Picks of the Week: Jan. 21 – 26

January 21, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

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

Aaron Weinstein

Aaron Weinstein

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

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

John Proulx

John Proulx

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

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

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

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

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

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

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

 San Francisco

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter

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

Seattle

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly

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

 New York City

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

Copenhagen

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

Milan

Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur

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

Tokyo

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


Picks of the Week: Sept. 18 – 22

September 18, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Gina Saputo

Gina Saputo

- Sept. 18. (Wed.) Gina Saputo. Emerging young jazz vocal star Saputo shares the stage with a talented group of L.A.’s finest singers — Courtney Lemmon, Dave Damiani and Mark Christian Miller. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 18. (Wed.) The Sammy Cahn-cert. Vocalist Kurt Reichenbach sings the marvelous far-ranging tunes from the Sammy Cahn songbook. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 18. (Wed.) Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. It’s been nearly two decades since the Orquesta Buenta players began to enlighten the world about the great music of Cuba. And they’re still at it. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

Annie Trousseau

Annie Trousseau

- Sept. 19. (Thurs.) Annie Trousseau. Multi-lingual singer Trousseau sings in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English, enlivening the tradition of international cabaret styles. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 20. (Fri.) The Bob McChesney Quartet. McChesney’s superb trombone playing has thoroughly established him as one of the instrument’s great jazz masters. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 20. (Fri.) The Bob Sheppard Group. He’s everyone’s first call saxophone and woodwind player and with good reason. Here’s a chance to hear him in action with the stellar aid of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Mike Valerio and drummer Steve Kass. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway

- Sept. 20 & 21. (Fri. & Sat.) Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway. The talented Callaway sisters get together to display talents reaching from jazz and pop to Broadway classics. Catalina Bar & Grill.  466-2210.

- Sept. 21 (Sat.) Sing-a-long Sound of Music. It’s an annual event, inviting enthusiastic audiences to sing along with the memorable songs from the Rogers & Hammerstein musical. The Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 21. (Sat.) Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Swing music is still alive and well in the hard jiving hands of the Voodoo Daddys. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8501.

Jeffrey Kahane

Jeffrey Kahane

- Sept. 21 & 22. (Sat. & Sun.) Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The gifted players of the LACO begin their season with Jeffrey Kahane conducting a program of Beethoven, Mozart, Lutoslawski and Kodaly. Featured soloist is young violinist Benjamin Beilman. Sat: the Ambassador Auditorium; Sun. Royce Hall. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  (213) 622-7001.

- Sept. 22. (Sun.) Los Angeles Master Chorale. The extraordinary singers of the LAMC celebrate the ensemble’s 50th anniversary with a retrospective look at the highlights in their remarkable performance history. Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

- Sept. 19. (Thurs.) Amjad Ali Khan and Sons. Classical Indian master of the sarod, Khan has passed his skills on to a generation of gifted offpsring. SFJAZZ. Miner Auditorium. -(866) 920-5299.

Chicago

- Sept. 19 – 22 (Thurs. – Sun.) Miguel Zenon and Rhythm Collective. Alto saxophonist and winner of a MacArthur “genius:” award Zenon reveals the far-reaching range of his improvisational skills. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York City

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

- Sept, 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.) Coltrane Revisited. Steve Kuhn, a veteran performer with Coltrane, leads a talented band of young players in a revisit to the Coltrane legacy. Birdland.  212) 581-3080.

London

- Sept. 18 – 19. Wed. & Thurs. Remembering Oscar Peterson. With pianists James Pearson and Dave Newton, Featuring selections from Peterson’s Canadiana Suite. Ronnie Scott’s+44 (0)20 7439 0747 .

Copenhagen

- Sept. 18 – 21. (Wed. – Sat.) French Jazz Festival. Denmark celebrates the high quality of French jazz artists. Among the featured performers: violinist Didier Lockwood, guitarist Michael Felderbaum and saxophonist Lionel Belmondo. Jazzhus Montmartre.  +45 31 72 34 94.

Tokyo

- Sept. 20. (Fri.) Jonathan Butler. South African singer Butler has been blending the music of his roots with a gift for crossing over into international pop, soul and blues. Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: May 14 – 19

May 14, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Brenna Whitaker

Brenna Whitaker

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco

Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck

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

Seattle

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

New York City

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

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

London

Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes

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

Berlin

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

Copenhagen

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

Milan

Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen

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

Tokyo

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


Picks of the Week: April 10 – 14

April 10, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Chick Corea

Chick Corea

- April 10 – 14.  (Wed. – Sun.)  Chick Corea Trio.  With bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr.  Corea’s musical activities lately have ranged in all directions.  But here’s an irresistible opportunity to hear his uniquely inventive playing in an illuminating piano trio setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

- April 10. (Wed.)  Max Raabe and the Palast Orkester.  The glorious jazz and pop music of the ‘20s and ‘30s comes vividly to life in the early big band music of Germany’s Palast Orkester and singer/leader Raabe.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

- April 10. (Wed.)  Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble. The seven gifted young musicians of the Monk Institute Jazz Ensemble – Mike Cottone, Josh Johnson, Eric Miller, Jonathan Pinson, David Robaire, Miro Sprague and Diego Urbano – make a rare public performance. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 10 & 11. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Gypsy All Stars.  Gypsy Kings alumni Ced Leonardi and Mario Reyes are keeping alive the surging rhythms and soaring melodies of the Indo-Gypsy fusion of the original Kings. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- April 14. (Sun.)  Los Angeles Master Chorale. The stunningly versatile singers of the LAMC take on the music of  Poulenc and Vaughan Williams, a pair of composers stylistically positioned on opposite sides of the English Channel.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Ute Lemper

- April 10 & 11. (Wed. – Thurs.)  Ute Lemper.  The amazing Ms. Lemper calls up memories of German cabaret in general and the music of Kurt Weill in particular.   SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium.   (866) 920-5299.

Seattle

- April 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Garrett Quintet.  Grammy-winning alto saxophonist Garrett’s resume reaches from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis.  At 52, he’s one of the most inventive players of the post-Coltrane generation.   Jazz Alleyt (312) 360-0234.

Boston

- April 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.)  Michel Camilo Trio. Born in the Dominican Republic, pianist Camilo brings the panoramic rhythms and hues of the Caribbean to his inventive jazz stylings.  Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

New York City

Al DiMeola

April 10 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba Duo.  Guitarist DiMeola and pianist Rubalcaba are a well-matched musical team, moving amiably across jazz stylels.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- April 11 – 14. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Eric Harland and Voyager. Drummer Harland, a first-call jazz rhythm section player, steps into the spotlight with his own group of talented young players, including Julian Lage, guitar, Taylor Eigsti, piano, Harish Raghavan, bass, Walter Smith III, tenor saxophone.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

London

- April 14. (Sun.) Natalie Williams Soul Family.  Call it a delightful evening of soul music at its finest with Williams, her band and special guest JP CooperRonnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747

Copenhagen

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

- April 11 – 13. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stefano Bollani.  Milan-born pianist Bollani moves eclectically from jazz to classical music and beyond, establishing himself as one of Europe’s most gifted musical artists.  He performs here with bassist Jesper Bodlisen and drummer Morten LundJazzhus Montmartre.    +45 31 72 34 94.

Milan

- April 13. (Sat.)  Kazumi Watanabe, Jeff Berlin and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.  Guitarist Watanabe, one of Japan’s most prominent fusion/jazz-rock artists, has performed with players ranging from Wayne Shorter to Richard Bona.  He’s backed by the equally versatile bassist Berlin and drummer Hernandez.  Blue Note Milano.     +39 02 6901 6888

Tokyo

Helen Merrill

Helen Merrill

- April 10 – 12.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Helen Merrill. Jazz vocalist Merrill’s imaginiative skills have established her as a musicians’ singer, highly regarded by Japanese jazz fans.  She sings with the Masahiko Satoh Trio and special guest Hozan YamamotoBlue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

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Chick Corea photo by Bonnie Perkinson.


Live Music Theatre: John Adams’ “The Gospel According to the Other Mary” at Disney Hall

March 10, 2013

A Musical Tidal Wave of Surprises!  

By Norton Wright

New Yorker Magazine’s jazz critic Whitney Balliett in 1959 shorthanded a definition of jazz as “the sound of surprise.”  So today, when so very little in the arts genuinely surprises, the shock and awe generated by contemporary composer John Adams and director/librettist Peter Sellars is the real deal. They truly have “jazz hearts” as their The Gospel According to the Other Mary proves.

In their 2-hour oratorio, performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall Friday night by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and a singer-dancer cast of nine, Adams and Sellars have created a musical show rife with conflict, death, injustice, labor strife, faith, doubt, romance — and miracles. Yes, it’s the account of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection.  But the action is set in the contemporary slums of Los Angeles and the story is told from the viewpoint of Mary Magdalene, a young woman chafing at the cruelty and injustice of the skid-row life in which she and so many others live.

Given that the giant musical mosaic that Adams has composed (Johnny Richards’ jazz orchestra of yesteryear comes to mind as do the Lydian chromatic tonalities of George Russell), you might easily be swept away from the story by Adams’ pulsing melodic lines, modal harmonies, jazzy tempos and syncopations.  As well as the exotic instrumental orchestrations (including cimbalom, almglocken, gongs, chimes, bass guitar, three thundering percussionists, three featured singers, a trio of powerhouse countertenors singing in the high stratosphere, with brass, woodwind, and string sections delivering a chromatic spectrum from the muscular to the ethereal). So to clarify and balance the story and the musical score, the singers’ libretti were projected like sub-titles onto a screen above the stage to help the audience track the fast and free-wheeling plotline.

Spoiler Warning per the upcoming story synopsis:

The major story beats unfolded as follows –

1) Mary Magdalene and her sister Martha run a sanctuary for homeless women in a Los Angeles slum. A young man, Jesus, comes to live with them and help with the center.

2) Mary realizes Jesus is of a spiritual origin and though she comes to care for him deeply, she struggles with faith and the act of praying.

3) Mary and Martha are overcome with grief when their brother, Lazarus, dies… Compassionate Jesus miraculously brings Lazarus back to life, and the grateful Mary realizes that she has fallen passionately in love with Jesus.

4) In his resurrection of the dead Lazarus, Jesus signals that he is anticipating his own death and resurrection.

5) The police arrest Jesus in Mary and Martha’s homeless center.

6) Mary, Martha, and women friends protest Jesus’ arrest and are themselves brutalized by the police.

7) As Jesus is arraigned before Pilate, another protest by empowered women in California is unfolding. Praying for survival, Dolores Huerte and Cesar Chavez overcome crushing police brutality in a reminder of their 1996 “people’s march” to Sacramento to establish The United Farm Workers Union.

8) Jesus is crucified and buried. Mary mourns — and prays — for him.

9) Mary returns to the garden where Jesus has been buried and is stunned to discover that his body is not there and that he has risen from the dead.  Jesus, disguised as a gardener tending the grounds, comes to Mary and in a sudden and touching moment of recognition, she realizes that Jesus is alive both spiritually and in her heart.

* * * * * * * * * *

John Adams

John Adams

The recounting of Jesus’ passion (suffering) has always made for compelling drama, but in their Gospel of the Other Mary, Adams and Sellars create eye-opening and ear-opening surprises as they contemporize the tale into a heartrending love story of a firebrand young  woman and her man of mystery.

Casting the lovely, young mezzo-soprano Kelly O’Connor as “Mary,” the soulful Tamara Mumford as “Martha,” and the imposing tenor, Russell Thomas, as “Lazarus” is a coup.  As “Narrators,” the countertenor trio of Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings and Nathan Medley sing with high head tones and otherworldly sonorities worth the price of admission.  Dancers Michael Schumacher, Anani Sanouvi and Troy Ogilvie are strong and inventive, and Sanouvi’s take on Lazarus coming back to life is marked by his breathtaking martial-arts choreography. Life is tough, but returning to it even tougher.

As always, the Los Angeles Philharmonic amazed in its ability to master the most complex of John Adams’ scores, the 50-person Los Angeles Master Chorale (all dressed in raggle-taggle skid-row-like clothes) was equally at home both singing and physically acting out the show’s riot scenes.  And in the Friday night performance, Chorale director Grant Gershon was faultless in replacing conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who had just been called to Caracas to conduct at the memorial service for president Hugo Chavez.

The Gospel of the Other Mary is now headed for performances in Europe and NYC.  But the next time it is performed in L.A., whether you are a jazzhead or a classicist, don’t miss it. It is truly “the sound of surprise.”

To read more posts by and about artist/writer Norton Wright, click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Dec 19 – 23

December 19, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Katja Rieckermann

Katja Rieckermann

- Dec. 19 (Wed.)  Katja Rieckermann.  German-born saxophonist Rieckermann has a resume reaching from Rod Stewart and Al Green to Carole King and Randy Newman.  But she’s best heard in her own musical settings, as she will be here.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 19. (Wed.)  Street Corner Renaissance.  A quintet of singers whose age ranges from 50 to 72, singing the sort of lush a cappella harmonies and crisp rhythms that recall the sound of groups such as the Ink Spots and the Chiffons.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 21. (Fri.)  A Swinging Christmas with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Winter solstice (and the end of the world?) arrives with an appropriate evening of jumping and jiving from one of the great Swing revival bands.  Disney Hall.      (323) 850-2000.

Judy Collins

- Dec. 21. (Fri.)  An Evening with Judy Collins.  She’s one of the true originals of pop and folk music, still applying her lovely sound and rich interpretive skills to an appealing collection of songs.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

- Dec. 21 & 22., (Fri. & Sat.)  Rufus and Martha Wainwright Christmas 101 Brother and sister Rufus and Martha celebrate the life of their mother, Kate McGarrigle, with an extraordinary evening of music performed with guest artists Emmylou Harris, Van Dyke Parks and Carrie Fisher.  CAP UCLA at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-2101.

- Dec. 22. (Sat.)  The Los Angeles Master Chorale.  The superb voices of the L.A. Master Chorale continue their winter’s eves tour of great Christmas music.  Click HERE to read the iRoM review of the LAMC’s recent performance of Bach and Vivaldi.  This time it’s another one of the great classics — Handel’s Messiah.  Disney Hall.       (323) 850-2000.

- Dec. 22. (Sat.) Otmaro Ruiz and Bob Sheppard. “Feliz Navidad Latin Night.” Pianist Ruiz and saxophonist/flutist Sheppard team up to celebrate the season in a Latin jazz way.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 22 and 23. (Sat. & Sun.)  Los Angeles Ballet  “The Nutcracker.”  It’s that time of year, when The Nutcracker sets the stage for the holiday season.  And the L.A. Ballet does Tchaikovsky’s classic with great authenticity.  The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-3000.

Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane

- Dec. 23. (Sun.)  Seth MacFarlane with the Ron Jones Influence Jazz Orchestra. He may be best known as the producer and creator of Family Guy. But MacFarlane also prides himself on his ability to sing a song in the classic crooner style of Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, Dean Martin, etc.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400

Chicago

- Dec. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus.  The adventurous trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to redefine the piano jazz trio.  Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Dec. 19 – 22. (Wed. – Sat. )  Freddy Cole.  Yes, there’s a trace of the Cole family (Nat and Natalie) sound in Freddy’s singing, but he uses it in his own appealing style.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Chris Botti

Chris Botti

- Dec. 19 – 23. (Wed. – Sun.)  Chris Botti.  Trumpeter Botti takes a break from his almost incessant traveling for his annual holiday appearance at The Blue Note.  His continuous run of two shows a night is scheduled through Jan. 6.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of last year’s Botti performances at  The Blue Notel   (212) 475-8592.

- Dec. 21 – 23. (Fri. – Sun.)  New York Voices.  More than two decades together, the Voices continue to apply their lush jazz harmonies to a program reaching from pop and folk to songbook standards.  The Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

Berlin

- Dec. 21 & 22.   (Fri. & Sat.)  Dwight Trible and the Paul Zauner Sextet.  “Dwight Christmas.”  It’s a punning title, but it’s a good description of what to expect when the vocally imaginative Trible sings a program of holiday tunes.  A-Trane.  030/313 25 50.

Milan

Chiara Civelo

Chiara Civelo

- Dec. 21 & 22.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Chiara Civello. Sicilian singer/guitarist Civello, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, returns to her native country for a holiday celebration of her many talents.  Blue Note Milan.    02.69016888.

Tokyo

- Dec. 19 & 20.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  Maria Schneider Orchestra.  There’s nothing in big band jazz quite like the sounds, the textures and the imagination in the music Schneider writes and arranges for her talented group of players. Tokyo Blue Note.   03-5485-0088.

- Dec,. 21 – 23.  (Fri. – Sun.)  John Pizzarelli.  Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli’s latest album, Double Exposure, finds some unusual connections via medleys of pop songs and jazz lines.  The results are the latest example of Pizzarelli’s imaginative musicality.  Tokyo Blue Note.   03-5485-0088.


Live Music: The Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall

December 18, 2012

By Don Heckman

The glorious voices of the Los Angeles Master Chorale announced the coming arrival of Christmas in a brilliantly celebratory fashion Sunday night at Walt Disney Hall.  Appropriately, the program was dedicated to the works of a pair of the Baroque era’s most gifted composers – Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Chorale was spread across the rear of the Disney stage in a tuxedoed and gowned half circle.  In the center, a chamber orchestra of players from the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Both were conducted with vigorous enthusiasm by the Chorale’s Music Director, Grant Gershon.

Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale

The program’s three works – Bach’s Magnificat, his Lobet den Hermm alle Heiden and Vivaldi’s Gloria – were composed in the early 1700s, within less than a decade of each other.  The evening’s opening work,  Lobet, a motet based on text from Psalm 117, set the scene for what was to follow – a grand display of choral magic revealing, – especially in the case of the Bach works, the irresistible appeal of lush Baroque harmonies and brilliantly interwoven counterpoint.

Vivaldi’s Gloria, one of his most often performed sacred works, nonetheless recalled the buoyant energies of the concertos for which he is best known.  And the Chorale’s gorgeous vocal textures, driven by the chamber orchestra’s soaring trumpets, brought the music – lost for centuries until it was rediscovered in the 1930s — vividly to life.

The second half of the program was completely encompassed by Bach’s Magnificat.  Composed for the Christmas season of 1723, the work was a spectacular affirmation of his compositional excellence as he took on a new job as Music Director for the churches of Leipzig – a position he would hold until his death in 1750.

The text of the Magnificat is based on the Gospel of Luke’s description of the visit between Mary, when she is pregnant with Jesus, and her sister Elizabeth, when she is pregnant with John the Baptist.  Bach conceived the work in 12 movements divided into three segments for a choir, chamber ensemble and five soloists.

In the capable musical hands (and voices) of the Master Chorale, the results were continually gripping – even for listeners unfamiliar with the work’s German and Latin text.  Full credit should be assigned the evening’s vocal soloists – sopranos Risa Larson, Harriet Fraser, mezzo soprano Nike St. Clair, tenor Brandon Hynum and baritone Steve Pierce.

But the many pleasures of this memorable performance of Christmas music also trace to the full ensemble, with Gershon’s direction finding the perfect balance between soloists, chorus, chamber orchestra and Bach’s extraordinary work.  One couldn’t have asked for a more musically enchanting way to embrace the arriving holiday season.

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Photo by Lee Salem courtesy of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. 

 


Live Jazz: The Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra with April Williams at Vitello’s

December 18, 2012

By Don Heckman

On the way home from Disney Hall Sunday, the traffic on the 101 magically – and unexpectedly –  opened up, and we suddenly realized we could reach Vitello’s just in time to catch the second set by the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.

Call it an unusual sequence – from the Christmas music of Bach and Vivaldi, performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, to a big jazz band in action.  And “big” is precisely the right word for this organization, which expands the usual 17 to 18 piece big band instrumentation to 22 players, including a French horn section.

Add to that the announcement the evening would include an extremely rare performance by singer April Williams, whose management of Vitello’s Upstairs Jazz Room has established one of the Southland’s important new jazz venues.

April Williams with the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Band

April Williams with the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Band

Combined, it was all too good to miss.

Vitello’s was jammed when we arrived, the tables and booths overflowing with listeners, as the Jones players filled the stage from one side of the room to the other. Fortunately we found a nook where we could sit, drink some wine, and prepare to expand our evening of Christmas music from Baroque to bebop.

Not all bebop, that is.  But plenty of it in the vigorous soloing of players such as saxophonists Fred Selden, Pete Christlieb, Doug Webb and Gene Cipriano, pianist Alan Steinberger, trumpeter Bob Summers and trombonist Bob McChesney.

Most of the music in the set, however, was dedicated to Christmas songs, arranged to apply the rich tonal resources and jazz-driven rhythms of the 22 piece ensemble to the familiar canon of Christmas classics.,

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” arrived in a lushly harmonized medley with “Silent Night.”  Contrastingly, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” surfaced with a briskly jaunty rhythmic underpinning, driven by Dave Tull’s energetic drumming.

Thad Jones’ lovely “A Child Is Born” was next.  It hasn’t become a Christmas classic yet, but it should.  Especially via the beautifully arranged version by the Jones Influence Orchestra, with musically touching contributions from pianist Steinberger.

Johnny Mandel’s Grammy- and Academy Award-winning “The Shadow Of Your Smile” generated yet another perspective. Not exactly a Christmas item, it added a unique touch to the fascinating program via an arrangement featuring the fine French horn playing of Tawnee Lillo and Jean Marinelli.

The performance peaked with the arrival of April Williams on stage with a puckish smile on her face, clearly in the mood to have fun.  And she did, singing Steve Allen’s “Cool Yule,” making the most of lyrics announcing the arrival of St. Nick:

           “From Coney Island to The Sunset Strip
           Somebody’s gonna make a happy trip
          Tonight, while the moon is bright.”

Clearly enjoying every moment she had with the backing of the Jones Jazz Influence Band, April topped off the number with a call for everyone to:

“Have a Yule that’s cool
Yeah, a cool Yule.”

It was the perfect climax to an evening that had begun with Bach and Vivaldi and wound up with big band jazz, all of it illuminating the far-ranging musical inspiration that Christmas has created over the centuries.  And there’s still another week and a half to hear even more Christmas music before the joyous day arrives.

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To read the iRoM review of the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall click HERE or scroll up.


Picks of the Week: Dec. 10 – 16

December 10, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sascha's Bloc

Sascha’s Bloc

- Dec. 11. (Tues.)  Sascha’s Bloc. A talented band of Eastern European musicians display their boundary-less jazz skills, spiced with touches of traditional sounds. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 11. (Tues.)  Chamber Music.  Members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform a program devoted to the works of four of the 18th century’s most vital composers: Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Zelenka.  Disney Hall. (323) 850-2040.

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

- Dec. 12 & 13.  (Wed. & Thurs.)  Robert Davi Sings Sinatra.  The woods are filled with Sinatra simulators, but Davi – with the voice and skill to bring it off – captures the Old Blue Eyes musical essence in his own unique fashion.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 13. (Thurs.)  Phil Ranelin and Tribe Renaissance.  Trombonist/bandleader/educator Ranelin has been at the cutting edge of jazz since the ‘70s, still continuing to explore the music from fascinating new perspectives.  The Blue Whale.  (213) 620-0908.

Lee Ritenour

Lee Ritenour

- Dec. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Lee Ritenour Band featuring Mike Stern.  Guitarists Ritenour and Stern, coming at jazz from far-ranging perspectives, blend their differing musical visions into a compelling evening of high flying improvisations. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 14. (Fri.)  A Cappella Madness Christmas ConcertInner Voices and The Cleanup Crue.  A pair of the Southland’s finest a cappella singing ensembles celebrate the holidays with thrilling vocal harmonies.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Nancy Sanchez

Nancy Sanchez

- Dec. 14. (Fri.)  Nancy Sanchez.  Jazz singer Sanchez brings the flavors of her Mexican roots to an entertaining vocal style that easily crosses genres. Steamer’s. (714) 871-8800.

- Dec. 16. (Sun.)  The Ron Jones Influence Orchestra.  There are many fine big bands in Los Angeles, but Jones takes the usual instrumentation further, with a 22 piece ensemble that includes a French horn section.  Expect to hear some fascinating sounds.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 16. (Sun.)  Bach Magnificat.  The superb singers of the Los Angeles Master Chorale offer a classic Christmas program combining Bach’s marvelous Magnificat, first performed on Christmas Eve 1723, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. Disney Hall.  (213) 972-7282.

Chicago

Cedar Walton

Cedar Walton

- Dec. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cedar Walton Trio.  Walton has been a first call pianist for years.  Here’s a welcome opportunity to hear him in the spotlight with his own trio.  Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Dec. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  Medeski, Martin & Wood.  The adventurous trio performs with a sequence of guest artists, including Aiyb Dieng, Nels Cline, Marc Ribot, Bill Evans and Marty Ehrlich.  Contact club for schedule.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

- Dec. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Barron/Dave Holland Duo. A pair of players who would be welcome in anyone’s rhythm section get together for a compelling jazz journey together. Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

Copenhagen

Dena DeRose

Dena DeRose

- Dec. 14 & 15.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Dena DeRose.  Pianist/singer DeRose, one of the best jazz vocalists of her generation, hasn’t received quite the attention her talents deserve.  She’ll perform with the Danish trio of saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, bassist Jesper Lundgaard and drummer Alex Riel Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65 65.

Milan

- Dec. 11 – 13. (Tues. – Thurs.)  The Three Ladies of Blues.   A trio of fine blues artists – Joanne Bell, Harriet Lewis and Mary Thompson – display their soulful wares individually and collectively in an engaging program of the blues.  Blue Note Milano.     02.6901 6888.

Tokyo

- Dec. 10 – 13. (Mon. – Thurs.)  The Ron Carter Big Band.  Versatile bassist/composer Carter takes a break from his stellar rhythm section work to showcase his arranging and composing skills with a large jazz ensemble.  Blue Note Milano.  03-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: Aug. 27 – Sept. 2

August 27, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jason Marsalis

- Aug. 27. (Mon.)  Jason Marsalis Quartet. He may be the youngest member of the illustrious Marsalis jazz family, but drummer/vibraphonist Jason has already established his own impressive musical identity.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 28 & Aug. 30/ (Tues. & Thurs.)  Carmina Burana. German composer Carl Orf’s cantata, a dramatic setting of medieval poems, is performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Childrens’ Chorus, directed by Spanish conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de BurgosHollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000

- Aug. 28. (Tues.)  Sachsa’s Bloc.  An eclectic group of musicians from countries across Europe offer a collection of music ranging freely across gypsy jazz, contemporary jazz, flamenco, swing, blues and country. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400

Wayne shorter

- Aug. 29. (Wed.)  Celebrating Peace.  Herbie Hancock has gathered a stellar array of musicians to join together in a musical celebration of the pleasures of peace.  The cast includes Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Zakier Hussain, Dave Holland, Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos Santana and others.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 31 and Sept 1. (Fri. & Sat.)  John Williams Maestro of the Movies.  “Musical Maestro” would be a more accurate title for Williams, whose film scores reach from Star Wars and Superman to E.T. and Harry Potter.  He’ll conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in selections from many of his hit films, including a film sequence from E.T. accompanied live by the Philharmonic.  The guest artist is violinist Gil Shaham. Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 31. (Fri.)  Wolfgang Schalk Quartet.  Guitarist Schalk celebrates the release of his new CD Word of Ear with pianist Andy Langham, bassist Michael Valerio and drummer Tom BrechtleinUpstairs at Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Sept. 1. (Sat.)  Wendy Fraser.  Singer-songwriter Fraser has been described by the LA jAzz Scene as a “diamond in the rough” and “a musical force to be reckoned with.”  She makes one of her rare appearances, backed by guitarist John Chiodini, saxophonist Rob Lockhart, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Kendall Kay. Upstairs at Vitallo’s.  http://www.vitellosjazz.com/event/wendy-fraser  (818) 769-0905.

Barbara Morrison

- Sept. 1 & 2. (Sat. & Sun.)  Barbara Morrison returns to Catalina’s for an exciting weekend featuring a pair of different settings: With the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center Big Band (Sat.), and the Barbara Morrison Quartet (Sun.)  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  John Proulx and Pat Senatore.  Pianist/singer Proulx’s laid-back vocals recall the intimate singing of Chet Baker.  He’s backed by the ever-versatile, always supportive Senatore on bass.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  Madeleine Peyroux“The Party Oughta be Comin’ Soon!”  Singer/songwriter/guitarist Peyroux has been one of the music world’s most unique talents since she first arrived on the scene in the mid-‘90s.  And she’s still charting her own creative pathway through song. The Broad Stage.   (310) 434-3200.

Louie Cruz Beltran

- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  The Fourth Annual La Vida Music Festival. La Vida returns with its annual celebration of the great pleasures of Latin music, in all its forms.  And what better time to do it than during National Hispanic Heritage Month.  This year’s far-ranging music features Louie Cruz Beltran and his Latin Jazz Ensemble, Incendio, the Plaza de la Raza Youth Mariachi and the Ted and Pablo Choro Ensemble with special guest Chalo Eduardo.  The Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

San Francisco

- Aug. 29 – Sept. 2. (Wed. – Sat.)  Bela Fleck & the Marcus Roberts Trio. It’s an off-beat combination – Fleck’s unique banjo playing and the straight ahead jazz trio of pianist Roberts, drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Rodney Jordan. They’ll no doubt play selections from their new recording together – Across the Imaginary Divide. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Washington D.C.

- Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mose Allison. The inimitable Bard of the Bayou and his suitcase full of songs can always be counted on to provide a swinging, blues-driven evening of song and wisdom. Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

- Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Jenny Scheinman Quartet.  Violinist Scheinman showcases her eclectic musical interests with pianist Jason Moran, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Rudy RoystonVillage Vanguard.  (212) 929-4589.

- Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  Charlie Parker Birthday Celebration.  What would have been the 92nd birthday week (the actual birthday is Aug. 29) of the legendary alto saxophonist is celebrated with a musical tribute from Tom Harrell, trumpet, Vincent Herring, alto saxophone, George Cables, piano, Victor Lewis, drums and Lonnie Plaxico, bass.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Ron Carter

- Aug. 28 – Sept. 2. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Ron Carter Big Band.  Bassist Carter has played with everyboy and led a variety of his own ensembles.  But this, his first big band, wasn’t established until 2011, with arrangements by Bob Freedman.  Featuring a line of major NYC players on stage and Carter up front, expect musical magic to take place.  The Jazz Standard.   (212) 889-2005.

London

- Sept. 2. (Sun.)  The Story So FarRonnie Scott’s Jazz OrchestraPete Lang leads an assemblage of the U.K.’s finest jazz players in an exploration of the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, the Rat Pack and Benny Goodman.  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Mingus Big Band.  The rich musical legacy of bassist/composer Charles Mingus continues to find new musical expression in the hands of the superb Mingus Big Band. The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter photos by Tony Gieske. 


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