Live Jazz: Saturday at the Monterey Jazz Festival 56

September 23, 2013

Impressions from MJF 56, Saturday

By Michael Katz. 

Saturday at MJF is a sprawl of music, food, and a friendly wave of humanity washing over everything. After years of vacillating between the supposedly bigger names in the sun-baked arena and the fun of the Garden Stage, I opted this year to grab a bench seat at the Garden and soak it all in. As it turned out, you could have camped out for 3 days and nights there in your lawn chair and done just fine. Saturday afternoon was opened by the California Honeydrops, a band from Oakland with a distinct gumbo flavor, augmented by the blues-tinged piano of guest artist Charlie Hickox. Lech Wierzynski was a genial leader on vocals, guitar and trumpet. He varied the pace, from a sultry “Let The Good Times Roll,” to the New Orleans standard “You Rascal You,” and some rollicking blues.

The California Honeydrops on the March

The California Honeydrops on the March

When the metaphorical Honeydrops turned to real raindrops, the band marched into the crowd for a spirited “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Johnny Bones wailed away on the tenor, with Lorenzo Loera on bass. Benjamin Malamont and Warren Jones handled drums and percussion. In recounting their adventures playing in the BART tunnels, they brought out a washboard, Jones spinning out a tactile tap dance through “Pumpkin Pie.”

Somewhat regretfully, I left the Honeydrops behind to drop in on baritone sax player Claire Daly at the Night Club. She was doing a set of Monk tunes from her Baritone Monk CD, and the promise of an hour of Thelonious tunes was enough to draw me inside. Daly opened up with “52nd Street Theme,” then switched to some lesser known compositions, including “Light Blue,” which featured an arco solo by her bassist, Mary Ann McSweeney. It was nice to bring tunes like “Teo” and “Two Timer” to light, but there was a lot of mileage left in the more familiar compositions as well.

Claire Daly

Claire Daly

Daly has a graceful touch with the bari sax, strong chops and an easy patter with the audience. She knew when to vary the tone, switching to flute for “Ruby, My Dear,” where she had some fine support from Steve Hudson on piano. Her “Merrier Christmas” medley was quite amusing, especially given the hot and sticky conditions inside the Nightclub. When she mentioned the word “cool” in introducing “Let’s Cool One,” the very sound of it was refreshing; her version of it was brisk and swinging. I especially liked her interpretation of “Bright Mississippi,” which, despite the intended irony in Monk’s title, was bright and bouncy. Drummer Peter Grant had a nice flourish toward the end to conclude a terrific set.

There were a few quick stops before the evening program kicked in. I caught the end of George Benson’s Arena show, walking into a blazing (if way too heavily amped) “Mambo Inn,” which was followed by a couple of his pop standards, and then a foot stomping signature version of “On Broadway.”

Charnett Moffett

Charnett Moffett

Back at the Garden Stage, bassist Charnett Moffett kicked off the 10 Years of Motema Music celebration with 20 minutes of solo bass. It was a triumph of rhythm and dexterity, his nimble fingers reminiscent of Ron Carter, deftly weaving from Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song” to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” There was “Frere Jacques” as you’ve never quite heard it, and a stand-up bass/electronic-assisted nod to Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.”

Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano

I started the evening at the Arena, where Artist-In Residence Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas led their Sound Prints quintet. Lovano has been much into free jazz of late – I had caught the end of his Us Five band Friday night. His soloing is vigorous and full of extemporaneous glee, while Douglas has always been out there on the edge. But I thought that pianist Lawrence Fields was superb – his chordal structures and gentle prodding formed the background to the band, a kind of gravitational pull that kept the soloists from breaking too far from their orbits. The centerpiece of the show was two Wayne Shorter compositions commissioned for the festival, “Destination Unknown” and “Sail Beyond The Sunset.” The first was a somewhat basic line augmented by some more nice work by Fields. I found the second more compelling, with trumpeter Douglas providing some clarity with his voicings. Lovano soaring as usual and Linda Oh adding some insistent bass work. Joey Baron backed it all up nicely on the drums.

Orrin Evans

Orrin Evans

I cannot go through an MJF without at least one piano trio set at the Coffee House, so I headed over to catch Orrin Evans’ 9:30 set. Evans is a unique talent. Start out with a muscular style, a la the late Mulgrew Miller or McCoy Tyner, then add in the ability to find calm in the center, like the eye of a hurricane. Evans has had a long association with his bassist, Eric Revis, and the interplay between the two was fascinating throughout. They opened with a Revis composition, “Black Elk Speaks,” which had some abstract qualities, but later moved on to standards like “Autumn Leaves.” Drummer Donald Evans contributed precise stickwork, and Evans again demonstrated his ability to produce thunderous riffs and then segue to lovely, quieter moments. The hour flew by, ending on the spiritual side with Luther Vandross’ “Brand New Day” from The Wiz, and then Evans singing a gospel-like, “The Eternal Truth,” by Trudy Pitts.

There was no shortage of reverence and appreciation for the late Dave Brubeck at MJF 56, but nothing quite brought his spirit to life like the Brubeck Brothers Quartet at the Nightclub.

Chris Brubeck

Chris Brubeck

Bassist and trombonist Chris Brubeck, as affable as he is talented, kept everything in perspective, adding family insights to a collection of standard and not-so-standard compositions by his father. Brother Dan was quiet verbally but boisterous on the drum set. The band itself stood out for its contrast to the basic Dave Brubeck quartet. Instead of a sax, there was superb guitarist Mike DeMicco. He shared the leads with pianist Chuck Lamb – the two of them often alternating bars on the main lines. The substitution of guitar for sax presented opportunities for fresh arrangements, and here the band excelled. I especially liked “Kathy’s Waltz,” which had a bright, energetic swing to it, with a terrific solo by Lamb. “The Jazz-anians” was a tour de force for Dan, and emphasized the cultural impact Dave had. There was a quiet interlude for Lamb, who soloed in “Strange Meadowlark,” then Chris picked up the trombone, offering a sweet and lovely interpretation of one of my favorite Brubeck tunes, “In Your Own Sweet Way.” There was also recognition of the recent passing of Marian McPartland. Dave Brubeck had recorded a series of wonderful compositions in which he took a performer’s name and worked out tunes that seemed to match them. “Marian McPartland,” which he recorded with her on “Piano Jazz,” was wonderfully re-invented with Chris providing nimble bass work. The Brubecks understood that the audience still wanted the most famous tunes – but Chris added to the understanding with a narrative of the quartet’s tour under the aegis of the State Department, which inspired “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” If you wondered how they’d pull this off without a saxophone, Mike DeMicco answered with an intricate reading, carrying the melody with Lamb, then pulling off the “Blue” part with some raucous guitar licks.

Capping it off was “Take Five,” in which Dan Brubeck breathed new life into the obligatory drum solo, taking a turn that might have become de riguer and treating the audience to as fine an extended performance as has been rendered on one of jazz’s most famous tunes.

That put the cap on a wonderful day 2 at Monterey, with the promise of one more afternoon and evening to come.

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Photos of the California Honeydrops, Charnett Moffett and Chris Brubeck by Michael Katz.

Photos of Claire Daly, Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas, and Orrin Evans courtesy of the Monterey Jazz Festival. 

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.Don’t forget to check out Michael Katz’s new novel, Dearly Befuddled, available in paperback and E-book at Amazon.  And Read Mike’s Blog at Katz of the Day.

 


Preview: The 56th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

September 15, 2013

By Michael Katz

Every year I head up to the Monterey Jazz Festival with a battle plan for seeing as much of the three days and over 500 artists as reasonably possible, and every year that plan gets shredded almost from the opening notes. Musicians whom I’d intended to sample (like Gregory Porter last year) keep me riveted for the duration of a set; a soft breeze and a bluesy band at the outdoor Garden Stage finds me hopelessly planted in my lawn chair; a piano trio at the Coffee House Gallery (Bill Carrothers, two years ago) holds me spellbound into the witching hour.

My initial take for MJF 56, coming up next weekend, was that the Arena line-up is so strong I’d be doing less wandering than usual. Certainly Friday night, with Gregory Porter opening the show, followed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck and then the Buena Vista Social Club is all too good to miss – unless I want to catch a little of pianist Uri Caine at the Coffee House or Carmen Lundy at the Night Club. Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano are playing separately on the grounds Friday night, but together Saturday night at the Arena.

Decisions, decisions….

Saturday presents lots of conundrums. There’s the traditional blues/roots program that leads off with the Relatives at the Arena, (with a late afternoon encore at the Garden Stage) and the usual collection of funky sounds all afternoon at the Garden. George Benson is the featured afternoon act at the Arena. But a young woman I haven’t heard, baritone player Claire Daly, is doing a Monk program at 2:30 in the Night Club, so I’m already figuring out how to catch most of that, and still see the last half of Benson’s show. Meanwhile, during the break between the Arena Shows, bassist Charnett Moffett will be holding forth, and by 8 PM a flood of talent hits the festival, with the Lovano/Douglas group, Marc Cary, Ravi Coltrane, Craig Taborn and Orrin Evans all performing in various venues at the same time.

Later on that night, after more potential bouncing between Dave Holland, Charlie Hunter, Mary Stallings and others, another dilemma is at hand. Bobby McFerrin is sui generis, and I surely won’t want to miss him. But the Brubeck Brothers, Chris, Daniel and their band, will be performing at the Night Club at about the same time. I saw Chris a few years ago at MJF with his funky blues band Triple Play, as well as with his Dad in the memorable Cannery Row Cantata. He’s a wonderful and spirited performer on bass and trombone, as is Daniel on the drums. Given their Dad’s lasting contributions to MJF, I get the sense that their show Saturday will be a heart stopper.

I issue my annual alert for Sunday: don’t miss the Next Generation Band. This group of all-star high school age kids opens the Arena Show Sunday, and they are a great reason to brave the midday Monterey sun. Joe Lovano will be joining them for a couple of guest solos. The Bob James-David Sanborn group will be anchoring the show, for what figures to be a fun session of funky, bluesy jazz. The “hammock” time between Arena shows is always a perfect occasion to hang out at the Garden Stage. This year Bay Area vocalist Tammy Hall performs between 4 and 5, while the Twin Cities’ Davina and the Vagabonds has the 5:30 – 7 slot. And if you haven’t caught Chicago’s own Judy Roberts with sax player Greg Fishman at one of their eight performances on the Courtyard Stage, check them out between 5 and 5:30.

Whew! We haven’t even talked about the food. About this time, if I haven’t had my ribs and peach cobbler, I’m loading up, to say nothing of a last Margarita. Meanwhile, the Festival will end with a blast. The annual Hammond B-3 showcase has guitarist Anthony Wilson’s Trio featuring Larry Goldings on the organ and drummer Jim Keltner at Dizzy’s Den, followed by MJF favorite Lonnie Smith. Over in the Night Club, altoist Lou Donaldson opens, and vibist Bobby Hutcherson follows with a tribute to the late, great Cedar Walton, who had been scheduled to appear in that slot.

With all that, it’s still hard to pass up the Arena’s final show, with Wayne Shorter celebrating his 80th birthday backed up by his superb quartet featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade. There are certain performers who always seem to save their best for Monterey. Diana Krall has had a love affair with MJF, dating back to her knockout debut at MJF 40, and her curtain-lowering show Sunday night promises to keep everyone in their seats until the end.

Sorry, I know I’ve left out more than a few of the MJF 500 +. Find your way up to the Monterey Peninsula and discover it all for yourself.

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Don’t forget to check out Michael Katz’s new novel, Dearly Befuddled, available in paperback and E-book at Amazon.  Read Mike’s Blog, Katz of the Day.


Live Music: Wayne Shorter 80th Birthday Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl

August 30, 2013

By Don Heckman

The 2013 jazz season at the Hollywood Bowl reached a peak Wednesday night with an 80th birthday celebration for saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

The participants featured, of course, Shorter himself, playing in duo with his close friend and creative associate Herbie Hancock, with his own quartet, and with the woodwind ensemble the Imani Winds. Other performers included the Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Quintet and the trio A.C.S. (with pianist Geri Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Esperanza Spalding).

Shorter himself did not actually arrive on stage, however, until the program was well underway. His connection with the opening act — the Lovano/Douglas quintet — seemed elusive, despite the fact that the band has reportedly been influenced by Shorter.  In fact, the seemingly random improvising that was a prominent element in the Lovano/Douglas set often leaned more in the direction of the wide open free jazz ’60s style associated with Ornette Coleman.  Although it was delivered with considerable skill, it often displayed more technical virtuosity than inventive imagination.

Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter

Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter

One of the evening’s creative highlights actually traced to the Hancock/Shorter duo, with Shorter playing soprano saxophone. Very much in the mold of the duet performances and recordings they explored two decades ago, the playing had the inventive flow of symbiotic improvising. Too bad more time wasn’t allocated for the always musically fascinating encounters between these two gifted players.

The A.C.S trio took a somewhat more straight ahead jazz approach than the Lovano/Douglas group. But the improvising was no less ebullient, with Allen’s soaring piano lines underscored by the propulsive bass of Spalding and the irresistibly dynamic percussion of Carrington.

Shorter had two more principal appearances after his duo segment with Hancock. Each had its own appeal. The first was illuminated by the highly engaging, compatible interaction between Shorter’s ever-adventurous playing and the spontaneous responses from the group he’s worked with frequently in recent years: pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade.

The second showcased another aspect of Shorter’s far-ranging creative skills via the selections he composed for the Imani Winds woodwind quintet. Here, too, the evening provided yet another perspective of Shorter’s iconic status as one of the most gifted members of his jazz generation.

What was missing from Shorter’s 80th birthday celebration, however, was any on-stage acknowledgment of the event. Grant the fact that it was a pleasure to see and hear Shorter’s still potent musical artistry in action. But why couldn’t the production of the program also have included a host – possibly a celebrity host – with a thorough introduction of Shorter’s long career and superb accomplishments.

And, too, there could have been something acknowledging the birthday and providing an opportunity for the more than 8,000 audience members to share the celebration. A singalong of “Happy Birthday” to Wayne? Why not? I’m guessing Shorter would have enjoyed it immensely, especially if the musical accompaniment had been led by Hancock’s always imaginative piano playing.

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Photos courtesy of the Hollywood Bowl.


Picks of the Week: July 23 – 28.

July 23, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– July 23.  (Tues.)  The Postal Service.  The electropop band – featuring Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello – celebrate their 10th anniversary.  Greek Theatre   (323) 665-5857.

- July 24. (Wed.)  Dave Damiani and the No Nonsense Orchestra.  Vocalist and leader Damiani sings with the colorful sounds and swinging rhythms of his No Nonsense Orchestra.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

- July 24. (Wed.) Josh Nelson: A Tribute to Mulgrew Miller.  Pianist Nelson, rapidly emerging as one of the stellar pianists of his generation offers a tribute to one of his influences.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Bill Cunliffe’s Imaginacion Quintet. Composer/arranger/pianist Cunliffe displays his affection for Latin jazz in a collection of his fine arrangements. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- July 26. (Fri.)  Geoffrey Keezer “Heart of the Piano.”  Grammy-nominated Keezer celebrates the release of his CD, Heart of the Piano, his first solo project in 13 years.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- July 27 & 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  Chicago: The MusicalThe six Tony Award-winning show receives a sensational production on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl.  Brooke Shields directs, and Samantha Barks performs the role of Velma.  The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant

- July 28. (Sun.)  Amy Grant.  Grammy Award-winning Grant stretches her appealing vocal skills from gospel to pop.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

San Francisco

- July 27 – 28. (Sat. & Sun.)  The John Pizzarelli Quartet with Jessica Molaskey.  Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli and his wife, musical thatre star Molaskey have become an always-entertaining, musically fascinating performance act.  Yoshi’s Oakland.     (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- July 25. (Thurs.)  Diane Schuur. As she approaches 60, Schuur continues to develop the musical possibilities of a beautifully soaring voice and a Sarah Vaughan-influenced style. Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- July 25 – 28. (Thurs. – Sun.)   The Ron Blake Quartet. Fast-fingered, improvisationally adept saxophonist Blake continues to expand his impressive jazz skills.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York City

- July 23 – 28.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Fred Hersch Trio with Joe Lovano. A pair of jazz veterans, each a deeply imaginative artist get together for a rare and compelling exchange of improvisational ideas.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- July 23 – 27. )Tues. – Sat.)  The Masters Quartet.  The title – “Masters” – doesn’t overstate it at all.  How else to describe a quartet that includes pianist Steve Kuhn, saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy HartBirdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

- July 23 & 24. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Wynton Marsalis Quintet. London is gifted with a very rare opportunity to hear the always-compelling playing of trumpet/impresario Marsalis in a night club setting. Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.

Paris

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

- July 25 & 26.  (Thurs. & Fri.)  Robert Glasper Experiment. Pianist/composer Glasper is in an exploratory phase, producing live performances and recordings revealing a creatively curious, musically questioning mind.  Paris New Morning.    +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Tokyo

Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander

- July 27 (Sat.)  Eric Alexander Quartet. Saxophonist Alexander finished just behind Joshua Redmand and ahead of Chris Potter in the 1991 Monk Saxophone Competition.  And he’s been aiming for the sun ever since with his articulate, hard-swinging style. Tokyo Blue Note.   +81 3-5485-0088.

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Wynton Marsalis photo by Tony Gieske

Robert Glasper photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Picks of the Week: May 28 – June 2

May 28, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Alan Broadbent

Alan Broadbent

- May 28. (Tues.) Alan Broadbent.  Pianist/composer/arranger Broadbent was one of the Southland’s most gifted jazz artists for years.  But he’s moved to New York, and his L.A. appearances are rare.  Here’s one not to miss, as he performs in a duo with bassist Pat Senatore..  Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- May 29. (Wed.)  Carol Duboc and Jeff Lorber.  A CD release party in which singer/guitarist Duboc introduces her new album, Smile with the solid support of co-producer and keyboardist Lorber and bassist Jimmy Haslip.   Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

- May 29 & 30.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  Robert Davi.  No one does Sinatra songs better than singer/actor Davi, who brings authenticity to his interpretations while still retaining his own musical identity.  Davi’s one of a kind, a rare and engaging talent.  Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- May 30 – June 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the baton of Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, performs Mozart’s Symphonies No. 3 and No. 40, and Brahms’ Three Hungarian Dances. Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

- May 30 – June 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit.  Yet another CD release event, this time celebrating Monheit’s The Heart of the Matter, an album overflowing with her interpretations of a broad range of contemporary songs. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- May 31 – June 2. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Newport Beach Jazz Festival.  The emphasis of this year’s Festival is on contemporary and smooth jazz via a program that includes Al Jarreau, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Brian Culbertson, Jonathan Butler, Norman Brown, Najee, Poncho Sanchez, Earl Klugh and more.  The Newport Beach Jazz Festival.    (949) 360-7800.

- June 1.  (Sat.)  The Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra“Artistry – A Tribute to Stan Kenton.”  Saxophonist Richmond’s assemblage of L.A.’s world-class instrumentalists apply their imagination and skill to an evening of Kenton’s finest charts.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

June 1 (Sat.)  Teka.  Los Angeles has an impressive population of Brazilian musical artists.  And Sao Paulo’s singer/guitarist Teka is one of the finest.  As I wrote in an LA Times review, “she [brings] everything into a unified expression, combining her vocal lines and rhythmic guitar accompaniments into a distinct buoyant musical blend.” Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  https://www.lacma.org/event/t%C3%A9ka-0 (323) 857-6000.

Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler

Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler

- June 2. (Sun.) 1+One. Here’s this year’s second concert in the Playboy Jazz Festival’s annual programs of exciting jazz events free to the public  Keyboardist Patrice Rushen and percussionist Ndugu Chancler team up with special guest Paul Jackson Jr. in a program simmering with jazz, soul and r&b.  Also on the bill, the Harmony Project, which aids at-risk children with the study and performance of music, will showcase its talented young Harmony Project Jazz Ensemble.  At Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.    (310) 450-1173.

San Francisco

Sara Gazarek

Sara Gazarek

- May 28. (Tues.)  Sara Gazarek. Blessed with a superb vocal instrument and an expressive interpretive style, Gazarek is one of the most listenable jazz singers of her generation.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- May 28 & 29. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Seasons Guitar QuartetAnthony Wilson, Julian Lage, Chico Pinheiro and Larry Koonse. One couldn’t ask for a more gifted quartet of guitarists, performing together.  Expect to hear an intriguing program reaching from Wilson’s compositions to Brazilian classics and more.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729

Washington D.C.

- May 29. (Wed.)  Eldar Djangirov Trio.  A child prodigy as a pianist, Djangirov, born in Kyrgystan, was performing on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz when he was 12 years old.  Now, at 26, he’s become a mature jazz artist with an adventurous style of his own. .Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141

New York City

- May 28. (Tues.)  Terese Genecco and her Little Big Band.  With special guest KJ Denhert. Genecco and her three horns and five rhythm “put on an unstoppable juggernaut of a set,” wrote critic Will Friedwald in the Wall St. Journal.   Iridium.  (212) 582-2121 t

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

- May 28 – June 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Joe Lovano Nonet“Streams of Expression” is Lovano’s current expressive ensemble, loaded with some of NYC’s finest players, among them Lovano, tenor sax, Tim Hagans, Barry Ries, trumpets, Steve Slagle, alto sax, Ralph Lalama, tenor sax, Gary Smulyan, baritone sax, Larry Farrell, trombone, James Weidman, piano, Cameron Brown, bass, Steve Williams, drums.  Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- June 1. (Sat.)  Barbara Carroll with bassist Jay Leonhart. Pianist/singer Carroll has been displaying her impressive jazz skills since the ‘40s.  At 88, she continues to offer her still fine-tuned musical wares. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

London

- May 29 & 30. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Claire Martin.  Often described – with good reason – as England’s finest jazz singer, Martin has been offering solid evidence to justify the label since the early ‘90s.  She performs with the Dave Newton TrioRonnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.

Copenhagen

- May 30 – 31. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Scandinavian jazz at its best in this stellar trio of Denmark’s Christina Von Bulow, alto saxophone, and Thomas Clausen, piano, with Sweden’s Palle Danielsson, bass.  Jazzhus Montmarte.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson

- May 31. (Fri.)  Cassandra Wilson. One of the rare contemporary jazz singers with a style and imagination that have placed her among the new millenium’s  uniquely adventurous vocal stylists. Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.


Preview: The Monterey Jazz Festival 56

April 6, 2013

By Michael Katz

MFor those of us in love with the Monterey Jazz Festival, the longest six months of the year are the time between the final note of the last Sunday night show at the fairgrounds and the April 1 announcement of artists for the next MJF. That wait ended Monday morning with the lineup for MJF 56, on September 20-22. Putting together a festival of this repute is no small task for Artistic Director Tim Jackson. He’s got to book enough legitimate headliners to satisfy a sometimes prickly Arena ticket base, while maintaining the diversity and inventiveness that makes MJF such a treasure.

My immediate reaction: good news for Arena season ticket holders, with jazz virtuosos at every stop; good news for Grounds attendees, with the usual mix of big names and intriguing new performers visiting the four smaller venues, and challenging news for those of us who like to float between stages. There are just too many shows that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

The three evening Arena lineups are especially loaded.  For those of us who caught part of vocalist Gregory Porter’s rousing set at the Night Club last fall and wished we had seen more, wish granted. Porter will be opening the show Friday night. Next up is the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, playing a specially commissioned tribute to the late Dave Brubeck. Filling out the usual Latin jazz spot capping the Friday night program is Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. That is quite an opening night slate.

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

Saturday evening promises to be one of the most creative in recent memory. Leading off is Artist-In-Residence saxophonist Joe Lovano, teaming with trumpeter Dave Douglas, performing Sound Prints, music inspired or composed by Wayne Shorter. The middle slot is led by bassist Dave Holland, an MJF favorite. He brings his quartet, Prism, featuring guitarist Kevin Eubanks, pianist Craig Taborn and superb drummer Eric Harland. Closing out the show is Bobby McFerrin, touring with his Spirityouall release.

Diana Krall

Diana Krall

The Sunday show is opened by Wayne Shorter, celebrating his 80th birthday, with his all-star quartet featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blades. Closing the festival is Diana Krall. There’s little need to embellish; you clearly wouldn’t want to miss any of these shows. And yet…

And yet, check out a few of the artists performing at the Grounds venues: Friday night has pianist Uri Caine playing three sets at the Coffee House and vocalist Carmen Lundy at the Night Club, as well as a reprise performance by Gregory Porter, and separate ensemble appearances by Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas. Saturday night has the Brubeck Brothers quartet with a tribute to their dad; Ravi Coltrane, the Charlie Hunter-Scott Amendola duo, pianists Marc Cary and Craig Taborn, the Douglas-Lovano Sound Prints band, and classic vocalist Mary Stallings.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Sunday features perhaps the festival’s greatest dilemma.  You wouldn’t dare miss Wayne Shorter or Diana Krall, but the annual B-3 organ blowout at Dizzy’s Den opens with guitarist Anthony Wilson’s trio featuring Larry Goldings and Jim Keltner,  and closes with the great Dr. Lonnie Smith. Meanwhile, over in the Night Club, alto player Lou Donaldson opens, and pianist Cedar Walton brings his latest Eastern Rebellion to close the show.  Usually music fans are too exhausted to be running between venues by Sunday night, but MJF 56 may prove to be the exception.

The two afternoon schedules offer their own pleasures: an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, kids, world music and a few things that defy description.  The Saturday line-up has morphed over the years from blues to roots music, to none-of-the-above. This year The Relatives, a gospel-funk group, leads off the Arena show and also gets the 5:30 slot at the Garden Stage. If you haven’t heard them before the festival, don’t worry, you will — along with the hundreds of fans hanging from tree limbs and lined up behind the bleachers.

George Benson

George Benson

George Benson has the headline billing at the Arena.  Benson was on the short list of great post-Wes Montgomery guitarists in the seventies before changing his orientation to R and B type vocals, but he can still “play this-here guitar,” as evidenced by his recent Guitar Man CD. Out on the grounds, the Saturday Garden Stage show is always a blast from start to finish, even if you aren’t familiar with any of the acts. And if you are looking for some straight ahead jazz amidst all the blues-funk-whatever, bari sax and flutist Claire Daly has a Monk-influenced program at 4 pm in the Night Club. And, as per the last several years, one of our favorite vocalists, Judy Roberts, will be performing with sax man Greg Fishman throughout the festival on the Yamaha AvantGrand stage.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

Sunday afternoon features college and high school bands, highlighted by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, which will feature a guest appearance by the ubiquitous Mr. Lovano. As usual, I warn all of you not to miss this band – these kids will amaze you. Bob James and David Sanborn are the headliners for the Sunday afternoon show. I’ve always loved Sanborn’s blues and funky rock-tinged tenor sax, and James has done some great work as a composer and keyboardist. They have sometimes tailed off into the Ooze of Smooth, but their band, featuring drummer Steve Gadd, is hitting the major jazz festival circuit this summer, including the Playboy Jazz Festival in LA and the Blue Note Festival in New York, so here’s hoping for some classic jazz riffs from these guys.

I know I’ve left out a few highlights.  There are always acts I haven’t heard of that turn out to be knockouts, and new combinations that enthrall. Add that in with the usual mix of festival food, lovely Monterey weather and the camaraderie of new and old friends, and you’ve got an unforgettable experience.

* * * * * * * *

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

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 27

January 21, 2013

By the iRoM Staff

Los Angeles

Vicky Ray

- Jan. 22. (Tues.)  Vicki RayPiano Spheres.  Exploration of contemporary music is at the heart of the Piano Spheres program.  This time, adventurous pianist Ray (with a chamber ensemble of musician friends) interprets the music of Stravinsky as well as new works by composers from Asia, Europe and the U.S.    Zipper Hall, Colburn School.

- Jan. 22 & 23. (Tues. & Wed.)  Shen Yun 2013 World Tour.  Founded by expatriate Falun Gong practitioners in New York, works to “revive the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture” via extraordinary displays of Chinese classical, ethnic and folk dance.  With Orchestra.  The Fred Kavli Theater in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.   (805) 449-2787.

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour.  High quality music is the basic foundation of the MJF.  And this rare evening underscores how captivating that music can get in the hands of artists such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Lewis Nash, Chris Potter, Ambrose AkinmusireValley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

Mike Lang

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  Mike Lang.  Pianist Lang’s long productive career reaches from Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles to Lee Konitz to Barbra Streisand, John Lennon and dozens of stops in between.  He’s also recorded more than 2000 film scores.  But here’s a chance to hear the ultimate inner Lang, musically up close and personal in a trio setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  “A Jazzy Tribute to the Negro Baseball Leagues.”  Film maker and singer Byron Motley and special guests guitarist Phil Upchurch and pianist Corky Hale-Stoller celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of the great athletes of the Negro Baseball Leagues.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Jan. 24. (Thurs.)  John Beasley Residency IIIThe Monk’estra Big Band. Beasley’s impressive skills as a pianist and composer are applied to a fascinating evening of large group jazz.  The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Stanley Clarke

- Jan. 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stanley Clarke Band. The brilliant bass playing of Clarke brings vivid life to wherever he plays.  And it’s even better when he’s leading his own band of talented young artists.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Conductor Ludovic Morlot, leads the L.A. Phil in a program of great classics – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 — and contemporary French composer Henri Dutilleux’s Shadows of Time. Walt Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- Jan. 26 & 27. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Helmuth Rilling offers a rare performance of Mozart’s poignant Requiem and  his classic Symphony No. 39. With the aid of the USC Thornton Chamber Singers.  Sat: at the Alex Theatre. http://www.alextheatre.org    Sun: At Royce Hall. http://cap.ucla.edu/visit/royce_hall.asp  (213) 622-7001.

Roger Kellaway

 

- Jan 27, 28 and 29.  (Fri., Sat. & Sun.)  The New West Symphony.    The N.W.S., under the baton of Marcelo Lehninger,  performs the West Coast Premiere of “Visions of America: A Photo Symphony.”  Music by Roger Kellaway.  Lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman.  Photography by Joseph Sohm.  Vocals by Judith Hill and Steve Tyrell. With piano by Norman Krieger.   And a recorded narration by Clint Eastwood. Friday at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, Saturday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, and on Sunday at Barnum Hall in Santa Monica.

- Jan. 27. (Sun.)  Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.  The Jazz Influence Orchestra returns to Vitello’s for yet another banquet of big band jazz, played by the Southland’s finest musicians.  To read a recent iRoM review of the Jazz Influence Orchestra click HERE.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Lisa Hilton

Lisa Hilton

- Jan. 27. (Sun.)  Lisa Hilton.  Her highly personal style, as a pianist, a composer and an improviser, has established Hilton as one of the uniquely individualistic performers on the contemporary music scene.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

- Jan. 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Joe Lovano’s Us Five.   Adventurous saxophonist Lovano leads the way for his current Us Five ensemble, featuring Esperanza Spalding, James Weidmann, Otis Brown III and Francisco MelaYoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- Jan. 26. (Sat.) Turtle Island Quartet.  The Grammy-winning string quartet, always trying out new ideas, offers a program of original works and music inspired by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.  Freight and Salvage.   (510) 644-2020.

New York

- Jan. 22. (Tues.) Taarka.  The husband and wife leaders of  the acoustic group Taarka – the duo of mandolinist David Tiller and violinist Enion Pelta-Tiller — celebrate the release of their new CD, Adventures in Vagabondia.  Barbes in Brooklyn.    (347) 422-0248.

Ann Hampton Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway

- Jan. 22 – 26. )Tues. – Sat.)  Ann Hampton Callaway. Callaway not only has a gorgeous voice, she also knows exactly how to use it.  And it’s especially memorable when she applies it – along with her talents as a musical story teller – to the classics of the Great American Songbook. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Jan. 24 – 27. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Omar Sosa and Paolo Fresu. They seem to be an unlikely combination – Cuban keyboardist Sosa and Italian trumpeter Fresu.  But the stirring results of their partnership attest to the true globalization of jazz.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

London

- Jan. 25 & 26. (Fri. & Sat.)  Milton Nascimento. He’s one of the icons of Brazilian music, as a performer and as a composer.  And at 70, he’s still going strong.   Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)7439 0747.

Paris

- Jan. 24. (Thurs.)  Steve Cropper and the Animals. The guitarist in Stax Records legendary house band, Cropper takes his unique blend of soul, blues, funk and beyond on the road with a band of eager associates. New Morningn  01 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

Judy Niemack

- Jan. 22. (Tues.)  Judy Niemack presents “New Voices in Jazz 2013.” A gifted, imaginative singer as well as an admired educator, Niemack introduces a collection of talented, if still relatively unknown young vocal artists: Zola Mennenöh, Laura Winkler, Anna Marlene Bicking and Sophie-Charlott GötteA-Trane.    030/313 25 50.

Milan

- Jan. 23. (Wed.)  Philip Catherine.  Belgian jazz guitarist Catherine’s resume reaches from the ‘60s to the present with artists such as Dexter Gordon, Jean-Luc Ponty, Chet Baker, Charlie Mariano, Stephane Grappelli and more.  At 70, his playing continues to be as eclectic as it is accomplished.  Blue Note Milan.    02.6901 6888.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 15 – 20

January 15, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Eloise Laws

Eloise Laws

- Jan. 16. (Wed.)  Eloise Laws.  A member of the musically prominent Laws family (Hubert, Ronnie and Debra among others) Eloise Laws makes a rare live performance in the Southland.  Her warm and expressive vocals are backed by members of the Laws family and their talented friends.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 16. (Wed.) Windy Karigianes.  It’s a busy month for international jazz singers to make appearances in L.A.  Denmark’s superb vocal artist Sinne Eeg was here last week, Australia’s Chris McNulty is at Vitello’s tomorrow.  And today there’s Karigianes, whose background is Greek, Portuguese and Italian, bringing a musically diverse perspective to her mellow, evocative singing.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Jan 16. (Wed.)  John Beasley Residence II.  Pianist Beasley’s second event in his January residence features his trio – with bassist Carlitos del Puerto and drummer Gary Novak, plus guests — playing a program of Brazilian Music.  The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

- Jan. 17 & 18. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Chris McNulty.  Australian jazz singer McNulty celebrates the release of her latest CD, The Song That Sings You Here.  With guitarist Paul Bollenback and bassist Trey HenryVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

- Jan. 17 – 19. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  Veteran jazz vocalist Schuur – called “Deedles” by friends and fans alike – continues to sing with the appealing, Sarah Vaughan influences that she has transformed into her own unique style. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Jan. 18 – 19. (Fri. & Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco Trio.  The master of contemporary jazz organ always has something new to bring to his classic organ trio performances.  He’ll perform with the Banda Brothers, Steve Cotter and Steve WilkersonSteamer’s.  (714) 871-8800.

- Jan. 19. (Sat.)  Freddy Cole.  There’s an immediately recognizable trace of the Cole sound in Freddy’s vocals and piano work.  And he’s retained the musical memories while exploring new musical horizons. The  Kirk Douglas Theatre.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.    (310) 271-9039.

- Jan. 20. (Sun.)   Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuaria.   A pair of very different guitarists with styles reaching from American folk to Brazilian rhythms perform selections from their 2012 album, Lagrimas Mexicanas.  Skirball Center.     (310) 440-4500.

John Daversa

John Daversa

- Jan. 20. (Sun.)  The John Daversa Contemporary Big Band.  Trumpeter/composer Daversa, a true musicall adventurer – as a soloist and as a writer/composer – showcases some of his especially ground-breaking writing for his stellar big band.  Baked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

San Francisco

- Jan. 19 & 20. (Sat. & Sun.) Jane Monheit. She’s always had a gorgeous voice, but Monheit – now in her ‘30s – also brings a compelling musicality to everything she sings.  Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of a Monheit performance in Los Angeles. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

New York

- Jan. 15. (Tues.)  Tammy Faye Starlight IS Nico in the show Chelsea Madchen, singing legendary Velvet Underground songs in a Warhol-tinged setting.  Special guest: Steve EarleThe Cutting Roomk  (212) (877) 987-6487.

Ken Peplowski

Ken Peplowski

- Jan. 15 – 20.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Benny Goodman Reinvented: 75th Anniversary Carnegie Hall Concert.  Clarinetist Ken Peplowski assembles a 10 piece all-star ensemble to revisit Goodman’s memorable Swing Era performance in January, 1938. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

- Jan. 16. (Wed.) Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz Revisited.  Anther live, musical re-imagining performance.  This time the subject is one of the classic recordings of the ‘60s free-jazz era.  Players include  Jaleel Shaw, Joe Lovano, saxophones; Jeremy Pelt, Tim Hagans, trumpets, Ben Allison, Lonnie Plaxico, basses, Billy Drummond, Matt Wilson, drums.  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2561.

London

- Jan. 16 – 19. (Wed. – Sat.) Deodato.  Brazilian pianist/composer/arranger has produced and/or arranged hundreds of albums for everyone from Bjork to k.d. lang.  Here’s a rare opportunity to hear him up close in his own personal musical environment.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)20 7439 0747.

Berlin

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

- Jan. 14 & 15. (Mon. & Tues.)  Steve Kuhn Trio.  With a resume that reaches back to John Coltrane and the avant-garde ‘60s, Kuhn – at 74 – has thoroughly established himself as one of the contemporary jazz scene’s most original piano voices.  His trio includes Buster Williams and Joey BaronA-Trane.   030/313 25 50.

Panama

- Jan. 14 – 19.  Panama Jazz Festival.  The 10th Annual Panama Jazz Festival once again assembles a stellar line up of performers in a warm and welcoming Central American setting.  The artist roster includes Herbie Hancock, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Ruben Blades, Susana Baca, Bill Frisell, John Patitucci, Brian Blade and Danilo PerezThe Panama Jazz Festival.    (507) 317-1466.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 16 – 21

October 16, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Judy Carmichael

- Oct. 17. (Wed.)  Judy Carmichael Trio.  Pianist/singer and all around dynamic entertainer Carmichael can bring a room to life with her powerful stride piano and deeply interpretive vocals.  Click HERE to read a review of Carmichael in her last L.A. appearance.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 17. (Wed.)  The Dale Fielder Quintet Plays the Music of Pepper Adams.  Special guests Gary Smulyan and Eric ReedCatalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.   Also performing Thursday (10/18) with his Quintet at Crowne Plaza, Friday (10/19) at SOKA Performing Arts Center , and Sat. (10/20) at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

- Oct. 17 & 24. (Wed. & Wed.) Andras Schiff.  Hungarian pianist, and widely respected interpreter of Bach, performs Book 1 of The Well Tempered Clavier. This will be the first in a multi-season survey by Schiff of Bach’s solo keyboard works.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

Babbie Green and John Boswell

- Oct. 18. (Thurs.)  Babbie Green and John Boswell. Green and Boswell are a songwriting team who merit far wider attention than either their songs or their engaging performances have yet received.  Don’t miss this chance to hear them offer some of the delightful material from their two-CD collection of originals and standards: How Should I Remember You?  The Gardenia.  (323) 467-7444.

- Oct. 18 – 20. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Delfeayo Marsalis Octet.  Yet another member of the gifted Marsalis family of New Orleans arrives to display his talents as producer, band leader and trombonist.  Expect to hear selections from his CD tribute to Ellington and Shakespeare, Sweet Thunder.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 19. (Fri.)  The Mavericks.  The Grammy Award-winning Mavericks have spent the last two decades cooking up their inimitable brew of rock, pop, Tejano, Mariachi and a sprinkling of rockabilly.  They’ll play some selections from a new CD, In Time. Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000.

- Oct. 19. (Fri.)  Sascha’s Bloc Band.  Vitello’s.  The mostly Russian and Eastern European players and singers in the Bloc Band have thoroughly mastered their jazz, swing and groove abilities. Click HERE to read a review of Sascha’s talented players in their most recent appearance at Vitello’s.     (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 19 – 21. (Fri. – Sun.)  “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”  The superb National Ballet of Canada presents the U.S. debut of choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s modern classic.  Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center.    (213) 972-7211.

Lionel Loueke

-Oct. 20. (Sat.)  Lionel Loueke.  Born in the West African country of Benin, Loueke quickly applied his impressive guitar skills to a style blending his roots with a broad understanding of jazz.  Rarely heard in Los Angeles, this is a rare opportunity to hear a uniquely individualistic jazz talent in action.Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 21. (Sun.)  Lou Forestieri Duo. Pianist/composer Forestieri is always a pleasure to hear, especially for the spontaneous compositional crafting he applies to his free swinging solos.  He’ll be accompanied by the equally thoughtful bassist Pat Senatore. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- Oct. 21. (Sun.)  Joanne O’Brien. Versatile singer O’Brien moves casually from classical to pop to jazz, doing it all with great authenticity.  A cancer survivor, O’Brien titles her one night performance “Alive and In Concert.” Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- Oct. 17 & 18. (Wed. & Thurs.) Spyro Gyra.  The ever appealing pop jazz group Spyro Gyra showcases their new album A Foreign Affair, with its sounds and rhythms from around the world.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

Eliane Elias

- Oct. 19. (Fri.)  Eliane Elias.    A fine jazz pianist, Elias was well known for  her instrumental skills before she displayed equally engaging abilities as a singer.  Her current band includes guitarist Rubens de la Corte, drummer Rafael Barata and bassist (and husband) Marc Johnson.   An SFJAZZ event at the Herbst Theatre.  (866) 920-5299.

New York

- Oct. 17. (Wed.)  Judy Wexler.  Her beautifully articulated vocals are among the great pleasures of Southland jazz.  Now the Big Apple has a chance to hear Wexler in action.  The Kitano.   (212) 885-7119,

- Oct. 18. (Thurs.)  Barbara Cook. The veteran singer/actress Cook – her career reaching comfortably from stardom in Broadway musicals to cabaret to classical art song singing – is still, at 84, a remarkably appealing performer. Carnegie Hall. (Perelman Stage)    (212) 247-7800.

Jacky Terrasson

- Oct. 18 – 21. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jacky Terrasson Trio.  French pianist Terrasson has thoroughly established himself as an authentic jazz artist, with a style that embraces his full musical history as a European and an international jazz artist. He performs with Burniss Travis, bass and Justin Faulkner, drums.   The Jazz Standard.  http://jazzstandard.net/red/index.html  (212) 576-2232.

- Oct. 19. (Fri.)   The Manhattan School of Music Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Justin DiCioccio, performs “The Symphonic Ellington,” showcasing rarely heard selections of Duke Ellington’s music for orchestra transcribed by David Berger.   The Manhattan School of Music. (917) 493-4428.

- Oct. 19. (Fri.)  Opera Shorts.  The Remarkable Theater Brigade brings back their off-beat, but popular evening of ten 10-minute operas. The Opera Shorts include works by Carlisle Floyd, Seymour Barab, Ben Bierman, Richard Burke, Bern Herbolsheimer, Randolph Coleman, Graham Robb, Patrick Solluri, Christian McLeer and David Morneau.  Eight of the operas in this remarkable line-up will be world premieres.  Carnegie Hall (Zankel).   (212) 247-7800.

Boston

- Oct. 18. (Thurs.)  The Either/Orchestra.  The ten piece band – approaching its 27th anniversary, is led by founder and primary composer Russ Gershon in a program of music leaping across genre lines through jazz from swing to bop to electric, from Ethiopian jazz to Latin music.  Regatta Bar. http://www.getshowtix.com/regattabar/moreinfo.cgi?id=2737 (617) 661-5000.

London

Becca Stevens

- Oct. 16. (Tues.)  Becca Stevens Band.  Singer, guitarist, songwriter Stevens moves confidently from jazz and pop to folk and beyond, doing so in a blending of instrumental and vocal timbres that identify her as one of the most musically adventurous vocal artists of her generation.   Jazz Club Soho.    020 7437 9595.

- Oct. 18 & 19. (Thurs. & Fri.)  “Sound Prints.”  Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Make somewhat of an odd couple as the leaders of their own Quintet.  But they’ve found a way to blend Lovano’s sturdy, straight ahead tenor saxophone with Douglas/ cutting-edge trumpet style.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Berlin

- Oct. 20. (Sat.)  Grace Kelly Quartet. She’s just turned 20, but Asian/American Kelly has already released seven albums, displaying impressive skills as an alto saxophonist, singer, songwriter and band leader.   A-Trane Jazz.  http://www.a-trane.de  030/313 25 50.

Copenhagen

Lee Konitz

- Oct. 18 – 20. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Lee Konitz Quartet.  A true jazz original, alto saxophonist Konitz frequently appears in European club and festival events.  This time out he leads an international ensemble, featuring Danish pianist Florian Weber, American bassist Jeff Denzon and Israeli drummer Ziv Ravitz Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65 65.

Tokyo

- Oct. 16 – 19. (Tues. – Fri.)  The Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Yes, it’s a so-called “ghost band,” carrying on the music of a great historical jazz ensemble…. And these guys handle the great Ellington collection of works with convincing ease,      Blue Note Tokyo.    03.5485.0088.


Brian Arsenault’s Short Takes: New CDs from Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, the Elina Duni Quartet, Eliane Elias and Marc Johnson

October 2, 2012

 Of Faraway Places with Strange Sounding Names (Like Nebraska)

 By Brian Arsenault

 Nik Bartsch

Nik Bartsch’s Ronin Live (ECM)

I have been Swept Away by music from such exotic places as Albania, Switzerland, Brazil and Nebraska. What’s exotic about Switzerland, you ask? Meet Nick Bartsch and his Ronin if you haven’t before.  We’ll continue our journey once you’ve fallen under their spell.

Complex, layered, moody, shifting. Spaces, gaps, silences matter.

Melancholy comfort on a cold, gray day. Sun worship on a bright one.

Sometimes called a Zen funk group, Ronin is more of a Transporter in time and space.  Smooth jazz will suddenly funk up to a frenetic rock pace. Leader Nik Bartsch’s piano runs will dazzle. His Fender Rhodes playing adept and exhilarating.

Double bass, clarinet, sax and varieties of percussion intermingle and enhance.  This is the background or theme music you might want for your life to keep you focused on painting, writing, carpentry, walking in a glen — anything that flows from you or through you at a truer level.

I can’t give you song by song descriptions because that’s not what matters here. It’s an immersion in mood and rhythm, thought and feeling.  I also can’t give you many comparisons to more familiar music. It is that unique, though I think it may be a distant cousin to Quicksilver Messenger Service’s Happy Trails, one of the first rock concert albums building on themes and variations and shooting off in surprising directions.

Ronin aficionados may say that is a crazy contention but rock n rollers may feel it.

Elina Duni Quartet

Matane Malit (Beyond the Mountain) (ECM)

Switzerland is also a home for the Elina Duni Quartet but they have journeyed to that most unknown (to most of us) nation, Albania.

Artists and intellectuals like those from Elina Duni’s family avoided folk music when the commies were running Albania because the songs were twisted and perverted to propaganda, to glorify the state purposes.  In fact, they often avoided even Albania itself and Duni was just ten when she left.

With the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and a return to more of a free market and free political system, jazz singer Duni could return to Albania physically and spiritually to find the folk songs of an earlier time.

The results are presented here with all the poignant beauty of a difficult place.  There is an aching tenderness to her voice which is well balanced by Colin Vallon’s piano.

Of course if you don’t know the language, her voice can only be another source of beautifully played notes in a quartet.  As I listened to the powerful emotions in the singing of these songs I knew I was missing something by not knowing the language.

When I later read the lyrics in the album notes’ English translation, I realized the poetry of sadness and yearning that was present in Albanian culture during and before the communist days.  This, alas, was also a country that knew Mussolini’s fascist fist before the iron grasp of communism. What’s to say when your best days were as part of the Ottoman Empire?

 Eliane Elias and Marc Johnson

Swept Away (ECM)

Eliane Elias, former child prodigy in her native Brazil, eventually brought her piano to the United States while Marc Johnson, a symphony musician by 19, had to carry that upright bass  from Nebraska to Texas.  Now they rattle around in a house in the Hamptons, big enough for their instruments and quiet musical vision.

The title song that opens the album seems so delicate that it might float off the CD. “It’s Time” follows with Joe Lovano playing note by note like a younger Coleman Hawkins.  The bass can underscore the piano, the piano can underscore the bass and both can underscore Lovano’s sax.

Truth to tell, though, there are places like “Foujita” that perhaps shouldn’t be played for the seriously depressed unless you are interested in population control.

Taken as a whole, their music can at times border on the boring for those raised on the speed and fill-all-the-gaps of American music from swing to bebop to rock ‘n roll. We had to move quickly from cars to jets to internet instant, after all.

The mostly slow pace of Johnson and Elias — though “One Thousand and One Nights” flows and bounces like a more nuanced Vince Guaraldi — occurs elsewhere on the other two albums as well, characteristic of producer Manfred Eicher and ECM.

American listeners and others accustomed to our zoom through life may find their minds drifting at time.  But that’s because the rewards of the ECM style are subtle and contemplative. “The most beautiful sound next to silence” is the ECM motto.

Maybe it could help us.

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


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