Morales, Dyer and Green at Angelica’s
Benny Knocks it Out of the Park
Eric Alexander at Cafe Stritch Cafe Stritch in San Jose
At Stanford — Victor Lin Rides Again
Jazz on the Hill Returns
Donaatelli and Keezer at Bach’s
Kris Strom and Tammy Hall at the Studio Pink House
Watch Out New York Jazz — Here Comes San Jose Jazz, March 2013
Hal Galper Trio at Bach, March 2013
Listen to Your Listeners | Postmodern Times by Eric Felten
– WSJ.com A VERY GOOD ARTICLE ABOUT JAZZ
The Tommy Igoe Big Band at The Razz Room
New York Times Jazz Articles
Grace Kelly at the San Jose Jazz Winter Fest
Studio Pink House — A Newly Expanded Music Venue Reopens
PAJANS Dig the Jazz Cruise
Remarkable Super Group at Bach’s
Paula West at Kuumbwa
Kenny Burrell Shines at 80
LenoreRaphael at Bach’s
Report back from Monterey Jazz Fest: One man’s opinion
The 54th Monterey Jazz Festival – A View from the Grounds
Impressions of San Jose
Summer Jazz Highlights
Stanford Jazz Workshop Tour
Victor Lin Rides Again
The Jeff Hamilton Trio at Palo Alto Elks Club
The Bill Charlap Trio at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society
Taylor Eigsti at the San Jose Fairmont
Meeting of the Minds at The Beach House
The Gerald Clayton Trio
The 10th Jazz Cruise
“In His Own Sweet Way” — Brubeck Documentary on TV
Doug Carn Rocks the Church
Kim Nalley at Bach’s
A Few Monterey Jazz Festival Highlights
We Go to The Gala
An Afternoon at Filoli
The Music of Dave Brubeck
Died and Gone to Heaven?
Kim Nalley and Houston Person
MUSIC REVIEW (January 2023).
If you’re a big band aficionado, you may have been deploring the dearth of opportunities to hear and see big band jazz live on the Peninsula. Well, Mike Galisatus and the Stanford Jazz Orchestra to the rescue. In their recent fall concert at Dinkelspiel on November 18, kicking off the Big Game weekend, the band sounded wonderful. As usual, Galisatus had whipped the ensemble into fine shape, and it was all big band lovers could want.
It began with some nostalgia: swinging arrangements of When You’re Smiling and I Got Rhythm, followed by a magnificent Ella Fitzgerald turn on A-Tisket, A-Tasket by young vocalist Jessica Badly. Then the group swung into a chaotic, but effective number called Kopi Luwak, which, according to Galisatus, is the world’s most expensive cup of coffee. You can look it up.
And then guest artist Eric Marienthal came on board and cranked the temperature up a notch. A big notch. Marienthal is a top tier altoist, and he was featured on two numbers to begin with: Just Platonic and the ballad Here’s That Rainy Day.
And then came the highlight of the evening, an epic alto duet/duel with Marienthal and student Chris Palomo. Palomo more than held his own, as they blazed through a tune called Crazy, But, and they challenged each other up and down the scales. We could only say “WOW”.
Marienthal then soloed on a very nice Gordon Goodwin arrangement of Body and Soul and on a Marienthal-composed tune called Babycakes. It all finished with a very hot arrangement of the standard Love For Sale.
Marienthal obviously does a lot of these college gigs, and he’s a full-service guest, with patter, high jinks and anecdotes to keep the audience entertained. Stanford got its money’s worth.
And we big band fans got our fix. Galisatus and the Orchestra will perform again in the spring. Don’t miss it./ Ed Fox
ROGER GLENN AND FRIENDS AT BACH’S (May 2022)
A marvelous sunny day on the coast side at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society (Sunday, March 13). The beautiful Pete Douglas beach house—the perfect venue for jazz. I was there to hear Roger Glenn and Company perform Roger’s “Vibes of March” gig, with emphasis on music provided by his first-rate band, which was terrific. Roger mostly played the flute, which he’s good at. . .and he talked a iot. The vibraphone demands a certain amount of physicality, and these days it seems Roger would rather sit and talk, rather than standing to hammer his mallets.
Luckily, the rhythm section was more than able to keep us interested. Glen Pearson, the Basie band’s pianist, was simply thrilling to hear. Why haven’t I seen him before? The conga player Michael Goerlitz added to the mix, especially when the band played Cal Tjader tunes—to the audience’s delight.
But the real stunner was Kyle Athayde, the youngest of Roger’s four guest vibraphonists. Kyle, a local talent, plays mostly these days in the East Bay and he simply brought down the house with his inventive, energetic style. A young lion to watch, as well as to hear, he scored master points with his rendition of the Tjader tune “Wachi Sara.”
A great way to spend an enjoyable afternoon. Pete Douglas’s legacy is being well preserved. If you haven’t been over to the coast in a while, put it on your calendar./ Michael Griffin
JOEY ALEXANDER (September 2019)
Dinkelspiel, July 21. The phenom is now 16 years old and still impressing fans around the world with his considerable piano chops. Youth brings energy, and with that, Joey is absolutely the Jazz Energizer Bunny. His keyboard attack is, in a word, formidable. While he can play a ballad, it’s not long before—at a rapid tempo—he is pounding away to great effect on the ivories. And do mean pounding. He actually broke a string in the instrument while rehearsing for tonight’s performance.
Joey played mostly his own compositions and while I enjoyed a few of them, especially the encore, I found myself thinking, “These all sound about the same. . .”—despite being played with verve, enthusiasm, competence, and. . . above all, force. It was that barrage of notes that wore me down.
But I need to mention Joey’s amazingly talented bandmates. Kris Funn’s bass playing was simply inspired and helped no end to give the trio’s performance a needed “rounding.” Quincy Phillips on drums played with authority and finesse. Joey benefited mightily from these highly skilled sidemen./ Michael Griffin
MORALES, DYER AND GREEN AT ANGELICA’S
October 27, 2017. The blurb for this event at Angelica’s Bistro in Redwood City said Morales, Dyer and Green Sing Lambert, Hendricks and Ross’s “The Hottest New Group in Jazz”. Whoa, as a big LHR fan, this was not something I wanted to miss. Who else is doing LHR these days? Well, maybe Manhattan Transfer a little bit—but not like Morales, Dyer and Green. MDG use the actual arrangements and replicate the LHR sound, and believe me, LHR fans, it’s all good.
MDG is made up of Alexa Weber Morales (Annie Ross), Bryan Dyer (Davy Lambert) and Juliet Green (Jon Hendricks). They all have solo careers of their own, but apparently combining their talents on this project was too hard to resist. From the original LHR album (1960), they sang Moanin’, Twisted (very good job by Morales, who can hit the high notes like Annie), Cloudburst, Sermonette, Everybody’s Boppin’, and Caravan. Close your eyes and they were right on—you were there with LHR in 1960! Wow, is that Jon Hendricks? Uh, uh, it’s Juliet Green! They also did non-Hottest LHR tunes like Night in Tunisia and Four, and a few other non-LHR numbers showcasing their abilities, and no one was complaining.
And there was quality back-up with Galen Green on tenor, Murray Low on piano, Peter Barshay on bass, and Jason Lewis on drums. It all meshed well and the group seemed well rehearsed.
At a previous performance at the San Francisco Jazz Center, the group sold out, but this Friday night Redwood City gig was very sparsely attended unfortunately.* Those of us who were there exchanged many smiles and thumbs up, hearing an excellent rare performance of music we’ve loved for years. I hope this group stays together so those of you who missed it can feel the joy as we did./Ed Fox
*I must have bad luck with Jon Hendricks. It must have been the early 70’s when Jon had returned from Europe and put on a trial concert of his new “Evolution of the Blues” at a Palo Alto Club called “In Your Ear.” Anyone remember that club—on University? There were only five of us in the audience that night.
BENNY KNOCKS IT OUT OF THE PARK
What a treat to hear one of the planet’s most renowned jazz pianists in solo performance. That’s what those who attended PAJA’s Veteran’s Day concert at the Menlo-Atherton HS Center for the Performing Arts got—Benny Green in a scintillating 1 hr, 40 minutes of piano artistry. Benny said he hadn’t worked out a specific playlist beforehand—“I’m winging it”—but it is a tribute to his sensibility and rapport with the audience that every number he chose resonated and delighted his listeners. He gave us tunes composed by Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, McCoy Tyner, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and others, plus one or two of his originals. PAJA event chair Harvey Mittler commented that nights like this is why we PAJAns—volunteers all–do this. Benny gave us that rare thing—a performance we’ll not soon forget and an opportunity to remind ourselves why we go to the trouble of seeing jazz live: there’s always a chance you’ll experience a small cultural/artistic miracle. Thank you, Benny, for giving us one of those evenings.
Photo by Anne Callahan
ERIC ALEXANDER AT CAFÉ STRITCH
Photos by Ronald Orlando
By now, Eric Alexander’s name should be well known to local jazz fans. The 45-year-old tenor saxophonist appears often in the Bay Area, and in a recent two-night engagement at San Jose’s Café Stritch, he demonstrated why there’s just no one better today on the tenor sax. Well, that’s one man’s opinion anyway.
Playing with Peppe Merolla on drums, Matt Clark on piano and Michael Zisman on bass, Eric cruised through five numbers in a 1 ¾-hour set on the Saturday evening we saw him (March 22). Just five numbers means extended solos, and that’s what we got, and who’s complaining? Starting off with the jazz classic “Four”, Eric displayed his impressive bop/post-bop chops and we were off and running to a wonderful evening of tenor quartet JAZZ. A scintillating Merolla drum solo on that one, showing off his outstanding versatility and skill. The group followed with A Felicidade, Jobim’s contribution to “Black Orpheus” and then segued to the ballad “All The Way.” Good Zisman solo on this one. Bobby Timmons’ “This Here” was a driving upbeat success, and the band closed with “Save Your Love For Me,” the Nancy Wilson blues hit—an infectious, swinging version that had the crowd clapping rhythmically and bouncing out of their seats. It was Matt Clark’s turn to provide a memorable solo.
This number is on Eric’s newest album, “Chicago Fire,” with Harold Mabern, Joe Farnsworth and John Webber. It’s a winner. On the Eric Alexander web site, he’s quoted as saying, “The legacy left by Bird and all the bebop pioneers, that language and that feel—that’s the bread and butter of everything I do.” And it’s the bread and butter of everything I, personally, favor in jazz—emphatic, inventive takes on jazz classics and the American songbook. So, Eric—we salute you, and thank Café Stritch and Peppe Merolla for making it possible for us to hear this marvelous group.
A real New York-style jazz club in downtown San Jose? If you have memories of the Village Vanguard or the Five Spot, or San Francisco’s clubs of the 60s, you’llfeel right at home at Café Stritch at 374 First Street in San Jose—on the site of he old Eulipia Restaurant. The bandstand backs up to a long brick wall decorated with large jazz posters, the most prominent of which is of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The name of the club comes from an instrument devised by Kirk, the stritch, a straightened alto saxophone, the original of which hangs proudly over the Kirk poster. This was a gift of Kirk’s widow to the Café Stritch owner, Steve Borkenhagen—a major Kirk and jazz fan. Steve’s son Max is the club’s artistic director and he introduces the performers.
The night Bruce Powell and I went, the group was the Peppe Merolla quartet, featuring the muscular New York tenorman Vincent Herring. Peppe, who lives in Menlo Park, was on drums, and local stalwarts Michael Zisman (bass) and Matt Clark (piano) accompanied. We had gone pretty much to see Herring and he didn’t disappoint. Bop doesn’t get any harder.
The club has been open only a few months now. There’s a wide-ranging menu, from burgers to larger main dishes; you place your order at the counter, and the hand signal device lights up when your order is ready. So, no servers, no one pestering you to buy more drinks, and most nights no cover charge. The night we went, it was just $15. For their upcoming schedule check out www.cafestritch.com and click on “Events.” Steve Turre plays at Stritch New Year’s Eve.
AT STANFORD—VICTOR LIN RIDES AGAIN
The theme presentations by pianist/violinist Victor Lin are always a highlight of each year’s Stanford Jazz Festival, and this year’s (July 25 at Dinkelspiel) was no exception. The 2013 motif was the music of the great Disney films, and Victor and ensemble started off with “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Pinocchio. Victor always assembles some standup musicians at his concerts and this year he had saxophonists Ben Flocks and Lynn Speakman, trumpeter Ivan Rosenberg, Mike Bono on guitar, the interesting Jimmy McBride on drums, and the fine bassist Josh Thurston-Milgrom, with Lin on piano. Jon Hatamaya came in on trombone later in the evening.
Obviously, some tunes from Disney movies lend themselves well to the jazz medium, as Brubeck and many others have shown with takes on “Some Day My Prince Will Come” and “Alice In Wonderland,” both of which we heard this night. But you wouldn’t expect such novelty tunes like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “It’s A Small World After All” to appeal to a jazz audience, but these versions rocked, amazingly. One staple of Victor Lin night at SJW is multiple pianists, like 2 pianists on one piano, or four on two. This year it was four (Victor, Joe Gilman, Peter Stoltzman, and Yuma Sung –billed as comedic piano relief) on two pianos, and the song was “It’s a Small World.” Wow. Frenetic playing, switching positions, elbowing, running. Hugely entertaining, but at the same time, great licks.
A real highlight of the evening was a duet of Victor on piano and Ben Flocks (soprano sax) on a lovely ballad from Toy Story 2 (didn’t catch the song title). But it transfixed the audience and got a standing O afterward. Lynn Gruenewald Speakman is a superb arranger and she contributed a great version of “Prince Ali” from Aladdin which involved the whole band. Another artist new to me was Tupac Mantilla, a wizard of percussion. The man can make rhythmic sounds out of shreds of paper being blown by an electric fan. The night closed with another Toy Story 2 item: Randy Newman’s “You Got A Friend In Me,” with old SJW hand Bob Murphy on vocals.
An evening with Victor Lin always delivers with creativity and rollicking entertainment. But there are always wonderful arrangements and musicianship to satisfy any jazz fan. If you missed this one, make sure to be there next year, unless he’s running out of themes. The Music of John Malkovich Films?
No. I’ll trust Victor to come up with another winner.
JAZZ ON THE HILL RETURNS
By Ed Fox and Harvey Mittler
We’ve had to wait nine years while campus construction projects (beautiful job, CSM, by the way) precluded KCSM’s Jazz On The Hill, but JOTH returned with a bang this year on a warm, sunny first day of June. A dual-stage setup meant no waiting for the next act to get rearranged and settled. There was some seating by the reflecting pool, but the majority of fans elected to pick spots on the spacious lawns.
Festivities started at 10am, and if you arrived by 10 or 11, parking and finding seats or lawn spaces were quite easy. By the time the Taylor Eigsti group came on at 3pm, though, things were a bit more crowded, and the pre-festival estimate of 5000 on the hill looked about right.
The first outfit was the Northgate HS Jazz Band, from Walnut Creek. Greg Brown’s award-winning ensemble gave a polished, very satisfying set—a great way to get things rolling. We were particularly impressed by the sax section. There were at least three sax soloists who were simply marvelous. High schoolers? No way!!
The KCSM family band was next and it gave fans a chance to see some of the KCSM staffers perform: Dick Conte on piano, Richard Hadlock clarinet, Alisa Clancy vocals, and a back-up vocal group consisting of Kathleen Lawton, Jayne Sanchez and Melanie Berzon. “Ringers” Akira Tana and Clint Baker (Alisa’s spouse) assisted.
Following were Adam Theis and Jazz Mafia, Terence Brewer and Citizen Rhythm and the always crowd-pleasing Hot Club of San Francisco. As usual, rhythm guitarist Isabelle Fontaine’s beautiful vocals were heavenly. If the sun got too much for you, there was an inside stage in the air-conditioned College Center with sets by the CSM Jazz Ensemble, the CSM Big Band, and Oscar Pangilinan and The Bad Five.
The Pangilinan group’s rendition of “Spain” was a killer.
At 2 o’clock the performers were the Hot Club of San Francisco, the quartet featuring Paul Mehling, lead guitar and leader, Isabelle Fontaine, guitar and chanteuse, Evan Price, violin, and Clint Baker, bass, in its typically up-tempo, crowd-pleasing way. The quartet played its version of swinging gypsy jazz, and Isabelle Fontaine displayed her charming vocal talent with French melodies, supplementing her rhythm guitar ability. It was the first group of the afternoon heard by Harvey, and the HCSF was welcomed enthusiastically by those enjoying the warm sun and the hot music.
In the next hour, the audience gathered on the grass and next to, or in some cases soaking their feet in, the long pool were treated to the contemporary music played by a Bay Area trio of maturing wunderkind, the pianist from Menlo Park, Taylor Eigsti and his Friends, tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens from Berkeley and guitarist Julian Lage from Santa Rosa. The three friends now are based in New York but continue to return to their roots here, fortunately for us. They interspersed standards from the Great American Songbook with original compositions contributed by each, including Taylor’s Come Out and Play and Dayna’s Dr. Wong’s Bird Song (written for Herb Wong). Another feature for Dayna was I Left My Heart in San Francisco, my favorite rendition next to Tony’s. (PAJA members may realize that the HCSF and Taylor Eigsti, with Dayna Stephens among other luminaries, were the last two groups presented in concert by PAJA; thank you, Herb Wong and Bruce Powell.)
Taylor Eigsti ……………………………………..Charlie Musselwhite
Photos by Greg Toland
In the 4 o’clock hour consummate blues harp master Charlie Musselwhite led a mid-sized unit through his Memphis-style, urban blues. Playing his blues harmonica and singing a bit, Charlie let us know why he has been revered for more than 40 years. A fitting close to his set was Duke Pearson’s Christo Redemptor, a cover of trumpeter Donald Byrd’s hit which Charlie first recorded in 1967 and long a favorite of mine.
Closing the perfect day’s solid music was the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, a 19-piece Latin Salsa Big Band organized about 3 years ago. Co-leader and pianist Christian Tumalan is a CSM grad, and he clearly loved being back. The Band bills itself as being one of the Bay Area’s most exciting live acts, and it lived up to its billing. The variety of the tempos and the song styles showed the Band indeed to be a cut above the bands that become mired only in a mambo or cha char beat. The Band lives up its claim that it features some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians, and part of the reason is that it includes musicians from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, including co-leader and trumpeter and composer Steffen Kuehn (he, or another trumpeter whose name I missed, is from Peru), an incredible conguero and composer from Venezuela, and a marvelous female lead singer, Alexis Guillen. Exemplary work and exciting solos came from all the sections of the band. Long live the spirit of Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Celia Cruz!
Congratulations to the staff and management of KCSM, the financial supporters of Jazz on the Hill, and to the fans who showed that they will turn out for live music!
DONATELLI AND KEEZER AT BACH’S
Another very fine Sunday afternoon at the Pete Douglas Beach House on April 21 with vocalist Denise Donatelli and the marvelous pianist Geoffrey Keezer, backed by Essiet Essiet on bass, Sylvia Cuenca on drums and Peter Sprague, guitar. Sprague, who lives in the San Diego area, has been around for years, but I hadn’t seen him before; he almost stole the show, he is that good—a wonderful, fluid guitarist.
Donatelli, easy on the eyes (sexist comment alert, Mr. Obama!), and with an ingratiating performance personality (no phony showbiz stuff—just good straight-ahead music and pleasant commentary), opened with “When Lights Are Low,” and followed with a very effective, “Don’t Explain.” “Soul Shadows” was a featured number, involving a bit of audience participation, and a duet with Keezer on Burton Lane’s “Too Late Now” was one of my first-set favorites. The set closed with an uptempo, “I Wish I Were in Love Again.” The second set included “All or Nothing at All,” “My Shining Hour,” and a fabulous Donatelli-Keezer duet on “Skylark.” They closed with Joni Mitchell’s “Be Cool.”
All in all, a lovely afternoon. I rate the L.A.-based Donatelli up there with Jackie Ryan, Tierney Sutton, Karrin Allison—professionals who respect the music, have good pipes, and can deliver beautiful vocals within a well-thought-out selection of material. Three of the songs in this concert were from Donatelli/Keezer’s 2012 Grammy-nominated album “Soul Shadows,” and three others were from their 2011 Grammy-nominated album “When Lights Are Low.” This is a collaboration made in jazz heaven.
KRIS STROM AND TAMMY HALL AT THE STUDIO PINK HOUSE
We were fortunate to hear Kris Strom and her band of outstanding Bay Area musicians on Sunday, March 24. The group was composed of Strom on tenor, her husband Scott Sorkin on guitar, John Shifflet on bass and Jim Kassis on drums. Add the exciting Tammy Hall on piano and you had a full-service, Class A jazz band. Hall appears regularly with Kim Nalley and Denise Perrier.
This group of highly motivated, experience artists have been laboring in the jazz vineyards for years, and all deserve more recognition. This writer has heard them at various venues, but this Sunday was special. Firs the intimate setting of the Studio Pink House is unique–$10-$20 voluntary donations. You sit in close access to the band (you can almost reach out and touch them), and the hip audience and supportive owners make this an exceptional jazz venue.
Kris Strom on tenor blew choruses like I’ve not heard from her before, demonstrating her expertise with some riveting, rocking improvisations. With Sorkin on guitar and the cooking rhythm section, they played some originals (by Strom and Hall) and some standards. Kris even vocalized on a couple of numbers.
The addition of Tammy Hall really capped it for me . . . her solos are marvelous expositions of modern harmony, with her full “chordal” approach, and she’s always swinging. She comps actively and those chords keep the whole groove elevated. Sorkin also played some exciting, well crafted solos. Shifflet and Kassis propelled it all and the whole band played with verve and cohesion. This was outstanding jazz by a group of dedicated, serious virtuosos who deserve more publicity and support, as does the intimate Studio Pink House in downtown Saratoga.
WATCH OUT NEW YORK JAZZ……..HERE COMES SAN JOSE JAZZ
The Friday March 22 free San Jose jazz concert featuring Aaron Lington (baritone sax) and Christian Tamburr ( vibes) was one of the most enjoyable ever. It featured original compositions by Lington as well as the music of STING. All of it was melodic, mainstream jazz by these exceptional soloists including Dan Robbins on bass.
Lington was so very impressive with his relaxed, very swinging and melodic improvisations. Tamburr was, as always, exciting, with his masterful approach to the music. (he used 4 mallets on some numbers). He is one of our national jazz stars, and we are fortunate to have him appear locally.
Lington should be commended for bringing his own beautiful compositions and featuring STING selections which are not normally featured in jazz concerts. This event appeared to be very appealing to this large audience of various ages and backgrounds and certainly different musical tastes .
The audience required an encore. This was worthy of ANY NEW YORK CITY jazz club.
One couple who just joined as members said to me. “San Jose Jazz is the best thing San Jose has”.
Bruce Powell and Jan DeCarli, March 2013
Pianist Hal Galper turns 75 next month. Physically, he looks his age, but the music that flows from his keyboard is that of a much younger man: contemporary, experimental, muscular, exploratory. But also eminently accessible and listenable. Galper talks about his trio’s work as “group improvisation,” which implies unplanned free jazz. But nothing the group favored us with at the Pete Douglas Beach House on Sunday, March 17, gave the impression that the group was anything but “together” all the time. Even Saint Patrick would have dug it. Someone from the audience asked the question: “Does anything the bassist does in the middle of a tune surprise you?” Galper: “We hope so.” Galper also instructed the audience to listen with different ears, not easy to do when you’re an old hidebound jazz pecan. (I always bring the same ears with me.) Fortunately, it didn’t get what I’d call far out—no 30-minute repetitive meanderings or pretentious ear-shattering noise. Just good, hard-swinging modern jazz. No slow soulful ballads, lots of chords, lots of brilliant runs.
Galper, of course has played with everyone, most notably Phil Woods, Chet Baker, Cannonball Adderley, and the Brecker Brothers. The trio is completed by Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop, drums. Johnson and Bishop likewise have played with “everyone,” seasoned pros who have been playing with Galper for a few years now.
The first set began with an uptempo “Alice In Wonderland,” followed with a frenetic original “Get Up and Go,” and then a lovely “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.” Galper played the title track of his latest album: “Trip The Light Fantastic,” and “One Step Closer,” tunes that he called experiments with Brazilian harmony. Certainly the highlight for me was a 20-minute take on Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin” which rocked the place and left Pete Douglas muttering, “This guy is as good as anybody.” Galper even threw us a bone by playing a snatch of the familiar “Airegin” tune near the end!
Ed Fox, March 2013
THE TOMMY IGOE BIG BAND AT THE RAZZ ROOM
Last night [April 30, 2012] a group of us went up to San Francisco to hear Tommy Igoe present his new Monday night residency gig at the Nikko Hotel’s Razz Room. Igoe, for some years now, has led a hot big band at Birdland in New York; those Friday night gigs are generally sold out—one of the hottest jazz tickets in the Big Apple. He has recently moved to the Bay Area (though he still commutes to NYC for those Friday nighters), and has put together a formidable big band of Bay Area players. This band consists mainly of musicians we weren’t familiar with as they were recruited from outfits like Tower of Power, Santana, and the Dooby Brothers, instead of the jazz players we know about. Can you imagine monster drummer Igoe fronting Tower of Power’s horn section in a medium-small club setting? Blew the roof off the place. Most of the players may come from R&B/soul/funk groups, but, wow, the ensemble playing was super-tight, showing excellent chops and the ability to play uptempo tunes for 90 minutes straight. And every one of them is a terrific jazz soloist. Sax man Tom Politzer (of TofP) helped Tommy recruit a lot of the band, and he is a huge jazz talent. The combination of Politzer and the rest of these high-energy performers make for a perfect match with the flamboyant Igoe. With Tommy’s theatrical, but fabulous drumming, the 15-piece band is just terrifically entertaining. They did a couple of familiar items like “God Save The Child” and “Mercy Mercy Mercy” and Chick Corea’s “La Fiesta,” but even the unfamiliar pieces seemed like bosom friends we could tap our toes to. We and the entire audience were buzzing during and after the show. The future of Big Band Jazz is NOW with Tommy Igoe. And once the word gets out to the Bay Area jazz community, there will be standing room only on Monday nights at the Razz Room. We’d advise making plans now to go see this superb band—while you can still get in. They really are that hot—and you heard about it here first! [After one more Monday night—May 7, the band is on hiatus until June 11, when the Monday night gigs resume.
Michael Griffin and Ed Fox
GRACE KELLY AT THE SAN JOSE JAZZ WINTER FEST
I’d heard lots of hype about this now-19-year-old wunderkind of the alto sax, and the San Jose Jazz Winter Fest offered a close-by look at Ms. Grace Kelly and her quintet on Saturday, March 10 at the Theater on San Pedro Square in San Jose. I’d read where she first heard Stan Getz as a grade schooler and how that turned her on to jazz; and quite a bit later Phil Woods took her under his wing, which can’t be a bad thing. She’s now a true jazz headliner, and she certainly lived up to the hype. In addition to her fluency on the alto and soprano sax, she also sings with quite a pleasant voice and a confident manner, but with some improv flights that didn’t quite work for me on “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” and an original “Eggshells” (which was kind of country & western more than jazz). Of the 11 numbers, four were familiar instrumental nuggets: a beautiful “The Way You Look Tonight,” a knock-down-drag-out “Caravan” (one of the highlights for me), a soulful “Round Midnight”–an alto-bass duo, and a great “Summertime” for an encore. The other pieces were Kelly originals—all tuneful and interesting, especially “Autumn Song” and “Nothing to Do With Me” (torchy vocal). Her quintet is composed of Jason Palmer—a very fine trumpeter, who also joined in on vocals occasionally; a dynamic guitarist named Pete McCann; bassist Evan Gregor; and drummer Mark Ferber who was playing with the group for the first time. Typically, alto and trumpet would play off each other stating the melody, then each would solo, perhaps with a contribution from McCann, and so on. Numbers were generally intricately arranged and about 5 minutes duration—not the prolonged and sometimes mind-numbing exercises of some of the younger modern groups. Kelly mentioned that she was a student at the Stanford Jazz Workshop three years in a row, where she first met Phil Woods. The crowd was enthusiastic, and there was a lot of buzz afterward. She’s probably heard this before, but if she’s this good at 19, what’s she going to be like when she grows up?
STUDIO PINK HOUSE – A NEWLY EXPANDED MUSIC VENUE REOPENS
Text and photos by Andy Nozaka
For the past several years, one of the best kept secrets for jazz performances has been the Studio Pink House, a music performance venue, recording studio and music education center located in the historic downtown area of Saratoga. Proprietors Matt Toshima and Yocco Oda have recently remodeled and expanded the performance area to seat a maximum of 60, while maintaining its intimate atmosphere. Matt and Yocco, musicians themselves, have always dreamed of having a musician-friendly venue with a state of the art sound system, great acoustics, and an intimate ( think large living room ) atmosphere where both performers and audience felt completely at ease — and, indeed, these things have come into fruition. Typical ‘suggested’ donations at the door are $15 to $25; wine and refreshments are provided and often supplemented by donations by the patrons themselves!
The inaugural concert on February 26, featured the gifted British post-bop saxophonist, Gilad Atzmon, ably assisted by pianist Daniel Raynaud, bassist Ken Okada and stalwart drummer Akira Tana. The ebullience and attack of Mr. Atzmon’s playing reminded this writer of a Richie Cole; bottom line, a very memorable concert.
The second concert on March 4, showcased the talents of the John Stowell-Michael Zilber Quartet with Stowell on guitar, Zilber on saxophones, John Shifflett on bass, and, once again, Akira Tana on drums. To these ears, Stowell plays with an inward-turning Zen-ness, balanced by the advanced harmonics and daring of the outwardly oriented Zilber — kind of a yin-yang jazz thing. Another boffo performance.
Studio Pink House
14577 Big Basin Way, 2nd Floor
For schedule of events: http://www.studio-pinkhouse.com
To be put on mailing list for upcoming concerts: [email protected]
About a dozen PAJA members sailed on the Westerdam for a week in the Caribbean, January 29-February 5—a sold-out jazz cruise with about 1900 fans from all over the US and beyond. Here are some pictures from the cruise, along with some comments from PAJA folk.
Corky Freeman: “Scott Hamilton was my favorite; he epitomized straight-ahead jazz. That’s my era. And John Pizzarelli—what a charmer. Anne Hampton Calloway was a gift—inclusive and warm.”
Bruce Powell: “Anat Cohen is in a class by herself—she was the highlight for me. And Nikki Harris was a revelation—a great singer.” Bruce also cited Renee Rosnes and Houston Person among his favorites.
Shirley Douglas: “The Jeff Hamilton Trio were tops for me. Tamir [Hendelman] and Jeff [Hamilton] were the best at their instruments on the boat.” Shirley also singled out Scott Hamilton and John Pizzarelli as favorites.
Linda Knipe: “The Heath Brothers interview was the highlight for me—
fascinating and hilarious stories.” Among her favorite performers were the Tommy Igoe Sextet, Nikki Harris and Wycliffe Gordon.
Nancy Fox: “John Pizzarelli.”
Shirley Douglas, Linda Knipe, Ed Fox
Nancy Fox, Corky Freeman
Photo by Nelson Freeman
Michael Griffin: “Anat Cohen—very inventive style, new explorations of tunes. Houston Person was outstanding, especially his Les McCann-like, modified Texas tenor stuff. And Tommy Igoe—over the top for some folks, but I dug his high-energy style with great players and arrangements.”
Bruce Powell: “Overall…the best of the four cruises I have been on. Renee Rosnes—terrific. Anat Cohen is a marvel. The big band all-stars were terrific. Also, I loved Niki Harris and the discussion groups. And Houston Person—I always dig him playing that boss Texas tenor.”
Michael Griffin & Bruce Powell
Photo by Nelson Freeman
Ed Fox: “The guitar summit with Pizzarelli and Bruce Forman was one of the most enjoyable jazz hours I’ve ever spent. Great players and hilarious repartee.” Ed also liked Anat Cohen (“A phenomenon who plays great tenor, soprano sax, and clarinet”), Anne Hampton Calloway (“An ‘Over The Rainbow’ not to be believed”), Jeff Hamilton Trio, Clayton Brothers, Bill Charlap, Pizzarelli Quartet, and “basically every performer on the ship. The all-star gig with Cohen, Rickey Woodard, Randy Brecker, Renee Rosnes, et al. was magical.”
|All Photos by Neil Gordon
2012 Jazz Cruise
Next year’s lineup includes Phil Woods, Arturo Sandoval, Gary Burton and The New York Voices. And of course many of the stars from this year will be back. 60% of those on this year’s cruise have already rebooked for 2013.
REMARKABLE SUPER GROUP AT BACH’S
A red-letter day at the Pete Douglas Beach House, a place that has had many red-letter Sundays through its long history, but this one was special. The Kenny Werner Quintet brought together two horn superstars in Randy Brecker and David Sanchez and an extraordinary rhythm team in bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Werner is not a pianist that will knock your socks off with lightning runs or dramatic chords; rather he’s more contemplative, striving for, well, beautiful music with rippling lines and interesting juxtapositions, and it’s always listenable. Many of the eight numbers the quintet played in their two sets had extended introductory meditations by Werner. If not done well, these can be cloying, or worse, boring. I doubt there was a soul in the packed house who was bored by these lovely piano ruminations.
This group is the very face of modern mainstream jazz, my friends. It’s where American straight-ahead jazz is at today. And it’s a good place. The solos are long and adventurous, but even a grizzled old-timer longing for the 50s like myself could have no quarrel with what Werner and associates offered us. Brecker was in great form, squeezing as much brilliant jazz out of that trumpet (and flugelhorn) as anyone could. And David (Da-veed) Sanchez demonstrated what the tenor sax is capable of. Starting off with a “cool-school” sound, he was equally at home with hard bop or low-volume ballads that made you hold your breath and prick up your ears.
The group played a couple of standards like “If Ever I Should Leave You,” but some of the numbers were from their most recent release, “Balloons,” including the fabulous title track and “Sada,” another wonderful Werner-composed piece. One thing that keeps this music accessible is their respect for melody. Every tune had a strong theme that you could hum or whistle, and even in the extended solos there was often a tip of the hat to or a variation of the original melody. They finished the evening with a tune from a Harry Potter movie called “Ecstasy” and that was a fitting word to describe my mood dancing out into the cool night.
It’s been a few years since I last saw Paula West and her latest concert at Santa Cruz’s Kuumbwa Jazz Center (November 7) was a revelation. She really belongs in the top tier of women jazz vocalists, with her rich contralto, remarkable clarity, and impressive power. Backed by local stalwarts Jason Lewis (d), John Wiitala (b) and Adam Shulman (p—a former UC Santa Cruz student), she delivered a beautifully-selected program in two sets of American Songbook tunes, plus a couple of blues numbers (which her voice is perfectly suited to) like Oscar Brown, Jr.’s Humdrum Blues and He’s Wanted By Me. Also an interesting rendition of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Among the best were sturdy versions of “Isn’t It Romantic,” “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise,” and “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” This was not a concert with nuanced, intimate ballads, although she can certainly do those. Instead, each piece had muscle, authority and potency—the antithesis of, say, a Gretchen Parlato. Although I do like jazz singers who bend the melody and do some scatting, Paula is not in this category. She sings the songs we love straight—very little deviation from the melody—and it is all highly effective and satisfying.
We were fortunate to attend a wonderful concert at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville on Sunday, October 16. The event was a kind of celebration of master guitarist Kenny Burrell’s 80th birthday (Kenny turned 80 at the end of July) and it was put together by Napa Valley Jazz Society concert producer Bruce Hopewell, a longtime friend of Kenny’s. The venue—donated by the winery (thanks to Margrit Biever Mondavi, a fan of the music)—is an intimate, beautiful 100-seat space, and attendees also received a free glass of wine and some munchies. Among those attending were pianists Larry Vuckovich and Mike Greensill and vocalist Maye Cavallaro, a Jazz School faculty member.
Concert producer Bruce Hopewell and
Kenny Burrell relax before the concert
The first set was solo guitar and Kenny gave us some splendid versions of “What A Wonderful World,” “People,” Ellington’s special “Single Petal of the Rose,” and Ellington, Wes Montgomery and Billie Holiday tributes. The second set really went into high gear, as the guitarist was joined by drummer Vince Lateano and bassist Chris Amberger. The opener for Set #2 was a fabulous “All Blues” and that was followed by J.J. Johnson’s “Lament,” an uptempo “Do What You Gotta Do,” a sensitive Burrell composition called “Listen to the Dawn,” “Speak Low,” and finishing up with a Burrell staple, “Midnight Blue.” To my mind, Set #1 was aimed at the intellect—and we all listened hard. Beautiful. Set #2 got our toes to tapping. It was Jazz, man. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Veteran New York pianist Lenore Rapheal was the featured attraction at the Pete Douglas Beach House on Sunday, September 25. And with the presence of A-list guitarist Howard Alden in the quartet, to me it was a don’t-miss event. The morning and early afternoon drizzle did not help attendance, though, and fewer than 100 fans turned out, unfortunately. By 3:30 though, the sun shone and a gorgeous late afternoon on the coast was our reward.
The music was our reward, too, of course, as the group swung through such standards as “What Is This Thing Called Love,” Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays,” “Alone Together,” and a lovely Alden solo on Barney Kessel’s “I Remember Django.” Raphael is a melody-oriented player, with lovely phrasings, imaginative improvisations, and scintillating runs. She and Alden complemented each other beautifully, especially on a fugal “Like Someone In Love,” and “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me.”
The crowd was small, but very enthusiastic, and each pleasurable number was responded to warmly. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great support from John Wiitala on bass and Paul Kreibich on drums. Kreibich was new to me. He may look like your friendly insurance agent, but the man can keep time, and he shines in call-and-response. You wondered: “What’s he going to do next?” It was all just a fine, mellow afternoon of superb jazz at Bach’s. Sorry you missed it.
Report back from Monterey Jazz Fest: One man’s opinion….
Hey, I enjoy going down to Monterey for the multi-faceted, friendly jazz fest that Tim Jackson puts on every year. Normally the weather mellows out by mid-Sept, and this year was no exception. Finally, FINALLY the fog lifted and every afternoon was full of sunshine. HOT, even. They never announce a head count, so I’m not sure if attendance was up or down, but the Arena was jammed w/ people pretty much all the time, so I’m thinking they did OK. And as for ME, I did really BETTER than OK, be/c after all these years I now have a seat of my own, down in the 3rd row from the very front, just in back of the boxes. H o w S w e e t I t I s… How did Martin Luther King say it? “See at last, see at last, thank God a’ mighty I can see at last.” Something like that
Now then for the music: well, I was pretty much underwhelmed. Drat! Friday night was the best series of performances; after that it went downhill, pretty much. [in my opinion] But back to Fri. This little small-framed Japanese dynamo piano player Hiromi just blew the place apart with her amped-up keyboard antics, that had us all rockin-an’-a-reelin’ to her nearly over the top stylings, as she hammered the black & whites with her little bony hands. Amazing. Catch her act when she come to Yoshi’s next time. Really.
Then for a much more sophisticated set, the Pizzarelli family did their guitar thing, impressing us w/ their seven  string brilliance. I didn’t know they made seven string guitars….? Dad Pizzarelli [Bucky] was particularly impressive, at advanced age, but the entire set was eminently enjoyable.
Finally, Poncho Sanchez banged out his conga drums w/ great satisfaction for all of us to re-appreciate. I love it the way he calls out “Viya” [and I don’t care what Carlos Iraheta says, Viya means GO]. Poncho was assisted by Terrance Blanchard [T] who popped up all weekend long in various presentations, sounding damned good, too.
Saturday was a big tribute to NOLA music, and I think Tim J. should do New Orleans music every Sat afternoon, but on this day, it was just OK. Even an appearance by Kermit Ruffins couldn’t save it, IMO. And then Huey Lewis and the News came on, and please, what’s up w/ THAT? Admittedly he is a high energy singer w/ a great back-up band and super singers, but everything at the same tempo, same key, sounding the same tune after tune? He did better playing his harmonica and letting the lady singers loose, than doing his own act. So, I left the Arena and wondered over to the Garden Stage to catch Mitch Woods and Rocket 88s. Now, THERE is a band, retro to the max and just makes you jump and shout, OH yeah!
Saturday nite I checked out the much-hyped Robert Glasper Experiment and was immediately underwhelmed. But the kids in the audience, and there were a bunch, all thought he and his band were hot stuff, REALLY different, edgy and to the max sort of thing. Well, I think that’s terrific that young people dig it; that’s what keeps jazz alive and not bogged down by all us old “moldy figs” [if you remember that term for those non-progressive, anti-bop fans in the forties]. So, now I’m a Moldy Fig, am I? Just be/c the 25 GOLDEN YEARS OF JAZZ from 1938 to 1963 are my fav? Oh, well….
Joshua Redman, an accomplished tenor man, played a repetitive group of original tunes, all sounding alike and being a disappointment to many. But people sitting around me thought otherwise and gave him a big hand. Go figure… After that it was a goofy performance by Herbie Hancock, and yes I said goofy. He acted like he was making it up as he went, and when he got into trouble he’d flick a switch to play a quick taped sample of “Watermelon Man.” I kid you not, he’d be playing away on the piano, or synthesizer, and then here would come a snatch of Watermelon Man. I ask you, where the heck would Herbie Hancock be w/out freakin’ Watermelon Man?
OK, no more kvetching; I’ll just say that Sunday evening’s performance of Terrance Blanchard channeling Miles Davis in front of a brass orchestra playing Gil Evans’ “Porgy & Bess” “Miles Ahead” and especially “Sketches of Spain” was simply terrific. Big standing ovation, and deserved, too. They were a pair alright, Miles and Gil Evans. And Terrance Blanchard, when he wants to play it straight, is a heckofa trumpeter [is that a word?]. By the end of MJF, I was pretty impressed by this musician’s chops. He was ON it this week end. And we needed someone to be ON it…
And then we wound up the event w/ Sonny Rollins, who I was ready to enjoy, but finally had to bail on after 45 min’s of the same honk, honk, honk, over and over and over again. But again, the crowd [that hadn’t left by then] just loved it and gave him a big hand, so there it is folks: different strokes for different folks. And that’s what make MJF such a great experience, be/c there’s literally something for everyone at Monterey and if you don’t like what you’re hearing, you can pack up your anti-fog gear and head out for the next venue down the midway, “and get what you need,” like Mick J. said so long ago. I’ll be down there next year, and I’ll like some of it, not others, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world. ‘Caus remember, I’m in the 3rd row. Now…!
The 54th Monterey Jazz Festival – A View from the Grounds.
Reported by Dorothy Nozaka & Andy Nozaka
Photos by Andy Nozaka
‘I don’t know where jazz is going. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.’
John & Bucky Pizarelli
This year’s Monterey Jazz Festival featured an array of Main Stage headliners such as Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Joshua Redman, Terrence Blanchard, Geri Allen, and Poncho Sanchez. With over 500 artists, 8 stages and 90 performances spread over 3 nights and 2 days, our simple strategy was to stay mainly on the grounds and enjoy the music up close and in an intimate setting. Herewith are our comments on a select few of the notable events.
Helen Sung Trio:
Helen Sung, a young, classically trained pianist-composer from Houston, began her set displaying a fleet, exquisite touch and sense of dynamics somewhat reminiscent of Bill Evans, but it was soon apparent that her music defies such easy categorization. Her originals first played homage to Philip Glass’ ostinato machinations, thence to her reimagining of a Dana Gioia poem set to music; all this was followed by a rollicking, foot-stomping version of Monk’s ‘In Walked Bud’. The supremely talented Reuben Rogers on bass and Marvin ‘Smitty’ Smith on drums provided gorgeous accompaniment.
John Santos Sextet with Special Guest MC Rico Pabón:
As a percussionist, band leader, composer, arranger, educator, and producer, John Santos is truly a treasured Latin jazz resource, and spokesperson. Mr. Santos’ latest group is an excellent and exciting one, most members having performed with Santos over a number of years. All of Santos’ arrangements pay honor to the authentic roots of Afro-Carribean music and rhythms. The addition of the rapid fire delivery of guest artist MC Rico Pabón to the mix was, surprisingly, very seamless; quite simply, it worked, due to the artistry of Mssrs, Pabón and Santos.
Ms. Souza, of Cape Verdean and Portugese heritage, is an infectious and luminous singer-instrumentalist able to meld various world music melodies and rhythms West Africa, Cape Verde, Brazil and jazz. One of the highlights of her set was Horace Silver’s ‘Song for My Father’, sung in Portugese, I believe.
Robert Glasper Trio and the Robert Glasper Experiment:
MJF showcase Artist, pianist/keyboardist, composer Robert Glasper presented his bona fides with his mostly acoustic trio to lead off the festival Friday night at the outdoor Garden Stage. Glasper is equally at home with an edgy, unpredictable progressive jazz vibe (the Trio) or a fusion of hip-hop meets electric jazz (the Experiment). His trio cohorts were premier bassist Derrick Hodge and the incendiary young drummer, Chris Dave. In some magical way Glasper’s music creates an air of excitement and surprise. With the Experiment, the trio turns to an electric format and adds a fourth member, Casey Benjamin, saxophonist, ‘keytar’ synth and vocals. Guitarist Lionel Loueke performed as special guest. For these ears, the Experiment provided the high point of our Monterey experience. Again, Glasper was able to work his sorcery, building a feeling of electricity in the air and a rising arc of excitement — here we are genuinely enjoying this mélange of electro -hip-hop and jazz! Glasper is someone with appeal to older jazz fans willing to listen (not all, mind you) and proven appeal to the young – the fans who will continue to keep jazz alive.
Benny Green Trio with special guest Donald Harrison:
There are few jazz musicians more fiercely dedicated to their art than Green and fewer yet so open and sincere in connecting with the listening audience. A straight ahead hard-bopper from the start, pianist Benny Green has remained steadfast to this tradition; his pianistic chops are impressive and his playing ever joyful. Featuring the soulful accompaniment of saxophonist Donald Harrison, Green’s entire set presented a heart-felt tribute to Thelonious Monk.
There was much more, of course. As usual, Monterey Jazz Festival sets the table with a smorgasbord of jazz; there are always great moments of musicianship, artistry and surprise to be enjoyed for the dedicated jazz seeker.
IMPRESSIONS OF SAN JOSE
August is usually a busy work month for me, but this year it was wide open and my wife Nancy and I were able to plunge fully into the San Jose Jazz Festival—all three days, full immersion—and it was a blast.
We started off with the first group at the Main Stage on Friday—the Boathouse All-Stars, actually Micheal Bublé’s band (Michael was in town performing at HP on Saturday night). Rumor had it that Bublé would show up for a number or two, and he did, banging out a very neat rendition of “The More I See You,” reminding us how great it is to hear a real crooner with a big band behind him. I almost wished I had the $200 to spend on at ticket for his HP show. After dinner, we went to the Hilton to see the Modesto Briseno Quartet. Mo had NY-based Sylvia Cuenca on drums and Jarred Gold on B3 organ, and the group wailed.
Michael Buble w/The Boathouse Allstars
One should really take advantage of the Club Crawl associated with the Festival and sponsored by Xfinity: good local musicians playing after hours at various restaurants and other venues. We took in Kristen Strom’s fine trio at Eulipia Saturday night and an outfit called Unit 7 (guitar, vibes, drums, congas, bass) at the Gordon-Biersch courtyard—a venue ideal for a good jazz afternoon.
The crowds really picked up on Saturday and Sunday—there were thousands of people arrayed around the main stage to hear acts like Mavis Staples, Trombone Shorty, Arturo Sandoval and Ramsey Lewis. I recall some sweltering August afternoons from past SJ Festivals, but this year, the weather couldn’t have been better.
…………Sophie Milman …………….Kenny Washington w/The Michael O’Neill Quartet
There were more than 100 separate presentations to choose from—at ten different stages, so even the most avid fan has to make some hard choices. We chose Kenny Washington with the Michael O’Neill Quartet at the San Jose Rep stage over Sandoval and Dena DeRose (with Akira Tana and Peter Barshay) over the Christian Tamburr Quintet, featuring the trumpet phenom Dominick Farinacci (who will be at Kuumbwa on September 1), and we certainly had no reason to regret our choices. We were also able to catch the local big band Swing Solution and their two fine vocalists, Toronto singer Sophie Millman (with a good pianist, Paul Shrofel), the Sylvia Cuenca trio, the blues group Legally Blue, and Ramsey Lewis and his Electric Band.
For $45 ($35 if you just do Saturday and Sunday) you have access to an amazing cornucopia of music, from straight-ahead jazz to blues to salsa to latin percussion to 40’s swing to next-generation players, etc. Like any weekend festival with so much going on, there are some endemic problems—like the endless sound-checks and delays; the later you get during the day, the announced start times become more of a joke (like airline backups). And with so much going on, with people hopping from one venue to another, there’s generally a constant somewhat distracting audience movement—arrivals and departures. But it’s a festival—and one of the nation’s best. It’s a great time, with great music, and a heckuva good way to spend a weekend.
Ed Fox (Photos by Nancy Fox)
Summer Jazz Highlights from Ed Fox
Like many of you, I’ve been going to jazz concerts for more decades than I like to admit, but in the last two months, I’ve attended five gigs that rank with anything I’ve ever been to. This all underscores how lucky we jazz fans are on the peninsula this summer: with the Stanford and San Jose Jazz Festivals, regular summer series at various shopping centers, parks and downtown areas, venues like Bach’s, Oak City, 3Flames, etc., there are plentiful opportunities to see and hear some of the best jazz artists on the planet. My Big Five started on May 16, with the Bill Charlap Trio at Bach’s—one of those perfect Sunday afternoons on the coast, listening to a piano trio that KCSM’s Michael Burman says is the only other trio that can be mentioned in the same breath as the Jeff Hamilton Trio. Charlap played with Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums) and their performance at the Douglas Beach House was exciting and memorable. On June 5, PAJA presented the Hamilton Trio, and we’ve long held them in very high esteem—lovely piano lines by Tamir Hendelman, crisp and inventive bass playing by Christoph Luty, and of course “The Hammer”—Jeff Hamilton on drums. Wonderful arrangements and stellar playing. (They’ve just completed a new album which should be out soon.)
Backstage: Drummer Lewis Nash with concert sponsor Bruce Powell
photo by Jan De Carli
Then the Stanford Festival kicked in in July and the three concerts I’ve seen so far were real landmark evenings. First Anat Cohen and her quartet from NYC. The days of Benny, Artie, Woody, and Buddy DeFranco are long gone, and the clarinet has pretty much gone out of favor with jazz aficianados. Ken Peplowski is a keeper of the flame, and he’ll be at Stanford on July 15. But Anat Cohen is another breed. She’s a traditionalist, but an envelope pusher—she wails like no one else, and it’s a real treat to see and hear her. She’ll blast off on an oldie like “After You’ve Gone,” but then produce a soulful version of Jimmy Rowles “The Peacocks” that will melt your heart. A week later, it was another special treat with Bill Charlap again, but in tandem with his wife, the formidable Renee Rosnes—a piano duet by two artists whose intimate connection provides some wonderful music for the audience. I loved Bill’s mixed metaphor in the program: “When you have twenty fingers going at once, it’s easy to step on one another’s toes.” But there were no false steps—just one brilliant number after another.
Backstage: Renee Rosnes, Bruce Powell, Bill Charlap, and
Powell and Robinson were concert sponsors
Photo Jan De Carli
And finally, July 10 at Stanford—the Marcus Shelby Orchestra tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. A very special event that I would recommend to anyone. The orchestra is an amazing collection of local talent, from Mike Olmos and Erik Jekabson in the trumpet section, to Howard Wiley and Sheldon Brown on reeds, and this night Shelby enlisted the vocal support of Kenny Washington, Fay Carol and mezzosoprano Jeannine Anderson. A highlight for me was the playing of Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus”, which at times sounds like it could have been written by Kurt Weill. And when Kenny sang “We Shall Overcome” and Fay “Precious Lord” you didn’t want it to end. Shelby is a Bay Area treasure. His seamless commentary about the various civil rights struggles and tragedies of the 50’s and 60’s was skillfully linked to each number. His arrangements of traditional spirituals, jazz classics and original pieces made for a hugely satisfying musical and inspirational evening. It’s not every week that this 20-piece ensemble can be put together—so if it comes around again, don’t miss it.
STANFORD JAZZ WORKSHOP TOUR
The personable development director of the Stanford Jazz Workshop, Maggie Andrews, was kind enough to conduct another backstage tour of SJW for PAJA members and it was an eye-opening and highly enjoyable experience for the seven of us who went along. We visited and observed the classrooms of Andrew Speight (The Language of Bebop) and Larry Grenadier (Duos, Trios and More). Speight, the illustrious altoist and member of the San Francisco State faculty, couldn’t have been more articulate in his explanation of what makes bebop different from other jazz genres. His passion for bop as an advanced form of jazz was obvious, and was amply illustrated by his playing of passages from classic bop numbers. And then he showed how a member of the “cool school” would play something like “Confirmation.” All very illuminating. We could have also stayed all day listening to the combos at Duos, Trios and More. First it was Joe Lovano, with Grenadier and Greg Hutchinson, and then Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson took over as the trio soloist. Next came George Cables as the pianist, playing a silken version of “Alone Together.” All this was to demonstrate how small groups work together and pick up on each other’s tempos and nuances.
Then we were treated to three different working groups of students. First was Victor Lin preparing a student quintet for their recital number, then drummer Greg Hutchinson working with his student quintet. And finally it was the vocalist workshop, conducted by Madeline Eastman (Vince Lateano on drums). We heard one male resident on a satisfying rendition of “That’s Life,” (with four backup singers) and a female singer with quite impressive pipes on “I Loves You, Porgy”—an effort that had us all spellbound. Madeline called it “stunning.” It was cool to see how Madeline supported and encouraged the singers. I wanted to get up and belt one out myself.
Those of us who went to see some of the student recitals the next evening had more appreciation of what it takes to get these groups ready to appear publicly.
There were more than 500 students this year, with about 250 each week (there are some who stay for more than just the one week). The first two weeks is the jazz camp, pretty much for middle and high school aspirants. The final week is the residents—more advanced students and adults (we were struck by how many older people were in the classrooms and playing in the groups—not just high schoolers or collegians; some amateur or even professional musicians take the workshop to improve themselves or just learn more about their music
More than $100,000 went for scholarships this year. PAJA’s share of that was relatively small, but the tour reinforced to us how important our contribution is—and what a worthy cause SJW is. It just takes a huge coordinated effort to put the workshop and the concurrent jazz festival together and Jim Nadel and his dedicated staff simply do a fantastic job. How lucky we local jazz fans are to have this world-class program in our own backyard.
We’ve written before about New York pianist/violinist Victor Lin and his annual theme concerts at the Stanford Jazz Festival. Last year he did a magnificent Dave Brubeck tribute in tandem with pianist Joe Gilman. This year it was Victor Lin Meets The Beatles [Wednesday evening, July 27] and it was another winner. Offhand, you might think that there aren’t many Beatles songs that lend themselves to jazz, but put a professional jazz musician on the case and the result can be be imaginative, satisfying, and fun. There’s always fun connected with a Lin concert. In addition to the highly positive audience response to the music, Victor Lin likes to hear the people in the seats laugh and enjoy themselves. And there was plenty of that at the Beatles tribute.
Each year, Dr. Lin (he just got his Ph.D in Music Education from Columbia) strives to do something special to end the first set. In the past, it’s generally been a piano duet, often with Taylor Eigsti, in which he and Taylor cavort around a piano, playing backwards, around and over each other, or even from underneath the piano, all the while providing licks on a classic like “Four” or “Caravan.” It’s always a great crowd-pleaser.
So, how to top that? Leave it to Victor. He had four—count ‘em, four—top-notch pianists come out and run, spin, hop, and frolic around three keyboards, while pounding out a driving “Lady Madonna”: Victor, Taylor Eigsti, Peter Stoltzman, and Bennett Paster.
The rest of the concert was marvelous, as well, with takes on “Come Together,” “Golden Slumbers” (featuring tenor saxophonist Kristen Strom and flutist Lynn Gruenewald), “A Little Help From My Friends,” “Imagine” (solo piano by Stoltzman), “Across the Universe” (duet with Lin and Ben Flocks). The encore started out with an inventive, beautiful piano solo by Lin on “Yesterday” and segued into a “Hey, Jude” finale with audience and musical cast participation.
Victor Lin has been at 12 of the last 13 Stanford festivals; we hope he never misses another.
JEFF HAMILTON TRIO AT PA ELKS CLUB
Well, jazz fans, it happened again: almost 300 (200?) PAJA members and friends basked in the glow of another very satisfying Sunday afternoon jazz party. This time it was thanks to the Jeff Hamilton Trio, who just put us away with their super swinging, in-the-pocket style of jazz that we all found to be just the right sound. The trio warmed us up in a first set of standards, tweaked with clever arrangements by Hamilton’s star-quality side men, Christoph Luty (bass) and Tamir Hendelman (piano). Second set then turned up the heat with some show stopping drumming on Hamilton’s part, but most of all by Hendelman on piano, a young man of major talent. I’ll let others provide more detail here, but it’s safe to say the afternoon was a total blast, sitting at tables enjoying some really fine, down the middle jazz music.
In addition to the great jazz, the event was helped to success by several factors: Jeff Hamilton, himself, is a witty and articulate band leader, in addition to being a top flight drummer, and his wise-cracks and commentary on the music added to the effect. Bruce Powell, the event’s producer and MC kept his comments focused, and earned more props by giving both Stanford Jazz Workshop and San Jose Jazz Fest an opportunity to hype their upcoming, high profile series of performances. And, for me this is a big deal:the sound system was simply professional, non intrusive and invisible. Just like it’s supposed to be. Yay! Finally, the totally new and modern Palo Alto Elks Clubs was a marvelous venue for us, with a nearby bar, good seating and lighting. It’s a keeper.
Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this. Quality music, great venue close to home, sitting at tables w/friends and club members on a Sunday afternoon. All for 30 bucks. This is what PAJA is about and PAJA is delivering. How lucky we are to be here and enjoying this marvelous experience. Kudos to the entire volunteer team who make it possible. Over…
–dmg (Michael Griffin)
THE BILL CHARLAP TRIO
A sweet Sunday afternoon [May 15] at Bach’s with the Bill Charlap Trio. This Big Apple group had Bill on piano, the formidable Peter Washington on bass and the excellent Kenny Washington on drums—this is a trio that has performed together often and their rapport is evident. If you’ve seen Bill Charlap before and found him not terribly exciting, you should have been there this Sunday. Bill’s chops on uptempo numbers are equal to anybody’s; he demonstrated with a jaw-dropping coda on S’Wonderful, playing in unison with Peter Washington, and on Jump, from West Side Story, and other tunes.
Selections included I’ll Remember April, Sophisticated Lady, What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, Who Cares?, George Wallington’s Godchild, a beautiful Enchanted (written by George Shearing for Gerry Mulligan), and others. Bill Charlap is a throwback: most numbers are 3-5 minutes (the only exception I recall was a longish Blue Skies) and he introduces each piece with the title and composer. There wasn’t anyone in the packed house complaining that he doesn’t stretch out—so elegant, well thought out, and, yes, beautiful was each tune. After the concert my wife and I repaired to Pasta Moon for a late dinner (Half Moon Bay’s finest), and the trio also showed up, proving their refined taste is not just in music./Ed Fox
The Bill Charlap Trio at Bach’s ……………………….Pete Douglas at the Mic at the Beach House
Photos by Sam Pearl
TAYLOR EIGSTI AT THE SAN JOSE FAIRMONT
The Taylor Eigsti Trio was the centerpiece offering at San Jose Jazz’s Winterfest 2011, and as usual Taylor was very impressive. He began with “But Beautiful” and over the course of an hour and 35 minutes played ten numbers, including “Caravan” as an encore, a rendering of that chestnut like you’ve never heard it—and I’ve heard him play this tune several times before. Wow!
In all, he played four other standards, including “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “Like Someone In Love,” and the finale, “Somewhere,” from West Side Story (from his “Resonance” album), so beautiful and romantic it brought tears. Other tunes included one by saxophonist Dayna Stephens, one called “Shifting Design” by C. Russell?, and an original of Taylor’s. He also played his lovely jazz take on Mussorgsky’s “Promenade” which is on his “Lucky To Be Me” album. Fabulous.
Taylor was aided by John Shifflett (bass) and Jason Lewis (drums), two locals who have played with Taylor often and seem to have an intuitive responsiveness to whatever emanates from the Eigsti piano. Shifflett in particular played like a man possessed—truly magnificent bass playing of the highest order. I don’t know how he followed Taylor on some of those vamps.
I don’t think I’m alone in ascribing the term “piano genius” to Taylor Eigsti. He has superb technical skills and artistry—intellectual but also very emotional and always interesting.
In the public interview after the concert, he mentioned he recently composed music for a “very dark” film called “Brodie” and it should be recorded soon.
MEETING OF THE MINDS AT THE BEACH HOUSE
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon at Bach’s, the Pete Douglas Beach House (March 13), but the enthusiasm of the audience wasn’t at the least bit dampened when pianist Geoffrey Keezer and vibraphonist Joe Locke teamed up for a scintillating duet concert. The first set was mostly originals by Locke and Keezer, numbers that will appear on a forthcoming album they are working on. The pieces were intricate yet swinging, with Keezer’s somewhat percussive style neatly complementing Locke’s vibes pyrotechnics. These are two people who clearly have a meeting of the minds and they were roundly appreciated by those in attendance.
Geoffrey Keezer and Joe Locke
As good as the first set was, the second set surpassed it, as they were joined by “surprise” guest Kenny Washington, the popular East Bay vocalist. Kenny’s latest recording was with Locke and Keezer and they reprised several songs from that album, such as Makin’ Whoopee, That Old Devil Moon, and Locke’s affecting Verrazano Moon, written to honor the memory of saxophonist Bob Berg, who died tragically in an auto accident in 2002. Locke, Keezer, and Washington were obviously enjoying themselves, and it all rubbed off on the listeners. The weather was lousy on the coast, but inside it was halcyon breezes and smooth sailing.
Let the rain pitter patter
Because it really doesn’t matter
If the skies are gray
Just as long as I can be at Bach’s, it’s a lovely day…
Ever mindful of featuring a new mix of entertainment venues for its jazz-hungry members, San Jose Jazz presented a house concert showcasing the Gerald Clayton Trio at the lovely residence of Mike and Laurie Warner.
Currently based in New York City, Clayton is one of a select group of ‘under 30’ jazz pianists destined for enduring stature. Starting the first set, it was quickly evident Clayton shared an uncanny ESP with his excellent trio mates, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown.
Typically, Clayton might start a composition soloing in an impressionist-like, dreamy, ruminating mood; the focus sounding somewhat diffuse, he is exploring and searching the various pathways available; soon a germ of an idea emerges and then a connection might be made first with the bassist and a few bars later with the drummer. When playing a jazz standard, the melodic theme of, say, Bud Powell’s ‘Celia’ , may be stated obliquely rather than overtly. All the while, Clayton possesses a silky-smooth touch, rarely, if ever, resorting to heavy dynamic theatricality.
Bandmates bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown are a tight-knit and sympathetic complement to Clayton’s leadership. The drumming of Brown is a particular revelation; closing one’s eyes and listening, one could truly appreciate the exhilarating combinations of startling textures, tempo changes, the occasional explosion or two – and the finely calibrated build-up and release of tension. We are in witness of a major young talent.
This trio both swings and engages the listener willing to listen with big ears as well. Oh, and did I mention that this is one fabulous group?
Andy.. I cant even begin to comment further,…but only to second your opinion…. my comment would be three young forthcoming jazz stars who are so intuitive that they “read each others` minds” as Clayton stated..the second set included a lengthy (15-20 minutes) of free form jazz interaction at a high level. The music swirled around from quiet introspection unison to exciting solos by thee to occasional explosisve eruptions from the young, fabulous drummer Justin Brown!
This was modern avant garde jazz at its best……from a listener who is more mainstream traditional. For me,drummer Brown makes it all work and I found myself watching him constantly and nervously tapping my foot in concert with the exciting tension he created with his snare accents and the cymbals…..all in good taste..
Its what I would call “stream of consciousness’ jazz trio playing…quite intellectual rather than “in the pocket” hard swinging 4/4 mainstream.
This was a beautiful event at a private,gorgeous residence with the appropriate modern art throughout.
Many thanks to the Warners and San Jose Jazz!!!
The 10th Jazz Cruise
My wife and I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend six of the jazz cruises Anita Berry and her family organization have arranged since 2001. This 10th anniversary cruise was a sellout—1200 passengers, I believe.
…………………..Anat Cohen & Ed Fox ………………..Ken Peplowski, Rickey Woodard, Jeff Clayton,
………………………………………………………………….. Jon Gordon, John Clayton (Bass)
For me it’s always been the best week of the year, and this year was no different. There were 80 primo jazz musicians on board Holland-America’s Noordam which sailed from Fort Lauderdale on January 30 for a week in the Caribbean. And during the week 93 (!) different shows were offered; I was able to get to only 33 of them—when you have such a fabulous cornucopia, you have to pick and choose and do the best you can. The highlights:
The Jeff Hamilton Trio. Drummer Jeff Hamilton, pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christof Luty have been together for 10 years now, and in my opinion they’re just about the best jazz group extant. It’s very much a drummer’s trio, but everyone gets equal time to shine; they do a lot of standards and familiar tunes, with precision arrangements and skillful playing–nirvana for anyone who calls himself a jazz fan. I caught them three times.
The Clayton Brothers. Brothers John Clayton (bass) and Jeff Clayton (alto/flute) are the linchpins, and with the great trumpeter Terrell Stafford, they form the core of the group. This year Papa John convinced son Gerald to do the piano chores, and Gerald brought along his trio’s precocious drummer Justin Brown. What a knockout quintet. Gerald, I thought, with his cutting edge approaches, challenged the group a bit, but it all turned out beautifully. Extra special were the soulful duets between John and Gerald on “Where’s Love?” and “Emily,” with Jeff following up with sparkling solos on those tunes.
…Basses Loaded: Kristin Korb, Tom Kennedy, …. Yotan Silverstein, Bobby Broom, Bucky Pizzarelli
……..Christoph Luty ……………………………………………. and Howard Alden
Howard Alden, Jay Leonhart, Randy Brecker…………………. All-star trombones: John Allred, Wycliffe Gordon,
Ada Rovatti…………………………………………………….Jennifer Wharton
The Tommy Igoe Sextet. For me and for many others I talked to, this group was the cruise’s revelation. Straight-ahead jazz on steroids. Tommy is the son of one-time Woody Herman drummer Sonny Igoe and he leads the Birdland Big Band, which packs them in every Friday evening at Birdland in NYC. This sextet was a condensed version of the band—what energy, what great music. Alan Farnham on piano, Nick Marchione on trumpet, and a percussion genius named Rolando Morales-Matos. Great versions of “Moanin’”, “My Ship,”and three consecutive Chick Corea tunes: Spain, Armando’s Rhumba, and the hyperfast “Got A Match” tore up the place. (You can hear “Got A Match” on the Taylor Eigsti album, “Resonance.”)
There were so many other great moments and thrilling performances. Most notable was a clarinet (!) duet between the maestro Ken Peplowski and the young phenom Anat Cohen, playing with the George Wein Newport All-Stars. Wein at age 85 still plays some nice piano and delighted the crowd with his anecdotes. At one point he looked at Ken and said, “Why don’t you and Anat and Howard (guitarist Howard Alden) play something on your own?” Anat: “But we haven’t rehearsed anything.” George: “No problem; it’ll be spontaneous and fresh.” Ken, smiling, turning to Anat: “Number Twelve.” In another set, Wein invited Randy Brecker to the stage and the ensuing “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise” was a barnburner. A duet on “Shreveport Blues” with Anat and Howard was also memorable.
And Bucky Pizzarelli was on board, still playing beautifully also at age 85. His “Sing Sing Sing” with Krupa-like drumming by by the fine Chicago stickman Ernie Adams brought down the house. Peplowski, in his last year as cruise music director—but who will continue to perform on the cruise—introduced Bucky and ribbed him about his advanced age. “Bucky is so old that he ordered a three-minute egg at a local restaurant and they made him pay in advance.”
The Lewis Nash Trio, with Nash on drums, Renee Rosnes on piano and Peter Washington on bass did a wonderful set as the boat sailed out of Florida. I counted six other musicians in the audience, taking in this excellent group.
I had not seen Randy Brecker before and he was on the boat with a quintet, featuring an interesting pianist I’d never heard of named Dave Kikoski. This was another group that drew a lot of other musicians to the audience. My two favorite numbers by them were “Over the Rainbow” (arranged by their sax player Ada Rovatti) and “Dirty Dog”.
Other impressive players were trumpeters Brian Lynch and Gilbert Castellanos, cruise standby Wycliffe Gordon on trombone (his “Naima” was heavenly), Rickey Woodard on tenor (always great), Jon Allred on trombone, Wes “Warmdaddy” Anderson on alto, bassists Tom Kennedy (plays lots of notes—fast) and Jay Leonhart.
The singers on board were generally good, but nothing outstanding or to my taste. Except for Dena DeRose, of course. But they only let her do one vocal set—the rest of the time she was mainly a piano workhorse for the All-Star groups, which she did beautifully. Her one vocal set was with Rickey Woodard, bass and drums—and it was magnificent.
The vocalists next year will include John Pizzarelli, Kurt Elling and Anne Hampton Calloway, so I’m expecting a definite step up in the vocal area.
There were so many other dynamite musicians who sizzled: 20-year pianist Emmet Cohen, saxman Charles McNeal (playing with Jamie Davis), drummers Herlin Riley and Chuck Redd, pianist Shelly Berg, bassist/vocalist Kristin Korb, and Houston Person, to name a few. What a week!
“In His Own Sweet Way”—Brubeck Documentary on TV
Think of people in the arts, living and dead, who you’d classify as “national treasures.” For me, Pete Seeger, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Robert Frost, Toni Morrison come to mind. A national treasure not only has to be a great artist, but also at least somewhat beloved—and someone you wish could live and keep doing what they do forever.
For many of us jazz fans, Dave Brubeck certainly qualifies. His contributions to the genre, as a performer and composer, and his general demeanor and longevity, were brilliantly captured in a new documentary, presented by Clint Eastwood (another I’d nominate for artistic sainthood), entitled “In His Own Sweet Way.” The film showed on the Turner Classic Movie channel (TCM) on Monday afternoon, December 6 (2pm to 3:25pm) on Dave’s 90th birthday.
The film offers a number of interesting performance snippets on tunes like Unisphere, Cable Car, Mr. Fats, The Duke, Strange Meadowlark (by David Benoit), St. Louis Blues, and Take The ‘A’ Train. Not to mention Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk, and they’re all great to hear. We’re all familiar with those. But you might not be familiar with Dave’s wife of 65 years, Iola, who has had an important hand in Dave’s career and success. It was she who first had the idea of the group performing at college campuses, something no other jazz groups were doing at the time. Soon after Brubeck did it, other groups like MJQ followed suit to good financial return.
There’s a lot of footage of the Brubeck family (they had six kids) at their beautiful Wilton, Connecticut home. All the kids are musical and seemingly grounded, with Iola always as the anchor for the kids, and for Dave.
Commentary by well known people in the industry, some from old TV programs, adds much to the film: Godard Liberson, Billy Taylor, George Wein, Sting, Stanley Crouch, David Benoit—and from unexpected fans like George Lucas, Yo Yo Ma, Walter Cronkite, and Bill Clinton. Clinton relates how he told Brubeck that he was a big fan, and Dave replied “Can you name any song I did besides ‘Take Five’”? And Clinton replied, “Blue Rondo.” Brubeck then asked him to hum the bridge, which he did, to Dave’s astonishment.
His association and debt to Darius Milhaud is well covered, as is his hiring of Joe Morello, at Paul Desmond’s suggestion. Morello was reluctant at first, but Dave told him he’d feature him. After a long Morello solo, Desmond walked off the stage and told Dave, “Either he goes, or I go.” Brubeck told him Morello was not going, and cooler heads prevailed, thankgoodness.
I don’t know when and if this fine film will ever be shown on TV again, but it would be a natural for some jazz society (PAJA, San Jose Jazz, or even, the Stanford Jazz Workshop) to present a special showing, perhaps with follow-up commentary by someone like Joe Gilman of the University of the Pacific’s Brubeck Institute. I’d pay to see that, and I think you would too.
DOUG CARN ROCKS THE CHURCH
I was not terribly familiar with Hammond B3 organist Doug Carn and went to catch his performance Saturday night, November 13, with the San Jose Jazz Orchestra. Doug is a 62-year-old Floridian and he has worked with the likes of Nat Adderley, Lou Donaldson and Shirley Horn. Let me tell you—he wails! And the orchestra wailed too. Under the direction of bassist Gus Kambeitz, their ensemble playing was very effective—though their soloists aren’t much to write home about. (Perhaps it was the miking.) The entire evening at Trinity Church in San Jose was devoted to the charts the redoubtable Oliver Nelson wrote for Jimmy Smith and the band handled those arrangements, with Nelson’s trademark high-register trumpet punctuations and the Kenton-like walls of sound, with admirable success on such favorites as “Down By The Riverside,” “Night Train,” “Walk On The Wild Side,” and the big band classic “Step Right Up.” Carn’s solos screamed, undulated and swung.
This was San Jose Jazz’s first concert at Trinity Church, a handsome wood-paneled space that has decent acoustics and seating capacity. (I’d guess there were about 150 in attendance.) All in all, it was a rousing night of jazz—just what the doctor ordered (cures what ails ya).
By the way, the San Jose Jazz Orchestra will be performing big band Christmas carol arrangements the evening of Tuesday, December 14, at the Fairmont Hotel. A free concert in the large room next to the Fairmont lobby, I believe. Get there early, as the place should be packed.
KIM NALLEY AT BACH’S
Re Kim Nalley at Bach’s Dancing & Dynamite Society on the coast, Sunday October 31… Another tour de force from Kim! A somewhat different first set. . . almost all “torch songs” with some of the most emotional jazz singing you will hear anywhere. She did “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “My Man’s Gone Now,” “I Don’t Want Him, You Can Have Him,” “Witchcraft,” and more, including a Nalley specialty, “Summertime” a capella, as she walks through the audience singing. She really opened up in the second set, finishing with a gospel, accompanied by pianist Tammy Hall. Oh, and she sang “Teach Me Tonight,” again walking around the room. The crowd was enthusiastic, including the couple with us who’d never heard of her and are not jazz fans. Kim is the complete performer!!
A Few Monterey Jazz Festival Highlights –
A Grounds-Eye View
Reported by Dorothy Nozaka and Andy Nozaka
Photos by Andy Nozaka
This year’s Monterey Jazz Festival presented by Verizon, September 17-19, 2010, lived up to its reputation in featuring a wealth of great musicians on its Arena Stage as well as its seven Ground Stages. Now in its 53rd year, the festival featured headline artists such as Harry Connick, Jr., Dianne Reeves, Chick Corea, Roy Hargrove, Les McCann, and Lonnie Smith and rising talents such as Gretchen Parlato, Jake Shimabukuro, Gerald Clayton and Rudresh Mahanthappa. Add to this mix, elder statesmen of iconic stature such as Ahmad Jamal in his MJF debut at age 80 and the indefatigable drummer Roy Haynes, 85.
Here is a short list of our memorable highlights, all from Grounds venues.
The astonishing alto saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa has received great critical acclaim over the past several years. Mahanthappa, an upbeat player of relentless attack, presented his deeply studied melding of the South Indian music tradition and western harmony, being especially wary to avoid a glib Indo-jazz pastiche. His trio featured the equally astonishing Dan Weiss on tabla and trap drums; altogether a mind-bending, bracing experience.
…….Rudresh Mahanthappa …………Francisco “El Matador” Fernandez
The current version of Septeto Nacional de Cuba, originally formed in 1927, is a noted flame-keeper of Cuba’s Son music, a tradition most popular in the 1930’s and revived and given worldwide prominence in the late 1990’s by both the record and movie, ‘Buena Vista Social Club’. Although a tradition no longer having great popularity in Cuba, the infectious rhythms and melodies of Son still continue to captivate these ears and feet. The amazing bongocero, Francisco ‘El Matador’ Fernandez, was a particular delight – whew!
Mz. Dee with John Firmin & the Nocturne Band
The Jazz Mafia, a group of some forty talented musicians led by composer-trombonist Adam Theis, presented his impressive hour-long opus, ‘Brass, Bows and Beats’. This group could as easily be called ‘The Mission District Philharmonic’, mixing today’s attitude, sass and vibe with bold, brassy harmonies and a generous dollop of hip-hop.
Artist-In-Residence Dianne Reeves, together with guitarists Russell Malone and Romero Lubambo, presented a memorable and thrilling set on the festival’s final evening. With a warm, attractive voice and wide repertory, she easily captivated the capacity crowd; Reeves garnered huge dividends by ceding generous stage time to Malone and Lubambo, artists of major stature in their own right.
Jaleel Shaw and Roy Haynes
Finally, drummer Roy Haynes, 85 years young, led his fine quartet, ‘The Fountain of Youth’, through a set of post-bop stylings. Haynes propels his group with the vigor and enthusiasm of, say, a musician in his forties. The surprise guest appearance of über-bassist Christian McBride provided the cherry on top of the cake.
Well, that’s a wrap for this year’s festival – see you at Monterey next year!
Andy and Dorothy Nozaka
From Ed Fox
Several weeks ago Michael Griffin sent an e-blast around about the Monterey Jazz Festival Gala to be held the night before the Festival opened at Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch. Clint and his wife Dina were to host the event, jazz impresario George Wein would be the guest of honor, and Dianne Reeves would entertain and drinks and dinner were included. It was a moderately stiff price tag, so I sent the invite along to my wife as a lark. To my surprise, she answered, “If Clint commands, we must go!” So delving deeply into the exchequer, I found some spare change left over from one of Mr. Obama’s stimulus checks and signed us up. Good decision.
On the appointed Thursday evening, the punctual Foxes pulled up exactly at 6pm (start of the cocktail hour), and I was thinking: “Egad, it’s 6pm and we’ll be the first ones here. How embarrassing.” Not to worry—there were free drinks, remember? The parking lot was already full, so we had to park our chariot out on the road, trying to maintain our sangfroid as we hiked in. At the check-in table we got our name tags and proceeded to mingle. Not easy to do when you didn’t know a soul there. But we’re gregarious and we soon were chattering away with other sangfroidish people. Not to mention drinking copious amounts of Estancia Chardonnay, as seemed to be required of us.
Dianne Reeves joined the crowd and was much in demand for picture taking. A hot young band played a few numbers. I did get to talk to George Wein, the 85-year-old founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, and told him I patronized his Boston club, Storyville, in the 50’s, seeing Billie Holiday and George Shearing there (no, not together). I was underage, but they didn’t check IDs too closely then. Actually my wife got more of his attention when she told him her family came from Newport, RI, and she was a Boston University grad (same as George).
A bit after 7pm, we all moved to the “Large Barn” where a candlelight dinner was awaiting. There were 22 tables and undoubtedly owing to our prominence we were assigned to Table 22. (I don’t think Clint was at a double-digit table though.) Dinner turned out to be a lovely pear and goat cheese salad, roast quail, and a delicious double chocolate concoction. So, definitely no complaints there. And the Estancia wine kept coming (now pinot noir). The people on our right were from Minneapolis, on our left Pacific Grove, and we enjoyed their conversation.
Tim Jackson, from the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, is also a Monterey board member, and he was the MC for this occasion. He introduced several board members and contributors, and was followed by Clint who made our day by providing an amusing introduction of George Wein, who then spoke briefly. And then came Ms. Reeves—IMHO one of the top three or four female vocalists extant. Dianne was this year’s Monterey “Artist in Residence.” She said that she was surprised to realize that her first Monterey appearance was 1982, “when I was five!” She was simply superb, with improvisational flights that left us reeling. The highlight was a version of Misty (for Clint?) like you’ve never heard before. Sheer genius.
So, we left the Gala in a euphoric mood and headed blissfully for home. The radio told us that the Giants had beaten the Dodgers 10-2. And all was right with the world.
AN AFTERNOON AT FILOLI
The Jazz at Filoli summer series just completed its 20th year. It’s less than 20 miles from my house, so how come I’d only been vaguely aware of the series? Could it be that their events sell out so often that they don’t need to publicize the series that much? In any case, we’d heard that the wonderful Brazilian pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias was going to be the final show this year, and since I’d long wanted to see her in person, we got tickets.
It’s not cheap. Individual event tickets for nonmembers are $60. But in addition to the concert, you get free wine, water and snacks, and admission to the imposing Filoli house and beautiful gardens. They do sell box lunches, but you are free to bring in your own food and picnic at the cabaret-style setting before (and during) the concert.
The concert venue itself is set on the estate tennis courts, but tightly-packed umbrellas and a forest of shade trees shield more than half the audience from the hot sun—and it was hot on Sunday, September 26—in the high 80’s, we’d guess.
Elias was ably backed by American bass veteran, Marc Johnson (Bill Evans’ last bassist) and two Brazilian young men—Ricardo Vogt on guitar and Rafael Barata on drums. All excellent. I can only recall the titles of two numbers: Gershwin’s They Can’t Take That Away From Me and the bossa nova standard Desafinado. Oh, and one of the encore numbers—The Girl From Ipanema. The rest were from the Brazilian songbook, and Eliane handled them all with her familiar silken vocals and her special piano stylings. Amiable and enthusiastic, she bonded well with the audience, and the packed house responded with an appreciation of a jazz artist at the peak of her powers.
The one problem with Filoli is the seating system. One must line up before the concert in priority lines depending on how early you arrive at the estate. Since the higher priority lines get pretty long very early, it means standing in line for an hour or more if you want one of the best seats. If you do, it means you’ll spend virtually the whole day there, rather than just a couple of hours.
THE MUSIC OF DAVE BRUBECK PRESENTED
BY VICTOR LIN
July 22, 2010, Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford
As soon as the Stanford Jazz Festival lineup is announced, I run down the list and look for what Victor Lin is doing this year—and that’s the first one I check on the order form. If you don’t know who Victor Lin is, he’s a young (still in his 20’s) pianist/violinist based in New York, who in just a few short years has constructed an admirable resumé as performer and jazz educator. This is his 12th (!) year at the Stanford Festival and whether he’s doing something just called “Victor Lin and Friends” or a program with a theme, like last year’s “Jazz 1959” or this year’s Dave Brubeck tribute, you simply don’t want to miss it.
The concert opened with a piano duet—Victor with Joe Gilman—on In Your Own Sweet Way and closed with an encore—Lin and Gilman on an astonishing Blue Rondo a la Turk. Gilman is a remarkable pianist and director of UPacific’s Brubeck Institute, and his partnering with Lin added much to the concert.
In between these two pieces were a host of Brubeck favorites, including Three To Get Ready, Strange Meadow Lark (with flutist Lynn Gruenewald), The Duke (Peter Stoltzman on piano), Unsquare Dance, Bossa Nova USA, and Cassandra (with Gruenewald on alto and young tenor prodigy Ben Flocks, who will be appearing at this year’s Monterey Festival). To illustrate playing in two keys at once, Gilman did a short Satin Doll: “Duke Ellington on one side, Darius Milhaud on the other, and the result is Brubeck.” Josh Thurston-Milgrom was on bass and Cory Cox on drums for most of the numbers. Cox is a 2008 graduate of the Brubeck Institute and he’s an exciting young drummer—one to watch.
Victor Lin, in addition to being an amazing, inventive musician (on both instruments), is a showman and his informative commentary is laced with humor and fun. That’s what sets his shows apart. Some performers are showmen to mask some artistic shortcomings. But Lin has both artistry and showmanship in abundance. You always leave his concert with a smile on your face and the feeling that you’ve just heard some wonderful music. So, take my advice and write this in your diary: “I’ll never miss a Victor Lin concert at Stanford again.”
DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN?
ELLA FITZGERALD: America’s First Lady Of Song
Tribute concert on Sunday afternoon, July 11, at the Stanford Jazz Festival
Fans of vocal jazz music must have thought they’d been transported to the Sweet Jazz Hereafter at the Ella concert last Sunday at Dinkelspiel Auditorium. First and foremost, two of Creation’s best jazz singers were doing the honors: Kenny Washington and Mary Stallings. Secondly, pianist Larry Dunlap, who I understand put this whole thing together, gathered a great band to complement the singers, with himself on piano, Noel Jewkes on tenor and flute, Erik Jekabson on trumpet, Seward McCain on bass and Leon Joyce on drums.
Washington, with his sharp penetrating voice (you can hear every word of every song) and his facile, uncanny scatting ability, has become one of my favorite singers. And his winning stage persona just adds to his appeal. He sang four songs, including Just One Of Those Things and a fantastic version of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (including the lovely intro). Kenny is at the top of his game.
Mary Stallings with her smoky voice and beautiful phrasing is a consummate professional. Her stately How High The Moon started things off, followed by Stompin’ At The Savoy, Lady Be Good and Easy Living. Not a single false step. Just beautiful work.
Noel Jewkes is a Bay Area gem and his tenor sax stylings are always a joy. Erik Jekabson—where have I been? I’d never heard him before, but I see by his website that he’s been very active in New York and now the Bay Area, where he teaches trumpet and composition at various institutions. Just from this gig, he sounds to me in a league with Terell Stafford, Roy Hargrove, and Nicholas Payton. He’s that good and he seems to be able to do anything with that horn! I hope to see a lot more of him in the future. Larry Dunlap—simply a master at accompanying singers. Just ask Mary Stallings. Lovely. Dunlap had the musicians do only short and sweet solos, and that made the numbers more compact and moved things along quite well. A Jewkes-composed version of Sophisticated Lady was a highlight.
My only small gripe at the afternoon was the appearance of two young singers: Holly Smolik and Laila Smith. Not that they don’t show some promise, but they took four numbers away from Washington and Stallings. Still it was nice of Jim Nadel to let these teen-agers perform on the big stage. Smolik—who sang with the Menlo-Atherton HS Jazz Ensemble at a recent PAJA concert– did a really nice job on Angel Eyes. ‘Scuse me while I disappear.
KIM NALLEY SHOW AT RRAZZ ROOM SAN FRANCISCO…….BEST SHOW OF YEAR
Run, as fast as you can, to get tickets for this sensational show (through July 4), which has been extended for three days because of the packed house enthusiasm of the audiences! Kim is joined by Houston Person, verteran soul/blues Tenor Sax Master, and she is supported by her regular trio of Michael Ziman on bass, Kent Bryson on drums, and the fabulous Tammy Hall on piano!
Kim has become the Delicious premier jazz singer/entertainer, who reaches her audience with superb renditions of jazz standards and blues and connects with thim on a personal level throughout performance. Houston supplies that additional, swinging tenor sound to raise the overall level of the performance.
Kim salutes Ella with “Savoy” and a “Tisket” and some jazz history, of which she is most adept. Her “tour de force” is an almost accapella rendition of “Summertime” while walking thru the club smiling at everyone and looking us in the eye……with a screaming hot audience response! Her “raunchy blues” (in response to a vote of the audience) “My Daddy Has Long Slide” (yeah..he’s a trombone player..sure) added heat to the room and brought down the house!
This is an accomplished jazz/blues singer/entertainer who captivates her audience like few others..We go to many, many jazz events and this has been one of the best ever!
BTW…Tammy Hall is one of the best jazz piano players anywhere. Her opening solo was a masterpiece and her full two-handed modern chord style at the lower octaves of the piano (she rarely hit the right side ) are really somethng to listen to. Her comping is outstanding!! Dig her a lot on this gig! You will send me a thank you one this one.