By Scott Yanow


Oscar Peterson was such a remarkable pianist, a virtuoso who could outswing anyone, that it would be very difficult for any one pianist to pay a full tribute to him. At Disney Hall, eight masterful pianists took their turns, paying homage to one of the all-time greats by mostly playing his compositions rather than trying to duplicate his wondrous style. Most of the musicians also spent a little time talking about their interaction and memories of the great pianist.
There were two pianos on stage but surprisingly few duets. After an introduction by Peterson’s widow, Gerald Clayton played a medium-tempo ballad, infusing it with some of Peterson’s phrases. Robi Botos (originally from Hungary and long based in Canada) joined Clayton for an uptempo duet on Peterson’s “Wheatland” and Botos played a tender ballad by himself. Justin Kauflin performed “Cakewater” with some speedy right-hand runs worthy of Peterson. Kenny Barron and bassist John Clayton jammed on the medium-tempo blues “The Smudge” while Benny Green put plenty of feeling into the slow ballad “He Has Gone.” Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes dueted on a stirring version of “Sooji” (Charlap’s basslines were outstanding). Monty Alexander completed the first half of the show by playing a song of his that Peterson liked (“Sweet Lady”) along with “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.”
Benny Green began the second set with “Cool Walk” (Peterson’s take on “Ja Da”) at a medium slow tempo. Kauflin performed a thoughtful ballad, Charlap played a medley of “Body and Soul” and “Out Of Nowhere,” Rosnes and John Clayton swung “Like Someone In Love,” and Clayton (playing Ray Brown’s bass) was featured on “Goodbye Old Friend.” Kenny Barron created a beautiful medley that included “When Summer Comes” before Gerald Clayton performed a celebratory version of “Hymn To Freedom.” As a grand finale, the eight pianists took turns on the two pianos during an exciting version of an Oscar Peterson blues. While they should have played something similar to open the night and there should have been many more duets, there was plenty of rewarding music heard throughout the evening. Oscar Peterson would certainly have enjoyed this concert.



On another evening, Disney Hall hosted both the the SF Jazz Collective and the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour. The SF Jazz Collective, which has been together with regularly changing personnel since 2006, performed both inventive versions of Antonio Carlos Jobim songs and a few originals. The band currently consists of trumpeter Etienne Charles, trombonist Marshall Gilkes, tenor-saxophonist David Sanchez, altoist Miguel Zenon (the only original member), pianist Edward Simon, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Obed Calvaire. With their four horns, there were times when the SF Collective sounded a little like the Jazz Messengers, but the conga playing (shared by Sanchez and Wolf) and the advanced harmonies let one know that this was 2019, not 1959. Among the Jobim songs that were modernized were “If You Come Back To Me,” “The Girl From Ipanema,” “How Insensitive,” and “Waters Of March”; the melodies were present but without the bossa-nova rhythms which were often replaced by ones from Afro-Cuban music. All of the musicians played very well with Simon and Wolf often taking honors and Calvaire outstanding throughout in support of the other players.
The Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour had the same personnel as was featured at the last Monterey festival: singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, trumpeter Bria Skonberg, Melissa Aldana on tenor, pianist Christian Sands (the musical director), bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Jamison Ross. The set started off strong with Ms. Salvant featured on a dramatic number, a fetching version of “I Can’t Help It” (which Betty Carter had recorded in the late 1950s), and her original “Fog.” Unfortunately she was not heard from again until the closing number. Aldana was showcased on her “Acceptance,” taking an adventurous solo. Ross did a fine job of singing “Sackful Of Dreams,” getting quite soulful while playing swinging drums. Sands was featured with the rhythm section performing Puccini’s “Tosca” while Skonberg sang and played trumpet on Valaida Snow’s mid-1930s hit “High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm,” an all-too-brief swing performance repeated from the Monterey festival. After a boogaloo number from the ensemble, Cecile McLorin Salvant returned and ended the night by singing a folk song along with Skonberg and Ross. This group had a great deal of potential that was not quite fully realized (for example, Salvant should have sung an obscure classic blues number with Skonberg answering her on her 1920s style trumpet) but the band is now history. Fortunately the many talents in the band will certainly be heard in other contexts during the next few years, and one looks forward to their future accomplishments.



An extremely worthy organization, the California Jazz Foundation provides financial and social assistance to jazz artists who are down on their luck. During the past 13 years they have helped quite a few jazz musicians who, in better days, provided joy to those who love the music.
The California Jazz Foundation’s annual gala was held at the L.A. Grand Hotel Downtown. This year Patrice Rushen, the late Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, and Terry Gibbs were honored. A fine trio comprised of guitarist Kyle Scherrer, tenor-saxophonist Michael Blasky and bassist Ari Giancaterino played melodic versions of standards early on in the night. A necessary (to raise funds for the organization) but rather long, annoying and loud auction was next. The great vibraphonist Terry Gibbs received the Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award and made a gracious and witty speech. Patrice Rushen was given the Nica award before playing a groove-based number with her trio and “Stella By Starlight” with a quartet featuring an altoist. The Jazz Heritage Award was accepted by Stix Hooper for Leon “Ndugu” Chancler. The night concluded with pianist John Beasley leading a septet taken from his MONK’estra big band that featured trumpeter James Ford, trombonist Francisco Torres and saxophonists Keith Fiddmont and Tom Luer.
While I have suggestions for the next gala (how about honoring Barbara Morrison, featuring more music, and finding a way for the auction to take up less time?), the admirable goals and work by the California Jazz Foundation are perfect. Visit for more information.

Leroy Downs and Just Jazz TV have been presenting jazz at the Mr. Musichead Gallery in Hollywood for a year. Recently trumpeter Theo Croker led a quintet at the attractive performance space that included pianist Paul Cornish, bassist Trevor Ware, drummer Jonathan Pinson, and percussionist Allakoi Peete. Croker has a mellow sound (a little reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard’s fluegelhorn tone) and an adventurous style. He performed such originals as “Eleven Eleven” and “Understand Yourself” along with Sam Rivers’ “Cyclic Episode,” and Joe Henderson’s “A Shade Of Jade.” On “Never Let Me Go,” Croker surprised the audience by taking a warm conversational vocal, dedicating the piece to the late Roy Hargrove who was known to sing an occasional piece.
Pianist Cornish proved to be an energetic and brilliant soloist, Pinson and Peete drove the band enthusiastically, and Ware consistently uplifted the music. Croker’s friendly and informative comments to the audience were an added plus to an enjoyable evening that kept the audience smiling.



Pianist, composer and bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim, who is 84, has been a major musician since at least 1959 when he was a member of the Jazz Epistles, the first important jazz group from South Africa (Hugh Masekela was their trumpeter). In 1962 the worsening apartheid situation resulted in him moving to Europe where the following year he was sponsored on a record date by Duke Ellington. Since moving to New York in 1965, he has led many groups that perform his originals which are inspired by folk music and memories of South Africa, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.
Abdullah Ibrahim had not appeared in Los Angeles for quite some time. His performance for the Jazz Bakery at the Moss Theater featured his Ekaya Septet which also included Cleave Guyton Jr on alto, flute and piccolo, tenor-saxophonist Lance Bryant, baritonist Marshall McDonald, trombonist Andrae Murchison, Anoah Jackson on bass and cello, and drummer Will Terrill. Ibrahim mostly played gentle piano, starting off the set with ten minutes of thoughtful reveries. He did not speak to the audience at all and did not always play behind the other soloists but Ibrahim directed the proceedings with a quiet dignity. The music was consistently picturesque, sometimes tightly arranged, included tone colors worthy of Ellington, and contained its share of wit (with Bryant at one point quoting “The Pink Panther”). Guyton was particularly impressive on piccolo, trombonist Murchison displayed a boppish style reminiscent of J.J. Johnson, baritonist McDonald was always inventive, Bryant on tenor had a commanding presence, and Jackson’s occasional periods on cello were impressive. Ibrahim was at his best during a tribute to Thelonious Monk in which he quoted a variety of tunes in his own style.




Director-producer Brigitte Berman is best-known in the jazz world for her superb documentaries Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got (1985) and Bix: Ain’t None Of Them Playing Like Him Yet. She had also put together Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel.
Recently her latest film, Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking Out In America, had its West Coast premiere at the American Cinematheque. The focus was on Hefner’s two musical television series, Playboy’s Penthouse (1959-61) which featured many jazz greats, and Playboy After Dark (1968-70) which was more rock and r&b-oriented. Hefner was a pioneer in utilizing integrated casts (both musical and in the audience) in these series, and in having lively discussions about social and racial issues.
Ms. Berman’s documentary has plenty of performance footage although unfortunately no complete performances. From the jazz standpoint, the excerpts from Playboy’s Penthouse are of greatest interest, with appearances by the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Lenny Bruce, Sammy Davis Jr, Ray Charles, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Joe Williams, Pete Seeger, and Barbara Dane being memorable if way too brief. It made one wish that the 26 shows in this series were available in full on DVD; maybe someday.
The excerpts from Playboy After Dark include The Byrds, Jerry Garcia, Steppenwolf, Joan Baez, Moms Mabley and Taj Mahal. The issues discussed in this series are still sadly relevant today, showing that not enough has changed during the past 50 years.
Unfortunately the documentary wanders away during its last 45 minutes, giving one bits of Woodstock, the civil rights and anti-war movements, and other issues that have little to do directly with the programs. The narrative gets a bit preachy and loses its subtlety in discussing some of today’s problems. One never learns why Playboy After Dark went off the air or what happened to some of the participants. A tighter focus on the actual programs and the original plot of the film would have made this a more coherent and definitive documentary.
Still, Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking Out In America is well worth catching.



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I write all of these and more at reasonable rates. Contact me ( at 661-724-0622 or for further information about my services.



by Scott Yanow


Drummer Ralph Peterson, himself a legend, paid tribute to the great Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers by leading the Messenger Legacy Sextet at the Moss Theater. Presented by Ruth Price and the Jazz Bakery, the exciting night found Peterson heading a group that also featured trumpeter Brian Lynch, altoist Bobby Watson, tenor-saxophonist Bill Pierce, pianist Zaccai Curtis and bassist Essiet Essiet. Peterson had a chance to play next to Blakey when the latter briefly led a big band in the early 1980s. Of the sidemen, only the talented young pianist was not a former member of the Jazz Messengers. Peterson announced that he included Curtis in the band because he wanted it to be a legacy group that would continue the Messengers legacy into the 21st century.
Beginning with “One By One” and continuing with songs from the Messengers’ repertoire, the band played such numbers as “3 Blind Mice,” “Caravan” and “Blues March” along with some lesser-known pieces. Lynch in particular was in spectacular form, taking fiery choruses and popping out high notes with ease. Pierce, who played solid solos throughout, was featured on a version of “My One And Only Love” that showed off his beautiful tone. Watson, who showed that he could play both inside and outside at the same time, preached the blues on “Blues March,” launching a performance that found the sextet sounding a bit like a Jazz At The Philharmonic jam session. Essiet’s occasional solos were outstanding while Curtis, who was featured on “That Old Feeling,” played with confidence and had no difficulty fitting in with the veterans.
As for Ralph Peterson, he emulated Art Blakey in spots, used his tuned drums to humorously play the melody of “My Little Suede Shoes,” and was consistently colorful and inventive.
The Messenger Legacy Sextet’s performance was one that no Art Blakey fan should have missed.

The jazz harmonica largely started with Toots Thielemans. While he was preceded by Larry Adler, a virtuoso who played a wide variety of music (including with symphony orchestras) and occasionally swing-oriented jazz, Thielemans could hold his own with the bebop greats. When one considers that the chromatic harmonica (as opposed to the more basic blues harp) requires one to breathe in for half of the notes and exhale for the other half, it takes a great deal of time in order to figure out ways to play rapid lines without running out of breath.
During his lifetime, Thielemans (who was also an excellent guitarist and whistler) had no competitors. Since his death, Gregoire Maret and Hendrik Meurkens are two of the few who have partially filled the gap. Pianist Kenny Werner, who frequently played with Thielemans (including at yearly visits to Catalina’s), chose Maret for a tribute to Toots that took place at the Moss Theater and was sponsored by the Jazz Bakery.
While Maret sometimes purposely sounded a bit like Thielemans, he showed in his interplay and tradeoffs with Werner that he has his own adventurous style. Werner, who occasionally used an electric keyboard to emulate strings or an orchestra, was simply brilliant on piano and clearly delighted to be matching wits and inventive ideas with Maret.
They performed such numbers as “Days Of Wine And Roses” (the famous Bill Evans version that is split between two keys), a slow and well-disguised “All Blues,” the jubilant “No More Blues,” a thoughtful orchestral version of “All The Way,” a particularly adventurous version of “Wave” (with polytonality worthy of Dave Brubeck),”I’ll Remember April,” “Autumn Leaves,” Thielemans’ one big hit “Bluesette” (which was greatly modernized), and “What A Wonderful World.”
No matter how advanced Kenny Werner’s playing was with his reharmonized chords, the melody of each song always fit. Maret, who performed many rapid lines that sounded quite impossible to play on the harmonica, not only held his own with Werner but constantly challenged the pianist.
The results were musical magic.


The 1950s may have ended nearly 60 years ago but previously unreleased jazz concert performances from the era are still being put out on a regular basis, especially from European labels. Fremaux & Associates ( has a series of valuable CDs in their Live From Paris series.
In 1958 Harold Davison, a British concert promoter, recognizing the success of Norman Granz’s Jazz At The Philharmonic, organized a European tour for an all-star group under the title Jazz From Carnegie Hall. While the venture only lasted for a few weeks, some of the concerts were recorded with music being released many years later on the Unique Jazz, Netherlands Jazz Archive and RLR labels.
Jazz From Carnegie Hall has all of the existing music from the October 1, 1958 concert, none of it previously released. While the CD lists seven major names, pianist Red Garland is barely heard from and altoist Lee Konitz only appears on “Star Eyes.” Tenor-saxophonist Zoot Sims (who is not listed) was part of the concert but unfortunately none of his performances survived.
The CD has three features for the brilliant pianist Phineas Newborn who performs with bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke including “Daahoud.” Pettiford, one of jazz’s greatest bassists, is in the spotlight for his “Laverne Walk” and “Stardust.” The remaining five numbers feature trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding who co-led a popular quintet during this period. They are both heard at the top of their game, particularly on “This Can’t Be Love” and “It’s Alright With Me.”
Another CD, Stan Getz 1959, has the great tenor performing in excellent form mostly from Jan. 3, 1959 with the final three numbers being from another concert during that month. At the time, Getz was in the middle of a three-year period living in Europe, a time when he recharged his batteries, kicked a drug habit, and continued playing the standards that he enjoyed, always with his beautiful tone and his mastery of chordal improvisation. This CD is a little unusual in that Getz is featured with a quintet rather than a quartet, a group also featuring guitarist Jimmy Gourley, pianist Martial Solal, bassist Pierre Michelot, and drummer Kenny Clarke. Whether romping through “Cherokee” or caressing the melodies of “Tenderly” and “Over The Rainbow,” Getz shows why he was known as “The Sound.”
The Oscar Peterson Trio 1957-1962 is a three CD set that the pianist’s fans will want despite his huge discography. Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis and bassist Ray Brown are featured on four numbers from 1957-58 and Peterson, Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen perform 29 songs from four concerts dating from 1960-62. Even though all of these standards were recorded on studio albums by Peterson, the live versions are quite enjoyable and creative within the style that the pianist had created. The music is well recorded (as is true of all of the Fremaux discs), Peterson is typically brilliant, and he shows once again that no one could outswing him.



While many of the musicians in Great Britain’s Trad jazz movement of the 1950s and ‘60s explored 1920s jazz, the ensemble-oriented New Orleans music of Bunk Johnson and George Lewis, swing, or novelties, trumpeter Alex Welsh mostly stuck to the frequently hard-charging Chicago Dixieland that he loved best. One could think of him as the British Eddie Condon, except that he was a colorful soloist himself. His band had very stable personnel from 1955 until the1980s with trombonist Roy Williams as a reliable sideman, and the rhythm section of guitarist Jim Douglas, pianist Fred Hunt, bassist Ron Mathewson and drummer Lennie Hastings staying with the group for years. The biggest change was when clarinetist Archie Semple departed in 1963 and was succeeded by Al Gay and then John Barnes (a very good baritone-saxophonist).
In the mid-1960s, Alex Welsh’s group was frequently utilized by visiting American stars who were touring Europe, including trumpeters/cornetists Wild Bill Davison, Henry “Red” Allen, Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, trombonist Dickie Wells, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, tenor-saxophonists Ben Webster and Eddie Miller, and pianists Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson. The top British trad jazz record company, Lake, has scores of rewarding CDs of vintage performances by hot British players. One album apiece on the Lake label matches the Alex Welsh band with clarinetist Peanuts Hucko and tenor-saxophonist Bud Freeman.
Peanuts Hucko Vol. 1 dates from May 14 and 28, 1967. Hucko, a fluent swing player who often sounded close to Benny Goodman and was particularly superb at rapid tempos, is heard in peak form on a variety of standards. Hucko performs “After You’ve Gone” (which is particularly exciting), “Out Of Nowhere,” “A Bientot” and “Rose Room” with Welsh’s four-piece rhythm section. Five songs (“Beale St. Blues,” “Ida,” “Jive At Five,” “I Wished On The Moon” and a rousing “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”) have Hucko fitting in very well with the spirited band.
Bud Freeman/Alex Welsh matches the great tenor-saxophonist with the same version of Alex Welsh’s band but was performed a year earlier, at a concert from June 19, 1966. Freeman plays his usual repertoire (including an uptempo “I Got Rhythm,” a surprising ballad version of “Dinah,” “Sunday,” an intimate “Sweet Sue” and “Just One Of Those Things”) with enthusiasm and his own batch of personal ideas, inspiring the other players, especially baritonist Barnes. No one ever really played like Freeman, and he clearly enjoyed the Alex Welsh band. A rip-roaring nearly 13-minute version of “Royal Garden Blues” closes the memorable set.
Both Lake CDs and many more are available from


On Friday April 5, Disney Hall will be hosting sets by both the San Francisco Jazz Collective (performing originals and the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim) and the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour. The latter is an all-star sextet that includes Cecile McLorin-Salvant, Bria Skolberg, Melissa Aldana and Christian Sands.
The California Jazz Foundation’s Annual Gala (818-261-0057) will be held on Sat. Apr. 6 at the L.A. Grand Hotel Downtown with awards given to Terry Gibbs, Patricia Rushen and the late Ndugu Chancler, and money raised for the very good cause of helping jazz musicians in need; Rushen and John Beasley’s Monk’estra will be among those performing.
The Jazz Bakery at the Moss Theater will be featuring drummer Peter Erskine presenting pianist Daniel Szabo’s Visionary (a major work with a 13-piece orchestra) on Sat. Apr. 13, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Standards Trio (Sat. April 20), and Tierney Sutton with the Terry Trotter Trio (Sunday Apr. 28). Nutty will be at Vibrato (April 4) as will the Laura Dickinson 17 (April 6), Gary Meek (April 7), Dave Tull & Bill Cantos (April 10), George Kahn (April 12), and Jonathan Karrant (April 14). The Soraya Theater in Northridge presents the Christian McBride Big Band (Sat. Apr. 26) and the Vijay Iyer Sextet (Fri. and Sat. May 10-11).
The admirable Just Jazz Wednesday night concert series at the Mr. Musichead Gallery features Theo Croker (Apr. 3), the David Weiss Sextet (Apr. 10), Andy Milne and Unison (Apr. 17) and a celebration of James Newton (Apr. 24).
The 41st annual Playboy Jazz Festival (Sat.-Sun. June 8-9) at the Hollywood Bowl has a typically eclectic lineup. Saturday features Terence Blanchard and his E-Collective, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Benny Golson, a tribute to Ndugu Chancler with Patrice Rushen and Ernie Watts, Jazz In Pink, Terrace Martin, Sheila E., Angelique Kidjo and Kool & The Gang. Sunday has The Cookers (which includes Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson and George Cables), the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Harold Lopez-Nussa Quartet, the Maceo Parker Big Band, Boz Scaggs, Donny McCaslin, The Family Stone, Sona Jobarteh and Mayquel Gonzalez.
Lots to see!

Every jazz musician needs a well-written press biography, every CD deserves informative liner notes, and important events benefit from press releases.

I write all of these and more at reasonable rates. Contact me ( at 661-724-0622 or for further information about my services.