Los Angeles Jazz Scene - Jazz Around Town
                     September 2014
THE AMAZING STANLEY JORDAN
      
Ever since he made his first recording for Blue Note in 1985, guitarist Stanley Jordan has amazed listeners with his technique. A master of
tapping, Jordan can play his guitar one-handed, or he can play two completely independent lines as if he were a keyboardist. When he
wants, he can play two different guitars at once or even the piano and a guitar at the same time. While there were others who preceded him
in tapping their guitar, no one has so mastered the technique that it sounds second nature. And after nearly 30 years, Jordan still plays his
eclectic repertoire with enthusiasm and creativity.
      
At Catalina Bar & Grill, Jordan was joined by bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Robert Miller. Alternating between playing
unaccompanied and utilizing the trio, Jordan performed “Reverie,” an uptempo “Now’s The Time,” a Mozart theme, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed
The Girl,” “Over The Rainbow,” and “A Place In Space” (which musically depicted a rapid space flight). Jordan also performed two
movements from Bartok’s Concerto For Orchestra, playing piano and guitar simultaneously. Sometimes he played the guitar with his right
hand, at other times with his left, and on some stretches he played some very impressive two-handed piano. As an encore, Jordan effectively
sang a pop/folk song. By the end of the night, it was very easy to be convinced that Stanley Jordan could play anything he thought of!

DMITRI MATHENY
      
A major flugelhornist, Dmitri Matheny was featured at Vitello’s leading a quartet comprised of three of Los Angeles’ top players: pianist Nick
Mason, bassist Trevor Ware and drummer Dick Weller. Celebrating the release of his recent Sagebrush Rebellion CD, Matheny was in good
humor and top form throughout an excellent set that mostly featured fresh versions of standards. Matheny, who considers Art Farmer to be
his mentor, sometimes hinted at Farmer in his melodic and lyrical solos although he also displayed his own musical personality. Among the
highpoints of the night were “It Could Happen To You,” an expressive version of “Stormy Weather,” “Cute” (which featured Weller),
“Estate,” the uptempo “Sagebrush Rebellion,” “Caravan” and “My Kind Of Love.” Manson, who articulated every note so clearly even on the
uptempo pieces, was featured with the trio on “Good Clean Fun.” Chuck Johnson sat in on tenor for two songs, moving the bop-based music a
decade ahead on the minor-toned blues “One For Daddy-O.”  Overall, it was a fun evening of boppish jazz.

PEGGY PERKINS AND DREA COURTNEY
      
Peggie Perkins, one of Orange County’s best jazz singers, took the long car trip to Vitello’s in Studio City along with the great pianist Llew
Mathews. They were joined by bassist John B. Williams and drummer Evan Stone for a night of swinging and witty jazz. Ms. Perkins’
entertained the audience with her stories and wisecracks in addition to her excellent singing. She performed memorable versions of such
songs as “Sway,” “The Nearness Of You” (displaying some attractive long tones), “Cry Me A River,” a slow emotional version of “Angel Eyes,”
“Moondance,” the Norah Jones hit “Don’t Know Why” and “At Last.” With fine accompaniment by the top-notch and versatile rhythm
section (Mathews sounded just like a gospel pianist on “At Last”), Peggy Perkins made one wish that she appeared in Los Angeles County more
often.
      
Drea Courtney is always a happy presence in the local music scene, supporting other artists and occasionally singing with them. At the
Gardenia she recently had the opportunity to perform for a night with fine accompaniment supplied by pianist Aaron Provisor, bassist Josh
Shapiro, and a drummer whose name I unfortunately missed. In addition to singing a few soulful jazz favorites including ‘Girl Talk,” ‘Save
Your Love For Me,” “I Just Found Out About Love” and Nat Adderley’s “The Old Country,” she performed such worthy obscurities and
unexpected material as “Almost In My Arms,” “In The Moonlight,” “When Something Happens To Me,” “There’s No Such Thing As  Love,”
Connie Bryson’s “Love Can Be So Bittersweet” and the excellent closer “I Don’t Want To Leave You Now.” Drea Courtney put a lot of heart into
her singing, was quite cheerful while always being concerned about her audience, and put on a fine show.

THE RON CARTER TRIO
      
Ron Carter, one of the all-time great bassists, brought his longtime trio to Catalina’s. Guitarist Russell Malone has been with Carter for quite
some time while pianist Donald Vega is the successor to the late Mulgrew Miller. Their set mixed together swinging originals with a few
standards including “Wave” (a feature for Vega), John Lewis’ “The Golden Striker” and “There Will Never Be Another You.” The solos were
mostly concise, the interplay between the musicians was both subtle and colorful, and the arrangements were inventive. There was also a
strong wit to the music with Malone’s quoting of vintage songs echoed by Vega and Carter. The high musicianship was matched by a sense of
fun, making for an enjoyable evening.

A CHANGE OF PACE
      
Since going to the Hollywood Bowl is a fun experience but this year’s jazz lineup is rather weak (few of the Wednesday jazz nights actually
feature jazz), I went to the Bowl to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform a night of the music of Tchaikovsky. Listening to the music of
Peter Tchaikovsky from the jazz standpoint is quite interesting. While the composer passed away in 1893, two years before Buddy Bolden led
his first band in New Orleans, the influence of his music (which is rich in melodies) can be heard in brass bands, Sousa marches, early New
Orleans jazz and movie soundtracks.
      
At the Bowl, Leonard Slatkin conducted the L.A. Philharmonic on “Marche Slave,” “Violin Concerto in D Major,” “Selections From Swan
Lake” and the always-spectacular “1812 Overture.” Alexandra Soumm was featured throughout the Violin Concerto, playing the lengthy
work with a beautiful tone and what appeared to be effortless virtuosity. It was enjoyable hearing the familiar melodies of Swan Lake. For the
“1812 Overture,” the L.A. Philharmonic was joined for the climatic section by the USC Trojan Marching Band  which looked colorful even
though their playing was barely audible. Much more audible was the fireworks show which was synchronized perfectly to the music and
excited the audience. It made for a fun and very accessible show.

THE BETHLEHEM LABEL RETURNS AGAIN

Founded in 1953, the Bethlehem label became an important jazz record company the following year. During its prime (1954-63), Bethlehem
released around 140 Lps that helped define the jazz mainstream of the era. There have been numerous Bethlehem reissue programs initiated
since that time but usually, after the same 20-30 albums reappear, the series ends.
      
While there is no guarantee that the reissue program by the Verse Music Group (www.versemusicgroup.com) will reissue everything, it has
gotten to the point where its reissues are mining less familiar territory. Five of its reissues are covered in this article.
      
Sincerely Conte (BCP-1016) brings back Conte Candoli’s first full-length album as a leader. Recorded in 1954, this outing features the
trumpeter as the only horn with a quartet, swinging his way through songs with the assistance of pianist Claude Williamson, bassist Max
Bennett and drummer Stan Levey. Candoli, who spent much of his life playing in Los Angeles, tends to be underrated in the jazz history books
but was one of the great bop trumpeters as he shows during exciting versions of such songs as “Fine & Dandy,” “I Can’t Get Started With You”
and “On The Alamo.”
      
Frank Rosolino, who was Candoli’s equivalent on trombone, is in top form throughout I Play Trombone (BCP-26). From 1956, this is also a
quartet set in which Rosolino is showcased with pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Wilfred Middlebrooks and Stan Levey. The six numbers (four
standards and two originals) feature the exuberant trombonist in his early prime, sounding very much at home as the lead instrument.
      
Other than four songs made for a Marty Paich album, That Old Black Magic (BCP-53) was the only record ever led by singer Peggy Connelly.
She actually worked more as an actress than as a vocalist and became the wife of Dick Martin (of Rowan & Martin). On her album from 1956,
Connelly displays an attractive voice and a swinging style, sounding comfortable on a dozen superior standards while accompanied by
arranger Russ Garcia’s “Wigville Band,” a ten-piece group filled with West Coast all-stars.
      
The previous year, Russ Garcia had arranged Four Horns And A Lush Life (BCP-46) for an unusual band consisting of four trombonists
(Rosolino, Herbie Harper, Tommy Pederson and Maynard Ferguson), baritonist Dick Houlgate, pianist Marty Paich, bassist Red Mitchell and
Stan Levey. Ferguson, who is heard playing valve trombone rather than his customary trumpet, fits right in. All four trombonists have solo
opportunities yet it is the sound of the inventively arranged ensembles and the drive of the group that make this set of greatest interest.
      
Jazz City Workshop (BCP-44) has a rather unique sextet arranged by Marty Paich. This obscure set from 1955 features trombonist Herbie
Harper, vibraphonist Larry Bunker, bassist Curtis Counce, drummer Frankie Capp, Jack Costanzo on bongos and pianist Paich. Harper,
Bunker and Costanzo each have features and the music ranges from swing and bop to Afro-Cuban jazz with Costanzo outstanding on “The
Natives Are Restless Tonight.” The most unusual aspect to the set is that an observer, Ms. Mickey Lynne, was without any warning given a
chance to take a vocal on “That Old Black Magic.” She recorded it very well in one take, and apparently never recorded again.
      
All five of the Bethlehem albums should be of strong interest to straight ahead jazz collectors.