Picks of the Week: Oct. 24 – 30

October 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Goran Bregovic

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

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

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

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

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

Inga Swearingen

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

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

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

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

Tinariwen

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

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

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

San Francisco

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

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

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

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

Chicago

Russell Malone

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

New York

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

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

Boston

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

Berlin

THeo Bleckmann

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

London

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


Picks of the Week: May 24 – 29

May 24, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Gene Harris

- May 24. (Tues.)  A Tribute to Gene Harris.  This is as close as live music gets to the irresistible sounds of the late Gene Harris’   Quartet.  Pianist Bradley Young takes the lead role, backed by a trio of alumni from the original Harris ensemble – Luther Hughes, bass, Paul Kreibich, drums, Frank Potenza, guitar.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- May 24 – 29. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Royal Danish Ballet. With a history dating back to 1748, the company has longevity and maturity on it side, whether performing classics or new works.  Program I (Tues. & Wed.) features new works by Nordic choreographers.  Program II (Fri. – Sun.) presents a new production of August Bournonville’s classic Napooli.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

- May 25. (Wed.) Bob Sheppard Quartet.  Everyone’s first-call jazz saxophonist steps in the leader’s spotlight for once, backed by the solid playing of  John Beasley, piano, Darek Oles, bass, Steve Hass, drums.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 25. (Wed.)  Lisa Hilton. Pianist Hilton’s lyrical, highly personal style has been described by Down Beat magazine as “A deeply expressive style of coaxing sounds from keys.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- May 26. (Thurs.)  Nicholas Payton“Happy 85th Birthday Miles Davis”  Expect to hear some of the great classics of contemporary jazz when trumpeter Peyton celebrates what would have been Miles’ 85th birthday.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center.    (310) 271-9039.

Anna Mjoll

- May 27. (Fri.)  Anna Mjoll.  Iceland’s gift to contemporary jazz vocalizing brings her unique style to songs that reach easily across the jazz boundaries.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- May 27. (Fri.) Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.  Drummer Bonham leads a dedicated tribute band in a powerful evening of Led Zeppelin songs, accompanied by atmospheric video and light shows.  The Greek Theatre.    (877) 686-5366.

- May 28. (Sat.) War and Tower of Power.  They’re back.  Two of the definitive crossover rockbands of the seventies make their annual Summer appearance at the Greek Theatre. (877) 686-5366.

San Francisco

- May 26. (Thurs.)  Laurie Antonioli.  Singer Antonioli is a rare talent, too rarely seen beyond the Bay area.  She’ll hopefully do material from her recent album, American DreamsFreight & Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkley.   (510) 644-2020.

Rickie Lee Jones

- May 27. (Fri.)  Rickie Lee Jones. Veteran singer/songwriter Jones, a compelling performer for more than three decades, will revisit songs from her debut album, 1979’s Rickie Lee Jones and 1982’s Pirates.  An SFJAZZ Spring Season event at Davis Symphony Hall.   (866) 920-5299.

- May 27 – 29. (Fri. – Sun.)  Hiroshima.  Genre boundaries mean nothing to the versatile members of Hiroshima, who have been blending Asian, Latin and jazz elements for more than three decades.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- May 28. (Sat.) Tony Bennett. Still going strong at 84, Bennett’s every performance is a definitive display of how to bring jazz-tinged life to the Great American Songbook.  An SFJAZZ Spring Season event at Davis Symphony Hall.   (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- May 24 & 25. (Tues. & Wed.)  Bucky Pizzarelli Trio. The master of the seven string guitar continues, at 85, to provide some object lessons in jazz guitar to younger generations of players (and listeners).   Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- May 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Miguel Zenon Quartet. Alto saxophonists, one of the most original saxophone voices of his generation, has already had his impressive skills acknowledged with a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

 New York

Stanley Clarke

- May 24 – 29. (Tues. – Sun.)  Stanley Clarke.  A bass players’ bassist and musicians’ musician, Clarke, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday brings creative enlightenment to everything he plays.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- May 26 – 29. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cedar Walton, Javon Jackson, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash.  The list of names tells you all you need to know – that this will be an all-star evening of prime jazz.  Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

Washington D.C.

- May 26. (Thurs.)  Roseanna Vitro.  Always adventurous, jazz singer Vitro’s latest album, is a creatively convincing exploration of the songs of Randy Newman.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

London

- May 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat.)  Tania Maria.  Ronnie Scott’s. Veteran Brazilian singer/pianist Tania Maria authentically blends Brazilian rhythms with urban blues and pop, hip-hop and funk.  Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Milan

- May 27. (Fri.) Ron Carter Trio.  The iconic acoustic bassist Carter performs with his superb Golden Striker trio – guitarist Bobby Broom and pianist Mulgrew Miller.   Blue Note Milano.    02 69 01 68 88.

Paris

Gretchen Parlato

- May 25. (Wed.)  Gretchen Parlato. One of the most imaginative of the new generation of young singers performs material from her new CD, The Lost and Found. New Morning.

Nagoya, Japan

- May 23. (Mon.)  Cheryl Bentyne.  Taking a break from her Manhattan Transfer chores, singer Bentyne displays her far-reaching jazz vocal skills.  Blue Note Nagoya.    052-961-6311.  To read a recent iRoM review of Cheryl Bentyne click HERE.

Rickie Lee Jones and Stanley Clarke photos by Tony Gieske.


Live Jazz: Celebrating Miles at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida

February 27, 2011

By Fernando Gonzalez

Almost by definition, tribute concerts are safe gambits.  The honored figure provides a brand name, a ready-made repertoire, and a marketing narrative. Feature in the bill artists who were part of the honoree’ s career or were influenced by the master, stir and sell out the hall.

Consider Celebrating Miles, the entertaining show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, FL, Friday. The first part of the concert featured a sterling group  led by trumpeter Wallace Roney,  with saxophonists Javon Jackson and Donald Harrison, pianist Billy Childs, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Al Foster.  The music was acoustic and focused on Miles’ repertory from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The second half, featuring bassist Marcus Miller and a group comprising trumpeter Christian Scott, saxophonist Alex Han,  pianist Federico Gonzalez Pena  and drummer Louis Cato,  focused on Tutu, the 1986 album co-produced, and mostly written and played, by Miller.

The Wallace Roney Sextet

It was a smart set up, but Miles Davis can be as elusive and contentious in memory as he was in life. When celebrating Miles, what are we celebrating? He was an inimitable player, but not a memorable composer. His best material was mostly either standards, or pieces by his collaborators.  He was an exceptional leader. By hook or by crook he coaxed the best out of his sidemen, both playing and writing. But this is not a talent that lends itself to tributes. And celebrating leadership without the leader suggests something akin to setting up a game of basketball without a ball.

A certain group sound? An approach? Which? Miles had many of both. An attitude? How? His never-look-back approach is contradicted by the very idea of a tribute.  Celebrating Miles addressed some of these questions, shrugged off others, and, with some reservations, it worked.

Wallace Roney

Roney is an exceptional player, who probably will never get his due because of his association with Miles. He has ideas, a beautiful, lustrous full sound, and a goldsmith’s control of tone and phrasing. In spots, he even suggested a might-have-been, fleet fingered, technically better version of Miles. Jackson and Harrison played their roles well without ever trying to evoke Cannonball or Coltrane. Childs showed an arranger’s ear in the framing and development of his parts and his solos, making the most of his chances.  Carter and Foster dutifully, impeccably anchored the music in pieces such as “So What,” “All Blues,” and “Seven Steps to Heaven.”

The arranging was minimal, consisting basically of head and solos. The exception was a long Carter intro feature. But it was all well-done rather than inspiring. At times, Wallace and company suggested museum curators bringing out the prized artifacts for a look – from a distance, through a glass, for a timed viewing – before they would take it all back to the vault without a word.

Marcus Miller

Miller had a better idea. Because Miles’ much maligned late period has not been yet bronzed, and because the composer of much of the music being celebrated was at hand, there was an opportunity to take liberties, stretch out, and have fun.  And Miller & Co. took it and ran with it.

Both trumpeter Scott, saddled with Miles’ role, and especially saxophonist Han, a player to watch, were healthily irreverent while probing the material from different angles. (Han even added some dance moves and a friendly challenge to the boss that actually felt spontaneous.) Songs like “Tomaas,” “Portia,”  or “Backyard Ritual,” will likely never be considered on par with “Round Midnight,”  “Stella By Starlight,” or “Nefertiti,” perhaps because — not in spite of it — they were thoroughly enjoyable. Even “Tutu,” the class of this field, got a shake-and-bake reading that included double time swing and variations rather than a respectful reconstruction of the original.

Now, that was something Miles might have approved.

Photos by Rodrigo Gaya.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 25 – 31

January 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Jan. 25. (Tues.) John Pisano Guitar Night features the always compelling playing of Anthony Wilson in the downstairs lounge.  Upstairs, the jazz voices take over, with the Peter Eldridge Group and Dollison & Marsh’s Vertical Voices.  Grammy nominated pianist Geoff Keezer provides his usual scintillating accompaniment.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 25. (Tues.)  Itzhak Perlman in Recital. The masterful veteran violinist is accompanied by pianist Rohan de Silva in a program of music by Leclair, Saint-Saens and Beethoven.  Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

Hair

- Jan. 25 – Feb. 6.  (Tues. – Sat.(6)).  “Hair” The definitive musical theatre work of the counter-culture sixties, filled with memorable songs, from “Aquarius” and “Easy to Be Hard” to “Frank Mills” and “Good Morning Starshine.”  Segerstrom Concert Hall.  OCPAC.   (714) 556-2787.

- Jan. 27. (Thurs.)  Jorge Drexler.  Oscar-winning (for “Al Otro Lado del Rio” in The Motorcycle Diaries) Uruguayan singer/songwriter Drexler makes his first L.A. appearance since his sold out concert at Disney Hall three years ago.  Skirball.   (310) 440-4500.

- Jan. 27. (Thurs.)  The Frank Marocco Quartet.  Accordionist Marocco affirms, in every performance, the tonal warmth, harmonic richness and articulate swing that he can generate from his too often maligned instrument.Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 27. (Thurs.) Luther Hughes & the Cannonball Coltrane Project. Bassist Hughes and his companions revive the music from one of great jazz classic albums.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crown Plaza LAX.  (310) 258-1333.

Julie Kelly

- Jan. 28. (Fri.)  Julie Kelly with the John Heard Trio. Kelly singing is one of the Southland’s vocal jazz blessings, whether she’s tip-toeing through bossa nova or applying her rich sound to an intimate ballad. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

- Jan. 28. (Fri.) Ernie Watts. Everyone’s a-list, number one saxophonist, Watts delivers on all counts – tone, imagination, drive and the utter uniqueness that all great jazz players possess.  Steamers (714) 871-8800.

- Jan. 28. (Fri.)  Ron Stout. Bearded Ron Stout, whose easy transitions from jazz soloing to adept section playing have made him one of the Southland’s most in-demand trumpeters, shows up for an infrequent appearance in the spotlight.  He’ll be backed by the sterling trio of pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Kevin Kanner.     Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Jan. 28 – 30.  (Fri. – Sun.)  “A Chorus Line.” Winner of nine Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize, A Chorus Line, with its memorable music and stellar dancing, is one of the great musical theatre pieces.  If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss this rare opportunity.    Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (562) 916-8501.

- Jan. 28 – 30. (Fri. – Sun.)  Robben Ford/Roger Kellaway Band.  Guitarist Ford and pianist Kellaway, each a unique and very different jazz stylist, get together for what should be a fascinating musical encounter.  Vocalist Anne Kerry Ford adds her richly personal way with a song.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 29. (Sat.) Karsh Kale & MIDIval Punditz.  Indian music goes strikingly contemporary with the electronic fusion of tabla artist Kale.  He’ll be joined by his frequent collaborators MIDIval Punditz, guitarist Chris Buono, ghazal master Vishal Vaid and electric violinist Dorian CheahRoyce Hall.  (310) 825-4401.

- Jan. 29. (Sat.)  Alan Paul. Manhattan Transfer’s Paul takes a break from his ensemble responsibilities for a solo turn.  He follows his partners Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne onto the stage at Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

Ed Shaughnessy

- Jan. 30. (Sun.)  Ed Shaughnessy Quintet. Veteran drummer has demonstrated his versatility with everything from avant-garde jazz to a long stint in the Tonight Show band.  This time out he applies his two bass drum percussion magic to his own quintet. The inimitable Bubba Jackson Hosts.  KJAZZ Sunday Champagne Brunch.  The Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood \Hotel.  (562) 985-2999.

- Jan. 30. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale: London Bridges.  L.A.’s always adventurous voices reach into the deep, centuries old English choral music tradition.  They’ll sing works by William Byrd, John Tavener, Benjamin Britten and more.  Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 30. (Sun.)  Mozart Classical Orchestra.  A Happy Birthday tribute to the MCO’s namesake.  Ami Porat conducts the Mozart Symphony No. 36 (“Linz”), Il Re Pastore Overture and the Violin Concerto No. 4. (with violinist Roberto Cani).    Irvine Barclay.

- Jan. 30. (Sun.)  Sing! Sing! Sing! “Let’s Face the Music of Irving Berlin.  Judy Wolman leads an all-join-in celebration of the extraordinarily rich Berlin musical catalog.  Sing! Sing! Sing!.  Keyboard Concepts.

Bill Holman

- Jan. 31. (Mon.)  The Bill Holman Big Band. Holman’s arranging and composing have stamped him as one of the true poets of big band jazz.  His too rare appearances leading his own group are as fascinating to the musicians who play his charts as they are to the audiences fortunate enough to hear them.  Don’t miss this one. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

- Jan. 27 & 28. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Bobby Hutcherson celebrates his 70th anniversary with his quartet and the unique sounds of special guest Anthony Wilson on guitar.  Yoshi’s Oakland (510) 238-9200.

- Jan. 29. (Sat.) Lizz Wright. The singing of Wright is deeply rooted in gospel, and she moves freely across blues and rock, as well, adding spice and substance drawn from her affection for, and skill with jazz.  Yoshi’s Oakland.

(510) 238-9200.

New York

Randy Weston

- Jan. 25 – 30 (Tues. – Sun.)  Jacky Terrasson Trio.  French pianist Terrasson applies his crisply swinging style in a trio setting with bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire WilliamsVillage Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- Jan. 25 – 30. (Tues. – Sun.) Randy Weston and African Rhythms.  At eighty four, pianist/composer Weston continues to explore (and discover) the rich connections between jazz and it African roots.  He’s accompanied by bassist Alex Blake, percussionist Neil Clarke, drummer Lewis Nash, (Tues. – Fri.) and saxophonist Billy Harper (Sat. & Sun).   Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.  (212) 258-9800.

- Jan. 25 – 29. (Tues. – Sat.) “Hub Art: The Music of Freddie Hubbard.” The late, great trumpeters music is performed in authentic fashion by Nicholas Payton, trumpet, Javon Jackson, tenor saxophone, George Cables, piano, Dwayne Burno, bass and Lenny White, drums.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

- Jan. 27 – 30. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Tony Williams Lifetime TributeJack Bruce, bass and vocals, Vernon Reid, guitar, John Medeski, keyboards/organ and Cindy Blackman, drums get together once again to revive the extraordinary fusion sounds of the Lifetime.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Jan. 28. (Fri.)  “Girls Gone Mild” With Rebecca Martin, Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens.  Three gifted jazz canaries introduce their new trio.  Backed by Chris Tordini and Larry Grenadier on basses, with Martin and Stevens playing guitar, ukulele, etc. and Parlato doubling on percussion, they’re explore everything from standards and originals to brand new material. Cornelia St. Café (212) 989-9319.

Randy Weston photo by Tony Gieske.


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.


Live Jazz: The Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl (Further Thoughts)

June 15, 2010

by Devon Wendell

Esperanza Spalding

It’s become harder and harder to discern whether what has been designated as a “Jazz Festival” is aimed at die hard jazz aficionados — studying each chord change and nuance – or those music lovers who just want to dance to more commercially infectious R&B grooves and have fun. This was certainly the case at the 32nd annual Playboy jazz festival held at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday June 12th and Sunday June 13th, which covered all those bases. Perhaps, as Esperanza Spalding put it during her performance on Sunday night, “Jazz Ain’t Nothing But Soul.” Here’s a look at the acts that impressed me the most in that sense, and why.

On Saturday, New Orleans’ own Trombone Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue got the festival’s early birds up and dancing with their blend of Meter’s-like funk, classic rock, and jazz. Shorty alternated between trombone and trumpet, and vocals. Tunes such as “You Got The Same Thing On,” “Hurricane Season” and Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down” displayed loose horn arrangements and tightly funky accompaniment by bassist Troy Ballard, drummer Joey Peebles and percussionist Dwayne Williams in pure New Orleans fashion.

Though the set was exciting and pleased the crowd, at times Shorty would show off using overly-done, drawn-out circular breathing gimmicks, especially on a bizarre rendition of “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Over-indulgent pop/rock medley jams of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started ” felt as if they were never going to end. Though Shorty is skillful as both a trombonist and trumpet player, it was his confident charisma and ability to get the crowd moving, rather than the music iteself, that made his set a true Festival highlight.

Tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson, a former Art Blakey Jazz Messengers’ sideman, has carved out an impressive legacy of his own over the last two decades. But it was the presence of his special guest, the legendary Les McCann, with his unique brand of R&B flavored jazz piano playing and singing, that was the true heart and soul of Jackson and McCann set.

Les McCann

McCann was in top form, shuffling the blues on his down and dirty “Let It Ride (The Train),” which featured his mellow yet soulful vocals and gospel-tinged piano playing. Jackson and company seemed intent on capturing McCann’s musical atmosphere with respect and taste, even on the familiar “Cold Duck Time” and “In The Sticks,” which had Jackson playing a lot like the way Stanley Turrentine andr Eddie Harris did in McCann’s original groups. David Gilmore’s bluesy, Kenny Burrell-like guitar playing complimented the music perfectly. Though McCann would have sounded more potent on an upright piano instead of the electric synthesizer he was playing, the performance of his classic hit from 1969 “Compared To What” was sung with enthusiasm and humor, making it one of the day’s greatest performances.

At first glance, the a cappella band Naturally 7 appeared to look like a cross between Boys 2 Men and another vocal band contestant on American Idol, but their brilliant ability to mimic musical instruments vocally sounded more real than any electric synthesizer. This was certainly the case on a cover of the Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” in which Jamal Reed’s reproduction of Eric Clapton’s original guitar solo was so close that it was frightening, making this another standout performance.

Robert Randolph

On Sunday, the mood at the festival seemed much more subdued than Saturday’s. Robert Randolph And His Family Band added some thunder, fusing blues, gospel, and hard rock.  Randolph’s approach to the pedal-steel guitar was the antithesis of the typically laid back country style that the instrument is commonly known for.  In fact, he generally sounded more like a rock ‘n’ roll six-string shredder, using wah-wah and an array of effects to create a Jimi Hendrix-like sound.

The Family Band sounded a lot like The Staple Singers with Lenesha Randolph performing a wealth of the vocals. The band’s powerful reading of blues/gospel, slide guitar master Blind Willie Johnson’s 1927 recording “If I Had My Way” was original and funky, taking the Hollywood Bowl to church, and was far more interesting than the group’s own, often generic, rock-sounding material.

The Bobby Hutcherson and Cedar Walton Quartet was the most historical jazz pairing of Sunday’s show. Though the set was a lot softer than Hutcherson’s usual aggressive vibes playing, Walton and Hutcherson played off each other with focus and dedication, backed tastefully by David Williams on bass, and Eddie Marshall on drums. Walton played a more subordinate role on the piano, leaving most of the solos to Hutcherson. The quartet’s version of Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful” was elegantly soulful, the most truly melodic performance of the entire evening. The long, meandering solos provided a most welcoming change of pace for the Festival by these two trailblazers of jazz.

The most exciting presence of the night , however, was the man named the “Golden Voice Of Africa.” Salif Keita and his incredible band took the Bowl stage with a whirlwind of percussion and African rhythms seductive enough to inspire the shyest wallflower to dance. Guitarists Mory Djessou Kante and Ousmane Kouyate brilliantly demonstrated the tightest grooves, delivering modern blues rock guitar leads that never strayed from the steady pulse of the percussively driven compositions. Harouna Samake’s use of the kamale k’goni (Young man’s harp) was stellar, and he even opted to play this African stringed instrument behind his back while on his knees. a la Jimi Hendrix. Keita’s rich and powerful voice felt as if it could have filled the entire bowl without a microphone.

Salif Keita and his band made it clear that everything goes back to the drum, and they had just about everyone up and dancing in a trance. No other artist performed with such sheer energy throughout the entire festival. And it was diverse acts such as this, along with the many other, different approaches to musical energy that made the 32nd annual Playboy Jazz festival such an impressive event — an event celebrating the soul and spirit at the core of all music for all people.

Photos by Tony Gieske


Live Jazz: The Playboy Jazz Festival, Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl

June 14, 2010

By Don Heckman

The 32nd Playboy Jazz Festival wrapped a long weekend of music yesterday with yet another program perfectly illustrating the qualities that make it one of the world’s most engaging celebrations: tradition, youth, stylistic range and global diversity. Bill Cosby, the Festival’s irrepressible master of ceremonies and the leader of his own Cos of Good Music, got it exactly right in a conversation we had the week before the Festival.

“It’s in the name,” he explained. “It says ‘Playboy Jazz Festival’ with this realization that jazz has this tremendous umbrella that keeps broadening, it keeps getting wider. And to me, that says everything.”

To properly view the breadth of that umbrella, iRoM dispatched several of its prime reviewers – Tony Gieske, Devon Wendell and Mike Katz – to cover the Festival’s two long, entertaining days. We’ll be adding their comments over the next day or so. From an overall perspective there was a lot to write about.

Saturday’s program, for example, began with a superlative set by the gifted young players of the El Dorado High School jazz band. Youth was well served, as was tradition, via the convincing grasp of the memorable aspects of big band jazz.

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro added a different slant on youth, Alone on the vast Bowl stage with his ukulele, engagingly interacting with the enthusiastic crowd, he produced an extraordinary collection of music. Beatles songs, jazz riffs, percussive stomps, rock guitar wails were all extracted, mysteriously, from his seemingly unlikely instrument.

Tradition was there aplenty, as well. The Marcus Miller Band combined with a powerful dose of youth via the presence of alto saxophonist Alex Han and trumpeter Christian Scott – two players on the way to superlative careers. Singer Kurt Elling and the gripping tenor saxophone work of Ernie Watts recalled the memorable ‘60s Great American songbook encounter by Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane.

Les McCann

Spreading Cosby’s “umbrella,” Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue took off on a fast-fingered, improvisational excursion combining wild virtuosity with blues roots. And Javon Jackson and Les McCann added a further view of the blues (and beyond) in an ever-swinging, cross-generational encounter.

But the most unusual group demanding (and getting) a place beneath that umbrella was the extraordinary vocal ensemble, Naturally 7. Using nothing more than their voices and their free-flying imaginations, the group’s seven members created an astonishing collage of instrumental-like textures combined with surging, propulsive, human body beat-box percussion.

The Clayton-Hamilton Big Band, sparked by co-leader and bassist John Clayton’s dynamic presence, offered a stunning display of big band jazz as a timeless musical entity.

Roy Haynes

And Chick Corea’s Freedom Band – including the stellar line-up of alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes – roved from the occasional far-out forays of Garrett and Corea to some surprisingly traditional passages with every note driven by the imaginatively rhythmic work of the octagenarian Haynes.

Pete Escovedo

The Festival couldn’t have made a better choice for the let’s-get-the-crowd-on-their-feet segment of the evening than Pete Escovedo, delivering highly spiced Latin sounds along with his talented offspring, Sheila E., Peter Michael Escovedo and Juan Escovedo. The tradition of jazz-as-dance (and vice versa) was in full blossom as the Bowl’s aisles overflowed with happy rhythmic celebrants.

Wrapping the Festival’s first day, Sax For Stax added yet another aspect of the music’s stylistic range — jazz as pop instrumental music. With the saxophones of Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum in the hard-driving showcase spotlight, it remained for the solid playing of keyboardist Jeff Lorber to keep the music directly linked to its straight ahead roots.

Photos of Jake Shimabukuro and Pete Escovedo courtesy of Playboy Jazz Festival.  All other photos by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: June 8 – 13

June 8, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- June 8. (Tues.) Guitar night with John Pisano. Tuesdays are always great nights for jazz when the veteran guitarist Pisano jams with some of his most gifted six string compatriots. This week, he exchanges riffs with busy studio guitarist Mike Anthony, backed by the solid bass support of Chris Connor. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

- June 9. (Wed.) Jose James. James has always had a heathy seasoning of jazz in his pop, soul and hip hop tinged music.  But his latest album, For All We Know, pairs him with Jef Neves in a vibrantly spontaneous voice and piano tour through a set of standards.  Here’s a chance to hear it live.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- June 10. (Thurs.) Nora Rothman, She’s still in her teens, but the slender, graceful Rothman sings with the sort of imaginative musicality and crisp phrasing that suggest a potentially significant talent in the making. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- June 10. (Thurs.) Roberta Donnay. With a voice that combines qualities of Blossom Dearie and Billie Hoiday with her own warm sound, Donnay brings standards to life with engaging ease. Donnay sings with pianist George Kahn and bassist Larry Steen. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- June 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.) Barbara Morrison. The lady who does it all is doing it again in a venue that knows how to showcase her tempting palette of blues, ballads and bebop. Steamers.

- June 13. (Sun.) Alan Broadbent/Pat Senatore Duo. Grammy-winning pianist Broadbent is also a superb composer/arranger. In a duo setting, backed by the flowing, supportive bass rhythms of Senatore, Broadbent creates stunning, spontaneous solos that reach beyond improvisation and into the area of instant composition. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

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HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

- June 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.) The Playboy Jazz Festival. The 32nd installment of L.A.’s major annual jazz event is once again – no surprise – brimming with its usual combination of iconic talent and colorfully diverse views of jazz as the global art it has become. But Playboy is always more than a non-stop flow of music. Each hour of the day flows with its own unique qualities, from the sun-baked afternoon hours to the wine-inspired dancing in the aisles near the dinner hour and the enthusiastic reception of the schedule’s headliners. A free-floating party for every taste.

Saturday’s line up features Chick Corea, Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber, Kurt Elling, Pete Escovedo, Marcus Miller, Javon Jackson, Les McCann, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Naturally 7, Jake Shimabakuru and Trombone Shorty.

Sunday sparkles with Esperanza Spalding, George Benson, Manhattan Transfer, Bobby Hutcherson, Salif Keita, Robert Randolph’s Family Band, Irving Mayfield, Jazz Mafia, Bill Cosby and the Cos of Good Music and Tiempo Libre. Each day opens with a performance by one of the Southland’s fine youth jazz ensembles — the El Dorado Band on Saturday, the L.A. All District High School Jazz Band on Sunday. And Bill Cosby, in addition to leading his Cos of Good Music All-Stars, will provide his usual emcee blend of wit and whimsy. The Playboy Jazz Festival. Hollywood Bowl.

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- June 13. (Sun.) Corky Hale and Friends. Jazz pianist, harpist and singer Hale plays hostess to an elegant line up irresistible female talent. With Corky leading the way, the gathering includes Sally Kellerman, Freda Payne, Ariana Savalas, Tricia Tahara and Brenna Whitaker. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

San Diego

- June. 11. (Fri.) Javon Jackson and Les McCann. A generational jazz mix – the much-praised, adventurous saxophone work of Jackson juxtaposed against the inimitable, grooving drive of the veteran McCann. Catch them on the evening before their Playboy Jazz Festival appearance.. Anthology. San Diego.  (619) 595-0300.

San Francisco

June 11 – 13. (Fri. – Sun.) The Jack DeJohnette Group. Drummer and avid musical adventurer has assembled a boundary-leaping group of conemporary stars, featuring alto saxophonist Rudress Mahanthappa, guitarist David Fiuczynski, pianist George Colligan and bassist Jerome Harris. Yoshi’s Oakland.

New York

- June 8 & 9. (Tues. & Wed.) Jeff Beck and “A Celebration of Les Paul.” Beck takes a break from supporting his emotionally gripping guitar-with-strings-and-guests album, Emotion and Commotion, to celebrate the life of the guitarist whose instrumental and recording innovations continue to impact popular music. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

- June 11 – 13. (Fri. – Sun.) The Dave Brubeck Quartet. How often do you have the chance to hear a jazz icon in action — and in action at a club that brings you up close and personal to every aspect of the music? Not often, at all. So don’t miss this chance to hear Brubeck, well into his ’80s, but still playing music filled with vitality, adventure and, yes, with youth. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592


Q & A: Jimmy Cobb, Kind of Blue and the Playboy Jazz Festival

June 11, 2009

By Don Heckman

Jimmy Cobb

Jimmy Cobb

The Playboy Jazz Festival this weekend at the Hollywood Bowl offers its familiar cornucopia of musical delights. But there’s another, more unusual slant to this year’s festivities – two of them actually. And both center around the number 50. The first is the fact that it was 50 years ago, in 1959, that the first Playboy Jazz Festival, in Chicago, clearly established the relationship between Playboy and jazz that would continue over the next half century. The second unusual number 50-related slant is the anniversary of the release of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, the best selling jazz recording of all time. To underscore that golden memory, drummer Jimmy Cobb will perform a tribute to Kind of Blue with his So What Band. As the only surviving member of the Davis ensemble of 1959 – which also included John Coltrane, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers – Cobb is a direct link to the original recording. We had a conversation on the phone yesterday just before he was scheduled to take the band on stage at Yoshi’s in Oakland. In it, Cobb provided a fascinating overview of how a date that initially seemed to be just another recording session became an iconic jazz event.

DH: Jimmy, let’s begin with the So What Band and the plan to celebrate the golden anniversary of Kind of Blue. How did it all come about?

JC: I think it was a brainchild of my wife, Elena, thinking about how we could do something to honor Miles’ memory and the memory of the best selling jazz record in history. We started out in a place in New York called Smoke — just a kind of dress rehearsal. Then we went to Jacksonville, New Orleans and then Sao Paulo, Brazil and got a good reception everywhere. After Playboy, we’ve got about six gigs in Canada, and then we’re going to take it to Europe. Probably 30 or 40 gigs all together.

DH: That’s quite a revival tour. But even with the affectionate memories that the music from “Kind of Blue” has for so many jazz fans, you still had to have the right band to make it all happen. How did you put the So What band together?

JC: Well, my wife Elena and I thought about some people who would be able to play this music the right way, and these were the guys we came up with. The trumpet player – Wallace Roney — would have been Miles’ choice, anyway. And the piano player, Larry Willis, he loves Wynton Kelly, so that’s why he was our choice. Vincent Herring loves Cannonball, and Javan Jackson loves Coltrane. And we’ve got a great bass player named John Weber replacing Buster Williams, who’s having some health problems.

DH: Terrific players, every one of them. But let’s go back now and talk about the original Kind of Blue. Can you recall how you felt before you went into that studio back in March of 1959. Was there any special anticipation in your mind?

JC: Oh, no. I didn’t have any inkling about what was happening before the date.. When I got there, I was probably the first one there, cause that’s what a drummer has to do. So I was setting up my drums when they came in with whatever music they had relative to what we were going to do. Didn’t seem like anything special.

DH: What happened after you were all set up and ready to go?

JC: They discussed it and then we proceeded to do it. There wasn’t a whole lot of preparation from me. And I don’t think there was that much from them, either. They had an idea that Miles and Bill Evans put together and that’s what they did.

DH: No more complicated than that. Wow. Did they give you a sense of what was expected from you?

JC:: No. They just expected regular stuff. Like time signatures. If was in three, that was what they expected; if it was four, that was what they expected. And if it was soft they expected you to be soft.

DH: And I would guess, given the music, that they expected you to lay back on a lot of the stuff.

JC: Yeah, sure. That’s it. For the places where it was supposed to be laid back on. But there was one tune – the one that Wynton Kelly played on, “Freddie Freeloader” — where they expected you to be the way you are.

DH: You mean more like the straight ahead playing of that time.

JC: Right. That’s why Wynton was there because that’s the kind of playing Miles wanted to hear on that tune.

DH: So there wasn’t anything unusual about the way Miles approached the date. Because you guys had actually been working together for a while when you did the Kind of Blue session.

JC: Yeah, we were working together all the time.

DH: With Cannonball, Coltrane, Bill Evans and Paul Chambers?

JC: Yes, Except Bill had come in after Red Garland. And I was there for the last part of the time Red was in the band.

DH: That must have been a big change. They were very different players.

JC: Right. And that’s probably how Miles came up with what that album is all about – in collaboration with Bill’s feelings and stuff, and the way he played.

DH: Once you were in the studio, actually the date, did you have any feeling that something unusual was taking place?

JC: Well, I was aware that it wasn’t the usual structured kind of thing – structured tunes, show tunes, stuff like that. It was just like a few chords and a few scales.

DH: No standards, no hard bop lines. More like what Miles had started doing on the Milestones album?

JC: That’s right. It was an entirely different way.

DH: Did that mean that you had to do a lot of takes?.

JC: No, almost everything was straight down,. Except for one tune – “Freddie Freeloader,” the one Wynton was on – where Miles didn’t want him to play a certain chord at the second ending of something. So he stopped us and told him not to play that chord, and that was it.

DH: Jimmy, you played on some of the Gil Evans things with Miles, as well, didn’t you?

JC: Yeah. I was there when Philly Jo didn’t show up for the second part of the Porgy and Bess album, and I finished that. Then I did the whole Sketches of Spain album and the In A Silent Way album.

DH: Do you think that Gil Evans had an impact on Kind of Blue, as well?

JC: Oh yeah. Bill, Gil and Miles. The three of them. That Spanish thing we did came about because of Miles’ wife – Frances. She was a dancer and she had danced in one of the Spanish dances. And she got him interested. She told him he had to listen to that music. So she went and bought an album, Miles listened to it, and he got Gil to write an arrangement.

DH: The sound of Kind of Blue has always seemed incredibly alive to me. Were you in a booth or behind a baffle for the recording?

JC: I was behind a baffle. That’s why when you see pictures of that session you kind of don’t hardly see me at all. Because I was away from the main group, with a baffle around me. Paul had a baffle around him, too, but he was closer to the rest of the guys.

DH: But that didn’t affect the interplay of the music or the quality of the sound, did it?

JC: See, they had an exceptional engineer there, and he knew where everything sounded the best, at each spot in the room. He had recorded everybody in that room – Mitch Miller, Duke Ellington, all different kinds of music. So he knew where the best sounds for each instruments were. And he had me sitting in the exact spot where the toms – all the drums — sounded best.

DH: Are you surprised that what you and Miles and the other musicians played in that studio on those two days in 1959 has produced the best selling jazz record of all time?

JC: Yes I am. ‘Cause in my mind, there’s Louis Armstrong, there’s all those bands that I used to hear when I was coming up — Count Basie, Duke Ellington. If Duke Ellington didn’t sell more records, with all that music he wrote — him and Billy Strayhorn – man! So I’ve always been amazed that I could even be involved in a situation like that – to be in a group of people that sold the most jazz records of all time. That’s a historical thing to me.

DH: And to millions of listeners, as well. Quite a few of whom are looking forward to hearing you bring it alive again on Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl. Thanks for taking the time to give us some first person perspective on how it all began.


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