Picks of the Week: Feb. 19 – 24.

February 20, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ron Kobayashi

Ron Kobayashi

– Feb. 20 (Wed.)  The Ron Kobayashi Trio.  Versatile pianist Kobayashi’s resume reaches from Mel Torme and Margaret Whiting to Teddy Edwards and Kenny Burrell.  Here he’s on his own and in the spotlight.  Steamers.

– Feb. 20. (Wed.) Monk’estra.  A Big Modern Jazz Band.  John Beasley.  Pianist/composer/arranger Beasley displays his imaginative musical wares with a big band featuring the works of Thelonious Monk.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Larry Goldings

Larry Goldings

– Feb. 21/ (Thurs.)  Larry Goldings Piano Trio.  He’s an impressive jazz organist, but this time Goldings applies his keyboard skills to the classic jazz piano trio.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Feb. 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Dudamel, Shaham and the Los Angeles Philharmonic with German Romanticism.  Dudamel and violinist Shaham dip into the rich, emotionally textured music of the Romantic era.  On the program — Wagner: Music from Gotterdammerung; Brahms: Violin Concerto; Schuman: Symphony No. 3 (“Rhenish). Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Feb. 22 – 24.  (Fri. – Sun.)  The New West Symphony and violinist Rachel Barton Pine.  The New West Symphony presents another weekend of music across the Southland.  Boris Brott conducts Ms. Pine and the NWS in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, followed by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).  Performances take place:  Fri. at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center.   Sat. at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.  And Sunday at Santa Monica’s Barnum Hall.   (805) 497-5800.

Bebe Neuwirth

Bebe Neuwirth

– Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Bebe Neuwirth.  Stories With Piano.  You know her from her long run on the hugely successful sitcom, Cheers.  But Neuworth’s also an appealing cabaret singer and dancer.  Scott Cady, piano.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-3000. 

– Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Cecilia Coleman Quartet.  Pianist Coleman, a much-favored Southland jazz regular before moving to New York, Coleman makes a rare L.A. appearance.  She performs with Steve Huffsteter, trumpet, Pat Senatore, bass and Kendall Kay, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 23. (Sat.) Robert Randolph presents the Slide Brothers.  With special guests: the Otis Taylor Band. The pedal steel guitar in all its glory, led by master player Randolph and the four Slide Steel Brothers.   CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.

– Feb. 23. (Sat.) The Los Angeles Chamber OrchestraJeffrey Kahane, multi-talented Music Director of the LACO, opens the evening with an in-depth discussion of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #4 at the Orchestra’s annual “Discover” concert.  In the second half, he conducts the work from the piano.  Ambassador Auditorium.  (626) 354-6407.

Trevor McShane

Trevor McShane

 - Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Trevor McShane.  His real name is Neville Johnson, and he’s also one of the entertainment world’s highly regarded attorneys, as well as an ambitious performer.  He describes his songs as rock-folk-country-pop, but a more accurate description would be a contemporary singer/songwriter in the classic mode of James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, etc.  McSHane/Johnson will be joined by Lloyd Price and the Fleetwoods’ Gretchen ChristopherMcCabes.     (310) 821-5858.

– Feb. 23. (Sat.)  Roadwork Ahead.  Featuring Bill Mays, piano, Peter Sprague, guitar, Bob Magnusson, bass, Jim Plank, drums.  Pianist/composer Mays is well known for his accompaniment work.  But he’s also a prime jazz artist on his own.  He’s not in L.A. often, so take this opportunity to check him out. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson

– Feb. 21 – 23.  (Thurs. – Sat.)  Cassandra Wilson. Blessed with a warm and intimate voice, Wilson makes the most of it with her intimate, musical story-telling skills. Yoshi’s San Francisco.

Portland, Oregon

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

Feb. 20 – 24.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The Portland Jazz Festival.  Always one of the best-planned, best-programmed jazz events of the year, the Festival continues to offer some irresistible music.  But it sells out fast.  Still available for this week: On Wed. Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts.  On Fri. A Tribute to Art Blakey including Javon Jackson, Bobby Watson, Curtis Fuller and more.  Also on Fri., the Steve Kuhn Trio.  On Sat., Steven Bernstein’s Sex Mob.  On Sun., Nancy King.  Check the PDX website for complete information.  The Portland Jazz Festival.  (503) 228-5299.


– Feb. 19 & 20. (Tues. & Wed.)  Jack DeJohnette Quartet featuring Don Byron.  Jazz Alley. Drummer DeJohnette has found the perfect reed player for his Quartet in the imaginative playing of the versatile Byron.  Jazz Alley.

New York

– Feb. 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Benny Green Trio.  He’s played with everyone, and with good reason – his ability to bring captivating inventiveness to his jazz mainstream style.  Green With Georgos Antoniou, bass, Kenny Washington, drums.  Jazz Standard.


Billy Cobham

Billy Cobham

– Feb. 20 – 24.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The Billy Cobham Band: Tales From the Skeleton Coast. The always dynamic drumming of Billy Cobham celebrates his latest album with an electrifying band including two keyboards, violin, guitar and steel pans.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 (0)20 7437 5081.


– Feb. 22 (Fri.)  The Bjorn Ingelstam 5Tet.  “Tribute to Lee Morgan.”  Trumpeter Ingelstam leads a quintet of Denmark’s finest young players in a tribute to the iconic jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45)70 263 267.


– Feb. 20 (Wed.)  The Bill Charlap Trio. He comes from a highly successful musical family closely associated with the musical theatre.  But Charlap’s focus has been, and continues to be the jazz piano that he plays with complete authenticity. The Blue Note Milano.    02.6901 6888.




– Feb. 20. (Wed.)  Noa and Gil Dor.  The irresistible Israeli musical partnership of singer Noa and guitarist Dor enhance their intimate musical togetherness with the string quartet of Vincenzo Di Donna and Luigi Di Maio, violins, Gerardo Morrone, viola, Anonio Di Francia, cello.    Teatro Jolly di Palermo.  091.6376336.


– Feb. 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Fourplay.  Grammy-nominated Fourplay has had some personnel changes in the guitar chair over the past two decades.  But the addition of Chuck Loeb to the regulars – keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason – has invigorated the band’s always lively style.  Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli at the Valley Performing Arts Center

May 14, 2012

By Don Heckman

I pushed aside one of my rules Saturday night – the rule that says once a year is enough to review most artists.  When I saw that Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli were performing together at the shiny new Valley Performing Arts Center, I decided to make an exception to the fact that I’d written about both of them well within the past year.  The idea of hearing these two uniquely gifted artists working off each other was too much to resist.

As it turned out, however, they weren’t exactly doing an evening’s performance together.  Each did their own set, with the Monheit/Pizzarelli togetherness of the evening consisting of only three songs.  I”d obviously hoped for more, and the response of the full house crowd suggested that they would have been happy for more, as well.

But there are no complaints about what we got during the brief duo segment: A lovely rendering of “Tonight You Belong To Me,” the duet Monheit sings with Pizzarelli on her new album, Home. A gorgeous vocal by Monheit on Ivan Lins’ “Love Dance,” with Pizzarelli’s guitar providing the rhythm.   And a brisk pairing – backed by the Pizzarelli band – on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

Jane Monheit

Beyond that, the evening consisted, as I’ve already noted, of two individual sets.  And Monheit came close to stealing the show with hers.  Blessed with extraordinary vocal skills, she used them all at the service of her musical storytelling.

On her opening “Old Devil Moon,” she swung briskly with bassist Neal Miner, matching and joining him in phrase after phrase.  Her version of “Look For The Silver Lining,” was a stunning display of musical paraphrase, transforming the original into a unique improvisation.  The same was true of “Stardust,” in which Monheit came up with one brilliantly spontaneous line after another – jazz singing at its finest.

And there was more: A touching “I Wish You Love,” a reading of “Every Time We Say Goodbye” that displayed the full gamut of her gift for far-reaching emotional dynamics.  A jaunty “I Won’t Dance,” recalling her video duet on the same tune with Michal Buble.  And another Brazilian delight – Antonio Carlos Jobim’s soaring “Samba de Avaio.”  All of it supported superbly by her pianist/arranger Michael Kanan, drummer (and husband) Rick Montalbano and bassist Miner.

John Pizzarelli

Pizzarelli’s set overflowed with his characteristic rhythmic buoyancy.  Opening with “Will You Still Be Mine,” he proceeded with a rapid fire romp through the Great American Songbook: “It Wouldn’t Be Make Believe,” “Just You, Just Me” and “Will You Still Be Mine,” often tossing in segments of his high spirited, guitar and voice riffing

`           The balance of the program surveyed material from his new album, Double Exposure, in which he combines seemingly disparate songs into unlikely musical marriages.  Among them, Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” was blended with the standard of the same name.  Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” was musically cut and pasted with Tom Waits’ “Drunk On the Moon.”  And John Lennon’s “I Feel Fine” came together with Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder.”

The result had a certain kind of novelty value, sometimes more than that.  But more often, one simply hoped for one or the other of the two songs within any of the blendings to simply come to life on its own.  Pizzarelli delivered it all with his usual panache.  But – recalling his charming December program at Disney Hall — I kept missing the musical byplay and the witty banter with his wife, the talented Broadway singer, Jessica Molaskey.

A final word about the new Valley Performing Arts Center, which is a stunning addition to the artistic life of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.  Pleasing architecturally, it also offers a large warm and inviting people space inside a stunning marble, tile and glass environment.  Add to that the hall’s excellent acoustics and generously comfortable seating, and one can expect that audiences from the other side of the hill will soon discover the pleasures of this impressive cultural destination.

Live Jazz: KPFK 90.7’s First Annual Hero Award Tribute to Billy Higgins at Catalina Bar & Grill

May 3, 2011

By Tony Gieske

You wouldn’t figure that an event honoring the late Billy Higgins would have drawn a full house to Catalina’s on a Sunday night.

Billy Higgins

We here in musician-creamy Los Angeles understand that Higgins — always smiling! — was the go-to guy if you wanted to record with a cat who was there mainly to help you.  A sideman.  His name was never the biggest one on an album cover.  That spot would go to someone like Max Roach, or Art Blakey, or Elvin Jones.

True, Higgins, who died 10 years ago, did headline with his friend Ornette Coleman back in the late 1950s.  But more often his name inhabited the small type on albums such as the ones with Donald Byrd, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Milt Jackson, Jackie McLean, Pat Metheny, Hank Mobley, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, David Murray, Art Pepper, Sonny Rollins, Mal Waldron, and Cedar Walton.

But you had to be deeply dyed in the jazz wool to think of him as the star he actually was.

Yet here was this bowl-you-over turnout, cars filling the four-story parking lot next door, with KPFK, the radio station that was putting on their first  annual fund-raiser, charging $75 per person and turning folks away.  The rejects fostered a brisk trade in slick programs and posters with Higgins’ picture in glorious black and white.

Eric Reed

Inside, there came in glorious live or taped audio such jazz figures as Clayton Cameron, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Burrell,  John Beasley (the musical director), Gerald Wilson, Leon Mobley,  Will Calhoun, Phil Ranelin, Richard Grant, Charles Owens, Eric Reed and of course Coleman.

“Billy was one of the most special human beings,” the white plastic alto man said in a message read on the stand. “He had something to do with the reason we’re all alive.”

“He was very, very pure,” Coleman added. “He could make me feel so good and proud of the way he executed (on the stand). And (most important) he never had one derogatory or unappreciative thing to say about anybody.”

“He didn’t really want to take a lot of drum solos,” said Reed. ” ‘It’s my job to make everybody else sound good,’ he seemed to feel. And in some kind of way Billy Higgins made it all sound amazing.”

Kamau Da'ood and Charles Lloyd

Poet Kamau Da’ood, the Horace Tapscott alumnus who co-founded the ground-breaking performance space World Stage in Leimart Park with Higgins, shouted a passionate poem about bones, and John Densmore, a founding member of the Doors, did likewise.

But it was the saxophonist Charles Lloyd who transcended the verbal — although he first spoke a few words with undeniable  conviction — in a moving unaccompanied instrumental elegy to his longtime traveling mate in the land of the jazz future.  It is a future toward which, he seemed to mourn, his old friend can journey no longer.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.

Q & A: Norton Wright, Fine Art Painter, Television Producer and Lover of Jazz

May 5, 2010

By Don Heckman

Fine art painter and television producer aren’t exactly career terms that are often heard in the same sentence.  Not even in the wildly multi-hyphenate world of Los Angeles.  Add to that the description “life long jazz fan” and the combination becomes even more unlikely.  But not completely.  Because all those labels – and attributes – apply to Norton Wright, whose name can be seen in the producing credits of numerous television shows and movies, reaching over the years from “Captain Kangaroo” and “Sesame Street” to the Emmy Award winning series “Freestyle” and tv movies starring Charlton Heston, Debbie Reynolds, Susan Lucci, Ed Asner and others.  His most recent film, “Safe Harbor,” was aired on the Hallmark Channel last year.

Wright’s color-filled “JazzWorks” paintings, which include titles such as “Mysterioso” (saluting Theloious Monk),” “Four Miles” (saluting Miles Davis), “Good Vibes” (saluting Terry Gibbs), “Touch of Silver” (saluting Horace Silver) and “Take Five” (saluting Dave Brubeck), have had various gallery showings over the years.  But at the moment many can be viewed – up close and personal — in the seemingly unlikely setting of the Wine Bistro Restaurant at 11915 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, California.  In a recent conversation  – peppered with his wry humor and jovial story-telling – Wright talked about his love of jazz, his painting, and the unlikely integration of his left and right brain activities.

* * * *

DH: Let’s start with your background, Norton.  I know you studied art at Yale with the famous Bauhaus painter and teacher, Josef Albers.  But I also know that you managed to sneak away most weekends, and take the train to New York to hear jazz.

NW:  Oh, yes. Those were the days. I was a big fan of Marian McPartland.  Still am.  I remember in the Hickory House days, in the mid-fifties, I’d go there with my college roommate and we’d camp out there starting at 9 p.m. Marian was playing with Joe Morello and Bill Crow.  Marvelous.

DH: A terrific band.

"Valse" (Saluting Bill Evans and Claus Ogerman

NW: Right.  And then there was the intermission pianist — a thin, gawky guy, played a lot of notes, and we couldn’t figure him out.  His name was Bill Evans.

DH: I’d call that a full evening of jazz.

NW: But it usually was just the start.  At one in the morning, Julius, the headwaiter, would lock the door, but we’d get to stay.  A little while later there’s a knock on the door.  It’s Tony Scott.  He comes in.  Another knock.  It’s Sal Salvador.  He’s just come through town.  And one after another they would show up.  Jackie Paris, the singer.  And when the Metropole down the street closed up, maybe Jimmy McPartland with Bud Freeman, and the party would go on until five or six in the morning.  The greatest musical time in my life.

DH: When you got back from the service in the early sixties, Bill Evans had been with Miles on Kind of Blue, become a major star, and jazz had evolved rapidly.  And you were still as much a fan as ever, even of the new stuff coming along.

NW: Sure.  George Russell with things like “Ezz-thetic.”  And Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh.  Ornette Coleman.  But the guy I’ve always liked, no matter what era, has been Herman Foster, the blind pianist.  Never made a huge name for himself, mostly backed singers.  But I have these two albums he made in which he starts in full musical orgasm.  And his music lights you up.  I can feel my whole metabolism kick up listening to this guy.  And I listen to him a lot, still.

"Floating Castle" (Saluting Lee Konitz)

DH: But you also wound up in commercial television – as a producer.  An area that would seem to be light years away from both jazz and painting.

NW: But I didn’t abandon either one.  And the reason that this painting thing became so important to me is that I was spending – still do — a good chunk of my time with my left brain on as a producer, where spontaneity is the last thing that you want.  In fact, when it does happen there, it’s usually called desperation.  From a producing standpoint, you’re turning on the side of your brain that balances your checkbook.  It’s people and facilities and budgets and timelines and deliver dates.  It’s prying the leading lady out of her dressing room with a crowbar when she has half of Bogota up her nose.

DH: Definitely left brain dominance.

NW:  Yes, but it’s not to say that every now and then in the producing business that your heart doesn’t lift.  There’ll be times when you’ll look at a rewrite and a tear will come to the eye or you’ll roll around on the floor laughing, and that is spontaneous.  The other time that it works for me in the movie production business is when the score is added to the picture.  And that which you thought was kind of good, your heart beats faster, and it’s that magic that happens when music elevates a dramatic moment, and really tells you what it’s about.

DH: Would that all television and film producers had the same sensitivity to music.  But, okay, so if that’s the left brain of producing, then what about the right brain aspects of painting?

"Four Miles" (Saluting Miles Davis)

NW: In the kind of painting I do, I look for spontaneity and minimum structure.  That’s not to say completely spontaneous.  A jazz player knows the difference between a twelve bar blues and a thirty-two bar ballad.   There’s a basic structure in 16th century mannerism that’s based on a diagonal from the upper left hand corner to the lower right.  And I sketch those in, just a little bit.  From then on, I just go.  A commercial illustrator friend of mine told me that a painter should always control the painting.  And I told him, “No, that’s absolutely wrong for me.  I want the painting to tell me what to do.  And I think that’s similar to a jam session where you start out knowing what you’re going to do, and then Anthony Wilson does something else, and that gives you another idea about where you’re going to go.  In other words, the music tells you where you should go with your sax solo.  Which is not at all like doing a commercial illustration of a cowboy in which he has to have the sun in the upper left hand corner and leave room for the Marlboro logo across his moustache.

DH: That reminds me of what Ornette Coleman once said: “How can I know what I’m going to play until I play it?”  And then there was Harold Rosenberg, the art critic, who wrote about a painting as the produce of the encounter between the painter and the canvas.  That sounds pretty close to some of the things that happen in jazz, as well.”

NW: Yeah.  For me, in terms of the process, first and foremost is the business of me encountering a canvas and putting stuff on it that I hope is going to be unstructured, spontaneous and surprising.

DH: Okay.  We know you’re not an image painter – no Marlboro cowboys – so the JazzWorks aren’t portraits, they’re abstractions.  But what happens when you’re doing a JazzWorks painting, when you’re working on something inspired by a particular musician?  Don’t you listen to that musician while you’re doing the painting, and doesn’t that tend to guide your hand as you work?

"Aloft" (Saluting Chris Botti)

NW: Nope.  In fact, sometimes it’s a kind of retrofitting process.  I use music to trigger spontaneity.  But I don’t listen to a lot of different things.  And somewhere in the course of the visual structuring of the painting — the color tones, the horizontal relationships that kind of look like melody to me, and the vertical relationships that sort of have the feeling of a harmony of colors — a particular jazz artist will come to mind.  In the painting “Aloft,” for example, I don’t know if I was deliberately listening to Chris Botti, but that was a time when I was frequently playing his CDs in the studio.  And, hearing that floating tone of his, suddenly I thought “I’ve got two elements in this painting: I’ve got a firmament in the bottom.  And the second element floats at the top.”  And I thought, “This is the tone of Chris Botti, who seamlessly seems to float over this rich orchestration.”  And that loftiness, that airness led me to feel that it was a salute to Chris Botti.

DH: So, it’s like you said earlier, the painting tells you.  And since jazz is so much a part of who you are, the painting frequently tells you something that triggers a jazz response.

"Mysterioso" (Saluting Thelonious Monk)

NW: Right.  It’s like when I was doing “Mysterioso.”  It’s got the opposition of complimentary colors, it’s got blood red against thalo green.  Well, that’s like hitting a black note and a white note together, doing a diminished second.  It just jumps off the canvas.  I was exploring what you could do with shock in coloration.  And who shocked us more than Thelonious Monk in terms of the deliberate juxtaposition of the incompatible?  So that’s when I discovered that it sure did look like how Thelonious sounds.  Rather than the reverse approach — that I’m listening to Thelonious as I do the salute to him.  It actually goes the other way.

DH: Norton, I know jazz has always been an intrinsic part of your life, and your paintings.  But you listen to other music as well, I gather, while you’re in the studio.  How do you decide what to put into the CD player on any given day?

NW: It changes for me.  Yesterday, because of the way a painting was going, I knew it was going to work.  And when I know something’s going to work, I tend to put on happy stuff.  When I’m struggling, I usually put on the gloomy stuff.

DH: Like what?

NW: Well, like the Polish classical composer, Gorecki.  He’s got a choral work with Dawn Upshaw, and when I’m struggling I put that on because it’s contemplative.  And it’s dark, and it’s slow and it’s not ebullient at all.  It’s like a human struggle, which is something that art can be.

"Spectacular" (Saluting Diane Schuur)

DH: And when you’re not struggling?

NW: When you’ve already gone around the corner and you know you’re putting on the finishing touches to the visual, it’s time to put on Diane Schuur and the Basie Band.  The record that won the Grammy.  That just rocks along.  She’s so good on that. And she has a way of being able to shift from the up tempo stuff to something where the lyrics really make a difference.  You just get the feeling with her that there’s a tenacious and gorgeous spirit in that lady.

DH: If I were to ask which specific jazz artist you feel most reflects the way you work and think, who would come to mind?

NW: It probably changes from month to month.  I’ll say this, though.  Lee Morgan is my kind of guy.  He’s muscular, he’s daring.  I don’t know if I paint like Lee Morgan sounds, but I sure would like to.  I was a boxer at one point, in college, and I wanted to be Rocky Graziano.  Because he improvised, he had a huge right hand, and he was passionate and he was terrific.  Regrettably, I fought like Willie Pep.

DH: And what about your overall body of work?  What would that resemble, in a jazz sense?

NW: Much as I love her, it wouldn’t resemble Marian McPartland.  I think I’d have to go back to Herman Foster again, starting out in full orgasm and just getting better.  And I like to think that’s where my appetite is, in art and in life.  It’s so short, and so precious a period of time, that I really don’t want to spend it logically building something.  I just want to jump in feet first, and have so much fun.

DH: Thanks, Norton.  It’s been great talking with you.

* * * *

Norton Wright’s exhibition of New Paintings can be seen at the Wine Bistro Restaurant, 11915 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA.  (818) 766-6233.

Norton Wright is represented in Los Angeles by the Susan Schomburg Gallery.  (310) 453-5757.

Picks of the Week: Feb. 2 – 7

February 2, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Anthony Wilson

– Feb. 2. (Tues.)  John Pisano Guitar Night.  With Anthony Wilson.  Guitar Nights are always good.   This should be one of the best.  Guitarist, composer and bandleader Wilson is a stunningly versatile talent.   Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

– Feb. 4. (Thurs.) Beyond the Pale Skirball.  The Canadian band doesn’t hesitate to wrap klezmer around everything from bluegrass and jazz to reggae and funk.  (310) 440-4500.

Estaire Godinez

– Feb. 4. (Thurs.)  Estaire Godinez.  Percussionist/singer Godinez brings passionate intensity to eveerything she sings and plays.   She celebrates the release of her new CD.  Vibrato Grill Jazz… etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 5. (Fri.)  Yamaha Piano All Star Review.  A versatile line up of pianists pay tribute to the Yamaha brand with music reaching from romantic classical to straight ahead jazz.  Performers include Anna Grinberg, Danny Holt, Milen Kirov, David Roitstein, David Rosenboom, Juris Vikovs, and Liam VineyREDCAT.  (213) 237-2800.

– Feb. 5. (Fri.)  Sony Holland.  Vocalist Holland’s intimate sound and dramatic phrasing find a perfect blend with the Theo Saunders Quartet Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

Dave Liebman

– Feb. 5. (Fri.)  Dave Liebman.  A too-rare Los Angeles appearance by the versatile, veteran saxophonist Liebman, enhanced by the all-star Southland quartet of  Bob Sheppard, bass, John Beasley, piano, Darek Oles, bass and Joe LaBarbera, drums.  Upstairs at Vitellos.  (818) 769-0905.

– Feb. 5. (Fri.)  Laurence Hobgood Trio. Pianist Hobgood has had a lot of visibility as Kurt Elling’s musical associate, but he’s a gifted artist in his own right.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear him in action.  Café Metropol. (310)  613-1537

– Feb. 5. (Fri.)  Jon Mayer Quartet. Pianist Mayer is a bop master, but he crosses comfortably into other mainstream jazz areas as well.  He’s backed by the vertain team of Ernie Watts, tenor saxophone, Chris Conner, bass, Roy McCurdy, drums.  Spazio.   (818) 728-8400.

– Feb. 5 & 6.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Strunz & Farah.  The guitar duo, with roots in Costa Rica and Iran have been stretching the limits of flamenco jazz and fusion since world music was just becoming a genre on its own. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210

– Feb. 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)   Sambaguru.  When the super-heated Katia Moraes and her accomplices in Sambaguru hit the stage, the Brazilian rhythmic pyrotechnics never stop.Friday at Culver Club Raddison.  Sat. at Spazio. .   Sambaguru.

– Feb. 6. (Sat.)  Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. They’ve gone through several incarnations since their founding in 1994, but JFJO continue to blur the boundaries between jazz, rock, funk and avant-garde.  The Mint.   (323) 954-9400

– Feb. 6. (Sat.) Lanny Morgan.  Another bebopper on the loose, alto saxophonist Morgan is also a lyrical ballad player.  He performs with the John Heard Trio.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.


– Feb. 6. (Sat.)  Repast.   The Baroque instrumental trio — Amelia Roosevelt (baroque violin), John Mark Rozendaal (baroque violoncello and viola da gamba), and Avi Stein (harpsichord) — are joined by baroque violinist Claire Jolivet and soprano Nell Snaidas for an evening of music from Amsterdam.  Th performance complements the Getty’s current exhibit of drawings by Rembrandt and his students.   The Getty.   (310) 440-7300.

– Feb. 6 – 19.  (Sat. – Fri.)  Bob Barry Jazz Photography Exhibit.  Barry’s extensive jazz performance photos are on display as part of the two week Celebration of Jazz at the  Brand Library of Music and Art.   (818) 548-2051

– Feb. 7. (Sun.)  Mike Lang. The ever-versatile, always-swinging pianist appears with the solid backing of bassist Abraham Laboriel, Sr. and drummer Walter RodriguezCatalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Paula West

– Feb. 2 – 28.  Paula West.  One of the Bay area’s many fine jazz vocalists, West still hasn’t received the recognition her extraordinary talent deserves.  She sings with the George Mesterhazy QuartetThe Rrazz Room.   (415) 394-1189.

– Feb. 4. (Thurs.)  John Handy. Educator and long-time cutting-edge alto saxophonist brings his admirable skills to a rare one-nighter. Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

– Feb. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun)  Charisma!: The Music of Lee Morgan.  Selections from the catalog of the great jazz trumpeter are performed by the sterline ensemble of  Benny Maupin, Bill Harper, Eddie Henderson, David Weiss, Geri Allen, Dwayne Burno, Billy HartYoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

– Feb. 6. (Sat.)  Dionne Warwick.  The iconic hit-maker of the ’60s and ’70s still knows how to bring a song to life — even if it wasn’t written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.Castro Theatre. (415) 392-4500.

New York

– Feb. 2 & 3.  (Tues. & Wed.)  Dorado Schmitt‘ continues his cross-country celebration of the Django Reinhardt centennial.  This time with special guest Curtis StigersIridium.   (212) 582-0161.

Gretchen Parlato

– Feb. 2 & 3. (Tues. & Wed.)  Afinidad — the adventurous ensemble formed by Edward Simon and David Binney moves into even more colorful musical territory with special guests Gretchen Parlato, Ben Monder, Rogerio BoccatoJazz Standard. (212) 576-2232.

– Feb. 2 – 6. (Tues. – Sat.)  Oregon, the trail-breaking jazz/world music ensemble is still making superb music — forty years after its founding.  With Ralph Towner, guitar, keyboards and trumpet, Paul McCandless, woodwinds, Glen Moore, bass and Mark Walker, drums.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

– Feb. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Jimmy Heath Big Band.  Veteran saxophonist/educator Heath has been leading big bands of one sort or another for most of his long, productive musical life.  And, at 84, he’s still at it.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Feb. 3. (Wed.)  Mary Foster Conklin.  Somewhere between cabaret and jazz, Mary Foster has found an utterly believable musical home.  She’s always worth hearing, and never more so than at  Café Vivaldi.  (212) 691-7538.

– Feb. 4 – 6. (Thurs. – Sat.)  David Sanchez Group.  Puero Rican tenor saxophonist Sanchez has been honing and shaping his unique musical voice since he arrived on the scene.  And it just keeps getting better.   Jazz Standard. http://www.jazzstandard.com/red/index.html (212) 576-2232.

Jazz Live: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Royce Hall

October 3, 2009

By Don Heckman

There’s never any question that a performance by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is going to be a significant musical event. But their appearance at Royce Hall Friday night in a UCLA Live concert was even more — a program of works that entertained and illuminated, while offering convincing testimony to both the continuing vitality of jazz and the relevant durability of the big jazz band.

With so many creative tools available within the 15 piece instrumentation of the JLCO, Marsalis always has a lot of options in any given program. And on this night, it quickly became clear that the ensemble’s extraordinary collection of soloists would largely dominate an evening rich with Thelonious Monk selections. By the time the program reached its rousing conclusion, every member of the Orchestra — with the sole exception of baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley, who reportedly was not feeling well — had ample opportunity to display his improvisational wares.


Amid the list of showcase solos, the highlights were led by Marsalis himself, whose articulate facility seems to become more impressive with every performance. His always gripping choruses roved from the airy use of a hat on Ted Nash’s quirky arrangement of the children’s classic, “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” to a high speed romp through Kenny Dorham’s “Stage West.”  Nash, who also wrote an even quirkier chart for “The Eensie Weensie Spider,” added several out of the box solos as well: a tour through his alto saxophone’s upper harmonics on his arrangement of Lee Morgan’s “Ceora”; an interval-leaping set of variations on Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy” (arranged by trombonist Chris Crenshaw); and a light-hearted romp on flute through “The Eensie Weensie Spider.”

Sherman Irby not only arranged Lou Donaldson’s “Blues Walk,” he also soloed with a stunningly dramatic use of sounds and silences. Crenshaw revealed improvisational chops to match his arranging skills. Trumpeter Ryan Kisor moved effortlessly from high note lead to briskly swinging choruses, while tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding found the heart of the music in every one of his several solo opportunities. And that’s not to mention the multiplicity of sterling work by the other JLCO players.

All of these individual excursions took place in the framework of first class arranging (Marsalis, to his credit, draws from the gifted writing talents within the ensemble) as well as the easygoing spontaneity between players who clearly respect and honor each other’s abilities. Among the other memorable numbers — Marsalis’ gorgeous, Ellington-inspired chart for the saxophone section on Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”; Sherman Irby’s big-band transmutation of the disjunct accents in Monk’s “We See”; and bassist Carlos Henriquez’s rendering of Joe Henderson’s “Shade of Jade.”

The enthusiasm on stage was self-evident throughout, never more so than when there was some good natured jibing at one point to persuade Marsalis to make sure Kisor had a solo. Ending the performance in high spirits, Marsalis spontaneously came back after most of the Orchestra had exited, and played a brief, swinging coda with the rhythm section as the audience began to leave. It was the perfect capper for an evening in which jazz was very much alive, well and flourishing.


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