By Scott Yanow
Throughout his prolific and very productive career, pianist-arranger Ed Vodicka has been involved in a countless number of projects, usually in a supportive role. At Catalina Bar & Grill, he made a rare appearance as the leader of his own trio.
Vodicka’s upcoming recording will find him paying tribute to Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly and Red Garland. At Catalina’s, with swinging support provided by bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Kendall Kay, the pianist emulated each of the giants on various pieces. Peterson was saluted with “It Happened In Monterey” and a rollicking version of “Put On A Happy Face,” Kelly was remembered on “Temperance” and “If You Could See Me Now,” and Garland was recalled on the famous Ahmad Jamal arrangement of “Billy Boy.” Other selections either paid tribute to several of the pianists or discarded the concept altogether. These included Jobim’s “So Danco Samba” (which really found Vodicka cutting loose), “Love Dance,” “Just Squeeze Me,” and “No More Blues.”
Vodicka is a virtuoso pianist who played many impressive solos that were both tasteful and concise. Livingston was well showcased on “Just Squeeze Me’ and his bowed bass on “When Your Lover Has Gone,” and Kay had occasional drum breaks.
Ed Vodicka should perform with this trio more often. He is too good a player to be relegated to the background.
Just Jazz returned to the Musichead Gallery for a special concert featuring South African jazz pianist Nduduzo Makhathini. While he has recorded as a leader since 2014, the release of his 2022 Blue Note In The Spirit Of Ntu earned Makhathini recognition in the U.S. jazz world.
The pianist was joined by bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere and drummer Francisco Mela for a set of spiritual jazz. Most influenced by 1970s McCoy Tyner but possessing his own sound, Makhathini sometimes sang or talked along with the music. A powerful player, Makhathini’s interpretations of his originals ranged from passionate to quite tender and back again, displaying both his command of the piano and his impressive technique. His playing was sometimes hypnotic and always stimulating.
Bell La Pere and Mela often matched Makhathini’s power and volume and they were equal partners during much of the night. The large crowd was enthralled by the often-magical music, making one look forward to seeing Nduduzo Makhathini again.
ROBERT KYLE AND ALYSE KORN AT THE G-SPOT
To celebrate the release of their excellent album Tuesday’s Child, tenor-saxophonist Robert Kyle and pianist-vocalist Alyse Korn performed at the G-Spot in Mount Washington. They were joined by bassist Ahmet Turkmenopglu and drummer-percussionist Kevin Winard.
The quartet performed the nine originals in the same order that they appear on the CD. While one wishes that they had added some additional material, the playing was quite enjoyable. Kyle was featured not only on tenor but flute and soprano, and Korn added wordless vocals to some of the ensembles in addition to her excellent piano playing. She sounded particularly winning on the Brazilian-flavored “Gratitude,” blending in very well with Kyle’s soprano. Other highlights included the pretty melody of “Your Light,” the lyrical waltz “Distance Between Us,” “Blue Jack” (which found Kyle sounding a bit like Stan Getz on tenor), and the Cuban-style music of “Vivian’s Danzon.” The latter contained particularly rewarding flute and piano solos.
Robert Kyle and Alyse Korn make for a mutually beneficial team, both musically and personally. With solid support provided by Turkmenopglu and Winard, the full house at the G-Spot was quite appreciative of their talents.
While pianist Noah Haidu made his first recording in 1998, he did not become more active on recordings until 2008. He has since utilized such notable sidemen on his CDs as Jeremy Pelt, Jon Irabagon, Sharel Cassity, Steve Wilson, Gary Thomas, and Billy Hart. His recent Standards album featured him playing with either Buster Williams or Peter Washington on bass, drummer Lewis Nash, and guest altoist Steve Wilson.
At Catalina Bar & Grill, Haidu was joined by Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White. The masterful trio stuck to standards with Haidu coming up with fresh ideas on such songs as “Someday My Prince Wil Come,” “What A Difference A Day Makes,” “Recorda Me,” “Georgia On My Mind,” a cooking rendition of “Lover,” “The End Of A Beautiful Friendship,” and “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.” While tied to the jazz tradition, Haidu displayed his own fresh chord voicings and original ideas. Buster Williams’ consistently inventive choice of notes, whether played as an active accompanist or a soloist, were well worth listening to closely while White was primarily in a supportive role.
This was a top performance by a masterful piano trio, and a joy for the listeners who enjoyed straight ahead jazz.
Celebrating the release of his first solo album (Shining Moments), Pierre Chambers put on a colorful show at the Gardenia. Assisted by pianist Jon Gilutin, bassist Henry Franklin, and drummer Clayton Cameron with guitarist Dori Amarilio guesting on three numbers, the singer was in top form.
After the group performed an instrumental version of Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower,” Pierre Chambers sang such spirited numbers as “My Shining Hour,” “The Nearness Of You” (which began as a slow ballad before it became a medium-tempo swinger), “My Favorite Things,” a modernized “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Work Song,” and “My Romance.” Chambers put plenty of feeling into the lyrics, scatted on some of the numbers, and recited poems dedicated to both of his parents; his father was the great bassist Paul Chambers. Cathy Segal-Garcia added wordless background singing to “Afro Blue” and guitarist Amarilio was a strong asset whenever he appeared (including on “The Very Thought Of You” and “Work Song”); it is a pity that he was only on three songs. Franklin took consistently inventive solos and was quite effective accompanying Chambers during his poem about his father (quoting “So What’), which naturally segued into “Song For My Father.”
It was a night full of swinging music, heartfelt ballads and occasional warm poetry that the packed house clearly enjoyed.
I have a new book that is available from amazon.com. Life Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist. It is subtitled My Jazz Memoirs and is my 12th book and first in a few years. I discuss in an often-humorous fashion my early days and discovery of jazz, my period as the jazz editor of Record Review, the story behind my involvement with the All Music Guide, and I reminisce about some of my adventures as an amateur musician. Included are vintage interviews with Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, and Maynard Ferguson, encounters with Clint Eastwood, summaries of the Monterey and Playboy Jazz Festivals (including a full-length review of the 1985 Playboy Festival), memories of other events (such as the IAJE Conventions), and brief snapshots of many memorable club and concert performances. There is also background information about my other books, evaluations of the jazz critics who inspired me early on, and my thoughts on jazz criticism which includes advice to up-and-coming jazz journalists. Rounding out the book is a chapter on how the jazz writing business has changed over the past 50 years, and appendixes that include the jazz greats of the past, 86 jazz giants of today, 21 young performers to look for in the future, jazz books and DVDs that everyone should own, and a dozen enjoyable Hollywood jazz films.
Life Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist, a paperback book, sells for $26 through Amazon.com Signed copies (which will take 2-3 weeks) are also available for $30 (which includes free postage) by sending the money via Pay Pal to email@example.com and by sending your mailing address to that E-mail.