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.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall, March 23, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.
The ever-swinging Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra presents a new program with jazz titan Chick Corea. Sparks will fly as the orchestra performs Corea’s gems, as well as swinging, soulful standards that will raise the roof! Grammy-winning vocalist, Kurt Elling, opens the evening with his lithe baritone and unique interpretations of jazz and beyond.
Programs, artists, dates, times, prices and availability subject to change. For details, tickets and more information, please visit https://www.laphil.com/tickets/jazz-lincoln-center-orchestra-chick-corea/2018-03-23.
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.