Los Angeles Jazz Scene - Jazz Around Town
                     September 2016
In the summer, Wednesday nights are billed as “Jazz At The Bowl” by the Hollywood Bowl, but many of the concerts are actually more
miscellaneous than jazz. Certainly there was only a little jazz to be heard during “50 Years Of Jeff Beck,” but nevertheless it was a very
musical show. Opening for Beck was the most famous living blues musician, Buddy Guy.  During his 40-minute set, Guy played the blues in a
variety of moods and grooves including ‘Blues In The Night,” “I Was Born To Play The Guitar” and “While You Were Sneaking Out, Somebody
Else Was Sneaking In.” As usual he paid tribute to some of his predecessors including Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Jimi Hendrix.
Knowing that this was a rock audience, Guy played a bit louder than usual, worked hard to get the crowd’s attention, and was typically
humorous at times. At 80, he is still the master of the blues.
Jeff Beck has been one of the most innovative and skilled of all rock guitarists during the past half-century. His lengthy show covered some of
the highpoints of his career. There were three songs from the Yardbirds days, several inventive fusionish explorations with keyboardist Jan
Hammer, and welcome contributions by Beth Hart, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Steven Tyler, and Rosie Oddie along with a return appearance by
Buddy Guy (“Let Me Love You Baby”). Throughout the night which ended with “Purple Rain,” the 72-year old Beck showed that he is still one
of the most vital and exciting guitarists around.
The following Wednesday was billed as “The Ultimate Tribute to Ray Charles.” Opening the night was the Christian McBride Big Band. The
bassist-leader clearly had a good time leading his 17-piece orchestra through such instrumentals as his "Gettin’ To It,” “Broadway,” “Brother
Mister” (a funky tribute to James Brown) and the rapid “In A Hurry.” Phillip Bailey was impressive playing congas and singing, particularly
on “Here’s To Life” and “Red Clay”; the latter showed off his jazz chops. Such soloists as trumpeter Sean Jones, tenor-saxophonist Ran Blake,
altoist Antonio Hart, pianist Xavier Davis and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. plus McBride himself were in excellent form during the wide-ranging
The Ray Charles tribute was a bit of a disappointment. Maceo Parker, famous for playing alto with James Brown, was cast as Ray Charles
himself. He resembled him a bit (wearing dark glasses and dressing like Charles) and was featured as a singer on all but one number. While
Parker did his best to emulate Charles’ tone and phrasing, coming close at times, it made one feel that they were watching a ghost band. The
orchestra had little to do other than read the charts (Rickey Woodard had a few brief spots on tenor), the repertoire was geared more towards
the 1960s than the ‘50s, and the lack of film clips and a historical narrative were unfortunate. Parker only took one solo (on “Hallelujah, I
Love Her So”), there were far too many ballads, and the performances were predictable. Things woke up a bit when three female singers came
out as a new version of the Raelettes, joining in for  spirited versions of “Hit The Road Jack” and “What You Say,” but this well-meaning show
was analogous to seeing the Glenn Miller Orchestra trotting out the old swing hits again. Ray Charles deserves more than to be treated as tired


There is certainly no shortage of recent jazz-related books. The four in this article cover a wide range and are each well worth checking out.
Ted Williams (1925-2009), no relation to the baseball player, was one of the great photographers. Fortunately he loved jazz and took a huge
number of photos of classic jazz greats from the late-1940s into the 1970s. Jazz - The Iconic Images Of Ted Williams (ACC Editions), which
focuses on the 1950s and ‘60s, is a remarkable book. Its 352 pages contain hundreds of black and white photos, most of which are full page and
were taken in Chicago, New York or at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Very few of these photographs have been seen before. Whether it is
Lester Young, Stan Getz (wearing glasses in the 1950s), Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond,
Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Ira Sullivan, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Brown Jr, Dinah
Washington, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross or dozens of others, the chances are very good that jazz fans have not seen these beautiful shots
elsewhere. Other than a couple of introductions totaling 3 pages and some captions, quotes and identifications, there is no text; nor is it needed.
Anyone who is the slightest bit interested in jazz of the 1950s and ‘60s will have to own this very attractive book which is available from www.
Kid Ory is well remembered as one of the pioneers and giants of New Orleans jazz. He set the early standard for trombone, was on timeless
recordings in the 1920s led by King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong (his Hot Five) and Johnny Dodds, and led one of the most
popular New Orleans jazz bands of 1944-60. Because his earliest years took place before jazz was recorded, there has always been an air of
mystery about Ory’s beginnings. Creole Trombone – Kid Ory And The Early Years Of Jazz (University Press Of Mississippi) is the culmination
of a 20-year project by John McCusker. Through diligent research, he has pieced together a well-written narrative that covers Ory’s first
period. One learns new details about Ory’s days as a young multi-instrumentalist who settled on the trombone and his undocumented but
very significant period as a bandleader in New Orleans. Ory’s sidemen during 1910-16 included Oliver and Armstrong, and he helped bring
jazz to Los Angeles during 1916-23. In 1921, Ory’s was the first African-American New Orleans jazz band to record. The book largely ends in
1933, with Ory’s last 40 years summed up in five pages. Those 40 years would make for a great topic for another book but this one is very
complete by itself. Along with the colorful story, McCusker includes the music for a few of Ory’s lost compositions and a selective discography
that stops in 1946. All in all this is a fascinating and important work, available from www.upress.state.ms.us.
Years ago when I interviewed the great tenor-saxophonist Charles Lloyd, it was quite a challenge. Lloyd is very spontaneous in his talking and
he frequently changes subjects enthusiastically in mid-sentence. One has two choices when putting together an article on Lloyd: either piece
together excerpts of his thoughts to make the results more readable or simply let him talk. Josef Woodard, in A Wild Blatant Truth (available
from www.silmanjamespress.com) mostly takes the latter approach and he somehow succeeded in making the biography loosely
chronological. Woodard has known Lloyd for over 25 years and had many interviews to draw upon. This intriguing work covers Lloyd’s early
years in Los Angeles, his periods playing with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley, Lloyd’s very popular late-1960s quartet which
included Keith Jarret, his years off the scene, and his comeback in the 1980s which continues to the present day. There is confusion about
Lloyd’s contributions to the Hamilton Quintet (he was responsible for the drummer changing the group’s sound by replacing the non-
improvising cellist with a trombonist), but otherwise the book seems quite accurate and includes many fresh stories. One just has to accept the
fact that three or four topics are sometimes mentioned in the same paragraph!
Going to New Orleans in the near future to see some jazz? Be sure to pick up The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today by Thomas W. Jacobsen
(available from www.bluebirdpub.com). This compact book includes all of the information one needs about seeing jazz in the Crescent City.
Jacobsen discusses the clubs, the festivals, the historic buildings, Louis Armstrong Park and the current musicians who should be seen. An
excellent reference book that is also worth reading from cover to cover, The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today lives up to its title and is
indispensable for those traveling to jazz’s birthplace.