Live Jazz: The Kenny Burrell Quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill

June 30, 2013

By Don Heckman

Kenny Burrell took a break Friday night from his academic duties at U.C.L.A., where he has been the driving force behind the establishment – and the expansion –  of the University’s superb jazz program.

Working with his quartet at Catalina Bar and Grill, his far-ranging performance recalled some of the high points in his stellar career as an iconic master of the jazz guitar.

Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell

Moving from electric to acoustic guitars, Burrell played with the engaging mixture of subtle chording, brisk rhythms and arching melodies that have characterized his work since he arrived on the national jazz scene in the early ‘50s.  He combined those elements with particular effectiveness on standards such as “Make Someone Happy” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.”  And when he switched to an acoustic guitar for the classic lyricism of Michel Legrand’s “The Summer Knows” and Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” his musical storytelling reached into even greater areas of expressiveness.

Other tunes, drawing a full set of colors from the Burrell musical palette, included a brief pass into the rhythms of bossa nova and a briskly swinging romp through the jaunty pulse and twisted phrases of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhyhm-a-Ning.”  In each case, he displayed his creative adaptability with élan and imagination.

Llew Matthews, Kenny Burrell, Tony Dumas, Clayton Cameron and Justo Almario

He was superbly aided by the world-class playing of his quintet, with the musically eclectic Justo Almario on tenor saxophone and flute, Llew Matthews on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Clayton Cameron on drums.  Each provided Burrell with the benefits of their special talents: Matthews balanced solid accompaniment and crisp soloing with spontaneous arrangements; Almario moved from fast-fingered tenor saxophone solos to warm flute sounds: Dumas, as always, provided an irresistible foundation; and Cameron’s propulsive drive was ever-present, whether playing laid-back brushes or clamoring sticks.

Call it an appealing musical get together between a gifted group of players.  And give full credit to the versatile Burrell for leading the way through a memorable evening of music.

Tonight, the Kenny Burrell Quintet wraps their three night run at Catalina Bar & Grill. Don’t miss them.  Burrell also returns to Catalina Bar & Grill on Monday, July 15 in a larger setting, leading his L.A Jazz Orchestra Unlimited.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Bob Barry.

Live Jazz: The John Beasley MONK-estra Upstairs at Vitello’s

February 22, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  John Beasley described the 18 piece ensemble he brought to Vitello’s Wednesday night as a MONK’estra.  He also called it “A Big Modern Jazz Band.”

Both labels were right on target for this performance.  First, the great majority of the program was dedicated to the music of Thelonious Monk.  Second, Beasley’s arrangements, combined with superb individual soloing from virtually every musician, resulted in a definitive display of “Big,” “Modern” and “Jazz Band.”

The John Beasley MONK-estra

The Monk pieces – including such classics as “Epistrophy,” “Little Rootie Tootie,” “Skippy” and “Ask Me Now” – were at their best when Beasley conceived big band settings enhancing, expanding and elaborating on the Monk originals. Often he captured Monk’s unique quirkiness, the offbeat accents, punchy dissonances and surprisingly soaring melodies.  And he did so with stunningly atmospheric ensemble textures, powerfully driven by the propulsive rhythm team of bassist Ricky Minor, drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr., and Beasley’s own melodica playing.

Justo Almario, Ricky Minor, John Beasley

Justo Almario, Ricky Minor, John Beasley

The performance occasionally recalled a famous 1959 concert at New York’s Town Hall, in which Monk performed with a tentet, playing arrangements of his music written by Hall Overton.  But the presence of Monk in the ensemble — along with Overton’s occasional arrangements of previously recorded Monk solos for the horns — was very different from the scope of Beasley’s big band charts.

With maximum-sized horn sections – five trumpets, five doubling saxophones and four trombones – Beasley’s arranging moved into expansive, orchestral textures reaching well beyond both the Overton arrangements and familiar big band riffing.  Like Bill Holman, he worked within his own musical dialect.  Even in the pieces based on Monk works, he found intriguing ways to apply his imaginative perspectives to Monk’s music.

The saxophone section players —  Bob Sheppard, Jeff Driskill, Justo Almario, Tom Luer and Bob Carr – were often called to double on clarinets (including a pair of bass clarinets), bringing a lush, fluid sound to many passages.  Adding more timbral contrast, the trombonists —  Francisco Torres, Wendell Kelly, Andy Martin and Steve Hughes – as well as the powerful trumpet team (Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, Ray Monteiro, Brian Swartz and Gabe Johnson) were frequently asked to play with various mutes.

Interestingly, one of the many appealing products of Beasley’s envelope-stretching arrangements was some equally imaginative soloing from players who clearly seemed stimulated by their musical environment.  The net result was some of the most mesmerizing big band music – individually and collectively – of recent memory.

The only reservation about this remarkable evening was the thought that Beasley’s choice of the title “MONK-estra,” along with the decision to focus so strongly on Monk’s music, had too narrowly delineated his obviously extraordinary orchestrating abilities.  The few pieces that were not based on Monk’s works revealed Beasley’s capacity to deliver the broader, more expansive definition of what he also calls his
”Big Modern Jazz Band.”  It will be fascinating to see what he can do if he moves more convincingly in that distinctive, more personally expressive direction.

Photos by Bobby Colomby.

Live Jazz: Jose Rizo’s Mongorama and the Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band in the 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival’s First Community Concert

May 9, 2012

By  Devon Wendell

It was a beautiful, perfect, sunny California day in Beverly Hills for the first of 2012’s free Playboy Jazz Festival community concerts, featuring two diverse acts. One demonstrating the bright future of jazz to come, the other celebrating the musical legacy of one of the most influential artists and composers in the history of Latin Jazz.

The first was the Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band, carefully conducted by Bill Bradbury. Their set consisted of big band covers of classics by such diverse artists as Herbie Hancock, Dean Martin, and Miles Davis.  It was refreshing to see these teens put their own spin on the show opener, Michael Sweeney’s jelly roll blues “Hog Squeelin’, Rip-Snortin’, Belly Achin’ Blues,” Dean Martin’s hit Mambo-swing “Sway,” and Miles Davis’s blues-bop anthem “Four.”  Young trumpeter Jac Won Chung soloed with a mature sense of taste, space, and soul on all of these numbers.

Alto sax player Jason Lee was also quite impressive with his bluesy solo on The Freshmen Classic “Traces,” which was certainly an interesting ballad for a big jazz band to tackle. And it was the choice of such covers that made this set most interesting, especially the band’s reading of Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.”  On this jazz/electro- funk classic, tuba player Young Jung, and the trombone section featuring; Eric Frazer, Juliana Jones, and Tommy Marcus playing tight, syncopated bass lines with bassist Julius Kim, mimicking Hancock’s keyboard effects on the original recording. Lead guitarist Omid Shamoil served up a distorted Jeff Beck lead here with plenty of teenage angst in every lick.

The Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band wasn’t perfect. At times they’d go out of tune, but it was obvious by the look on their faces that this was due to nervousness and who could blame them? Despite a few flaws, these kids showed a lot of promise, dedication, and joy.

Jose Rizo’s Mongorama

Headlining the show was a carefully hand-picked band paying tribute to Afro-Cuban Jazz legend Mongo Santamaria with a presentation titled Mongorama. KJAZZ musical director and band leader for the popular Jazz On The Latin Side All Stars, Jose Rizo seemed to instinctively know the perfect musicians for this project.   Their 2011 album, Mongorama, was nominated for a Grammy.

The eight-piece band, led by Rizo, consisted of: Danilo Lozano, flute and musical director; Justo Almario, tenor sax; Oscar Hernandez, piano; Dayren Santamaria (no relationship to Mongo), violin; Alfredo Ortiz, congas; Christian Moraga, timbales; Jonathan Pintoff, bass; and Fermin Sifontes, lead vocals.

The band’s set consisted of Santamaria classics like “Bacoso,” and “Palo Mayombe,” as well as a band original “Asi Es La Vida,” all  featuring amazing solos by Lozano and especially Almario. Even with Almario’s hard-bop influence, he and the other soloists never got away from the song’s thematic melodies for a second, a rare qualities these days. It was also apparent that Rizo and his band were intent on staying within the Cuban tradition of charanga, which made dance music popular in the ‘40s and also incorporated European instruments such as the violin.  Rizo introduced the various soloists and give the history of the music between each number.

Unfortunately most of the set was plagued by a low vocal mic, making Sifontes almost totally inaudible.  But the raw power of the band made up for this, especially the traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms laid down by Ortiz and Moraga. Those rhythms made it impossible for the audience not to get up and dance.

The set’s highlight was their rendition of Mongo Santamaria’s “Gaujira At the Blackhawk.” Hernandez held down the rich melody line and his solos had a dynamic and imaginative quality that often brought to mind the stylings of Eddie Palmieri. Dayren Santamaria’s violin solo was fluid yet percussive, melodic, and the most amazing example of virtuosity of the entire show. This was truly an inspirational moment that even left the other band member’s jaws dropping. Her violin would weave in and out of the rhythms effortlessly while adding her own layered harmonies without missing a step. From her performance on this composition alone, Santamaria is certainly a brilliant talent to check out, if you haven’t already.

The band closed the show with “Que Maravilloso,” and Mongorama original “Tin Marin.”  Sifontes was able to overcome the mic problems by belting out a vocal performance that showed off his smooth and traditional vocal style. It felt as if the band surrendered blissfully to the beautiful and hypnotic rhythms and all swapped brief solos, never giving into self- indulgence. Every note served the song and style.

The long timbale solo on “Tin Marin” really got the few Beverly Hills wallflowers on their feet. Hernandez locked in with Pintoff’s bass in a way that seemed as if they had ESP.  Almario and Lozano played hooks on just tenor sax and flute that sounded like an entire brass section, which was nothing short of brilliant.  The show ended in a thunderous blaze of percussion and smiles.

Both The Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band and Jose Rizo’s Mongorama performed sets dedicated to the jazz history of many cultures with soul and knowledge and most importantly, fun.  Which was the perfect announcement and the greatest way to usher in the 34th annual Playboy Jazz Festival.

Picks of the Week: July 25 – 31.

July 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Justo Almario

– July 26. (Tues.)  Justo Almario Quartet.  Saxophonist/flutist Almario is one of the Southland’s great jazz treasures, a player who moves convincingly across every jazz arena. Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

– July 27. (Wed.)  Gladys Knight and James Ingram.  The one and only Grammy-winning Empress of Soul shares the stage with the smooth sounds of balladeer Ingram.   Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2040.

– July 28. (Thurs.)  David Angel’s Saxtet.  Angel continues his quest to showcase the jazz saxophone in all its glories.   Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

– July 28. (Thurs.)  Red Baraat.  The band that has convincingly married the Punjabi bhangra percussion rhythms with spunky New Orleans brass makes its West Coast premiere appearance.  The Skirball Cultural Center.   Free.  Seating on first come basis.  (310) 440-4500.

Ann Hampton Callaway

– July 28 – July 30.  (Thurs. – Sun.) Ann Hampton Callaway.  Blessed with one of the jazz vocal world’s most gorgeous, emotionally pliant voices, Callaway is also a convincing pianist and a masterful musical storyteller. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– July 29. (Fri.)  Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos.  One of the major pop music breakthroughs of the past decade, the Grammy winning, platinum producing Lonely Boys share the stage with the older, more established, but no less compelling Los Lobos. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

– July 29. (Fri.)  John Proulx, Kristin Korb and Dave Tull. Trio’s like this don’t come along very often.  Pianist Proulx, bassist Korb and drummer Tull are all first rate instrumentalists  But each of them is also an appealing jazz vocalist.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– July 29 & 30. (Fri. & Sat.) Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television.  Pianist/singer Feinstein, who matches his musical adroitness with a dedication to the glories of American song, performs with Wayne Brady, Florence Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson and Dick Van Dyke.   Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

– July 30. (Sat.)  Trouble in Tahiti. The too-rarely seen Leonard Bernstein one-act opera receives a rare and unusual performance in a night club setting.  Jessica Marney and Phil Meyer star.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– July 30. (Sat.)  Shoghaken Ensemble and Tigran.  An evening overflowing with the colorful, far-reaching melodies and rhythms of Armenia.  Grand Performances.

(213) 687-2159.

– July 30. (Sat.)  Chuck Manning Quartet.  Versatile tenor saxophonist Manning brings an inventive point of view to his bop-influenced, straight ahead style.  His stellar backing includes Jay Daversa, trumpet, Pat Senatore, bass and Jimmy Branley, drums.  At 6:30 and 10:30, the Otmaro Ruiz duo.   Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

Peter Frampton

– July 30. (Sat.)  Peter Frampton.  One of the icons of classic rock, Frampton was a co-founder of the group Humble Pie when he was only eighteen.  Still a star, this time out he performs his multi-platinum album Frampton Comes Alive! in its entirety.  Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

– July 30 & 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival.  The 16th annual festival, always a showcase for the Southland’s finest, takes place in one of the founding places of Los Angeles jazz.  This year’s line up includes: on Saturday: Pete Escovedo, Kamasi Washington, the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, Karen A. Clark Project, Ashley Siris, Dorian Holley, The LAUSD All-City High School Jazz Band.  On Sunday: The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Katia Moraes and Sambaguru, Deacon Jones with Ray Goren, Ernie Andrews, Jazz America tribute to Buddy Collette.  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival takes place on Central Ave. between 42nd and 43rd streets.  Free.  (213) 473-2309.

San Francisco

New West Guitar Group

– July 27. (Wed.)  New West Guitar Group. A trio of gifted young guitarists – John Storie, Perry Smith and Jeff Stein, the New West players have thoroughly authenticated their ability to move freely and imaginatively across jazz, rock, folk and beyond.  Freight & Salvage.  (510) 644-2020.

– July 29. (Fri.)  Lavay Smith’s Crazy in Love with Patsy Cline.  The one and only sultry siren finds entertaining common ground between jazz, blues and country.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.   (510) 644-2020.

– July 31 – 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Fab Four.  Tribute bands seem to be proliferating in every direction.  But none do a more entertaining job of it than the Fab Four’s ear and eye catching versions of the Beatrles. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

New York

– July 26 – 30. (Tues. – Sat.)  Leny Andrade“From Rio With Love.”  The title is great, but it doesn’t say it all.  Andrade, in fact, has for years been one of Brazil’s most proficient jazz vocal artists, combining her deep understanding of Brazilian rhythms with an equally inventive jazz style.  Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.

– July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Fourplay. Guitarist Chuck Loeb joined founding Fourplay members Bob James, keyboards, Nathan East, bass and Harvey Mason, drums in 2010.  The result has been a further musical enhancement of a group that has always had the ability to find the creative heart of whatever style they elect to play.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Claudia Acuna

– July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Claudia Acuna.  In a jazz world overflowing with talented female vocal artists, Acuna continues to soar freely at the highest levels of the art.  Chilean born, she mastered the basics quickly, but what makes her special is the way she has shaped her version of those basics into her own mesmerizing musical story telling. (212) 258-9800.   Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.


– July 29. (Fri.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  Tenor and soprano saxophonist Coltrane has successfully accomplished the difficult task of creating his own convincing musical identity, expanding inventively from year to year, inspired but undistracted by the greatness of his father.  New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.

Justo Amario photo by Tony Gieske.

Live Jazz: Justo Almario’s Afro-Colombian Ensemble and the Tamir Hendelman Trio in a Playboy Jazz Festival Free Community Concert at the Beverly Hills Civic Center

May 3, 2011

By Devon Wendell

It was a beautiful sunny day at the Beverly Hills Civic Center on Sunday  for the 33rd annual Playboy Jazz Festival to present its first free community concert.  Two very diverse and skilled performers were on the bill, and KJAZZ’s Brad Williams was the host.

The first act was award winning Israeli pianist Tamir Hendelman’s trio, with Ryan McGillicuddy on bass and Dean Koba on drums.

Opening with a version of the old standard, “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,” the Hendelman trio band immediately displayed a sense of symmetry and concentration.

Tamir Hendelman

Tamir’s bop-influenced playing often sounded like two pianists at once, reminiscent of Art Tatum’s finest work.  Koba demonstrated some powerfully bombastic Roy Haynes-esque drumming on this number, while McGilllicudy’s subtle bass lines rode perfectly atop, holding down the groove.

Where Hendelman lacked originality, he made up for it with attention to dynamics with delicacy, which was the case on Jobim’s classic “Passarim,” and a masterful jazz reading of Maurice Ravel’s “Tombeau De Couperin,” — which were the early highlights of the set.  On these numbers, the band became as one with each member following each other’s every nuance.  Koba’s brush work on “Passarim” was superb, and the way the trio made Ravel’s music swing was bold and daring.

These musical adventures were more captivating than Hendelman’s own compositions, which mostly consisted of ballads such as “Sycamore” and “Israeli Waltz,” with the latter, in its finest moments, feeling like Bill Evans’s early ballad work.  But,  though performed flawlessly, they demanded more energy than they got.

Ending the set, the Hendelman trio produced their most energetic and exciting performance, a  version of Japanese jazz piano great Makoto Ozone’s “BQE”(Brooklyn Queens Expressway).  Delivered with an up-tempo, hard-bop feeling groove, it had the freneticism and pace of the actual BQE when it’s overflowing with traffic.  Hendelman flew across the keyboard effortlessly and showed the sort of playfulness he lacked on previous numbers. Koba’s imaginative and aggressive drumming really stood out on this tune.  Ironically enough, “BQE” was similar to Bud Powell’s “Parisian Thoroughfare.”

Unfortunately, as is often the case with abbreviated jazz performances at festivals, once the Hendelman Trio finally began to swing the hardest, it was time for them to stop.

The leader of the next group on the program, Justo Almario, is known as one of the greatest and most respected reedmen in jazz, and his fiery set was further proof of his brilliance.

Almario took the Beverly Hills stage with his Afro-Colombian Ensemble — Jason Garcia: piano, Guillermo Guzman: bass, Aaron Serfaty: drum set,  Eduardo Martinez: tambora, alegre, Alberto Lopez: congas, Nando Perez: vocals and tambora) — with a sense of power and fun.

Justo Almario

Almario’s knowledge of the Cumbia style of Colombian music from Colombia’s coastal region was evident on the opening number “La Piragua,” which began with a flood of percussion. Almario approached the microphone with his tenor sax and began playing minor key arpeggios with a command and soul that was overwhelming.  His tone was close to Atlantic records era Coltrane, and his seemingly ceaseless imagination even overpowered the thunderous tambora playing of Martinez as well as Lopez’s congas.

Due to some audio problems, Perez’s vocals and Garcia’s piano playing were almost inaudible at first, which seemed to make Nando Perez’s presence seem self conscious – all of which changed as the performers charged ahead.  Even with some sound mishaps, though, nothing could distract from Almario’s virtuosity.

On “Te Olvide” and “El Guayabo,” Almario’s sax lines danced soulfully around the percussionists and Guzzman’s slapped bass accents. As Almario took flight into each solo, he maintained complete thematic sense in his lines, and interacted with each band member in a manner that was awe-inspiring.  Almario and Guzzman started the next number, “Al Fin Te Vi” without the band. Almario switched to clarinet, and Guzzman’s bass work and the percussionists perfectly layered Almario’s clarinet playing.  This was easily one of the set’s highlights. Almario’s sense of swing and technique on clarinet even had his fellow band member grinning in amazement.

On “La Casa En El Aire,” the performance was interrupted by more loud audio feedback, especially during Almario’s clarinet solo and Garcia’s piano playing.  But neither musician would allow this to distract them him.  In fact, it seemed as though they took the annoying hum as a challenge. Garcia produced his finest piano playing of the evening and Almario played far into the stratosphere, sounding more brilliant with every passing bar and chord change.

By this time, the Almario performance had officially become a party. As the band played “Fiesta De Negritios,” audience members began to dance through the aisles.  Martinez’s and Lopez’s conga, tambora, and guache playing made it almost impossible not to get up and shake something.  Lopez’s infectious vocals accented every hook and his joyful stage presence added to the joyful mood. Almario’s flute playing was as brilliant as everything he did on clarinet and sax.

When the band reached its final piece, “Tres Clarinetes.” Nando Lopez jumped off stage and joined the conga line taking place in the crowd.  Serfaty soloed on drums but never departed from the multi-layered rhythms.  Almario played the tenor sax while watching this spectacle.  And it felt as though he’d been spurred on to play with even more intensity and glee — which was hard to believe possible.  No one on or off stage wanted the music and dancing to end, but unfortunately it had to.

There was no doubt, however, that the delighted audience left happily, that the Playboy Jazz Festival had kicked off the 2011 Free Community concerts with an impressive afternoon of great music, swinging soul and high energy fun.  And the price was perfect.

Justo Almario photograph by Tony Gieske

Picks of the Week: April 5 – 10

April 4, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Junko Onishi

– April 5. (Tues.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She kicks off her American tour tonight with the backing of the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323)466-2210  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on April 6.)

– April 5. (Tues.)  Ostad Abbos Kosimov.  Traditional Uzbek and Tajik Percussion Music and Dance. Percussionist Kosimov is one of the world’s masters of the doyra frame drum.  He is joined by the CalArts Persian and World Music ensembles, as well as members of his own Abbos Ensemble in an exploration of the music of Uzbekistan.  Tara Pandeya adds the sensual movements of Central Asian dance.  REDCAT (213) 237-2800.

– April 5. (Tues.)  Lorenzo Lamas.  You may remember him as Jane Wyman’s evil stepson in Falcon Crest. But Lamas (yes, from that family) is also an effective musical purveyor of the romantic side of cabaret.  Vibrato Grill Jazz… (310) 474-9400. 

Kenny Burrell

– April 6. (Wed.) Kenny Burrell Jazz Heritage All Stars.  For once, the label “All-Stars” has real significance.  Veteran guitarist/educator Burrell puts it all together with trumpter (and also educator) Bobby Rodriguez, saxophonist Justo Almario, drummer Clayton Cameron and more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– April 6. (Wed.)  The Kronos Quartet. The creatively eclectic, Grammy winning string quartet celebrates composer Steve Reich’s 75th birthday with the performance of a newly commissioned work.   Segerstrom Center for the Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

Salif Keita

– April 6. (Wed.)  Salif Keita. The voice of Keita, with its soaring tones, penetrating sound and inspiring rhythms, is one of the great glories of African popular music.  The Conga Room.  (213) 745-0162.

– April 6. (Wed.) Blue Lou Marini.  Veteran New York saxophonist Marini makes one of his rare West Coast appearances, performing with trumpeter Walt Fowler, pianist John Campbell, bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Peter Erskine and special guests.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– April 7. (Thurs.)  Big Willie’s Burlesque.  Busy drummer Willie McNeil’s Quartet lays down some classic backbeat sounds to inspire the irresistible moves of dancer Carolina Cerisola.   They call it “old school burlesque with a cutting edge, Latin, new school vibe.”   The Edison Downtown.  (213) 613-0000.

– April 7. (Thurs.) V. R. Smith Sextet.  It’s a Smith Family Night.  With vocalist V.R. Smith backed by the band of her husband, bassist Putter Smith with Gary Foster alto saxophone, Chuck Manning, tenor saxophone, Jim Szilagyi, piano and Tim Pleasant, drums.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– April 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Rachelle Ferrell.  Blessed with one of the most impressive voices in the jazz vocal world, Ferrell is also a uniquely appealing song stylist.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

Arlo Guthrie

– April 8. (Fri.)  Arlo Guthrie and Friends.  Folk music patriarch returns to UCLA, this time with his “Journey On” tour, featuring his son, Abe Guthrie and the folk-rock trio The Burns SistersUCLA Live.  Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.

– April 9. (Sat.)  Jazz Fundraiser for Japan.  Vitello’s April Williams has assembled an impressive collection of the Southland’s finest jazz artists for a 12 hour fundraiser for Japan.  Among the participants: Alan Pasqua, Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Darek Oles, Alex Acuna, the Wayne Bergeron Big Band, Denise Donatelli, Joe La Barbera, Larry Koonse, Tom Warrington, Bob Sheppard and many more.  11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– April 9. (Sat.) Plas Johnson.  Although he’s been a vital member of the Southland jazz community for decades, Johnson is best known for his memorable solo work on “The Pink Panther” theme.  But he’s got a lot more than that to offer.  He’ll be playing with pianist Tom Ranier, bassist John Giannelli and drummer Fritz WiseGiannelli Square.  (818) 772-1722.

– April 9. (Sat. ) Wind Soloists of New York and Pedja Muzijevic. The superb wind instrumentalists of this much praised ensemble join with pianist Muzijevic to perform a dynamic program of works by Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Prokofiev and Poulenc.  And they’ll do so in the elegant Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion.  The Da Camera Society.  (213) 477-2929.

– April 10 (Sun.)  Greta Metassa.  Seattle-based singer Metassa is far less known than she should be.  In this rare Southland appearance, she’ll deliver her beautifully crafted vocals  in a plush, private mini concert hall in Beverly Hills.   Hopefully, she’ll include songs from her latest CD, I Wanna be Loved.” Backing her: the world class rhythm section of pianist Mike Garson, bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Bob Leatherbarrow.  To book seats, click on Resonance Records.   Address will be given when the reservation is made.

San Francisco

– April 6. (Wed.)  Junko Onishi Trio.  Japanese pianist Onishi confirms her return to jazz action last year after a performance break of nearly a decade.  She’ll be backed by the sterling rhythm team of bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gregory HutchinsonYoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

Madeleine Peyroux

– April 8. (Fri.)  Madeleine Peyroux.  Moving beyond the Billie Holiday musical frame that had narrowed her music for too long, Peyroux is now finding her own way, as unique musical persona and an intriguing songwriter.  SF Jazz Spring Season.  Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (415) 398-5655.

– April 9. (Sat.)  Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester.  The music of the twenties and thirties comes vividly back to life in the hands of Raabe and his extraordinarily versatile musicians.  Always as musically provocative as they are entertaining, they’re one of a kind. SFJAzz Spring Season.  Paramount Theatre, Oakland. .

– April 10. (Sun.)  The Asaad Brothers Da Volta as Raizes” Offspring of a famouns musical family, the two guitar duo of the Asaad brothers play everything from Bach transcriptions and gypsy jazz to Brazilian samba and the music of the Middle East.  SFJAZZ Spring Season. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  (415) 398-5655.

New York

Toshiko Akiyoshi

– April 4 (Mon.) Fund Raising Concert For Japan. The New York jazz community steps up to play a concert in support of the beleaguered people of Japan. Toshiko Akiyoshi; Cecil Bridgewater; Sam Burtis; Jerry Dodgion; Roy Hargrove; Tom Harrell; Barry Harris; Fred Hersch; Rene Manning; Earl McIntyre; Jimmy Owens; Rufus Reid; Marvin Stamm; Lew Tabackin; Kenny Werner and many othersThe Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

– April 5 – 10. (Tues. – Sun.)  Toots Thielemans with Kenny Werner and Oscar Castro-Neves.  As if that weren’t enough, Werner will also do a set each night with his Quintet featuring Lionel Loueke and Miguel ZenonThe Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– April 8. (Fri.)  Rudresh Mahanthappa’s “Gama.” With David Fiuczynski, guitar, Francois Moutin, bass and Dan Weiss, drums.  Altoist Mahanthappa and Fiuczynski have been working together lately in Jack DeJohnette’s band.  Here they dip into some of the fascinating improvisational territory between jazz and Indian music.  Cornelia St. Café.  (212) 989-9319.

Picks of the Week: Jan. 11 – 16

January 9, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Jan. 11. (Tues.)  John Pisano Guitar Night.  The first anniversary of Guitar Night at Vitello’s will feature a stellar collection of L.A.’s finest six-stringers.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Jan. 13. (Thurs.)  Henry Franklin Quartet.  Bassist Franklin, known to all as “The Skipper,” celebrates the release of his CD, The Soul of the WorldCharlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

Cheryl Bentyne

– Jan. 13 & 14. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Cheryl Bentyne. The Manhattan Transfer’s soaring soprano takes a break from her ensemble duties to demonstrate her mesmerizing skills as a solo artist.   Click HERE. to read an iRoM review of Cheryl Bentyne’s most recent Vitello’s performance. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– Jan. 13 – 15.  (Thurs. – Sat.) Pinchas Zukerman and the Pacific Symphony. Violinist/conductor displays his far-reaching versatility with the Stravinsky Concerto in D (for string orchestra),  Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 “The Hen” and the Beethoven Violin ConcertoSegerstrom Concert Hall OCPAC.   (714) 556-2787.

– Jan. 14. (Fri.) Gary Foster. Multi-talented saxophonist Foster has been ollowing his own adventurous musical pathway for decades, undeterred by stylistic comings and goings in the saxophone world.  He’s backed by the Pat Senatore Trio. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Justo Almario

– Jan. 14. (Fri.)  Justo Almario. The master saxophonist and woodwind artist, who can play just about anything with anybody,  celebrates 45 years in the business, with Oscar Hernandez and the LA/NY Connection.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Jan. 14. (Fri.)  Joey DeFrancesco Trio. A night at  Steamers with Joey D piloting the Hammond B-3 through one jazz realm after another is always a night to remember.  Steamers.   (714) 871-8800.

– Jan. 15 & 16. (Sat. & Sunday)  India Adams. Her name may be unfamiliar, but her voice will evoke memories. Adams was the singing voice for Joan Crawford in Torch Song, Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon and herself on Broadway. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– Jan. 16. (Sun.) Marian Petrescu and Mike Garson. Pianistic virtuosity will be on the loose in this promising jazz encounter between the astonishingly fast fingers of Romania-born Petrescu and the eclectic musical imagination of Garson.  Pierre’s Fine Pianos.    (310) 247-0331.

– Jan. 16. (Sun.)  Elliott Caine Sextet.  Trumpeter Caine leads his sextet in a celebration of material from his new CD, the evocatively titled Hippie Chicks on Acid. KJAZZ’s Bubba Jackson, the irrepressible host, will explain what it means.   KJAZZ Sunday Champagne Brunch.  The Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.  (562) 985-2999.

San Francisco

Dave Grisman and Martin Taylor

– Jan. 12 & 13. (Wed. & Thurs.) Dave Grisman and Martin Taylor.  Mandolinist Grisman and guitarist Taylor, two of the most gifted proponents of acoustic music, get together for an engaging evening of string sounds. Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

– Jan. 12 & 13.  (Wed. & Thurs.) The Family Stone. Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson, among the founding members of Sly & the Family Stone, revive some of the classic rock band’s greatest hits.  Expect to hear, among others, “I Want To Take You Higher,” “EverydayPeople” and “Dance to the Music.”  Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

New York


– Jan. 10.  (Mon.)   Noa. Israel-born, New York City-raised singer Noa (whose full name is Achinoam Nini) makes a special appearance in a small venue.  Blessed with a musically precise, emotionally intimate voice and a mastery of a far-reaching range of global styles, Noa — who has sung for Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, and performed with everyone from Sting and Stevie Wonder to artists from Palestine, Lebanon and Algeria — can rarely be heard in such an up close and personal setting.  Don’t miss this one.  City Winery.    (212) 608-0555.

– Jan. 11 – 15. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Tierney Sutton Band. Seventeen years together and Sutton and her musicians seem to get better with every performance, bringing new crative perspective to everything they touch.   Click HERE to read a recent iRoM review of the Tierney Sutton Band.   Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– Jan. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  Joe Lovano’s “Us Five” brings together a cross-generational congregation of impressive jazz talent: pianist Jerome Wiedman, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, and drummers Otis Brown III and Matt Wilson.  They’ll no doubt perform selections from Lovanos album, Folk ArtVillage Vanguard.  (212) 929-4589.

– Jan. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.) Bill Evans/Steve Lukather “Toxic Monkey.” Crossover saxophonist Evans and multiple Grammy-winning guitarist Lukather debut their new funk/rock/jazz band. The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Jan. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Clayton Brothers Band.  Altoist Jeff and bassist/composer John Clayton – high level members of L.A.’s jazz aristocracy, get together with pianist Gerald Clayton (John’s son) bassist Terrell Stafford and drummer Obed Calvaire to celebrate the Clayton Brothers second Grammy nomination in a row.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 255 other followers