Picks of the Week: June 8 – 13

June 8, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– June 8. (Tues.) Guitar night with John Pisano. Tuesdays are always great nights for jazz when the veteran guitarist Pisano jams with some of his most gifted six string compatriots. This week, he exchanges riffs with busy studio guitarist Mike Anthony, backed by the solid bass support of Chris Connor. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– June 9. (Wed.) Jose James. James has always had a heathy seasoning of jazz in his pop, soul and hip hop tinged music.  But his latest album, For All We Know, pairs him with Jef Neves in a vibrantly spontaneous voice and piano tour through a set of standards.  Here’s a chance to hear it live.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– June 10. (Thurs.) Nora Rothman, She’s still in her teens, but the slender, graceful Rothman sings with the sort of imaginative musicality and crisp phrasing that suggest a potentially significant talent in the making. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– June 10. (Thurs.) Roberta Donnay. With a voice that combines qualities of Blossom Dearie and Billie Hoiday with her own warm sound, Donnay brings standards to life with engaging ease. Donnay sings with pianist George Kahn and bassist Larry Steen. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– June 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.) Barbara Morrison. The lady who does it all is doing it again in a venue that knows how to showcase her tempting palette of blues, ballads and bebop. Steamers.

– June 13. (Sun.) Alan Broadbent/Pat Senatore Duo. Grammy-winning pianist Broadbent is also a superb composer/arranger. In a duo setting, backed by the flowing, supportive bass rhythms of Senatore, Broadbent creates stunning, spontaneous solos that reach beyond improvisation and into the area of instant composition. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.



– June 12 & 13. (Sat. & Sun.) The Playboy Jazz Festival. The 32nd installment of L.A.’s major annual jazz event is once again – no surprise – brimming with its usual combination of iconic talent and colorfully diverse views of jazz as the global art it has become. But Playboy is always more than a non-stop flow of music. Each hour of the day flows with its own unique qualities, from the sun-baked afternoon hours to the wine-inspired dancing in the aisles near the dinner hour and the enthusiastic reception of the schedule’s headliners. A free-floating party for every taste.

Saturday’s line up features Chick Corea, Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber, Kurt Elling, Pete Escovedo, Marcus Miller, Javon Jackson, Les McCann, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Naturally 7, Jake Shimabakuru and Trombone Shorty.

Sunday sparkles with Esperanza Spalding, George Benson, Manhattan Transfer, Bobby Hutcherson, Salif Keita, Robert Randolph’s Family Band, Irving Mayfield, Jazz Mafia, Bill Cosby and the Cos of Good Music and Tiempo Libre. Each day opens with a performance by one of the Southland’s fine youth jazz ensembles — the El Dorado Band on Saturday, the L.A. All District High School Jazz Band on Sunday. And Bill Cosby, in addition to leading his Cos of Good Music All-Stars, will provide his usual emcee blend of wit and whimsy. The Playboy Jazz Festival. Hollywood Bowl.


– June 13. (Sun.) Corky Hale and Friends. Jazz pianist, harpist and singer Hale plays hostess to an elegant line up irresistible female talent. With Corky leading the way, the gathering includes Sally Kellerman, Freda Payne, Ariana Savalas, Tricia Tahara and Brenna Whitaker. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

San Diego

– June. 11. (Fri.) Javon Jackson and Les McCann. A generational jazz mix – the much-praised, adventurous saxophone work of Jackson juxtaposed against the inimitable, grooving drive of the veteran McCann. Catch them on the evening before their Playboy Jazz Festival appearance.. Anthology. San Diego.  (619) 595-0300.

San Francisco

June 11 – 13. (Fri. – Sun.) The Jack DeJohnette Group. Drummer and avid musical adventurer has assembled a boundary-leaping group of conemporary stars, featuring alto saxophonist Rudress Mahanthappa, guitarist David Fiuczynski, pianist George Colligan and bassist Jerome Harris. Yoshi’s Oakland.

New York

– June 8 & 9. (Tues. & Wed.) Jeff Beck and “A Celebration of Les Paul.” Beck takes a break from supporting his emotionally gripping guitar-with-strings-and-guests album, Emotion and Commotion, to celebrate the life of the guitarist whose instrumental and recording innovations continue to impact popular music. Iridium. (212) 582-2121.

– June 11 – 13. (Fri. – Sun.) The Dave Brubeck Quartet. How often do you have the chance to hear a jazz icon in action — and in action at a club that brings you up close and personal to every aspect of the music? Not often, at all. So don’t miss this chance to hear Brubeck, well into his ’80s, but still playing music filled with vitality, adventure and, yes, with youth. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592

Live Jazz: The Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars at Royce Hall

April 23, 2010

By Michael Katz

When I last saw the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars, they were opening the 52nd MJF before a raucous Friday night crowd, the hour allotted to them not nearly enough to hold all their collective talents. Seven months later, in the more restrained environment of UCLA’s Royce Hall, I caught up with them again. Though the atmosphere is different, their current extended tour has given them the chance to explore the nuances of their  interconnected skills, a prevailing theme at Friday’s performance presented by UCLA Live.

As super groups go, this version of the Monterey All-Stars is pretty impressive. You could make a strong argument for Russell Malone, Regina Carter and Kurt Elling to be in the top handful of performers on their instruments (or voice), and when you add Kenny Barron’s compositional skills to his piano artistry, the combination is hard to beat. Kiyoshi Kitagowa provided steady bass work with some fine soloing, and Johnathan Blake nearly stole the show in several places with some inventive brushwork.

Kurt Elling

The group led off with McCoy Tyner’s “Effendi,” with lyrics supplied by Kurt Elling. As expected, the opening gave each member a chance to stretch out with extended solos, followed by an energetic trading of 8-bar riffs by all four headliners. From that point, the group began to splinter off into various permutations. Regina Carter, providing a sense of decorum, introduced “When I Get Too Old To Dream,” deferring to Elling on a softly swinging vocal while she and Malone provided lilting counterpoints to the melody.

Kenny Barron took over, raising the temperature with the first of his several compositions for the evening, “NY Attitude,” a straight trio number ably abetted by Kitagowa and Blake. Barron and Blake, though separated in years, both have large physiques that belie the dexterity of their playing. Watching Barron in this trio setting, you sometimes have to pinch yourself that the complex chordal riffs you are hearing match up with the seemingly effortless playing reported by your eyes.

Russell Malone

Russell Malone returned with a tribute to the late Herb Ellis, a soft, sweet version of Harry Warren’s “An Affair To Remember.” I’ve remarked on these pages before about the magical effect Malone has on a ballad. He explores the choral aspects of the guitar, circling around to the melody and then back out, like a stream meandering around a bend before finding its main current.

Kurt Elling returned, and this time the trio alignment was Malone and bassist Kitagowa, for the Horace Silver/Jon Hendricks tune “Home Cookin’.”  They had performed this at Monterey, but now it highlighted the teamwork between the players.  They brought home the tune’s sense of humor, both in Elling’s delightful reading and Malone’s nuanced accompaniment.

Kenny Barron

The first set ended with Kenny Barron’s catchy “Calypso,” another number they performed last September and honed over for months on tour. Regina Carter started out with some staccato riffs, matched by Russell Malone, but it was Kenny Barron taking over on his Caribbean composition, and Johnathan Blake demanding recognition with the first of his startling drum solos.

Kurt Elling brought the group back after intermission with “And We Will Fly,” an Alan Pasqua composition from his Night Moves CD. It had a light, samba-like feel to it, and was delightful in this version,  with Russell Malone and Regina Carter adding dimension. Elling, the de facto leader of this group, then introduced the opening line of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-N-Ing,” and the group took off on its most impressive jazz exploration of the night. Elling, fresh off his Grammy, is at the point of his career where he seems to be able to seize the audience almost at will. He then handed the baton to Carter, who let it all hang out with an extended solo that ranged from a quote of “Lady Be Good” to “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.”  Malone followed, showing off his bluesy side, and Barron did his best to one-up him, the group smoking through this entire piece. Finally, Kitagowa and Blake had an extended interlude, with Blake providing some terrific brush and stick work.

Regina Carter

Having shown off one side of her virtuosity, Carter turned to her gospel roots, teaming up with Barron in a stirring duet of “Georgia On My Mind.”  Though she hails from Detroit and Barron from Philly, you wouldn’t know it from this achingly beautiful rendition of a tune most associated with Ray Charles.

The group finished with two numbers that had them all involved, another outstanding Barron theme from an unnamed movie, and the familiar “Nature Boy,” which had the audience on its feet through terrific riffs by everyone, and another knockout Blake drum solo. It will be sad to see this tour come to an end, and here’s hoping that MJF Records will be releasing some of their material on CD in the near future.

To read more posts by Michael Katz click here.

Picks of the Week: April 19 – 25

April 19, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Pat Metheny

– April 19. (Mon.)  Pat Metheny.  The ever-adventurous, all-star guitarist has put together a computerized, remote control ensemble that allows him to play all the instruments in his band. The Orchestrion TourDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

– April 19. (Mon.) Larry GoldingsOrgan Night.  The B-3 rules on Monday nights at Vitellos, and Goldings is the guy who takes it to the limit..  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– April 19. (Mon.)  The Ed Vodicka Big Band. Multi musical hyphenate Vodicka takes a night off from composing, arranging, conducting and producing to lead his own big jazz band.  Vocal chores will be handled by the versatile cabaret jazz singer, Marlene VerPlanck Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– April 20. (Tues.)  Strunz and Farah. The guitar duo were among the first artists to fit into the emerging world music genre, via the musical encounters between Costa Rican Strunz and Iranian Farah.  Vibrato.   (310) 474-9400.

– April 20.  (Tues.)  RATT. The Southland’s own hard rock, glam metal band is back again, ready to release a new CD, Infestation, and a new video.  The Key Club.  (310) 274-5800.

– April 21. (Wed.)  Suezenne Fordham Jazz Trio.  Veteran pianist/composer Fordham continues to find creative potential in the 3rd Stream concept, blending classical and jazz into a unique musical entity.  Glendale Noon Concerts.  First Baptist Church of Glendale.   (818) 242-2113.

Regina Carter

– April 22.  (Thurs.)Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour.  The MJF’s own all-star jazz band – Kenny Barron, Regina Carter, Kurt Elling, Russell Malone, Johnathan Blake and Kiyoshi Kitagawa – display some of  the world class musicality that’s always present every September in Monterey.  UCLA Live. Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2101.   Also April 24 at Orange County Performing Arts Center .  (714) 556-2787.

– April 22. (Thurs.) Ana Moura. Portugal’s young, gifted fado singer has been bringing passionate, new perspective to the classic song form.  Skirball Center. g (310) 440-4500.

– April 22. (Thurs.)  Lizzy Williams Band.  The multi-talented singer/songwriter/actress performs with virtuoso guitarist David Williams, drummer Laura Bilobeau, bassist Chief and iRoM’s very own Devon “Doc” Wendell on harmonica.  The Green Room Lounge at the Viper Room.  (310) 358-1881.

– April 22 – 24. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Dick Gregory. Still one of the world’s great humorists, Gregory has an unerring eye and ear for detecting cant, pretentiousness, hubris and arrogance in public figures, nailing them with a sardonic phrase or an imaginative story. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

– April 23 & 24. (Fri. & Sat.)  World premiere of Dice Thrown, a contemporary opera composed by John King using aleatoric techniques pioneered by John Cage.  Musical direction by Marc LowensteinCalArts Walt Disney Modular Theatre.

– April 24. (Sat.)  Ron King. The versatile trumpeter, a mainstay with almost every big band in town, takes a break to display his chops as a fine jazz soloists.  Backing him — the John Heard TrioCharlie O’s. (919) 994-3058.

Benny Golson

– April 24. (Sat.)  Benny Golson. Tenor saxophonist Golson has composed some memorable jazz standards.  But he’s an equally convincing an improviser with a personal sound and an adventurous imagination.  Jazz Bakery Moveable Feast.  Grammy Museum Sound Stage.   (310) 271-9039.  He’s also at Anthology in San Diego on Friday (see below).

– April. 24. (Sat.)  Christine Ebersole. Tony Award-winning Broadway musical star Ebersole has had an equally stellar career in film, television and cabaret.  She brings all that, and more, to her far-ranging collection of songs and stories.   CSUN Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-1200.

– April 25. (Sun.)  Sing! Sing! Sing! Remembering Jerome Kern. Judy Wolman’s entertaining Sunday singalong celebrates the richly diverse songbook by the legendary composer of Show Boat – and much, much more. The Victorian Mansion.  Sing! Sing! Sing! (310) 990-2405.

– April 25. (Sun.)  Shelly Berg – Greg Abate Quartet. Pianist Berg takes time off from his teaching and administrative duties at the University of Miami to get together with saxophonist Abate, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine in the intimate setting of a home in the Hollywood Hills.   A-Frame Jazz. (310) 659-9169.  By reservation only.

Gail Pettis

– April 25. (Sun.)  Gail Pettis.  An impressive new jazz singer from out of the Northwest is drawing a lot of attention.  And there’s no better place to hear her special way with a song than at the KJAZZ Sunday Champagne Brunch hosted by the inimitable Bubba Jackson at Twist Restaurant in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.  (562) 985-2999.

San Diego

– April 23. (Fri.) Benny Golson.  The day before his gig in the Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast series, Golson brings his muscular tenor saxophone and memorable song book to Anthology in San Diego.   (619) 595-0300.

– April 24. (Sat.)  Ronnie Laws.  Smooth jazz comes alive with soul whenever Laws picks up his horn.  No wonder he’s had a long string of Top 40 albums and and singles.  Anthology San Diego.  (619) 595-0300.

San Francisco

James Moody

– April 22 – 25. (Thurs. – Sun.)  In the Mood For Moody: A Tribute to James Moody.  Moody’s been recovering from health problems and won’t be able to make this stellar tribute.  But there’ll be plenty of all stars to fill in the gaps: including Frank Wess, Joey DeFrancesco, Nnenna Freelon, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis and others.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

– April 25. (Sun.)  Charles Lloyd New QuartetTale of a Cloud.  Lloyd always surrounds himself with extraordinary players, and his New Quartet is no exception, eoyj Jason Moran, piano, Reuben Rogers, bass and Eric Harland, drums.  SFJAZZ at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.  (866) 920-5299.

New York

-April 20 – 21. (Tues. & Wed.) Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green. A pair of alto saxophonists from different generations and different styles get together.  Expect to see and hear musical sparks.  Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

Geri Allen

– April 20 – 25. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Geri Allen Quartet.  The superb, and too little acknowledged pianist challenges her skills by leading a quartet overflowing with talent and imagination: Ravi Coltrane, saxophones, Joe Sanders, bass, Jeff “Tain” Watts, drumsVillage Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

April 20 – 25. (Tues. – Sun.) Michel Camilo Trio.  With Charles Flores, bass, Cliff Almond, drums.  The Blue Note.  Pianist Camilo has released eighteen recordings, garnering a Grammy Award, two Latin Grammy Awards, two Grammy nominations and an Emmy Award.  He obviously should be heard at every opportunity.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-0049.

– April 20 25. (Tues. – Sun.) George Coleman Quintet.  Veteran saxophonist Coleman leads a group that positions him in the front line with the fast-fingered young saxophonist Eric Alexander and the crisp, articulate piano work of Harold Mabern. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.  (212) 258-9595.

Jazz CD Review: John Pizzarelli “Rockin’ In Rhythm”

March 13, 2010

John Pizzarelli

Rockin’ In Rhythm (Telarc)

By Don Heckman

John Pizzarelli’s recordings have almost always reached well beyond the level of simply jamming a few tunes with his quartet.  His thematically oriented tributes to Richard Rodgers, Nat “King’ Cole, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and Bossa Nova, among others, have been superb settings for his singing, his guitar playing and his imaginative musicality.

With Rockin’ In Rhythm, a tribute to Duke Ellington, he does it again and the results are extraordinary.  One simply couldn’t have asked for a better production than what Pizzarelli has assembled – true to the spirit of its subject while remaining completely alive, unique and spontaneous.

Start with the fact that there’s not a moment in which there’s a whisper of doubt that this is a jazz album, through and through.  Pizzarelli’s singing is a significant element, as it should be.  But so, too, are the hard-swinging, Ellington/Strayhorn-tinged arrangements by Don Sebesky, and the lively ensemble playing by the seven piece band he calls his Swing Seven.  Add to that the individual soloing by virtually everyone in the band, along with the added contributions of singers Kurt Elling and Jessica Molaskey (Pizzarelli’s wife), guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (his Dad), violinist Aaron Weinstein and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen.  The sense of high spirited joie de vivre that was clearly present in the studio brings every track vividly to life.

The opening “In A Mellow Tone” sets the mood for what is to come.  Pizzarelli sings the line vibrantly before dipping into his vocal-with-guitar-line improvising (which surfaces on many other tracks, as well).  Next up is the first of two tracks in which a pair of Ellington tunes are combined in intimate musical medleys.  This one uses the old instrumental line “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” as a background for Pizzarelli’s vocal version of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”  The album’s last track similarly links “Cottontail” and “Rockin’ In Rhythm” into an ineffably swinging finale.

Other highlights abound: Pizzarelli’s gorgeously lyrical balladry on “In My Solitude” and “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good”; his lush, but articulate solo guitar version of “Squeeze Me”; the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross-like version of “Perdido” by Pizzarelli,  Molasky and Elling; Harry Allen’s stirring tenor saxophone solos – hard-romping on “C Jam Blues, late-night-romantic on “I Got It Bad”; and pianist Larry Fuller’s brilliant work throughout – especially the buoyant stride solo on “Rockin’ In Rhythm” that nearly steals the record.

There’s not a track that doesn’t demand the enjoyment of repeated hearing.  Although it’s still very, very early in the qualification year, Rockin’ In Rhythm already makes a convincing case for its inclusion in the nominations for Best Jazz Vocal album in the 2010 Grammy awards.

Live Jazz: The Laurence Hobgood Trio at Cafe Metropole

February 6, 2010

By Michael Katz

Laurence Hobgood provided a perfect antidote to a rainy weekend at Café Metropole Friday evening, displaying his panoply of talents as musician, composer and arranger over two sets of intriguing and engaging music. Hobgood is best known as pianist and arranger for Kurt Elling; his presence in LA over the past two weekends was centered around the Grammy awards. Elling’s Dedicated To You won for Best Jazz Vocal, and Hobgood was nominated for his superb arrangements on that album. Ably abetted by two outstanding young musicians, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Kevin Kanner, Hobgood presented a program almost entirely of his own compositions.

“When The Heart Dances,” the title song from his most recent CD, started as an elegy, reminiscent briefly of Bill Evans, though Hobgood’s playing isn’t clearly derivitive of anyone. He weaves rich chordal structures into his pieces, dashing off   archipeggios and then folding them back into the lyrical structure. Hamilton Price had a crisp bass solo in the opening number, and Kevin Kanner established himself as the   composition picked up pace.

Hobgood transitioned into his only borrowed tune of the set, a brooding, off-minor interpretation of the fifties’ hit song, “Que Sera, Sera.” Hobgood’s soulful playing fit snugly into the surroundings of Café Metropole’s spare brick backdrop, with comic book and cartoon art on the walls suggesting a touch of whimsy.

Hobgood followed with two more originals, “The Princess and the Gentle Giant,” a piece from the ‘80s, and “Sanctuary” from the new CD. It’s worth noting that composition on the jazz spectrum can run anywhere from a single infectious line surrounded by a combo’s solo flights to the complex orchestrations of an Ellington or Mingus. Hobgood’s music, taking full advantage of the trio format, is richly complex, launching his listeners on a journey, keeping them rapt as he moves from dark, percussive beginnings, sliding into bright side canyons like a rafter searching for a line through tumultuous rapids. “Sanctuary” was done as a solo piece on the new album, but as Hobgood noted, working  with the trio gave him the opportunity to explore the piece in a fresh way.

The second set, all original compositions except “Esperanza” by Vince Mendoza, featured mostly tunes from a less recent CD, Crazy World. The opening number, “Window Man,” began quietly, ballad-like, simmering into a more percussive tone and  proceeding into dynamic interplay with bassist Price. “Prayer For The Enemy” was a waltz that segued into a bluesy tone.

Bassist Price and drummer Kanner were sparkling throughout. Having had only one previous set to work out these lengthy, layered compositions with Hobgood, they were remarkably efficient and creative in their own soloing. Price, particularly as the second set continued,  exhibited a tone and dexterity that recalled Eddie Gomez, excelled in the playful “Smuggler,” named for a mountain bike trail in Aspen.  Kanner contributed his own bright rhythms, with creative use of brushes in the sets’ quieter moments.

With the continuing success of Kurt Elling, Laurence Hobgood will clearly have plenty of challenging work in front of him. But audiences should leap at the chance to hear him leading a trio in these richly engaging compositions. He’ll continue tonight at Café Metropole with special guest Ernie Watts.

Here, There & Everywhere: The Jazz Winners at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards

January 31, 2010

By Don Heckman

The jazz Grammys have been awarded and – Surprise! – there are no surprises.  Which, given the nominations, is not particularly surprising.

Even so, that’s not to question the worthiness of winners such as the Joe Zawinul album 75, (recorded a couple of months before the composer/keyboardist’s death) – despite its peculiar presence in the “Best Contemporary Jazz Album” category.  Kurt Elling’s award in the “Best Jazz Vocal Album” was richly deserved; it was his ninth nomination and first win.  So, too, for the Bebo and Chucho Valdes award for “Best Latin Jazz Album.” The father and son Cuban piano stars have been instrumental in bringing first rate Cuban jazz to wide audiences.  And as an addendum in other categories, it was good to see pianist Bill Cunliffe receive a “Best Instrumental Arrangement Award” for West Side Story Medley (Resonance), and Claus Ogerman win the “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists” for Diana Krall’s Quiet Nights (Verve).

It was, on the other hand, unfortunate to see younger talent – Julian Lage, Gerald Clayton, Miguel Zenon – overlooked.  But they’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future.

The real problems lay, as they have for the past few years, in the nominations and the definitions for the categories.  Too often – the “Best Jazz Vocal Album” category was a good example – fine recordings from lesser known talent were ignored in favor of familiar faces.  Other categories – “Best Contemporary Album,” “Best Latin Jazz Album,” ”Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” – are catch-alls, pitting dissimilar nominees against each other, reflecting the Recording Academy’s seemingly diminishing knowledge and interest in jazz.  And the “Best Improvised Solo” category continues to be an absurd grouping.  One wonders what definitions a voting member uses to compare, say, an improvised solo by Martial Solal to a solo by Terence Blanchard.

Getting back to the “Surprise” (or lack of same) factor, it wasn’t surprising that the jazz awards were given in the afternoon, relegated to the non-televised segment of the Awards.  But it was startling to see the Grammys handed out by pop singer/songwriter Colbie Cailiat and Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood.  It wasn’t clear what, exactly, their connection with jazz might have been.  Maybe the Academy knows something I don’t.

Here are the nominations and the winners:

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

WINNER: Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate 75 (Heads Up International)

Stefon Harris & Blackout Urbanus (Concord Jazz)

Julian Lage Sounding Point (Emarcy/Decca)

Philippe Saisse At World’s Edge (E1 Music)

Mike Stern Big Neighborhood (Heads Up International)


Best Jazz Vocal Album

WINNER: Kurt Elling Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane and Hartman (Concord)

Randy Crawford No Regrets (PRA Records)

Roberta Gambarini So In Love (Groovin’ High/Emarcy)

Luciana Souza Tide (Verve)

Tierney Sutton Desire (Telarc Jazz)


Best Improvised Jazz Solo

WINNER: Terence Blanchard “Dancin’ 4 Chicken” from Jeff ‘Tain” Watts CD, Watts (Dark Key Music)

Gerald Clayton “All Of You” (ArtistShare)

Roy Hargrove “Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey” (Groovin’ High/Emarcy)

Martial Solal “On Green Dolphin Street” (CamJazz)

Miguel Zenon “Villa Palmeras” (Marsalis Music)


Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group

WINNER: Chick Corea & John McLaughlin Five Peace Band Five Peace Band – Live (Concord Records)

Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow & Antonio Sanchez Quartet Live (Concord Jazz)

Clayton Brothers Brother To Brother (ArtistShare)

John Patitucci Trio Remembrance (Concord Jazz)

Allen Toussaint The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch)


Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

WINNER: New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Book One (World Village

Bob Florence Limited Edition Legendary (MAMA Records)

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside)

Sammy Nestico And The SWR Big Band Fun Time (Hanssler Classic)

University Of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band Lab 2009 (North Texas Jazz)


Best Latin Jazz Album (Vocal or Instrumental)

WINNER: Bebo Valdés And Chucho Valdés Juntos Para Siempre (Sony Music/Calle 54)

Chembo Corniel Things I Wanted To Do (Chemboro Records)

Geoffrey Keezer Aurea (ArtistShare)

Claudio Roditi Brazilliance X 4 (Resonance Records)

Miguel Zenón Esta Plena (Marsalis Music)

Live Jazz: “A Night at the Beats” with Charles Lloyd, Joshua Redman, John Handy, Kurt Elling, Michael McClure, Exene Cervenka and others at Disney Hall

December 9, 2009

By Michael Katz

Disney Hall and the LA Phil continued their West Coast Left Coast series Tuesday night with A Night at the Beats, featuring two fine jazz ensembles, two classic West Coast poets and two singers from divergent backgrounds. A slight disclaimer before I go further: I was seated in the so-called “Orchestra View” Section of Disney Concert Hall, a section above and directly behind the stage.  I suppose these seats — when a full orchestra is present and you can actually see some of the musicians’ faces — might provide a reasonable alternative to, say, video streaming.  But they are wholly inadequate for a small jazz ensemble backing a program of poetry readings. I’m sure those who saw the program actually facing the stage had a different experience.

Charles Lloyd

The first set featured the Charles Lloyd Quartet with poet Michael McClure reading what I assumed was his own poetry, as the program was unannounced. Lloyd opened on an alto flute.  He has one of the most lovely tones on both flute and tenor of anyone I know, but unfortunately they sounded muffled and muted. The rhythm section fared much better — a world class trio, with Jason Moran playing beautifully on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums.  McClure’s poetry was animated and expressive, but again the sound was mangled, and though you could make out some of the words, it had to be appreciated more as performance art.

During intermission it was clear that the technical staff was working  on the sound, and the improvement was noticeable when David Meltzer took the stage, more so after someone in the crowd yelled “Louder!” and the volume was increased. Meltzer was backed by a terrific ensemble anchored by Christian McBride on bass, Peter Erskine on drums and the inimitable Alan Broadbent on piano. The second act moved crisply, with   preparation between poets and musicians evident and material enunciated for the benefit of the audience.

Alto saxophonist John Handy and tenor Joshua Redman, both with Bay Area backgrounds, filled in the front line and complimented Meltzer’s spirited readings. Handy was featured in Meltzer’s reading of Alan Ginsburg’s America, 1956,  one of the evening’s many poems that resonated strongly in today’s political atmosphere.  Redman took the lead for the next reading, Meltzer’s No Eyes, an ode to Lester Young in his final days. Redman started with a plaintive “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” segueing into more lovely Young ballads in support of Meltzer’s haunting lines.

Exene Cervenka

Exene Cervenka followed, and I’ll admit to not being aware of her oeuvre in punk rock, but I was surely impressed by her presentation in this venue. She had prepared a series of shorter poems, including The Secret by Denise Levertov, Hay For The Horses by Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s I am Waiting. Against spare but witty accompaniment, especially by Broadbent and McBride, her reading was bright and fully expressed the probing intelligence as she read: “I am waiting for the rebirth of wonder.”  She finished with Michael McClure and Janis Joplin’s “O Lord, Won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,” with McBride and Erskine providing a slapping, slamming rhythmic back-up, melting into Miles Davis’ “So What.”

Kurt Elling

Michael McClure returned, this time to better acoustics, and read a lengthy interlude from Jack Kerouac’s “Mexico City Blues.”  A special nod to McClure, the only performer who actually recognized us folks behind him and directed some poetry our way.   He finished with a Jim Morrison reflection on LA.

Kurt Elling closed out the show with more Kerouac, a poem by Gregory Corso and a wonderful rendition of a work by (and in the voice of) William Burroughs. Elling, whose persona never drifts very far from beat era hipster anyway, was a real treat for most of the audience that hung around for the end.

All in all, an energetic and inspiring evening, which deserves a repeat performance. I’d love to see it next time from the front.


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