Live Jazz: The John Proulx Trio at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

January 10, 2015

By James DeFrances

Bel Air, CA.  Piano legends from years gone by came to mind during John Proulx’s show Tuesday night at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz etc. If you’d have blinked you may have thought Art Tatum or Thelonious Monk were caressing the mighty grand piano on that stage.

Proulx’s emotive playing style is a quality that few other pianists possess today. It’s as if each lick he played had a deeper meaning attached. Such grace was on display and supported superbly by Pat Senatore on stand up bass and Matt Gordy at the drum kit.

John Proulx

John Proulx

At times Proulx even lent his soft and mellow tenor vocals to certain tunes, but more often than not the songs were sans lyrics. And I’m talking straight ahead jazz here, applied to songs such as Johnny Mandel’s “Emily” and Van Heusen and Mercer’s “I Thought About You.” If Quincy Jones were reviewing this show he’d probably have said that Proulx was “in the pocket, man.”

Perhaps the crowd favorite of the evening, one shared by myself as well, was “The Frim-Fram Sauce,” a cover of the Nat “King” Cole Trio’s famous jazz standard. Proulx had fun with Frim-Fram and really swung it enthusiastically while playfully tossing around the comedic lyrics, much to the crowd’s delight. Another notable part of the show occurred during “My Funny Valentine,” when each band member had a chance to play an elongated solo.

John Proulx, Pat Senatore and Matt Gordy

Bassist Senatore got creative during his segment and played what may well have been the best solo I’ve seen him play to date on a unique looking, all black wooden bass, which even appeared to have a suede material on the front! The longest tune of the night was undoubtedly “Alone Together” with Proulx’s expert arrangement exploring many different concepts within the song seamlessly, and it may well have ended too soon.

Proulx’s elegant playing style, confident demeanor and well picked set list of rare jazz gems made this night something to write home about. This being my first time seeing John Proulx live I can certainly say I will be jumping at the chance to see him again, as I’m sure everyone in the audience would do as well!

Photos by James DeFrances.

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To read more reviews by (and about) James DeFrances click HERE.

 


Picks of the Week: January 5 – 11

January 6, 2015

As we move into the first weeks of 2015, the iRoM Picks of the Week will begin to reach beyond the Los Angeles-centric choices of the past few years. We will, of course, continue to survey L.A.’s ever-changing banquet of musical pleasures. But we will also begin to highlight and emphasize a broad range of choices reflecting the International perspective which is at the heart of our mission and our name.

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Michael TIlson Thomas

Michael TIlson Thomas

– Jan. 9 – 11. (Fri. – Sun.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Michael Tilson Thomas celebrates his 70th birthday by conducting the L.A. Phil. and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a spectacular, world premiere production of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with video and lighting design. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Jan. 9 – 11. (Fri. – Sun.) The Lee Ritenour Band. He’s been called “Captain Fingers” for his impressive guitar technique, but Ritenour is also an imaginative, hard swinging jazz artist. He performs here with the fine backing of Dave Weckl, drums, Tom Kennedy, bass and pianist Makoto Ozone. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Jan. 6. (Tues.) John Proulx Trio. Proulx is on many first-call lists for his fine piano work. But Proulx is an engaging vocalist as well, building a career as a prime entry in the slowly growing cadre of male jazz singers. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Carol Bach-y-Rita

Carol Bach-y-Rita

– Jan. 11. (Sun.) Carol Bach-y-Rita. A singer with a voice to remember, Bach-y-Rita (her name is Catalan) brings convincing interpretations and rhythmic ease to songs reaching from samba and salsa to crisp jazz rhythms, often in 4 or 5 languages. She’s especially worth seeing and hearing in the elegant setting of Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz..etc. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

– Jan. 8 – 11, (Thurs. – Sun.) Pharoah Sanders. The far-reaching jazz explorations of the avant-garde ’60s are still alive and well in Sanders’ adventurous tenor saxophone. An SFJAZZ event at Miner Auditorium (866) 920-5299.

– Jan. 9. (Fri.)  The San Francisco Symphony and The Godfather.  Justin Freer conducts the Symphony in a live orchestral performance of Nino Rota’s film score in sync with a screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s film masterpiece.  Davies Symphony Hall.  (415) 864-6000.

Oregon

Portland – Jan. 7. (Thurs.) The Mel Brown B3 Organ Group has been playing at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland for more than 16 years. No wonder George Benson once said “if this band played in New York City, they’d be a sensation.” Jimmy Mak’s.  (503) 295-6542.

Ashland – Jan. 9 & 10. (Fri. @ 7:30 p.m. & Sat. @ 3 p.m.) The Tesla Quartet. The stellar young artists in the Tesla Quartet have established themselves as a significant international chamber ensemble in the few years since they graduated from Julliard. They’ll perform works by Bartok, Dvorak, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Webern, Beethoven and others. Chamber Music Concert Series at Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall.  (541) 552-6154.

New York City

Ravi Coltrane

Ravi Coltrane

– Jan. 6 – 11. (Tues. – Sun.) The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour. Here’s a rare chance to experience some of the impressive music from what is arguably one of the finest jazz festivals in the world. The featured players in this stellar aggregation include trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and the Gerald Clayton Trio. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– Jan. 8 – 10. (Thurs. – Sat.) The 2015 NYC Winter Jazzfest. The three day Jazzfest, which takes place at theatres and clubs across Greenwich Village offers a rare display of jazz eclecticism. With talent ranging from iconic names to new arrivals, with stylistic explorations of every jazz genre, it provides a brilliant survey of jazz in all its irresistible shapes and forms. The 2015 Winterjazz Fest.

-Jan. 11. (Sun.) Lisa Hilton. Composer-pianist Hilton debuts new compositions from her album Horizons in a live performance with saxophonist J.D. Allen, drummer Rudy Royston, bassist Ben Street, and Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn. Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall).

London

– Jan. 5 – 7. (Mon. – Wed.) Scott Hamilton Quartet. Jazz history, past and present is vividly alive in Hamilton’s buoyant tenor saxophone work. The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho.

Tania Maria

Tania Maria

Milan

– Jan. 9 – 11. (Fri. – Sun.) Tania Maria. The loving partnership between Brazilian music and American jazz is on full display with everything the versatile Tania Maria sings and plays. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Switzerland

– Jan. 11. (Sun.) Lang Lang. The gifted young Chinese pianist makes one of his rare European appearances. Stadt-casino – Hans Huber Saal, Basel.

Andorra

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

– Jan. 9. (Fri.) Joshua Bell and his violin take center stage with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields European Tour: Andorra. The dynamic program reaches from Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor, Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. The tour also includes performances in Mannheim (Jan. 14), Vienna (Jan. 15) and Hamburg (Jan. 16).

 

Moscow

– Jan. 5 – 11. (Mon. – Sun. The Nutcracker: A Ballet in Two Acts. The Bolshoi Ballet accompanied by the Bolshoi Theatre Symphony Orchestra.

The Bolshoi Ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet

What will surely be a memorable performance in the Bolshoi Ballet and Opera Theatre.

Tokyo

Richard-Bona

Richard-Bona

– Jan. 10 & 11. (Sat. & Sun.) The Richard Bona Group. Bassist Bona, born in Cameroon, burst onto the New York jazz scene in the mid-’90s, quickly establishing his uniquely original style with the likes of George Benson, Branford Marsalis, Chaka Kahn Randy Brecker and others. Since then he’s led a sequence of his own musically compelling ensembles. Tokyo Blue Note.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: October 27 – November 2

October 27, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

John Pisano

John Pisano

– Oct. 28. (Tues.) Guitar Night with John Pisano. Like all of John Pisano’s Guitar Nights, this week’s features a world class assemblage of players: in addition to Pisano, you’ll hear guitarist Barry Zweig, bassist Chris Conner and drummer Tim Pleasant. Viva Cantina.  (818) 845-2425.

– Oct. 28,. (Tues.) The Hagen Quartet. The much honored string quartet, which includes three siblings, makes a rare Southland appearance. They’ll perform quartets by Mozart, Shostakovich and Brahms. The Samueli Theatre in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

– Oct. 28. (Tues.) Julie Kelly celebrates the release of her new CD Happy To Be backed by an all star band featuring Bill Cunliffe, Joe La Barbera, Anthony Wilson and Bob Sheppard with guest vocalist John Proulx. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Lee Konitz

Lee Konitz

– Oct. 31. (Fri.) Something Cool: Celebrating Jazz Sounds of the Cool School. The Los Angeles Jazz Institute presents another of their immensely entertaining vistas of broad areas of jazz, This time the event encompasses four areas of cool jazz: Woody Herman and the Four Brothers sound: the music of Lennie Tristano and his Disciples; The Birth of the Cool and its participants; and West Coast Cool. The stellar list of participants is topped by the iconic Lee Konitz as Special Guest of Honor. The programs take pace at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. Something Cool. The L.A. Jazz Institute  (562) 200- 5477.

– Oct. 30. (Thurs.) John Proulx Trio. Pianist Proulx is a prime instrumentalist. And he is now matching that skill with his engaging work as a jazz vocalist. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Oct. 30. – Nov. 2.) (Thurs. – n. ) The Los Angeles PhilharmonicMozart and Beethoven, Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program featuring Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Oct. 31. (Fri,) Bob Sheppard with the Pat Senatore Trio featuring Josh Nelson. In a week in which Southland music stages are filled with stellar instrumentalists, here’s one not to miss, with an up front saxophone stylings from Sheppard, and briskly swinging rhythm section work from Senatore’s Trio (featuring Nelson). Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

– Nov. 1. (Sat,) Jackie Ryan featuring saxophonist Rickey Woodard. Although she’s one of the finest of vocal artists in the contemporary jazz scene, Jackie’s appearances in Southern California are far too rare. And she’ll be backed by Rickey Woodard’s fine tenor work. So don’t miss this one. A Jazz Bakery event at the Musicians Institute. (310) 271-9039.

– Nov. 1 & 2. (Sat. & Sun.) Helen Reddy. Australian-born Reddy was called “Queen of Pop” in the ’70s for her success in releasing hit songs. Two of the best-known are “I Am Woman” and “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.” She’ll no doubt perform those and more of her dozens of memorable hits. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Washington D.C.

– Oct. 29 (Wed.) Maria Muldaur. Singer Muldaur’s warm voice was one of the appealing sounds of the folk revival of the early ’60s, followed bv her ’70s hit single, “Midnight at the Oasis.” And she continues her work as a contemporary exponent of all forms of Americana and roots music. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

– Oct. 28 – Nov. 1 (Tues.. – Sat.) Ron Carter Nonet. Carter’s one of the most (perhaps the most) recorded bassist in history. But he’s not often recognized for his prime skills as a composer and arranger. Here’s a chance to experience those skills up close and personal. Birdland. . (212) 581-3080.

Kenny Garrett

Kenny Garrett

– Oct. 30 – Nov. 1/ (Thurs. – Sat.) Kenny Garrett Quintet. Grammy-winning alto saxophonist Garrett has cruised the challenging territory from bop to post bop to avant-garde, playing with Duke Ellington and Miles Davis along the way. In the world of contemporary jazz saxophone, he’s the real deal. The Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.

Paris

– Oct. 31 (Fri,) Spyro Gyra. They’ve been in the vanguard of fusion and smooth jazz since they first arrived on the scene in the ’70s. But their award winning recordings are also rooted in solid mainstream skills. Paris New Morning.  +33 1 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

Becca Stevens

Becca Stevens

– Oct. 28. (Tues.) Becca Stevens. Eclectic singer Stevens is often identified as a jazz artist. But her considerable abilities also include a convincing facility in pop and blues, often supported by her guitar playing, A-Trane Jazz. +49 30 3132550.

Copenhagen

Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band. Featuring vocalist Charenee Wade. St. Louis-born saxophonist/arranger/composer Wilkins spent the last decades of his life in Copenhagen, where he formed a mid-sized band., Called the “Almost Big Band” it was big enough (12 pieces) to serve as a vehicle for his adventurous arranging and composing. Since his death, the Band has continued under the direction of Nikolaj BentzonJazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Stanley Carke– Oct. 30 & 31 (Thurs. & Fri.) The Stanley Clarke Band. Versatile bassist/bandleader Clarke has always led great ensembles of his own (when he wasn’t pairing up with Chick Corea). And he’s always been receptive to helping new talent along the way. This time out, his band features the impressive piano work of 16 year old prodigy Beka Gochiashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia. The Blue Note Milan.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

– Oct. 31 – Nov. 2. (Fri. – Sun.) Goastt (The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger), featuring multi-instramentalists Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, was formed by Lennon (John Lennon’s son) and musician/model Muhl in 1908. But they consider Midnight Sun, released in early 2014 to be their first significant album. The duo also describe their working relationship as singers and songwriters as similar to the working relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, The Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 26

January 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Jan.21. (Tues.) The Pat Senatore Trio. Bassist Senatore, Josh Nelson, piano, and Mark Ferber, drums, assemble to celebrate a CD release party for the Trio’s new album, Ascensione. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc (310) 474-9400.

Aaron Weinstein

Aaron Weinstein

– Jan. 22. (Wed.) Aaron Weinstein. Violinist Weinstein, still not a highly visible jazz artist, is rapidly establishing himself as one of his instrument’s rare jazz masters. Click HERE to read an earlier iRoM review of Weinstein. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Jan. 22 – 24. (Wed- Fri.) Lenny White and Friends. Eclectic drummer White, a vital veteran of Return to Forever, leads his own solid ensemble, including bassists Foley and Victor Bailey, woodwind player Bennie Maupin and keyboardist George Colligan. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

John Proulx

John Proulx

– Jan. 23. (Thurs.) John Proulx Trio. He’s a fine pianist and an in-demand rhythm section player. And Proulx is now beginning to prove his skills as a fine interpretive jazz singer, as well. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Master Chorale performs the Bach B Minor Mass in an interpretation that Music Director Grant Gershon says will “blow the roof off Disney Hall.”  (323) 850-2000.

– Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) Average White Band. More than 40 years after their arrival on the pop music scene the A.W.B. still conjurs up an irresistible blend of funk, soul and r&b. Catalina Bar & Grill (223) 466-2210.

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

– Jan. 25. (Sat.) Chita Rivera: A Legendary Celebration. And, yes, Rivera is indeed one of the musical theatre’s most unique, memorable and legendary performers. Valley Performing Arts Center. (818) 677-8800.

– Jan. 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra offer an inviting program of Mozart & Beethoven. On Saturday at the Alex Theatre.  On Sunday at Royce Hall.

– Jan. 26. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe. Grammy-nominated Cunliffe offers a “Night at the Grammys with a stellar ensemble – saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Adam Czerwinski.  (818) 769-0905.  Vitello’s.

 San Francisco

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter

– Jan. 24. (Fri.) Cameron Carpenter. Organist Carpenter is one of classical music’s most dynamic performers, bringing an astounding blend of virtuosic technique and entertaining showmanship to everything he plays. SFJAZZ at Grace Cathedral.  (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

– Jan. 21 – 22. (Tues. – Wed.) Grace Kelly with the Marc Seales Trio. A jazz saxophone prodigy as a teen-ager, Kelly – now 21 – has matured into a gifted creative artist. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

 New York City

– Jan. 22 & 23. (Wed. & Thurs.) Pat Martino and Eldar. A cross generational team – veteran guitarist Martino and talented young pianist Eldar – get together in search of common improvisational ground. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

Copenhagen

– Jan. 23-25 (Thurs. – Sat.) Paolo Fresu Special Quartet. Italian trumpeter/flugelhornist Fresu has assembled an aggregation of some of Europe’s finest jazz players, among them Paolo Russo, piano, Thomas Fonnesbaek, bass, and Alex Riel, drums. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

– Jan. 23 – 25. (Thurs. – Sat.) Diane Schuur. “Deedles,” as she is known by friends, fans and musicians alike, continues to sing with the Sarah Vaughan influenced style that has characterized her imaginative work ever since Stan Getz discovered her in the late ’70s. The Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

Jan. 23 & 24. (Thurs. & Fri.) Avishai Cohen Trio. Israeli jazz bassist Cohen – not the Israeli jazz trumpeter by the same name – leads his new trio in a rare Japanese appearance. The Blue Note Tokyo. +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 10 – 15

September 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

– Sept. 10 (Tues.) Rachmaninoff and Gershwin. “Romantic Favorites.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya with piano soloist Daniil Trifonov, performs a program of richly colorful, early 20th century music. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 11. (Wed.) George Benson Inspiration Tour. A Tribute To Nat “King” Cole. Guitarist/singer Benson brings convincing life to the Cole song book. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 12 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) Joey DeFrancesco. Jazz organist DeFrancesco is joined by guitarist Steve Cotter and drummer Ramon Banda in a definitive display of jazz organ trio music. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Roberta Gambarini

Roberta Gambarini

– Sept. 12 – 14. (Thurs. – Sat.) Roberta Gambarini.   Italian-born Gambarini continues to assert her musical aulthenticity as one of contemporary jazz’s finest vocalists. She’s joined by special guest, Kenny Burrell. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.) Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. One of the most appealing pop/rock, jazz-influenced bands of the late ’60s, the Oblivion Express, in keyboardist Auger’s hands, still continues to produce exciting music. The Baked Potato.  (818) 980-1615.

– Sep. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Fireworks Finale: Earth, Wind & Fire with Thomas Wilkins and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. It’s an attractive line-up of talent, enhanced by the usual spectacular fireworks, bringing the 2013 season to a pyrotechnic closure. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 14. (Sat.) Tom Peterson Quartet. Saxophonist/woodwind player Peterson, one of Minnesota’s many gifts to jazz, balances first rate playing with a busy career as a producer, educator, clinician and more. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. r (310) 474-9400.

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler

– Sept. 15. (Sun.) Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler. The Manhattan Transfer’s Bentyne teams up with jazz vocalist Winkler to celebrate the CD Release party for their new album, West Coast Cool. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– Sept. 15. (Sun.) John Proulx. Pianist/vocalist Proulx continues to display a warmly interpretive vocal style, backed by the solid support of his swinging piano work. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 15. (Sun.) Julie Esposito. She’s an attorney/jazz singer, one of the more unlikely hyphenates in the L.A. music scene. And, somehow, Esposito handles both her skill sets with authority and complete authenticity. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker

– Sept. 12. (Thurs.) The United Trumpet Summit. The title is exactly right, given the presence in the U.T.S. of a stellar line-up of world class trumpeters, including Randy Brecker, Dr. Eddie Henderson, Jeremy Pelt and Leon Jordan, Jr. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655.5600.

Portland, Oregon

– Sept. 12. (Thurs.) Jacqui Naylor. She’s one of the contemporary jazz vocal world’s most versatile artists, moving easily from straight ahead jazz to folk rock and adult alternative genres. Hear her in action. Jimmy Mak’s.  (503) 295-6542.

Seattle

Nellie McCay

Nellie McCay

– Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Nellie McKay. Singer/actress/humorist MacKay balances a sardonic sense of humor with stunning musicality and an easy comfort with genres reaching from jazz to rap, funk and beyond. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York City

– Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Dave Liebman Expansions Quintet. Always eager to explore new musical territory, saxophonist Liebman leads an adventurous new ensemble. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

– Sept. 13 – 15. (Fri. – Sun.) Staney Jordan Trio. Guitarist Jordan’s unique, tapping style of playing has created virtual one-man-band sounds. But this time out he expands his possibilities in a trio setting. Iridium (212) 582-2121.

Washington D.C.

Gary Burton

Gary Burton

– Sept. 12 & 13. (Thurs. & Fri.) The New Gary Burton Quartet.70th Bday Tour.Vibist Burton, one of his instrument’s most gifted practitioners, celebrates his 70th birthday in the company of Julian Lage, guitar, Scott Colley, bass and Antonio Sanchez, drums. Blues Alley (202) 337-4141.

London

– Sept. 10 – 12. (Tues. – Thurs.) Jose Feliciano. Guitarist Feliciano has been a uniquely appealing singer/guitarist since his ’60s hit version of “Light My Fire.” And, at 67, he’s still going strong. Ronnie Scott’s. +44 (0) 7439 0747.

Milan

– Sept. 11. (Wed.) Big One – The European Pink Floyd Show “Biglietto Cumulativo.“ The music of the English art rock band of the ’60s continues to appeal to audiences around the world. Blue Note Milano. +39 02 6901 6888. 

Tokyo

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

– Sept. 10 & 11. (Tues. & Wed.) Chick Corea and The Vigil. The iconic keyboardist/composer has once again organized a new collective to express his ever-curious, creative musical adventures. The Vigil includes the gifted, youthful Tim Garland, Carlitos Del Puerto, Marcus Gilmore, Charles Altura and Luisito Quintero. Blue Note Tokyo. 03-5485-0088. 


Live Jazz: Geoffrey Keezer at Vitello’s

July 28, 2013

By Don Heckman

Grammmy-nominated pianist Geoffrey Keezer showcased his impressive solo talents at Vitello’s Friday night for an enthusiastic, overflow crowd sparkling with the presence of such stellar  music world listeners as Chris Botti, Billy Childs, Bobby Colomby, John Proulx, Mike Lang, Denise Donatelli, Mark Winkler and others.

Seemingly inspired by his audience, Keezer offered a far-ranging set of music, chosen from jazz, pop and folk sources. In his first solo performance in more than a decade, he celebrated the release of his latest album, also a solo effort, Heart of the Piano.

The piano is often described as a complete orchestra in itself, and Keezer clearly had that perspective in mind as he roved, adventurously, through one richly textured, rhythmically alive improvisation after another.  His program reached from tunes by Stevie Wonder, Alanis Morrisette, Peter Gabriel and Rush to Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter and Christian McBride.

Geoffrey Keezer

Geoffrey Keezer

That’s a challenging collection of musical stimuli, and Keezer responded to it with a full-bodied expression of his creative imagination.  At times, his mastery of the piano, driven by fast, busy fingers, called up aural images of Shostakovich and Bartok.  At other times, he dug into his jazz roots, moving easily into alternating passages touching on everything from stride to bebop.  And Keezer did so with ease, investing the jazz segments with an irresistible sense of swing.

He was especially compelling on a pair of works that triggered rich, emotional interpretations – Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” and the Robert Burns/traditional tune “My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose” (inspired, Keezer said, by the Eva Cassidy version, and which he dedicated to his wife Susan).

Billy Martinez

Billy Martinez

Keezer climaxed  his performance with an improvisational duet with artist Billy Martinez, who painted on several tall canvas panels, as Keezer played.  While it was unclear if either artist was leading the way, they nonetheless seemed inspired by each other as they interacted in completely spontaneous fashion.  Searching together, they often found fascinating, common creative ground.

The only uncertain moments in this otherwise memorable musical evening, came when Keezer leaned a bit too strongly in the direction of the piano as an orchestra.  While these passages were stunning displays of his virtuosic improvisational skills, one also wished to hear more of Keezer’s gift for melodic lyricism.

G

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That said, his solo piano playing deserves a wider hearing.  If you weren’t in the crowd for Friday night’s concert, most of the pieces Keezer played can be found in the CD that inspired the performance, Heart of the Piano.  Don’t miss it.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Picks of the Week: May 14 – 19

May 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Brenna Whitaker

Brenna Whitaker

– May 15. (Wed.)  Brenna Whitaker.  She could have been a ‘30s platinum blond star.  But Whitaker doesn’t just look good; she can sing, too.  This time out she picks a set of tunes to enhance the birthday of Vibrato co-owner Eden Alpert.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– May 15. (Wed.)  Lado B Project.  A lively evening of Brazilian music, featuring Otmaro Ruiz, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Edwin Livingston, bass, Aaron Serfaty, drums and Catina DeLuna, voice.  Brazilian music.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– May 16. (Thurs.)  Lisa Hilton. The ever adventurous pianist/composer Hilton continues her quest for new musical territories for her to explore. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– May 16. (Thurs.)  John Proulx.  Singer/pianist Proulx has begun to claim a position in the rare category of male jazz singer.  Proulx, like his musical role model, Chet Baker, brings the flowing phrases of his instrumental playing to his vocal interpretations.    H.O.M.E. (House of Music and Entertainment)   (310) 271-4663.

– May 17. (Fri.)  Jim Snidero Group.  Saxophonist Snidero’s lengthy resume reaches from his own numerous recordings to performances with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Frank Wess. The Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester

– May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Melissa Manchester. She’s been producing memorable music since the ‘70s, including “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.”  Here’s a chance to catch her in one of her rare club appearances. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– May 17 – 19. (Fri. – Sun.)  Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.  This is a stellar organ trio if ever there was one.  Each of the players is an influence in his own right.  Don’t miss them.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– May 17 – 19, 23 & 25. (Fri. – Sun., Thurs., Sat.)  Mozart/Da Ponte TrilogyThe Marriage of Figaro. The second of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s three year trilogy of opera by Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The great comic opera is performed in a concert staged version by the Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists.  Disney Hall.  http://www.laphil.com  (323) 850-2000.

– May 19. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Concerto Finale.  The LACO players offer a fascinating evening of concertos, including Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto, and an offbeat bassoon concerto performed with a 1927 silent film.  Add the Beethoven Coriolan Overture and anticipate an engaging program.   CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-4321.

– May 19. (Sun.)  Deborah Voigt.  Critically acknowledged as one of the classical music world’s dramatic sopranos, Voigt – who roves freely from Wagner to Puccini – offers an intimate recital of works by Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein and more.  Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

San Francisco

Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck

– May 16 – 19 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Bela Fleck solo.  Banjo master Fleck has performed in every imaginable setting.  But he is especially compelling musically when he plays in the creative intimacy of a solo performance.  SFJAZZ Center Miner Auditorium.    (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

– May 14 & 15. (Tues. & Wed.)  John Hammond.  Praised by the likes of Tom Waits and T-Bone Burnett, Grammy-winning guitarist/singer/harmonica player Hammond keeps the blues alive in everything he plays.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York City

– May 14 – 18. (Tues. – Sat.)  Bossabrasil.  Featuring Dori Caymmi with special guest, Joyce.  Rio comes to Manhattan in the form of a pair of Brazil’s most versatile and gifted musical artists.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– May 14 – 19. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Gil Evans Project.  Directed by Ryan Truesdell.  An amazing week of music, featuring a large ensemble exploring the full range of Gil Evans’ extraordinary talents.  The selections for each night include Gil Evans’ music for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, “Out of the Cool,” “New Bottle, Old Wine,” “Great Jazz Standards,” “The Individualism of Gil Evans,” “Miles Ahead,” “Porgy and Bess,” Check with the club for scheduling.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

London

Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes

– May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  The Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band. The Fountain of Youth has had the biggest impact upon the leader, drummer and role model in this band.  At 88, Haynes is still playing with the imagination and energy of youth.  Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 20 7439 0747.

Berlin

– May 17 & 18.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Lee Ritenour.  He used to be called “Captain Fingers” in honor of his high-speed dexterity.  But guitarist Ritenour has a more lyrical side as well, often employing octave melody style of his favorite musical model, Wes Montgomery.  A-Trane.    +49 30 3132 ext. 550

Copenhagen

– May 15 & 16. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Mark Whitfield.  Dubbed the “best young guitarist in the business” by the New York Times, Whitfield performs with a trio of prime Danish jazz musicians: Henrik Gunde, piano, Kasper Vadsholt, bass and Rasmus Kihlberg, drums.  Jazzhus Montmartre.   +45 31 72 34 94

Milan

Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

– May 18. (Sat.) Anat Cohen.  Clarinetist/saxophonist Cohen is in the forefront of an impressive generation of female jazz instrumentalists.  She’s backed by Jason Lindner, piano, Stefano Bellani, bass and Daniel Freedman, drums.  Blue Note Milano.    +39 02 6901 6888.

Tokyo

– May 14 – 16. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Benny Golson Quartet.  Tenor saxophonist/composer Golson is still, at age 84, a player with a lot of music to express.  Hopefully he’ll also play some of his jazz hits such as “Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” “Along Came Betty” and more.  The Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.


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