Most of the members of Sammy Miller and The Congregation are graduates from Julliard, the renowned New York City performing arts conservatory. However, the band’s mantra is pretty far removed from being high-minded, melding gospel, rock, jazz, country, comedy and New Orleans trad into their music. Miller who plays drums and sings, leads the ensemble consisting of Sam Crittenden-trombone, Ben Flocks-tenor sax, Molly Miller-guitar (bandleader’s sister), Alphonso Horne-trumpet, Corbin Jones-bass/tuba and David Linard-piano. At the Bootleg Theatre the ensemble had plenty of fun, while also showcasing their musicianship and tunes from their latest CD Leaving Egypt.
“Sing” not on the new CD was a bust-out trad jam with the brass players blazing away, while being mightily supported by the rhythm section. Keeping the energy going was funky classic rock styled “Eagle Rock” (the Millers grew up in LA) that began with the bandleader setting the groove and singing, with choruses from the band, brass and the enthusiastic audience. For a bit of worship, the crowd was taken to church through Linard gospel grooving piano, along with the rest of the group for “Shine.”
For a somber moment, Miller dedicated trombone-driven spiritual instrumental ballad “He’s in My Heart” to his father. A month earlier he was hit by a texting driver while in a crosswalk. Returning to frolicking was trad-fused “Bluebird” with mic-free singing from Miller, and the band’s infamous hip hit “Date a Jew.” Closing out the very entertaining show was vaudeville and Western movie styled “Shine” featuring some of the band in costume hamming it up. The drummer called it a “Jestern” and had the audience busting up to draw a standing ovation. For more info go to: www.sammymillercongregation.com.
The Recording Academy®, AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS with the cooperation of The Prince Estate will celebrate 38-time GRAMMY® nominee and seven-time GRAMMY winner Prince with a special broadcast of Let’s Go Crazy: The GRAMMY Salute To Prince to be broadcast Tuesday, April 21 (9:00–11:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and streaming on CBS All Access. The tribute concert is hosted by comedian Maya Rudolph, who will also perform with her Prince cover band Princess. Filmed January 28th, the special will air on the four-year anniversary of the superstar’s passing.
An all-star lineup will perform hits from Prince’s renowned catalog, including Beck, Gary Clark Jr., Common, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Foo Fighters, H.E.R., Juanes, John Legend, Chris Martin, Miguel, Morris Day And The Time, Princess, Sheila E., St. Vincent, Mavis Staples, the Revolution, and Usher, with special appearances by Fred Armisen, Naomi Campbell, Misty Copeland, FKA Twigs and Jimmy Jam.
As part of an international tour that included dates in Vienna, Paris, Moscow, Berlin, New York City and Chicago, Kaze performed at the Blue Whale. The avant-garde group featuring pianist/composer Satoko Fujii, trumpeters Kappa Maki and Christian Bezos, and drummer Peter Menard spotlighted compositions from their upcoming project. From the offset of the concert, the quartet constructed a wall of sound that was haunting, solemn and almost like a tribal ceremony.
Trumpeters Maki and Bezos played tightly together and at times without Fujii and Menard for themes and conversational-like intermingling. Maki’s signature squeaks, squawks and gurgling were unnerving, fascinating, creative and occasionally comical, which fascinated the audience. Bezos was much more conventional, but had moments where he added interesting textures and runs. The bandleader and pianist nonetheless, was in total control and constantly shifted motifs and cadences with abstract injections and masterful control. Drummer Menard was more than a timekeeper and rounded out compositions with a variety of subtle and driven percussive expressions. His cymbal opening for one piece was a sweeping and resounding crescendo that became a pulsating and shrill backdrop.
The unnamed numbers were sometimes riveting with aggressive junctures and extensive soloing. Sometimes the selections were exotic and unworldly, while at other junctures they were serene, pastoral, thematic and ambient. Overall, Kaze and Fujii’s music is truly an acquired taste for those who seek adventure, sensory adulation and sonic discovery. For more info go to: www.satokofujii.com.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel and Herbie Hancock ambitiously created and scheduled the month-long festival/concert series Power to the People! Most of the events were slated for Disney Hall, and a few others at ancillary venues. Some of the artists involved were Patti Smith, Terence Blanchard, Yolanda Adams, Luis Valdez, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dr. Angela Davis and of course, Hancock and Dudamel. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) only Smith and the Hancock/Dudamel concerts occurred as planned.
Titans: pianist Hancock with his quintet, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist James Genus, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke and saxophonist/keyboardist/vocalist Terrace Martin, and Dudamel conducting the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, unleashed a sweeping and explosive composition entitled “Osinato: Suite For Angela.” It included snippets from some of Civil Rights activist Angela Davis’s (who attended) most memorable speeches. During very dynamic and also somber thematic segments the musicians powerfully interacted to create an audacious synthesis of jazz and classical motifs. The fully composed 26-min. section that included Hancock’s “I Have a Dream” (written after MLK’s assignation) allowed the jazz players space to contribute amazing solos that helped garner a mind-boggling standing ovation for the quintet, orchestra and Davis.
Following Dudamel and orchestra departing, Hancock rambled saying, “The orchestra is ours and the world’s.” Then he asked the audience, “Are you ready to party?” From there his band conjured up an extraterrestrial intro that transcended to extensive fusion-funk explorations headed by Martin’s sax and the bandleader’s keyboard textures. Loueke injected vocal effects, with African styled singing and choruses for Hancock’s very popular “Chameleon,” and a couple of new world-fused tunes that also featured his guitar playing and stellar band interplay.
Prior to Hancock, Dudamel and orchestra performed several classical pieces by up and coming African-American composers Jessie Montgomery and Courtney Bryan. Additionally, Wayne Shorter’s “Aurora” was featured and sung operatically and passionately by soprano Mikaela Bennett with the text coming from Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning,” written for Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential inauguration.
Omar Sosa is a high caliber, creative and consistently engrossing performer, who normally works intensively with an ensemble. Notably, for the pianist’s recent concert at UCLA’s Center For Art of Performance at Royce Hall, he worked with a trio. Still, the power and intensity of Sosa in the smaller scale setting was equally astonishing. His cohorts were violinist Yilian Cañizares, who studied classical violin in Cuba, Venezuela and Switzerland, and partnered with him for their debut suite-like recording Aguas, and percussionist/vocalist Gustavo Ovalles, who joined the duo for the tour.
In concert the trio blazed away with the pianist pounding out high-octane waves of rhythms and progressive Afro-Cuban jazz/classical motifs. Cañizares rode the onslaught with fiery playing and singing, though she was most effective during ballads and peaceful songs and interludes, between the torrid exchanges. Ovalles, as expected was the unyielding foundation for the pair, yet also had solo moments to shine. The trio’s infectious music easily engaged the crowd and had them clapping along regularly, with some dancing too.
Sosa even took a moment to speak in English about the need to conserve resources to protect the planet (also theme of the CD). Afterward, he unleashed a scorching solo classical intro that led to Cañizares enthrallingly scatting rhythmically, singing and playing with her band mates. Injected into the fray were bits of Spanish spoken word to accentuate the music. The singer/violinist, whose English was more understandable than Sosa’s also spoke about being surrounded by giants and the excitement of her first concert in the U.S. More great music followed, including an amusing male/female conversational song with the audience singing along, which inspired strong applause and a standing ovation. Hopefully, they will return to the U.S. and So Cal when things settle down…
Representing a new breed of Cuban pianists, Roberto Fonesca, who worked with the Buena Vista Social Club and its members, Rubén González and Eliades Ochoa for their solo efforts, incorporates R&B, world music and modern jazz with traditional Afro-Cuban explorations. At the Blue Whale with his trio, he showcased selections from new CD YESUN that he called a mixture of two worlds. The trio included Yandy Martinez-bass and Francis Rodriguez-drums. They began with classical themed and gently unfolding “No Soy De Esos” that excelled with dazzling, yet tempered playing as the musicians robustly interacted. “Kachucha” also new, was more rhythmic and traditional sounding, featuring the bandleader scatting and singing, along with Martinez soloing.
“Quizas, Quizas” was nothing like the original, beginning with a pre-recorded field-chant like chorus and spoken word before delving into a long and mysterious solo piano interlude. It afterwards became explosive with driving forays as the other players intensively contributed to blow the audience away. Following that, a soaring bowing bass intro became classic “Bésame Mucho” done in a laid-back, yet tantalizing style. “La Llamada” returned to new material and blended an offsetting rhythm with a relaxed Cuban theme as drums and piano injected fire through their solos. Additionally, Fonesca got into a fun call and response mode with the audience to end the set and receive a standing ovation.
Few jazz singers and/or musicians have linage that rivals Catherine Russell. Her mother, Catherine Ray was an accomplished bassist/guitar/singer and a member of the legendary International Sweethearts of Rhythm Band, along with supporting groundbreaking pianist/composer/arranger Mary Lou Williams and arranger/composer/bandleader Sy Oliver. Russell’s father, Luis was the longstanding Musical Director for none other than Louis Armstrong. Despite having those connections and inbred talent, Catherine Russell took a long steady path to becoming a solo jazz singer and debuted in 2006. Prior to that she backed rock/pop/country artists such as Madonna, Rosanne Cash, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, David Bowie and Paul Simon.
At the Broad Stage, Russell supported by Matt Munisteri-guitar/Musical Director, Mark Shane-piano, Tal Ronen-bass and Mark McLean-drums showcased songs from their latest album, Grammy nominated Alone Together. Vintage bubbly ‘30s tune “At The Swing Cats Ball,” co-written by her father and not on the new recording got things going. Staying in the same era was Fats Waller’s bluesy and comical “You’re Not The Only Oyster In The Stew” featuring the quartet stretching out. Additionally, keeping the vibe going was Billie Holiday’s “Did I Remember” that was tastefully accented by Ronen and the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra’s “You Can’t Pull The Wool Over My Eyes.”
The title track was done more in a modern context and exhibited the headliner’s caressing delivery to draw noticeable response from the audience. Russell also strongly influenced by Bessie Smith, Etta James and Ruth Brown got soulful and bluesy with New Orleans touches for Louis Jordan’s “Early in The Morning” and Nat King Cole hit written by Oliver Nelson “Send For Me” that were also raucously enhanced by Munisteri. The singer, a student of early 20th century blues singers, made a point of showcasing Rosa Henderson’s 1923 hit “He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar.”
Slowing things down with a mix of blues and gospel styling was the vocalist’s arresting version of “When Did You Leave Heaven?” and Betty Carter’s 1958 sultry ballad “Make it Last.” In a more standard context was classic “I Only Have Eyes For You” with piano bolstering Russell’s silky singing. For divergence, Slim Gaillard’s humorous calypso tune “Make it Do” and Esther Phillip’s bluesy “Aged And Mellow” were also performed. Still, during closing moments Russell returned to yesteryear classics such as “Harlem on My Mind” and encore “Dream Your Troubles Away.”
Los Angles-based songstress Amber Weekes had a Release Party for her new recording Pure Imagination at Highways Performance Space and Gallery in Santa Monica. In attendance for the sold-out show were fans, family members, friends and associates who helped put the CD together. Musically supporting Weekes were Josh Nelson-piano, Fritz Wise-drums, Alex Bonham-bass, Carol Chaikin-reeds and Mark Cargill-violin/Co-Producer. Besides being talented, the singer is very personable and made the audience feel like they were in her living room. Weekes began with her mentor vocalist Sue Raney (also on the CD), joyfully singing the title track, and coolly segued to a swinging version of “It’s All Right With Me,” gracefully augmented by a piano solo.
Shifting things a bit was breezily sung bossa styled “When October Goes” accented by flute and violin solos. Closely related to it was the airy ballad “When He Makes Music” gently enhanced by piano and a violin solo that delighted the crowd. Equally appealing, but in a different way was her Tribute to Oscar Brown Jr., beginning with classic “The Snake.” It was sultrily sung with laid-back panache featuring sax and the audience clapping along. An intriguing duet with bowing bass followed for poignant lullaby “Brown Baby” that Brown wrote for his children born during the Civil Rights Movement to blow the crowd away. Finishing the hip juncture was high-flying “Mr. Kicks” propelled by a pulsating drum backdrop with sax soaring.
Afterwards Weekes and singer Mon David thrilled the audience with a powerful duet version of Michel Legrand and the Bergmans’ “The Way He Makes Me Feel.” Hot and swinging “After You’ve Gone” followed and was strongly embellished by the band soloing and trading off to spur a standing ovation. For the encore, Weekes showcased a remarkably sung and relaxed bonus track version of “When October Goes” that was tastefully garnished by piano, violin and flute. For more info go to: amberweekes.com
The Just Jazz Concert Series featured fast-emerging pianist Gerald Clayton & guitarist Marcel Camargo Duo with special guests. One of the guests was vocalist/harpist Liza Wallace who started beautifully singing with the duo for a mixture of a Bach’s “Partita Allemande” classical piece with lively Brazilian, jazz textures and variations to captivate the audience. Afterwards the pair went into Clayton’s “Under Madhatter Medicinal Groupon” that was derived from Billy Strayhorn’s darkly hip “Upper Manhattan Medical Group.” Later, Brazilian choro was served up through Pixinguinha’s sophisticated and effervescent “Naquele Tempo,” which was a perfect merging for the musicians.
Another guest joining the duo was saxophonist Chris Lewis from the Herbie Hancock Institute for a choro number by Ernesto Nazareth that had bossa tendencies, but with much more intensity as the players superbly jammed away to impress the audience. Wallace returned on harp for a soothing Brazilian/choro number overflowing with charm and wonderful solos. The set closed with Clayton, Camargo and Lewis enchantingly rendering a bossa classic. Prior to the concert Just Jazz Host LeRoy Downs interviewed the duo about their cool synergy and Clayton’s recent appointment as the Director of the Next Generation Orchestra for the Monterey Jazz Festival. For more info go to: geraldclayton.com, www.mrmusichead.com and montereyjazzfestival.org.
The Pan African Film Festival is the largest Black film festival, and interestingly also the most prevalent Black History Month event in the country. This year PAFF screened 225 films, from 52 countries and in 26 languages. 86 of them were feature films, with128 short films and 11 new media selections. The films covered a wide variety of topics in the African and African-America Diaspora, which included culture and music. In that regard, there were many new treasures and a few films returning for subsequent viewings.
The Gathering-Roots & Branches of Los Angeles Jazz highlights Leimert Park’s jazz scene that emerged from Horace Tapscotts Pan Afrikan Peoples Archestra during a recording session in 2005. For LA jazz aficionados the film delightfully showcases players such as: Jesse Sharps–conductor/soprano saxophone, Dwight Trible-vocals, Kamau Daaood-spoken word, Myka Miller-English horn/oboe, Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon, Tracy Wannomae bass/Bb clarinet, Kafi Roberts-flute, Azar Lawrence-alto saxophone, Michael Session-alto saxophone, Tracy Caldwell-alto saxophone, Randal Fisher-tenor saxophone, Kamasi Washington-tenor saxophone, Joey Dosik-baritone/tenor saxophone, Fundi Legohn-French horn/percussion, Phil Ranelin-trombone, Nathaniel Brooks-trombone, Richard Grant-trumpet, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson-viola, Peter Jacobson-cello, Roberto Miranda-bass, Nick Rosen-bass, Brandon Coleman-piano, Ndugu Chancler-drums and Taumbu-congas.
All on a Mardi Gras Day reveals a Mardi Gras Indian Chief’s life for one year as he prepares his costume. Buster Williams Bass to Infinity spotlights the bassist’s career, life and philosophy. Devil’s Pie-D’Angelo delves into the amazing singer who withdrew from performing for 14 years. It’s Yours shows how Hip-Hop’s use of the Internet impacted the Music Industry. My Friend Fela is a detailed exploration of the legendary African musician’s life, relationships and influence. One in a Hundred Years: The Life & Legacy of Marian Anderson revisited the operatic icon’s triumphs and tragedies through the ’30 to the ‘70s. One Chance exhibits the challenges of four women performers trying to take their careers to the next level.
Raymond is about a broke, but resourceful musician rescuing his horn from hock before losing it permanently. Run Free brings to light a young black country singer’s dilemma between fame or cause when given the chance to sing the National Anthem at a High School State Championship game. Through a pile of salvaged tapes the story of the family behind the legendary reggae recording facility is revealed in Studio 17: The Last Reggae Tapes. An investigation for blues icon Robert Johnson’s guitar occurs during The Dark Strums. The Last Mambo explores the San Francisco Bay Area’s Latin music scene from the late ‘40s till present times with the Escovedo Family prominently involved.
Up From The Streets comprehensively researches the history and culture of New Orleans music from the beginning of the 20th Century till present times. Just about every type of the city’s music and its extensive list of performers are mentioned, except surprisingly the families of Trombone Shorty and Nicholas Payton. Rounding the list of screening out is The Cuban featuring Lou Gossett, Jr. as an elderly confined Cuban musician who changes the life of a young Afghan nurse. From a non-musical perspective The Ball Method is a true story about Alice Ball who at 23 in Hawaii discovered an effective treatment for leprosy in 1915. And The German King remembered Cameroon’s Prince Rudolf Manga, who spent time with the German Kaiser’s family and returned home to lead a revolt against him. For more info go to: www.paff.org
German silent film Pandora’s Box (Die Buchse Der Pandora) released in 1929 directed by G.W. Pabst and starring American actress Lousie Brooks, was co-presented by the LA Phil, American Cinematheque and the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles at the Egyptian Theatre. Live musical accompaniment to the 35mm film about a temptress who charms men for survival and frolic that eventually leads to her peril was provided by composer/pianist Cathlene Pineda, trumpeter Stephanie Richards and guitarist Jeff Parker.
Their score, very different from the music of the time period was textural, abstract and present-day sounding. It though, unobtrusively flowed along with the 110-min. long plot of the movie that was 66 min. initially due to censors and panned by critics. In the ‘50s the full-length film was rediscovered and now considered a classic of German (Weimar Republic) and also International Cinema. On hand prior to the screening and afterwards was Thomas Gladysz, author of Louise Brooks, the Persistent Star.
Guitar legend Kenny Burrell took a fall two years ago. He is still recovering and on sabbatical from UCLA. Essentially, he is still unable to play and/or teach. Help is needed and welcomed. Here’s the link for donations setup by his wife Katherine:
Singer/lyricist/pianist Dave Frishberg is not doing well at all. If you who have enjoyed the gift of Dave’s music, please feel inspired to help him now that he needs it.
Adam Hawley Back on FB Live: Adam will be back at the same time, same place this Monday, April 13 at 7pm PST/10pm EST. He’ll be back with your requests, do another show-and-tell on his studio and recording process, and we’ll definitely see an encore performance from his wife and vocalist extraordinaire Kat Hawley. Just go to his Facebook page
The Making of Pursuance: Lakecia Asks The Masters will be hosted live on Instagram (@lakeciab) and will feature Georgia Anne Muldrow (4/14, 3 PM), Regina Carter (4/16, 1 PM) and Gary Bartz (4/22, 3 PM).
Fred Hersch on Facebook
During the entire quarantine period, Qwest TV also broadcasts a flagship program from its catalog every day at 9pm (CET) / 3pm (EST), available from the platform’s Facebook and YouTube accounts. Among the Qwest TV gems, Internet users will discover next week:
Saturday, April 11, 2020 – 9pm on Facebook Premiere and Youtube Premiere:
Quincy Jones, A Musical Celebration
Sunday, April 12, 2020 – 9pm on Facebook Premiere and Youtube Premiere:
The Herbie Hancock Trio – Live at Munich Philharmonie (1987)
For more information on Qwest TV, visit qwest.tv.
Hosted by SJO music director Mitch Glickman, “Beyond Symphonic Jazz” radio show features in-depth interviews including a two-part interview with Paquito D’Rivera, Gil Goldstein and Randy Brecker.
The 2-hour radio show on KJazz 88.1 airs every Sunday evening from 9 – 11 pm (PST). The broadcasts are archived and can be listened to anytime you’d like just by clicking here. (The archives are available for two weeks following the broadcast.)
“Beyond Symphonic Jazz” explores where the worlds of jazz and classical music meet with interviews with some very special composers and performers. The show also features rare recordings along with new works that continue the great American tradition of symphonic jazz. Where the musical lines start to blur, is where things get Interesting.
Paquito D’Rivera (part 2) – April 12
composer/arranger Gil Goldstein – April 19
trumpeter/composer Randy Brecker – April 26
Benji & Rita video São Francisco é brasileiro / San Francisco is Brazilian:
Any information to be considered for this column can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org