Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hesitation Blues #3 - LA Record

Hesitation Blues - #3

With a dearth of good jazz rooms in Los Angeles it is up to the major institutions to fill in some of the blanks for open-minded ears. Sometimes they pull through and sometimes they don’t. But if you comb through enough calendars you can piece together a season’s worth of entertaining veterans as well as handful of jazzbos in the midst of ever-evolving projects. In Keith Richards’ nursing handbook/autobiography Keef goes so far as to describe drummer Zigaboo Modeliste as “one of the best ever”. He may be right. Modeliste’s hard-driving drums provided the support for the Meters from the very beginning thus providing the backbeat for countless hip-hop samples throughout the decades. Although it appears that the Mint has totally given up on the jazz bookings, on January 20th they’ll redeem themselves with a solid funk act.

Disney Concert Hall kicks off the year with two disparate performances starting with Brad Mehldau’s engaging Highway Rider project featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman, two drummers (Jeff Ballard and Matt Chamberlain) and a chamber orchestra on January 21st. The album, produced by wunderkind Jon Brion, is a lush genre-less collaboration that should translate well to the stage with enough brooding to last a lifetime. February 15th sees the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, keepers of the old-school flame, wearing their swinging tuxedos under the direction of the self-appointed arbiter of jazz, Wynton Marsalis. Why doesn’t the LA Philharmonic have their own jazz orchestra? At the Getty spidery ax-master Nels Cline performs a concert on February 5th with his “singers” as well as his lady-friend Yuka Honda. Cline, who has been slinging for Wilco lately, can just as easily summon the murderous shred of John McLaughlin as he can the Allman brothers. Cline’s fleet-fingered pyrotechnics are always worth the trip and this one is free! At Largo Martha Wainwright will perform an entire show of Edith Piaf tunes February 11th and 12th. As Rufus’ kid sister, shouldn’t she be doing an evening of Mickey Rooney routines? Ah, la vie en Melrose.

There are also a few noteworthy events occurring a few miles down the 5. Keely Smith became a household name when she began performing as a sort of Tin Pan Alley Alice to Louis Prima’s red-sauce Ralph Kramden – rolling her eyes and belting her way through riotously charismatic pop tunes. Smith, now in her late 80s, brings her dead-pan bob to the Cerritos Performing Arts Center on February 13th to conjure a little of that very old black magic. The Orange County Performing Arts Center can be one of the most interesting sources for mid-tier touring jazz acts. For awhile there the Center could draw enough tuned in subscribers to sip some chardonnay and see what New York had to offer without having to venture beyond Long Beach. These days the shows aren’t as adventurous but on March 4th Chick Corea and Gary Burton definitely have the potential to transfix with their 40-year history of exhaustingly meticulous arrangements. If you want even older people drinking even older chardonnay you can dig out a few gems at the Newport Jazz Party between February 17 – 20th. Aging young lions Benny Green, Lewis Nash and Eric Reed lead their own ensembles while clarinet sensation Anat Cohen makes a rare appearance outside of downtown New York.

LA Record Issue 102

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