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By Chris J. Walker

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Brooklyn-based Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely are not merely a band, but rather a phenomenon encompassing blues, folk, R&B, country, and rock that champions the rights of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. It’s quite a claim, but the singer/guitarist and her octet more than live up to it. At UCLA’s Center For The Art of Performance at Royce Hall, Reagon and collective began with folk-blues “Mountain Top” drenched in soul that rocked the house. They continued in the same fashion with “Go Higher,” folk-doo wop “For no Other Reason” and then ramped things up with James Brown styled “Beautiful.”

Reagon also rocked hard with “You’re The Only One” fortified with flailing guitar and powerful vocal choruses, and Police sounding “Big Light” that featured drummer Allison Miller wailing away. For country, she did “Holler and Bam” written with Miller and “Oh No No No” that was augmented by violin. Additionally throughout the show the bandleader had a running dialogue with the audience and updated them on her various developments. Concluding the show was soul-rocking “Freedom,” “Wake Up And Live” with a singing lesson and folk/gospel “There And Back Again” to draw a standing ovation.

Saturated in the history of R&B, rock and jazz from the ’40s till present day, saxophone legend Big Jay McNeely made an appearance at the Grammy Museum. With the venue’s Executive Director Scott Goldman he talked about how he got into music and the musical climate in Watts and Los Angeles. McNeely met Duke Ellington, Erroll Gardner, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sonny Criss and many others. Nonetheless, he stuck to his mostly self-taught style of soul and early rock n’ roll, and started to sing as he developed an outrageous stage persona.

The ninety year-old musician vividly recalled all the times and styles of music he played, along with showing pictures from “back in the day” and touched on the turbulent racial and segregated atmosphere. In fact, McNeely wasn’t allowed to play in Los Angeles, but found success in Europe and other parts of the country. Unquestionably, the saxophonist/singer was quite loquacious and previewed songs from his new CD Blowing Down The House. When actually performing he got into ground breaking “Deacon’s Hop,” mega hit “There’s Something on Your Mind,” partying “All That Wine is Gone” and “Party Time” with the audience singing along.

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Through the documentary Searching For Sugarman everyone knows the story of easy rocking and soulful Rodriquez whose career was resurrected after toiling for years in obscurity. At the Luckman Theatre on the Cal State University Los Angeles campus he appeared reluctant to perform after his backing band warmed up the audience with rock and blues instrumentals. About 15 minutes later Rodriquez finally came out aided by his daughter and folk opening act singer Arum Rae. Somewhat resembling Jose Feliciano, but more laid-back and rambling, the Detroit-based musician began with “Dead End Street” and segued into breezy “I Wonder,” which the audience had requested. “I Think of You” was lightly Latin flavored with acoustic guitar accenting.

Changing things up was hard rocking “Only Good For Conversation” featuring his band jamming away. Afterwards the enigmatic Rodriguez covered Elton John’s “Your Song” solely, with a nod to the composer that further delighted the audience. Even more different was the standard “The Street Where You Live,” scatting and a jazz guitar solo laden “Love Me or Leave Me,” along with classic rock hits “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love” and “Light My Fire” featuring a scorching guitar solos. The inclusion of those songs gave the impression that just about anything the singer/guitar did would please the audience.

He returned to his own music with “Inner City Blues,” moderately rocking “Sugar Man,” “You’d Like to Admit it,” and “Rich Folks Hoax” that were all warmly received for a standing ovation. After a long delay Rodriguez reappeared for the encore doing a cover of “It Must be Love” and original “I’m Gonna Live ‘Till I Die.”

photo of Kathy Kosins

Detroit native Kathy Kosins, normally a jazz singer embraced her R&B roots at Catalina's for upcoming CD Uncovered Soul. Uniquely, the singer recorded lesser-known songs by well-known R&B artists. Curtis Mayfield’s “Miss Martha” was an example and soulful/folksy similar to Bill Whithers. Helping out the singer were veteran players Andrew Howard-keyboards (Debbie Reynolds, Deniece Williams and Eartha Kitt), Carl Vincent-bass (scorer for Pixar Films and also an actor), Gregory Moore-guitar (Earth, Wind & Fire) and Herman Matthews-drums (Tower of Power). Continuing the revue while giving brief tidbits about the songs was slow-jam, soulfully sung “If Love Could Talk” and then chill wah-wah laden “Don’t Get Me Started.”

The singer took a detour from performing to do brief Q&A with the audience and then returned to the music by doing Bill Whithers’ soul-waltz “Can We Pretend.” Included in the show was Kosins’ own autobiographical easy-grooving and expressively sung “A to B.” Somewhat similar but more upbeat was Amos Lee’s “Dreaming.” The title track for the new project also an easy flowing groove evocatively sung by the Detroiter. Aaron’s Neville’s “Voodoo” was a bit different from the other songs and began with the drummer doing a solo intro before the group got into the funk jam. Kosins closed out the show with spirited “It’s a Happy Feeling” and let the band jam some. For more info go to: .

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Julian Lage is an emerging virtuosic guitarist best known for his solo work and collaborating with Nels Cline, Gary Burton and Fred Hersch. Chris Etheridge is a bluegrass guitarist on the same level and has worked with the Seldom Scene, the Infamous Stringdusters and the popular Punch Brothers, which he’s a member of. Lage and Etheridge started playing together in 2013, and recently released their second recording Mount Royal. They showcased some of the acoustic based songs from it, along with older ones at The Smothers Theatre on Pepperdine College campus.

“Rygar” was one of them and leaned more toward bluegrass with the musicians interacting profoundly. Etheridge sang “Things in Life,” while Lage supported, injecting a hot mix of jazz and bluegrass. “Bone Collector” exhibited a gentler side of the guitarists as they coolly intertwined. Balancing out the bluegrass playing and singing, was a frenetic jam on “Wilson's Waltz” from their first CD Avalon. They jammed eclectically and at times Lage sounded like his guitar was out of tune while the players kept the audience on the edge of their seats with bits of blues, classical and jazz that seemed to be endless. Folk singer Aoife O'Donovan who opened the concert, joined the duo for “Open Up The Window Let The Dove Fly In,” “Come September” and “I Love You and I Don’t Know What to Say” featuring soaring fretwork to astound the crowd.

photo of Jean-Luc Ponty’s

There was plenty of excitement in the air for violinist Jean-Luc Ponty’s appearance at the Saban Theatre with the Atlantic Years Band covering his music from ‘70s and ‘80s recordings (Ponty’s most popular). The group personnel consisted of Jamie Glaser-guitars, Wally Minko-keyboards. Baron Browne-bass and Rayford Griffin-drums. Ponty kept things interesting and exciting by jumping around between albums and movements, while wailing away profoundly. He began with Enigmatic Ocean’s “Overture” and “Translove Express” then went into Imaginary Voyage’s “Part One” and Cosmic Messenger’s title track.

photo of Jean-Luc Ponty’s

The virtuosic quintet continued doing A Taste For Passion’s slow burning thematic “Stay With Me” with the bandleader rekindling signature electric riffs. Ponty and his bandmates soloed extensively, especially during long passages and compositions to draw strong audience reactions. Returning to Enigmatic Ocean was the sophisticated and less wailing “The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea” three-part suite with new parts and enhancements added. However, the intensity shot up tremendously when Griffin was unleashed for a lengthy solo.

For some variety Ponty switched to an acoustic trio setting (violin, guitar and piano) for the tasty and classical tinged “Once a Blue Planet” from his Civilized Evil album. Also differing and a band request was funky and world music styled “Elephants in Love” from the 1985 Fables CD. Needless to say, the violinist burned and the drummer laid down a powerful backbeat, all to the audience’s delight. Returning to Enigmatic Ocean was its four-part suite dedicated to recently departed guitar icon Allan Holdsworth, who played on the recording. As expected, it garnered a standing ovation and the funk-rock title track for Open Mind was the encore. Interestingly, although heavily requested, jaunty, country tinged “New Country” possibly Ponty’s most popular song was not played.

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For anyone going to New York or based on the East Coast, The Allan Holdsworth Tribute Show is scheduled in New York at the Iridium on July 5, 2017. Check Facebook for more info or go to:

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photo of Lila Downs

Lila Downs was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and raised there and in Minnesota where her father was a university professor. The Grammy-winning singer celebrated her country of origin’s culture at The Segerstrom Center For The Arts. After getting underway with traditional ranchera sounding “Cruz De Madera” she stated, “We come to offer some songs about drinking mezcal, remembering great times in Mexico and women who make mole.”

A poem from Oaxaca was read before the beautiful acoustic ballad, “La Martiniana” and followed by celebratory “La Iguana” bolstered by brass choruses; the singer doing lively dancing and percussive interludes, also with a band member doing Mexican tap dancing. On a more serious note, Downs did Tejano oriented “Humito De Copal” in tribute to the Mexican journalists who have been recently killed. Also new bolero, “Piensa En Mi” was seriously romantic and spotlighted the softer aspects of the singer’s many talents.

“Keeper of The Flame” was the only song in English and somberly crafted with an accenting trumpet. While “Mezcalito” was a tribute to the increasingly popular Mexican alcoholic drink, which prompted the audience to enthusiastically sing along. On the other hand, “Viene La Muerte” dealt with the realization that we’ll all die one day. Highly charged “Son De Difuntos” finished the show to draw an enthusiastic standing ovation. For the encore, very festive “Zapata” and Cumbia Del Mole” with a mariachi band from Mexico were performed to the audience’s delight. Opening the show was the highly charged band Monsieur Periné from Columbia.

photo Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain probably the world’s most renowned tabla player who’s reputation extends beyond classical Indian music, and Rahul Sharma, highly regarded on santoor (hammered dulcimer) in also traditional Indian and other genres came together at UCLA’s Center For The Art of Performance. Prior to performing with Sharma he got technical and explained that his six person group would be playing a 98 beat rhythm cycle first individually, and then come together with a musical prayer. The tabla player began with rapid-fire precision as the other musicians slowly eased in to contribute and sometimes chant too.

Sharma joined Hussain afterwards as the other musicians departed and noted that they would first do a short improvisational piece, followed by a classical 70 cycle raga, and then after that it would be much faster. The results were captivating, with the santoor player doing a long crescendo exposition before the tabla player joined in. From there, the duo skillfully intersected as they musically traversed to higher elevations with heightened intensity. The pieces were trance-like, with minor variation on themes that were boundless, but of course eventually ended to garner a fervent standing ovation.

Idan Raichel from Israel plays keyboards and sings mostly in Hebrew. He performed solely at the Luckman Theatre located on the California State University Los Angeles campus. His latest project At the Edge of the Beginning was highlighted along with songs from previous projects. In performance, his music had a classical-romantic aura with some tonality and rhythm through sampled plucked piano strings and percussion, with poignant vocals. Between exhibiting musical adeptness, the influences of his community were vividly portrayed, encompassing Jewish, Arab, and Ethiopian Jewish traits.

Raichel, though, is always trying to break down boundaries and employs a very global approach, including mentioning amusing tidbits about his mother, and girl friend. The artist who has recorded and toured with Vieux Farka Touré (son of legendary Ali Farka Touré), GRAMMY winners in India. Arie and Alicia Keys, along with Portuguese fado star Ana Moura, didn’t say much about his music, but did mention that he wanted the audience to experience the music as he had created it at home, saying “Welcome to my living room.” Judging by the crowd’s reactions, they seem to be pretty comfortable.

photo of Elania Estevao

Brazilian singer and former Oba Oba revue star, Elania Estevao made her Los Angeles return to performing, after vanishing for 17 years. She was a regular at the now defunct Brazilian/fusion La Ve Lee Club, with Dionne Warwick seeing her there and becoming a big fan and supporter. Warwick joined Estevao at Cathy Segal-Garcia’s Downtown Jazz/Bar Fedora/Au Lac club in conjunction with Brazilian Nites Productions. The multi-Grammy winning singer, reminisced about first hearing Estevao, taking her on road as a featured backup singer, and then losing track of her. Reunited in April, they happily are singing together and the Brazilian is making a comeback.

Marcos Ariel-keyboards, Eduardo Del Signore-bass, Ron Wagner-drums, and Freddy Ramos-guitar, supported the singers as they audaciously did samba-pulsed, “Heart of Brazil” in Portuguese and English, much to the crowd’s delight. Without Estevao, Warwick pleasingly sang Sting’s “Fragile” with only acoustic guitar initially backing and the other band members easing in.

Afterwards, the Brazilian vocalist took over without her, for zesty samba jamming and powerful singing that included an entertaining array of songs that had the audience wanting more. Estevao will return to DTJLA on July 21, and for more info go to: and .

Special mention laog
Charles Lloyd’s CD cover

Throughout much of saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s near-mythic career, he has explored jazz leaning toward either Eastern inner peace or outward soulfulness, that sometimes resulted in irrepressible hard-bop. Significantly, the reed master’s latest group The Marvels with Bill Frisell-guitar, Reuben Rogers-bass, Greg Leisz-pedal steel guitar, Eric Harland-drums, and Lucinda Williams-vocals/guitar (Willie Nelson and Norah Jones are the CD’s vocalists) is neither. Instead, this group is free ranging with elements of rock, country and Americana. “Defiant” started the show, and later “Anthem” were easy flowing melodic themes highlighted by the bandleader and pedal steel solos.

In sharp contrast was “Ramblin” that was loosely patterned after “Freedom Jazz Dance” and chocked with high-energy sax and guitar solos, propelled by energetic drums and bass support that revved up the audience. CD track “Sombrero Sam” an unofficial homage to Lloyd’s former band mate, Hungarian guitarist Gabor Zabo, was coolly exotic and accentuated by Frisell’s jagged riffs and the bandleader’s savory Latin tinged flute work.

Not totally forsaking his jazz roots, Lloyd did a pensive rendition of “Monk’s Mood” adorned by light layering from the sidemen and lightly funky “Dismal Swamp” featuring lute, and Frisell garnered notable audience response. However, the reaction to a gentle cover of Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys’ “In My Room” overflowing with pedal steel and saxophone, was much stronger.

As expected, William’s entrance during the last third of the program was an abrupt, but very crowd appealing change. The alt-country singer raucously belted out CD track “Ain’t Nobody’s Fault” with the band intensely jamming away. She continued with ode mildly driven “Ventura” and ballad, “A Place in My Heart” with tasteful accompaniment that she called “a match made in heaven.” Dylan’s timely “Masters of War” also on the new CD, returning to rocking faire brought out intense performances by all, to draw a standing ovation. To further enthrall the audience, Williams, Lloyd, and band did soul and gospel classics “A Change is Gonna Come” and “I Shall be Released” for the encore.

photo of Russell Malone

In recent years, Russell Malone hasn’t performed in Southern California clubs or auditoriums, and might have been close to being forgotten. However, the guitarist’s show at the Moss Theatre, part of the Jazz Bakery’s “Movable Feast Series,” made a long-lasting impression that will be hard to forget. Malone even said, “Long time no see” to the audience before beginning with his regular band Rick Germanson-piano, Luke Sellick-bass, and Willie Jones III-drums, whom he also records with. Mulgrew Miller’s pulsating “Soul-Leo” was the show opener, and set the tone for the evening as the guitarist soloed zestfully, and interacted superbly with his players. Cedar Walton’s “The Rubber Man” was equally engaging, yet toned down slightly, and featured everyone turning in fiery solos.

Diversifying things some, was Malone’s sweet sounding ballad “Love Looks Good on You” and an initially soothing, later peppy version of “Witchcraft.” Continuing in the same vein, was Jerry Goldsmith’s “Your Zowie Face” from the James Coburn film, In Like Flint/Our Man Flint. Original “Leave it to Lonnie (Plaxico)” was played in public for first time, and had a more modern rhythmic edge, featuring the guitarist and band mates wailing away intensely to impress the audience. From a much different standpoint, was Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s forlorn ballad "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry." To insure no one would forget about Malone, he closed the show with an explosive and powerful version of Freddie Hubbard’s “Sweet Sue” that was mesmerizing.

New York-based pianist Helen Sung and quartet, made a stop at the Blue Whale to present: Sung With Words with guest vocalist Christie Dashiell. The quartet consisted of John Ellis-tenor sax, Boris Kozlov-bass, and Darrell Green-drums. With them, Sung showcased numbers from her upcoming CD, and started with up-tempo post-bop, “Convergence” embellished by engaging sax, piano and drum solos. For a respite, she played enchanting thematic tune “In The Shadowland” with sax and bass turning in appealing solos. With vocalist Dashiell, the bandleader revealed this was her first attempt at writing lyrics, and noted that California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia was the inspiration. She read his poem, “Too Bad,” a put down after being rejected, to get audience interest, and then played it.

With vocals, the song sounded sweeter and jazzier than the poem, possibly due to Dashiell’s inflections, along with Ellis and Sung’s solos. In sharp contrast, “Lament for Kalief Browder” was wordless and mystifying, with stirring playing and scatting. “Psalm: 136 His Love Lives on Forever” was transformed into a rhythmic jazz pieces, with touches of funk. But Leonard Cohen’s, “Hallelujah” maintained its spiritual introspectiveness, and enhanced by a haunting sax, and abounding singing, moved the audience to demand an encore. Sung and crew obliged with samba flavored Gioia poem, “Take Me Downtown-It’s a Hot Summer Night” that with its spirited and energetic grooving, lived up to expectations.

photo of Sondheim on stage

Sondheim & Jazz: Side by Side, presented by Dave Grusin at Disney Hall, was one of those special moments when jazz and theatre brilliantly came together, and was bolstered by an impressive array of talent. Among the star-laden lineup for the first half were, Bill Charlap-piano, Renee Rosnes-piano/arranger, Liz Callaway-vocals (subbing for sister Ann Hampton Callaway), Steve Wilson-reeds, Sean Smith-bass, Matt Wilson-drums, and Scott Dunn-conductor, along with an eight-person string section. Charlap got the program underway with a dazzling piano intro, and then handed things over to his wife, Rosnes, who with the ensemble, played lightly textured, “Night Waltz” from Sondheim’s musical, A Little Night Music.

Callaway elegantly continued with, “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd, which flourished with rich string and piano accompaniment, to impress the audience. Bustling, “Hibernating Harriet, the Nouveau from New Rochelle” and “Old Friends” featured soaring alto sax and piano solos, along with the dynamic singer. However, her rendering of Sondheim’s scaled down masterpiece, “Send in The Clowns” was spellbinding and literally brought down the house.

The second half, Jazz From West Side Story included Dave Grusin on piano, who recorded a tribute to the musical and film, produced by Phil Ramone, 20 years ago. The pianist/arranger lead an 19-piece band. Notable members were Dan Higgins-alto sax, Tom Scott-tenor sax, Chuck Findley-trumpet, Bob McChesney-trombone, Dave Weckl-drums, Lee Ritenour-guitar, Alex Acuna-percussion, John Beasley-keyboards and Tom Kennedy-bass. They mightily roared during their rendering of the very popular musical. In relation to the musical/film, the performed arrangements roughly followed the original songs. In about an hour the most popular numbers from i>West Side Story were covered, with of course, a much jazzier feel than the originals.

“Something’s Coming” was explosive, with blazing tenor sax and spiraling piano solos. “Cool” was pulsating, with guitar and bass featured with bold brass choruses. Although the musical and film were abundantly garnished with vocals, Grusin’s treatments only had one, “Maria” featuring Dorian Holley (not listed on the program). He injected a soulful element to the song and coolly worked with the boisterous big band to the audience’s amazement. From a lighter perspective, Sal Lozano-flute and Acuna highlighted, “I Feel Pretty”. The very palatable program ended with highly vibrant, “The Jet Song” chocked with riveting brass choruses and solos.

Although John Pizzarelli is pretty far removed from being a rocker, he has had a long-term relationship with Beatle music. About 20 years ago, (1998), the New York-based guitarist recorded an album of the Fab Four’s music, (Pizzarelli joked incessantly about the album’s poor reception) and his latest album, released in 2014, Midnight McCartney, covers Paul McCartney’s (upon his urging) 2012, Kisses on The Bottom, that he was part of. At Disney Hall, he performed Beatles and McCartney songs with his wife Jessica Molaskey, and daughter/guitarist Madeline, as backup singers. An eleven-person band that included string players, backed the family trio that began with a brassy version of, “Can’t Buy Me Love” bolstered by a clarinet solo, and the guitarist coolly scatting.

The singing trio excelled with a piano driven rendering of, “Here Comes The Sun.” For a change, the combo part of the band, mashed Lee Morgan’s, “Sidewinder” with “I Feel Fine” to produce a lively groove, full of solos. Even more different was Pizzarelli singing, “And I Love Her” with only his daughter, playing guitar. “Honey Pie” was cool, light and jazzy, while McCartney’s, “Silly Love Songs” and “My Love (Does it Good)” featuring the guitarist/singer, were silky and string laden. Not to be forgotten, were some of McCartney’s lesser-known songs such as, “Heart of The Country” and “Coming Up.” Mixed into the show were the very popular and stripped, “Maybe I’m Amazed,” a peppy “Let Em In” to draw a standing ovation, and a zippy instrumental of, “Hi Hi Hi” for the encore.

Billy Childs, as part of Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast series, spotlighted his new recording, Rebirth at the Moss Theatre. Playing with the pianist/arranger/composer for the special occasion, was his New York based band, consisting of Dayna Stephens-saxophone, Hans Glawischnig-bass and Ari Hoenig-drums. They launched into the new selections with robust, mid-tempo neo-bop, “Backwards Bop.” “Aaron’s Song,” not on the CD, was chamber jazz oriented, with soprano saxophone hovering, and intersecting with, an at times, explosive rhythm section, and the bandleader’s alternating daring and cascading piano playing, to thoroughly fascinate the attending listeners.

Returning to new material was Childs’ take on one of his influences, Horace Silver’s thematic ballad, “Peace,” featuring bass and piano soloing. Also included, was hard-driving, “Starry Night” with the band playing fast and tastefully. Afterwards, the pianist recited the Bergmans’ lyrics for, “The Windmills of Your Mind” and then proceeded to play a charged instrumental version. Los Angeles-based vocalist Sara Gazarek, joined the quartet for the last 20 minutes of the show, starting with Childs’ older and somber ballad, “Stay.” The vocalist and band wrapped up the evening with the wordless title track, highlighted by high-flying scatting and playing, to garner a standing ovation.

After being around since the ‘80s, recording about 15 albums, and either performing or recording with many friends, singer Mark Winkler has developed an impressive and varied array of colleagues. At Catalina's, he had a CD release party for, The Company I Keep, and seemed to have had anyone he’s met during his career, in attendance. On the other hand, Winkler is very talented, creative, resourceful, and always busy. Hip and cool, “Like Young” (not on the CD), got the party started and portrayed the singer as the ultimate “hipster.” He imparted that the loss of his longtime partner, Richard Beldaso, was tough, and the only things pulling him through the grief were his friends and the music.

The vast array of tunes and genres even included Prince’s, surprisingly, “Strollin’” written for the film, Graffiti Bridge, and was playfully sung with Sara Gazarek, who also later helped on Donald Fagen’s, “Walk Between The Raindrops” and original, “Rainproof.” Winkler mentioned that he would love to go back in time to Paris in the 1920’s, when setting up trad tinged original, “Midnight in Paris” and included a violinist, and Bob Sheppard-clarinet, on the tune. Flowing ballad, “The Sum” was written with thoughts of his departed lover. Pianist David Benoit, assisted Winkler on, “Lucky to Be Me” while singer, Mon David, gelled and scatted with him during Oliver Nelson’s, “Stolen Moments” with lyrics by Mark Murphy, to thrill the audience. Topping a long list of friends, was none other than singer/producer, Steve Tyrell for, “But it Still Ain’t So.” Fittingly concluding the celebratory evening was, “Here’s to Life: with only piano supporting, to receive a standing ovation.

Top shelf sideman and bandleader in his own right, saxophonist Chris Potter, appeared at the Blue Whale, to showcase his new CD, The Dreamer is The Dream. The typically relaxed club, was packed to a point, that the tenor saxophonist, working with David Virelles-piano (on CD), Ben Street-bass, and Dan Weiss-drums, had to play “Circle in the Round” with the audience surrounding them. The musicians didn’t seem to mind, and quickly got into new material, beginning with an unnamed post neo-bop, raga tinged-piece, featuring Potter, blowing stridently.

The second tune was comparatively scaled down neo-bop, with the saxophonist and pianist, stretching out to a steady, drum and bass foundation. Potter, on soprano, got into another lengthy piece; somewhat of a tone poem, sparsely supported, except for the bassist soloing. Afterwards, the bassist used a marimba sample, to set up a hard driving mix of world textures, and bebop rhythms, perfect for the bandleader to interact with, and included an extensive drum solo, that impressed the listeners.

Sylvia Brooks showcased songs from her third record, The Arrangement, at Catalina Bar and Grill, with a solid group of players. Some of the featured tunes were: “Night and Day”; a cool and deadly ballad, and, “Guess Who I Saw Today.” Jacob took the helm for, “Midnight Sun” with Brooks singing passionately, with a saxophone, embellishing. Joining the headliner, was vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia, for Jacob’s stylish arrangement of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” with an injected saxophone solo. With only piano, she seductively sang, “Maybe I’m a Fool,” and reunited with full band, was, “The Tender Trap” bolstered by a piano solo, along with longing, “Never Let Me Go.” Concluding the show, was sultrily sung, “Angel Eyes” with detailed band playing, to draw a standing ovation.


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Running through August 17 and skipping the week of July 4 the Santa Monica Pier comes alive with exciting free concerts. Highlight the series are:

July 13 – Marcia Griffiths — The most influential woman in reggae; the Jamaican singer has performed with Bob Marley, is known for her captivating live performances, and recently received the Jamaican Order of Distinction.

Jah9 — With a rootsy sound, Jamaican singer / songwriter Jah9, is part of the new Reggae Revival movement, featured in publications like, Vogue and The Wall Street Journal, for her Nina Simone-esque vocals and Dub rhythms.

Aug 3 – Valerie June — Blending folk, blues, and Appalachian, elements into a timeless sound, that Rolling Stone calls, “at once young and old,” Valerie June, writes material with the influences of socially-minded songwriters, like Bob Marley.

Irma Thomas — R&B and soul singer, Irma Thomas, won her first GRAMMY in 2007, after an estimable career working with such icons as Randy Newman, and continues to uphold her unrivaled title as, The “Soul Queen of New Orleans.”

Aug 10 –Mon Laferte — Two-time Latin GRAMMY-nominee Mon Laferte, a Mexico-based singer/songwriter with Chilean roots, gained popularity for her, “unique vocals, and powerful blues, and jazz-inspired ballads,” according to Billboard.

Buscabulla — Buscabulla is a Brooklyn-based Latin band, formed by a Puerto Rican couple, paying homage to their funk, soul, and Caribbean, roots. The pair recently made their live West Coast debut, at the KCRW studio.

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The iconic venue continues its long tradition of featuring top-level performers spanning jazz, world, pop and R&B regularly throughout the summer. Listed below are some of its excellent and diverse concerts:

July 15 Tony Bennett & Dudamel
July 16 Jack Johnson, JAMTOWN featuring Donavon Frankenreiter, G. Love & Cisco Adler
July 19 Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories Vince Mendoza, conductor, Andra Day, Jane Monheit, Leslie Odom, Jr., Lizz Wright, Regina Carter and Patrice Rushen, special guests and A Dizzy 100th Celebration All-Star Big Band Jon Faddis, conductor/trumpet Billy Childs, Charles McPherson, Lewis Nash andPeter Washington, special guests CCH Pounder, host
July 21 & 22 Kool & the Gang • Morris Day & The Time • Village People
Aug 2 The Brian Setzer Orchestra - 25th Anniversary Show!
Aug 6 Belle and Sebastian • Spoon • Kristin Kontrol
Aug 9 Gente de Zona • Angélique Kidjo’s Tribute to Salsa • The Pedrito Martinez Group
Aug 11 &12 Diana Krall Hollywood Bowl Orchestra Thomas Wilkins, conductor, Alan Broadbent, conductor
Aug 13 Chris Botti • Jewel, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra Thomas Wilkins, conductor
Aug 16 Jill Scott • Robert Glasper Experiment
Aug 17 Gershwin Under the Stars Los Angeles Philharmonic Bramwell Tovey, conductor, Aaron Diehl, piano
Aug 20 Smooth Summer Jazz Dave Koz, Larry Graham Kenny Lattimore, Valerie Simpson, Ohio Players EPK with Euge Groove, Peter White & Keiko Matsui Morgan James
Aug 23 Herbie Hancock • Kamasi Washington
Aug 25 Gipsy Kings
Aug 26 Bryan Ferry with Orchestra, Cécile McLorin Salvant Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins, conductor
Aug 27 Pink Martini featuring China Forbes and Storm Large • Charo KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis, host
Aug 30 Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue • St. Paul & The Broken Bones • Lake Street Dive
Sep 6 Quincy Jones: The A&M Years Richard Bona & Mandekan Cubano, Jonah Nilsson, Christian McBride, musical director, John Clayton, conductor Dave Grusin, Sean Jones, Hubert Laws, Lewis Nash, Lee Ritenour, Alfredo Rodriguez, Valerie Simpson, plus an all-star big band, Richard Bona, Mandekan Cubano Jonah Nilsson
Sep 13 Steve Winwood • Mavis Staples
Sep 16 Cumbia at the Bowl! Los Ángeles Azules Los Angeles Philharmonic, Grupo Cañaveral, La Sonora Dinamita
Sep 17 Café Tacvba • La Santa Cecilia • Mon Laferte, Gustavo Dudamel and the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Sep 24 Cosmic Journey: Solange Plus Blood Orange and special guests: KING • Kelela • Moses Sumney • Kelsey Lu and more

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The mega Tech Center’s downtown transforms itself into a mighty Music Hub for a weekend featuring 12 stages and array of genres. Basically something for anyone who has an interest in jazz and/or related music. Some of the highlight performers are:

Allison Adams Tucker’s WANDERlust
Angelique Kidjo’s Tribute to Salsa with Pedrito Martinez
Anton Schwartz Sextet
California and Montreal Guitar Trios
Carmen Lundy
Chris Botti
Claudia Villela Quintet
Cyrille Aimée
Daymé Arocena
Dmitri Matheny Jazz Noir
Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio
Eddie Henderson Quartet
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
Guitar Extravaganza with Bruce Forman, John Stowell, Rick Vandivier and Hristo Vitchev
Hip Bone Big Band
Jackie Gage
Jazz By 5 with Javon Jackson, George Cables, Randy Brecker, Eddie Gomez &
Jimmy Cobb
Kavita Shah
Lily Hernandez Orquesta featuring Calixto Oviedo
Maceo Parker
NASA Ames Jazz Band
Naughty Professor
Oscar Hernández and Alma Libre
Pacific Mambo Orchestra
Pedrito Martinez
Peter Cincotti
Posi-Tone Records Showcase: Art Hirahara
Posi-Tone Records Showcase: Roxy Coss/Josh Lawrence
Ray Obiedo Group
Rickey Woodard Quartet
Robert Glasper Experiment
San Francisco String Trio with Mimi Fox, Mads Tolling and Jeff Denson
Somos El Son
Sons of the Soul Revivers
South Bay Big Band Jazz
The Whispers
Tommy Igoe Groove Conspiracy
Urban Renewal Project
USAF Commanders Jazz Ensemble
Wally Schnalle & IF3+
Zydeco Flames

Any information to be considered for this column can be sent to:

By Chris J. Walker JUNE 2017

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photo of Allan Holdsworth

Extremely influential guitarist Allan Holdsworth 70, unquestionably a guitarist’s, guitarist admired by a wide range of players from Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin, Santana to Vernon Reid, Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen, died April 15, 2017 at his home in Vista, CA. He performed in the Los Angeles area for the last time at the Townhouse in Santa Monica on April 4, 2017. Devoted fans and fellow guitarists flooded the club to see their hero who had been in groups such as U.K., Gong, The Soft Machine, The Tony Williams Lifetime and Jean-Luc Ponty’s band play closed to two hours.

Holdsworth a lover of improvisation soloed profoundly and also allowed sidemen Evan Marien-bass, Virgil Donati-drums and Steve Hunt-keyboards to stretch out as well on tracks mostly from the guitar guru’s latest recordings Blues For Tony and Eidolon, The Allan Holdsworth Collection. It was all to his fans delight and they hung every note played. Guitarist Cameron Morgan opened the show with breezy jazz grooves. At least one Allan Holdsworth tribute show is scheduled in New York at the Iridium on July 5, 2017. Check Facebook for more info or go to:

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Guitarist Nels Cline has developed a dual identity of being an adventurous effects-laden guitarist for avant-garde explorations and hard driving for the alternative rock band Wilco. Remarkably, his long awaited solo album Lovers has none of those characteristics for Cline’s and is instead a collection of jazzy lushly orchestrated ballads akin to a dramatic movie or television score. At the UCLA Center For The Art of Performance the Los Angeles native musician performed his recently released double CD of tracks in its entirety to a hometown audience consisting on friends, family and musical associates.

The same could be said for the 19-piece band/orchestra that included his twin brother Alex on drums, Steven Bernstein-trumpet, Jeff Gauthier-violin, Vinny Golia-woodwinds, Yuka Honda-celeste/synth, Ethen Sherman-guitar substituting for Julian Lage, Michael Leonhart-Conductor/arranger/trumpet/flugelhorn and special guest Jenny Scheinman-violin. Through 13 cover numbers and five originals Cline and company casted a relaxing spell on the audience.

As far as disruption, an important aspect of Cline’s music was concerned, only Jimmy Giuffe’s “Cry, Want” melding with a suspenseful guitar, wildly atmospheric treatment of Gabor Szabo’s “Lady Gabor and Sonic Youth’s primal “Snare, Girl,” slightly atonal original “You Noticed,” and mildly jarring “It Only Has to Happen Once” temporarily awoke the audience from their relaxed state. Regardless, it was quite an undertaking and the crowd approvingly gave Cline a standing ovation.

Big Lazy a New York City-based instrumental trio opened with music that was soundtrack oriented and more so leaned to Americana with tinges of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch.

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photo of Jean-Luc Ponty

Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty has been a fusion innovator since 1969 and recorded his first American album King Kong featuring compositions by Frank Zappa (he convinced Ponty to move to Los Angeles from Paris), and also worked with his Mothers of Invention band until 1974. Additionally, the violinist recorded Electric Connection with The Gerald Wilson Big Band, combined his explorative free jazz Jean-Luc Ponty Experience group with keyboardist George Duke’s Trio (later became a Zappa band mate) and was recruited by Elton John to play on his top-selling Honky Chateau album.

Ponty significantly transcended from being a highly regarded sideman and leader to a superstar when he joined iconic guitarist John McLaughlin’s Mahivishnu Orchestra at its popularity apex in 1974. Two years later the Frenchman went on to pursue a solo career. It has included notable collaborations with bassist legend Stanley Clarke and French guitarist Biréli Lagrène, Rite of Strings with guitar wizard Al Di Meola and Clarke, and a prog-rock group with former Yes vocalist/lyricist Jon Anderson.

From June 3rd to June 8th he will be playing at several Southern California venues for The Atlantic Years Tour (1975-1997) with Jamie Glaser-guitars, Wally Minko-keyboards, Baron Browne- bass and Rayford Griffin-drums.

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Jun 03, 2017
Saban Theater
8440 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Saban Theater
(323) 655-0111

Jun 07, 2017
The Coach House
33157 Camino Capistrano,
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 496-8930

Jun 08, 2017
The Canyon
28912 Roadside Dr
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Phone: (818) 593-0135

Ojai Music Festival with Music Director Vijay Iyer

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Grammy Nominated keyboardist/composer/educator Vijay Iyer makes his Ojai Music Festival debut as the 2017 Music Director and will present an ambitious and explorative program. It promises to boldly intermix classical, jazz and avant-garde music. Iyer will perform and showcase his own improvisational works and commissions.

Additionally, he will collaborate with and/or highlight a variety of fellow innovating composers such as Tyshawn Sorey, Ara Guzelimian, Wadada Leo Smith Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Nicole, Mitchell, Mario Diaz De Leon, György Kurtág, Courtney Bryan through a variety of concerts and recitals, including some at dawn, mid-day and midnight.

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Ojai Festival
June 8-11, 2017
201 S Signal St, Ojai, CA 93023
805 646 2053

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Brazilian singer/guitarist Vinicius Cantuária superbly showcased songs from his latest recording Vinicius Canta Antonio Carlos Jobim at the Moss Theatre that was part of the Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast Series. Portuguese-singing Cantuária supported by Paul Socolow-bass, Adriano Santos-drums, Helio Alves-piano, superbly and delicately sung Jobim classic “Insensatez” bolstered by a piano solo. Afterwards the band was livelier with bossa grooving interplay for a song not on the new CD that delighted the audience.

Ballads “Lígia,” “Caminhos Cruzados,” “Por Causa de Você” and “Retrato em Branco e Preto” were a return to a softer and scaled down backdrops with the bandleader singing sweetly and playing gentle guitar, which included jazzy band interludes. While audience appealing “Só Danço Samba” was definitely samba with touches of funk and jazz that featured the pianist soloing tastefully. Additionally Cantuária rhythmically and poetically sang lightly textured “Vivo Sonhando” and Spanish bolero-like “Inútil Paisagem” that incorporated an exceptional mixture of bossa and jazz jamming. Furthermore the bandleader injected rangy guitar playing into the songs and musical interludes with his players, and as would be expected included the immortal “Garota de Ipanema (Girl From Impanema)” to garner a standing ovation. Prior to show KPFK-90.7’s Sergio Mielniczenko introduced the band and commended the Jazz Bakery’s efforts.

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Los Angeles Django Reinhardt Festival

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Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz, the innovative performance space at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles is proud to present the first edition of The Los Angeles ‪Django Reinhardt Festival. Named after the pioneer of jazz guitar and the originator of “Gypsy Jazz”, the festival carries on his profound legacy with an all-star list of instrumental artists who elevate the genre to the next level.

The festival includes master classes, film screenings, lectures, alfresco open-jams, guitar displays and vendors, live concerts and all-star finale performance. The headliner is Yorgui Loeffler, French Manouche guitarist in the style of Django, and rounding out the bill (also from France) are Samy Daussat, Noé Reinhardt, Frank Anastasio, Aurore Voilqué, Claudius Dupont, and Trio Dinicu.

Los Angeles Django Reinhardt Festival
June 17-18, 2017
Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz
Los Angeles CA 90064
(310) 286 0553

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Known for top-notch artists in blues, Cajun and zydeco, the festival features simultaneous stages of music along with plenty of activities for kids. As always the large shaded wooden dance floor will be filled all weekend long. The easy dance instruction for all ages is always a popular feature, so even the most inexperienced dancers can join in on the fun. Also included is Cajun & Creole cuisine, dance instruction & continuous dancing, Mardi Gras parades, watermelon & crawfish eating contests, and activities for kids and teens.


Dennis G & the Zydeco Trail Riders
Grammy winners, The Pine Leaf Boys
Brian Jack & the Zydeco Gamblers
Mark St Mary Blues & Zydeco Band
T Broussard & the Zydeco Steppers
Bonne Musique Zydeco and more!


June 24-25, 2017
Rainbow Lagoon Park
400 E Shoreline Drive, (at Linden Ave & Shoreline Drive)
Long Beach, CA .
Children 12 & under: free
Active Duty, Retired and Reservists of the Military: free with current, valid Military ID Benoit Entertainment Group presents the event. A portion of the profits will benefit LALA (Louisiana to Los Angeles), a non-profit organization that raises educational funds for local youth to attend college.

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Popular festival traditions continue with a colorful costumed Mardi Gras parade led each day by the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band, and a delectable French Quarter marketplace with gumbo, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, hush puppies and other Cajun and Creole delights, plus coffees and desserts such as sweet potato pie, beignets and an array of cobblers. The popular crawfish and watermelon eating contests also return this year. Children of all ages appreciate the Kids Corner featuring storytelling, sing-a-longs, arts and crafts, magic, and costume and mask making for the Mardi Gras Parade.

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Bernie Pearl,
Whiteboy James
Jimbo Ross & the Bodacious Band
Café R&B
Seville and Company
Jumpin’ Jack Benny Band
Louie Cruz Beltran & more!

June 24-25, 2017
Rainbow Lagoon Park
400 E Shoreline Drive, (at Linden Ave & Shoreline Drive)
Long Beach, CA .
Children 12 & under: free and active duty, retired and reservists of the military: free with current, valid military ID
The event is presented by Benoit Entertainment Group and a portion of the profits will benefit LALA (Louisiana to Los Angeles), a non-profit organization that raises educational funds for local youth to attend college.

Special mention  logo
photo of Tina Raymond

Drummer/educator Tina Raymond, who studied at the University of Cincinnati, and California Institute of The Arts with Ghanaian chief Alfred Ladzekpo, and jazz drum set with veteran drummers Joe LaBarbera, Jeff Hamilton, and John Von Ohlen is quickly emerging on the LA and national jazz scene. Her new recording Left Right Left surprisingly takes a strong stance on the current political scene and events, simply breaking things down to the views of the East and West Coast regions of the U.S. opposing those of the Midwest and South. Her partners in crime for the CD and Blue Whale performance were well-established players Art Lande-piano and Putter Smith-bass. They coolly supported and elevated things at key moments, while the ambitious young drummer also recited lyrics between selections.

Raymond’s trio began with Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty” and then went into an oft-kilter version of “Battle Hymn of Republic (Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!)” with Smith soloing somewhat abnormally as the drummer fired away bebop-like. She also impressively blazed away during Smith’s “White Flight” with her cohorts and as they segued to Guthrie’s “Union Maid” she recited the lyrics before getting into mid-tempo number. The drummer/leader wrapped up the first set playing James Weldon Smith’s vastly differing spiritual “Lift Every Voice And Sing” with palatable bowing bass, piano and drum solos to impress the audience. For info go to: .

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The Grammy Museum’s Exploring Count Basie: The King of Swing didn’t include a live performance. Instead the program focused on The Historical Savory Collection Archive featuring rare recordings by Count Basie And Other Greats. KJAZZ “Jazz At Six” On-Air Host Bubba Jackson moderated the session with panelists Loren Schoenberg, National Jazz Museum; Darryl Porter, Count Basie Trust; Gregg Field, Count Basie Drummer/Concord Records Partner & Producer/Educator; LA Jazz Scene and other publications Jazz Journalist/Author Scott Yanow.

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Schoenberg with the aid of a Power Point presentation that included incredible audio and video clips talked about legendary Recording Engineer Bill Savory’s massive vault of radio program recordings from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s that lay dormant after he passed away in 2004. However, the recordings were in very poor condition and needed extreme restoration that took 10 years. Porter touched on the Count Basie Trust involvement with the producing and marketing of the recovered collection. Yanow stressed the importance of the broadcast recordings, Basie’s approach, sound and differences from the other big bands of that era.

Field talked about his introduction to Basie and experiences afterwards, beginning with seeing the band at Disneyland in 1966 when was 10-years old. He then became obsessed with the bandleader’s music and amazingly sat in with the band in 1973 at the Circle Star Theatre outside of San Francisco when drummer Sonny Payne was a no-show. Field eventually joined the band once out of high school, resulting in over 1000 shows and three albums, including Grammy-winning Warm Breeze.

As a producer he made The Basie Band’s first Christmas record with Ellis Marsalis on piano and Ledisi and Johnny Mathis doing vocals. Furthermore, Field was in the process of completing the bands 80th anniversary recording with Stevie Wonder singing. Afterwards Q&A came from the audience covering Eddie Durham’s arrangements and others including Neal Hefti, the Warm Breeze record and ended with Schoenberg playing a Savory Collection track “I Ain’t Got Nobody” in1938 at The Famous Door club.

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This special evening to benefit KJazz 88.1 FM stars the GRAMMY®-award winning Christian McBride with his New Jawn Quartet. Rising star and jazz vocalist Tiffany Austin opens the show. The evening will be hosted by the station’s own David Benoit, who also will be performing a few songs with Tiffany Austin.

Four-time GRAMMY®-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride can be likened to a force of nature, fusing the fire and fury of a virtuoso with the depth and grounding of a seasoned journeyman. Powered by a relentless energy and a boundless love of swing, McBride's path has described a continuous positive arc since his arrival on the scene. With a career now blazing into its third decade, the Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today.

Some of the artists he’s worked with in jazz are Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Pat Methey along with greats in R&B, rock, pop and classical. McBride shines brightest in a small jazz group, and with his New Jawn Quartet he has created a high-powered, energized unit. This special concert to benefit KJazz will be the Los Angeles debut of McBride's New Jawn Quartet.

Vocalist Tiffany Austin's tradition-rooted yet totally modern style has established her as one of the fastest rising jazz stars. Austin's music and voice draw upon influences such as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin, yet she also infuses songs with her own signature style that is precise, intelligent, and soulful. Her much-anticipated debut recording, Nothing But Soul, has received a warm reception from audiences and critics alike, including a four-star DownBeat Magazine review.

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KJazz 88.1 Summer Benefit Concert
June 24, 2017
Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

General Admission Tickets

VIP Tickets

For $400 pledge, a pair of tickets in the Front Orchestra section, valet parking, a donation, one-year membership and an exclusive post-show reception. It will be in the Founder's Room at Walt Disney Concert Hall and includes dessert, coffee, and wine. Christian McBride will be joining the post-concert reception. Tickets only available through KJazz-310-478-5061 or at .

Any information to be considered for this column can be sent to:

By Chris J. Walker On MAY 2017

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There’s a movement currently happening in LA music and the mercuric rise of saxophonist Kamasi Washington is largely responsible for it. The heralded saxophonist didn’t become a sensation by his own efforts solely. Rather, it was from wood shedding and the support of longstanding group musical friends who call themselves “The West Coast Get Down.” They’re now starting to come out with their own solo projects. One of them is keyboardist Cameron Graves who had a CD Release Party for Planetary Prince at the Troubadour with friends Washington-tenor saxophone (on CD), trombonist Ryan Porter-trombone (on CD), Matt Hayes-guitar, Carlitos Del Puerto-bass, Philip Dizack-trumpet and Ronald Bruner Jr.-drums (on CD).

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Graves set the mood by doing a solo intro of pounding out an explosive and hard-driving rhythm for his counterparts to ride the crest of for the title track with scorching and monster rock-like brass choruses and solos. “Satania Our Solar System” was jazzier and funkier while maintaining density and aggression with a sax and bass solo. Bassist Myles Mosley (on CD) and drummer Tony Austin also part of the WCGD joined the band for “The Lucifer Rebellion” with the effects-laden bassist doing the solo intro and wailing away with bowing throughout the piece.

Also sitting in with the band (rhythm players) on acoustic was legendary bassist Stanley Clarke. He recalled the last time he played at Troubadour in early ‘70s with Return to Forever before doing his signature bass percussion and getting into unannounced jazz selection that amazed the audience. Upon the return of Graves’ full band thematic “El Diablo” was played with a brass chorus out front and guitar soloing. Graves revealed that The Book of Urantia influenced his compositions and that he was previously a heavy metal guitarist. Also he mentioned that actress/dancer Jada Pinkett–Smith was another influence and called her on stage to speak before doing encore “Adam & Eve.” It’s the longest track on the CD with a variety of band interactions/solos and received a standing ovation. For more info go to: and com

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The African Guitar Summit based and originated in Toronto, Canada recently performed at SOKA University in Aliso Viejo. The multiple Juno-winning group showcased guitarists Alpha YaYa Diallo from Guinea, with Donné Roberts and Madagascar Slim from Madagascar. Kofi Ackah-percussion from Ghana and Naby Camara-electric bass/balafon/African marimba from Guinea supported the guitarists. Diallo got the show underway with a short solo before his band mates joined him for a pulsating song accentuated by percussion, vocal choruses and guitar solos. It musically transported the audience to the western coast of Africa.

Madagascar Slim the most personable of the musicians introduced the concert attendees to his island homeland with layered textures, rhythmic singing, breezy guitar playing and jokes. Contrarily Roberts was much more serious, but jubilant through a South African-tinged song about thankfulness that inspired the audience to clap along. Diallo also served up irrepressible jams, sometimes with scorching electric guitar, accented by marimba and sung in Fulani. Sidemen Ackah and Camara on marimba also jammed to the audience’s delight. During the later part of the concert many in the crowd danced while the musicians played traditional and original songs about celebrating life while not having much wealth, falling in love and included zesty danceable instrumental jamming to garner an enthusiastic standing ovation. For more information go to:

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Guitarist/composer/ vocalist Ethan Sultry (Margolis), former Musical Director for the Forever Flamenco Theatre played at the Blue Whale. He assembled a group of top-flight musicians, such as Reggie Hamilton-bass, Katisse Buckingham-reeds, Munyungo Jackson-percussion and Donald Barrett-drums for an exploration of flamenco melded with funk, blues, jazz and gypsy tinges. Margolis got into a lengthy jams with layers from his sidemen as he played and sang “Who’s That Rider?” It had a mystical vibe as the bandleader sang appealingly.

He continued, clapping and chanting hip-hop-like to set the cadence for a flowing tune utilizing a flamenco Bulería rhythm while singing “Butterflies and the Moon” from his CD Sonikete Blues that he recorded with the band. Amidst that he jammed away on guitar playing a mix of gypsy and flamenco runs with his group briskly supporting. With the same approach Sultry delved into gospel flavored blues through Robert Johnson’s “Malted Milk” featuring Buckingham’s flowing flute and later rapping with an undercurrent of percussion and guitar. The bandleader continued with blues, singing soulfully and inserted more flamenco-flavored guitar. “Brewing My Stew” concluded the set and shifted things up-tempo as Sultry sang and played intensely, while the band tastefully filled in with solos and a driving backbeat. For more info go to and .

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Shakti Fest returns for its seventh season, this year on Mother’s Day weekend, May 12-14 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, in Joshua Tree, CA. Organized by Bhakti Fest, a leader in conscious festival events, Shakti Fest is a unique springtime celebration of the divine feminine spirit, described in Hindu philosophy as the ‘dynamic force which moves the universe’. The festival features world famous yoga teachers, Kirtan music stars, wisdom workshops, sound baths, and a healing sanctuary.

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The Shakti Fest 2017 music lineup includes inspiring Kirtan (a.k.a. chanting) artist Jai Uttal who released his acclaimed 19th (!) album Roots Rock Rama! in March, Donna De Lory, Larissa Stowe, Govind Das & Radha, Girish, Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda, Prajna Vieira & the Mukti Kirtan Ensemble, Amritakripa, Kalakar, Gandharvas Kirtan, Krishna’s Kirtan and many more. The centuries-old practice of devotional chanting is considered to connect humans with themselves, the universe, and spirit.

Shakti Fest 2017 Workshops will cover topics including Ayurveda, spiritual nutrition, tantric energy, Vedic astrology, breathwork, Sanskrit, conscious relationships, women’s sexuality, bhakti art, and hoop dance, with internationally known speakers including Swami Preymoda, Syamarani, Lorin Roche, Ph.D., Dawn Cartwright, Zat Baraka, Zoë Kors, and Dharma Devi

Accommodation options include, retreat center spaces, yurts, camping, and RV parking, all on site. There are also ten hotels within a few miles of the retreat center. The Shakti Fest Eco Village offers vegetarian and vegan food vendors, yoga clothing and gear, jewelry, art and collectibles. The organizers pride themselves on running a green event, offering free water and mindful recycling practices. For information: / and /. /.

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Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival logo

The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival is an annual event hosted by The Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise to benefit both Cajun heritage and the people of Simi Valley and surrounding areas. All proceeds from the event go to the charities listed on the festival’s website.

Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival logo

The blues stage this year with feature:
Celebrating 50 Years of The Doors’ Music :
• Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels:
• Big Bad Voodoo Daddy:
• The 44's :
• Lazy Lester:
• Alex Nester:
• Kelly’s Lot:
The Cajun stage this year will showcase: :
• Doug Kershaw:
• Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers:
• The Bayou Brothers:
Jo-El Sonnier:
• Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles:
• Cajun Trio: Michael Doucet, David Doucet & Mitch Reed plus a special Guest:
• Crawdaddio:

Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival logo
Cajun & Blues Music Festival:
Saturday, May 27th, 2017, 10:00am – 8:00pm:
Sunday, May 28th, 2017, 10:00am – 8:00pm:
5005 Los Angeles Avenue :
Simi Valley, CA 93063:
Children 12 and under are free and for tickets and information go to: or 805-517-9000 (Press “0” for Cajun/Blues Festival info)

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Although icons Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin creatively thrived during the first half of the 20th century, Morton (1900-1941) and Gershwin (1920-1937) they seemed to have never met. Undoubtedly, they were aware of each other’s music accomplishments, which greatly impacted jazz and music in general. At Disney Hall pianist/Music Director Aaron Diehl and singer Cecile McLorin with their band paid homage to the legends through a program entitled “Jelly & George” with 21st century perspectives. Additionally, keyboardist Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party intermixed touches of funk, hip-hop and dance into Waller’s music, who died in 1943 and did know Gershwin.

Diehl without McLorin led Adam Birnbaum-piano, Paul Sikivie-bass, Lawrence Leathers-drums, Evan Christopher-clarinet, Brandon Lee-trumpet/cornet, and Corey Wilcox-trombone for a rendering of Gershwin’s symphonic “Prelude 1” and later “Prelude 2.” They changed up to do Morton’s trad jazz classic “Black Bottom Stomp” featuring rollicking cornet, clarinet, drums and piano (Birnbaum) solos, along with his Latin bolero flavored “Spanish Swat.”

Afterwards, McLorin joined the ensemble for Morton’s romantic “Why” accented by trumpet to thrill the crowd. The band returned to Gershwin with “Ask Me Again” with Diehl adding a blistering piano solo, “Boy! What Love Has Done to Me” and “My Man’s Gone Now” that were all beautifully adorned by the singer. For the finale Moran joined them for a lengthy and over-the-top version of “I Got Rhythm,” which included McLorin’s fine singing, band soloing and Diehl playing the concert hall’s commanding organ to garner an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Photo of Jason Moran’s opening Fats Waller Dance Party

Jason Moran’s opening Fats Waller Dance Party brought the legacy of singer/pianist/organist Waller into present times with a mix of funk, hip-hop and dance. Moran began with a large, wearable replica of Waller on his piano saying, “I have a special guest, Fats Waller. He said just take me out there to hang around the set and if the music is decent enough I just might get up and dance.” His band was comprised of Lisa Harris-vocals, Leron Thomas-trumpet/vocals, Tarus Mateen-bass and Charles Haynes-drums. They played “Honeysuckle Rose,” Babatunde Olatunji’s Latin tinged “Jingo-lo-ba,” “Yacht Club Swing,” contemporary styled “Ain’t Misbehavin’” featuring Harris and “Two Sleepy People” sung by Thomas who also soloed on trumpet. With the Waller mask on Moran played a jaunting jam “This Joint is Jumping.” And yes, he did dance.

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Along with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey De Francesco is one of the major proponents of jazz organ. At Catalina’s with his group We The People he had a CD Release Party for newly recorded Project Freedom. De Francesco’s group included Dan Wilson-guitar, Troy Roberts- saxophone and Jason Brown-drums who are all on the new CD. The quartet began with the title track, which had a dramatic beginning and afterwards stretched out with swinging call and response sections and solos. “Unifier” was groove oriented with the bandleader soaring with wah-wah pedal like effects and harmonizing with saxophone who also soloed strongly, along with drums and guitar.

For some variety “Better Than Yesterday” employed shifting time signatures initially and eventually became being bluesy and showcased Roberts’ talents. And for ballad “Peace Bridge” the saxophonist played an expressive and lengthy solo intro with De Francesco additionally playing Miles Davis-like trumpet for a juncture to further amaze the audience. Afterwards the group returned to soulful grooving with “Karma” featuring the Philadelphia-based musician injecting captivating pipe organ textures and his guitarist soloing robustly. Wrapping up a fast-paced set was hard-bop “Stand Up” with the audience clapping along at the beginning to a 5/4 cadence. Once fully underway De Francesco’s group served up a timeless sounding groove that abounded with high caliber solos to garner a standing ovations. For the encore the organist much to the crowd’s delight returned to blues and mightily wailed away, ala Jimmy Smith.

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Grammy-Award and Guggenheim Fellowship winning pianist/arranger/composer Billy Childs and Trio (Alex Boneham-bass and Christian Euman-drums, Thelonious Monk Institute Graduates) did a special performance at the Doheny Mansion as part of The Da Camera Society’s Jazz Series. Interestingly, the venue previously never had drums in the elegant Pompeian Room with its renowned Tiffany Glass Dome; Childs who has led a chamber jazz group for many years and The President of Chamber Music America, instead showcased his trio. They began with jaunting “Just Another Day” featuring the pianist playing adroitly.

Comparatively, “In Carson’s Eyes” written for his son now 20 when he was born was thematic and classical/jazz nuanced with Childs playing with fiery prowess. For a respite ballads “No Lonely Nights” by Keith Jarrett and “It Never Entered My Mind” were soothingly rendered. Original “Breaking Through” inspired by McCoy Tyner brought the focus back to rapid playing and runs. While Bill Evans’ “34 Skidoo” was moderately swinging and featured sidemen Boneham and Euman some. Closing out the show was burning original “Backwards Bop” from Childs’ debut CD and recently rerecorded for his new CD Rebirth that spawned a standing ovation. Coming up on Sunday June 11th, 2 & 4:30pm Monty Alexander with Hassan Shakur-bass will perform at the Doheny Mansion. For more info go to: www.

Photo of Patrick Williams

April Williams, President and Founder of the Musicians at Play Foundation, featured a true Los Angeles “mega star,” Grammy and Emmy Winning band leader/composer/arranger Patrick Williams and his 16-piece band for the organization’s Third Annual Spring Concert at the Moss Theatre. As would be expected the ensemble overflowed with top-notch musicians, including Dan Higgins-alto saxophone, Tom Scott-tenor saxophone, Bob Sheppard-tenor saxophone, Wayne Bergeron-trumpet, Bob McChesney-trombone, Tom Rainer-piano, Chuck Berghofer-bass and Peter Erskine-drums. Williams who’s scored countless films and TV shows and worked with many great performers showcased songs from three of his recordings. They were A Tribute to Frank Sinatra (1994), Aurora (2010) and Home Sweet Home (2016).

Opening the encompassing program was a hard-hitting version of “The Song is You” featuring alto saxophonist Jeff Driskill and easy rolling “I Got The World on a String” spotlighting Rainer who later also shined playing clarinet for “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Slowing things down considerably was gentle ballad “I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Till You” adorned by Higgins. Williams paid tribute to Count Basie and arranger Neal Hefti’s legendary association with tantalizing tunes “There You Go Again” laden with stellar solos and brass choruses, along with “A Hefti Dose of Basie” that was his version of the very popular jazz slo-jam “Lil’ Darling.”

The bandleader recalled recording Sinatra’s 1993 Duets album before replicating the immortal classic “I Got You Under My Skin” with articulated band rhythm and scintillating playing by Sheppard. Vocalist Tierney Sutton concluded the first half coolly covering “I’ve Been Around” with bold band accompaniment, which she also recorded on Williams’ latest projected with Frank Sinatra Jr. The second half continued with another Sinatra/Nelson Riddle number “You Make Me Feel So Young” bolstered by Higgin’s amazing flute playing. Williams injected personal oriented compositions such as trombone adorned with choruses and solos “Mandeville Canyon” for his home and two parts of “Home Suite Home” for his offspring that was full of classical/romantic thematic variations and hot swinging.

Making things even more interesting trumpeter extraordinaire Arturo Sandoval joined the big band and praised Williams’ composing and arranging artistry before playing slow and enchanting piece “Blue Mist.” He too played a Sinatra tune, “All or Nothing at All” that was done magnificently with the big band to amaze the listeners. During the final moments of the concert Erskine was showcased for “That’s Rich” a tribute to drum legend Buddy Rich with hot, supporting sax and trumpet solos. For more information about the foundation go to:

Photo of Patrick Williams
Photo of Deborah Silver

On the heels of her new #1 Billboard Chart CD, The Gold Standards produced by Steve Tyrell who was at the engagement and Jon Allen with arrangements by Alan Broadbent, singer Deborah Silver had a CD Release Party at Catalina’s. It was well attended by friends and industry/media/arts people including Jane Seymour and Mary Wilson from the Supremes. Supported by a big band that included Allen on keyboards she got down to business sultrily singing “Teach Me Tonight.” For “Never on Sunday” she was sassy with a Latin-tinged band treatment and then luxuriated for “Ain’t Misbehavin’” that bookended a medley of Broadway and standard tunes to aroused the audience. Silver also revealed a tender side of her personality through ballad “The Nearness of You” supported by guitarist Bob Mann mostly.

The singer also showed her Mississippi roots by doing “I’m Redneck Woman” (not on the CD) and got some in the audience to dynamically sing “Hell Yeah!” Also not on CD was her torrid version of Willie Nelson’s country classic “Crazy” that was popularized by Patsy Cline and romping "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" by Hank Williams.

Getting back to songs on the CD was “The Glory of Love” dedicated to her producing team with a sax solo and an alluring version of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” In honor of her attending mother, a former opera singer and father who had a Dixieland band she first sang operatically and jazzily “You Got the Right Key But You’re Working on The Wrong Key Hole” (not on the CD).

Additionally, Silver sang other non-CD tunes such as Melissa Manchester’s emotional ballad “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with the same treatment that was well received. For even more variety the singer played classical piano briefly before going into “I Love a Piano” that was done boldly and featured Musical Director Bill Schneider on piano and the band. Silver finished with a bang, daringly singing Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy’s “I Will Wait For You.”

Photo of Christian Sands CD cover

Young lion pianist Christian Sands a member of bassist Christian McBride's band did an engagement at Vibrato with a trio showcasing selections from his latest CD Reach. Although the audience’s conversations were loud at times, there no denying of Sands’ talent as he blazed through numbers and intensely interacted with the sidemen Yasushi Nakamura-bass and Jerome Jennings-drums. They did a jazzy somewhat opaque version of “Me and Mrs. Jones” and original “J Street.” Continuing they were bebop-like and very improvisational while conjuring up Monk’s “Rhythming.” It was far-reaching with each musician soloing profoundly. Slowing things down some was gentle and thoughtful ballad “Somewhere Out There” from the new CD. Out of that the trio quickly segued to Cedar Walton’s jaunting “Bolivia” and jammed away extensively to impress the audience. Sands is definitely someone to be on the lookout for.


Photo of Christian Sands CD cover

Grammy Award-winning jazz icon and 10-time Billboard Jazz Charts artist Steve Tyrell is bringing his world-class band to the Arcadia Performing Arts Center and headlining the modern concert hall’s 2016-17 season finale.

Known as American royalty for jazz, Tyrell is one of the few jazz artists handpicked byFrank Sinatra’s family to perform original Sinatra arrangements at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Tyrell popularized American jazz in the hit movie Father of the Bride, has performed on stages all over the world and for dignitaries including President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace.

Tyrell has released 10 American Standards albums, all which have achieved great success on Billboard’s Jazz charts with 9 reaching the top 5. His hits “The Way You Look Tonight” and “The Sunny Side of the Street” have reached millions of fans. As weekly radio host of the jazz station KJAZZ 88.1, Steve Tyrell continues to reach new fans and engage loyal jazz aficionados.

Photo of Christian Sands CD cover

Arcadia Performing Arts Center
May 20, 2017 at 8 p.m.
(doors open at 7:30 p.m.).
At 5:30 p.m., VIP ticket holders and staff, faculty and students with the Arcadia Unified School District ID are invited to a free sound check followed by a Q&A with the artist. VIP ticket holders can also enjoy complimentary pre-concert appetizers in the VIP lounge at 6 p.m. and an after-show artist meet-and-greet.

Tickets start from $10 Mezzanine to $65 for VIP, which includes priority seating and first-pick orchestra seats. Discounts for seniors age 55 and over, teachers, students and groups are available.

For more details and ticket information go to:

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