|DIANA KRALL AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
She is the best-known living jazz artist and one of the very few (along with Harry Connick Jr. and George Benson) who could headline at the
Hollywood Bowl on a weekend. Having recently released her latest CD Turn Up The Quiet, Ms. Krall brought her new quintet to the Bowl and
performed with occasional backing by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Alan Broadbent.
The night actually began with the Orchestra being conducted by Thomas Wilkins who told good-humored stories about the pieces for their
short set. Highlights included “Begin The Beguine,” songs from “Gigi,” an opera aria, and a rousing closer.
Diana Krall occupies an unusual place in the jazz world. Truth be told, she has not significantly evolved during the past 15 years, still singing
and playing piano in the same style that originally made her popular. Her repertoire at the Bowl had several songs from what was arguably
the best recording and DVD of her career (2002’s Live In Paris) plus numbers from the recent ballad-heavy Turn Up The Quiet. She remains a
pleasing singer and an adequate pianist who is at her best performing swing standards. Her performance was pretty predictable overall except
when she started “Just You, Just Me” much too fast, fumbling giving up trying to sing it, and proving unable to play piano at that tempo.
As usual, guitarist Anthony Wilson made the most of his solo space, taking heated and inventive solos. In their supportive roles, bassist Robert
Hurst and drummer Karriem Riggins kept the music swinging and tasteful. The wild card and musical hero of the night was violinist Stuart
Duncan. While he earned his reputation as a bluegrass musician, Duncan is a superior jazz player too. Every time he took a solo with Krall, it
stole the show, whether it was trading off with Wilson during “On The Sunny Side Of The Street,” supplying some fire to “’Deed I Do,” or adding
beauty to “I Don’t Know Enough About You.” When Krall performed the pop tune “Temptation,” Anthony Wilson stretched out, showing that
he can play more adventurous jazz. However he was soon overshadowed. Duncan strummed the violin fast as if he were playing a guitar or a
mandolin and then took a very heated bowed solo that inspired a lot of applause.
As for Diana Krall, chances are that she will sound similar 20 years from now. One just has to enjoy what she does without expecting her to
eventually become Ella or Oscar Peterson.
A TRIBUTE TO DIZZY AND ELLA
There are many tributes being held this year to three jazz greats who were born a century ago, in 1917: Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and
Thelonious Monk. The first two were saluted at a Hollywood Bowl concert titled “Ella And Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories.”
The first half of the night was a logical tribute to Dizzy, performed by trumpeter Jon Faddis and an all-star big band. The 14-horn (counting
Faddis) three-rhythm orchestra primarily played bop classics from the 1945-49 period, many of which had been made famous by Gillespie’s
big band of the era. Faddis, who still never seems to miss a single stratospheric note, filled in for his mentor. Pianist Bill Childs was well
featured, and veteran 77-year old altoist Charles McPherson uplifted two songs. Among the highlights were such Gillespie standbys as “Woody ’
N’ You,” “A Night In Tunisia,” “Manteca,” and the still-futuristic “Things To Come.” McPherson was outstanding (taking six choruses
including two as duets with drummer Lewis Nash on “Things To Come”) but underutilized. The trumpet section was quite strong and Faddis in
his brilliant solos made it all look easy.
The second half of the night was less logical. Ella Fitzgerald was unbeatable as a swinging vocalist, a scat-singer, and in her pitch, articulation
and sweet personality. Any tribute to her results in one missing Ella’s presence, and that feeling was certainly accentuated during this set.
Rather than have four superior jazz singers delve into different periods of Ella’s career, the four vocalists (Andra Day, Jane Monheit, Leslie
Odom, Jr. and Lizz Wright), while talented, were completely miscast. Jane Monheit is the only one of the quartet who can improvise and she
was fine if unsurprising on “Cheek To Cheek,” “It’s Alright With Me” and “Love For Sale” with backing by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Lizz
Wright has a beautiful voice but sings quite straight as she showed on “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “Embraceable You.” On “Caravan,”
even though the backup musicians were swinging, she took the second chorus exactly as she had sung the first. Andra Day sounded like Judy
Garland in the 1960s on “But Not For Me.” She tried to recreate Ella’s humorously botched version of “Mack The Knife” and deserves credit for
trying. Leslie Odom Jr. is a Broadway singer with a nice tone but displayed no jazz content. While one enjoyed violinist Regina Carter’s
features on “Lady Be Good” and “Judy” (a duet with guitarist Paul Jackson Jr.), one wonders what the show’s producer must have been
thinking in booking this lineup of singers.
Harold Mabern at 81 is still very much in his musical prime. A great hard bop pianist who at times can sound close to McCoy Tyner (Phineas
Newborn was his early inspiration), he was part of the Memphis jazz scene as a teenager. He moved to Chicago in 1954, worked with the MJT +
3, and in 1959 relocated to New York. Mabern has since worked with the who’s who of jazz including Lionel Hampton, Harry “Sweets” Edison,
the Jazztet, Johnny Hartman, Donald Byrd, Miles Davis (for a few weeks in 1963), J.J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan (1965-72), Wes
Montgomery, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, George Coleman, Clark Terry, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, James Moody, his former
student Eric Alexander, and on and on. He has also headed a steady string of fine recordings since 1968.
At Catalina’s Mabern led a trio that included bassist Mike Gurrola and drummer Joe Farnsworth. While his previous two visits to Catalina’s
had teamed Mabern with Pharoah Sanders, it was particularly rewarding hearing him in the spotlight. Starting with a surprisingly hard-
charging and modal version of “How Insensitive,” and progressing through a boogaloo blues, Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud” (on which Mabern
sometimes hinted at Erroll Garner), “Cherokee,” and a long vamp that became “My Favorite Things,” Mabern emphasized sophisticated
chordal playing over single-note lines. His playing was consistently powerful, Gurrola had a few good spots of his own, and Farnsworth was
well featured. In fact there were drum solos on four of the six songs and, while they were inventive and well-conceived, perhaps that was one or
two too many.
See Harold Mabern whenever you get a chance. He is one of the major survivors of 1950s and ‘60s jazz and is still at the top of his game.
JAZZ IN TOLEDO
Every major city in the United States and Europe is a fertile topic for a book about its jazz history. Each location, in addition to welcoming
visiting national artists, has had its own local jazz scene. Bob Diestsche, who previously wrote Jumptown: The Golden Years Of Portland Jazz,
1942-1957 recently completed Tatum’s Town – The Story Of Jazz In Toledo, Ohio (1915-1985) for Bobson Press.
While one may not automatically think of Toledo as being a jazz center, it was the hometown of Art Tatum and Jon Hendricks in addition to
having its own local musical heroes. Dietsche begins with Art Tatum, has a chapter on Hendricks, and along the way profiles such musicians
as territory bandleader Speed Webb, guitarist Arv Garrison (who had a strange and sad life), Garrison’s wife bassist Vivian Garry, trombonist
Jimmy Harrison, tenor-saxophonist Candy Johnson, singer Helen O’Connell, and trumpeter Jimmy Cook among others. Dietsche interviewed
many Toledo residents and the result is that some of the most interesting tales are about local players who chose to spend their lives in Toledo
rather than moving to New York or Los Angeles. The 1925-65 period is emphasized although the book does discuss pianists Stanley Cowell and
Johnny O’Neal, both of whom have connections to Tatum.
Tatum’s Town jumps a lot between eras and the book would have been improved if it were more in chronological order. For example, the
chapter on Jimmy Harrison (who was active in the 1920s) is six chapters after the one on Arv Garrison (who was part of the bop era). Also,
there are a fair number of minor errors (Toledo is misspelled in one place) and a few historical mistakes that could have been easily corrected
with more proofreading.
However those little reservations do not take away from the enjoyment and new knowledge that jazz fans will gain from reading Tatum’s
Town. It is available from www.amazon.com.