Picks for a Long Weekend: Oct. 9 – 12 in Los Angeles, New York City and London

October 8, 2014

By Don Heckman

Sally Kellerman

Sally Kellerman

– Oct. 9. (Thurs.) Scott Snapp and Sally Kellerman. It’s an offbeat booking, with Snapp, who defines his singing/songwriting as Theatrical Pop, as the headliner, and Kellerman as “special guest.” But any appearance by Sally is stellar, and everything she sings deserves top billing. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Oct. 10. (Fri.) The Emerson String Quartet. Performing an all-Beethoven program of quartets from the early, late and middle stages of his remarkable works for string quartet. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

– Oct. 10. (Fri.) The London Philharmonic Orchestra. Vladimir Jurowski conducts a program of Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. The Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

Maceo Parker

Maceo Parker

– Oct. 10 & 11. (Fri. & Sat.) Maceo Parker. Perhaps best known for his long association with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, saxophonist Parker has also established himself as a major funk, soul and groove artist in his own right. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– Oct. 11. (Sat.) Mary Chapin Carpenter. Country singer/songwriter Chapin has won five Grammy awards in a career studded with songs hitting the top of the country music charts. And with good reason, given the memorable quality of her work. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. 6 (805) 449-2100.

– Oct. 12. (Sun.) Paula Poundstone, Lily Tomlin and guest MC Fred Willard. A rare evening of comedic pleasures, and with this line up expect the best. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

New York City

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

– Oct. 9 – 11. (Thurs.- Sun.) “Chita’s Back.Chita Rivera. The versatile artistry of Chita Rivera, from music to dance takes center stage. She doesn’t often make club appearances, so don’t miss this one. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.


Lee Ritenour

Lee Ritenour

– Oct. 7 – 12. (Tues, – Sun.) Lee Ritenour. He used to be called “Captain Fingers” for his extraordinary technical virtuosity, But Ritenour has also added creative interpretations to his imaginative, swinging playing. The Blue Note. Residency. (212) 475-8592.


– Oct. 7 – 12. (Tues. – Sun.) Ronnie Scott’s. Stacey Kent. New Jersey-born jazz singer Kent has been living in the U.K. since the early ’90s, establishing herself as one of Europe’s finest jazz artists. Ronnie Scott’s +44 20 7439 0747.

A Twist of Doc: “Everything Is On The One”

July 25, 2014

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

Lately I’ve been harkening back to a time in my hazy youth in which rock n’ roll seemed too square and being a jazz musician felt unattainable. I was a frustrated self-taught blues guitar player in his teens in search of something else.

As much as I worshipped the blues, by the time I was 13 the image, true attitude, sound, and feel of greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Son House had all but vanished.

There were still many blues legends with a lot to offer but for the most part blues had morphed almost completely into blues-rock. Stevie Ray Vaughan was the leader of the pack and he had thousands of clones. Vaughan passed away in 1990 but today it’s still the same. Blues clubs and radio stations are still flooded by men and women who all dress like a discount combo of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan on layaway. And they all fall back on the same overindulgent stock blues licks.

Devon "Doc" Wendell

Devon “Doc” Wendell

I saw the writing on the wall back at the age of 13. Once again the rock establishment was co-opting the blues for a white audience, as had been done in the ‘60s and I didn’t approve or want to go along.

I had always been a geeky wallflower who had sat on the floor at school dances or avoided them altogether. I wasn’t going to ditch the blues or give up trying to play jazz, but I was in search of a more primal sound that could get to the core of all contemporary musical genres and didn’t take it self too seriously. I found what I was looking for in funk.

The very first bassist I played with in high school turned me onto George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic. I was already deeply into the funk of Sly And The Family Stone and James Brown so this was the logical next step.

My first reaction was laughter. Hearing Parliament’s “The Mothership Connection” felt like the first time I had ever been truly stoned. Granted I probably was very stoned at the time. It was musically sophisticated with slick, jazz-inspired horn arrangements by Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley (formerly of James Brown’s band), thumping baselines by ex-James brown protégé Bootsy Collins, and classically infused psychedelic keyboard work by Bernie Worrell. The most shocking element was George Clinton or “Dr. Funkenstein” rapping (more than a decade before rap music was around) over the music using street slang and profanity in an over the top, super silly fashion.

There was also the meteoric guitar work of P-Funk guitarists Eddie Hazel, Garry Shider, Mike Hampton, and Dewayne “Blackbyrd” Mcknight which cemented George Clinton’s concept of “organized chaos” and is still a huge influence on my playing today.

I also bought and taught myself electric bass after hearing the albums Ahh The Name Is Bootsy Baby, and Larry Graham’s slapping on Graham Central Station’s “The Jam.”

James Brown

James Brown

When it came to listening to funk music – whether it was James Brown, Sly Stone, or P-Funk — I felt I had to sneak off somewhere to do it, like I did with comedy albums by Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. It wasn’t just the language; it was the attitude which made rock music seem like the squarest music in the galaxy. There was this delightful nastiness mixed with a true freedom to all of it and I started collecting funk records by the stack full. From James Brown, Sly Stone, all incarnations of P-Funk and Bootsy Collins, to The Ohio Players, Con Funk Shun, Brick, and Earth, Wind And Fire, I had to have it all. Suddenly I wasn’t too shy too dance and I was out there at funk concerts and parties shaking my ass and making a fool out of myself but not giving a shit. That’s freedom. That’s funk.

Of course my steady diet of marijuana and psychedelic drugs helped aid this drastic change and allowed me to see all things as being sublimely funky. My guitar playing became funkier and more focused on that “one” beat that is the spiritual core of funk music. James Brown emphasized the “one” and P-Funk took it to new and wonderfully ridiculous heights. The “one” is where all musicians meet up and are in sync with the universe.

Sly Stone

Sly Stone

Although funk remains as spiritually relevant with young music lovers and musicians today in a way similar to reggae, the music’s greatest pioneers and practitioners have constantly been dismissed as novelty acts by the mainly white controlled music industry and what’s left of it. Times have been hard for Sly Stone and George Clinton over the past few decades.

I’ve never truly understood why. Sly Stone was as talented, inventive, and revolutionary as all four Beatles combined. Sly not only influenced hundreds of funk and rock bands, he also changed the shape of jazz forever. Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters would not exist without Sly. Miles Davis worshiped Sly and his music was forever changed by Sly’s influence.

Why is it that Sly Stone lives in a mobile home today? Why is George Clinton having to fight for the rights to his own music but still sells out concerts all over the world? The white rock bands of the ‘70s did as much drugs (if not more) as any of the funk legends and they’re still able to get record deals. The rock machine can stay behind and support the nostalgia of Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young, or even The Rolling Stones no matter what trouble these artists have gotten into over the years or the dips in their record sales.

I can’t help but think that if these artists were black, they’d know how it feels to be relegated to novelty act status by main stream media and have to fight to keep what they created. Keith Richards can dress and act as crazy as he wants and there aren’t the same consequences as there have been with Sly Stone or George Clinton. It doesn’t make any sense.

With all that said and as overtly un-funky as the music business has always been, there are the fans. Since my introduction to funk back in my teens, I’ve learned that there are no fans like funk fans or “funkateers.” The love is felt all over the world by people of all ages. We ex-“Psychedelic wallflowers” keep the music fresh. Not to mention the millions of hip-hop and rap artists who have sampled funk records since day one and continue to do so.



Tuesday, July 22nd was the 73rd Birthday of George Clinton. I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Funkenstein in the studio over 23 years ago and we spoke many times during the ’90’s at airports or backstage as he and The P-Funk All- Stars toured constantly going “all around the world for the funk.” They’re still out there touring right now. So, today I thank you, Dr. Funkenstein, for freeing my mind and ass collectively and a very funktacular Happy Birthday. Never quit. Keep on funkin’, we need it now more than ever. I also thank all current and past members of P-Funk, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Junie Morrison , and Sly And The Family Stone, Larry Graham, James Brown, and the list goes on.

The record industry may be dying out, old, corny, and not able to dance, but thanks to you, Dr. Funkenstein, everything is still on the one.

* * * * * * * *

To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


Picks of the Weekend: Nov. 8 – 10

November 8, 2013

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

Bill Holman

Bill Holman

– Nov. 8. (Fri.) Bill Holman Big Band. Holman’s music is always a pleasure to hear live. And this is an even better opportunity, since the band will be performing (on the first set only) its highly praised all-Thelonious Monk album, Brilliant Corners, in its entirety. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 8. (Fri.) Anna Mjoll. Iceland’s gift to jazz is also one of the Southland’s intriguing female jazz vocalists. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Steve Tyrell

Steve Tyrell

– Nov. 8 – 10. (Fr. – Sun.) Steve Tyrell. Bringing his own musical gifts to the Great American Songbook, Tyrell’s appealing interpretations are always a pleasure to hear. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, with trumpet soloist Alison Balsom, perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. and Tovey’s trumpet concerto, Songs of the Paradise Saloon. Disney Hall (323) 850-2000.

– Nov. 9. (Sat.) Lee Hartley. Jazz singer Hartley surrounds her self with a stellar collection of world class artists, including the great Les McCann and the grooving Alphonse Mouzon Band. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 9. (Sat.) Susan Marshall & Company. Featuring Marshall’s Play/Pause, described as the “ultimate mash-up: postmodern dance-theater meets indie rock on both real and virtual stages.” A CAP UCLA event at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-4401.

Judy Wexler

Judy Wexler

– Nov. 10. (Sun.) Judy Wexler. Always a pleasure to hear in action, the small, but musically exciting Wexler celebrates a CD release party for her new album, What I See. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 10. (Sun. Brunch Performance) Betty Bryant. Veteran singer/pianist Bryant celebrates her anniversary with a Birthday Bash Brunch and CD release party. Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 10. (Sun.) Bill Cunliffe and Imaginacion. Grammy-winning pianist/composer/arranger Cunliffe digs into his Latin jazz perspectives. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

 San Francisco

– Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) Paula West. A standout among the Bay area’s many fine female jazz artists, West displays her virtuosity with an appealing set of songs, including her take on June Christy’s version of “Something Cool.” SFJAZZ at Joe Henderson Lab.  (866) 920-5299.

 New York City

Steve Kuhn

Steve Kuhn

– Nov. 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.) Steve Kuhn Trio. Pianist Kuhn has been carving out his own musical directions since he played with John Coltrane as a young arrival. Here he’s backed by the propulsive accompaniment of Buster Williams, bass and Billy Drummond, drums. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

– Nov. 8 – 10. (Fri. – Sun.) The Django Reinhardt New York Festival recalls the inimitable jazz artistry of the great Django Reinhardt with an ensemble featuring the Django Festival All-Stars. With Special Guests: Cyrille Aimee, Freddie Cole, James Carter & Edmar Castaneda. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.


Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

– Nov. 8. (Fri.) Jackie Ryan. In the crowded field of female jazz vocalists, Ryan continues to be a standout, an imaginative artist who still hasn’t quite received the accolades her extraordinary talents deserve. She celebrates the release of her latest CD. Regatta Bar.  (617) 661-5000.


– Nov. 8 & 9. Fri. & Sat. Soul Jazz Alliance. You can bet that the title of this group is an accurate description of what to expect from a world class collection of players, featuring Vincent Herring and Jeremy Pelt and special guest Sachal Vasandani. Ronnie Scott’s.   +44 (0)20 7439 0747.


Sheila E.

Sheila E.

– Nov. 8. (Fri.) Sheila E. Gifted with jazz skills inherited from her Escovedo family background, Sheila E. can do just about anything, from her driving percussion work to her ability to musically dominate a stage. New Morning.  +33 1 45 23 51 41.


– Nov. 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.) Maceo Parker. A saxophone star with James Brown, Parker is still – at 70 – a master of the soul, funk and bebop genres. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Picks of the Week: Dec. 26 – 31.

December 26, 2012

By the iRoM Staff

With only a few short days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and with numerous clubs (especially in Europe) closed for the holiday week, we’ve decided to concentrate this week’s Picks on the celebratory musical pleasures of bringing in 2013.


Los Angeles

Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit

– Dec. 26 – 31. (Wed. – Mon.) Jane Monheit.  Monheit’s glorious voice and briskly swinging style make a welcome return holiday visit to the club that perfectly showcases her many talents.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Dec. 31. (Mon.) Frank Stallone.  Grammy and Golden Globe nominated actor/singer Stallone is an entertaining performer, with material reaching from standards to his own originals.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Dec. 31. (Mon.)  Idina Menzel.  Tony Award-winning singer/actress Menzel, the star of Broadway’s Wicked, was also in the original production of Rent.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.

– Dec. 31. (Mon.) Don Randi and Quest.   Keyboardist Randi – who also owns the Baked Potato – has played on hundreds of recording sessions and numerous hit recordings.  Here he celebrates the holiday with his own band, in  his own venue, with many special guests.  The Baked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

Anna Mjoll

Anna Mjoll

– Dec. 31. (Mon.) Anna Mjoll.  Iceland’s gift to jazz continues to affirm her vocal jazz authenticity with every performance.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– Dec. 31. (Mon.)  Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble with special guest David Binney. Armenia-born pianist Ovsepian brings a view to jazz that is colorfully enhanced by his classical and Eastern European background.  Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

San Francisco

– Dec. 28 – 31. (Fri. – Mon.)  Pete Escovedo & Sons Latin Jazz Orchestra. Expect musical fireworks and an exciting transition to 2013 while enjoying the irresistible rhythms of the Escovedo family.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

– Dec. 28 – 31. (Fri. – Mon.)  Maceo Parker’s Funky New Year’s Party.  James Brown and the Funkadelics wouldn’t have been quite the same without the funk-driven saxophone of Parker.  He’s doing it on his own now, but he’s no less soulful than he was four decades ago.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.


Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

– Dec. 26 – 31. (Wed. – Mon.)  The Roy Hargrove Quintet. Trumpeter Hargrove continues to display his versatility in a busy touring schedule featuring his various groups.  This time it’s his always exciting quintet.  Jazz Showcaset  (312) 360-0234.

New York

– Dec. 26 – 31.  Wed. – Mon.) (Continuing through Sun. Jan. 6.)  Chris Botti. Trumpeter Botti – whose dedicated following has made him one of the world’s most popular jazz artists – continues his annual long holiday run at the Blue Note.  Don’t miss the chance to hear him up close and personal.   Click HERE.To read iRoM’s review of Chris’s New Year’s Eve performance at the Blue Note in 2012    The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Dec. 31.  (Mon.)  The Mingus Big Band.  What better way to celebrate the newly arriving year than with the ever-appealing music of Charles Mingus, performed accurately by the ensemble that continues to keep his classic jazz catalog alive.  Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

– Dec. 31.  (Mon.)  Wynton Marsalis Meets Vince Giordano.  Trumpeter Marsalis honors one of his great influences with The Louis Armstrong Continuum – Music of the Hot Fives and the Hot Sevens.   Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

Washington D.C.

– (Dec. 27 – 31).  Thurs. – Mon.)  Monty Alexander.  Jamaican-born pianist Alexander brings it all together – convincing bebop, a solid blues foundation and gently floating Caribbean rhythms.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

Picks of the Week: Dec. 27 – Jan. 1

December 26, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jane Monheit

– Dec. 27 – Jan 1.  (Tues. through Sunday)  Jane Monheit.  The beautiful Monheit gets an early start, ramping up all week to the big Saturday night New Year’s celebration.  And what better way to bring in 2012 than by hearing her velvet voice and gentle swing delivering “Auld Lang Syne.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

– Dec. 28. (Wed.)  Joe Bagg Organ Trio.  Bagg’s unique approach to the B-3, which happily avoids most of the predictable repetitions often heard from the instrument, makes his gigs especially appealing musical events.  He’s backed by Steve Cotter, bass and Ryan Doyle, drums.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

– Dec. 28. (Wed.)  Gerald Clayton Trio. Pianist Clayton, blessed with musically rich genes (his Dad is bassist/composer/bandleader John Clayton, his uncle alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton) has thoroughly established himself as one of the most important new jazz arrivals of the past few years.  Steamers.   (714) 871-8800.

Luciana Souza

– Dec. 29. (Thurs.)  Luciana Souza.  Brazil’s Souza brings far-ranging musicality to the jazz vocal art, adept in the music of her native land, well-versed in jazz and contemporary classical music, always a pleasure to hear because of her quest to explore fascinating creative territories.  She’ll be well-aided toward that goal by guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist David PiltchBlue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

– Dec. 29. (Turs.)  Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band.  Yes, the filmmaker/comedian really does play the clarinet, and does it well via a deep understanding of the essential elements of New Orleans music in general, and the New Orleans clarinet style in particular.  Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

– Dec. 29. (Thurs.)  Billy Mitchell & Friends.  Pianist and all-around entertaining jazz artist Mitchell is featured at In-House Music’s early New Year’s Eve party, complete with cocktails, party hats, streamers, dancing and more.  With Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet, Rob Kyle, saxophone, Tomas Gargano, bass, Frank Wilson, drums.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza LAX.  Information: In-House Music.   (310) 216-5861.


Billy Childs

– Dec. 20 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.)  Billy Childs Quartet.  The live performance by pianist Child’s musically compelling quartet — with Childs’ exploratory, ever searching piano playing in company with the saxophones of Bob Sheppard, the bass of Tim Lefebvre and the drums of Gary Novak — will also be delivered over FM radio via a live broadcast on NPR.  Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

– Dec. 31. (Sat.) Brazilian New Year’s Eve Celebration.  Here’s a spectacular new way to celebrate the arrival of 2012, aboard the historic ocean liner, The Queen Mary. Rio’s Marcos Ariel, his keyboards and his Quartet will cover the full range of Carioca music — from samba to bossa nova to chorinho.  The samba dancers of Joany’s Samba Show will display the latest dance moves, and DJ Chris Brasil will keep the beat alive.  At midnight, 2012 will come in amid a spectacular fireworks show.  Rio de Janeiro at the Queen Mary.  (818) 566-1111.

– Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Sherry Williams.  The smooth sounding voice, effortless swing and artful interpretive skills of Williams still don’t receive the full attention they deserve.  She’ll be backed in this elegant celebratory night by the Pat Senatore QuartetVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

– Dec, 31, (Sat.)  Frank Strazzeri. Pianist Strazzeri’s diverse career path has led from Dixieland jazz (with Al Hirt) through the bop years (with Charlie Ventura and Woody Herman), West Coast jazz (with Art Pepper, Chet Baker and more) and still swinging into the present.  This time out, he’ll be leading his stellar Legacy Group, with George Harper, tenor saxophone, Steve Johnson, trombone, Jeff Littleton, bass and Kenny Elliott, drums.   JAX Bar & Grill.    (818) 500-1604.

– Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Jane Monheit.  New Years Eve celebration.  See above.  Catalina Bar & Grill.    (323) 466-2210.

Pink Martini

– Dec. 31. (Sat.) New Year’s Eve with Pink Martini.  The ultimate cabaret act, Pink Martini – mixing their originals with such camp-edged classics as “Amado Mio” from the film Gilda — find common ground between French cabaret, jazz, Latin dance music, Brazilian samba and a lot more.  They’ll bring in the New Year with a memorable collection of songs. Disney Hall.   (323) 650-2000.

– Dec. 31. (Sat.)  Chris Williams Sextet.  Moving freely across mainstream, Latin and bebop territory, Williams spices his vocals with a dramatic ability to find the essential meaning of a song.  Steamers.    (714) 871-8800.

San Francisco

– Dec. 29 – 31. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Maceo Parker’s New Year’s Party. Alto saxophonist Parker has been a definitive voice of funk and soul since his prominent visibility with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic.  And he’s still going strong. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.


Roy Hargrove

– Dec. 27 – Jan. 1.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Roy Hargrove Quintet. Grammy winning trumpeter Roy Hargrove has thoroughly established himself – at 42 – as one of the jazz world’s most versatile artists, moving compellingly across jazz and pop styles, from small groups to his own big band.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

Washington, D.C.

– Dec. 28 – 31. (Wed. – Sat.)  Monty Alexander.  Alexander’s articulate jazz skills made him one of the most admired post-Oscar Peterson, bebop-driven pianists.  But more than that, he’s enhanced those skills with fascinating inner tinges of the sounds and rhythms of his native Jamaica.   Blues Alley.  (202) 337-4141.

New York

Wynton Marsalis

– Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Wynton Marsalis: ”The Music of Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver.”  Few contemporary jazz artists understand – or even care to understand – the compelling musical delights of the music of Morton as well as Wynton Marsalis does.  And in addition to authenticity, Marsalis brings joyful, timeless swing to his memorable performances of works from these iconic jazz figures.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

– Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus.  The trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to carry the torch for ever-evolving new views of the classic piano jazz trio.  Village Vanguard. l  (212) 255-4037.

– Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chris Botti.  An epic three week run — with two shows every evening — wraps up with a climactic New Year’s weekend for trumpeter Botti and his all-star collection of players.  Enhancing the music — the far-ranging versatility of singer Lisa Fischer.  Tickets may be hard, even impossible to get.  But it’s worth the effort to hear the best-selling American jazz instrumental artist in action.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.


– Dec. 27 – Dec. 31. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Harlem Gospel Choir. The 40-voice choir has established itself over the past 2 ½ decades, in performances around the world, for their expressive interpretations of the classic gospel repertoire. The Blue Note Milano.


– Dec. 29 – 31. Thurs. – Sat.)  Fourplay.  The Fourplay quartet, often identified in the contemporary, even the smooth jazz, arena has always nonetheless maintained a solid connection with mainstream jazz roots.  And the addition of guitarist Chuck Loeb to the original trio of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason has further enhanced Fourplay’s musical solidity.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Billy Childs and Wynton Marsalis photos by Tony Gieske

Live Jazz: The Playboy Jazz Festival (Sunday) at the Hollywood Bowl

June 14, 2011

By Devon Wendell

It becomes more apparent each year that the annual Playboy Jazz Festival has less to do with pure jazz programming and more to do with people of all ages and races coming together for a good time.  This was certainly the case this year during the Festival’s second day show on Sunday, in which the lineup include a high percentage of funk/jazz and blues acts.

Many jazz “purists” may balk at this but the crowd didn’t seem to mind at all.  The crowd danced, drank, and did little fretting over the lack of flatted 5th chords being played.  Even an artist as beloved in the jazz world as John Scofield chose to play a set of pure blues with fellow guitarist Robben Ford (who’s more known as a blues player), resulting in one of the many festival highlights.

Robben Ford and John Scofield

Scofield and Ford were backed by Andy Hess on bass and Anastasio Panos on drums.  Their brief set consisted of mostly well known blues classics such as Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Mornin’ Little School Girl,” and Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf’s standard “Spoonful,” with Ford on vocals.  Oddly enough, Scofield’s guitar playing was much bluesier and tasteful in a traditional sense compared to that of Ford’s. Where Ford would fly across the fret board with lightning speed, sounding more like a mid ‘70’s Jeff Beck, Scofield played sweet and slow string bends with a more economic sense, bringing to mind the late great Albert King.

When the two ax men weren’t dueling solos, they were making some soulful and original guitar harmonies — as on their instrumental rendition on Ray Charles’s “Busted.”   And it was especially refreshing to see Scofield set aside his jazzier chops and play some low-down blues, especially given the fact that many of his fans might thumb their noses at blues players.

Although the youthful vocal acappella group Naturally 7 offered a set list that didn’t differ much from that of their big Playboy Festival debut last year, their impact was equally strong and entertaining. Lead by Roger Thomas, Naturally 7’s ability to vocally mimic instruments from guitar, drums, bass and electric guitar to harmonica, trombone, and DJ scratches, while creating smooth and precise vocal harmonies, is astounding.

Naturally 7

Warren Thomas’ vocal simulation of Eric Clapton’s guitar solo on their reading of the Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sounded better than many of the actual guitarists who performed during the festival.  And Garfield Buckley’s ability to capture Sly Stone’s wah-wah drenched harmonica phrasing on Sly And The Family Stone’s “Sex Machine” was frightening in its accuracy.  The group’s performance was further proof that Naturally 7 isn’t just relying on a limited gimmick, but is, instead, one of the most creative and innovative ensembles in the music world.

Another stellar moment in the festival was the arrival of former James Brown horn section players and arrangers Pee Wee Ellis (saxophone) and Fred Wesley (trombone).  Together again, their new project was titled “Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute To James Brown.”

Unfortunately, the African vocalists — Vusi Mahlasela and Cheik Lo — were a distraction from the JB sound laid down at the opening number, Brown’s “I’ve Got That Feeling.”  But even so, the magic between Ellis and Wesley made this a most special performance. Their funky horn hooks and the symmetry between the two men that helped change music forever sounded as fresh as it did 40 years ago.  The only element that would have made this tribute a lot stronger would have been the inclusion of Maceo Parker, whose absence was especially felt on  JB’s “Pass The Peas.”

The most electrifying set of the day, however, took place when headliner Buddy Guy took the Bowl stage accompanied by his dynamic and attentive touring band: Ric Hall, guitar, Orlando Wright, bass; Tim Austin, drums; and Marty Sammons, keyboards.

Buddy Guy

Guy arrived like Zeus, throwing lightening bolts into the audience via a furry of twisted string bends and wailing guitar runs, then suddenly turning the volume down and playing sweet and softly.  His set consisted of blues classics like Muddy Water’s “Hoochie Coohie Man,” Freddie King’s “Love Her With A Feeling,” and Albert King’s version of O.V. Wright’s “Drowning On Dry Land.”  Guy did his usual stage antics — playing the guitar with his shirt while strapped backwards, playing wild blistering solos into the audience, using Austin’s drum stick as a slide, accompanying it all with his witty and warm stage banter.

As amazing as Guy’s energy was, it was paralleled by a special guest — 12 year old Quinn Sullivan, whom Guy brought to center stage. The pre-teen’s playing sounded like a well rehearsed combination of Guy and Eric Clapton.  Singing about his “Master Buddy Guy,” he even played a white Stratocaster like Guy’s.  But Guy and the audience enjoyed every second of Sullivan’s enthusiastic playing and singing.

With the exception of dynamic sets by Geri Allen’s Timeline Band (featuring the amazing tap dancing of Maurice Chestnut), Terence Blanchard’s band, Bill Cunliffe with the stirring sounds of the Resonance Big Band (showcasing fast-fingered pianist Marian Petrescu), and Harmony 3 (with Ronnie Laws, Walter Beasley and Stanley Jordan ) – jazz took a back seat to the blues on the last day of the 33rd annual Playboy Jazz Festival.

In the long run, it felt as though much of  Sunday’s music had been leading up to Buddy Guy’s performance.  At the forefront of modern electric blues, rock, funk, and even jazz, his playing displayed the power to cement it all together in completely natural, compatible fashion.  And to do so in a way that revealed how much the blues has inspired the jazz world.

Picks of the Week: April 11 – 17

April 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

–  April 11. (Mon.)  Cabaret Cares.  A Song For Japan. A benefit performance to aid the stricken populace of Japan features cabaret artists Andrea Marcovicci, Daisy Eagan, Lee Lessack, Sharon McNight and others.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

John Pisano

– April 12. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  With Sid Jacobs and John Leftwich.  Pisano’s Tuesday Guitar Nights just keep on cooking.  And with Jacobs and Leftwich also on stage, the rhythms will be crisp and the imagination wide open.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

-April 12. (Tues.)  John Daversa Big Band.  Trumpeter Daversa’s exploratory approach to big jazz band sounds is producing some consistently adventurous music.  To read a recent iRoM review of the Daversa Big Band click HEREVibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– April. 12. (Tues.)  Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band. The always swinging, always entertaining Big Phat Band celebrates the release of their new CD, That’s How We Roll. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

– April 13. (Wed.) Mike Lang Trio. Pianist Lang has a resume that includes gigs with the likes of Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand and more, recordings with Henry Mancini, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, and a long string of film and TV credits.  This time out, he’s doing it his own way, backed by bassist Michael Valerio and drummer Jim Keltner Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210. .

– April 14. (Thurs.)  Duran Duran.  They’re back.  The sounds of the eighties that made all the young girls quiver, still playing the hits.  Fox Theatre Pomona.   (909) 784-3671.

Denise Donatelli

– April 14. (Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli. Grammy-nominated Donatelli’s dark-timbred voice and imaginative singing will prove, once again, why she really should have won that award.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

– April 14 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Victor Wooten Band.  Five time Grammy Award winner Wooten displays the bass playing dexterity and free-roving imagination that make him one of the important artists of his generation.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

– April 15. (Fri.)  Michael Wolff.  Pianist Wolff, heard to rarely in these parts, plays his second Vitello’s gig in a couple of weeks.  This time, his musical companions will be trumpeter Mark Isham, bassist John B. Williams and drummer Michael Barsimento.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of a recent Wolff performance.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– April 15. (Fri.)  2nd Proverb Trio.  An unusually intriguing approach to small ensemble jazz features Dafnis Prieto, drums, Kokayi, vocals and poetry and Jason Lindner, keyboards.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at  the Musicians Institute Concert Hall.  \.

– April 15. (Fri.)  Tom Peterson/Andy Martin Quartet.  Saxophonist Peterson and trombonist Martin, first call players on their instruments, take a break from playing for everyone else, and step to the front of the stage. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

– April 16. (Sat. ) Improvisatory Minds: Chamber Music by Jazz Musicians.  It’s an evening that promises to provide some of the more intriguing musical explorations of recent memory.  On the bill: works by Bevan Manson, Ed Neumeister, and Gernot Wolfgang, with guest composers Billy Childs and Alan BroadbentVitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

Judy Wexler

– April 16. (Sat.)  Judy Wexler.  Versatile Ms. Wexler is a singer who finds the essence of jazz in everything she sings, regardless of genre.  She celebrates her birthday with a prime evening of music.  Café 322.    (626) 836-5414

– April 16 & 17. (Sat. & Sun.)  Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks.  They may not have found musical companionship in their early years, but Stewart and Nicks seem perfectly attuned to share a stage in the prime maturity of their careers.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– April 16 & 17. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads the LACO in a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with pianist Jon Kimura Parker.  Also on the program: Dvorak’s lyrical Serenade in E Major for Strings and composer John Harbison’s whimsical Gli accordi piu usati (“The most often used chords”).  Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.  Sunday at UCLA’s Royce Hall.  For information click HERE.  (213)  622-7001 Ext. 215.

San Francisco

– April 15. (Fri.)  Dr. Lonnie Smith and Barbara Dennerlein. It’s a night for B-3 organ fireworks.  The groove pyrotechnics of Dr. Lonnie and the hard driving rhythmic charge of German-born Dennerlein.  SFJAZZ Spring Season at the Herbst Theatre.  (566) 920-5299.

– April 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Maceo Parker.  Alto saxophonist Parker’s funk roots trace back to his highly visible work with James Brown.  Since then, he’s performed with every imaginable funk band, including his own “greatest little funk band on earth.”  He makes his debut performance at Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.

New York

– April 12 & 13.  (Tues. & Wed.)  The Three Cohens.  Tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen.  Three impressive jazz artists from the same Israeli family are a jazz

Anat Cohen

rarity.  But aside from that, they’re always a pleasure to hear, and never more so than when they’re in an infrequent public family jam.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) (212) 258-9595.

– April 12 – 17. (Tues. – Sun.)  Martial Solal & Francois Moutin Duo. There’s no better proof of France’s love affair with jazz than the teaming of these two extraordinary French artists in a cross generational gig – the great, veteran pianist Solal and the talented young bassist Moutin. Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

– April 13 (Wed.)  Kendra Shank – Steve Wilson – Frank Kimbrough.  Vocalist Shank, saxophonist Wilson and pianist Kimbrough will be performing standards, originals, songs by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Abbey Lincoln and others.  With the additional highlight of Shank’s imaginative “voice collages” – vocal improvisations with electronic loops.  Kitano Hotel.   (212) 885-7119.

Darcy James Argue

– April 14. (Thurs.)  Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.  Fast rising composer arranger Argue’s writing for his big band, Secret Society, has been praised in media of every stripe.  Here’s a chance to hear the work of this gifted young artist in an up front and live setting.  Iridium.   (212) 582-2121.

– April 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet. Trumpeter Akinmusire leads a stellar collection of young players in a celebration of the release of his debut album on Blue Note, When the Heart Emerges Glistening. Jazz Standard.  (212) 576-2232.

John Pisano photo by Bob Barry.  Denise Donatelli and Judy Wexler photos by Faith Frenz.  Anat Cohen photo by Tony Gieske.


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