Picks of the Week: Sept. 4 – 8

September 4, 2013

By Don Heckman

It’s a light, holiday week, with 100-plus temperatures here in L.A.  But there’s still some very fine music to hear in various parts of the world.

Los Angeles

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

– Sept. 4 – 8. (Wed. – Sun.) The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove has appeared frequently with his big band lately. But this time he fronts a straight-ahead quintet, showcasing his fine solo work. Catalina Bar and Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 4. (Wed.) Bruce Forman Quartet. Guitarist, novelist and educator Forman, a true multi-hyphenate, takes a break from his many activities to do a live performance. Don’t miss it. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 6. (Fri.) Richie Cole Quartet. Bebop is always on the loose when alto saxophonist is in the room. And especially so when he’s backed by the propulsive backing of pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Dick Weller. Jazz at the Radisson Hotel.

Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group

– Sept. 6 & 7. (Fri.& Sat.) The Blue Man Group. The musically and visually eccentric members of the Blue Man Group have brought a new supply of unique instruments to an evening of new music with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 8. (Sun.) ABBA Fest. A non-stop evening of music by the hit-making Swedish band. First, via a competition of collegiate a cappella Abba groups; second via a performance by the great tribute band ABBA, the Concert. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.



San Francisco

– Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.). Terence Blanchard is always in search of new musical adventures. This time out, his Sextet features saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and and African jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. SFJAZZ. The SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.  (415) 398-5655.


– Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs., – Sun.) Larry Coryell and the Eleventh House Reunion Band. Guitarist Coryell revives the music of the fusion band he led in the’70s. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

Washington, D.C.

– Sept. 6 – 8. (Fri. – Sun.) Patricia Barber. Singer/pianist Barber continues her quest to find new creative ways to approach the songs of the Great American Songbook. Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York City

– Sept. 4. (Wed.) J.D. Walter. Jazz Standard. Walter is a singer who prefers to take adventurous musical pathways… which may explain why he hasn’t yet received the attention his singing deserves. The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Cassandra Wilson– Sept. 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.) Cassandra Wilson. The jazz vocal genre has largely been dominated lately by fast-arriving young female artists. But Wilson continues to be a pathfinder with her own inimitable style. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– Sept. 7. (Sat.) Barbara Carroll. She was described in 1947 by Leonard Feather as the “first girl to play bebop piano.” And, at 88, she’s still going strong, performing here in duo with bassist Jay Leonhart. Birdland. http://www.birdlandjazz.com/event/350551-barbara-carroll-new-york (212) 581-3080.


– Sept. 4 – 7. (Wed. – Sat.) Sommerwochenkonzert. Don Grusin and Chuck Loeb. Keyboardist Grusin and guitarist Loeb display their easygoing blend of mainstream and crossover jazz genres.. A-Trane.  +49 30 3132 ext. 550.


– Sept. 6 – 7. (Fri. & Sat.) Dado Moroni, Reuben Rodgers, Alex Riel. The Art of the Trio. Italian jazz pianist Moroni has been delivering his authentic jazz perspectives since the ’80s. He’s backed here by American bassist Rodgers and Danish drummer Alex Riel. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.


– Sept. 3 – 5. (Tues. – Thurs.) Bob James & David Sanborn. James and Sanborn have pioneered their swinging versions of contemporary jazz fusion and crossover for decades – and doing it in memorable fashion. They’re accompanied on this tour by the equally imaginative drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.

Gregory Porter


– Sept. 6. (Fri.) Gregory Porter. At a time when the distaff side has been dominating most of the newly released jazz recordings, the warm baritone of Porter has been bringing impressive new interpretations to the the world of jazz vocalizing. Blue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.

Picks of the Week: June 12 – 16

June 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– June 12. (Wed.)  Julian Coryell.  He’s received an impressive guitar-playing legacy from his father, Larry Coryell.  But Julian has thoroughly developed a creative style of his own.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Cindy Lauper

Cindy Lauper

– June 13. (Thurs.)  Cindy Lauper.  30th Anniversary: She’s So Unusual Tour.  The inimitable Cindy Lauper celebrates the anniversary of her debut album.  She’ll be joined by the all-girl alternative rock band, Hunter ValentineGreek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

June 13. (Thurs.)  Upright Cabaret’s LEATHER & LACE: Music of Don Henley, Stevie Nicks & Neil Young!  An entertaining evening of some unusual songs.  Starring Yvette Cason, Jake Simpson and more.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– June 13. (Thurs.)  Annie Trousseau offers some impressive musical reminders of the legendary Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– June 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  Barry Manilow.  It may be Southern California, but Manilow revives his critically acclaimed “Barry Manilow on Broadway” concert, with all its hit songs, to Southland listeners.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– June 15 & 16. (Sat. & Sun.)  Playboy Jazz Festival.  The 35th installment in Playboy’s annual tribute to jazz arrives with its usual stellar line-up of talent.  Among the highlights on Sat.: Gregory Porter, Angelique Kidjo, Gordon Goodwin with Lee Ritenour, Naturally 7 with guest Herbie Hancock and George Duke.  On Sunday: the Brubeck Brothers, Taj Mahal, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Bob James and David Sanborn, India.Arie, Sheila E. and Trombone Shorty Hollywood Bowl.     (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

– June 13. (Thurs.)  Enrico Rava Tribe.  Featuring Gianluca Petrella.   Veteran Italian jazz trumpeter Rava leads his band Tribe, a European collection of some of Europe’s finest young players, including trombonist Petrella.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Washington D.C.

Patrice Rushen

Patrice Rushen

– June 13 – 16 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Buster William’s “Something More Quartet.”  And a pretty impressive quartet it is, with keyboardist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Steve Wilson and drummer Cindy Blackman-SantanaBlues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

New York City

– June 12 & 13. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Kenny Werner Coalition.  Pianist Werner, always in search of new ideas, plays with the versatile, adventurous aid of guitarist Lionel Loueke, saxophonists Miguel Zenon and Benjamin Koppel, and drummer Ferenc NemethThe Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Ravi COltrane

Ravi COltrane

– June 12 – 15. (Wed. – Sat.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  Saxophonist Coltrane is another second generation jazz artist.  And, like his father, the iconic John Coltrane, he is an imaginative, cutting edge performer.  He’s backed by  Adam Rogers, guitar, Dezron Douglas, bass, Johnathan Blake, drums.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080


– June 15 & 16. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The veteran New Orleans brass band keeps the incomparably high spirited New Orleans jazz tradition alive. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.


Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri

– June 14. (Fri.)  Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra.  Pianist Palmieri, sometimes described as the Thelonious Monk of Latin jazz, is an irresistibly appealing jazz artist.  Paris New Morning.    +33 1 45 23 51 41

Picks of the Week: Oct. 16 – 21

October 16, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Judy Carmichael

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

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

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

Babbie Green and John Boswell

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

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

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

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

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

Lionel Loueke

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

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

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

San Francisco

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

Eliane Elias

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

New York

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

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

Jacky Terrasson

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

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

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


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


Becca Stevens

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

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


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


Lee Konitz

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


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

The Playboy Jazz Festival 2012: Saturday’s Program at the Hollywood Bowl

June 18, 2012

By Michael Katz

I told myself I had finally come to terms with the Playboy Jazz Festival. This year I would enjoy it for what it was: an eight hour party at the Hollywood Bowl, a sort of Bar Mitzvah/Quinceanera for grown-ups, with perhaps half of it (on a good day) dedicated to actual jazz, or what Stephen Colbert might call “jazziness.” It turns out, though I’m appreciative of some of the fine things I heard,  that I am not as prepared to settle as I’d thought. For starters, the Festival’s format, in which continuous music is presented on the rotating stage for eight hours, could use some alterations after thirty-four years. There is no opportunity for the audience to take a breath between acts, to reflect on the music, and most importantly, to converse with each other without talking over the music or ignoring it completely. Not surprisingly, folks will pick a moment of relative quiet to mingle and nosh – more and more, those moments coincide with the appearance of an actual jazz band onstage, which means that the best moments for many of us are drowned out or obstructed.

Would it harm anyone to have a fifteen minute break here and there, so the audience can absorb the performances, uncork the wine bottles and acclimate themselves for a change in tempo?

With that off my chest, here’s a report on some of the jazzier aspects of Day 1. Early arrivers walked into a pleasant performance by Louie Cruz Beltran, the first of a talented contingent of Latino percussionists. Beltran’s emphasis was on Latin jazz. His ensemble featured Onaje Murray on vibes, which gave it a Cal Tjader-like sound, much appreciated by LA jazz fans. Jose Gomez on saxes and flute, Javier Gonzales on trumpet and Eric Jorgensen wielding a candy apple red trombone added to the ambience. You’d have liked to have heard this band at night with a dance floor, but it was a relaxing way to start the day on a sun-kissed afternoon.

Bill Cosby was emceeing for the last time, after thirty years fronting the Festival, and of all his contributions,  his Cos of Good Music bands may be missed the most. This year’s group was notable for an all female front line of Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Tia Fuller and Erena Terakubo on alto saxes, all three of them talented enough to headline.

Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen, Irina Terakubo

The first medley, though slightly disorganized at the segues, featured some blistering work by Terakubo, who established the main line of “Cherokee,” then did an homage to Charlie Parker that wowed the jazz aficionados in the crowd. Jensen, who was featured previously in one of Cos’s bands, slowed the tempo down with “Back Home In Indiana,” settling into a comfortable groove that showed her mastery of the horn’s middle register. Tia Fuller then took over with some hard swinging on alto. Having seen her leading her own group at Monterey last year, I was prepared to see her step out and dominate, but she was content to be a team player with this talented group.

Next, pianist Farid Barron slid lithely from the percussion intros of Babatunde Lea and Nndugu Chancler into the familiar chords of “Poinciana.”  Barron wove in creative variations on the theme, then gave way to Fuller, Jensen and Terakubo for some gently swinging solos. The next tune was a hard bop nod to the late Freddie Hubbard, Ingrid Jensen underlining her lead trumpet chops with some powerful, growling charges. Bill Cosby had joined the band by now; this hard bop material clearly to his liking. He then contributed some vocals to the Lieber/ Stoller classic “Searchin,” which had the whole band in a joyous funk. Let’s hope that the festival finds a way to keep the “Cos of Good Music” (or something like it) in the program as a way to bring talented and under-heard musicians to the Bowl.

Alfredo Rodriguez

The Global Gumbo All-Stars took the stage following a raucous set by Ivan Neville’s Soul Rebels.  With the crowd still buzzing and the funky New Orleans horns reverberating, Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriquez’s opening chords could barely be discerned – at first I wondered whether the piano was miked at all. Rodriguez, a prodigy of Quincy Jones, who had been heard with these players at last year’s tribute to Quincy at the Bowl, is carving his own path in the wake of countrymen Chucho Valdes and Gonzalo Rubalcabo. He navigated through the opening number with an off-minor riff,   augmented by guitarist Lionel Loueke from Benin, Africa.

Lionel Loueke

Loueke, who has worked with Terence Blanchard, Jack DeJohnette and Herbie Hancock, among others, can move easily between lilting African rhythms and acid-tinged solos. In the group’s second number, he shared an instrumental and vocal duet with bassist Richard Bona. Bona, from Cameroon, has long, lithe fingers that pluck his electric bass like it was a banjo. His voice, which can seamlessly explore the higher ranges, is a perfect counterpoint to his bass playing.  He performs with a joyous energy that can captivate a crowd — I’ve seen him fronting his own band on several occasions.

Driving the rhythms behind all this was percussionist Francisco Mela, also from Cuba. Mela didn’t show off much, but he provided an infectious backdrop for the quartet, especially when Bona and Loueke were riffing with each other. They followed a Rodriguez solo with a funky combination of R&B chords and vocals, then moved into one of Bona’s originals from his Tiki album. By this time, the crowd had put down their dinner plates and figured out that something exciting was going on. This was a group that you would have wanted to extend into multiple sets if you were in a club. As it was, pianist Rodriguez closed things out with a riveting mambo, and the Global Gumbo All Stars rotated off into the night.

Christian McBride brought his touring big band to the bowl, following R&B singer Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

The Christian McBride Big Band

A driving big band ought to put a charge into the house, but again, they were following a group that had amped up the volume, and it took about half the set to engage the audience. This, despite a rousing first number, a McBride composition, “Shake and Blake,” which featured trumpeter Ron Blake. He and fellow sax player Steve Wilson were the best known names in the band, which featured mainly east coast guys that we don’t see often. Other standouts included Steve Davis on trombone, Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and Loren Schoenberg on tenor sax. McBride took the melody on a pretty big band arrangement of “I Should Care,” then brought  his wife, vocalist Melissa Walker onto the stage for three numbers.

Walker has a tender voice that dropped down into the middle registers for a lovely version of “When I Fall In Love.”     Her reading of “The More I See You,” had an engaging swing that closed out her contribution to the set. It was the final two numbers, though, that brought the crowd to their feet. McBride brought Bill Cosby up front to sing his signature “Hikky-Burr,” the theme from “The Bill Cosby Show” that was originally recorded by Quincy Jones. Despite the short rehearsal time, the performance was crisp, Cosby was delighted and the crowd picked up on it from the opening notes. The excitement spilled over to the band’s final number, “In A Hurry,” one of McBride’s best original compositions. Drummer Ulysses Owens, whom McBride gushed over in a post-concert interview, showed why with a terrific solo to close out the set.

And, though it was only a little past nine o’clock, that was about the end of the jazz for Day One. That is not to slight Sheila E, whose set provided the standard for energy and showmanship.

Sheila E.

She came on, escorted by the plumed Samba Funk dancers, and went straight to the timbales, where she performed with abandon. Her dad, Pete Escovido, came out for a brief interlude, singing a Latin tinged “Fly Me To The Moon,” and contributing a timbale solo of his own before turning the show back to his daughter. Sheila E led her horn-fronted band in a performance reminiscent of Trombone Shorty at last year’s festival, leaving the audience cheering and dancing in the aisles.

At the end of the day, you could be thankful that the Playboy Jazz Festival had brought a bunch of talented musicians that we don’t hear often to play for a capacity crowd. Still, you had to wonder if there was a single instrumentalist other than bassist McBride who could be counted upon to headline an act. The hand-picked groups are fun to watch, but I miss the virtuosity of a current jazz star like Roy Hargrove or Nicholas Payton, Miguel Zenon or Eric Alexander, who can lift a crowd over a fifty minute set. Despite the constant dirges about the death of jazz, there is no shortage of talent out there.

All it takes is a little faith in the music.

* * * * * * * * * *

Photos of Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen and Irina Terakubo, the Christian McBride Big Band and Sheila E. by Bonnie Perkinson.

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

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

Picks of the Week: July 12 – 17

July 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– July 12. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  With Mundell Lowe and bassist Jim Hughart.  Guitar Night’s always a pleasure, but here’s one not to miss – a pair of veteran jazz guitarists in action with the support of a fine bassist.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Chris Botti

– July 13. (Wed.)  Chris Botti and Bobby McFerrin with the Yellowjackets.  One of the highlights of the Hollywood Bowl summer jazz schedule.  Botti’s trumpet playing, delivered with surging rhythms and an elegantly expressive melodic flow have currently established him as the best-selling American instrumentalist.  McFerrin is always a wonder and even more so when he’s having fun with the dynamic Yellowjackets players.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000

– July 13. (Wed.)  Alex Iles and Bill Reichenbach Quintet.  A pair of primo trombonists get together with a sound and style that will hopefully recall the delights of Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– July 14. (Thurs.)  The Bill Cunliffe Quartet.  “Bill in Brazil The ever-versatile pianist displays his love of the irresistible rhythms and soaring melodies of Brazil.    Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Della Reese

– July 14. (Thurs.)  Della Reese.  “I’m still here, celebrating my 80th birthday,” says the ever energetic Ms. Reese.  And indeed she is, still singing up a storm, bringing imagination and entertainment to everything she does.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– July 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Sarah McLachlan with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkens conducting.  Multi-Grammy winning McLachlan makes her Hollywood Bowl debut in her first tour with an orchestra.  She’ll sing songs from her recent CD, Laws of Illusion.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

– July 16. (Sat.)  Golden Boys: Frankie Avalon, Fabian Forte, Bobby Rydell.  Three of the teen idols of the ‘50s and ‘60s appear in the Cerritos season opener.  The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

– July 16. (Sat.)  An Evening with the Monkees. Forty five years after they first hit the television screens original members Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork revisit their catalog of hits.  Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– July 16. (Sat.)   Rickey Woodard with the John Heard Trio.  Saxophonist Woodard’s hard swinging, harmonically and melodically adventurous improvisations are among the Southland’s great jazz delights.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

– July 16. (Sat.)  “From California With Love”  CD release party.  The CD and the performance benefit Japanese disaster relief.  Among the stellar list of performers are Jim Cox, Michael Dees, Sue Raney, Diane Hubka, Pinky Winters and many more.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Freda Payne

– July 17. (Sun.)  Freda Payne.  The gorgeous Ms. Payne applies her far reaching interpretive skills to a Tribute to the Great Ladies of Jazz: Ella, Lena and Sarah Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

– July 17. (Sun.)  Shahrzad Sepanlou.  The lovely Iranian singers warm, expressive voice moves freely from traditional songs to intimate contemporary balladry.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

– July l5 & 16.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Charlie Hunter/Scott Amendola Duo. Hunter’s seven string guitar virtuosity has a chance to fully express itself in the company of Amendola’s subtle drumming.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.    (510) 644-2020.


– July 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Turre Quartet with pianist Willie Pickens. Jazz trombonist and remarkable conch shell player Turre explores colorful jazz territory with Chicago jazz great Pickens.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

– July 13. (Wed.)  Jane Bunnett and Hilario Duran.  Soprano saxophonist/flutist Bunnett and pianist Duran display some of the unusually eclectic Cuban material on their new album, Cuban Rhapsody.  Jazz Standard.  http://www.jazzstandard.com/red/index.html  (212) 576-2232.

July 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Airto.  The great Brazilian percussionist, fascinating with a group or as a soloist, plays with the all-star aggregation of  Mark Egan, bass, Jose Neto, guitar, Helio Alves, piano, and Lew Soloff, trumpet.  D Booker, the daughter of Airto and Flora Purim, will sing.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.


Charlie Parker

– July 12 & 13. (Tues. & Wed.)  “The Music of Charlie Parker”  Alto saxophonist Gilad Atzmon evokes the spirit and the soul of the great bebop alto saxophonist, performing – with a string ensemble – selections from Bird’s classic “with strings” recordings.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


– July 12. (Tues.) Ceu. Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Ceu is an intriguing songwriter and a compelling performer, blending her unique skills with her admiration for Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill.    New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.


– July 15. (Fri.)  Return To Forever IVChick Corea, Lenny White, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Gambale.  The latest incarnation of Return to Forever may well be the best one yet.  With Ponty and Gambale bringing their fiery skills to the dependable platform provided by Corea, White and Clarke, the results are musically irresistible.The Blue Note Milano.


– July 13 & 14. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Lionel Loueke and Raul Midon, the Duwala Malambo Projekt. A pair of uniquely idiosyncratic guitarist/singers find common ground in a wide open arena of improvisational adventuring they call the Duwala Malambo Projekt.  A-Trane International Jazz Club.   030/313 25 50.

Chris Botti photo by Tony Gieske.

Q & A: Mary Lou Aleskie, Executive Director of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas

June 6, 2011

By Brian Arsenault

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas has a clear and concise mission: “to create an internationally renowned festival in New Haven [Connecticut] of the highest quality with world-class artists, thinkers and leaders, attracting and engaging a broad and diverse audience celebrating and building community and advancing economic development.”  The Festival has been doing precisely that since 1996, attracting audiences in the thousands, presenting the finest performers, speakers and leaders from every part of the world. 

Mary Lou Aleskie has been Executive Director of the Festival since 2005, applying her experience with the La Jolla Music Society and the Da Camera and the Alley Theatre of Houston to her successful development of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.  Last week we spoke about this year’s events, which begin this Saturday, June 11 and run until June  25 at locations in New Haven, Connecticut.

BA: Well, hello Mary Lou, I just can’t resist starting with asking you about the Ebony Hillbillies. A hillbilly band of African Americans?

MLA : That’s right, they bill themselves as the only black string band in New York City and I think that’s a safe bet. They primarily play in the subway. They mostly shuttle from stop to stop between Grand Central Station and Times Square.  In Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, they play in concert halls, but in the USA they’re a subway band.  That’s a classic African American music story like so many black jazz artists before them.

BA:  But they really play hillbilly music?

MLA:  Yes, they do.

BA:  But now we have African musicians coming the other way, making a mark here in the States. Musicians like Lionel Loueke.

MLA:  Yes, Lionel has embraced all the West African traditions, Afro style pop if you will, and fed us back a new twist on our jazz traditions.  He’s recorded with Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard among others.  In many ways, he’s the epitome of what we feel the Festival is all about — World Music — understanding the roots of our traditions but also that they are not frozen in time, they evolve.

BA:  Speaking of evolution, the Bang on a Can All-Stars — your brochure says they have “shattered the definition of what concert music is today.”

MLA:  Yes.  David Land, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe are conservatory trained but they always loved rock ‘n roll.  They admired those kids in the ‘50s and ‘60s with little formal training but good ears, and the All Stars elaborate on the riffs they created.  So you’ll hear Brian Eno and Sonic Youth among others when they play, while they wait to see who’s going to captivate them next on the indie rock scene.

BA:  On a more somber note, the Festival is presenting Soldier Songs by composer David T. Little.

MLA:  Yes, David spent years interviewing soldiers from different wars.  He has long had an interest in post traumatic stress syndrome and particularly on the effect of war on the men and women we send to fight it.  That seems very timely right now in light of Iraq and Afghanistran, and baritone David Adam Moore [who sings the songs] is just fantastic.

BA:  I should have probably mentioned by now that the Festival opening act is Yo Yo Ma with his Silk Road Ensemble.

MLA:  The Silk Road, as many of us learned in school, was a trade route from Asia to Europe over which goods and ideas and cultures moved for centuries; a world interconnected if you will.  And as I hope I’ve indicated, that’s the real goal of the Festival this year and every year, to explore and support a world interconnected, a world in which we share and see ourselves in others, in their struggles, in their hopes and dreams and aspirations.

Musically, the Silk Road Ensemble does that by playing Eastern music on Western instruments and Western music on Eastern instruments, that and much more.

BA:  And you close the festival on June 25 with the South African group Freshlyground, which provided “Waka Waka,” the theme of last year’s World Cup held in Johannesburg.

MLA:  Again, it’s a blending of musical traditions by a band that’s actually from several African countries.  They are modern, they are contemporary, they are multi-racial and we think the perfect balance point to the Silk Road Ensemble which leads off the Festival.

BA:  Are you exhausted yet, Mary Lou? We’ve barely scratched the surface of the Festival’s offerings.

MLA:  As you can tell, my voice is nearly gone but I’m excited. There’ll be time to be tired afterwards.

BA:  How about a word about Mary Lou. How did you get to the festival?

MLA:  I was recruited from San Diego where I headed up that city’s Great Performer Series.  The Festival gave me a chance to pursue my vision that people can be attracted to all kinds of performances if the tickets don’t cost $150.

BA:  That’s a great point.  Ticket prices at the Festival top out around a very reasonable $25 to $30 and some of the best acts — like the opening and closing performances  — are free right on the beautiful New Haven Green.

MLA:  Thanks for the plug. Yes, we want everyone to feel they can afford to enjoy the Festival.

For more information about the International Festival of Arts and Ideas click HERE.

Picks of the Week: May 3 – 8

May 3, 2011

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Leon Russell

– May 3. (Tues.)  Leon Russell.  One of the great iconic figures of the golden era of rock makes a rare local appearance in a relatively small venue.  There’ll also be a special performance by Booker T. JonesThe El Rey.   (323) 936-6400.

– May 3. (Tues.)  Emil Richards, Mike Lang, Abraham Laboriel, Joe Porcaro.   A quartet of L.A.’s finest, veteran jazzmen get together to provide a few effortlessly swinging lessons in the benefits of bebop and beyond.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

— May 4 & 5. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Josh Nelson’s “Kansas City-L.A Project.  Pianist Nelson leads  Hermon Mehari, trumpet, Bob Reynolds tenor saxophone, Ben Leiffert, bass and Zack Albetta, drums in a colorful musical excursion.  Wed. at Steamers in Fullerton (714) 871-8800
and on Thursday at the Blue Whale Bar in Los Angeles.   (213) 620-0908.

Roy Hargrovw

– May 4 – 8. (Wed.- Sun.)  Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove is playing in every imaginable setting these days, but it’s always a special pleasure to hear him in a straight ahead, jazz quintet performance.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– May 5. (Thurs.) Cinco de Mayo at the Conga Room.  For the sheer joy of music and movement, there’s no better place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than the Conga Room.  And it’s especially sizzling this year with the electro music of Maria Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser, the three piece, electro-pop party band, Cosmopolitan and L.A.’s own Son Jarocho collective, Las CafeterasThe Conga Room.    (213) 745-0162.

– May 5. (Thurs.)  Jon Mayer.  Here’s another performance by a quartet of the Southland’s finest veteran jazzers.  Expect the mood to be swinging and the sounds to be memorable. With Rickey Woodard, tenor saxophone, Chris Conner, bass, Roy McCurdy, drums.   LAX Jazz Club at the Crown Plaza LAX.  (310) 258-1333.

– May 5 – 7. (Thurs. – Sat. )  Ravel with the Pacific Symphony.  Conductor Carlos Miguel Pietro leads the Pacific Symphony in a journey across the Iberian peninsula via the music of Albeniz (Iberia), Sarasate (Carmen Fantasy), De Falla (The Three Cornered Hat) and Ravel (Bolero and Tzigane.  Violinist Philippe Quint solos.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

Shirley MacLaine

– May 6. (Fri.)  Shirley McLaine.  It’s hard to know what to expect from any given appearance by the fascinating Ms. McLaine.  But there’s no doubt she’ll share some of her film moments with some revelations about her life, career and interests in spirituality.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

– May 6 & 7. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Mikado. One of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most entertaining musical delights, performed by the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

– May 7. (Sat.)  Ceu.  Brazilian singer Ceu comfortably steps across genres – Brazilian music, pop, rock, jazz – in a single bound.  El Rey.     323) 936-6400.

– May 7. (Sat.)   Wavefest.  The 15th annual Wavefest has morphed into something more than music to relax to.  There’ll be a lot more energy than that, and a lot more interest, too, in a program featuring Roberta Flack, KEM, Macy Gray and Sheila E. & the E. FamilyThe Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

– May 8. (Sun.)  Alan Broadbent and Pat Senatore.  Pianist Broadbent and bassist Senatore have played with just about everyone in their long productive careers.  Here’s a chance to hear them exchanging musical ideas in an elegant, laid back setting.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Cameron Carpenter

– May 8. (Sun.)  Cameron Carpenter.  Carpenter isn’t just a brilliantly virtuosic organist, he’s also a charismatic entertainer who understands how to balance his astonishing technical displays with interpretive authenticity.  In this performance he finds the heartbeat of Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture  and Prelude and Fugue in G minor.  Disney Hall.  (323) 650-2000.

 San Francisco

– May 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The CrusadersJoe Sample, Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder, three of the original Jazz Crusaders, revive their unique blend of jazz, soul, bop, blues and groove.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

– May 7. (Sat.)  Yanni.  One of the most popular international artists in the world, Yanni’s lyrical piano playing, combined with his warm and fuzzy orchestrations have sold more than 20 million albums worldwide.  The Warfield.    (415) 345-0900.


May 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Keiko Matsui.  Keyboardist Matsui was one of the first artists to make the most of the fertile territory between smooth jazz, fusion and New Age, and do so with a subtly appealing undercurrent of swing.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

– May 3 – 8. (Tues. – Sun.)  Omar Sosa.  Cuban pianist/composer Sosa’s Afri-Lectric Quintet finds fascinating common ground with special guest Benin-born guitarist Lionel LouekeThe Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– May 3 – 8. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Julliard Jazz Quintet.  A cross-generational jazz quintet that balances scholarly know-how with inventive swing.  With Ron Carter, bass, Rodney Jones, guitar, Frank Kimbrough, piano, Carl Allen, drums and Ron Blake, saxophone. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

Danny Aiello

– May 4. (Wed.)  Danny Aiello.  He’s given one memorable film performance after another – including a pair of Academy Award nominations along the way.  But Aiello’s singing chops are every bit as impressive.  The New York Times called it right when it said “Aiello has the bounce of his idols Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra and Louis Prima, and the throaty lyricism of another idol, Tony Bennett.”  The Iridium.    (212) 582-2121.

Washington, D.C.

– May 6 & 7. (Fri. & Sat.)  Azar Lawrence Quintet.  Tough tenor Lawrence applies his muscular style to an encounter with the equally dynamic Eddie Henderson, trumpet, Benito Gonzalez, piano and Billy Hart, drums.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.


– May 5. (Thurs.)  The Mahavishnu Project. Drummer Gregg Bendian leads his sturdy band of players in the performance of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra’s complete Visions of the Emerald Beyond.  John McLaughlin offers his support: “To hear you guys playing those tunes in such an unbelievable way is quite amazing.”   The Regatta Bar.   (617) 395-7757.


– May 5 – 8. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Eric Alexander/Harold Mayburn Quartet. Fiery saxophonist Alexander combines his hard driving, fast fingered skills with the veteran bop chops of pianist Mayburn.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.


PHaroah Sanders

May 2– 4. (Mon. – Wed.)  Pharoah Sanders Quartet. Adventurous, Grammy-winning tenor saxophonist Sanders continues the exploratory journeys he began in the avant-garde ‘60s.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020.7439.0747

May 8. (Sun.) The Atomic Mr. Basie.  Led by Pete Long,the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, with its stellar assemblage of U.K. jazz talent, performs the complete program from Basie’s classic 1957 album.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020.7439.0747


May. 6. (Fri.)  The Kora Jazz Trio.  Keyboardist/composer Abdoulaye Diabate, kora player Djeli Moussa Diawara and percussionist Moussa Sissokho are creating a compelling fusion of the Mandinka tradition and the free flying, improvisational qualities of jazz.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.


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