By Chris J. Walker
Melissa Etheridge, a two-time Grammy, and Academy Award Winner, originally from Leavenworth, Kansas, has lived in So Cal for 40 years. At the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, she admitted to never being there before. To a full house of loyal fans, she made up for the previous absence with a nearly two-hour long concert that spanned her catalogue. With bandmembers, Eric Gardner-drums, Max Hart-keyboards/guitar/pedal steel and Tim Marx subbing on bass, she quickly got into blistering “Ain’t It Heavy.”
Cool things down some were folk rocking confessional songs, adorned with her gravelly vocals were “Angels Would Fall,” “I Want to Come Over” with the audience singing along and surprisingly Tom Petty’s “Refugee” (he claimed her cover was his favorite).
Another song by someone else was the immortal “On Broadway” that she performed for the first time. It was tied in to her upcoming one woman show there, with Etheridge’s scorching guitar playing showcased, along with “Chrome Plated Heart” and “Lucky.”
All the while, Etheridge talked about her early days trying to get a record deal and doing her own shoestring tours around the country. Ballad-like “You Can Sleep While I Drive” fueled by Hart’s pedal steel playing, “Yes I Am” about her coming out and “All the Way to Heaven” were related to those years.
Saved for the last moments of the concert were sensuous fan favorite “Come to My Window,” “Bring Me Some Water” and “Like the Way I Do.” They were wrought with super-hot acoustic guitar playing and her trademark growl-like singing. The bandleader even played harmonica and helped out the drummer during his solo for the last song to thoroughly spellbind the audience. For more info go to: melissaetheridge.com and http://luckmanarts.org.
Over 20 years ago, Jill Scott, based in Philadelphia and connected with its Afro-American creative community (Questlove, the Roots, Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff), shook up the neo soul and adult R&B world. She went platinum with her Grammy-nominated debut album Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol. 1. Much like the pioneering Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston, Scott without being highbrow advocates for positivity, empowerment, and socio-political consciousness for Afro-Americans, especially women though music, poetry, humor, and sensuality. Uniquely successful in a variety of endeavors including, acting, songwriting, writing and modeling, Scott has become a very popular role model/spokesperson and philanthropist.
At the Hollywood Bowl, Scott celebrated the 20-year milestone of her groundbreaking record with a hard-hitting, and funky band that occasionally veered into classic rock and jazz themes. A near capacity audience resonated with opening hot jamming “The Real Thing” that described the singer/songwriter/poet to set the mood for the concert. From there tracks from Scott’s ground-breaking album from start to finish were showcased. It began with a spoken word and contemporary jazzy fused “Jilltro” boosted by a video montage projected on the adjacent screens.https://www.youtube.com/embed/uqy77su5dAI?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
“Do You Remember” garnished with Scott and her backup singers was deeply soulful and segued to hip-hop/modern soul styled and highly sexual “Exclusively.” “Gettin’ in the Way,” though staked her claim with her mate and warned the competition. The audience roared after those songs and the headliner went on an expletive rant about how much she hates “bitches,” but loves “sisters” to delight attendees even more before continuing with poetic flowing singing and jolting groves for “A Long Walk.” and “Honey Molasses” featuring the band stretching out some.
Scott’s gentler side was revealed through ballads “I Think It’s Better” with dancers (male and female) alluringly moving around the stage and “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)” featuring keyboardist Jamar Jones doing a classical styled solo intro. The crowd turned the latter song into a lovefest by singing along as Scott and backup singers caressed them. She further heightened things with “It’s Love” operatically sung in Italian and provocative poetry laden “Love Rain” with the audience chanting along.
Returning to jumping funk/modern soul grooving was “The Way” spiced up with a hot percussive jam and Scott emphatically cited the show was totally live without modern technology. “The Roots” celebrated the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, while “One Is the Magic #” featured her saxophonist on flute and “Watching Me” spotlighted Scott’s MC skills. “Brotha” touted the positive attributes of black men and was traditionally R&B oriented. 16 songs later the acclaimed singer/songwriter/poet/actress/model closed with thematic and euphoric “Show Me” to garner an over-the-top standing ovation. Multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer/bassist and Scott’s former Musical Director, opened the concert with his band doing an energizing mix of gospel, R&B, and contemporary jazz through tunes such as “You Brought the Sunshine,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” and hard wailing “Someone to Love.” For more info go to: www.missjillscott.com, www.adamblackstone.com and www.hollywoodbowl.com
Ivan Neville, keyboardist/vocalist/leader of New Orleans-based funk and rocking band Dumpstaphunk, son of singer supreme Aaron Neville and nephew of the other Neville Brothers band members, recently appeared at the Grammy Museum. As part of the venue’s summertime series, it was on the rooftop and hosted by music journalist Steve Hochman.
He began by asking Neville about a lyric in the song “Music Dance Love” on his new project Touch My Soul. It was, “I never found religion that could heal us like a sound.” The musician who believes in something higher explained that he wasn’t against religion, but music does something beyond what it does. Continuing, they talked about Neville’s background and him becoming a musician. That was somewhat pre-determined, with all his family, including his mother playing instruments and singing.
Additionally, genius New Orleans piano “professor” James Booker was a family friend and sometimes showed him things. Through school bands, social activities and little gigs, the budding pianist and singer figured out that being a musician was very beneficial on a variety of levels where he lived. Of course, there’s the family legacy of the music that preceded him, but Neville doesn’t think about it much and just does tries to do the best he can. On the other hand, much like his family and other great musicians such as Louis Armstrong, he is a cultural ambassador for New Orleans.
The conversation shifted to his new solo project after a near 20-year layoff. When asked about how it differs from Dumpstaphunk, Neville stated that it wasn’t as funky and totally his vision, with a little help putting it together. It took time for him to evolve to that point, since he was very comfortable in confines of the band. Additionally, he enlisted friends such as Michael MacDonald, Bonnie Raitt, and Trombone Shorty, along with his father to be on the record that’s optimistic and calls for the world to be a better place.
Prior to Q&A with the audience, Neville mentioned in ‘80s and ‘90s he was a big party person and out of control, nearly destroying himself. It took a while for him to reckon with his situation and he has been sober since 1998. Questions from the audience were: what he heard in his father’s amazing voice, musicians he’d like to play with (Cory Henry and Peter Gabriel) and musicians who have amazed him (Keith Richards).
The very candid keyboardist/singer had plenty of energy to perform, and with Dumpstaphunk players supporting him showcased some of his new songs. Among them were brassy and Mardi Gras-tinged “Greatest Place on Earth,” the introspective and easy flowing title track featuring Neville singing soulfully and lightly rocking “Might Last a Lifetime.” Mixed in with the album’s tunes were Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” and “It’s a Family Affair,” while “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by the Talking Heads and the Meter’s New Orleans anthem “Hey Pocky A-Way” got the audience up and dancing. For more info go to: ivannevillemusic.com and grammymuseum.org.
Los Angeles-based veteran R&B and jazz singer/songwriter Billy Valentine recently appeared at the Skirball Sunset Concerts series. He possesses an emotive and thrilling voice and has done a plethora of behind-the-scenes work. Among them are songwriting, singing demos, main orchestra voice for the Wiz tour, lead score vocals for Champions Forever, a documentary about heavyweight boxers Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman. Valentine also sang for the lead vocalist character in Director Robert Townsend’sThe Five Heartbeats, and recorded the theme song for the TV show Boston Legal.
All the while, Valentine crafted his own music and regularly appeared at LA clubs like Vibrato, The Baked Potato, Casa Del Mar Hotel and now defunct Spazio’s and The Vic. Unquestionably, the singer/songwriter is deserving of wider acclaim and his latest CD Billy Valentine and the Universal Truth is an opportunity for audiences to hear and learn more about him.
Bob Thiele Jr. son of the legendary record producer who founded the renowned Flying Dutchman Records has resurrected his father’s old imprint with Valentine’s recording. Younger Thiele did the opening remarks and introduced the singer’s bandmates, Josh Johnson-sax, Jeff Parker-guitar, Larry Goldings-keyboards, Pino Palladino-bass, and Abe Rounds-drums. They laid down a scintillating backdrop of funk, R&B, and jazz for the singer to convey the album’s selections that focused on the Afro-American cultural diaspora of late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Valentine quickly got the audience’s attention with a slow-brewing and an intensely understated version of Stevie Wonder’s heated protest song “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” On the heels of Golding’s incredibly cool grooving solo was former Flying Dutchman artist Gil Scott Heron’s poetic plea “Home is Where The Hatred Is” and Curtis Mayfield’s poignant ballad “We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue” with a stirring solo by Johnson embedded.
“My People, Hold On” was equally arresting and included an extensive Funkadelic-like guitar solo and the audience singing the chorus. Getting more spiritual and heavenly was “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” also formally recorded on the celebrated label by Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas, and Sam Cooke’s ‘60s quintessential protest song “A Change is Gonna Come.’
For something more up-tempo the singer and band served up “Lady Day and John Coltrane,” also by Heron and featured Parker tastefully ripping away. It was not on the new collection of songs or was Bill Withers’ very steaming and sensual “Use Me” accentuated by a gospely piano and stirring sax solos. Palladino who steadfastly supported everyone, brilliantly shined on Valentine’s hit song from the era “Money’s Too Tight (to Mention).” That along with the other players’ contributions got a standing ovation. For the encore the headliner paid homage to senior Thiele with the enduring song he wrote in 1967, “What a Wonderful World.” For more info go to: www.billy-valentine.com and www.skirball.org
Reggae/ska/pop band UB40’s name is taken from the British unemployment benefit form and their music has strong working-class roots. They recently played at the Microsoft Theater, which is now the Peacock Theater. The septet consisted of founding members Jimmy Brown-drums, Robin Campbell-guitar/vocals, Earl Falconer-bass/vocals, and Norman Lamont Hassan-percussion/vocals. The newer players were Matt Doyle-vocals, Martin Meredith-keyboards/reeds, and Laurence Parry-trumpet/flugelhorn/trombone. Both old and new bandmates celebrated UB40’s 45th anniversary milestone that miraculously happened, despite its capricious history of shifting from leftwing politics, deaths in the group and legal battles with former members. With all that behind them, the near 50-year-old group connected with their loyal and loving fans for a feelgood night filled with fun and nostalgia.
After a techno intro, Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” and their own civil rights affirming original “Sing Our Own Song” got the party started with reggae grooving and soulful singing. The Brits then did many lightly percolating covers, such as the Chi-Lites’ “Homely Girl,” the Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do, “and Brenton Wood’s “Give Me a Little Sign” that was filled with rich vocal harmonies.
From the upcoming new album UB40 45 was up-tempo “Champion” in honor of the 2022 Commonwealth Games that were played in their home city Birmingham. While easy flowing “Groovin’’ by the Newbeats, “Bring Me Your Cup” and Eric Donaldson’s anthem-like “Cherry Oh Baby” were for the band’s most dedicated fans.
For more variety they played dub laden “The Keeper” and their bassist was featured singing the Heptones’ dancehall styled “Baby” and Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” which they recorded with Robert Palmer. Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine” that inspired the audience to sing along ended the show and received a howling standing ovation. For the encore UB40 showcased brass and dub filled “Food for Thought,” and their vintage hit ballads “Kingston Town” by Lord Creator and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Prior to UB40, Smashmouth and Men at Work did energizing and rocking sets. Notably, Men at Work/Colin Hay’s band included Cecilia Noël-vocals/percussion/wife, San Miquel Perez-guitar, Jousman Madera-bass, Jimmy Branly-drums, and Scheila Gonzalez-reeds/keyboards. For more info go: ub40.global, www.colinhay.com, www.smashmouth.com and www.peacocktheater.com.
Grammy winners, mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges and drummer/producer Ulysses Owens, Jr. presented NOTES ON HOPE at The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater. The distinctly different artists have been friends for over 20 years, starting when they first arrived in New York to study at their respective colleges (Manhattan School of Music for Bridges and Julliard for Owens). Interestingly, they had commonality through both having grown up going to church. However, doing something together that would tastefully merge their professional genres, and be mutually and artistically beneficial was a challenge.
Eventually, the opera star selected songs she was interested in doing and the jazz drummer enlisted Jalen Baker-vibes, Ruben Rogers-bass, Ted Rosenthal-piano, David Rosenthal-guitar, and Carol Robbins-harp to compliment the unique three-part blending of classical, gospel, opera, and jazz. Most significantly, Ellington’s groundbreaking works with classical vocalists Adelaide Hall, Kay Davis and Alice Babs were great references, along with classical pioneer Florence Price’s compositions. Additionally, pieces by Satie, Gerri Allen, Andre Previn, and others were incorporated.
The first section, Divine Hope began Bridges operatically soaring for “The Lord’s Prayer” with light band accompaniment, and smoothly segued to Ellington’s with a delectable jazzy interlude that drew strong audience response. Spiritual classic “There is a Balm in Gilead” sung a cappella initially with harp joining in was more aligned with the headliners’ backgrounds.
Segment The Crux of Hope included Allen’s instrumental “Skin” and began with Owens doing a solo intro prior to the other band members coming in for stimulating post-bop interplay chocked with intelligent solos. Alternately, Bridges rendered a lush classical/jazz interpretation of Satie’s “Je te Veux” boosted by bass and piano solos.
For something even more different, pianist Rosenthal showcased “Always Believe,” from his jazz opera Dear Eric. It was commissioned and premiered by the New York City Opera in 2019, based on his family’s history and revelations. They were revealed by the rediscovery of 200 letters written by his grandmother and family to his father who escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. Profoundly, the immigrant conflict of wanting to build a new life and the pain of looking back to the homeland were incredibly conveyed by Bridges to blow the audience away.
The concluding portion Hope Fulfilled spotlighted Price’s immortal “Hold Fast to Your Dreams” (based on Langston Hughes’ poem) and was remarkably sung, while the composer’s “Adoration” was given an invigorating jazz treatment by the players. Returning to the melding of jazz and classical was Previn’s “It’s Good to Have You Near Again” (recommended by Michael Feinstein), originally recorded with one of Bridges’ biggest influence, opera legend Leontyne Price, to gorgeously end the program and receive a standing ovation.
For the encore Bridges did an impromptu performance of “Habanera” from Carmen with Owens supplying percussion to further amaze the audience. For more info go to: https://thewallisgrowblog.org/ulysses-owens-jr-and-jnai-bridges-concert-
The Dream House Quartet, comprised of renowned French pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, and guitarists Bryce Dessner (classical Grammy Winner) and David Chalmin (group founder/producer/arranger/engineer) appeared at CAP UCLA’s Royce Hall. The two piano/two guitar group have been together for about five years and brilliantly amalgamate elements of classical, modern classical, jazz fusion and progressive rock.
Their opening piece “Haven” composed by Dessner was wrought with intricate raga themed guitar interplay was reminiscent of Robert Fripp’s late ‘80’s League of Crafty Guitarists ensemble and with pianos later becoming more involved shifted to classical. Meridith Monk’s “Ellis Island” was more melodic and structured similarly to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”
From a more ambient and minimalist standpoint that also employed Fripp’s raga layering with just the guitarists was Steve Reich’s lengthy and audience appealing “Electric Counterpoint.” Additionally, the pianists did a consummate modern classical performance of Philip Glass’ “4 Movements & 2 Pianos” that was equally exceptional. While Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s “Don’t Fear The Light” was very abstract, and Chalmin’s newly written “Eclipse Movement 1, 2 &3” was intense and driving. Dessner’s recently written “Sonic Wires” 6 movement suite concluding the program and was more dramatic, free-wheeling and varied than all the other selections showcased. For more info go to: www.dreamhousequartet.com and cap.ucla.edu.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, led by Music Director Jaime Martín, concluded its 2022/23 season grandly with concerts at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and UCLA’s Royce Hall. The special program for them was Shankar Plays Shankar and featured celebrated sitarist Anoushka Shankar playing her immortal and groundbreaking father, Ravi Shankar’s music. He singlehandedly brought the sitar into Western mainstream through collaborations with the Beatles and others, and his impact on numerous other artists was monumental. With the 43-person orchestra the Shankar progeny performed his Sitar Concerto No. 3.
The Overture was dazzling, garnered with stirring strings, woodwinds, and brass. Movement One began with a pastoral exposition, prior to Shankar coming in with agile and feathery motifs that flowed over and interweaved with the classical musicians. Movement Two was mystical and enchanting, beginning with a tranquil harp passage and Shankar performing solely initially, before the orchestra supplied a lightly effervescent backdrop.
Final Movement Three was the most jubilant and celebratory, and bolstered by the featured soloist’s boldest and most passionate playing that had the audience spellbound. Amidst her astounding performance were the orchestra’s dramatic percussion and string flourishes to further accentuate the concert to garner an enthusiastic standing ovation. For the encore, only the contemporary sitarist played, conjuring up her blazing original classical Indian raga, entitled “Monsoon.”
The remainder of the program included the world premiere of HaZ’màn HaZèh (“This Present Time”) by 2022-23 LACO Sound Investment Composer Marc Lowenstein and Georges Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C major. For more info go to: www.anoushkashankar.com and www.laco.org.
Those in So Cal who follow Xote, MPB, Axé, reggae samba, bossa and other related music from Brazil are probably familiar with singer/songwriter Caro Pierotto. She’s originally from the Portuguese speaking South American country and has been in Los Angeles for about 15 years. In a Voyage LA interview (http://voyagela.com/interview/meet-caro-pierotto-larchmont-village/), she revealed her musical growth.
In Brazil, Pierotto who previously had no musical inclinations, by chance circumstances, ended up singing in a choir that toured throughout the region. She then became consumed with it as it helped her find personal and emotional fulfillment. Mainly, because her future without music was otherwise predetermined. After the choir’s funding was cut, she decided to leave her family and friends, and returned to LA where she previously had gone to school.
Once back, she fully developed into a professional singer, first forming the Brazilian oriented group Marbella with Antonio Cruz for five years. That resulted in them developing a following, with regular local shows and recording a CD with Grammy possibilities that was popular on KCRW. After Cruz moved to New York for grad school, Pierotto connected with Grammy-nominated producer, Grecco Buratto. He’s now her husband, bandmember, a big part of the singer’s music and they released EP Mera Ilusão in 2018.
At the DTLA’s Resident, as part of Vera’s Heartbeat series, Pierotto had an album release party for her follow up project, Sambalismo. It consists of ten previously unreleased songs, all in Portuguese that was recorded in Rio de Janeiro. The singer’s band consisted of Buratto-cavaquinho/acoustic guitar, JP Mourão-7 string guitar/cavaquinho, Arthur de Palla-bass, Felipe Fraga-drums, Fabio Santana-trombone, Tatiana Tate-trumpet, Randall Fischer-sax, and Diana di Battista-backing vocals. Some of them played on the recorded tracks, and the whole band amazingly rekindled the energy and spirit of the sessions.
Leading off the show was “O Caminho” a mid-tempo Afro-Brazilian samba tune featuring Pierotto’s soothing and inviting singing, accented with a flute solo. Changing the mood was “Mal Acostumado” a merging of funk and samba, with hard-hitting brass chorus and festive vocals. For even more variety tropical flavored “Recado Dos Anjos” and traditional bossa saxophone garnished “Meros Mortais,” caressed the crowd with the bandleader’s sweet vocals.
While, “À Nossa Volta” an enchanting samba-canção was sung with Rogê, a highly-regarded composer/singer from Rio de Janeiro, who co-wrote the song with Pierotto and Buratto thoroughly captivated the audience. Concluding the memorable evening was high-voltage samba rocking “Para e Repara” bolstered by energetic singing and fiery brass forays. For more info go to: www.caropierotto.com and www.residentdtla.com.
The double bill of Perla Batalla & Quetzal at CAP UCLA’s Royce Hall was a grand world celebration, full of LatinX culture, multiethnicity, gender equality and social awareness. East LA’s Quetzal began with soulful and classic oldies styed “Justice Never Dies” featuring Dr. Martha Gonzalez vocally soaring. Other band members were Tylana Enomoto-vocals/violin, Quetzal Flores-band leader/guitars, Juan Perez-bass, Alberto Lopez-percussion, and Evan Greer-drums/percussion, who were great musicians and remarkable interactions and solos.
Special guests were Sandino Gonzalez Flores-keyboards/vocals (son of the bandleader and lead vocalist who will be attending UCLA fall 2023) and Lucia Gutierrez Rebolloso-vocals (first Latina to win the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2022). They notably contributed to an energetic and very danceable concert, spanning traditional Mexican folk songs, rancheras, boleros, corridoes and norteño, with touches of jazz, R&B and rock that was irresistible and culturally rich.
Batalla, a classically trained singer and former backup singer for folk/rock icon Leonard Cohen, transfixed the audience with an enjoyable mix of pop, folk and world music. Her band was made up of Karen Hammack-piano, John Ferraro-drums, Dimitris Mahlis-guitar/oud, Michael Velasquez-bass, and Claud Mann-husband/percussion.
With them, she got things underway with the Santana flavored “Just to Love Somebody,” and then dug into her catalogue for self-identifying and ethereal song “Iberia.” It included her daughter Eva Batalla-Mann helping on choruses and harmony. From an Afro-Cuban perspective the opening performer sang in Spanish “Cinema Of Tears.”
As with any Batalla show, there was a strong dose of Cohen, including stories about him and some songs. Among them were “Dance Me to The End of Love” with a Middle Eastern tinge accented by oud, gospely strongly sung “Bird on the Wire” and of course, “Hallelujah” with Quetzal for an unbelievable finish. For more info go to: www.perla.com and quetzaleastla.com
Ziggy Marley, oldest son of reggae legend Bob Marley, recently made his Disney Hall debut. Interestingly, the Jamaican singer/guitarist who said little, except for some obligatory greetings during the concert, began with easy flowing, reggae shuffling “Beach in Hawaii.” He and ensemble continued grooving with other lesser-known songs such as “The Lucky One” dedicated to his wife and “Be Free.”
Things heated up a little more with “Personal Revolution” and “Wild And Free” as his smoky singing became defiant, and the band jammed away to the audience’s delight. When Marley got around to “See Dem Fake Leaders” he was in full “Rasta Man” mode with the crowd cheering and totally digging what he was putting down. Anthem’s “Justice” featuring one of his backup singers leading things off and his father’s impactful “Get Up, Stand Up,” and “War” had everyone fully stirred up. Staying in that mode he continued with “Rebellion Rises” and “We Are The People.”
Marley returned to being a loving Rastafarian with “Love is My Religion” and then got everyone who had been singing along into a party mood and dancing with more tunes by his dad’s Wailers, such as “Jamming” that included the band working out and “Look Who’s Dancing.” For the encore he served up longstanding gems “One Love” and “Is This Love?” to thoroughly enthrall the concert attendees. For more info go to: www.ziggymarley.com and www.laphil.com
Argentinian composer/arranger/bandoneon (button accordion) player, Astor Piazzolla, who died in 1992, created a form of tango, “nuevo tango” that elevated it from being a dance genre to serious and highly regarded concert music. He masterfully melded elements of classical, jazz, and traditional tango in 1954 with the blessings of renowned French composition professor Nadia Boulanger. Among her other significant students were Burt Bacharach, Gigi Gryce, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Egberto Gismonti and Donald Byrd.
Surprisingly, Piazzolla only performed at UCLA’s Royce Hall once, in 1989. Latin Grammy Winning Quinteto Astor Piazzolla organized by his widow in 1998 to promote and keep the music alive recently made their debut at the iconic CAP UCLA concert hall. Albeit the ensemble was scheduled to performed years earlier, but COVID interrupted those plans, resulting in them only doing a livestream concert previously.
In person with Pablo Mainetti-bandoneon, Barbara Varassi Pega-piano, Serdar Geldymuradov-violin, Armando de la Vega-guitar, Daniel Falasca-double bass, and Julian Vat-Music Director the Argentinian group showcased selections from their recent project Operation Tango. Interestingly, it included pieces not originally composed by the nuevo tango master and arranged for the quintet—a first for them.
Standouts during the near-nonstop performance were the dramatic up tempo title track, gentle serenading ballad “Celos,” and Piazzolla’s sweeping classic “Melancólico Buenos Aires” to garner a well-deserved standing ovation. For more info go to: quintetoastorpiazzolla.com/en/inicio-english/ and cap.ucla.edu
Nearly 75 years ago, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, a Harlem Globetrotter superstar, who afterwards played with the New York Knicks, was the third African American to play in the NBA. Earl Lloyd of the Washington Capitols was first by four days and Chuck Cooper drafted by the Boston Celtics was second by three days.https://www.youtube.com/embed/n_0pBT2iJOA?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
The film Sweetwater depicts the era of the late ‘40s/early ‘50s when the professional basketball league was segregated. Like icon Jackie Robinson in MLB years earlier, Clifton, Lloyd and Cooper endured intense scrutiny, racism, and protests from the public. But with less intensity, due to college basketball teams already being integrated, thus making their stories not as heralded or dramatic.
Helping unearthed the “near-forgotten” history were actors, newcomer Everett Osborne, who stars as Clifton, Kevin Pollak, Cary Elwes, Jeremy Piven, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Ri’chard, and Emmaline. She also sings on a third of the soundtrack’s songs, along with special appearances by Gary Clark Jr., Jim Caviezel, and NBA Champion Bobby Portis Jr.
An Album Release Party for Sweetwater’s Soundtrack occurred at the Troubadour. It was hosted by Writer/Director/Musician Martín Guigui, who took 28 years to make the film, and his Family Band. Notably, Guigui’s father Efrain, was the Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and Vermont Symphony Orchestra.
Emmaline, a force of nature belted out Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride And Joy” (not on the album) with brassy band backing. Alternatively, Titus ‘ERLY’ Makin energetically and soulfully sang to a track, Little Richard styled “To Be First.” The band roared for R&B instrumental score pieces “One on One” and “Hanky For Panky” boosted by saxophonist Ricky Woodard.
Actor Piven joked about COVID and stalwartly played drums for a blues jam, laden with ripping solos from sax and guitar. Keeping that vibe going was pedal steel/singer phenom Robert Randolph wailing away for Bo Diddley’s vintage rock classic “Who Do You Love?” Salacious singer Liyah Bey further heighten things with him for modern funk/gospel laden “A Little More Faith” and Aretha Franklin’s R&B gem “Chain of Fools” to truly rock the house.
Bringing the fun evening to a close was none other than blues superstar, singer/guitarist Keb ‘Mo. He performed his smoldering groove “I Remember You,” soul drenched ballad “Taking Me Higher” that’s prominently on the soundtrack and good time rocking “Downhome Blues” with Emmaline joining in. For more info go to: candidrecords.com, www.nba.com/news/28-years-in-the-making-sweetwater-premieres and troubadour.com.
Rodd Bland, drummer, and son of the legendary and very influential blues singer Bobby “Blue” Bland rekindled his father’s signature classic blues/R&B/jazz sound for a special concert curated by The Reverend Shawn Amos at the Broad Stage. Sadly, it was also the 10th anniversary of the senior Bland’s passing and understandably his descendant was a bit emotional during the show and regularly inserted anecdotes about him. Additionally, it was his Memphis-based Members Only Band first tribute show, and they released Live on Beale Street: A Tribute to Bobby “Blue” Bland in 2021.
With vocalist Ashton Riker, a keyboardist, guitarist, bassist and a three-piece horn section, younger Bland started off with a soulful instrumental that spotlighted the brass and rhythm section’s funky chops. With Riker, who remarkably resembled the blues superstar’s singing, blues, jazz, and gospel-tinged standard “Going Down Slow” was served up. Even more popular, partly due to Mr. T, was slow rolling blues torcher “I Pity the Fool,” featuring the singer soulfully getting down with accenting tenor sax and guitar forays.
From more of a R&B standpoint mostly from Bland’s ABC Dunhill Records California recordings were “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treat Me),” “Night Games,” “I Intend to Take Your Place” and “Yolanda” all bolstered by reveling horns and scorching guitar. New Orleans anthem “St. James Infirmary” was abbreviated, and Memphis styled, while “Ain’t No Love In The Heart of The City” one of Bland’s most imitated songs was cool and jazzy.
Closing out the show was the band’s namesake tune “Members Only” with Amos helping on backup vocals and Bland’s theme-like “Turning On Your Love Light” that was full of band solos to receive a rousing standing ovation. For more info go to: https://rbandthemob.com and broadstage.org
Multi-Grammy and numerous other prestigious awards winner Billy Childs distinguished himself with an array of chamber jazz commissions and recordings, a kinship to poetry and being an astounding and versatile player/bandleader. At Catalina, thepianist/composer/arranger showcased numbers from his most recent album The Winds of Change. In post-bop fashion it salutes high-caliber film composers Jerry Goldsmith, Michel Legrandand Bernard Herrmann, along with pieces bylauded pianists Chick Corea and Kenny Barron.
Childs supported by Hans Glawischnig-bass, Christian Euman-drums and special guest Sean Jones-trumpet led off with the explosive and spiraling “The Great Western Loop.” Although unrelated to the main themes of the new recording, the bandleader was intrigued by the 7,000-mile West Coast hiking journey from Mexico to Vancouver that only two people have successfully completed.
Contrarily, the alternating sullen and lively title track featuring Jones and Childs vibrant playing was based on Goldsmith’s Chinatown and Herrmann’s Taxi Driver film noir themes from the ‘70s. Somewhat in the same vein, but less intensive and with a solo piano intro and a bass solo was “The End of Innocence.” The headliner first recorded it in 1983 and included on the new project. Corea’s classic “Crystal Silence” that strongly influenced Childs was beautifully subtle; it featured him, Jones, and the other bandmembers’ most refined playing to draw strong applause.
Additionally, the pianist’s signature chamber jazz stylings surfaced through “Master of the Game,” and “Dance of Shiva” from his Rebirth record. On those tunes Childs and the quartet blazed away to further impress the audience. For more info go to: billychilds.com and catalinajazzclub.com.
About a mile above Los Angeles, the Lounge Art Ensemble performed at the Mt. Wilson Observatory in a dome with a 100-inch telescope that has been utilized by scientists to observe distant planets and the universe for over 100 years. It was daylight and part of the dome’s Sunday Afternoon concert series when drummer Peter Erskine, saxophonist Bob Sheppard and bassist Darek Oles were showcasing an assortment of neo-bop, bebop, straight ahead and bossa tunes, all perfect the reverberating acoustics of the venue.
“Find Someone to Love” was breezy and radiated with cool band interactions, while “In or Out” was more straight ahead oriented and radiated through extended solo interludes by each of the musicians, which further delighted the audience. From there Erskine, Sheppard and Oles delved into noir-like West Coast Cool jazz featuring thunderous drumming and smokey saxophone, support by fluid bass foundation.
Following that he did a solo intro for Jobim’s timeless bossa classic “How Insensitive” before Sheppard on flute and drums joined for a relaxed and ethereal rendition, Oles later sumptuously soloing again. Erskine’s “Contrafact” was harmonically modern, while also having touches of cool jazz and bebop, especially through the saxophonist’s phasing.
Closing out the enjoyable set was lyrical and vintage-styled ballad that abounded with waves of seductive saxophone and melancholy bass playing. Additionally, “Honeymoon” was an up-tempo celebration bolstered by all the players turning in palatable and engaging solos that included Erskine and Sheppard getting into a fiery call and response mode. For more info go to: petererskine.com and www.mtwilson.edu/concerts/.
Most people who regularly follow and listen to jazz are quite knowledgeable about Duke Ellington, and his enormous innovations and contributions to jazz and music in general, along with his various humanitarian efforts. MUSE/IQUE Founder/Artistic and Musical Director Rachael Worby notably sought to illuminate Ellington’s exceptional merits to lesser knowing/non-jazz and classical people through the themed concerts THE DUKE: Ellington as America’s Ultimate Renaissance Man at The Skirball and the Huntington Library in San Marino.
As Worby normally does for these types of concerts, she enlisted a multi-faceted orchestra, this time led by Musical Director Myron McKinley, best-known for his work with the mega and very popular R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire. Also recruited for the concert was guest vocalist Sy Smith, along with American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancers, Herman Cornejo, and Skylar Brandt. As they all performed, the MUSE/IQUE Founder/Artistic and Musical Director, much like a college professor technically dissected Ellington’s music, while also including historical and sociological references.
Many of Ellington’s most famous and popular songs were highlighted. Among them “Take The ‘A’ Train,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good,“ “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Satin Doll” and “Prelude To A Kiss.” More in the vein of classical and gospel/spirituals were “Heaven” from The Second Sacred Concert and “MLK” from the Three Black Kings Suite. Stevie Wonder’s timeless homage to Ellington “Sir Duke” superbly concluded the ambitious show with everyone joyfully up and dancing. For more info go to: muse-ique.com/, www.skirball.org and huntington.org.
For about an hour and a half, Sunset Strip’s Sun Rose, located where the celebrated and later loathed House of Blues took root nearly 30 years ago (closed in 2015), Welsh singer, comedic actress and general “bad ass” Judith Owen was the owner. She had a release party there for her 13th recording Come On & Get it. The project is a celebration of all the incredible, sometimes unheralded women singers and musicians from the ‘30s to the ‘50s who strongly shaped her as a person and artist.
Much like them, Owen was in total control and regally commanded the audience and her extraordinary band The Gentlemen Callers. The players, many who are on the album, were Jamison Ross-drums, David Torkanowsky-piano (on it), David Blinkhorn-guitar, Lex Warshawsky-bass (on it), Ricardo Pascal-tenor sax (on it) and Kevin Lewis-coronet (on it). Under the bandleader, who wittingly kept everyone in line, they supplied of appealing fire power, while also playing gently when required.
Blossom Dearie, who Owen cited, “Looked like a librarian and sounded like a sex kitten” was initially honored with her easy flowing “Blossom’s Blues” and later with livelier “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You.” It included guitar and drums soloing, along with dynamic brass forays. Mary Lou Williams’ “Satchel Mouth Baby” popularized by Nat King Cole showcased the bandleader’s sultry singing, along with hot trumpet and guitar segments.
One of Owen’s most important influences was Julia Lee, whose songs were jumping and full of double entendrees. “The Spinach Song,” possibly about cannabis and/or sex, and “Snatch & Grab It” boiled over with hot playing and sassy singing. Other incredible ladies and songs acknowledged were Peggy Lee’s ballad “He’s a Tramp,” Nellie Lutcher’s impactful and high swinging “He’s a Real Gone Guy” with the audience clapping along and Owens wailing away on Dinah Washington’s version vintage blues sounding “Big Long Slidin’ Thing.”
Owen took over on piano for a tribute to Nina Simone, doing a funk-driven rendition of “I Put a Spell On You.” It’s not on the new CD and featured scorching singing and biting guitar to garner a glowing standing ovation. Pleased with the reaction and very happy with show, the bandleader dismissed everyone and relinquish her domination of the club. For more info go to: judithowen.net and thesunrose.com.
Alyse Korn & Robert Kyle, a beautiful couple in music and real life had a CD release party for their new CD Tuesday’s Child at The G Spot in the Mt. Washington area. Created during the pandemic, the project has a peaceful and quiet vibe. Saxophonist Kyle joked, “When listening to it, make sure you’re not sleepy or driving.”
They began with easy flowing instrumental “Gratitude,” featuring soothing soprano sax and wordless singing from Korn with bassist Ahmet Turkmenopglu and drummer Kevin Winard supporting. “What If,” composed by the pianist/singer who was inspired by gorgeous Ojai Valley’s sweeping panoramic views was relaxing and garnished with flute. Shifting to bossa flavoring was “Your Light” with Kyle sensually playing tenor saxophone and Korn exquisitely melding with him. While “Distance Between Us” was a bit more upbeat and tastefully accented by the bass and drums.
The relaxed ballad tile track and was nicely adorned by the sidemen and written for Korn by Kyle. He was inspired by finding out they were both born on a Tuesday, which of course the odds of that are 1in7. Another thematic tune was coolly swinging “Blue Jack” that included palatable piano and bass solos. It was inspired by the saxophonist’s now departed uncle of the same name who was a big supporter of his music.
For more variety was flute-laden Latin number “Vivian’s Danzón” written for the reedist’s dynamic sister who lives in New Orleans. Closing out the mellow concert was ballad “Ruby’s Dream” the last song on the CD that was full of impressive soloing from the bandleaders. It was written for a woman (fellow yoga student) who gave the saxophonist a piano after dreaming about it and received a standing ovation. For more info go to: https://armusic.org/
Jason Moran is a formidable pianist who is comfortable in almost any type of musical environment, from regal concert halls to hip clubs and in-between. He recently did a solo concert at the Broad Stage that illuminated his diverse background and celebrated accomplishments.
Among them were a solid classical foundation; training from forward-thinking pianists Jacki Byard, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Andrew Hill; being on faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music; Artistic Director for Jazz at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (he succeeded Dr. Billy Taylor); and film scoring for iconoclastic film and TV Director Ava Duvernay’s acclaimed films Selma and 13th.
Before getting underway, Moran mentioned that when he learned to play at his grandmother’s house, it was nothing like the concert hall, nor did her piano sound like it. Yet, for him being at the venue was both strange and like a homecoming, and he thanked the audience for coming. They were rewarded with a pensive and probing “Winds” eventually shifted to a more dazzling and fast-paced number by either George Shearing or Bud Powell. He wasn’t sure about the authorship but leaned to Powell.
Moran’s “Reanimation” was modern classical oriented with a barrage of reverberating motifs in the vein of minimalist Philip Glass and Steven Reich, that impressed the audience. Somewhat related was a more abstract Cecil Taylor like number. The pianist balanced the intense pieces with a gentle untitled ballad by his former mentor Byard. Afterwards he extolled the incredible artistry of his guru and how lucky he was to be in his presence.
During the final section of the performance, Moran showcased selections from his third self-produced solo recording The Sound Will Tell You. Included were pentomic hard-pounding “Barber Shop;” atmospheric and lengthy “Magnet” with the auditorium darkened; “Follow the light” somewhat of a mesmerizing crescendo-like musical awakening; and his spoken word intro for gospel tinged “Tony Morrison Said Black is Rainbow (Shadow).” The audience responded with an enthusiastic standing ovation and for the encore Moran played Louis Armstrong optimistic hit “What a Wonderful World.” For more info go to: www.jasonmoran.com and broadstage.org
To revitalize and make it more appealing to younger concert attendees, the 2023 Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival emceed by comedian and actor Arsenio Hall, was co-curated by West Coast Get Down architect, saxophonist Kamasi Washington and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Creative Chair for Jazz, distinguished keyboardist/composer/bandleader Herbie Hancock. The results were interesting and included a highly diversified range of performers.
Elder and quintessential jazz musician Hancock, a proverbial living encyclopedia of the genre, selected artists linked to own his endeavors and associations. The youthful ensemble for the institute bearing his name, and the LA County High School for The Arts, exhibited refreshing talent and showed that the future of jazz is very secure with them during their opening sets.
Guitarist/singer Lionel Loueke & vocalist Gretchen Parlato, both intermittent cohorts of Hancock’s explorative band, presented songs from their newly released world music fused album Lean In. Highlighting their interlude was West African styled “Akwê,” Stevie Wonder’s pop/ R&B tune “I Can’t Help it” and a vocalese version of Hancock’s “Butterfly.”Parlato’s
husband, Mark Guiliana also helped on percussion for a couple of their numbers.
Conguero Poncho Sanchez, a no-brainer and festival favorite lit up the stage with his scintillating band. They did an appealing mix of danceable Latin jazz, salsa and jazz that included a soulful version of Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” Melding mainstream with doses of fusion and Latin was Aziza, featuring tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, Loueke, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Eric Harland. They masterfully jammed away and showed why they’re some of jazz’s best players.
The other no brainer was the incredibly fast emerging 23-year-old vocal marvel Samara Joy, who won two Grammy’s this year. She charmed the audience with a swinging band doing standards such as “A Kiss From You,” “Sweet Pumpkin” and Jobim’s bossa classic “No More Blues (Chega de Saudade)” in Portuguese to honor recently departed alluring songstress Astrid Gilberto.
Washington’s collective performed both days of the festival, with a slightly scaled down version on Saturday. They soared with densely layered pieces “Miss Understanding,” hip-hop induced “Re Run” and thematic “Fist of Fury.” On Sunday, the saxophonist led an orchestra-like group for powerful numbers “Voodoo Child,” “Blackman’,” a “Joe Henderson Medley” and “Walk Free.” Modern soul singers Leon Bridges and Raphael Shadig were both featured individually and added more excitement to the festival’s concluding set.
Bell Biv DeVoe, who incorporate hip-hop, R&B and pop ended the first night with ever popular “old school” hits like “Dope,” “Thought It Was,”
“Something in your Eyes” and “Poison” to get the audience partying. Alternately, much hailed organic hip-hop trio Diggable Planets underscored jams “Where I’m From” and “Cool Like Dat” with groovy and jazzy backdrops. Ledisi, as always was strong and showcased Grammy-winning song “Anything For You” and Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good (It’s a New Day).” St. Paul and the Broken Bones were also surprising effective in that regard, as lead singer Paul Janeway was super soulful.
Butcher Brown, on the other hand produced funky and jazz rocking grooves. The Soul Rebels with Big Freedia had the audience partying and busting up over the singer’s antics. While gospel-oriented Andrew Gouche & Prayze Connection had afternoon services on Sunday and were very inspirational. Contrarily, Boukman Eksperyans were voodoo fused and reminiscent of Dr. John’s “Night Tripper” persona. Overall, the audience had a great time with a lot more music suited for partying than in previous years. Perhaps that will continue in 2024… For more info go: www.hollywoodbowl.com.
The Pasadena Pops, conducted by Michael Feinstein and Resident Pops Conductor Larry Blank presented Divas Through The Decades for its Summer Concert Series at the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Arcadia. The special program of Ellington, Gershwin, Rogers & Hart and pop songs with orchestra and Christian Jacobs on piano featured not just one, but three vocalists. They all intermixed jazz, R&B, blues and even pop, yet individually and distinctively.
Nicole Henry was somewhat of the headliner singer and equally adept at interpreting standards and pop hits. She shined with spirited orchestrated covers of Natalie Cole’s 1975 Grammy-winning R&B/pop hit “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” and Carole King’s “Natural Woman” written for Aretha Franklin The Queen of Soul in 1967.
Alternately, Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman’s “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” was done as a passionate duet with Feinstein that she afterwards dedicated to him. Henry concluded with backing singers Cynthia Bass and Cydney Davis helping on the rocking “Proud Mary” written by John Fogerty and commandeered by Tina Turner. With Payne and Russell, Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” was robustly augmented by the Pops orchestra.
R&B and jazz-oriented Freda Payne roared with the orchestra for “Oh! Lady Be Good” and resounded with ballad “The Very Thought Of You” mostly with Jacobs and strings initially. She also breezily sung “You Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)” with bursts of hot scatting, gallantly performed “The Lady is a Tramp” and served up her big 1970 R&B hit “Band of Gold” with the backup singers.
Jazz and blues stylist Catherine Russell powerfully and expressively sang “A Porter’s Love Song To A Chambermaid,” by Jimmy Johnson and Andy Razaf. She then shifted to blues by way of “Screamin’” Jay Hawkins’ one-of-a-kind song “I Put a Spell on You,” and Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s timeless classic “Stormy Weather.” “Here’s to Life,” Shirley Horn’s uplifting signature song was Russell’s last featured song.
Instrumentally, the Pops Symphony stood out with a refined version of the funk orchestra hit “A Fifth of Beethoven,” Ellington’s “Jump For Joy” and brass-soaring “Night Train.” Also noteworthy were W.C. Handy’s centennial “St. Louis Blues” first published in 1912, Gershwin’s “Of Thee I Sing Overture” and a lush version of the Beatles’ “And I Love Her.” For more info go to: www.nicolehenry.com, www.iamfredapayne.com, www.catherinerussell.net and pasadenasymphony-pops.org
With the recent passing of icon Tony Bennett, Diana Krall is clearly at the top of jazz vocalists’ royalty, though she may have challenges from Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater and possibly even Gregory Porter. At the Hollywood Bowl the top-selling heir-apparent and two-time Grammy-winner and nine-time Juno-winner held court with longtime stalwarts, bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and their Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, along with her regular guitarist Anthony Wilson.
The drummer and bassist team supported Krall for her debut record Stepping Out in 1993 and their orchestra was involved with Christmas Songs, her only Christmas project to date in 2005 and From This Moment On a year later. Essentially, the concert was a biennialreunion for the principal players and orchestra. Since, it seems like they all come together every two to three years.
Most importantly, the headlining singer is not contented with the band primarily propelling her—she relishes interacting in a combo setting—like her main influence Nat King Cole, and her contemporary, Karrin Allyson. In that regard, she happily admitted, “We’ve had so much fun over the years,” and launched into “I Just Found Out About Love.” The number featured Wilson adroitly soloing, along with her own refined piano playing and tradeoffs with Hamilton.
Also in quartet mode, the popular singer/pianist’s patented and very appealing use of space with breathy singing occurred through “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and was enhanced with a bass solo that included bowing. “I Was Doing Alright” was cool flowing and included explosive moments. While fast-paced “Devil May Care” was bolstered by guitar and drums blazing away. Additionally, an impressive bass solo intro segued into breezy “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me.”
CHO started the concert with their rollicking version of Horace Silver’s hard bopping “Jody Grind” featuring saxophonist Rickey Woodard and pianist Tamir Hendelman. Krall afterwards reunited with the mighty ensemble to coolly sing and play the title track of the 2006 album recorded with them. The orchestra scaled down initially for “Isn’t It A Lovely Day” that was pleasantly embellished with a lyrical sax solo and then came back roaring for “Come Dance With Me” to impress the audience.
Whereas, for bossa classic “How Insensitive” they sophisticatedly supported Krall as she sang ethereally and afterwards commented, “So beautiful—I’m so happy.” Surprisingly, the upbeat shuffling “Day In Day Out” showcased Krall’s most energetic singing of the night and garnered a cheering standing ovation. For the encore, “Blues in F” showcased her and the band jamming away Count Basie style.
The String Queens trio consisting of Kendall Isadore-violin, Dawn Johnson-viola and Elise Sharp-cello opened the show. The educators, spanning elementary to high school and based in Washington DC, excited the audience with a bristling 30-minute set. It was classical infused by way of Earth, Wind & Fire’s R&B jam “September,” Michael Jackson’s mega pot hit “Billie Jean,” the Beatles’ classic rock/classical nuanced “Eleanor Rigby” and Chick Corea’s thematic and enduring jazz theme “Spain” to wow the audience. For more info go to: www.dianakrall.com, thestringqueens.com and www.hollywoodbowl.com
As probably one of the most prolific jazz tenor saxophonists on the planet, Ivo Perelman, who was born in Brazil and migrated to the U.S. in 1980, has practically lived in the studio since releasing his first album in 1989. In 2021 he ambitiously recorded Reed Rapture at Park West Studios in Brooklyn. It’s a twelve-disc project consisting of improvised duets with 12 different saxophonists, with each of them playing a different type of reed instrument.
Equally productive documentary film maker Don McGlynn, who’s chronicled other jazz masters, such as Teddy Edwards, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Glenn Miller, Art Pepper and many non-jazz artists, painstakingly covered Perelman’s massive endeavor. Additionally, jazz journalist/biographer Gary Giddins’ filmed commentary is included, along with those from some of the players and of course Perelman.
Among them are Lotte Anker-soprano, alto sax; Tim Berne-alto sax; James Carter baritone sax; Vinny Golia-soprillo (piccolo or sopranissimo saxophone –pitched in B♭)/clarinet/basset horn/alto clarinet; Jon Irabagon– slide soprano sax/sopranino sax; Dave Liebman-soprano sax; Joe Lovano– C melody sax/F soprano sax; Joe McPhee-tenor sax; Roscoe Mitchell-bass sax; David Murray-bass clarinet; Colin Stetson-contrabass sax/tubax and Ken Vandermark-clarinet. They all freely interact beautifully with the host saxophonist, while also sometimes going in some very unpredictable directions.
Jazz being the music of now and is remarkably captured throughout the film, with each musician flowingly improvising with Perelman, but also maintaining their own unique personalities and style. Without question, the tenor saxophonist achieves his goal of totally being in the present and has no concerns about public perception or marketing. Although, without any melodies or reference to anything generally familiar the film and recordings aren’t for everyone. Nonetheless, they are brilliant and are to be commended for being audacious and individualistic. For more info go to: www.fesfilms.com/don-mcglynn.html and www.ivoperelman.com/.
Chicago’s UrbanTheater Company presented the West Coast premiere of Evolution of a Sonero at The Los Angeles Theatre Center for a limited three-week run. The production directed by Miranda González brought the feel and vibe of the Bronx streets to LA. Sonero means: lead singer in salsa music and was the sole character of the theatrical affair. He was ambitiously portrayed by poet, actor, and singer Flaco Navaja, who was also the playwright.
He was backed by live, five-piece charged salsa band, The Razor Blades. Carlos Ordiano-keyboards, Edward Resto-bass, Juan Moreno-congas, Richard Veizen-trombone, and Joey De Leon-timbales. They propelled things with a scintillating mix of salsa, hip-hop and jazz as Navaja took the audience through a coming-of-age odyssey. Filled with grit, street bravado/defiance and humor, the character depicted Latino/Puerto Rican life in the infamous New York borough. Navaja draws from Héctor Lavoe, The Doors, KRS-1, and the many humorous friends and family who shaped him. “The entire show is structured like a salsa song,” Navaja explained. “Salsa is a metaphor for my life.”
Evolution of a Sonero was originally developed in 2017 at Pregones/PRTT in New York City as part of their Step-Up artist-in-residence program. With direction and dramaturgy by Jorge B. Merced, it had its world premiere run at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in Manhattan in 2019. The show received its Midwest premiere courtesy of UrbanTheater Company as part of the 2022 Destinos Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. For more info go to: www.latinotheaterco.org.
Tina, the Tina Turner Musical, whose first performance was in London in 2018, with subsequent runs in Hamburg, Madrid, and Broadway, made its Los Angeles debut as part of a national tour at the Pantages Theatre. Sadly, and coincidentally, it was three weeks after the rock and pop diva’s passing and interest in her was at an all-time high.
The 12-time Grammy-winner’s tumultuous story is well-known, and the musical has hallmarks of the Academy Award nominated 1993 biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It. The musical with an updated script approved by Turner herself, barely covers the basics of (Anna Mae Bullock’s) personal details and her lack of sophistication during the turbulent and sometimes life-threatening marriage to Ike Turner. Unsurprisingly, he is ruthless, sexually exploitive, and unremorseful, but does have undeniable musical acuity.
Actresses Zurin Villanueva and Naomi Rogers share portraying TT, with Villanueva being extraordinary during the high-octane song and dance numbers that thoroughly blow the audience away. Surprisingly, the musical never explains how TT became the Queen of Rock And Roll. That came from her affiliations with popular rockers such as the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, the Who (she was the Acid Queen in the filmed musical Tommy), and the first woman black or white to be on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.
Nonetheless, Tina, the Tina Turner Musical definitely is a “feel good” experience. It’s laden with her most popular songs, such as “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Proud Mary,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “(Simply) The Best.” They resoundingly remind us of how much of force she was, and always will be. For more info go to: tinaonbroadway.com and www.broadwayinhollywood.com.
JAZZ Re-EVOLUTION produced in partnership with WORDTheatre® at the Ford Theatre brought together acclaimed actors, singers, and world-class musicians on stage for a transfixing evening of storytelling and music chronicling jazz from its origins to present times. The group of storytellers injected life, humor, humility and even bravado into the fables, facts, and personal accounts of some of jazz’s best-known innovators. They were Maria Bello, Keith David, Gary Dourdan, Jason George, Leslie Grace, Joseph Marcell, Reign Morton, Antonique Smith, Tracie Thoms, Glynn Turman, Miguel Sandoval, and Michole Briana White.
Creating the musical foundation and supplying support for the orators and singers were Starr Parodi–Music Director/keyboards, Remee Ashley-trombone, Wayne Bergeron-trumpet, Clayton Cameron-drums, Kevin Richard-percussion, Logan Richardson-alto saxophone, Janet Robin-guitar, Jonathan Sacks-composer/orchestrator, Nick “Knick” Smith-keyboards, Suuvi-cello and Nedra Wheeler-bass/vocals.
Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” played by the stellar musicians fittingly inaugurated the special evening. There were many themes for the program, of course all related to jazz, and the first were its roots in New Orleans. In that grouping were “An Invitation” by Al Young 2005-2008 California Poet Laureate, and excerpts from Treat It Gentle: An Autobiography: by Sydney Bechet, History of Jazz by Ted Gioia, and “I Dream of Drums” by Langston Hughes.
It and “Buddy Bolden’s Blues (Funky Butt)” humorously sung by Keith David with Bergeron’s scorching playing evoked strong crowd reactions. Also, Frank Marshall Davis’ “Jazz Band” was full of provocative verses, while “The Lost Generation of Jazz” by Dr. Billy Taylor told of aging Jelly Roll Morton’s still lethal piano prowess with ragtime piano by Smith.
Women jazz pioneers were celebrated through Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Davis that included performances of “Prove it on Me Blues” by Michole Briana White and exceptionally sexual (especially for that period) “Need a Little Some Sugar in My Bowl” by Antonique Smith. Also from that era, but not related to the female innovators was W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” also sung by Smith that was surprisingly dynamic and blew the crowd away, along with an early Duke Ellington tribute that included “East St. Louis Toodle Oo.”
Shifting to modern jazz and civil rights/racial equality were “The Negro Artist And The Racial Mountain” by Hughes, How It Feels To Be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston and “Many Thousands Gone” by James Baldwin, and an excerpt from the Crisis Magazine by W.E.B DuBois. From musicians’ viewpoint were Mingus A One-Man Show by Barry Shabaka Henley and “A Thin Blue Line Down Central Avenue: The LAPD And The Demise of a Musical Hub” from Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles by Clora Bryant, Buddy Collette, William Green, Steve Isoardi, and Marl Young.
Also pertaining to that period were The Beginning of Bop by Jack Kerouac accentuated by the band playing “A Night in Tunisia” with hot scatting featured, and “Friendship Between Lester Young And Billie Holiday” by Kamau Daaood with “Strange Fruit” hauntingly sung by Smith. Additionally included were Amen Corner James Baldwin, thoughts from Louis Armstrong and Bird: The Legend Of Charlie Parker by Robert Reisner and thoughts from Ella Fitzgerald with White beautifully singing “Summertime.” Furthermore Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin DG Kelley was spotlighted with “Monk’s Blues” as a backdrop.
The final section of the unique concert featured Dizzy Gillespie: The Man Who Changed My Life: From the Memoirs of Arturo Sandoval with searing trumpet. Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange and thoughts from Herbie Hancock with “All Blues” played by the band. That segued into a Miles Davis interview reenacted and thoughts from Nina Simone with her “Feeling Good (It’s A New Day)” boldly sung by Tracie Thoms erupting the audience.
Not to be overlooked, quotes from Quincy Jones, Davis and recently departed Wayne Shorter were also highlighted. Special guest saxophonist Terence Martin was featured playing the icon’s “Footprints” as a tribute with the band and segued into his “Black Nile” afterwards, with Hancock’s thoughts about jazz closing out the show. For more info go to: wordtheatre.org and www.theford.com
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