Showing posts with label jazz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jazz. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A crazy weekend in music: another song-a-day, dancing with Angelique Kidjo and meeting Wynton Marsalis

With baby faced Wynton Marsalis backstage at Davies Hall

This last weekend was one of those crazy weekends where I was so overbooked with stuff, I finally had to go home and take a nap.

Friday I recorded another song with Jonathan Mann, the song-a-day guy, called "One of These Mornings". It came out pretty darn good considering that one of the computers totally crashed. I got to overdub all sorts of fun Doo-Wap vocals. I also love that the more Jews there are in a room, the more likely Jesus is bound to be referred to as small club entertainer...

And Jonathan, why do all the songs I record end up having super-creepy videos of you staring into the camera? I swear readers, they're not all like that. Jonathan isn't creepy, well not too creepy... okay maybe he's kind of creepy...

Here are some behind the scenes... including some funny faces at :45... and one by Miss Sarah Dabby at 1:38.

Friday night I went to see Angelique Kidjo and Youssou N'Dour presented by SFJAZZ at the exquisite Paramount Theater in Oakland. I saw Angelique perform last year at Stern Grove, and she likes to invite folks to come dance with her on stage. So we did. It was pretty excellent. She's a tiny person with a huge personality. She acts tough and full of attitude, but really, she seems like a sweetheart who likes to boogie. And boogie she does.

The Paramount Oakland marquee, I love this place. It's an art deco fantasy.

The ceiling of the Paramount Theater

Youssou was fabulous as well, but I almost felt like his band was so polished that it lacked some of the excitement that I felt with Angelique, but that could have also been due to how freaking tired I was by the time his band went on.

Saturday I rehearsed with The Backorders for our upcoming show covering the entire Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies on July 14th at the Starry Plough in Berkeley. I sing lead vocals on a song about booze and one about tea. Haha! This is "Alcohol", I'm going to sing it sort of like this lady...

Sunday was the first show of the 2011 Stern Grove Festival, and what an amazing season it is! We saw Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings with Ben l'Oncle Soul, both were phenomenal. l'Oncle is a French Soul Singer and busts out Ray Charles and Otis Redding vocal deliveries with no problem. He had these incredible dancers/backup singers with him. Stern Grove is a LARGE stage, and I've heard reports that there were ten thousand people there. And l'Oncle rivaled the Dap-Kings for sure, but I still love me some Sharon Jones, that little lady is FIERCE. And at 55, she's still getting down like no one's business.

Between her and Angelique, who is 50, these women give any performer 30 years younger than them a run for their money. They are amazing!

Check out this performance of Ben l'Oncle Soul's cover of The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army":

(Tip: if you are driving to Stern Grove, park just north of the park and enter on Wawona and 23rd. I got to the park ten minutes before the music started and I parked two blocks away on Ulloa, entered right there in the back and walked right in down the hill. I couldn't believe how little of a hassle it was. And even if you aren't driving to Stern Grove, it's still a much easier place to enter the park than 19th.)

Sunday evening, I headed on down to Davies Symphony Hall for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The show was incredible. My favorite piece, hands down, was Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" performed in its original "chamber" (my quotations) arrangement: rhythm section (bass, piano, drums) a single clarinet, trumpet and trombone. It was subtle and gorgeous.

My friend knows the drummer, so she got us backstage to say hello, and then we hung out with them for drinks and shot the breeze. Everyone was super nice and I always love listening to folks who spend too much time together banter, this was no exception. It was really cute.

Another tip: If you ever want to buy Mr. Marsalis a drink, he likes high-end Scotch from the bottom of the bottle, so it's really thick with sentiment.

Oh, and Pomplamoose left their East Coast tour today, and that's been a bundle of work. But they've got four shows starting Tuesday night, Brooklyn and Boston are already sold out. They're playing at the Kennedy Center with OK Go for the Millennium Stage's 14th Anniversary, (which we'll be able to stream live) and there's a new single out today called "River Shiver". Things are happening, and it's really exciting.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Israeli Jazz and bassist Avishai Cohen

At the beginning of 2010, a friend of mine turned me onto bassist Avishai Cohen. He has played with giants of jazz in New York, Europe and of course Israel. He finally started his own record label in 2003 and his new release Aurora is one of the most gorgeous records I've heard.

This video of the track "Alon Basela" has just over 24 thousand hits, I bet 20 thousand of them are mine. As soon as the video is over I want to hear it again.
(Sung in Hebrew)
I believe I’m an oak tree in the rock
Even if a storm will hit me.
I will keep standing
When I shed a tear I plant a Tree.

Sorrow is the soul
And I am nature

I believe in mankind
And in the sky
I exist in the ocean
And in the tree
As long as I live
I will remember
Happiness is the people
For better and ever

Cohen plays at Yoshi's in Oakland on Wednesday and Thursday, two shows each evening. I'll be there Thursday for the 8pm.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Esperanza Spalding: an extraordinary young jazz musician

I first saw Esperanza Spalding open for Dianne Reeves three years ago. All I remember from my crappy seats is a young black woman with huge hair and enormous talent.

Three years later she is still at it, performing for the White House, the youngest professor at Berklee School of Music and already reinventing herself musically with each album and concert tour.

I am enthralled by this woman. She is young, she is of mixed race, she is ridiculously talented and, I'm going to say it, makes a HUGE statement wearing her hair this way. Whatever it is, I dig it and I hope that people are paying attention (especially young women).

(I really hope that SFJAZZ didn't pick this season's image based on her, but then changed the hair just to suit their marketing material, that would seriously bother me.)

Spalding's career has just begun and I think it's obvious that she's here to stay.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

My picks for the SFJAZZ Fest 2010 Fall Season

Check out my picks for the SFJAZZ 2010 Fall season, my favorite "festival" in the Bay Area, including:
- Nellie McKay - a tribute to Doris Day
- Olodum
- Taj Mahal, Toumani Diabaté and Vieux Farka Touré - tribute to Ali Farka Touré
- Meklit Hadero
- Lila Downs
- Slavic Soul Party!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I am seriously obsessed with Avishai Cohen's "Alon Basela"

Avishai Cohen is one of the world's leading jazz bassists. He has brought Israeli jazz to the world and Israel to jazz.

The song "Alon Basela" one of those songs that I played over and over again when I first heard it and then get an hankering for time to time.

I asked my Israeli pianist cousin about him and he emailed back:
Avishai Cohen is one of the more known and influential jazz musicians in Israel and also can be credited for bringing jazz music into the general public attention in Israel. He's also an amazing performer and very known worldwide. He was also a part of the Chick Corea trio and played with the most important groups. He's a bit arrogant but that's forgiven..most important thing: he created something that you can justly call authentic in terms of Israeli Jazz.
Also, you gotta love upright bassists that can also sing.

If you click on this video of "Alon Basela," the youtube video is on a playlist and will cycle through more songs on the new album Aurora. It's really beautiful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My picks for the SFJAZZ 2010 Season

The SFJAZZ fest is one of the most reliably exciting festivals I've come across in this country. The variety of talent that comes to the Bay Area from across the Bay and across the globe is astounding. When I first picked up the brochure for the 2010 Spring Season, my jaw dropped: Joshua Redman, Bobby McFerrin, Keith Jarrett, Dianne Reeves, Ladysmith Black Mambazo... the list just goes on and on.

There are festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival where the word "jazz" seems like it's either a guide for picking music or a remnant of another era. SFJAZZ is both. I would say that music in the jazz idiom is in the majority of SFJAZZ performances, but the idea of "jazz" has been stretched to include R&B, Afropop, Fado, Samba and singer-songwriters.

As a lover of international music, innovative musical fusions and straight up good musicality, I wanted to shine my humble spotlight on some of the 2010 SJFAZZ Spring Season's acts that might be a little more obscure and/or interesting.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: my picks include Malian Tinariwen and Salif Keita, South African Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Singer/Songwriter Raul Midon, Saxophonists Joshua Redman and Pharoah Sanders and Kurt Elling and the Basie Band.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Count Basie Orchestra at Anthology in San Diego, a fun night out with my teenage cousin

"It's like touring with your grandpa, or great-grandpa! But they swing just as hard" says singer Carmen Bradford

Saturday night I was down in San Diego for work and wanted to take my 16-year-old cousin out for a nice evening. Going to the movies didn’t seem special and she’s not the kind of kid I would take to an all-ages punk show. And lets face it, I didn’t want to go to a punk show either. I saw that Anthology is all-ages and that the Count Basie Orchestra was rocking the house for two nights. This legendary Kansas City big band is swinging towards San Francisco and will be performing on May 30th at Davies Hall with Kurt Elling as part of the SFJAZZ spring season.

Celebrating their 75th anniversary, the Basie Band has never sounded better. It’s obvious from the smiles, the goofiness, mutual encouragement and choreography (the trumpet section has it down) that these guys thoroughly enjoy themselves on stage. And with songs titles like “Fun Time,” “Way Out Basie,” Right On Right On” and “Cute” a good time is guaranteed.

Some members of the Basie Band are new, yet the majority of the sound still swings from musicians handpicked by Count Basie himself. I would guess that at least 75 percent of the band is over 50 years old. Bill Hughes is the current director and has been in the band since 1953. That’s pretty incredible if you ask me. Basie hired singer Carmen Bradford in 1982 when she was 22.


The Count Basie Band makes an appearance in Mel Brooks' 1974 film Blazing Saddles

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy 100th birthday Benny Goodman: musical innovator and revolutionary

100 years ago today, Benjamin David Goodman was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Jewish Russian immigrant parents with already eight other children. Goodman would later become one of the most transformative musicians and social revolutionaries of jazz history.

He was not only a talented virtuosic clarinetist but also challenged the status quo of civil rights for African Americans by being the first prominent entertainers to lead an integrated band. He hired Teddy Wilson to play in his trio, and later enlisted vibraphonist Lionel Hampton for his quartet. Goodman also brought the popular jazz idiom to a new cultural level by being the first band leader of his genre to play in a "high culture" venue of Carnegie Hall 1938.

Goodman continued performing jazz and classical music until he died at age 77 on June 13, 1986. That same year, he was honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras duke it out in a battle of the bands

Musical competition is something that has existed since humans started making music. And if you like traditional big band music from the 1930s and 40s, it doesn't get much better than this. The Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra will return to San Francisco this Sunday night to square off in a battle of the bands at Davies Hall.

Swing and Big Band Examiner Rick Busciglio says that "in the glory days of the Big Bands, many ballrooms promoted a Battle of the Bands. Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, in particular, offered...Basie vs. Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald....or Benny Goodman vs. Duke Ellington, etc. They used a revolving stage to present the two bands. Well, the practice continues!" This will be a friendly competition, I'd imagine the "winner" will be determined by each individual listener.

The big difference between the 1930s and 40s and now is that the audience won't have a dance floor to reflect how the music is affecting them. The focus will be on the extraordinary musicianship coming from the stage rather than on lindy hoppers on the dance floor. This kind of big band swing music has, in the last century, morphed from "dance music" into "concert music," which is why we sit and listen in a concert hall like Davies Hall.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra's "In the Mood"

The Tommy Dorsey Orcehstra's "Oh, Look at me Now" with Frank Sinatra, Connie Haines, & The Pied Pipers

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Some Liked It Hot": book examining female jazz musicians in film and television 1928-1959

Do you remember that Marilyn Monroe was on tour with an all-girl jazz band (as a ukulele musician!) when she met Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in the 1959 movie "Some Like it Hot"?  These women were not a figment of the movie's imagination, but a real opportunity for woman at the time. This new book by Kristin McGree published by the Wesleyan University Press takes it's name from the film.

Women have been involved with jazz since its inception, but all too often their achievements were not as well known as those of their male counterparts. The book "Some Liked It Hot" looks at all-girl bands and jazz women from the 1920s through the 1950s and how they fit into the nascent mass culture...

Read more of my Examiner article here...

Watch this scene from "Some Like it Hot" with Curtis, Lemmon and Monroe. I believe the boys have dressed up like women to hide from mobsters (who shot holes in Lemmon's upright bass). In this scene Monroe sings the tune "Running Wild."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stanford Lively Arts announces exciting 09/10 season: "Art + Innovation"

Earlier this week Stanford Lively Arts announced the full details of its 2009-10 performing arts series, running October 10th through May 5th at Stanford University. Lively Arts’ 40th season is inspired throughout by “Art + Invention,” an over-arching theme anchored by a yearlong campus project involving the jazz trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas and the innovative filmmaker Bill Morrison.

Other highlights include new works from Laurie Anderson (in a co-commission with Cal Performances), Steve Reich (performed by So Percussion), the Kronos Quartet, and L.A. Theatre Works; a multiday tribute to the composer Sergei Prokofiev; the Bay Area debut of Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses dance company (in a co-presentation with San Francisco Performances and UC Davis’s Mondavi Center); and a collaboration between the trumpeter Terence Blanchard and the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.

Read more of my Examiner posting here...

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I HAVE BRAND NEW DEMOS!!! This is very exciting. Listen to my recordings of jazz standard "Save Your Love for Me" (made famous by Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley) and Brazilian folk song "A Moro na Roca" (arrangement by Monica Salmosa). 

I added an imeem playlist over on the right side of the blog. Tell what you think about this different kind of playlist application and about my demos.  I think you might be able to download these AND make them ringtones (which cracks me up).

If you'd like me to email these to you, I would be happy to. I've already got a CD ready to get shipped down to my Grandma in LA, she's going to flip when she hears it.

Thanks to Chris at Creative Scores Studios in Oakland, California!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Alternajazz Festival in LA this Thursday night!

The 11th Alternajazz Fest: created to showcase cutting edge jazz that bends the boundaries!

Thursday, November 20th at the Mint at 8pm, 6010 Pico Blvd.

Featuring Barbara Morrison, Raya Yarbrough, The Louis Taylor Quartet and the Brad Dutz Quartet.

Check out the website for more information here