During my 40 plus years of writing about jazz of all styles and periods, I have come across many interesting and often-humorous anecdotes,
quotes and tales. Everyone loves quizzes so I decided to create CHOPS, a series of 50 Jazz Trivia Quizzes (20 questions apiece) totaling 1,000
multiple-choice and true/false questions that covers the music’s entire history. CHOPS is available as a PDF file directly from me. It makes a
great gift for your jazz-loving friends and especially yourself. .Just send $25 via Pay Pal to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will E-mail you
CHOPS within a day. It’ll allow you to see if you’re really a jazz expert!
PHIL NORMAN CELEBRATES GREAT JAZZ GROUPS
The Phil Norman Tentet’s latest recording, Then & Now (available from www.mamajazz.com) finds the band paying tribute to a dozen top jazz
groups of prior years. At Catalina’s, the Tentet (which is actually an 11-piece group) performed ten of the selections from the CD plus Carl
Saunders’ original ballad “Friends.” The arrangements (contributed by Geoff Stradling, Scott Whitfield, Christian Jacob, Roger Neumann,
Joey Sellers, Francisco Torres and Kim Richmond) generally started out with an ensemble from the Tentet sounding remarkably close to the
band that made the song famous. After a few choruses, the writing becomes more adventurous with the Tentet displaying its own personality.
For example, “Lullaby Of Birdland” had a quintet with pianist Jacob, guitarist Yarone Levy and Brad Dutz on vibes sounding like George
Shearing, “Take 5” found altoist Rusty Higgins emulating Paul Desmond, and “Line For Lyons” featured Neumann’s baritone and Ron Stout’s
trumpet as Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. Displaying plenty of variety within 1950s and ‘60s jazz, the Phil Norman Tentet also paid tribute
to Cal Tjader (“Soul Sauce”), Miles Davis (“So What”), Ahmad Jamal (“Poinciana”), the Modern Jazz Quartet (“Concorde”), Vince Guaraldi
(“Linus & Lucy”), Henry Mancini (“Pink Panther”) and even Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show Band (“Johnnie’s Theme”).
With solos from virtually all of the musicians (which included Stout, Higgins, Neumann, Jacob, Levy, Dutz, trombonist Alan Kaplan, a few
outstanding flights by trumpeter Carl Saunders and a feature for the leader’s tenor), the Phil Norman Tentet put on an impressive show. Their
CD is well worth acquiring.
Drummer Jason Harnell’s trio Joeless Shoe originally received its name, partly as a play on Shoeless Joe Jackson and partly as a way of
showing that the group did not feature their good friend keyboardist Joe Bagg. However at the Baked Potato, the band (which also includes
tenor-saxophonist Matt Otto and guitarist Jamie Rosenn) was actually joined by Joe Bagg!
The addition of Bagg on keyboards (where he often sounded like an organist) resulted in the group swinging harder than usual while being as
explorative as ever. The interplay between the four musicians was always intriguing, colorful and inventive. Otto sounded relaxed no matter
what the tempo and his brand of thoughtful improvising was a bit reminiscent at times of Warne Marsh. Rosenn never played the predictable,
Harnell came up with many unexpected ideas, and Bagg was clearly inspired by the other musicians. They began their performance with
some melodic free improvising that eventually became “I’ll Remember April.” Other pieces included a blues in 6/4 time (that alternated bars
of 4/4 and 2/4), Thelonious Monk’s “Eronel,” an original that was similar to “Well You Needn’t,” a humorous version of “In A Little Spanish
Town,” and Harnell’s spirited “Fat & Sassy.” All in all it was a stimulating evening of creative jazz.
Jason Harnell, who performs at the Baked Potato on a monthly basis, leads a different band each time. A personable spokesman and a very
musical drummer, he was at his best with Joeless Shoe even if the name of the group ended up being false advertising!
CHICK COREA’S ELEKTRIC BAND
Chick Corea’s Elektric Band was most active during 1986-91 but it has had several notable reunions since. At Catalina’s it performed 16 shows
in 8 nights, all of which were sold out. Corea is one of the few jazz artists of his stature and popularity to still enjoy playing clubs.
Utilizing the most famous lineup of the group, with bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl, altoist Eric Marienthal and guitarist Frank
Gambale, Corea mostly performed updated and extended versions of songs from the band’s earlier days. Corea always displayed more of a
distinctive personality on keyboards than most of his contemporaries and his playing was a joy throughout the set. Patitucci was virtuosic
while Marienthal and Gambale took fine solos of their own. Weckl was a powerful force in pushing the lead voices.
There were two surprises during the night. One was that the ensemble performed Jimmy Heath’s boppish “C.T.A,” giving it a funky
treatment. The other was that near the end of the set, the great flutist Hubert Laws (who Corea has known since the early 1960s) sat in for
“Windows” That performance was so outstanding (and a bit touching) that it was the highpoint of the night.
It seems impossible that the energetic and youthful Chick Corea is now 75.
Polly Gibbons, who is in her early thirties, was born and raised in the United Kingdom. To celebrate her Many Faces Of Love CD for the
Resonance label, she was featured at a Sunday brunch at Catalina’s. Accompanied by an 11-piece band that included seven horns, Ms. Gibbons
displayed a powerful voice, a bluesy style, versatility and a sound of her own. Among the soloists who assisted her were Bob Sheppard on
soprano and clarinet, trombonist Andy Martin and, on a few numbers, pianist Tamir Hendelman.
However the focus throughout was on the singer. Polly Gibbons was at her best on ballads where her interpretations were quietly expressive,
most notably “Don’t Explain” and “Wild Is The Wind.” Other highlights included “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,” Bill Cunliffe’s modern
arrangement of “Basin Street Blues,” and “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart.” Some of the other material found Ms. Gibbons and the band
overpowering each other due to the overly loud sound.
At this point in time, Polly Gibbons has the potential to be a fine jazz vocalist, a dramatic cabaret singer, an interpreter of high-powered pop
music or all three. It will be interesting to follow her future direction.
Kat Parra has long been an excellent singer who blends jazz with music from Latin and South America. Based in Northern California, she made
a rare L.A. appearance at the E-Spot. Joined by pianist Murray Low, saxophonist Masaru Koga, bassist Jonathan Pintoff, and drummer Daniel
Foltz, she celebrated the release of her recent CD Songbook Of The Americas. Ms. Parra sang in both Spanish and English, performing a
Latinized “Four,” (which had her lyrics), Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave,” (which with her lyrics was renamed “Wouldn’t It Be Sweet”), “Till
There Was You,” “Mambo Italiano” and a variety of songs that were mostly written by female composers including “Iko Iko,” “Besame Mucho,”
and “Please Do Something.” The singer’s beautiful voice and the solos of Low and Koga (who was mostly heard on flutes and soprano) made for
an enjoyable evening. Kat Parra’s singing, which could be as dramatic as opera or quite light-hearted, always held the crowd’s attention. One
hopes that she returns to Los Angeles more often.
Maryanne Reall is always a delightful singer with a sweet voice and an obvious love of jazz. After several years off the scene, she has recently
made a comeback. At the Bar Fedora in downtown L.A, she was joined by keyboardist Mark Massey and bassist Richard Simon. After an
instrumental “Joy Spring,” Ms. Reall performed such numbers as “What A Difference A Day Makes,” “I’m Old Fashioned,” “You Go To My
Head” (which concluded with a nice long note), a playful “Embraceable You,” “St. Louis Blues” (altering the lyrics a bit to make it “L.A.
Blues”), “Exactly Like You” (which featured a bowed bass chorus by Simon), “Don’t Explain” and “He’s A Tramp.” She sang “Autumn Leaves”
in French and finished the set by welcoming Cathy Segal-Garcia to duet with her on a joyful version of “I Love Being Here With You.” It was a
fine evening of jazz standards, making one glad that Maryanne Reall has returned to the scene.
The Los Angeles Jazz Institute will be presenting a four-day tribute to Stan Kenton during Nov. 2-5 at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel – LAX.
Music from all of the Kenton bands from a 40-year period will be brought to life with performances by the Bill Holman Orchestra, Frank Capp,
Carl Saunders, Peter Erskine, Jiggs Whigham, Kim Richmond, Jack Saunders, Jack Costanzo, Mike Vax and the Four Freshmen among others.
November is filled with great jazz events. Catalina Bar & Grill hosts Poncho Sanchez (Nov. 4-5), Betty Bryant’s Birthday Bash Brunch (Nov. 6)
and the Ron Carter Trio with Russell Malone and Donald Vega (Nov. 30-Dec. 3). The Jazz Bakery presents the Hubert Laws Quintet (Nov. 4)
and pianist Matt Savage (Nov. 6) while the E-Spot features the Andrea Balestra Trio (Nov. 8), Axiom (Nov. 22), and Louie Cruz Beltran (Nov.