Picks of the Week: Feb. 12 – 17

February 13, 2013

By The iRoM Staff

Los Angeles

Valentine’s Day

Steve Tyrell– Feb. 13 – 17. (Wed. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  Vocalist Tyrell applies his appealing, jazz-driven style, enhanced by his warm Texas roots, to five evenings of memorable Valentine’s Day celebrating.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Feb. 14 (Thurs.)  Dream Street & Bobbi Page.  The combination of guitarist Stan Ayeroff, the amiable acoustic chamber music of Dream Street, and the tender, evocative singing of Page is a welcome choice for another celebration of the day of love.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  Carol RobbinsTony Gala.  Harpist Robbins sets the Valentine’s Day mood in the first set, followed by the romantic vocals of Gala.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 14. (Thurs.) Nancy Sanchez.  Award-winning jazz vocalist Sanchez displays her many impressive talents.  Steamers.     (714) 871-8800.

Denise Donatelli

Denise Donatelli

– Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli.  She was nominated again, but Denise didn’t win a Grammy this year, although she should have.  And here’s a great opportunity to hear why her singing is so special, as she applies her lustrous sound and intimate interpretations to a program of Valentine love songs.  Prestons at the Loew’s Hotel Hollywood.   (323) 491-1000.

– Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  Taylor Eigsti.  Once a youthful piano prodigy, Eigsti is now a fully matured jazz artist.  He’s joined by Dayna Stephens, saxophone, Harish Raghavan, bass and Eric Harland, drums.  Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Sue Raney

Sue Raney

– Feb. 14. (Thurs.)  “A Gershwin Valentine.”  And a colorful Valentine at that, enhanced by a full spectrum of musical vocalizing from Sue Raney, Michael Dees, Kurt Reichenbach and Pinky WintersA Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.    (310) 271-9039.

– Feb. 14 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  “Romance at the Phil”  Celebrate a classical music Valentine’s week with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Charles Dutoit, with soloists Gautier Capucon, cello, and Carrie Dennis, viola, in a program of romantic classics from Mendelssohn, Mozart and Strauss.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

– Feb. 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The 13th Annual Newport Beach Jazz Party. It would take much more space than we have to mention all the world-class jazz talent at the annual Newport event.  But trust that – as always – the four engaging days of the Party will offer non-stop jazz at its finest.  The Newport Beach Jazz Party at the Marriott Newport Beach Hotel and Spa.  For details, check the web site.    (949) 759-5003.

And More

Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island Quartet

Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island Quartet

– Feb. 15. (Fri.)   Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island Quartet. “Poets and Prayers.” The unique combination of vocalist Sutton and the Turtle Island players finds inspiration in the music of Joni Mitchell and John Coltrane, and the poetry of Hafiz and Rumi.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at Zipper Hall.    (310) 271-9039.

– Feb. 17. (Sun.)  The Chieftains. The irresistible playing and singing of the Chieftains remind us of the many pleasures of Irish music.  Disney Hall. http://www.laphil.com/tickets/calendar  (323) 850-2000.

– Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Tim Weisberg Band.  Vitello’s.  Flutist Weisberg leads the fine musical collective of keyboardist Barnaby Finch,  bassist David Hughes, drummer David Derge and guitarist/vocalist Chuck AlvarezVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Pat Senatore Trio with Josh Nelson.  Jazz crosses the generations via the well-crafted, veteran bass work of Senatore and the adventurous piano playing of the youthful Nelson.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Paco Pena Flamenco Vivo” The brilliant Flamenco guitarist Pena is joined by a dynamic band of guitarists, singers and dancers.   Fri.: Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.      Sat.: Valley Performing Arts Center. (562) 916-8501.     (818) 677-3000.

San Francisco

The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer

– Feb. 15 – 17.  (Fri. – Sun.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  No one does jazz vocal ensemble singing better than the Transfer.  And they’re back to their best with the welcome return (from an illness hiatus) of the superb singing of Cheryl BentyneYoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 128-9200.

Washington D.C.

– Feb. 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jerry “The Iceman” Butler.  Once the lead singer of the Impressions, soul singer Butler – at 73 – is still out there, fully justifying his entry into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

– Feb. 12 – 18. (Tues. – Mon.)  The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.  Monday night big band jazz was a favorite, for years, on the Vanguard stage.  This time, the swinging ensemble is in residency for a week.   The Village Vanguard.    (212) 255-4037.

– Feb. 14 – 17. )Thurs. – Sun.)  Rachelle Ferrell. With a remarkable vocal range and a simmering, blues-driven style, Ferrell knows how to apply it all to her intriguing jazz interpretations.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.


Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias

– Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera.  A world class jazz trio, with Elias’ imaginative piano lines backed by the dynamic rhythm of bassist Johnson and drummer LaBarbera.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.


– Feb. 17. (Sun.)  Cedar Walton Trio.  Pianist Walton, everyone’s favorite rhythm section player, steps out in front, backed by bassist David Williams and drummer Willie Jones III.  A-Trane.  030/313 25 50.


– Feb. 13 – 16. (Wed. – Sat.)  Nicola Conte and Till Bronner.  Versatile Italian guitarist Conte teams up with the equally eclectic German trumpeter Bronner.  The Tokyo Blue Note.     03-5485 0088.

Steve Tyrell photo by Bob Barry

Denise Donatelli and Sue Raney photos by Faith Frenz.

Live Jazz: A Busy Friday Night at Vitello’s and the Out Take Bistro

February 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  Sometimes a music reviewer just has to do a lot in a single night – often unexpectedly.  As I did on Friday.  Even though it hadn’t actually started out that way.

My schedule for the evening originally included a stop at Vitello’s  to hear the Bill Cunliffe big band in action.  I”d written about the band fairly recently, but with Cunliffe nominated for a Grammy in today’s 2013 Awards (after winning a statuette in the 2012 Grammys), it seemed a good time to give another listen to his richly textured big band writing.  Add that the fact that he’d promised to include more selections from his jazz interpretation of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and it was a performance that clearly offered some fascinating musical attractions.

The most gripping big band arrangements and compositions are usually well crafted combinations of inspired writing and inventive soloing.  And Cunliffe’s composing and arranging have always blended those qualities into irresistibly appealing musical banquets, enhanced by the playing of a world class assemblage of Southland players.

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

The Bill Cunliffe Big Band

On this night, as always, the Cunliffe band was overflowing with fine artists.  All deserve mention for their ensemble and solo playing.  But I have to highlight the especially impressive work of Bob Sheppard, playing lead alto (and lead soprano) in the saxophone section, the strong tenor saxophone soloing of Rob Lockart and Jeff Ellwood, the always superb trumpeting of Bob Summers and Carl Saunders, the equally sterling trombone work of Bob McChesney and Andy Martin, and the propulsive rhythm section work of drummer Joe LaBarbera, bassist Jonathan Richards and guitarist Larry Koonse.

Bill Cunliffe

Bill Cunliffe

The first part of the set was mostly dedicated to Cunliffe’s originals, which roamed freely across a gamut of styles, delivering them with convincing jazz authenticity.   Next, a pair of vocals added a different perspective: first, Dawn Bishop soaring through “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”; next, April Williams – who, as Vitello’s jazz producer, has transformed the club into a major jazz venue – sang a delightfully evocative version of “You Can Always Count On Me” from the musical City of Angels.  Listening to her, one couldn’t help but wish that she would make more singing appearances in the room, especially with the musical theatre material she does so well.

There was also an unexpected, but welcome performance by a guest artist – trombonist/composer Chris Brubeck.  Nominated (with his late father, Dave Brubeck) for a Grammy in the same category as Cunliffe, Chris was invited to share the stage the day before the Awards.  Chris responded with a warmly ingratiating trombone solo on the lovely ballad written by his father and mother, “In Your Own Sweet Way.”

The Cunliffe Band’s set closed with his re-imagining of the Bach Goldberg Variations, which he has re-titled The Goldberg Contraption.  But it was far more than a “Contraption” – more like a smoothly functioning Swiss watch, with Cunliffe’s transformation of Bach’s flowing harmonies and shifting counterpoint into an utterly believable jazz framework.

And there was more on the Vitello’s agenda before we could leave.  When the Cunliffe Band set concluded in the upstairs room, more jazz sounds were heard downstairs, where pianist John Campbell was playing for late diners and bar-hoppers in the club’s just-added musical setting, “Downstairs Piano Nights.”  No one interprets the Great American Songbook with more imaginative readings than Campbell.  And, even in a room filled with chatting listeners, he easily managed the demanding task of entertaining his audience, while approaching each song with fascinating creativity.

Cat Conner

Cat Conner

But we had another stop to make before our evening was over.  Leaving Vitello’s, heading straight down Tujunga to a right on Ventura Blvd., we quickly arrived for the last few tunes at the Out Take Bistro.    It’s a Friday night gig usually featuring “Cat & Cip” — the vocals of Cat Conner and the saxophone and clarinet of Gene “Cip” Cipriano.

On this night, however, they were joined by a stellar array of players in a virtual jam session format.  The group included trombonist Dick Nash and guitarist John Chiodini (frequent partners of Cat and Cip), as well as clarinetist Alex Budman, soprano saxophonist John Altman and trumpeter Brian Swartz.

Gene Cipriano and John Chiodini

Gene Cipriano and John Chiodini


We arrived just in time for an all-join-in jam on “Take the A Train” allowing plenty of space for the talented crew to stretch out.  And the final wrap up reached out to feature Cat’s warm, engaging vocal in a jaunty song reaching back more than a hundred years – “Hello, Ma Baby.” It was the perfect ending to a musical evening embracing everything from big band jazz and the music of J.S. Bach to the Great American Songbook, ragtime, and beyond.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: May 15 – 20

May 15, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jack DeJohnette

– May 15 – 20. (Tues. – Sun.)  Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke celebrate Jack’s 70th birthday. It would be hard to ask for a more stellar trio than this.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear three authentically iconic jazz artists performing together.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– May 16. (Wed.)  Gary Foster/Tom Ranier Quartet.  And speaking of stellar, here’s a quartet — including Putter Smith, bass and Joe LaBarbera, drums – that shines pretty brightly, as well.  They may be based solely in L.A., but they’ve got world class jazz credentials..  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– May 16. (Wed.)  Bern.  Drummer Bernie Dresel leads his 12 piece, supercharged, funk-driven band in an evening at the Valley’s newest jazz room.  The Federal.   (818) 980-2555.

– May 17. (Thurs.)  Annie Trousseau.  This multi-lingual world music sextet is led by Colombian/America singer/songwriter Ana Maria Lombo in a program reaching from Edith Piaf to Antonio Carlos Jobim. Vibrato.    .(310) 474-9400.

Barbara Cook

May 19. (Sat.)  Barbara Cook. Tony Award-winning (for Music Man) Cook has been concentrating on cabaret and concert music for the past four decades.  And, at 84, she is still a captivating singer.  Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.  The Valley Performing Arts Center regretfully announces that due to an unexpected reaction to medication, Barbara Cook has been forced to postpone her performance originally scheduled at the Valley Performing Arts Center Great hall on Saturday, May 19, 2012.  This concert has been rescheduled to Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 8 pm.  Tickets for the May 19 date will be honored on June 30.  Requests for refund must be made to the VPAC box office by June 5.

– May 19. (Sat.)  Elaine Stritch“Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time.”  One of the great, charismatic Broadway performers, Stritch makes her Disney Hall debut with what will surely be a memorable program.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.


– May 19. (Sat.) Luckman Jazz OrchestraA Tribute to Charlie Parker.  The LJO pays much deserved tribute to alto saxophonist Parker, one of the two or three most powerfully influential figures in the history of jazz.  Luckman Performing Arts Center. (323) 323-4600.

San Francisco

– May 18 – 20.  (Fri. – Sun.)  The Brad Mehldau Trio. Firmly established as a vital, influential pianist, Mehldau’s current group – with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard — has set high standards for the contemporary jazz piano trio.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season event at the YBCA Forum.  (866) 920-5299.

Roy Haynes

Washington, D.C.

– May 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band. The name is well chosen for drummer Haynes, who – at 87 – continues to superbly lead groups consisting of players young enough to be his grand children.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

– May 15 – 19. (Tues. – Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco Trio with special guest George Coleman. It’s a great combination – the effervescent B-3 organ drive of DeFrancesco with the solid, blue-inflected saxophone of Coleman.   Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– May 16 – 19. (Wed. – Sat.)  Brian McKnight and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The rich, golden voice of McKnight surrounded by the incomparable Ellington Orchestra timbres – should make for a great musical evening.  McKnight’s  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

– May 17 – 20. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Gil Evans Centennial Project.  Directed by Ryan Truesdell.  A different Evans program will be presented on each night by a prime New York big band, reaching from Evans’ work for the Claude Thornhill Band to his own recordings in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  The Jazz Standard/red/index.html  (212) 576-2232.


– May 16 – 18. (Wed. – Fri.)  Al Di Meola World Sinfonia.  Always versatile, moving across stylistic areas with ease, guitarist Di Meola’s current group cruises affectingly through lush harmonies and stirring world rhythms.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Lynne Arriale


– May 16. (Wed.)  The Lynne Arriale Trio featuring Benny Golson.  Pianist Arriale and veteran composer and saxophonist Golson get together for some lively, cross-generational jazz.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.


– May 17 & 18. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin. Guitarist Ritenour and keyboardist/composer Grusin are long time musical companions, recording and playing together frequently over the yeas.  Hopefully they’ll offer some selections from their superb Two Worlds album. The Blue Note Milano.

Picks of the Week: Mar. 20 – 25

March 20, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Zana Messia

– Mar. 21. (Wed.)  Zana Messia and the Balkan Soul Orchestra. Yugoslavian singer-songwriter Messia celebrates the release of her new album, Balkan Soul, featuring the arching melodies and gypsy rhythms of her songs.  Guest  performers will reportedly be in attendance as well.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Mar. 21. (Wed.)  Zakir Hussain’s “Masters of Percussion.”   Tabla master Hussain, whose resume reaches from classical Indian music to jazz and pop fusion, displays his virtuosic skills in a setting that embraces high energy percussion, meditative ragas and Indian dance. Walt Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Mar. 22. (Thurs.)  Joe LaBarbera Quintet.  The veteran drummer steps into a leadership role with an all-star band: saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpter Clay Jenkins, pianist Bill Cunliffe and bassist Tom Warrington. That’s for the 8 p.m. set.  At 10 p.m. pianist Josh Nelson’s trio takes over, with Dave Robaire, bass, Dan Schnelle, drums.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Mar. 22. (Thurs.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Westside Connections 2. Special guest: Food critic Jonathan Gold.  Why a food critic at an LACO concert?  Because the subject of the evening is food references in music.  And L.A. Weekly food critic Gold will discuss them as part of a program of music dedicated to food-related compositions by J.S. Bach, Bernstein, William Bolcom, Timothy Andres and DohnanyiThe Broad Stage.    (310) 434-3200.

– Mar. 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sunday)  Rachelle Ferrell. The soulful, far-ranging voice of Ferrell has been one of the wonders of contemporary jazz and pop for more than two decades, still reaching well above high C.   Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Mar. 23 & 24. (Fri. & Sat.)  SFJAZZ CollectiveThe Music of Stevie Wonder.  The all-star members of the Collective take on the songs of Stevie Wonder, and add their original works – inspired by Wonder.  Samueli Theatre, Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2787.

– Mar. 24. (Sat.)  Noa (Achinoam Nini).  Adept in a dozen languages, imaginatively expressive in music of every genre, Israeli singer Noa (as she is professionally known) will display the full range of her creative versatility, while emphasizing music from the Israeli songbook.  She’ll be accompanied by her long-time partner, guitarist/arranger/producer, Gil Dor.  Click HERE to read an iRoM Q & A with Noa.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2102.

Savion Glover

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Savion Glover.  Always searching for new creative dance expressions, Glover – backed by his new “Bare Soundz” band – explores the fascinating connections between flamenco and tap dancing.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818( 677-3000.

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Tom Peterson Quartet.  Saxophonist Peterson, a versatile player who is on everyone’s first-call list, steps into the spotlight with the able support of bassist Pat Senatore, pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Kendall KayVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Jackie Ryan

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Jackie Ryan.  A standout in a crowded field of singers that seems to be growing larger by the day, Ryan is a uniquely appealing jazz vocal artist.  Always responsive to the inner heartbeat of the words and the music, she is a songwriter’s delight.  Ryan performs with the Tamir Hendelman Trio.  Pierre’s Fine Piano Salon.  (310) 216-5861.

Mumiy Troll

– Mar. 24. (Sat.) Mumiy Troll.  Russia’s best-known, most popular rock band makes a rare Southland appearance, celebrating the upcoming release of their first English language album, Vladivostok, recorded in Los Angeles.  The Viper Room.          (310) 358-1881.

– Mar. 25. (Sun.) Pat Martino and Eldar.  It’s a cross generational performance, with the superb, 67 year old veteran guitarist Martino exchanging musical ideas with former prodigy, now 25 year old pianist, Eldar.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  Musicians Institute.   (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

– Mar. 23 – 25. (Fri. – Sun.)  The James Cotton Superharp Band featuring Elvin Bishop.  Cotton, the Grammy-winning master of the blues harmonica, leads a band featuring the similarly gifted blues singer/guitarist Bishop.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Washington D.C.

– Mar. 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kevin Eubanks.  He may have had his greatest visibility leading the Tonight Show band from 1995 – 2010, but guitarist Eubanks’ world class abilities reach far beyond the television screen.   Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

Pharoah Sanders

– Mar. 20 – 24 (Tues. – Sat.)  Pharoah Sanders Quartet. Tenor saxophonist Sanders, one of the prime musical offspring of John Coltrane, has taken the style and shaped it into a uniquely personal creative expression. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– Mar. 23. (Fri.)  “Bird Amongst the Blossom: A Tribute to the Blossom Dearie Songbook.”  Singer Jaye Maynard, fascinated by both the romance and the whimsy in Dearie’s repertoire, has shaped the songs into a fascinating musical tribute.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.


– Mar. 21 & 22. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Mike Stern Band.  He moves freely and imaginatively across the boundaries of jazz, blues, fusion and beyond.  And guitarist Stern is at his best when he’s surrounded by fine players.  As he is here, with French violinist Didier Lockwood, bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Dave WecklThe Milan Blue Note. 


Ambrose Akinmusire

– Mar. 21. (Wed.)  Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet. Not yet 30, trumpeter Akinmusire has already been chosen by a large number of critics as the cream of his generation, and potentially the next major jazz trumpeter.  He performs with Walter Smith III, saxophones, Sam Harris, piano, Harish Raghavan, bass, Justin Brown, drums.  A-Trane.    030/313 25 50.

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Ambrose Akinmusire photo by Tony Gieske.

Live Music: A Jimmy McHugh Celebration at Vitello’s

March 1, 2012

By Don Heckman

The subtitle for this splendid program of song at Vitello’s Wednesday night was “A Salute to Black History Month.”  And both the title and the subtitle were right on target.  The performance was dedicated to selections from the extraordinary song catalog of Jimmy McHugh – who is surely one of the least acknowledged major composers in the Great American Songbook.  And the Black History salute was directly linked via McHugh’s songwriting for Harlem’s 1920’s Cotton Club revues and the all-black Broadway musical, Blackbirds of 1928 (which included one of McHugh’s classics, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”).

John Proulx

Although the real star of the evening was, of course, McHugh, the singing – by pianist/vocalist John Proulx, Sherry Williams and Deana Martin (backed by the sturdy support of bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera) – brought entertaining illumination to the songs.  And it was full testimony to the timeless appeal of McHugh’s works that they provided unique inspiration to the individual styles of each singer.

Proulx, who put the program together, has been emerging as one of the present jazz scene’s rare – too rare – male singer/instrumentalists.  Like John Pizzarelli, his performances are enriched by authentic credibility in both those areas.  “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “I Just Found Out About Love” were delivered with a solid rhythmic groove.  On “Can’t Get Out of This Mood,” Proulx scatted in unison with his piano lines, calling up similarities to Pizzarelli’s jazz and guitar improvisations. “Too Young To Go Steady” had just the right amount of teen-aged angst.  And “Let’s Get Lost” suggested cool, laid-back Chet Baker-inspired phrasing.  (The song was included in Proulx’s Baker tribute album, Baker’s Dozen.)

Sherry Williams

Williams’ honey-rich voice was at its best on a jaunty “Exactly Like You” and a beautifully lyrical reading of the soaring melody McHugh wrote for “Where Are You.”

Proulx and Williams then teamed up for one of the evening’s highlights, a close harmonized “I’m In The Mood For Love” and a rock-tinged “On The Sunny Side of the Street.”

Deana Martin

Special guest Deana Martin, who is McHugh’s goddaughter, added her own, uniquely expressive version of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and a delightful interpretation of the McHugh and Dorothy Fields version of “I Won’t Dance,” recalling the song’s dynamic presence in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers version of Roberta.

That’s a lot of songs for one night club set.  But Jimmy McHugh’s musical accomplishments were so profuse – over 279 songs and five Academy Award nominations — that one could easily mention a dozen of his memorable songs that didn’t make it into the program.

Several members of the McHugh family, including his granddaughter, Judy McHugh Larkin – who initiated the celebration — were present for the performance.  Hopefully, Judy can be encouraged to plan another evening of McHugh’s music, including some of his lesser known but equally listenable songs, for a future program.  May 23, the 108th anniversary of his birth, would be a good date to do it.

Photos by Bob Barry.  To see more of Bob’s Jazzography, click HERE.

Picks of the Week: Feb. 28 – Mar. 4

February 28, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Robbins

– Feb. 29. (Wed.)  Carol Robbins. She’s that rare musical combination – a jazz harpist.  And Robbins has brought it off in convincing style, playing with everyone from Frank Sinatra and the Manhattan Transfer to Billy Childs and Dianne Reeves.  This time out, Robbins does it her way. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 29. (Wed.)  Jimmy McHugh Music Celebrates Black History Month.  He doesn’t seem to be mentioned as often as Gershwin, Porter and Kern, but McHugh’s list of contributions to the Great American Songbook is just as impressive.  To mention only  a few: “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “I’m in the Mood For Love” and dozens more.  The McHugh songs will be interpreted by John Proulx, piano and vocals, singers Sherry Williams and Deana Martin (McHugh’s goddaughter), with Chuck Berghofer, bass, Joe LaBarbera, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Mar. 1 (Thurs.)  Aaron Serfaty/Otmaro Ruiz Quartet, Drummer Serfaty and keyboardist Ruiz, long-time musical companions, have assembled a new quartet, featuring Catina De Luna, voice/percussion, and Johnathan Richards, bass, blending Brazilian rhythms with a Venezuelan twist.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Mar. 1. (Thurs.)  Raya Yarbrough. CD release party.  Singer Yarbrough’s far-reaching musical skills – as a performer, a songwriter, arranger and more — shine through in everything she sings.  She’ll be featuring selections from a new album. Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Oleta Adams

– Mar. 1 – 3 (Thurs. – Sat.)  Oleta Adams.  The evocative, soul-filled voice of Adams has been a memorable experience since her 1991 debut album, Circle of One, with its impassioned single, “Get Here.”  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear her up close and personal. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Mar. 2. (Fri.)  Danny Janklow.  Twenty-two year old alto saxophonist Janklow has already been acknowledged by Wynton Marsalis as an outstanding talent, and he’s performed with the likes of Benny Golson, James Moody, and Marsalis, among others.  The gifted young artist displays his skills here in the company of Theo Saunders, piano, Pat Senatore, bass, and Kendall Kay, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Bernadette Peters

– Mar. 3. (Sat.)  An Evening with Bernadette Peters.  Fresh off a six month run of the revived Follies on Broadway, Peters does a solo stint, recalling some of her stellar moments from Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George and others.  The inimitable Peters will no doubt also include something from Follies, as well.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

– Mar. 3. (Sat.)  The Estrada Brothers Latin Jazz Band.  Together for decades, the Estrada Brothers Band has seen some shifting personnel.  But the group’s fundamental ability to bring life, spirit and believability to their view of Latin jazz has continued to get better over the years. Steamer’s.   (714) 871-8800.

San Francisco

– Mar. 3. (Sat.)  Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  The South African choral group made its international breakthrough via their presence on Paul Simon’s Graceland.  Since then, they have established their own credibility, introduced the world to the fascinating choral sounds and musical culture of South Africa, and won three Grammys.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season event. (866) 920-5299.

– Mar. 4. (Sun.)  Liz Story.  One of Windham Hill’s early New Age artists, Story’s piano playing and composing possessed far more compelling musical elements than most of the wallpaper music of the style.  Her current work is even better, finding the compatible territory between classical, jazz, pop and pure contemplative sounds. Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.


Benny Golson

– Feb. 28 & 29. (Tues. & Wed.)  Benny Golson Quartet. Tenor saxophonist and composer of a string of jazz classics, Golson seems to like nothing better than getting on stage and playing a straight ahead jazz set.  As he does here, backed by bassist Ray Drummond, drummer Jason Marsalis and pianist Sharp RadwayJazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

Washington, D.C.

– Mar. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mike Stern & Dave Weckl.  A pair of jazz fusion masters, guitarist Stern and drummer Weckl find common jazz cause with the empathic assistance of bassist John Pattitucci and saxophonist Bob Francheschini.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York

John Pizzarelli

– Feb. 28 – Mar. 3. (Tues. – Sat.) John Pizzarelli Quartet.  Singer guitarist Pizzarelli, as musically intriguing as he is entertaining, is always fun to hear in the intimacy of a night club setting.  Hopefully he’ll play some of the intriguing musical collages from his new CD, Double Exposure.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent Pizzarelli performance.    Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

– Feb. 28 – Mar. 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  Monty Alexander continues his musically eclectic residency at the Blue Note.  With special guests Sly & Robbie, Harlem Kingston Express and others.  (Check club website for schedule).  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

– Feb. 28 – Mar. 4. (Tues. – Sun.)  Matt Wilson Arts & Crafts Quartet. There’s plenty of artfulness and a lot of craft, too, in the all-star band drummer Wilson has put together, with trumpeter Terell Stafford, keyboardist Gary Versace and bassist Martin Wind Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

Sheila Jordan

– Feb. 29. (Wed.)  Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton. A summit meeting of two great jazz masters.  Jordan and Clayton are utterly unique stylists, but they share the singular belief in the limitless possibilities of the jazz vocal art.  They’re backed by Cameron Brown, bass and Jack Wilkins, guitar.  Cornelia St. Café.   (212) 989-9319.

– Mar. 3. (Sat.)  Maria Jacobs.  A jazz-driven singer, Jacobs brings musicality, persuasive story-telling skills and a warm and supple voice to her intimate readings of the Great American Songbook.  The Metropolitan Room.    (212) 206-0440.


– Mar. 3. (Sat.)  Chris Potter Quartet.  Saxophonist Potter is arguably one of the most gifted practitioners on his instrument of the past decade or two.  He’s at his best backed by the solid rhythm team of Adam Rogers, guitar, Craig Taborn, keyboards, Nait Smith, drums.  A-Trane.   030/313 25 50.


– Mar. 1 – 4.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Helen Merrill.  Veteran singer Merrill, whose remarkable skills have not always received the attention they deserve in her native U.S.  But wise Japanese jazz fans have accorded her much warranted musical stardom.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03.5485.0088.

Here, There & Everywhere: Rick Braun Sings

November 12, 2011

By Don Heckman

When Rick Braun asked me to write the liner notes for his new album a few months ago, I wasn’t sure what to say.  I knew he was a fine jazz trumpeter with solid mainstream skills, despite the fact that he was best known as a high visibility performer in the smooth jazz genre.  But the new album was taking him into the unexpected territory clearly defined in the album title, Rick Braun Sings With Strings.

“Okay, so what’s this,” I thought.  “Rick Braun is traveling down Chet Baker Lane?  Hmmm.”

But when I heard the first few tracks, none of which had any particular Baker references, I began to broaden my perspective.  And I recalled how many of the trumpet players – from Louis Armstrong to Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Jack Sheldon and beyond – had found common musical ground between their instrumental and their vocal musical interests.

Listening to more of the tracks, with their broad range of tunes, reaching from American Songbook classics to some fascinating French song entries chosen by album producer/arranger/pianist Phillipe Saisse, I was impressed.  In part by the lush musical production and the appealing choice of material.  But equally so by Braun’s warm, engaging singing.

To make a long story short – I was happy to write the liners.

And when I saw that Braun was performing selections from the album with a rhythm section and a string quartet at Vitello’s, I knew I had to hear the songs in a live setting.

Interestingly, the smaller ensemble, while retaining the rich harmonic coloration of the album tracks, also created an attractively intimate musical environment.  And Braun made the most of it.

Clearly impacted by the strong, balladry style founded by Frank Sinatra, he sang tunes such as “The Good Life” and “It’s Love” with solid musical assertiveness.  On others – “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” “Once Upon A Summer Time” and “I Thought About You” among them —  he switched gears into more laid-back, story telling style.  Between songs, his amiable, outgoing conversational manner added another attractive element to the evening.

Add to that Braun’s darkly lyrical flugel horn playing, the rich textures of a string quartet and the briskly swinging support of Saisse on piano, guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Reggie Hamilton and drummer Joe LaBarbera.

And the result was a rare and memorable display of what can happen when a first rate recording is good enough to go live.

Photo by Bob Barry


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