Los Angeles Jazz Scene - Jazz Around Town
                            April 2016
TWO FROM THE BLUE WHALE
      
Night after night, week after week, the Blue Whale presents some of the best forward-looking jazz to be heard in Los Angeles. Recently the
innovative trumpeter Dave Douglas came to town, leading a quintet also featuring tenor-saxophonist Jon Irabagon (well known for his work
with Mostly Other People Do The Killing), pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston. Their set mostly consisted of-
recent originals, starting out with a percussive piece a little reminiscent of Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” in its use of rhythmic accents and
silences. The second piece had some childlike melodies, a variety of moods being explored, and a playful Douglas solo that included a quote of
“Oh Susannah” and some hints of Don Ellis. Another original was in a folk/jazz style that recalled the Jimmy Giuffre 3 of the late 1950s. A
surprise was the quintet’s performance of a soulful and ragged “Dear Old Southland,” a piece that Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet
performed in the 1930s. A funky original had Douglas contributing some upper-register blasts that were a bit like Kenny Wheeler. Irabagon,
who often echoed the trumpeter’s ideas before building his own improvisations, slid expertly between notes, did some passionate preaching on
his tenor, and sometimes took solo honors. The rhythm section was intuitive and creative, shifting easily from free form to grooves. All in all
it made for a stimulating evening of modern jazz.
      
Pianist Max Haymer led a new quintet at the Blue Whale that was comprised of vibraphonist Nick Mancini, trumpeter Mike Cottone, bassist
Dave Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle. During their one-hour set, the combo performed a reharmonized and modern version of ‘You Don’t
Know What Love Is,” Chick Corea’s always-delightful “Bud Powell” and five Haymer originals. The music was often modal post bop. Cottone
displayed a wide range, Mancini took many heated solos with his four mallets, Haymer (while sometimes hinting at McCoy Tyner) displayed
a strong solo voice of his own, and there were spots for both Robaire and Schnelle. Among the pianist’s originals were the jazz waltz
“Whirlwind” (a catchy song that should be covered by others), the funky “No Dice,’ a trumpet-piano duet on the thoughtful ballad
“Welcoming,” the fiery “Proof Of Evil,” and a soulful and melodic piece in 7/4, “Goodnight.”  The strong solos, the attractive trumpet-vibes
blend and the inventive originals resulted in plenty of excellent music.

THE UPCOMING PLAYBOY JAZZ FESTIVAL

The 38th annual Playboy Jazz Festival, scheduled for June 11-12 at the Hollywood Bowl, has a lineup that will strike many jazz fans as a
disappointment. The good news is that the great singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, the Bad Plus Joshua Redman (which is the Bad Plus expanded
to a quartet with the addition of Joshua Redman), the Joey Alexander Trio, John Beasley’s MONKestra, Christian Scott, and  a Javon Jackson
all-star group with Jimmy Heath and George Cables will be performing. Of borderline interest to jazz followers are Jon Batiste’s Stay Human,
Fourplay, Donald Harrison’s Congo Nation, and the Pete Escovedo Orchestra with Sheila E. Falling outside of jazz altogether are Seth
MacFarlane, Los Van Van, Naturally 7, Freshlyground, Janelle Monae, Robert Cray, Liv Warfield and Anthony Strong. Not counting a high
school band and a college orchestra (which at ten minutes apiece receive little time to make an impression), it means that out of the 18
groups, six are high-quality jazz, four border on jazz and eight have little or nothing to do with creative improvised music.
      
One has to wonder why there is so little jazz booked at the Playboy Jazz Festival and why, other than Beasley’s Monkestra, the many great jazz
artists based in Los Angeles have been completely overlooked by this year’s event. It really is a wasted opportunity, and just makes one look
forward even more to the Monterey Jazz Festival in September.

THE AVID LABEL
      
Avid Records (www.avidgroup.co.uk) is a British company that has an extensive reissue program of top American jazz artists from the 1950s
and ‘60s. Their series of two-CD sets, which are often called Four (or Three or Five) Classic Albums, makes it possible for one to quickly acquire
a large sampling of recordings from significant musicians. Three of their recent releases are covered in this article.
      
Dorothy Donegan was a remarkable pianist who could play on Art Tatum’s level. Her live performances sometimes included crazy medleys
that found her spontaneously shifting between stride, boogie-woogie, bebop and classical music. Donegan made everything look effortless and
in later years she could play dazzling music while standing up and dancing a bit, showing off her legs.
      
While Donegan recorded two songs in 1942 and 12 during 1946-47, she made just five albums during the next 29 years until she began to get
discovered in 1975.  Four Classic Albums has two sets apiece from 1957 and 1959, only leaving out an obscure record for the Regina label
from 1963. Originally titled At The Embers, Live, September Song and Donnybrook With Donegan, these trio sets (originally for Jubilee,
Capitol and Roulette) are full of excitement, brilliant playing and Donegan’s healthy wit. Other than three of her basic originals, all 46 songs
are her renditions of standards and they show just how magical a pianist she was during these often-neglected years.
      
Don Elliott may be long forgotten today but, back in the 1950s and early ‘60s, he was an important force in the jazz world. A true multi-
instrumentalist, Elliott was skilled on trumpet, mellophone (where he was the first important jazz soloist since Dudley Fosdick in the 1920s),
vibes and percussion, and as a singer. In addition to his jazz dates, he worked in the studios (often as a singer), wrote scores for Broadway and
for films, and gained some popularity for his novelty vocals in the Nutty Squirrels.
      
Elliott’s Four Classic Albums reissues records from 1954-56: Don Elliott Quintet, Mellophone, Counterpoint For Six Valves (which he co-led
with fellow trumpeter Rusty Dedrick) and At The Modern Jazz Room. The bop-oriented music features Don Elliott on each of his axes in
addition to three vocals and serves as a perfect introduction to this very talented musician.
      
Ernestine Anderson, who recently passed away at the age of 87, made her first recordings as a leader in 1947 and worked early on with
Johnny Otis and Lionel Hampton. However she was still largely unknown in 1956 when she gained fame performing and recording in
Sweden. Her Hot Cargo album caught on and, when she returned to the U.S., she was on her way to becoming a major name. A long off period
spent in Europe resulted in her only making one album during 1963-75 but, after being helped and managed by Ray Brown, she was a hit at
the 1976 Concord Jazz Festival, made a series of recordings, and became a major influence on other female soul/jazz singers.
      
Anderson’s Four Classic Albums includes Hot Cargo and three other former Lps from 1958-60: Toast Of The Nation’s Critics, My Kinda Swing
and Moanin’ Moanin’ Moanin.’. Whether joined by the Harry Arnold Orchestra, a Basie-oriented big band arranged by Hal Mooney, an 11-
piece group led by Ernie Wilkins or a West Coast combo arranged by Pete Rugolo, Ernestine Anderson is heard throughout in her early prime.
She gives a bluesy feel to most of her renditions of standards, engages in subtle creativity and always swings, even at the slower tempos.

NEW STAN GETZ AND SARAH VAUGHAN FROM RESONANCE
      
George Klabin’s Resonance label (www.resonancerecords.org) has done jazz a great service by releasing unknown sessions by major greats in
first-class productions. Zev Feldman has been a very important asset, scouring the world for important and long-lost music, overseeing their
release, and organizing memorable booklets to accompany the CDs.
      
Two of the recent sets, Getz/Gilberto ’76 and Moments In Time, contain music taped by Todd Barkan at his legendary San Francisco jazz club
Keystone Korner during the same engagement. Stan Getz and the influential bossa-nova singer-guitarist Joao Gilberto had first teamed up in
the famous 1963 album Getz/Gilberto that resulted in several hits, most notably “The Girl From Ipanema.” Getz and Gilberto did not work
together often but in 1975 joined forces to record The Best Of Two Worlds. A year later they were booked together for a week at Keystone
Korner. While Getz takes a few beautiful solos on Getz/Gilberto ’76 and his rhythm section (pianist Joanne Brackeen, bassist Clint Houston
and drummer Billy Hart) is on some of the pieces, the spotlight is mostly on Gilberto’s voice and guitar. Particularly effective are his versions
of “Aguas de Marco,” “No More Blues,” and “Doralice” but he is in top form on all 12 songs.
      
Moments In Time features the Getz Quartet without Gilberto. The tenor-saxophonist always had a wondrous tone but his sound was
particularly luscious during this period. On such numbers as “Summer Night,” Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes,” Horace Silver’s “Peace” and
Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma,” Getz consistently plays the perfect note for each moment while constantly stretching himself. He is really at the
top of his game on the uptempo Con Alma.” Joanne Brackeen also makes the most of her solo space and the music overall is quite classic.
      
The two-CD set Live At Rosy’s gives listeners nearly two hours of Sarah Vaughan in superb form. Recorded May 31, 1978 in New Orleans,
Vaughan is joined by a very sensitive Carl Schroeder on piano, bassist Walter Booker and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Sassy scats more than
normal, sounds semi-operatic on some songs, and performs a unique and rather funny version of ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket” after an audience
member, mistaking her for Ella, requested the song. Vaughan digs into such standbys as “East Of The Sun,” “Poor Butterfly,” “The Man I
Love,” “Watch What Happens,” and “Fascinating Rhythm.” 54 at the time, Sarah Vaughan shows throughout Live At Rosy’s that she was on
a different level than nearly every jazz singer in history, being able to do things with her voice that were unparalleled and otherwise
impossible.
      
With releases such as these three, the Resonance label is quickly becoming one of the most important jazz record companies in the world.