Live Jazz: Cat Conner’s “Birthday Bash” at Vitello’s

April 26, 2013

By Don Heckman

Jazz singer Cat Conner gave a birthday party to remember at Vitello’s Thursday night.  Actually, a “Birthday Bash,” as she described it, in which she and her close friend, Lee Hartley, sang their way through a delightful evening of song.

Christian Jacob. Cat Conner, Chuck Berghofer

Christian Jacob. Cat Conner, Chuck Berghofer

Cat Conner

Backed by the stellar trio of pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Ray Brinker, with creative contributions from saxophonist/clarinetist Gene “Cip” Ciprano, Conner and Hartley were clearly enjoying each of the numbers they sang in a nearly two hour program.

After the trio’s opening romp through “Stella By Starlight,” Conner dug into a jaunty “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” following it with “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” and Dave Frishberg’s whimsical blues, “I Can’t Take You Nowhere” (which she dedicated to her mother.)  Here, as elsewhere, Conner displayed her warm, intimate way with a song.

Cat Conner and Lee Hartley

Cat Conner and Lee Hartley

Hartley, an impressive jazz artist in her own right, added her gently swinging “I Love Being Here With You” and an original song inspired by Nat “King” Cole.

There was much more to come, including “My Wish For You,” an intriguing version of a lovely Luis Bonfa melody from the film, Black Orpheus, with lyrics by Peggy Lee.  And a romp through “Mr. P.C.” featuring Berghofer’s articulate soloing.  Along with the occasional pairing of Conner and Hartley on tunes such as “I Mean You” and a lyrically revised “Girl Talk.”

Cat Conner, Gene "Cip" Cipriano and Lee Hartley

Cat Conner, Gene “Cip” Cipriano and Lee Hartley

Cipriano, playing clarinet (and calling up images of Artie Shaw), joined Conner and the rhythm section to duet on “Moonglow” and “Squeeze Me.”  Conner was also especially on target, continuing to focus on her musical storytelling via warm interpretations of “How Deep is The Ocean?” and “Embraceable You.”  She wound up the celebration with a high spirited romp through Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomsas.”

The birthday party climaxed with, appropriately, some birthday cake, and a lot of celebratory hugs between Conner and her listeners, most of whom seemed to be close friends and musical acquaintances.

Which wasn’t exactly what one expects from a mid-week gig.  But on this enjoyable evening, Conner, Hartley and their back-up trio found all the pleasant linkages between the music and the birthday celebration.  And, as oten happens at Vitello’s, the performance had the relaxed feeling of a living room jam session among close friends.

No wonder Cat was smiling for most of this night to remember.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Jazz: Sue Raney at Vitello’s

December 31, 2012

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  Sue Raney was at it again last night at Vitello’s, offering a pre-New Year’s Eve seminar in jazz singing.  And, yes, I know the word “seminar” has an academic inference that doesn’t really capture the full quality of her performance.  But there was no denying the effectiveness of Raney’s demonstrations of how to bring a far-ranging variety of songs fully to life.

Singing with the prime accompaniment of pianist Tom Ranier’s trio, with bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker, she offered a program overflowing with classic songbook items, seasoned with a few rarely heard songs.  Over the course of her twenty or so selections, she chose songs rich with emotions, both romantic and otherwise, that favored her stylistic blend of expressive feelings and lyrical phrasing.

Sue Raney

Sue Raney

There were many musical highpoints, beginning with the Ranier trio playing a briskly swinging “If I Were A Bell,” before Raney embarked on her evening’s fascinating musical journey.  Along the way, she spent time with one classic after another: “Here’s To Life,” “Some Other Time,” “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (both done in unexpectedly rhythmic renderings), “It Could Happen To You” and, appropriately, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”

Add to that the less often heard but no less appealing “Emily,” “Aren’t You Glad You’re You,” “Time Was” and “Don’t Look Back.”

Occasionally, Raney combined pairs of songs with similar subjects into medleys.  The pairing worked well with “Once Upon A Summertime” and “The Summer Knows,” in part because of Michel Legrand’s atmospheric melodies.   Another pairing – “When the World Was Young” and “Young and Foolish” – was a less successful blend of songs with very different lyrical and musical orientations.

There were more, but regardless of what Raney sang, it resonated with the qualities that have made her a classy performer since her first album When Your Lover Has Gone (produced by Nelson Riddle) was released in 1958: a warm, richly-timbred voice soaring freely over a good three or four octaves; articulate phrasing; communicative, lyrical story-telling; and a brisk sense of swing.

Not bad for a singer who turned 72 in June.  But Raney is still in prime creative form, with many songs and much music still to go.  Don’t miss her next appearance.

Photo by Faith Frenz.

 To read an iRoM review of a previous Sue Raney performance click HERE.


Live Jazz: The Tierney Sutton Band at Catalina Bar & Grill

May 26, 2012

By Don Heckman

One of the great pleasures of writing about music is the opportunity to experience the progress that can take place, over months and years, in the work of gifted artists.  Hearing the Tierney Sutton Band at Catalina Bar & Grill Friday night was a good example.

It had been less than a year since I’d last heard Tierney and the guys in the same venue.  And that performance was admirable in every way.

This time out, some of the material from that show was repeated, notably selections from the TSB’s latest recording, American Road. And there was more – some random choices from the Great American Songbook, medleys of songs from My Fair Lady and Porgy and Bess.  All of it illustrating the creative evolution of this remarkable musical collective.

Regardless of what Tierney sang, it was offered with an almost literary layering of emotional story telling.  The impact began early in nearly every song. Often, starting with the opening Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise, her first expression was a wordless improvised passage.  Some of them recalled the musical intimacy of the Bach Sonatas for Solo Violin.  Others simmered with slipping and sliding jazz accents.

When Tierney moved into the interior of a song, the carefully crafted group arrangements that are an essential characteristic of the TSB took over.  Some of the arrangement elements depicted stylistic aspects of the band’s unique musical identity: shifting from a groove tempo, often in 6/4, to a high speed, autobahn rhythm in 4; using dramatic percussion explosions from drummer Ray Brinker to create emotional transitions; dazzling improvisational interplay between Tierney’s wordless scatting and the fleet-fingered soloing of pianist Christian Jacob.

Tierney celebrated the presence of Alan and Marilyn Bergman in the audience with an exquisite version of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” completely capturing the song’s light-hearted poignancy.  Another standard, “I Want To Be Happy,” showcased more of the TSB’s stunning blend of precise, but hard-swinging rhythm and soaring improvisational spontaneity.

Add to that a pair of tunes from the band’s Desire album juxtaposing the sweet sentimentality of “Then I’ll Be Tired of You” with the darker tendencies of “Cry Me A River,”  linked by a surging bass interlude from Kevin Axt. And top it off with Tierney’s rousing romp through “The Lady Is A Tramp.”

As I suggested above, hearing the continually growing artistry of an already masterful jazz ensemble such as the Tierney Sutton Band is one of the great satisfactions in my line of work.  And this performance offered all that and a lot more.

The Tierney Sutton Band performs tonight (Sunday) in the final performance of their three night run at Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.  Don’t miss it.


Live Jazz: The Johnny Mandel Big Band at Vitello’s

March 19, 2012

By Don Heckman

Vitello’s was packed to the gills Saturday night.  And with good reason.  Johnny Mandel was making one of his rare appearances, leading an assemblage of Southland jazz all-stars in an evening surveying his long, productive career as a composer, arranger and songwriter.

At 86, recovering from hip problems and walking with a cane, Mandel nonetheless was a dynamic bandleader, conducting from a cramped position directly in front of the saxophones, standing between two tables full of guests.   His whimsical sense of humor was switched on, and he introduced many of the pieces with a wry, occasionally sardonic, recollection.

Johnny Mandel

The familiar Mandel items were on full display: “Emily,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Suicide Is Painless” (the theme from M*A*S*H), several selections from his score for the film, I Want To Live. Most featured the band’s many stellar soloists – tenor saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Steve Wilkerson, baritone saxophonist Bob Efford, trombonists Scott Whitfield and Alan Kaplan, trumpeters Bob Summers, Ron King and Carl Saunders, pianist John Campbell, among others..

And there was more, reaching across decades of composing and arranging for films, television, recording and big bands: a hard swinging piece he wrote for the Woody Herman band in the ’40s – “Not Really The Blues”; a bossa nova done for Sergio Mendes: “Cinnamon and Cloves”; a muscular arrangement of drummer Tiny Kahn’s “T.N.T.”; a tune inspired by the Krazy Kat cartoon, written for the Artie Shaw Band.  All of it, individually and in sum, providing a fascinating gallery of musical portraits from an extraordinarily creative career.

Sue Raney

Interestingly, the band didn’t pick up their instruments for one of the evening’s most mesmerizing moments.   With no advance notice, Mandel introduced singer Sue Rany to sing “Where Do You Start?” backed only by Campbell’s quietly intimate piano accompaniment. The song, with music by Mandel and lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, is a stunning example of lyrical musical/poetic songwriting at it finest.  And so, too, was Raney’s exquisite, story-telling interpretation, capturing the essence of the song’s poignant tale.

Other contributions added to the non-stop pleasures of this memorable musical evening.  Start with Carol Chaikin’s fine lead alto playing, driving Mandel’s richly harmonized saxophone section passages with ease.  Add to that the energetic drive of the rhythm section – with the firm flow of bassist Chuck Berghofer, the energetic drive of drummer Ray Brinker, the Freddie Green-like strumming of guitarist John Chiodini and the all-purpose comps and fills of Campbell.

And don’t forget the collective participation of every member of the Band (including those whose names I haven’t mentioned).  Most are among L.A.’s A-list studio players.  Given an opportunity to play an evening-full of superb music, they not only provided their unerring craftsmanship, they made every note come alive.

No wonder Johnny Mandel was smiling so much.

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Johnny Mandel photo by Tony Gieske.

Sue Raney photo by Bob Barry.


Live Jazz: The Tierney Sutton Band at Catalina Bar & Grill

October 2, 2011

By Don Heckman

A Tierney Sutton performance is always a musical adventure, filled with unexpected twists and turns.  Blessed with a warm, pliable voice and a probing musical imagination, she has enhanced her creative explorations by creating a close artistic (and business) relationship with the members of her Tierney Sutton Band – pianist Christian Jacob, drummer Ray Brinker and bassists Kevin Axt and Trey Henry, who usually alternate gigs with the Band.

On Friday night at Catalina Bar & Grill, Sutton took everything up a level, offering the rare opportunity to hear the full Tierney Sutton Band in action, with both Axt and Henry performing in tandem, adding a rich, flowing, ever-fascinating foundation to the music.

The Tierney Sutton Band

Although Sutton’s latest recording, American Road – a stunning tour through classics reaching from “Wayfaring Stranger” to “Summertime” – has just been released, she carefully selected a few songs from the CD’s fascinating program, supplementing them with other, more standard items.  But what she chose provided ample opportunities to experience the pleasures of Sutton and the Sutton Band in action.

“On Broadway” was delivered with a buoyant rhythm underscoring her crisply articulated lyrics.  “Tenderly,” “My Man’s Gone” and “Summertime” revealed Sutton’s way with a ballad, applying the intimacy of her sound and phrasing to utterly convincing musical story-telling.  And her versions of material from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story further illuminated the way her unique interpretive style – with its intriguing tendency to occasionally modify pronunciations of words – can bring believable new life to familiar material.  Other tunes — Without A Song” and “The Best Is Yet To Come” — took Sutton into the area of standards with ease and confidence.

All the arrangements – which she carefully described as collective efforts – were both settings and enhancements of songs.  Sutton’s voice was front and center, of course, with the musical framing adding all sorts of intriguing touches: unexpected shifts of rhythm as subtle as the insertion of an off-meter measure in a rhythmic flow; lush reharmonizations; and the stirring interaction of vocal lines with piano, bass and drum soloing.

As I said above, a musical adventure.  And one that is equally present on all of the Tierney Sutton Band recordings.  American Road’s unusual combination of folk and pop standards in an Americana package, enhanced by the TSB’s unique way with a song, is the latest in the group’s three consecutive Grammy-nominated efforts.  If you weren’t fortunate enough to hear her at Catalina’s, don’t miss the recording.

 Also, while we’re talking about Catalina’s, be sure to mark your calendar for Monday, Oct. 17th.  It’s hard to believe it’s happened so quickly, but the world famous jazz venue will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.  No news on the line up yet, but expect it to be a memorable evening.  Check back at our Picks of the Week for details.


Picks of the Week: Sept. 26 – Oct. 2

September 27, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Herbie Hancock

- Sept. 27. (Tuesday)  Opening Night Gala at Disney Hall.  The new season kicks off with a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, performed by the stellar combination of Herbie Hancock, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.  Also on the program, An American in Paris and the Cuban Overture. Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 27. (Tuesday).  Barbara Morrison Benefit.  Another opportunity to help one of Southland jazz’s greatest jazz vocal treasures in her hour of need.  Morrison’s medical expenses – the result of surgery associated with diabetes – have escalated, and she needs support.  The program of performers is unannounced at the moment.  Check with the club for details.  Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Sept. 27. (Tues.)  Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys.  12-time Grammy winner Harris brings rich expressiveness to everything she sings – whether interpreting other songwriters’ works or her own emotionally illuminating songs.  Also on the program – special guests Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. The Greek Theatre.

- Sept. 28. (Wed.)  Marilyn Scott.  Veteran singer Scott has moved easily across the boundaries between jazz and pop, creating expressive pleasures wherever she goes.  She performs with Jimmy Haslip, Mitch Forman, Gary Novak and Mike Miller.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 29. (Thurs.)  “Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project”  Mary Wilson of the Supremes applies her elegant vocal skills to songs associated with the legendary actress/singer,  James Gavin narrates material from his Horne biography, accompanied by rare audio and video clips.  A Jazz Bakery Movable Feast.  The Musicians Institute.  (310) 271-9039.

Ravi Shankar

- Sept. 29. (THurs.)  Ravi Shankar.  The pioneer of Indian classical music, Pandit Shankar has been – since the ‘50s – bringing the subtle, complex, but immensely engaging music and rhythms of ragas and talas to Western audiences.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

- Sept. 29 – Oct. 1. (Thurs. – Sat.) Tierney Sutton Band. Note that the title is not “Tierney Sutton and her Band.”  Because Sutton’s long term relationship with pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker has been one of complete musical (and practical) togetherness.  The results show up in every expressive note the band plays (and Sutton sings).  The performance celebrates her new recording – American Road, a compelling tour through musical Americana.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

- Sept. 30. (Fri.)  Bill Cantos. He sings, and plays piano with the kind of subtle support that delights any one who works with him – especially singers. Add to that Cantos’ skill at crafting original songs with the sensitivity and rich lyricism of the Great American Songbook.  He’ll be in the company of his wife — singer/pianist Mari Falcone, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael ShapiroVitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Esperanza Spalding

- Sept. 30. (Fri.)  Esperanza Spalding. “Chamber Music Society.”   Singer/bassist Spalding is the hottest property in jazz after her 2011 Grammy award for Best New Artist.  But there’s a depth of art in her musicality that reaches well beyond her current visibility.  Still in her twenties. Spalding’s career looks to be long and fulfilling – for her, for her listeners and for jazz.  The Orpheum Theatre.    (877) 677-4386.

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 2. (Fri. – Sun.)  The Angel City Jazz Festival.  On Friday: The Nick Mancini Trio with Otmaro Ruiz and the Edgar Castaneda Trio with Andrea Tierra at Zipper Hall in the Colburn School of Music.  On Saturday: The Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura, The Kandinsky Effect and Rudresh Mahanthappa & Samdhi at the Ford Amphitheatre.  On Sunday: For People in Sorrow – an Homage to Alex Cline, and the Roscoe Mitchell Trio at REDCAT.  The Angel City Jazz Festival.

- Oct. 1. (Sat.)  The Strawbs and the Zombies.  Original Zombies members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone headline the 2011 incarnation of the sixties hit-makers.  The pop-rock Strawbs, who have passed through numerous editions since the sixties are also n the bill. The Canyon Club. (818) 879-5016.

- Oct. 2. (Sun.)  The New Directions Veterans Choir.  Made up of formerly homeless veterans of American military services, the Choir has appeared on America’s Got Talent, at the White House, on YouTube and numerous television shows.  Even more importantly, the members have found the choir to be a vehicle to help them find the help they need.  They are currently recording their first album, produced by veteran singer/arranger/a cappella expert Morgan Ames.    Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

James Carter

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 2. (Fri. – Sun.)  James Carter Organ Trio. Master of a full range of saxophones, Carter sets up in the blues driven environment of the classic jazz organ trio format. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

- Sept. 27 – 29. (Tues. – Thurs.)  James Farm.  Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, Eric Harland. Redman’s too modest to describe James Farm as an all-star ensemble, but that’s what it is – a quartet made up of four of the contemporary jazz world’s most musically adventurous artists.  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

- Sept. 29 – Oct. 2. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Eric Reed. Pianist Reed spent some of his growing up years in L.A.  But, after Wynton Marsalis discovered him, while still a teen-ager, his career took off on a rising arc – everyone’s A-list piano player of choice. Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

- Sept. 27 – Oct. 1. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Music of Bud PowellEthan Iverson, piano, Tim Hagans, trumpet, Greg Osby, alto saxophone, Joey Baron, drums, Lonnie Plaxico, bass, perform the music of one of bebop’s Olympian figures.  Expect to hear such classics as “Tempus Fuget,” “Un Poco Loco,” “Bouncin’ With Bud” and more. Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Daryl Sherman

- Sept. 27. (Tues.) Daryl Sherman.  Gifted singer/pianist Sherman brings wit, lyrical insights and musicality to everything she does.  This time she ushers in Rosh Hashanah with Cab Calloway’s “A Bee Gezindt” (“Abi Gezunt” ).  Don’t Tell Mama.      (212) 757-0788.

- Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Coca Cola Generations in Jazz Festival: Gerald Wilson and the Julliard Jazz Orchestra.  The Legacy Suite, with Anthony Wilson and Eric Otis.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.  (212) 258-9800.

- Oct. 2. (Sun.)  Creole Choir of Cuba.  Cuban only begins to describe this musical melting pot of singers/instrumentalists from the Camaguey.  Descendants of Haitians, they have created music rich with Cuban rhythms – the son and salsa – and Creole melodies, underscored by rich African chants and dance movements.  This is their first American tour.  Symphony Space.    (212) 864-5400.

Boston

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 1. (Fri. & Sat.)  Kenny Barron.  The lyrical, imaginative pianist has a resume reaching from Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson to Stan Getz and Ella Fitzgerald.  But he’s best heard on his own, when his soaring melodies and pastel harmonies are front and center. Regatta Bar Jazz.    (617) 395-7757.

Miami

- Sept. 30 – Oct. 2.  Gunther Schuller. The full scope of composer/writer/educator/French horn player Schuller is hard to imagine.  His commentaries on jazz, classical music, ragtime and French horn technique have had a powerful influence throughout the music world.  His extensive activities (including several compositions that led the way during the Third Stream era) have earned him such recognitions as a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “genius” award and acknowledgment as an NEA Jazz Master.  Schuller’s long weekend appearance at the University of Miami Frost School of Music includes: Friday: a lecture in Clarke Recital Hall; Sat: a concert featuring Schuller’s Concerto No. 1 for Horn; Sun. The Frost Chamber Players, with Schuller conducting his new composition Quintet for Horn and Strings  Gunther Schuller at the University of Miami.      (305) 284-4940.

London

Roberta Gambarini

- Sept. 27. (Tues.) Roberta Gambarini.  She may have been born in Italy, but Gambarini’s mastery of jazz singing stamps her as a world class original, regardless of origin.  Whether she’s finding the emotional heart of an American Songbook standard or scatting with the most fleet, swinging precision since the salad days of Ella Fitzgerald, she should be heard, at every opportunity.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- Sept. 26 – Oct. 3. (Mon. – Mon.)  Natalie Cole.  Very much Nat “King” Cole’s daughter, Natalie Cole cruises the same eclectic musical waters, a convincing pop artist who has no difficulty dipping into the rhythms of jazz.  Blue Note Tokyo.    03-5485-0088.

Herbie Hancock photo by Faith Frenz.

Esperanza Spalding photo by Tony Gieske.


PIcks of the Week: Aug. 9 – 14

August 9, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

George Cables

- Aug. 9. (Tues.)  George Cables Trio. Pianist Cables doesn’t make a lot of L.A. club appearances, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear the veteran artist in action.  He’ll be backed by Pat Senatore and Joe LaBarberaVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Aug. 9. (Tues.)  Jennifer Leitham.  It’s a birthday celebration for bassist/singer Leitham who’ll be aided in her far-reaching skills by the solid backing of Andy Langham, piano and Randy Drake, drums.  Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.  www.charlieos.com

- Aug. 10. (Wed.)  Blues Night.  The title of this stellar evening is almost an understatement.  With Robert Cray. Keb’ Mo’ and Mavis Staples on hand, it’ll be the blues in all its extraordinary manifestations.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Nuriya.  The Skirball Center continues its high energy, Thursday night free concerts with an appearance by Mexican-born vocalist Nuriya, whose singing encompasses the sounds of her native land, as well as the Jewish, Middle Eastern traditions of her heritage.  She’ll be backed by a high energy ten piece ensemble.  Skirball Center.    (310) 440-4500.

- Augs. 11. (Thurs.)  Aaron Novik.  Bass clarinetist Novik’s chamber ensemble crosses freely from jazz and pop to Jewish and Eastern European traditional musics.  The Hammer Museum.    Also at the Press Restaurant in Claremont on Friday.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Dee Dee Bridgewater.  Dynamic singer actress Bridgewater is a Tony and Grammy award winner.  But even those honors don’t fully encompass the creative and musical excitement that is present every time she steps in front of an audience.  The Grammy Museum.  (213) 765-6800.

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Claudio Roditi. Brazilian trumpeter Roditi has been blending elements from his Brazilian roots with an impressive grasp of straight ahead jazz for three decades.  LAX Jazz Club Crowne Plaza Hotel.    (310) 642-7500.

- Aug. 12. (Fri.)  Christian Jacob Trio. The all-star jazz trio pianist Jacob, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker have been performing in impressive synchronicity with singer Karrin Allyson.  Here, they show off their stuff in a pure piano jazz trio setting.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 12 (Fri.)  Tizer.  Versatile keyboardist Lao Tizer leads his unique band, Tizer, in a groove-driven, eclectic blend of jam based fusion and contemporary jazz.  Violinist Karen Briggs is also on hand, and a few “special guests” may show up, as well.  The Baked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

- Aug. 13. (Sat.)  World Classic Rockers.  The title pretty much says it all.  It’ll be an evening featuring players from such high visibility rock bands as Steppenwolf, Santana, Boston, Journey, TOTO and Lynard Skynard.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

- Aug. 13. (Sat.)  Dolores Scozzesi.  Jazz vocalist Scozzesi brings rich musicality, dramatic illumination and an eclectic overview to everything she sings.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- Aug. 13 & 14. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Gipsy Kings.  There’s nothing quite like the music of the flamenco-driven, gypsy-styled music of the Gipsy Kings, for decades one of world music’s most engaging ensembles.  The Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

Dave Koz

- Aug. 14. (Sun.)  Smooth Summer Jazz. Featuring Dave Koz, Bobby Caldwell, Sheila E., Larry Graham, Spyro Gyra. Phil Perry.  The Bowl’s annual tribute to smooth jazz and instrumental pop, with some of the genres’ highest visibility performers bringing the evening to life.   Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- Aug. 14. (Sun.)  The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, conducted by Noreen Green“Exaltation! Biblical Stories Through Music.”  The LAJS presents a colorful evening of music — from classical, film and musical theatre sources — celebrating music inspired by the Bible.  Special guests include Grammy nominee singer Amick Byram and 15 year old violinist Stephen Waarts.  Selections include works by Andrew Lloyd Weber, Steven Schwartz, Jerry Bock, Alan Menken and Shuki LevyThe Ford Amphitheatre.  (323) 461-3673.

San Francisco

- Aug. 9. (Tues.)  Big Bad Voodoo DaddyHow Bad Can You Get:100 Years of Cab Calloway. The Voodoo Daddys recall Cab Calloway and the hard-driving, swing-based, dance jazz of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  http://www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco/jazzclub/artist/show/1972   (415) 655-5600.  

- Aug. 11. (Thurs.)  Martin Taylor.  A guitarist’s guitarist, admired by his contemporary artists, Taylor is arguably one of the finest solo guitarists you’ll ever hear.  The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.    (510) 644-2020.

- Aug. 14. (Sun.)  Buffy Sainte-Marie.  She’s been a compelling performer for decades, and Saint-Marie’s charisma – musically and dramatically – is still as powerful as ever.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

Seattle

Karrin Allyson

Aug. 11 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  Karrin Allyson.  Jazz singer Allyson, one of the jazz vocal art’s most musically credible performers, celebrates the release of her latest CD,  ‘Round Midnight,   Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

New York

- Aug. 9 – 10. (Tues. – Sat.)  Kurt Rosenwinkel with OJM (the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos).  The ever versatile guitarist Rosenwinkel, always in search of musical challenges, performs with an intriguing musical ensemble from Portugal.Birdland.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

- Aug. 9 – 14. (Tues. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. Blessed with one of the most gorgeous sounding voices in jazz, Monheit supplements her rich timbres with solid musicality and lively sense of swing.  Her special guest will be the remarkably eclectic violinist Mark O’ConnorThe Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

Cedar Walton

- Aug. 9 – 14. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Cedar Walton Quintet. Pianist Walton has assembled a convincingly creative ensemble, featuring the impressive artistry of trombonist (and conch shell player) Steve Turre, alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, bassist David Williams and drummer Willie Jones III Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

Washington D.C.

-Aug. 12 – 14. (Wed. – Sun.)  Jerry Gonzalez and Ft. Apache.  They’ve been generating high voltage performances, spiced with Latin jazz rhythms, for three decades.  This time out, the groove will no doubt be even more pyrotechnic with the presence of Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto.  Blues Alley.    (202) 337-4141.

London

- Aug 11. (Thurs.)  Gwilym Simcock Trio. His name may not be familiar (or even pronounceable) to most American jazz fans, but Simcock is one of the finest recent arrivals on the global jazz stage.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

Dave Koz photo by Greg Allen.


Picks of the Week: May 10 – 15

May 10, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Perla Batalla

- May 11. (Wed.)  Perla Batalla.  Blessed with a rich-toned voice, fascinated with a broad range of music, Batalla tells an engaging story with everything she sings.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.     (562) 916-8501.

- May 11. (Wed.)  Julia Gottlieb.  Emerging young singer Gottlieb does a showcase performance with a the scintillating backing of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 11. (Wed.)  Annie Trousseau.  Colombian-American singer Ana Maria Lombo leads her curiously-titled ensemble in a collection of multi-lingual world music reaching from Edith Piaf to Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- May 12. (Thurs.)  The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Del McCoury Band.  UCLA Live begins to wrap its 2010-2011 season with a typically fascinating blend of musical genres – the traditional jazz of the Preservation Hall players and the buoyant bluegrass of the McCoury Band.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-4401.

- May 12. (Thurs.)  John Altman Quartet.  British saxophonist Altman takes a break from his busy career as composer/arranger/conductor/film scorer for an evening of straight ahead jamming in the relaxed environment of Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- MaY 12. (Thurs.) Dances and Music from Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijani dancers and musicians celebrate the ancient cultural traditions of the Caucasus, blending the traditional mugham with the contemporary rhythms of jazz.  The National Dance Ensemble of Azerbaijan, performing with jazz pianist Emil Afrasiab and Masters of Mugham make their only performance in Los Angeles.  A rare and fascinating musical event. The Wilshire Ebell.  (310) 650-9054

Stanley Clarke

- May 12 – 14. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Stanley Clarke.  By any measure, Clarke is one of the most admired musicians in jazz.  And with 40 albums, 60 film scores a Grammy award for his most recent album, and the foundation of his own record label – The Roxboro Entertainment Group, he’s also one of the music world’s most eclectic Renaissance men  He celebrates his 60th birthday in the company of his own crisply swinging band and some surprise guest artists.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210. .

- May 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  Bill Charlap Trio with special guest Freddy Cole.  Nothing but the best from the Great American Songbook when these two masters of song get together.  Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

- May 14. (Sat.)  The Rova Saxophone Quartet. More than three decades together, the four members of Rova continue to adventure through musical areas encompassing free jazz, contemporary classical music, rock, traditional and pop music.  Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

Mamak Khadem

- May 14. (Sat.)  Mamak Khadem & Ensemble.  The gorgeous voice and stunning musical virtuosity of singer Khadem explore the compelling sounds of Persian classical music and beyond.  She performs in the company of the far-ranging sounds of Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek and the lithe dancing of Sharokh Moshkinghalam. Wilshire Ebell Theatre.     (310) 650-9054.

- May 14. (Sat.)  Billy Childs Chamber Ensemble.  The ever imaginative pianist/composer/arranger is back, continuing to find new expressive adventures with his jazz chamber ensemble.   Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- May 14. (Sat.)  The 3rd Annual Jazzy Jam 2011.  What better way to spend a Spring weekend than in a Pasadena Park, listening to the attractively melodic sounds of Everette Harp, Johnny Polanco, Karen Briggs, Freddie Fox, the Pasadena Citywide Gospel Choir, Rapid Response and a lot more.   Hosted by the irrepressible Bubba JacksonJazzy Jam 2011.  Old Pasadena Central Park.

Taylor Eigsti

- May 15. (Sun.)  Taylor Eigsti Quartet. A jazz prodigy at age 12, pianist Eigsti – now in his mid-‘20s – has matured into a significant talent.  He performs with singer Becca Stevens, an extraordinary singer/composer who is too little known beyond her New York base. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

 Seattle

May 11 & 12. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Denise Donatelli.  L.A.’s Grammy nominated Donatelli takes her lush sound, propulsive swing and intimate story telling style on the road, building her audience wherever she goes.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.  Donatelli also performs at Yoshi’s Oakland on May 15 (see below).

San Francisco

- May 13 & 14. (Fri. & Sat.)  The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman.  One of the definitive smooth jazz/instrumental pop bands to emerge in the ‘80s, the Rippingtons, with a revolving array of players – except for Freeman – continue to produce melodically entertaining sounds.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

- May 15. (Sun.)  Denise DonatelliYoshi’s Oakland   (510) 238-9200.  Donatelli also performs at Seattle’s Jazz Alley on Wed. & Thurs  (see above).

 New York

- May 10 – 15. (Tues. – Sun.)  The George Duke Trio. Pianist Duke, always masterful with singers, works with a pair of the best. With Al Jarreau on Tues, Wed., Sat. & Sun.  And with Brenda Russell on Thurs. & Fri.  The Blue Note.    (310) 475-8592.

- May 10 – 15. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Music of Count Basie. The Julliard Jazz Orchestra. Some of the important, still-vital works in the jazz repertoire are brought vividly to life by the J.J.O.  The presence of special guest Frank Foster, who composed some of the classics, brings even more authenticity to the program.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.   (212) 258-9800.

 London

Claire Martin

- May 14. (Sat.)  Claire Martin.  Often described as England’s finest jazz singer, Martin as that and more, with performances that reach out to add interpretations of other musical forms to the jazz vocal canon.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.

 Paris

- May 14. (Sat.)  The Harold Lopez Nussa Trio with David Sanchez.  Rising young Cuban pianist Lopez-Nussa may be best known as the pianist for Omara Portundo’s band.  But he’s showing all the signs of being the next vital jazz pianist to emerge from the island nation.  He’s joined here by Puerto Rican saxophonist Sanchez in a program of Latin-oriented jazz.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.

Stanley Clarke photo by Scott Mitchell.


Picks of the Week: April 19 – 24

April 19, 2011

By Don Heckman

 Los Angeles

- April 19. (Tues.)  Dave Damiani Orchestra.  Singer Damiani celebrates the Swing Era and the songs of Frank Sinatra.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.  .

- April 19. (Tues.)  Steve Huffsteter Big Band.  Trumpeter Huffsteter steps out of the section to lead his own collective of all-stars. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Raya Yarbrough

- April 20. (Wed.)  Raya Yarbrough.  Singer/songwriter Yarbrough, a Southland musical treasure, deserves much wider recognition.  She performs here in the intriguing setting of a jazz rhythm section and a string quartet.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 20. (Wed.) Sam Most.  A cool-sounding tenor saxophone, articulate clarinet and innovative flute playing – all characteristics of the ever-adventurous octogenarian Most.  He’s backed by the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

Kayhan Kalhor

- April 21. (Thurs.)  Ghazal: Kayhan Kalhor, Shujaat Husain Khan and Samir Chatterjee.  Royce Hall. Persian and Indian music find extraordinary common ground in this challenging encounter between Klhor’s kamancheh and the sitar of Khan (with tabla accompaniment from Chatterjee).  UCLA Live at Royce Hall.   (310) 825-2101.

- April 22. (Fri.) Charles Owens.  Versatile saxophonist Owens shares a jazz birthday celebration.  Backing him — the John Heard Trio.  Charlie O’sl (818) 994-3058.

- April 22. (Fri.)  The Sejong Soloists.  The New York-based Sejong string orchestra revives the compelling musical notion that an ensemble can produce fascinating interpretations without benefit of a conductor’s choreographing.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.   (562) 916-8501.

Katia Moraes and Sambaguru

- April 22. (Fri.)  Sambaguru with Katia Moraes. The fiery Brazilian singer/dancer  Moraes and her band bring the spirit, the spunk and the sensuality of Rio to every note they play and sing. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

- April 23. (Sat.)  Grant Geissman and the Cool Man band. Guitarist Geissman showcases live versions of selections from his Cool Man Band CD, featuring the stellar ensemble of Emilio Palame, piano, Brian Scanlon, saxophone, Trey Henry, bass and Ray Brinker, drums.   Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- April 23. (Sat.)  Miles Evans Band.  Evans, son of the great arranger/composer Gil Evans, eager to pick up “where Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, etc. left off,” performs selections from his new CD. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210. .

Robert Plant

- April 23. (Sat.) Robert Plant and the Band of Joy.  Led Zeppelin’s Plant presents music from his highly praised solo album, Band of Joy, performed by the same ensemble – featuring Patty Griffin – featured on the CD.  The Greek Theatre.    (323) 665-5857.

- April 23. (Sat.) Richie Cole.  Bebop lives in the flying fingers and inventive musicality of alto saxophonist Cole.  Giannelli Square.   (818) 772-1722.

 Seattle

- April 19 & 20.  (Tues. & Wed.)  Gail Pettis.  Another affirmation of the too often unheralded high quality of jazz in the Northwest.  Pettis has all the right ingredients – a pliable voice, a brisk sense of swing and an embracing story telling ability.   Jazz Alley.    (206) 441-9729.   She hosts a Fundraiser for Japanese Red Cross Relief.

San Francisco

Randy Newman

- April 22. (Fri.)  Randy Newman.  He spends a lot of his time around the film business these days, but Newman is still one of the great singer/songwriter/storytellers. He performs here in a rare solo concert. SFJazz Spring Season at Davies Symphony Hall.    (866) 920-5299.

- April 22 – 24. (Fri. – Sun.)  Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Thirty five years together, the a cappella singers of Sweet Honey are still among the most compelling of vocal ensembles.  This time out they celebrate the lives and music of Nina Simone, Odetta and Miriam Makeba.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

 Chicago

Danilo Perez

- April 21 – 24. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Danilo Perez Trio.  Panamanian born, Grammy winning pianist/composer Perez spices his impressive jazz chops with the subtle musical seasonings of the Caribbean and beyond.  The Jazz Showcase.   (312) 360-0234.

 New York

April 19. (Tues.)  Malika Zarra.  She’s been described, with good reason, as “Morocco’s Jazz Jewel.”  Zarra debuts her new CD, Berber Taxi with     The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

- April 19. (Tues.)  Blue Note Jazz Benefit For Japan. The extraordinary line up of performers includes Ron Carter, John Scofield, Michel Camilo, Kenny Barron, Paquito D’Rivera, Robert Glasper, Roy Hargrove, Dave Valentin, Roberta Gambarini, Richard Bona, Lionel Loueke, Gretchen Parlato, Gregoire Maret, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jose James, Alex Brown and Ferenc Nemeth.  100% of the ticket proceeds will go to the Japan Relief and Recovery Fund.  The Blue Note’s Highline Ballroom.   (818) 414-5994.

- April 19 – 24. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Bad Plus with special guest Joshua Redman.  A musical encounter between two different, but equally gripping, jazz perspectives.  Expect musical fireworks.  The Blue Note.    (212) 475-8592.

- April 20 – 24. (Wed. – Sun.)  George Coleman and Joey DeFrancesco.  Veteran tenor saxophonist Coleman reaches across a generation to share a jazz journey with B-3 master DeFrancesco.  They’re backed by Warren Wolf, vibes, Paul Bollenback, guitar and Byron Landham, drums.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.    (212) 258-9800.

- April 20 – 24.  (Wed. – Sun.)  The Jazz Standard presents a Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Impulse! Records via contemporary performances based on some of the classic Impulse! Albums.

Ravi Coltrane

- Wed. John Coltrane: Africa Brass.  Featuring Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane.

- Thurs. Oliver Nelson: The Blues and the Abstract Truth. Featuring Roy Hargrove, David Sanchez, George Cables, Dwayne Burno and Gregory Hutchinson.

- Fri. Gil Evans: Out of the Cool. Curated by conductor/composer Ryan Truesdell with a 12 piece ensemble of Manhattans’ finest players.

- Sat.  Kai Winding & J.J. Johnson: The Great Kai & J.J. + The Incredible Kai Winding Trombone Curated by Robin Eubanks, with trombonist Andy Hunter.

- Sun.  Ray Charles: Genius + Soul= Jazz.  Curated by Henry Butler, piano and vocals, with Vincent Herring, alto saxophone, Cocoran Hart, bass and Ali Jackson, drums.

The Jazz Standard.    (212) 576-2232.

 London

Kyle Eastwood

- April 20 – 23. (Wed. – Sat.)  The Kyle Eastwood Band.  Bassist Eastwood has moved well beyond his identity as Clint Eastwood’s son, and into a well-earned presence as an imaginative, musically adventurous jazz artist.  Ronnie Scott’s.    020 7439 0747.


Live Jazz: Jack Sheldon’s Birthday Bash at Catalina Bar & Grill

November 29, 2010

By Tony Gieske

Jack Sheldon began his birthday serenade to himself Saturday night with one of his favorite rousers, “Yo Mama,” his 16 piece band riffing behind him in their boisterous way, the crowd at Catalina’s cheery and full of good wishes for the guy celebrating the first moments of his 79th year.

Jack Sheldon conducts

Naturally, he was being risque.  His listeners expected as much. They had been around for many previous such fetes, but tonight they were about to be wowed by a relative newcomer, the drummer Ray Brinker.  From his drum set came not only rattles and rolls, but a kind of parallel serenade to whatever the other 15 guys were doing, whether tutti or soli.

Ray Brinker

You should have heard him when Ron Stout took one of his magnificently adept trumpet solos: Brinker was his shadow and his headlight.  And when trumpeter Stan Martin made a romantic bouquet from “Beauty and the Beast,” presumably for the many silver haired grandfathers and grandmothers present.

Brinker stoked the fire for tenor man Brian Williams on a jump chart; he lit blue flames beneath Scott Whitman during “Cherokee,” (although Sheldon forgot to war whoop in his customary slot), and he subtly gave an overall shape when Whitman played fellow trombonist Juan Tizol’s classic “Caravan.”

(The latter forms, if I’m not mistaken, the basis for Dizzy Gillespie’s equally classic, “Night in Tunisia,” from the forgotten Oscar Pettiford adaptation, “Interlude.” Bet Brinker knew that.)  Neither the rap spectre nor the rock spook dared visit on this night.

Jack Sheldon sings

No, the tunes rolled down the lanes of memory for the seniors present: Gravelly vocals struggled from Sheldon’s 78-year-old throat on “They Can’t  Take That Away From Me,” “I Can’t Give You Anything  But Love,” “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”

Jack Sheldon plays

Then would come his incomparable trumpet sound, rich and full as something I wish I could think of to compare it to — a bunch of dewy green grapes?

But that band! One big voice — never  noisy — that just ambled amiably along with such grand old charmers as “When You’re Smiling” and “Tangerine.” And why was that?  Brinker. Although everyone helped, bassist Bruce Lett and pianist Joe Bagg, to name two.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE


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