Mon David is arguably Southern California’s top male jazz vocalist. A classy performer who is never shy to take chances (whether caressing
melodies or suddenly using a surprising falsetto), Mon David recently celebrated the release of his new CD This Is All I Ask (which I will
review next month) and the birth of Human Connection Music (a label that he co-founded with Cathy Segal Garcia) with a memorable show
at Catalina Bar & Grill.
Joined by pianists Theo Saunders (for the first half of the show) and Tateng Katindig, bassist Trevor Ware, drummer Abe Lagrimas and, for a
few songs, tenor-saxophonist Chuck Manning and trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, Mon David put on an enthusiastic, very musical and swinging
performance. Many of the songs were from his new CD including the timely lyrics of “If I Ruled The World,” an inventive transformation of
“Windmills Of Your Mind,” Oscar Brown Jr.’s obscure “A Tree And Me,” and Theo Saunders’ “Conviction” and “Love Abounds.” Other
highlights included a funky and humorous “Feeling Good,” “Straight No Chaser” and a touching version of “Some Other Time.” Mon David
was joined by his son and daughter for a credible rendition of “Moanin’” with all three scatting in the style of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.
His witty version of “Better Than Anything” found him accompanying himself on guitar while singing some fresh and topical lyrics.
Whether scatting wildly a la Mark Murphy or adding warmth to superior lyrics, Mon David put on a warm and charming show that ranked
with the best performances of any of the current male jazz singers. A delight to see live, he deserves to be much better known.
ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY
Sarah Vaughan was one of the most remarkable singers of all time. Blessed with a wondrous voice, she had the ability to hit every note in her
huge range perfectly in tune, no matter what condition she was in! While many singers claim to be influenced by her and have paid brief
homages to Sassy, Anne Hampton Callaway is one of the few who with her own very impressive abilities and adaptability is qualified to pay a
full-length tribute to Sarah Vaughan.
At Catalina Bar & Grill, Ms. Callaway was joined by the great pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Daniel Fabricant and drummer MB Gordy. Her
performance included a generous amount of humor, storytelling and variety. She performed such numbers as “I’m Gonna Live Until I Die,”
“Interlude” (the vocalized version of “A Night In Tunisia”), “Misty,” “In A Mellotone,” a wordless “Chelsea Bridge,” “Whatever Lola Wants,”
“Wave” (sounding effortless on the wide intervals), “Mean To Me,” a rather dark version of “Send In The Clowns,” “I Can’t Give You Anything
But Love” (during which she encouraged people to dance) and “That’s All.” On her closing encore, “Poor Butterfly,” she sang the piece as if
Sarah Vaughan had been an opera singer. In addition, Callaway switched to piano and did her usual humorous free improvisation based on
words suggested to her by the audience.
Throughout the night Ann Hampton Callaway was at the peak of her powers, displaying a very powerful voice, showmanship, and plenty of
wit. She is one of today’s jazz vocal greats.
A triple bill at the Hollywood Bowl was a mixed bag with just some touches of jazz heard along the way despite it being part of the Bowl’s “Jazz
Night” series. Lisa Fischer, a superb studio singer, has never claimed to be a jazz singer although, with her abilities, she could certainly
become one if she had the desire. Her performance with JC Maillard as guitarist and arranger, bassist-singer Aiden Carroll and drummer
Thierry Arpino included her hit “How Can I Ease The Pain,” some rock tunes and a rockish blues. Most intriguing was how she alternated
between a regular microphone and one that had an echo effect.
Soul Live, an instrumental trio consisting of organist Neal Evans, guitarist Eric Krasno and drummer Alan Evans, performed music ranging
from fusion to soul jazz and a Beatles medley, most of it quite funky. It was well played and danceable background music.
The British singer and pianist Jamie Cullum is entertaining and likable. Unfortunately, despite his professed love for jazz, he always seems to
hedge his bets, often following a jazz-oriented number with some mundane pop. Joined by his regular combo plus a top-notch big band that
was mostly underutilized, Cullum performed an uneven but generally interesting show. Best were “Just The Same Thing” (on which he
played some timbales), “Interlude” (the second version of this usually-rare song that I heard in a week), “Please Don’t Let Me Be
Misunderstood,” the Randy Newman ballad “I’ll Never Get Over You” and a swinging blues. Twice Cullum stood on top of the piano while
singing before jumping off, landing right on the beat. There were some fine solos along the way, particularly from Bob Sheppard (on alto),
clarinetist Alex Budman (during the final number), and Cullum who took a drum solo on the piano. One hopes that in the future Jamie
Cullum will take a chance and perform (and record) a full hour of jazz.
MILES DAVIS AT NEWPORT
The four-CD set Miles Davis At Newport 1955-75 – The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Columbia/Legacy) has the trumpeter’s Newport Jazz Festival
sets from 1955, 1958, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971 (actually from New York), and 1973 (recorded in Germany as part of a Newport traveling
show) plus one selection from 1975. All but the 1955, 1958 and 1969 performances were previously unreleased.
The July 17, 1955 set, previously put out by the Storyville label, contains Miles Davis’ “comeback” performance, highlighted by a version of
“’Round Midnight” with its composer Thelonious Monk that was noticed by critics in the audience and executives at Columbia Records who
signed the trumpeter. Also included are two jam session numbers with Gerry Mulligan and Zoot Sims plus a humorous verbal introduction of
the band by Duke Ellington. The 1958 recordings, the most familiar of these performances, have Davis with John Coltrane, Cannonball
Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chamber and Jimmy Cobb in a true super group. They play six numbers including a very fast and explosive “Ah-
Leu-Cha” and a definitive “Straight No Chaser.”
The second CD contains the most important new discoveries of this package, the two performances by Davis’ 1966-67 quintet with Wayne
Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Mixing together a few standards with such newer pieces as Jimmy Heath’s
“Gingerbread Boy” (heard twice and quite exciting both times) and “Footprints,” these sets are full of innovative ideas and youthful high
The last two CDs are from Davis’ fusion years. The 1969 performance is of strong interest for Davis is the only horn (Shorter was stuck in
traffic) and finds him in superior form on three numbers with Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. Listeners who enjoy
Live/Evil will find the full CD from 1971 of strong interest for the group also includes Gary Bartz (mostly on soprano) and Keith Jarrett on
electric piano both playing very well. However by that point, Davis was electrifying his horn and his famous tone was becoming less
recognizable. The 45-minute set from 1973 puts an emphasis on electronics with both Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas on rock-oriented guitars,
electric bassist Michael Henderson showing his ability to play the exact same bass pattern endlessly (one of the reasons that Davis hired him)
and the trumpeter often sounding like a synthesizer. It has its moments of interest although those fans that prefer Miles Davis in the 1950s
will not be converted. The colorful box set, which has an excellent booklet and is well recorded, is available from www.legacyrecordings.com.
FOUR RECENT RELEASES BY LOCAL PERFORMERS
We have been lucky to have Bruce Forman as a local resident for the past decade. One of the great bop-oriented guitarists and the leader of
Cow Bop, Forman also works and records in different settings. His recent The Book Of Forman (www.b4man-Music.com) features him in top
form in a pianoless trio with bassist Alex Frank and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Eight of the 11 songs are originals by the guitarist but
the music is very much in the jazz guitar trio format pioneered by Kenny Burrell in the 1950s although with more interactive playing from
the bassist and drummer. Among the three standards are an inventive and witty rearrangement of “The Song Is You” (with Frank showing
his expertise with the bow) and a 5/4 rendition of “You Go To My Head.” Throughout the enjoyable set, Bruce Forman displays the beauty of
his guitar and plays tasteful melodic variations. Although I wish he had included a few more uptempo works, The Book Of Forman is a keeper.
Jennifer Leitham has long been known as a hard-swinging and virtuosic bassist. Mood Swings (available from www.jenniferleitham.com)
also features Ms. Leitham as an appealing singer and composer, contributing three of the eight songs. From the opening “Riverside Romp,”
through the emotional “My Heart Had Wings,” Clare Fischer’s intriguing “Cascade Of The Seven Waterfalls” (which is quite a feature for the
bassist), a much slower-than-usual “The Masquerade Is Over” and Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism,” Leitham and her tight trio (with pianist
Andy Langham and drummer Randy Drake) play brilliantly. Guitarist Jamie Findlay makes welcome guest appearances on “You Won’t See
Me” and “Glad Tidings” while Jeff Linsky’s ukulele is a strong asset on the light-hearted feel of “Don’t You Ever” which has an anti-bullying
message for children. Overall, Mood Swings is a superior showcase for Jennifer Leitham’s musical talents and is easily recommended.
Mark Winkler is best known as a lyricist, for writing musicals and his work as a record producer but he is also a personable singer whose
friendly delivery and lightly swinging style are appealing. His most recent recording, Jazz and Other Four Letter Words (available from
www.markwinklermusic.com), has him joined by pianist Jamieson Trotter (who wrote the arrangements), a rhythm section and often
either Pat Kelley or Larry Koonse on guitar. There are also guest appearances by tenor-saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trombonist Bob
McChesney, a horn section and, on “I’m Hip” and “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” the great singer Cheryl Bentyne. Winkler performs five new
sets of his lyrics, Richard Rodney Bennett’s touching “I Never Went Away” and a variety of standards. Highlights include “My Idea Of A Good
Time” (which could very well catch on), ”Your Cat Plays Piano,” Paul Simon’s “Have A Great Time” and a relaxed version of “Nice Work If
You Can Get It.”
Mark Christian Miller often books and promotes other performers including Betty Bryant but Crazy Moon (available from www.
cornicheentertainment.com) puts his fine singing in the spotlight. With pianist Josh Nelson (who along with Jamieson Trotter wrote the
inventive arrangements), bassist Dave Robaire, drummer Sammy Miller, guitarist Larry Koonse and occasionally trumpeter Ron Stout, Bob
Sheppard on bass clarinet and percussionist Billy Hulting, Miller brings sincere feeling, solid swing and fresh interpretations to a variety of
standards and superior obscurities. “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” is given a dreamlike atmosphere and other highpoints include a cooking
“Cheek To Cheek,” excellent ballad singing on Andre Previn’s “Second Chance,” a swinging “Oh, You Crazy Moon,” and Artie Shaw’s “Moon
Ray.” This joyful set makes one wish that Mark Miller would record more often.