As I drove along Cahuenga Boulevard looking for Theatre West, I thought I had possibly passed it. Then I spotted a huge painting of Judy Garland on the side of a building. That must be it! I found it so I turned around and parked across the street. I hurried and found a seat inside the medium (but perfect) sized theatre which was filled with Kiki Ebsen fans.
The staging was immediately interesting. Two very tall screens were on both sides of the stage. The musicians were at the back, center stage, Kiki Ebsen was sitting on a chair looking through a large trunk, She takes something out of the trunk and goes to the weathered looking piano on stage. She sings “Missing You.” The two extra large screens show her Dad, looking young, movie star handsome as she sings so tenderly. She goes back to the chair and continues to look in the trunk. “I liked pop/rock, Dad liked the Classics. Dad was a song and dance man.” She continues to look in the trunk, finds the songbook to “The Wizard of Oz.” She vowed to record those songs some day.
Dad was born in 1908, and he was 12 when his family relocated to Florida and his father opened a dance studio. He had a hankering for New York so he wentthere and lived in a cold-water flat while he looked for work. He and his sister Vilma got a few roles. The large screen shows Eleanor Powell singing “Easy to Love” as Buddy dances on the screen. Then Kiki sings “Easy to Love” as the band backs her. The audience is enjoying it all.
Time moves on and Buddy and his family are on their way to Hollywood. Buddy worked at the Hollywood Center Studio where “The Beverly Hillbillies” was filmed. I probably saw every single episode on TV. It was one of my favorites. Kiki sang “Comes Love” with a Latin feel for a fine rendition. Kiki told the story about her Dad’s experience with The Wizard of Oz film. Buddy had been hired to play The Tin Man. He had been dusted with aluminum powder, real aluminum and it affected him severely.
When he said, “I can’t breathe,” he was rushed to a hospital. It took a long time for him to heal, so Ray Bolger was given the role. Finally Buddy was able to get back to work. Kiki then sang a nifty version of “If I Only Had a Brain.” I’m absolutely bewitched by all the activity on stage and so is the rest of the audience. This multi-media creation is working perfectly!
The Ebsen family moved from Balboa Island to a ranch nestled in the Santa Monica mountain range. There were 6 girls in the family and one boy, Dustin, who is also responsible for this production. Buddy Ebsen starred in the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” playing husband to Audrey Hepburn. Pianist Jeff Colella backs Kiki on a gorgeous version of “Moon River.” That was surely a magical film. The other musicians were so good all evening, they made the evening complete: Kendall Kay-drums, Kim Richmond-woodwinds, Granville “Danny” Young-bass. Ebsen was moving around the stage, singing and talking as the scenes changed on the tall screens. Buddy Ebsen also starred in “Barnaby Jones” and “The Legend of Davy Crockett” on TV. “St. Louis Blues” was another highlight as Kiki got into a very Bluesy, jazzy mood. The band jumped in and they all produced a hearty, funky music for a rendition that was powerful! The audience whooped with delight.
Another great clip was shown of Buddy dancing with Shirley Temple to “At The Codfish Ball.” The tall lanky Buddy tap dancing with the little girl, both nailing the complicated choreography. They made it look like easy fun. This show was so interesting because it was nostalgic, historic, totally entertaining. The audience was whooping and applauding all the magic that was happening on stage. With exquisite, soft accompaniment Kiki sang a heartbreaking, beautiful “Over The Rainbow.” It moved me so much, I was reminded of my own father and how he helped me every day he was alive.
Kiki Ebsen created something so memorable, so powerful with all kinds of life lessons. She took the audience on an unforgettable journey. The musicians were wonderful, the stage setting itself was excellent. After the show Kiki came back on stage and answered questions from the audience. It was almost like we couldn’t get enough. We wanted to hear more about Kiki’s dad and her life as well. She has a CD out that includes most of the material she sang on stage. Find out more at www.kikiebsen.com
Finally, this theatre worked great for this show. I looked at the material I picked up on my way out and there are some productions that I’m interested in seeing. Theater West is just off the Hollywood freeway, the parking is easy and it’s only $5.oo. There are people who are working hard to bring new talent in, to explore all facets of life. They’re also going to have some shows that would interest jazz fans too. Plus comedians who will teach us a thing or two about life! We encourage everyone to check out Theatre West soon.
www.theatrewest.org…..3333 Cahuenga Blvd.West Los Angeles 90068 (323) 851-7977
Thank you to Garry Kluger for the photographs.
By Myrna Daniels
New York based pianist, Emmet Cohen brought his trio to Sunset Jazz at Newport, Wed. August 15, 2018. His rhythm section is also New York based musicians, bassist, Russell Hall and drummer, Evan Sherman.
All three have a huge base of accomplishments. Tony Guerrero joined the Cohen Trio as guest trumpet and flugelhornist.
These concerts are very comfortable in the Rose Gardens at Newport Beach’s Marriott Hotel. Concerts are 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. and are in the ninth year of this series, Wednesday evenings, for eleven weeks.
Their trio began with a suave gem, “The Second Time Around.” The audience was well settled and full to capacity. The trio’s sound was very well balanced, bringing a definite shine to each of the three trio performers.
The next two tunes were both jazz classics: Dizzy Gillespie’s “Tin, Tin Deo,” and “Poiniciana,” made famous, jazz-wise, by the great Ahmad Jamal.
In “Tin, Tin Deo,” Cohen provided some sparkling chordal voicings, melodic lines and had special rhythmic patterns from both Hall and Sherman. “Poinciana” had a standard introduction that moved right into the number with full strength backing from the trio.
Tony Guerrero joined the trio on muted trumpet for a well-known song, “Smile.” This number was done in moderately fast tempo and the audience gave appreciative applause along the way. Very good tune picks in this set. They continued with “Mahana De Carnival,” Guerrero added in on flugelhorn setting up some beautiful solos for both Cohen’s brilliant piano work and a big bass solo by Russell. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” had a lot of rhythmic interludes and the group ended the first set with Dizzy Gillespie’s the great classic “Manteca,” also giving way for a huge drum solo from Sherman extremely well received.
The second set began with the trio doing “Billy Boy,” a tune from long ago. Everything played on this one with the trio exemplified modern swing, but again, with spectacular voicings and rhythmical movements and a dynamic ending. Next, making a meaningful tribute to Oscar Peterson, they played a Dance titled number I did not get the name of. Their drummer, Evan Sherman played lots of drumming (a vibrant excursion), adding much to this number.
A beautiful and gorgeous ballad “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” followed, making this song a standout and highlight of the evening, in my opinion, with Guerrero playing muted trumpet. This was a very suave setting for the audience, giving much more appreciative applause. Adding to this already excellent set, the group played the famous “Perdido.” Tony Guerrero made the number sound so good with his flugel horn on this one. Bassist Hall provided another fantastic big bass solo.
A surprise was also given by Hall for all of us, doing a vocal, “I’m in the Mood for Love,” with just piano and bass only. His voice was distinctive and radiant. He played a lovely bowing solo on his bass as well.
The audience gave a good amount of applause for this one.
An interesting number, “Symphonic Wraps,” by the late, great Cedar Walton played next, making a nice arrangement by Cohen and a good tribute to Walton.
Guerrero gave all of us a surprise by doing a vocal number, “When You’re Smiling” and playing trumpet in alternating choruses. He did his voice perfectly as in the original version many years back, also playing some groovy lines on his trumpet for the closing number to this eloquent concert.
Glenn A. Mitchell
As a promoter, producer, jazz historian and journalist, I’ve been fortunate to witness first-hand, many of the evolving trends in a genre that is never stagnant. But clearly, the most gratifying aspect in all of this, are the opportunities to witness emerging talent. One such artist is Marlon Martinez, a prolific bassist, composer, arranger and bandleader. He’s steeped in both jazz and classical traditions, yet versatile enough to fuse funk, rock, blues, r&b and other styles into his music.
An L.A. native, Marlon Martinez is an accomplished virtuoso who is mature beyond his years. He garnered a Master’s degree at the prestigious Colburn Conservatory of Music, in Los Angeles. Mr. Martinez has performed for world-class conductors such as James Conlon, Nicholas McGegan, David Newman, Sir Neville Marriner, Gerard Schwarz, Bramwell Tovey, Giancarlo Guerrero and Gustavo Dudamel, among others. In addition, Marlon has studied with Dennis Trembly, Co-Principal Bass of the L.A. Philharmonic and Leigh Mesh, Associate Principal Bass of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, in New York.
In 2010, and again the following year, Marlon was named to the critically-acclaimed Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland. He performed with stellar soloists such as Mischa Maisky, Charles Dutoit, Valery Gergiev and Yuja Wang, among others.
A protégé of mentor Stanley Clarke, Marlon also studies with Ron Carter. Mr. Martinez played for Burt Bacharach at the San Diego Pops and for Ellis Marsalis in New Orleans. He has appeared with Mike Garson, David Bowie’s pianist, and was a sideman with various jazz legends and Quatuor Ebéne, a popular, French string quartet. It’s classical and jazz renditions are equally masterful, worldwide. Bob Sheppard, Jim Walker, Fred Moyer and Bernard Fowler, are also among this elite group. Marlon’s mother, Josie James, sang with George Duke, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, Burt Bacharach and the Jazz Crusaders. Marlon’s pedigree is firmly rooted.
Marlon has launched his own ensembles, the Jazz Marlonius Quartet and the Marlonius Jazz Orchestra (MJO). Each eclectic gathering is easily adaptable. Martinez reveals, “My debut album, Yours Truly, showcases how I express myself as a composer. It’s an exploration of both sides of my bass playing — the improvisational and the written elements. I sought to approach jazz and the bass in different ways, through personal collaborations”. He met pianist Isaac Wilson, saxophonist Jacob Scesney and Aaron Blumenthal, as well as drummer Cam Johnson, during his undergrad days at Colburn.
Like teammates who pursue success during heated competition or troops tested by combat, musicians also develop peer chemistry in the studio, on the bandstand and often, away from the spotlight. In 2009, after forming such a genuine bond with Isaac, Marlon was introduced to the local jazz scene. Soon, the same camaraderie quickly occurred with the entire band. They ultimately became a cohesive unit, sharing a single vision without foregoing their own identities. “I developed such personal friendships with them that the music feels organic and conversational”, says Martinez. While sharing these exact sentiments, Stewart Copeland and Judd Miller, embellish the ensemble, both individually and collectively.
Pianist Patrice Rushen explains, “I’ve known Marlon most of his life. I’ve watched him mature into an expressive, passionate musician who is also reliable, dedicated, diligent and an open young man. Marlon’s sense of composition, increasing awareness about ensemble sound and feel as a player, are in part, what he brings to the group setting. He’s also developing into an inventive soloist.”
On his maiden voyage, Marlon ushers the unsuspecting listener on a mystical odyssey. The journey descends to the depths of our souls and soars to lofty plateaus. Although Martinez is steeped in rich traditions, his unique approach is always fresh.
The first track, Jazz Marlonius, depicts an intimate venue in contrast with a bustling, urban backdrop. Due to its chord structure, inherent grove and playful interaction, Marlon has dubbed it a “feel-good vibe.”
The melodic chord structures of Fay, are based on the 12-note chromatic scale. This was actually Marlon’s first experience writing on the piano. Prior to that, he used his trusty bass to compose. As the tune gradually became more familiar, Marlon deployed it as a learning tool to pass his piano class. This is why Marlon always feels a special connection to Fay. The soprano player sets the tone for the rest throughout this offering.
Saint-Pierre-de-Maillé, features a compelling duet as Isaac Wilson’s piano intro, creates a haunting refrain, while Marlon’s solo is peppered with contrasting intervals. For Martinez, this composition is particularly significant. As he trekked through the French countryside, Marlon observed local graveyards, quaint, sleepy hamlets and ancient churches. His journey inspired him to ponder the true meaning of life, death, joy, anguish and the human condition.
Some enduring standards like Invitation have been recorded and performed thousands of times, for decades, by a multitude of artists. Marlon’s jagged bassline underscores this shrewd treatment. The alternating Latin-swing groove, precedes Cam Johnson’s crisp cymbal work and a salvo of bombs. Meanwhile, Marlon’s brisk pizzicato, clearly displays his complete command of the instrument. Finally, the guys flip the time to 6/8, before abruptly closing, without a cadenza.
HD was recorded at Stewart Copeland’s home studio and Judd Miller sat-in for some added flair. A synthesized foray is accented by the drummer’s syncopated hi-hat. This joint venture resulted exactly in the risk-taking, energetic approach that Martinez had hoped for
Marlon opens I Hear a Rhapsody, with a brilliant, intriguing solo that immediately indulges the unsuspecting listener. He masterfully weaves an intricate tapestry, making a poignant statement. This is simply Martinez, at his very best.
Inspired by his first summer in Paris, Marlon composed the title track, Yours Truly. It’s a romantic melody that includes an adventurous Coltrane vamp, rhythmic textures, strategic comping and some conceptual input from producer Nigel Martinez. Cam Johnson’s brushwork should also be noted as he lends solid support to the ensemble.
Paying homage to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Paul Chambers, Martinez penned a contrasting, playful piece. Isaac Wilson’s soulful, blues-infused solo, is evident. In unison, like starving diners at a Southern eatery, the band emphatically asked, “Where dem biscuits at?”
La Cancion de Sofia, is Marlon’s heart-felt tribute to his mentor, and close friend, Stanley Clarke. Martinez began studying with Clarke at age 15. Under Stanley’s watchful tutelage, Marlon was encouraged to develop an advanced arco technique that adds sophistication and boundless possibilities to his vast repertoire. In Marlon’s masterful hand, the bow ultimately becomes an extension of himself.
Open Gate, is a reflective interlude that speaks to one’s faith and spiritual path. The framework is anchored by bass harmonics that have gradually evolved from spontaneous improvisation.
Remotely grounded in 70’s fusion, Sensation opens with a bass riff. Aaron Blumenthal adds texture on soprano saxophone while Jacob Scesney chimes in on alto. Mirroring that nostalgic era, this selection finds Isaac Wilson on a vintage Fender Rhodes piano. Cam Johnson’s rousing backbeat drives the band as the scat-singing is actually done by a device, called a Vocoder. An unconventional groove, keeps things edgy with a hip-hop feel.
On the verge of stardom, Marlon Martinez is poised on destiny’s doorstep. His tireless work ethic, meticulous preparation and relentless pursuit of excellence, will propel him to stardom. Marlon’s initial outing, not only celebrates his technique and robust tone, but each phrase will remind you, why he’s — Yours Truly! For more information, visit www.marlonmartinezmusic.com
By Jeffrey Winston an L.A.-based journalist, jazz historian and producer.
Stellar vocalist and trumpeter, Bria Skonberg, hails from Chilliwack, British Columbia. She started music at an early age, making decision to perform even before growing up into adulthood. She left right out of high school and went to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and earned a degree in Jazz Trumpet Performance. Her studies allowed her gain many awards along the way to her prosperous career. She has already toured over a great part of the world. Bria is “poised to be one of the versatile and imposing musicians of her generation,” (Wall Street Journal). Her quintet plays several styles, blues, fusion, and cabaret, all rooted under the umbrella of jazz.
This was her second year playing at Newport Beach Jazz Party and now at Sunset Jazz at Newport. Her quintet contains some marvelous musicians: Patrick Bartley (Reeds), Mathis Picard (piano), Devin Starks (bass) and Darrian Douglas (drums).
They opened with a Louie Armstrong number I didn’t get the title of, but definitely some good swinging Dixieland. Everyone contributed with great rhythm with Bartley (clarinet) and Bria’s trumpet work made this an ideal, impressive opener. She sang a fine standard of Cole Porter’s, “Just One of Those Things.” All her quintet gave excellent solos, just the right backing for Bria, who also played trumpet. Her voice is clear and easily understandable.
Continuing, they played a groovy jazz classic, “Limehouse Blues,” starting with everyone soloing, tenor sax, trumpet, piano, drums (a big solo), more trumpet and clarinet trading measured bars and a great ending as well. . The audience was into this music and gave a lot of applause. This concert was filled to capacity with an enthusiastic audience.
A pretty ballad followed, “Trust in Me,” with a slow peaceful beginning. Bria’s vocalizing and her trumpet playing was backed by her cohesive quartet members. These musicians play extremely well together and listen well to each other’s performing to a tee!
Bria composed an original piece, “Some Kind of Crazy,” which started off with slow rhythm with Bria’s vocal work along with Bartley’s smooth tenor sax playing. The lyrics were expressive and meaningful. The rhythm section laid down some nice holding grooves making this one an impressive composition. The standard, “What Is This Thing Called Love,” played well and was an excellent arrangement. The group delivered outstanding solos, especially vibrant from Bartley (tenor sax), then Picard (piano) and Starks (bass). They finished the set with another Bria original, “How Can It Be.”
The second show set got really better with more stellar performing. They began a third original song from Bria Skonberg, “Down in The Deep.” This song sounded well and had nice definitive lyrics. A good type show tune came next, “I Have My High Hat, My Trumpet and Rhythm,” another very moving number musically and rhythmically. Bria’s trumpet work shinned very impressively with the quartet’s great backing.
Probably the absolute best highlight number of the evening was the beautiful ballad, “But Beautiful.” The quintet plays so cohesively that they delivered perfection musically for this terrific ballad classic.
Tenor sax man, Patrick Bartley, gave an introduction to a song he has loved for many years. He named one of two influences in his career, Ben Webster, who also played it years earlier, (1918) “Rose Room.” Bartley stated ,“He usually plays alto sax, but in this time is playing both tenor and a lot of clarinet.” Bartley played very strong and stretched out into some excellent avant-garde jazz lines, receiving some big applause. Picard played some beautiful piano backing. Starks gave a gorgeous bass solo for this number as well.
Towards finalizing the second set and near to closing out this well-received concert was “I Remember April,” a classic gem. It began as a calypso styled rhythm and progressed from there. The entire quintet all contributed their best artistic playing cohesively. More of last numbers of the second set were: “Watch What Happens” and “Malaguena,” very well played and received. This audience showed their enjoyment of the Bria Skonberg Quintet. They are busy with more upcoming touring throughout the U.S.A. See Bria Skonberg’s website: www.briaskonberg.com . Also please visit: www.sunsetjazzatnewport.com for several excellent concerts upcoming Wednesday evenings in Newport Beach’s Marriott Rose Gardens through Wednesday, September 19, 2018. For reservations, call 1(949) 759-5003.
Glenn A. Mitchell