|JAZZ AT THE E-SPOT
I had not been to Vitello’s and their E-Spot Lounge in some time but am happy to report that jazz is alive and well at that important venue.
The stage is in a different location than it was before the room became known as the E-Spot Lounge but the sound quality is excellent and the
room has a friendly atmosphere. Jazz is usually booked at the club a few nights a week and it certainly deserves to be supported by the jazz
Johnny Mandel is one of the world’s most significant living songwriters, arrangers and film composers. Now 90, his career goes back to at
least 1943 when he was a trumpeter with Joe Venuti’s big band. While he played trumpet and trombone with many big bands, his arranging
talents soon overshadowed his playing and he has been a vital musical force ever since. At the E-Spot, Mandel led an impressive big band that
included such notables as trumpeter Carl Saunders (showcased on “The Shadow Of Your Smile”), trombonists Scott Whitfield and Ira Nepus,
tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard, altoist Carol Chaikin, pianist John Campbell and guitarist Bruce Forman. During the first set they
performed such numbers as “Close Enough For Love,” “Not Really The Blues (a swinging chart originally written for Woody Herman),
“Emily,” ”Theme From Mash” and “TNT.” The second half of the night was more of a “This Is Your Life” production organized by Ken Poston.
Whitfield and Ginger Berglund sang “Little Did I Ever Dream,” there were guest appearances by vocalists Pinky Withers, Bill Cantos, Sue
Raney and Alan Bergman, and lots of talking and reminiscing about Mandel took place; a bit too much. However the big band closed the night
with a few more classic arrangements that really showed listeners why Johnny Mandel is one of the musician giants.
On another night at the E-Spot, singer Karolina Naziemiec headed a top-notch group that featured pianist Tom Ranier, guitarist Larry
Koonse, bassist Darek Oles, trombonist Alan Ferber and saxophonist Bob Sheppard. Ms. Naziemiec, who was born and raised in Poland, has
lived and performed in the U.S. since 2000. Classically trained as a violist, in recent years she has also appeared as a jazz singer in Los
Angeles. It was in the latter role that she performed at the E-Spot. Naziemiec has a quietly passionate voice, puts the emphasis on lyrics, and
emphasized ballads during her set. After the quintet performed an instrumental version of “There Will Never Be Another You,” she sang “I’ll
Never Smile Again,” “The White Cliffs Of Dover,” “I Will Wait For You” and a very slow and dramatic version of “Poor Butterfly” that
included the verse. She also played viola briefly on two selections, sang a couple of songs in Polish, and showed on “Waiting For The Evening
Train” (associated with Peggy Lee) and a surprisingly uptempo bossa version of “I’ll Be Seeing You” that she can be a fine swing singer.
Sheppard (on tenor, alto and soprano) was a major asset on each song in which he appeared, really cutting loose on “We’ll Be Together Again.”
Kaplan, Koonse and Rainier also had plenty of short solos with Ranier taking an effective spot on clarinet during “Waiting For The Evening
Lyn Stanley, a talented jazz and standards singer who was profiled in the January issue of the Los Angeles. Jazz Scene, celebrated the release
of her recent Interludes album at the Cicada Club, a beautiful art-deco venue that often features swing bands and dancers. She was joined by
an all-star group consisting of pianist Mike Garson, guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Chuck Berghofer, drummer Paul Kreibich, trombonist
Alan Kaplan, cellist Cecilia Tsan, percussionist Brad Dutz and the great harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens. The singer was in joyful form
on such numbers as “Just One Of Those Things,” “Nice And Easy,” “I Got A Little Too Lonely,” “Fever” and “More Than You Know,” really
excelling on an atmospheric “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.” There were also guest appearances by the 93-year old Annette Warren (Lyn’s
vocal mentor, a famous vocal coach and the widow of Paul Smith) who sang “Love For Sale” while accompanied by pianist Steve Rawlins (who
was responsible for many of the night's arrangements), and singer Windy Wagner from the Glee television show. Two talented guest dancers
(Felipe and Catarina) added color and excitement to four songs, giving one the feel that they were in a 1930s night club. Chuck Berghofer
sang the boppish “Three Little Bears” and told stories about his career, there were many fine short solos from Garson, Chiodini, McChesney
and Meurkens, and the two-hour performance always held one’s interest. It was a fun night of classy music, all well organized and performed
by Lyn Stanley.
Jaco Pastorius was the first jazz electric bassist who was truly distinctive, being recognizable within two notes. He was a virtuoso, an
innovator and a major influence on all who followed him. Pastorius amazed many with his debut album as a leader, was a major star with
Weather Report, led his short-lived World Of Mouth big band, and then declined quickly due to mental illness. The recent film Jaco, which
was produced by Metallica’s bassist Robert Trujillo (one of many from the rock world who worshipped Pastorius), tells the whole story very
well. Filled with home movies, interviews with nearly all of Pastorius’ most significant contemporaries (including Wayne Shorter, Joni
Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Peter Erskine, Flea and Jaco’s father and relatives) and performance footage, the narrative (mostly told in
chronological order) answers most of the questions about the bassist. About all that is missing is Pat Metheny and a mention of the bassist’s
debut recording with Paul Bley. The two-DVD set Jaco (available from www.musicvideodistributors.com), which augments the film with 25
additional interviews on the second DVD, is a must for anyone interested in the remarkable Jaco Pastorius.
FOUR NEW JAZZ BOOKS
There is no shortage of definitive books on Billie Holiday. John Szwed, in Billie Holiday – The Musician And The Myth (available from www.
penguin.com), includes a series of insightful essays about aspects of Lady Day’s life rather than telling her whole story again. He fully dissects
her Lady Sings The Blues memoirs, revealing some of the tales that were left out and evaluating what was true and what was fanciful about
the stories that were in the book. He discusses her film and television appearances and writes at great length about her style and many of the
recordings that she made. There is also a 20-page chapter “The Prehistory of a Singer” that, while interesting, is mostly irrelevant to her
story. While The Musician And The Myth is not recommended to those who are completely unfamiliar with the Billie Holiday story (Donald
Clarke’s Wishing On The Moon along with Lady Sings The Blues are perfect starting points), it will be enjoyed by those who want to learn a bit
more about the always fascinating Lady Day.
In contrast, there had been no books about Ottilie Patterson before Ron Cassidy wrote Ottilie – Star Of County Down (Broomfields Publishing,
available from www.amazon.com). Patterson came to fame in England when she emerged as a powerful blues singer (inspired by Bessie
Smith) with Chris Barber’s trad band in the 1950s. The contrast between her slim frail appearance and her singing voice always amazed
listeners who assumed from her recordings that she was a robust African-American rather than a lass from Ireland. While she recorded
frequently with Barber (whom she married) for a decade and led a record as late as 1983, Ottilie Patterson was semi-retired by the late
1960s. Declining health, her divorce from Barber, depression, and years spent in self-isolation made the second half of her life anti-climatic
and obscure. In his important book, Ron Cassidy unearths just about all of the information that could be found about the singer in interviews,
by digging through newspapers and magazines, and adding his own observations. While there are questions that will never be answered
about Ottilie Patterson, Cassidy does a masterful job of tying together all that could be found about the legendary singer, resulting in this
very readable and intriguing book..
Joan Merrill has thus far written five Casey McKie mystery books. Her novels feature a female jazz-loving detective who becomes involved in
investigating a murder that takes place in the jazz world. Her latest book, And All That Motive (available from www.joanmerrill.com), finds
McKie trying to find out who killed a popular but unlikable jazz singer, Sid Satin, at the Pacific Coast Jazz Festival. There are an excess of
suspects and motives and very little chance that readers will be able to guess the identity of the murderer before it is revealed. But more
significant than the actual case is the realistic atmosphere that Joan Merrill creates. The fictional jazz instrumentalists, singers and those
involved in the business of jazz all sound and act realistically, ranging from the heroic to the despicable, mixing together good and bad
qualities. While reading this book, one can practically hear the bebop-oriented soundtrack. Jazz fans and those who like complex mysteries
will enjoy this series.
Bill King is a multi-talented individual who, in addition to being an excellent keyboardist and bandleader in Canada, has long been a music
journalist and photographer. In Concert is filled with photos, articles and interviews with a wide variety of subjects The articles include
appreciations and stories about Willie Nelson, Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin (with whom King rehearsed and almost
worked with), Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson (with whom he studied in 1963), Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles and others. There are 16 interviews
(many dating from the 1990s) including with Tony Bennett, David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock, Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins
and Pat Metheny. In addition, there are photos of many other artists including one of Dee Dee Bridgewater that is on the book’s front cover
although she does not actually appear in the book. In Concert, which is available directly from Bill King (he can be found on Facebook), is as
eclectic and high-quality as Bill King’s music and many of the stories are memorable. It is heartily recommended.