Thursday, July 29, 2010

L.A.’s Jazz Bakery Still Homeless But Alive This Week at the L.A. Premiere of New Film, “The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi”

The Jazz Bakery, one of Los Angeles’ most revered jazz establishments, is still homeless after closing its doors last spring, but it is still alive and living off the fat of the land.

Running a non-profit jazz club that features big national acts and low ticket prices 7 days a week ain’t easy. When your philanthropic landlord dies and the new owner(s) announce they’re turning your club into a furniture store, you need to be imaginative.

What Owner/Chief Bottle Washer Ruth Price has done since May 31 of last year is what she calls a Moveable Feast. Even if there is not a permanent place to hear them, jazz artists line up and play for Ruth’s club wherever it happens to be this week. Regina Carter, Tierney Sutton, Hubert Laws, Mose Allison, Dave Frishberg, John Beasley, Benny Golson and his quartet of Bill Cunliffe, Bob Magnusson and Roy McCurdy, Tomasz Stanko, Antonio Sanchez, Pharaoh Sanders, the list of musicians who support and have been supported since last summer goes on and on. The Jazz Bakery will never die because it lives in their hearts.

This Sunday, August 1st, the Moveable Feast starts with a 3:00 p.m. wine reception at the Silent Movie Theater (611 North Fairfax, Los Angeles, CA 90036) before the curtain goes up at 3:30 p.m. on the Los Angeles premiere of “TheAnatomy of Vince Guaraldi”, a film by Andrew Thomas and Toby Gleason. The film features Dave Brubeck, Dick Gregory, George Winston, Irwin Corey, John Handy, Malcolm Boyd and David Benoit, among others. Leonard Maltin will moderate a Q & A. Tickets are $20.

The promo I received points out to astute observers that despite the name of the theater, the film about Vince Guaraldi is “definitely NOT a silent film.”

Sunday, July 25, 2010


How is jazz legend Annie Ross celebrating her 80th birthday? By performing this Tuesday (and each Tuesday) night at 9:30 in the Metropolitan Room at 34 West 22nd Street in NYC
. Imagine that, at a time in life when ma people are inclined to sit in a rocking chair and sip tea, Annie Ross dolls herself up and does the second set at a swanky cabaret while the swells sip at their martinis and enjoy a style of music that few recall, and many fewer still perform. In Ms. Ross's case, it is a brand of musical magic that only she has ever attained. Or to be fair, that she, Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks attained. So in a way, it stands to reason that she keeps performing. Anyone who had the energy to write the crazy, swinging jazz standard “Twisted”, full of its harmonic hairpin turns and rhythmic gear changes, and then sing it, could easily feel the need to eschew artistic quietude sing as regularly as she can. There must have been something in the water supply back in the day, because I recently heard from a New York jazz fan that Jon Hendricks has been fairly active performing as well, and that he and James Moody had engaged in "a scat-sing cutting contest that you wouldn't believe" at the Blue Note last year. At the time, Jon was 83 years old and Moody 87...

For ticket prices and directions to the Metropolitan Room:

Annie Ross's career was in full swing long before she began work with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks, in 1952 penning lyrics for and performing Wardell Gray's "Twisted." After joining forces in 1957 to create the landmark vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, they were the premiere jazz vocal group in the world. Along with Hendricks and Lambert, she continued to pioneer the emerging field known as vocalese
, the difficult but highly rewarding writing and singing of lyrics to already-composed jazz tunes and helped to make this sophisticated form sensationally popular. Various people are credited (or take credit) for "inventing" vocalese, but no one ever took on the bop harmonies rhythms and did it like Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

An inspiration to singers from Joni Mitchell and Bette Midler, to Cheryl Bentyne and Janis Siegel and Lorraine Feather, Annie Ross is the undisputed champion.

To a musical queen, long may you reign.

Annie’s 1952 classic, “Twisted,” courtesy of YouTube:

And courtesy of, Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross live at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 2, 1960 “Swingin’ ‘til the Girls Come Home” by Oscar Pettiford

Happy Birthday, Annie!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lorraine Feather: On the Road (Less Traveled)

Lorraine Feather’s live performances are legendary. Her skills as a lyricist, well known to fans of her recordings of Waller and Ellington material, and recent work like her critically-acclaimed new CD
Ages (Jazzed Media, 2010), bloom wildly under the stage lights. Where some performers like to glance sideways with short anecdotes between songs, Feather prefers to be a real raconteur and plunge in headlong, punctuating her insightful musical commentary with tales that are integral to the performance.

As Will Friedwald wrote of her performance at the Algonquin in his
New York Sun review of February 8, 2008, “Lorraine Feather is expanding the jazz repertoire in her own idiosyncratic way and showcasing the power of composition as much as the power of performance.”

But despite the great press Feather has always gotten for her live shows, she’s not been much of a road warrior of late.

Part of the reason for this has been logistics. After being based in Los Angeles and performing with pianist/composer Shelly Berg, she and her husband Tony Morales moved to the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, while Berg accepted a position as Dean of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. Literally, they’d moved to opposite ends of the continental U.S.

“I've had something of a hiatus from live performing with Shelly. It's challenging to work things out logistically/financially with us so far apart, but we just booked the Lakeshore Jazz Series in Tempe, AZ for February of next year, and we'll be doing more." Their geographic separation has also been an artistic barrier for her, because in a world teeming with jazz pianists, Berg is that uniquely adept stylist whose vast technique and repertoire have enabled him to successfully channel Feather’s ghostly songwriting “partners” like Fats Waller and keep her tidal wave of stride and lyrical intricacies flowing fast enough and accurately enough to support her in performance. Shelly Berg has been a hard act to follow.

But just this last week the lyricist/singer got together with the phenomenally gifted young pianist, Stephanie Trick, for two days of rehearsal. Already considered by many of her peers to be among the best stride pianists in the world when she was but 21 years old, Trick was invited to perform at the 2008 International Stride and Swing Summit in Boswil, Switzerland and has been invited back again this fall.

Feather described their first collaboration with admiring praise, saying “. . . she not only is spectacular but she learned “You're Outa Here” [Feather’s lyricised rendition of Waller’s “The Minor Drag”] for the occasion, transcribing it herself exactly as Dick Hyman played it [on Feather’s recording
New York City Drag (Rhombus, 2001)], supporting the melodic or rhythmic variations I did on the original track .”

The result is that she and the 23-yr.-old St.Louis-based phenom are putting together a stride show “we are going to launch in the spring. Irvin Arthur ( of Park Avenue Talent is booking it.”

All of which portends well for thee and me.

"I'm ramping up to do more live singing. I had a great gig June 12th at Bake's, near Seattle, with two terrific Seattle musicians, pianist Randy Halberstadt and bassist Jon Hamar [doing material from
Ages] and will be doing a big band thing with the Spokane Jazz Society on September 26th. Russ [Ferrante, composer of the haunting “The Girl with the Lazy Eye” on Ages and founding member of the Yellowjackets] and I are going to be performing in L.A. together before long.”

If you have the opportunity to see Lorraine Feather perform live in one of these venues, don’t hesitate.

She’s also been hard at work writing and recording a new CD.

"The process of doing a new album, with writing involved, takes about a year from starting the first song to the mastering process at the end for me. I have songs in the works with Eddie [Arkin] and Russell, and there's one that's an adaptation of a piece by the Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi. There is a concept, which I'd describe as being on the mysterious and trippy side.”

So it’s good news for Lorraine Feather fans, who can look forward to a “mysterious and trippy” concept album, and a year that will feature live performances in small, intimate settings as well as bigger ones, including a big band romp through her rich Ellington-based material. Dates will be posted as they become available.