the word contemporary

GRAMMY-winner and eight-time nominee, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, born in Memphis the son of preacher father, with a piano teacher grand mother, a gospel singing grand mother and jazz musician uncles, has intermixed jazz, R&B and gospel regularly throughout his career. However, for his latest CD Humanité the musician’s palette also incorporated world music with artists such as pianist Keiko Matsui from Japan, Indonesian singer Grace Sahertian, South African vocalist Zahara and others. At the GRAMMY Museum, Whalum and the venue’s emcee Scott Goldman discussed the project after showing a promotional clip of the accompanying documentary Humanité: The Beloved Community. It covered his family and musical background from a humanitarian and civil rights standpoint, along with those of other artists in the film.

Whalum said the impetus of the project was a 60th birthday present to himself a year ago. And with Director/Cinematographer Jim Hanon, who he had worked with before, they started traveling to international destinations and interacting with musicians. In fact, the saxophonist cited, “The whole thing was about collaborations and we all need to reach beyond our comfort zones. America is great, but it is not the world.” The saxophonist and host also talked about improvisation and how it fuels life, along with elements of the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis and around the world. The connection between survival and music was also touched on, along with Whalum living with his family for two years in France.

Getting away briefly from the humanitarian and inequality issues, Whalum ties with keyboardist/producer Bob James was mentioned, especially in light of the reissue of Joined at The Hip. It was the 1996 CD they recorded together. James literally discovered the saxophonist, took him on tours around the world and was a mentor, in addition to saxophonist Arnett Cobb. During the closing moments there was Q&A with the audience covering concerts/benefits Whalum did, music schools for the underprivileged and people making a difference all around the world.

During the final moments of the event the saxophonist performed with South African-born/New Zealand raised singer/guitarist Andrea Lisa, who he saw perform on a jazz cruise he was part of. They did soulful ballad “I am Never Letting go of Love” and livelier pop/jazzy “Get Your Wings Up,” both featuring appealing singing and rich playing. “SJL” (Smooth Jazz Legend) was a tongue and cheek play on the term that Whalum despises featuring the duo playing tastefully and improvising with the audience chanting along, before guest Chante Cann joined in. Whalum and Lisa closed the show with emotional ballad “Wildflower” that was full of strong singing and playing to generate a standing ovation.

Band on top if the word Fusion

Experimental and avant-garde guitarist/oud player and Juno-winner (Canadian Grammy) Gordon Grdina performed with his group The Nomad Trio that included Matt Mitchell-piano and Jim Black-drums recently at the Blue Whale. Vancouver, British Columbia based Grdina showcased numbers either unrecorded or from his new eponymous recording. “Boilermaker” not on the CD opened the show with contrasting piano and guitar melodies balanced by hard-hitting oft-kilter drumming. Eventually the musicians surged and wound down with prog-rock styled forays. “Heartville” followed beginning with a solo electric guitar intro that led to the other players joining in for energetic and offsetting jamming bolstered by Grdina’s creative use of his guitar arsenal to astound the audience. Continuing, the bandleader played abstract counterpoint guitar as piano and drums jaggedly supported his efforts for the piece that included a similarly fashioned extended piano solo.

Vastly different texturally was Grdina’s oud playing, starting with “Gerber Jerber” in which he opened solely and was backed with sparse dark piano playing and light drumming. “Propregation” carried on with the same theme, but more fully, drums and oud working in tandem before piano reemerged to advance driving, full-hearted trio interplay. During the final portion of the set Grdina returned to guitar for an atonal piece vividly accented by drums and macabre piano. “All Caps” was the final number and had a rocking piano back beat offset by high-powered drumming and biting guitar runs that amazed the crowd. Prior to the Nomad Trio, saxophonist Chris B launched into solely played intense free jazz segment. For more info go to:, and

Text Special Mention


When it seems like there are more singers and musicians in the audience than regular listeners, it’s a strong indication that something special is about to occur. GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Kate McGarry, her guitarist/husband Keith Ganz and keyboardist Gary Versace performed for three nights at Sam First. Amongst attendees for the first night were singers Tierney Sutton, Judy Wexler, Cathy Segal-Garcia and Susan Krebs, along with drummer Paul Kreibich, pianist Karen Hammack and many others. They were richly rewarded with a “Master Class” from McGarry. She began doing a humorous Ken Nordine-like spoken word treatise on levels of jazz musicians and their marquee value, while Ganz and Versace generated an offbeat crescendo filled with unnerving tension.

For relief the trio coolly segued into Simon and Garfunkel’s “52nd St. Bridge Theme (Feelin’ Groovy),” which will be on their upcoming release What to Wear in The Dark. Through McGarry’s supple singing and her cohorts’ adroit prowess, the song, a rallying call for the “Peace and Love Generation” brilliantly melded folk and jazz. Massachusetts-born McGarry, who recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area from Durham, North Carolina, with stints in New York and LA prior, kept the vibe going with Joni Mitchell’s more mainstream sounding “The Gypsy in My Soul.” Versace and Ganz masterfully soloed, while McGarry injected funny ad-libbing to tastefully garnish it.

From a serious perspective “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” was subtly done and richly adorned with flowing singing and scatting. “What a Difference a Day Makes” began with bossa scatting and shifted to lightly swinging singing to thoroughly enthrall the audience.

For something different Egberto Gismonti’s “Playing Palhaço” with lyrics by Jo Lawry was performed and showcased the singer’s buoyant delivery and her husband’s acoustic guitar talents. Bluegrass and alt-country were also injected as well through “The Space Between The Sunlight” with highly emotive singing, balanced by beyond belief guitar and piano exchanges.

Mitchell’s songbook was revisited with a new arrangement of the highly introspective “Both Sides Now” that in trio’s hands was poignant, yet also easy-flowing. Additionally from the same time period was Dylan’s “The Times Are A’ Changin’” that was done with urgency and verve, featuring electric piano and bountiful singing, including McGarry asking everyone to vote and getting their friends to do so as well. Clearly, the times haven’t changed all that much, but she’s definitely doing her part to help. For more info go to: and


Nine-time GRAMMY-nominated singer Tierney Sutton showcased her latest contending CD Screen Play at Catalina’s. Ballots for the 2020 award had already been cast a day before the concert. However, Sutton and her longstanding band, Christian Jacob-piano, Kevin Axt-bass, Trey Henry-bass and Ray Brinker-drums/percussion played as if there were GRAMMY voters in the audience who could still be swayed. The LA-based singer and group’s CD was played it its entirety, but not in the order on the recording. It was divided into: Act One – The Bergman Suite, Act Two-Technicolor, Act Three-Golden Age, Act Four-Montage and Act Five-The Sully Variations. Pensive Bergmans’ ballad “Ev’ry Now And Then” opened and quickly segued into a percolating version of the songwriters’ “The Windmills of Your Mind” sung with authority and engaging band interaction to draw strong applause.

“On a Clear Day” designated to Act Four swung coolly with Sutton gliding through the lyrics. From Act Two was “I Got No Strings” (Pinocchio 1940), guitarist and Sutton’s new husband Serge Merlaud joined the band for easy-flowing playing. Alternatively, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Act Three featured the singer working out robustly with just her drummer. For more contrast pianist Jacob arranged two songs ballad “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and rollicking “You’re The One That I Want” from the film Grease, 1978. Returning to Act One was “It Might Be You” (Tootsie, 1982) with Jacobs and Merlaud soloing.

Highlighting the show was none other that Alan Bergman doing “Nice And Easy Does it” (not on the CD) to garner a standing ovation. Afterwards Sutton sang “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?” also from Act One. Bergman rejoined the headliner for a touching rendition of “How Do You Keep The Music Playing? (Best Friends, 1982). For an extra bonus a tribute was done for recently departed trumpeter/singer Jack Sheldon through hot swinging “I Want to Be Happy” from the 2005 album On The Other Side that Sutton’s group recorded with him. Furthermore, Bergman sang “Where Do You Start” that the trumpeter/singer was known to perform to receive another standing ovation.




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.




text previews


San Jose Jazz proudly announces today the official Winter Fest 2020 lineup featuring more than 20 concerts: Miguel Zenón Quartet: “Sonero”; Quincy Jones Presents Sheléa, with SJSU Jazz Orchestra; Georgia on My Mind: The Music of Ray Charles; International Guitar Night featuring Mike Dawes, Cenk Erdogan, Olli Soikkeli & Jim Kimo Wes; Stacey Kent; Halie Loren; Aaron Abernathy; Matt Wilson’s “Honey and Salt” Quintet; Shayna Steele; The Revelers; Black String; Los Hermanos Arango; SJZ Collective Plays Weather Report; Yuko Mabuchi Trio; and some of the Bay Area’s foremost youth jazz ensembles

Winter Fest 2020
February 14 – 29, 2020
Various venues near downtown San Jose


Lisa Hilton & Friends: An Evening of Music from Chalkboard Destiny
“We live in a time of constant change,” states award winning composer/acclaimed pianist, Lisa Hilton, “Which can positively prompt creativity.” Chalkboard Destiny showcases

Hilton’s expressive and creative compositions that seamlessly explore jazz, blues, classical & modernist ideas while showcasing tenor saxophonist JD Allen’s explosive virtuosity,

Rudy Royston’s dynamic drums and the booming bass of Luques Curtis alongside Hilton’s flowing and swinging piano. Top players finding new ways of using traditional ideas in an impressive album. Sounds like destiny. Lisa Hilton/piano, JD Allen/tenor sax, Luques Curtis/bass, Rudy Royston/drums.

Lisa Hilton & Friends: An Evening of Music from Chalkboard Destiny






February 14 Ann Hampton Callaway
Moss Theater

February 21 The Cookers
Moss Theater

February 22 Honey & Salt
Moss Theater

Moss Theater
New Roads School at The Herb Alpert Educational Village
3131 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feasts
(800) 838-3006
“Concerts and Conversations with Southern California Jazz Legends” made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. KJAZZ 88.1 – official media sponsor.




Mr. Musichead, celebrating 20 years as a premier boutique art gallery and its owner Sam Milgrom, teamed up with Los Angeles Jazz Radio Broadcaster and Producer LeRoy
Downs and All Music Television Founder & CEO Frederick Smith, Jr to present Just Jazz featuring a lineup of internationally recognized jazz artists. From 6:30pm to Showtime, before each show, tune into “The Jazzcat” LeRoy Downs as he spins one hour of supreme, eclectic jazz live on direct from the Mr Musichead Gallery! Downs will play music and interview the weekly artist as jazz patrons are arriving for the performance, enticing listeners to come on out and be a part of the Curated Jazz Experience!! A portion of the proceeds from each show will be donated to a local charity.

Doors Open: 6:00pm
Drinks & Appetizer Reception: 6:00pm
Live Music: 7:00pm

Feb 12 The Tim Berne / Matt Mitchell Duo
Feb 13 Rod Dyer Jazz | Original Artwork Exhibition
Feb 19 Cosmic Vibrations
Feb 26 Gerald Clayton

Mr Musichead Gallery
7420 W. Sunset Blvd (across from Guitar Center)
Los Angeles, CA 90046


Red TicketCAP UCLA’s 2019-20 season highlights

Feb 20, 2020
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Royce Hall

Feb 28, 2020
Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares
Aguas Trio

Featuring Gustavo Ovalles
Royce Hall

Mar 7, 2020
Octavia E. Butler’s
Parable Of The Sower
Created By Toshi Reagon and
Bernice Johnson Reagon
Music and Lyrics By Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon
Directed By Eric Ting
Royce Hall

Mar 26, 2020
Fly Higher: Charlie Parker At 100
Co-musical Directors: Rudresh Mahanthappa & Terri Lyne Carrington
Royce Hall

Apr 18, 2020
Perla Batalla
Discoteca Batalla
The Theatre at Ace Hotel

Apr 25, 2020
Anthony De Mare
Liaisons 2020: Re-imagining Sondheim From The Piano
Royce Hall

Subscriptions and individual tickets on sale at: 310.825.2101



2020 Jazz, Blues and World Music GRAMMY Award Winners

Best Improvised Jazz Solo.
Randy Brecker, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album
Esperanza Spalding

Best Jazz Instrumental Album
Brad Mehldau

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
Brian Lynch Big Band

Best Latin Jazz Album
Chick Corea & The Spanish Heart Band

Best Traditional Blues Album

Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men + Dana

Best Contemporary Blues Album
Gary Clark Jr.

Best Regional Roots Music Album
Ranky Tanky

Best Reggae Album

Best World Music Album
Angelique Kidjo


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