Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Angel City Jazz Symposium - DownBeat

The Angel City Jazz Festival has consistently been the best jazz festival in Los Angeles for the last few years. The thoughtful bookings around the city offer compelling and challenging music conveniently squeezed into a pair of October weekends.

This year’s edition augmented the musical performances with an Oct. 11 symposium titled “New Technologies in Jazz and Journalism,” held at the REDCAT Theater. The panel discussion preceded performances by the trio of Jim Black, Tim Lefebvre and Chris Speed and John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet.

Los Angeles-based jazz critic Greg Burk moderated a discussion with four panelists: jazz critic Kirk Silsbee (a longtime DownBeat contributor), flutist Nicole Mitchell (who topped the Flute category in the 2013 DownBeat Critics Poll), film producer John Comerford and keyboardist Adam Benjamin, who was broadcast via Skype from New Orleans on a large projection screen.

The discussion opened promisingly with Mitchell describing her successful virtual concerts with bassist Mark Dresser, pianist Myra Melford and trombonist Michael Dessen held last April. The quartet communed via webcams and performed live, combating the glitches inherent in the technology.

“You have a delay and you are trying to play something that is very in sync,” Mitchell said. “That propels us to compose in different ways. Maybe that latency can be used while the technology is catching up to what we want to do.”

Benjamin, who has participated in several web performances with the group Kneebody, embraced that idea. He said, “The tools that are available at the time are very much steering the creation of the music.” Benjamin cited Herbie Hancock’s career as a great example illustrating the concept that technology can significantly shape one’s artistry.

While the musicians touted the benefits of technology, Silsbee expressed skepticism about the new digital technologies that rapidly share journalism in the modern age. He matter-of-factly recounted a story about how his lack of presence on social media resulted in his loss of paying work for an arts website. “Some of us keep banging our heads against the limitations of the print media,” he said.

The panelists also discussed the dynamics of online debates and arguments. Free social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have made considerable waves in the jazz community recently, serving as digital battlegrounds for writers, listeners and artists. These forums have resulted in global discussions that are both essential (Nicholas Payton’s #BAM movement) and ridiculous (Kurt Rosenwinkel’s comments on Vijay Iyer’s MacArthur fellowship).

Comerford closed by discussing the success he has had in distributing his essential documentary Icons Among Us via technologies new and old. TV broadcasts have given the film tremendous exposure and subsequently broadened the profile of the featured artists.

“You don’t know when you are out there in the world pushing tweets and Facebook posts how it’s really affecting the world, but with social media a little bit more comes back to you,” he noted. Comerford then walked the audience through the film’s online digital archive, which showcased hundreds of minutes of interviews and performances left on the cutting room floor.

The symposium missed an opportunity to highlight one of the most prevalent uses of technology in the jazz world. Considering the topic of the symposium, it seems a shame that the discussion was not broadcast or streamed via the Internet. Failing to take advantage of communication channels can only hurt the jazz scene. 

The fact that fans in Japan can watch a live set at a New York venue on their phone hints at the untapped possibilities for expanding the audience for jazz.

Allen/Carrington/Spalding review - OC Weekly

SJ O'Connell
Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington
Samueli Theater

"Women in jazz." What a sadly overused phrase.
The fact that three African American women from multiple generations playing jazz for a full house is considered a novelty is incredibly unfortunate. Three African American menfrom multiple generations playing jazz for a full house is simply referred to as tradition. But the best-rounded artists from any discipline access all gender roles. A great jazz musician can't have physicality and no sensitivity. A great jazz musician has to be able to play a ballad as well as a burner. When jazz is at its best, gender cannot be detected.
Pianist Geri Allen, bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington all draw from a deep well of technique and emotional dexterity. Although it took a little while, last Saturday, before a sold out crowd at the Samueli Theater, that trio showed a wide emotional range and the ability to demolish any jazz band working today regardless of gender, race, height or hairstyle.
At the start, Spalding's bass was muddy and her bandmates spent a lot of the first tune gesturing at the fourth member of the band: the soundman. A strange sight considering they had already played two sets the day before through the same soundboard. Allen was spacious in melody and solo, but never quite tied any phrases or exhibited much enthusiasm during the first few tunes. Carrington pushed occasionally but rarely did all three members ever appear to break a sweat.

It was Spalding's arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "Virgo" halfway through the set that seemed to wake the band from their slumber. Following a sparse bass solo, Spalding transformed the sound of her instrument into an oversized thumb piano, eliciting a simplistic groove from her repeating phrases. Gradually, Allen took over the phrases, mimicking Spalding's tone and texture. Carrington drove the trio with little more than her hi-hat.
A rendition of Shorter's "Nefertiti" was an equally dazzling performance. Shorter's angular melody bounced around the band. Carrington audibly laughed mid-tune before unleashing percussive ferocity. The band built upon her intensity, inspiring a lot of head bobbing from the audience. Allen sprung to life during her solo, strafing the keyboard with her right hand. As she worked through her performance, she quickly rose from the bench to strike a note, showing a much-welcomed passion.
The trio departed from the Wayne Shorter bag to play Allen's original, "Unconditional Love." A hoot emitted from the crowd, more likely for the concept than the particular tune but by the end, everyone was hooting. Spalding, at least twenty years younger than her bandmates, began the tune singing. It was the first time she had addressed the microphone and what arose was a soulful sweetness that filtered through Mozart's Queen of the Night and into the world of R&B. It was spiritual and pure. She sang slowly, quietly adding the syncopated support of her bass. Allen prodded her with sparse piano while Carrington offered a clacking drive.
Following Allen's bright display, Spalding returned to scat over her own support lines. Even the silly psychedelic projection that had been behind the band was turned off. Spalding mesmerized the crowd with a sound that was genuine and vibrant. A full set of that entrancing sound would have been welcome and when the band finished the tune the audience let her know. She was greeted with a standing ovation.
The trio closed with another Shorter tune, "Infant Eyes." Carrington opened the tune with pummeling mallets that were spacious yet red hot. Following the melody, Allen coated her solo lines in an earnest blues. She embraced the tune and built it up with exuberance. The band restated the theme amid Carrington's cannon fire, placing the unhurried melody in a flurry of excitement.
By that point, the band had gone long. An eager crowd demanded an encore and were met with the house lights. The trio was just warming up for the second set.
Personal Bias: I'd like that psychedelic projection thing if it actually moved.
The Crowd: Women! At a jazz show! Plus the usual dudes and subscribers.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ronnie Spector Preview - LA Weekly

Ronnie Spector: Behind the Beehive
El Rey Theater
October 28th & 29th
Of all the musicians to work with famed producer/convicted murderer Phil Spector, only Ronnie Spector was a full-time prisoner behind his Wall of Sound. The lead singer of the Ronnettes was married to Spector for six years after she topped the charts with songs like Be My Baby and Walking in the Rain in the 1960s. This multimedia recounting of the madness and music will feature a live band as well as home videos featuring friends like John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen. Is there is any better way to hear it "just like Ronnie says" than to see and hear her actually say it?

Disney Hall, Frank Gehry's Gift to Wedding Photographers- LA Weekly

Amy Theilig
The corner of First Street and Grand Avenue.

When the late L.A. Weekly classical music critic Alan Rich gave his grumpy assessment of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in December of 2003, aside from calling out the scalding reflections of the building and positing that the parking garage has better acoustics than the Hall itself, he noted, semi-sarcastically, that "a guard on duty in the garden tells me that this has been a continued success, that crowds push into the lovely space practically all day."
Architect Frank Gehry was probably not prepared for so many of those pushing people to be wearing wedding gowns and carrying thousands of dollars in photographic equipment. Shortly after opening, the Walt Disney Concert Hall -- which marks its ten-year anniversary this week -- became L.A.'s top backdrop for wedding and engagement photos.
Chances are if you have been to a wedding within five miles of downtown Los Angeles, the bridal party made a stop at the corner of First Street and Grand Avenue. On a recent weekend, a guard confirms that more than a dozen bridal parties make their way to the grounds every week, frequently waiting their turn on a busy Saturday afternoon while limos idle anywhere they can find enough red curb.
"I was there twice last week," says wedding photographer Gavin Holt by phone. He and his wife Judy Tran have run Judy & Gavin wedding photography since 2006 and Holt can no longer count the number of times he has taken photos outside of the hall. "The very first place I shot professionally was at Disney Hall."
Judy Tran & Gavin Holt

Gehry's structure is probably one of the most photographed buildings in Los Angeles. Certainly more people take photos of the building than ever set foot inside. After ten years, some people still think the ice capades take place in there. But its wild shapes and sleek modernity are irresistible to the lens.
"Walt Disney Concert Hall is definitely unique for wedding photos," says event photographer Amy Theilig. "You won't find another structure like it in LA. It's not a park and it's not a beach and from a photographer's perspective it is so beautiful. All those lines. You can't get a bad shot there whether you want to shoot low or high."
Disney Concert Hall is located on public property and as long as you don't set up lighting or a tripod, you are free to snap photos. The space has become so popular with large groups that neighboring landmarks have made it quite clear that they have no interest in being a part of your bliss. Says Holt, "The Department of Water and Power and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion are starting to crack down on photography because of the flood of photographers. All it takes is for one rude photographer to bother the wrong people and we all lose."
A dozen photo shoots a week for ten years puts the number conservatively above 6,000. That's a lot of frames. "People are starting to see too many pictures of their friends at the Hall," says Holt. "For the last couple of years the feedback from some of my clients is that people want photos that look like the concert hall but not the concert hall. That's kind of hard to find."
Judy Tran & Gavin Holt
The only other legitimate competitor for the Hall has been LACMA's art installation Urban Light. Also accessible from a major boulevard, Burden's 2008 sculpture consists of 202 towering street lamps and appears to be a requirement for any Los Angeles tourist's Instagram feed. But the sculpture still falls behind Disney Hall.
"Every time we visit a location we try and take a picture we haven't taken before. Because we go to the Concert Hall so often it has become a trial to pull something new out," says Holt. "Photographically, the building is just ridiculously easy to shoot."

Terri Lyne Carrington Preview - OC Weekly

Geri Allen (l), Terri Lyne Carrington (c), Esperanza Spalding (r)
Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington is a tremendous link to the history of jazz. Her grandfather played the traps behind Fats Waller and Chu Berry. Her father, Sonny, was the president of the Boston Jazz Society. She was immersed in the sounds from birth and appears to have paid a lot of attention because for over thirty years she has been at the forefront of modern jazz drumming. Recently, she teamed up with pianist Geri Allen and bassist Esperanza Spalding (Best New Artist Grammy Winner, enemy to all Beliebers) to form the all-star trio ACS.
Carrington is a good mentor for Spalding because she is well familiar with the pressures the jazz world can place on a young, talented woman's shoulders. Carrington was only 11 years old when she nabbed a full scholarship to Boston's Berklee School of Music after playing with legendary pianist Oscar Peterson. She attended the college while balancing her adolescence, committing full-time after graduating from high school. She returned to Berklee in 2003, not quite forty, to receive an honorary doctorate. Spalding was a student at the time, already garnering acclaim for her effortless command of the upright bass, having finished high school at the age of 16.

Bop drummer Max Roach was a major supporter of Carrington when she was getting started. "He was one of my earlier influences. He was a mentor too of sorts. He tried to get me a record deal when I was a kid with Blue Note Records. I was really thrilled and flattered." For her debut as a leader with Polygram records at the age of 24, she called in a few favors, employing jazz giants like Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, Carlos Santana and Grover Washington Jr to fulfill her dreams but the relationship with big-money record labels was not meant to be. A Grammy nomination boosted Carrington's sales but also muddled her self-expression. A follow-up album was recorded but ended up shelved as Polygram tried to turn her into an R&B star. She didn't return to the recording studio as a bandleader for more than a dozen years.
Allen and Carrington go back to the '80s when they both appeared on Shorter's 1988 releaseJoy Ryder. It was Shorter's last record for nearly 10 years but all three artists have been regularly crossing paths lately including sharing the stage at the Hollywood Bowl this summer as part of a yearlong celebration of Shorter's 80th birthday (After all these parties, he must be looking forward to the far less heralded 81.). "We're playing a lot of Wayne Shorter music on this tour," says Carrington calling before leading her band in Las Vegas. "We've been doing some triple bills with him to help celebrate his birthday. In fact, a majority of our set is Wayne Shorter pieces now."
Carrington moved to Los Angeles to become a part of Arsenio Hall's house band in the late '80s and spent the '90s touring in various bands and finding success with vocalist Dianne Reeves. Carrington finally began releasing records under her own name in the 00s, releasing a string of intriguing albums in the last few years including the Grammy-winning Mosaic Project and an homage to the immortal collaboration between Roach, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, Money Jungle from 1963.
Carrington is having the time of her life with performing with this trio. The three of them are an undeniable supergroup, combining some of the most versatile voices in jazz. Allen is a swinging storyteller, Spalding provides her nimble support and Carrington is the propulsive and funky rhythm machine driving trio. "We're having so much fun," she says with a laugh. "It should be illegal."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

World Stage in Danger of Closing - LA Weekly

Sean J. O'Connell
Dwight Trible performs a midnight set
Influential L.A. drummer Billy Higgins was known around the globe; closer to home, he mentored hundreds of local musicians.
His non-profit performance space and workshop the World Stage opened in 1989 and, along with the Vision Theater, quickly became the centerpiece of the Leimert Park arts scene.
But now, 12 years since Higgins' passing of kidney and liver failure, a new landlord has caused a lot of uncertainty, not just for the future of the venue but the identity of the neighborhood.
Higgins opened the World Stage with poet Kamau Daaood, offering writer workshops, jam sessions and poetry nights to the community for little charge. Artists of all disciplines showed up in droves, opening galleries and other cultural meeting spots like Fifth Street Dicks and Babe & Ricky's Inn.
It all helped turn the neighborhood around 43rd Place and Crenshaw Boulevard into what director John Singleton referred to as a "Black Greenwich Village."
Last May, the approval of a Leimert Park metro station for the incoming Crenshaw/LAX line seemed to be further cause for optimism. It took two years of fighting to get the approval for the $40 million investment, but soon afterwards World Stage's owners and their neighbors learned that the building had been sold.
Vocalist Dwight Trible performs regularly at World Stage and is also on its board. He's worried about what's ahead.
"From the cleaners on 43rd to across the park, everybody has been evicted," he says. "The building that the World Stage is in has at least four empty spaces."
He adds that the venue has been moved to a month-to-month lease, and that no one seems quite sure who actually owns the buildings now.

The Weekly couldn't figure it out either; the building is owned by an LLC, Mascot MBA, but the only contact listed on property records is lawyer Richard Teitel, who refuses to reveal the owner's name, and says he no longer represents them. The building's management company, Clint Lukens Realty, was similarly unhelpful in determining the owner or any future plans for the property.
The board's attempts to get help from local councilman Herb Wesson, who recently inherited the neighborhood via redistricting, have been unsuccessful as well.
"This saddens my heart," says saxophonist Charles Lloyd, another World Stage regular. "The arts are the foundation of every civilization and the World Stage is a treasure and a landmark that has set an example for many other community performance spaces around the country."
Bop icon Barry Harris regularly visited from New York and offered master classes, while Branford Marsalis has fondly recalled playing the intimate space with his quartet. The spot's late night jam sessions are open to anyone who can keep up with the 25 choruses unleashed by rising stars like Kamasi Washington and Terrace Martin.
Transportation hubs are seen as beneficial for local businesses, and often lead to real estate development. But in this case the character of the neighborhood seems to be suffering.
"People are talking about a metro rail stop in Leimert Park because it is the mecca of African American arts and culture," says Trible. "There would be none of that stuff going on had it not been for the World Stage."
Adds Lloyd: "Leimert Park is not just any community, it was Billy Higgins' community. He poured his heart and soul into elevating the performance and education platform where he and Kamauu welcomed anyone and everyone."

Jonny Lang's Blues - LA Weekly

Piper Ferguson
Blues phenom Jonny Lang was a day short of sixteen years old when he released his major label debut Lie To Me in 1997. He may not have been old enough to drive, but he had the voice and soulful guitar stylings of a truck driver on the eve of retirement.
His videos played on MTV, he opened for the Rolling Stones and within a couple of years, acquired an appetite for drugs and alcohol that matched his weathered sound. It looked like Lang was going to become a cliche.
Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Lang didn't learn how to play guitar until he was 12 -- but he learned quick. The towheaded slinger rode the crest of the new blues movement in the 1990s, which peaked with the ill-advised feature film sequel Blues Brothers 2000, in which Lang played a guitar-toting custodian alongside soul legends Wilson Pickett and Eddie Floyd. As for his issues with substance abuse? A divine epiphany struck him following the death of his girlfriend's father, and he turned his life around.
He's now 31, his girlfriend is now his wife, and they live together in the Valley with their four children. Speaking at sound check before a show in Germany, Lang speaks of his faith in personal terms. It keeps him grounded, he says, but he's not preachy. And, with his celebrity apex half a lifetime away, Lang is humble, perhaps more than he needs to be.
"I think having kids just has a way of cutting through all the baloney and helps you get down to who you are and what matters in life in general," he says. "A lot of the other stuff falls away just cause you don't have enough energy to keep it going. I think I just stopped caring as much if people were going to be upset if I changed."
His new work is called Fight For My Soul; his last one, 2006's Turn Around topped the Billboard Christian album charts and nabbed the Grammy for Best Gospel Record. Although it was not intended as an expressly Christian album, those messages caught on.
"I think everybody thought that record was what they wanted it to be. All the folks that had heard our music before had thought this is just a little different blues record. It got recognized in the gospel category for some reason at the Grammys which was cool. I was flattered but I never intended for that to happen. But I will take a Grammy any way they'll give it."
Fight For My Soul is a return to the radio-friendly blues/soul sound that first got him attention, but with more focus on his voice than his searing guitar. "The only thing that I tried to do was be really honest in the songs that were coming out of me. I tried to really not be afraid to do that. Even if it's going to be a curveball for someone."
Although he is no longer a blues poster boy, he never stopped working the concert circuit, playing over 100 gigs a year in Europe and the United States. Lang has finally paid the dues so many guitarists grumbled about him lacking 15 years ago.
"There are times when it gets tough, balancing and dealing with being a dad and a husband and doing this for a living. Sometimes it feels like staying at home and figuring things out along those lines would be better. My wife is like 'This is what you do.' She's encouraged me to keep doing this. I still really love it. I love the opportunity that it gives myself and other people out here to affect people's lives in a positive way. That's kind of the key focus for me. If that wasn't happening, if it was just a party music vibe, I don't think I would do it. That chance to be that for somebody is an awesome thing."

Jonny Lang performs at the Saban Theatre this Saturday, October 26th.
Jonny Lang's Blues @ LA Weekly

Monday, October 21, 2013

Eric Garcetti calendar pick - LA Weekly

Kickin' It With EG

The city hasn't been engulfed by flames, the Emmys weren't canceled and the 405 hasn't crumbled to dust (or gotten any slower, as best we can tell), thus Mayor Eric Garcetti has received mostly positive reviews for his first 100 days in office. That's certainly justification for the 222,300 people who voted for him in this city of 3.8 million. The 42-year-old mayor will be making the drive up to Pasadena to take part in a conversation with reporter Frank Stoltze before a live audience to discuss his first few months and the remaining 40-plus months of this term in a conversation titled Mayor Eric Garcetti: Los Angeles Moves Forward. If a second term doesn't pan out, he can always fall back on his newfound side gig with Moby's touring band. 

Garcetti @ LA Weekly

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GO:LA Preview - Michael Chow & Jeffrey Deitch - LA Weekly

Michael Chow & Jeffrey Deitch in Conversation at the REDCAT

If there is one secret to financial success that restaurateur Michael Chow and outgoing MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch probably would agree on, it's the power of quality eyewear. The bespectacled lightning rods have left quite a mark on the art scene. Mr. Chow (of the eponymous restaurant) amassed a sturdy collection of contemporary paintings since selling his first Peking duck in London in 1968, while Deitch sold off a wall's worth of art in 1972 and never looked back. Deitch spent three years running MOCA before recently submitting his resignation after being lambasted for embracing celebrity (in Los Angeles? The nerve!) and inspiring a mass defection from the museum's board. Come see Michael ChowJeffrey Deitch and Steven D. Lavine, president of CalArts, talk about the business of art before they're all run out of town. 

Deitch & Chow @ LA Weekly

What is "Hardcore?" - LA Weekly

My contribution to the debate at what hardcore means in different musical genres. 

Hardcore Jazz
Examples: Albert Ayler, Elliott Sharp, and Tim Berne
Hardcore jazz is generally regarded as the more vicious strain of free jazz that was built upon the work of late 1950s innovators like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. Hummable melodies and swing were replaced by a focus on the potential for tone and the malleability of rhythm and tempo, expanding and contracting beyond a simple 4/4 beat. This often asked a lot of the listener. Rochester City Newspaper columnist Frank DeBlase recently described the music of hardcore jazz saxophonist Tim Berne as follows: "It was just random, screeching note generation with no logic at all. It sounded like a gaggle of geese fucking or an ambulance demolition derby." So, that's, um, another definition. 

David Arnay's "8" - DownBeat

David Arnay
Studio N 06

Pianist David Arnay’s newest release is driven by a premise. With each track, another band mate is added until the album concludes with an octet. There are inherent limitations to this concept. Are better ensemble tracks forfeited in order to keep up the theme? Are musicians added to tunes just for the sake of a headcount? The cutting room floor material will have to wait for another release as Arnay leads his expanding crew through a largely self-penned, straight-ahead set that pleasantly glides along the simple theme.

Arnay opens the album with a swinging solo rendition of the Ellington standard “Caravan,” establishing his piano as the guiding voice throughout the record. There is certainly space for others though as bassist Edwin Livingston gets in a crisp solo on Arnay’s “11/12/11” and saxophonist Doug Webb asserts himself nicely with his introduction on “Step Four.” For more than half of the album, drummer Peter Erskine is a reliable presence but the band’s might does not expand with each added member.

A frictionless rendition of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” with Arnay doubling on piano and synthesizers features an engaging soprano saxophone solo from Webb but feels a little too smooth and removed from the mood established by the rest of the album. A bag of hand percussion employed by Munyungo Jackson does not help. In general, “Giant Steps” should not be paired with chimes.

The band returns to form for the last two tunes, filling out the ensemble with three horns and guitarist Paco Loco. The upbeat “Six of One” churns under Erskine’s drive and pitter-patter solo while closer “Dream Groove” lets the horns play off each other. If the ensemble had stopped at four members, it would have been a more welcoming offering but that concept would have resulted in a considerably shorter album.

8: Caravan; 11/12/11; Billville; Step Four; Old Man Says; Giant Steps; Six of One; Dream Groove. (38’00)

Personnel: David Arnay, piano; Edwin Livingston, bass; Peter Erskine, drums; Doug Webb, tenor saxophone; Munyungo Jackson, percussion; Paco Loco, guitar; Dan Fornero, trumpet; Vikram Devasthali, trombone.

Ordering info:

Matt Ulery's "Loom" - DownBeat

Matt Ulery’s Loom
Wake An Echo
Greenleaf 1031

Bassist Matt Ulery has followed up last year’s ambitious large ensemble release By A Little Light with a much smaller group but that does not mean it is any less rich in scope. His quintet, buoyed by a standard piano/bass/drums rhythm section, features a unique frontline: trumpeter Marquis Hill and bass clarinetist Geof Bradfield. The pair blends their voices to create a lot of different textures that help fill out Ulery’s intricate charts with sounds seemingly larger than two sets of lungs puffing away.

Ulery wrote all the sweepingly cinematic tunes for this album as well as playing double bass. Opener “The Lady Vanishes” pulsates between languid, searching jaunts while “In Every Lonely Chamber” summons the ghosts of a thousand lovelorn detectives trying to figure out where they went wrong. With the limited instrumentation, Ulery has created a unified sound. Solo spaces are generous for most of the band but the bass itself hangs way in the back.

Unfortunately, pianist Rob Clearfield’s presence is front and center. His relentless approach on the record pounds through measure after measure on many of the uptempo tunes with little space for rests. Some of his solo jaunts can be downright exhausting, filling a lot of space with trills and arpeggios where silence would be perfectly acceptable. His dizzying bombast kind of works on “Coriander” where drummer Jon Deilemyer matches his fervor with his own spins and crashes but Clearfield pushes it even further on the following track, “Over Under Other,” eventually running like a faucet into an overflowing sink. He switches to accordion for “My Favorite Stranger” and the confines work nicely in conjunction with Hill, laying down a reedy pad for the trumpeter to build upon. More of those accordion interactions would have been welcome on this album.

Wake An Echo: The Lady Vanishes; In Every Lonely Chamber; Coriander; Over Under Other; My Favorite Stranger; Carefree; All the Riven. (56:23)

Personnel: Marquis Hill, trumpet; Geof Bradfield, bass clarinet; Rob Clearfield, piano & accordion; Matt Ulery, double bass; Jon Deilemyer, drums & cymbals.

Ordering info:

Anthony Branker's "Uppity" - DownBeat

Anthony Branker & Word Play
Origin 82635


The title of this album immediately tells the listener they are in for a challenging listen. Anger and injustice are strong themes in composer/conductor Anthony Branker's lengthy liner notes and the text attached to the title track, were it to be verbalized on the record, would likely keep it out of most people's shuffle playlist. The backstory on Branker's compositions are essential to a complete understanding of his intent and without that information things could be easily misunderstood because the sounds on the primarily instrumental recording are not nearly as frustrated. Instead, they are tight, funky performances by a sextet that only occasionally carries the disgust being valiantly addressed.

Album opener "Let's Conversate!" bounces via Jim Ridl's Fender Rhodes. Kenny Davis holds down a groove on electric bass as the seamless horns dash in and out of Branker's tight formation. "Dance Like No One Is Watching" continues that feel, intricately playing the three horns off of each other. 

The album peaks with "Across the Divide," a driving ensemble tune led by trumpeter Eli Asher that solicits strong solo spots from trombonist Andy Hunter and Ridl before returning to Asher’s soaring spotlight. Drummer Donald Edwards holds it all together with intricate maneuvers across his cymbals.

The title track opens into a free-flowing exploration that finds a lackadaisical swing for the soloists to stretch out on. Hunter and Asher engage in a fluttering conversation before the off-kilter melody returns with urgency.

The biggest gap between sound and fury would be the final track, "Ballad For Trayvon Martin." Recorded less than six months after Martin's senseless murder, the ballad employs some syrupy synthesized strings that detract from tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s full-bodied call. Both Bowen and Ridl take engaging and contemplative solos that would make the closer a highlight of the album had those digital strings been powered off.

Uppity: Let’s Conversate; Dance Like No One is Watch; Three Gifts (from a Nigerian Mother to God); Across the Divide; Uppity; Ballad for Trayvon Martin. (41:50)

Personnel: Ralph Bowen, tenor saxophone; Andy Hunter, trombone and keyboards; Eli Asher, trumpet and flugelhorn; Jim Ridl, piano and Fender Rhodes; Kenny Davis, bass; Donald Edwards, drums; Charmaine Lee, vocals; Anthony Branker, composer and musical director.

Ordering info:

Monday, October 07, 2013

Best of LA 2013 - LA Weekly

Best Reuse of a Military Stronghold - Pasadena Armory

When artist Richard Jackson crashed a 15-foot-wide model war plane filled with paint into a 20-foot wall outside of the Rose Bowl, the brightly splattered remains were relocated to Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts. But that's about as militaristic as things get in the former National Guard housing in Old Town Pasadena. These days the 25,000-square-foot space is used primarily for events like the Monster Drawing Rally, which features 100 artists creating masterworks in timed sessions before an audience, as well as classes on silk-screening and stop-motion animation. And you don't have to be wearing fatigues to visit. 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 91103. (626) 792-5101, 

Best Wednesday Night Movie Bargain - Academy 6

For some people, dinner and a movie in the 21st century can cost more than a day's pay. But for the frugal seducer, Pasadena's Academy 6 can treat a couple to a second-run film for $3 ($2 if the sun is still shining). It doesn't have any leather couches or 3-D capability, but it does offer a wide selection of movies, from summer blockbusters to indie sleepers, and the staff is as informed as any at those $14 cinemas. If the regular prices aren't a great enough deal, the Wednesday-night special can't be missed: Two tickets, two popcorns and two sodas for $10. Even if the movie isn't that great, your date will fall in love with your impeccable way with finances. 1003 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 91106. (626) 229-9400,

Best Safeplace to Eat An Omlettte - Los Angeles Police Academy Diner

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day — but is it also the most dangerous? While the statistics regarding the mortal threat of a morning meal are still being calculated, no doubt the safest way to enjoy a hearty breakfast in Los Angeles is in a booth at the Los Angeles Police Revolver & Athletic Club Cafe, located on the police academy campus. On any given weekday, half the patrons are armed. Legally. New recruits and grizzled veterans sit side by side at this classic diner counter, while a few cadets whet their appetites at the rifle range next door. The bubbling grotto and curious architecture offer a nice counterbalance to the bang-bang — but most importantly, the service is friendly, the portions are large and the cooks do not skimp on the butter. In fact, the biggest danger patrons face here is probably high cholesterol. 1880 Academy Drive, Elysian Park. (323) 221-5222,

Best Jazz Room That's Also a Frame Shop - Curve Line Space

Curve Line Space hosts one of the best jazz series in Los Angeles, and it isn't even a club. Run by Tim Yalda, the venue is actually an art gallery and frame shop on a hip strip of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock; it also happens to host an intimate Thursday music series for only $10. Wooden frame samples hang in the back, while the artists bring some pizzazz to the premises. Swinging vibraphonist Nick Mancini helps book tremendous local jazz talent like Bruce Forman, Vardan Ovsepian and Steve Cotter in the acoustically radiant space, while a bucket of cold drinks awaits anyone with a thirst. Why not drop off your John Coltrane posters for framing while you're there? 1577 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. (323) 478-9874, 

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