(Thursday, February 14th, 2019 through Sunday, February 17th, 2019)
Newport Beach Jazz Party welcomes Sue and Paul Lowden, who have now taken the reins of running the NBJP each February. Thanks also to their son Chris and his team for helping to coordinate the many jazz artists performing at this iconic yearly event. John McClure and Joe Rothman have done a tremendous job these many years. The new musical director is well-known Ken Peplowski, who will also participate in some of the concerts. Joe Rothman and John McClure will still be taking care of the Sunset Jazz at Newport, which runs eleven weeks during the summer.
I attended the Saturday, February 16th event at Newport Beach’s Marriott for a good part of the day. Beginning this beautiful day , was the jazz brunch which included, not only a great breakfast spread, but the fourth year celebrating a tribute to David L. Abell, now called Piano Rama. Abell had an excellent piano store that many, many pianists and also composers and educators visited regularly over earlier years. Abell helped many musicians generally with things that they needed. Pianist and regular participant, Shelly Berg, hosted the event. Mike Wofford, Emmet Cohen, Larry Fuller, Bill Cunliffe and Tamir Hendelman were part of the one and one half hour show. They shared jazz tunes and American Popular Songbook favorites, also performing some selections on two pianos that they all shared. It was a marvelous showing of how much music of great content can be made to shine impressively.
Some of the song numbers jointly performed as a duo were, Shelly Berg with Emmet Cohen, “It’s All Right With Me” (Cole Porter), Tamir Hendelman with Emmet Cohen, “My Foolish Heart” (Victor Young/Ned Washington), Mike Wofford with Tamir Hendelman, “Yesterdays” (Jerome Kern), Larry Fuller with Mike Wofford, “Gone with The Wind” (Allie Wrubel) and Bill Cunliffe with Larry Fuller, “The Days of Wine and Roses” (Henry Mancini) to name several. All were outstanding performances. There were other singular choices. One that stood out to me was, Wofford playing “Lucky to Be Me” and “I Am Just a Lucky So and So.” and also Wofford again, playing “Easy Living.” The tribute concluded with all six esteemed pianists taking turns on both pianos playing Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave” with lots of applause and a standing ovation from the entire audience.
The four afternoon pool concerts for this day had to be moved into the main concert ballroom because of the colder weather. Up first was the Wycliffe Gordon, Tom Scott Quintet with pianist, Tom Ranier, bassist Mike Gurrola and drummer Butch Miles. This group played very well and performed several tunes in the hour they were allotted: “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t got that Swing” began with excellent solos, especially from Gurrola and Miles drumming. A favorite for everybody was “Stars Fell on Alabama.”
All the pool concerts were at one hour each. The Peak Experience always puts on an impressive show. They had Barbara Morrison as special guest. “Blues Walk” was their first number, giving way for Carl Saunders fine trumpet solo. Jazz standard, “Ceora” made room for pianist Ron Kobayashi to fill in the tune in expert fashion. Morrison added to their set with the great, “I Love Being Here with You” and “Lullaby of Birdland.” Much applause was given during all these afternoon concerts.
One of my personal favorites was seeing and hearing Holly Hofmann, Mike Wofford Quartet with Mike Gurrola (b) and drummer Kendall Kay. Holly and her husband Mike Wofford always put on the best performances. Beginning with “Just in Time,” wowed the audience. Hofmann plays two different flutes, a regular C flute and a bigger G alto flute making lower bass notes possible. A highlight was “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” She referred this song to husband Mike Wofford. Hofmann called up two surprise guests, tenor saxophonist, Harry Allen and trumpeter, Terell Stafford for “Exactly Like You,” and “Cousins,” a bluesy number made to shine by all.
The Chuck Redd, Butch Miles Sextet played, ending the late afternoon performances. Their sextet included Ron Stout (trpt), Scott Hamilton (t/s ), Tamir Hendelman (p) and John Clayton (b). They opened with the classic “Laura,” a gem of a song to always play with very good solos by Hamilton, Stout, Hendelman and Clayton. This number ended up with a superb jazzy riff. “Strike up the Band” continued. This song is also a classic. Same round for the sextet members gave contributing solos with rounds of gracious applause. “All or Nothing at All” continued. Chuck Redd played his vibraphone backed by everyone’s fine playing. Closing their set was a tune, named “Corner Pocket,” by Count Basie. This was a standout number and featured tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton. A standing ovation was given for all these well-deserved stellar musicians.
The great tenor saxophonist Houston Person’s Quartet began the evening’s musical activities with Emmet Cohen’s trio with bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole rounding out the quartet.
Joining the Person quartet was special guest trumpeter James Suggs. The quartet only opened with a blues and then the pretty tune, “All My Tomorrows.” Trumpeter, Suggs added in with the quartet with “When I Fall in Love,” and also making a solo with the group on “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Bassist Hall played a bigger bass solo with the quintet in “Perdido.” The audience loved this quartet plus one.
Vocalist great, Clint Holmes was backed by some very special musicians for the nearly one hour show. Special guest pianist Shelly Berg, vibraphonist Christian Tamburr, bassist Katie Thrioux, drummer Gregg Field and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval made this show quite amazing. Holmes sang his whole show, with the band backing him, as a serenade to a woman. He has the charisma and delivery to make his tunes very appealing to women listening to him. His show was excellent and, of course, the special musicians of the band made it even better. His songs were: “I’ve Got a Woman,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “Nature Boy.” He talked about that this was 100 years of Nat King Cole’s birthday. Trumpeter great, Arturo Sandoval was featured in Clint singing “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” The quintet kept the music going with another superb standard, “My Foolish Heart,” and Holmes delivered a splendid version of this wonderful tune. The audience liked Clint Holmes presentation, along with this exceptional band, very well and gave him a standing ovation.
The very last mid-evening presentation was a tribute to Charlie Bird with strings and also Eddie Sauter and Stan Getz’s “Focus,” a string ensemble plus rhythm section with guest soloists Terell Stafford, Harry Allen, Holly Hofmann, Tom Scott, Ken Peplowski, Tom Ranier, Joe LaBarbera and Chuck Berghofer. This was a very productive show and lasted a little over one and one half hours with a very interested and appreciative audience.
There were many things to see and hear over this four day yearly jazz celebration. Please check out the new concerts listings for Sunset Jazz at Newport coming out in April, 2019, www.sunsetjazzatnewport.com.
Glenn A. Mitchell
On Saturday, February, 9, 2019, Orange County Musicians’ Local 7 hosted a beautiful jazz concert bringing master guitarist Ron Eschete’s Trio for a benefit performance to support a Musicians in Need Fund Raiser. There were at least fifty members and also jazz fans who showed up for this stellar performance.
Eschete brought superb bassist Bruce Lett and excellent drummer Kendall Kay on board for this show. This concert was also an extension of O.C. Jazz Bash Series.
Opening for the evening, was the Fullerton College Quartet performing several numbers before the start of the Eschete Trio. The group consisted of Oscar Rodriguez (guitar), Nico Vasquez (drums), Steven Wood, (saxophones) and Cole Sainburg (bass). This quartet gave a lively performance of all the jazz that they played. Their tunes were: “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Like Someone in Love,” and “Yes and No” by Wayne Shorter. These young players received a lot of applause for not only their good solos but for their cohesive playing as well.
Several executive board members of Local 7 were on hand to welcome many of those who attended. During the middle break of the Eschete performance, Vice President, Edmund Velasco, announced that a special day of this date would be remembered as Ron Eschete Day.
Terence M. Love, former longtime owner of Steamers Jazz Club, hosted and presented the Eschete Trio. Ron Eschete and Terence have been friends for a number of years. Terence lauded Eschete and his spectacular playing and mentioned the many amount of times he has performed at Steamers in previous years.
Ron Eschete started performing very early on guitar before even finishing high school. He had an early break working with singer Buddy Greco in Las Vegas. He moved to Los Angeles, CA and worked with Gene Harris and also Dave Pike and continued building his career upwards all the way from 1970 to present. He has played with Ray Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson and Diana Krall to name a few of many.
For those of you who have never heard Ron Eschete, you will amazingly surprised. Eschete has his own very dignified sound. No one plays the guitar like Ron Eschete!
The Eschete trio started with a good swing number, “Lookin’ For The Back Door,” written by amazing composer, Alf Clausen. This tune was written originally for big band in swing format. Eschete reduced it down to play for his trio. Alf Clausen with (30) Emmy nominations has received more nominations than any other musician for his longtime movie and television scores. The trio made this tune move excitingly. The balance between Eschete guitar, Lett’s bass and Kay’s drumming was excellent. A pretty ballad followed, “Only Trust Your Heart.” Lett made a distinguished bass solo for this gem. Late, great pianist, Jimmy Rowles, created a superb classic called, “The Peacocks.” This tune seems never to be played enough and has a memorable melody that easily stands out. The audience gave some great appreciative applause for this classic.
Eschete took a break from his trio and played a solo medley of four songs, “Goodbye” (Gordon Jenkins), “This is all I Ask” (also Gordon Jenkins), “A Face Like Yours” (Victor Feldman) and “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” (Duke Ellington).
The Eschete trio resumed their show with a Blossum Dearie tune, “Sweet Georgia Fame.” Excellent trio work here again with great solos from Lett and Kay.
Finishing tunes for this longer one set show were: “Fungii Mama” (Blue Mitchell), with Kay playing a vibrant drum solo and doing exceptional cymbal work. Continuing with Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin’,” Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpy,” and “You Make Me Feel So Young,” (by Josef Myrow, arr. by Gene Harris).
This concert was so good and the audience gave them all a standing ovation! It would be great, in my opinion, to see this same trio of outstanding musicians recorded in a future CD sometime coming soon.
Please be sure to visit Ron Eschete’s website for much of his current musical activities and gigs: www.roneschete.com .
Glenn A. Mitchell
In this stunning new collection—London Calling…A Toast To Julie London—listeners will discover a side of singer Lyn Stanley that they haven’t heard before. The 17 tunes on this recording explore phases of romance from first glance, in “Blue Moon,” to a missed chance, in “Cry Me a River.” Most of the wide-ranging material presented here was originally recorded by singer/actress Julie London, along with a couple of offerings that Stanley feels would have been perfect for the sultry songstress, such as “It’s Impossible,” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
With her distinctive sound and approach, Lyn Stanley brings to mind a method actor, mining the stories and feelings in each tune and getting to the heart of the lyrics. Striving for sensitivity, Stanley stays true to these stories and portrays the experiences of people engaged in the dance of romance.
London Calling marks a big step forward in Lyn Stanley’s evolution as a recording artist. Just five years after her 2013 debut album—Lost in Romance—this new recording provides a unique vision of Julie London with a self-curated set list emanating from Lyn Stanley’s clear idea of how each tune should sound. She holds true to the composers’ ideas, while integrating her own.
Working with many of LA’s best session players, and without any written arrangements, the intimate collaboration is nothing short of remarkable. Stanley says: “It was a thrill to hear something that you’ve brought to life come all so easily.” The stellar lineup of musicians includes guitarist John Chiodini; pianists Mike Garson and Christian Jacob; bassists Chuck Berghofer and Michael Valerio; percussionists Luis Conte, Brad Dutz, and Aaron Serfaty (also heard on drums); and drummer Paul Kreibich.
The magnificent sound is bright and clear, thanks to engineering by Steve Genewick, Rouble Kalpoor, and Spencer Garcia; mixing by Allen Sides, and mastering by Bernie Grundman. Recorded at United Recording, Hollywood CA. Stanley, whose audiophile bona fides and perfectionism in the studio are well established, has also produced artful packaging for the album with gorgeously photographed images, yet another tribute to her inspiration, Julie London. Completing the package are wonderful liner notes by Scott Yanow, offering a historian’s perspective on the music, background on each song, and insights to how both Lyn—and Julie!—approached these tunes.
The day of this concert would be full of surprises for me. It would be my first visit to the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa. On the way there I saw a lot of Southern California and it was dark when we arrived. We parked and made our way to the theater. It was so busy with patrons entering different locations. The Nutcracker signage was a beautiful flash of colors, with a lot of children entering with their parents. I knew that Segerstrom was a big campus but was really impressed with the bustling crowds, the excitement of just being there.
The driver this evening was Preston Duncan, the webmaster of our LA. Jazz Scene website accompanied by his lovely wife, Hilda. We were escorted into the Samueli Theater, which was set up with tables and chairs. It was already packed as though a classy jazz club. However, it was dark and I had a difficult time writing my notes. It was a very special evening and I enjoyed it all. The music was reverent, stimulating and Elling is a truly superb singer. From the first time I ever heard him, he defined how a jazz singer is able to capture emotions and ideas through his distinctive voice. Over the years he’s gotten stronger and direct with his approach. I’ve heard him in club settings and at the big Playboy Jazz Festival in Hollywood Bowl, where the crowds can get very noisy.
Elling is always relaxed and totally present as he sings, scats and tells his stories. He truly has grown as an artist as he accepts more and more accolades from fans and jazz writers. I remember exactly when I first heard him. I got a call from a publicist that a new singer would be working in L.A. and he asked if we wanted to hear him. I said sure and so we went a small restaurant near the campus of Northridge State College. Elling had been given a list of jazz venues in Southern California and a car and told to go! I couldn’t imagine how he would be able to do that but he did. I was amazed at how good he was, how genuine he was. This was a true jazz singer I remember writing. His song choices were perfect, his voice was strong and sturdy, his scatting was fantastic. By this time he has performed all over the world to audiences who immediately recognize his singular talent.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts is a destination for everyone who is looking for the classics, the new, the exciting surprises that come when you venture out to discover all that is available. As we drove back to our homes we all agreed that the trip had been eye popping terrific!