Friday, July 08, 2011

Hesitation Blues #5 - LA Record

There are 17,376 seats in the Hollywood Bowl. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough jazz fans in Los Angeles to staff the theater let alone pay for a show. Thus the annual Playboy Jazz Festival appeals to the widest swath of jazz fans imaginable. Over two days (June 11th and 12th) the rotating stage will host late night television’s best house band the Roots, elegant pianist Geri Allen, saxophone legend Lee Konitz, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s quintet and the SF Jazz Collective featuring bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland whose contributions to the new James Farm record helped make it one of the more impressive mainstream releases of the year. A little someone for everything. Plus you get to see Bill Cosby dance.

Later in the summer the Bowl will be hosting a jazz tribute to everybody’s favorite chain-smoking Canyon muse Joni Mitchell (August 17th). With a lineup that includes Chaka Khan and Aimee Mann they’ve cast a wide net. Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter balance out the jazz billing with arrangements by drummer Brian Blade. Bound to be a great night of high-quality collaboration or the most pretentious show you’ll see all summer.

For those who like their jazz with less sunburns, Gerald Wilson (still swinging at 92 years old!) will be bringing his orchestra to Catalina Bar & Grill on the Playboy weekend (June 12th). The history of jazz resides in Wilson’s fingertips from his earliest days with Jimmie Lunceford’s band to his arrangements for Ray Charles to his immeasurable influence as a lecturer for five decades. Wilson’s rich harmonies are unmistakable as is his limitless enthusiasm for the sound of music.

In that hellish tourist trap of a mall/church of celebrity known as Hollywood & Highland, KJAZZ will be hosting a free show every Tuesday evening. Amid some of the confident local fare (Barbara Morrison – July 19th, Poncho Sanchez – August 9th) is an appearance by British jazz-rock keyboardist Brian Auger on July 12th. Auger found immense success with the Oblivion Express in the UK but was never able to sell it back to the US at the same exchange rate. A limey legend.

Meanwhile downtown Grand Performances continues its wide-reaching programming with two much deserved tributes. On July 23rd the scattered veterans of Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra will convene at the head of Angels Flight to recognize the 50 year anniversary of the bands formation. Expect plenty of soul from a cross-generational collection of musicians that stretches back to Central Avenue. On August 26th drummer Ndugu Chanceler and pianist Patrice Rushen will pay tribute to Quincy Jones – one of many men that owe a fair amount to Gerald Wilson. Chanceler, a regular fixture on the Los Angeles jazz scene, was the man who laid down the drums on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” while Rushen, who receives a sizable check each year compliments of Will Smith for his use of her 1982 hit “Forget Me Nots”, is an expressive instrumentalist who can swing with the best of them.

(What am I missing here? Hip me to your gig.

LA Record Issue 104

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