LIve Jazz: Amanda Brecker at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

March 21, 2013

By Don Heckman

Amanda Brecker, a new face in the continually expanding jazz vocal field, made a rare Southland appearance Wednesday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  Arriving shortly after the release of her new CD, Blossom (Decca), she spent a substantial portion of her two set-program singing the songs of James Taylor and Carole King that she covers on the album.

That’s a memorable repertoire, one that was the virtual soundtrack for many music fans in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s via songs such as “It’s Too Late Now,” “Sweet Baby James,” and more.

Amanda Brecker

In contrast, Brecker, who plays guitar and piano, also included a substantial serving of her own songs, many from Here I Am, her award-winning first album, released in Japan.

Conceptually, the combination is an intriguing career move for Brecker.  Her youthful energy, soaring vocals and contemporary interpretations open the classic King/Taylor repertoire for a potentially broader demographic than graying, boomer memorabilia seekers.  Probably even a younger audience.  Add to that her own imaginative songs, which have clearly been influenced by the King/Taylor singer/songwriter styles.

But the real key, of course, is how effectively she delivers it.  Her recordings have been well received, the work of a gifted young artist.  (Her creative credentials have clearly been enhanced by the legacy of her parents – Brazilian jazz pianist/singer Eliane Elias and jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker.)

The Amanda Brecker Band

The Amanda Brecker Band

In addition, her performance at Vibrato was backed by the sterling accompaniment of guitarists Jesse Harris (who also produced Blossom) and Anthony Wilson, bassist Lee Sklar (who performed on some of the original King and Taylor recordings), pianist Jon Gilutin and drummer Mike Shapiro.

However, Brecker’s determined effort — along with Jesse Harris, her producer — to remain close, in concept and arrangement, to the original King/Taylor versions tended to somewhat limit her expressive potential.  And I couldn’t help but wonder what she might have done with songs such as “You’ve Got A Friend,” “I Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight, ”So Far Away” and “You Can Close Your Eyes” had she viewed them through the prism of her own creativity.

Nor did her originals, which were unfamiliar items, always emerge with the clarity they deserved.  Brecker is a song writer with a promising future.  But in performance, she would be well advised, at this stage, to frame her songs with the sort of brief introduction that could help draw her listeners into the heart of her musical story telling.

All that said, it was nonetheless a real pleasure to hear Amanda Brecker’s undeniable talents up close and personal. Amid the crowds of arriving female jazz singers, she’s one of a kind.

* * * * * * * *

Amanda Brecker photo by Bobby Colomby.

Amanda Brecker Band photo by Faith Frenz.

Picks of the Week: Mar. 19 – 24

March 19, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Dorothy Dale Kloss

Dorothy Dale Kloss

– Mar. 20. (Wed.)  “Three For the Show.”  A trio of veteran performers celebrate the music of Broadway, cabaret and beyond: Dorothy Dale Kloss, at 89, is described as the world’s oldest, still performing show girl; Suzy Cadham was a Golddigger on the Dean Martin Show, and Ken Prescott starred on Broadway in 42nd St. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Mar. 20. (Wed.)  Amanda Brecker. Singer/songwriter Brecker has an impressive lineage – her mother is Brazilian pianist/singer Eliane Elias, her father is jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker.  But Amanda has her own unique musicality, as well.  Her current project is Blossom, a new CD honoring the 40th anniversary of Carole King’s Tapestry. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Mar. 22 & 23. (Fri. & Sat.)  Julie Esposito.  She’s a rare hyphenate – attorney/singer, but she manages to fulfill both roles impressively.  Julie’s current show, “Open Your Window,” is a musical celebration of life—through the songs of Sondheim, Bernstein and more – delivered with the stylish, story-telling qualities that are the essence of her art.  The Gardenia.  (323) 467-7444.

Savion Glover

Savion Glover

– Mar. 22. (Fri.)  Savion Glover.  Watching, and hearing, tap dancer Glover is like experiencing a world class drummer in tap shoes.  There’s no one quite like him, so don’t miss one of his rare Southland appearances. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501

– Mar. 23. (Sat.)  Frank Stallone.  Vitello’s. Grammy and Golden Globe-nominated actor/singer Stallone follows convincingly in the classic styles of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and others.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Mar. 24. (Sun.)  Yuja Wang.  Pianist Wang makes her Disney Hall recital debut with a challenging program reaching from Mendelssohn and Ravel to Debussy, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff.   Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

– Mar. 24. (Sun.)  The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.  “Mostly Baroque.”  The title is right on target for a LACO program encompassing Bach, Handel, Mozart and Stravinsky.  Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will conduct from the keyboard, with soloists Margaret Batjer, violin, and David Shostac, flute.  A CAP UCLA concert at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

San Francisco

Sheila E.

Sheila E.

– Mar. 20 – 22. (Wed, – Fri.)  Sheila E.  She comes from a high visibility music world family, but she’s learned how to dominate a stage with her magnetic skills as a percussionist, singer, vocalist, songwriter and a lot more, while looking sensational.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.

New York City

– Mar. 19 – 23. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Tierney Sutton Band.  Grammy-nominated Sutton approaches every song she sings with an imaginative overview, superbly aided by the Band that is an essential element in her deeply expressive musical story telling.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux

– Mar. 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Madeleine Peyroux.  Always an unusual vocal talent, Peyroux has moved well beyond the Billie Holiday influences in her early recordings, into a versatile singer with the skill and the imagination to embrace everything from classic standards to Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, John Hartford and beyond.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.


Mar. 20. (Wed.)  Kai Hoffman.  The glamorous vocalist Hoffman celebrates the release of her new CD, Do It While You Can.  Click HERE to read an iRoM review of the album.    Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747


– Mar. 22. (Fri.) Marilyn Mazur.  Percussionist Mazur was American-born, but she’s lived in Denmark since the age of 6.  She performs here with Celestial Circle — a group of stellar European jazz artists that includes vocalist Josefine Cronholm, pianist John Taylor and bassist Anders Jormin. Jazzhus Montmarte.   +45 31 72 34 94.


– Mar. 21. (Thurs.)  Frank Gambale Natural High Trio.  Australian fusion guitarist Gambale moves comfortably across genre lines, from rock shredding to straight ahead jazz.  He’s joined in his Natural High Trio by pianist Otmaro Ruiz and bassist Alain CaronFasching.    08-534 829 60.


Sandro Albert

Sandro Albert

– Mar. 24. (Sun.)  The Sandro Albert Quartet.  Guitarist Albert is one of Brazil’s most convincing jazz artists.  He’s backed here by a prime American rhythm section – keyboardist James Weidman, bassist Michael O’Brian and drummer Tom BrechtleinA-Trane.   +49 30 3132 ext. 550.


– Mar. 23. (Sat.)  The Ron Carter Trio.  Iconic bassist Carter has spent his life playing for world class artists.  And he continues to do so here with his own group, featuring pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone.  Click HERE to read a recent iRom review of Carter.  Blue Note Milano.   +39 02 6901 6888


– Mar. 19 – 24. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ulysses Owens Jr. Quintet. Grammy-winning drummer Owens has already established himself – in his ‘20s – as first call player whose resume is already filled with world-class performances.  Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha.    +974.4446.0000.





– Mar. 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Hiromi Uehara Solo.  Performing in a solo setting, the gifted Hiromi finds ways to transform her keyboards – from acoustic to electric – into a virtual orchestra for the fullest expression of her improvisational ingenuity.  Blue Note Tokyo.  +81 3-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week – Oct. 24 – 28

October 24, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sally Kellerman

– Oct. 34 (Wed.)  Sally Kellerman.  Hot Lips herself, in action.  But Sally’s a one of a kind vocalist, too, bringing interpretive magic to everything she sings. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 24. (Wed.)  Gabriel Johnson.  Emerging jazz trumpeter Johnson has been praised by Clint Eastwood and Chris Botti, and performed with everyone from Gladys Knight to Gerald Albright.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Robert Glasper Experiment.  Adventurous pianist Glasper has been pioneering the territory between jazz and contemporary pop.  His special guests include Jose James, Taylor McFerrin and Austin PeraltaCAP UCLA at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101

– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Ariana Savalas. Singer/songwriter/actress Savalas, the offspring of a show biz family, is making her own way as a rising vocalist.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Kathy Kosins.  “The Ladies of Cool.”  Singer Kosins celebrates the work of such West Coast-oriented jazz vocalists as June Christy, Julie London, Anita O’Day and Chris Connor.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Bob Dylan

– Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.  The legendary Dylan makes a rare appearance in Los Angeles in companionship with the British singer/songwriter/guitarist best known for his work with the band Dire Straits.  The Hollywood Bowl.     (323) 850-2000.

– Oct. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.) Eddie Daniels.  The great clarinetist – and fine saxophonist, as well – makes his annual L.A. appearance, reminding us that the clarinet is still a great jazz instrument.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 26 – 28. (Fri. – Sun.)  Buster Williams Quartet.  Versatile bassist Williams leads a stellar group of Southland players — keyboardist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Mark Gross and drummer Ndugu ChanclerCatalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Oct. 27. (Sat.)  Ron Carter Quartet.  Carter – for decades everyone’s first call bassist — has also offered some breakthrough music of his own. This time out he performs with the cutting edge musical ideas of the Robert Glasper TrioCAP at UCLA Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101.

– Oct. 27. (Sat.) Michael Feinstein.  “The Sinatra Project.”  One of the champions of the Great American Songbook, singer/pianist Feinstein interprets a program of songs associated with Frank Sinatra.  Segerstrom Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.    (714) 556-2746.

Leon Russell

San Francisco

– Oct. 24. (Wed.)  Leon Russell.  One of the vital singer/songwriters of the rock era, Russell, at 70 is still going strong.  Don’t miss this rare club appearance.  Yoshi’s Oakland.      (510) 238-9200.

New York

– Oct. 24 – 28. (Wed. – Sun.).  Jimmy Heath 86th Birthday Celebration.  NEA Jazz Master Heath goes back to his roots to celebrate his 86th birthday with the Jimmy Heath Big Band — an assemblage of New York’s stellar players.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Kendra Shank.  The ever-adventurous, always musically engaging  Shank performs the last Friday of every month at the 55 Bar.   (212) 929-9883.


– Oct. 26. (Fri.)  Steve Smith and Vital Information.  Smith has been voted #1 All-Around Drummer by Modern Drummer magazine five years in a row.  In addition to his far-ranging pop and rock activities, he also leads the high energy jazz group Vital Information  Ronnie Scott’s.   (0) 20 7439 0747.


– Oct. 24 & 25. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Roditi/Ignatzek/Rassinfosse.  The remarkable trio of trumpeter Claudio Roditi, pianist Klaus Ignatzek and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse have been performing together for 25 years, emphasizing the Brazilian songbook and the repertoire associated with Chet Baker.  Jazzhus Montmartre.    (+45) 70 15 65.


– Oct. 25. (Thurs.)  Kenny Werner.  Versatile pianist, composer and writer arrives in Italy with a world class ensemble: saxophonist David Sanchez, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio SanchezBlue Note Milan.    02. 69016888.


The Manhattan Transfer


– Oct. 24 – 26. (Wed. – Fri.)  The Manhattan Transfer.  Nearly four decades in the jazz world spotlight, and the gifted members of the Transfer continue to produce music that brilliantly defines and expands the potential in vocal ensemble jazz.  Blue Note Tokyo.

Picks of the Week: Sept. 11 – 16

September 11, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Sarah Chang

– Sept. 11. (Tues.)  Sarah Chang. A gifted child prodigy, violinist Chang has matured into a superb interpretive artist. In this far-reaching program, she performs a suite from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Bramwell Tovey.  Also on the bill – works by Copland and Gershwin.  The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 12. (Wed.)  Dave Matthews Band.  Hollywood Bowl. Twenty years after singer/songwriter/guitarist formed the Band, the Grammy-winning ensemble continues to produce fascinating music – most recently in the just released CD Away From the World.   The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Patrick Berrogain’s Hot Club Combo.  The hard swinging sounds and rhythms of Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz are alive and well in the hands of Berrogain’s Hot Club.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

Itzhak Perlman

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Itzhak Perlman plays Tchaikovsky. The final classical concert of the 2012 Bowl season climaxes, appropriately, with the incomparable Perlman, performing the irresistible Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Bramwell Tovey.  Call it a winning combination.  The Hollywood Bowl.  The Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. “Music and Story” The LACO’s first “Westside Connection” of the new season features writer Mark Salzman in a musical narrative piece describing the way Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 (here performed by Andrew Shulman) relieved his struggles with writers’ block.  The Broad Stage.  (213) 622-7001.

– Sept. 13. (Thurs.)  Sons of Etta.  A celebration of the life and music of the great Etta James.  Featured performers include Thelma Jones, saxophonist/harmonica player Jimmy Z and Donto James – the Grammy-winning son of James and the leader of her Roots Band. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– Sept. 14. (Fri.)  Sascha’s Bloc Band.  A stirring evening of music tinged with an Eastern European flavor, while reaching out to encompass gypsy jazz, contemporary jazz, flamenco, swing, blues and country.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Fiona Apple

– Sept. 14. (Fri.)  Fiona Apple. The Grammy winning singer/songwriter celebrates the release of The Idler Wheel…, her first album in seven years.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

– Sept. 14. (Fri.)  Joe Bagg Organ 4.  Keyboardist Bagg brings some ear-opening new ideas to the traditional organ jazz trio, with the enthusiastic aid of trumpeter Ron Stout, guitarist Jamie Rosenn and drummer Ryan Doyle.  The eminently listenable duo of pianist Jeff Colella and pianist Putter Smith open the evening.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

– Sept. 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  Brian Setzer OrchestraThe Fireworks Finale.  The Grammy winning rockabilly swingster leads his big band, aided by conductor Thomas Wilkins and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in a glorious, season-topping grand finale.  The Hollywood Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2000.

– Sept. 16. (Sun.)  Phil Norman Tentet.  Swinging West Coast jazz of the ‘50s is alive, well, and completely contemporary in the arrangements and the playing of Norman’s talented Tentet.  Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

– Sept 14 – 16. (Fri. – Sun.)  John Scofield Trio.  Guitarist Scofield’s eclectic musical path has now arrived at a classic musical encounter with a pair of gifted musical associates – bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


Pat Metheny

– Sept. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Pat Metheny Unity Band.  Ever on the lookout for new ideas, guitarist Metheny now finds inspiration in an older instrumentation – the jazz quartet, with the stellar aid of Chris Potter, saxophones, Ben Williams, bass and Antonio Sanchez, drums.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.


– Sept. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mulgrew Miller Trio.  Everybody’s a-list pianist, Miller – active as a musician and an educator – steps into the spotlight to display his invigorating improvisational style.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.


– Sept. 13 & 14. (Thurs. & Fri.)  Joe Lovano “Us Five.”  Saxophonist Lovano’s new band is overflowing with talent: Grammy-winning bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding, pianist James Weidman, and drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown IIIScullers.    (617) 562-4111.

New York

– Sept. 11. (Tues.)  Roz Corral and Judi Silvano.  A pair of the jazz vocal art’s most adventurous practitioners share the stage with equally venturesome accompanists – Alan Broadbent and Boris Kozlov with Corral, and Frank Kimbrough and Ben Allison with Silvano.  Expect to experience some compelling musical surprises.  Cornelia St. Cafe.   (212) 989-9319.

– Sept. 11 – 15.  (Tues. – Sat.)  The Dave Liebman Group. NEA Jazz Master Liebman continues to set the contemporary jazz pace on the soprano saxophone, while adding in some impressive flute and tenor saxophone playing, as well.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Randy Brecker

– Sept. 11 – 16. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion.  A revival of one of the jazz world’s great fraternal ensembles, in memory of the incomparable Michael Brecker.  With Randy Brecker, trumpet, Mike Stern, guitar, Rodney Holmes, drums, Ada Rovati, saxophone, George Whitty, keyboards, Will Lee, bass and Oli Rockberger, vocals and keyboards.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Sept. 13 – 16. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Oliver Lake.  The veteran alto saxophonist performs in three very different musical settings.  On Thurs. with the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet; on Fri. with the Oliver Lake Big Band; on Sat. and Sun. with the Oliver Lake Trio (with Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille and speial guest Geri Allen).  Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.


Frank Sinatra Jr.

– Sept. 13 – 15. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Frank Sinatra, Jr.  The entertainment world is filled with Sinatra tributes and imitators.  But no one comes closer to the original than #1 son, Frank Sinatra, Jr.  Hearing his familiar vocal timbre and well-crafted phrasing in the Sinatra classics is an experience to remember.  Ronnie Scott’s.     (0) 20 7539 0747.


– Sept. 12. (Wed.)  Benny Golson. Saxophonist Golson has composed some memorable jazz classics, among them “I Remember Clifford,” “Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” “Along Came Betty” and more.  Here’s a chance to hear them from the originator. The Blue Note Milano.  02.69016888.


– Sept. 11 &o 12. (Tues. & Wed.)  Joe Sample.  Keyboardist and one of the founders of the Jazz Crusaders, performs selections from his new album, Creole Joe Band.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: June 12 – 17

June 12, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

* * * * * *         HIGHLIGHT          * * * * * *

The 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival:

Saturday and Sunday, June 16 & 17

The Playboy Jazz Festival umbrella seems to get bigger year by year.  And this year is no exception, with a program that reaches into every area of jazz and blues related music.  Once again, the inimitable Bill Cosby hosts the Festival and leads his own all-star band, The Cos of Good Music.

Christian McBride

Saturday’s program features: The Christian McBride Big Band, Boney James, Ozomatli, Sheila E.,  Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings,  The Soul Rebels,  The Global Gumbo All-Stars,  The Cos of Good Music, Louie Cruz Beltran.  And the LAUSD All City Jazz Band.

Ramsey Lewis

Sunday’s program features: The Ramsey Lewis Electric Band., Robin Thicke,  The Preservation Hall Jazz Band,  Keb’ Mo’,  Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project, The Cookers,  Spectrum Road,  Chico Trujillo,  Kg Omulo.  And the Calabasas High School Jazz A Band.

Among the many musically intriguing aspects of this far reaching program is the presence of no less than three world class female jazz drummers: Sheila E., Terri Lyne Carrington and (performing with Spectrum Road) Cindy Blackman.  How often does that happen?

Bill Cosby

So long, Cos.  But the most memorable aspect of all in this 34th Playboy Jazz Festival may well be the fact that it showcases Bill Cosby‘s final appearance as Master of Ceremonies.  After 30 years of introducing such iconic figures as Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis, Grover Washington, Jr.,  Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, Al Jarreau, Tony Bennett, Bobby McFerrin and dozens of others, Cos will pass on the microphone after this year’s shows.  And his warm, witty and immensely informative presence will be deeply missed.

For informaton about the 34th Playboy Jazz Festival, call the Festival hot line —  (310) 450-1173 — or click HERE.

* * * * * * * *                 * * * * * * * *

– June 12. (Tues.)  Dolores Scozzesi. Crossing freely from jazz to cabaret and beyond, Scozzesi is a true mistress of song, finding the many layers of meaning in everything she sings.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– June 13. (Wed.)  Joe Bagg Organ Trio. Keyboardist Bagg’s greatest attribute is his ability to adapt his improvisational inventiveness to whatever instrument he’s playing.  This time out, it’s his effective way with the lush sounds of the Hammond B-3 organ. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.    (310) 474-9400.

– June 13. (Wed.)  Eric Reed Quintet.  A rapidly rising young jazz star while still in his teens, pianist/composer Reed has matured into an important musical voice, with a string of charting albums.  He performs with Dale Fielder, saxophones, Nolan Shaheed, trumpet, Hamilton Price, bass and Kevin Kanner, drums.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– June 14 & 15. (Thurs. & Fri.)  The Bob Mintzer Big Band.  Saxophonist/composer Mintzer – a long time member of the Yellowjackets, is also busy composer/arranger, leading his own impressive big band in his spare moments.  Here’s a chance to experience the full breadth of his talents.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Freda Payne

– June 15 & 16.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Freda Payne. The one and only “Band of Gold” hit-maker, Payne’s skills reach across the gamut of theatre, recordings, television and beyond.  The gorgeous diva is at her best in the up close and intimate setting of a warm jazz room such as Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– June 16. (Sat.)  Billy Childs Quartet. Pianist/composer Childs selects the small jazz band format from his many musical personas, leading a small but stellar band that includes saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Reggie Hamilton and drummer Michael BakerBlue Whale.   (213) 620-0928.

San Francisco

Dr. John

– June 15. (Fri.)  “Another Night In Treme.”  The atmosphere of the hit HBO televison series, Treme, is vividly brought to life by the inimitable Dr. John and the Lower 911 and the Soul Rebels.  An SFJAZZ 2012 Spring Season event at the Paramount Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.


– June 14 – 17. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Bill Frisell.  The versatile guitarist performs selections from his 2011 John Lennon tribute album, All We Are Saying.  Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.

New York

– June 12 – 16. (Tues. – Sat.) Stacey Kent. American jazz singer, Kent, who spends most of her time in the U.K. and Europe, celebrates the release of Dreamer in Concert, recorded live in La Cigale in Paris – Kent’s first ever live album. Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.

Savion Glover

– June 12 – 17. (Tues. – Sun.) Savion Glover.  The amazing dancer Glover, who can tap with the crisply swinging rhythms of a prime jazz drummer, performs with special guests McCoy Tyner (Tues. & Wed.), Jack DeJohnette (Thurs. & Fri.) and Roy Haynes (Sat. & Sun.)  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.


– June 14 – 16. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Reuben Wilson, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and Grant Green.  Once known, with good reason, as the “Godfathers of Groove,” the trio of veterans dig into the deep funk rhythms they helped create.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.


– June 13 – 17. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Mike Stern Band featuring Randy Brecker. Guitarist Stern infuses his dynamic, contemporary style playing with a solid foundation of straight ahead skills.  Trumpeter Brecker, similarly versatile, is a perfect musical companion.  The Blue Note Tokyo.   03.5485.0088.

Picks of the Week: May 2 – 6

May 1, 2012

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Arturo Sandoval

– May 2. (Wed.)  Arturo Sandoval Big Band. He plays the trumpet, the piano and the drums, and he sings, too.  The musical multi-hyphenate from Cuba showcases his dynamic versatility in the second installment of the new jazz series at The Federal.    (818) 980-2655,

– May 2. (Wed.) Llew Matthews and Pat Senatore.  Pianist Matthews is a much desired singers’ accompanist and a valued first call sideman.  But he’s also an engaging solo artist as well.  Here he performs with the equally sensitive backing of bassist Senatore. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.     (310) 474-9400.

– May 3. (Thurs.)  Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Watching the marvelously energetic, 93 year old Wilson lead a band of L.A. all-stars through a program of his compositions and arrangements is one of the truly memorable jazz experiences. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Simon Rattle

– May 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Return of Simon Rattle.  Rattle conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Disney Hall for the first time.  The Central European-oriented program includes works by Ligeti, Wagner, Mahler and Bruckner.  Rattle’s wife, mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozena sings Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder.  Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– May 4. (Fri.)  Mark Winkler and Mary Foster Conklin.  When a pair of beyond-definition singers – who move easily from cabaret to jazz standards — get together for a vocal jam session, expect an unusually enlightening evening of song.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– May 4 & 5. (Fri. & Sat.)  Strunz and 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.

Perla Batalla

– May 5. (Sat.)  Perla Batalla.  Blessed with a rich-toned voice, fascinated with a broad range of music, Batalla tells an engaging story with everything she sings.  Broad Stage.   (310) 424-3200.

– May 5. (Sat.)  Reflections on Frank Sinatra.  A band of Southland all-stars — Ralph Penland, Jim Hughart, Ron Anthony, Llew Matthews and Bill Kerr – team up with singers Melodye and Luca Ellis, and comedian Tony Russell in a tribute to the Chairman of the Board. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– May 6. (Sun.) Bonnie Bowden and Sony Holland.  Vitello’s.  It’s a day filled with some prime jazz vocalizing.  In the afternoon, Bowden displays her airy timbre, soaring range and convincing way with a song.  In the evening, Holland adds her tender, gripping voice and subtle rhythmic swing.  Sony Holland.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

– May 6. (Sun.) Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra“Mozart and Me.”  Another of the LACO’s delightful introduction to classical music for young people.  The program features LACO musicians with the Pasadena Master Chorale, a talented ten year old pianist from the Colburn School and an actor garbed as Mozart himself.  The Alex Theatre.  2 p.m.  (213) 622-7001 Ext 1.

Susan Egan

– May 6. (Sun.) Susan Egan.  She starred on Broadway and has proven herself as a convincing cabaret artist.  This time, Egan uses both those skills in an intimate presentation of some of Broadway’s greatest hits.  The Carpenter Theatre.    (562) 985-7000.

– May 6. (Sun.)  REO Speedwagon, Styx and Ted Nugent.  Three classic rock groups, Greek Theatre favorites, return for yet another episode in their long-running musical shows.  Greek Theatre.

– May 6. (Sun.) The 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival First Community Concert. The Playboy Jazz Festival’s annual free concerts leading up the the Festival itself — which takes place on June 16 & 17 at the Hollywood Bowl – are some of the Southland’s greatest jazz bargains. And this year is no exception. Sunday’s program at the Beverly Hills Civic Center Plaza, featuring a performance by Jose Rizo’s Mongorama, is a tribute to one of the great innovators of Latin jazz: Mongo Santamaria.

Jose Rizo’s Mongorama

Mongorama offers a stunning revival of Mongo’s music, discovering vividly alive qualities still coursing through the legendary percussionist’s greatest hits. Also on the bill, the remarkably mature playing of the Beverly Hills High School Jazz Band, a collective of young players convincingly proving that the future of jazz is in fine hands., The First Playboy Free Community Concert at the Beverly Hills Civic Plaza. (310) 450-1173.

San Francisco

– May 5. (Sat.)  Rosanne Cash.  The daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash has thoroughly established herself as an artist whose skills embrace far more than country music.  A writer and novelist, she invests her music with the far-reaching subtleties of her literary viewpoints.  An SFJAZZ concert in the Herbst Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.


– May 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cyrus Chestnut Trio.  Pianist Chestnut’s musical roots are deeply invested in the Rgospel music that invests his playing with a rich, creatively passionate intensity and a solid rhythmic drive. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

– May 2 – 5. (Wed. – Sat.)   The Heath Brothers. Saxophonist Jimmy Heath and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath are the surviving members of the musically gifted Heath family, still going strong after a century-plus experience and more than 900 recordings. Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

Randy Brecker

– May 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  Randy Brecker and Pop.  Versatile trumpeter Brecker, who’s played with the finest jazz and pop artist leads his now group “Pop,” featuring an all-star band performing the songs of Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Bette Midler, Paul Simon, The Average White Band, Blood Sweat & Tears, and others, arranged and re-imagined by Kenny Werner.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– May 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Julliard Jazz Orchestra with Frank Wess.  Veteran saxophonist Wess is the headliner in a performance of the msic of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.  Conducted by James Burton IIIDizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9595.


– May 3 – 5 (Thurs. – Sat.)  Manu Dibango and Soul Makossa.  Dibango is an iconic master of world music/funk/jazz crossover.  He’ll lead the Soul Makossa gang in a stirring evening of everything from pop, electro rock, hip hop and beyond.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Judy Niemack

– May 5. (Sat.)   Judy Niemack.  She’s a constantly captivating singer, bringing musicality, imagination and interpretive excellence to everything she touches.  Which makes for a perfect musical marriage in this program devoted to the music of Miles Davis – “All Blues,” “Time After Time,” Boplicity,” “Round Midnight” and more.  A-Trane.    030 / 313 25 50.


– May 3 – 5. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Omara Portuondo and Chucho Valdes.  A pair of legendary Cuban artists blend their dynamic abilities into an evening rich with traditional rhythms and soaring musical delights.  Blue Note Tokyo.   02-5485-0088.

Here, There & Everywhere: The 2012 Jazz Grammy Winners

February 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

The 2012 Grammys are in, and once again there’s not much sound of surprise in the results.  Certainly nothing in the same ballpark as last year’s Best New Artist award for Esperanza Spalding.  That’s not to say that any of the wins were undeserved.  Because they all were the products of gifted artists doing their best. Nor were any of the nominees any less deserving than the winners.

Still, both the awards and the Recording Academy’s current approach to jazz raise some questioning observations.  Take, for example, the inclusion of Terri Lyne Carrington’ s The Mosaic Project in the Jazz Vocal grouping.  Doesn’t it seem inevitable that a collection of songs by such major names as Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cassandra Wilson and, yes, Esperanza Spalding (among others) is going to have a major head start in any competition against recordings by single artists?  What chance did the other nominees – especially the unusually superlative trio of albums from Tierney Sutton, Roseanna Vitro and Karrin Allyson – have against a full line-up of such musical heavyweights?

Notice, too, some of the repetitions: multiple nominations for Randy Brecker, Fred Hersch and Sonny Rollins.  Great artists, all, but where are the nominations for the youngest generation of jazz players?  It’s worth noting that Gerald Clayton is the only nominee still in his twenties.  And Miguel Zenon is the only nominee still in his thirties.

Add to that several aspects in this year’s awards procedures that underscore the diminishing role that jazz is playing in the Grammy overview.  Start with the reduced number of categories.  In 2011 there were six: Contemporary Jazz Album, Vocal Album, Improvised Jazz Solo, Jazz Instrumental Album (Individual or Group), Large Jazz Album and Latin Jazz Album.

This year, there are four: Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Some jazz fans won’t miss the Contemporary category, despite the fact that its absence eliminates the presence of some fine, pop-oriented jazz stylists.  But the Latin Jazz omission is unforgivable, and should receive careful re-consideration in the planning for next year’s Grammys.

In the listings below, I’ve also included Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best Instrumental Composition, because, in these nominees, the emphasis is almost completely in the direction of jazz.  They could easily have had different orientations — pop, rock, electronica, classical and otherwise — given the all-inclusive nature of the descriptions “Instrumental Arrangement” and “Instrumental Composition.”

Ultimately, the single word that comes to mind in considering all the above is “irrelevant.”  Receiving a Grammy award continues to be one of the music world’s greatest honors – for the individual artist.  And every jazz player –like every other musical artist – has to be delighted to receive the gold statuette.  But the overall significance of the Grammys to jazz, the Awards’ full commitment to honoring one of America’s greatest cultural contributions, continues to diminish.  And if it continues in its current direction, the long, historical Grammy/jazz connection won’t just be irrelevant, it’ll be non-existent.

Here are this year’s awards:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

 Winner.  Chick Corea : “Five Hundred Miles Highfrom Forever.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker: “All or Nothing at All” from The Jazz ballad Song Book

Ron Carter: “You Are My Sunshine” from This Is Jazz.

Fred Hersch: “Work” from Alone at the Vanguard.

Sonny Rollins: “Sunnymoon For Two: from Road Shows, Vol. 2.

Best Jazz Vocal album

Winner: Terri Lyne Carrington and Various Artists: The Mosaic Project.

Other Nominees:

Tierney Sutton Band: American Road

Karrin Allyson: ‘Round Midnight.

Kurt Elling: The Gate.

Roseanna Vitro: The Music of Randy Newman.

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Winner: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke & Lenny White.  Corea, Clark & White.

Other Nominees:

Gerald Clayton: The Paris Sessions.

Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard.

Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs.

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol.2

Yellowjackets: Timeline.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Winner: Christian McBride Big Band. The Good Feeling.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker with the WDR Big Band: The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: 40 Acres and a Burro.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra; Legacy.

Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Best Instrumental Arrangement

Winner: Gordon Goodwin: Rhapsody in Blue.

Other Nominees:

Peter Jensen: ‘All or Nothing At All” (for Randy Brecker with the GDR Big Band)

Clare Fischer: “In the Beginning: (from the Clare Fischer Big band’s Continuum.)

Bob Brookmeyer: “Nasty Dance.” (from the Vanguard Jazz Orchstra’s Forever Lasting).

Carlos Franzetti: “Song Without Words” (from Alborada).

Best Instrumental Composition

Winner: Bela Fleck and Howard Levy: “Life In Eleven” from Rocket Science.

Other Nominees:

John Hollenbeck: “Falling Men” from Shut Up and Dance.

Gordon Goodwin: “Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn) from That’s How We Roll.

Randy Brecker: “I Talk To The Trees” from The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Russell Ferrante: “Timeline” from Timeline.


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