By Chris J. Walker
A progenitor of the modern soul movement of the ‘90s and a three-time Grammy-winner who focuses on being in monogamous relationships, unlike his counterparts, Maxwell performed for the Hollywood Bowl’s Fireworks Finale concerts. During the final the show his was supported by his longstanding touring band, who alternated between dreamy, lush and lightly funky interludes. Thematic instrumental open “Phoenix Rising,” and easy grooving “Sumthin” and “Dancewitme” that also featured the multi-faceted artist dancing around the stage much to the females in the audiences’ delight, got things started.https://www.youtube.com/embed/0dZ65zV7HGw?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
“Fortunate” dripping with soulful sensuality took things to an even higher level as Maxwell passionately expressed appreciation for his partner. While his sweet sounding falsetto spotlighted the amorous side of the relationship through “Bad Habits.” Covering any possibility of liability, the singer jokingly issued a disclaimer after the song and then continued with “Stop The World” that professed a higher love with a church-like organ solo accenting.
Maxwell further got the audience’s attention by shouting out to all the generations in attendance, ranging from those born in the ‘50s to those born during the millennium, and singing “Always And Forever” popularized by Luther Vandross with audience helping out. However, when the headliner displayed his range for “Pretty Wings” and “Fistful Of Tears” featuring jazzy/gospel keyboards the amazed crowd didn’t join in.
The singer/songwriter/keyboardist who is Haitian/Puerto Rican took a break from the deeply romantic material to celebrate his Caribbean roots with “Lake By The Ocean.” After that detour, Maxwell returned to his “lover man” persona with “Get To Know Ya,” and anthem “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” his best-known song, to erupt the Bowl with fireworks soaring in the background. In closing, the singer conveyed his appreciation for the audience and serenaded them with the ballad “Whenever.”
Raveena, a singer/keyboardist/guitarist who sort of resembles Corinne Bailey Rae’s neo-soul dreaminess, and also melds mediative and new age vibes opened the concert. Through cool grooves and a loving goddess attitude, she surprisingly calmed and charmed the crowd who were intensely anticipating the headliners arrival. For more info go to: musze.com, www.raveenaaurora.com and www.hollywoodbowl.com.
Jacob Collier, a techno wizard, protégé of Quincy Jones and a four-time Grammy-winner, is the human embodiment of the Eveready Energizer Bunny. He was constantly on the move, dancing, running and jumping around—while also singing, playing guitar, keyboards, bass and percussion. At the Hollywood Bowl, Collier in larger-than-life fashion performed with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins.
Before a single note was played (excluding the national anthem) the infectious English wunderkind had the audience energetically doing call and response as he called out words, phrases, harmonies and odd sounds. Afterwards, he, his band consisting of Alita Moses-vocals, Emily Elbert-guitar/vocals, Erin Bentlage-keyboards/vocals, Christian Euman-drums and Robin Mullarkey-bass, and the orchestra kicked in for a whirlwind of songs that intermixed pop, techno, rock and jazz, with touches of classical to dazzle the crowd’s senses.
Some of the concert’s special moments were “You And I” done a cappella, and with full band fiesta style “All Night Long” featuring special guests Take 6 to thoroughly blow the audience away. “Little Blue” was an inspirational world premiere with Brandi Carlile. She drew an ovation upon the audience hearing her name and when she sang with Collier. His vocorder/techno version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” also had the crowd buzzing. Additionally, he spotlighted many of his skills, playing acoustic guitar, bass, synth and singing on “All I Need” with band member Moses’ soulful vocals.
Amidst all the excitement, Collier squeezed in lush ballads with the orchestra such as “Hideaway,” “Djesse” an on going theme of his albums, with him crooning and playing percussion. Bossa styled “A Noite” and “Lua” featured multi-instrumentalist/singer MARO from Portugal and currently touring with him. In the same vein texturally, but more poppy, they continued with the debut of ballad “Summer Rain” that will be on Collier’s upcoming project. Furthermore, his mother Suzie Collier conducted the orchestra and played violin for the lush piece “Once You” as he softly sang.
Contrarily Collier, band and orchestra rocked out with “WELLLL” and the Police’s “Every Little Things She Does is Magic.” For the encore, the Brit served up blue grass/Americana themed “Wild Mountain Thyme.” It was wrought with sweeping vocal choruses and harmonies from his bandmates, and upon his urging the audience got involved. For more info go to: www.jacobcollier.com and www.hollywoodbowl.com
Guinga, considered Brazil’s greatest and most important living singer/composer presented by Vera’s Heartbeat, recently performed at 2220 Arts & Archives. The concert spanned his 50-year career, while also highlighting songs from his recent recording Zaboio. Guinga interestingly is known more for having an enticing sound that encompasses touches of choro, canção, samba, baião and jazz, than being associated with particular songs. Nonetheless, his songs notably have been recorded by Brazilian superstars such Elis Regina, Sérgio Mendes, Leila Pinheiro, Chico Buarque, Clara Nunes, and Ivan Lins, along with French composer, arranger, conductor and pianist Michel Legrand. https://www.youtube.com/embed/b_fXRqHZMB4?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
To a near capacity crowd of mostly Brazilians, the singer, songwriter, composer and guitarist began solely playing beautiful “Igreja da Penha” and rhythmically complex “Picotado.” They were soothing instrumentals that showcased his amazing fret skills. In honor of his father Sargent Escobar, who fought in the WW2, he sweetly sang tender ballad “Meu Pai.”
For a change of program, Guinga’s lovely wife Anna Paes beautifully sang touching songs “Neblina e Flâmula” and “Noturna.” The standout was “Bolero de Satã,” which he played to Elis Regina several months before her death and she wanted to record it. Briefly, without Paes he sang and played fast paced rap-like “Chá de Panela” that was recorded by renowned composer/multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal and drew strong crowd reactions.https://www.youtube.com/embed/U06Nw7jg4ng?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
Guinga with his wife back singing rendered lullaby-like “Você Você” that was his first collaboration with celebrated singer/songwriter/poet/guitarist Chico Buarque and is on the new album. They closed out the delightful show with lively tunes “Paulistana Sabiá” and “Vô Alfredo” that definitely left the audience wanting more. For more info go to Vera’s Heartbeat on Facebook and Instagram, and www.2220arts.org
A year prior to forming his celebrated and ground-breaking Mahavishnu Orchestra band in 1971, innovative and explorative guitarist John Mclaughlin, an alumnus of Miles Davis’ genre defining fusion records In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson, recorded acoustic and Eastern/fused project My Goal’s Beyond. Concurrently, McLaughlin’s MO became an extremely popular arena-filling ensemble that influenced legions of musicians and captivated audiences.
At the height of MO’s success, the guitarist chose to focus more on non-electric Eastern music from India and proceeded to study with renowned tabla player Zakir Hussain an integral member of Ravi Shankar’s touring band. The lessons quickly evolved into lengthy jams and the musicians were inspired on the heels of McLaughlin dissolving MO to form Shakti. In English it means, creative intelligence, beauty, and power—musically incorporating India’s Hindustani and Carnatic music traditions, with jazz.
Other original members were violinist L. Shankar, and percussionists Ramnad Raghavan and T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram. They toured regularly and recorded several albums during their initial two-year period (1975-77), before McLaughlin and Hussain moved on to do respective solo projects. 20 years later the group reunited for recordings and tours with different personnel that included mandolin prodigy U. Srinivas. Although rather loosely, they remained connected for a few more projects and concerts, until the mandolinist’s sudden death in 2014.
Years later, prior to the Pandemic Lockdown, Shakti fully reformed with violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan and vocalist Shankar Mahadeven, along with longstanding members Vinayakram, Hussain and McLaughlin. In subsequent years, they appeared sparingly due to COVID restrictions. Now with full mobility, they recently recorded a new studio double CD This Moment dedicated to Srinivas and commemorating the groups’ 50th anniversary with a tour that included a concert at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.
Not surprisingly, the 756-seat auditorium was buzzing with excitement before Shakti began performing. In action after a standing ovation, Hussain’s tabla playing counted down the quintet for “5 in the Morning, 6 in the Afternoon.” McLaughlin playing electric guitar with limited effects and violinist Rajagopalan musically sparred, while also turning in formidable solos as the percussionists supplied a thunderous backdrop.
Mahadeven gave the audience and band a respite for a few moments by enchantingly singing and scatting new selection “Giriraj Sudha” that eventually became quite lively and festive with full band involvement to totally astonish the audience. Before continuing with raga, scorching electrifying guitar flavored, group scatting and also new “Shrini’s Dream,” Hussain toasted McLaughlin for being a masterful visionary.
At that point, about the midway through the two-hour show, it could have easily ended and the audience probably wouldn’t have complained. Shakti continued with more new pieces such as “Sono Mama” and “Bending the Rules.” From a traditional Indian standpoint, the group performed “Sakhi” an adaption of North Indian Hindustani, beautifully sung and played by Mahadeven and Rajagopalan, along with violin and scat blazing “Kiki.”
Not to be overlooked was “Lotus Feet” adapted from McLaughlin’s MO years and Hussain turning in a beyond belief solo during the encore. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before Shakti returns, especially since this was their only So Cal concert. For more info go to: www.shakti50.com and www.thebarclay.org.
Now 87 years young, yet still full of fire and swagger, Buddy Guy did one of his farewell concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. The sometimes raucous and musically assaulting singer/guitarist was not a member of blues royalty, until B.B. King’s passing in 2015. Nonetheless, he singlehandedly influenced all contemporary blues guitarists from the ‘60s to present times. Rock guitar icons such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Keith Richards, along with rocking blues man Stevie Ray Vaughan all cited Guy as the guitarist who strongly impacted them.
As a result of the praise and endorsements from younger, mostly white guitarists, Guy’s popularity and prominence rose, resulting in both commercial and critical success. He even performed at the White House and coaxed President Obama to sing “Sweet Home Chicago” with him. Now, the Louisiana-born, Chicago-residing bluesman is a household name and his fans at the Bowl savored every note played and word sung by him during a fast-paced 75-minute-long show.
Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues title track of his 1991 breakout album immediately got the crowd fired up and was full of Guy’s trademark traits: profanity, unruliness, assertive singing, scorching guitar and funky rhythms. He continued playing, “something so funky you can smell it” with a low-down version of “Hoochie Coochie Man” that included suggestive guitar rubbing and playing with his teeth, along with just barely legal and very lustful “She’s Nineteen Years Old.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/NU5xA6ty0a4?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
From there the multi-Grammy Winner and Rock And Roller Hall of Famer gave a clinic on how to play raw Chicago blues through classics “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” and “How Blue Can You Get?,” a nod to B.B.King. Guy’s original and title track for his album Skin Deep spotlighted his rural roots with easy flowing and soulful singing/playing that included the audience singing the chorus when prompted. In the rein of R&B was jumping and hard guitar wailing “Grits Ain’t Groceries” and “Drowning on Dry Land” by Albert King.
As a bonus, the living legend brought out special guest guitarists, Jimmy Vaughan, Greg Guy his son, and former protégé and Charley Pride’s cousin 24-year-old beefy voiced Christone “Kingfish” Ingram for a 15-minute jam session. It featured them all firing away with the headliner mostly singing to conclude a memorable concert. Ingram was the opener, who showcased smoking originals “She Calls Me Kingfish,” R&B flavored “Midnight Heat” and rock styled 662 title track of his 2021 record. For more info go to: www.buddyguy.net, www.christonekingfishingram.com and www.hollywoodbowl.com
KKJZ’s 2023 BLUES BASH returned to the Miracle Theatre in Inglewood with an entertaining and diverse lineup hosted by Gary “The Wagman” Wagner. Mud Morganfield, eldest son of blues immortal Muddy Waters was the headliner and his band boosted by its harmonica player got the audience warmed up with “Ride With Me Baby” before he came out possessing a baritone similar to his father to boldly sing traditional Chicago blues numbers “Please Come Back Home” and rousing “She’s My Baby” featuring his band working out.
The band got lowdown and gritty for Morganfield’s father’s “Strange Woman” and “Hoochie Coochie Man,” which drew appreciative howls from the audience. Before ramping things back up, the singer mentioned, “I didn’t get any breaks being Muddy Water’s son and I couldn’t call my momma.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/LeMTPDJ–TA?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
He then launched into his own rollicking song “Blues in My Shoes,” along with his father’s “She’s Nineteen Years Old” and “What’s The Matter With The Mill” featuring his harp player tearing it up to get the crowd more fired up. The party carried on with much blues romping, including guitarist/impresario Cadillac Zack and fast-emerging blues man Johnny Burgin sitting in.
Jackie Venson from Austin, TX, influenced by Guy, Sade and Alicia Keys, injected a playful R&B/contemporary jazz vibe into the show. She coupled appealing mezzo-soprano layered singing/scatting, with ripping guitar and driving rhythms. Venson thrilled the crowd with “I Am Fine” and reggae flavored “Keep On.” She also did a relaxed R&B interpretation of “One Nation Under a Groove” and hard rocking “Make Me Feel.” Lengthy “Always Free” included a Hendrix styled “Star Spangled Banner” interlude, and she tore down the house with blues scorcher “Rollin’ On” to garner a standing ovation.
Sean Lane opened with wicked Delta styled solo electric slide guitar playing and heartfelt singing. He got the audience’s attention with Charlie Patton tinged “Too Many Roads,” “Been on ’61 All Day” and train-shuffling “I’m From Louisiana” featuring him also playing harmonica. For more info go to: www.mudmorganfieldblues.com, jackievenson.com, seanlane.com and kkjz.org
Los Angeles Jazz Society was founded with three main objectives:
1-Jazz education for young people.
2-To identify and nurture emerging jazz musicians.
3-Help create future audiences by stimulating an appreciation for jazz through its education programs.
The noble non-profit organization recently had its 40th Anniversary Celebrationat The Montalbán Theatre and was hosted by jazz radio personality and concert promoter LeRoy Downs. The grand affair began with a VIP Reception preceding the main ceremony that included performances, guest appearances, pre-recorded commendations from KKJZ’s on air staff, the Herb Alpert Jazz Foundation and others, a video montage tribute for past honorees, an auction for the 2024 Jazz Cruise, and award presentations for the 2023 winners.
The Flip & Shelly Manne Memorial New Talent Award was presented to high school students, trombonist Jordan Klein and tenor saxophonist Charlie French, by Jeff Hamilton, 2006 Jazz Tribute Honoree. The students’ group the Jorden Klein Quintet with Max Gilbert-drums, Dario Bizio-bass and Isaiah Harwood-piano performed afterwards. They showcased their budding chops with a stirring rendition of “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise.”
The other programs and awards were the Bill Green Mentorship, Jazz Coolcats, Jeff Clayton Memorial New Note that went to saxophonist Ennis Harris. Additionally, several remarks were given by Paul Krekorian, President, Los Angeles City Council, Lois Saffian, LA Jazz Society President, and Tony White 2019 Jazz Educator.
More music came from Sara Gazarek singing Vanity the haunting title song from her new EP supported by the LA Jazz Society Alumni Band. It consisted of Ennis Harris-saxophone (2023 Jeff Clayton New Award Winner), Kevin Kanner-drums (2000 Shelly Manne New Talent Award Winner), Amy Rowe-piano (2021 Young Musicians Showcase Winner) and Katie Thiroux-bass (2005 Shelly Manne New Talent Award Winner). In sharp contrast, Tierney Sutton did an amusing bebopish vamp “I Can’t Find My Keys” with the same players.
While in the vein of instrumentals renowned trombonist George Bohannon was featured, along with other members of the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra. The mighty ensemble continued with high-octane numbers performing “Buhaina, Buhaina” Ray Brown’s tribute to Art Blakey, original “Jazz Party” and Henry Mancini’s famed “Pink Panther Theme” featuring saxophonist Rickey Woodard, subbing for Plas Johnson the original saxophonist for the tune. Gazarek and Sutton also sang with CHJO later in the program. Without a doubt it was grand celebration for a great program. For more info go to: lajazz.org and www.themontalban.com.
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