LA Master Chorale Delivers Soulful Performances Honoring Duke Ellington and Mary Lou Williams at Walt Disney Concert Hall
By Paula Edelstein
Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 2:00 pm
Ellington/Williams, the final program of the LA Master Chorale’s season, juxtaposed selections from Duke Ellington’s and Mary Lou Williams’ sacred music catalogues. Conducted by Grant Gershon and John Clayton, the program featured breathtaking performances by the LA Master Chorale, guest artists Carmen Lundy, John Holiday and Daniel Rich and 19-members of the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Today’s matinee also included the performance of John Clayton’s World Premiere CommissionSacred Dreams, Righteous Themes featuring narrator Reenah Golden.
Sacred Music of Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
The afternoon opened with “Almighty God,” from Second Sacred Concert. Soloist/Countertenor John Holiday’s operatic voice in its highest range was astonishingly beautiful and powerful. A brief saxophone solo punctuated his performance as the CHJO and the LA Master Chorale focused the audience’s attention on their wide-ranging instrumentation and vocal talents.
Daniel Rich’s interpretations of “Will You Be There?”/“Ain’t But The One” from First Sacred Concert was an energetic and swinging medley of spoken word, gospel vocals, jazz orchestra and chorus. Arranged by Lenny Hartley, Rich’s performance brought ecstatic cheers from the audience.
The A cappella version of “The Lord’s Prayer” which is also from First Sacred Concert, followed. Performed by the LA Master Chorale, the ripeness of the notes and voicings was performed with an abiding reverence for the prayer’s lyrics. The audience responded with adoration for the blessings received from the choir’s combined energy and spirituality.
John Holiday returned to perform “Heaven” from Second Sacred Performance. His take was accompanied by the CHJO in a Latin-esque style that accurately complimented his vocal skills. The quietly eloquent saxophone solo added more depth to this truly remarkable composition.
Dressed in an elegant emerald green gown, GRAMMY-nominated Carmen Lundy took the stage and spotlighted her splendid vocals during “Come Sunday” from First Sacred Concert. The song, reworked from Black Brown and Beige, featured Lundy’s multi-octave voice which was absolutely mesmerizing. She is particularly adept at singing in different styles and her collaboration with the LA Master Chorale and the CHJO was no exception.
"It's Freedom" concluded this afternoon’s brilliant performances of Duke Ellington’s sacred music. It featured John Holiday giving a spoken sermonette and a moving tribute to Ellington's songwriting partner Billy Strayhorn. This captivating collaboration featured solos by CHJO pianist Sam Hirsh and the orchestra's saxophonists. The duel conducting of Grant Gershon (LA Master Chorale) and John Clayton (CHJO) on the same podium was expertly delivered and truly fascinating.
Sacred Music of Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)
After intermission, Daniel Rich returned to sing a rousing version of “The Lord Says” accompanied by the LA Master Chorale and CHJO. His performance was greeted with shouts of praise and gratitude. He provided a brief intro prior to the great Carmen Lundy’s entrance on “Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy).” During her four spine-tingling performances, Carmen Lundy absolutely commanded the mic in honor of Mary Lou Williams’ artistic output as a convert to Roman Catholicism. As the definitive interpreter of Williams’ sacred catalogue, Lundy’s performances chronicled Williams’ music, written for Mary Lou’s Mass.
Lundy’s interpretation of “Our Father” was deep and inspiring. She kept the audience’s attention to her thought-provoking performance as a result of her delicately beautiful resonance in several octaves along with the lovely accompaniment from the LA Master Chorale, the CHJO and a piano solo.
Carmen Lundy arranged the moving A cappella performance of “Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long” by the LA Master Chorale. Masterfully conducted by Grant Gershon, the composition received an enormous applause.
If you ever need to repent for deeds, past or present, listen no further than to Carmen Lundy’s perfect performance of “Act of Contrition.” You could hear a pin drop during her pious and devoted performance which caused the audience to break out in a thunderous applause at the end of her performance. I noticed several audience members in tears (including myself) as this song’s spirituality pierced and removed any veil of wickedness.
The program featuring the Sacred Music of Mary Lou Williams concluded with “Praise the Lord (Come Holy Spirit).” This energizing version included encouraged hand-clapping from the audience and stimulating vocals from Carmen Lundy, the LA Master Chorale and swinging instrumentation from the CHJO. Again, expert dual conducting from the podium added another layer of invigoration. The concert was met with a standing ovation.
John Clayton’s new LA Master Chorale World Premiere Commission capped this afternoon’s amazing performances. For this commission, Clayton collaborated with Reenah Golden to create a piece to engage in conversation with the other works on the program. The relationship with the jazz orchestra and the choir was impeccable and received a joyous ovation.
Overall, this concert was an exciting celebration of distinctive music created by three American originals – Ellington, Williams and Clayton.
Stay in touch with the LA Master Chorale’s upcoming seasons and information about the proposed recording of today’s concerts. Visit their website here. https://lamasterchorale.org/
Musicians at Play Presents the John Beasley MONK'estra Septet with Peter Erskine"Concert Under the Stars"
By Paula Edelstein
A warm, romantic evening outdoors in Los Angeles was the setting for Musicians at Play’s post–pandemic presentation of John Beasley’s MONK’estra Septet with Peter Erskine "Concert under the Stars." The MONK’estra Septet featured Grammy winner John Beasley on keyboards, Peter Erskine on drums, Bob Sheppard on tenor sax, Tom Luer on alto and tenor saxophones, Francisco Torres on trombone, James Ford on trumpet and Ben Shepherd on acoustic and electric basses.
As the Music Director of the Grammy-award winning 15-piece big band ensemble called MONK’estra, John was ready to showcase his smaller septet featuring several original compositions with these worldclass musicians. “It’s good to be back, performing live in front of an audience after nearly two years of being locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated John during a brief interview with SOTJ. “The septet will perform an amalgam of Monk’s moods, grooves and intricate sounds that we hope the audience enjoys,” he added.
The septet not only showcased Monk’s moods, but added Beasley’s original composition. John sweetly enamored the audience with an explanation of how the blues-flavored song called “Tess the Flake” came about. Beasley’s writing for this incredibly lovely song was indelibly tight yet flavored with a moody blues. The audience was also treated to a finger-popping performance of John Beasley’s exemplary composition commissioned for a German youth ensemble titled “Freddie’s Blues.”
Throughout the evening, the great artistry of the band was highlighted via several searing solos including Beasley’s Grammy-winning arrangement of the bebop jazz standard attributed to Charlie Parker called “Donna Lee.” With the primary focus being empathy and celebration of such Monk’s unique quirkiness, offbeat accents, punchy dissonances, the septet performed such Monk standards as “Gallup's Gallop,” Beasley’s compositions and the exceptional cover of Miles Davis’ "Tout de Suite" which featured 4th year University of Miami Frost School of Music student Joey Curreri on trumpet. The audience remained attentive and receptive to the great music throughout the entire set. Additional guest performers included Taku Hirano on congas and Dwight Trible on vocals that spotlighted a post-pandemic celebration that included dancing and revelry.
There was nothing more satisfying than witnessing the level of interaction and virtuosity of the John Beasley MONK’estra septet. The joyous feelings at this post-pandemic performance was more than welcome due to John’s keyboard virtuosity and his mastery of allowing maximum participation on behalf of every player and their own particular way of saying things musically.
Musicans at Play is a 501c3 Educational Nonprofit Arts Education Organization. Stay in touch with John Beasley at http://johnbeasleymusic.com/
Photo by Clay Patrick McBride
Pianist/composer Jason Moran performs the score to Selma live at The Soraya with the New West Symphony Orchestra
By Paula Edelstein
In an emotional performance that had the audience riveted to the stage and screen, pianist/composer Jason Moran performed his score to Selma, the 2014 award-winning film directed by Ava DuVERNAY. Accompanied by the New West Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Cheche Alara, the two-hour performance was sponsored by Melissa and Ryan Clinton and The Garland.
Selma is the story of the incidents leading up to the historic march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the thousands of civil rights activists across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama to demand the right to vote for citizens of the USA in 1965. The march from Selma to Montgomery was resisted by the government of Alabama as well as then President Lyndon Johnson until Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Prior to that Voting Rights Act, the protestors were brutally beaten, maimed and murdered.
After an introduction by Thor Steingraber Ava DuVERNAY took the stage and introduced Jason Moran. The audience applauded his entrance and the entrance of Cheche Alara. From the first to the last cue, the pair, along with the New West Symphony provided a musical experience that will remain in our hearts for some time. The visual aspect was even more emotional as the two-hour film chronicled the events that ultimately ended with King’s famous speech on the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. Selma earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Film, Director, Actor, and Song for “Glory” (by John Legend and Common, who also appeared in the film). “Glory” also earned the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Jason Moran will play the score live again at the Kennedy Center in March. For more information about events coming up at The Soraya, please visit their website.
Cirque Du Soleil’s VOLTA raises its “WOW!” Factor at Dodger Stadium
By Paula Edelstein and Buddy Sampson
Photos by Matt Beard
WOW! That one word description sums up VOLTA, the latest installment of the Cirque Du Soleil series. Founder Guy Laliberte, Artistic Director Jean Francois Bouchard, Writer/Director Bastien Alexandre and Creation Director Jean Guibert take their fans into new, uncharted territories that reach the very DNA of all who have followed Cirque du Soleil’s exciting shows.
Located at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, under the Big Top, this episode of Cirque Du Soleil is unlike any circus performance you’ve seen. With pristine acrobatics, a great story with hidden meanings and crisp, razor sharp choreography, VOLTA is a visual treat that will delight families, couples and children of all ages.
According the program notes, VOLTA is a story about “the freedom to choose and the courage to be. It’s the tale of a lost soul who has veered off course and fallen out of sync with his inner self. It’s a story about facing your fears – the fear of rejection and the fear of failing. It’s a journey about blazing your own trail, spreading your wings, and reaching your full potential for the good of the many. It’s a story about breaking free.” The creators also drew inspiration from the spirit of adventure that pervades in the world of sports.
Photo by Matt Beard
Photo by Matt Beard
Once inside The Big Top, VOLTA’S awesome creative team had created a luminous world of lights, videos, films and panels of LED tiles that delivered great content about WAZ’s background. The audience was treated to a mind-boggling array of acrobatic performances designed by Philippe Aubertin and Rob Bollinger, choreography designed by Julie Perron, dazzling costumes designed by Zaldy, vibrant eye-popping makeup designed by Eleni Uranis, Bruce Rodgers’ awesome set designs such as WAZ’s refuge which is a 5900-kg mechanical device called The Cube, LED-clad objects, and a full blown BMX park mounted on stage in real time and the high-energy Trampo Wall!!
The high-energy Trampo Wall act features a hollow wall structure flanked on each side by two trampolines in a bi-frontal configuration. The wall is 4.7 m tall and 5.2 m wide and is equipped with casters and rotated 360 degrees to allow the audience to see all facets of the high-flying performances.
WAZ - Photo by Matt Beard
VOLTA is centered around WAZ who becomes a contestant on THE MR. WOW SHOW, a show that will take WAZ to new heights if he excels. VOLTA deftly uses symbolism that mirrors world culture today. WAZ is a terrific artist, but is ignored by those that would notice, because his peers (and society in general) are all self-absorbed, deep in the technology of their cell phones, ignoring the genius that’s in front of them. The choreography of the cell phone users, in a dance routine, ignoring WAZ was crisp and moving, symbolizing the deviation of human connection to the technology of the future.
His contestant rivals excel. A rope skipping double-dutch routine like you’ve never seen performed, and a juggling act by Dina Sok that was simply sensational heightened the audience's expectations about the winner. However, during WAZ’s performance, he loses his hat and his blue feathers are revealed. He is shunned and ostracized out of the contest. The show contiinues to effectively trace WAZ’s life from his childhood and his motivations for being a performer.
Mr. Wow - Photo by Matt Beard
THE MR. WOW SHOW is the hottest show on TV. Every week, the whole city tunes in to watch contestants scramble for a chance to become instant celebrities. Unknown to WAZ, MR. WOW has already pre-determined the winners and because he is the head judge on the talent show, he decides against WAZ.
MR. WOW's costume is pure bling-solid gold through and through! Designed by Zaldy, gold colored dragon scales make up his hard, exterior shell. His laser coat contains 168 lasers and 90 meters of wiring! His headdress has approximately 1500 feathers.
Danila Bim - Photo by Matt Beard
The most moving scenes involved the lead violinist Camilla Backman, whose stellar playing captures the audience. An interactive experience, the performers often went into the aisles of the Big Top, which continuously excited the audience. Among our favorite scenes in the show was a moving spiritual vignette by Danila Bim who is suspended in the air by her hair! This was definitely a hair-raising scene to watch.
Overall, VOLTA is about redemption, one of realizing your dreams as an artist or creative person. It explores themes of self-realization and alienation in a world where technology often isolates people from one another rather than free them. It’s a must see for anyone who has endeavored to be in the creative realms of entertainment. The one word description for VOLTA could be “WOW!” But this hair-raising experience, also has a bunch of great “oohs” and “aahs.”
VOLTA, performances continue under the Big Top at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles through March 8, 2020 and at the Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa March 18--April 19, 2020! Tickets, starting at $49, are available for purchase by visiting cirquedusoleil.com/volta or calling 1-877-9CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783).
Angie Wells performs to capacity audience at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s
By Paula Edelstein
Jazz vocalist Angie Wells performed an excellent concert recently at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, the trendy Studio City, CA venue that hosts a plethora of great talents. Accompanied by her trio – piano, bass and drums - Ms. Wells captivated the capacity audience with songs from her amazing repertoire. Her vocals were warm and inviting, her snappy repartee delightful. She was elegantly dressed in a red gown that flowed with each and every move, much like the musical essence she shared with the audience tonight.
Many of her fans were in the audience and noticeably nodded and hummed along with her on certain songs. From the ballads to the uptempo burners, Angie Wells kept everyone in her charming aura and gave one heck of a performance.
GRAMMY Award winner Luciana Souza performs at The Soraya
By Paula Edelstein
Photo by Luis Luque | Luque Photography
The Soraya continued its highly popular Onstage Sessions Jazz Club concerts at California State University – Northridge recently with the premiere performance by Luciana Souza featuring Chico Pinheiro on guitar & Scott Colley on acoustic bass.
The GRAMMY Award-winning vocalist/songwriter/producer and bandleader sang songs from her critically acclaimed album, The Book of Longing. Inspired by the poetry of Leonard Cohen, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Christina Rossetti, they included original lyrics by Souza herself. Luciana explores the theme of saudade, or yearning, in this work. These exemplary songs from her repertoire were met with appreciative applause throughout the evening. Souza’s snappy repartee was also a big hit with the audience as she shared several anecdotes from her careers in Brazil and America.
Souza won a Grammy Award in 2007 as a featured vocalist on Herbie Hancock's album River: The Joni Letters. She was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Brazilian Duos (2003), North and South (2004), Duos II (2006), Tide (2010), and The Book of Chet (2013). She was nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album for Duos III (2013). She was named Female Singer of the Year in 2005 and 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Following Souza’s January performances, this season of the Onstage Jazz Club will continue with Chilean vocalist, guitarist and composer Camila Meza on March 7 and Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana on March 12 & 13. Los Angeles’ own Marisol Hernandez, lead singer of La Santa Cecilia and frequent performer at The Soraya, has been the host of this season’s Jazz Club performances.
Avery Sunshine throws down at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in DTLA
By Paula Edelstein
In a world where digs against independent artistry is prevalent and the knives are out and coated with negative comments that could easily ruin many artist’s chances, it was such a glorious occasion to hear hear the affirmations of Denise Nicole White. Professionally known as Avery Sunshine, her determination to FIGURING IT OUT, positive music and snappy repartee held the audience captive at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Presented in conjunction with UCLA’s CAP season, the energetic Pennsylvania native gave 100% of her musical talents alongside her band and brought the near capacity audience to their feet several times.
Avery Sunshine sang, danced and played keyboards, accompanied by her bass player, drummer and lead guitarist and husband Dana Johnson. Arriving in Los Angeles fresh from their European concert tour, seeing this great band was a once in a lifetime experience. Avery’s multi-octave vocals were not only strong and resonant, but they were resoundingly fresh and stylishly filled with elements of R&B, soul, jazz and gospel flavors. Song selection ranged from her chart-topping Billboard hit “Call My Name” from The Sunroom, s from her albums Sunshine, Twenty Sixty Four to the upbeat “I Got Sunshine” to the soul-searching “Ugly Part of Me“ to “The Ice Cream Song.” For this writer, the night’s hit” s included a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Day Dreamin’” and a song called “Pining” which brought back memories for the audience as they interacted with Avery’s earthy vocals. The concert ended with a standing ovation after a vivacious gospel-flavored anthem that blessed the audience.
Don’t miss her when she comes your way. Stay in touch with Avery Sunshine at averysunshine.com.
The Joey Alexander Trio delivers a powerful performance during their return to The Broad Stage
By Paula Edelstein
Since his 2015 Motema debut, pianist and songwriter Joey Alexander has consistently delivered excellence in the studio and on the concert stage buoyed by impressive range, deft musicality, and endless charisma. By 2019, he scored two GRAMMY nominations and a plethora of critical acclaim. The artist’s breakout studio album My Favorite Things and its 2016 follow-up Countdown both received GRAMMY nominations while his critically acclaimed Joey.Monk.Live! was his 2017 surprise tribute to pianist Thelonious Monk. Joey, with his brillant command of the piano, didn’t disappoint with his third studio release Eclipse, his most personal statement to date.
Tonight, (9/22/19) in concert at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA, the Joey Alexander Trio featuring bassist Kris Funn and drummer Kendrick Scott, delivered an inspired and remarkable set of songs from all three recordings that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The trio opened tonight’s program with “Bali” his tribute to his home country and the first track from Eclipse. The trio played “subtly and gently in some sections with delicate harmonies, playful and scampering in others as Alexander displaced rhythms.” “Faithful” (which is about the sacrifices and challenges Alexander and his family have faced in pursuit of his art) and “Soul Dreamer” followed with both receiving extensive applause for the exceptional soloing by Alexander and bassist Chris Funn.
Alexander, Funn and Scott played with no learning curve on Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge.” Their intense interpretation was on point and revealed the trio’s virtuosity, consummate musicality and growth during the performance of this jazz classic that sealed Henderson’s place among great jazz saxophonists. The very solemn ballad “Peace” and the lovely “Mosaic” brought together a diverse infusion of jazz and classical elements that inspired the audience’s emotions in their purest forms.
Closing with their dazzling and mercurial style, the trio featured Kendrick Scott delivering a blistering drum solo that brought an explosive applause from the audience. Alexander, now standing, and Funn playing the full range of his acoustic bass, spared no energy as they wrung fiery emotions, meaning and thrills from their huge trio sound. When the smoke cleared, they received a standing ovation before leaving the stage. The trio returned shortly thereafter to perform an encore and received a thunderous standing ovation.
For upcoming performances at The Broad Stage, please visit their website at www.thebroadstage.org.
JAZZ 'N PAZ opens Fall 2019 season with Rhythm & Brews & BBQ fundraiser
By Paula Edelstein
Whether it’s your first time, or among your favorite Performances à la Carte events to attend, the Fall 2019 Kick Off to Jazz 'N Paz was a smashing success that featured a fabulous evening of food, friends, fun and fantastic jazz. Hearing the unforgettable performances by the Nick Mancini Trio, jazz and blues vocalist Barbara Morrison, and the Founder and Artistic Director of Performance a la Carte, Inc. Carla Jamie Perez, was a joyful experience not only for the collaborative effort in their work and, as many of her friends know, because Carla Jamie Perez’s multi-octave vocals, as well as her hilarious and snappy repartee between songs, will always keep her audiences thoroughly entertained.
This evening’s event was held in the lush garden of a beautiful private residence in Pasadena, CA. The venue offered a respite from the triple-digit heat and lent an air of intimacy and acoustic ambience to the musical offerings of the artists. The Nick Mancini B3 Organ Trio with Ty Bailie on Hammond B3 organ, Tina Raymond on drums, and Nick Mancini on vibes played an expert set of traditional jazz compositions including several originals from his current CD titled The Long Game.
The award-winning vocals of jazz and blues legend Barbara Morrison provided a fresh take to songs from the Great Amercian Songbook and from the Broadway musical, My Fair Lady. She nailed “On The Street Where You Live,” made “My One and Only Love,” her own in a multi-keyed voice, sang a lovely updated an arrangement of “The Nearness of You,” and charmed her way into the hearts of her audience with a very soulful rendition of “At Last.” Ms. Morrison received a standing ovation at the end of her set.
Carla Jamie Perez closed the concert with rousing, bluesy performances of Irving Berlin’s “Suppertime,” Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and Billie Holiday’s “Hush Now, Don’t Explain.” Barbara Morrison joined Carla Jamie Perez during a delightful impromptu improvisation of “Hush Now, Don’t Explain” that was met with gleeful acceptance. Perez’s interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” was marked with warm vocal tones that captivated the audience and revealed a deeper resonance to Perez’s vocals. Ms. Perez also showed her exceptional songwriting skills via her original composition titled “Don’t Blame Me” and during an a cappella version of a song about not giving up. She received a standing ovation as she invited her audience to enjoy s'mores and coffee.
Overall, the Rhythm & Brews & BBQ fundraiser held on behalf of Jazz ‘n Paz was a very tasteful "arts for the epicurious" evening that provided a creative and entertaining conduit for jazz enthusiasts. Curated by Performances à la Carte, Jazz ‘n Paz is a seasonal intimate jazz series of three concerts showcasing some of Los Angeles’ finest jazz musicians.
Performances à la Carte, is a collaborative arts events producer with a mission to create unique, original live performances utilizing multi-arts genres to showcase the diverse artistic community in the San Gabriel and Crescenta Valley area and to connect the arts with social needs and issues that serve the public interest. To view coming events please visit their website.
Jazz at LACMA presents Billy Childs
By Paula Edelstein
Over the years,Jazz at LACMAhas had the great honor to present musicians who have been Grammy Award winners. From Wayne Shorter to Hubert Laws to Kenny Burrell and nowBilly Childs, Jazz at LACMA has presented these esteemed L.A.-based jazz masters for over two decades.
On this hot summer evening, Billy Childs performed songs from his Grammy-winning album titled Rebirth during a two hour set with his quartet at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) August 2, 2019. Childs opened with bold pianism and set the evening standards high with precision unison lines, sharp turns, and powerful solos. The hard-bopping ensemble included saxophonist Bob Sheppard who has spent significant time working with Childs’ various ensembles and along with Jimmy Johnson on electric bass and Christian Euman on drums, this dynamic quartet’s rhythmic and melodic interplay drew several ovations from the capacity crowd. Childs’ exceptional articulation during his piano solos were met with exciting and robust applause. Despite the effect of the music being nuanced by the social situation of the audience, i.e., picnics, happy hour networking, boisterous greetings etc., this evening’s performance brilliantly highlighted Childs’ virtuosic pianism, as well as his highly skilled accompanists.
Composer and pianist Billy Childs is a five-time Grammy Award winner, most recently for Best Jazz Instrumental Album in 2018 for his recording Rebirth. Over the course of his career, Childs has recorded with a wide array of leading musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, Renee Fleming, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Chick Corea. In 2009, he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and was also awarded the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2013.
Jazz at LACMA is presented Friday evenings from April to November outdoors on the Smidt Welcome Plaza. Jazz at LACMA is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Broadcasts are made possible through the support of the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Promotional support is provided by media sponsor KJAZZ 88.1.
The Tierney Sutton Band at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s
By Paula Edelstein
Resolute against the passage of time, music bridges generations otherwise divided by decades. This understanding seems why the Tierney Sutton Band was committed to including great songs from films produced decades ago for a new generation of fans (as well as their current fans) in their concept album titled ScreenPlay. ScreenPlay spans the first century of American film music and the band performed many of those songs during their CD release party at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s recently to remind us of tangible connections to our past. As the Tierney Sutton Band performed, the stories inside these songs sequenced on the CD in five acts – The Bergman Suite, Technicolor, Golden Age, Montage and The Sully Variations - reached across generations and became even more relevant.
The Tierney Sutton Band has forged a highly successful career since 1992. The current members are vocalist Tierney Sutton, pianist Christian Jacobs, drummer Ray Brinker, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt. They formed an immediate connection to their audience during the performance of such songs as “Every Now and Then” (the theme from the film Mulholland Falls), The Bergmans’ beautiful ballad “Windmills of Your Mind” (arranged by Sutton), Michel Legrand’s “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life,” "On A Clear Day,” and “I’ve Got No Strings.” Duets with her band included “The Trolley Song” (which you can only buy online) with drummer Ray Brinker, a composition with pianist Christian Jacob, and “If I Only Had A Brain” with bassists Trey Henry & Kevin Axt. Although many of the songs heard this evening were of a similar mood and tempo two songs made famous by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta (“Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “You’re the One That I Want”) from Grease revealed Sutton’s diverse vocal skills and her close, warm, and upbeat contrasts.
“Sounds of Silence,” “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” and the songs the band wrote for Clint Eastwood’s film titled Sully were absolutely captivating while the band’s encore of “Moon River/Calling You” from Breakfast At Tiffany’s/Bagdad Cafe) received a huge ovation as the group left the stage.
Overall, the Tierney Sutton Band performed the material very seriously, with Sutton singing the love lyrics with utter seriousness, which gave the songs unusual depth of meaning. Sutton succeeded in creating an unbroken mood of romance and fun and her intuition as to tempi, phrasing, and even configuration was beautiful and amazing. So altogether, we should regard the Tierney Sutton Band as powerful symbols of perseverance because these original members have been together 27 years. They are also sources of reflection and reminders of compassion, fun, empathy and love.
Keep in touch with the Tierney Sutton Band at www.tierneysutton.com.
Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band swing into summer at Catalina’s Bar & Grill
By Paula Edelstein
What better way is there to celebrate the Summer Solstice than to move and groove to the hot Latin rhythms of Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band at Catalina’s Bar & Grill? That’s exactly what the capacity crowd did on Friday, June 21, 2019 when the great conguero and his band took the stage and performed songs from Sanchez’s Grammy Award-winning recordings and a few from his upcoming album.
These expert musicians immediately connected with their fans via the music and snappy wordplay while urging them to feel the grooves, dance and have fun. Tonight, Poncho Sanchez played congas, percussion, bongos and sang alongside Francisco Torres on trombone/musical director, Jose Perez on timbales, Rene Camacho on bass, Rob Hardt on saxophones/flute, Ron Blake on trumpet/flugelhorn, Giancarlo Anderson on bongos/percussion, and Andy Langham on piano. Their solos were lively, effective, and packed with the fiery rhythmic joy that reflected each of their musical personalities. Songs like Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” featured the band’s indelible mix of sizzling salsa and Latin soul while “Poncho Sanchez Medley” from his 2012 Concord Picante album titled Live In Hollywood was swinging with exciting Afro-Cuban fire. Sanchez’s vocals were filled with emotional power on a moody ballad and equally impressive and resonant on those songs fueled by the band’s scorching rhythmic blasts.
So on this first night of the Summer Solstice, the special appreciation for Poncho Sanchez (who is often described, and with good reason, “as the world’s greatest living conguero”) and his Latin Jazz Band was justly deserved. Their inimitable solos brought thunderous ovations throughout the evening and ultimately resulted in a standing ovation after they ended the concert with an unforgettable salsa number. The band returned to another standing ovation and thunderous applause to perform a rousing encore of James Brown’s “Out of Sight!” What a show! Don’t miss them when they come your way.
The Spring Quartet's debut is to an enthusiastic audience at The Ford Theatre in Los Angeles
Review by Paula Edelstein
Ignite@The Ford! is a series comprised of world-renowned contemporary artists whose work is thought provoking and reflective of the world in which we live. Tonight, Joe Lovano, Jack DeJohnette, Esperanza Spalding and Leo Genovese, collectively known as The Spring Quartet, launched the series with an exceptional concert consisting of original compositions written by each member of the quartet.
After opening remarks by The Ford Theatre’s Executive Director Olga Garay-English and Bubba Jackson of KJAZZ-FM, The Spring Quartet was introduced and took their places onstage. The amphitheater, which is nestled in a canyon, was the perfect setting for The Spring Quartet since the stage has the natural beauty of the hillside and a canopy of leafy green trees as its backdrop. Joe Lovano, the Grammy winning saxophonist/producer/educator opened his original composition titled “Spring Day” with a burst of exuberant saxophonics that featured his top-to-bottom command of the tenor sax that later segued into Leo Genovese’s ambitious piano solo, Esperanza Spalding’s versatile acoustic bass logic solo anchored by the iconic drumming of the great Jack DeJohnette. The song was met with robust applause and led straight into “Herbie’s Hands Cocked,” a song written by Grammy winner and NEA Jazz Master Jack DeJohnette as a homage to the great pianist Herbie Hancock. Spalding opened the song with a provocative solo and was joined with a top-tier, mildly dissonant solo by Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone. The excellent soloing by Leo Genovese, whose dynamic piano chops brought “wows” and “aahs” from the audience, took the song to a level that was certainly commensurate with Hancock’s own piano skills.
Jack DeJohnette then introduced the members of the quartet and continued the concert with Joe Lovano’s composition titled “Le Petit Opportune.” Jack’s opening drum solo was filled with flowing tone colors and revealed the full use of his kit before Lovano entered with some awesome free stylings and avant-garde blowing. Leo Genovese was on fire and received an enthusiastic applause after he played a piano line with his left hand and the same line on electric piano with his right during his solo. Jack DeJohnette’s brilliant time keeping kept this song relevant as the free improvisations were resounding throughout the amphitheater. The quartet followed with DeJohnette’s beautiful impressionistic ballad titled “Priestess of the Mist” during which Jack and Joe shared melodic but understated solos.
The spotlight shined on Esperanza Spalding during her vamping on the introduction to Leo Genovese’s “Ethiopian Blues.” This repetitive figure was featured with piano, bass and drums before Joe joined in with his dynamic saxophone playing. Leo, again, was a beast on the piano and really showed his virtuosic improvisations that kept the audience captivated from start to finish. He received a roaring ovation.
Esperanza Spalding sang her composition titled “Work of Art” before the group performed another of Lovano’s tunes titled “Birds of Springtime.” Paying tribute to another great pianist, Jack DeJohnette wrote “Ahmad The Terrible” after hearing Ahmad Jamal perform a show stopping in concert. He later released the song in 1984 with his Special Edition group. During tonight’s performance, the head was played without a consistent tempo, quickly accelerating and decelerating; but during Genovese’s and Lovano’s solos, the tempi was quickened but consistent.
Overall, The Spring Quartet delighted the full house and made their Los Angeles debut a night to remember. Don’t miss them when they come your way. For more information about upcoming Ignite@The Ford performances, please visit the Ford Theatre website at www.fordtheatres.org.
The Christian McBride Big Band brings the audience to their feet at The Soraya
By Paula Edelstein
Photos courtesy of The Soraya
The Christian McBride Big Band rolled into Los Angeles with a hip, swaggering, hard-swinging session featuring a cast of New York's best sidemen to perform at The Soraya recently. The six time Grammy Award winning bassist/composer/bandleader, host of NPR’s Jazz Night in America, and Artistic Director of the historic Newport Jazz Festival is one of the luminaries of contemporary jazz. Together with his 16-piece big band, which first came to prominence in 2011 with the release of their Mack Avenue debut recording, Bringin’ It, has gone on to win two Grammy Awards for Best Large Ensemble Album.
After an introduction by Thor Steingraber regarding the upcoming concerts and 2019/2020 season at The Soraya, Emcee Helen ** introduced the band which featured a student on the upright bass who had attended McBride’s CSUN Master Class held earlier that day. Shortly thereafter, Christian McBride, dressed elegantly in a black suit, took the stage and acoustic bass and proceeded to jam “Shake ‘n Blake” a song from The Good Feeling that was written for long-time friend, musician and master tenor saxophonist/flutist Ron Blake. Blake, trombonist Steve Davis, and trumpeter Nabate Isles shared their great chops in extended solos that captivated the audience and garnered appreciative applause.
McBride was in great spirits as he shared the stories behind the songs they performed. The enthusiastic reception for the Christian McBride Big Band was elevated by McBride’s witty insights into his creative songwriting processes. “Mr. Brother Mister” was written after the iconic soul brother James Brown addressed him as such; “Science Fiction” was inspired by McBride’s respect and relationship for Lalo Schifrin, one of his long-time mentors; “The Shade of the Cedar Tree” was inspired by the great pianist Cedar Walton; and “Thermo”- his tribute to the late-great Freddie Hubbard which featured exceptional soloing by Ron Blake and Brandon Lee. One song that McBride said he wrote “out of envy” was attributed to a conversation between Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter during a break at the North Sea Jazz Festival. The musicians were raving about Maria Schneider’s cover of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” that featured D-pedal ("E♭ pedal") which instructs the bass player to use a sustained pedal. McBride said he then wrote a song featuring that same pedal point.
Vocalist Melissa Walker (the lovely wife of Christian McBride), took the stage and sang “The Taste of Honey” in a beautiful and graceful alto voice for which she received polite applause. She returned later in the program to sing one of Jovan’s songs and “Mr. Bojangles” which featured great soloing by Ron Blake.
In addition to McBride’s original compositions written for The Good Feeling, the audience was treated to songs from Bringin’ It which featured arrangements written by McBride for “I Thought About You” the lovely ballad interpreted by trumpeter Brandon Lee and “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning” which featured Dan Pratt on tenor saxophone and Christian McBride on acoustic bass with arco bowing.
After introducing the band, McBride acknowledged several celebrities in the audience. He was especially delighted to know that Lalo Schifrin, Don Cheadle, Mrs. Gene Kelly and Mrs. Ray Brown were in the audience to enjoy his exceptional big band.
The evening concluded with “In A Hurry” an uptempo burner that featured several great solos by the players including a dynamic drum solo by Quincy Phillips. The audience gave the big band and featured vocalist a roaring standing ovation.
For more information about the Christian McBride Big Band and their happenings please visit their website. For details about upcoming performances at The Soraya, please visit http://www.thesoraya.org.
CAP UCLA presents OFERTÓRIO featuring Caetano, Moreno, Zeca, and Tom Veloso
By Paula Edelstein
For more than 35 years, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso has been a major musical, social and cultural force in his native Brazil as well as an influential figure to musicians all over the world. Absorbing musical and aesthetic ideas from sources as diverse as The Beatles, concrete poetry, the French Dadaists, and the Brazilian modernist poets of the 1920s, Veloso—together with Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, his sister Maria Bethânia and a number of other poets and intellectuals—founded the Tropicália movement and permanently altered the course of Brazilian popular music.
Described as “one of the greatest songwriters of the century” (The New York Times) and “a master in a league of his own” (The Times - UK), Veloso has released more than 50 albums to date and his newest project focuses on the Veloso family. A collaboration featuring his three sons, Moreno, Zeca and Tom, it reveals and celebrates the innate, and very intimate, musical relationship around their extraordinary songwriting.
The quartet received several robust ovations during their performances of original compositions and during an unannouced dance number that brought roars from the crowd. The "Oferatorio" is Caetano's homage to his 90-year old mother who ultimately lived to be over 100 years old. The ensemble also performed songs he had written for the mothers of two of his sons.
Overall, the concert was a feast of relaxed sambas, original compositions and excellent vocals that pleased the audience members. The group was awarded with a roaring standing ovation.
Roberto Fonseca and Fatoumata Diawara perform thrilling concerts at The Ace Theatre in DTLA during CAP UCLA's Global Music Series
Performance review by Paula Edelstein
It was SHOWTIME at The Ace Theater in DTLA on March 23, 2019 when pianist/composer Roberto Fonseca and singer/guitarist Fatoumata Diawara came to town. While we’ve come a long way regarding technology’s ascent and its influence over our musical lives, there is NOTHING like seeing and hearing these two artists perform live in concert.
They created the music, the audience did the rest. Roberto Fonseca is considered one of the most innovative Cuban pianists in generations, with a sound that traverses his traditional Afro-Cuban roots fused with jazz, soul and world class rhythms. Performing music from his most recent release titled ABUC (Cuba spelled backwards) Fonseca’s trio of Yandy Martinez on basses and Ruly Herrera on drums, turbo-charged the audience with their hotter than hot integrated and player specific virtuosity. There was something very special about the emotions emanating from the stage as Fonseca and his trio flexed their broad musical muscles and showered the audience with gratitude. This festive mood lifted the entire audience – regardless of age or ethnicity - to another level and had them dancing in the aisles to “Afro Mambo.” What an incredible experience it was to witness Fonseca’s keyboard excellence. It was impossible to sit still!
Fatoumata Diawara is hailed as one of the most vital standard-bearers of modern African music. Tonight the acclaimed singer/songwriter/guitarist/actress paid homage to Nina Simone when she shared some of her influences with the audience. Performing music from her thrilling new album titled Fenfo, Diawara’s husky, yet honey smooth vocal prowess and guitar finesse WOWED the audience with its universal messages of peace and love. The compositions were a combination of African styles, ancient and modern, and included the slow-burning blues of “Kokoro,” the simmering funk of “Negue Negue” and the syncopated Afro-pop of “Ou Y’an Ye.” Most memorable were “Mama,” the spirited rocker “Bonya,” and the hypnotic groove of “Fenfo” along with the guest performance of Roberto Fonseca on a song from their At Home album.
Throughout the concert Fatoumata's band - guitarist Sam Dickey, bass player Max Moran, keyboardist Shea Pierre and drummer Wayme Matthews showcased their exciting rhythms and colors and constantly brought the audience to their feet. They concluded the concert after Fatoumata Diawara brought the house down during an on-stage revelry of dancing when audience members jumped onto the stage and jammed with her and her band. It was all the way LIVE!
Tonight’s audience tonight will definitely remember their words, their enthusiasm and their performances that showed each reveler Fonseca’s and Diawara’s commitment to their audience and the need to leave the rest of the world behind when it is showtime.
Antonio Sanchez & Migration present ideals of compassion and tolerance at The Soraya
By Paula Edelstein
True artistry gets inspiration in many forms and no one knows that better than Antonio Sanchez, the award-winning drummer/composer/producer/engineer, who made his Onstage Sessions: Jazz Club concert series debut with his brilliant ensemble Migration at The Soraya on March 13, 2019. Sanchez bared his soul when he told the audience that his remarkable experiences as an immigrant from Mexico and his compassion for those seeking a better life formed the basis for his recent CamJazz recordings Bad Hombre and Lines In The Sand. Several compositions from these exceptional recordings comprised the set list for tonight’s performance and revealed the enormous depths of Sanchez’s musical inspirations. The profundity inherent in these compositions as well as Sanchez’s own dynamic drumming and compositional integrity certainly led to a wider appreciation of his talents from tonight’s audience.
Tonight’s concert featured Chase Baird on saxophone and EWI, John Escreet on piano and Fender Rhodes, Matt Brewer on electric and acoustic basses and Thana Alexa’s vocals and special effects – collectively known as Migration – and Antonio Sanchez on drums and vocals. The quintet revealed their intense virtuosity early on and kept the audience mesmerized for nearly two hours during their debut in The Soraya’s jazz club setting. The group took full advantage of the audience’s concentration and played one of the best improvised electro-acoustic sets laced with coloristic vocalese heard this season at The Soraya.
The first set opened with songs from Lines In the Sand titled “Travesta Intro” which exposed the seriousness and stunning intensity of an ICE raid and people being stopped by the state police. The ensemble then launched into “Travesia” (which means journey). “Long Road” followed and featured the unique interplay of the ensemble as well as the individual gifts offered by Thana Alexa’s soaring vocalese, the excellent soloing by Matt Brewer, John Escreet and Chase Baird as Sanchez laid down a carpet of brilliant grooves, vibes, fills, and captivating percussive acumen.
Among the healthy dose of electronica and vigorous highlights from the “reverse remix” that became Lines In The Sand (the recording which depicts “the ostracization of immigrants and how lucky most of us are to be able to do what we want to do and appreciate what we have…the empathy…”) were the grooves, melodic contours and awesome improvisations during Sanchez’s powerful drum solo on “Bad Hombres y Mujeres.” With its 7/4 hypnotic bass line, featured gorgeous vocalese of Thana Alexa, the call and response of Escreet and Baird, this song provided an amazing conclusion to part one of tonight’s awesome performance that Sanchez had reinforced not only through his rhythmic phrasing but also with his melodic contours.
After intermission, the band continued with a song that featured Matt Brewer on acoustic bass, out of this world ethereal soloing by John Escreet on Fender Rhodes, and the primal and kinetic drumming of Sanchez. Thana Alexa’s beautiful and haunting vocalese on “Home” (which appears on both recordings) followed and was the kind of song that brings tears to your eyes because of the human spirit, the dignity and the stories behind the song. This amazing song with lyrics written by Thana Alexa was perfect for bringing to life the soul of the immigrant experience and their search for a better life. She received a roaring ovation for her interpretation as did Sanchez for his soulful drumming that underlined the emotional context of this heart-wrenching song.
Tonight’s concert ended with “Lines In the Sand” which was inspired by Sanchez’s appearance at a festival held at the Mexico-United States border where he witnessed children dancing in the sand at the dividing line between the two countries.
The songs from both of Antonio Sanchez’s masterpieces are a monumental undertaking as they carry his very DNA, prisms of reality, and diverse protest storytelling forward in a mesmerizing concert experience you won’t find anywhere else. Their messages are deep, profound, broad and all-inclusive. The results provided a vivid sound with great emotional range and brought to life a riveting tale about two nation’s immigrant situation. For this writer, Sanchez’s resounding battle drums were a musical metaphor for defeating the beasts of racism and divisive politics and for using music as a powerful healer. The band received a standing ovation for their excellence.
In their return engagement to the trendy Studio City nightclub, Upstairs at Vitello’s, Dos Divas and special guest vocalists Isela Sotelo and Hugo Castillo, drew a near capacity devoted audience to hear superb renditions of Spanish classics and songs from film scores. Dos Divas – Lorraina Marro and Jackie Gibson – were accompanied by Jennifer Jane Leitham on acoustic bass, Steve Rawlins on piano, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez on trumpet, Mitchell Long on guitar and Steve Pemberton on drums.
The set featured outstanding musicality and interplay on such Spanish classics as “Besame Mucho” during a duet sung by Lorraina Marro and Hugo Castillo. Later a lovely interpretation of Ary Barroso’s “Aquarela do Brasil,” better known as “Brazil,” was sung by Lorraina Marro. The latter song was made famous when it was featured in the 1942 Disney film Saludos Amigos. Additional film music covered tonight included songs from the film “Coco” sung by Jackie Gibson. Isela Sotelo’s uptempo version of a Cuban bolero and her strong interpretation of Ivan Lins’ “The Island” was met with enthusiatic applause while Hugo Castillo’s version of “A Taste of Me” brought robust applause. Other memorable highlights included great trumpet solos performed by Dr. Bobby Rodriguez and the exceptional acoustic bass soloing of Jennifer Jane Leitham.
Overall, the intimate setting of Upstairs at Vitello’s provided a warm and friendly setting for the vocalists and band who also shared intimate stories of their families and the inspirations for several of the songs heard tonight. Don’t miss Dos Divas when they come your way. Keep in touch with them at https://www.lorrainamarro.com/.
The Soul Rebels, Macy Gray and Big Freedia turn it up at The Theatre at Ace Hotel
By Paula Edelstein
CAP UCLA’s amazing American Roots series continued February 16, 2019 at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles with the presentation of The Soul Rebels with special guests Macy Gray and Big Freedia in concert. Their high octane, party-like performances had the audience on their feet and dancing in the aisles from start to finish and straight through the encore with Talib Kweli. The expressive and diverse musical genres presented this evening – Hip-Hop, R&B, Bounce – offered an indelible insight into the extensive research CAP UCLA’s American Roots series is offering during their 2018/2019 season.
With the very first notes coming from The Soul Rebels’ pumped up blend of funk, soul, pop, hip-hop, rock and jazz, the audience knew they were in for a night to remember. As the sixth leg of The Soul Rebels’ appropriately titled Way Up Tour, the ensemble put on an eclectic show that showcased the powerful performances of Derrick Moss and Lumar Leblanc on drums, Julian Gosin and Marcus Hubbard on trumpets, Manuel Perkins on sousaphone, Erion Williams on saxophone and Corey Peyton and Paul Robertson on trombones. Rappers Julian Gosin and Marcus Hubbard kept the audience captivated with their flow (rhythm and rhyme) and delivery (tone and cadence) as the instrumentalists kept the beats coming loud and clear.
Among the memorable vocals highlights was a cover of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” sung by Erion Williams of The Soul Rebels, Macy Gray’s inimitable vocals on two songs, including her mega-hit “I Try,” and the over-the-top vocals of Big Freedia, the Queen of Bounce, during her AMAZING spotlight. Both guest artists tore the house down and primed the audience for the return of The Soul Rebels to the stage for an encore with Talib Kweli.
Overall, the night was filled with a party, get-down atmosphere that kept everyone on their feet. The Soul Rebels presentation of elements of hip hop, jazz, rock all within a brass band context was truly awesome; Macy Gray’s distinctive vocals resonated with her fan base while Big Freedia’s rapid fire beats and twerking brought the Bounce movement to Los Angeles with resounding success.
Keep in touch with the CAP UCLA 2018/2019 season offerings here.
Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Jam a Multitude of Sounds at The Soraya
By Paula Edelstein
The incredible four-time GRAMMY winning Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra TURNED UP THE HEAT at The Soraya on the campus of California State University at Northridge recently. Their hotter than hot virtuosic 90-minute concert was performed to a near capacity audience who came out despite the torrential rains that were wreaking havoc all over Southern California. As pianist, narrator and bandleader, Arturo O’Farrill injected their performance with passion, intensity and narratives that brilliantly brought the convergence of Afro-Latin music from Cuba, Africa, South American, the Caribbean front and center.
The audience heard the virtuosity of soloists as well as the tantalizing rhythms of the collective orchestra on such songs as Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night In Tunisia,” a piece Chico O’Farrill wrote for Dizzy Gillespie called “The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suites, I, 2 and 3” that featured excellent soloing by trumpeter Jim Seeley. As one of the first Afro-Cuban extended works to be fused with the Jazz and the Classical idioms, this suite was among the two crown jewels in tonight’s performance - the other being “Three Revolutions” - the orchestra’s 2017 GRAMMY winner for Best Instrumental Composition . Big Chief Donald Harrison got a shout out during a narrative about “Iko Iko” a piece that is filled with the vitality of the New Orleans second line and Afro Cuban mambo. The audience loved it.
Tonight’s concert also spotlighted excellent acoustic bass logic and percussive rhythms emanating from bongos, congas, cowbells, clave, shekere and drum kit that kept a tight groove happening and central to the direction of the music. Each soloist also exemplified the collaborative spirit exuded from the ensemble’s epic album Fandango at The Wall on a piece called “El Maquech.” Next During O’Farrill’s performance of his 2016 GRAMMY winner for Best Instrumental Composition titled “Afro Latin Jazz Suite” from the Cuba: The Conversation Continues album, the chops of conguero Keisel Jimenez and bongo player Carlos Maldonado were on fire during their solos.
Overall, tonight’s concert by the Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra featured inspired playing and arrangements by one of today’s masters of Afro Latin Jazz. Opening the evening was Changui Majadero who played an excellent set that showcased a fandango by a couple who affirmed the commitment of their musical counterparts.
The Stanley Clarke Band upps their WOW! Factor at The Broad Stage
By Paula EdelsteinBupps their WOW! Factor at The Broad Stage
When Stanley Clarke, a four-time GRAMMY Award-winner and one of the most celebrated acoustic and electric bass players in the world calls you for a gig, you better believe his phone call or text message is answered immediately. Furthermore, when he schedules his first concert of 2019 in your city, you better believe any person who knows the history of Stanley Clarke’s bands and his collaborations, will make sure to be in the audience.
As the HOTTEST ticket in town this weekend, The Stanley Clarke Band’s sold out performance at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA was by far among his best performances. A prolific composer and prodigious bass talent, Stanley Clarke led Beka Gochiashvili on piano/keyboards, Shariq Tucker on drums, Cameron Graves on keyboards, Salar Nader on tabla/percussion and Evan Garr on electric violin through a 90-minute musical journey that garnered two well-deserved thunderous, standing ovations at the conclusion of the set.
The ensemble opened with the explosive jam titled “Lopsy Lu” with Clarke front and center on electric bass. They followed up with “Brazilian Love Affair” a cut written by Clarke’s former band mate George Duke that is now a mainstay in Clarke’s repertoire. On this song, Evan Garr played his heart out on the melody and received an amazing applause while Clarke’s awesome pizzicato and his trademark slap technique during his solo on the acoustic bass brought resounding cheers from the audience before Clarke paused to introduce the band.
Clarke then gave the audience some background on “Good Bye Pork Pie Hat” before taking us down memory lane via Charlie Mingus’ elegy for saxophonist Lester Young who had died and was known to wear a pork pie hat. Cameron Graves shined on keyboards during an extensive solo on “Good Bye Pork Pie Hat” while the band underlined his virtuosic performance. Evan Garr felt every note from head to toe on his five string electric violin whenever he soloed. I had the opportunity to see Evan perform during Al Di Meola’s 40th Anniversary Elegant Gypsy Tour in 2017 and knew then Evan deserved wider attention for his amazing chops as an electric jazz violinist. His technique was absolutely amazing. Drummer Shariq Tucker’s power drumming was brilliantly spotlighted as was master tabla player Salar Nader’s and Beka Gochiashvili’s piano prowess. In the aftermath of their solos, the audience let them know several times how much they were appreciated
“Black Narcissus” was amazing and set the tone for Dr. Clarke to introduce “his favorite song written by Chick Corea titled “No Mystery.” He and the band not only JAMMED a new arrangement of his GRAMMY-nominated “No Mystery” cut but gave the audience a new revelation into Clarke’s masterful and varied effects of vibrato as well as his smooth gliding from one tone to another. That brought different shades of intensity, atmosphere, and eloquence to these songs. The results: robust, appreciative applause from the audience.
The night definitely belonged to Stanley Clarke because of his dazzling technique on both acoustic and electric basses. His soloing and interplay with the band members afforded him regal status as the audience continuously applauded his virtuosic performance. His complex rhythmic syncopation combined with provocative lyrical melodies and sophisticated harmonizing was at the heart of tonight’s concert.
After a thunderous standing ovation, the band returned to play “Oh Oh” and the ultra-funky “Mothership Connection” that had everyone dancing in the aisles. It was a night to remember because whether Clarke was slapping out funky riffs during his world-renowned slap technique, bowing, employing brilliant portamento and pizzicato or comping a sustained groove as his band members soloed, The Stanley Clarke Band’s soulful, jazzed and classic expressions sent their WOW! Factor through the roof. Don’t miss them when they come your way.
Lisa Hilton performs at Zipper Hall
Performance review by Paula Edelstein
Lisa Hilton, the award-winning pianist/composer, shined the spotlight on songs from her latest recording titled Oasis during a solo performance at Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The performance launched her 2019 national tour which includes a performance with her trio at Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York. Her outstanding solo performance featured an exquisite program of original compositions that were created while Hilton was seeking inspiration for her new recording. Inspired by various national and world events, such songs “Oasis,” offered tonight’s audience a brief respite from the political turmoil and climate catastrophes that permeate today’s news, while others such as “Adventure Lands,” and “Vapors & Shadows” seem almost prescient considering the devastation Hilton faced as she evacuated her home during the massive Woolsey fire in Malibu, California.
As she took the audience on a melodic, impressionistic, musical tour Ms. Hilton eloquently captured the many moods of her personal experiences, geographical inspirations and created songs that evoked hidden breezes and perfect Sunday mornings. Although Ms. Hilton transported her audience through an oasis of beautiful sounds and clever but informative repartee, she continued to draw undivided attention to her introspective playing style as well as the layers and layers of piano virtuosity that has won her legions of fans around the world.
While most of the songs performed this evening were culled from Oasis, Ms. Hilton also performed several of her earlier compositions including the lovely emotions of “Waterfall,” the dramatic and pyrotechnic notes of “Meltdown,” (which elicited robust applause at its conclusion and enticed her articulate encore). After returning to the stage, Ms. Hilton graciously performed “Zero Gravity.”
To learn more about Lisa Hilton, her performances and her catalogue of music, please visit her website at www.lisahiltonmusic.com.
Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour at The Grammy Museum
Performance review by Paula Edelstein
American Express presented a special listening experience and panel discussion regarding the new box set Miles Davis & John Coltrane—the Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 at the Grammy Museum on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. The panel consisted of Miki Coltrane (daughter of John Coltrane), Erin Davis (son of Miles Davis), Vince Wilburn, Jr. (nephew of Miles Davis), and Steve Berkowitz (five-time GRAMMY-winning producer who produced the box set). The panel discussed various solos of Coltrane's, how certain tracks were selected and acquired from bootleg collections, certain backstories about Davis' creative processes, and various unknown and nostalgic memories of Coltrane's and Davis' evolutionary stages in their careers. Vince Wilburn, Jr. shared several interesting aspects about Miles Davis' family members and the difficulty of hearing his music afer his death, while both Miki Coltrane and Erin Davis discussed memories of discovering the unheard concerts played by their fathers.
Originally broadcast on European radio in March 1960, these concert recordings have been long sought after and prized by collectors and are now officially available at last in this box set. Miles Davis & John Coltrane, The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 offers five of the best recorded shows from the pivotal Spring 1960 Jazz At The Philharmonic European Tour which was John Coltrane's last tour as sideman. There were shows from the L’Olympia Theater in Paris, France on Monday, March 21, 1960; two shows at Konserthuset in Stockholm, Sweden on Tuesday, March 22, 1960; and one from the Tivolis Koncertsal in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 1960.
Miles Davis & John Coltrane, The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 is essential listening. Erin, Vince, Miki and Steve travelled through time to share their unique perspectives, experiences. the enduring beauty and magic of Miles Davis and John Coltrane at the peak of their collective powers.
Photo by Andrew Southam
Sergio Mendes brings his iconic masterpieces to life at The Soraya
By Paula Edelstein
Sergio Mendes and his dynamic ensemble really "brought it" at The Soraya recently and left the audience dancing in the aisles during an encore of his break through hit “Mas Que Nada.” Playing his signature song, which is a fusion of bossa nova heavily crossed with pop, samba, jazz and funk, Mendes invited his group of guest stars, (minus his opening act Ana Tijioux’s Rojo y Negro quartet) to slay the conclusion and make his appearance at The Soraya a lasting memory for some time to come. Featured rapper Harrell "H20" Harris joined Mendes and company on stage and brought another dimension to the internationally renowned song.
In addition to performing his famed hit and signature song, Sergio Mendes and company also performed such hits as “The Look of Love,” “The Fool on the Hill” and his monster hit “Never Gonna Let You Go” featuring vocalists Katie Hampton and Joe Pizzulo. All the while, and certainly not beneath the surface, was the hot, hot, band that kept the grooves hot and the bossa nova cool and calming. Percussionists Marco “Gibi” Dos Santos’ and Luis Angel Torres’ spotlighted soloing kept the audience excited as did Scott Mayo while showing off his dynamic chops on keyboards and horns.
Now, as a major player in Brazilian music, Mendes has recorded more than 35 albums over a nearly six-decade career. Sergio Mendes’ path to becoming one of the world’s most admired performers has been filled with epic nights under the stars and in major concert halls. Seeing him bring his iconic masterpieces to life during his performance at The Soraya was a remarkable experience.
MC /rapperAna Tijoux opened for Mendes and debuted songs from her latest recording titled Roja y Negro.
John Beasley conducts MONK'estra at The Broad Stage
MONK'estra receives standing ovations at The Broad Stage
By Paula Edelstein
Mack Avenue recording artist, pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader John Beasley is unlike any other artist currently active in the jazz genre. Having worked and toured with a plethora of award-winning jazz and pop artists as well as having served as the Musical Director on several film, television shows and the global International Jazz Day concerts around the world, John Beasley has shown resiliency while building upon Thelonious Spere Monk’s foundational legacy to create one of the most innovative bodies of music celebrating the legendary pianist-composer.
During a recent performance at The Broad Stage, John Beasley brought his Grammy-nominated 14-member ensemble MONK’estra front and center with its refreshingly 21st century sound that re-interpreted the High Priest of Bebop’s Centennial and his great songbook. Opening with their re-arrangement of “Epistrophy,” which featured Danny Janklow on trombone, the capacity audience was immediately enthralled with the intricate arrangement and fresh take on this Monk classic.
“Little Rooty Tooty” preceded the mash up of “Rhythm-a-Ning/Evidence” featuring Tommy Peterson on trombone. John Beasley’s performance on vocoder was a great highlight on the beautiful love ballad Monk wrote for his wife Nellie titled “Crepuscule With Nellie.” Peter Erskine’s amazing power drumming solo showed why he was the go to drummer for Beasley’s guest spot this evening and brought the first half of the evening to a close.
After intermission, among one of the most memorable highlights this evening was trumpeter Gabriel Johnson’s extended solo. As one of the original members of MONK’estra, Gabe Johnson’s world-class skills on his large bore trumpet inhabited various registers and articulation for nearly 5 minutes and received a highly deserved robust applause.
During the performance, Beasley gave each member of MONK’estra an extended solo which showcased their virtuosity and improvisational acumen. The audience responded with delight and enthusiastic applause as each soloist concluded their performance. When Beasley announced their names after the end of each composition the musicians received additional ovations.
With the incorporation of hip-hop, bossa nova, Afro-Cuban jazz, funk, fusion and free jazz, Monk’s compositions received Beasley’s amazing updates while still retaining the essence of Monk’s genius. Throughout tonight’s performance MONK’estra’s new arrangements captured Monk’s zig-zagging melodies, unusual rhythmic twists, intricate harmonies and the celebratory sense of playfulness and played to a rousing standing ovation before returning to play an amazing encore.
Artists + Acoustics = An Awesome Night at The Edye
By Paula Edelstein
The Edye was silent until the highly regarded vocalist Sandra Booker and her ensemble featuring pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Santino Tafarella, guitarist Tony Pulizzi, and drummer Thomas White kicked off their impeccable tribute to Bop’s greatest diva, the inimitable Sarah Vaughan. After hearing the first few notes of Sandra’s qualified, multi-octave vocals, The Edye was silent no more! Wow! Hearing Ms. Vaughan’s heiress apparent was completely satisfying! Ms. Booker’s vocals and intonations immediately captured and mesmerized the sold-out audience. Her strong, confident and beautiful singing, scatting and vocalese said it all and has situated her in the same jazz vocalist realms with such great singers as Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Carmen Lundy. No one captures the essence of Sarah Vaughan better than Ms. Booker. What a consummate performer she is.
Ms. Booker’s program featured many of the definitive songs associated with Sarah Vaughan’s great career and repertoire. From highly charged swingers like “But Not For Me” to the soft and lovely “Tenderly” or the broken-hearted ballad “Bring In the Clowns,” to her gritty get-down performance of “I Got A Right To Sing The Blues” Sandra Booker took her stance and made those songs her own. Her rendition of “The Island” was impeccable as was her caffeinated version of “Black Coffee” which gave the room a rush!
Curated and hosted by the Reverend Shawn Amos, and with proceeds to benefit Jazz Musicians Against Cancer, the entire evening was filled with great singing by “Little Sass” and her reliable instrumental accompaniment. At the conclusion, the ensemble received a well-deserved standing ovation and chants for an encore - which Ms. Booker and her band kindly provided.
Keep in touch with Sandra Booker's experiences and happenings at www.sandrabooker.com.
The Alfredo Rodriquez Trio performance at The Jazz Bakery receives standing ovations
By Paula Edelstein
His mentorship and collaborations with Quincy Jones made Alfredo Rodriquez famous, but his improvisations, compassion and virtuosity will make him a Grammy Award winning pianist and composer. That said, one of the great concerts for which the Alfredo Rodriguez Trio will always be remembered is their recent concert at the Moss Theatre in Santa Monica, California on September 15, 2018. Produced by The Jazz Bakery, their exhilarating and inspired performance starring pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, Munir Hossn on bass and guitar and Michael Olivera on drums, was met with excited appreciations and several standing ovations.
In this intimate 350 seat venue, the trio’s excellent performance was a happening of monumental proportions. Although there were only three musicians on stage, they sounded like a full orchestra due to the perfect acoustics of the venue and the fueled revelry emanated from the audience. Their collaboration began with the current release titled The Little Dream on Mack Avenue Records, produced by Alfredo’s mentor, Mr. Quincy Jones. The young Alfredo Rodriquez is a virtuosic pianist, a genius songwriter and without a doubt already a master of his craft in so many positive ways.
The set opened with “Dawn” the opening track on The Little Dream. This song set the tone for the evening and immediately let us know that we were in for a great evening of music and fun. With its high energy and excellent exchanges of ideas, this song was compassionate and certainly qualified to make the trio Grammy Award contenders. After playing “Dawn”, which had the band reeling and rocking with its guiro grooves, the band segued into an intimate version of Consuelo Velasquez’s “Besame Mucho." This song that eased into your soul and tugged on your heart strings and beautifully revealed how skillful Alfredo is at blending classical and Latin rhythms over the pulsing bassline of Munir’s compliments. Wow, what a gorgeous rendition.
“Yemaya” was a performance that paid tribute to the Cuban goddess of the sea. Yemaya is the goddess of the Sea of the Yoruba (Nigerian) religion called the Orishas. Yemaya is a very popular belief in those countries whose cult cross any social barrier and rang true since Alfredo himself moved from Cuba to the United States in 2009. This song was previously released on Alfredo Rodriguez's Mack Avenue release titled Tocororo.
After brief introduction and thanks to Ruth Price, the trio continued with a song written by Cuban master pianist and songwriter Bola de Nieve. This exciting song opened with Munir on guitar and Alfredo drumming alongside Michael that included ironic patter, joyous laughter and excellent musicality. The song featured Alfredo’s amazing two-hand speed on the keys that looked like his hands were flying across the keys. Their energy, individual solos and overall fun they shared was contagious. Munir Hossn’s performance on bass was exceptional and a clinic in new sounds that can come from an electric bass. Wow! Michael Olivera’s power drumming was not only kept the rhythm logic going, but provided an ongoing conversation between Alfredo’s and Munir’s instrumentation that was truly inspired. The song received a standing ovation.
“Bloom” a song from The Little Dream was a beautiful serene piece that provided the perfect introduction to the fun-filled, extended sing-along version of “Guantanamera.” Because each recording by the Alfredo Rodríguez tells a story, you got a real sense that his albums are not collections of musical pieces but tales told in a distinctive voice, with a distinct point of view and purpose. “Guantanamera” is from Alfredo Rodriquez’s second Mack Avenue Records album The Invasion Parade. This happy sing-along event also provided a bit of comic relief and additional revelations of how Rodriquez arranges traditional songs to meet the needs of a contemporary audience. The song received a standing ovation.
The concert ended after an outstanding re-arrangement of “Thriller” the mega-hit produced by Quincy Jones for Michael Jackson. To hear this song arranged with Latin rhythms was awesome and had the audience on its feet.
Overall, each song was played to perfection. In additional to Alfredo’s sheer genius as a pianist and composer, Alfredo’s pedaling and foot stomping as an additional rhythmic component was truly amazing. To see him move across the piano bench, standing, sitting, swaying from side-to-side, added a remarkable dimension to his showmanship and was greeted with robust applause.
No matter what generation, age, gender, ethnic background, country of origin, or educational level, the audience was truly involved and honored to hear the result of this Alfredo Rodriquez/Quincy Jones collaboration – LIVE - was truly remarkable. To get a true picture and feeling of their energy, their passion, vocals and individual musical skills which all created a colorful ambiance in sync with each other and the audience, you had to be there. Every performance was a gem so if they come your way, don’t miss them. Keep in touch at https://www.mackavenue.com/artists/alfredo-rodriguez/.
Dave Koz and Friends thrill with hits from ‘Summer Horns II From A-Z’ at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Summer Concert Series
By Paula Edelstein
Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Aubrey Logan brought their A game to the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach concert Series recently and left the capacity audience raving for more. The midnight blue sky dotted with stars twinkling over the outdoor amphitheater was the perfect ceiling for the intimate setting. Playing songs fromSummer Horns II From A to Ztheir Number 1 Billboard Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart super hit, Dave Koz and Friends along with a crew of ace rhythm layers that included Greg Adams, set the night on fire and gave their fans an amazing great night.
The ensemble kicked off the evening with a medley of Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1976 smash hit “Getaway” and the KC and the Sunshine Band dance staple “That’s the Way I Like It.” The crowed immediately responded, swaying in their seats and showing their appreciation. With a killer horn section playing like there was no tomorrow, we knew we were in for a real treat. The group got really funky on Stevie Wonder’s “If You Really Love Me” and revealed itself as an excellent vehicle for Rick Braun to take the lead on his muted trumpet. Braun brought some new registers to this classic while Gerald Albright’s saxophone solo gave the songs extra funk that led into some dynamic vocals by Braun and trombonist Aubrey Logan.
The Crusaders’ song “Keep That Same Old Feeling” is a favorite of Rick Braun’s and he made that known tonight during this fantastic horn arrangement. Dave Koz’s solo was brilliant and the entire horn arrangement by Greg Adams was superb.
Dave Koz then thanked the audience for coming out to the Summer Horns tour and gave a brief description of how the improbable marriage of “Take The A Train” (Billy Strayhorn’s standard made famous by Duke Ellington) and “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)” by hip-hop icon Jay-Z came about. As result, the album got its subtitle “From A to Z” from this modernized fusion of “Take the A Train” and Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys (And the Winner is)”. The horn arrangement by Gordon Goodwin and the rhythm arrangement by Goodwin and Braun, worked and worked well and the audience let them know it.
The audience really appreciated the new arrangement of Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go” with Gerald Albright out front on alto sax soloing in front of this dynamite horn section. Gerald Albright was really blowing on this one and with Rick entering at just the right moment on his fiery trumpet, and Dave Koz bringing on his fine example of musicality, the song got a brand new life.
Guitarist Adam Hawley took the stage next playing music from his latest release and was followed by Dave Koz’s appreciation of MC and WAVE radio personality Pat Prescott. Richard Elliot then played “Harry the Hipster” from his latest release and got the crowd even more involved. The organ solos were awesome and brought cheers from the audience. This was one funky joint.
The inclusion of “Together Again” from Dave Koz’s mega-hit album titled The Dance really made the night even more magical and brought the audience to their feet during the call and response between Dave and the outstanding drummer. I simply love this one and it’s among my favorites from Dave’s indelible repertoire.
After a brief intermission, the band returned to play several more songs from Summer Horns II From A-Z and made the evening an everlasting lovefest. Overall, the passion, the musicality, the commitment and the star power emanating from the stage tonight was a truly remarkable event. For updates about the tour, please visit www.davekoz.com.
Ford Theatres and UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance presentJason Moran and The Bandwagon Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music and Media
By Paula Edelstein
Since his formidable emergence on the music scene in the 1990s, renowned pianist and composer Jason Moran has challenged the status quo, which has earned him a reputation as the future of jazz.
On Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 8:00pm the Ford Theatres and UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) presentedFinding a Line: Skateboarding, Music and Media, an unprecedented collaboration exploring the intersection of skateboarding and jazz. Improvisation abounded as local skaters shred a ramp on stage to a musical response performed live by Moran and his group The Bandwagon.
Skateboarders who participated included Ron Allen, Jordan Hoffart, Simon Lambey, Greg Lutzka, Brad McClain, Jamie Reyes and Sky and Ocean (AWSM KIDS). For the performance, a mini-ramp (also called a half-pipe) was installed directly onto the Ford’s lower stage by OC Ramps, a family-owned company based out of Orange County.
Several skaters performed amazing tricks that defied gravity and balance and gave even more credibility to the International Olympic Committee's decision to add skateboarding to the sports program for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Hopefully we will see some of our guys and girls skating in those games!!
As far as the jazz music is concerned, Jason Moran and his group (not his official Bandwagon) which tonight consisted of Jason on piano and keys, Daru Jones on drums, Tarus Mateen on bass, Bennie Maupin on saxophine and Chuck Treece on gutiar, was always interesting and innovative. The jazz music inspired the skaters and vice versa. The loosely structured music featured ideas that explored jumps, leaps and other tricks inspired by the skaters while the creativity that played out on the ramp. Those ideas worked well and showed the wonderful risk of trusting each other!
For more information about Jason Moran and The Bandwagon, please visit his website at http://www.jasonmoran.com/
The Rob Morrow Band rocks out at Bogie's - Westlake Village Inn Concert Series
By Paula Edelstein
Rob Morrow has thrived personally and artistically as a successful musician and actor during his dual careers and tonight, he and his band revealed another layer of his creativity – his exemplary singing and songwriting skills. Captured at Bogie’s in the Westlake Village Inn, Morrow and his band played a program featuring 12 original songs either written or co-written by Morrow with his bandmate, guitarist/vocalist Carlos Calvo. Opening with an acoustic guitar version of his original titled “What Have We Become” the capacity audience quickly realized they were in for a real treat. Backed by a quicksilver band consisting of Carlos Calvo on lead guitar and vocals; Carlos Costa on bass; Jason Libs on keys; and Marc Slutsky on drums, Rob Morrow continued on with “As Good As Dead” before launching into the newly released single, “The New New Face.”
The band’s use of various textures and tonality revealed their mastery and skills on their respective instruments. It’s amazing what kind of notes a masterful musician can get out of a guitar, the keys and a set of drums. It was even more amazing to hear Morrow’s singing voice and the way he captured and kept the audience’s attention. As a singer, Rob Morrow approaches the lyrics to his songs much like he would as an actor preparing for a role. His distinct emotions and technique allowed him to create a highly personalized interpretation of the lyrics while his guitar playing underlined his contemporary sensibilities.
In a nod to the old saying that “inspiration is everywhere,” the stories behind some of the songs were inspired by family, personal experiences, and travels as so deftly expressed by Morrow – the songwriter. “Jean, Jane and Joan” was written after Morrow was told why his wife was named Debbon, instead of being given one of the overused names in the title of the song. The song is upbeat, positive and received a robust applause. “Good As Dead” and “Out and About” are both burners, the former has an exciting guitar solo from Calvo and the latter is a song Morrow cued in an episode of “The Fosters” television show that he directed. In a glance back to a trip to New York where Morrow attended a Bruce Springsteen concert, the band rocked “Dancing In the Dark” as the finale while fans danced in their seats.
The members of the Rob Morrow Band are appealing performers whose perspective of rock/pop fusion has resulted in a resounding appreciation for their talents. Check them out in a city near you. Keep in touch at www.robmorrow.com
Chano Dominguez opens Ignite@The Ford! Concert series with music inspired by Miles Davis
Performance review by Paula Edelstein
Photo by Cynthia McCoggle
Spain has produced many great musicians, flamenco dancers and composers and the virtuoso pianist Chano Dominguez ranks high among them. Among Dominguez’s priceless recordings is his Latin Grammy-nominated Flamenco Sketches album released by Blue Note Records in 2011. The piece began as a commission from the Barcelona Jazz Festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. The Blue Note album ultimately showcased Dominguez as a brilliant pianist and arranger who fused flamenco with jazz in a stunning re-interpretation of Davis’ seminal music.
Tonight, the critically acclaimed pianist opened the Ignite@The Ford! Concert series at the beautifully renovated John Anson Ford Theatre in Hollywood, CA. Under a beautiful spring moon, Dominguez set the mood for an enchanted evening of flamenco, jazz and dancing that left the audience on their feet clamoring for more re-imagined songs from Davis’ album.
After opening remarks from curator Olga Garay-English, the interim Executive Director of the Ford Theatres, Mr. Dominguez was introduced and took the stage with his band members –Blas Córdoba, vocals and palmas (handclaps); Daniel Navarro, dancer and palmas; Alexis Cuadrado, bass; and Henry Cole, drums/percussion.
They launched into “Flamenco Sketches” and immediately mesmerized the audience with their integration of flamenco and jazz rhythms. Dominguez’s elegant solo intro and languid melodic chord changes began just prior to the band entering with gorgeous rhythm section work amid more pronounced Dominguez arpeggios. Cordoba’s kejio stood out with its rich, natural timbre, technique and duende in his raw, grainy baritone. This piece was received with an instant roar of appreciation as each member completed their soloing.
While the original version of “Freddy the Freeloader” is among Miles Davis’ most popular jazz works, Dominguez’s interpretation opened it up to a new generation of flamenco and jazz enthusiasts with its contrapuntal bop pianistic twists and turns, the handclaps, as well as from the drummer/bassist interplay as they simultaneously created new moods. When the group moved into “So What” we heard audience members get more excited when Cuadrado introduced the song’s instantly recognizable bass line now replaced by Chano’s piano genius. The audience was immediately assured as to how deeply Chano had tapped into his imaginative re-visioning of this iconic composition.
“Blue In Green” was exquisite, vivid with great colors and textures impressively blended with the romantic ambience of the red lighting focused on the band members and guests on stage. Chano and his bandmates continued to share the traditions of improvisation and freedom during "All Blues" when they brought Daniel Navarro on stage to perform a dynamic flamenco dance solo that revealed his masterful artistry and skills as a creator of instant joy. What a great performance.
While Miles Davis continues to stand tall in the jazz pantheon, he never recorded “Nardis” (at least not that we know of!) so Chano and company gave this song a new life by way of Chano’s adept gifts for bridging the gap between traditional flamenco music and jazz. Again, Navarro danced beautifully to the music and brought raves at the conclusion as well as during the new Chamber Music America commissioned piece called “Piano Iberico.” This project won a prestigious CMA Presenters Consortium grant award, a component of the Doris Duke Jazz Ensembles Project.
Tonight’s performance of Flamenco Sketches was presented in association with the Fountain Theatre and in collaboration with Stanford Live and Musical Instruments Museum, in Phoenix, Arizona and Chamber Music America. Keep in touch with the Ford’s eclectic season of culturally diverse music, dance, theatre and film at https://www.fordtheatres.org/calendar.
Terence Blanchard and The E-Collective play songs from their Blue Note release 'LIVE' at The Soraya
Performance review by Paula Edelstein
Terence Blanchard and his current E-Collective quintet made several powerful musical statements during their concert produced at The Soraya May 2, 2018. After Executive Director Thor Steingraber described highlights from the upcoming 2018-19 season and The Great Hall Onstage Sessions (which are set up to resemble an intimate jazz club where patrons can experience the concert up close and personal as if seated in a jazz club!) Blanchard and his band members took the stage to polite applause. Tonight’s performance included compositions from LIVE, the recently released recording on Blue Note Records by Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective. With a title that carries a pointed double meaning, the album is an impassioned continuation of the band’s GRAMMY-nominated 2015 studio recording, Breathless.
Throughout their performance, a montage of compelling photographs protesting gun violence and other civil rights violations were displayed on a videotaped backdrop. The songs, steeped in an electric fusion of jazz, rock and timeless virtues, were culled from live recordings Blanchard’s E-Collective made during performances in St. Paul, MN; Cleveland, OH; Dallas, TX; and New York City, NY - all of which have been racked by racial tension. Their superb artistic expression not only captivated the audience but transcended trends and tastes currently heard in similarly released recordings.
Terence Blanchard is a master trumpet player whose sound has a massive power that embraces and brings new hope. Tonight’s performance expressed something that was both pure, heartfelt and imaginative since Blanchard’s horn did not play the traditional role of a lone voice above the fray. Instead, he played his horn through an effect that gave it the sound of a group of people standing up for their rights. Blanchard states, “The vibe I wanted is a sound like a gathering of people chanting en masse for the communal demand of justice.” “Hannibal,” written by Marcus Miller, and “Kaos,” “Soldiers,” written by Blanchard depict a cry for leadership, rage, and the demand for justice . By contrast “Dear Jimi” also written by Blanchard, is a composition for the late rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix that depicts his ruminations on love.
This profounsd onstage session was prolific with Blanchard’s eruptive, raging trumpet over a funk march driven by drummer Oscar Seaton and Charles Altura’s electric blues guitar during “Soldiers.” On “Kaos” Blanchard’s strong boxing horn line, the percussive piano solo from Fabian Almazon,and bass logic from David Ginyard segued into a mighty trumpet solo that brought cheers from the audience.
Overall, the mind-opening issues explored via Blanchard’s virtuosic songwriting and technique renewed the well-known facts that his collaborations with band members Charles Altura on guitar, Fabian Almazon on piano, David Ginyard on bass and Oscar Seaton on drums, will continue to delve into more controversial matters unveiled in a complex idea of grooves, funk, R&B, blues and of course jazz.
For more information about upcoming Great Hall Onstage Sessions- Jazz at the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, please visit their website at http://TheSoraya.org.
Lao Tizer at Vibrato's
The Lao Tizer Band appeals to all of the senses at Vibrato’s
By Paula Edelstein
Touching down in Los Angeles for one night at Vibrato’s Jazz Club to celebrate the rising chart position of Songs From the Swinghouse (Tse Records, 2018) on the Billboard Jazz Chart, five members of the Lao Tizer Band played an intimate set consisting of songs from the recording. The result was a great night filled with music of varying colors, soft lines, dynamic vocals and Lao Tizer’s signature pianism that made everything click in an array of innovative rhythms and creativity.
Tonight’s set consisted of Lao Tizer on grand piano, Steve Nieves on saxophones, Gene Coye on drums, Ric Fierabracci on bass and Tita Hutchinson on vocals. This post bop, fusion collaboration lead by Tizer was tight, in the pocket and fit right in with the comfortable ambience of Herb Albert’s famous nightclub. The bestselling songs from the CD/DVD included such new originals as “The Source,” “16th Heaven” and “Forever Searching” as well as dynamic covers of “Pride (“In the Name of Love,”) and “Sad Lisa,” which were sung by Tita Hutchinson. Her delivery of these classics skyrocketed them to another energy level which boasts her formidable vocal chops.
Lao Tizer’s solos were inimitable. Often referred to as a younger version of legendary pianist/songwriter/bandleader Chick Corea, Tizer’s songwriting and band leadership is generating a lot of buzz as witnessed by the current Billboard Chart position of Songs From the Swinghouse. Tizer’s music is intoxicating, like bubbles in champagne, it feels very effervescent and stays with you long after the music ends. But he also makes music that grows from his critical thinking and that allows him to create and generate ideas for years to come.
Inspired by such themes as nature, love, variety and the quality of life and friendship, the performance tonight appeals to all of the senses and re-establishes Lao Tizer as an innovator who captures audiences in a wide array of formats. Whether performing with his big band or with a scaled back quartet, the deep and accessible music performed tonight kept his audience engaged, harmonic and extended his reach further artistically, commercially and most important of all to him – into the community.
Keep in touch with Lao Tizer at www.laotizer.com. Catch him in a city and venue near you.
Miles Electric Band revisits repertoire from Davis' Electric Period at The Soraya
By Paula Edelstein
The progressive All-Star Ensemble known as Miles Electric Band performed at The Soraya on the campus of California State University-Northridge recently during their critically acclaimed national tour. The ensemble features many of the iconic trumpeter’s former band members in this new iteration of Miles Davis’ electric period band. Tonight’s concert was dedicated to Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, the world-renowned award-winning drummer/composer/educator who had performed with Miles Davis’ bands. Mr. Chancler loss his battle with cancer several weeks ago.
Several compositions Miles Davis introduced during his Electric Period provided vehicles for the existing ensemble members to spotlight their virtuosity. Featured soloing and amazing modern jazz improvisation by Davis’ nephew and Grammy-award winner Vince Wilburn, Jr. on drums, Christian Scott on trumpet, Debasish Chaudhury on tabla, Darryl Munyungo Jackson on percussion, Robert Irving III on piano/keys, Grammy winner John Beasley on keyboards, Darryl Jones of The Rolling Stones on bass, David Gilmore on guitar and Antoine Roney on saxophones and bass clarinet, and a live-remix with Miles Davis’ voice by DJ Hapa on turntables brought raves from the audience and a standing ovation at the end of tonight’s performance.
The avant-garde collective’s playing was based on cooperative effort which was centralized and focused on rhythm. In that regard the drumming and percussive playing reminded the audience of African cultures and of their music while the extended jam pieces featuring the brass and woodwinds, guitar and keyboards brought in the blues, rock and electricity that was prominent during Davis’ Electric Period. Revisited songs from the Davis repertoire included tunes from the title track from Jack Johnson, "In A Silent Way" from his Bitches Brew project, and "Jean Pierre" from We Want Miles, among others.
Christian Scott amazed the audience with his brilliant trumpet performances throughout the entire concert. Vince Wilburn, Jr.’s powerful rhythmic and chops proven drumming added a very special dimension to the ensemble’s artistry while Munyungo Jackson’s spotlighted solo percussion performance and duet with Debasish Chaudhury brought excited applause. David Gilmore’s freaked-out, Hendrix-styled guitar solos were awesome as were the solos brought up-front by saxophonist Antoine Roney.
Collectively, the nearly 2-hour performance was what I regard as masterful and non-egocentric. This particular ensemble (which has rotating members who lead their own bands or perform with such iconic, mega-selling bands as the Rolling Stones and Sting,), left their individual egos off stage and played with awesome clarity, cooperation and interplay. Check them out because Miles definitely has inspired them beyond their years and their new interpretations are right on time for a new generation of Miles Davis music lovers as well as for seasoned, die-hard Miles Davis fans.
Freddie Ravel performs at Vibrato - 12/3/17
Freddie Ravel ushers in the holidays at Vibrato with style and class
By Paula Edelstein
Giving back has never felt so wonderful and that is exactly what Freddie Ravel and his band did recently during their performance at Vibrato in Bel Air, California. Their holiday performance was greeted by a full house and lots of high energy applause as the award-winning pianist/composer/arranger/bandleader/keynote speaker crafted a show wound deeply in the Christmas spirit as well as performing songs that told the stories of who we are. Ravel is a showman extraordinaire who has perfected his act over time. He now impacts thousands of fans – including those here tonight – while lifting up his international audiences with pride that seems to be passed down through a rich musical and artistic history.
Tonight’s concert included songs from Ravel’s latest release titled If Music Could Speak, Sol To Soul and Freddie Ravel. “Sunny Side Up” is always a crowd pleaser and tonight it proved it is still a major hit for Ravel. His arrangements of the popular Christmas carol “Carol of the Bells,” “Jingle Bells” (now “Jingle Bells ala Bossa”) and “Rondo a la Salsa” after Mozart’s “Rondo alla turca” from his Piano Sonata No. 11 in A minor, which got a 21st century update with awesome Latin flavors (or as Freddie described it “if Mozart was on mojitos”) were sensational and provided a full on authentication of Ravel’s genius as an arranger who can transform traditional music with his updated and creative imagination.
“Music’s the great invitation for mankind to transcend spoken word, to enhance how we think, and put into sync, so we hear what is mostly not heard.” Those spoken words introduced Ravel’s composition “If Music Could Speak” and also served to validate the genius of his compositional integrity.
Freddie Ravel also introduced Michelle Delamor, his guest vocalist who sang a sexy, stressless version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Adorned in a gorgeous red sequined gown, Michelle proved to be a breath of fresh air straight from Miami, Florida who shared her vocal chops comfortably and beautifully. She later joined Freddie during rousing duets of “Honor The Magic“ and “Quedate Conmigo” (“Stay With Me.”) The audience responded with several mighty ovations worthy of their performances. Kudos also to tap dancer/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Williams who danced his way through “The Grinch” while accompanied by guitarist Michael O’Neill who also sang the naughty vocals. Their rapport was remarkable and gave the show another level of entertainment not usually seen during many concerts. All of the musicians - Hussain Jiffrey on basses, Jimmy Branley on drums and Michael O’Neill on guitar and vocals, were superior in their soloing and interplay.
Based on their performances, it is easy to know that Freddie Ravel is at the top of his game. As someone who has been musical director and/or collaborated with many of music’s biggest stars including Quincy Jones, Madonna, Earth Wind and Fire, Al Jarreau and Carlos Santana, among others, he is an excellent bandleader, and possesses those special qualities that keep his fans coming back for more. His performance felt incredibly special and gave his audience a sense of connecting to that creative space within him that is infinitely beyond us.
Keep in touch with Freddie Ravel’s happenings, music and keynote presentations that are transforming the corporate and entrepreneurial world at www.freddieravel.com. Please join him at Vibrato on February 11, 2018 for a special Valentine’s Day concert.
CAP UCLA Presents Jason Moran
IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall 1959
By Paula Edelstein
MacArthur Genius and Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran and The Big Bandwagon presented a highly successful program honoring jazz pianist/composer Thelonious Monk at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel recently. CAP UCLA presented the award-winning pianist and his octet to a capacity audience who showed their appreciation with a robust standing ovation which spilled out into the ornate lobby as the ensemble completed their encore. Instead of disappearing backstage, the ensemble graciously greeted audience members who were more than happy to congratulate the band members.
Titled IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall 1959, the program featured music from the set list performed during Monk’s big band debut performance at the famed New York venue. Moran, who took his tribute on tour back in 2010 as a documentary titled In My Mind, collaborated with videographer David Dempewolf to produce a stunning multimedia concert program that revealed the layered personalities of the music and the artists during Monk’s centennial.
Helmed by Jason Moran on piano, The Big Bandwagon consists of Moran’s regular trio members: Nasheet Waits on drums and Taurus Mateen on bass in addition to Walter Smith III on tenor sax, Wallace Roney, Jr. on trumpet, Immanuel Wilkins on alto sax, Frank Lacy on trombone, and Bob Stewart on tuba.
Monk was the reason Moran wanted to play piano and no one of Moran’s generation does it better. His interpretations were astoundingly creative, personal and highly relevant for his 21st century audience. Whether playing the entire range of the piano’s keyboard or revisiting “Thelonious” which was performed with the recorded cadence of a Rwandan drum corps, or bringing forth the love story in “Crepuscule With Nellie,” the virtuosity or Mr. Moran was simply put – awesome. There is no doubt that Jason Moran and the members of The Big Bandwagon are dedicated to exploring their creative roles along the many paths of jazz music.
For more information about IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall 1959, please visit www.jasonmoran.com.
Photo of Stanley Clarke by Stephen Parke
Stanley Clarke Band performs at The Broad Stage
By Paula Edelstein
The Stanley Clarke Band played a 90-minute set with a triple encore at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA recently to a capacity crowd. The performance, made possible by a generous gift from Richard & Lisa Kendall, was introduced by Jane Deknatel, the Director of Performing Arts Center. Stanley Clarke’s new instrumentally electrifying band features a power quartet of what may become legendary status; Beka Gochiashvilli on piano and keyboards; Caleb Sean McCampbell on keyboards, Salar Nader on table/percussion, and Cedric Moore on drums. Alongside the four-time GRAMMY Award winner Stanley Clarke himself doubling on acoustic and electric basses, these young virtuosi gave many reason why they will continue to be recognized for their accomplished interplay with one of the greatest musicians currently headlining.
Stanley Clarke is the consummate musician: bandleader, songwriter, producer/arranger and superior bandleader and solo artist. The band played an array of songs from Clarke’s extensive repertoire that ranged from contemporary jazz to classical to jazz/rock fusion. Adding his signature hand slaps, dynamic fingerpicking and arco bowing magic, Clarke mesmerized his audience on such songs as “Spain,” and “No Mystery,” both of which were made famous during his days with Return to Forever and “To Be Alive,” which is on his new CD will be released in 2018.
Guest vocalist Jessica Vauter added her lovely skills and vocal flair to “Brazilian Love Affair” the George Duke hit while Natasha Agrama sang a behind the beat version of Billie Holiday’s hit “Lover Man” in an acoustic duet with Stanley Clarke playing upright bass.
In addition to his powerful quartet of players, Stanley’s son, Chris Clarke, sensing the audience wanted to get funked up and dance out any restrictions made an awesome encore appearance where he broke out an uncut, stylized rap/P-Funk version of “To Be Alive.” https://youtu.be/EjTSQEMzsrk
The Broad Stage was a great place to be for this concert. With excellent acoustics, an intimate atmosphere and virtuosos on stage, Stanley Clarke’s set was phenomenal and deserves to be on your itinerary of concerts to attend. Check out his touring schedule.
Kyle Eastwood Band at the Blue Whale - Los Angeles, CA - 9-9-17
Pure Genius for Jazz: Kyle Eastwood Band ‘In Transit’ at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles
By Paula Edelstein
Be ready to be astonished when the innovative Kyle Eastwood Band comes your way! Eastwood’s band is an equation that is too hip to be squared! The mass loaded cohesion of their highly acclaimed performance at the Detroit Jazz Festival, followed the quintet of Kyle Eastwood on acoustic and electric basses, Andrew McCormack on piano, Jason Rigby on saxophone, Alex Pope Norris on trumpet and flugelhorn and drummer Joe Strasser, straight to the audience at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles recently. We were mesmerized by the creative geniuses who combined their exceptional skills for nearly two hours. Performing songs from several of their previous recordings including Time Pieces, Paris Blue and his latest release titled In Transit, this evening was filled with bursts of robust ovations from thrilled and elated jazz lovers.
The set opened with a couple of songs from Time Pieces including the crowd-pleaser “Prosecco Smile,” which featured outstanding soloing from Kyle on acoustic bass and exemplary trumpeting by Alex Pope Norris. Before launching into the audaciously progressive harmonics of “Bullet Train” and its amazing improvisations, Kyle introduced his touring band which is slightly different from the ensemble featured on his latestIn Transitalbum. A new perspective of “Big Noise From Winnetka” segued into the beautiful and mystical presentation of “Marrakech” during which Kyle performed an inspired and empowered arco (bowed) solo as pianist Andrew McCormack comped by plucking the piano strings. Jason Rigby was absolutely brilliant on this song and the effects of his haunting saxophone magic lingered long after the song was over. Later as all musicians joined in, this tour-de-force of awesome soloing deeply impressed us and clearly showed the band’s deep knowledge of a wide range of music inspired by their travels. Both songs which are from Kyle’s album titled Paris Blue.
Two songs written by and associated with “two of Kyle’s favorite jazz musicians” – Herbie Hancock and Charlie Mingus - rounded out the set. Opening with the melody of “Dolphin Dance” on bass guitar, Kyle Eastwood showed that every song from a previous generation needs someone to help it get to the next level and next generation --- and that is exactly what this band did. Eastwood's generation of jazz lovers listened appreciatively and embraced their rendition of this jazz classic. Alex Pope Norris continued to nurture the melody on flugelhorn before the band joined with special solos from the pure genius of pianist Andrew McCormack, drummer Joe Strasser and saxophonist Jason Rigby.
The first set ended with the band’s amazing rendition of Charles Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle” which is included on In Transit, due out October 2017 on Jazz Village [PIAS]. The overall level of performances on this song was mind-blowing as each musician took home first place with their accomplished ensemble playing. Wow, what a feat. The drum solo by Joe Strasser brought about cheers that made him feel welcomed and appreciated as one of the newest members of the touring band. The horns were tighter than tight. But you better believe everyone was in-the-pocket on this straight-ahead gem.
The musicians in the Kyle Eastwood Band are renowned around the world for their contributions to the art of jazz and jazz education and tonight, they surely showed how they have solidified their places in the hearts, minds and souls of jazz music lovers. Stay in touch with Kyle Eastwood’s happenings and visit his website.
Charles Lloyd and The Marvels featuring Lucinda Williams at UCLA 4/14/17
Charles Lloyd and The Marvels get standing ovations at UCLA's Royce Hall
By Paula Edelstein
Band photo by Philip Sriloyrung
Charles Lloyd and The Marvels are playing better than ever and their fans showed them just how special their homecoming to UCLA's Royce Hall was. Their fervent appreciation was because The Marvels were actually born at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Although Lloyd’s bands have been reincarnated over time since his groundbreaking performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1967 during which his chart-topping, million seller album, Forest Flower, was recorded, tonight’s performance with The Marvels - Reuben Rogers on bass, Eric Harland on drums, Bill Frisell on guitar, pedal steel master, Greg Leisz - as well as guest vocalist Lucinda Williams, represented a career’s worth of music for his loyal fans and another generation of music lovers.
Tonight’s performance included two songs – Dylan’s “Masters of War,” and Lloyd’s “Sombrero Sam” – that he included on I Long To See You, Charles Lloyd and The Marvel’s latest Blue Note release. Playing both the saxophone and flute, Charles Lloyd kept the set list tuned at their highest levels with such great songs as “Defiant,” “Peace,” “Ramblin’” “Anthem” and “Sombero Sam,” (initially from Forest Flower) which elicited an immediate appreciative response from the audience. The set of anti-war folk protest songs and traditional covers was presented with impeccable clarity, packed with great jazz and country –infused flavors that steered your imaginations toward relevant current events . His natural instincts, arrangements, and the incipit quotes and improvisations elevated Lloyd into different levels of aural ideas that have truly evolved but still appeal to his audience.
As he continued with “Monk’s Mood,” “In My Room,” and “Dismal Swamp,” Lloyd and his excellent rhythm section continued to provide glimpses into how these three artists perceive themselves. Through the changes in their playing, the lessons they’ve learned through their performances together and how they’ve carried themselves forward into the next phase they were too serious to fool! No phony jealousies here, just pure magic!
Lucinda Williams joined the quintet towards the end of the show and expressed several exceptional folk/blues tunes in her raspy/blues-inflected vocals. Her set included “Ain’t Nobody’s Fault,” “Ventura,” “A Place In My Heart,” and “Dust” before she fired up and launched Bob Dylan’s still relevant Sixties’ protest called “Masters of War.” The audience cheered the relevance with a standing ovation that ended the show. She and the band returned to deliver two moving encores - “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and Dylan’s classic from the Seventies, “I Shall Be Released” which also appears on Lloyd’s album with Jason Moran called Hagar’s Song. Her countrified bluesy vocals provided an excellent foil for the jazz grooves flowing from Charles Lloyd’s awesome saxophonics, Frisell’s guitar and Greg Leisz’s lap/steel pedal keyboards.
Overall, the brotherly love, echoes of previous concerts, and Charles Lloyd and The Marvels' forward musical visions that emanated throughout the concert were ideally suited to the needs of the college crowd and post-college fans who have faithfully followed Charles Lloyd’s career since his breakthrough in the Sixties.
The Maria Schneider Orchestra is appreciated for its masterful art at Valley Performing Arts Center
by Paula Edelstein
Photo by Gulnara Khamatova
Five-time Grammy Award-winner Maria Schneider is among the most highly regarded and distinguished composers/conductors on the scene today. A 23 year veteran of jazz and classical music (not counting her years at Eastman School of Music or as a copyist with the great Gil Evans), Maria Schneider’s compositions have a knack for evoking deep appreciation and emotional resonance from her audiences.
Ms. Schneider’s 18-member collective’s recent concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University at Northridge received vociferous standing ovations for their performances of music from her most recent Grammy-winning recording The Thompson Fields. The orchestra also performed an encore during which Schneider recited one of the poems from Winter Morning Walk. Her music was written to poetry by U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser and won her a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
At VPAC, Maria Schneider found common ground between nature and music, merging the themes in order to make singular works. Opening with “A Potter’s Song,” written in memory of the beloved Laurie Frink, the orchestra played the profound meaning of this song with skill and the related inherent qualities of Schneider’s inspired tribute. Much of the music from The Thompson Fields was inspired by trips to her neighbors’ farm in her home town of Windom, Minnesota, including the title track which featured the great Frank Kimbrough on piano and Lage Lund on guitar. Inspiration from the Birds of Paradise Project from Cornell University resulted in “Arbiters of Evolution.” This song featured dynamic soloing by Donny McCaslin and Scott Robinson on saxophones.
The far-reaching paean to nature continued uninterrupted and with insightful comments from Ms. Schneider about each song. Steve Wilson’s solo during “Nimbus” was thunderous at most and received a rousing ovation while Rich Perry ‘s solo on the less stormy “Home” was realized with inspired challenges. Schneider’s ability to render musical compositions from almost any thematic material continued with “Data Lords” – a song about artificial intelligence taking over the world. The trumpet solo by Mike Rodriguez was virtuosic as well as entertaining.
Overall, the evening blazed with exceptional orchestrations, avant-garde and free jazz soloing that reflected a deep understanding of the art of improvisation and a new perspective on Maria Schneider’s imaginative creative processes and expressions of form. For more information, please visit Maria Schneider’s website.
Carmen Lundy’s ‘Code Noir’ CD release concert holds audience spellbound at Zipper Hall
By Paula Edelstein
While many of her contemporaries are singing and recording the songs from the Great American Songbook in support of their jazz vocals careers, the great Carmen Lundy is singing her originals inspired and penned from some of her most personal experiences. She presented her recent repertoire from Code Noir with effortless mastery, flair, emotion, excitement, great melodic sense and harmonic awareness. Accompanied by Victor Gould on piano and keyboards, Ben Williams on acoustic and electric basses, Kendrick Scott on drums and Andrew Renfroe on guitar, the great Carmen Lundy celebrated the release of Code Noir at Zipper Hall in the Colburn School of Music in downtown Los Angeles, CA.
The critically-lauded vocalist has inspired thousands of musicians to reach that place where playing music is as effortless as drawing a breath. Tonight she added another chapter to her great career with a solid jazz band who have studied and played the rich evolution of jazz and offered their exceptional touch and feel piano improvisations, essential bass voicings, almighty drumming and great jazz guitar harmony to create tasteful and memorable accompaniments. The show consisted of an array of songs that spanned the realms of Jazz, Blues, Brazilian Samba and Pop. Code Noir is due for release on February 17, 2017 and were played live for the first time by her band members.
Opening with "Live Out Loud" and following up with "Another Chance," and “Afterglow” Carmen Lundy and company immediately connected with the capacity audience. The musicians’ techniques helped to define Lundy’s sound in great conversations that explored their knowledge of jazz and her true virtuosity as a singer/songwriter/arranger/producer. "Whatever It Takes," "The Island, The Sea and You," (during which Lundy held a note that seems like an eternity!) and "I Keep Falling" heard in this one- of- a- kind venue, were played with a fervor and depth that is rarely heard. All of them seemed to have evolved from another time and space as their techniques, harmonically colored chords and melodies defined Lundy’s iconic sound in many different ways.
Among the many great highlights was the performance of “Daybreak” (from her CD titled Soul to Soul) which spotlighted Lundy’s amazing top-t0-botoom range of vocal expertise. The stop- on- a dime changes by the band were great and as this song ended, Carmen displayed her skills as a pianist/singer with a song from Come Home. Ben Williams was then introduced and excited the audience with an amazing bass solo introduction to “Don’t You Know How I Feel?” a song from Soul to Soul. The ballads, as well as songs sung and played in moderate to fast tempos kept the audience spellbound as they enjoyed Lundy’s multi-octave vocals, vocalese and scatting. "These songs encompass the musical and artistic influences from the African diaspora and its influence on jazz and other musical genres – the bossa nova, the blues, swing, funk, the exploration into the avant-garde," says Carmen who wrote or co-wrote all twelve songs on Code Noir.
"I Got Your Number," “Black and Blues,” “Wait A While,” "Second Sight," "Have A Little Faith," as well as "Kumbaya," and her brand new “Happy New Year” were all received with joyous and exuberant standing ovations. The release of CODE NOIR will be accompanied by tour dates both here in the US and abroad. For additional information please visit www.CarmenLundy.com.
SAVE A CHILD’S HEART PRESENTS ‘SYMPHONY OF THE HEART,’ AT THE VALLEY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
By Paula Edelstein
SAVE A CHILD’S HEART (SACH), an international, humanitarian organization dedicated to providing life-saving pediatric heart surgery for indigent children from developing countries around the world, presented a benefit concert featuring a lineup of major international stars in a special evening of music and entertainment on Sunday, January 29th, 2017.
Philanthropist /Honorary Chairman of SACH Morris Kahn received the International Award while Chaya Museri, the Head Nurse of the cardiothoracic operating room at Wolfson Medical Center received the SACH Lifetime Achievement Award.
The evening opened with a lively VIP reception that featured remarks by Jack Mayer, SACH’s Western Regional Director. Kevin Taylor, the West Valley Area Representative for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, presented SACH with the city’s official proclaimation. Professor Arie Schachner’s presentation of medals to Jack Mayer and co-chair of the event committee, Judy Shore, were greeted with gracious applause. Professor Schachner is President of Save A Child’s Heart.
Teev Events produced the concert featuring 15-year old pianist Emily Bear who performed three of her original compositions. Miss Bear, who was accompanied by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony conducted by Noreen Green, is inarguably among the top pianists of her generation. Her compositional integrity as well as her pianistic virtuosity demonstrated her masterful use of inspired themes to convey the humanity, humility and harmony that she uses to lift us up when we need it the most. Her gifted performances were met with resonanting applause.
Liel Kolet, cellist Barry Gold and the Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble performed an endearing version of “Tishmor Al Ha’Olam” before Moran Atias, Mistress of Ceremonies and the star of the popular FX series Tyrant, introduced the evening's honorees. During his remarks, Mr. Kahn gave special thanks to Astronaut, Explorer, Rocket Scientist, and American Hero, Buzz Aldrinwho was in the audience. As the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 11, Aldrin was one of the first two humans to land on the Moon, and the second person to walk on it. To be in the presence of a man of Adrin’s stature was like being suspended in space itself.
“Love Is All We Need” performed by eclectic Palestinian/Moroccan musical artist Ali Paris on qanun (a rare 76-string zither dating back to the 14th century) with Adrian Rosen on acoustic bass, put the audience in a loving mood. Professor Arie Schachner took the stage to comment about the video tribute to the memory of Pastor Kim Clement which was shown before Clement's widow took the stage to receive an award from Professor Arie Schachner. Liel Kolet, Amick Byram, the MUSYCA Children’s Choir and pianist Sharon Farber later performed “Ray of Hope,” an original song by Liel Kolet with lyrics by Shimon Peres.
After intermission the musical performances continued with performances by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester, Rita, the Israeli singing sensation renowned worldwide for her powerful and passionate performances, and Meshi Kleinstein before all of the musicians returned to perform the finale of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” A beautiful concert evening for a very worthy cause captivated the audience who left with a deeper appreciation for the Save A Child's Heart Foundation.
For more information regarding Save A Child's Heart, please visit theirwebsite.
Photo by Janette Beckman
José James presents ‘Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday’ at VPAC
Performance review by Paula Edelstein
During his “Love In A Time of Madness,” tour stop at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University – Northridge, the eternal reflections of the late, great jazz singer Billie Holiday were presented with a forward vision by the award-winning Blue Note recording artist José James and his touring band of drummer Nate Smith, pianist James Francies and bass player Josh Hari.
Tonight’s concert was the final performance of “Yesterday I Had The Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday” and was introduced by VPAC’s Executive Director, Thor Steingraber who said "José James has one of the finest young voices in all of jazz and is a thoughtful and versatile interpreter of standards among other styles.”
Opening with an a capella version of “My Man,” we immediately knew we were in for a real treat tonight. James captivated the audience, whose strong awareness of Holiday’s repertoire, by dispelling all preconceived notions about tonight’s concert with his updated, invigorated artistry and incomparable vocals. “Good Morning, Heartache,” featured several important solos by his band and provided a great smooth transition into “Body and Soul.” This was a highly emotional performance and was presented in and out of rubato as James caressed the lyrics. This song was absolutely magical and also substantiated James’ deliberate commitment to the recreation of the iconic song.
The rousing performance of his low-down, indigo-colored “Fine and Mellow” was followed by an exceptional version of “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Nate Smith cut loose inventively on the uptempo “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” as did pianist James Francies with an extensive solo that didn’t miss a beat. Francies had provided several extra benefits to tonight’s performance during James' lovely interpretation of “Lover Man.”
During one really inspired moment, Jose announced he would sing a song not included in the tribute to Billie Holiday. When the band introduced “Equinox” written by the immortal saxophonist/composer John Coltrane, José James broke into lyrics written for the iconic tune that were an eternal reflection of the jazz great. The audience went wild for James’ baritone vocals that instinctively captured the mighty inflections of Coltrane’s saxophonics and elongated phrasings. James Francies’ solo was absolutely mesmerizing and seemed to channel the great McCoy Tyner. The bassist and drummer were playing a quarter note triplet rhythm as if Coltrane’s band members – bassist Jimmy Garrison and the great drummer Elvin Jones - were hovering over Josh Hari and Nate Smith with appreciation. When they segued into “Grandma’s Hands” with an almost imperceptible transition, the audience raised their ovations and stood clapping until the band returned for an encore. Closing with “God Bless The Child,” the quartet gave this highly relevant song a contemporary treatment complete with hip-hop riffs and raised intensity.
Overall, tonight’s concert was an excellent, heartfelt tribute to Lady Day presented in their own distinctive way. José James’ penetrating baritone vocals resonated throughout the Great Hall at VPAC with clarity, emotion and stylings unheard by artists of the 38-year old’s generation. His eclectic approach to Billie Holiday’s most memorable songs was impeccable, innovative, and impressive. Don’t miss them when they come your way so stay in touch with Jose James’ happenings as he tours the world by visiting his website.
Jazz at Lincoln Center photo by Frank Stewart
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis salutes arts education advocate Joan Boyett at Valley Performing Arts Center
By Paula Edelstein
Valley Performing Arts Center at California State University – Northridge honored arts education advocate Joan Boyett during a sold out gala and concert featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. One of the best student jazz bands in the United States – CSUN’s Jazz A Band – opened the concert for Mr. Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
After a brief introduction by Thor Steingraber, the Executive Director of Valley Performing Arts Center, a video montage featuring several appreciative friends of the gala honoree was aired. Milt and Debbie Valera introduced Ms. Boyett who took the stage to thank them, VPAC’s Board of Ambassadors, donors, deans, faculty and staff.
Decked out in their Brooks Brothers’ suits, the JALC Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis opened their concert with “Portrait of Louis Armstrong” which was written by the great Edward Kennedy “ Duke” Ellington. This great piece was commissioned by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and featured the award-winning trumpeter’s shapeshifting solos and prolific references to the Ellingtonian style of New Orleans jazz by Walter Printup.
Continuing with compositions from the Ellington Songbook, Mr. Marsalis explained that the JALC orchestra was founded with surviving members from Ellington’s band and then gave a brief description of Duke Ellington repertoire as it related to their performances. “Chinoiserie,” the first movement from Ellington’s dynamic 1971 album titled The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse Suite featured the exceptional blowing of Walter Blanding on tenor saxophone. He was mesmerizing and held the audience captive throughout this nearly 8-minute piece that showcased his virtuosic command of the diverse music written for the tenor saxophone section.
Among the many great musicians in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is the multi-instrumentalist/composer/arranger Ted Nash. His brand new release commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center and Wynton Marsalis is released by Motema Music titled Presidential Suite, Eight Variations on Freedom. It provided just the right subject for Marsalis’ snappy commentary on the 2016 presidential contest. Nash’s creative musical piece “The Time for the Healing of the Wounds” is based on Nelson Mandela’s speech given in 1994 in Pretoria at his inauguration as the first black president of South Africa. The soloist/vocalist was trombonist Chris Crenshaw who brilliantly captured the accent of Mandela while vocalizing the speech. Along with Nash’s reggae groove and the laid back, canyon deep groove, cowbell and drum and bass lines, this piece was melodic, lyrical and downright poetic.
To speak to the various generations in the audience, Marsalis put icing on the evening’s cake of many delights by asking Ted Nash’s father, Dick Nash, to join the orchestra to play the Ellington/ Strayhorn gem “Take the A Train.” He received a very appreciative applause for his solo as we listened closely to the familiar trombone solo not again but anew!
The evening also featured Ellington’s “C-Jam Blues” which was superb and entertaining. Ted Nash was the featured soloist and his extraordinary performance was met with exuberant applause. Pianist Dan Nimmer got the piece going while Nash mixed the blues with intellect.
Sherman Irby’s great orchestral arrangement of Thelonius Monk’s “Rhythm-A-ning” closed out tonight’s performance and received an inspired ovation for the various soloists and for the excellent performance by pianist Dan Nimmer.
Overall, the artistic output tonight won the hearts and minds of the audience. This big band music was impeccable, democratic, made us feel good, and invoked the history and importance of jazz, arts education and cultural engagement as well as a litany of present day causes. The audience gave JALC Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis a rousing standing ovation that recognized his lifelong commitment to music education and the virtuosity of this great orchestra and its Music Director/trumpeter.
Kat Parra curates a collection of inspired experiences at the E Spot Lounge
By Paula Edelstein
Kat Parra and her band played a very impressionable set at the E Spot Lounge recently. Billed as the release concert for her fifth CD titled Songbook of the Americas (JazzMa Records), during the nearly 90-minute set her band immersed the audience in timeless folk and jazz songs which featured Murray Low on piano, Masaru Koga on woodwinds, Daniel Foltz on drums and Jonathan Pintoff on acoustic bass.
Kat opened the evening with “(Four)Ever More” which is also the opening song on the recording. Singing in Spanish and English, her multi-octave vocals and new lyrics (written by her) were matched perfectly to the music written by Eddie Vinson. Murray Low’s delightful Latin-tinged piano solo and the woodwinds of Masaru Koga also lent an upbeat ambience to the song. Charlie Parker’s “Wouldn’t It Be Sweet (Au Privave)” with new lyrics by Kat Parra was met with warm applause. Again, Masaru Koga made this song memorable with his soprano sax solo.
As the set continued, Kat offered snappy repartee about the women songwriters she was paying tribute to. Drummer Dan Folkes offered a different side to his percussive talents by playing the cajon during “Maria Lanoo.” Sung in Spanish, Kat evoked the heartfelt memories of a woman who worked all of the time and had no time for herself. By contrast, the playful “Iko Iko” featured audience participation and an amazing flute solo by Masaru Koga.
Kat Parra sings beautifully and with the perfect balance of heartfelt emotions. Her version of “Besame Mucho” was as beautiful and dramatic as ever conceived. After a gorgeous introduction on bamboo flute by Masaru Koga, Kat entered with spot on intonation, accentuation and elongated phrasings. At the end of the song the audience let the band know how much they appreciated this song with a robust round of applause.
She has learned to trust her feelings, defined her personal best, and reflected a local take on “Till There Was You,” “Feed My Desire,” Betty Carter’s “Please Do Something,” and “Mambo Italiano” which closed the band’s Los Angeles club debut with appreciative applause. Overall Kat Parra revealed her magic and bejeweled vocals that rang true in English and Spanish. Check out Songbook of the Americas to hear more of her artful singing.
Monk'estra: A Fitting Tribute to a Jazz Genius
By Paula Edelstein
Throughout Thelonious Monk’s 30-year career, his approach to the jazz piano combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silence and pauses. His original compositions and improvisations both featured jarring harmonies and sharp melodic twists that were consistent with his approach to the piano. Highly regarded by his peers, Monk’s music, as complex as it may be to some, remains extremely influential on many of today’s top jazz pianists and composers.
Similarly, John Beasley is an original artist with a highly expressive and personal style, whose music career spans 30 years also. The arranger/composer/pianist is a real genius and also considers himself to be among those musicians who are influenced by Monk’s music. Throughout his career, Beasley’s extensive credentials include performing or recording with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, and at James Brown’s final concert in Los Angeles. However, 2013 finds the GRAMMY–nominated artist reimagining Thelonious Monk’s music for a new generation of Monk fans by forming a 17-member big band called Monk’estra.
During a recent concert at Vitello’s, the Studio City, CA -based jazz club, Beasley’s arrangements of several Monk compositions revealed a brand new approach to Monk’s music. In contrast to Monk’s jazz "combos," in which many of his musical performances were improvised, John Beasley’s imaginative, modern arrangements are artistic charts colored outside the lines of traditional big band music arrangements. Monk’estra celebrates Monk with a contemporary twist incorporating Afro-Cuban rhythms, modern jazz playing, Hip Hop and traditional big band instrumentation. In addition to conducting and playing the melodica and keyboards, Beasley led an all-star ensemble of players including Justo Almario, Bob Sheppard, Jeff Driskill, Tom Luer, and Tommy Peterson on saxophones; Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, Ray Monterio, Brian Swartz, and Gabe Johnson on trumpets; Francisco Torres, Wendell Kelly, Andy Martin, Steve Huges, on trombones; Rickey Minor on electric bass; Tony Austin on drums.
As Monk’estra stretched the boundaries of such songs as "Epistrophy," “Little Rootie Tootie, (which featured Rickey Minor laying down a funky bass line for Andy Martin’s trombone and Tom Luer’s tenor sax), the boppish "Skippy," the whimsical ballad “Ask Me Now,” (featuring Beasley on the melodica), and "Nothing Left to Say," a John Beasley composition included on his latest CD titled Three Brave Souls, the capacity, celebrity-filled, audience responded with favorable cheers for such featured soloists as Gabriel Johnson and Jamie Hovorka on trumpet, Bob Sheppard and Justo Almario on saxophone, and Rickey Minor on bass guitar.
Although four of the musicians in Monk’estra were making their debut with the band tonight, overall, this modern big band was tight, reliable and the musicians played with the same professionalism of an orchestra that had performed together for years. Check them out. The alternatives to their five-star creativity are limited. Stay in touch with John Beasley’s happenings at www.johnbeasleymusic.com.
Bobby McFerrin: Sprityouall
By Paula Edelstein
In a surge of inimitable creativity, long stretches of joy and spiritual rapture, vocal stylist Bobby McFerrin and his quintet delighted a near capacity audience at the Walt Disney Concert Hall recently. McFerrin’s matchless vocal improvisations and breathtaking vocal range was the centerpiece of tonight’s performance but stellar soloing from his musical colleagues also made this night one to remember. Gil Goldstein, piano, electric piano, accordion, arranger, David Mansfield, violin, mandolin, national resonator guitar, and lap steel, Armand Hirsch, acoustic and electric guitar, Jeff Carney, acoustic bass, Louis Cato, drums and bass ukulele accompanied McFerrin on stage to enthusiastic applause.
Singing songs from his latest project titled Spirityouall, tonight’s performance featured spirituals McFerrin’s father sang. They were soulful, blues-influenced, rocking and inspired.
As a ten-time GRAMMY Award winner, McFerrin’s artistry is primarily recognized for his spontaneous, acoustic, solo vocal gymnastics with a range that spans the musical spectrum on several award-winning recordings. However, McFerrin is also a versatile composer, conductor and innovative collaborator who has created projects such as his 12-member Voicestra, his opera titled Bobble, and special projects such as a reprise of Fred Sturm’s Migrations, the Ruhr Day of Song in which Bobby improvised with a stadium of 60,000+ singers, and CHOPin/mcferrIN, a concert-length suite arranged by Gil Goldstein for Bobby and the NDR Big Band to celebrate the 2010 Chopin centennial.
While the general tone of tonight’s concert tended toward the spirituals on his new release titled Spirityouall, there were long stretches of joyful audience participation, blues-oriented songs, Bluegrass/Rap (!) and a sudden, funny imitation of a country music hoedown that actually included McFerrin’s dance moves! His infectious interpretation of “He's Got The Whole World In His Hands,” and “Amen” allowed audience participation. During the latter, members came on stage and sang. He later shared more joy while playing the grand piano and singing in a straight baritone voice, sans vocalese. His beautiful interpretation of “Every Time I Feel The Spirit” was quite moving.
Perhaps these buoyant performances reflect McFerrin’s delight in finding his inspiration and skill undiminished. Or they may have to do with his enchantment with the tonal potentialities of his voice as an instrument. Whatever the reasons, the quintet was unsurpassed in displaying McFerrin’s most telling effects – his voice in its clear high soprano to its lowest, resonating bass register. Overall, the night was like a spiritual journey into the depths of McFerrin’s soul and heart and listening to Bobby McFerrin left the audience joyful, dazzled and on their feet giving the ensemble a thunderous ovation.
To learn more about Bobby McFerrin please visit his website at www.bobbymcferrin.com. For details about upcoming performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, please visit www.laphil.com.
Ron Carter Quartet Performs at Center For the Art of Performance at UCLA
plus special guests Robert Glasper Trio
By Paula Edelstein
The legendary double bassist Ron Carter with his quartet (pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Payton Crossley and percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos) performed recently on the Center for the Art Performance at UCLA 2012-2013 season to a near capacity audience. Now in his sixth decade of a prestigious and prolific career, Ron Carter’s incredible ability to methodically unpack any musical scenario was clearly revealed tonight with the same virtuosic inspiration, depth, and energy as when he performs live or on the more than 2000 recordings to his credit. He brought his plethora of experience and knowledge of jazz to this performance tonight and each member of the band expanded their musical horizons with such songs as “Flamenco Sketches” “You Are My Sunshine,”“My Funny Valentine” and their most recent recording “You, The Night and The Music.”
Ron Carter is the ultimate musician, a perfect balance between knowledge and intuition, wisdom and passion. The updated rendition of “Flamenco Sketches” featured Ms. Rosnes’ impeccable pianism and the Spanish flair of Morales-Matos’ percussive technique as Carter and Crossley underlined this great piece with their artful bass lines and rhythmic flair. Carter segued into a solo rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” all the while showing his top-to-bottom command of his acoustic bass and art of improvisation. Renee Rosnes is a premier jazz pianist and is clearly an innovative and virtuosic player. Hearing her was a wonderful and enriching experience on all levels but especially as she played “My Funny Valentine.”
Overall, the Ron Carter Quartet brought a different perspective to the music they played tonight and creatively instilled new expressions and feelings about one of the greatest jazz bassists and educators in the history of the genre.
Opening tonight’s performance was the Robert Glasper Trio. Joining the pianist was bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Mark Colenberg performing songs by Herbie Hancock and others from Glasper’s latest release titled Black Radio, and previous recordings Double-Booked and No Worries.
For more information about the upcoming concerts on the Center for the Art Performance at UCLA 2012-2013 season, please visit their website at www.cap.ucla.edu.
Juan Luis Guerra: Musically Satisfying and Emotionally Unifying
By Bobby Narcisse
In a departure from our usual format, Sounds of Timeless Jazz.com thought it time to expand our focus into the arena of Latin music. Specifically, the Hollywood Bowl conducted a series of Latin music concerts featuring several giants of the genre: Salsa legends Eddie Palmieri and Ruben Blades; Columbian Juanes, acknowledged as the most popular singer in Latin America, and Juan Luis Guerra from the Dominican Republic, perhaps the least well-known but also ( perhaps!) the most influential of the featured group. Senor Guerra’s significance derives from his incursion into the soul of Hispania, the spirit muse originally synonymous with Latin music (and culture) – ROMANCE!
It has been said that the Twentysomethings of Central and South America and the Caribbean, raised on musical stylings of lust and physical sexuality, began to thirst for more substance in their art, searching for modalities with thematic attachments to the roots of human emotion: love, tenderness, compassion and spiritual unity. Guerra emerged as the right man at the proper time, with fresh perspectives on music as language, transcending culture in expressions of life, love and the union of souls.
Technically speaking, he slowed the tempo of traditional merengue, providing dancers with a pace more amenable to the footwork of socialization. He expanded the size of the traditional percussion section, increasing the power and energy of its rhythms in live performance while maintaining a subdued discipline that keeps the focus on the dance floor and within the context of couples.
And on this night, along with the synchronicity of the percussion and Guerra’s own dance hall brass “orquestra,” add the mellowing touch of woodwinds and strings from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by a kindred spirit in Gustavo Dudamel of Venezuela. Together they created the tones of classical Romance, the kind where a touch, a glance or the whiff of an aroma causes palpitations in the absence of bared flesh.
This retro-salsa-merengue is known as Bachata, a dance (really a mood!) with simple side-to-side footwork, eye-to-eye communication and enough freedom of hip and shoulder to intensify the emotion of the moment. The audience response was a gradual movement of couples from seat to feet; start to finish, with emphasis on the word “couples.” There was a pleasantly notable absence of hyped and histrionic fans jamming front row security, jumping into sight lines or screaming over the audio system. Patrons could sit back and enjoy the show unperturbed, though it seemed the entire audience of 10,000 plus was on their feet at the end, dancing in the aisles and along the promenades.
As for Guerra, he performs as a very caring artist, showing a mature respect for the music and the audience listening to it. He introduced each song with a few words on the lyrical content and the music itself – “this one a slow, merengue, a Latin polka-waltz, a bachatta merengue” and so on. In introducing the band, especially the percussionists, he allowed them to perform as soloists and as an ensemble too. Toward the end, notably during the second and third encores, he and Dudamel embraced and marched shoulder to shoulder back and forth from the wings to center stage.
Arm in arm with my true love – the mode of optimal enjoyment for a Guerra concert - the night was a musically satisfying and emotionally unifying experience.
LA Phil Presents A Tribute to the Man and his Music
By Paula Edelstein
Ray Charles’ career was certainly unique and the remarkable homage paid to him at the Hollywood Bowl recently by an array of award-winning musical stars and producers, told the story of this true genius of American music. Tonight’s concert celebrated aspects from three periods of Ray Charles’ career – from Ray’s days with his R&B and Jazz-influenced small bands to his ground-breaking 1962 release Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music to his love of the Count Basie Orchestra and big band music as inspired from Ray Sings, Basie Swings.
The evening opened with remarks by Tavis Smiley, the PBS Television host of the Tavis Smiley Show. GRAMMY-winning vocalist BeBe Winans took the stage and broke into a very soulful version of “I Got A Woman” which also featured the melodic articulation of Terence Blanchard’s great trumpet solo. Winans’ rendition of “Drown In My Own Tears,” was in tones eloquent of despair that conveyed Ray Charles’ message with amazing emotion.
Next, Dave Koz on alto saxophone and Tom Scott on baritone sax dueted, backed by the Count Basie Band on “Them That Got (I Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet)” and received a positive reception. Koz’s solo on Dee Dee Bridgewater’s amazing version of “I Believe To My Soul,” also brought him a major ovation but it was Bridgewater’s vocals that had audience members swaying from side to side as Charles often did when seated at the piano. Speaking of amazing, Dee Dee Bridgewater personifies this word. Dressed in shimmering gold from head to toe, the Crown Princess of Jazz, blew everyone away with her rendition of “Hallelujah I love Her (Him) So.” Her extraordinary assortments of octaves were filled with expressive phrasings, shouts and wails that were all wonderfully controlled. She ended the first segment of tonight’s concert with “I Got News For You,” a duet with BeBe Winans that also featured great soloing from pianist George Duke and trumpeter Terence Blanchard.
After the break, Tavis Smiley introduced the second period of Ray Charles’ career. Modern Sounds in Country & Western featured tonight’s reincarnation of The Raelettes in the form of Patti Austin, Siedah Garrett, Lynne Fiddmont, and Monica Mancini. “You Are My Sunshine” featuring the outstanding lead vocals of Siedah Garrett and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” which featured Patti Austin’s awesome vocals, were both met with enthusiastic applause.
Country music star, Martina McBride sang several of Charles’ hits including “Bye, Bye, Love,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Take These Chains,” and “Hey Good Lookin’” (featuring Arturo Sandoval). Her act was met with supportive applause. Tucked in between was Charles’ major hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” played by the Count Basie Band before a brief break was taken. The Count Basie Orchestra performed at the pinnacle of greatness. They were air-tight and were swinging as if the ghost of Basie himself was at the piano. What an amazing orchestra.
After intermission, Tavis Smiley announced that the US Postal service would be issuing a commemorative Ray Charles postage stamp in 2013. Shortly after his comments, Babyface took the stage with the Count Basie Band and wailed on “Let The Good Times Roll.” The multiple GRAMMY-winning artist also sang “Hurts to be in Love” and dueted with Monica Mancini on “Cryin’ Time.” Babyface’s vocals were strong and harnessed the ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm often heard in Charles’ vocals. These qualities brought Babyface a favorable ovation at the end of his songs.
BeBe Winans returned to sing “How Long Has This Been Going On” and was followed by Dee Dee Bridgewater’s soulful sounds on “Busted.” Babyface returned to sing “Georgia” and raised the level of excitement with his inspired musicianship. Dave Koz turned in another dynamic solo that brought the audience to their feet for Babyface and Koz’s set.
A short clip from Ray Charles’ appearance on Saturday Night Live preceded “What I Say.” George Duke played the exalted introduction while The Raelettes, Babyface, Martina McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Fred Martin Choir, and the Count Basie Band held down the call and response lyrics while getting the audience involved.
The finale was a stirring rendition of “America The Beautiful” with Martina, BeBe, Dee Dee, and Babyface each taking a verse along with the Fred Martin Choir. The audience loved it and sang along as they stood through the emotional ovation.
Overall, the evening was a stellar tribute to Ray Charles, the man and his music. His mastery of sounds and his artistry were healing and helped to bridge the racial divides in America during his lifetime. Tonight’s homage did much of the same as audience members held hands and enjoyed the songs made famous by this genius of American music.For more information about upcoming concerts presented by LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl, please log on to www.hollywoodbowl.com.
The great Jimmy Cobb
A Celebration of Miles Davis
By Paula Edelstein
LA Phil presented a stellar tribute to the great Miles Davis recently at the Hollywood Bowl. Three ensembles - Kind of Blue: Jimmy Cobb’s “So What” Band, Miles Electric Band and Marcus Miller “Tutu Revisited” - paid tribute to the iconic trumpeter by performing solid gold renditions of hits that made Davis a household name around the world. The concerts were preceded by the official dedication of the Miles Davis postage stamp ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl Museum.
Kind of Blue: Jimmy Cobb’s “So What” Band
Herbie Hancock opened the evening with remarks about Miles Davis as a montage of film clips featuring Miles in performance and relaxing were broadcast on the giant digital screens in the amphitheatre. Hancock introduced Jimmy Cobb as the sole surviving member of the iconic Miles Davis sextet that recorded Davis’ masterpiece titled Kind of Blue. The album remains the highest selling jazz album of all time and its drummer; Jimmy Cobb didn’t miss a beat as his current ensemble played the entire album – “So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue In Green,” “All Blues,” and “Flamenco Sketches.”
Among the stellar highlights of their set was the awesome saxophonics of Javon Jackson and Vincent Herring, the dynamic trumpeting of Jeremy Pelt, Larry Willis’ amazing piano prowess and Buster Williams’ bass logic. “So What” with its simple figure based on 16 measures of one scale, following a piano and bass introduction in its free rhythmic style, brought immediate whistles and cheers from the audience. Buster Williams and Larry Willis set the feeling before trumpeter Jeremy Pelt entered with his thoughts on the matter. Jimmy Cobb’s syncopation and rhythmic prowess was as steady as ever and just seeing this masterful drummer within this group’s improvisations was awesome. The moodiness of “All Blues” was mesmerizing while the quiet beauty of “Flamenco Sketches” gave each soloist a chance to really shine. Overall, this ensemble’s effective melodic and rhythmic genius was a wonder to behold on this gorgeous summer night.
Miles Electric Band
Just as the modal concepts in Kind of Blue offered several new listenig dimensions for Davis’ fans, his Electric period was just as ripe and produced such great albums as A Tribute to Jack Johnson, On The Corner and his first RIAA gold album - Bitches Brew. This recording stretched the imagination of Davis’ fans and caused a plethora of controversy about the new musical direction Miles Davis had taken.
Tonight’s Miles Electric Band featured his nephew drummer Vince Wilburn, Jr. alongside 10 masterful musicians who had performed with Miles during this exciting period of his musical life or who had been radically influenced by his great jazz/rock fusion. John Beasley, Darryl Jones, Munyungo Jackson, Blackbyrd McKnight, Robert Irving III, Mino Cinelu, Nicholas Payton, Antoine Roney, Badal Roy and DJ Logic were rocking out! Their bold explorations and dense textures excited the audience as they played a variety of songs from different Miles Davis albums including “Jack Johnson,” “Spanish Key,” “Sanctuary” (both from Bitches Brew), “In A Silent Way,” from the album of the same name, “Nefertiti,” and “Jean Pierre.”
“This is not a ghost band - just a great group of musicians who loved playing with Miles or who fell under his spell as they started their careers,” stated drummer Vince Wilburn, Jr. However, from the great rock/jazz fusion sounds emanating from the stage, there’s no doubt that Miles may have been hovering over his expressive former band members and urging them on. Just sayin’! You should have been there if you weren’t since this set was definitely an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Marcus Miller “Tutu Revisited”
Marcus Miller’s concert idea stems from an endeavor that began as a one off concert in Paris to close the inaugural “We Want Miles” commemorative exhibit in 2009. The subsequent European and Asian tours proved highly successful and tonight’s debut at the Hollywood Bowl of Tutu Revisited was met with a standing ovation for Miller and his band at the end of their set.
They were funky and they knew it as Miller thumped, plucked and primed every note possible from his electric bass on “Splatch,” their opening number. The beautiful “Portia” also from Tutu captivated the audience with its entertaining melody. Saxophonist Alex Han, drummer Louis Cato, trumpeter Sean Jones and keyboardist Federico Pena, shined on their amazing solos and shimmering improvisations on the new release from Miller’s latest CD titled Renaissance called “Jekyll & Hyde.” Miller also played the bass clarinet on “Goree,” a song he wrote after visiting the holding area where Africans bound for slave ships were imprisoned. His performance was a very emotional and affecting musical experience. He closed the evening with “Tutu” his masterful Miles Davis collaboration written to honor Bishop Desmond Tutu’s fight against apartheid in South Africa. Overall, Marcus Miller’s set was an invigorating and entertaining tribute to the man who changed jazz – “four or five times” - and the audience showed their heartfelt gratitude with a standing ovation.
For more information about LA Phil’s Jazz at the Bowl summer series, please visit their website at www.laphil.org.
Vitello’s Jazz & Supper Club was the place to be as Carmen Lundy’s celebrated the release of her latest recording called Changes. The acclaimed jazz vocalist set the night on fire during her two-nights at the trendy Studio City, CA club as such musical luminaries as Barbara Morrison, Judy Wexler, and Cathy Segal-Garcia, among others, lent their support. Ms. Lundy’s set was mesmerizing from start to finish due to her multi-octave vocal range and the rousing accompaniment from pianist Anthony Wonsey, Darryl Hall on bass, Jamison Ross on drums and special guest Nolan Shaheed on flugelhorn and trumpet.
From the opener, the capacity audience was energized by Carmen Lundy’s extraordinary vocals and her band’s virtuosic soloing. Each song was a glorious promenade of stories that stretched back to “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square/“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” to “So Beautiful,” “Dance the Dance” and “Love Thy Neighbor”- all of which were beautiful presentations of her original compositions from Changes that conveyed heartfelt meanings, and, more importantly, her ability to connect with her audience who knew all that she was communicating. She was simply awesome.
Anthony Wonsley took several innovative solos that resulted in huge ovations while drummer Jamison Ross’ engrossing drumming and rhythmic chemistry set the stage for more fiery work from Carmen Lundy. Darryl Hall kept the rhythm logic happening while solos from Nolan Shaheed’s trumpet were varied and vibrant. Overall, Carmen Lundy's set was fresh, filled with social insight (“Love Thy Neighbor”) and romance (“So Beautiful” and “Dance the Dance”). The set ended with “Lucky Me (I’m In Love Again)” and with that the power and purpose of Carmen Lundy’s engaging songs left the audience on their feet applauding for more. She definitely set the night on fire and moved her audience into her ever-emerging jazz galaxy with stellar results.
Keep in touch with Carmen Lundy at www.carmenlundy.com.
Kyle Eastwood’s Creativity, Talent, and Inspiration Unite at Catalina’s
By Paula Edelstein
Talent and inspiration came together in a great way to develop a sound that bassist/composer Kyle Eastwood can definitely call his own. His band’s performance at Catalina’s Bar & Grill in Hollywood, California USA mixed a stellar blend of songs and moods from California harmonies to African folk rhythms of Morocco. Eastwood is in the business of expression and that’s exactly what he and his band did during their two-night stand at the trendy nightspot…express themselves. The audience definitely related to his set as nearly 200 people kept pace with the inventive offerings from several of Kyle Eastwood’s fresh recordings.
Opening with “Marciac” from his latest recording titled Songs From The Chateau, the Kyle Eastwood Band allowed their fans to re-discover the extraordinary beauty of Marciac, France. As they opened the pages of this adventurous song trumpeter Alexander Norris’ imaginative registers and Jason Rigby’s burly tenor tones revealed diverse musical images that transported the listener to this wonderful environment. These consummate masters continued with “Tonic” (perhaps a reference to the club in NYC) that featured dynamic soloing by Rigby who displayed all shades of his top-to-bottom command of his instrument. You could hear a pin drop during Kyle Eastwood’s masterful solo which served as the real rhythmic source of this song’s heartbeat. He truly captivated the audience with his technique and rejuvenated chops and received a roaring ovation.
“Marrakesh” a song from Eastwood’s CD titled Paris Blue – opened with a section where Eastwood is bowing his acoustic bass before segueing into an exotic musical conversation with drummer Joe Strasser. Enter Rigby on clarinet, Richard Germanson’s piano, and Eastwood switching to his green Czech-ease road bass by David Gage, and we had an exhilarated performance of a song that celebrated Eastwood’s travels to Morocco. The folk-like melodies were beautiful and the rhythms and grooves they got into were incredible.
The night’s journey traveled back to the 1970s with “Cosmo” a funky number that featured an energized conversation between Pope on trumpet and Rigby on tenor saxophone. Kyle Eastwood’s soloing featured improvising on non-traditional jazz chord progressions and showed his mastery of modern jazz language that led to his great improvisational choices. His theme from the movie score “Letters From Iwo Jima” was deep and this duet with pianist Richard Germanson was a dramatic collaborative effort. “Samba de Paris” followed and this song motivated a lot of seat-dancing and head bobbing! There’s no doubt any dance floor would have been filled with pepped up dancers in a different venue.
The set ended with “Café Calypso” - a vibrant calypso filled with colorful tones and melodic patterns supplied by Rigby’s excellent soloing. Kyle kept the rhythmic logic happening with his extensive repository of creative bass voicings while Richard Germanson’s pianism gave this song an added kick which led to a very excited ovation for the group.
The audience demanded an encore and the band delivered "Big Noise From Winnetka" a full jam session version of the tune made famous by Gene Krupa that came complete with Eastwood whistling at the introduction and at the close of the song! They jammed for nearly ten minutes before leaving the stage to a standing ovation. Caution: Hearing Kyle Eastwood’s band may result in extreme happiness, awesome jazzy feelings and never a dull moment! Stay in touch with Kyle at www.kyleeastwood.com
Click on CD cover to buy I'll Take Romance
Steve Tyrell Raises the Art of Romantic Singing at Catalina’s
By Paula Edelstein
Experiencing unexpected pleasures are among life’s most treasured moments and there is no clue as to what the accompanying reactions will be when presented with them. However there was no doubt about what the audience’s reaction would be when Steve Tyrell took the stage at Catalina’s Jazz Club on Valentine’s Day to open his traditional two-week stand at the posh nightclub.
The world’s true “romance crooner” serenaded a capacity audience with emotional, soulful and artistically intelligible romantic standards that are included on his debut recording for Concord Record debut titled I’ll Take Romance. In addition, Mr. Tyrell sang several songs culled from the Great American Songbook, the Burt Bacharach Songbook (from Back to Bacharach), and songs associated with Frank Sinatra (from Songs of Sinatra), and Ray Charles.
Accompanied by a four piece band that interpreted these passionate songs with mellowness, swinging strides and exemplary solos, Steve Tyrell gave each song great new tone colors as the love themes interlocked or moved apart. His inner voice moved in harmony with the musicians and lyrics as he found ways to turn each of these time tested songs into his own. Tyrell’s treatments of the lyrics, of musical forms and his vocals as an instrument were brilliantly revealed.
“Fly Me to the Moon,” “Night and Day,” his inspired reading of Etta James’ big hit “At Last” and his now infamous rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight” (from Father of the Bride soundtrack) brought raves as did the Bacharach songs – “The Look of Love,” “This Guy’s In Love With You,” and I’ Say A Little Prayer,”– which were preceded with remarks about working with Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston and seeing little Whitney Houston at the studio with her relatives. He paid beautiful and reverent tributes to the recently deceased vocalists – Etta James and Whitney Houston.
After closing the evening with Ray Charles’ signature song – “Georgia” – Steve Tyrell’s passionate song selection brought the audience to its feet with a roaring ovation that was followed by an encore. Overall, Steve Tyrell expressed the many themes of romance with dramatic genius, musical symbolism and delightful re-discovery. This is one concert that you should not miss. Bravo!
Stay in touch with Steve Tyrell at www.stevetyrell.com and www.concordmusicgroup.com. Buy I’ll Take Romance by clicking on the CD cover.
Kenny Burrell 80 Years Young: A Musical Birthday Feast at UCLA
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King and Kenny Burrell Photo by Reed Hutchinson
By Paula Edelstein
There are birthday parties and then there are birthday musical feasts! The latter is what the legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell gave recently at UCLA’s Royce Hall when he celebrated his 80th birthday. Kenny Burrell, 80 Years Young featured special guests galore including the incomparable Dee Dee Bridgewater, blues great B.B. King, and the great Lalo Schifrin.
Other exciting performers included the Jazz Heritage All Stars and the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited as well as a Tribute Vocal Ensemble. As if they were not enough, Stevie Wonder showed up and caused the audience to break into a roaring ovation as he paid tribute to Kenny Burrell and later dueted with Dee Dee Bridgewater in a completely improvised birthday song. They were amazing.
B.B. King's 20-minute set proved to be fun as well as entertaining. At 86, a seated King playing his well-known guitar Lucille, made jokes about his having already been 80 years old and knowing what it is like as he offered Burrell a chair for their pending duet! The audience enjoyed King's snappy repartee as well has his huge hit, "The Thrill Is Gone." The two dueted and were greeted with a standing ovation.
After intermission, Kenny Burrell, tall, elegant and always classy, spoke about the need for a Los Angeles-based repertory Jazz Orchestra that would provide jobs for jazz musicians. Appealing to jazz enthusiasts and referencing “Ellingtonia” (a class he teaches at UCLA that examines the accomplishments of Duke Ellington), Burrell has formed the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited and hopes that it will be a home to jazz musicians such as the only other permanently housed company in the USA – Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis as its Artistic Director. Several of Ellington’s former bandmates helped to found and now make up the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. What a great and completely unselfish birthday wish!
Dee Dee Bridgewater, now dressed in an elegant turquoise gown sang with Burrell during her swinging set. Her classic vocals set with Burrell's cool toned, bebop was an instant hit despite a thinning audience who had been in attendance for several hours.
Later in the program, the UCLA Philharmonia conducted by Neal Stulberg performed Pax Humana (Hommage a Kenny Burrell) for orchestra. This piece was based on The Peacemaker by Kenny Burrell and created by Paul Chihara. They finished their set with Sunset Time (Revisited) written by Kenny Burrell. After nearly four hours, the UCLA Philharmonia and the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited collaborated on Suite For Peace before the artists joined for the Finale.
At 80 years young, Kenny Burrell is still as elegant and refined as the day he first stepped onstage. His dexterity on guitar is as cool and graceful as ever. This birthday musical feast only verified that Kenny Burrell is still the remarkable educator and guitarist that we all love. Happy Birthday Kenny!
Symphonic Jazz Orchestra featuring Christian McBride By Paula Edelstein
According to Mitch Glickman, Co- Music Director and Conductor of the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, the idea for George Duke to compose Dark Wood: Duke Bass Concerto for McBride originated circa 1999. The work was commissioned by the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra and made possible in part by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation and the SJO Benefactor’s Circle whose members include Anne Finestone & Charles Dolan, Jinko Gotoh, Quincy Jones and Harold Levy. Duke responded with a two movement work for solo bass (acoustic and electric), violins, violas, bass, harp, drums, percussion, French horn, woodwinds, trumpet, and trombone.
The official completion date of the score is not known although some changes of detail continued to arrive for two or three weeks after that and a few were made during the days preceding the World Premiere at UCLA’s Royce Hall Los Angeles, California on September 24, 2011. Unfortunately the composer (who is also a Co-Music Director of SJO) was not in attendance but the inspiration for the work, master bassist/composer Christian McBride, was the featured solo bassist with the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra. Mitch Glickman conducted.
At the World Premiere, the skill and sensibility of composer George Duke were on full display. In true concerto form, he convinced his listeners by giving the orchestra the introduction and statement of the material and then brought in the true feelings of the solo bass voice with a counter-statement. This arrangement brought out the force of McBride’s solo by thrusting the orchestra into the background while at the same time the audience still realized that the orchestra has had its say and was not just employed to support the soloist. The ritornelli (return of orchestral music after solos) were both successful and effective at the end of McBride’s personal and eloquent solos in the first movement.
The lyric and expressive gifts of Christian McBride that have singled him out among his jazz colleagues were cheered with a standing ovation. These components of McBride’s artistic personality were particularly remarkable in the emotionally poignant second movement. The sustained resonance of his acoustic and electric basses as well as his adept dexterity and voicings captivated the audience.
Overall, bringing McBride’s solos into fresh relationships with the 67-piece orchestra provided powerful harmonic lifts and a deeply calming coda. Together they provided room-filling sonorities that were both energetic and relaxing. Glickman, who conducted without a score, had a profoundly coherent command of the work and at its conclusion embraced McBride and exchanged celebratory handshakes with him and the concertmaster, Ralph Morrison.
Prior to the performance of Dark Wood: Duke Bass Concerto for McBride, Mitch Glickman led tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith in Charles Floyd’s Elements.This piece was followed by an audience participation aspect of the matinee. Glickman explained that mixing certain genres of music together can be likened to foods mixed together and then suggested that classical or symphonic music (chocolate) when mixed with jazz (peanut butter) would result in a Symphonic Jazz Recipe. Arranged by Glickman, this four-part program included Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Girl From Ipanema,” Henry Mancini’s “Theme FromPeter Gunn” and Joe Garland’s “In The Mood” (made famous by Glenn Miller) and allowed the audience to identify which portions of the music were classical (chocolate) and/or which portions of the music were jazz (peanut butter).
Sonny Rollins: Innovative and Relentless at Royce Hall By Paula Edelstein
Tenor titan Sonny Rollins returned to the West Coast with his quintet recently to perform at UCLA’s Royce Hall. With several new awards under his belt including the Kennedy Center Honor presented on his 81st birthday (September 7th), the National Medal of Arts presented this year by President Obama, and the Jazz Journalists Association’s awards as 2011 Musician of the Year and Tenor Saxophonist of Year, the amazing Mr. Rollins had the audience charged up the moment he walked onstage.
Rollins’ inspired saxophonics resonated with the near-capacity audience as he launched into “Patan Jali,” a gem that was filled with his empathic hard-bop mastery and a blue note that he held for what seemed like an eternity. Energetic blowing like that made him a legend in the jazz world and without taking a break, he continued to create a mood with “Serenade” which successfully captivated the audience with exemplary soloing from Peter Bernstein on guitar and Kobie Watkins on drums. Rollins’ take on “Blue Gardenia” was fine and mellow with burnished tones that added excellent shading and nuance that seemed to come from an invisible air-pocket hidden within his energetic muse. He was blowing like a young man and with the charged up accompaniment of Peter Bernstein on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Sammy Figueroa on percussion and Kobie Watkins on drums, this quintet boosted its impressive outing with every note.
“Nice Lady” and “They Say It’s Wonderful” followed. Personally profound, these songs connected with the audience as Rollins’ kept the music flowing non-stop. He ended the concert with “Nishi” and “Don’t Stop the Carnival” after stopping for a second to tell the audience that he was “still trying” and that was enough to cause the audience to leap to their feet with a thunderous standing ovation. The legend of Sonny Rollins is a true-to-life jazz story that revealed itself in robust and inventive ways at Royce Hall and was one event that the great saxophonist can be proud of.