L-R: Jason Dirden, Glynn Turman, Damon Gupton, Keith David and Lillias White in August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” directed by Phylicia Rashad, playing through October 16, 2016, at Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum at the Los Angeles Music Center. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 628-2772. Contact: CTGMedia@ctgla.org/ (213) 972-7376. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom directed by Phylicia Rashad at The Mark Taper Forum trhough Oct. 16
Review by Paula Edelstein
For decades August Wilson’s plays have enthralled its audiences. He connects us to universal themes – the importance of friendship, racism, the responsibility of home, sacrifice, temptation and acceptance. His audiences have experienced the intricate layers of his characters and at times the complete African-American experience as told through his 10-play magnum opus, The American Century Cycle which chronicles the African-American decade by decade.
Returning to the Mark Taper Forum for her second helming of an August Wilson play is Tony Award® winner Phylicia Rashad. Ms. Rashad directs this groundbreaking play with a powerhouse cast and with an unparalleled creative team of artists who realized Wilson's intricate and theatrical vision. The superb cast in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – which is onstage September 1-October 16, 2016 - features several award-winning actors/musicians including Damon Gupton as Cutler, Glynn Turman as Toledo, Keith David as Slow Drag, Jason Dirden as Levee, and Lilias White as Ma Rainey, among others.
The play is set in early March 1927 in a bandroom and recording studio in Chicago, Illinois. The cast’s depiction of the language, culture and sheer passion of Wilson’s characters was the stuff of the highest level of dedication. However, coursing beneath the epic tale itself is the story’s lifeblood, the music of Ma Rainey. Ms. Rashad’s vision of Wilson’s fine storytelling also required her exemplary mastery of musical accompaniment and performance of songs by certain actors in order to drop the audience directly into the story’s world and to blend the line between the plot and music to summon an inseparable sense of artful high drama. Each actor not only portrayed their characters (and underlying subtexts) to perfection but exhibited workable and believable creativity as musicians. Lilias White’s distinct musical style and her performance of Rainey’s trademark song brought cheers of appreciation as she expressed its bluesy, poetic, heart in an emotional way.
The psychological and physical nuances of the plot - from Levee’s heart-wrenching internal conflicts with God and the Devil, to Ma Rainey’s epochal demand for respect and acceptance, to Toledo’s angst and strong feelings about racism and the role of the Black male in American society - were skillfully portrayed. Ms. Rashad’s careful and articulate command of the story’s development was principally reflected in the progression of the themes and threaded through the cultural details and dramatic connections that inspired and guided the cast to give impactful performances. Her detailed application of Wilson’s special sense of culture and race was at the core of this excellent performance that allowed her to adeptly present Wilson’s sense of the Black experience in America during the late 1920s.
For more information, please visit the Mark Taper Forum website.
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.