Live Music: Mark Winkler and Dolores Scozzesi at Vitello’s

June 9, 2013

By Don Heckman

Singers Mark Winkler and Dolores Scozzesi were the headliners at Vitello’s Friday night.  And that was good news, since both are among L.A.’s most appealing jazz-oriented singers.  But the evening promised even more with a sub-headline announcing that they would be singing songs by “Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman: The Great Singer/Songwriters of the ‘70s.”

Dolores Scozzesi and Mark Winkler

Dolores Scozzesi and Mark Winkler

An intriguing idea. The singer/songwriter era – of both the ‘60s and the ‘70s – was one of the most significant, if occasionally underestimated, chapters in the Great American Songbook.  Add names such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Carole King, Leonard Cohen, among others, to the list and the result is a repertoire of songs fully capable of standing alongside the likes of Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, etc.

Mark Winkler

Mark Winkler

Winkler and Scozzesi, however, chose a somewhat narrower collection.  Most of what Winkler sang in his solo segments were drawn from his recent album, The Laura Nyro Project.

Nothing wrong with that, given the Nyro repertoire.  And Winkler, backed by the superb accompaniment of pianist Rich Eames, guitarist Pat Kelley, drummer Dave Tull and bassist Kevin Axt, thoroughly explored some of Nyro’s most compelling works.  A few were familiar tunes, covered by other artists as well – “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “And When I Die” and “He’s A Runner.”  Add to that the somewhat less frequently heard “California Shoe Shine Boy,” “Billy’s Blues” and “Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp.”

But no matter what song Winkler was singing, he approached it with a musically intimate approach, always in search of the multi-layered emotions of  the Nyro catalog.

Dolores Scozzesi

Dolores Scozzesi

Scozzesi took a broader view of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Her program reached from Joni Mitchell’s “River” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” to Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man.”

The selections, along with a few others, were perfectly chosen for Scozzesi’s rich interpretive style.  Whether she was finding the sardonic whimsy in the Newman tune or the poignancy of Dylan, she did so with brilliantly expressive story-telling and convincing musicality.

The only missing elements were the presence of a few more duet numbers and, even more importantly, a broader overview of the “Great Singer/Songwriters of the ‘70s.”  Hearing Winkler sing songs by, say, James Taylor or Paul Simon, and – similarly – hearing Scozzesi do a few more from the Joni Mitchell catalog, along with a Leonard Cohen tune or two, would also have been a welcome addition to this otherwise entertaining evening.

So let’s call it an advance promise of a future, more far-reaching performance of singer/songwriter music from the talented Winkler and Scozzesi.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.  To see more photos by Faith Frenz click HERE.


Picks of the Week: Mar. 13 – 18

March 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Willie Nelson

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Willie Nelson and Family. Legendary is a word that actually has some veracity when applied to the music and the career of superstar Nelson.  He makes his first appearance at Disney Hall on a bill that also includes his family members, as well as a group led by his son, Lukas NelsonDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightPat Kelley’s the guest guitarist, celebrating his birthday in Guitar Night’s loose and swinging format.  Bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Kendall Kay lay down the heat that will keep the music cooking.  Lucy’s 51. Toluca Lake.  (818) 763-5200.

Janicey Brar/Billie Holiday

- Mar. 13. (Tues.)  Janicey Brar. Tribute to Billie Holiday  “Tribute” performers – singers and musicians who take on the persona, the performing style and the image of famous artists – are far more rare in jazz than they are in popular music.  But Milwaukee’s Brar, who spent years impersonating Tina Turner, is one of the exceptions.  The simulation of Billie Holiday that she’s doing for this performance has been praised for its impressive musical and visual qualities.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- Mar. 14. (Wed.)  Otmaro Ruiz.  Venezuelan-born pianist/composer Ruiz moves comfortably and authentically across stylistic and genre boundaries, playing straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, pop, rock, salsa, fusion and beyond.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400. http://www.in-housemusic.com/calendar.html

- Mar. 15. (Thurs.) Julie Kelly and Stephanie Haynes. A pair of veteran jazz singers, each with her own unique style, get together for an evening of vocal jazz magic. Neither is heard in the Southland as often as they should be, so don’t miss this chance to check out their engaging skills.  LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 258-1333.

"Casablanca"

- Mar. 15. – 17. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Casablanca.  Here’s the formula for a truly fascinating evening.  Max Steiner’s memorable score for Casablanca performed by the Pacific Symphony under Richard Kaufman, live in sync with a big screen projection of the cinematic masterpiece.  Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.  (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The T.S. Monk Sextet.  Drummer Monk, blessed with the genetic heritage of his father, Thelonious Monk, has established himself as a solid musical talent in his own right.  Carpenter Performing Arts Center.    (562) 985-7000.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Jose Rizo’s “Mongorama.” Jose Rizo’s knack for assembling solid musical aggregations continues with the nine-piece Mongorama’s exciting explorations of Mongo Santamaria’s charanga-jazz of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Frankie Valli

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  Frankie Valli. The ‘60s teen heartthrob, lead voice of the Four Seasons, revisits some of the iconic group’s hits – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” “Sherry,” and more. Segerstrom Hall.   (714) 556-2787.

- Mar. 16. (Fri.) Mingus Dynasty. More than 30 years after the passing of Charles Mingus, his music is still being kept vividly alive in the hands of the seven piece Mingus Dynasty Band.  Expect to hear such classics from the large Mingus catalog as “Better Git It In Your Soul, “ “Haitian Fight Song” and Pithecanthus Erectus.”  Royce Hall.  A UCLA Live concert.    (310) 825-2101.  To read Michael Katz’s Reflections on Charles Mingus click HERE.

- Mar. 16 – 18. (Fri. – Sun.)  Chuck Loeb Quartet. Guitarist Loeb celebrates the release of his CD, Plain and Simple, hewing to the title with a program of lively, hard swinging music, baked by the stellar ensemble of  Mitchel Forman, keyboards, Lionel Cordew, drums and Eric Marienthal, saxophones. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Johnny Mandel

- Mar. 17. (Sat.) Johnny Mandel Big Band. One of the true treasures of contemporary American music – reaching from jazz to film to song and beyond – Mandel makes one of his too rare club appearance, leading a band of all-stars in a program that will be filled with familiar melody and irresistible rhythm.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Mar. 17. (Sat.)  Spectral Scriabin. Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton enliven composer Alexander Scriabin’s desire to blend the spectrum of colors with the full panorama of musical pitches.  The performance includes excerpts from Scriabin’s Poeme Languide in B Major and the Feuillet d’Album in F-sharp Major.  The Broad Stage.    (310) 434-3200.

San Francisco

Dave Grisman

- Mar. 16. (Fri.)  The Dave Grisman Quartet.  Mandolinist Grisman has been one of the primary shapers of contemporary acoustic music for decades. And he’s still finding new expressive methods – currently with a group that includes bassist Jim Kerwin, flutist Matt Eakle, percussionist George Marsh and guitarist Grant GordiYoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

- Mar. 18. (Sun.)  The Uri Caine Trio. Mention an area of musical expression – from early classical to contemporary electronics to staright ahead jazz –  and pianist/composer  Caine has been there at one time or another.  His current interest focuses on his acoustic jazz piano trio, with John Hebert, bass and Ben Perowsky, drums.  The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season Event.     (866) 920-5299.

Washington D.C.

Stanley Jordan

- Mar. 15 – 18.  (Thurs. – Sun.)  Stanley Jordan.  Solo guitar.  The master of the tap-on style of jazz guitar playing Jordan is always at his best in a solo setting that allows his improvisational imagination to roam freely.  Blues Alley.   (202) 337-4141.

New York

- Mar. 13 – 18.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The Heath Brothers.  Jazz history comes alive when Jimmy Heath, saxophones, Albert “Tootie” Heath, drums get together to recall the high points of their decades of jazz prominence.  They’ll be backed by Jeb Patton, piano and David Wong, bass.  The Village Vanguard.   (212) 255-4037.

- Mar. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  Eddie Palmieri.  The veteran pianist/composer/bandleader celebrates  his 75th birthday.  A musical pioneer virtually from the time of his appearance on the scene in the ‘50s, Palmieri has been one of the principal creative forces in the growth of Latin jazz.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

Mira Awad and Noa (Achinoam Nini)

- Mar. 15. (Thurs. )  Noa and Mira.  Israeli singers Noa (Achinoam Nini) and Mira Awad are superb artists, dedicated to peaceful coexistence in their country.  Singing in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Israel’s top Jewish (Noa) and Arab (Mira) singer/songwriters perform together on behalf of the Abraham Fund.      The Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center. (212) 258-9800.

Boston

Mar. 17. (Sat.) Betty Buckley.  Tony Award winner (for her role in Cats), Buckley also has a resume listing performances reaching from Broadway musicals to film, television and recordings.  And she is especially compelling when she’s in an up close and personal night club setting, bringing utter believability to every musical story she tells.    The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.

London

Iain Mackenzie

Mar. 18. (Sun.)  Iain Mackenzie & Swing City.  Mackenzie, one of the U.K.’s favorite jazz singers uses his strong baritone and brisk sense of swing to carry the torch for the vocal tradition of Mel Torme, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra and more.  He’ll be backed by the solid drive of the eight piece Swing City band.  He’ll do a pair of matinee shows – at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Milan

Mar. 15. (Thurs.)  Miroslav Vitous.  Czech-born Vitous was one of the ground breaking acoustic bassists of the ‘70s, often grouped with the likes of Scott Lafaro, Dave Holland and others. Emphasizing his compositional interests in recent years, he makes one of his rare club appearances.  He’ll perform with Robert Bonisolo, saxophone and Aydin Esen, piano.  Blue Note Milan.    02.69.01.68.88.

Tokyo

Mar. 14 – 16.  (Wed. – Fri.)  Billy Childs Quartet. Pianist/composer Childs takes a break from his Chamber Ensemble performances and his role in Chris Botti’s band to stretch out with the world class companionship of Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, Scott Colley, bass and Brian Blade, drums.  Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5484-0088.


Picks of the Week Nov. 8 – 13

November 8, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Nov. 8. (Tues.) Rick Braun Sings.  Trumpeter Rick Braun, a high visibility instrumentalist in the smooth jazz arena, displays his engaging vocal skills on his latest album, the appropriately titled Rick Braun Sings With Strings. Vitello’s.      (818) 769-0905.

-  Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Phil Norman Tentet CD release party.  The Norman Tentet’s 21st century take on the West Coast sounds of the ‘50s is enhanced in the new album – Encore – by a set of arrangements from some of the world’s finest jazz arrangers.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

Phil Upchurch

- Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Phil Upchurch and Grace Kelly.  Veteran blues artist Upchurch joins his solid skills with the rapidly growing talent of young alto saxophonist Kelly.  They’re joined by Ernest Tibbs on bass.  The Coffee Gallery.    (626) 798-6236.

- Nov. 9. (Wed.)  Marc Cohn.  Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Cohn features selections from his new album, Listening Booth 1970 in which he finds vibrant life in that storied year via his transformations of songs by Cat Stevens, John Lennon, Van Morrison, Smokey Robinson and others.  The Irvine Barclay.    (949) 854-4607.

- Nov. 10. (Thurs.) Patrick Berrogian’s Hot Club Combo.  French guitarist Berrogian recalls the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt with the hard driving support of Combo from the Hot Club of San Diego.  Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

CHita Rivera

- Nov. 10 – 13. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Chita Rivera: My Broadway.  The title is right on target.  Who knows Broadway better than Rivera, whose credits reach from West Side Story to Kiss of the Spiderwoman and beyond.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts.      (714) 556-2787.

- Nov. 11. (Fri.)  Evelyn Glennie and Maya Beiser.  The gifted Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and cello goddess Beiser perform individual sets defining their extraordinary talents before coming together for a climactic world premiere of Stuttered Chant, composed for them by David Lang.  Royce Hall. UCLA Live.   (310) 825-2101.

- Nov. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.) Strunz & Farah.  Performing together since 1980, the duo guitar team of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah create incomparable musical banquets overflowing with sounds and rhythms reaching from jazz and flamenco to the Middle East, spiced with their own musically rich imaginations.  Click HERE to read iRoM’s most recent review of Strunz & Farah.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

The Labeque Sisters

- Nov. 11 & 12. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bychkov and the Labeques.  The musically vivacious Labeque sisters – Katia and Marielle — s are joined by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Semyon Bychkov at Disney Hall in a performance of Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and the world premiere of Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Double OrchestraDisney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Nov. 12. (Sat.) Denise Donatelli.  Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Donatelli performs material from her radio-favorite album When Lights Are Low  as well as the standards she sings with such musical authenticity.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Nov. 12. (Sat.)  Three GuitarsFrank Potenza, Bruce Forman and Pat Kelley. Guitar togetherness doesn’t get much better than this blending of three of the instrument’s most gifted masters.  Boulevard Music, Culver City.  Info: (310) 398-2583.

Kenny Burrell

- Nov. 12. (Sat.)  Kenny Burrell.  “80 Years Young.” He may be turning 80, but guitarist Burrell continues a full schedule reaching from his work with the UCLA’s jazz studies program to his continuing live performances.  Celebrants include B.B. King, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Lalo Schifrin, as well as the UCLA Philharmonia, the UCLA Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Heritage All-Stars.  The program features new compositions by Dr. Roger Bourland, Dr. Paul Chihara, John Clayton, James Newton, Burrell and others.  Royce Hall.  UCLA Live.  (310) 825-2101.

Mark Miller and Betty Bryant

- Nov. 13. (Sun.)  Betty Bryant and Mark Miller.  Singer/pianist Bryant’s entertaining style embraces pleasures of jazz reaching back to the ‘50s.  She celebrates her birthday by joining with singer Miller in a performance of songs from their new duo album, Together.  Matinee.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

- Nov. 8 (Tues.)  New West Guitar Group.  The talented young guitar virtuosos of the NWGG, equally adept at acoustic and electric styles, celebrate the recent release of their latest CD, Round Trip Ticket.   Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

- Nov. 12.  Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur and Suzy Thompson. Folk revival heroes of the ‘60s, Kweskin and Muldaur, along with the Jug Band, brought the spirit of Americana to the world of rock music.  Thompson’s dynamic singing and spirited fiddling add solid roots touches to the mix.  Freight & Salvage.    (510) 644-2020.

- Nov. 13. (Sun.)  “Melody Monsters.”  Dave Grisman and Frank Vignola Duo. It’s a uniquely appealing combination – Grisman’s sweetly lyrical mandolin and Vignola’s dependable jazz guitar.  Don’t miss this one.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Rickie Lee Jones

- Nov. 6 & 9. (Tues. & Wed.)  Rickie Lee Jones.  Singer and songwriter of styles beyond definition Jones – approaching 60 – may not have the visibility she once did, but she nevertheless continues to be one of pop music’s most intriguing performers.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

Maureen McGovern

- Nov. 8 – 12. (Tues. – Sat.)  Maureen McGovern. Her soaring vocals have been delighting audiences with her imaginative views of the American Songbook over four decades.  Now she’s offering tunes from a new CD – dangling conversations  – featuring music by more recent additions to the Songbook – Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Webb among them.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Nov. 8 – 13. (Tues. – Sun.)  Chick Corea continues his epic, month long run at the Blue Note.  This week, he’ll be in the company of Bobby McFerrin (Tues. – Thurs.) and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Nov. 11. (Fri.)  “The 50th Anniversary of West Side Story: The Movie.”  Yes, it’s been half a century since the magnificent Bernstein/Sondheim hit musical of the ‘50s made its way into a classic film musical.  Celebrating that extraordinary production, the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra and Justin DiCioccio will feature arrangements crafted by Dave Grusin, Michael Abene and Don Sebesky, as well as the Buddy Rich West Side Story Suite by Bill Reddie and a pair of Johnny Richards arrangements for Stan Kenton’s West Side Story album.  Borden Auditorium at the Manhattan School of Music.   (917) 493-4428.

Tierney Sutton

- Nov. 13. (Sun.)  Turtle Island Quartet and Tierney Sutton.   They’re a seemingly unlikely combination, but both the TIQ and Sutton have a sparkling history of musical adventurousness.  And when they get together – as they do here – to perform the music of John Coltrane, expect creative fireworks.  Iridium.  (212) 582-2121.

London

- Nov. 9 – 12 (Wed. – Sat.)  Brubecks Play BrubeckDarius, Chris and Dan Brubeck plus special guest.  The musical genealogy is a potent element in this aggregation of Dave Brubeck’s sons.  Each is an accomplished, envelope-stretching player in his own right.  Together, they recall some of their old man’s finest efforts.  (I wonder who the special guest will be.)  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Photos of  Kenny Burrell, Rickie Lee Jones and Tierney Sutton by Tony Gieske.


Picks of the Week: Oct. 11 – 16

October 11, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Oct. 11. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar Night.  It’s a Los Angeles jazz institution, combining veteran guitarist Pisano with some of the Southland’s (and the world’s) finest guitarists.  This week, he’s trading riffs with Pat Kelley.  Vitello’s.     (818) 769-0905.

- Oct. 11 – 13. (Tues. – Thurs.)  HIT Week.  Italian pop music in its many forms makes a three day stop in L.A.  And there’s a lot to hear.  On Tues. at Catalina Bar & Grill: Erica Mou and Nicola Conte.  Wed. at the El Rey: Apres la Classe and Caparezza.  Thurs. at The Key Club: Casino Royale and SubsonicaHIT Week in L.A. 

Daniela Mercury

- Oct. 13. (Thurs.)  Daniela Mercury.  One of Brazil’s true musical superstars, singer/dancer Mercury balances the creation of memorable hit records with live performances simmering with dynamic excitement. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

 

- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  James Carter. There isn’t a saxophone – from soprano to bass – that Carter can’t make music with.  And impressive music at that, ranging from driving bebop to irresistible blues, with all stops between.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Oct. 14. (Fri.)  Lesa Terry Quartet.  Dr. Lesa Terry is a jazz/classical violinist, educator, composer and scholar.  And when she gets on stage with her quartet, she brings it all together into a fascinating musical mélange.  Jazz at LACMA.   (323) 857-6000.

Barbara Morrison

- Oct. 14 & 15. (Fri. & Sat.)  Barbara Morrison.  Recovering from severe medical problems, Morrison – one of Southland jazz’s crown jewels – does what she does best: bring life and vigor to everything she sings.  She’ll be celebrating Steamer’s 17th anniversary.  Steamer’s.     (714) 871-8800.

- Oct. 15. (Fri.)  Bryan Ferry.  Roxy Music’s Ferry makes his first solo U.S. tour in a decade, celebrating the release of his current studio album, Olympia.  Expect to hear new songs from the album, as well as Ferry’s take on tunes by Tim Buckley and Traffic.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- Oct. 15 & 16. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber OrchestraJeffrey Kahane conducts the LACO in an engaging program of music, featuring soprano Karina Gauvin performing works by Benjamin Britten.  The ensemble also plays Dvorak’s Nocturne in B Major and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3.  Sat. at the Alex Theatre.  Sun. at Royce Hall.  (213) 622-7001.  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

San Francisco

- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  Stanley Jordan Trio.  No one plays the guitar quite like Jordan, who taps the strings, producing sounds more pianistic than guitar-like.  And he does so with imagination and swing.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

Steve Kuhn

- Oct. 13. (Thurs.)  Steve Kuhn.  Solo piano.  The list of names on Kuhn’s resume is a virtual history of the last fifty years of jazz.  Adept and creative in any style, he’s rarely heard in a solo setting.  So don’t miss this opportunity to hear his improvisational artistry in its most intimate form.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  Oregon.  Before world music was a genre, Oregon was blending elements from around the globe with jazz, producing one of the authentically original improvisational styles of the last four decades.  And they’re still at it.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729

Chicago

- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.) Robert Glasper Trio.  Pianist Glasper continues to draw young listeners by finding ways to explore straight ahead jazz from a contemporary perspective.  Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

Washington, D.C.

- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Jonathan Butler.  South African singer/songwriter/guitarist Butler has been delighting audiences with his sweet-sounding voice and energetic guitar work since the mid-‘80s.  Blues Alley.     (202) 337-4141.

New York

Pat Metheny

- Oct. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  An Evening with Pat Metheny. Guitarist and musical innovator Metheny gets back to basics in a week of improvisational adventure, with bassist Larry Grenadier as his only companion.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- Oct. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  Renee Rosnes.  Always a pleasure to hear, Rosnes’ dynamic piano work is in first rate company here, with the presence of vibist Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis NashDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- Oct. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.) Vinicius Cantuaria.  Brazilian guitarist Cantuaria started out as a percussionist, and it shows in the intensely passionate rhythms of his playing style.  The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- Oct. 15. (Sat.)  Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau Duo.  Saxophonist Redman and pianist Mehldau, two of the true jazz superstars of their generation, celebrate the 25th anniversary of the jazz program at the New School.  Tishman Auditorium.  (212) 229-54-88.

London

Cedar Walton

- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Cedar Walton Quartet. Veteran jazz pianist Walton, now 77, has played with an iconic, all-star list of great jazz artists.  Listen to one set and you’ll understand why he’s been in such demand.   Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747

Paris

- Oct. 11. (Tues.)  The Billy Cobham Quartet. Drummer Cobham was one of the driving forces of jazz fusion, and he’s still going strong.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Berlin

- Oct. 11 & 12. (Tues. & Wed.) Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Time Machine.  Guitarist Rosenwinkel expands his musical horizons with a band that features saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo, bassist Eric Revis, drummer Nasheet Waits and Rosenwinkel doubling on piano.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 20.

Tokyo

Oct. 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  Sophie Milman.  Young Russian/Canadian singer Milman has been successfully finding a prominent place for her intriguing style amid the currently crowded field of female jazz vocalists.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03-5485-0088.


LIve Jazz: Carol Welsman at Vitello’s

November 11, 2010

By Don Heckman

Believability is one of the most vital elements in the convincing singing of songs.  And one that’s too often overlooked or forgotten — both by singers and by listeners.  Believability, that is, in the sense that a song is a form of musical storytelling, with a beginning, a middle and an end.  The way it is told is what differentiates the various forms of musical storytelling.  But the importance of believability is beyond genre.

Carol Welsman’s performance at Vitello’s Wednesday night was a prime example.  In her hour and a half set, she sang a diverse program of material: songs from I Like Men, her Peggy Lee tribute CD, songs by Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Cole Porter, blues songs, a classic by Charlie Chaplin and more.  The range was broad enough to challenge the versatility of any singer, regardless of genre.  And Welsman responded to the challenge superbly, as both a singer and a pianist, telling each song with storytelling believability and jazz authenticity.

Some examples: a tender reading of Jerome Kern’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”; a poignant version of Chaplin’s “Smile”; the intimate embrace of Porter’s “Do I Love You?”; the buoyant swing of “Why Don’t You Do Right,” “I Love Being Here With You” and a high voltage “Lover”; the rapid patter and vocalese of “Cottontail”; and the intensity of a rarely heard Jobim song, sung in Portuguese but, again, with complete emotional believability.

She was aided, in every respect, by the stunning playing of guitarist Pat Kelley, bassist Rene Camacho and drummer Jimmy Branley.  It’s a collective that has worked together frequently. But this was far more than a singer-with-first-rate-backup.  The combination of Welsman’s voice and piano with the symbiotic interplay of Kelley, Camacho and Branley was a complete musical entity. An entity that freed her to open the fullest resources of her extraordinary musicality.  And do so with seeming ease.

Canadian-born Welsman, now a Los Angeles resident, has performed in venues reaching from Japan and Brazil to Europe, Canada and the U.S.  She is, by any definition, a world class jazz artist.  But she still hasn’t — from this listener’s perspective — received the full attention her impressive talents deserve.  It’s time.


Live Jazz: Grand Opening of Guitar Night at Vitello’s

January 13, 2010

By Don Heckman

The new John Pisano Guitar Night series kicked off with a bang Tuesday night at Vitello’s in Studio City.  Notice that I did not say “Upstairs” at Vitello’s.  Although the venue’s upstairs room has been rapidly emerging as one of L.A.’s prime jazz destinations, Pisano opted for a more intimate downstairs lounge with a bar, believing that it has the right vibe to perpetuate Guitar Night’s long established, laid-back jam session environment.

Frank Potenza and John Pisano

It will no doubt have that laid-back quality on future Tuesday nights.  But there were bigger plans in mind for the opening, with the room packed to the gills with jazz fans eager to experience and be part of, a memorable event.   Pisano structured the program around a tribute to Joe Pass – the ultimate guitarists’ guitarist – with Frank Potenza as the initial featured artist.  Bassists Jim Hughart and Chris Connor (later in the set) and drummer Enzo Tedesco provided sturdy support.  By the time the evening was over, well past the scheduled closing time, more than a dozen of L. A.’s finest six string exponents had offered a sample of their impressive musical wares.

In the process, several aspects of the importance of what Guitar Night has come to mean over the 12 years of its existence were illuminated.  The first was its insistent affirmation of the growing credibility of the jazz guitar, at a time when the instrument has been viewed by many from a very different — louder, more electric — perspective.  Coming to the genre as a significant player much later than the horns, piano and drums, co-opted by the rockers in the ‘50s, ’60s and beyond, its jazz authority has been maintained by a relatively slim line of master players (compared to the trumpeters, the saxophonists, etc.).  Pass, of course, was one of the most important.  But the collection of guitarists on stage Tuesday night – reaching from the veteran Bob Bain to twenty-something Andreas Oberg, (with a substantial number of players still waiting to perform when the program came to a close) — underscored the extent to which the instrument has become a solid, jazz citizen.

Anthony Wilson, Enzo Tedesco and Andreas Oberg

There was, in addition, the far-reaching display of the guitar’s jazz versatility.  Despite the fact that no fusion or smooth jazz surfaced during the program, and that there was very little blues (aside from Phil Upchurch’s delightful take on “The St. Louis Blues” and a hard swinging romp between Potenza and Carl Verheyen), it was nonetheless a performance rich with highly personal improvisational perspectives.  In the opening set, Pisano and Potenza moved easily from funk and bossa nova to Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.”  Barry Zwieg’s “And I Thought About You,” Larry Koonse’s “How Much Do I Love You?” Jamie Rosenn’s “Body and Soul” and Tom Rotella’s “Just Friends” offered far-ranging views of how to bring imaginative interpretations to American Songbook standards.

Other pieces revealed one of Guitar Night’s most vital aspects – the musical sparks that can fly when a pair of guitarists, either similar or dissimilar in style, encounter each other in a jam situation.  Pat Kelly and Potenza’s take on “It Could Happen To You” was a highly charged encounter between a pair of players whose inventiveness triggered fascinatingly compatible interaction.  And a pair of Anthony Wilson duets led to strikingly different musical adventures.  First, an animated romp through a Reinhardt tune with Pisano.  Then, in a marvelously engaging final number, a provocative set of atmospheric exchanges with Oberg.

Ultimately, of course, Guitar Night comes down to John Pisano, to his persistence in keeping the franchise alive, to his remarkable ability to creatively adapt his playing to whomever guitar player is sitting in the seat across from him.  And he couldn’t have found a better way to announce to the world in general, and jazz fans in particular, that Guitar Night is alive and well.  Even more, that – at Vitello’s — it seems to be starting on a path toward bigger and better accomplishments.

Photos by Faith Frenz


Live Jazz Review: Carol Welsman

March 25, 2009

By Don Heckman

The population of female jazz vocal artists has been growing faster over the past decade than a California wildfire.  But with far more appealing results.  And among the most appealing of all are the singing and piano playing of Carol Welsman.  She may not be the best known blonde jazz singer from Canada – at least not yet.  But when it comes to sheer talent, she doesn’t have to take second place to anyone.

carol-welsman-piano1

Carol Welsman

Welsman’s performance at Vibrato Grill… Jazz in Bel Air Tuesday night was a case in point.  Despite the distractions of a somewhat talkier than usual crowd, her two sets were striking displays of creative versatility, reaching from blues and balladry to bossa nova, vocalese, and classic standards.

All of which provided a lot of choices from a musical table filled with appetizing dishes.  One of Welsman’s current projects is an album of Peggy Lee classics, and she included a briskly swinging “Why Don’t You Do Right?” along with a darkly intimate rendering of “Black Coffee” capturing the full, caffeine-driven intensity of the song’s poignant tale.

Scat singing can be – for this listener – studies in boring, white key meandering.  But Welsman, in “Just One of Those Things,” “Lady Be Good” and “Cottontail,” ripped off choruses – often in league with parallel piano clusters — with the harmonic accuracy and the ineffable swing of the instrumentalist that she is.  And she dug into the vocalese of the latter two – especially Jon Hendrick’s tongue-twisting lyrics for “Cottontail” – with a fluency that belied the Byzantine difficulties of the lyrical/melodic lines.

The most satisfying entrees in Welsman’s musical feast, however, were the ballads, which, like the balance of the program, roved across time and style.  Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” for example, emerged as a stunning jazz ballad.  Rodgers and Hart’s “Where Or When” revealed Welsman’s way with a lyric via phrasing that perfectly combined the story of the song with the flow of the music.  And, in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s touching “The Folks Who Live On the Hill,” she brought utter musical believability to that rarity – an American Songbook standard that’s not about unrequited love (and that also accomplishes the unlikely lyric feat of rhyming “veranda” with “command a”).

Despite a few audio problems throughout the night, Welsman was backed with swing, efficiency and total empathy by guitarist Pat Kelley, bassist Rene Camacho and drummer Jimmy Branley.

Call it a musical night to remember.  But even so, leaving Vibrato’s elegant environs, I couldn’t help but wonder why – despite her long list of accomplishments – Welsman still hasn’t made the big breakthrough, still hasn’t reached the wide audience that her talent so obviously deserves.  It’s time.  And hopefully soon.

So don’t miss the opportunity to hear Carol Welsman up close and personal this weekend at the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside, 6161 W. Centinela Ave., Culver City.  Information: In-House Music.

To sample Carol Welsman’s recordings, click here.


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