There are many talented female jazz singers currently on the scene today, but if I could only pick a single vocalist to sing a long note, Roberta Gambarini would be the one. Her tone is beautiful in every register in her large range, her delivery is powerful yet often tender, and her phrasing and articulation are impeccable. Plus she is a master of the bebop vocabulary and can outswing nearly anyone. Despite her shortage of current recordings (a situation that might change soon), very few singers in any field are on her level.

At Catalina Bar & Grill, Roberta Gambarini was joined by pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Chuck Berghofer, and drummer Roy McCurdy, a perfect rhythm section. She began the night by singing Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood” (which with Jon Hendricks’ lyrics has been renamed “Monk’s Prayer”) slow, unaccompanied, and perfectly in tune as usual. Among the other songs that she uplifted with the assistance of the trio were “Isn’t This A Lovely Day,” “You Taught My Heart To Sing” (a high-powered rendition during which she paid tribute to James Moody), “No More Blues” (sung in Portuguese), “You Must Believe In Spring” (a duet with Hendelman), Jimmy Heath’s “Without You,” her now-famous vocalese version of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” (bringing back the solos of Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins), “Something To Live For,” “Centerpiece,” and “Just Squeeze Me.”

Whether scatting passionately or caressing a ballad, Roberta Gambarini put on a well-rounded and often-dazzling performance. She continues to improve each year which, considering the level she was at 20 years ago, is rather remarkable.

Delfeayo Marsalis began his career as a record producer (he worked on over 120 albums including some by his brothers Wynton and Branford Marsalis) and as a J.J. Johnson-inspired trombonist. In recent years, Marsalis has been leading the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, a New Orleans party band that takes the spirit of Mardi Gras on the road.

Marsalis’ UJO was one of the main attractions at the Saroya’s Jazz at Naz Festival. The 15-piece band performed a wide range of music including Professor Longhair’s “Goin’ To New Orleans,” the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s “Snowball,” the leader’s straight ahead blues “Doin’ What We Got To Do,” “Jazz Party” (which uses the chords of “When The Saints Go Marching In”), “Summertime,” “Carnival Time” (based on “Bill Bailey” and “Bourbon Street Parade”), “New Suit,” “Midnight At The Zulu Ball,” “What A Difference A Day Makes,” a Marsalis trombone feature on “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans,” and “Blackbird Special.” Among those featured were singer Tonya Boyd Cannon, pianist Darrell Lavigne and altoist Anthony Ware with drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith driving the band, but most of the musicians had their spots. The emphasis throughout the fun night was on good spirits, rollicking ensembles, and an irresistible party vibe. One could say that Delfeayo Marsalis succeeded in bringing to Southern California a typical night in New Orleans.

Nellie McKay is a unique performer whose shows cover a wide range of music while often being unclassifiable. At Catalina Bar & Grill the singer-pianist performed solo and certainly held onto the audience’s attention.

Ms. McKay displayed her jazz abilities with a 6/4 version of “My Romance,” the potentially difficult “Midnight Sun” (during which she hit the notes perfectly), a swinging “Sunny Afternoon,” “The Best Things In Life Are Free,” “You Made Me Love You,” “I Cover The Waterfront,” and a particularly memorable “I’ve Got A Small Day Tomorrow.” Other selections included her original “Ding Dong,’ the spirited “I Need You,” a humorous “I Want To Get Married,” “There Goes My Heart” (one of several songs that found her accompanying her singing on ukulele), the uptempo and ironically titled “Inner Peace,” the tender love ballad “I Never Knew I Could Love You The Way I Do,” some folk songs, and a few political pieces including an anti-Viet Nam War song that had the crowd singing along.

Nellie McKay held one’s interest throughout the night with her humor, impressive musical skills, and ability to continually change the mood and style of the music. See her whenever you can!

Catalina Jazz Club - Hollywood on X: "#OneMoreDay 🔥 2024 Grammy  Award-nominee GORDON GOODWIN's BIG PHAT BAND performs a "Grammy  Celebration" at @CatJazzClub, Hollywood! LIVE! Mon, Jan 29 at 8:30p Special  guest,

Famous as an r&b singer, Patti Austin surprised many back in 2001 by recording For Ella, a superb jazz album in which she sang pretty close to Ella Fitzgerald while accompanied by the WDR Big Band and String Ensemble. Few of her longtime fans had probably realized that she had a background in jazz before going in a different direction. Since the release of For Ella, she has successfully maintained careers in both jazz and r&b.

Recently Patti Austin recorded For Ella 2 with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, utilizing Goodwin’s inventive arrangements. At Catalina Bar & Grill, they performed many selections from the album.

The night began with the Big Phat Band performing two instrumentals that featured Sal Lozano on clarinet and flute, the latter for a Latin jazz romp. While there were occasional solos along the way from the other players along with the mighty Phat Band ensembles, the rest of the evening was dominated by Patti Austin. In this setting she did not try to directly emulate Ella although the influence was purposely felt.

Among the songs that Patti Austin performed were “Anything Goes,” “Let’s Fall In Love,” a strangely funkified version of “Sing Me A Swing Song,” an Afro-Cuban jazz rendition of “Lullaby Of Birdland” (one of several numbers that effectively utilized three background singers), a hot and swinging “’Tain’t What You Do,” a powerhouse performance of “Mack The Knife” that topped the version on her record, and “How High The Moon.” As on For Ella 2, one of the major highpoints was Goodwin’s arrangement of “April In Paris” which begins as a wistful and nostalgic waltz before becoming a swinger and finally returning to the original mood.

Catalina’s was packed for the Monday night performance and the audience was rewarded with an inspired and heartwarming show.

Altoist Miguel Zenon has been such a consistently inventive soloist since he made his first recordings in 1998 that it is easy to take his excellence and creativity for granted. Zenon has a beautiful tone on alto that makes his complex pieces seem more accessible than expected.

At the Jazz Bakery’s Movable Feast at the Moss Theater, Zenon led his regular quartet which also included the brilliant pianist Luis Perdemo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole. During the set of originals, Zenon and Perdemo took many solos full of virtuosity, daring, and surprises. Their interplay was a particular highlight as they consistently challenged each other, even on the slower pieces.

Many of Zenon’s originals unfolded like a suite, covering several moods and themes; they certainly kept one guessing. While one song sounded a bit like “I Remember April,” its unusual time signature gave it an altogether different feel. The concluding piece, an island party song, had unexpected accents that made it seem as if it were from a different dimension.

With alert and inventive support supplied by Glawischnig (who created a few colorful solos) and Cole, the night’s music was quite outstanding.



Art Pepper (1925-82) was one of the greatest jazz saxophonists of all time. The altoist’s career can easily be divided into two. After a notable stint with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, in the 1950s Pepper recorded a series of superb albums that found him displaying an original tone (a rarity during that Charlie Parker-dominated era) and swinging hard while playing virtually perfect solos. Considering that he was a heroin addict and had a few prison sentences during the era, his consistency was particularly impressive.

After being off the scene during much of the 1960s and early ‘70s (and not leading any studio record dates during 1961-75, Pepper made an unlikely but historic comeback that began during 1973-74. His playing had evolved and, while no longer quite flawless, it had opened up emotionally. While generally playing straight ahead jazz, Pepper’s solos included emotional outbursts, fiery phrases inspired by John Coltrane but in his own sound. He played every solo as if it might be his last, usually with plenty of intensity.

During August 13-15, 1981, just ten months before his death, Pepper performed at the Maiden Voyage club in Los Angeles with his last working group, a quartet with pianist George Cables, bassist David Williams and drummer Carl Burnett. The Galaxy label (a subsidiary of Fantasy) recorded the music and released 17 selections, some on three albums and the remainder as part of a 16-CD box set.

As it turned out, all of Pepper’s performances during the seven sets that he played at Maiden Voyage had been recorded; 42 selections in all, Under the supervision of his widow Laurie Pepper, all of the music (and the altoist’s verbal introductions to many of the numbers) has now been released as a 7-CD set in a handsome Lp-size box by the Omnivore label.

19 songs were performed and there are multiple versions of several with “For Freddie” and “ Road Waltz” being played four times while “Allen’s Alley,” “Donna Lee,” “Everything Happens To Me,” “Mambo Koyama,” and “Samba Mom Mom” appear three times. Needless to say, the solos vary drastically in each rendition. Pepper switches to clarinet on “Begin The Beguine” (both of the two versions were previously unreleased) and “ When You’re Smiling, and he takes “But Beautiful” as an alto-piano duet with Cables.

While one can sometimes hear why one version of a song was chosen for the original release over others (and Pepper’s very honest written comments about each performance are included in the accompanying booklet), it is also easy to understand why all of this music deserved to be released. While there are some minor mistakes (sometimes in the melody statements), Pepper plays brilliantly throughout as does his sidemen. The passionate music has some of the most exciting and vital performances released this year and I would hate to have had any of this go unissued any longer.

The booklet with the 7-CD set contains plenty of photos along with Laurie Pepper’s summary of her husband’s life, career, and this particular engagement. While the quartet would soon tour Japan and Pepper recorded two later duet albums with Cables, the Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings (available from and can be considered Art Pepper’s last major statement. As is obvious in each of his solos, he was going out on top.

Every jazz musician needs a well-written press biography, every CD (and even downloads) deserves informative liner notes, and important events benefit from press releases. I write all of these and more at reasonable rates. Please contact me at 661-678-3542 or at for further information about my services. My latest book, Jazz Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist (My Jazz Memoirs) is available at

I have a new book that is available from 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 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 and by sending your mailing address to that E-mail.

Every jazz musician needs a well-written press biography, every CD deserves informative liner notes, and important events benefit from press releases. I write all of these and more at reasonable rates. Contact me ( at 661-678-3542 or for further information about my services.  .

My latest book, Jazz Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist (My Jazz Memoirs) is available at