By Scott Yanow
ANGELA O’NEILL’S OUTRAGEOUS 8 AT FEINSTEIN’S AT VITELLO’S
16 months ago, Angela O’Neill and the Outrageous 8 were scheduled to perform at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s but then the pandemic shut everything down. Recently they made their triumphant comeback, playing a Saturday brunch at Vitello’s that was full of joyful spirits. I saw the LiveStream performance.
Singer Angela O’Neill led a group consisting of trumpeter-flugelhornist Paul Litteral, trombonist Harry Smallenburg (who contributed many of the arrangements), altoist Ron Cyger, tenor-saxophonist Sam Morgan, baritonist Richard Walker (doubling on flute), pianist-arranger Rocky Davis, bassist Phil Romo, and drummer Tony Pia. The Outrageous 8 opened by performing a Latin-flavored instrumental (“Samba For Sammy”) by the trombonist that effectively introduced the band. Then they welcomed their first of three guests as Kathryn Hopkins and Angela O’Neill harmonized together quite well on a version of “Sentimental Journey.”
The leader displayed her strong voice on “Summertime,” swung hard with the band on the Nat King Cole hit “L-O-V-E,” and put plenty of passion into “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” This trio of standards had some of the most enjoyable singing of the afternoon and served as a fine mini-set.
Next it was time for more of the guests. Kathryn Hopkins returned for a nice version of “Skylark,” Al Timss put plenty of personality into “I’m Going To Live Until I Die” and “Come Fly With Me,” and Jackie Gibson joined Timms as background singers behind the leader on “Hallelujah, I Love Him So.” Jackie Gibson also had a feature, taking “It Might As Well Be Spring” as a fast bossa.
Angela O’Neill closed the show with a heartfelt “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face,” a soulful “When The Sun Goes Down,” more swinging on “Almost Like Being In Love,” and finally a folk/rock piece (“New York Minute”) that had a particularly inventive arrangement.
All in all it was a highly enjoyable and fun afternoon. Angela O’Neill and the Outrageous 8 will be back at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s with an entirely different show on Aug. 29.
PHIL WOODS’ LIFE IN E FLAT
Phil Woods (1931-2015) was one of the all-time great jazz altoists. A brilliant player who was originally influenced by Charlie Parker and Benny Carter, Woods had his own sound by the mid-1950s along with superb technique. He was also a very honest personality who occasionally got into trouble due to his frankness but prevailed due to his unbeatable musicianship.
For years I have heard the rumor that he had written his memoirs, and finally Life In E Flat has been published by Cymbal Press. Ted Panken did a fine job of organizing the material, summing up Woods’ life (particularly his last days) in the opening “Final Chorus,” and otherwise letting the altoist speak for himself. In the first few of the 19 chapters, Woods talks about his beginnings, his family,
his periods studying at the Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard, his early bands and associates in Massachusetts, his arrival in New York (and encounters with Charlie Parker), his jazz gigs, and his studio sessions in New York. He was a member of the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band (1956-57), the Quincy Jones Orchestra that toured and was stranded in Europe (1960), and the Benny Goodman band that toured the Soviet Union (1962). Each of those associations get a full chapter. Woods also discusses personal relationships, his long-time marriage to Chan Parker and children, his period in Europe (1968-72), the formation of his regularly working quartet/quintet, and his happy marriage to Jill Goodwin.
While mostly being kind, Phil Woods is typically honest about his assessments of many of his colleagues (one learns in great detail about the difficult Benny Goodman tour), and he is quite honest about his own failings including alcoholism. His sense of humor is also felt throughout the book, along with the confidence in knowing that he was a masterful musician.
Life In E Flat, which includes contributions from Brian Lynch, Bill Charlap, Bill Crow, and Gary Stager (an interview with Billy Joel about Woods’ famous solo on “Just The Way You Are”) along with a discography, is a work that is filled with insight, humor, fresh stories, and the humanity of Phil Woods. It is available from www.cymbalpress.com.
RON APREA’S THE ERA I ALMOST MISSED
Every jazz musician should find time to write their memoirs, for each one has had experiences and stories that would otherwise be lost to history. A saxophonist whose consistent excellence has long been taken for granted, Ron Aprea has had a much more extensive history than one might have expected.
The title of his autobiography, The Era I Almost Missed (self-published and available from www.ronaprea.com), refers to the era of regularly working big bands. Born in 1939, Aprea had the opportunity to work with such 1960’s bands as those led by Lionel Hampton (who became a close friend), Woody Herman, Les Elgart (his tales about traveling with Elgart are sometimes quite humorous), Buddy Morrow, and his mentor Frank Foster. He also worked with orchestras assembled for r&b players like King Curtis, accompanied some show biz personalities, and recorded with John Lennon in 1974 on Walls and Bridges, giving one a touching profile of the ex-Beatle.
Ron Aprea is probably best known for his collaborations with his wife singer Angela DeNiro including heading his own orchestras but, as The Era I Almost Missed shows, that is only part of the story although a very significant part of the past 40 years. Aprea discusses his childhood, his early musical experiences, his main recordings and, in addition to Hampton and Foster, talks about such artists as Arnie Lawrence, Lew Tabackin, Pat Rizzo, Les DeMerle, Woody Herman, Phil Woods (he took lessons from him), Jimmy Nottingham, Georgie Auld, his family, and of course Angela DeNiro.
The Era I Almost Missed was put together in one month during the 2020 Pandemic when Ron Aprea unexpectedly had a lot of free time. The well-written stories balance humor with occasional tragedy, giving one a good idea not only of the saxophonist’s busy life but of the jazz life in general. This continually interesting book is highly recommended and will lead one to searching out Ron Aprea’s rewarding albums.
After nearly 18 months, live jazz has finally begun to return. Maybe not to the Hollywood Bowl (which is largely ignoring jazz’s existence this year) and barely to the Monterey Jazz Festival (which is only having perhaps 15% of the music of a normal year), but to Southern California clubs. Next month with any luck I will be reporting on some live performances for the first time since Feb. 2020.
Here are some recommended events that jazz fans should try to see:
Catalina Bar & Grill hosts
Kurt Elling (Aug. 1),
Jane Monheit (Aug. 6-7),
the Jeff Hamilton Trio with Tamir Hendelman and Jon Hamar (Aug. 9),
Tammy McCann (Aug. 13),
Andy James and John Patitucci’s all-star band with Chris Potter and Terell Stafford (Aug. 15),
Amber Weeks (Aug. 19), Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (Aug. 21),
and the John Pizzarelli Trio (Aug. 26-29).
Feinstein’s at Vitello’s features the Pandemonium Big Band (Aug. 4),
Nutty (Aug. 7),
and the duo of Mon David & Josh Nelson (Aug. 13).
Vibrato has the Yellowjackets (Aug. 29 and 30)
while Mr. Musichead Gallery welcomes the Taylor Eigsti Trio (Aug. 18).