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By Mark Towns

Rene Camacho is the first-call bassist for virtually every L.A. Salsa and Latin Jazz bandleader — if they can get him. Currently, he’s on the road most of the time with the legendary band War. Prior to joining War, he was bassist for many years with Poncho Sanchez, after having stocked up on big-name gigging credits performing and/or recording with Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Sergio Mendes, Ry Cooder, Michael Bublé, Oscar Castro Neves, Michael McDonald, Tipica ’73, Robben Ford, Angelique Kidjo, Linda Ronstadt, Draco Rosa, Jose Alberto “El Canario”, Raul Malo (The Mavericks), Rickie Lee Jones, Juan Gabriel, The Fifth Dimension, The Pointer Sisters, Kevin Eubanks, Oscar Hernandez, and the ubiquitous “Manny Others.”

Rene is one of the nicest cats you’ll ever meet in the music industry. His Salsa swing is impeccable and his reading chops are top-notch, a skill developed reading bass clef on trombone as a youngster in his hometown of Tuscon, Arizona. Rene switched to bass while at The University of Arizona, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Trombone Performance and Jazz Studies, and the world has been a better place, bass-wise, since.

I spoke recently with Rene, aka “The West Coast Badass of the Bass,” about the current state of Latin Jazz and more.

Mark Towns: Who are some of the artists you’ve worked with or gigs that you’ve done that stand out in your mind as being the most memorable or satisfying?

Rene Camacho: A few of those gigs come to mind but an artist that really stands out is Celia Cruz. I worked with her the last 5 years of her life. She was an amazing performer. Her work ethic was incredible! She was on the road more than 200 days out of the year and always gave 100% in every show! She really taught me to never take work for granted and to always respect the music that I perform.

Towns: How do you define Latin Jazz?

Camacho: To me, Latin Jazz is a combination of Latin American rhythms mixed with harmonies found in many styles of music. I would say that the origins come from Africa by way of Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean such as Puerto Rico. Latin Jazz can combine anything from traditional Jazz to Blues and Funk with Latin American grooves. At present time there are so many amazing musicians playing this genre of music that anything is possible. There really aren’t any musical boundaries in Latin Jazz, just as in Modern Jazz, which I think is good for the genre to evolve to keep it interesting.

Towns: How do you balance tradition with innovation in your playing?

Camacho: I feel that it is important for me to have a proper understanding of my instrument, the evolution and the function of my instrument within the rhythm section, as well as within the music that I am performing. Without that knowledge, there is no progression in my playing or in my music. I think that many of today’s musicians believe that in order to be innovative, trying to find your voice or contributing new ideas, you have to have ample knowledge of where your instrument began — who made it popular in that style and how did it evolve before you.

Towns: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in music and wants to learn to play Latin Jazz?

Camacho: I always tell my students to listen to plenty of music! Listen not only to the Latin Jazz greats of yesterday and today, but to ALL styles of music! It doesn’t matter what style it is. Music has no boundaries. All styles can be incorporated into what you decide to play! When I was a kid I would listen to everything from Miles Davis and Bird to Led Zeppelin and Van Halen. Then I would listen to Eddie Palmieri and BB King. To this day, I listen to everything! All music helps me find ways to improve myself as a musician.

Towns: Do you think Latin Jazz will ever reach a larger audience? What would it take to increase the audience for Latin Jazz?

Camacho: I feel that the current state of the music industry is really hurting the more “independent” genres. Traditional record companies don’t know how to conform to the whole streaming thing yet, with the exception of Pop music, and smaller labels willing to sign a Latin Jazz artist don’t have the power to publicize and push their talent. Slowly, radio stations that play Latin Jazz are dying off, and the affect is that the genre is not sufficiently heard by the younger generation who download music. It also doesn’t help that a club owner now expects the musicians, who spend their time trying to perfect their craft, to do ALL of the promotion for their performance and music! These issues and many more that I have not mentioned will always be the cause of Latin Jazz staying “under the radar.” BUT there is still hope with the younger musicians finding ways to push forward and finding bigger audiences.

Towns: Do you think there is an inverse relationship between musical complexity and music popularity?

Camacho: I feel that musical complexity is strictly for other musicians that are fans of that vibe! I remember growing up and always talking to my other musician friends and saying that we should play music that would bring out the girls! If girls would come to our show, then that would bring out more guys! Pretty soon the club would be packed! When was the last time you walked into a Jazz club and saw a lot of girls digging the music? There is a way to combine the two situations, but it takes a lot of work and understanding between the musicians.

Towns: Do jazz artists have a responsibility to entertain, or should the music speak for itself?

Camacho: I feel that now-a-days, we have to do both. I’m not saying to let the music suffer with your entertaining the crowd, but we have to put some element of entertainment in the show. People’s attention span now is very short, so you have to find ways of keeping them engaged when you’re throwing a lot of information at them. Then, our music has a better chance of keeping them interested.

Towns: Is there a particular artist, genre, or composer who inspires you?

Camacho: I love listening to other bass players. There are so many players out there that are incredible at what they do! But I will take time away from listening to those musicians in order to listen to other instrumentalists and vocalists. Lately, I have really enjoyed listening to many vocalists! I really like listening to their phrasing and use of space. I have always been a huge fan of Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson. They both use space amazingly. I also think that way about Aretha and Gladys Knight. I have also gotten into listening to Gregory Porter and Kurt Elling.

Towns: How important is the “clave” in Latin music?

Camacho: Wow, that can be a loaded question! There are many opinions out there! For me, the groove and the melody tell me where to feel the clave. I try not to get caught up in the clave craziness. I’m not a member of the clave police.

Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….

Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at



By Mark Towns

There are many great jazz artists. There are only a few truly phenomenal jazz giants. And then there are only a handful of those who are universally venerated as the top elite of all time, so revered that even the giants are in awe of them. Pianist Herbie Hancock is one of those top tier jazz icons. The best of the best. A giant among giants. Jazz royalty.

None other than Miles Davis said in his autobiography, “Herbie was the step after Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and I haven’t heard anybody yet who has come after him.”

I spoke with some of L.A.’s top pianists/keyboardists, who shared their thoughts about Herbie Hancock and what he means to them and to jazz.


Carmen Staaf: “Herbie Hancock is not only a master musician, he is a deep thinker and an incredibly compassionate human being. When we toured together while I was a student at the Herbie Hancock Institute (then called the Monk Institute), he always made me feel like I belonged on the piano bench just as much as he did (even if I struggled to feel that way!). His playing encompasses the history of the instrument and of jazz: his touch flows effortlessly from percussive to lyrical, his harmonies from Ravel to the blues. Of course he made history not only with his masterful playing, but with his sophisticated yet catchy tunes, and with his expansion of the sonic palette through his use of synthesizers. As a high school student, I was in love with his solo on “Driftin’.” I just couldn’t get over how swinging it was. I never could have imagined getting to one day study and even share a stage with him. I feel incredibly lucky. I’m inspired by how he continues to play so well and to keep growing. Just this weekend, I heard him at Newport and he sounded better than ever at 79!”



Sunnie Paxson: “Herbie Hancock for me is the most prolific and highest ranking jazz pianist of all time. His brilliant compositions and astounding harmonies have been my biggest musical influence.”







Stephane DeReine: “What I find amazing with Herbie Hancock, beyond the fact that he became a true legend of jazz, is that his music travels through time. He adapts himself constantly to the present time. Even more, he is a true pioneer as he has the ambition to do something new, to create some music we haven’t heard yet. He is a true precursor.”





Scott Kinsey: “To me Herbie Hancock is the perfect example of what it looks like to be a limitless and fearless musician and human being. It’s inspiring because you get the sense that, for him, the music is much deeper than his specific note choice. You hear humanity first.”






Hans Zermuehlen: “I first heard Herbie when I was about 15. I’m still pulling my hair out of my head trying to play like him. His piano solo on “Actual Proof” should be entered into the national archives – the best stuff I’ve heard in my life. And I’ve heard a lot!”






Alberto Salas: “From Jazz to Fusion to World Music to Hip Hop and everything in between, Maestro Hancock has to be the most versatile musician walking the planet. He has remained relevant in every decade of his illustrious almost 60 year career, and still continues to do so. A true innovator.”





Theo Saunders: “Herbie Hancock continues to inspire, not only my generation of jazz musicians, but also those who continue to follow a path without blinders on, all the while excelling in his genre-defying magic act.”







Oscar Hernandez: Herbie Hancock was very inspirational to me as a young musician and pianist when I started learning about jazz. I first became aware of him with his amazing work with Miles Davis and later as a leader with Maiden Voyage and from then on, all the incredible work he has been involved with as a leader and producer. He’s one of the seminal musicians of all times.”





Otmaro Ruiz: “Herbie Hancock found his own signature sound so early in life, raising the bar of harmonic and rhythmic explorations in improvisation, while constantly renewing his composition concepts, staying always hip and current for the last 5 decades!”






Herbie Hancock appears at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. along with R+R=Now and Phoelix.

Speaking of Hollywood Bowl, one of the highlights of this summer’s Playboy Jazz Festival on June 8 & 9 was the standout performance by the all-star band convened to celebrate the life of drummer Ndugu Chancler, billed as “Celebrating Ndugu Chancler” featuring Patrice Rushen (keyboards and musical director), Ernie Watts (tenor saxophone), Alphonso Johnson (bass), Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), Doc Powell (guitar), Munyungo Jackson (percussion), Rayford Griffin (drums), Alexis Angulo (keyboards), Josie James and T.C. Carson (vocals), plus special guests performers Byron Miller (bass) and Sheila E (percussion).

Ndugu, who passed away from prostate cancer in 2018, was one of the world’s most in-demand drummers, performing with everyone from Miles Davis to Santana to Weather Report to George Duke. His many achievements included playing drums on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” co-writing “Let it Whip” by Dazz Band, not to mention his being just an all-around nice guy. He is greatly missed.

I spoke with Ndugu’s long-time friend and musical brother, percussionist Munyungo Jackson, about Ndugu, as well as about his own adventures of late.

Mark Towns: When did you and Ndugu first perform together?

Munyungo Jackson: Man, it goes way back. My mother wrote a rap tune. We’re talking about in the late 60s, early 70, mid 70s. He played drums on it, and I played percussion. It’s called What About You (in the World Today). The artist was called the Co-Real Artist. My mother, Genie Jackson put that together. This was one of the first rap tunes ever, back in 1974. On this track, Ndugu played drums and I played percussion, plus rappers – my sister Denise Jackson, a guy named Gordon Jackson, Anthony Green, and Denise Jackson. It was originally a rap demo my mother wrote for a musical called Life. My mother was a writer. She wrote a lot of plays, songs, musicals. Gordon Jackson (no relation) was the guy who would perform this live in the play. So, my mother had to record it.

Towns: Is your Mom still with us?

Jackson: No, she left about 20 some years ago.

Towns: What other music highlights did you share with Ndugu?

Jackson: We did some things with Patrice Rushen. The main thing Ndugu and I did together was the Day of the Drum Festival. That happens at the Watts Towers on the last weekend of September every year, on the last Saturday of September every year. And then the next day is the Watts Towers Jazz Festival. So the Day of the Drum Festival – I book the acts for that with different cultures, with drums from different countries every year. Ndugu was the emcee of that. Then on Sunday it’s the Jazz Festival, with different types of groups like Blues, Gospel, some Latin stuff. And we would end that day with Patrice Rushen’s band, and Ndugu played drums on that.

Towns What year did that start?

Jackson: I’d have to say it was 30-40 years ago. It’s been going on for quite a while. Ndugu, under another director, would book it. And then the director changed back to Rosie Lee Hooks, and I would book the groups for her. Ndugu was the emcee on the Day of the Drum.

Towns: Ndugu brought a lot of great energy to the music world.

Jackson: Ndugu was a great songwriter, drummer, and instructor. Ndugu played with a bunch of people, he taught a lot of people a lot of different things about drumming and the business, and was a mentor to a lot of people. He was very strong in personality and in pushing and making things happen. That’s what he had a habit of doing – making things happen, producing, songwriting. He did a lot, he acquired a lot, had a nice house. He was very positive on a lot of things, and he pushed forward in a lot of ways.

Towns: What else have you been up to lately?

Jackson: I just played this weekend at the New Orleans Jazz Festival with Miss Diana Ross (Saturday, May 4, 2019).

Towns: Cool.

Jackson: Yeah, I should put some of this stuff on my Facebook. I’ve been so busy doing a lot of things, that I don’t have time to put it on Facebook, which is what I need to do.

Towns When I saw Diana Ross a few years ago, Richie Gajate Garcia was on percussion. He doesn’t play with her anymore?

Jackson: No, Ron Powell was playing percussion with Diana Ross, and I was subbing for him, because he also plays with Kenny G. So when I did that gig, they offered me a bunch of dates on the tour starting in June and July, and I told them, “I can’t do it. I’m out with Stevie” (Stevie Wonder, Munyungo’s “regular” gig). This past weekend was my first time playing with her, and first time meeting her, and first time playing the Diana Ross music. She goes off stage and changes about three or four times. The band is kicking. The band grooves. It’s funky. I said, “Shoot! I’d do this again just to play the music.” The band is a good band. The grooves are tight. I really dug it musically.

Towns: I remember Richie playing a lot of tambourine on her gig.

Jackson: Yeah, a lot of the old Motown stuff is tambourine (for the percussionist). She lets people groove. It’s not about playing a bunch of solos, even though we had a couple of solos that we played, too. Like, for instance, check this out – the MD (musical director) is a guy named C.C. (bassist C.C. Thomas). He was telling me, “Toward the end of the show, during the last tune, she introduces everybody, and you just play a little thing, like a little four or eight bar solo.” And he said, “Man, I want you to pick up your shekere and play that. You know, pick it up and flip it like you do with the shekere.” Right? Now, Diana Ross and I hadn’t met. We didn’t meet beforehand. First time seeing her, period, live, is when she comes on stage. We’re playing, they introduce her, and she comes on stage. That’s my first time looking at her live. And we’re playing, and she looks over at the monitor engineer and does her hands like she’s playing congas and saying like “I need more congas up here.” She’s wanting him to turn up the congas in the monitors. She likes to hear them grooving. But, she never said, “Hello.” She never said none of that, she never did none of that. She’s just walking around the stage until there’s a part where she goes to change, and I do a timbale solo on one of these tunes, which is cool. And then she comes back out. And between congas and tambourine, I’m doing all this stuff, depending on the songs. And then for the last song, she introduces everybody, and she gets to me, and I pick up the shekere and I started playing the shekere and flipping it, and she comes over. “No, no, no. Play the congas!” And she comes up and reaches up and beats on one of my congas like she’s mad! So, I played the last four bars on congas. And I look at the bass player, C.C., and he looks like “Aww man, I’m sorry.”

So then she invited everybody to dinner afterwards. I had to get my stuff, pack up the stuff I brought, and then change, and then go to the restaurant. And now I am sitting directly across from her, and we’re supposed to address her as “Miss Ross,” and I’m thinking to myself “Yo! What’s up, Diana? Diane? How you doin’, Diane?’ But what I actually said was, “You know, Miss Ross, the first time meeting you, the first thing we ever shared verbally was you telling me ‘Stop playing that and play congas,’ and you beating on my drum.” That’s what I told her, and she says, “Yeah, yeah because I like the congas. I want you to play that. I like the congas.” So I look at C.C., because C.C. was sitting right there, and I said. “C.C.’s the one who told me to play shekere for you.” And she says, “No, I want congas.”


Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….

Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at


Antonio Adolfo
Pays Tribute To The Birthplace Of Brazilian Jazz
On New Album, Samba Jazz Alley

Rio de Janeiro native Antonio Adolfo was just a teenager in the early 1960s when he became part of the bossa nova revolution that was sweeping Brazil and the rest of the world. Not content to spend most of his career backing vocalists, the pianist and many of his peers began crafting a more rhythmically robust instrumental interpretation of the lithe and flirtatious bossa. Influenced by the Bebop, Soul Jazz and West Coast trends that ruled the day in the U.S., the potent result was coined “Samba Jazz.” The movement experienced a surge of popularity thanks to the emergence of such soon-to-be-famous artists as Sérgio Mendes, Moacir Santos, The Tamba Trio, Elis Regina, Leny Andrade, Raul de Souza and… Antonio Adolfo.

Samba Jazz Alley is the latest chapter in a series of releases on Adolfo’s AAM label that have explored a wide range of stylistic variants of Brazilian music. The session’s title refers to an obscure dead-end alley in the heart of Rio’s storied Copacabana neighborhood that served as a breeding ground for the city’s up-and-coming instrumentalists and singers during the heyday of bossa nova. The alley was termed Beco das Garrafas (Bottles Alley) because residents of neighboring apartments would shower the tiny space with beer bottles to protest the early morning racket produced by Bohemian revelers and impromptu jam sessions. Bottles Bar, the alleyway’s main venue, is reputed to have showcased over 100 of Brazil’s most noted musicians and vocalists of the day. The budding pianist and composer recalls taking a bus with his 3D Trio companions to perform a set at the bar in 1964. “It’s impossible to know how many tunes that became standards were first performed there,” he states. “Bottles Bar was like a ‘notable peoples’ club!”

On Samba Jazz Alley, Adolfo has the luxury of performing with a core ensemble that features the talents of some of the best Brazilian jazz musicians of their generation. The three-horn frontline of trumpeter Jessé Sadoc, woodwind artist Marcelo Martins and trombonist Rafael Rocha provides a muscular ensemble sound that’s perfect for this hard-hitting genre. Joining Adolfo in the rhythm section is an equally distinguished crew, including guitarist Lula Galvão, bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Rafael Barata, and percussionist Dada Costa.

The session’s nine tracks capture the vivacious character of Samba Jazz via Adolfo’s ingenious arrangements of songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Corcovado” and “Passarim”), Johnny Alf (“Céu E Mar”), Edu Lobo (“Casa Forte”), Baden Powell (“Só Por Amor”), João Donato (“The Frog”), and two themes by the leader (“Obrigado” and “Hello, Herbie,” a tribute to Herbie Hancock). A particularly mesmerizing take is the gorgeous bossa ballad “Tristeza De Nos Dois” (The Sadness of the Two of Us), featuring one of the song’s three co-composers, the legendary harmonica player Maurício Einhorn, in the company of Gabriel Grossi, Brazil’s current harmonica sensation.

Samba Jazz Alley is another triumph for Antonio Adolfo and a landmark recording in the still evolving Samba Jazz movement.:

Antonio Adolfo
“Samba Jazz Alley”
(AAM Music AAM 0713)
Street Date: 07/29/2019
Piano And Arrangements: Antonio Adolfo; Acoustic And Electric Guitars: Lula Galvao; Double Bass: Jorge Helder; Drums: Rafael Barata; Percussion: Dada Costa And Rafael Barata (Tracks 2, 6;, Bl Trumpet: Jesse Sadoc; Flugelhorn: Jesse Sadoc (Track 9]; Soprano, Tenor Saxes: Marcelo Martins; Alto Flute: Marcelo Martins (Track 9); Trombone: Rafael Rocha. Special Guests: Valve Trombone: Serginho Trombone (Track 6]; Harmonicas: Mauricio Einhorn And Gabriel Grossi (Track 5]; Shaker: Claudio Spiewak (Tracks 1, 5 And Bl; Acoustic Guitar: Claudio Spiewak (Track 1].
http://antonioadolfomusic.com   http://aammusic.com   Available From: •Amazon •CDBaby •iTunes



The 41st annual Playboy Jazz Festival takes place at The Hollywood Bowl on Saturday and Sunday, June 8 & 9. LA’s biggest and best jazz party is a highlight of the summer season for jazz lovers – an all-day party with a soundtrack provided by a diverse mix of top artists from the worlds of Straight Ahead Jazz, World Music, Latin Jazz, Funk, R&B, Jazz Fusion, and more.

Hosted again by comic legend George Lopez, artists scheduled to perform include Kool & The Gang, Boz Scaggs, Béla Fleck and The Flecktones, The Maceo Parker Big Band, Terence Blanchard featuring The E-Collective, The Cookers, Angélique Kidjo, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Benny Golson’s 90th Birthday Quartet, The Family Stone, Sheila E., Terrace Martin, Sona Jobarteh, and a special celebration honoring the late drummer Ndugu Chancler, who passed away in 2018.


Kool & The Gang’s band features great LA saxophonist Louis Van Taylor. Hopefully we’ll hear him stretch out.

Boz Scaggs is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Some festival attendees can only take so much Jazz, and the casual listeners in attendance will more than likely perk up upon hearing Scaggs’ proto-Smooth-Jazz hits.

Béla Fleck and The Flecktones will be amazing mostly because of Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten, arguably the baddest cat alive on the bass.

Maceo Parker will be magnificent in no small part due to the fact that he carries with him the spirit of James Brown, with whom he played for years. Maceo Parker is the epitome of Funk and Soul saxophone.

Terence Blanchard and E-Collective, at their last Playboy Festival appearance, sounded like vintage 70’s fusion-era Miles. If they continue with that route, they’ll kill again. And E-Collective guitarist Charles Altura is something special to behold.

The Cookers band features Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, Donald Harrison, David Weiss, George Cables, Cecil McBee, and Billy Hart. This promises to be one of the most “Real Jazz” sets of the Jazz festival. These cats have been producing outstanding, innovative, and just downright cool Jazz sounds for over 40 years. Really glad to see them on the bill.

Benny Golson’s 90th Birthday Quartet promises to be a highlight for two reasons: number one – saxophonist Golson is the composer of the classic Jazz tune “Killer Joe,” and number two – he’s 90 freaking years old and still out there performing! ‘Nuff said.

The Family Stone, featuring original saxophonist and founding member of Sly & The Family Stone Jerry Martini, is a wild card. On one hand, it’s commendable to keep Sly’s music alive and out there, but on the other hand, it’s not Sly.

Sheila E. will be a big crowd-pleaser, as timbale solos and hit songs typically are. Sheila is one of the best drummers in the world, and Latin Jazz on the festival is always welcome.

West African griot and kora player Sona Jobarteh will provide some marvelous sounds, as well as help remind us where most of the rest of the music on the festival originally came from.

Cuban pianist Harold López-Nussa’s Quartet featuring Ruy López-Nussa, Luques Curtis, and Mayquel Gonzalez is one of the festival’s most-anticipated performers this year. Cuban musicians produce some of the edgiest music in Jazz, and this band is no exception.

The life of drummer Ndugu Chancler will honored with a special performance by a group assembled for the festival which features several of Ndugu’s friends and former bandmates, including Patrice Rushen, Munyungo Jackson, Ernie Watts, Alphonso Johnson, Terri Lyne Carrington, Doc Powell, Byron Miller, Rayford Griffin, Josie James, and TC Carson. Ndugu touched the lives of many, and this tribute performance promises to be an unforgettable event.

I spoke with percussionist Munyungo Jackson about the Ndugu tribute. The conversation about his long-time friend Ndugu ended up being a fascinating discourse touching on a lot of wonderful music history of Jazz, Soul, and Hip-Hop. Did you know that Munyungo’s mother was writing and releasing some of the first-ever Rap music back in the 70’s? Munyungo and Ndugu’s musical relationship began with the recording of the 45 (that’s a 7” vinyl record, kids) of “What About You in the World Today,” a Rap song written by Munyungo’s mother Genie Jackson and performed by The Co-Real Artists, a group which featured Munyungo and Ndugu.

Stay tuned to a future edition of “Ritmo Caliente” for the full Munyungo interview.

Munyungo’s band performs at The World Stage on Saturday, June 1. The World Stage presents Jazz and more every night of the week.




The Jazz Bakery presents Hubert Laws and his band at The Moss Theater on Saturday, May 18.

Catalina Jazz Club presents Pete Escovedo’s Latin Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, May 18; Fusion Jazz with Simon Phillips Protocol featuring Otmaro Ruiz, Ernest Tibbs, Alex Sill, and Jacob Scesney on Friday and Saturday May 24 and 25.

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band will be at Catalina on Friday and Saturday June 21 and 22.

The KJazz 88.1 Summer Benefit Concert takes place Saturday, June 22 at Walt Disney Concert Hall and features veteran Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater plus an opening set by Raul Midon and Lionel Loueke (separately and together).

The Baked Potato presents Brothers of the Situation on Wednesday, June 5, an all-star band featuring Abe Laboriel, Sr. (bass), Walter Rodriguez (drums), Mark Gasbarro (keys), Buddy Nuanez (guitar), and Mateo Laboriel (guitar).

Also at the Potato: Frank Gambale (6/8), Larry Carlton (6/12 through 6/15), Don Randi (6/16), and Peter Erskine (6/21 and 6/22).

In addition to the above-mentioned shows, the Baked Potato also has great live music every night of the week.

The Blue Whale in DTLA has great Jazz every night of the week.

Viva Cantina in Burbank has live music every night of the week with no cover charge, including John Pisano’s Guitar Night every Tuesday.

Sunspace in Sunland features Experimental Jazz and more on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Angelo Metz and his Brazilian Jazz Band perform every Sunday at Industry Cafe in Culver City.


Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….

Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at




By Mark Towns

The weather was great. Luckily, the weeks-long wet and cold spell that has beset LA this year didn’t start until after NAMM.

After the NAMM convention hall closes at 6:00 p.m. each evening, the hotel after-parties start, and these are where some of the coolest music performances during NAMM typically occur, with celebrity jams, surprise artist appearances, and big names up close being de rigueur. This year was no exception, although the number of these events seems to be dwindling. In previous years, virtually every ballroom at the Hilton and Marriott (the two closest hotels next door to the Anaheim Convention Center, where NAMM takes place) would have music events going on in the evenings, but this year there were noticeably fewer of these types of events. In fact, some of the hotel ballroom-area hallways were virtual ghost towns on some evenings during 2019 NAMM. Bands, mostly Pop and Rock, and many of them cover bands, still perform back to back all evening in the Hilton and Marriott lobbies, and the hotel lobbies remain packed with a virtual zoo of music industry types of all stripes — it’s one of the best places ever for people watching. But many of the ballroom events which used to be open to virtually anyone are giving way to private, invitation-only, or ticketed events. But those who are privy to attend these exclusive events very often find that the music performances at them are the highlights of their NAMM experience.

One event that didn’t happen this year, and one that Latin Jazz lovers especially missed, was the traditional Sabian show at the Sheraton, a legendary party/concert which in prior years featured performances by some of the top artists in Latin Jazz, including Joey Heredia, Oskar Cartaya, Alex Acuña, and others. Here’s hoping this event can return next year.

Jazz Fusion pioneer/keyboardist Herbie Hancock appeared at the TEC Awards to present a lifetime achievement award to recording engineer Leslie Ann Jones (daughter of Spike Jones). The TEC ceremony (TEC is an acronym for Technical Excellence and Creativity) features prestigious luminaries from the music world presenting awards to honor innovative products, companies, and individuals for their cutting-edge excellence in audio for TV, film, video games, recordings, and live events.

The TEC awards were founded by Mix magazine in 1985 and since 1990 have been headed by the TEC Foundation for Excellence in Audio, a non-profit organization that offers scholarships in addition to working toward advancing efforts in the field of hearing health, especially toward preventing hearing loss in the music environment.

Earplugs these days are a must for music performers and audience members alike. Without hearing protection around loud sounds, hearing damage will occur, and once your hearing is gone, it’s gone. Loop Earplugs are one of the best earplug solutions I’ve seen. Introduced this year at 2019 NAMM, Loop earplugs have a built-in acoustic channel and filter that provides a 20dB equal sound reduction across all frequencies. Music and speech remain clear, but at a lower volume. They look cool, feel great, and they work. Check them out at loopearplugs.com.

Sad to report that the long-running Monday night Fusion/Jazz/Rock/Blues/Funk jam at the Baked Potato has ended. The jam started in 2005, and was led by guitarist John Ziegler until health issues prevented him from performing in mid-2017. Guitarist Jamie Kime took over the jam following John’s departure, and the event continued for over a year as a once-a-month event on the first Monday of each month, but now that’s gone too. However, Jamie Kime’s band plays the first Monday of each month at BP, and they are killer – a must-see.

The Jazz Bakery, long in search of a new permanent home since losing their lease in 2009 on their original Helms Bakery space in Culver City, has finally found a new location. The Jazz Bakery’s new home is (drum-roll please): The Moss Theater! This is probably not a huge surprise if you’ve been following The Jazz Bakery lately, as most of their concerts for the past few years have been at the Moss, but now it is official.

The Moss Theater is an intimate 350 seat state-of-the-art venue with excellent acoustics designed by Yasuhisa Toyoto, who also designed the acoustics at Walt Disney Concert Hall. And by excellent acoustic, I mean you probably wouldn’t have to amplify anything there and everyone could hear it. It’s an ideal setting for listening.

And more good news from The Jazz Bakery: they plan to add snack and beverage options for concert attendees at the Moss, something that hasn’t been available there yet.

Jazz Bakery shows are curated by Ruth Price, and she has impeccable taste in her selection of performers. There’s no such thing as a bad show at the Jazz Bakery. One upcoming show at the Bakery that stands out even among all the good shows there – and is a must-see for Latin Jazz lovers — is Omar Sosa on Saturday, March 23. Pianist/Composer Sosa is one of the most inventive and creative expressionists in the world of Latin Jazz today. In fact, let’s just say that he’s one of the most creative artists in all of music today, because that’s what he is.


Rooted in the music traditions of Cuba and Africa, Sosa is energized by influences from all aspects of life, and is a master at expressing feelings and emotions in the form of sound. Omar Sosa plays music from the heart to the heart. He takes Latin Jazz on a journey to places it needs to go, new places, uniting listeners through sonic innovation. He accomplishes the rare feat of being both edgy and accessible at the same time.

Sosa’s current touring ensemble includes Seckou Keita on kora and Gustave Ovalles on percussion.

I recently spoke with Sosa at length about his musical influences, African music, the clave, and more, for an interview which will appear here in “Ritmo Caliente” in an upcoming column. Stay tuned…


Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….

Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at







By Mark Towns 

Imagine the world’s largest music festival — a multi-day event featuring music royalty milling about among the masses, impromptu celebrity music jams, random performances by jaw-droppingly awesome unknown music artists, secret unadvertised celebrity music shows, out-of-this world new inventions in the form of guitars, amps, drums, lights, and all kinds of musical gear made in every shape, color, texture, and size — a phantasmagoria of musical sights, sounds, and characters representing every genre and every musical era, assembling for 4 days every year in sunny southern California. Although not technically a “festival,” this is NAMM, or so it seemingly is to some. To others, it’s an out-of-control debacle, a place ostensibly designed for B2B music trade transactions, but instead, overrun with non-money-spending gawkers and barbarians.

Whatever one’s perception of NAMM is, the annual winter music products trade show is a raging success, based on numbers, anyway. 2018 NAMM boasted record-setting attendance metrics, hosting 115,085 registered industry professionals viewing 7000 brands among the nearly 2000 exhibiting companies. And this year’s event is on track to top those numbers.

NAMM is free to attend for all credentialed and/or invited attendees, but is technically not open to musicians who have no connection to a NAMM member company. Musician attendees must officially be either a sponsored artist, working for a NAMM member company, or be performing at the event. In other words, a musician is not eligible to receive a NAMM pass just because they’re a musician. Every year, there are many instances of “name” musicians who are unable to attend NAMM because they don’t fall into any of the above eligibility categories, and cannot get a coveted pass.

So although it’s ironic that NAMM, the world’s largest music event, is not open to musicians per se, the place is naturally swarming with musicians anyway, and most of the buzz at the event is generated by star musician appearances, whether at scheduled autograph-signing events, private showcases, or just by virtue of seeing legends of music walking around, checking out booths on the convention floor.

What is the NAMM experience like for a musician? To some, attending NAMM is a dreaded chore — a necessary evil. To others, NAMM is an exciting annual highlight which has spawned new musical collaborations, endorsement deals, and innovative product discoveries.

For more insight on the NAMM experience from the musicians’ point of view, I spoke with several prominent music artists who are also regular NAMM attendees. Here is their perspective on NAMM, in their own words:


Tiki Pasillas — drummer, percussionist (Arturo Sandoval), artist endorser: Gretsch, Zildjian, Vic Firth, Remo, KickPort, Drumdots, Cympads, EarthWorks Mics

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Tiki Pasillas: I go to NAMM to sometimes perform for my endorsers, catch up with friends, see new players and products, as well as network. We have to constantly re-invent ourselves to keep up and continue our craft/living.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
 I like to see and try new products, and get new contacts, endorsements

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Pasillas:  I get a bit tired of the constant Hollywood fake people. Some are good, but a handful are just overwhelming at times.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Pasillas:  Performing with world class players like Giovanni Hidalgo, for example.

Brent Fischer — Grammy-winning bassist, producer, composer, arranger, clinician, director of the Clare Fischer Ensembles, TEC Awards presenter, NAMM educational panelist, artist endorser

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Brent Fischer: Because my manager tells me to! Seriously though, it’s the ultimate way to keep in touch with music industry pros from around the world.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Fischer:  It’s like the proverbial box of chocolate: you never know what you’re going to get. You can plan out your schedule, but so many interesting things will happen along the way that you’ll constantly have to reinvent your day. You never know what will happen until you are actually there. It’s kind of like going to the zoo and a theme park all at the same time.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Fischer:  I wouldn’t mind if it were a week long with less activities per day to allow for down time (of course, I can imagine there are some exhibitors who wish the exact opposite). It would also be nice if hotels didn’t get “conventionitis” and raise rates so much.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Fischer: Giving concerts for a sea of musicians from every corner of the globe. It’s like reverse touring: Instead of us traveling the world, the world comes to see us.



Eddie Resto — bassist, artist endorser

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Eddie Resto: As a professional musician/educator, I feel it’s a vital part of my profession to be connected with musicians and the musical instrument manufacturing industry.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Resto: Being able to shake hands with the people who support me by providing excellence in the area of instrument and accessories manufacturing that are essential to achieve my musical endeavors.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Resto: Honesty, I can’t find a thing I dislike about the NAMM experience. If you have a problem with huge crowds of excited people from all over the globe that have this huge grand thing in common, to make great music and to manufacture excellent instruments and products — if this is the thing that makes you steer clear of the NAMM show, then do not attend. This is the only thing that bonds us all together as a species, music! This is special, especially after these tumultuous years we have experienced across the globe.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Resto: Being invited by Kenny Kirkland (RIP) and Jeff “Tain” Watts to perform as an Afro Latin Jazz trio, not aware the audience in attendance was around 2,000 people. The electricity that I experienced in that impromptu performance lives in me to this day.





Jamie Kime — guitarist, product demonstrator

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Jamie Kime: Typically, I’m working at the show in some capacity. demoing for a company at their booth, etc. I’m a native of Southern California and have lived here all my life, so my first NAMM show was in 1983. The novelty of going and being there wore off many years ago. If I’m not working/getting paid to be there, I will more than likely not attend.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Kime: Seeing and reconnecting with friends and colleagues from around the world once a year, who make the trip into town for the convention, that I don’t get to see on a regular basis.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Kime: It feels to me like the concept of a huge trade show like NAMM has become a somewhat obsolete one. I envision all of these music industry folks and retailers (the vast majority of whom live somewhere far away from here, where winters are very real!) paying their NAMM dues as a sort of “vacation fund” so every January they can escape the treacherous weather and come to Southern California where they can party and get crazy under the guise of working.

Also, for a show that is supposed to be closed to the public and open only to members of the trade, it seems that the majority of the people who attend the show and wander through the booths really have no business being there. It used to be easy to get surplus badges and credentials with fake names (“Stu Pidass”, “Ben Dover”, “Dick Gozinya”, etc.) to give out to friends and guests that didn’t otherwise have any company affiliations. IDs were never checked and security was extremely lax. 9/11 put an end to all that. Personally, I wasn’t disappointed about that extra security byproduct, because I already felt the show was way too overcrowded with end-user types and browsers who took away precious time and resources from those working in the booths. “Finally, the people who are there to work, will be able to interface with actual buyers, reps, and dealers – without having to be crushed half to death by tourists and their girlfriends looking for photos ops!” I imagined. However, it seems like it’s only gotten worse. As someone who works at a booth almost every year, I can honestly say that throughout the weekend, a good 90% of my interactions are with end users and time-wasters asking uninformed questions, or telling me that they have “this device”, or “that pedal” and how much they love it (or hate it), but are we going to ever come out with “x, y, or z??” Then, they will want something for free — swag of any kind, a t-shirt, or even a guitar pick. A guitar pick! Anything! As long as it’s free.

Those who are there in a legitimate capacity generally know the products and don’t need to see them at the show (we have internet for that now). Nor do they need to hear them, because they can’t. It’s impossible to hear anything at NAMM.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Kime:: Any fond NAMM memories I have are most definitely from many years ago, when I was a bit more starry-eyed. Attending the show had yet to become a drudgery-filled chore. It was an exciting opportunity to glimpse into a world that was, at that time, still full of glamour and mystique. One memory that stands out to me – this would have been sometime in the late 1980’s(??) – was somehow getting tickets to a big jam event sponsored by Kramer Guitars (and perhaps another manufacturer or two). It was at the old Celebrity Theatre (a theatre in the round, that is now part of a church facility). The hosts and MCs for the event were Leslie West and Sam Kinison. I can’t remember everyone who played but I do recall in addition to some major star power, it was a pretty good lineup of guitarists who had some traction at the time – and were Kramer artists. Paul Dean from Loverboy, Jon Butcher, Dweezil Zappa (who I would go on to work with many years later), and Eddie Van Halen! It was everything you would expect a NAMM show jam event to be in the 80’s: drunken, loose, sloppy, unorganized, and debaucherous. But it didn’t matter because Sam Kinison was in top form, Leslie West did “Mississippi Queen,” and Eddie was there, a few feet away from me, playing “Wild Thing” (with Kinison on vocals) – when such things had meaning.


Ronald Bruner, Sr. – Jazz drummer, composer, artist endorser: Tama, Zildjian

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Ronald Bruner: I love new gadgets and stuff as it relates to musicians.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Bruner:It’s an annual gathering of friends and vendors that my wife and I, as well as my children (drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr., bassist Thundercat, keyboardist Jameel) have grown to appreciate over the years.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Bruner: I can’t say there’s really anything I dislike about it. I’ve gotten used to the crowds.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Bruner: Getting cursed out by Jazz drummer Tony Williams around 1994, I think. He was autographing photos at the DW booth for fans that day. I handed him the photo, and he asked who to make it out to. As he did that, I said to him “Man, I really appreciate your work. Would you happen to know where I could get a copy of Lifetime Turn It Over?” He exploded and yelled at me as I stood there with my 11 year old son and said “Do I look like a ****ing record store to you?” which alerted everyone in the near vicinity at DW that somebody pissed off the artist, and they were staring at me. I grit my teeth, stared him in the eye, preparing to shove the picture in his face. After about 8 to 10 awkward seconds, he apologized, and we just walked away. And no, I didn’t keep the picture.


Dave Askren – Jazz guitarist, artist endorser: Eastman Guitars & Woodwinds

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Dave Askren: To play at Eastman.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Askren:It’s a great time to see and catch up with friends/musicians from out of town, and also see new products.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Askren: Most of what goes on at NAMM is a “necessary evil.” I mean, we musicians do need to realize that is IS the merchants’ show! But although they have been working on this, the excessive noise IS still a problem. A lot of music is way too loud, so that you can barely hear music at a given booth more than a few feet away.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Askren: A few years back, I was walking down a sparsely populated aisle. I saw a guy approaching me, by himself – who looked like… “Keith?” It was Keith Emerson, and nobody even recognized him any more! He was not the most famous person I’ve met at a NAMM, but weird that he was almost an unknown!



Aaron Serfaty — drummer, percussionist, artist endorser: Zildjian, Vic Firth, Remo, LP

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Aaron Serfaty: It’s always fun to see new instruments and colleagues I get to see once a year.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Serfaty: I enjoy the smaller manufacturers. They seem to have a level of passion for their instruments that seems to be missing from the larger, more corporate companies.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Serfaty: Some attendees seem to think that it’s a showcase for their talent, and that the louder they play, the more attention they’ll get from companies. The opposite is true, and they become sound pollution really quickly.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Serfaty:: Striking a conversation with (legendary jazz drummer) Ed Thigpen while in line to buy ice cream.




Oscar Hernandez — Grammy-winning pianist, arranger, leader of Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Oscar Hernandez: I go to NAMM to see what’s new in the music world as it pertains to gear and music equipment and any new technology that is featured that year.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Hernandez: It’s like a huge candy store for musicians. Other than the crowds and traffic, what’s not to like? I get to meet new people in our business, and I also get to see people I have not seen and would not see other than for NAMM.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Hernandez: The amount of people you have to deal with, and the traffic.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Hernandez: I don’t have particular one — they’re all pretty similar.




Jason Miles — keyboardist, composer, producer

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
JM: It’s really very simple. You want to go and check out the new gear happening. In my case, it would be synthesizers, keyboards, software, and recording equipment. And then the other side is to go and see old friends that I’ve known for many years and catch up. You never know who you going to bump into, and in my case, that’s why I need a couple of days to absorb the show. I have long relationships with many people, and it’s good to catch up and tell them what you been up to.

Mark Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
JM: First coming from the East Coast, you’re hoping that you’re going to catch a few days of nice weather in southern California in January. There’s nothing I like more than taking a lunch break and going to one of the food trucks and hanging out in front of the convention center on a nice sunny day. You’re going to get a chance to see new equipment and talk to people who are responsible for it so you can really get the lowdown on it. You also get a chance to do hands-on with various things you may be looking at but haven’t had a chance to really check out. And I will come back to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and for a short period of time being in the middle of all the chaos that is NAMM.

Mark Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
JM: I would say it is what it is when you walk into that place. But when I leave my house at 5 AM in the morning to go to the airport to get on the plane to go to California, and then rent a car and drive, and all the other stuff that you go through, it is trying and sometimes frustrating, and you ask yourself, “Why exactly am I coming to this lunacy that is NAMM?” I also have a distaste for phonies, and there are a lot of them there. It comes with the territory and the business. Otherwise, on a pure basis, no complaints.

Mark Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
JM: Well there are different ones. From just a short while ago, having a great sushi dinner with the guys from Sennheiser at one of my favorite restaurants out there was memorable. The time I hadn’t seen a friend for many years, and we wanted to go out to dinner, and the restaurants all had two hour waits. I remembered an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David couldn’t get into a restaurant, and ended up giving the hostess a $20, and got a table. I went over to the hostess and said “I know you can get something done,” and slipped her a $20. She got three guys to set up a table with a heater And, bam, we were eating dinner and conversing within 10 minutes. I would also say that when I met Dominec Milano from Keyboard magazine at NAMM in 1987 — he said that the magazine wanted to cover me, and they would be in touch, and that was the first time I got in Keyboard magazine with a nice article.

Angelo Metz — Brazilian/Jazz guitarist, vocalist, artist endorser: Gamechanger Audio

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Angelo Metz: Mostly for the work and the people.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Metz: It’s a fun gig and you get to see friends from out of town and lots of big-shot musicians. I also like to check out new gear.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Metz: The noise level is high, then the noise police is annoying, and the gigantic size of it. Too many booths with cheap Chinese stuff. The food is bad and expensive.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Metz: Meeting and greeting with George Benson and Ted Greene.




Jesus Florido — violinist, composer, artist endorser: Yamaha, D’Addario, Your Heaven Audio, Wood Violins, Airturn, Ultimate Ears, Positive Grid, Xotic Effects

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Jesus Florido: I attend NAMM mostly to support my endorsers, network, and thank them for the support they give me year round. It is also a yearly family reunion too, because of all of my fellow artists that attend. We get to hang out and plan gigs and network. NAMM is a “going to Mecca” of sorts.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Florido: My favorite thing is that I can get business done easily since everybody is there. I can plan meetings and get together with most people I need to see to do business with. And also to see my friends that I would not see normally unless we coincide on the road.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Florido: Well, in the late 90s and early 00s, it was too much of a zoo — too many people that didn’t need to be there. But now it’s more controlled — still a zoo, but well worth it.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Florido: I have a lot of these through the years, but one that stands out is the first time I met Jim Marshall and he remembered that custom Marshall amp that they built for me. He said “Yes, you’re the fiddle player that plays on one of my full stacks. You’re a badass!”




Munyungo Jackson — percussionist, composer, artist endorser: LP, Remo, Paiste, Vic Firth

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Munyungo Jackson: I go to NAMM to first of all to give love and respect to the great companies I endorse. And of course, to hang out with the crews who run these companies, develop the new gear, and tell new jokes!

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
Jackson:  To check out some new instruments from some of the other companies. Latin Percussion is ahead of the game, and they let us know what new instruments are going to the stores before we even think about NAMM for the next year. But the other thing is to hang out and run into fellow musicians from all over the world who’ve taken their time to make it to this great musical event.

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Jackson:  The parking is ridiculously expensive.

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Jackson:  We did a 2-night Zoom tribute that Nate Watts (Stevie Wonder’s bass player MD) emceed. One night was with Sly Stone, the other with El DeBarge, over 5 years ago. It was crazy fun.



Winston Byrd — Jazz trumpeter, artist endorser, Cannonball Trumpets

Mark Towns: What brings you to NAMM?
Winston Byrd: To represent the company I work with, Cannonball Trumpets.

Towns: What do you like best about NAMM?
 The atmosphere. It’s a fun gathering!

Towns: Anything you dislike about NAMM?
Byrd: Not really anything. It’s always been a good time!

Towns: What is your most memorable NAMM experience?
Byrd: Every year is memorable in one way or another.


Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….

Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at




By Mark Towns

Ok, your possum is not dead. Neither is Jazz, nor is Latin Jazz, although it may seem at times that they’re playing possum. The above is an example of an “embellished non-story” – a frivolous, gossipy, silly attempt at attention-grabbing. To stir up more interest, maybe what Jazz needs is to jump on the sensationalist headline bandwagon. Jazz celebrity gossip anyone? Latin Jazz clickbait? It works for the rest of the entertainment industry. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?

Here are some sample story headlines sure to attract attention from Jazz fans and non-fans alike:

The Shocking Truth About Jazz Musicians

Someone Gave Some Kids Some Sun Ra Records – You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

12 Things Latin Jazz Musicians Don’t Want You to Know – Number 10 Will Astonish You

Herbie Hancock’s Skin Care Secrets Finally Revealed

How a Single Bass Solo May Have Gotten An Entire Venue Shut Down

Why Everyone is Secretly Afraid of Jazz

16 Unethical Jazz Hacks You Won’t Learn In School – Number 14 Will Blow Your Mind!

9 Things No One Knew About Eddie Palmieri – Number 7 Will Astound You

Eyes Wide Shut: Here’s Why You DON’T Want To Know What Goes Into Creating Those Jazz Solos

14 Reasons Pop Stars Hate Jazz – Number 9 Will Shock You

Pat Metheny Terrified As Daughter Begins Dating Man Raised On His Music

Jazz Star Ends Song on a Major Triad – No One Expected What Happened Next

5 Ways Smooth Jazz Artists Use Reverb to Trick You Into Liking a Song

What Latin Jazz Can Teach Us About Toenail Fungus

Wayne Shorter Throws Shade at Kenny G Over Million Dollar Insurance Policy on His Hair

His Band Crossed the Clave – You Won’t Believe What This Latin Jazz Band Leader Did Next

21 Reasons to Hate Jazz – Number 19 Will Petrify You




Here are some recommended upcoming highlights:

Sunset Concerts at the Skirball – free World Music shows Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. Featuring Peter Mawanga (August 2); The Marías (August 9); Ranky Tanky (August 16); Kishi Bashi (August 23); and Gili Yalo (August 30).

LACMA Latin Sounds Series – free Latin Jazz & World Music shows Saturdays 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Featuring Fischer Latin Jazz Quintet: A West Coast Jazz Salute to Clare Fischer and Cal Tjader (August 4); Mongorama (August 11); La Victoria & Farofa (August 18); Los Jaraneros (August 25); and Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca (September 1).

Subaru Summer Jazz Nights at Hollywood & Highland Center Central Courtyard, featuring Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band (Tuesday, August 7, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.), followed by a Latin Jazz all-star jam at Cabo Wabo Cantina (level 4 at Hollywood & Highland Center, 9:30 p.m. – Midnight) featuring Mark Towns Latin Jazz Band with Oscar Hernandez, Tiki Pasillas, Ross Schodek, Diana Purim, and special guest artists.

Upstairs at Vitello’s features Brazilian Jazz by Teka & Newbossa Trio on Wednesday, August 8.

Blue Whale features Latin Jazz by Andy Sanesi & Blanco Diablo y Los Gringos Con Clave on Sunday, August 5.

Baked Potato features great Jazz Fusion almost every night, including notable upcoming shows by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express (Friday, August 10 and Saturday August 11); Frank Gambale (Friday, August 17 and Saturday, August 18); and Jeff Lorber Fusion (Thursday, August 23 and Friday, August 24).

Catalina Jazz Club features Latin Jazz pianist Daniel Amat (Sunday, August 5); Super Jazz featuring Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, Munyungo Jackson, Alex Acuna, Abe Laboriel, Russell Ferrante, and Rickey Woodard (Wednesday, August 15); and Flamenco Fusion guitar masters Strunz & Farah (Friday, August 17 and Saturday, August 18).

The Long Beach Jazz Festival takes place Friday through Sunday August 10-12, with a stellar lineup including Jonathan Butler (Friday, August 10), Marcus Miller and Poncho Sanchez (Saturday, August 11), and Stanley Clarke, Randy Crawford, and Kirk Whalum (Sunday, August 12).

The Jazz Bakery presents Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry and The Afro-Cuban Jazz Quintet at the Moss Theater on Saturday­ August­ 4, with a hot band featuring Yunior Terry (bass), Manuel Valera (piano), Michael Rodriguez (trumpet), and Obed Calvaire (drums)


Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….

Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at



By Mark Towns

Eyedentity is the musical collaboration of wife-and-husband team Diana Purim and Krishna Booker. Diana is the daughter of Brazilian Jazz legends, singer Flora Purim and percussionist/drummer Airto Moreira. Singing in both Portuguese and English, Diana sounds very much like her famous mom, especially when singing Brazilian-style wordless vocal improvisations, first popularized by Flora in the 70’s. Booker, who raps in English and is a master Brazilian percussionist, is the son of Jazz bassist Walter Booker, and is also Herbie Hancock’s godson and Wayne Shorter’s nephew.

Launched Image of CD coverin 1997, Eyedentity’s music incorporates elements of Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop, Acid Jazz, Funk, R&B, Afro-Brazilian, and Latin Jazz, taking the listener on an eclectic journey from the Brazilian favelas to outer space, to points in between. Featuring an exciting band of phenomenal musicians, Eyedentity’s fusion of styles from around the globe takes Brazilian Jazz and the sounds of their famous progenitors to a new level.


Eyedentity’s musical journey continues with the May, 2018 release of their new album, Many Bodies, One Mind, featuring Diana and Krishna at the top of their game, and includes a star-studded cast of friends and family, with Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Airto Moreira, Justo Almario, and Carlinhos Pandeiro De Ouro making guest appearances.


I spoke recently with Diana and Krishna about their new album, their musical upbringing, Latin Jazz, and more.

Mark Towns: How did you learn to play music?

Diana: I first learned to sing watching and listening to my parents on tour and in the studio. I later learned to sing and play by ear, imitating the artists I loved and studying every nuance and inflection of every melody and accent–putting my hands on the piano and hammering out what I was hearing in my head. I had a natural propensity for harmony, so I was able to recreate the things I was hearing with relative ease, but It takes a lot more practice to coordinate the simultaneous playing and singing.

Krishna: I learned how to play music mostly by ear, although I did study music in middle and high school (trumpet, drums). I was always fortunate enough to grow up around the very best of Jazz, Brazilian, and Fusion musicians, being privy to jam sessions and shows. Also fascinated with Hip Hop culture, I began to beatbox for fun after being exposed to the likes of Doug E Fresh and the Fat Boys. Getting my hands on the latest drum machine and recording technology became an obsession. Herbie Hancock would hand down his equipment to me when he had to make room for the latest prototype of the latest “thing.” My uncle, Wayne Shorter, would also hand down and even buy brand new equipment for me which helped hone my knowledge and skills of composing and producing music immensely.

LA Jazz Scene: What musical situations have you been involved in that stand out in your mind as being the most memorable or satisfying?

Diana: Any time I am on stage with Airto and Flora is amazing. I particularly love the big festival gigs with lots of people. Last December in Brazil when we were touring for the release of Airto’s latest album, Aluê, My mother was in the audience watching and listening to me sing a McCoy Tyner song called “Search For Peace,” which she recorded on my favorite album of hers called Stories To Tell back in the mid 1970’s. There are so many other memorable musical situations… I love the projects I did with Brian “B+” Cross and Miguel Atwood Ferguson. Those were two shows from the “Timeless” music series, one with Brazilian composer and arranger, Arthur Verocai and another called “Suite For Ma Dukes,” which was a tribute to the life works of J Dilla and the original music he sampled from. It was the first time I had the privilege of singing with an orchestra. Most recently, we had the honor of being invited to share the stage a few times with some of my favorite people, Preservation Hall Jazz Band. We played with them a couple of times for Mardi Gras and also at SFJazz where Preservation Hall Foundation was being honored for their outstanding achievements in music and in the NOLA community. Its a rare and amazing thing when music and the people you are creating it with make you feel so euphoric and wonderful–where the sound you create together moves everyone within earshot to ecstatic joy.

Krishna: Performing with Sergio Mendes at the Hollywood Bowl alongside the likes of Q-Tip, John Legend, India Arie, Herb Alpert and Loni Hall was a thrill for sure (2006). Performing at the Preservation Hall with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans was an honor(2017). Performing with Diana in Sao Paulo, Brazil with our own band (Eyedentity) with Wah Wah Watson as our special guest was an accomplishment I was very proud of(2013). Performing with Flora Purim and Airto at Ronnie Scott’s in London will be one of my all time greatest accomplishments as well (2003-2005).

LA Jazz Scene:How do you define Latin Jazz?

Diana: To me, Latin Jazz is the “Jazzification” of “Latin” music or the “Latinification” of Jazz. In my mind, its the traditional music of Latin based, Spanish speaking countries interpreted with complex Jazz voicing and instrumentation, and can also be the other way around, where traditional Jazz is interpreted with a Latin feel, rhythm, percussion, and instrumentation. I’m not exactly sure if Brazilian music is considered to be under the “Latin Music” umbrella. For some reason, I feel like Brazil has created its own unique vibe which sets it apart from other Latin-style music. When people hear Brazilian music, they don’t think “Hey, that’s Latin music,” they just call it Brazilian music.

LA Jazz Scene: How do you balance tradition with innovation in your performances?

Diana: We like to use electronic elements both in our recorded music and our live playing. However, we prefer to create an organic musical foundation with live instruments being played by actual musicians. Then, we use the electronic elements as an accent to accompany and enhance the live band. Even the electronic elements are almost always hand triggered by a human, like playing percussion instead of being run on a sequence all the way through the song where the live musicians are being held prisoner by the backing tracks. Also, when we are composing, we like to marry traditionally-themed music with a contemporary and even slightly urban and youthful perspective, often using more complex Jazz and ethnic/folkloric style changes under modern style melodies and poetry.

Krishna: To me it’s really all about the music sounding and feeling good! If it doesn’t sound or feel good, then you haven’t properly balanced the two–it’s that simple. Once you’ve reached the phase of it sounding and feeling good, you’ve achieved the balance you’re looking for. This balance is a very individually-gauged process. I truly believe that if you base it on anything else, you’ll be torturing yourself unnecessarily, because when it comes to that, there really is no right or wrong.

LA Jazz Scene: Is there a particular artist, genre, or composer who inspires you to create new music, or to take your own playing to another level?

Diana: This is a tough question, because so many different genres and amazing artists influence and inspire me at different times in my life for different reasons. Aside from my family, there are several who deserve honorable mention, but for the sake of answering the question, I will go with Bjork. She is fearless and unique, and has utmost respect for the music, its origins and its possibilities.

Krishna: Also tough one for me–so many! But if I had to choose, I would have to say Bob Marley. I love the music he made and the reasons he made it. I’ve always loved his ability to have everybody singing along with him to very politically-driven songs, but having the listener feel likes it’s a party even though the very clear message was delivered. Great respect for that ability.

LA Jazz Scene: Do Jazz artists have a responsibility to entertain, or should the music speak for itself?

Diana: Each situation calls for a different position on this question. When it comes down to it, we are entertainers and, by nature, our craft does just that. However, the way each individual is or isn’t entertained is subjective. What turns me on may not turn you on in the same way or at all. And then there are those moments when musicians are playing together without an audience or for a very small crowd when they are playing for themselves and for each other. The music speaks for itself and that in itself is entertaining to some. Ultimately, to me, both aspects are equally important.

Krishna: There’s no choice but to seek balance on this subject. Being the best entertainer doesn’t necessarily make you the best musician, and being the best musician doesn’t necessarily make you the best entertainer. Ultimately, in order to endure, you’ll need to embrace both responsibilities. How much of each you’ll embrace will shape all of this.

LA Jazz Scene:Do you think there is an inverse relationship between musical complexity and music popularity?

Diana: In general, I do believe that there is an inverse relationship between musical complexity and music popularity, but it isn’t the rule. I think it depends on the culture of the people listening and also on other things. There are elements in more complex music that a trained listener will be able to identify and appreciate on a deeper level, such as odd time signatures, chromatic and lydian melodies, unusual harmonic voicing, but less experienced listeners can also just listen and enjoy what they are hearing without dissecting the music. Music reflects life. People listen to music for different reasons–to console themselves, to put out pent-up energy, anger and emotion, to celebrate, to motivate and inspire moods. These are basic human elements that everyone feels, and the music that accompanies and stimulates these elements will always be more popular with the masses.

LA Jazz Scene: What would it take to increase the audience for Latin Jazz?

Diana: It’s hard to know for sure, but maybe the answer lies with the new generation of players being brought up on the scene today. I sometimes feel like the “old school” mentality can be a bit exclusive, and a lot of the keepers of the knowledge and traditions are purists and somewhat closed minded in regard to the evolution of the art form. In Jazz, we have people like Kamasi Washington, Trombone Shorty, Jacob Collier, and Esperanza Spalding who are working hard to bridge the generation gap with honor and respect for the origins of the music, creating interest and inspiring people who had never been exposed to Jazz before. They make Jazz accessible and welcoming to a wider demographic of people. Maybe if Latin Jazz follows suit and reaches out more with an open mind and a greater willingness to collaborate, it can attract a new and wider audience.

Krishna: As with all music and movements, its a combination of the right promotion, outreach, willingness to adapt, and definitely LUCK!

LA Jazz Scene: What advice would you give someone just starting out in music?

Diana: Hang out with the old guys, learn how to read and write music, learn the social and political history behind the music and your favorite artists and pay specific attention to the stories they tell with their music. Find a common emotional thread between your story and theirs to help you play the music with more passion and authenticity. Learn the language, immerse yourself, find a connection, then practice and listen a lot and enjoy the process.

LA Jazz Scene: What label is your new album on?

Krishna: It’s a self-release. Our label is Eyedentitymusic.

LA Jazz Scene: Who plays on it?

Krishna: Legends like Herbie Hancock, the late George Duke, Airto Moreira, Justo Almario, Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Carlinhos Pandeiro De Ouro, Pete Lockett, and many more talented musicians and singers.

LA Jazz Scene: How does this release compare with your previous releases?

Krishna: This release is the first one to ever capture attention outside of our camp since being signed and releasing our first CD in 2000. We have an effective manager and publicist making things work a lot differently than they have before.

LA Jazz Scene: Where was it recorded:

Krishna: Most of it was recorded in our garage in Studio City. Most of the vocals were recorded at EMP Studio in Valley Village. “Tombo In 7/4” was recorded at CA Studio in Oakland. Justo Almario was recorded at Dennis Moody Studios in LA. Some bass and other things were recorded at De Santanna Studios in North Hollywood.

LA Jazz Scene: How many songs did you record before choosing the ones that ended up on the album?

Krishna: We recorded a few new songs before realizing we had some previously unreleased music that couldn’t go unheard. We revamped the style of those tracks to fit this release. We also found a gem of a track that George Duke played on, making this release even more important and special than we could’ve ever imagined.

LA Jazz Scene: How will it be distributed?

Krishna: Through Tunecore, it will be on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc. Links will be available on our website ( www.eyedentitymusic.com) once the album is released on 5/18/18. The first single is already available.

LA Jazz Scene: Are you planning to do any touring with the group who played on the album?

Krishna: We so wish we had a budget to support that. The problem is, there are so many great musicians who played that there wouldn’t be enough space on the bus. We are assembling bands in the cities we plan to tour in. For instance, June 7th in San Francisco at The SF Jazz Center during the 36th SF Jazz Festival, we have Gary Brown on bass, Celso Alberti on drums, and Frank Martin on keyboards–all residents of the Bay Area. In LA, it will be a different band, and so on.

LA Jazz Scene: Is there an album release event?

Krishna: Yes! Saturday May 19th, 2018 at The Virgil in Los Angeles at 8:00 p.m.–our official release party!

Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….

Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at