Contemporary, Fusion and World Beat Happenings
By Chris J. Walker
Renowned guitarist, John Scofield has played with a who’s who’s of jazz luminaries such as Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Billy Cobham, George Duke Charles Mingus, Gary Burton, Miles Davis and many others. Along the way he’s explored a myriad of styles, including fusion, funk and even jam band. His latest endeavor, however is the most different and unique—Country For Old Men and a recent Grammy Award Winner for Best Instrumental Jazz Album. With his typical aplomb and grittiness Scofield infuses jazz into the country classics of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Dolly Parton and George Jones. At the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz (TRK) the guitarist spotlighted his new recording and was supported by Larry Goldings-organ/piano (on CD), Vicente Archer-bass and Bill Stewart-drums (on CD). Leading things off was George Jones honky-tonk classic “Mr. Fool” featuring a flowing piano solo and a jagged one from the bandleader along with a hard-driving, groove-like rendition of “Mama Tried” by Haggard with all the players soloing. Afterwards Scofield commented about the unrepentant and woeful lyrics and even recited them to further pique the audience.
Parton’s hit “Jolene” shifted the focus back to music with an unfolding exposition that eventually became an interesting mix of country, fusion and hard-bop through the Scofield wrangling guitar, Stewart’s thundering drumming, Goldings explorative piano excursions and Archer’s spacey bass solo. “Bartender’s Blues” written by James Taylor for Jones was more akin to traditional country featuring the guitarist, organ and band gently flowing along to draw strong response from the audience. Also a Grammy Winner for Best Improvised Jazz Solo was Scofield’s version of William’s immortal “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with him and band blazing extensively to create something vastly different from the original song. The bandleader amusingly commented, “I hope Hank is OK with that.” Getting into contemporary country was his rendition of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One” that was comparatively slow drawn and restrained. Buck Owens’ classic “Together Again” (not on the CD) done with a touch of gospel through Goldings’ touches and the Carter Family’s country/blue grass “Wildwood Flower” done up-tempo neo-bop like with solos abounding wrapped things to draw a standing ovation.
Lisa Fischer was first call back-up singer a variety of artists such as The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Nine Inch Nails and Chris Botti. However, after she was featured in the Oscar-winning 2013 documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom she was catapulted to going out on her own and has been performing throughout the world. Her band Grand Baton, JC Maillard-Musical Director/guitar/vocals, Thierry Arpino-drums/percussion and Aidan Carroll-bass/vocals bring bits of fusion, progressive rock, psychedelic soul, African, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean rhythms to covers and original songs.
At The Broad Stage Fischer and band got steamy and personal with the audience, first giving a shout-out to her Facebook friends. She began as if she was leading a meditative class with breathing exercises and then transcended into an atmospheric and soulful version of Amy Grant’s (former employer) “Breath of Heaven.” With rocking textures she served up Sister Sledge’s “Lost in The Music” and shifted to a rangy version of vintage hit “Blues in the Night.” Fischer kept the audience on the edge of their sits by mixing genres, moods and textures for Led Zeppelin’s “Rock N’ Roll,” Sting’s “Fragile,” and The Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash.” Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” was a balls out jam melded with the singer’s steamy touches that blew the audience away to draw a standing ovation. Fischer wasn’t done quite yet and came back with a folk version of the Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” featuring her band. The audience though still wanted more so she came out for a talking session about music afterwards.
Grammy winning collective Snarky Puppy formed at the University of North Texas in 2004 and now based in Brooklyn opened for Herbie Hancock at Disney Hall. They thrive on being free-ranging and encompass a variety of styles, though mostly leaning heavily to funk, jam band and fusion. Tunes from their Grammy-winning CD Culcha Vulcha were the primary focus. A somewhat ambient undertoned thematic piece showcasing trumpet, keyboards and the 12-piece ensemble composing skills got their 45-minute set going. A funky fused groove followed with trumpet, keyboard, guitar, sax and bass out front with the rest of the musicians grooving along with brass choruses more typical of the band’s sound and resonated with the crowd. Spotlighting Brazilian Bahia rhythms and the band’s fondness for the country was “Semente” with a soulful groove featuring synthesizer trumpet following. Brass came to the forefront for an assaulting tune with subtle interludes mixed in while guitar soloed. Adding more fuel to the fire was drum/percussive jam to further excite the audience and conclude the set.
CAP UCLA presents Wilco’s lead guitarist Nels Cline in the live West Coast debut – and one of only a few select live performances – of Music from Lovers, his expansive new Blue Note album. A 17-piece ensemble conducted by Michael Leonhart that includes guitarist Julian Lage and trumpeter Steven Bernstein will back cline. Twenty-five years in the making, Lovers celebrates and challenges our iconic notion of romance. “No one would figure Nels Cline, best known as the melody-looping guitar strangler from the rock band Wilco, as a romantic at heart,” wrote DownBeat. The evening opens with the gritty and graceful instrumentals of New York City trio, Big Lazy, led by guitarist Stephen Ulrich
340 Royce Dr,
Los Angeles, CA 90095
(310) 825-4401 or http://cap.ucla.edu/get_tickets/
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels
With his new group, The Marvels, Charles Lloyd has got both the name and the time right. The name fits because this collection of musicians — guitarists Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland — really is marvelous and beyond compare in its hybrid idiom of free jazz, rock, and Americana. The time is right because, especially with the addition of Lucinda Williams on vocals, the group speaks directly to the current national predicament. While riding on a groove of hope and joy, this music dares to challenge the darker side of authority, and the at-capacity crowd at the Lobero last Monday responded with fervor to its call.” Santa Barbara Independent. Featuring Bill Frisell with Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland and Greg Leisz with special guest Lucinda Williams
340 Royce Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90095
(310) 825-4401 orhttp://cap.ucla.edu/get_tickets/
Paris Combo’s lead singer/chanteuse Belle du Berry had only one question for the audience at The Broad Stage, “Are we speaking French?” She got a small percentage of people saying “oui” and that was enough to do 95% of the group’s show in French. The 20-year-old ensemble with six recordings and many world tours rolled out its appealing mix of Django styled swing and gypsy jazz, cabaret, Latin, Middle Eastern rhythms and French pop. “Magasin De Porcelaine (The Beginning, Not The End)” a slightly upbeat jazzy shuffle featured cool singing and a trumpet solo from David Lewis who also plays piano.
The next song was rhythmically similar, but featured muted trumpet and piano with band mates François Jeannin-drums, Potzi-guitar and Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac-bass all grooving away as du Berry sang sultrily. Departing from the vintage mode was “Specimen” from the group’s new CD Tako Tsubo that was poppy with band vocal chorus and serious undertones. Latin tinged “Senor” was preceded by an amusing intro from the lead singer about people who are single for too long and was much less lively than previous selections, yet was accentuated by a tantalizing guitar solo.
du Berry showcased her chanteuse chops for “Si Mon Amour,” alternating between dramatic and humorous sections with trumpet accents and the audience clapping along. Along the same lines were new songs, cabaret oriented “Anemiques Maracas” and the cool swinging title track with band Japanese choruses that included flavorful trumpet and guitar solos. The vocalist was decidedly rhythmic, nearly hip-hop like for peace seeking “Living Room” that melded the bands subtle jazzy riffs and encouraged the audience to clap along. Afterwards, du Berry took a break for a glass of wine and let the band cut loose with solos abounding for a Django-like jam.
Additionally in the same vein, Jeannin coolly sang “I Saw Stars” with muted trumpet accenting and himself soloing on drums to strongly appeal to the crowd. Upon du Berry’s return the band rendered “My Funny Valentine” and shifted to “NVCW” with her singing passionately. Mixing Middle Eastern, French pop and gypsy textures was sizzling “Lux” with guitar wailing away. Alternately, “Bonne Nouvelle (Good News)” and “Je Te Vois Partout (I See You Everywhere)” was poppy with light touches of jazz featuring trumpet to get the audience dancing with a standing ovation. For encores ballad “Sous La Lune” was filled with sweet singing, and the trumpeter amazingly soloing in a fishbowl, and signature sounding lively “Homeron” showcasing all the band, with the audience dancing and singing along.
The Nile Project is comprised of 13 artists from seven Northeast African countries who for the second time toured the US doing concerts and workshops about water usage and sustainability in 23 different cities through 14 states for three months. One of their stops was the Valley Performance Arts Center on the Cal State Northridge campus. Along the 4,200 mile long Nile River that has 450 million people in 11 countries, sharing its attributes is extremely challenging. To create more awareness, especially for conscious distribution and usage, the musicians tour for months and have recorded two CDs.
Their newest one just released in January is titled Tana and was showcased at VPAC. In performance The Nile Project included spiritual chants and singing, indigenous instruments and driving percussive jamming. Similar to a revue artists such as Adel Mekha (Egypt)-percussion/vocals, Asia Madani (Egypt)-vocals/percussion, Dave Otieno (Kenya)-guitar, Ibrahim Fanous (Sudan)-kraar/vocals, Kasiva Mutua (Kenya)-percussion/vocals, Michael Bazibu (Uganda)-traditional string instruments, Mohamed Abozekry (Egypt)-oud, Nader El Shaer (Egypt)-accordion/ney, Saleeb Fawzy (Egypt)-vocals/percussion, Selamnesh Zemene (Ethiopia)-vocals and Steven “Sogo” Irambona (Burundi)-guitar/vocals performed individually and in different groups. Overall, the variety was nearly endless and enthralled the audience to dance and clap along. For more info go to: nileproject.org/
Known for her soaring emotive voice and compelling stage presence, world renown Mexican American singer, Lila Downs’ music is highly innovative and distinctive. The multiple Grammy-Award winning artist blends traditional Mexican, Latin, and Mesoamerican music with a broad range of other musical influences to create a vibrant, dramatic, and culturally rich performance. Backed by her longtime band, La Misteriosa, comprised of international multi-instrumentalist musicians, Lila's offering will include cumbias, boleros, perhaps a bit of jazz, new music from her forthcoming album, and traditional favorites from the vast repertoire cultivated throughout her illustrious career. Colombia’s Monsieur Periné opens, bringing the quirky blend of swing, alternative and pop that earned the band a 2015 Latin Grammy for Best New Artist.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Renée and Henry
Segerstrom Concert Hall
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA
Tickets-Start at $29
SCFTA.org or (714) 556-2787
Renowned santoor player Rahul Sharma and one of the finest tabla players in the world, Zakir Hussain, are teaming up yet again. The two virtuosos, beloved in India and around the world, have collaborated before on several projects including a live recording. Zakir Hussain’s playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. Rahul Sharma learned music and the Santoor from his father, Guru Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, who is a music legend in India and throughout the world. Rahul’s father has been instrumental in bringing this little-known instrument from the valleys of Kashmir and introducing it to the Indian Classical Music World. Sharma is one of India’s most prolific musicians, with over 60 released albums spanning a career of 15 years.
340 Royce Dr,
Los Angeles, CA 90095
(310) 825-4401 or http://cap.ucla.edu/get_tickets/
Shakti Fest returns for its seventh season, this year on Mother’s Day weekend itself - 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.
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. The entire Kirtan line-up is available at http://shaktifest.bhaktifest.com/kirtan/.
World-class yoga teachers are the heart of Shakti Fest, and spring in Joshua Tree is a beautiful time to practice indoors and out. The full yoga lineup can be viewed at http://shaktifest.bhaktifest.com/yoga/. Shakti Fest 2016 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
The historic Joshua Tree Desert Retreat Center is the oldest and largest retreat center in the Western U.S., located on a sacred site replete with a walking labyrinth. The sublime high desert setting allows for peaceful inner reflection and uplifting spiritual renewal. 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/ .
A SPRING SOCAL TRADITION, KEEPING THE BLUES ALIVE SINCE 2005; YEAR #2 AT BEAUTIFUL STUDIO CHANNEL ISLANDS IN CAMARILLO, CA
HEADLINERS AT THE 12TH ANNUAL VENTURA COUNTY BLUES FESTIVAL
Phantom Blues Band:
Michael John & the Bottom Line Featuring Mikey Mo
Crooked Eye Tommy
Jim Gustin & Truth Jones
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Gates Open 10am, Music Starts 11:00 am
Studio Channel Islands
2222 E. Ventura Blvd., Camarillo
Tickets $30. (Pre-Sale), $40. (Day of Show).
Kids 12 and under, free with paid Adult General Admission.
V.I.P. Tickets $125. (online only). Festival proceeds benefits Food Share and other Ventura County
area charities (please bring a food item to donate).
Info: (805) 501-7122 or venturacountyblues.com/ .
It was raining hard outside of the Nate Holden Ebony Repatory Theatre and inside The Cookers, part of the Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast series, were equally turbulent. Hard bop masters Billy Harper-tenor sax, Eddie Henderson-trumpet, David Weiss-trumpet, Donald Harrison-alto sax, Billy Hart-drums, Cecil McBee and Steven Scott-piano substituting for George Cables creating their own storm, musically speaking. Their playing and compositions performance was seamless from beginning to end as they collectively and individually mightily unleashed a torrent of top flight jazz beginning with the hard-driving title track of the their latest CD The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart. They slowed down with somewhat relaxed number “Peacemaker” spotlighting the brass players’ artistry and mastery with them all taking flight as the rhythm section fluidly supported McBee who also wrote the composition soloing.
Staying in the easy flowing mode was Harper’s jazz waltz “Croquet Ballet” accentuated by him playing strongly over inventive brass choruses/forays and explosive rhythm changes with others also soloing including amazing piano to blow the audience away. Injected into the full, yet quickly evolving program was trumpet-adorned ballad featuring Henderson “If One Could Only See” also written by Harper and on the new recording. Alternately in grand style was McBee’s bluesy “Slipping and Sliding” bolster by bold brass choruses with Harrison, Weiss, Scott and the bassist agilely interweaving and soloing amongst them while Hart propelled things with his fiery playing.
Throughout the hard-bop lovers dream show the drummer unleashed a barrage of high-energy and appealing percussion. He was rewarded at the end of the stellar concert with the ensemble featuring him on Freddie Hubbard’s vigorous "The Core" initially dedicated to the CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in 1964. Needless to say the musicians were given an enthusiastic standing ovation with everyone in attendance looking forward to next Cookers show in So Cal.
Before getting underway Herbie Hancock mentioned how impressed he was with Snarky Puppy and then talked about the collaboration for the show at Disney Hall. It involved trumpeter Terence Blanchard arranging his compositions for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and was first conceived in 2009 while they were touring together. Nearly 10 years later the project was finally coming to fruition with Blanchard, Wayne Shorter-reeds, Vinnie Colaiuta-drums, James Genus-bass, the LA Phil and Conductor James Gaffigan on stage together. Hancock’s classic “Dolphin Dance” renamed “Herbie Hancock: By Himself, “started the special program as the symphonic ensemble unveiled a lush rhapsody hardly resembling the original piece before the jazz musicians eventually played at 15 minutes in.
Their segment with orchestra supporting was more aligned with the melody and extremely sophisticated. They orchestra and quintet continued with a sweeping Latin flavored composition and a celestial/syrupy version of Shorter’s iconic “Footprints” with the composer flailing away at the end on soprano sax. For the conclusion Hancock’s piano playing beautifully integrated with orchestra for his highly regarded “Maiden Voyage” that was very lengthy and perfect for the outing. It of course drew an enthusiastic standing ovation, yet the show disappointed those who prefer more Hancock, Shorter and Blanchard to the grand orchestration.
Maria Schneider has taken a different and sometimes personal approach to big band music that has led to five Grammy’s, many poll and critic awards, numerous commissions and a demanding touring/recording schedule. At The Valley Performance Arts Center on the Cal State Northridge campus her 18-person band performed a varied program of original compositions. In fact, Schneider rarely plays standards and is like a mixture of Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein and former mentors Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer.
Those influences were often heard through compositions such “A Potter’s Song” dedicated to longtime band member trumpeter, Laurie Frink (died in 2013) highlighted by Gary Versace on accordion, brass blazing “El Viento” and Schneider’s grad school recital piece “Gumba Blue” featuring accordion and trombone.
A native of rural Southwest Minnesota and a longtime New York City resident, the bandleader also served up selections from latest CD The Thompson Fields inspired by her homeland’s natural environment. They were “Nimbus” bolstered by Steve Wilson-saxophone, thematic “Home” and the title track enhanced by piano, trombone and guitar. Schneider, also an avid birdwatcher talked about the species Birds of Paradise’s mating rituals that were impetus for swinging “The Hills Are Alive.” It featured amazing contributions from reed players McCaslin and Scott Robinson that resulted in garnering a standing ovation.
Furthermore, the bandleader is a fierce advocate for musicians rights and talked about future implications of AI (artificial intelligence) before going into harrowing and at times explosive through Mike Rodriguez-trumpet and Donny McCaslin saxophone “Data Wars.” For the encore Schneider performed a dreamy composition inspired by poet Ted Kooser (she read a short snippet beforehand) that featured bass clarinet.
Acoustic guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner has created a huge body of work in the realm of chamber jazz, third stream, fusion, folk-jazz, ethno jazz, and world music through groups Paul Winter Consort and Oregon, along with collaborations with Gary Burton, Gary Peacock, Jan Garbarek and John Abercrombie. His recent CD My Foolish Heart a collection of originals with only one standard, the title track is much more restrained and introspective compared to his previous work. At The Blue Whale the intriguing guitarist played solo to a near-capacity house.
His airy, crisp, minimally amplified style was as solid as ever beginning with new selection “Blue as in Bley” dedicated to old friend pianist Paul Bley who died last year. The evocative title track of his new recording followed and Towner, 77 joked about the song since he recently got a pacemaker. Rangy and rhythmic “Saunter” had traits of the guitarist’s renowned style, while ballad “I’ll Sing to You” leaned toward his title track and older “Jamaica Stopover” was obviously reggae flavored. All the while the audience was spellbound as Towner almost nonchalantly performed and spoke sparingly. Also not on the new CD was standard “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and leaning to folk were appealing well-strummed new pieces “Dolomiti Dance” and “Pilgrim.” Interesting omitted from the program were his very popular Paul Winter and Oregon compositions.
For 12 days 150 films spanning the Black Diaspora were shown at the 25th Pan African Film Festivalalong with art and craft exhibits, fashion and music, along with stimulating panels and discussions regarding film business, aesthetics and politics.
Unquestionably, the film attracting the most interest was Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary that was the closing night gala presentation. Directed by John Sheinfeinfeld the much-anticipated project chronicles the life and times of one of jazz’s most influential artists through interviews and performances. Interestingly, there are filmed or recorded interviews of Coltrane. With that in mind Denzel Washington is the voice of the legendary saxophonist and majestically captures his essence. The director was on hand for Q&A to discuss the challenges of getting the film made.
From a more local standpoint Horace Tapscott Musical Girot was extremely compelling telling the story of one of The Leimert Park scene’s pillars. Filmmaker Barbara McCullogh a UCLA Film School graduate persevered for 30 years to complete the extraordinary film and during Q&A spoke about the inspiration and struggle to her dream completed. I Am the Blues focused on the back roads of Mississippi and Louisiana, high by conversations and performances by Blues Masters Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, RL Boyce, Lil Buck Senegal and LC Ulmer. Somewhat related How Berlin Got The Blues tells the story of initially unsuccessful bluesman who joins the Army and is in a special services unit during the day and plays blues at night.
Tear the Roof Off: The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic was a “behind the scenes” accounting of how members of the top-selling funk band were exploited and unfairly compensated despite having a high profile image. Body and Soul: American Bridge explored the history of the most recorded jazz song to reveal influences, conflicts and collaborations between African Americans and Jews in American music culture.
African-centric pianist Randy Weston provides the score for Kemtiyu: Cheikh Anta a historian and scientist who proved ancient Egyptians were black through linguistics and carbon dating. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise portrayed the renowned writer, poet, performer and activist, revealing her history that included overcoming racism and abuse. Additionally Masters of Rhythm With Addendum showcased Afro-Peruvians music and culture that is very much part of African Diaspora.
Returning for second or third time screenings were: 41st & Central: The Untold Story of the LA Black Panthers, August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand, animated Cuban jazz love story Chico & Rita, Mama Africa tracing the life and music of Miriam Makeba, Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band, Trumpetistically Clora Bryant, Charles Lloyd: Arrows Into Infinity and Rain the Color Blue With a Little Red in it about a young musician in Niger who overcomes struggles with his father and competitors to succeed. For more info go: www.PAFF.org
What do Mel Brooks, Michael Feinstein and Woody Allen have in common? They are all wild about Vince Giordano. Giordano, Hollywood's "go-to guy" for authentic period film soundtracks - The Aviator, The Cotton Club, half a dozen Woody Allen features, and the Grammy-winning HBO series Boardwalk Empire - is now, along with his band and his music, in front of the camera in a new documentary about his 40-year career keeping the hot jazz flame alive.
Directed and produced by Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards of Hudson West Productions, the film explores how Giordano, with his 11-member band The Nighthawks, has become the leading authority, practitioner, and purveyor of big band music of the 1920s and '30s and chronicles - with humor and pathos - what it takes to keep a Jazz Age enterprise going in the 21st century.
Opens April 14 at Laemmle Theatres
Filmmakers and Vince Giordano will be in attendance.
For more info go to: http://firstrunfeatures.com/vincegiordano.html