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Contemporary, Fusion and World Beat Happenings


By Chris J. Walker

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There’s a movement currently happening in LA music and the mercuric rise of saxophonist Kamasi Washington is largely responsible for it. The heralded saxophonist didn’t become a sensation by his own efforts solely. Rather, it was from wood shedding and the support of longstanding group musical friends who call themselves “The West Coast Get Down.” They’re now starting to come out with their own solo projects. One of them is keyboardist Cameron Graves who had a CD Release Party for Planetary Prince at the Troubadour with friends Washington-tenor saxophone (on CD), trombonist Ryan Porter-trombone (on CD), Matt Hayes-guitar, Carlitos Del Puerto-bass, Philip Dizack-trumpet and Ronald Bruner Jr.-drums (on CD).

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Graves set the mood by doing a solo intro of pounding out an explosive and hard-driving rhythm for his counterparts to ride the crest of for the title track with scorching and monster rock-like brass choruses and solos. “Satania Our Solar System” was jazzier and funkier while maintaining density and aggression with a sax and bass solo. Bassist Myles Mosley (on CD) and drummer Tony Austin also part of the WCGD joined the band for “The Lucifer Rebellion” with the effects-laden bassist doing the solo intro and wailing away with bowing throughout the piece.

Also sitting in with the band (rhythm players) on acoustic was legendary bassist Stanley Clarke. He recalled the last time he played at Troubadour in early ‘70s with Return to Forever before doing his signature bass percussion and getting into unannounced jazz selection that amazed the audience. Upon the return of Graves’ full band thematic “El Diablo” was played with a brass chorus out front and guitar soloing. Graves revealed that The Book of Urantia influenced his compositions and that he was previously a heavy metal guitarist. Also he mentioned that actress/dancer Jada Pinkett–Smith was another influence and called her on stage to speak before doing encore “Adam & Eve.” It’s the longest track on the CD with a variety of band interactions/solos and received a standing ovation. For more info go to: www.camerongravesmusic.com and www.facebook.com/westcoastgetdown com

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The African Guitar Summit based and originated in Toronto, Canada recently performed at SOKA University in Aliso Viejo. The multiple Juno-winning group showcased guitarists Alpha YaYa Diallo from Guinea, with Donné Roberts and Madagascar Slim from Madagascar. Kofi Ackah-percussion from Ghana and Naby Camara-electric bass/balafon/African marimba from Guinea supported the guitarists. Diallo got the show underway with a short solo before his band mates joined him for a pulsating song accentuated by percussion, vocal choruses and guitar solos. It musically transported the audience to the western coast of Africa.

Madagascar Slim the most personable of the musicians introduced the concert attendees to his island homeland with layered textures, rhythmic singing, breezy guitar playing and jokes. Contrarily Roberts was much more serious, but jubilant through a South African-tinged song about thankfulness that inspired the audience to clap along. Diallo also served up irrepressible jams, sometimes with scorching electric guitar, accented by marimba and sung in Fulani. Sidemen Ackah and Camara on marimba also jammed to the audience’s delight. During the later part of the concert many in the crowd danced while the musicians played traditional and original songs about celebrating life while not having much wealth, falling in love and included zesty danceable instrumental jamming to garner an enthusiastic standing ovation. For more information go to: www.soka.edu/pac/performing-arts-events.aspx



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Guitarist/composer/ vocalist Ethan Sultry (Margolis), former Musical Director for the Forever Flamenco Theatre played at the Blue Whale. He assembled a group of top-flight musicians, such as Reggie Hamilton-bass, Katisse Buckingham-reeds, Munyungo Jackson-percussion and Donald Barrett-drums for an exploration of flamenco melded with funk, blues, jazz and gypsy tinges. Margolis got into a lengthy jams with layers from his sidemen as he played and sang “Who’s That Rider?” It had a mystical vibe as the bandleader sang appealingly.

He continued, clapping and chanting hip-hop-like to set the cadence for a flowing tune utilizing a flamenco Bulería rhythm while singing “Butterflies and the Moon” from his CD Sonikete Blues that he recorded with the band. Amidst that he jammed away on guitar playing a mix of gypsy and flamenco runs with his group briskly supporting. With the same approach Sultry delved into gospel flavored blues through Robert Johnson’s “Malted Milk” featuring Buckingham’s flowing flute and later rapping with an undercurrent of percussion and guitar. The bandleader continued with blues, singing soulfully and inserted more flamenco-flavored guitar. “Brewing My Stew” concluded the set and shifted things up-tempo as Sultry sang and played intensely, while the band tastefully filled in with solos and a driving backbeat. For more info go to www.facebook.com/margolismusic and www.bluewhalemusic.com .




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Shakti Fest returns for its seventh season, this year on Mother’s Day weekend, May 12-14 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, in Joshua Tree, CA. Organized by Bhakti Fest, a leader in conscious festival events, Shakti Fest is a unique springtime celebration of the divine feminine spirit, described in Hindu philosophy as the ‘dynamic force which moves the universe’. The festival features world famous yoga teachers, Kirtan music stars, wisdom workshops, sound baths, and a healing sanctuary.

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The Shakti Fest 2017 music lineup includes inspiring Kirtan (a.k.a. chanting) artist Jai Uttal who released his acclaimed 19th (!) album Roots Rock Rama! in March, Donna De Lory, Larissa Stowe, Govind Das & Radha, Girish, Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda, Prajna Vieira & the Mukti Kirtan Ensemble, Amritakripa, Kalakar, Gandharvas Kirtan, Krishna’s Kirtan and many more. The centuries-old practice of devotional chanting is considered to connect humans with themselves, the universe, and spirit.

Shakti Fest 2017 Workshops will cover topics including Ayurveda, spiritual nutrition, tantric energy, Vedic astrology, breathwork, Sanskrit, conscious relationships, women’s sexuality, bhakti art, and hoop dance, with internationally known speakers including Swami Preymoda, Syamarani, Lorin Roche, Ph.D., Dawn Cartwright, Zat Baraka, Zoë Kors, and Dharma Devi

Accommodation options include, retreat center spaces, yurts, camping, and RV parking, all on site. There are also ten hotels within a few miles of the retreat center. The Shakti Fest Eco Village offers vegetarian and vegan food vendors, yoga clothing and gear, jewelry, art and collectibles. The organizers pride themselves on running a green event, offering free water and mindful recycling practices. For information: http://shaktifest.bhaktifest.com/travel-info / and http://shaktifest.bhaktifest.com/lodging /. http://shaktifest.bhaktifest.com /.

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The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival is an annual event hosted by The Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise to benefit both Cajun heritage and the people of Simi Valley and surrounding areas. All proceeds from the event go to the charities listed on the festival’s website.

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The blues stage this year with feature:
• ROBBY KRIEGER BAND:
Celebrating 50 Years of The Doors’ Music :
• THE YARDBIRDS:
• Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels:
• Big Bad Voodoo Daddy:
• The 44's :
• Lazy Lester:
• Alex Nester:
• Kelly’s Lot:
The Cajun stage this year will showcase: :
• Doug Kershaw:
• Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers:
• The Bayou Brothers:
Jo-El Sonnier:
• Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles:
• Cajun Trio: Michael Doucet, David Doucet & Mitch Reed plus a special Guest:
• Crawdaddio:

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Cajun & Blues Music Festival:
Saturday, May 27th, 2017, 10:00am – 8:00pm:
Sunday, May 28th, 2017, 10:00am – 8:00pm:
5005 Los Angeles Avenue :
Simi Valley, CA 93063:
Children 12 and under are free and for tickets and information go to: www.simicajun.org or 805-517-9000 (Press “0” for Cajun/Blues Festival info)




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Although icons Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin creatively thrived during the first half of the 20th century, Morton (1900-1941) and Gershwin (1920-1937) they seemed to have never met. Undoubtedly, they were aware of each other’s music accomplishments, which greatly impacted jazz and music in general. At Disney Hall pianist/Music Director Aaron Diehl and singer Cecile McLorin with their band paid homage to the legends through a program entitled “Jelly & George” with 21st century perspectives. Additionally, keyboardist Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party intermixed touches of funk, hip-hop and dance into Waller’s music, who died in 1943 and did know Gershwin.

Diehl without McLorin led Adam Birnbaum-piano, Paul Sikivie-bass, Lawrence Leathers-drums, Evan Christopher-clarinet, Brandon Lee-trumpet/cornet, and Corey Wilcox-trombone for a rendering of Gershwin’s symphonic “Prelude 1” and later “Prelude 2.” They changed up to do Morton’s trad jazz classic “Black Bottom Stomp” featuring rollicking cornet, clarinet, drums and piano (Birnbaum) solos, along with his Latin bolero flavored “Spanish Swat.”

Afterwards, McLorin joined the ensemble for Morton’s romantic “Why” accented by trumpet to thrill the crowd. The band returned to Gershwin with “Ask Me Again” with Diehl adding a blistering piano solo, “Boy! What Love Has Done to Me” and “My Man’s Gone Now” that were all beautifully adorned by the singer. For the finale Moran joined them for a lengthy and over-the-top version of “I Got Rhythm,” which included McLorin’s fine singing, band soloing and Diehl playing the concert hall’s commanding organ to garner an enthusiastic standing ovation.

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Jason Moran’s opening Fats Waller Dance Party brought the legacy of singer/pianist/organist Waller into present times with a mix of funk, hip-hop and dance. Moran began with a large, wearable replica of Waller on his piano saying, “I have a special guest, Fats Waller. He said just take me out there to hang around the set and if the music is decent enough I just might get up and dance.” His band was comprised of Lisa Harris-vocals, Leron Thomas-trumpet/vocals, Tarus Mateen-bass and Charles Haynes-drums. They played “Honeysuckle Rose,” Babatunde Olatunji’s Latin tinged “Jingo-lo-ba,” “Yacht Club Swing,” contemporary styled “Ain’t Misbehavin’” featuring Harris and “Two Sleepy People” sung by Thomas who also soloed on trumpet. With the Waller mask on Moran played a jaunting jam “This Joint is Jumping.” And yes, he did dance.

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Along with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey De Francesco is one of the major proponents of jazz organ. At Catalina’s with his group We The People he had a CD Release Party for newly recorded Project Freedom. De Francesco’s group included Dan Wilson-guitar, Troy Roberts- saxophone and Jason Brown-drums who are all on the new CD. The quartet began with the title track, which had a dramatic beginning and afterwards stretched out with swinging call and response sections and solos. “Unifier” was groove oriented with the bandleader soaring with wah-wah pedal like effects and harmonizing with saxophone who also soloed strongly, along with drums and guitar.

For some variety “Better Than Yesterday” employed shifting time signatures initially and eventually became being bluesy and showcased Roberts’ talents. And for ballad “Peace Bridge” the saxophonist played an expressive and lengthy solo intro with De Francesco additionally playing Miles Davis-like trumpet for a juncture to further amaze the audience. Afterwards the group returned to soulful grooving with “Karma” featuring the Philadelphia-based musician injecting captivating pipe organ textures and his guitarist soloing robustly. Wrapping up a fast-paced set was hard-bop “Stand Up” with the audience clapping along at the beginning to a 5/4 cadence. Once fully underway De Francesco’s group served up a timeless sounding groove that abounded with high caliber solos to garner a standing ovations. For the encore the organist much to the crowd’s delight returned to blues and mightily wailed away, ala Jimmy Smith.

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Grammy-Award and Guggenheim Fellowship winning pianist/arranger/composer Billy Childs and Trio (Alex Boneham-bass and Christian Euman-drums, Thelonious Monk Institute Graduates) did a special performance at the Doheny Mansion as part of The Da Camera Society’s Jazz Series. Interestingly, the venue previously never had drums in the elegant Pompeian Room with its renowned Tiffany Glass Dome; Childs who has led a chamber jazz group for many years and The President of Chamber Music America, instead showcased his trio. They began with jaunting “Just Another Day” featuring the pianist playing adroitly.

Comparatively, “In Carson’s Eyes” written for his son now 20 when he was born was thematic and classical/jazz nuanced with Childs playing with fiery prowess. For a respite ballads “No Lonely Nights” by Keith Jarrett and “It Never Entered My Mind” were soothingly rendered. Original “Breaking Through” inspired by McCoy Tyner brought the focus back to rapid playing and runs. While Bill Evans’ “34 Skidoo” was moderately swinging and featured sidemen Boneham and Euman some. Closing out the show was burning original “Backwards Bop” from Childs’ debut CD and recently rerecorded for his new CD Rebirth that spawned a standing ovation. Coming up on Sunday June 11th, 2 & 4:30pm Monty Alexander with Hassan Shakur-bass will perform at the Doheny Mansion. For more info go to: www. dacamera.org




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April Williams, President and Founder of the Musicians at Play Foundation, featured a true Los Angeles “mega star,” Grammy and Emmy Winning band leader/composer/arranger Patrick Williams and his 16-piece band for the organization’s Third Annual Spring Concert at the Moss Theatre. As would be expected the ensemble overflowed with top-notch musicians, including Dan Higgins-alto saxophone, Tom Scott-tenor saxophone, Bob Sheppard-tenor saxophone, Wayne Bergeron-trumpet, Bob McChesney-trombone, Tom Rainer-piano, Chuck Berghofer-bass and Peter Erskine-drums. Williams who’s scored countless films and TV shows and worked with many great performers showcased songs from three of his recordings. They were A Tribute to Frank Sinatra (1994), Aurora (2010) and Home Sweet Home (2016).

Opening the encompassing program was a hard-hitting version of “The Song is You” featuring alto saxophonist Jeff Driskill and easy rolling “I Got The World on a String” spotlighting Rainer who later also shined playing clarinet for “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Slowing things down considerably was gentle ballad “I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Till You” adorned by Higgins. Williams paid tribute to Count Basie and arranger Neal Hefti’s legendary association with tantalizing tunes “There You Go Again” laden with stellar solos and brass choruses, along with “A Hefti Dose of Basie” that was his version of the very popular jazz slo-jam “Lil’ Darling.”

The bandleader recalled recording Sinatra’s 1993 Duets album before replicating the immortal classic “I Got You Under My Skin” with articulated band rhythm and scintillating playing by Sheppard. Vocalist Tierney Sutton concluded the first half coolly covering “I’ve Been Around” with bold band accompaniment, which she also recorded on Williams’ latest projected with Frank Sinatra Jr. The second half continued with another Sinatra/Nelson Riddle number “You Make Me Feel So Young” bolstered by Higgin’s amazing flute playing. Williams injected personal oriented compositions such as trombone adorned with choruses and solos “Mandeville Canyon” for his home and two parts of “Home Suite Home” for his offspring that was full of classical/romantic thematic variations and hot swinging.

Making things even more interesting trumpeter extraordinaire Arturo Sandoval joined the big band and praised Williams’ composing and arranging artistry before playing slow and enchanting piece “Blue Mist.” He too played a Sinatra tune, “All or Nothing at All” that was done magnificently with the big band to amaze the listeners. During the final moments of the concert Erskine was showcased for “That’s Rich” a tribute to drum legend Buddy Rich with hot, supporting sax and trumpet solos. For more information about the foundation go to: www.musiciansatplay.org




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On the heels of her new #1 Billboard Chart CD, The Gold Standards produced by Steve Tyrell who was at the engagement and Jon Allen with arrangements by Alan Broadbent, singer Deborah Silver had a CD Release Party at Catalina’s. It was well attended by friends and industry/media/arts people including Jane Seymour and Mary Wilson from the Supremes. Supported by a big band that included Allen on keyboards she got down to business sultrily singing “Teach Me Tonight.” For “Never on Sunday” she was sassy with a Latin-tinged band treatment and then luxuriated for “Ain’t Misbehavin’” that bookended a medley of Broadway and standard tunes to aroused the audience. Silver also revealed a tender side of her personality through ballad “The Nearness of You” supported by guitarist Bob Mann mostly.

The singer also showed her Mississippi roots by doing “I’m Redneck Woman” (not on the CD) and got some in the audience to dynamically sing “Hell Yeah!” Also not on CD was her torrid version of Willie Nelson’s country classic “Crazy” that was popularized by Patsy Cline and romping "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" by Hank Williams.

Getting back to songs on the CD was “The Glory of Love” dedicated to her producing team with a sax solo and an alluring version of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” In honor of her attending mother, a former opera singer and father who had a Dixieland band she first sang operatically and jazzily “You Got the Right Key But You’re Working on The Wrong Key Hole” (not on the CD).

Additionally, Silver sang other non-CD tunes such as Melissa Manchester’s emotional ballad “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with the same treatment that was well received. For even more variety the singer played classical piano briefly before going into “I Love a Piano” that was done boldly and featured Musical Director Bill Schneider on piano and the band. Silver finished with a bang, daringly singing Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy’s “I Will Wait For You.”




Young lion pianist Christian Sands a member of bassist Christian McBride's band did an engagement at Vibrato with a trio showcasing selections from his latest CD Reach. Although the audience’s conversations were loud at times, there no denying of Sands’ talent as he blazed through numbers and intensely interacted with the sidemen Yasushi Nakamura-bass and Jerome Jennings-drums. They did a jazzy somewhat opaque version of “Me and Mrs. Jones” and original “J Street.” Continuing they were bebop-like and very improvisational while conjuring up Monk’s “Rhythming.” It was far-reaching with each musician soloing profoundly. Slowing things down some was gentle and thoughtful ballad “Somewhere Out There” from the new CD. Out of that the trio quickly segued to Cedar Walton’s jaunting “Bolivia” and jammed away extensively to impress the audience. Sands is definitely someone to be on the lookout for.

PREVIEW

Grammy Award-winning jazz icon and 10-time Billboard Jazz Charts artist Steve Tyrell is bringing his world-class band to the Arcadia Performing Arts Center and headlining the modern concert hall’s 2016-17 season finale.

Known as American royalty for jazz, Tyrell is one of the few jazz artists handpicked byFrank Sinatra’s family to perform original Sinatra arrangements at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Tyrell popularized American jazz in the hit movie Father of the Bride, has performed on stages all over the world and for dignitaries including President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace.

Tyrell has released 10 American Standards albums, all which have achieved great success on Billboard’s Jazz charts with 9 reaching the top 5. His hits “The Way You Look Tonight” and “The Sunny Side of the Street” have reached millions of fans. As weekly radio host of the jazz station KJAZZ 88.1, Steve Tyrell continues to reach new fans and engage loyal jazz aficionados.

Arcadia Performing Arts Center
May 20, 2017 at 8 p.m.
(doors open at 7:30 p.m.).
At 5:30 p.m., VIP ticket holders and staff, faculty and students with the Arcadia Unified School District ID are invited to a free sound check followed by a Q&A with the artist. VIP ticket holders can also enjoy complimentary pre-concert appetizers in the VIP lounge at 6 p.m. and an after-show artist meet-and-greet.

Tickets start from $10 Mezzanine to $65 for VIP, which includes priority seating and first-pick orchestra seats. Discounts for seniors age 55 and over, teachers, students and groups are available.

For more details and ticket information go to: www.arcadiapaf.org

Any information to be considered for this column can be sent to:
chrisjwalker1@earthlink.net