were soon transformed into Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring.”

– Fred Hersch’s lovely ballad, “Endless Stars,” sung with captivatingly intimate lyricism.

– A delightfully rhythmic romp through “Minnie the Moocher.”

And there was more: a Cuban bolero; a song written by Siegel and David Sanborn; and a Norwegian song about imperfection.

Add to that the presence of a pair of impressive guest artists. First, the songwriter/producer Leon Ware came out of the audience to share a duet on “A Whole Lotta Man.”

Janis Siegel and TIerney Sutton

Janis Siegel and TIerney Sutton

But the second guest artist, singer Tierney Sutton, got together with Siegel for one of the major highlights of this, or any other, night at Vitello’s. They only sang a single number – “You Don’t Know What Love Is” – but it was a spontaneous, duet performance, filled with stunning, interactive passages that will surely be remembered by every enthusiastic member of the audience.

In my reviews of a pair of Siegel appearances that took place over the past couple of years, I wrapped both with an expression of my desire to hear her more frequently in a solo setting reaching beyond her stunning work with the Transfer. So, too, for this review. And I’ll wind it up with more hope that Siegel will gift her many fans with more frequent opportunities to hear her in solo action.

 * * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: Feb. 6 – 12

February 6, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Feb. 7. (Tues.)  Misha Piatigorsky and Sketchy Black Dog.  Winner of the 2004 Thelonious Monk Composers’ Competition, Piatigorsky applies his adventurous composition and piano playing skills within the offbeat string quartet sounds of the Sketchy Black Dog. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 7. (Tues.)  Guitar NightJohn Pisano and Barry Zweig.  The two veteran guitarists share a birthday celebration with a typical evening of Guitar night jamming. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Feb. 7. (Tues.)  Joshua Bell in Concert.  Versatile violinist Bell applies his rich interpretive skills to a program of Mendlssohn, Brahms, Ravel, Ysaye and Gershwin.  Pianist Sam Haywood accompanies.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

Janis Siegel

– Feb. 9. (Thurs.)  Janis Siegel with the Elliot Deutsch Big Band“Love: Swinging From the Heart.”  The Manhattan Transfer’s eclectic singer takes a break from quartet life for an evening of love songs with Deutsch’s briskly swinging young band.  Old Town Temecula Community Theatre.    (866) 653-8696.

– Feb. 10. (Fri..)  Pete Christlieb.  Every bandleader loves to have tenor saxophonist Christlieb on stage with him (or her), knowing that – whatever the music demands – Christlieb will deliver it in world class style.  Here’s a chance to hear him up front, doing his own thing.  Expect the best.  He’ll be backed by the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 10. (Fri.)  Hugh Masekela. South African trumpeter and human rights activist Masekela and his South African band survey his far reaching career – from “Grazing in the Grass” to straight ahead jazz and Afro-pop. Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.    (310) 825-2101.

– Feb. 10. (Fri.)  The Glendale Pops Orchestra with Kenny Loggins.  “This Is Romance.” Hitmaker and pop superstar Loggins has been producing soft rock romantic tunes since the ’70s, and he’s still going strong.  He’ll be singing some of his classics with the Glendale Pops as the perfect lead-in to Valentine’s day.  Matt Catingub conducts.  The Glendale Pops Orchestra at the Alex Theatre.  (818) 552-2787.

– Feb. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.) and Feb. 16. – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  The warm and fuzzy baritone of Steve Tyrell can always be counted on to add the right romantic touch to an evening of songs for Valentine’s Day.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Jaye Maynard’s Blossom Dearie Songbook. Maynard explores the delightfully whimsical material favored by the one and only Dearie, without falling into the trap of imitating her inimitable singing style.  1 p.m. matinee show.  Also Mon., Feb. 13.  8 p.m.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Judy Collins

– Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Judy Collins. It’s been more than four decades since Grammy winning Collins was first thrilling boomers with songs such as “Both Sides Now,” “Someday Soon,” “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” and much more.  At 72, she continues to bring new life to everything she sings. Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

– Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Inner Voices Valentine Show. The Southland’s primo vocal collective brings their lush harmonies and soaring solos to a program of holiday-appropriate love songs. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Pasatono Orquesta.  The first concert in this year’s “Sounds of L.A.” series showcases the indigenous music of Mexico performed on hand-crafted instruments.  The Getty Center. (310) 440-7300.

Ravi Coltrane

– Feb. 11. (Sat.)  Christian McBride Trio and Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Two of the contemporary jazz scene’s most gifted artists share the Royce Hall stage, as well as their individual quests to explore new jazz territories. Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.    (310) 825-2101.

– Feb. 12 (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale. The LAMC take on a pair of compelling choral works: Bruckner’s lush textured Mass in E minor, performed with a wind orchestra, and Stravinsky’s three-movement, neo-classical Symphony of the Psalms.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Feb. 12. (Sun.)  Marian Petrescu. Bucharest-born pianist Petrescu brings astonishing technical virtuosity to a jazz style blending mainstream elements with a free flying, fiercely rhythmic improvisational inventiveness. Pierre’s Fine Pianos.  (310) 247-0331.    

– Feb. 12. (Sun.)  Moscow Festival Ballet. Founded in 1989 by Bolshoi Ballet dancer Sergei Radchenko, the Moscow Festival Ballet offers their own version of the magical fairy tale, Cinderella.   Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.     (562) 916-8501.

San Francisco

– Feb. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  “Valentine’s Weekend.” The Transfer offer their richly harmonized versions of songs for the holiday. Singer Margaret Dorn steps in for Cheryl Bentyne, who is recovering from a serious illness. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


– Feb. 11. (Sat.)  The Jacky Terrasson Trio.    Born in Berlin to an American mother and a French father, pianist Terrasson has thoroughly established himself as a world-class jazz artist.  In his first Florida appearance he’s backed by the sturdy swing of bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams The Miniaci Performing Arts Center.  (954) 462-0222.


– Feb. 10 – 12 (Fri. – Sun.)  Jerry “The Iceman” Butler. One of the original Impressions, Butler – and his smooth baritone — followed up with a string of solo hits. At 72, he’s still going strong, while also serving as a Cook County Board Commissioner.  Blues Alley.    (202) 237-4141.

New York

Roy Hargrove

– Feb. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.)  Roy Hargrove Big Band with Special Guest Roberta Gambarini.  After a string of performances with his quintet, trumpeter Hargrove is back in front of his dynamic big band.  But many of the high points will also be provided by the superb jazz singing of Gambarini.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Feb. 9 – 12.  (Thurs. – Sun.) Benny Golson.  He’s written some of the great jazz standards, but tenor saxophonist Golson also has a lot to say through his horn.  Don’t miss this rare club appearance.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

– Feb. 10. (Fri.)  The American Symphony OrchestraOrientalism in France”  The ASO takes a close look at the impact that the music of Asia had upon French composers of the late 19th and early 20th cenuries.  The program includes works by Saint-Saens, Franck, Delage, Ravel and Bizet’s rarely heard one act opera, Djamileh. Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, Perelman Stage.   (212) 247-7800.


– Feb. 8 & 9. (Tues. & Wed.)  Gilad Atzmon“The Music of Charlie Parker.”  Alto saxophonist Atzmon takes on some of the familiar Parker works, including pieces from the classic Bird with Strings recordings.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


– Feb. 10. (Fri.)  Gwilym Simcock.  Although he is best known in the U.K., Welsh jazz 30 year old Simcock is one of the most innovative pianists of his generation, applying many of his classical skills to his improvisational excursions.  He performs here on solo piano.   A-Trane.  030/313 25 50


Billy Cobham

– Feb. 9 – 11. (Thurs. – Sat.)  The Billy Cobham Band. Fusion, crossover, whatever one chooses to call it, drummer Cobham is one of the master chefs of the mixed musical stew of jazz, pop, rock and beyond. Blue Note Milano.


Feb. 11 & 12. (Sat. & Sun.)  Take 6. The six a cappella singers of Take 6 have taken every element in the history of jazz vocal ensembles, added their own unique talents and created the best new jazz ensemble singing of the 21st century. Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Janis Siegel photo by Bob Barry.

Live Jazz: Janis Siegel at Vitello’s

September 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Janis Siegel was back at Vitello’s Friday night, a little more than a year since her last gig at the Studio City jazz spot.  And it was a welcome return.  Although her extraordinary vocal skills have been on display for decades with the Manhattan Transfer, her solo performances have been rare – too rare.

She was backed – as she was a year ago – by the flawless support of pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Steve Hass, offering a set of tunes that mixed familiar standards with lesser known, but always compelling material.  The choices were the selections of an ever-curious creative imagination, searching for songs that allowed full rein to her superb interpretive skills.

Siegel opened, for example, with Lorraine Feather’s wryly humorous “I Know the Way to Brooklyn.”  The result was win-win: an opportunity for Siegel to display her sardonic side; and a message to listeners to check out more songs from Feather’s delightful catalog of works.

Another, similarly offbeat selection – “A Small Day Tomorrow” – came from the inimitable Bob Dorough.  And the bruised mercies of Susan Werner’s “I Can’t Be New” was an additional example of Siegel’s ability to find and interpret unusual material from seemingly unlikely sources.  Then, with perfect programming timing, she followed with the classic “This Is New” by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin.

Siegel’s equally admirable capacity to find the heart of a standard was on full display with “I Hear Music” – done in unusual fashion as a sultry ballad – and a pair of equally familiar items, “Close Your Eyes” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” performed with the sole accompaniment of Oles’ rich and supple bass sounds.

As if that collection of atmospheric readings wasn’t enough, Siegel also slipped on her scat singing cap from time to time, most notably with “Jeepers Creepers,” a groove-driven “The Man I Love” and a trumpet simulation on “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You.”  And, for once, it was a pleasure to hear a vocalist improvising inventive, swinging scat lines that actually charted the harmonies of a tune, rather than simply skimming the white notes.

Impressive, all of it.  The work of someone who brings so much mastery of craft to everything she sings, that her expressive spotlight can focus, unerringly, upon the music itself.  Like last year’s performance, this was a memorable event.  Let’s hope that another year doesn’t have to pass before Siegel returns with a mesmerizing,  new evening of song for Southland jazz fans.

To check out the iRoM review of Janis Siegel’s 2010 appearance at Vitello’s click HERE.

Picks of the Week: Jan. 18 – 23

January 18, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Jan. 18. (Tues.)  John Pisano Guitar Night.  With Larry Koonse and Tom Warrington.  Koonse is everybody’s first call guitarist.  Here’s a too rare chance to hear him in the spotlight.  Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

– Jan. 18. (Tues.)  Theo Saunders Quartet. Pianist Saunders has a resume with activities covering every area of the music world.  This time out, he leads his own group. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– Jan. 18. (Tues.)  The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.  One of the Southland’s superlative large jazz ensembles, the Grammy nominated CHJO makes an up close club appearance. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

A Chorus Line

– Jan. 18 – 23. (Tues. – Sat.)  A Chorus Line.  Winner of nine Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize, A Chorus Line, with its memorable music and stellar dancing, should be seen by everyone who loves the musical theatre.  Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (805) 449-2700.     Also Jan. 28 – 30 at  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

– Jan. 19. (Wed.)  L’Arpeggiata.  The highly praised French early music ensemble are joined by singer Lucilla Galeazzi, and directed by Christina Pluhar in a program of engaging Baroque classics. Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

– Jan. 19. (Wed.) Emil Richards Big Band.  Vibist/percussionist has displayed his extraordinary skills with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zeppo.  This time out he leads his own big bandful of Southland musical stalwarts.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Jan. 20. (Thurs.)  David Garfield Group.  With Luis Conte and Emil Richards.  A trio of L.A.’s best studio artists – pianist Garfield, percussionist Conte and vibist Richards join forces in an evening of dynamic rhythm tunes.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Kenny Burrell

– Jan. 20 – 22. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Kenny Burrell Quintet. One of the gifted products of Detroit’s prolific jazz sceme, guitarist/educator Burrell continues – as he has done for decades – to create delightfully memorable evenings of jazz.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Jan. 21. (Fri.)  Brad Mehldau’s Highway Rider with Chamber Orchestra and jazz ensemble.  Composer-pianist Mehldau performs an in-concert version of the music from his new 2-CD set, Highway Rider — a through-composed work opening up the possibilities in a musical setting replete with jazz improvisation, classical chamber music textures and pop melodies.  He’s accompanied by the all-star ensemble of  Joshua Redman, Larry Grenadier, Jeff Ballard and Matt Chamberlain.  Scott Yoo conducts the Chamber Orchestra.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

– Jan. 21.  (Fri.)  Kristin Korb. She sings, she plays the bass, she entertains, and does it all with the sort of entertaining flair that demands attention in everything she does.  Steamers.   (714) 871-8800.

Al Jarreau

– Jan. 21. (Fri.) Al Jarreau.  He’s such an impressive entertainer that it’s easy to overlook the extraordinary depth of his jazz skills.  Back on track after some health problems, Jarreau is one of a kind, as good as the vocal art ever gets. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8501.

– Jan. 21. (Fri.)  Patrick Williams Big Band “Aurora.” A week filled with big band music continues with Williams’ “Aurora,” featuring a line-up of  L.A.’s (and the world’s) most extraordinary players.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Jan. 21. (Fri.)  Suzanne Vega. The folk music revival of the ‘80s wouldn’t have been the same without singer/songwriter Vega, whose music still simmers with cool, but telling emotional atmosphere.  Irvine Barclay Theatre.   (949) 854-4646.

– Jan. 22. (Sat.)  Roberta Flack.  Multiple Grammy winning Flack was named one of VH-1’s “100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll.”  But her rich sound and tender interpretations reach into expressive territories far beyond the world of rock.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

Jack Sheldon

– Jan. 22. (Sun.)  Jack Sheldon California Cool Quartet. Some cool trumpet playing, appealing vocals and bawdy humor are on the music menu for this week’s jazz brunch. Helen Borgers hosts.  KJAZZ Sunday Champagne Brunch.  The Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood \Hotel.  (562) 985-2999.

– Jan. 23. (Sun.)  Jazz Vespers with Bob Mintzer and Russell Ferrante. Saxophonist Mintzer and pianist Ferrante, founding members of the Yellowjackets, team up for the January Jazz Vespers.  All Saints Church, Pasadena.

– Jan. 23. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. A dramatic evening of music with Ignat Solzhenitsyn conducting the LACO in a performance of Lutoslawski’s Musique Funebre, Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 (“Drum roll”) and performing the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20. Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

San Francisco

– Jan. 18 & 19. (Tues. & Wed.)  Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  The Grammy winning South African a cappella group’s music brilliantly displays the deep African linkage between music and dance.  Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

– Jan. 19 – 22. (Wed. – Sat.)  Roy Hargrove Quintet.  Trumpeter Hargrove takes a break from his big band activities to perform in the wide open improvisationa setting of his small group.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York

Lauren Kinhan, Janis Siegel, Laurel Masse

– Jan. 18. (Tues.) JALALA.  Three of the most musically adept female singers in the music world – Lauren Kinhan, Laurel Masse and Janis Siegel get together to display their wares in a harmonious vocal setting.  The Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 090-9319.

– Jan. 18 & 19. (Tues. & Wed.)  Blood, Sweat & Tears with Arturo Sandoval. The ultimate jazz rock band joins forces with the master of Latin jazz.  Expect musical fireworks. The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Jan. 18 – 22. (Tues.- Sat.)  David Murray Big Band.  Saxophonist Murray, a Grammy winner and a Guggenheim Fellow, applies some of the techniques he learned as a major avant-garde figure to the rich textures of a large ensemble.  Birdland. (2120 581-3080.

– Jan. 18 – 23. (Tues. – Sun.)  Lewis Nash Quintet.  Drummer Nash leads a stellar ensemble, with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, vibist Steve Wilson, pianist Renee Rosnes and bassist Peter WashingtonVillage Vanguard (212) 929-4589.

– Jan. 18 – 23. (Tues. – Sun.)  Marcus Roberts Trio.  The piano trio continues to be one of the jazz world’s ever-evolving ensemble styles.  And pianist Roberts, with drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Rodney Jordan, has perfected his own unique approach to the instrumentation. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

– Jan. 23. (Sun.)  Jane Ira Bloom.  Soprano saxophone master Bloom celebrates the release of her fascinating new CD, WingwalkerThe Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 090-9319.

Kenny Burrell and Jack Sheldon photos by Tony Gieske.

Live Jazz: Janis Siegel at Vitello’s

September 11, 2010

By Don Heckman

If you want to start a lengthy argument between two jazz fans, just ask them to offer their definition of jazz singing.  And be prepared to be a referee.

But it’s a fair bet that both those hard headed adversaries – had they been at Vitello’s on Friday night — would have found nothing at all to dispute in the performance of Janis Siegel, making a rare solo appearance away from her long term employment with The Manhattan Transfer.  Performing with pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Steve Haas, Siegel could do no wrong, whether she was singing a Johnny Mercer standard, an Andy Razaf jump tune, or some poetry by Emily Dickinson set to contemporary song.

It’s no news that Siegel has a remarkable vocal instrument, that her sense of time and phrasing are superb, or that every note she sings is delivered with impeccable musicality.  Nearly four decades with the Transfer have both demanded those attributes and given her the opportunity to hone them into essential aspects of her style.

Musical attributes are one thing, however, and what one does with them is something else.  Siegel thoroughly affirmed her mastery of groove-driven tunes with her opening version of “Day By Day” following with equally body-moving takes on  “The Man I Love” and “Lover.”  She sang “Midnight Sun” exquisitely, savoring Johnny Mercer’s remarkable lyrics in her intimate musical storytelling.  Shifting gears, she added Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” singing its first person story into a tale told from a feminine perspective.

Siegel did all this from what could inarguably be described as an imaginative jazz perspective.  When she scatted, she did so in complete sync with a song’s moving harmonies (a skill too rarely heard among many singers); when she sang a ballad, her phrasing honored the linkage between melody, lyrics and story.  And, perhaps most intriguing of all, she often improvised in paraphrase fashion, spontaneously inventing melodies, words and rhythms (another rare skill among jazz vocalists).

Give credit to Pasqua, Oles and Haas for providing the musical chariot to carry Siegel through her creative adventures: Pasqua for his rich, empathic clusters of sound; Oles for his always dependable foundation and intimate soloing; and Haas for combining surging rhythms with colorful layers of percussive sound.

By the time Siegel had wrapped her set, any questions regarding the definition of jazz singing had become irrelevant.  As Duke Ellington once said, “There’s only two kinds of music, the good kind and the other kind.”  In Janis Siegel’s performance it was all the former.

Photos by Bob Barry.  To see more of Bob’s photos at his personal site,, click HERE.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 7 – 12

September 7, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Tierney Sutton

– Sept. 7. (Tues.)  Chris Walden’s Big Band with Tierney Sutton.  The combination of Walden’s well-crafted arrangements, a band full of L.A.’s finest players, and the superb musicality of Sutton’s vocals should make for a memorable, entertaining  evening.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 9. (Thurs.) Music of the Dance. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, explores music created for the dance stage, including Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. The evening’s special event features the Diavolo Dance Theatre in a newly commissioned work set to John Adams’ Fearful SymmetriesThe Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 9. (Thurs.)  Salaam Ensemble.   Music of the Near and Middle East is the specialty of the Salaam players, who bring authenticity to their rendering of selections from Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Armenian traditions.  Levitt Pavilion.  Free concert in MacArthur Park.  (213) 384-5701.

– Sept. 9. (Thurs.)  Phil Norman Tentet.  It’s West Coast cool jazz revisited in the contemporary setting of Norman’s stellar Tentet.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– Sept. 9. (Thurs.)  Bruce Babad’s Jazz Cadre.  Alto saxophonist Babad, a first call sideman, steps into the spotlight as a leader, backed by Joe Bagg, piano, Dr. Joe Jewell, guitar, Roger Shew, bass, Matt Johnson, drums.  Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

– Sept. 10. (Fri.) Sheryl Crow.   Nine-time Grammy award winner Crow leads a new band in a performance showcasing 100 Miles From Memphis, her new, eighth top-ten album.  Also on the bill, singer-songwriter Colbie CaillatThe Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-3125.

Maria de Barros

– Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Maria de Barros.  Although she’s often associated with the morna songs of Cape Verde, de Barros’ musical versatility and charismatic stage presence are the qualities of a world class performer.  Don’t miss this one – it’s one of the bargains of the week.  The Levitt Pavilion.  A free concert in MacArthur Park.   l (213) 384-5701.

– Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Janis Siegel. The Manhattan Transfer’s Siegel makes a rare, solo night club appearance.  Superb as an ensemble singer, she’s equally entrancing in her own unique musical persona. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Dave Pell & Med Flory Jazz Quintet. Two of the Southland’s finest veteran jazz saxophonists display their wares.  Expect a combination of musical fun and fireworks. The Backroom at Henri’s (818) 348-5582.

– Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Richie Cole & Alto Madness.  Bebop lives in Cole’s energized alto saxophone, backed by a sextet that somehow manages to produce the drive and the power of a big jazz band.  The Culver Club at the Radisson.   (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

Les McCann

– Sept. 10. (Fri.)  Les McCann with the Javon Jackson Quintet.  Iconic jazz pianist McCann receives the 2nd “LA Jazz Treasure” award. Hopefully he’ll also perform a few of his classics with the Jackson Quintet. LACMA.   (323) 857-6000.

– Sept. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.)  Freda Payne.  She brings a stage to life no matter what she’s singing, but she’ll undoubtedly be even more vibrant when she gives her own musical spin to songs associated with Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

– Sept. 10 – 12. (Fri. – Sun.)  Pink Martini.  The Fireworks Finale of the 2010 Hollywood Bowl season features the eclectic stylings of Oregon’s entertaining Pink Martini.  Accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins, the program will no doubt range from French chanson and Argentine Tango to meringue, bolero and Pink Martini’s own version of vintage lounge.  Also on the bill, singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright.   The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 11. (Sat.)  Don Preston Tribute Concert. A collection of adventurous players – from LA. And beyond – celebrate the life and music of keyboardist Preston.  Among the participants: Tony Levin, Roberto Miranda, Putter Smith, Bobby Bradford, Alex Cline, Bunk Gardener, Vinnie GoliaSouth Pasadena Music Center and Conservatory.  (626) 403-2300.  

– Sept. 12. (Sun.)  Jacqui Naylor.  Her engaging vocals slip and slide easily across boundaries, bringing imagination and emotion to jazz, pop, folk and all stops in between.    Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 12. (Sun.)  Opera & Broadway Gala“Music of the Night.” It’ll be a grand banquet of songs, from favorite arias to some of the most celebrated musical theatre melodies.  Featuring soprano Demetra George and tenor Eduardo Villa with Music Director Frank Fetta. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 12. (Sun.)  5th Annual Brazilian Day in L.A.  A celebration of everything Brazilian – which is a lot, embracing art, dance, music, cuisine and much more.  Performers include the samba funk group Muamba, singer Renni Flores and the samba/pagode band Sambajah.  The gardens of the Page Museum.  Free.  5th Annual Brazil Day.

San Francisco

Issac Delgado

– Sept. 10 – 12 (Fri. – Sun.)  Issac Delgado with Freddy Cole.  It’s an unusual but intriguing combination: a live presentation of a new album from Cuba’s superstar Delgado recreating – with Cole’s aid – 12 Spanish songs originally sung by Nat “King” Cole.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New York

– Sept. 7 – 11. (Tues. – Sat.)  Steve Kuhn, Dave Liebman, Steve Swallow, Billy Drummond.  Four great jazz veterans, all still at their peak performance levels, bringing the wisdom of experience to everything they play. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

– Sept. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Count Basie Orchestra .  The hits will just keep coming from this current installation of the Basie ensemble.  Their performance at the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks ago affirmed the vitality of their dedication to the classic Basie canon. ( Click HERE to see a review of that performance.)  Special guest, Ledisi, will fill in the vocal chores.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Picks of the Week: September 1 – 6

August 31, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Sept. 1. (Tues.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall. Trumpeter Alpert and vocalist Hall discuss their remarkable careers (individually and as a couple) and offer a few of the new slants on standards that make up the program in their impressive new live CD, “Anything Goes.” Grammy Museum.

Tessa souter new– Sept. 1 & 2. (Tues. & Wed.) Tessa Souter. She’s not out on the West Coast very often, so fans of world class jazz vocalizing shouldn’t miss this opportunity to hear Souter’s unique ability to find new musical pleasures in familiar songs. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 2. (Wed.) Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke & Lenny White. Chaka Khan, Jean Luc Ponty, Bill Connors. John Scofield and the Piety Street Band. Corea leads a trio that represents 3/4 of Return To Forever, but with a very different musical perspective. Khan, Ponty, Connors and Scofield add more diversity to one of the summer jazz series most intriguing events. The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 3. (Thurs.) An Evening with Patti Smith. The Twilight Dance Series at the Santa Monica Pier closes the 2009 season with an appearance by the pioneer poet of punk. Twilight Dance Series.  (310) 458-8901.


– Sept. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.) The 15th Annual West Coast Jazz Party. It’s always one of the don’t-miss musical events of the year, and this year is no exception. From the various indoor and outdoor venues at the Irvine Marriott to the delightful Sunday jazz cruise on the Hornblower Yacht Entertainer, it’s a great TWerry Gibbsway to spend a holiday weekend. Featured performers include Ken Peplowski, the Four Freshmen and Five Trombones, Terry Gibbs, Ernie Andrews, Houston Person, Gary Foster, Peter Erskine, Larry Koonse, Tom Rainier, Byron Stripling, Paul Smith, Marilyn Maye, the Frank Capp Juggernaut Orchestra, and such special events as a Guitar Summitt (w. Mundell Lowe, Mimi Fox and Ron Eschete) and a Tribute to Rosemary Clooney with Debby Boone, Irvine Marriott Hotel and the Hornblower Yacht Entertainer. West Coast Jazz party. (949) 759-5003.

– Sept. 4 – 7. (Fri. – Mon.) The Sweet & Hot Music Festival. And here’s another Banu Gibsondon’t-miss holiday weekend jazz party. The title is right on target — tons of New Orleans, Swing, Mainstream and Straight Ahead jazz presented via virtually non-stop music in eight different venues. The performers include Yves Evans, Jack Sheldon, Gonzalo Bergara, Jennifer Leitham, Herb Jeffries, Banu Gibson, Night Blooming Jazzmen and Janet Klein (with many others), as well as as “Tribute to the King Sisters” (w. Marilyn King), “Prez Conference”, and “Tribute to Johnny Mandel,” plus nightly Midnight Jazz sets.   Too bad the West Coast Jazz Party and the Sweet & Hot Music Festival can’t scedule their equally fascinating productions on consecutive weekends.  The L.A.X. Marriott Hotel. Sweet & Hot Music Festival.   (909) 983-0106.Gina Saputo

– Sept. 4. (Fri.) Gina Saputo. In a crowded field of young female jazz singers, Saputo’s soaring vocals and rhythmic lift suggest that she’s ready to step up from the pack. Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

– Sept. 4. (Fri.) Denise Donatelli. A warm, seductive sound, the instincts of a true story teller, and the kind of swinging phrasing that stamps her as a true jazz artist — Donatelli’s the real deal. And no better place to hear her than in the laid back vibe of the Southland’s ultimate jazz bar and restaurant. Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058

– Sept. 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun.) Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory. One of the most unusual bookings of this or any other season. But a jazz club’s the right place for them — Sahl and Gregory work with the sort of improvisatory spontaneity and rhythmic propulsion that are essential to the finest jazz. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.


– Sept. 6 – 7. (Sun. & Mon.) Angel City Jazz Festival. The second installment of this Billy Childsadventurous Festival now takes place in the airy outdoor setting of the Ford Amphitheatre. And the line-up is an impressive collection of some of the contemporary jazz world’s most cutting edge artists and ensembles. The line up includes Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy, Bennie Maupin and Dolphyana, Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble, Alex Cline’s Band of the Moment, Larry Goldings Trio, Wayne Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet. Larry Karush, Dwight Trible, Satoko Fuji and more. Ford Amphitheatre. Angel City Jazz Festival. (323) 461-3673.

San Diego

– Sept. 3. (Thurs.) Alponse Mouzon. Drummer Mouzon leads his Jazz Project (with Eric Marienthal, Byron Miller, Dean Brown and John Beasley) in a benefit concert for Doctors Without Borders. Anthology Club & Restaurant. (618) 595-0300.

San Francisco

– Sept. 3 & 4.. (Thurs. & Fri.) The Blind Boys of Alabama. The multiple Grammy winn ers continue to be one a gospel act that never fails to bring soulful enlightenment to everything they sing. Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.


– Sept. 3. (Thurs.) Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Jon Faddis leads this always-compelling repertory ensemble in a tribute celebrating the Benny Goodman Centennial. Guest artist is Buddy DeFranco. the clarinetist who took the instrument from Goodman’s swing into the realm of bebop. Pritzker Pavilion, Millenium Park, Chicago.


– Sept. 4 – 7. (Fri. – Mon.) Detroit International Jazz Festival. Detroit’s often minimized reputation as a long-time center for world class jazz is affirmed in the superlative line-up for this year’s festival. One of the featured elements is the inclusion of jazz families: Hank Jones, remembering Thad and Elvin; the Clayton brothers; Dave Brubeck and Brubeck brothers;sheila-jordan John and Bucky Pizzarelli; Larry and Julian Coryell; the Heath brothers; Pete and Juan Escovedo; Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express; and T.S. Monk with “Monk on Monk.” But there’s much more — Wayne Shorter, Sheila Jordan, Chick Corea, Stefon Harris, Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gretchen Parlato, Bennie Maupin, Alfredo Rodriguez, Charles McPherson, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Geri Allen, Janis Siegel and others. The Detroit Jazz Festival.

New York

– Sept. 1 – 5. (Sat.) John Surman Quartet. With Jack DeJohnette, drums, Drew Gess, bass, John Abercrombie, guitar. Surman’s duo performances with DeJohnette have been extraordinary experiences. The addition of Gess and Abercrombie should make the encounters even more fascinating. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080

– Sept. 1 – 6. (Tues. – Sun.) Kenny Werner Quintet. Here’s an all-star ensemble if there ever was one: Randy Brecker, David Sanchez, Scott Colley and Antonio Sanchez, no doubt proving Werner’s principles about the value of spontaneity. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592

– Sept. 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun.) Dr. Lonnie Smith. It’s always a blues and jazz organ bonanza when Dr. Lonnie plays. But it’ll be even better this time, with the backing he’ll get from guitarist Dave Stryker and drummer Bill Stewart. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232

– Sept. 5. (Sat.) Roberta Piket. “Improvised Chamber Music” is what pianist Piket calls her music, careful to avoid any genre limitations. She performs with veteran avant-gardist Perry Robinson on clarinet, Lisle Ellis, bass and Peter Nilson, drums. Ibeam. Brooklyn.


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