the word contemporary

By Chris J. Walker

Abraham Alexander SEA/SONS (Personalized Ltd. Edition Vinyl)

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Abraham Alexander recently had a listening party and album preview for his SEA/SONS recording at the Gibson Showroom in Hollywood. KCRW’s Jason Kramer was the host and interviewer for the occasion. Kramer and Alexander discussed many aspects of the record and the folky, neo soul singer/songwriter’s background, as each song was showcased. The title is philosophical and emphasizes that each moment in a life is important and should be embraced. If not, we all cease to be who we are.

Alexander, whose parents were Nigerian immigrants was born in Greece. The family that included four other brothers (pictured on the album cover) later moved to Ft. Worth Texas when he was 11 to escape racial persecution. Tragically, his mother was killed by a drunk driver during a car accident shortly afterwards and he ended up being adopted while in his early teens.

Sports became his refuge and he quickly became a soccer phenom, but then tore his ACL while playing for Texas Wesleyan University. While rehabbing from the career-ending injury his girlfriend gave him a guitar and Alexander quickly became a prolific songwriter.

Fellow Ft. Worth resident Leon Bridges came into the bank he was working at. Alexander found the courage to approach him and received encouragement to seriously pursue his aspirations. That gave the budding artist the impetus to forge forward. Since then, he has opened and/or supported Bridges, Black Pumas, Mavis Staples, Lucius, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Ani DiFranco, Shakey Graves and Gary Clark Jr.

Standout songs were gospel/hymn-like “Xavier” about his brother who was killed in 2017, soulful and emotional “Tears Run Dry” played live. “Déjà Vu” (feat. Mavis Staples) about 16-year-old imprisoned in solitary confinement in Rikers Island Jail for two-hundred days, and subsequently committed suicide. “Stay,” gentle and haunting ballad dedicated to his adoptive parents (Gary Clark Jr. on the record) played live on electric guitar, and dreamy/pop “Bella Dawn” meshed with “Amen” the chorus from the first track. For more info go to:

2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition Winner and Grammy-nominated drummer/singer Jamison Ross recently landed at the newly opened Knitting Factory in North Hollywood. After a funky and soulful intro featuring both his drumming and singing skills with band members pianist Chris Pattishall, guitarist Rick Lollar, bassist Barry Stephenson, and Cory Irvin on keyboards, he showcased songs from his 2022 album JAMO. “Trying” was hot grooving and modern soul singing, while the bandleader enlisting the audience to be his choir.

Ross quickly transitioned into a melodic and funky pastor through “One Day at a Time,” also a new song that was reinforced with rocking band support and urgent messaging. “Stay in The Moment” was romantic with a mix of sweet-sounding vocals and the band stretching out with rock/gospel jamming. The crowd was completely in the singer/drummer’s hand by this point as he primarily sang and talked to the audience.

In the mode of classic R&B he drummed and serenaded the crowd with soul drenched songs “Ain’t No Need in Crying and “Out of Mind” that had the feel of Al Green and Charlie Wilson. While Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield’s social/political/sensual styles with touches of reggae were explored through new songs “Freedom Ain’t Easy,” “Emotions,” “Tell Me,” and “Say You Love Me,” which had the audience swaying and singing along.  

Contemporary jazz with gospel tinges was also injected into the set with “These Things You Are to Me,” the longest selection of the set with Green’s “I’m So In Love With You” mixed in. A total surprise was jazz standard “Don’t Go to Strangers” that was serenely sang by the bandleader, which initially caught the crowd off guard and then showed strong appreciation. Bringing the inspirational journey to an end was “Keep On,” accented with bluesy guitar and powerful band interactions. For more info go to: and

Many know vocalist/guitarist Diane Hubka as a jazz artist, who toured internationally and recorded a half-dozen albums, including one with renowned saxophonist Lee Konitz. Conversely, her formative years in the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland were entrenched in the folk music of Peter, Paul & Mary and Joni Mitchell, Emmy Lou Harris’ country sounds and the soft melodious rock of the Beatles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

After the disappointment of the 2016 National Election, Hubka had a driving desire to do protest and union music. Subsequently, she transitioned from jazz to an acoustic melding of western swing, folk, Delta blues and country, with dab of electric guitar thrown in. Soon afterwards, the guitarist/singer was regularly collaborating and performing with Rick Mayock-acoustic, electric and baritone guitars and vocals, Joe Caccavo-bass, banjo and mandolin, and Lynn Coulter-drums and percussion to become—Diane Hubka & The Sun Canyon Band.

They performed at the Coffee House Backstage Gallery in Altadena for a very intimate and laidback show. Some of the highlights were Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell the title track of their new CD with a Latin feel via Coulter’s percussion, Randy Newman’s/further popularized by Marcia Ball “Louisiana 1927” featuring electric guitar playing and soloing from Mayock and a folky/country version of “The Blues is My Business (And Business is Good)” boosted by the band leader’s sweet singing and whistling from Coulter.

Also, from the group’s new recording was “Albuquerque” in the vein of Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks’ western swing featuring slide guitar from Mayock and the group’s vocal harmonies with Hubka. “To The Light” an optimistic call for world harmony, serenely sung by her was pure folk with light accompaniment to draw strong audience reactions, along with the guitarist singing lead for his original “Dancing With My Shadows.”

Additionally, traditional folk song “Shady Groves” aka “Matty Groves” derived from Appalachian blue grass and Northern English folk was delivered with banjo from Caccavo. Hubka, who primarily sang and played acoustic guitar during the set, briefly returned to jazz, playing electric guitar and singing/scatting “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” from the Disney animated film The Aristocats. She remarked mid-concert, “I thought I was changing umbrellas and I just walked under a bigger one.” For more info go to: www.suncanyonband.comand

Band on top if the word Fusion
Herbie Hancock - Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA - Tickets,  information, reviews

Iconic and highly influential keyboardist/composer/producer, and also the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Creative Chair for Jazz, Herbie Hancock relishes performing yearly at Disney Hall. Now 83 years young, he sprightly commented to the near capacity audience, “We hope to have some fun tonight.”

He also playfully chided new band member and longtime friend trumpeter Terence Blanchard about his recent accomplishments. They included headlining at the same venue weeks earlier, his operas Champion and Fire Shut Up in My Bones debuting at New York’s Metropolitan OperaSee Me As I Ama year-long celebration of his artistry at NYC’s Lincoln Center and his abounding “side hustle,” composing and scoring for films.

Getting back to his own music, Hancock with James Genus-bass, Lionel Loueke-guitar/vocals, Jaylen Petinaud-drums and Blanchard, launched into sci-fi film sounding “Overture.” It was overwrought with intergalactic keyboard effects and layering and explorative acoustic piano, along with dynamic intermeshing from the band.

Included in the mix were trumpet intensely blazing away and earthy playing/scatting with effects from Loueke that incorporated the bandleader’s mega hit “Chameleon.” Additionally, from Hancock’s Headhunters era was effervescent and extended fusion/funk number “Actual Proof,” highlighted fiery bass and drums solos that excited the audience.

Switching things up from the fusion jamming was an homage to Hancock’s recently departed best friend, legendary saxophonist/composer/bandleader Wayne Shorter. With wife, Carolina Dos Santos in the audience the group played his immortal piece “Footprints.” Blanchard utilizing electronic effects soared, while Loueke coolly employed keyboard-like and bluesy textures.

Afterwards, the audience gave the group a standing ovation and the keyboardist, noticeably touched, managed to not get too emotional.  Another divergence from forceful playing was easy flowing, contemporary jazz oriented “Come Running to Me.” It featured the bandleader’s electronic vocoder singing and Loueke’s African styled scatting/chanting. With the other players’ immergence, the song shifted to being more driven and included soloing.

The final selections “Cantaloupe Island” and a full rendition of Hancock’s best-known tune “Chameleon” bolstered by him playing a strap-on synthesizer fully recaptured the fusion dynamics. That solidly resonated with the crowd, who were up and clapping along as the musicians creatively stretched out during fervent soloes. Without a doubt, the bandleader, players and audience definitely had a lot of fun. For more info go to: and  

The World Stage Concert Series featuring Purple Gums at The World Stage on  Fri, Apr 7th, 2023 - 8:00 pm

The Purple Gums brass ensemble consists of trumpeter Bobby Bradford, tuba player William Roper and tenor saxophonist Francis Wong, all extraordinary band leaders, players and educators individually. As a group they are purely improvisational, never rehearse and don’t have charts or written music to draw from.

At the World Stage, they were totally “in the moment” and went wherever an urge, event or a topic took them, while weaving layers of sound intermixed with spoken word and poetry, mostly from Roper. He creatively panned Tennessee and its conservative history and stance on gun rights, equality and reproductive rights. All the while his cohorts were producing oft-kilter riffs and effects, with the tubist growling before joining in on wooden flute.

For a moment they went into Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” as Roper talked about elephants and “Salt Peanuts.” At this juncture, Branford and Wong were coolly riffing together and the tubist shifted from talking to playing avant-garde explorations. Bradford injected shrieking and Roper joked about dating a homeless woman who made similar sounds. On a roll with Wong playing meditative bells, he continued joking around before shifting to marching textures and rhythms.

The cycles continued with a variety of variations, squawks and squeals as the players had a wealth of themes, both musically and politically to expound on. Among them were Kimba The White Lion, The National Anthem, living in the U.S. and biblical stories, mixed with bebop, free jazz, blues and plenty of comedy. Dwight Trible, manager and emcee ended the concert, also livestreamed, about 75 minutes in. It could have easily gone late into the night. For more info go to: and     

The word world in blue colors and green colers
Apr 1 | 2023 Los Angeles International Flamenco Festival | Redondo Beach,  CA Patch

The 2023 edition of the Los Angeles International Flamenco Festival at the Redondo Beach Auditorium, picked up where 2022 left off. That year notably featured saxophone player Antonio Lizana. He creatively extolled the possibilities of his instrument in flamenco context with a dancer and backing band to totally captivated the audience.

This year, Dorantes showcased InterAcción, his stunning adaption of piano to the genre with Pastora Galván, one of the most sought-after flamenco dancers in the world and percussionist Cheyén. The pianist first set the mood with string plucking and light earthy percussion, before shifting to a robust intermixture of jazz, classical and flamenco motifs with his accompanists. From there it was wild highly intensive ride that had the audience on the edge of their seats.  

Dorantes, afterwards took somewhat of a respite through solo romantic classical/flamenco expressiveness. During those interludes his astounding prowess and command of his instrument were showcased. The percussionist later returned mostly playing cajon, for highly rhythmic selections that were more jazz and Latin jazz oriented, along with be featured for a rousing solo.

The pianist’s final section realigned with traditional flamenco and a strong classical presence featuring Galván’s dancing to draw an emphatic standing ovation.

Also unique to flamenco was harpist Ana Crismán, reputed to be the only known musician who plays and composes flamenco on the instrument. She performed solely and slowly unveiled a rich and intricate tapestry flamenco harp music. Interestingly, the harp’s tonality at times resembled guitar, but mostly was gentler and more mystical. Unquestionably, those qualities enthralled the audience and displayed the dimensions of flamenco.

Other featured artists were Nino De Los Reyes, the first and only Grammy-winning dancer, and Lakshmi Basile “La Chimi” the first non-Spanish person to win the central flamenco contest. For more info go to:

the word blues
Duane Betts "Wild & Precious Life" - RPF

Duane Betts will be forever connected to the ground-breaking Southern classic rock group, the Allman Brothers Band, formed by Greg and Duane Allman (both deceased), and his wizard guitarist father Dickey in 1969. Younger Betts sat in with the influential band many times, toured with his father’s band Great Southern for ten years and in 2022 he did a world tour with the Devon Allman Project, led by Greg Allman’s son.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that Duane Betts, also a singer/guitarist/songwriter and his band Palmetto Motel, consisting of Pedro Arévalo-bass, Johnny Stachela-guitar, Carey Frank-keyboards and Vince Fossett Jr.-drums thoroughly know ABB’s rock, blues, jazz and country infused catalogue. At Venice West the group showcased songs from Betts’ upcoming record Wild & Precious Life, and as would be expected also injected a strong dose of ABB into the show. That was fine for the majority of the audience who were longtime fans of the southern rocking trail blazers.

Betts’ rocking original “Downtown Runaround” from his 2018 Sketches of American Music EP got the set going and segued into ABB’s similar sounding “Shinin’.” It was filled with the bands signature double guitar leads and complimenting organ. Staying in mode of rock from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was Fleetwood Mac/Peter Green’s scorching “Oh Well” with snarling singing from the bandleader and wailing guitars from him and Stachela. Winding things down some was his father’s “Autumn Breeze” that maintained ABB’s archetypal structure and leaned slightly to blues.

Eventually, Betts and Palmetto Motel spotlighted some of the songs from the upcoming record, beginning with country rocking “Saints to Sinners” featuring Betts appealing dusty vocals and the band later shifting up tempo for flailing jamming. “Colors Fade” was more easy-flowing and danceable, while also featuring appealing singing and slide guitar. “Waiting on a Song” was a mixture of ABB and the Eagles, and livelier with extended soloing. Alternatively, “Stare at the Sun” was more blues and rock oriented, overflowing with hot solos and exchanges from the players.

In that regard, ABB’s immortal gems such “Blue Sky” and thematic jazz/blues/rock instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” highlighted by keyboardist and band members rounded out the concert. They drew passionate response from the packed house.

As a bonus Arévalo’s gritty singing was in the forefront for Willie Dixon’s blues staple “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” and Waylon Jennings’ country rocking “Honky Tonk Heros,” which was the show encore. Summing things up, Betts appealingly served up both new and nostalgic music that definitely satisfied the crowd. Opening the show was singer/songwriter/guitarist Charlie Overbey, who performed his roots rocking songs.  For more info go to:, and

Text Special Mention

Jazz Concerts at The Getty have returned, and the venue recently presented saxophonist and free jazz innovator David Murray’s Quartet. Besides performing withMartha Sánchez-piano, Luke Stewart-bass and Kassa Overall-drums, Murray was there to be part of the museum’s celebration of visual artists Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems’ work. He has known them for over 40 years and they requested that he be part of the special occasion.

Murray who has a Grammy, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, recorded over 200 albums as a leader and collaborated with Max Roach, Pharoah Sanders, Amiri Baraka, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, Quest Love and others was honored to be included. During his set he cited that musicians get accolades nightly, but artists rarely receive them—and it should happen much more often.

Musically, the saxophonist said much more, first emphatically shouting, “Open up the door” about five times and then wildly springing into action with his new ensemble. They were a juggernaut of sound and rhythm that was for the faint of heart. Although playing intensely and raucously, the saxophonist didn’t too far out into the stratosphere and stayed somewhat inbounds as his rhythm players propelled him with a solid and forceful foundation for “Necktie.” During the tune his sidemen also followed Murray’s lead for their own solos that were also both abstract and earthy.

Vastly different was energetic and conventional neo-bop theme oriented “Nemo,” about a dog who will be the subject of an animated film. Later, bassist Stewart did an engrossing extended bowed solo for an elegant ballad roughly translated from Hebrew that means “Beautiful Child,” before the other musicians coolly eased in to join him.

Before playing Butch Morris,’ lengthy bebop styled “Obie,” Murray who grew up in Oakland, affirmed his So Cal tenure as a student at Pomona College (received an honorary Doctorate Degree in Music in 2012). That preceded his move to New York and he gave shoutouts to LA contemporaries, Bobby Bradford, James Newton, Stanley Crouch, Horace Tapscott and Arthur Blythe, along with Wilber and Butch Morris. Murray’s music was a little intimidating, but overall warm, versatile and definitely worth experiencing. For more info go to:

New Pacific Jazz Orchestra Unveils Plans at United Recording Studio -  VarietyThere’s a new orchestra in town—the Pacific Jazz Orchestra. Its led by seven-time Grammy-nominated composer, arranger, and conductor, Chris Walden. The 40-person ensemble had its official launch at the historical United Recording Studios. There, the orchestra roared, swung intensely and lushly swelled.

It was garnered by a guest performance by Kandace Springs, who adeptly played piano and serenely sang original ballads “What I Thought Was Gone” and “Run Your Race.” The latter tune was dedicated to her mentor and father who passed away in 2021. Wrapping things up, Walden’s colleague, singer Adam Jackson delivered a scorching version of “Let The Good Times Roll” that also featured PJO blazing away.

Walden, originally from Germany, arduously formed the orchestra over a year ago. He described the endeavor, “It’s not a traditional orchestra or big band, but instead sort of a hybrid ensemble to explore the boundaries of jazz and create collaborations with a wide range of guest artists from all kinds of musical backgrounds, with the finest musicians in Los Angeles.”

The PJO Artistic Director’s plans entail: A full concert season consisting of 5 projects, each with a different pair of guest artists. Concerts going beyond the boundaries of jazz, featuring pop, R&B, hip hop, Americana, and world music from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and other places. Collaborations with venues around the general Los Angeles area such as, The Wallis (Beverly Hills), The Soraya (Northridge), Alex Theatre (Glendale), The Ace Hotel Theater (Downtown LA) and The Broad Stage (Santa Monica). All the concerts will be live streamed.

On person alone couldn’t make something of this magnitude happen and Walden enlisted an impressive consortium of supporters, with The Herb Alpert Foundation being the primary sponsor. Among them are longtime friend and orchestra member, drummer Peter Erskine.

The Advisory Board includes Alan Bergman, Gregg Field, Rachel Fine, David Foster, Dave Grusin, Quincy Jones, Michael Lazarus, Felice Mancini, Monica Mancini, Harvey Mason Jr., Rickey Minor and Ledisi Young. On the Board of Directors are Yvonne Faison (Co-Chair), Mitchel Moore (Co-Chair), Alexander Walden (Treasurer), Don Franzen (Secretary), Daniel Carlin, Deborah Chase, Zain Khan, Chuck Ortner, Paula Salvatore, Rafa Sardina and JoAnn Tominaga.

PJO’s Grand Opening concert is slated for October 27 at the Wallis, featuring Ledisi and Arturo Sandoval. For more info go to:

California Jazz Foundation's Give The Band A Hand! at Omni Hotel Los Angeles,  April 8

The California Jazz Foundation had its annual Give The Band A Hand Gala at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel with many of the city’s jazz luminaries and musicians in attendance. Among them were Dinner Chairs Edythe L. Bronson, Esq. and Gina Kronstadt, along with Co-Chairs, David Benoit, Hubert Laws, Stephanie Levine, Esq., Ruth Price, Poncho Sanchez, Richard Simon, Patrisha Thomson, Dwight Trible and Mark Winkler. Additionally, husband and wife, Mike Stoller and Corky Hale2015 Nica Award Winners and Civil Rights Advocates were there. KCRW radio personality, and Just Jazz concert promoter, LeRoy Downs emceed the affair.

Following dinner with music provided by the UCLA Student Ensemble consisting of Dalton Mumphrey-tenor sax, Chris Ruiz-guitar, Caden Potter-piano, Raven Adair-bass and Artie Fitch-drums, was a live auction. Rapid-fire talker and super glib Auctioneer Zack Krone skillfully and humorously was able to get sizable donations for highly desirable jazz-oriented art, cruises, trips and other items. Notably, the auction was almost as entertaining as the music and awards ceremonies that followed.   

Recently deceased singers, Ernie Andrews and Barbara Morrison posthumously received the 2023 Heritage Awards. Price, 2014 Nica Award recipient, who was about to turn 93 presented the award with a touching antidote, to Andrews’ daughter Stephanie. While John Clayton, who received the Nica Award in 2016, injected “Don’t rehearse, only perform.” That was in regard to Morrison’s work standards, and he presented the award to Tim Morganfield. He is stalwartly carrying on the singer’s mission and legacy.

The awards were accompanied by intro videos detailing the artists exemplary careers, narrated by Downs. In honor of Andrews, vocalist Elijah Rock sassily performed “I Just a Lucky So And So” and “My Love is Here to Stay.” While, Darynn Dean jumped into “Red Top You Got Me Spinnin’” with hot scatting and switched up with an angelical interpretation of ballad “Never Let Me Go.” Delectably supporting the singers were Clayton Cameron-drums, Stuart Elster-piano, Richard Simon-bass and Rickey Woodard-saxophone.

The Nica Award, named in memory of the impactful and enormously giving Patron Saint of JazzBaroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter (1913-1988) was given to KKJZ radio personality, and concert/recording producer Jose Rizzo. With a video also narrated by Downs preceding, Hubert Laws presented the award to Rizzo. They had a conversation of sorts, recalling their first meeting, continuing his mentor Chuck Niles’ legacy, the lasting relationships formed through jazz and inviting Rizzo’s wife Letica to accept the award. Fittingly, the DJ and producer’s 10-piece band Mongorama performed scintillating Latin jazz originals that had some of the audience dancing.

The nonprofit organization formed in 2006 by attorney, Bronson assists jazz musicians, particularly older ones to receive greatly needed social, medical and economic services, which they otherwise would not be able to obtain. CJF has been an incredibly lifeline to many eligible musicians, and so far, has been able to help about 400 California jazz players. For more info and to help go to:

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