Live Music: Steve Martin, the Steep Canyon Rangers, the Preservation Jazz Band and Madeleine Peyroux at the Hollywood Bowl,

August 9, 2013

 By Don Heckman


Madeleine Peyroux

When singer Madeleine Peyroux opened Wednesday night’s jazz show at the Hollywood Bowl there was at least a mild sense of actual jazz in the air. Peyroux has had considerable success in the jazz world, even though she has ranged across different genres with varying degrees of success.

A far more powerful jazz vibe followed with the arrival of the Preservation Jazz Band, with its deep roots in traditional New Orleans jazz and an impressive ability to mix dynamic jazz rhythms with engaging jazz vocals.

So far, so good, creating an authentic link to the music one expects to hear in the Bowl’s Wednesday night jazz shows.

But the climactic set of the night made it very clear that the real orientation of the Wednesday series is broader than jazz, and perhaps best viewed as a far-ranging evening of American music in many forms.

Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and the Steep Canyon Raiders

Steve Martin and Banjos

Steve Martin and Banjos

Which only partially describes what happened when Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and the North Carolina- based Steep Canyon Rangers. Martin, of course, has had a hugely successful career as a comedian, actor and TV star. But his occasional appearances over the years as a banjoist gradually made it clear that he was a serious musician as well. And improving with each banjo-playing performance.

It was no surprise that Martin sprinkled his performing passages with numerous examples of his whimsical, and often bizarre humor. And given the audience’s ebullient responses, it was easy to sense that many had been drawn to this Bowl program by Martin’s presence rather than the potential to hear some prime jazz.

Still, there was no faulting the empathic musical interaction between Martin and the Rangers, with the frequent addition of Brickell’s soaring vocals. And, listening to the irresistible rhythmic swing of the blue grass rhythms and the imaginative melody-making,something that possessed qualities very close to jazz began to seem present in the air.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

The jazz heads in the crowd may have hoped for a more predictable mainstream jazz event, with more performance time for the inimitable Preservation Band.  But what they experienced was even more fascinating, as Martin, the Rangers and the Preservation Hall musicians presented a consistently compelling presentation of the musical dialect – via improvisation and rhythmic propulsion – that is the common expressive language of so much American music. Call it a fascinating evening of musical Americana at its best.

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Preservation Hall Band photo by Bonnie Perkinson

All other photos by Faith Frenz

Live Jazz: The Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Valley Performing Arts Center

February 4, 2013

By Don Heckman

Northridge, CA. I couldn’t help but wonder, Saturday night at the Valley Performing Arts Center, whether the Branford Marsalis Quartet was anticipating the hard driving energies of Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl game.  Playing at a peak level of intensity, much of what they offered could have served as the sound track for some of the more violent encounters between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco Forty-Niners.   (Which the Niners lost because the refs failed – in the final plays — to call an obvious pass interference by the Ravens.)

Actually, it’s unlikely that the Super Bowl was what NEA Jazz Master Marsalis had in mind.  More probable, I suspect,  was a desire to showcase the newest member of the quartet, Justin Faulkner, who is replacing Marsalis’ long time drumming partner, Jeff  “Tain” Watts.  And he did so by giving Faulkner, barely into his twenties, what seemed to be carte-blanche to drive his playing with several high voltage elements – including loudness, busyness and repetitiveness.

Faulkner was surely drawn in this direction by an awareness of Watts’ electrifying drumming – as well, no doubt, by the memorable percussive powers of the late Tony Williams and Elvin Jones, who have had significant impacts upon generations of young drummers.

Branford Marsalis Quartet

Branford Marsalis Quartet

Marsalis led the way by revealing eclectic patterns in his own playing, on both soprano and tenor saxophones.  At 52, he has been shaping a unique vision of jazz since the ‘80s, applying it to genres reaching from rock, rap, jazz, classical, theatrical and beyond.

Much of that versatility was on full display in a program ranging from bassist Eric Revis’ Monk-like “Brews” and pianist Joey Calderazzo’s lyrical ballad, “As Summer Into Autumn Slips,” to several displays of free-style improvising over hypnotic ostinato rhythm section patterns.  Topping it off, Marsalis probed the depths of his New Orleans roots with a delightful romp through the Original Dixeland Jass Band’s “Tiger Rag.”

At its best, the program underscored Marsalis’ musical identity as one of the most inventive players of his generation (and beyond).  There were times – perhaps a few too many – when his versatility surfaced in the over-the-top extrovertiveness of a bar-walking blues saxophonist.  Fortunately, he more often allowed the rich creative perspectives of his best playing to take precedence, guiding his quartet – along with Faulkner — into a compelling musical evening.

Picks of the Week: July 31 – Aug. 5

July 31, 2012

 By Don Heckman

Los Angeles


– July 31. (Tues.)  Overtone.  This impressive sextet of a cappella singers from South Africa are on the verge of breaking onto the international music scene.  Discovered by Clint and Dina Eastwood, they’ve got the right support to match their extraordinary potential.  Let’s hope they have a few more dates in the Southland. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

– Aug. 1. (Wed.)  Bob McChesney Quintet.  If there’s a better trombonist than McChesney – technically, creatively and inventively – I’d like to hear him (her).  In the meantime, here’s a chance to hear Bob in action, backed by the fine support of pianist Andy Langham, saxophonist Rob Lockart, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter ErskineVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

The Neville Bros.

– Aug. 1. (Wed.)  The Neville Bros. Farewell Tour.  The inimitable Neville’s celebrate their more than three decades of prominence as a New Orleans icon.  Also on the bill, the funky exuberance of Trombone Shorty and the Crescent City roots-rock of Roddie RomeroThe Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 1. (Wed.)  Miles Evans Big Band.  Trumpeter Evans is the son of the legendary arranger/composer Gil Evans.  The mission of his band, he says, is to “pick up where Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorious and Rashied Ali left the notes on the page.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Aug. 2. (Thurs.)  All Beethoven.  The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lionel Bringuier conducting, perform Beethoven’s lively Symphony No. 7.  And violinist Renaud Capucon joins the ensemble for Beethoven’s only Violin Concerto. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 2. (Thurs.)  The Alaev Family.  The Tajikistani Alaev Family, with eight, multi-generational musicians and drummers, performs the music of Central Asia, Turkey, Persia and Russia, along with the Jewish music of Bukhara.  Expect a party atmosphere. Skirball Center Sunset Concerts.   (310) 440-4500.

Ravi Coltrane

– Aug. 2 – 5.) Thurs. – Sun.  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  The son of the iconic jazz great, John Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane – also playing the tenor and soprano saxophones – has carved out a uniquely inventive style of his own.  His playing deserves to be heard at every opportunity.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Aug. 3. (Fri.) Sony Holland.  Her singing has been critically praised, but Holland has not yet received the popular response that she deserves.  She’ll be performing with the prime ensemble of pianist Andy Langham, bassist Hussain Jiffrey, drummer Kendall Kay and her husband, guitarist Jerry HollandVitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– Aug. 3 – 5. (Fri. – Sun.)  Pixar in Concert.  The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins presents an evening of music and video celebrating characters from such memorable Pixar films as Toy Story, Cars, Wall-E and more.  The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

Strunz & Farah

– Aug. 4. (Sat.)  Strunz and Farah.  Niyaz.  A pair of superb groups – early leaders in the emergence of the World Music genre appear on the same stage.  Strunz and Farah with their remarkable 2-guitar excursions; Niyaz led by the soaring vocals of Azam Ali.  Grand Performances.    Niyaz also appears Aug. 9 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Orange County.

– Aug. 4. (Sat.)  “Cosmic Oscar” The Music of Oscar Brown, Jr.  One couldn’t ask for a more entertaining and illuminating program than the songs of Oscar Brown.  Add that the presence of precisely the right performers: Dwight Trible & Co., with Trevor Ware, bass; Breeze Smith, percussion and soundscape artist; Paul Lagaspi, drums; John Beasley, piano.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at Boston Court. (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

– Aug. 4 & 5. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Family Stone. Still keeping alive the memory and the music of one of the great groups of the ‘60s and ‘70s, some of the original members revive the great Stone classics.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


– Aug. 2 – 5. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  More than three decades since they arrived on the New Orleans seen, the DDBB is continuing to prove that traditional New Orleans style has plenty of room to encompass bebop, funk and beyond.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York

Jane Monheit

– Aug. 1 – 5. (Wed. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. The mellow-voiced Monheit celebrates her first decade as a performer a five night run, singing selections from the 10th anniversary album, Home. The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

– Aug. 2 – Sat. (Thurs.- Sat. )  Irabagon Fest. Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk saxophone competition, demonstrates his creative versatility on three  consecutive nights, with three different ensembles: Thurs., Jon Irabagon Trio; Fri.,, the Barry Altschul Group; and Sat., the Jon Irabagon Jazz Quartet.    Cornelia St. Café.  (212) 989-9319.

– July 31 – Aug. 4. (Sat.)  The Masters Quartet.  For the line up of Steve Kuhn, Dave Liebman, Steve Swallow and Billy Drummond, “Masters” is the only appropriate title.  Expect to hear music as rich and bracing as a vintage bottle of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild..  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.


– Aug. 3 & 4. (Fri. & Sat.)  Legends of Latin Jazz.  The Classic Jazz Series, celebrating the 1012 Olympics, features two evenings of great Latin jazz, performed by the U.K.’s top jazz artists.    Ronnie Scott’s.    (0) 20 7439 0747.


Patti Austin

– Aug. 2 (Thurs.)  Patti Austin Group.   Versatile Patti Austin can sing anything from pop to soul to r&b, blues and jazz.  And do so with authenticity, swing and sheer entertainment panache.  She may not be a huge name, but she’s a great vocal artist.  New Morning.    01 45 23  51 41.


– Aug. 5 – 7. (Sun. – Tues.)  The Count Basie Orchestra.  Yes, the Count Basie Orchestra still lives – with vibrancy and rhythm, performing some of the most memorable big band classics in the history of jazz.  Don’t miss this one.  Blue Note Tokyo.   03. 5485.0088.

Here, There and Everywhere: The Celebration of International Jazz Day at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

May 6, 2012

By Don Heckman

When Herbie Hancock, now a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and one of the world’s best known jazz artists, decreed that Monday, April 30 would be International Jazz Day, the response was a series of celebratory musical events around the globe.  The most visible featured Hancock with a stellar array of artists, starting with a Sunrise Concert at Congo Square in New Orleans, followed by another Hancock led event – a Sunset Concert at the United Nations General Assembly Hall.  Featured artists also included Terence Blanchard, Ellis Marsalis, Dr. Michael White and numerous others in New Orleans, and Richard Bona, Ron Carter, Joe Lovano, Zakir Hussain, Christian McBride, Hugh Masekela and many more in the New York program.

High profile, obviously.  But no less appealing than the high quality jazz taking place in more local settings.  One of the best was the program that bassist and Music Director Pat Senatore assembled at Herb Alper’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  Many of the names were familiar – Don Menza, Steve Hoffsteter, Tom Peterson, Dale Fielder, Carl Saunders, Tom Warrington, Bob Sheppard and Senatore among them – top level entries on the list of world class jazz artists who make Los Angeles their home.

Steve Huffsteter, Carl Saunders and Dontae Winslow with bassist Chris Colangelo

The evening had a distinctly impromptu jam session flavor, with tunes ranging across the familiar standards favored by jazz artists: “I Can’t Get Started With You,” “The Days of Wine and Roses,” “Alone Together,” “You and the Night and the Music,” You Stepped Out of a Dream” and the inevitable “Body and Soul,” with a healthy sampling of blues and a smidgeon of bossa nova.

The Vibrato celebration, like the others taking place in dozens of countries, was a remarkable affirmation of the broad reach that jazz has achieved over the past century, as it has established itself as a vital, unique, authentic and expressive art form.  Listening to the diversity of styles offered by saxophonists Menza, Peterson, Fielding and Sheppard, to the equally far ranging creative views of the other players was – it so often is – convincing testimony to the kind of gripping, world class jazz that can be found almost any night, in cities and countries large and small, by the listeners eager enough to look for it.

Equally fascinating – an opening set by a remarkably talented quintet of young players.  As well as a climactic encounter between veteran trumpeters Huffsteter and Saunders and emerging new jazz star Dontae Winslow.  Tossing riffs back and forth, challenging each other with rapid fire phrases and stratospheric high notes, the spirited exchanges between the three gifted artists offered an in-performance definition of the imagination, spontaneity and sheer musical joy that is the essence of jazz at its best.

And a great way to top off the celebration of International Jazz Day.

Live Music: Bettye LaVette at Royce Hall

April 25, 2012

By Mike Finkelstein

On Saturday night Bettye LaVette laid it down (and I mean way down) powerfully at Royce Hall for one of the final performances of this year’s UCLA LIVE calendar.   She pithily interpreted each song, cutting it to the quick.  These were songs we’ve all likely heard before, but in this show LaVette used them to take us into a very intense emotional realm.  There were several times where it looked as though she might actually have been ready to weep.

Ms. LaVette is one of the most compelling soul singers around and she is currently riding a wave of unprecedented recognition after some 50 years in the music business.  Her latest album is the Grammy nominated Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, in which she takes a set of ubiquitous top shelf album rock tracks and makes them into something very personalized.   There is certainly some irony to the idea of a project like this.   She pointed out that these songs “were written by a bunch of young English guys, who were high, and now they are being interpreted by a 66 year old black woman…who’s drunk.”

Bettye LaVette

It’s an intriguing idea for a howling female soul singer to tackle British rock ‘n roll and it has been touched on before by Tina Turner.  LaVette’s voice does resemble Turner’s, particularly when she speaks over the band.  But where Tina moves on to a polished delivery, LaVette stays with the core sentiment and goes much farther into the emotional realm.

Her voice is not silky smooth, it’s actually husky and gravelly, but man, is it ever expressive.  She also has a classic snarl, but she doesn’t overdo it with this or any other technique.  Instead, she uses every drop of what she’s got to bring out all the meaning in the song.

LaVette’s takes on familiar songs were far from simple nods to classic rock.  The arrangements were dark, sparse, deliberate, slow, and they basically left the performers and the audience nowhere to hide from the raw emotion of each song.  This type of expression is rare and as satisfying as it gets to watch…but it is draining, too.

From George Jones (“Choices I’ve Made”) to Dolly Parton (“Little Sparrow”) to George Harrison (Isn’t It A Pity”) to Ringo Starr (It Don’t Come Easy”)and The Who (“Love Reign O’er Me”), Lavette and her band broke down each song to its most poignant and painful emotional essence — and then built it up again in their own style.   But this was mesmerizing, sweet pain — you couldn’t help but be drawn into the spectacle of a standard FM rock song being transformed into something new, with teeth.  There were very deliberate bass lines from Charley Bartels, haunting volume swells and bouncing vibrato from guitarist Brett Lucas, as well as steady support from Alan Hill (keyboards and music director), and Darryl Pierce (drums).

Plainly put, they actually did reinvent the tunes — marvelously slowing them down, and then paring them down to suck the marrow from each.  Not long into every number, it really seemed that this was her song, way beyond just a cover and perhaps written just for her.

There were several show-stopping moments in this show, but LaVette’s version of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity”  was astonishing.   While George’s words are deep and reflective, his arrangement is rather lush, somber yet beautiful – an arrangement that dulls the edge of the lyrics a bit.  So, LaVette and her band took those very same words and slowed them down, holding them up like a water snake for us to really get a load of the power they held.  Most of the time, she barely did more than speak the words but it was her rasp and her slow, knowing voice of pain that made them so powerful.   A performance like that knocks an audience right on its ear with the emotions that such immediacy can create.  Here, as in most of the other songs, the words took on several new magnitudes of sharpness when LaVette sang them:

Isn’t it a pity
Isn’t it a shame
How we break each other’s hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other’s love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn’t it a pity         

Opening the show was Jon Cleary’s Philthy Phew, who gave the audience a tutorial in New Orleans flavor.  The trio set up facing each other more than facing the house.  The piano was turned back towards the drums (Doug Belote) and the bass (the incomparable Matt Perrine) faced the piano.  It was actually a nice effect for the band to feed off each other and for the crowd.   We could see Cleary’s hands, which at times were in an unbelievable state of motion, cascading up and down both extremes of the keyboard with the boogie-woogie runs.

Cleary is a very interesting cat who, at age 17, made a sojourn through New Orleans just before beginning University in his native England.  But he never left and has spent his career learning from and playing the music of some of the best musicians the Big Easy has produced.  For this show he displayed his complete grasp of their styles, delving several times into the likes of Allen Toussaint, Earl King and Jellyroll Morton.

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To read more reviews by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

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

Picks of the Week: Nov. 22 – 27

November 22, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Nov. 22. (Tues.) Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Trey McIntyre Project. New Orleans roots, at their most convincing authenticity are delivered by the Preservation Hall players in a fascinating collaboration with the entrancing choreography of the McIntyre Project’s modern dance.  Disney Hall. 638 (323) 850-2000.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Trey McInTyre Project

– Nov. 22. (Tues.) Barbara Morrison Benefit.  The life and work of the Southland’s musically delightful gift to vocal jazz will be celebrated by a long, impressive line up of Morrison’s finest jazz singing associates. All proceeds go to aiding Morrison with her medical bills. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Nov. 23. (Tues.)  Evan Stone Translucent Ham Sandwich.  Drummer Stone’s whimsically named ensemble mixes music, media and imagination in an out of the box fashion recalling the “happenings” of ‘60s avant garde.  Steamer’s.  (714) 871-8800.   (714) 871-8800.

– Nov.23 – Jan. 8. (Wed. – ) The Muppets.  Music is always among the many memorable aspects about every Muppet performance.  And never more so than in their latest film, their first theatrical release in 12 years.  Expect to hear some new tunes, some Muppet classics and covers of material by the likes of Nirvana and Cee-lo Green.  For this holiday run, the performance will feature Kermit and Miss Piggy live onstage before each screening. The El Capitan Theatre.    (818) 845-3110

– Nov. 25. (Fri.)  Chris Isaak.  Rock singer/guitarist and sometimes actor Isaak has used his 1989 hit song “Wicked Game” to shape a busy career employing all his many musical and dramatic talents. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.   (805) 449-2787.

– Nov. 25 & 26.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Karen Akers. Broadway and cabaret artist star Akers starred in the hit musicals, Nine and Grand Hotel. She’s even better in cabaret performances that showcase her warm voice and rich interpretations in an intimate setting.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.


Roberta Gambarini

– Nov. 23 – 27.  (Wed. – Sun.)  Roberta Gambarini. Italian-born Gambarini sings jazz – in every shape and form, from ballads and bossa nova to hard driving scat – with an authenticity reaching well beyond the work of most of her current female practitioners of the jazz vocal art.  Jazz Showcase. (312) 360-0234.

New York

– Nov. 22 — 27. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chick Corea wraps his  epic, month long musical tour through his remarkable career.  Tues.: a duo with Marcus Roberts.  Wed.: a duo with Herbie Hancock.  Fri. through Sun.: The original Elektric BandThe Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

Gerald Clayton

– Nov. 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Gerald Clayton Trio. He comes from an illustrious musical family, with his father, bassist John Clayton and uncle, alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton urging him on. But the gifted young pianist is rapidly becoming an important jazz figure in his own right. The Village Vanguard.    (212) 929-4589.

– Nov. 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.)  Bucky Pizzarelli/Ken Peplowski. Swing will be in the air this week via the dynamic encounter between veteran seven-string guitarist Pizzarelli and the fluid clarinet work of Peplowski.   Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.     (212) 258-9800.

– Nov. 22 & 23 and Nov. 25 – 27.  (Tues. & Wed and Fri. through Sun.)  The Maria Schneider Big Band.  Schneider’s voice, as a big band composer and arranger –originally influenced by her mentor, Gil Evans — has emerged as one of the jazz world’s most original blend of sounds and textures.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.


– Nov. 25 & 26. (Fri. l& Sat.)  Ian Shaw. He’s not as well known to American jazz audiences as he should be, but Shaw – like the similarly underrated Claire Martin, with whom he occasionally performs – is a jazz singer with something to say. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747


– Nov. 24 – 26. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Alfredo Rodriguez.  Discovered by the unerring ear of Quincy Jones, Cuban born pianist Rodriguez does a powerful job of blending classical technique, Cuban rhythms and a free-flying jazz imagination.  The Blue Note Tokyo.    03.5485.0088.


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