This popular and dynamic group plays str aight-ahead jazz. Its audience consists of those discerning people who love and appreciate this music and recognize it as America's own indigenous art form and gift to the world.
Ron Kobayashi (Piano) is a performer, recording artist, independent record label owner and educator. Ron has performed with Mel Torme, Margaret Whiting, Peter Frampton, Kenny Burrell and other major artists. He has performed for President Bill Clinton in 1992 and has been the music director of the Hollywood Diversity Awards for many years. Ron is a faculty member at the Orange County High School of the Arts and Biola University.
Ann Patterson (Alto, Tenor, Baritone Saxophones & Flute) is a composer, arranger, recording artist and educator. She is a recipient of the prestigious Jazz Educator Award, presented by the Los Angeles Jazz Society. She has been the leader of the all female 17-piece big band, Maiden Voyage, for over 30 years. Ann has recorded and/or toured with many renowned artists such as Ray Charles, Etta James, Sheena Easton, Lou Rawles, Melissa Manchester, The Temptations and Neil Sedaka.
Rickey Woodard (Tenor Saxophone) is a Concord recording artist , composer and arranger. Rickey has performed, toured and recorded with The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra ; Diana Krall, Gladys Knight, Michael Buble, Paul Anka , Ray Charl es, BB, King, Horace Silver, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and many other major artists.
Carl Saunders (Trumpet) is the composer, recording artist, educator and leader of the Carl Saunders Be Bop Big Band. He has recorded and/or toured with Stan Kenton, John Williams , Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Robert Goulet , Harry James, Si Zentner and many other major artists.
Dick Weller (Drums) is a composer, ar ranger, recording artist and educator . He has performed with Mike Stem, Bobby Lyle, Diane Schur, Sue Raney, Jack Sheldon, Bobby Shew, Tierney Sutton, Bob Sheppard, Bob Florence, Alfonso Johnson, Fred Hersch, Scott Colley and many other notable artists. He is an adjunct faculty member at California State Univer sity, Northridge.
Andrea Miller (Vocals) is a composer and recording artist. She has performed with Llew Matthews, Luther Hughes, Paul Kreibich, Mark Massey and many others. She has opened for Al Jarreau and performs at such notable venues as the Bayside Restaurant Newport Beach, Paris Hotel Las Vegas, Pelican Hill Newport Coast, Langham Hotel Pasadena, The Four Seasons, Regent Beverly Wilshire and the Knitting Factory. In addition to her own albums, Andrea has recorded with David Foster, Quincy Jones, Alan & Marilyn Bergman and as a session singer at Disney/Pixar, Paramount Pictures, NBC, ABC, EM!, Samsung, Warner Brothers and many othe rs.
Mike Peak (Bass & Leader) is a composer, arranger, record producer and educator. He is an advisory board member of the Vail Jazz Foundation and is the executive board member of the Orange County Musicians' Association, Local 7, AFM. He has performed with Joe Pass, John Chiodini, Llew Matthews, Gerald Clayton, Paul Kreibich, Dee Dee McNeil, Dick Weller, Sal Cracchiolo, Barbara Morrison, Yve Evans, Peggy Duquesne!, Carol Chaikin, Staci Rowles and many others. •
The Peak Experience Jazz Ensemble
Like so many folks who enjoyed all the music from the ‘70s I was aware of Joni Mitchell because I heard her on the radio, but I had never heard her perform in a concert. The ‘70s were an especially creative and lucky time for artists to create a fan following, to experiment with new sounds because there were so many genres to enjoy. Even though the Beatles and The Rolling Stones were very popular there was enough variety for everyone. The music scene was wide open.
Joni Mitchell followed her own path, writing and recording a lot of original and memorable tunes in her very distinctive voice. Kiki Ebsen is a singer with a wide range of experience as a musician and vocalist. The musicians who accompanied her on this evening were excellent: Grant Geissman-sitar & guitar, Terry Wollman-guitars, Steven Lawrence-bass and drummer Matt Starr. Ebsen used an electric keyboard in front of the audience.
The musicians dug right in with “Help Me,” as Ebsen captured the spirit of Mitchell’s unique voice. The band members were expressive and impressive. The room was full of fans and the y responded immediately with lots of applause. A great start by everyone on stage. Starr set a strong backing for “Just Like This Train” as Ebsen sang a pretty song that was new to me. Ebsen played a guitar on “Chelsea Morning” with a sweet, lilting voice. A very fine rendition, performed with care. “You Turn Me On Like A Radio” had a nice down home feel. The audience was quite pleased with the group and I was getting a fine education about Mitchell’s amazing talent as a songwriter.
“Case of You” is a purely delicious song that Ebsen sang beautifully. The three guitars backed her expertly. The song sounded sturdy and solidly impressive. Starr’s drumbeat was steady, insistent. Ebsen’s voice was haunting as she sang the poetic lyrics. The audience was applauding with gusto all evening. This is one of those songs that will be remembered with fondness. “Black Crow” gave Wollman some space to rip through the tune at a faster tempo. Geissman’s powered his guitar with a burst of energy that sounded angry yet enticing. Talk about making an instrument “cry uncle.”
“Twisted” is a jazz classic that is a favorite for many singers. Ebsen sang with a sassy attitude. It Starts out “My analyst told me…….” which can only lead to trouble. Ebsen nailed it! She went to a grand piano to sing a lovely “Michael from Mountains.” The audience responded to all the songs Ebsen sang and the terrific musicians with a lot of enthusiasm. Ebsen was so brilliant at the piano for “Blond in the Bleachers.” She expresses different textures with just a few notes. Greissman added remarkable embellishments to his solo which was dynamic and interesting. The group ended with a powerful close. Another WOW!
“Both Sides Now” is a gorgeous song when Mitchell wrote and it continues to be a stunning gift of profound words. “Big Yellow Taxi” has the famous refrain “Pave paradise, put in a parking lot.” “Raised on Robbery” was humorous, fast moving, crazy zesty. Ebsen sang it with a loud, excited voice.
It was a great evening of honoring Joni Mitchell’s amazing career. Kiki Ebsen and the excellent sidemen were terrific, purely terrific!
Vocalist Elijah Rock has a new CD out titled Gershwin for My Soul so he began his show with “ ‘S Wonderful” with his warm, mellow voice. He had no problem projecting his voice in the Colony Theater. It has stadium seating in a semi circle so the sight lines are good, as was the audio quality.
Rock likes the classics, tunes that have been around for decades because they’re well written songs. He continued with “I Can’t Get Started” as he took his time. .Applause from the rapt audience made me think that maybe this audience was familiar with his show. I heard him once before this evening. He started “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and what a fine choice it was. It allowed him to slow down to tell a dramatic story. He was very comfortable on stage and it’s apparent that he loves the classic standards.
“Long Ago and Far Away” had a Latin feel as the drummer was able to enhance the tune with his steady accompaniment. I heard the bass clearly. Rock sang “Put on your dancing shoes…”Shall We Dance?” and danced a bit on stage. “Our Love is Here to Stay” was a strong choice, at a faster pace The band was terrific as Rock continued with a forceful voice for an upbeat version, with an upbeat ending. (arrangement by Kevin Toney). Rock and Toney wrote “Gershwin For My Soul” All the songs were classics given a fine jazz sensibility.
Rock sings the names of Russian composers in a rap style. Then he repeated the whole thing again at a heart stopping speed. The audience whooped and hollered with joy! He sang “When the world is still and calm I’ll answer you as best I can” then went into “Love Walked Right In.” “I’ve Got Plenty of Nothin’” was sung at a faster pace. He closed with “New York Springtime” a new tune which he did with a “big voice.” He sold this tune easily to an excited audience.
After the show I’m thinking; This was an excrement show. The Colony Theater is a good size, not too small or big. The sound is good, sight lines are good, the stage is big enough for a band on stage, the facilities are good and BEST OF ALL, parking is free! There’s plenty of parking below the theater, which is located at one end of the big mall in Burbank. Park in a large, well lighted space and walk a short way to the entrance of the Colony Theater. I recommend that musicians, singers, etc, call and ask for into about possible gigs there.Myrna Daniels
I made a big mistake but it turned out okay. I was going to see a singer but I got the date wrong. I walked upstairs at Vitello’s and I could hear music, real good music. I was shown to a seat near the stage. Singer Johnny Boyd was singing with so much gusto, backed by a quintet of hot musicians. They were all on fire working on a great jump song. The crowd was excited and cheering them on.
All the guys on stage were wearing retro suits and ties, looking very spiffy. The place was packed and these folks wanted to dance! Vitello’s is not a dance club so the audience had to applaud, whistle and cheer at the end of each rockin’ tune. Johnny Boyd looked swell in his retro suit and he sang every tune with gusto. His voice is rather unusual, very distinctive as he sang originals and some classics. Boyd was accompanied by Michael Elson-piano, Keith Brush-bass, Ji Tanzer-drums, Roberto Medina-congas and A.G.Donnaloia on guitar. They made a big noise you could hear as far as Winnetka!
Boyd piles it on with great enthusiasm on “Get Mad,” a very lively “Last Word.” Most songs are built for dancing and a couple or two try to dance in the aisles. “Swing Lover” was very effective. The band was cookin’ with “restraint.” Everyone on stage was determined to rock the audience into cheers and applause. “Bad, Bad Whiskey” was slow and dramatic. “Brandy” was so good, a fan favorite. Boyd’s voice did everything possible to sell this song. Easy for him, he sold it with ease as the audience cheered him on. They filled Vitello’s with great, happy applause. A boogie was another crowd pleaser, with a swipe of ragtime. Both drummers were excellent, perfect! The second set was just as eventful as the first. Boyd did an Elvis song, “You’re So Square” in a loose and rowdy way as he danced around the crowded stage. “Some Things Never Change” was a relaxed ballad, simple, yet powerful nonetheless. A nice solo from Donnaloia was very classy. “Pop’s at the Hop” was great as Boyd growls, throws in falsetto effects and sincerely rocks the tune. He called this indigo swing. He slowed things down with a ballad, “Maybe That’s the Way It Oughta Be .“
So, I made a mistake and came to Vitello’s on the wrong night. It turned out to be the right night to enjoy some out of town musicians and a singer who just won’t quit! Boyd in most likely well known to swing fans in L.A. so his CD’s on cliff dive records are probably easy to find. It’s all tons of fun!Myrna Daniels
Tribute to Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1000 Memories
Review by Harvey Barkan
The year 1917 was a very good year for the future of growth and artistry of jazz, as the Hollywood Bowl celebrated two births of that year, vocalist Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917) and trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie (October 21, 1917). This tribute concert was dubbed, "One Hundred Years, One Thousand Memories," and hosted by CCH Pounder, from the CBS series NCIS: New Orleans. This was a beautifully done tribute that virtually filled this enormous open-air venue on a gently sloping hillside, on a comfortably cool California summer evening.
Much has been said of Ella Fitzgerald as one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th Century. But very briefly, after a very difficult early life, at 17 she performed at the celebrated Amateur Night at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, winning the top prize at her first try! There was soon a hook-up with hard-driving Chick Webb and his outstanding house band at the famous Savoy Ballroom. Some said that "Chick and Ella electrified" that era of jazz. When she later recorded an unlikely novelty tune, "A Tisket, A Tasket," her ability to play with it, tease it, sing it, and present it with style, yielded her first major hit, and her future and reputation dramatically soared to be eventually known as "The First Lady of Song." Several singers at this tribute presented Ella's varied works in the different traditions she touched: Jane Monheit sang "Cheek to Cheek" "It's Alright With Me," and "Love For Sale" ; Lizz Wright, "The Way You Look Tonight", "Embraceable You", and "Caravan"; Andra Day, "But Not For Me", "Mack The Knife", and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"; and Leslie Odom, Jr., "Nice Work If You Can Get It", "Someone To Watch Over Me", and "Night And Day". At his introduction, Leslie Odom, Jr received audience acknowledgement for winning a Tony Award for singing as Aaron Burr in the Broadway presentation of "Hamilton." Impeccable accompaniment was provided by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Vince Mendoza, Conductor. Solos and features were by violinist Regina Carter on "Oh Lady Be Good" and "Judy" and others by Patrice Rushen (piano), Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar), Lewis Nash ((drums), and Peter Washington (bass). Sound was expertly and marvelously controlled, an impressive feat, especially considering the huge outdoor area of seating.
Ella Fitzgerald was a very unique musical talent and personality and performer, which we cannot realistically expect to be duplicated, even by such talented and dedicated artists performing "her songs" at this spectacular tribute. They performed at their individual highest levels, as themselves, as was appropriate to do. Over the course of a 60 year career, Ella released more than 200 albums, won 13 Grammys, sold 40 million albums, and received countless awards, medals, and honors. Earlier, I commented that 1917 was a good year for the future of jazz. Besides Ella and Dizzy, other notable 1917 births include: Helen Forrest, vocalist; Lena Horn, actress and vocalist; Les Elgart, trumpeter and bandleader; Laurindo Almeida, guitarist; Buddy Rich, drummer; Thelonius Monk, pianist, bandleader, and composer; James Heard, drummer; Sylvia Syms, vocalist; David Lambert, vocalist; Curley Russell, bassist; Jimmy Maxwell, trumpeter; and John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (included "just because!").
As soon as host CCH Pounder introduced the tribute set for John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, it was as if she she lit the fuse to blow the doors off, allowing a series of Dizzy's incredible tunes and sounds to escape and enthrall this large audience. Jazz writer Scott Yanow previously wrote, "One of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time, Gillespie was such a complex trumpet player that his contemporaries ended up with styles sounding similar to those of Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead of his, and it was not until Jon Faddis's emergence in the 1970's that Dizzy's style was successfully recreated." Dizzy, a close friend and mentor, declared of Faddis, "He's the best ever, including me!" For our good fortune this night at the Hollywood Bowl, that Jon Faddis referred to was not only here as conductor of "A Dizzy 100th Celebration All-Star Big Band," but he was also featured on trumpet playing Dizzy's compositions as Dizzy played them! What a giant treat that was! He was the perfect choice to play the music of his idol, with understanding and outstanding trumpet technique with unbelievable complexity. Faddis, both leading and soloing with the wonderful band was inspiring. It was a memorable event to hear him on"Algo Bueno" and "A Night In Tunisia". Alto saxophonist Charles McPherson heated-up the stage with his driving-hot "Groovin' High". In 1988, McPherson was featured in the soundtrack to the film "Bird," as the saxaphone voice of Charlie Parker in a number of scenes; drummer Lewis Nash, performing on both segments of of this evening's concert, featured in "Manteca"; and the renown pianist Billy Childs soloed, I believe, in "Things To Come", but not certain of the tune. All of his compositions were played from Dizzy's own charts.
Dizzy was very unique and individual in both his music and his person. His beret, goatee, and glasses became like his trademarks, as did his trumpet with it's damaged bell bent upwards at about a 45-degree angle, instead of the normal pointing straight ahead. Originally, this accidental damage was caused by dancers falling onto it while it was on a trumpet stand, during a January 6, 1953 birthday party for Dizzy's wife, Lorraine, at Snookie's, a club in Manhattan. The bending altered tone of the trumpet that Dizzy decided he liked after he had it straightened, so he ordered his first one factory-bent from the Martin Company. In April 1995, Dizzy's factory-bent Martin trumpet was auctioned at Christie's in New York City. The battered trumpet was sold to a Manhattan builder for $63,000, with the proceeds going to aid jazz musicians suffering from cancer.
This tribute set honored Dizzy's many accomplishments: astounding trumpeter, creative composer of tunes that became standards, and he, playing together with Charlie Parker in innovative jazz combos, moved jazz in a new direction. And it all started in rural Chersaw, South Carolina, when as a 12 year old self-taught trumpet player, he heard Roy Eldridge play on the radio, and young John Birks Gillespie became inspired to become a jazz musician later known as Dizzy Gillespie.
Guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli is so talented he could sit on a stool with only his guitar and easily captivate an audience. I have enjoyed him performing with a trio, quartet, with a big band in a large auditorium and he’s always great. He comes from greatness; his father is the famed guitarsist Bucky Pizzarelli so it’s no surprise that John is very talented.
The crowd in Catalina’s was ready and what a wonderful night it was for everyone. Pizzarelli was backed by Kevin Kanner on drums, Mike Carne on bass and pianist Conrad Escuche. “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” was given a soft samba feel, with small flourishes from Pizzarelli. He’s been doing this--playing excellent material with excellent backing for years and yet each show is special. With his soft, enticing voice “Agua de Beber” was so rich and soulful, bustling on a joyful path The aidience was so enthusiastic all evening, very happy to be listening to these first class musicians. The rhythm section was terrific as Pizzarelli scatted for a bit.
The surprise for me was Pizzarelli’s wife, Jessica Molasky, whom I have heard, is a very talented singer but I never heard her play a guitar. Their daughter, Madeline, also sings and plays guitar. So we were treated to an evening of exquisite music. Pizzarelli talked about “the other great singer from New Jersey,” Frank Sinatra. He was also enchanted by Brazilian music and recorded Sinatra and Jobim.
The group performed an exquisite version of “I Concentrate on You.” It was so peaceful and romantic, made richer by the two female voices. “One Note Samba” was just wonderful with Pizzarelli opening with a fast pace. To say the rhythm section was good, is not enough, they were also very spectacular! Pizzarelli jumps in with his fast scatting, sounding like another instrument. The audience was going wild, cheering and clapping. Another Jobim tune was sung by mom and daughter, an exquisite rendering. Jessica sang Joanie Mitchell’s “Help Me, I Think I’m Falling in Love With You” snd “Pave Paradise, Put Up a Parking Lot.” to hearty applause. The trio left the stage for a short break. Madeline’s lovely voice caressed “Just a Little Dream.” It clicked with the audience, who responded with hearty cheering and applause.
Jessica sang :“A Case of You” and her voice was gorgeous as she sings at a slower pace. The lyrics are wonderful and Jessica painted a lovely story. Pizzarelli’s voice is so musical when he scats that it does sound like another instrument. He recharges the energy in the room, the trio clearly heard. Drums, bass and piano were jumping with a fine display of down home jazz as the crowd hooted and hollered! Madiline began “Ginji” with a soft, whispery voice as the crowd applauded. Pizzarelli finished the night with a swinging “So Danco Samba.”
Before this night was over Pizzarelli went through his list of imitations of singers he does. He ended with a spot-on imitation of Billie Holliday! The house went nuts, cheering and clapping. What a great show, an exceptional night of music. Dad, Mom, Daughter--amazing!Myrna Daniels
Superb vocalist Jackie Ryan gave a splendid performance at Sunset Jazz Newport in Marriott’s Rose Gardens, Wednesday, August 9, 2017. The weather was once again perfect. Ryan and Saxophonist Rickey Woodard’s quintet performed exceedingly well with Quinn Johnson (piano), Chris Colangelo (bass) and Dean Koba (drums) rounding out the quintet.
The Rose Gardens at Marriott Hotel in Newport Beach is an outstanding place for outdoor jazz concerts during summer evenings. The audience for this concert was filled to capacity.
After introductions from Joe Rothman, Jackie Ryan came to the stage and began a great opener, “Welcome to The Club,” a superb number made famous by Nat King Cole (1959). Woodard and the trio gave her fine backing. Continuing, they performed a lovely ballad, “How Little We Know,” from an earlier time and part of the Great American Songbook, (1944), film, “To Have and Have Not.” I noticed the rhythm section was very well balanced for their musical duties. The audience was happily satisfied early on. Woodard always fits perfectly right into all the tunes. Colangelo’s bass solo was excellent. Ryan’s voice is clear, distinct and definite. She and Quinn performed a duo number by the great Michel Legrand, “Summer Me, Winter Me,” a highlight of the evening and a superb ballad.
Ryan grew up in a musical family surrounding with both parents being performers musically. There was always music in their home, giving her the interest and love of music, including jazz, a little later on growing up.
Ryan took a few moments to introduce, surprise guest vocalist, Shep Sheppard and his lovely wife Joy. Shep still performs regularly in the Orange County area and is now celebrating his 100th birthday! She and the quartet dedicated a special tune for Shep’s birthday, “Young at Heart.” The audience gave all of them a big round of applause.
They performed some more terrific numbers before the intermission: “Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” with tasty 8-bar breaks between Colangelo and Koba. Also, “Why Don’t You Do Right,” (1936 number recorded by Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman) and “Lover Come Back to Me” and “Slow Hot Wind,” and closing the first set, “To the Ends of the Earth,” another standout tune of the evening.
In set two the quartet played the fine standard, “My Shining Hour.” Woodard began wonderful choruses and the trio provided some of their best solos, including Quinn and Woodard sharing choruses and more rhythmic tradeoffs of 8-bar breaks between Colangleo and Koba. “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” written by Harry Woods (1934) and sung in the movie, Road House continued. Ryan sung this with all the fervor and passion needed for this beautiful number. Billie Holiday also recorded this one during her vibrant career. “The Gypsy in My Soul” was performed super well by all. It is a great vocalizing number. Pianist Johnson’s piano work was outstanding in this tune and other numbers, too.
Finishing this exceptional concert were “Estate,” “I Cried For You,” (Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love), “Siboney,” “You Go To My Head,” and closing with the fantastic “Caravan!” Drummer Dean Koba gave us a big show piece on his drumming solo work. During this last number (and in many others) Jackie Ryan dances to the music, adding much to her shows. As I stated in a previous review of Ryan, “she always dances to the music” and “her stage presence is excellent.”
The Sunset Newport Jazz audience happily gave a big standing ovation to Ryan, Woodard, Johnson, Colangelo and Koba for their superb performance.
There are a few more excellent concerts at Sunset Jazz Newport concluding, Wednesday, September 20, 2017.