Picks of the Weekend in Los Angeles: June 19 – 22

June 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

With Summer arriving in all its glory, I thought it would be helpful to concentrate the Picks for this long, mid-June weekend on the rich array of music to be heard here in the Southland.

Sally Kellerman

Sally Kellerman

– June 19. (Thurs.) Sally Kellerman. Sally’s back, and that’s great news for all fans of irresistible singing. Better known to many as “Hot Lips” from her role in the film version of Mash, Sal is a vocalist who brings vivid, story-telling qualities to every song. Click HERE to read an iRoM review of one of her recent Los Angeles performances. The Gardenia. (323) 467-7444.

– June 19 – 22. (Thurs. – Sun.) Marcus Miller. Multi-instrumentalist Miller, moving smoothly from bass clarinet, brings a sparkling array of jazz inventiveness to everything he plays. His current group includes saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, keyboardist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati and drummer Ronald Burneer, Jr. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

John Chiodini

John Chiodini

– June 20, (Fri,) The Denny Seiwell Trio. Drummer Seiwell’s resume includes gigs with an array of world class bands in genres of every style. This time he leads his own stellar group, featuring John Chiodini, guitar and Joe Bagg, keyboards. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– June 20. (Fri.) Chuck Manning and Steve Huffsteter. Two of the Southland’s most inventive jazz horn players, saxophonist Manning and trumpeter Huffsteter wrap their improvisational skills around every tune, stimulating each other’s creative imaginations. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– June 20 & 21. (Fri. & Sat.) The John La Barbera Big Band. La Barbera’s Big Band hasn’t yet received the attention it deserves, and here’s a chance to see them in action in Sherman Oaks, on the broad stage of Jazz at the Cap.  (818) 990-2001.

– June 20 & 21. (Fri. & Sat.) Chambers, Herbert & Ellis. Here’s a rare, and not to be missed, display of jazz vocalese in the competent musical hands and soaring voices of this trio of world class singers. The Gardenia. (323) 467-7444.

– June 21. (Sat.) The Grand Reopening of the Alex Theatre.  Emmy and Tony award winning performer Martin Short joins Matt Catingub and the Glendale Pops Orchestra for a spectacular evening of song, dance, comedy and pure entertainment.  The Alex Theatre.  (818) 243-2611.

Les McCann and Lee Hartley

– June 21. (Sat.) Lee Hartley & the Les McCann All-Star Band. The appealing vocal team of Hartley and McCann are great on their own, and even better when their surrounded by the superb musical backing of guitarist John Chiodini, pianist Barney McClure, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Enzo Tedesco. Jazz at the Rad.  (310) 216-5861.

– June 21. (Sat.) “Nutty.” Jazz for Jetsetters. This always-intriguing jazz octet applies a broad stylistic array of jazz rhythms and styles to their interpretations of pop and rock classics. If you loved the ’60s, dopn’t miss these guys. Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

– June 21. (Sat.) Opening Night at the Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl kicks off a spectacular Summer season with the induction of Kristin Chenoweth, The Go-Go’s and Pink Martini into the . The celebration will climax with a spectacular fireworks display.  Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame (323) 850-2000.




Picks of the Week: May 2 – 6

May 1, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Arturo Sandoval

– May 2. (Wed.)  Arturo Sandoval Big Band. He plays the trumpet, the piano and the drums, and he sings, too.  The musical multi-hyphenate from Cuba showcases his dynamic versatility in the second installment of the new jazz series at The Federal.    (818) 980-2655,

– May 2. (Wed.) Llew Matthews and Pat Senatore.  Pianist Matthews is a much desired singers’ accompanist and a valued first call sideman.  But he’s also an engaging solo artist as well.  Here he performs with the equally sensitive backing of bassist Senatore. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– May 3. (Thurs.)  Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Watching the marvelously energetic, 93 year old Wilson lead a band of L.A. all-stars through a program of his compositions and arrangements is one of the truly memorable jazz experiences. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Simon Rattle

– May 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Return of Simon Rattle.  Rattle conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Disney Hall for the first time.  The Central European-oriented program includes works by Ligeti, Wagner, Mahler and Bruckner.  Rattle’s wife, mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozena sings Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– May 4. (Fri.)  Mark Winkler and Mary Foster Conklin.  When a pair of beyond-definition singers – who move easily from cabaret to jazz standards — get together for a vocal jam session, expect an unusually enlightening evening of song.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– May 4 & 5. (Fri. & Sat.)  Strunz and Farah.  Performing together since 1980, the duo guitar team of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah create incomparable musical banquets overflowing with sounds and rhythms reaching from jazz and flamenco to the Middle East, spiced with their own musically rich imaginations.  Click HERE to read iRoM’s most recent review of Strunz & Farah. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Perla Batalla

– May 5. (Sat.)  Perla Batalla.  Blessed with a rich-toned voice, fascinated with a broad range of music, Batalla tells an engaging story with everything she sings.  Broad Stage.   (310) 424-3200.

– May 5. (Sat.)  Reflections on Frank Sinatra.  A band of Southland all-stars — Ralph Penland, Jim Hughart, Ron Anthony, Llew Matthews and Bill Kerr – team up with singers Melodye and Luca Ellis, and comedian Tony Russell in a tribute to the Chairman of the Board. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– May 6. (Sun.) Bonnie Bowden and Sony Holland.  Vitello’s.  It’s a day filled with some prime jazz vocalizing.  In the afternoon, Bowden displays her airy timbre, soaring range and convincing way with a song.  In the evening, Holland adds her tender, gripping voice and subtle rhythmic swing.  Sony Holland.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– May 6. (Sun.) Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra“Mozart and Me.”  Another of the LACO’s delightful introduction to classical music for young people.  The program features LACO musicians with the Pasadena Master Chorale, a talented ten year old pianist from the Colburn School and an actor garbed as Mozart himself.  The Alex Theatre.  2 p.m.  (213) 622-7001 Ext 1.

Susan Egan

– May 6. (Sun.) Susan Egan.  She starred on Broadway and has proven herself as a convincing cabaret artist.  This time, Egan uses both those skills in an intimate presentation of some of Broadway’s greatest hits.  The Carpenter Theatre.    (562) 985-7000.

– May 6. (Sun.)  REO Speedwagon, Styx and Ted Nugent.  Three classic rock groups, Greek Theatre favorites, return for yet another episode in their long-running musical shows.  Greek Theatre.

– May 6. (Sun.) The 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival First Community Concert. The Playboy Jazz Festival’s annual free concerts leading up the the Festival itself — which takes place on June 16 & 17 at the Hollywood Bowl – are some of the Southland’s greatest jazz bargains. And this year is no exception. Sunday’s program at the Beverly Hills Civic Center Plaza, featuring a performance by Jose Rizo’s Mongorama, is a tribute to one of the great innovators of Latin jazz: Mongo Santamaria.

Jose Rizo’s Mongorama

Mongorama offers a stunning revival of Mongo’s music, discovering vividly alive qualities still coursing through the legendary percussionist’s greatest hits. Also on the bill, the remarkably mature playing of the Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band, a collective of young players convincingly proving that the future of jazz is in fine hands., The First Playboy Free Community Concert at the Beverly Hills Civic Plaza. (310) 450-1173.

San Francisco

– May 5. (Sat.)  Rosanne Cash.  The daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash has thoroughly established herself as an artist whose skills embrace far more than country music.  A writer and novelist, she invests her music with the far-reaching subtleties of her literary viewpoints.  An SFJAZZ concert in the Herbst Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.


– May 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cyrus Chestnut Trio.  Pianist Chestnut’s musical roots are deeply invested in the Rgospel music that invests his playing with a rich, creatively passionate intensity and a solid rhythmic drive. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

– May 2 – 5. (Wed. – Sat.)   The Heath Brothers. Saxophonist Jimmy Heath and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath are the surviving members of the musically gifted Heath family, still going strong after a century-plus experience and more than 900 recordings. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Randy Brecker

– May 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  Randy Brecker and Pop.  Versatile trumpeter Brecker, who’s played with the finest jazz and pop artist leads his now group “Pop,” featuring an all-star band performing the songs of Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Bette Midler, Paul Simon, The Average White Band, Blood Sweat & Tears, and others, arranged and re-imagined by Kenny Werner.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– May 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Julliard Jazz Orchestra with Frank Wess.  Veteran saxophonist Wess is the headliner in a performance of the msic of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.  Conducted by James Burton IIIDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9595.


– May 3 – 5 (Thurs. – Sat.)  Manu Dibango and Soul Makossa.  Dibango is an iconic master of world music/funk/jazz crossover.  He’ll lead the Soul Makossa gang in a stirring evening of everything from pop, electro rock, hip hop and beyond.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Judy Niemack

– May 5. (Sat.)   Judy Niemack.  She’s a constantly captivating singer, bringing musicality, imagination and interpretive excellence to everything she touches.  Which makes for a perfect musical marriage in this program devoted to the music of Miles Davis – “All Blues,” “Time After Time,” Boplicity,” “Round Midnight” and more.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.


– May 3 – 5. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Omara Portuondo and Chucho Valdes.  A pair of legendary Cuban artists blend their dynamic abilities into an evening rich with traditional rhythms and soaring musical delights.  Blue Note Tokyo.   02-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: Anthony Wilson, John Pisano and Jim Hughart in Guitar Night at Vitello’s

February 2, 2012

By Michael Katz

I first discovered John Pisano’s Guitar Night at Rocco’s up in Beverly Glen (it had started at Papashon’s in Encino in 1997) and followed it through the years at the late, lamented Spazio’s.  But I hadn’t seen the latest incarnation at Vitello’s until Tuesday night, when he fronted another stellar show with Anthony Wilson and bassist Jim Hughart. Alas, Guitar Night is moving once more, down the road to Toluca Lake next month, but a full house was on hand in the upstairs room as Pisano and Wilson wove blissful and bluesy duets through two sets.

John Pisano, Jim Hughart and Anthony Wilson

There’s a transcendental feeling to these shows, with their living room vibe and purely improvisational manner; you sit back and let the music find its form for the evening. Pisano, as is his custom, laid back at the start, letting his guest set the pace and provide the early licks. They started out wading casually into “I’ll Remember April,” Wilson darting and weaving around the melody while Pisano backed him up rhythmically – the absence of a drummer was scarcely noticed. They melded into “Alone Together,” picking up the pace in a gentle manner, Hughart providing some nice bass work, as he did throughout the evening.

Anthony Wilson

The first set really started finding its identity with “Willow Weep For Me.” Wilson’s opening solo established the tone, a bright and bluesy tempo that became downright funky as it moved along.  Pisano picked up the vibe, and by the time they were finished they’d pretty much wrung every ounce out of “Willow.”

The electricity lingered through “It Could Happen To You.” Wilson was out front again, but Pisano was weighing in now, with his classically tasteful riffs. As the evening wore on, it was the little things that you noticed, the playful way the guitarists approached the tunes. In “All Or Nothing At All,” they flew through the main themes, then vamped toward the end, playing downward chordal progressions at the close, as if searching for an exit at the end of a maze.

John Pisano

One of the fun things about Guitar Night is identifying the tunes amidst the fraternal interplay. As the second set started, I listened to Wilson fingering his riffs, Pisano sketching a theme in the background. I thought I picked up the chords of  “I’ll Remember You.” Then guitarist Ron Anthony walked by and sat down with us. He leaned over and whispered, “I’ll Remember You?” I nodded, pleased with myself.

Guitar Nights lean heavily on standards; they are the lingua franca among musicians who play together infrequently. But the touches are superb. “Body and Soul” started lightly, almost samba-like, before Wilson took it over with his extended solo. Pisano introduced “Everything You Are” in ¾, and the three of them explored its nooks and crannies,  dissecting the opening/closing bridge with a delightful digression.

The set ended up with a rousing “Have You Met Miss Jones,” Wilson and Pisano engaging in dynamic interplay, leaving nothing on the table as the late night remnants of the crowd roared their approval. Pisano, believe it or not, will be 81 next week, and long time Guitar Night favorite Barry Zweig will be 70, the two of them celebrating their birthdays next week as the Vitello’s residency winds down. Wherever they land, they are one of LA’s enduring joys.

Photos by Bob Barry

Click HERE to visit Michael Katz’s new personal blog, Katz of the Day.

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

Picks of the Week: Nov. 29 – Dec. 4

November 29, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles


– Nov. 30. (Wed.)  Sting. One of the iconic masters of popular song makes a rare Southland appearance as part of his extended, “Back To Bass” tour.   The  Wiltern.     (877) 686-5366.

– Nov. 30. (Wed.)   The Ron McCurdy Collective.  Trumpeter/educator McCurdy blends his soaring trumpet sounds with the lush harmonies of the four-voice Collective.  Catalina Bar *& Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Nov. 30 – Dec. 4. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Blue Man Group.  The blue-skinned, multi-media specialists blend comedy, music, technology into an evening of sheer audio-visual excitement.  Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.   (805) 449-2787.

– Dec. 1. (Thurs.)  Chris Walden Quintet.  Arranger/composer/conductor/trumpeter Walden, a true musical multi-hyphenate, takes a break from his large ensemble chores to lead a quintet of stellar L.A. players: featuring saxophonist Rob Lockhart, pianist Josh Nelson and bassist Pat Senatore. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Dec. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Mike Stern Band.  Always an exciting, compelling player in his own right, guitarist Stern takes it up to an even higher level when he’s working – as he is here – in the company of players such as drummer Dave Weckl, bassist Richard Bona and saxophonist Bob Franceschini Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Mike Melvoin

– Dec. 2. (Fri.).  A Celebration of 50 Years of the Music of Mike Melvoin. A much deserved tribute to pianist/composer/activist Melvoin – a vital figure in the jazz and music world and a supporter of aid for musicians and entertainers for decades.  Participants include pianist Mike Lang, singer David Basse, saxophonist Pete Christlieb, bassist Jim Hughart, drummer Ralph Penland and more. Culvers Club For Jazz.  6161 W. Centinela Ave.  Inside the Double Tree Hotel.  Presented by In-House Music.

– Dec. 2 (Fri.)  The Shanghai Quartet.  Together since the mid-‘80s, the highly praised Chinese string quartet performs the Mozart Quartet No. 17 (“The Hunt”) and Schubert’s Quartet No. 15 in the beautifully atmospheric setting of the Doheny Mansion.  A Da Camera Society “Chamber Music in Historic Sites” program.    (213) 477-2929.

– Dec. 2 (Fri.)  “Holiday Doo-Wop.”  An evening of sheer doo-wop nostalgia, featuring The Crystals, Johnny Tillotson, Kenny Vance & the Pianotones, and Cleve Duncan (from the Penguins).  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

– Dec. 3. (Sat.) Holiday Wonders: Festival of Carols.  The Los Angeles Master Chorale.  Disney Hall.  It’s one of the great holiday musical blessings – a program of favorite Christmas carols, performed by one of the world’s finest vocal ensembles.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Jane Birkin

– Dec. 3. (Sat.)  “An Evening With Jane Birkin.”  The image of ‘60s mod style, singer/actress Jane Birkin had a long, passionate, professional and personal relationship with iconic French singer Serge Gainsbourg. Her performance recalls the drama of their connection and the impact it had upon the ‘60s and ‘70s.   Luckman Fine Arts Complex.   (323) 343-6600.

San Francisco

– Dec. 1 – 4.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra.  The rhythms will be provocative, and there’ll be a great desire to get up and salsa.  But Latin jazz great Palmieri also adds an irresistible seasoning of jazz to almost everything he plays.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.


Benny Green

– Dec. 1 – 4 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Benny Green Trio. Pianist Green has been carrying the banner for straight ahead, bebop-driven jazz in his dynamic playing since he was an emerging jazz star in the ‘80s.  And he’s still at it.   Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

– Dec. 1. (Thurs.) Shane Endsley and the Music Band.  Versatile trumpeter Endsley was a founder of the Grammy nominated band, Kneebody.  But his colorful resume includes gigs reaching from Ani DiFranco and Pearl Jam to Steve Coleman and Slavic Soul Party.  For this gig, he leads a group that includes pianist Uri Caine, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown. Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.


– Dec. 1. (Thurs.)  Jackson Browne.  Veteran rock singer/songwriter Browne takes up the cause of Occupy Wall St. with a live performance in Zuccotti Park at 1 p.m.  Also on the program — the California band Dawes.  Zuccotti Park at Liberty Plaza between 6th Ave. & Broadway.  Backpacks, camping gear and large bags are reportedly not permitted. 

– Dec. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  “Tango Meets Jazz Festival.”  For the 11th year in a row, the Festival explores the surprisingly compatible common ground between tango and jazz.  This time out, the featured performers are nuevo tango master Pablo Ziegler with his quartet, jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke and jazz violinist Regina CarterThe Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

– Dec. 2 & 3.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Tudo Isto E Fado (“All This Is Fado”). Like American blues, Argentine tango and Brazilian samba, the fado is deeply rooted in the emotional expressiveness of its native culture.  Here, in two extraordinary nights of music, every aspect of fado – from  historical to contemporary – is on full display.  Performers include: On Fri.: Lisboa Soul and Camane.  On Sat.: Deolinda and Amalia Hoje.   The Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.    (718) 636-4100.

– Dec. 4. (Sun.)  Bobby Avey Quartet. Winner of the Thelonious Monk Competition for Composition in 2011, pianist Avey is a certified emerging jazz star.  His impressive group includes MacArthur “genius” award winner, Miguel Zenon on saxophone, bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Cornelia St. Café.    (212) 989-9319.


Jeff Lorber

– Dec. 2 (Fri.)  Jeff Lorber Fusion.  Keyboardist Lorber’s original fusion band virtually defined the crossover styles that led to contemporary groove jazz, smooth jazz and more.  But Lorber’s music – past and present – has also always simmered with swinging jazz authenticity.  Expect the same, from a group that includes saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Gary Novak A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.


– Dec. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  David Sanborn.  Not only does alto saxophonist Sanborn have one of the most unique sounds in jazz, he also has one of the most influential.  Transforming the blues styles of Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman, he’s been among the most imitated saxophonists of the past four decades.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: July 12 – 17

July 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– July 12. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  With Mundell Lowe and bassist Jim Hughart.  Guitar Night’s always a pleasure, but here’s one not to miss – a pair of veteran jazz guitarists in action with the support of a fine bassist.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Chris Botti

– July 13. (Wed.)  Chris Botti and Bobby McFerrin with the Yellowjackets.  One of the highlights of the Hollywood Bowl summer jazz schedule.  Botti’s trumpet playing, delivered with surging rhythms and an elegantly expressive melodic flow have currently established him as the best-selling American instrumentalist.  McFerrin is always a wonder and even more so when he’s having fun with the dynamic Yellowjackets players.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000

– July 13. (Wed.)  Alex Iles and Bill Reichenbach Quintet.  A pair of primo trombonists get together with a sound and style that will hopefully recall the delights of Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– July 14. (Thurs.)  The Bill Cunliffe Quartet.  “Bill in Brazil The ever-versatile pianist displays his love of the irresistible rhythms and soaring melodies of Brazil.    Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Della Reese

– July 14. (Thurs.)  Della Reese.  “I’m still here, celebrating my 80th birthday,” says the ever energetic Ms. Reese.  And indeed she is, still singing up a storm, bringing imagination and entertainment to everything she does.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– July 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Sarah McLachlan with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkens conducting.  Multi-Grammy winning McLachlan makes her Hollywood Bowl debut in her first tour with an orchestra.  She’ll sing songs from her recent CD, Laws of Illusion.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– July 16. (Sat.)  Golden Boys: Frankie Avalon, Fabian Forte, Bobby Rydell.  Three of the teen idols of the ‘50s and ‘60s appear in the Cerritos season opener.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

– July 16. (Sat.)  An Evening with the Monkees. Forty five years after they first hit the television screens original members Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork revisit their catalog of hits.  Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– July 16. (Sat.)   Rickey Woodard with the John Heard Trio.  Saxophonist Woodard’s hard swinging, harmonically and melodically adventurous improvisations are among the Southland’s great jazz delights.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

– July 16. (Sat.)  “From California With Love”  CD release party.  The CD and the performance benefit Japanese disaster relief.  Among the stellar list of performers are Jim Cox, Michael Dees, Sue Raney, Diane Hubka, Pinky Winters and many more.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Freda Payne

– July 17. (Sun.)  Freda Payne.  The gorgeous Ms. Payne applies her far reaching interpretive skills to a Tribute to the Great Ladies of Jazz: Ella, Lena and Sarah Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

– July 17. (Sun.)  Shahrzad Sepanlou.  The lovely Iranian singers warm, expressive voice moves freely from traditional songs to intimate contemporary balladry.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

– July l5 & 16.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Charlie Hunter/Scott Amendola Duo. Hunter’s seven string guitar virtuosity has a chance to fully express itself in the company of Amendola’s subtle drumming.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.    (510) 644-2020.


– July 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Turre Quartet with pianist Willie Pickens. Jazz trombonist and remarkable conch shell player Turre explores colorful jazz territory with Chicago jazz great Pickens.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

– July 13. (Wed.)  Jane Bunnett and Hilario Duran.  Soprano saxophonist/flutist Bunnett and pianist Duran display some of the unusually eclectic Cuban material on their new album, Cuban Rhapsody.  Jazz Standard.  http://www.jazzstandard.com/red/index.html  (212) 576-2232.

July 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Airto.  The great Brazilian percussionist, fascinating with a group or as a soloist, plays with the all-star aggregation of  Mark Egan, bass, Jose Neto, guitar, Helio Alves, piano, and Lew Soloff, trumpet.  D Booker, the daughter of Airto and Flora Purim, will sing.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.


Charlie Parker

– July 12 & 13. (Tues. & Wed.)  “The Music of Charlie Parker”  Alto saxophonist Gilad Atzmon evokes the spirit and the soul of the great bebop alto saxophonist, performing – with a string ensemble – selections from Bird’s classic “with strings” recordings.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


– July 12. (Tues.) Ceu. Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Ceu is an intriguing songwriter and a compelling performer, blending her unique skills with her admiration for Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill.    New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.


– July 15. (Fri.)  Return To Forever IVChick Corea, Lenny White, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Gambale.  The latest incarnation of Return to Forever may well be the best one yet.  With Ponty and Gambale bringing their fiery skills to the dependable platform provided by Corea, White and Clarke, the results are musically irresistible.The Blue Note Milano.


– July 13 & 14. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Lionel Loueke and Raul Midon, the Duwala Malambo Projekt. A pair of uniquely idiosyncratic guitarist/singers find common ground in a wide open arena of improvisational adventuring they call the Duwala Malambo Projekt.  A-Trane International Jazz Club.   030/313 25 50.

Chris Botti photo by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: Oct. 4 – 10

October 4, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Oct. 6. (Wed.) Josh Nelson.  The Music of the 60s’ Blue Note Albums. Pianist Nelson takes on some of the classic themes from the great Blue Note catalog.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 6. (Wed.) Carol Robbins Quartet.  It’s an evening with many strings attached – from the rare jazz sounds of Robbins’ harp to the always swinging guitar of Larry KoonseVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Oct. 6. (Wed.) Emil Richards-Joe Porcaro Quartet. The jazz heat gets turned up high whenever vibist Richards and drummer Porcaro get together with dynamic pianist Mike Lang and the rhythmic drive of bassist Abraham LaborielCharlie O’s.   (81) 994-3058.

Elaine Miles

– Oct. 6. (Wed.)  Elaine Miles.   A warm embracing voice and an intuitive way with a song are Miles’ special gifts.  She sings with guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Kendall Kay.   Steamers.   (714) 871-8800.

– Oct. 7. (Thurs.) Disney Hall Opening Night Concert and GalaGustavo Dudamel kicks off the new season with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the bel canto singing of Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, the music of Rossini and a selection of works by South American composers. Disney Hall.  (323) 8502000.

– Oct. 8. (Fri.)  Ernie Watts Quartet.  The Southland’s saxophone player for all seasons steps into the spotlight to display his extraordinary musical versatility.    LACMA.  (323) 857-6000.

– Oct. 8. (Fri.) An Evening with Judy Collins. One of the great songbirds of pop and folk music, At 71, she’s an honored icon and a persistent social activist.  But her latest album, Paradise, affirms that she can also sing a song with the same mesmerizing intensity of her work in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Broad Stage. (310) 434-3200.

– Oct. 8. (Fri.)  The Trio.  If any three musicians deserve the all embracing title of “The Trio,” its Terry Trotter, Chuck Berghofer and Peter Erskine, whose togetherness defines what can happen when three gifted players get together to make music.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 8. (Fri.)  The Canadian Tenors with Due Voci.  The four Canadian tenors each bring a unique quality to the colorful mixture of classical and pop songs that is making them one of the concert world’s hottest acts.  Opening for them – the equally dynamic voices of Due Voci – Kelly Levesque and Tyler Hamilton.  Club Nokia.   (213) 765-7000.

Roslyn Kind

– Oct. 8 & 9. (Fr. & Sat.)  Roslyn Kind.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Roslyn Kind may be Barbra Streisand’s kid sister, but she’s a stunning talent in her own right.  Expect to be completely captivated by the stories she tells with her songs.  Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

– Oct. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Color Purple.  It’s called “The Musical about Love,” and both the music and the script bring Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to vivid life.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8501.

– Oct. 9. (Sat.) Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band.  Here’s a troupe that reaches way back, redolent with echoes of the folk sounds that preceded the rock revolution of the ‘60s.  McCabe’s.   (310) 828-4497.

– Oct. 9. (Sat.)  Gary Foster.  In an era of busy-fingered saxophonists, altoist Foster sustains the tradition of finding the music inside the line, the swing inside the rhythm.  He performs with the Pat Senatore TrioVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400. 

– Oct. 9. (Sat.)  Divas Simply Singing.  Sheryl Lee Ralph’s annual presentation of the latest stars of diva-dom returns with a stirring line up of talent.  Among this year’s divas: Teena Marie, Ledisi, Loretta Devine, Jenifer Lewis, Gloria Loring, Jody Watley, Chaka Khan, Patti Austin and much more.  The Saban Theatre.  (323) 655-0111.

Reorge Kahumoku

– Oct. 9. (Sat.)  George Kahumoku, Jr. and the Masters of Hawai’ian Music. Slack key guitarist Kahumoku celebrates the vibrant history of Hawaiian music in the company of guitarist Dennis Kamakahi, singer Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i and steel guitarist Bobby InganoIrvine Barclay Theatre.   (914) 854-4646.

– Oct. 9. (Sat.) John Abercrombie Quartet.  Breakout contemporary jazz guitarist Abercrombie is joined by violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron as the Angel City Jazz Festival wraps its 2010 series with a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast. The Musicians Institute Theatre.

– Oct. 9. (Sat.) Shake, Rattle & RollGreatest Hits of Fifties and Sixties Celebration. The Cruisin’ Oldies Show Band, fronted by Mark Curran and Tom Haney revive memories reaching from Elvis Presley to Chubby Checker, songs embracing “Rock ‘Round the Clock,” “All Shook Up,” “The Twist” and much more.  Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Forum Theatre.   (805) 449-2787.

– Oct. 9 & 10. (Sat. & Sun.)  Peter Smith’s Live Recording Project.  Pianist Smith leads the fine ensemble of Allen Mezquida, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, vibist Nick Mancini, singer Patrice Quinn, guitarist Jacques Lesure, bassist Trevor Ware, and drummer Clayton Cameron in a pair of intimate, live recording performances.  Alvas Showroom.   (800) 403-3447.

Nikki Yanofsky

– Oct. 10. (Sun.) Nikki Yanofsky. Teen-aged Canadian jazz vocalist Yanofksy has been attracting attention wherever she performs.  Her musicality, charisma and jazz intuition display all the characteristics of a potentially major talent. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

– Oct. 5. (Tues.)  Mel Martin Big Band.  Saxophonist Martin, one of the Bay area’s most adventurous resident jazz artists, fronts a large ensemble performing his envelope-stretching music. Yoshi’s Oakland= (510) 238-9200.

– Oct. 5 & 6. (Tues. & Wed.)  Renee Rosnes. Canadian-born pianist has thoroughly established herself as one of the innovative artists of her generation, performing with everyone from Wayne Shorter to James Moody. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

Oct. 10. (Sun.)  Third SF Filipino American Jazz Festival.  The surprising compatibility between jazz and Fililpino musical culture is on full display in this annual event.  Headliners include singer/pianist Primo Kim, vocalists Jo Canion, Charito and Sandra Lim Viray.   Yoshi’s San Francisco= (415) 655-5600.

New York

– Oct. 5 – 10.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Jason Moran and the Bandwagon.  Pianist Moran showcases the skills that made him one of this week’s recipients of a McArthur “genius” award.  Village Vanguard.   (212) 929-4589.

– Oct. 5 – 10.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Kenny Barron Quintet. Everyone’s A-list jazz pianist steps out with his own ensemble.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) 258-9595.

Gato Barbieri

– Oct. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.)  Gato Barbieri.  Tenor saxophonist Barbieri’s long, checkered career has reached from the avant-garde years of the ‘60s through his Grammy-winning score for The Last Tango In Paris to more recent smooth jazz outings.  But whichever of his musical persona’s turn up for this appearance, the results will be compelling.The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– Oct. 7 – 9. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Kenny Garrett Band. Versatile, musically probing alto saxophonist Garrett follows up on his live album, Sketches of MD with a performance at the venue where the CD was recorded.  Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

– Oct. 10. (Sun.)  Lionel Loueke Trio. Benin’s gift to contemporary jazz guitar matches his singular sound and style with an equally intriguing approach to jazz vocals. Iridium.   (212) 582-2121.

Live Jazz: Grand Opening of Guitar Night at Vitello’s

January 13, 2010

By Don Heckman

The new John Pisano Guitar Night series kicked off with a bang Tuesday night at Vitello’s in Studio City.  Notice that I did not say “Upstairs” at Vitello’s.  Although the venue’s upstairs room has been rapidly emerging as one of L.A.’s prime jazz destinations, Pisano opted for a more intimate downstairs lounge with a bar, believing that it has the right vibe to perpetuate Guitar Night’s long established, laid-back jam session environment.

Frank Potenza and John Pisano

It will no doubt have that laid-back quality on future Tuesday nights.  But there were bigger plans in mind for the opening, with the room packed to the gills with jazz fans eager to experience and be part of, a memorable event.   Pisano structured the program around a tribute to Joe Pass – the ultimate guitarists’ guitarist – with Frank Potenza as the initial featured artist.  Bassists Jim Hughart and Chris Connor (later in the set) and drummer Enzo Tedesco provided sturdy support.  By the time the evening was over, well past the scheduled closing time, more than a dozen of L. A.’s finest six string exponents had offered a sample of their impressive musical wares.

In the process, several aspects of the importance of what Guitar Night has come to mean over the 12 years of its existence were illuminated.  The first was its insistent affirmation of the growing credibility of the jazz guitar, at a time when the instrument has been viewed by many from a very different — louder, more electric — perspective.  Coming to the genre as a significant player much later than the horns, piano and drums, co-opted by the rockers in the ‘50s, ’60s and beyond, its jazz authority has been maintained by a relatively slim line of master players (compared to the trumpeters, the saxophonists, etc.).  Pass, of course, was one of the most important.  But the collection of guitarists on stage Tuesday night – reaching from the veteran Bob Bain to twenty-something Andreas Oberg, (with a substantial number of players still waiting to perform when the program came to a close) — underscored the extent to which the instrument has become a solid, jazz citizen.

Anthony Wilson, Enzo Tedesco and Andreas Oberg

There was, in addition, the far-reaching display of the guitar’s jazz versatility.  Despite the fact that no fusion or smooth jazz surfaced during the program, and that there was very little blues (aside from Phil Upchurch’s delightful take on “The St. Louis Blues” and a hard swinging romp between Potenza and Carl Verheyen), it was nonetheless a performance rich with highly personal improvisational perspectives.  In the opening set, Pisano and Potenza moved easily from funk and bossa nova to Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.”  Barry Zwieg’s “And I Thought About You,” Larry Koonse’s “How Much Do I Love You?” Jamie Rosenn’s “Body and Soul” and Tom Rotella’s “Just Friends” offered far-ranging views of how to bring imaginative interpretations to American Songbook standards.

Other pieces revealed one of Guitar Night’s most vital aspects – the musical sparks that can fly when a pair of guitarists, either similar or dissimilar in style, encounter each other in a jam situation.  Pat Kelly and Potenza’s take on “It Could Happen To You” was a highly charged encounter between a pair of players whose inventiveness triggered fascinatingly compatible interaction.  And a pair of Anthony Wilson duets led to strikingly different musical adventures.  First, an animated romp through a Reinhardt tune with Pisano.  Then, in a marvelously engaging final number, a provocative set of atmospheric exchanges with Oberg.

Ultimately, of course, Guitar Night comes down to John Pisano, to his persistence in keeping the franchise alive, to his remarkable ability to creatively adapt his playing to whomever guitar player is sitting in the seat across from him.  And he couldn’t have found a better way to announce to the world in general, and jazz fans in particular, that Guitar Night is alive and well.  Even more, that – at Vitello’s — it seems to be starting on a path toward bigger and better accomplishments.

Photos by Faith Frenz


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