Friday, August 31, 2012

Herbie Hancock Celebrates Peace - LA Weekly

Herbie Hancock Celebrates Peace
Hollywood Bowl

Better than...ignoring war in Tampa.

Let's get this out of the way early: I like peace. Obtaining peace and air conditioning are my two highest priorities these days and peace is winning by a mile. I also like pianist Herbie Hancock. He's a jazz treasure who happens to live in town and has been the creative chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the last couple of years. Last night, however, Mr. Hancock and a crew of unbelievably gifted bandleaders took to the Hollywood Bowl stage for a night of confusion that left their message of peace a little muddled.

The evening opened with a brief set by harmonica player Gregoire Maret's quartet. I prefer my harmonica players to be sweating and swathed in denim, but Maret was dressed all in white and supported by a bank of synthesizers. His set veered on the edge of new age several times, but was luckily reeled in by drummer Clarence Penn's muscular, jarring thump. Maret closed with a bit of energy, bouncing on his toes in an unhinged display of intensity that balanced out the previous swirl.

After intermission the headliners approached the stage to near silence. In the shadows were an amazing cast of legends: saxophonist Wayne Shorter, electric bassist Marcus Miller, acoustic bassist Dave Holland, drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, tablist Zakir Hussain, guitarist Carlos Santana and a host of others. It was a Guitar Center's Noah's Ark assembled on stage, two of each kind of instrument.

The group opened with a meandering "Ode to Joy." A feel of anticipatory dread rolled over the synthesized strings. The band eventually segued into the Mongo Santamaria jazz standard "Afro Blue." It was immediately clear that this large group of jazz legends was going to be visibly led by the billed "special guest" Santana, as his chopped phrasing took the tune in a direction Wayne Shorter seemed unlikely to go. Several times during the tune Shorter wet his reed before stepping away from the microphone as the band continued to churn, looking for direction.

Wayne Shorter should be a headliner on the Hollywood Bowl stage. Herbie Hancock should be a headliner. Marcus Miller was already a headliner this summer and Dave Holland should have been a headliner as well. Instead, this group of leaders often found themselves unsure of themselves. If a solo voice didn't speak up, the unmistakable sound of Santana's guitar leapt from the speakers.

Throughout the set I had to look to the screens to figure out why the crowd was clapping. It wasn't in response to the music, but likely instead to the gestures of the behatted Santana who was attempting to find order among these giants.

It's unclear how this led to a message of peace but...

...there were a few moments of excitement scattered across the evening. Hancock strapped on a keytar for a little while, Holland took a brief but immense solo on the "Love Theme" from Spartacus, and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, who mostly stayed out of the way through the set, offered a bombastic take on Milton Nascimento's "Ponta De Areia."

The night before I had heard saxophonist Kamasi Washington's two drum/two bass/two keyboard ensemble at the Echo. That powerhouse group worked through three sweat-drenched sets of head-bobbing, toe-tapping intensity. There wasn't the level of ego or expectation attached to that band and they shined mightily into the early hours. If only Herbie's band could have tapped into that unbridled energy. Then we would be in a position to make some progress against those less peaceful.

Personal bias: I believe that Wayne Shorter is one of America's greatest living composers.

The crowd: Peaceful.

Random Notebook Dump:
Persistent clouds of weed smoke made for a mellow crowd.

Herbie Hancock @ LA Weekly

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Esperanza Spalding & Anita Baker - LA Weekly

I came into last night's show expecting more from Esperanza Spalding and less from Anita Baker. The audience was clearly prepared for something else. Last night, in what amounted to a generational battle of stage-craft and radio-friendly grooves, Baker may have held on to her title with help from the 14,000 ticket buyers at the Hollywood Bowl: what Baker lacks in innovation and funk she more than makes up for in humble charm.

Grammy-winning bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding opened the evening with her 11-piece band. The crew, which consisted of a rhythm section and a fair amount of horn players, featured a bandstand straight out of LL Cool J's touring closet. An oversized boombox corralled the swinging crew who had a few moments to shine during the hour-long set. Spalding, in a white jumpsuit, fronted on both electric bass and upright. Through it all she was a delicate presence on the mic, fluttering between guttural soul and bird-like flights.

The second tune of the set, "Hold On Me," featured an extended display of her upright bass chops; she was singing in harmony with the stringed beast. "Crowned and Kissed" featured a listen-up-girls kind of talk before evoking some serious soul from a kingly riff from the horn section, while Wayne Shorter's "Endangered Species" invoked a true jazz legend. Igmar Thomas offered a dark trumpet solo which was the furthest out the evening would get.

Spalding finished with "Radio Song," a pleasurable groove that would make a fine accompaniment to an animated pinball on Sesame Street. She closed by trying to get the audience to sing along to probably one of the most complicated phrases ever presented to a crowd of picnickers. The audience seemed kind of uninterested, anticipating Baker, which made a difficult task for Spalding even harder. As the tune died out she slowly walked offstage, playing her wireless electric bass to an adequate ovation from the crowd.

After a lengthy break, Anita Baker brought the quiet storm. During her set, a projected background cycled through floating stars, glistening waters and puffy clouds. The world's largest screensaver in full effect.

Surprisingly, Baker played her biggest hit "Sweet Love" as her second tune of the set. The crowd went wild, as they would throughout the night. Much of her set sort of blurred into similar sounds that were radio-friendly and inoffensive. The drums pummeled, the synthesizers gently mimicked soft horns and the pianist over-worked the piano.

At one point, Baker thanked Spalding, referring to her as being from the 21st century. Baker herself was clearly helping the audience to relive much of the late 20th. Her voice is still strong and her visible exhaustion was endearing to a crowd that roared at virtually every song she played. She seemed downright giddy to be on the stage, offering up a Vegas-ready program to the enthusiastic crowd.

It wasn't easy for me to differentiate songs. I could have easily inserted the "Sweet Love" chorus at any point in the evening. The set was also peppered with a few guests. Tamia strutted in impossible heels to "Rapture" while Lalah Hathaway joined her for "Angel," bringing their own dose of 21st century soul.

In the end, Baker displayed the importance of showman-ship as well as a having a supportive fan-base. Spalding will inevitably be headlining the jazz series when my generation is old enough to afford the box seats and grumpy jazzbos like myself will have to resist the pull of the quiet storm in the meantime. When the day comes that I can afford a bottle of Clicquot and some tea lights, some young talented musician will open for Spalding and not get the attention she may deserve.

It's just a cycle, kid. Give it a few decades.

Personal Bias: I wanted to review this show in order to see Spalding on the big stage. Baker was someone I was going to watch due to the logistics of stacked parking.

The Crowd: People who are proud of their collection of cassettes. Plus Clint Eastwood.

Random Notebook Dump:
It's kind of funny that half of the most expensive seats at the Hollywood Bowl are designed to put the audience member with their back to the stage for a proper dining experience. It's also kind of funny how many people choose to keep it that way throughout much of the night.

Spalding & Baker @ LA Weekly

Friday, August 17, 2012

Long Beach Funk Fest preview - OC Weekly

Downtown Long Beach has been presenting some great shows this summer. They really know their audience and this Saturday should uphold that record with the fourth annual Long Beach Funk Festival. There are some funky veterans appearing this weekend including Motown guitar legend Dennis Coffey and a few witnesses to the hey day of both Sly & the Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic. Ten hours of sweaty, sweaty funk. Here are a few bands to look out for.

Dennis Coffey
"Gimme that Funk" from 1975

Guitarist Dennis Coffey is of the funky generation that managed to unlock an incredible amount of secrets from the electrified guitar. Much like guitarist Skip Pitts in Memphis, or Phil Upchurch and Pete Cosey in Chicago, Coffey took the guitar beyond just a string nailed to a board introducing new textures to Detroit as a member of Motown's Funk Brothers. Can't miss the man who put the psychedelic in the Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack."

Bootsy Girls

"Stand Tall" from 2011

Bootsy Collins, the star-eyed, cartoon-voiced, bass shredder will not be appearing at the festival, but he does have a franchise band thriving on his endorsement. The Bootsy Girls have a sound that grabs from every decade of funk, from the background party vocals of Sly & the Family Stone to the crisp guitar backing of Prince. Sisters Sallye and Tamah roll on a R&B wave of empowerment and the occasional saxophone solo. This funk carries a bit of a breeze.

The Family Stone
"Hot Fun in the Summertime" from 1969

With Sly Stone proving himself, how should we say this, unreliable in the last thirty years, other members of Sly & the Family Stone have carried on to keep the essence of one of the greatest bands of the late 1960s, regardless of genre. Original drummer Gregg Ericco, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson and saxophonist Jerry Martini have been punctually taking the message around the globe, bringing that unique blend of rock, funk, and doo-wop that made Sly & the Family Stone so electrifying in the first place.

"Do You Want My Love" from 2011

Despite the fact that the Neville Brothers are currently on a farewell tour, they don't seem to age. That changes when you realize honey-voiced Aaron has a 52-year-old son. Ivan Neville, Aaron's son, has carried on in the family business. His band Dumpstaphunk has a sort of jam band soaked in New Orleans humidity. You want funk? How about TWO electric bass players? This band is loaded with low-end and not afraid to wield it.

Brides of Funkenstein
"Amorous" from Funk or Walk (1978)

The Brides of Funkenstein lent their voices to Parliament records, Eddie Hazel's amazing solo album Games, Dames and Guitar Thangs and managed to put out a few of their own bratty dance floor favorites. That was only after they served as background vocalists for Sly & the Family Stone. Dawn Silva is leading this polygamous afterlife now. Don't mess with these girls.

Funk Fest @ OC Weekly

Sara Gazarek talks "Blossom & Bee" - LA Weekly

When jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek first arrived in Los Angeles from Seattle slightly more than a decade ago, she had a tight sense of swing and a demure set of pipes. She was a little unprepared for the expectations of a formal jazz education at USC.

"I remember being really embarrassed when I didn't know some basic theory elements," she says. While many student vocalists never feel it necessary to learn the musical language, Gazarek buckled down in order to earn the respect of her peers. Now only eight years out of college, she's leading the jazz choir at her alma mater and has compiled a diverse new album of lilting swing entitled Blossom & Bee.

We spoke with her recently at Little Tokyo's Far Bar, where she arrived fashionably radiant and equipped with a MacGyver-like ability to steady tables with sugar packets. "It was important for us not to rush into anything," she notes of her band, which features Josh Nelson on piano, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Zach Harmon.

When Palmetto Records came calling last year, the group set off for rural Pennsylvania to record at Maggie's Farm, a converted 18th-century stone barn. The result was a dozen tracks, including Ben Folds' "The Luckiest," a few original tunes and a handful of standards associated with vocalist Blossom Dearie.

"I wouldn't say this is a tribute record," Gazarek says. "But a lot of tunes in our book came from Blossom." Dearie -- an inimitable interpreter of the American songbook -- had a squeaky, feminine chirp that differs from Gazarek's slender tone, but the two are connected by an abundant and natural playfulness. "I'm not a super-gymnastic vocalist," she goes on. "I really try to identify with the tune and the lyrics and find a way to bring my own story to it. There is a simplicity to Dearie but also an unwavering musicality that I get a lot of inspiration from."

The tunes are entirely dedicated to telling stories, and well-worn standards like "Tea for Two" and "I'm Old Fashioned" get a unique reworking, playing gently with the sense of time.

Meanwhile, as Gazarek gets comfortable at the front of her USC classroom, she's helping other youngsters make their way amid a cast of legendary jazz professors.

"You can't teach kids things that you aren't invested in," she says. "I'm teaching them songs I would want to learn, like Kurt Elling and Esperanza Spalding."

Sara Gazarek @ LA Weekly

Jonathan Karrant Talks Vocalists - OC Weekly

Audio clips can be found on the link below.
Jazz vocalist Jonathan Karrant moved to the West Coast a little over five years ago from the Ozarks. He's become a fixture in San Diego ever since, crooning his lanky tunes, missing only a martini and a cigarette for the ultimate ring-a-ding-ding feel. He is a straight-forward, unadorned interpreter who has formed his style from the far-flung corners of the vocal field.

"I'm known for digging up a lot of tunes that are not your typical standards," says Karrant. "I throw in a few crowd pleasers but I like finding tunes that are obscure. Songs like "Don't Misunderstand" or "May I Come In?" or "Drinking Again" have only been recorded two or three times." Karrant spoke with us about a few of those far-flung influences. If you like where he's coming from, you'll want to check him out at Spaghettini in Seal Beach this Sunday, August 19.

Johnny Hartman
I think his album with Coltrane is probably one of the best jazz albums ever. He is mostly known for being a ballad singer. He didn’t record a lot of the Fly Me to the Moon kind of stuff that has been recorded 10,000 times.

Little Jimmy Scott
He’s kind of a singer’s singer. I know that Elton John and Diana krall have a lot of respect for him. When he was younger and becoming popular, he helped changed the way people do their phrasing. He’s turned me on to some tunes I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for him like “My Mother’s Eyes” and “Slave to Love.”

Etta Jones
Etta Jones just has a cool easy breezy blues. She’s definitely a blues singer. She has a rough kind of Billie Holiday voice but I guess most of her tunes are just easy to hear and have a kind of slow swing going on. I guess I just like the blue notes she sings.

Mose Allison
He is another singer’s singer. I know Diana Krall has recorded a ton of his tunes. He’s got clever lyrics and a great sense of humor. My top Mose tune would be “Fool’s Paradise.” My mother turned me on to that one. He comes from a blues background and a southern kind of feel. It’s a different place than a jazz background. I got to meet him and hang out with him. We share some stories. He had a cool laidback sense about him. He had a nice laugh.

Freddy Cole
Freddy Cole has some tunes I don’t think anyone else has done. “Correct Me If I’m Wrong” etc.  He’s another guy that is just cool, laidback. I think his voice is easy on the ear as far as a singer goes.

John Pizzarelli

John pizzarelli’s arrangements are extraordinary. A tune I like a lot is called “All Too Soon.”  They are just so clever. He’ll take “St. Louis Blues” and sing “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” over it. I’ve seen him perform live and I had no idea where the arrangements would go next. I think I requested “Beautiful Moons Ago” when I saw him.
Jonathan Karrant @ OC Weekly

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Antibalas Live - Echoplex

The Echoplex

Better than...outrunning the delirious coyotes in my neighborhood.

I was asked more than once leading up to last night's Antibalas show, "Why would you listen to a band that sounds so much like Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti when they could just listen to one of his recordings?" As loud as you may crank the Fela at home, it will sound exactly the same every time you listen to it. New York's Antibalas, up to 14 members strong, put on a two hour show at the Echoplex last night heavily indebted to the ghost of Fela, but with a free-wheeling unpredictability. Antibalas isn't a cover band. Consider them meticulous carriers of an Afrobeat message that has never been more popular in America than it is now.

The evening started with local heroes Very Be Careful. The five-piece band is a bit of a retro act themselves, dealing in a traditional Columbian cumbia sounds but with a personalized air of menace. "I've been kicked out of seven of the last ten places we played," announced accordionist Ricardo Guzman. "I'm hoping for eight." Between their close, biting harmonies and intimate acoustic set-up (upright bass, vocals, percussion and accordion) the band taunted the demure crowd by playing another five songs after each song. It would be great to see them in a setting where the audience gave as much as they got, but this wasn't the night.

Antibalas came out and stretched across the entire stage, 14 musicians fighting for enough space to saunter left and right, forward and back. The sheer force of this band is enough to warrant a listen. Twenty-three dollars for a ticket seemed a little steep, and it seemed enough to keep the crowd fairly sparse, filling in near the front of the stage but leaving enough room for a roller rink at the back.
The band opened with a strong, popping instrumental before lead vocalist and conguero Duke Amayo took over, offering the audience his L.A. love. Amayo was a great frontman for this blazing orchestra, and he seemed to relish every minute in front of them.

The group worked throughout their 14 year catalog with particular attention to their self-titled album released last week, providing gnarly horn solos from the right side of the stage. Trombonist Aaron Johnson and tenor saxophonist Stuart Bogie physically communicated the direction of their solos with the full extent of their shoulders and knees, giving 100% from their lungs. This must be one of the few touring bands where the horn section is hoarse from all the shouting they do throughout the set. The horn-men never stopped wailing or yelling or dancing or bouncing.

On the other side of the stage, the rhythm guys kept a disturbingly even balance. Keyboardist Victor Axelrod provided numerous snake charmer turns on his keyboards while guitarists Luke O'Malley and Marcos Garcia stayed cool as cucumbers with their intricately woven parts.

The audience were a steaming mass of bodies bouncing along to the horn section and basking in every funky breakbeat that came their way. The band is a relentless party machine and Fela hasn't been on this planet for over 15 years. Someone has to keep the party going and Antibalas is up to the task. They have a faithful devotion to their predecessors, flawless stage presence, and a willingness to swig beer throughout the set - what more could you ask?

Personal Bias: Considering how much jazz I write about here, how could I oppose the concept of a retro band?

The Crowd: Probably the most diverse crowd I've seen in L.A. in awhile. Anyone with the ability to dance had a pretty good chance of getting laid.

Random Notebook Dump: That "Colonel Sanders in a g-string" painting hanging by the soundboard will haunt my dreams.

Set list:
Dilo Como Yo
Dirty Money
Him Belly
Rat Race
Ja Joosh
No Buredi
Opposite People

Antibalas @ LA Weekly

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Central Avenue Jazz Festival - DownBeat

On July 28–29, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival occupied a freshly paved strip of nearly forgotten jazz history south of downtown Los Angeles. Central Avenue was the epicenter of the L.A. jazz scene from the 1920s until the mid-’50s, rivaling New York’s 52nd Street in its heyday. These days nearly all of that history has been bulldozed except for the prestigious Dunbar Hotel, which once played host to touring musicians such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. The free, 17th-annual festival was held in the shadow of the Dunbar, with a block-long tent offering shade to the 30,000 estimated attendees over the course of the weekend.

Saturday featured a headlining performance by the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. The ageless bandleader is a veteran of the original L.A. jazz scene and was an essential contributor to the great oral history Central Avenue Sounds, released in the late 1990s.

On Sunday, vocalist Ernie Andrews defied his 84 years, appearing downright giddy for much of his early set. His seven-piece band—which included trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez, saxophonist Richie Cole and trombonist George Bohannon—swung through a set of standards as the crowd dug into their picnics. Andrews was playful with the crowd, giving a spot-on impression of Jimmy Rushing, and he even got some of the ladies swooning when he dug into a low baritone voice. He closed his set with a gospel-infused version of James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain” that blended genres and cultures.
Later in the afternoon, trombonist Phil Ranelin offered up a deep, modally driven set that was unfortunately mired by a muddy sound mix. Nonetheless, multi-reedist Pablo Calogero provided fiery jaunts on both bass clarinet and flute while Ranelin offered his own brassy wail on tracks from his latest release, Perseverance.

Conguero Poncho Sanchez played the festival’s final set on Sunday night. His lively band, which included pianist Andy Langham and trombonist Francisco Torres, brought up the heat immediately to make up for an extended sound check that at times had the agitated crowd chanting, “Poncho! Poncho!” He opened with the Torres-penned “Promenade,” getting not only the audience on their feet but driving councilwoman Jan Perry and emceess James Janisse and Jose Rizo into their own little boogaloo behind the grooving band. The eight-piece band—always a reliable show closer—didn’t disappoint.

Central Avenue @ DownBeat

Grandaddy Review - LA Weekly

Henry Fonda Theatre

Better than...
drinking $8 Pabsts at home.
Up until the last week, the Grandaddy quintet had not performed on stage together in six years. How many bands have come and gone since that time? How many bands will form and break-up before Grandaddy returns to Los Angeles after last night? Based on the crowd of hardcore devotees, few were willing to wait to again hear Jason Lytle and his band of Central Valley thumpers.

The evening opened with a 40 minute set from local rockers Earlimart. The four-piece, stretched out shoulder-to-shoulder across the stage, trading instruments and riffs in front of a monochrome projector screen. Their set was loose and rocking until they closed with a ballad. Lead singer Aaron Espinoza promised to vacate the stage so he could make way for Grandaddy.

A half an hour later Grandaddy entered fully embracing the reunion idea. The "Welcome Back Kotter" theme was slowly disemboweled over the PA as the Grandaddy logo, a riff on John Deere, fluttered on the backdrop. The projector was the sixth member of the band during the show, providing images of van accidents, cats fighting dogs and dystopian landscapes. The band approached the stage to cheers from the crowd and launched into "El Caminos in the West," their poppiest offering of the night.

The band looked little changed from their last jaunt together. Aaron Burtch, the burly beat-keeper, glued his beard on for the tour while Jim Fairchild offered the closest thing to guitar pyrotechnics, swinging his right arm and often singing away from his microphone. Keyboardist Tim Dryden hung in the back while bassist Kevin Garcia seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, taking as many pictures from the stage as audience members were taking of him.

Lytle, dressed in an "Over the Hill" t-shirt, was playful throughout the night, trading jokes with folks in the audience. His jab at the "dudes" in the crowd was followed by a goofy British and German impression. "I'm not that unrefined," he claimed. "I have a passport."

"Crystal Lake" was performed in a chunkier manner than the original on the band's 2000 album Sophtware Slump. Fairchild laid hard into the tune, making for the biggest sing-along of the night. "Chartsengrafs," from the same album, also got a heavier bend to it, with Burtch flipping his hat for maximum flexibility. His unbelievable sense of time is an unwavering anchor for the band.

The pummeling "AM 180," Grandaddy's most beloved tune across the pond, ripped the 8-bit keyboard part to shreds, providing unadulterated rock for the otherwise motionless crowd. They closed out the night with a shimmering rendition of "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot." In the breaths between parts of the song, the audience was completely silent, listening intently. As the band built to a floor-shaking assault, the crowd cheered over Lytle's droning synths.

Although they didn't hint at any new material in the works or why they had decided to re-form, it was just nice to hear them play the old jams again. When the band splintered following their break-up, it seemed unlikely that they would tour anymore. Their time together was a bit of a cautionary tale: Lytle's songs of technological decay and the Vonnegut-like interaction with "broken household appliances" never got their due in the US and were buried by poorly managed finances. Hopefully this return to this stage will turn out a little better for everyone.

The Crowd: Lots of plaid and trucker hats that folks probably dug out of their closets from the last time Grandaddy made the rounds.

Personal Bias:
I once saw Grandaddy play in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Sacramento over three consecutive nights.

Random Notebook Dump:
The bathroom attendant had a little radio that was playing Guns N Roses and Pink Floyd. He seemed to be enjoying himself. You've got to do something to entertain yourself between stopping people from smoking dope or carving their names in the toilet seats.

Grandaddy @ LA Weekly

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Best Jazz Concerts (August) - LA Weekly

Friday, August 10th
Dale Fielder
Saxophonist Dale Fielder has been honking around Los Angeles for some time now. He has recently gravitated towards the underappreciated majesty of baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. Friday's appearance in front of LACMAs 202 streetlamps will be a preview of his newest album in tribute to Adams' co-led quintet with trumpeter Donald Byrd of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Fielder's long-time rhythm section of Jane Getz on piano, Trevor Ware on bass and Don Littleton on drums could not possibly disappoint.

Sunday, August 12
Tia Fuller
Levitt Pavilion Saxophonist Tia Fuller is a hard-driving composer equipped with a fiery mastery of her horn. Fuller also works as a member of Beyonce's band but she brings an inventiveness and grit that goes beyond the sequins and stilettos. The Levitt Pavillion stage, which has hosted a lot of great Sunday night jazz shows, has mostly focused on local musicians. The New Jersey-based Fuller is a rare treat and the added bonus is that the show is free.

Sunday, August 19th
Gerald Wilson
Catalina Bar & Grill
The 93-year-old Gerald Wilson is a national treasure who has called Los Angeles home for a long time. If nothing else, his inviting stage presence and importance to the history of the genre makes him worth witnessing. The fact that he has one of the baddest big bands in Los Angeles and put out a tremendous Grammy-nominated album last year pretty much seals the deal.

Wednesday, August 22nd
Esperanza Spalding and Anita Baker
Hollywood Bowl
This is kind of a funny show. Spalding, who is making the rounds of her genre-smashing recent release Radio Music Society, is paired up with quiet storm artist Anita Baker. Maybe it isn't so funny. After all, it's two crossover successes who are in command of their sound and vision, trading notes on dominating R&B radio. This is probably a great opportunity for Spalding to reach out to an audience who still actually buy CDs.

Tuesday,August 28th
Kamasi Washington
The Echo
Powerhouse saxophonist Kamasi Washington has been blasting behind countless artists for the last ten years: Snoop Dogg (is it "Snoop Lion" now?), Raphael Saadiq and the aforementioned Gerald Wilson to name just a few. His own band and engaging arrangements have a drive that can raise the temperature of a room by 20 degrees. His appearance at the usually jazz-free Echo is a curious booking that only helps fuel rumors of an upcoming Brainfeeder release. The mind boggles.

Thursday, August 30th
Vardan Ovsepian
Blue Whale
Pianist Vardan Ovsepian is a frequent sight behind the Blue Whale piano. His swinging but delicate touch seems to back a band at least once a week. This performance, however, will be solo. It is a daring and rare occurrence for clubs in L.A. to book a solo pianist but Ovsepian is more than equipped for the task. For a solo show, the demand from the audience can be almost as great as the performer but this one will be well worth the effort for all involved.

Best Jazz @ LA Weekly