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. 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.
For 62 years (1958-2019), the Monterey Jazz Festival was one of the greatest jazz festivals in the world. Held each year during a September weekend at the Monterey Fairgrounds, it was a must for any jazz fan living within 500 miles. Like everything else, it was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic in 2020. In 2021 it returned, sort of, with just two venues operating instead of the usual six or seven.
Happily in 2022, Monterey is very much back. While there will be just four venues, the music ends by 10 p.m. on Friday and 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and all of the music is taking place outside (instead of having three additional indoor nightclubs on the fairgrounds), the lineup is certainly top-notch. Billed as the 65th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, the fun takes place during Sept. 23-25.
Among the many performers will be Chucho Valdes, Incognito, Butcher Brown, Artemis (an all-star group with Melissa Aldana), Veronica Swift, a reunion of Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour (which includes Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Christian Sands, and Lakecia Benjamin), Gerald Clayton, Charlie Hunter (for a set with Elling), Ravi Coltrane, Brandee Younger, Kris Bowers (presenting the premiere of a special composition commissioned by the festival), Gregory Porter, Bruce Forman with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, Nicholas Payton, Dave Stryker, Warren Wolf, the Cookers, Matthew Whitaker, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Kyle Eastwood, Kim Nalley, Houston Person, Maria Muldaur, Akira Tana, Samara Joy, Julian Lage, The Bad Plus, Joel Ross, Keyon Harrold, Nate Smith, Henry Kaiser, and the Emmet Cohen Trio plus more. If that makes your mouth water, it is time to buy tickets!
Richard Shelton is best-known as a British actor who has been featured in a variety of films and plays. As early as 2002, he portrayed Frank Sinatra in the stage production Rat Pack Confidential and later on he starred in such shows as Sinatra And Me and Sinatra RAW.
While Frank Sinatra is certainly an influence, at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, Richard Shelton showed that he is a first-class singer in his own right. Joined by an excellent jazz quartet that included pianist Jordan Seigel, guitarist Graham Dechter, bassist Alex Frank, and drummer Ryan Shaw, the vocalist was in top form, celebrating the release of his first American album An Englishman In Love With L.A. (which I reviewed in the previous issue).
Shelton displayed a very good voice, complete control over his singing, a swinging style, and a witty personality. He has his own approach to the world of Sinatra as he showed on such numbers as “Lost & Found,” the Beatles’ “And I Loved Her” (which was taken quite slow), Alex Frank’s witty original “Sinatra & Me,” “It’s Not Unusual” (also reinvented by taking it a very leisurely pace), a bossa nova version of “The Touch Of Your Lips,” a dramatic “Where Or When,” “Pure Imagination,” “One For The Road,” “That’s Life” (which turned into a sing-along), and “The Lady Is A Tramp” among other worthy songs. Richard Shelton ad-libbed lyrics on “All Of Me” in which he paid tribute to his sidemen while also featuring each of them.
It was a classy and very musical show. Catch Richard Shelton perform whenever you can; you will not be able to help enjoying his singing and charm.
One of the top vibraphonists around today, Nick Mancini was originally a drummer who was based in New York. He moved to the LA area in 2006 and shifted his focus to the vibes, working with Arturo Sandoval, Poncho Sanchez, Kenny Werner, Kamasi Washington and many others in addition to leading his own groups.
At Mr. Musichead Gallery, in the very worthy Just Jazz series presented by the Jazz Cat (LeRoy Downs), Sam Milgrom, and Frederick Smith Jr, Nick Mancini was joined by altoist Danny Janklow (doubling on flute), keyboardist Gary Fukushima, bassist Eric England, and drummer Jonathan Pinson. They started with an original that used the chords of “What Is This Thing Called Love” which had Mancini (utilizing four mallets) and Janklow taking six blazing choruses apiece before fine electric piano and drum solos. The set also included Josh Nelson’s “Nelson Wonders,” several newer pieces (including one hinting at “The Days Of Wine And Roses”), “Moonlight In Vermont,” the medium-tempo swinger “In My Own Backyard,” the jazz waltz “New Moon,” and “Silver Lining” which is based on Horace Silver’s “Strolling.” In addition, Mancini played some tasteful solo piano on an original ballad.
With Mancini showing great fluency and creativity during his solos and Janklow’s high-powered statements sometimes recalling Phil Woods while the rhythm section kept the music consistently stimulating, this was an excellent night of modern jazz.
The Just Jazz live concert series at Mr. Musichead Gallery (7420 Sunset Blvd.) which began in 2018, is presented by LeRoy Downs, Frederick Smith Jr, and Sam Milgrom. Upcoming at the Mr. Musichead Gallery (a very attractive venue for presenting creative modern jazz) are performances by Danny Janklow (June 1), Sara Gazarek (June 8), Daniel Rosenboom (June 15), Theo Croker’s Big Black Band (June 17), Javier Santiago (June 22), and Julieta Euginio (June 29).
The California Jazz Foundation, a very worthy organization that provides financial assistance to struggling jazz musicians, held their annual “Give the Band a Hand” fundraising gala at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, paying tribute to the late altoist Jeff Clayton and Blue Note president Don Was.
Alonzo Bodden was the genial and witty host for the evening. The Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Student Jazz Quartet (which was actually a quintet) provided music early on. Altoist Ronnie Heard was particularly inventive, while the rest of the group (an unidentified but skilled tenor player, pianist Ian Macklin Sims, bassist Damani Holland, and drummer Michah Heard) displayed plenty of potential. They performed “Footprints,” “Tutu,” and other post bop material.
Jeff Clayton’s widow spoke a bit and then tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard led a sextet comprised of fellow saxophonist Charles Owens, trumpeter Dr. James Ford, keyboardist Adam Ledbetter, bassist Edwin Livingston, and drummer Don Littleton. They played a Jeff Clayton blues, Blue Mitchell’s “Fungii Mama,” “The Very Thought Of You” (which had a fine vocal from Clayton’s cousin), and a powerhouse version of “Halleluah, I Love Her So.” Woodard was in top form throughout.
The second half of the show honored Don Was who succeeded the late Bruce Lundvall as head of Blue Note and has kept the legacy’s going while signing new talents to the label. A group with organist-keyboardist Ronnie Foster, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr, Rickey Woodard on tenor, and drummer Clayton Cameron played a medium-tempo blues and then electric bassist Marcus Miller and trumpeter James Ford joined in for “Canteloupe Island.” Finally Don Was himself sat in on bass with Miller switching to bass clarinet or a moody closer.
Overall this was one of the most entertaining of the California Jazz Foundation galas that I have attended, and certainly a good way to celebrate a great cause.
The talented Brazilian singer Catina Deluna teamed up with her husband pianist Otmaro Ruiz, guitarist Roberto Montero, bassist Nando Raio, and drummer Aaron Serfaty at the G Spot in Highland Park for a special concert celebrating the birthdays of both Catina and Aaron Serfaty.
During a long two-hour plus set, Ms. Deluna (who has a beautiful and clear voice) was heard at her best, singing almost exclusively in Portuguese. Among the pieces that she interpreted were “Flashes,” “Brigas nunca Mais,” “Augas de Marco,” “Coisa Feita,” “Tristesse,” “Cavalo Marinho,” “The Girl From Ipanema,” and “Chovendo na Roseira.” She also performed a pair of duets with guitarist Montero and a brief duet with Serfaty. In addition, Roberto Montero (a superb guitarist) had “Dunas” and “Estrela Azul” as his solo features.
The evening contained enough variety and joyful feelings to hold one’s interest throughout. However it would have benefitted from a few more instrumentals from the talented band, and particularly more solo space for the masterful Otmaro Ruiz.
The G Spot, which is located in a private home, is a particularly attractive venue and one that features both impeccable sound and an infectious party atmosphere.
The Northridge United Methodist Church hosts a regular Jazz Vespers series on Sunday afternoons. One day it featured tenor-saxophonist Robert Kyle leading a quartet with pianist-singer Stephan Oberhoff, bassist Randy Landos, and drummer Lucio Viera.
They began their hour set with Toots Thielemans’ “Bluesette,” taking it as a slow tenor-piano duet before it became a bossa-nova for the quartet. Kyle, as usual, displayed a beautiful light tone while the virtuosic Oberhoff (who is also an excellent guitarist) played fascinating lines behind the tenor’s lead before taking his own solo. Kyle switched to soprano for his “Dark Delicious Dreams,” a tune with attractive Brazilian funk rhythms. The music from then on was mostly filled with samba rhythms as the group performed Oberhoff’s “Brasilian Sky” (which had the composer singing unison lines with Kyle’s soprano), “Poinciana” (with Kyle on flute), an explorative yet mostly melodic “Nature Boy,” a few originals, and finally the swinging bluesy number “Hangin’ With the Bubba’s.” Throughout, Landos and Viera played creatively and tastefully behind the lead soloists.
It made for a particularly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.