Picks of the Week: Mar. 12 – 17

March 12, 2013

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

– Mar. 12. (Tues.) Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  Marsalis and his JLCO players continue to bring life to the past, the present and the future of big band jazz.  Disney Hall.   (323) 850-2000.

Mar. 12. (Tues.) Allison Adams Tucker.  “Women in Jazz.”  Jazz singer Tucker performs with a gifted, all-female ensemble – Kait Dunton, piano, Sherry Luchette, bass, Tina Raymond, drums and Lori Bell, flute.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Mar. 13. (Wed.)  Lou Marini.  New York-based veteran saxophonist Marini makes a rare L.A. appearance backed by a stellar array of players.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Lynda Carter

Lynda Carter

– Mar. 14. – 16.  (Thurs. – Sat.)  Lynda Carter. She’ll probably always be known as Wonder Woman, but Carter is an appealing singer, as well, with a convincing interpretive style.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (223) 466-2210.

– Mar. 15 – 17. (Fri. – Sun.)  Ambrose Akinmusire.  Trumpeter Akinmusire has been receiving critical accolades and winning polls lately.  Here’s a great opportunity to hear him in action and make your own evalulation.  Blue Whale.   (213) 620-0908.

– Mar. 16. (Sat.)  Johnny Mandel Big Band. Veteran arranger/composer Mandel showcases selections from his rich collection of classic arrangements and original works for big jazz band. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers

– Mar. 17. (Sun.)  An Evening with Kenny Rogers.  Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the music of Grammy-winning, hit-making veteran singer/actor/songwriter Rogers.  Valley Performing Arts Center.    (818) 677-8800.

– Mar. 17. (Sun.)  Carol Robbins, Larry Koonse and Pat Senatore. An all-strings evening of music, featuring the fascinating timbres and jaunty swing of Robbins’ harp, Loonse’s guitar and Senatore’s bass. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

– Mar. 12 & 13.  (Tues. & Wed.)  “Miles Smiles”  A super-group of Davis alumni, including trumpeter Wallace Roney, organist Joey DeFrancesco, guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Darryl Jones and drummer Omar Hakim, recall the Miles era.  Yoshi’s Oakland.   (510) 238-9200.


Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke

– Mar. 12 & 13. (Tues. & Wed.)  Leo Kottke. Virtuosic, finger-picking guitarist intersperses his 6- and 7-spring playing with humorous, between-tunes monologues.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.

New York City

– Mar. 13 – 17. (Wed. – Sun.)  Brazilian Jazz All-Stars.  Bossa nova and the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim will be authentically performed by an all-star aggregation of Brazilian artists: Duduka Da Fonseca, percussion, Romero Lubambo or Vic Juris, guitar, Claudio Roditi, trumpet, Helio Alves, piano, Maucha Adnet, voice, Hans Glawishnig, bass.  Iridium.   (212) 582-2121.

– Mar. 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Charlie Musselwhite.  Blues harmonica player Musselwhite, a veteran of the fertile blues and rock happenings of the ‘60s, is still going strong at 69.  He is alleged to be the model for Dan Aykroyd’s character in The blues Brothers.  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.   (212) 258-9595.


– Mar. 14. (Thurs.)  “Birth of the Cool.”  The Richard Shepherd Nonet celebrates the music from Miles Davis’ iconic Birth of the Cool recording, plus classics from Kind of Blue and Milestones.  Ronnie Scott’s.    +44 20 7439 0747.


Brad Mehldau

Brad Mehldau

– Mar. 15 & 16. (Fri. & Sat.)  Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana.  Mehldau steps away from his classically oriented acoustic jazz with Mehliana – an electric funk duet project with drummer Guiliana.  Blue Note Milano.   +39 02 6901 6888


– Mar. 12 & 13. (Tues. & Wed.) Kenny Barron Trio. High on the list of every major jazz artist’s first-call pianists, Barron is also a compelling, musically adventurous player in his own right – especially when he’s working with his trio.  Blue Note Tokyo.    +81 3-5485-0088.

Live Jazz: A Celebration of Miles Davis at the Hollywood Bowl

June 28, 2012

By Don Heckman

There was a lot to like about the opening program in the 2012 jazz schedule Wednesday night at the Hollywood Bowl.  Start with the fact that it was conceived as a tribute to Miles Davis.  Add to that the simultaneous release of a commemorative Davis USPS stamp. And top it off with a program of music celebrating three of Davis’ most memorable recordings.

Herbie Hancock, the L.A. Philharmonic’s Creative Chair for Jazz, opened the evening with an introduction of Jimmy Cobb’s “So What” Band playing the complete set of works from Davis’ much praised  Kind of Blue, reportedly the best selling jazz recording of all time.  Cobb, who performed on the original recording, has been touring his Band, emphasizing his connection with Kind of Blue. “So What” is the title of the first tune on the album, and it was first on the program.

Here, as elsewhere in the performance, the evening’s trumpeters – Jeremy Pelt (with the Cobb band), Nicholas Payton (with the Miles Electric Band) and Sean Jones (with Marcus Miller’s “Tutu Revisited”) – had to confront the question of how to take the role of the inimitable Miles Davis in the midst of the legendary trumpeter’s highly influential outings.

To his credit Pelt captured some of the Davis sound and flow without abandoning his own creative identity. So, too did alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson move convincingly within their assumed roles of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane.  But ultimately, a good part of the appeal of Kind of Blue traces to the way the soloists worked from the amiable sounds of modal harmonies, rather than the complex, often chromatic chords of hard bop.  And it was the pieces themselves – “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue in Green,” “All Blues” and “Flamenco Sketches” in addition to “So What” – that made the Cobb band’s set appealing.  (This, despite the fact that the audio engineers needed at least two tunes to find a sound balance that did not heavily overweight the bass and piano in the mix.)

The program’s second portion was devoted to Davis’ so-called electric bands, which actually were among the ‘70s and ‘80s’most convincing blends of jazz and electric rock elements.  Performed by an eleven piece band featuring Payton’s trumpet, the saxophones of Antoine Roney, the guitar of Blackbyrd McNight and high energy percussion from Mino Cinelu, Munyungo Jackson and tabla player Badal Roy, such classic Davis outings as “Jack Johnson,” “Nefertiti” and “In A Silent Way” came vividly to life.  Up to this stage it was clearly the high point of the program.

But it remained for Marcus Miller’s “Tutu Revisted” to climax the evening with a set that would surely have made Davis proud of the encouragement he gave to the bassist/composer/bass clarinetist when he was an enthusiastic young player.  Pieces such as “Tutu” (from the Davis recording of the same name, produced, composed and arranged by Miller) along with newer Miller works such as the deeply atmospheric “Goree” were underscored by remarkable emotional intensity from the players.  Trumpeter Sean Jones and alto saxophonist Alex Han were especially impressive, delivering some of the evening’s most emotionally compelling musical moments.

All that said, the tribute raised a few questions as well.  One wonders, for example, why – given the timely issuance of the  stamp — Miles Davis wasn’t included, five days earlier, among this year’s group of inductees into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.  Maybe next year?

It also was odd to see Herbie Hancock, who was a member of one of Davis’ most highly regarded bands, making announcements without going near a piano.  That band, the Davis quintet of the ‘60s, also included Wayne Shorter, like Hancock a Los Angeles resident.  And one wonders, too, why Shorter and Hancock, with the addition of bassist Ron Carter, a veteran of the same band, couldn’t have been assembled with, say, trumpeter Wallace Roney (who was mentored by Davis) and a drummer with Tony Williams’ skills in an impressively authentic version of an important Davis band, otherwise unrepresented in this gathering.

Those carps aside, any celebration of the life of Miles Davis is a worthwhile celebration.  And it was both the successes and the failures of this ambitious program that reminded us of Miles’ greatness, of the vital role he played in the second half of the first jazz century.

Picks of the Week: Nov. 15 – 20

November 15, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Carol Welsman

– Nov. 15. (Tues.)  Carol Welsman.  Pianist/singer Welsman makes her last L.A. area performance of the year, which makes it one not to be missed.  Hopefully she’ll play a few tunes from her soon to be released latest CD.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Nov. 16. (Wed.)  Jane Harvey.  Veteran singer Harvey, whose extensive resume begins with the Benny Goodman Band in the mid-40s, is still a remarkable performing artist.  To read Tony Gieske’s recent iRoM review of a Harvey performance, click HERE. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Nov. 16. (Wed.) Herb Alpert and Lani Hall.  They’ve been a jazz/pop power couple for a long time.  But what really makes Alpert and Hall special is the charmed intimacy of the way they make music together.  Here, they perform in their very own jazz club. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Nov. 17. (Thurs.)  Doug Webb.  Master reed and flute player Webb concentrates on tenor saxophone and flute, but he is equally adept at numerous other instruments.  No matter what he plays, however, he does it with style, substance and imagination.  Crowne Plaza LAX Jazz Club.  http://www.crowneplaza.com  (310) 642-7500.

Lainie Kazan

– Nov. 17 – 19. (Thurs. – Sat.) Lainie Kazan. Lainie’s done it all – stage, screen, night clubs and recordings — always with the attractive blend of emotional intensity and sardonic wit that are among her many attributes.  And when she applies it to a song…look out.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Nov. 18. (Fri.)  Riffat Sultana.  The daughter of the great Pakistani singer Salamat Ali Khan, Sultana ranges from traditional and classical ghazal and qawwali to fascinating cross-cultural blends.  The Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.

– Nov. 18. (Fri.)  Bruce Eskovitz Jazz Orchestra. Saxophonist, educator and clinician, Dr. Bruce is also the leader of a big band whose music reflects his quest to create music that blends rhythmic excitement and compelling ensemble textures. LACMA.    (323) 857-6000.

Song of the Angels Flute Orchestra

– Nov. 18. (Fri.)  David Shostac and the Song of the Angels Flute Orchestra.  Shostac, principal flutist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra leads one of the music world’s most unique entities – an ensemble made up of the full range of flutes, from the familiar concert C flute to the extremely rare double contrabass flute.  Cypress Recital Hall at the Valley Performing Arts Center.   (818) 677-3000.

– Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  The Spirit of Django.  Gypsy jazz is at its finest in the hands of Dorado Schmitt, a guitarist with a deep understanding of the irresistible music of the legendary Django Reinhardt.  Segerstrom Center For The Arts.   (714) 556-2787.

– Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  Sketchy Black Dog. The off center blend of string quartet with piano jazz trio led by pianist Misha Piatigorsky is liable to play their own take on anything from Jimi Hendrix and Elton John to their own inimitable originals.  Blue Whale.   http://bluewhalemusic.com  (213) 620-0908.

Barbara Morrison

– Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. – Sat.)  Barbara Morrison.  One of the Southland’s vocal treasures, Morrison has moved beyond her profound medical problems by staying in touch with the expressiveness that has always been at the heart of her music.  Steamers. http://www.steamerscafe.com  (714) 871-8800.

– Nov. 19. (Sat.) Wu Man“Return to East – Ancient Dances.”  A virtuoso player of China’s lute-like pipa, and a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road ensemble, Wu Man plays selections from the traditional repertoire, as well as the specially commissioned multi-media work, Ancient Dances.  UCLA Live at Royce Hall.    (310) 825-4401.

San Francisco

Miguel Zenon

– Nov. 15. (Tues.)  Miguel Zenon.  MacArthur grant genius award winner Zenon has been playing a lot in other bands lately.  Here’s a chance to hear this imaginative saxophonist on his own.  Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

– Nov. 16. (Wed.) Kiran Ahluwalia. Singer/composer Ahluwalia blends poetic ghazals and traditional Punjabi songs with contemporary sounds and rhythms generated by her guitarist husband, Rez Abbasi.   Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.

– Nov. 16 – 20. (Wed. – Sun.)  Diane Schuur.  Deedles, as she is known and loved by fans and friends alike, has been reviving her jazz roots lately.  But that doesn’t mean that she can’t find the heart of any other style she decides to explore.  Don’t miss this rare chance to hear her up close and live.  The Rrazz Room.   (415) 394-1189.

– Nov. 18. (Fri.)  The Anonymous Four.  This female a cappella quartet has produced some of the most extraordinary examples of pre-1600 vocal music.  Heard in the Grace Cathedral, with its remarkable 7-second reverberation, their singing will produce an authentic display of the polyphonic sound and substance of early music.  Grace Cathedral.    (866) 920-5299.


Nov. 18 – 20. (Fri. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit. Blessed with one of the most luxurious vocal instruments in jazz, Monheit isn’t often properly appreciated for the rhythmic lift and imaginative phrasing she brings to her performances.  Jazz Alley.   (206) 441-9729.


– Nov. 17 – 20 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Kenny Barron Trio. He’s every jazz artist’s favorite pianist to have in their rhythm section.  And with plenty of good reasons – all of which are especially apparent when Barron takes the spotlight with his own music.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

Jim Hall

– Nov. 15 – 19. (Tues. – Sat.)  The Jim Hall Quartet.  At a time when the guitar has been making a major comeback in jazz for a decade or two, Hall – whose credentials reach back to the ‘50s – continues to be one of the instrument’s major masters.  Birdland.    (212) 581-3080.

– Nov. 15 – 20.  (Tues. – Sun.)  Chick Corea continues his epic, month long banquet of music from his long, storied career.  Tues. – Thurs: From Miles, with Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette, Wallace Roney and Gary Bartz; Fri. – Sun: Flamenco Heart, with a new band of world-class Latin musicians.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

– Nov. 16. (Wed.) John Coltrane’s Ascension. A stellar aggregation of contemporary players, led by Joe Lovano, take on one of the classic works of the adventurous jazz of the ‘60s.  The group includes Donny McCaslin, Sabir Mateen and Vincent Herring, saxophones; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Josh Roseman, trombone; James Weidman, piano; Ben Allison, bass; Billy Drummond and Matt Wilson, drums;   Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.

– Nov. 18 & 19. (Fri. & Sat.)  Denny Zeitlin.  The psychiatrist/jazz pianist from San Francisco makes one of his infrequent stops in New York.  This time around, his considerable talents will on full display via an evening of solo piano (on Friday) followed by a trio performance with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson (on Saturday).  The Jazz Lounge in the Kitano Hotel.   (212) 885-7119.


Sheila Jordan

– Nov. 17. (Wed.)  Sheila Jordan and Steve Kuhn Duo.  Both Jordan and Kuhn are veteran jazz artists with careers reaching back for decades.  And an especially attractive part of that history is represented by the recordings and live performances they’ve done together.  Call it a symbiotic jazz connection.  The Regatta Bar.    (617) 661-5000.


– Nov. 19. (Sat.)  A Portrait of Jaco.  The Laurence Cottle Big Band performs material from Jaco Pastorious’ “Word of Mouth” band. Celebrating what would have been Jaco’s 60th birthday on Dec. 1. Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.

Sheila Jordan photo by Tony Gieske.

Picks of the Week: Oct. 18 – 22

October 18, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

John Scofield

– Oct. 18 – 20. (Tues. – Thurs.)  John Scofield.  Always looking for new musical adventures, guitarist Scofield has moved through every imaginable jazz variation, including – among others –blues, gospel, pop, funk and beyond.  But he’s always been a solid bebop master, as well.  Lately, he’s been going back to his straight ahead roots. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Oct. 19. (Wed. )  Roger Daltrey, who performed the original version, brings back one of the classics of the Rock Era in a performance of  The Who’s Tommy Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.      (213) 763-6030.

– Oct. 19. (Wed.)  Robert Davi.  Film star and singer Davi celebrates the release of his new album, Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road To Romance with a free concert at The Grove.   To read a recent iRoM review of a performance by Davi, click HERE.   (888) 315-8883.

Ray Charles

– Oct. 20 (Thurs.)  Film: “Ray Charles — Live in France 1961.”  It doesn’t get much better than this.  After being lost for 50 years, films of Charles in concert at the Antibes Jazz Festival have been discovered and digitally restored from the 16 mm. originals.  Charles performs with the original Raelettes and a band that included David “Fathead” Newman and Hank Crawford.  After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with director David Peck, producer Tom Gulotta, and Charles scholars James Austin and Rob Bowman, moderated by Charles’ biographer David Ritz.   The Egyptian Theatre.  7:30 p.m.

Diane Hubka

– Oct. 20 (Thurs.)  Diane Hubka.  The sweet sound of Hubka’s voice blends perfectly with her 7-string guitar work.  Add to that her understanding way with a song, finding the right blend of meaning between words and music.  Vitello’s.     (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 20 – 24. (Thurs. – Mon.)  “Celebrating the West Coast Sound”  A Four Day Jazz Festival.  Featuring the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Bill Holman Big Band, Russ Garcia Big Band, Dave Pell Octet, Terry Gibbs, the Johnny Mandel Big Band, Woody Herman Alumni Band, Stan Kenton Alumni Band and much more in 26 concerts plus rare films and special presentations.  LAX Marriott Hotel.  Presented by the L.A. Jazz Institute.

– Oct. 21. (Fri.)  Anna Mjoll.  Iceland’s gift to jazz, now a member of the Southland’s impressive collection of jazz vocalists, performs with the Pat Senatore Trio.  Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Eddie Daniels

– Oct. 21 & 22.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Eddie Daniels. The clarinet, relegated to the shadows in the bebop era, has been – and continues to be – alive and well in the gifted hands and fingers of Daniels, whose range reaches from a full battery of jazz styles to his unique classical interpretations.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Oct. 21 & 22.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Roslyn Kind.  Yes, she’s Barbra Streisand’s sister.  And yes, she has a voice with a similar soaring range and rich timbre.  But what she does with it, the way she finds the meaning of a song, are all the products of her own imaginative musicality. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Oct. 22. (Sat.)  “Sing the Truth”   Angelique Kidjo, Lizz Wright, Dianne Reeves.  A trio of very different divas apply their special skills to a program of music celebrating Miriam Makeba, Abby Lincoln, Odetta, Billie Holiday and other iconic female artists.  Disney Hall.    (323) 850-2000.


– Oct. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Jazz Crusaders.  The original Cruaders – featuring Joe Sample, Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder – still conjuring up their own unique blends of funk, jazz, soul and blues.  Jazz Alley.     (206) 441-9729.


– Oct. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Wallace Roney Quintet.  Trumpeter Roney, whose playing springs from Miles Davis roots, is joined by his brother, saxophonist Antoine Roney.  Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

Phil Woods

– Oct. 18 – 22. (Tues. – Sat.)  Phil Woods Quintet.  Master bop alto saxophonist Woods showcases a quintet that includes two long-time associates – bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin, along with new members Brian Lynch, trumpet and Bill Mays, piano.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080/

– Oct 18 – 23 (Tues. – Sun.)  Tom Harrell.  The veteran trumpeter displays his impressive skills in a pair of different musical settings.  Tues. – Thurs. with his Chamber Ensemble and Fri. – Sun. with his Quintet.  Village Vanguard (212) 255-4037.

– Oct. 20 – 23. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Festival of New Trumpet Music Celebrating Kenny Wheeler.  Canadian/English trumpeter Wheeler, long associated with adventurous, envelope-stretching music, makes a rare NYC appearance.  On Thurs. with Ingrid Jenson + Brass, on Fri. & Sat. with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, and on Sunday with his Quintet.  Jazz Standard.   (212) 576-2232.


Gregory Porter

– Oct. 22. (Sat.)  Gregory Porter.  The big voice and versatile stylings of vocalist Porter are rapidly establishing him as one of the most intriguing vocal arrivals of the last few years.  New Morning.   01 45 23 51 41.


– Oct. 23. (Sun,)  Mark Murphy Meets Till Bronner.  Legendary jazz singer Murphy performs in a loose, swinging setting with German trumpeter/singer Bronner.  Expect to experience some fascinating, cutting edge singing and playing.  A-Trane Jazz.  030 / 313 25 50.

Picks of the Week: July 5 – 10

July 5, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Ernie Andrews

– July 6. (Wed.)  The Ernie Andrews Quartet. The stylish, versatile Andrews – as convincing with a ballad standard as he is with the blues — performs with the bebop-driven alto saxophone of Richie Cole, and the stellar rhythm section of Art Hllary, piano, Richard Simon, bass and Ralph Penland, drums.  “Sunset Jazz at Newport.”   The Rose Garden of the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa.  (949) 759-5003.

– July 6. (Wed.)  Chieli Minucci.  Guitarist/composer/producer divides his time between his Grammy nominated contemporary jazz group Special EFX and his busy schedule as an A-list sideman and composer for television and film.  He makes his first Special EFX appearance at the Baked Potato with special guest, keyboardist Lao TizerBaked Potato.    (818) 980-1615.

– July 6. (Wed.)  Quattro.  With four skilled player/singers – Giovanna Clayton, cello, Lisa Dondlinger, violin, Kayta Matsuno, guitar and Jorge Villanueva, percussion – and an unusual instrumentation, Quattro is all set to produce an evening of fascinating sounds. Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– July 7. (Thurs.)  The Fred Horn Quintet“A Tribute to Horace Silver.”  The inimitable Brick Wahl describes saxophonist Horn’s Silver tribute with a single, laudatory word: Cool.  And Brick, as usual, is right on target.  LAX Jazz Club in the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel.    (310) 642-7500.

– July 7. (Thurs.) Bobbi Page & Dream Street.  Singer Page receives beautifully textured support from the lush timbres and subtle swing of Dream Street.  It’s a great combination.  Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– July 8. (Fri.)  The 18th Annual Brazilian Summer Festival.  Call it Carnaval in the Summertime.  A celebration of the irresistible rhythms of Brazil — samba, frevo, bossa nova, batucada.  Headlining the festivities — Grammy winner Diogo Nogueira, the singing offspring of a family of samba artists.  Also on the program, the dynamic music of Chalo Eduaro’s “Brazilian Beat” band and the shimmering costumes and energetic choreography of the Brazilian Nites Samba Dancers.  A Brazilian Nites production at the Roxy Theatre.  (818) 566-1111.

– July 8 & 9. (Fri. & Sat.)  Steely Dan.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers perform two separate, but equally compelling programs.  On Friday night they perform Aja and their greatest hits.  On Saturday, a fan-voted set list.  Greek Theatre.  Special guest Sam Yahel.    (323) 665-5857.

Nellie McKay

– July 9. (Sat.)  Nellie McKay.  The seemingly limitless talents of McKay – singer, pianist, songwriter, actress, satirist and more – are currently focused on an inventive musical reconstruction of the 1958 film, I Want To Live. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– July 9. (Sat.)  Gary Foster/Alan Broadbent Quartet. It’s a combination that’s guaranteed to produce jazz at its finest.  Foster’s saxophone playing and Broadbent’s piano come from the same imaginative perspective.  And, with Broadbent planning to move to New York, he should be heard at every opportunity.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– July 9 & 10. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles“Totally: Our ‘80s Show”  The vocally adept, musically eclectic singers of the GMCLA call up plenty of memories with a program of songs by Cindy Lauper, Michael Jackson,  Depeche Mode, Pat Benatar and more.   The Avalon Hollywood.    (424) 239-6514.

San Francisco

– July 8 – 10 (Fri. –Sun.)  Michael Franks. It’s been more than three decades since Franks’ “Popsicle Toes” and “Lady Wants To Know” announced the arrival of a skilled new singer/songwriter witj a distinct jazz orientation.  And he’s still going strong. Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New York

– July 5. (Tues.)  Leni Stern.  Guitarist Stern showcases her fascination with African rhythms with an ensemble that comfortably crosses the boundaries between jazz and Africa.  55 Bar.   (212) 929-9883.

Carmen Lundy

– July 8 – 10.  (Fri. – Sun.)  Carmen Lundy.  The many musical gifts of Lundy have been apparent for years.  But she’s never put them quite as prominently up front as she does on her latest album, Solamente, on which she plays all the instruments, sings all the songs and has written most of the music.  She is truly one of a kind. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.


– July 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Mose Allison. The bayou philosopher manages to sneak a bit of home grown wisdom into most of his songs.  And he does so with memorable melodies, buoyant swing and an ever present sense of humor.  Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.  (206) 441-9729.


– July 7 – 10. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Judy Roberts Trio.  Chicago’s favorite female jazz singer/pianist  gets together with frequent musical companion, saxophonist/flutist Greg FishmanJazz Showcase  (312) 360-0234.


Jeff Lorber

– July 6. (Wed.)  Jeff Lorber Fusion. Keyboardist Lorber’s pioneering Fusion group of the ‘70s and ’80 set the pattern for many of the contemporary jazz groups to follow.  But none did it any better than the music Lorber has produced, then and now.  Ronnie Scott’s  020 7439 0747.


– July 6 & 7. (Wed. & Thurs.)  Bitches Brew Beyond.   Trumpeter Wallace Roney’s mastery of the Miles Davis trumpet style makes him the ideal candidate for this re-imagining of the classic Bitches Brew material.  Further enhancing the authenticity, Vince Wilburn, Jr. (Davis’ nephew) is in the drum chair.   New Morning. 


– July 8 – 10. )Fri. – Sun.)  Bob James Trio.  Keyboardist James takes a break from his heavy schedule with Fourplay to dig into a straight ahead, piano jazz trio set.  He’ll also feature bassist Shadu ShahBlue Note Tokyo.  03 5485 0088.

Live Jazz: Celebrating Miles at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida

February 27, 2011

By Fernando Gonzalez

Almost by definition, tribute concerts are safe gambits.  The honored figure provides a brand name, a ready-made repertoire, and a marketing narrative. Feature in the bill artists who were part of the honoree’ s career or were influenced by the master, stir and sell out the hall.

Consider Celebrating Miles, the entertaining show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, FL, Friday. The first part of the concert featured a sterling group  led by trumpeter Wallace Roney,  with saxophonists Javon Jackson and Donald Harrison, pianist Billy Childs, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Al Foster.  The music was acoustic and focused on Miles’ repertory from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The second half, featuring bassist Marcus Miller and a group comprising trumpeter Christian Scott, saxophonist Alex Han,  pianist Federico Gonzalez Pena  and drummer Louis Cato,  focused on Tutu, the 1986 album co-produced, and mostly written and played, by Miller.

The Wallace Roney Sextet

It was a smart set up, but Miles Davis can be as elusive and contentious in memory as he was in life. When celebrating Miles, what are we celebrating? He was an inimitable player, but not a memorable composer. His best material was mostly either standards, or pieces by his collaborators.  He was an exceptional leader. By hook or by crook he coaxed the best out of his sidemen, both playing and writing. But this is not a talent that lends itself to tributes. And celebrating leadership without the leader suggests something akin to setting up a game of basketball without a ball.

A certain group sound? An approach? Which? Miles had many of both. An attitude? How? His never-look-back approach is contradicted by the very idea of a tribute.  Celebrating Miles addressed some of these questions, shrugged off others, and, with some reservations, it worked.

Wallace Roney

Roney is an exceptional player, who probably will never get his due because of his association with Miles. He has ideas, a beautiful, lustrous full sound, and a goldsmith’s control of tone and phrasing. In spots, he even suggested a might-have-been, fleet fingered, technically better version of Miles. Jackson and Harrison played their roles well without ever trying to evoke Cannonball or Coltrane. Childs showed an arranger’s ear in the framing and development of his parts and his solos, making the most of his chances.  Carter and Foster dutifully, impeccably anchored the music in pieces such as “So What,” “All Blues,” and “Seven Steps to Heaven.”

The arranging was minimal, consisting basically of head and solos. The exception was a long Carter intro feature. But it was all well-done rather than inspiring. At times, Wallace and company suggested museum curators bringing out the prized artifacts for a look – from a distance, through a glass, for a timed viewing – before they would take it all back to the vault without a word.

Marcus Miller

Miller had a better idea. Because Miles’ much maligned late period has not been yet bronzed, and because the composer of much of the music being celebrated was at hand, there was an opportunity to take liberties, stretch out, and have fun.  And Miller & Co. took it and ran with it.

Both trumpeter Scott, saddled with Miles’ role, and especially saxophonist Han, a player to watch, were healthily irreverent while probing the material from different angles. (Han even added some dance moves and a friendly challenge to the boss that actually felt spontaneous.) Songs like “Tomaas,” “Portia,”  or “Backyard Ritual,” will likely never be considered on par with “Round Midnight,”  “Stella By Starlight,” or “Nefertiti,” perhaps because — not in spite of it — they were thoroughly enjoyable. Even “Tutu,” the class of this field, got a shake-and-bake reading that included double time swing and variations rather than a respectful reconstruction of the original.

Now, that was something Miles might have approved.

Photos by Rodrigo Gaya.

Picks of the Week: Nov. 1 – 7

November 1, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Nov. 2. (Tues.)  John Pisano’s Guitar NightBrasil Night.  Pisano expands his usual two-guitar format into an evening simmering with the irresistible rhythms of Brazil. With Federico Ramos, guitar, Jose Marino, bass, Enzo Todesco, drums.  Vitello’s. (818) 769-0905.

Ornette Coleman

– Nov. 3. (Wed.) Ornette Coleman.  Jazz in the post-bebop era wouldn’t have been what it was without the arrival of alto saxophonist and creative revolutionary Coleman on the scene.  More than fifty years after  he startled the New York City jazz crowd — musicians and fans — with his improvisationally free-flying ensemble, he’s still insists upon stretching the envelope of what jazz can’t and can do.  As one of the important iconic figures in jazz history, he should be heard at every opportunity.  A UCLA Live concert at Royce Hall.  (310) 825-2101l.

– Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Sally Kellerman. Hot Lips is back.  With hot jazz, cool jazz, a seasoning of country and a lot of stops in between.   Vitello’s (818) 769-0905.

– Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Scott Whitfield Quartet.  Trombonist Whitfield takes time off from his busy arranging, conducting and producing chores to lead a stellar L.A. ensemble featuring Roger Neumann, reeds, Corey Allen, piano, Adam Cohen, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums. And with luck, maybe Ginger Berglund will sit in for a number or two.  Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

– Nov. 4. (Thurs.) The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning Orchestra, led by keyboardist/arranger Oscar Hernandez revives and re-interprets the sounds and the rhythms of New York City’s salsa duraThe Conga Room.  (213) 745-0162.  (Also at Yoshi’s Oakland on Tues. & Wed.)

– Nov. 4. (Thurs.)  Betty Bryant. She’s celebrating her 81st birthday, but Bryant’s ability to combine her smoky voice with her lush and rhythmic piano is as appealing as every.  She’ll be aided by the engaging vocals of her special guest, singer Mark MillerJazz at the Crowne Plaza.  (310) 642-7500.

– Nov. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Steve Tyrell.  Multi music hyphenate Tyrell has moved from the business side to a performance persona aimed at keeping the American songbook alive via recordings and performances dedicated to the great standards.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.


– Nov. 5. (Fri.) Djavan.  Brazilian superstar Djavan has successfully blended Brazilian rhythms with pop, jazz, funk and beyond.  Magnetic as a performer, he also has written memorable songs covered by the likes of Carmen McRae, Al Jarreau, the Manhattan Transfer and others. Club Nokia.   (213) 765-7000.

– Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Denise Donatelli.  Performing in support of her new album, When Lights Are Low, Donatelli performs in the warm and friendly atmosphere of Charlie O’s laid-back jazz bar.   To read a recent iRoM review of Donatelli click HERE. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

– Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Cheryl Wheeler. Folk singer/songwriter Wheeler’s songs recall a folk era when ideas and points of view were essential elements in a songwriter’s bag of musical tools.  McCabes. (310) 828-4497.

– Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Ryuchi Sakamoto.  El Rey.  Pianist, composer, environmental activist Sakamoto performs pieces that reach from his catalog of film music to his fascination with the link between ambient sound and composed textures.  The El Rey.   (323) 936-4790.

– Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Dontae Winslow Quartet.  Trumpeter, composer and all around musical renaissance man Winslow’s resume reaches from USC’s Monk Institute of Jazz to gigs with Queen Latifah, Snoop Dog, Christina Aguilera and more.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

– Nov. 6. (Sat.)  Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra.  It’s big band Saturday night, with the added pleasures of vocalists Calabria Foti and Seth MacFarlane.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.  To read a recent iRoM review of the Jazz Influence Orchestra click HERE.

Pablo Heras-Casado

– Nov. 6 & 7. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Los Angeles PhilharmonicPablo Heras-Casado conducts Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Debussy’s Jeux, Takemitsu’s riverrun and Stravinsky’s Concerto For Piano and Winds with pianist Peter Serkin Disney Hall. (323) 850-2000.

– Nov. 7. (Sun.)  Bobby Vinton.  It’s hard to believe, but true, that singer Vinton – now 75 – had more Billboard #1 hits between 1962 and 1972 than any other male artist.  His soaring voice, at its best in songs such as “Roses Are Red” and “Blue Velvet” are among the most memorable items from the soundtrack of the ‘60s.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8500.

San Francisco

– Nov. 2 & 3. (Tues. & Wed.)  The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning Orchestra, led by keyboardist/arranger Oscar Hernandez revives and re-interprets the sounds and the rhythms of New York City’s salsa duraYoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.  (Also at the Conga Room in Los Angeles on Thurs.)

– Nov. 5. (Fri.)  Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers.  Keyboardist and co-founder of The Doors Manzarek gets together with premier slide guitarist Rogers in search of some new takes on classic Doors songs.  Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

Gil Scott-Heron

– Nov. 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.)  Gil Scott-Heron.  Before there was rap and hip-hop there was the remarkable blend of politically charged poetry that made Scott-Heron one of the important voices of the ‘70s civil rights movement.  He’ll be performing selections from an upcoming album, his first since the early ‘90s.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

– Nov. 6. (Sat.)  Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band.  At 85, drummer Haynes – who’s worked with everyone from Charlie Parker to Pat Metheny – continues to lead and usually outshine groups of players two generations younger than he.   An SF Jazz Festival event at the Herbst Theatre.  (866) 920-5299.

– Nov. 7. (Sun.)  The Yellowjackets and the Jeff Lorber Fusion. A pair of bands who successfully prove that popularity doesn’t have to mean diminished musicality.  Lorber’s Fusion features the dynamic presence of trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Eric Marienthal.  But expect fireworks from both these fine ensembles. An SF Jazz Festival event at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.   (866) 920-5299.

New York

– Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Lou Donaldson Quartet.  Alto saxophonist Donaldson, at 84, continues to perform impressively with the ear-catching combination of bebop, the blues and soul that have characterized his playing since the ‘50s.  Village Vanguard. (212) 929-4589.

– Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars.  Gillespie’s ability to surround himself with extraordinary young talent is on full display in this memorable celebration of his birthday. Featuring Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Randy Brecker, Eric Alexander, Antonio Hart and Claudio Roditi.  (Check club for schedule.)  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

– Nov. 2 – 7. (Tues. – Sun.)  The 11th Annual Django Reinhardt N.Y. Festival.  “Schmitt Family Tributel” Night after night of gypsy jazz, featuring guitarists Dorado Schmitt and Samson Schmitt with special guests Anat Cohen, Miguel Zenon and others.  Birdland.   (212) 581-3080.

Eliane Elias

– Nov. 3 – 7. (Wed. – Sun.)  Eliane Elias Quartet. Sao Paulo-born Elias’ most recent albums Bossa Nova Stories and Eliane Elias Plays Live reveal how completely she has merged her remarkable jazz instrumental skills with the Brazilian heartbeat of her warmly intimate vocals.   She’s truly one of a kind.  Iridium.      (212) 582-2121.


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