Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Jazz Junkie - I Need An Intervention...

It's been 21 days since I've posted a blog entry. Fortunately it takes 22 days to form a habit so I'm in under the wire. Speaking of habits, I am entirely besotted with jazz these days. Due to the huge life transition I'm making (switching careers after ten years - eep!) I haven't had much of a chance to do anything except watch the world spin while I blink in disbelief - but I've still managed to catch some great jazz and I will share it with you...

As always, having trouble with the photo posting so use your imaginacion. Additionally, I am battling exhaustion right now so this is probably riddled with errors. Rather than glossing over them, please point them out so I can correct them for posterity and then lambast you publicly for being control-freakish. C'mon. It'll be fun.

Thursday, August 10 and Friday, August 11: A Bill Cunliffe Extravaganza

My sister Kesha came to town from the Bay Area for a conference and indulged me in some live music. In terms of background, Kesha and I are the Jan Bradys of the family (read: middle children) and although we're 5 years apart in age we have had tremendous musicial influences on one another. I recall sharing a wall when we lived together and wondering how many times she could listen to Jeff Buckley's "Grace" album while she no doubt did the same about my overdoing Sting's "Ten Summoner's Tales". Nonetheless, we shared (and still do) a love for music, especially of the live variety, so we had to check some out while she was here.

We caught Bill Cunliffe and Imaginacion - a Latin Jazz septet at Vibrato in Bel Air. We were graciously joined by Ben Wakefield and Heather Giler, two of my (soon to be former) co-workers and youthful music fans. Incidentally, they had a Bruce Willis sighting at the Starbucks in the same strip mall if any of you are star-stalker. Anyhoo - the space was gorgeous and the joint has a lot of things going for it as a jazz venue (especially the stage smack in the center of the room) but was a little noisy for my taste. As for the performance - my goodness. We get spoiled here in SoCal. At the risk of leaving folks out, I am continually amazed that for NO COVER you can hear Bill Cunliffe joined by folks like Bob Sheppard, Ramon Banda and Scott Whitfield, who make all kinds of tough stuff look and sound oh so easy. My (and Kesha's) personal favorite - a very rich cover of "Pure Imagination" from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Not having enough Bill Cunliffe for one week, Kesha and I grabbed Brian Farrah by the scruff of the neck and went the following evening to hear Bill's trio at Spazio. This time Bill was supported by some up and coming musicians - bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Matt Slocum - young guys who can really play. The music was soft but smokin' - hard to describe but they definitely got a groove going. It was a great couple of days and I was sad to send Kesha back to Oakland on a flight where she wasn't allowed to take her lip gloss.

Sunday, August 13: Annual Reggae Show at the Hollywood Bowl

So it's not a jazz show but it's definitely worth a nod.... My sister Kim (Marcia Brady) grabs some girlfriends every year to go to the reggae show at the Hollywood Bowl. This year she brought me along, as well as her friends Nicole, Amy and Kym to groove to the strains of Bob Marley's music at a sold out show. Highlight: Ozomatli. They were all over the map - reggae-esque but I'd say quintessential world music. Lowlight: Although they were both phenomenal, I couldn't tell the difference between Ziggy Marley and Stephen Marley. Shame on me.

Monday, August 14: Bob Sheppard Trio at The Oyster House Saloon, Studio City

I had the good fortune of meeting Bob Sheppard at the Imaginacion show on Thursday night, and he mentioned a trio gig that he had at The Oyster House Saloon, a place I'd never heard of until then. I had the Los Angeles Jazz Society Board meeting earlier that night but Bob mentioned that his show was at 10:00 p.m., giving me enough time to go home, make a fabulous dinner of microwave popcorn, and head out again.

What can I say about The Oyster House? It was like Cheers meets Gilligan's Island or something. Everyone there knew each other and I would have felt like an outsider were it not for the bartender from Spazio, who happened to be hanging out there on his night off since he's a Bob Sheppard fan himself. I'll save the good parts of the story for the book, but in a nutshell the set I caught was fantastic, Coltrane-esque music and I'll certainly be going back there (but probably not alone).

Tuesday, August 15: Joon Lee at Catalina Jazz Club

Although all I really wanted to do was collapse in bed, the next night I took a power nap then met my friends Christy Luna and Ted Kane at Catalina Jazz Club to hear Joon Lee, an up and coming jazz vocalist. The show was recommended by Tamir Hendelman, a friend of Joon Lee, frequent blog topic and one of my favorite musicians so I totally had to check it out.

Now, Tuesday nights in Los Angeles are not typically prime jazz evenings, and this show was part of the Young Artists Series so there were no ticket pre-sales or anything, just a $5 cover and 2 drink minimum. I expected to be one of about 20 patrons and then come home to pout about how poorly supported jazz is in LA. Imagine my surprise and delight to find that the place was PACKED. Seriously. Packed. Our waiter, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, said he got an emergency call from the manager telling him to haul it over there to help with the crowd.

As for Mr. Lee - he was a highly entertaining vocalist, which is a huge statement coming from me, the anti-vocalist. I especially enjoyed his interpretation of "Bye Bye Blackbird" and the short set he performed with a Brazilian guitarist whose name escapes me. Tamir, thanks for the heads up and I haven't forgotten that I still owe you five bucks.

That's all I can manage for now. I owe you all an update on Listeners' Series Vol. VI and will be sure to post it soon. Until then - thanks for supporting the music!!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Jazz is my Favorite Teacher: Listeners' Series Vol. V

Everytime I dig into jazz I learn something new - about music, musicians or even about my friends and myself. Listeners' Series Vol. V started out as one show, then morphed into two shows with the goal of comparing bandleaders, and ended up being two and a half shows so different they can't even really be compared. In typical jazz fashion, the end result was not what I expected, but wonderful nonetheless. Please indulge me while I share what jazz has taught me over the past couple of days...

(Note: I am having trouble posting photos here but you can find some on my website.)

Night the first: Tony Inzalaco Quintet at Charlie O's
On Monday, July 31, Tanya Finks, Jennifer Miele, David Reinhold and I converged upon Charlie O's in the temperate San Fernando Valley to hear the Tony Inzalaco Quintet. Tony is a great drummer and bandleader in the bebop style and I was excited to get a chance to hear him again and share his music with my friends.

Tony Inzalaco – Drums, Bandleader
Theo Saunders – Piano
Chris Colangelo – Bass
Nolan Shaheed – Trumpet
Benn Clatworthy – Tenor Sax

Lessons Learned at Charlie O's

  • All of the players in the sextet are bandleaders in their own right - which suggests that they are very controlled players. No steamrolling or showboating - just great jazz.
  • Jennifer Miele is already running 9 miles in her training group for the AIDS marathon.
  • The tune "Quadruple Bypass" is structured to the chord changes of "I Got Rhythm". Those who joined the Jazz Tasting at the Tramp House would've gotten a kick out of that.
  • Tony chews Juicy Fruit or Big Red when he plays. Furiously. And it works for him.
  • When Tanya Finks laughs, the rest of the world wants to laugh too, regardless of why she's laughing.
  • If you sit at the piano bar at Charlie O's, it's really loud. Sitting at the "regular" bar is a better way to go.
  • Dave Ameele is a funny guy. A local drummer who went to check out Tony's band, he remarked, "This is the kind of music that makes you think these guys are gonna pack up their gear in a station wagon after the show and drive to Cleveland." Note to non-jazz fans out there - that's high praise.
  • Tony Inzalaco's drumming is quintessential bebop - driving, punctuating, harmonic, amazing.
  • As much as I love to hear fresh interpretations of standard jazz tunes, I am shifting toward enjoying original music tremendously - Tony wrote all of the songs they played at the show and they were fantastic!

Night the second, Part I: Tamir Hendelman Trio
The next night, Tuesday, August 1, David Reinhold, Jenny Stentz and I found ourselves at Hollywood and Highland. My intention was to compare Tony Inzalaco's quintet with the Jeff Hamilton Trio, since they are both led by drummers, but a last minute subsitution meant that we were going to hear the Tamir Hendelman Trio instead (piano-led). I've joked in the past about taking bribes to feature artists but as I work on this series it becomes obvious that the musicians maybe don't want to pay to have us show up at a gig, snap photos, and give our unadulterated opinion on their performance. So - I gave Tamir $5 to let us feature him again.

Tamir Hendelman – Piano, Bandleader
Christoph Luty – Bass
Dean Koba - Drums

Lessons Learned at Hollywood & Highland

  • Depending upon how far away from the stage you are, you cannot hear yourself think, much less hear the band. So if you go to Hollywood and Highland, try not to think.
  • I don't think I've ever seen Tamir without a tie until now.
  • David Reinhold and Jenny Stentz are two of the most politically and culturally informed young people I've ever met - I feel smart listening to them talk.
  • Dean Koba is a delicate yet authoritative drummer who could quite possibly be the happiest person on the face of the earth. He never stopped smiling once all night. And not in a scary way.
  • Either I'm following Dave Ameele around or he's following me, because this evening made 2 nights in a row that our paths crossed.
  • Christoph Luty's arco bass style is incredible - strong and precise yet warm and inviting.
  • My arch nemesis (insert scary minor chord here) will always be at these Hollywood and Highland shows.
  • Men wearing Bermuda shorts, socks and sandals gravitate toward me.
  • Tamir did an outstanding job leading the trio and keeping the crowd engaged. Oh, and he played his heart out on the piano - high energy with appropriate sensitivity. Great stuff.

Night the second, Part II: John Pisano's Guitar Night

9:00 p.m. rolled around and after snapping a couple of photos with the band and catching up, I was still not feeling like my jazz jones had been satisfied. Dave Ameele mentioned that he was heading out to Spazio for Guitar Night, and since my energy gas tank still had a couple of gallons left, I hopped in the car and drove over there. I was able to hear a few tunes at Guitar Night plus catch up for a few with Dave and Bill Selditz, the LA Jazz Society Treasurer.

Doug MacDonald – Guitar
John Pisano – Guitar, Bandleader
Harvey Newmark – Bass
Jack LeCompte – Drums

Lessons Learned at Guitar Night

  • Jack LeCompte was introduced to me as "the only drummer in LA you haven't met yet." Now that I've met them all, I suppose I should start meeting all of the pianists.
  • Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz is yummy - nice oak (but not too much).
  • I totally love jazz guitar. Had no idea.
  • Flip Manne met her husband Shelly when she was a 19-year-old dancer. Just thinking about that makes me smile until my face hurts.
  • When 11:30 p.m. rolls around on a weeknight, I get massively tired and have to go home.

So there you have it - the most recent jazz series and the resulting life lessons. Thanks for letting me share with you, and please join me on a future foray!