By Chris J. Walker

the word contemporary

Less than a week after his enthusiastic Jerry Lee Lewis and punk rock-like performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival  that included jumping on the piano and gyrating around the stage while singing, Jamie Cullum made his Disney Hall  debut. Notably, the venue’s management requested that the exuberant singer/pianist not jump on the piano. With his sextet, consisting of Loz Garratt-bass, Brad Webb-drums, Rory Simmons-trumpet, Clarke Ellison and Aisha Stuart-backup vocals, Tom Richards-sax/keyboards/percussion, and Tom Marrow-guitar, the British jazz superstar, now celebrating his 20th year milestone was somewhat behaved and just constantly moved around onstage.

Musically, he led off with the pop/rocking, self-deprecating  Taller, title track of his 2019 recording with the Meter’s “Cissy Strut” as the backdrop, and Professor Long Hair’s “Go to the Mardi Gras” for “Get Your Way” and “Big Chief” to totally ignite the audience. Shifting to jazz and blues the youthful Brit sang melancholy “These Are The Days” and mentioned his first show in LA at Room Five. Afterwards he and band shined with a mash of Charlie Parker’s “Grovin’ High” and Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” featuring his velvet crooning, along with sax and trumpet soloing.

Everybody Loves the Sunshine: CDs & Vinyl -

Also similar was Roy Ayers’ contemporary jazz classic “Everyone Loves The Sunshine” done as a mainstream piece. While Twentysomething, the title of his breakthrough album, coolly espoused the viewpoint of an alienated young man to boogie-woogie piano, stride and bebop playing to further excite the audience who clapped along and cheered. To further legitimize his jazz cred, Cullum tenderly played and sang ballads “You Can’t Hide Away From Love” and “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” solely.

Getting back to pop songs was self-questioning original “The Age of Anxiety,” near a cappella and un-mic “Mankind” with percussion and full band vintage rocking, doo-wop styled “When I Get Famous” with the bandleader singing in the audience. The show got wilder at that point as Cullum and his band energetically spanned calypso, Latin jazz, Afro-beat, R&B, funk, swing and classic rock (Led Zeppelin) to thrill the audience and garner several standing ovations. For more info go to: and

Judith Owen | Singer, Songwriter & Jazz Musician

In a previous life, Judith Owen was known as she described, “a deep and meaningful singer/songwriter.” However, at the Grammy Museum when interviewed by music journalist Steve Hochman, she cavalierly stated. “I threw that to the wind and just became shameless, and it feels so good.” That was in reference to her latest project Come On & Get it, released near the end of 2022.

The album is a celebration of all the incredible, sometimes unheralded women singers and musicians from the ‘30s to the ‘50s that Owen as a child discovered in her father, opera singer Handel Owen’s 45 record collection in London. Combined with her amateur dancer, mathematician and linguist mother, Millicent Copp’s love for big band music, impressionable Owen became infatuated with songs by the then revolutionary and unapologetic women. They openly expressed their feelings about men, love, and female sexuality with humor, wit and elegance.

Unquestionably, highly individualistic artists such as Nellie Lutcher, Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington, Mary Lou Williams, Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie and Julia Lee  overwhelmingly shaped Owen as both a person and artist. The New Orleans-based singer/pianist/songwriter, who’s married to writer/voice over artist/actor/producer Harry Shearer, best known for his voice work on The Simpsons  animated TV show, also spoke about her English/Welsh background. It was the other aspect of her boldness, and Hochman who’s known her for many years calls her “Lady J.”    

After talking about all the influential singers’ music, Owen showcased songs on the album with her band The Gentlemen Callers. It consisted of Jamison Ross-drums, David Torkanowsky-Musical Director/piano, David Blinkhorn-guitar, Lex Warshawsky-bass, Ricardo Pascal-tenor sax and Kevin Lewis-coronet.

Standout tunes by Owen who was in blazing top form were sassy “Blossom’s Blues” by Dearie with the audience clapping along and included a stellar piano solo, sax scorching “The Spinach Song” by Julia Lee, and Peggy Lee’s bluesy ballad “He’s a Tramp.” The immortal “Fever” was all jazzed up, and Lutcher’s ground-breaking “He’s a Real Gone Guy” and sensual “Fine Brown Frame” brought down the house. For more info go to: and

Trombone Shorty by Andrews, Troy

New Orleans overflows with incredible and legendary musicians, and in the 21st century Trombone Shorty A.K.A. Troy Andrews has emerged as one the city’s best known and most popular artists, nationally and internationally. Equally impressive on both trombone and trumpet, along with vocals, Andrews grew up in New Orleans’ famed Treme District. Through his community involved mother Lois and father James II, trumpeter brother James III, chart-topping singer/songwriter grandfather Jessie Hill and other family members, Troy at a very early age became steeped in the city’s renowned jazz traditions.

Even Rock And Roll pioneer and Hall of FamerBo Diddley  had heard of talented youngster and invited him on stage for Jazz Fest when he was only four-years-old. From there Andrews participated in second line parades, joined the Stooges Brass Band and was mentored by the Neville Brothers percussionist Cyril. Shortly after graduating from high school the trombonist/trumpeter became a star member of Lenny Kravitz’s touring brass section, which led to associations with other rock bands, such as U2, Aerosmith, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Jeff Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dave Matthews Band.

Concurrently, Andrews collaborated with fellow New Orleans musicians, Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Rebirth Brass Band, the Soul Rebels and made numerous TV and film appearances, including the HBO series Treme. In 2010 he released his first major label album, funk/rocking Backatown with his band Orleans Avenue and has continued with subsequent projects.

New Breed Brass Band - 'Give It To Me' (feat. Big Choo, Kango Slim &  Trombone Shorty) - YouTube

Additionally, Andrews constantly gives back to the New Orleans community through his foundation, The After School Academy with Tulane University, MusiCares and The White House. That includes mentoring the New Breed Brass Band, led by his percussionist/trumpeter nephew Jenard Andrews, son of his brother James. At the Grammy Museum, hosted by music journalist Steve Hochman, the family members both humorously and seriously discussed the genesis of the group.

Uncle Troy insisted that the younger musicians set themselves apart from other brass bands by creating their own sound and being tight. While also thinking long term by making a record for promotion and gigs, instead of settling for “quick and easy money.” For more firepower, their debut project Joyful + Vital Made In New Orleans included guest appearances by local legends Kango Slim, Wild Wayne, and the late great 5th Ward Weebie, along with saxophonist Jeff Coffin and trumpeter Nicholas Payton

Prior to the band’s performance, came questions from the audience. They asked about Andrews educational activities, his Jazz Fest performances (all his life, except for the first year with Kravitz), second line for Leah Chase’s funeral and possible relatives greeting him.

The entire band was made up of Troy Andrews-trombone, Jenard Andrews-bandleader/snare-drummer, Revon Andrews-trombone, Mike Brooks-sousaphone, Yirma Yisrael and Orlando Gilbert-saxophones, Emanuel Mitchell and Chris Cotton-trumpets, Sammy Cirrus-bass drum and George Brown-trombone.

They blew the crowd away with explosive numbers featuring dense and elaborate brass forays with pounding rhythms for “Come On Out,” “Do You Want to Party With Me,” and “Move Something.” A fiery Latin-fused number closed the show, featuring Sheila E who Trombone Shorty recently did a music video with, energetically wailing away on snare to impress all in attendance. For more info go to: and

Pieces of Treasure - Wikipedia

Rickie Lee Jones is a singer/songwriter who is hard to pinpoint. Throughout Jones’ career she has dabbled with touches of jazz, pop, folk, blues, R&B and rock, while maintaining an extremely idiosyncratic and freewheeling persona. The results have amounted to two Grammy’s and several top-selling albums, while never compromising her artistry.

Pieces of Treasure, the bohemian singer/songwriter’s current project is Grammy-nominated and uniquely her first jazz standard styled album. It was showcased at The Roxy, along with a few crowd-pleasing chestnuts such as “We Belong Together” from her eponymous first album. It started the show, featuring Jones singing and playing piano solely. While, “Living It Up” and Pirates also from the early ‘80s were supported by Ben Rosenblum on accordion (also played piano) and backing vocals.

With Rosenblum on piano, Vilray Bolles on guitar/vocals and John Leftwich on bass, Jones launched into the jazz portion of the set. It started with “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” that included some lyrical embellishment to further delight the audience. “All The Way” was done without alteration and featured Jones’ singing her strongest and incorporated signature unpolished styling.

“Just in Time” followed suit and included the popular singer casually talking about finding love later in life, with Rosenblum soloing mellowly. Not on the record was equally compelling and Grammy Nominated “The Second Time Around” popularized by Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby  during the early ‘60s, and “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo” first sung by Dinah Shore in 1952.

With the jazz tunes out of the way, Jones served up well known rock tunes such Steely Dan’s “Show Biz Kids” and David Bowie’s anthem “Rebel Rebel” enhanced by her friends, vocalist Syd Straw and guitarist Geoff Pearlman  helping out. The headliner also returned to her own music via “Weasel and the White Boys Cool” spotlighting Rosenblum harmonica-like accordion playing, breakout hit “Chuck E’s in Love” featuring Jones playing guitar, and her songwriting father’s poetic ballad “The Moon Is Made of Gold.” For more info go to:  and

World Is A Ghetto - War (LP) - VP Reggae

WAR who has amassed 20 multi-platinum, platinum and gold albums and singles originated in the Long Beach/Compton area of So Cal during the tumultuous late ‘60s. Through Rock And Roll Hall of Famer (via former band The AnimalsEric Burdon’s early involvement (first two records) they rose to become one of the eminent funk/rock/R&B bands of the early ‘70s. Their main rival, though not intentional, was also racially integrated (a novelty then) Sly & The Family Stone, who leaned slightly more to psychedelia and social/political protest.

However, WAR’s fifth album and third without Burdon, 1972 The World is a Ghetto, was their vehicle for similarly minded commentary and hard rocking funk/Latin jamming. Remarkably, it became Billboard Magazine’s top-selling LP in 1973 and its 50th Anniversary was celebrated at the Grammy Museum. Marking the significance of event, mega producer/composer James Samuel “Jimmy Jam” Harris III did the introduction. He cited that it was also 30th anniversary of his partnership with Terry Lewis, and that WAR was the first concert he went to on his own, and amusingly got a “contact high.”

Getting into the heart of the program, Adam Weissler, Music Correspondent for the Extra TV, interviewed singer/keyboardist Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan, band co-founder and only remaining original member, and producer/songwriter, Jerry Goldstein who also owns the rights to WAR’s name (previous band members started The Lowriders). Jordan talked about hearing and being fascinated with all types of music while growing up that influenced him as a musician.

He first met Goldstein while he was in a band called  Nightshift that backed the LA Ram’s star defensive end Deacon Jones who was singing at a club in North Hollywood. Goldstein a bigtime poster manufacturer/marketer then, went to see the band and was impressed, but didn’t know what to do with them.

At the same, Burdon, who he knew well had split with the Animals and was aimless. Goldstein suggested Burdon checkout Nightshift, and with Danish harmonica player Lee Oskar they went to the club. The British rock star and Oskar jammed with them and they immediately jelled.

With a band whittled down by Burdon, who took charge, they started doing gigs, including Newport ’69, in Devonshire Downs by Northridge, CA. Featured there were top rock acts such as Hendrix, Joplin, the Doors, Creedence Clearwater  and many others that predated Woodstock by two months. By early 1970 the group’s first album Eric Burdon Declares WAR, featuring their breakout song “Spill The Wine” was released to set the band on its course.

Goldstein, with a keen sense for marketing, recorded every one of the group’s jam sessions and edited them into pop and R&B songs. He called The World is a Ghetto, “ a magical 29 days from first note to mastering.” Normally it would take six months to a year to do a record, but due to the pressures of touring they had to get the record finished. Jordan recalled that although the songs were incredible, they were not thought out, came from the heart and the band was an organic street band. They also didn’t want to be political and strived to be universal.

Goldstein also detailed the 50th commemorative five-vinyl Record Store Day Collector’s Edition includes extended songs, original jams and behind the scenes making of the songs and bonus tracks. Questions from the audience included, radio stations Jordan listened to, the name of the band (Burdon’s choice) and playing with Hendrix. He was a friend of Goldstein, Burdon and the band, and they were the last group he played with, doing an hour-long version of “Mother Earth” the night before his death.

Afterwards, the full band was raw and live-wire, and played for nearly an hour. They entertained the crowd with their most popular funky jams such as “Me And Baby Brother,” “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” an extended version of “Cisco Kid” with the audience singing along, “Spill The Wine” and the renowned album’s title track. For more info go to:  and

The word world in blue colors and green colers
Sergio Mielniczenko's Brazilian Hour Radio 45th Anniversary and Bossa Nova  65th Anniversary, Ann and Jerry Moss Theater, Pacific Palasaides, 1 October

Over the years, the Jazz Bakery, directed by one of Los Angeles’ leading jazz presenters, Ruth Price, has provided a wealth of engaging and entertaining concerts. One of the most unique was the dual celebration of Bossa Nova’s 65th Anniversary and on-air personality 

Sergio Mielniczenko’s Brazilian Hour Radio’s 45th Anniversary at the Moss Theatre that was also supported by the Brazilian Consulate. Mielniczenko, as would be expected was the host/narrator for the program and was off-stage and out of sight during the event, except to initially introduce the participating musicians he enlisted.

They were Silvia Nicolatto-vocals, Roberto Montero-guitar, Wesley Amorim-guitar, Mika Mutti-piano, Jon Pintoff-bass, Matt Demerritt-reeds and Clarice Cast-drums. With Mielniczenko giving both artistical and historical commentary while the musicians performed, the audience learned about the history of modern Brazilian music, beginning with samba. It’s considered the essence of the country’s social fabric and was developed at the beginning of 20th century in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. 

“Pelo Telefone” the first samba recorded was festively performed by the collective. Originating about 50 years earlier was the mostly instrumental and up-tempo genre called choro, a blend of polka, waltz and habanera with African rhythms. In that vein, Nicolatto beautifully sang classic “Carinhoso” and “Dôce de Coco” featuring lyrics added years later.

Shifting to mid-20th century and afterwards was the music of popular Brazilian composers such as Ary Barroso and Chico Buarque was highlighted. Naturally, bossa nova was included with Mielniczenko briefly listing its timeline.

1958: The first recording of the genre João Gilberto’s Chega de Saudade  and soccer great Pele at age 17 helped Brazil win its first World Cup

The film Black Orpheus by French Director Marcel Camus was released, showcasing landmark compositions by Antônio Carlos Jobim/ Vinicius de Moraes and Luiz Bonfá. It won the 1959 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1960, and Best Foreign Film at the 1960 Golden Globe Awards.

1960:Brasília becomes Brazil new capital, replacing Rio de Janeiro

1962: Bossa nova concert at Carnegie Hall

1965Getz/Gilberto album wins Grammy’s for Album of The Year, Best Instrumental Album and Best Engineered Recording

1966Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’s A&M Records released Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 that went into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011.

That led to the band playing enchanting and brief renditions of bossa classics “Little Boat,” “No More Blues” and “Só Danço Samba,” along with Baden Powell’s acoustic guitar-driven “Sad Samba (Samba Triste)” and Jobim’s “One Note Samba.” Not to be forgotten was his immortal “How Insensitive” and extremely popular “Wave” that was actually written in LA in 1967. Wrapping an entertaining and highly informative evening were bossa’s best known songs, Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema” and Mendes’ “Mas Que Nada.” For info go to: and

Interview with Violinist Kishi Bashi | Electric Violin Shop

Kaoru Ishibashi, born in Seattle, raised in Norfolk, VA and currently resides in Athens, GA, is a violinist/singer songwriter/arranger/multi-instrumentalist. His performance name is Kishi Bashi. With, A Song Film by Kishi Bashi: Omoiyari, he added filmmaker to his numerous talents and achievements. He screened the documentary at the Aratani Theatre to a sold-out audience and included performing all the songs from it with Q&A mixed in.

Omoiyari, which translates to “the idea that thinking about others promotes compassion” is a journey Ishibashi, a Japanese American takes to find his roots. In the process, he learns about the dreadful chapter of American history when his past generations were unfairly incarcerated during WWII. The highly creative musician/filmmaker who previously was a member of indie rock bands Jupiter One and Of Montreal  definitely isn’t the first to tackle the subject. But his approach is more youthful, integrated his music and was emotionally connected to the era.

During his crew’s first trip to LA they met and stay at Karen Ishizuka’s mother’s vacant house. Ishizuka, PhD, Chief Curator at the nearby Japanese National Museum and second-generation Japanese-American, who had 22 family members incarcerated in different camps cited. “Kaoru’s (Ishibashi) parents came to the U.S. after the war, but this is also his story and what he has done is given it to you all.

To make it your story, an American story. It has its legacies and also has its lessons. We (Japanese-Americans) didn’t have allies at the time to standup for us and the lesson is to be allies in whatever way needed. To be there and speak up.”

In musician mode, Kishi Bashi dreamily sang with bassist/banjo player Mike Savino, Emily Hope Price-cello/vocals and a string trio. They started with folk/classical ballad “Penny Rabbit and Summer Bear” that ramped up for the audience to clap along. In the same vein “F Delano” referred to the 32nd President’s Executive Order 9066 and featured Savino. Ethereal “Marigolds” was bolstered by the strings and light percussion from Price.

Some of the Q&A questions were, why did he choose violin (close to human voice and plays other instruments), how has he changed after making the film (happier, very woke, more mature and connected), advice to other multi-national people who feel marginalized (believe in yourself and be beautiful) and what’s next for him (very interested in exploring convict leasing history). For more info go to:, and 

CAP UCLA Announces Theater and Music Events in November at The Nimoy

Marianella Rojas, who simply goes by Nella, appeared at CAP UCLA’s Nimoy Theatre. The singer/actress, originally from Venezuela, by way of Canada, graduated from the Berklee College of Music. Shortly thereafter, she won a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist in 2019. Additionally, she has worked with fellow Venezuelan, LA Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Gustavo Dudamel and performed one of his songs in the documentary Free Color. Furthermore, Nella has collaborated with other Latin artists, including  Jennifer Lopez, Carlos Vives, Javier Limón, Luis Enrique, Alejandro Sanz, Susana Baca, Los Amigos Invisibles, Monsieur Periné and Caramelos de Cianuro.

With a stripped-down group of one person on guitar/vocals and another playing sax/keyboards/percussion/vocals, Nella in Spanish euphoniously sang “Ahí” and “Mi Ciudad Perdida” that flourished with breezy sax solos. After reaching out to the audience and getting shoutouts from all the South American countries they were from, the cheery singer segued into romantic ballad “Otro Beso,” which further impassioned the attendees. Staying on that wavelength, the Venezuelan continued with “Mi Guitarra” that she recorded with Limón, and “Burbujas de Amor” with the audience helping and her guitarist inserting a tasty solo.

“Volaré” and “Solita” shifted things slightly up-tempo with Nella beautifully singing and getting everyone to clap along. Coming from a country plagued with severe economic and political crisis, the singer urged everyone to leave their fears and disappointments outside the venue, before performing optimistic “Pa Afuera.”

While, “De Vez en Cuando” returned to sultry and romantic textures that included a concurring sax solo, light percussion and vocal harmonies from the backing players. Feeling very festive, the Latin Grammy-winning singer launched into “Voy” and raised the excitement with spirited singing bolstered by a flute solo. For the encore she wonderfully sang “La Negra Atilia” a cappella and with band self-defining “Me Llaman Nella.” For more info go to: and

Dudamel and the LA Phil featuring Silvana Estrada | Walt Disney Concert Hall

Dudamel & LA Phil at Disney Hall featured versatile Mexican singer/songwriter Silvana Estrada for its Canto en Resistencia series. Estrada’s musical acuity spans jazz, funk, indie Latin rock and folk, and classical. Interestingly, her singing was only featured for three songs at the tail end of the program. Her “Si me Matan” was gloriously sang with mild orchestration, conveying the fear of women going on the streets alone. Estrada gave a lengthy explanation afterwards and continued with “Se me Ocurre” that expressed the healing qualities of love.

In sharp contrast, she stirringly sang Dudamel’s boldly orchestrated version of “Sólo le pido a Dios.” It was a protest song composed by Argentinian singer-songwriter León Giecoin in 1978. Without a doubt, a perfect ending for the Canto en Resistencia program, which received an equally powerful standing ovation. Other segments of the concert included works, Roberto Sierra’s Alegría, Tania León’s  Stride, Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2 and Gabriela Ortiz’s Seis piezas a Violeta. For more info go to: and

METRO ART x SILKROAD PRESENT: RAILROAD ROOTS - Union Station LA -  Happenings & Events

American Railroad performed by the Silkroad Ensemble at  The Soraya was an ambitious, diverse and comprehensive suite. It musically depicts and celebrates the unsung heroes who constructed the 19th century landmark American Transcontinental Railroad and other important railways from 1863 to the beginning of the 20th century.

The workers were primarily Asian and Irish immigrants, along with American and indigenous people of color who laid down thousands of miles of track. It was documented that non-immigrant American Caucasians workers preferred mining and agriculture, except in Utah due to the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsBrigham Young’s involvement.

Captivatingly leading the 13-person consortium was two-time Grammy, Pulitzer Prize-winning and MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient, multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter/composer Rhiannon Giddens. She became Silkroad’s  Artistic Director in 2020, succeeding the non-profit organization’s founder cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

For the concert Giddens who played banjo, fiddle and sang was inconspicuously among her colorfully dressed bandmembers: Shawn Conley-bass, Pura Fé-lap-steel guitar/voice, Haruka Fujii-percussion, Sandeep Das-tabla, Karen Ouzounian-cello/voice, Mazz Swift-violin/voice, Niwel Tsumbu/guitar, Francesco Turrisi-frame drums/accordion, Kaoru Watanabe-Japanese flutes/percussion, Michi Wiancko-violin/voice, Wu Man-pipa and Yazhi Guo-suona/Chinese percussion.

In the course of two hours, not including intermission, they performed 17 deeply spiritual ethnic, world and American folk time piece selections, showcasing themselves individually and collectively within the ensemble. Included were commissioned pieces, traditional folk songs “Swannanoa Tunnel” and “Steel-Driving Man” arranged by Giddens, pipa featured “Time Elapse” arranged by Zhang Haihui, “Wíhaŋblapi Mázačhaŋku” or “Railroad Dreams” by Oglala Lakota composer Kite, and Cecile McLorin Salvant’s  interpretation of the bluesy hymn “Have You Seen My Man?” to further engross the audience.

Overall, Gidden and ensemble’s main intent according to their website was. “Lifting up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been overlooked or erased, while advocating for a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins through art.” For more info go to: and

The Melody Of Rhythm | Greater Miami & Miami Beach
The Melody of Rhythm - Wikipedia

Virtuoso banjoist Béla Fleck and equally talented double-bassist Edgar Meyer’s creative relationship began over 40 years ago, and they have regularly worked as a duo and on each other’s individual projects since then. In 2009 they enlisted master table player Zakir Hussain to help write a concerto that ended up being The Melody of Rhythm, recorded with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Leonard Slatkin.

Interestingly, the magic between the three world-class musicians didn’t occur until they started touring to promote the album. Then, they quickly found through improvisation a common language, even though each of them musically and culturally had very different backgrounds. Bluegrass, classical and jazz fusion for Fleck, Meyer was steeped in Western classical, and for Hussain it was Indian classical, Indian fusion and rock.

While performing in India, Rakesh Chaurasia, a talented bansuri (Indian bamboo flute) player sat in. His uncle was Indian flute legend Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, who Hussain knew well. Amazingly, he injected additional color and greatly opened things up, resulting in everyone being challenged and reaching new heights.

14 years later and after many concerts the magical quartet released As We Speak, their first recording together, and triple Grammy-nominated. It expresses their conversational process for composing and performing, while weaving a diverse mixture of elements, such as raga, Indian classical, blue grass and Western classical into an astounding union.

At Soka University’s Concert Hall, Fleck, Hussain, Meyer and Chaurasia treated the audience to a beguiling and highly stimulating evening, beginning with bluegrass laden “Bubbles” that was heighted by the banjoist and bassist’s exchanges. While “Conundrum” was more raga-like featuring superb tabla and bansuri playing with bass contributing an incredible rhythmic solo.

Hussain’s Indian classical themed “J Bhai” honored his longtime friend and musical partner, guitarist John McLaughlin from Shakti. It featured bowing bass, with flowing tablas and bansuri, and banjo injecting astounding textures and rhythms to blow the audience away. A little later the quartet served up “Pashto,” influenced by British marching bands in India during the 1800s. Chaurasia’s graceful playing and Meyer’s robust bowing bass were prominent, while Fleck and Hussain adding lively support to end the first half of the program.

After intermission, “Rickety Karma” an entertaining merging of bluegrass and raga started the second half of the concert and was propelled by Fleck and Hussain’s jam-like playing, with Meyer also soloing. While “Tradewinds Bengali” was much more melodic and flowed with gentle bansuri playing augmented by attacking banjo and tabla textures.

Not on the new recording and without bansuri was a 15-beat Western classical structured canon starting with bass, then banjo, as tabla was involved throughout. With Chaurasia back in the fold, the remarkable quartet concluded their concert with the title selection and “The B Tune,” both chocked with dynamic energetic playing to draw an enthusiastic standing ovation. For the encore mid-tempo pastoral styled “1980” composed by Hussain was showcased. For more info go to: and

the word blues
Blues guitarist Ana Popovic coming to The Lyric Theatre|News | The Lyric  Theatre

Two of the most common themes in blues are paying your dues and surviving. Singer/guitarist Ana Popović has done plenty of both many times over. She was born in Serbia when it was part of Yugoslavia under Communist rule. When that regime collapsed the then teenage guitar wiz was able to go to other parts of Europe to further her musical education and perform.

Along the way, she met and jammed with Americans, harmonica player/vocalist Junior Wells and guitarist Bernard Allison. Those connections led to her being the only female guitarist to be included on Jimi Hendrix Blue Haze: Songs of Jimi Hendrix on Ruf Records in 2000 (similarly on the 2014-2018 all-star Experience Hendrix Tribute Tour) and subsequently getting her own recording contract.

Since then, the hard-rocking and unapologetic Popović has maintained a demanding touring schedule, released 13 albums with her band and fought for acceptance from the male-dominated blues establishment and audiences. In 2020 her efforts were curtailed by the Pandemic and being diagnosed with breast cancer (her mother died from it three years earlier). She fought it with intense determination that included 14 chemotherapy treatments in Amsterdam and since 2022 has returned to her trademark hard-hitting blues and R&B rocking, averaging about 150 shows a year.

At the Cerritos Center For Performing Arts, she and band that included brass players did their final show for 2023, highlighting Popović’s newest release Power. They lit up the stage, beginning with a fiery Intro jam. “Rise Up!” slowed things down a little, but didn’t lack firepower. Popović soulfully blazed away, while conveying a message of uniting and not giving up.

Alternately, the Manhattan Beach-based headliner revealed the sultry lover side of her persona with high-voltage and brass charged “Power Over Me,” along with snarly, assertive “Ride It” and alluring, soul-wailing “Strong Taste (For You).” The singer/guitarist further exerted dominance and control with “Queen of the Pack” and “Like It on Top” that boldly exhibited her powerful singing and playing.

Popović even showed a more traditional New Orleans quality through Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint” featuring her keyboardist, brass players and her own searing playing. She could have easily ended the show at that juncture, but continued with more molten hot songs such as Mandrill’s “Fencewalk” and new confessional/affirming “Doin’ This.” They were both filled with hot brass forays, soulful singing and of course “take no prisoners” guitar playing.

For blues and R&B purists she launched into juke joint shuffling “Brand New Man.” With the firepower of Buthel Burns-bass, Jerry Kelley-drums, Michele Papadia-keyboards, Claudio Giovagnoli-saxophone and Davide Ghidoni-trumpet, Popović could have played well beyond her allotted 75 minutes. She instead left the audience tasting for more in 2024.

Former Buddy Guy protégé, guitarist/singer Quinn Sullivan opened the concert with jaunting tunes from his latest album Wide Awake that were a mixture of classic and indie rock. Additionally, he showcased his new Hendrix styled single “Salvation.” For more info go to:, and

Text Special Mention
MONK'estra jazzes up birthday celebrations - Beverly Press & Park Labrea  NewsBeverly Press & Park Labrea News

Pianist/composer/arranger/bandleader John Beasley, also a Grammy-winner and Emmy Nominee shares a birthday with the idiosyncratic pianist and composer  Thelonious Monk  (October 10th). The bandleader had a Triple Birthday Celebration at Zipper Hall on the Coburn School campus with the 10-year anniversary of his forward-thinking  MONK’estra coinciding.

It was part of the Jazz Bakery’s Movable Feast series and the 15-person band with Terreon Gully-drums, Reuben Rogers-bass and Beasley who are also Dianne Reeves’ rhythm section, roared during an exhilarating arrangement of Charlie Parker’s classic “Donna Lee.” The bandleader debated that  Miles Davis actually wrote the tune.

Beasley who’s very active in scoring films and TV programs showcased a mostly explosive suite of MONK’estra’s work in that sector. It was for multiple Oscar and Emmy-winning  composer Thomas Newman’s score for Let Them All Talk, who was in the audience, that was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Trumpeter Theo Croker joined the big band for a powerful funk-tinged number that was intensely introed by Reuben and boosted by a ferocious trombone solo. Included was a mash of Wayne Shorter/Weather Report’s lightly fused “Harlequin” and “Three Clowns.”

Ballad “Ruby My Dear” focused on Monk’s music and featured saxophonist Ralph Moore weaving around the somber, yet also flourishing arrangement. The icon’s signature “Rhythming” opened things for up all the players to interact vigorously and also turn in scorching solos that impressed the audience. In the closing moments of the show, Beasley attempted with an injured hand to play “Straight No Chaser.”

Pianist/producer Greg Phillinganes who was close by jumped on stage and took over with vocalist Dwight Trible also joining in and joyfully scatting away. He led the jamming band, and spirited crowd to enthusiastically sing “Happy Birthday” to the bandleader and Monk. For info go to: and

Azar Lawrence Experience - Monterey Jazz Festival

Shortly after blazing away during one of the final sets at the 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival, saxophonist Azar Lawrence’s Experience performed at The Miracle Theater. Lawrence, a former prodigy, worked with blues legend Muddy Waters, pioneering funk Watts 103rs St. Rhythm Band and War with Eric Burdon, while still attending high school in Los Angeles during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

After graduating and studying with trail blazing pianist Horace Tapscott and colossal drummer Billy Higgins, the powerful reedman was a sideman for icons Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Woody Shaw  and Freddy  Hubbard throughout the ‘70s. Also, during that era, Lawrence led and recorded with his own group that was broader in scope, encompassing modern jazz, holistic/spiritual explorations, Latin/Afro-Cuban jazz, funk and R&B.

In late ‘70s into the ‘80s, the saxophonist worked with high-caliber artists saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and pianist Henry Butler, while doing much more R&B related music with singers Marvin Gaye, Deniece Williams  and  Phyllis Hyman, along with Earth, Wind & Fire. After a 15-year break from music due to health reasons, Lawrence returned and merged all his previous avenues of expression into his current band. It included Lynn Fiddmont-vocals, Wes Lowry-drums, Chris Lowry-trumpet, Dennis Nelson-guitar, Robert Turner-keyboards and Michael Alvidrez-bass.

They began with the immortal “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” Kamasi Washington-like “All in Love” and fusion/funk styled “Lost Tribes of Lemuria.” The pieces were all from their 2020 music video Another Trip Around Sun recorded with recently departed saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders to celebrate his ‘80th birthday.

Special guests, keyboardist/vocalist Rickie Byars Beckwith  and her daughter, singer Georgia Anne Muldrow rendered a deeply spiritual ballad “Child of The Sun” that was enhanced with gentle trumpet and sax solos to totally enthrall the audience. Closing out the set was a euphoric version of “My Favorite Things” featuring the bandleader and cohorts boldly playing and soloing to captivate the audience. For more info go to: and

Bill Frisell, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Many More Create Wonder at the Theatre  at the Ace Hotel | The Hollywood Times

Multiple Grammy nominated and many time jazz poll winner, guitarist Bill Frisell’s FIVE, was essentially two trios melded. It consisted of bassists Thomas Morgan and Tony Scherr, with drummers Rudy Royston and Kenny Wollesen who also doubled on vibes intermittently. They wistfully coalesced at the Theatre at The Ace Hotel as part of the CAP UCLA series. It was the perfect format for the guitarist, known for intermixing elements of electronic ambience, country, roots, jazz and rock into his music.

In fact, the opening number had a Grateful Dead feel, especially with two drummers and Frisell’s signature ethereal rambling style. The ensemble afterwards segued into an initially dreamy piece with Wollesen’s vibe playing complimenting the bandleader, before he shifted to driving fused playing and light electronic looping, and then later returned to the opening section.

From a more conventional standpoint, Frisell showcased his jazz chops for an up-tempo number that provided ample space for him and cohorts to stretch out. They contrarily got raucous when rendering John McLaughlin’s pre-Mahavishnu Orchestra composition “Arjen’s Bag” and a rhythmic African styled jam-like tune. For balance, melodic songs “What World Needs Now is Love” by Burt Bacharach/Hal David and encore “People” popularized by Barbara Streisand were included to receive impassioned standing ovations.

Also garnering a standing ovation was emerging trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s Owl Song trio. Frisell was also a bandmember and Timothy Angulo on drums subbed for New Orleans-based Herlin Riley who’s on the upcoming album. This group was nearly as palatable as the headlining one and kept the audience spellbound.

The trumpeter and guitarist interlaced unbelievably well to create trance-like musical vistas, ranging from atmospheric neo-bop, fused funk to exquisite ballads. Additionally, Angulo’s adept touch and graceful sense of rhythm further elevated the unit. He, though, will not be on the record. For more info go to: and

Truly a versatile jazz guitar statesman with a big personality, Russell Malone has worked with a wide swath of artists, including Diane Krall, Jimmy Smith, Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Macy Gray and even Rickey Lee Jones recently. After a long time away since about 2016, he returned to So Cal and appeared at the Moss Theater for The Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast series with his quartet. It included Bill Cunliffe-piano, Mike Gurrola-bass, and Roy McCurdy-drums, who Malone declared should be a NEA Jazz Master.

They got down to business with cool swinging numbers,  George Coleman’s “Amsterdam After Dark” and “Love For Sale” featuring Gurrola and Cunliffe elegantly soloing, and a tradeoff with McCurdy. Slowing things down some was easy flowing “The Kind of Girl She is” composed by the Bergmans and Dave Grusin, and gentle ballad “While We Were Young” to draw approval from the audience.

For something different George Shearing’s bebop tune “Conception” showcased Cunliffe’s impressive chops, along with the other rhythm players as the bandleader sat it out. Additionally, Malone’s longtime friend renown flautist Hubert Laws joined him on stage for velvety renditions of “Misty” and bossa classic “Quiet Nights” to further captivate the attendees.

Closing things out was Dizzy’s hard swinging classic “Blue ‘N’ Boogie” featuring Laws, Malone and the other players all soloing passionately. They received a joyful standing ovation and in response the guitarist stated. “I’m going to have to come out here more often.” For more info go to:

Angel City Jazz

For two weeks the Angel City Jazz Festival, which took root 15 years ago, showcased an eclectic selection of threshold-pushing innovators and collectives. Common labels describing the music presented are avant-garde, free jazz, and third stream, when classical textures are integrated.

Regardless of sub-classification the sounds emulating from an assortment of So Cal locations, such as LACMA, REDCAT, Zipper Hall, the World Stage, Zebulon, 2220 Arts + Archives, Artshare LA and the Moss Theatre was unadulterated jazz intended for listeners looking to be both challenged and enlightened.

At LACMA Sam Rivers 100 celebrated saxophonist and free jazz innovator Sam Rivers’ legacy who was born in 1923. Arranger Mark Master assembled 13 players to focus on the saxophonist’s Blue Note Records releases from 1964 to 1973 originally recorded in trio, quartet and quintet settings. While at the World Stage, San Francisco Bay Area-based harpist Destimy Muhammad worked with a trio that included Leon Joyce Jr.-drums and Chico Lopez–bass, with special guest saxophonist Teodross Avery. Afterwards, distinguished flautist/composer/educator James Newton conducted an interview/Q&A with Muhammad.

2220 Arts + Archives hosted several engaging shows. Among them were emerging groups, Crump/Laubrock/Smythe and Jeong Lim Yang’s Zodiac Trio.  Ennis Harris’ Images & Silhouettes did a World Premiere of Images & Silhouettes with 19-piece third stream ensemble that was commissioned by the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Jeff Clayton’s Memorial New Note Award and the second part of the concert was violaist Mat Maneri’s adventurous and occasionally turbulent quartet, consisting of Brandon Lopez-bass, Lucian Ban-piano and Randy Peterson-drums.

REDCAT highlighted the Next Jazz Legacy Showcase with: Anais Maviel-voice, Milena Casado-trumpet, Neta Raanan-saxophone, Anastassiya Petrova-keyboards, Kalia Vandever-trombone, Keyanna Hutchinson-guitar, Anna Butters-bass and Ivanna Cuesta-drums.

The second set was Nicole Mitchell’s JBM: Images Beyond Artwork and Poetry by Joan Beard Mitchell, with dramatic performance by actor/vocalist Maia and music composed by flautist/educator Mitchell. Bandmembers were Mitchell, Ganavya Doraiswami-voice, Jeff Parker-guitar, Maggie Parkins-cello, Jeff Gauthier- violin, Anna Butters-bass and Rajna Swaminathan-percussion.

Another performance at the venue was Billy Mohler Quartet ‘s ULTRAVIOLET CD Release Party with Mohler-bass, Mark Turnertenor sax, Shane Endsley-trumpet and Jonathan Pinsondrums. The second set group was the Todd Cochran Trio, TC3 with special guest reedist Bennie Maupin. Bandmembers were Cochran-piano, John Leftwich-bass and Lyndon Rochelle-drums.

Artshare LA staged the newly established Vernacular: New Music series, presenting an inter-generational improvisation mashup of more than 20 veteran and emerging musicians. They performed eight 30-minute sets in duos and trio formats.

Zipper Hall spotlighted Gloria Cheng’s solo piano modern classical interpretations of James Newton’s “Eight Calla Lilies,” Gernot Wolfgang’s “Two Movements,” Jon Jang’s “Ancestors & Sisters” and other composers. Following Cheng, Jang on piano with saxophonist Hitomi Oba served up Ellington’s immortal “Come Sunday,” Oba’s modern classical oriented “Just Crossing By” and “The Butterfly Lovers Song.” Its based on a tale of a tragic romance in restrictive China with pre-arranged marriages that evolved into an opera and popular concerto.

Bassist/vocalist Linda May Han Oh and pianist/husband Fabian Almazan concluded the evening. They engulfed the concert hall with swirling post-bop selections boosted by swirling playing and enchanting wordless singing. Among the selections played were “The Imperative” and “Respite” from Oh’s latest endeavor The Glass Hours and Almazan’s “The Everglades.”

The Moss Theatre was the setting for Kirk Knuffke’s Trio, made up of Knuffkecornet, Santiago Leibsonpiano and Michael Bisiobass, who created stimulating cutting-edge soundscapes. During the second half of the program Todd Sickafoose‘s abstract BEAR PROOF nine-movement suite was uncloaked. It was originally recorded in 2014 and not performed until that weekend in the Pacific Northwest and California. The all-star cast of musicians making it happen were: Sickafoose-bass,Jenny ScheinmanviolinAdam Levy-guitar, Carmen Staaf-pianoBen Goldbergclarinet, KnuffkecornetRob Reichaccordion and Allison Millerdrums.

Zebulon flourished with the intriguing grouping of Tim Berne-alto sax, Aurora Nealand-accordion/clarinet/voice and Hank Roberts-cello/voice for OCEANS AND. They produced some of the most unusual harmonies during the festival. Running neck and neck with them in that regard was Harriet Tubman that brought together Melvin Gibbs-bass, Brandon Ross-guitar/vocals and J.T. Lewis-drums.

They interestingly were an amalgamation of Bad Brains, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sonny Sharrock, Hendrix and Nels Cline. The bluesy, funky and often spacey trio’s set was heighted by the soul stirring singing of their guest Georgia Anne Muldrow.For more info go to:

Itinerary — Miho Hazama Official Website

Miho Hazama’s m_unit Beyond Orbits week-long West Coast Tour included a stop at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts’ Samueli Theatre.

There, the fast-rising composer/arranger who was born, raised and educated in Japan and additionally earned a Masters at the Manhattan School of Music, grandly showcased her music. Several years ago, she was appointed permanent Guest Conductor for the acclaimed Metropole Orkest in the Netherlands and is also the Associate Artistic Director of the New York Jazzharmonic.

Hazama impressively conducted her youthful 13-person ensemble, who elegantly performed fascinating compositions from her latest project, also the name of the tour. “A Monk in Ascending and Descending” was lushly string laden, while additionally being garnished by saxophone solos, brass forays, and interestingly concluded with a funk-driven section featuring vibes.  

The conductor/bandleader’s three-movement Exoplanet Suite, an impressive commission for the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2021 marked her West Coast debut. The work was inspired by new scientific revelations regarding the Solar System, and the state of the world during the Pandemic. Performed entirely, it showcased the New York-based composer’s adept feel for interweaving sweeping classical and jazz motifs, akin to Gil Evans, Maria Schneider and  Vince Mendoza.

Closing out the amazing set was up-tempo chamber jazz juggernaut “From Life Comes Beauty,” and a lightly percolating cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Can’t Hide Love” that she retitled as “I’m no Longer Going to Hide Love” for the encore that both drew fervent standing ovations. For more info go to: and  

Jazz Concert Review: PAT METHENY (Dream Box Tour at Royce Hall, UCLA) -  Stage and Cinema

For almost 50 years guitarist Pat Metheny has played in a wide variety of settings, ranging from contemporary jazz, mainstream, bossa, acoustic guitar to even avant-garde. Along the way he has monumentally garnering 20 Grammy’s in 10 different categories through 53 albums. His easy going, Mid-western (Missouri) persona disguises his driven and extremely ambitious nature to continually find more avenues of expression. At CAP UCLA’s Royce Hall, part of his Dream Box Tour, he did a full concert performing solely.

Normally, the versatile guitarist usually includes a section for solo playing, amidst working in multi-instrument settings. Metheny talked extensively about the concept of the new record, his background and musical associations and influences, along with “in the weeds” info about guitar strings and composing on a piano. Metheny admitted he had done very little of that previously, and the audience enjoyed hearing him extrapolate about the subjects and his various recordings. That was especially true for Beyond the Missouri Sky done in partnership with iconic bassist and friend Charlie Haden, with selections played from it.

With an onslaught of guitar changeouts throughout the two-hour plus concert, Metheny played a variety of styles. That included raucous/distorted guitar for “Zero Tolerance for Silence,” “Alfie” and “Last Train Home” on baritone guitar, “Here, There and Everywhere” on nylon baritone guitar, and the 42-string Pikasso Guitar created by Canadian guitar maker Linda Manzer.

Furthermore, the guitarist utilized a looping bass backdrop he created for bossa classic “Morning of the Carnival” and a bluesy vamp to further delight the audience. Towards the tail end of the concert Metheny injected his Disneyland-like automated Orchestrion that was stealthily covered prior to “Signals,” synth guitar for fusion/world jamming “Straight on Red” and nylon guitar laden “Sueño con México” to receive a thunderous standing ovation. For the encore, without automation he served up Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell’s pop hit “Wichita Lineman.” For more info go to: and   

Keyboardist/vocalist Rachel Eckroth has both collaborated with and supported a diverse range of artists. Among them are Canadian operatic/folk/pop singer/composer Rufus Wainwright, triple Grammy-winner rock/pop singer/guitarist St. Vincent, Scottish indie rock singer/songwriter KT Tunstall, pop/jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, genre stretching saxophonist Donny McCaslin, and blues/jazz bassist/husband Tim Lefebvre.

With a group consisting of Andrew Renfroe-guitar, Billy Mohler-bass and Tina Raymond-drums, she spotlighted compositions from the newly released vinyl version of Humanoid at Sam First. It was also recorded there in 2022 for the venue’s label. Eckroth and crew, who supported the project, quickly summoned up spinetingling “Mind” one the first tunes she composed. It exhibited snarly guitar runs, poignant piano playing and an attacking rhythmic backdrop.

“Vines,” also an original by the bandleader contained bebop-oriented touches with fluid drums and bass accompanying mostly. Guitar later entered with a torrid segment to wrap up the piece. Carla Bley’s soulful ballad “Lawns” spotlighted the bandleader’s cool piano prowess, along with the other players strongly complimenting and soloing.

Bill Fisell’s “Strange Meeting” comparatively was livelier, with a slight ambient edge and featured Renfroe in the opening section with Eckroth soaring afterwards. The set ended with Mohler’s bass-driven and hardbop styled “Evolution.” Its pulsating rhythms, the players strong intermeshing and Raymond blazing solo definitely left the audience hungering for another set. For more info go to: and

BRAD MEHLDAU | The Ridgefield Playhouse

With par excellence pianist Keith Jarrett unable to play with both hands, due to his debilitating health issues, mostly significantly suffering from two strokes in 2018, Brad Mehldau could be his likely successor. Mehldau similar to Jarrett has a fluid style and is a superb interpreter and improviser. Additionally, he is classically trained, released recordings in the genre and has worked with some of its top vocalists, such as Renée Fleming, Anne Sofie von Otter, and Ian Bostridge.

Jazz wise, the pianist’s cred is beyond reproach, having worked and/or trained with legends Jimmy Cobb, Junior Mance, Fred Hersch, Lee Konitz, Charlie Haden and Charles Lloyd. Additionally, Mehldau intermittently works with his contemporaries, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Brian Blade and Peter Bernstein, whose careers all began around the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.

Where Jarrett and Mehldau mostly differ is their choice of material. Jarrett extraordinarily plays standards and variations of them, with touches of gospel and classical. Mehldau does too, but is much more adventurous, alternatively playing original compositions and diving into rock, pop and film music. Songs by Nick Drake, Radiohead, the Beatles and other rock artists often permeate his performances.

Naturally, with his most recent project being, Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles that was especially evident during his concert at Disney Hall. With bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard the pianist began with a jaunty and free-wheeling version of “I Hear a Rhapsody.”

Afterwards, they segued into sweet ballad “Little Person” by producer, arranger, studio musician, songwriter, film scorer and sometime collaborator Jon Brion from the film Synecdoche, New York. Also included was Mehldau’s cascading “Spiral” that showcased his remarkable style and the trio cohesiveness and Charlie Parker’s bebop gem “Sheryl” featuring Ballard turning in a powerful solo to impress the audience.

However, the most noticeable highlights from the set were these pieces. Waltz-like Seymour Reads The Constitution based on a dream he had about the actor Seymour Hoffman, highlighted the bandleader’s spry playing with tantalizing bass and drums accompaniment. The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” the longest song of the concert was played as if it was originally a jazz tune, bolstered by enchanting variations and propulsive drumming.

A scorching bebop styled “Long Ago And Far Away” was enhanced by a rhythmic bass solo and explosive drumming, and a lyrical treatment of the ballad “The Folks Who Live on The Hill” received a zealous standing ovation. For the encore Mehldau served up thematic Highway Rider, title track of one of the albums he recorded with Brion. For more info go to: and

Dianne Fraser's Debut Album "YOU AND I" - Jazz Music Forum

Singer Dianne Fraser, by trade an executive for the management and production company, Industry Entertainment Partners, had a CD release party for her debut album YOU AND I, an Homage to The Words And Music of Leslie Bricusse at Catalina. In true Hollywood fashion she told the near-capacity audience. “This project has been a long time in development,” which drew laughs. “And it began when I was a very little girl in North Hollywood.”

Back then she wanted to be Petula Clark (her 90th birthday occurred that day), the British pop singer/songwriter and actress who during the ‘60s into the ‘70s churned out chart-topping hits such as “Downtown,” “Don’t Sleep in The Subway” and “My Love.” Fraser did them as a quick medley with her backing musicians Todd Fraser-piano/Musical Director/Producer, Adam Cohen-bass and Denise Fraser-drums and sister.

After repeatedly watching the 1969 film musical Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which included her title track You And I, starring Clark and Peter O’Toole, young Fraser started reading the credits. She was surprised to find her idol didn’t write any of the songs she fell in love with and wanted emulate—it instead was Leslie Bricusse, who she initially thought was a woman.

Fraser learned about the multi-Tony Award-nominated “male” British songwriter/composer/lyricist/playwright, who collaborated with film composer giants Henry Mancini, John Williams, John Barry, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Even more so, Bricusse worked with songwriter/singer/actor Anthony Newley. That discovery greatly elevated Fraser’s taste in music, theater and film (mainly musicals). Ultimately it cultivated a long-lasting love and respect for Bricusse, whose songs everyone knew, but not him.

The spectrum of his songs and themes included, Grammy-winning “What Kind of Fool Am I,” James Bond  classics  Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, two-time Academy Award-winning “Talk to the Animals” from 1967 Doctor Doolittle, “Pure Imagination” and “The Candy Man” from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, and “Feeling Good” from The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the CrowdNina Simone’s  recording of it is the best-known and has been widely sampled, which led to Fraser doing a stirring bossa-tinged version.

In 21st century-mode, the singer showcased her wonderful singing through diverse mashes of “Crazy World” from the film Victor/Victoria and “If I Ruled The World” from the musical Pickwick, with guest vocalist Damon Kirsche “Look at That Face” from Grease Paint and “Something In Your Smile” from Dr. Dolittle that were marvelously sung and on the record.

Also included were ballads “Once in a Lifetime” from Stop The World I Want to Get Off and “This is The Moment” from the musical Jekyll And Hyde. Fraser additionally showed off her French skills, developed from the language being her major in college and living in Bordeaux for a year, with “Le Jazz Hot” from Victor/Victoria. It featured with her donning a top hat and singing with carefree joie de vivre.  

It didn’t seem like Fraser ever met Bricusse, who died in 2021. She did hear from his son Adam. He said, “great stuff, Leslie, I’m sure Leslie would have been delighted!” To say the least, she was very happy and closed the concert with her title track and “Two for the Road” that were both very romantic and positive. For more info go to:, and

Cal Tjader Plays/Mary Stallings Sings - Music

Ever since the release of the 1961 ground-breaking album Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings, the singer has been a treasure in the San Francisco Bay Area. She, though, is popular in many other places as well, and according her website, Stallings was the first jazz artist ever to perform at Prague’s renowned National Theatre in 2011.

Additionally, through the course of her exemplary six-decade career that includes a decade off to raise her daughter  Adriana Evans, she performed and recorded with jazz royalty. Among them were Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstein, Count Basie, Ben Webster, the Montgomery Brothers (Wes, Monk and Buddy) and many others all around the world.

At San Francisco’s North Beach area’s Key Jazz Bistro, close to where Stallings recorded with Tjader during the mid-20th century, she holds court monthly for a couple of nights. Supporting trio, pianist and Musical Director, David Udolf, bassist Ron Belcher and drummer Jeff Minnieweather created sumptuous accompaniment and swinging rhythms for the vocal queen.

She began singing with cool ease “It’s Crazy (But I’m in Love With You” and also featured her trio stretching out. Reassuring “Close Your Eyes,” elegantly arranged by Udolf was perfect for the headliner’s sophisticated phrasing and feel, especially during the brief segment with only bass that tantalized the audience.

Also getting a new “treatment” from the Music Director was “It’s Just The Gypsy in My Soul,” mashed slightly with the rhythm of “The Creator Has a Master Plan.” It evoked soulful purr-like singing from Stallings who comfortably submerged herself into the tune and also seemingly effortless sang the ballad “I Took a Trip” that drew strong applause. While “East of The Sun (West of The Moon)” heated things up with the singer and trio cutting a soothing upbeat groove.  

Stallings briefly departed from standards with “Monk’s Dream.” Before getting into the post WWII tune, she recalled the halcyon years of the locale (late ’50 early/ ‘60s). While on her break from a rehearsal at the El Matador with Tjader she saw Monk do an unbelievable free warmup prior to his show at the Jazz Workshop.  She was ecstatic afterwards and told her bandmates. She also remembered meeting Cannonball Alderley and seeing Oscar Peterson and Carmen McCrae in neighboring clubs.

Wrapping up the quickly transpiring set was the very apt Latin-tinged “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” that drew a very appreciative and deeply respectful standing ovation. For more info go to:  and

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