Here’s my latest review from International Review of Music:
Live Jazz: A Brief History Of The World (Piano Division) with Alan Pasqua and Tom Schnabel
By Michael Katz
Jazz on the Westside found a cozy nook to curl up in Monday night, as radio station KCRW presented an Up Close event with pianist Alan Pasqua and music host Tom Schnabel at the New Roads School in Santa Monica. The goal of the evening, a one hour tour of the history of jazz piano, was nothing if not ambitious – it takes Ken Burns an hour just to say hello. And unlike Burns, Messrs. Pasqua and Schnabel elected not to leave out everything after 1950. The idea was to focus on a dozen or so icons, and naturally there were a few interesting inclusions and omissions. Most enjoyably, there was some exquisite solo playing by Pasqua, particularly in celebration of a new CD dedicated to Bill Evans.
Pasqua began with a nod to Jellyroll Morton. Playing a brief version of “Tomcat Blues,” circa 1920, he gave the audience a demonstration of how Morton moved the music from its ragtime roots to the edge of stride and what would become the trademark sound of Louis Armstrong and others. Progressing to the era of Basie and Ellington, Pasqua discussed how Duke used his piano style to recreate the full sound of his orchestra, through brief interludes of “Take The A Train” and “Sophisticated Lady.”
There are certain players who can’t be left out in a Tour De Jazz Piano: Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Errol Garner. Their contributions are found in various combinations of brilliant compositions and technical and harmonic stylings. Monk, in particular, has a trove of compositions that invite contemporary interpretation. Given the relatively brief time of the show, it was nice that Pasqua chose to explore one Monk tune fully. He filled in the opening bridge of “Round Midnight” with a flourish and extended the standard with his own lively adaptation. Whereas with Bud Powell, he discussed jazz contrafact, demonstrating how Powell took the chord changes from “How High The Moon” and converted them to his own dense style in Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology.”
The one name that most in the audience were unfamiliar with was Jaki Byard, best known for his work with Eric Dolphy and, through much of the sixties, Charles Mingus. More significantly to this evening, he was a teacher and mentor to Alan Pasqua, so if his presence in this list seems slightly biased, that’s quite all right. “Tribute To The Ticklers” was a nod to Fats Waller and the stride pianists. It is noteworthy that in the turbulent sixties, when Byard wrote this piece, he was able to reach backwards and create something contemporary, a reminder that jazz is a living time machine, able to go in every direction in ways unlike most other musical forms.
There were nods to others, including McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock, and time constraints didn’t allow Pasqua to get to Dave McKenna and Keith Jarrett. Not surprisingly there were some notable omissions, most obviously Dave Brubeck. Pasqua allowed in the Q and A afterward that he didn’t think he could attempt to approach Brubeck without a rhythm section, though I don’t think you can leave him out of the conversation. Same with Oscar Peterson, ditto Mary Lou Williams. And the show’s format had such a resemblance to Marion McPartland’s Piano Jazz series, that she probably deserved a mention as well.
I’ve left Bill Evans for last, because he’s such a clear influence on Pasqua. There was a brief quote from “Green Dolphin Street,” followed by a lovely medley of Evans’ composition “Very Early,” and his classic interpretation of “Sleepin’ Bee.” Evans’ use of harmonics, his ability to sound almost lush and yet breathtakingly simple at the same time, challenge any type of written transposition. Pasqua’s new CD Two Piano Music is a nod to Evans’ Conversations With Myself, consisting of dual solo piano tracks. Pasqua’s composition “Grace” is on that CD, and that is how he concluded the hour long performance Monday night.
KCRW host Schnabel provided a bright counterpoint throughout the evening, offering a wealth of jazz knowledge to go along with Pasqua’s own musical history. He’s planning a similar evening focusing on Brazilian music later on this year, and that is good news for jazz fans in Santa Monica, and one assumes listeners of KCRW as well.
* * * * * * * *
Today, in preparation for the June 1st release of my new novel Dearly Befuddled, I’d like to say a few words about book giveaways. Since I am a proud holder of an MBA in finance from the University of Wisconsin, I approach this topic with a good deal of reticence. It violates a founding tenet of business, as articulated by one of the great titans of industry, Father Guido Sarducci: “You buy-a- something. You sell it for more.”
But in the world of Internet book commerce, the giveaway has become something of a practiced art. The theory goes like this: you give your book away for a few days. Lots and lots of people “buy it”, swelling your “sales.” This appears to make your book a best seller on one of their many Best Seller Lists (“Number One On Amazon’s Alien Romance Sports Bicycle Repair Great Restaurants of Austin List!”) The people who bought your book for free read it and write glowing reader reviews. The public sees your suddenly inflated rating and glowing reviews, then decides they must purchase your book, as well as your backlist of E-books. Real money starts showing up in your bank account. Sports Illustrated swimsuit models start lining up at your front door. (Example enhanced for marketing purposes…)
I should point out that there is an entire industry built around these giveaways. Sites and services charge fees in the hundreds of dollars to publicize your giveaways. In other words, you, Dear Author, are paying real American dollars (or gold trinkets, depending on your political persuasion) to give away your own book.
I know some people swear this method works. Personally, I am skeptical. For one, I think folks place little value on things they get for free. For another, I actually tried it with my Sussman/Glick comic mystery trilogy. Over the past year I gave away hundreds of copies of Last Dance In Redondo Beach and The Big Freeze, and saw only a minimal sales bump.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s is one of the most famous cases in business history, as taught in business schools throughout the nation. It involves a young woman who owned a small used furniture store. She had in her possession a valuable chair. A customer felt she was overcharging, and wanted her to, in the vernacular of the times, “give it away.” Thanks to our sister institution, the Katz of The Day Online Business School, we have a transcript of the case discussion, as discussed by the famous marketing professor, Dr. Ruth Brown. The clip omits the first few words of the discussion, so I present them here to you in front of the actual presentation:
“I own a second hand furniture store, and I think my prices are fair;
That is until this real cheap guy came in one day,
Saw this chair he wanted to buy, but he wouldn’t
Claimed the price was too high…
One day when I was a kid, my father brought home an autographed picture of Blackhawks star Bobby Hull. Written on the glossy black-and-white photo were the words, “Your father tells me you spend more time memorizing sports scores than on your homework – Bobby Hull”
Of course, the picture of the Golden Jet took center stage on my bulletin board. And I’m happy to report that, all these years later, I’m still spending more time watching hockey games than on my homework. The Blackhawks are in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with an exciting team favored to win it all. The Homework is preparing the launch for my first new fiction in many years, my comic novel Dearly Befuddled, to be released June 1st. The NHL playoffs will be going until about the 4th of July. It is a real test of my multi-tasking ability.
So, seriously. Let’s talk about hockey.
No, wait! There’s a mortgage to pay! And health insurance! Dearly Befuddled, unlike my Sussman/Glick mystery trilogy, is a self-published venture. So we’re talking real homework here. Composing press releases, stalking potential reviewers, blurbers and bloggers, finding friendly and affectionate ways to convince folks that they ought to spend a few hours reading a book that New York publishers, in their infinite wisdom (ha ha), did not deem commercial enough to publish.
Okay, enough about that. A few observations about the hockey playoffs. Is it my imagination, or, despite all the technological advances, HD and the like, is it harder to watch the game on TV than it was in the ‘70s? Maybe I don’t know the players as well, or see as many games in person, so it’s harder to follow the action on the screen. The arenas are much larger nowadays and the cameras farther away from the ice because of luxury boxes, so even with HD, the game seems more distant. And NBC’s cameramen, perhaps because they don’t cover as many games as local broadcasters, seem to rely too often on wide shots. I don’t ever recall spending so much time looking for the puck. Of course, I don’t recall lots of things.
But really, I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old guy. Because Dearly Befuddled is, at heart, a warmhearted, funny book that needs a big boost from social media. My Homework Assignment is to reach those three million people a year who go to Yellowstone, the millions who love reading about show biz romances, all the photographers who love our National Parks, and the most underrated literary group of all, the fly-fishing community. Are you listening, Robert Redford?
Then there is the whole blogosphere – just try to imagine a sixty-something year old Alice, trying to fall back into the Looking Glass. Twitter Dum and Twitter Dee.
So, Chicago Blackhawks, I turn my lonely eyes to you. And by the way, NBA, compared to hockey, you are slow and plodding, your timeouts endless, your commercials repetitive beyond belief. Did you know that hockey teams get one time-out (1!) per game? The last ten minutes of a playoff hockey game are an exciting blur. Whereas, as the comedienne Elayne Boosler famously put it, “If the doctor ever tells me I have five minutes to live, I hope it is the last five minutes of an NBA game.”
All right, then. Cyber-barrels of pleas, off into the ether, to book blogs and photography blogs and show biz blogs. Would you read my book? Thanks for asking to see my book! Hey! – Read the **#!**ing book already! Oh, right, and please say something nice.
But wait…Hawks – Detroit, Game 2. Puck drops at 10AM Saturday.
Not to worry, literary career.
There’s plenty of time for homework between periods.
Details are starting to filter in about the ATM heists that totaled $45 million worldwide, about $2.8 million of which were credited to a group of working class Yonkers residents. Three of them, it turns out, were bus drivers.
This conjures up a scene from a certain TV show, circa 1955.
ALICE: Ralph! Is this another one of those harebrained schemes of yours?
RALPH: Hairbained? HAREBRAINED? Listen, Alice, this can’t miss. I’ll betcha never heard of debit cards.
ALICE: Norton talked you into this, right?
RALPH: I beg your pardon!
Norton walks in, fumbling a printout full of obscure numbers and some plastic cards.
NORTON: Hel-loooo Ralphie!
Alice stands, arms akimbo, with a look of complete disdain.
RALPH: Norton! (drags him off stage) Whattaya, crazy?
Contary to most of the Honeymooners episodes, this scheme actually works. Ralph and Norton collect wads and wads of twenty dollar bills, not to mention expensive wristwatches.
ALICE: (Sees a wad of twenties sticking out of Ralph’s shirt.) Ralph! What are you doing with that. It must be $20,000!
RALPH: (oozing resentment) I don’t know what you’re talking about, Alice. That scheme couldn’t possibly work.
Alice pulls the bills from Ralph’s bulging shirt pocket.
ALICE: And where did you get that Rolex?
Ralph looks sheepishly at his left wrist.
RALPH: Homina, homina homina…
Well, this is 2013, and The Honeymooners are long gone. The closest facsimile for explaining hairbrained schemes would probably be Fox and Friends…
STEVE: The Rolexes seemed a particularly conspicuous form of money laundering, Gretchen, if that’s what the actual perpetrators were intending.
GRETCHEN: They were probably just looking for a safe form of investment. And you really can’t blame them, Steve, considering Obama’s benighted fiscal policy.
BRIAN: Savings accounts are worthless, after all. And the price of gold has plummeted, thanks to Bernanke’s manipulation.
GRETCHEN: I think the mainipulation of the gold price by the Fed is the key.
STEVE: I know I’d buy a Rolex if I had $40 grand in unmarked twenties…
GRETCHEN: Would you take it down to the Dominican Republic?
STEVE: What choice would I have?
The story does seem to unravel here. The ringleader, at least of the Yonkers Division of the international scheme, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Peña, returned to the Dominican, where he bought a 2006 Toyota pickup for $23,000 and left an envelope with 100K on the bed along with various weapons. He was eventually killed in a robbery perpetrated by his wife’s cousins.
And you think you have problems with your in-laws?
Meanwhile, the actual masterminds behind the international scheme are still at large. The FBI and Interpol are poring through old Seinfeld scripts for clues.
Some of you with more than a passing interest in colonoscopies might have caught the Opinionator piece in today’s NY Times by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (of the US medical/political/entertainment conglomerate Emanuel, Emanuel and Emanuel). In his piece, Dr. E. was trying to make the case that potentially agonizing experiences tended to leave a far worse memory if they didn’t end well, and thus could be made more desirable by devising happier endings. To illustrate this point, he compared redecorating his bathroom with a colonoscopy.
I must admit that is a comparison that never would have occurred to me, a writer well versed in the art of metaphor, but then I guess that is one of the benefits of a Harvard education. Having gone through several colonoscopies, I would point out that like most people, I was anesthetized for the duration, so I’m not sure Dr. E’s suggestion of leaving the tip of the colonoscope in the rectum for an extra three minutes would make the experience any more pleasurable, though I know a few people I’d be happy to test it on.
More to the point, in his article Dr. E seemed far more concerned with his own agonizing experience with bathroom contractors than with colonoscopies. He pointed out that no matter how efficient the contractors were, “The end of a remodeling job is always a terrible experience. A lot of little things need to be taken care of… In my case, the three problems were a towel warmer that lacked an on-off switch, a shower that didn’t work properly and a loose piece of molding.”
Well, why didn’t you say so! I want to assure Katz of the Day readers that when it comes to HTWD (Hot Towel Warmer Dysfunction) Syndrome, I can step right up and testify. A few years ago I was staying at a Bed and Breakfast on the Monterey Peninsula (name withheld to protect their reputation.) Among the many amenities advertised were hot towel warmers. It was one of those damp, chilly Monterey evenings, when the fog creeps in on little elephant feet. I believe the fog bank had actually swept in through the window and swallowed up the bed and armoire. I headed for the shower and enjoyed a long, steaming hot shower, then stepped out onto the cold, hard tile and reached for what I was assured would be a warm towel.
Oh, the horror! The towel was chilly, damp even. It felt raw to the touch. I shivered, stemmed off hypothermia by quickly wrapping myself in a fleece sweatshirt. I marched down to the B and B clerk, a teenage kid who was busy spooning chocolate chip cookie dough onto a greasy pan. He seemed, like, totally unawed by my trauma.
“Um, sorry, sir. The towel warmer doesn’t work, huh?”
“Did I not make myself clear?” I shook the gelid bath towel before his eyes.
“OK, I’ll have the engineer up there tomorrow. I think the last guy complained it was too hot.”
“This is an outrage!”
“I think he said it singed his chest hair.”
“Do you have any idea what a malfunctioning towel warmer is like?” I bellowed. “It’s like…it’s like a colonoscopy!” I gazed into the youngster’s milky eyes for signs of empathy.
“My Dad had a colonoscopy,” the kid said. “He didn’t think it was that bad. Except, you know, the night before.”
Years have pased since that harrowing evening. The trauma lives on, though I’ll admit it wasn’t even combined with whatever was wrong with Dr. E’s shower and his loose molding. He truly has my sympathy. In retrospect, though, I just wouldn’t compare HTWD to a colonoscopy.
Really, the colonoscopy isn’t that bad.
Maybe a prostate biopsy. Though I don’t want to know how Dr. Emanuel would propose to improve that.
Yes, things have been quiet here lately in the Katz of the Day Laboratory, as we prepare for the release of my first work of fiction in a couple of decades… Dearly Befuddled, America’s long-awaited comic/romance/photography/show biz/fly fishing novel, will be available to the masses June 1, or maybe a few days earlier…more on that later.
I did pop my head out of the Laboratory long enough to upgrade my Dish system so I could watch the beginning of the Blackhawks playoff run. The immediate reaction: GULP! If I actually thought they might lose to the Minnesota Wild, I never would have left the Twin Cities. Okay, I would have, but that’s another story. Here’s a few things that bother me:
- The Hawks still seem to have trouble scoring, especially against tight-checking teams.
- Their power play is mediocre.
- Dustin Byfuglien, come back wherever you are.
- The Hawks never did beat the Ducks this year.
- Okay, exhale.
Now, about that novel. Unlike my comic mystery trilogy (now available as e-books!) Dearly Befuddled is an adventure in self-publishing, through Amazon’s Create Space and the E-book platforms of Kindle and Smashwords. That means, if nobody buys it, I can’t blame the publishers for their total lack of promotion, and if people do buy it I can reap generous royalties, perhaps dozens of them.
Having produced a movie (Remembering Phil – don’t forget our special offer!) I’m well prepared for the vagaries of the entertainment/art biz, but the Brave New World of social media can be a little daunting for even the young-at-heart. (Much in the way that playing third base two weeks ago was a little daunting for the young-at-heart).
While I do hope to have some bookstore presence, especially among the indies, DB will be mainly available online, at Amazon or wherever fine novels are purchased, downloaded or stolen. That means the wonderful world of bloggers, internet reviewers, Goodreads, Amazon Reader reviews, etc. will be an important source.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, How Can I Help? Can I Get This Remarkable New Novel For Free In Return For Invaluable Blurbs And Promotion? (Like all this free writing isn’t enough?)
Here’s a few suggestions. In the month leading up to publication, you could practice doing rave reader reviews by visiting my Amazon/Goodreadspages for the Sussman/Glick mysteries. (Click the individual titles and go from there). I know, you read them a long time ago. But at least that is when you could still remember things.( Eat some peanut butter, the plots will come back…) What’s that? You Haven’t Read Them? Did I mention they are on sale for $2.99?
Meanwhile, if you are a blogger, book reviewer, prolific reader reviewer, and have seen this post by some miracle of viral internet randomness, please send me a convincing letter, in 100 words or less, as to “Why I Should Get A Free Preview Copy of Dearly Befuddled.” I will print your letter if I’m desperate for content and maybe send you a book.
Thanks for listening. Write if you know John Grisham.
Weinberg the Mole squinted through dark glasses at the cloudless LA skyscape, as if he had just emerged from several months in a dark hole, which in fact he just had. “I can’t believe they really built a train,” he said.
“Would I lie about something like this, Weinberg?”
“I just thought you were jealous.”
“No, really, I’m not.” Weinberg, you will recall from previous episodes, has been digging a tunnel underneath the streets of Santa Monica, in an effort to outflank the traffic that has choked off mobility on the Westside lo these many years. It was a Saturday morning, and I had decided to take him for a ride on the new LA Metro Expo Line, which had recently made its way west to Culver City.
“But it’s not even finished!” Weinberg said. “Look, it’s just a pile of wooden siding. It’s an Overpass to Nowhere.”
“We’re not there yet,” I said. We were driving east on Olympic, underneath the work-in-progress at Cloverfield Boulevard that will eventually bring the Expo Line to Santa Monica.
“They will never finish this in our lifetime,” Weinberg said. “Do you know I’ve got my tunnel almost to Wilshire and Barrington?”
“Weinberg, I am truly impressed.”
“I’m trying to widen it so that people don’t have to use the Mummy Tram.”
“The Mummy Tram?”
“That’s what I call the little two wheeled cart you have to ride on your stomach. I was going to call it the Tummy Tram, but Sara thought that would only encourage people to bring their children. I copyrighted that by the way.”
“You mean patented?”
“No, I think someone from the Anaconda Corporation has the patent.”
We arrived at the Metro Station on Robertson Blvd. at about 10:30 AM. The free parking lot appeared to cover several acres, and it was already nearly half full. I was taking Weinberg to the LA Festival of Books, which was being held on the USC campus. “No one can get here on a weekday,” Weinberg said, rather weakly. “It would take forty minutes to get here from Santa Monica.”
“People from Culver City can get here.”
“Well, who lives there?”
“Weinberg, for someone who has spent the last fourteen months living in a tunnel, you are a bit of a snob.”
“Look at those lines!” Weinberg trundled over to the lines that were snaking behind the ticket kiosks. There was a machine that dispensed plastic cards called TAP cards, which cost a dollar. The fare itself was $1.50 each way, which meant that the trip up and back to USC cost less than a gallon of gas, not to mention the avoidance of traffic and parking. A Metro Line employee stood at each kiosk, explaining to patrons how the fare system worked.
“This is an outrage!” said Weinberg.
“You’ve got to pay for the card. What does the card cost, a few pennies? That’s about a thousand per cent mark-up.”
“I suppose it is. That’s one for you, Weinberg.”
“We don’t charge admission to the Wunnel. It’s completely voluntary.”
“The Weinberg Tunnel. I thought Wunnel had a nice ring.”
“Did you copyright that, too?”
Weinberg nodded smugly. “I’ve already got a website at www.wunnel.com . It outlines the entire route, and keeps track of traffic in the Wunnel and all its Wunnelettes.” Weinberg appeared to gloat at my blank expression. “The side routes. Remember, I got our neighbors working on them?”
Weinberg had told me last time about enlisting his neighbors to open spur routes that ran north and south between Wilshire and Montana Boulevards. “Weinberg, can you actually access the Internet from anywhere in the Wunnel?”
“No. But given the somewhat limited elbow room in the Mummy Tram, it’s awfully difficult to talk on your smart phone anyway.”
“A bit claustrophobic, is it?”
“We try to stay away from any word that has ‘phobia’ attached. It’s bad for morale.”
Weinberg and I entered the bright, shiny metro train at about 10:45. The other riders were chattering excitedly, many of them obviously riding the train for the first time. There were route maps on the wall, detailing how to get downtown, or further east to sections of LA I had never encountered. “This is kind of like…” Weinberg’s words trailed off into silent contemplation as the train pulled away from Culver City. “It’s kind of like…”
“Living in a real city?”
Weinberg scratched his head. The train glided smoothly over the rails, heading east, through the quaint neighborhoods. “Look at that,” Weinberg said. “Those are kind of cute.”
“Those little things.” Weinberg pointed across the tracks.
“Those are houses.”
We passed Vermont and the Natural History Museum. We had only been on the train fifteen minutes and were about to pull up to Exposition Boulevard. “It will only be a year or two,” I said. “You will be able to get on the train in Santa Monica and get to the doorstep of USC.”
“Who would want to do that?” Weinberg said.
“Maybe people who go to USC?”
“You won’t be able to get to UCLA,” Weinberg said. “The Metro line is too far south. Try and get to UCLA from Santa Monica and you will still be hopelessly crushed, unless you take the Wunnel.” Weinberg was beginning to perspire around the lips.
“I think the idea is, if enough people take the train, traffic on Wilshire will lighten up.”
“We will never live to see it.”
“Speak for yourself, Weinberg.”
The train pulled up to the station. The USC campus was right across the tracks. Dozens of Book Festival patrons jauntily filed out, beaming at the half dozen security cops that lined the tracks. We departed the train and melted into the crowd.
“Here,” said Weinberg. He pressed a piece of paper into my hand.
“It’s a discount coupon. For the Grand Opening of the Wunnel.”
“When is that supposed to happen?”
“We’re pushing for Labor Day.”
“I guess that would be appropriate for an 18 month quasi-legal digging operation.”
“Not to worry,” Weinberg said. “It will be a fait accompli.”
“Sounds like a dessert that would cost eight bucks on Montana Avenue.”
“Don’t forget to give us a good Yelp rating,” Weinberg said. “Let’s go look at some books.”
Here at Katz Of The Day, we are sometimes victimized by the dreaded Subscription Bug, whatever that is. It may be related to the Cicadas. Anyway, if you got a blank e-mail notice, or several of them, we are sorry. Please check the previous post, on Saving El Capitan Meadow, as it has some time sensitive material.
It is springtime and thoughts turn to Yosemite, where the oaks are sprouting leaves and the dogwoods will be turning soon. Alas, another committee has sprouted, as well, with at least one particularly bad idea to deal with overcrowding in Yosemite Valley.
You’ll remember a few weeks ago I reported on the Park’s Tuolumne River plan, which would significantly reduce the capacity of the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. Now comes the Merced River Draft Management Plan, which wants to fence in one of my favorite spots in the Valley, El Capitan Meadow, to “save” it from being trampled by tourists. This meadow is the site of many of my best images, including Winter Oaks In Fog, which was featured in the Yosemite Renaissance Art Exhibit a few years ago.
Photographer Michael Frye commented beautifully on his Facebook Post today, and I hope you will give this a read: https://www.facebook.com/michaelfryephoto?hc_location=timeline
And another photographer I’ve had a workshop with, John Sexton, had a good suggestion: remove the parking strip along the meadow boundary, so people would have to walk a half mile or so to get there. Trust me, nothing works to discourage overcrowding like removing easy access. Here’s John’s comments: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200950372552657&set=a.1254754460087.149833.1566335996&type=1
I don’t often let others do the talking on this site, but I can’t put it better.
The public comment period for this plan ends Thursday April 18, so I hope you’ll comment now. Here’s the link: http://
And here’s a few more images from El Cap Meadow. I believe I hear it singing, “Don’t Fence Me In”
Here’s reviews from two sparkling nights of music in LA, from International Review of Music:
April 11, 2013
By Michael Katz
Let’s start with this: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, an acoustic jazz trio, a nightclub appearance. Fill out the trio with an energetic young drummer, Marcus Gilmore, grandson of Roy Haynes, no less.
Hardly. Make it a quartet with Hubert Laws sitting in on flute. Jam an appreciative overflow crowd into the sprawl of Catalina Bar & Grill on a Tuesday night. Sprinkle in good vibes from all the players. Shake, stir, and Voila! One of those nights you won’t soon forget.
Chick Corea has cut such a wide swath in his career that it rightly took him several weeks and ten concerts to celebrate his 70th birthday in New York in 2011. For the opening of a weeklong gig here in LA, he presented a mini-tour of his acoustic work, in the splendid company of Clarke and Gilmore (to begin with), touching on his early trio work with the opening Steve Swallow tune, “Eiderdown.” Corea made it a point a few times during the show to thank the audience for attending a “rehearsal,” and although the players know each other quite well, there are always some bugs to be worked out in an opening show. I thought the piano sounded a tad muffled during the early going, though that may have come from sitting in the extended wing that reaches behind the piano and towards the bar area. On the other hand, it presented an excellent perspective for Clarke’s lithe bass work – at 61, he looks like he could step in and play defensive back somewhere.
“Bud Powell,” a Corea composition from Chick’s Remembering Bud Powell CD, had all the musical dexterity of Powell’s signature tunes: the darting ebbs and flows that fill up a space like a tidal pool, then whoosh back out, leaving Clarke and Gilmore to fill in the void, while Corea moves on, looking for musical eddies to stir up.
Hubert Laws joined the trio for the rest of the set, starting with Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica.” For those of us who discovered jazz in the late sixties and early seventies, Laws’ playing defined the jazz flute. Re-united with Corea and Clarke he sounded every bit in his prime, full of the lilting riffs, tinged with classical arpeggios that have always characterized his playing. Following Chick’s intro, Laws entered with the Monk line crisp and clear, leaving the others room for solos in an atmosphere that was casual and cool.
And then there was “Windows.” I suppose we all have our favorite songs, but “Windows” is unabashedly one of mine. It’s not just one of Chick Corea’s best compositions, but a perfect construction for Hubert Laws’ expressive tones. From the plaintive opening notes, to the improvisational flights that follow and the dovetailing denouement, it still captivates. Simply put, hearing Laws perform it with Corea, Clarke and the young Gilmore behind him was, for me, a singular musical moment.
There was much more, in a set that stretched over ninety minutes. “Captain Marvel” is a tune from Return To Forever’s second LP, but I first heard it on Stan Getz’s album of the same name, with Corea and Clarke as sidemen. Laws introduced the theme, giving it a soulful boost, then let the rhythm section take the forefront. Stanley Clarke would be in dynamic mode the rest of the evening. Here, sandwiched between two terrific drum explorations by Gilmore, he took command of the acoustic bass, while Corea laid out harmonic layers behind him.
That was nominally the end of the set, but the crowd wasn’t ready to disperse, not by any means, and the band continued with Joe Henderson’s “Recorda-Me.” Again, Clarke was out front, perhaps most noticeable because he had laid back earlier, but by this time it was four great musicians swinging separately and together. Young Gilmore provided a verve and youthful enthusiasm that kept the others on their toes. Hubert Laws reminded us that after all this time, no one plays the flute better.
And then there’s the leader of this group, Chick Corea, who has hit every musical touchstone imaginable, getting right to the heart of the matter: a piano, a melody, the intrinsic syncopation of swing, a classic trio plus one. The Corea/Clarke Trio will play through Sunday with Hubert Laws sitting in tonight.
This is an event you don’t want to miss.
* * * * * * * *
April 8, 2013
By Michael Katz
I’m going to tell you about the second set at Vitello’s Saturday night, featuring the Wolff & Clark Expedition, led by pianist Michael Wolff and drummer Mike Clark. Not that there was anything wrong with the first set. It was, in fact, quite wonderful. It’s just that some of you were no doubt at the first set, and I don’t want to be redundant. The second set, I believe, is my exclusive. A scoop, even.
I know, I know. The second Final Four game didn’t end until nine o’clock or so. That pretty much took care of your evening. And you’ve got lots to do on Sunday morning. LA is just not a late night town, not a great sign for a late night art. So here’s a little of what you missed.
Michael Wolff meandered to the stage while the rest of the band was still milling around, bidding adieu to a few first set stragglers. He treated the scattered crowd to some lovely solo piano, breathing life into his composition “Portraiture,” until Mike Clark joined him with some textured backing and turned it into a duet. By this time bassist Tony Dumas and guest soloist Bob Sheppard had come back to the stage. Sheppard stepped into a robust tenor introduction to “Song For My Father.” The Horace Silver standard is one of the featured songs on the new Wolff & Clark Expedition CD, which artfully mixes standards like “What Is This Thing Called Love,” and “Hummin’” with original compositions. It’s a trio album, and in the first set it took Sheppard some time to find his way into the arrangements. But “Song For My Father” was a perfect vehicle for him. Perhaps because we’re familiar with the Leon Thomas vocal version, the sound of the tenor feels both familiar and specific to Sheppard’s improvisations. Wolff, meanwhile, countered with his own dark underpinnings, taking the narrative back, while Dumas set the tone behind him.
“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” is a staple in the Wolff oeuvre, dating back to his mid-seventies days with the Cannonball Adderley band. For the CD, he and Clark added an insistent counter tone to the intro, giving the line some extra verve, and freeing up Mike Clark to do some pulsating stick work behind the groove. Like the Lennon-McCartney song “Come Together,” which they performed in the first set, it’s such a recognizable line that it keeps your mind occupied while the players improvise around it, though “Mercy” has that added Zawinul funk that keeps it fresh after all this time.
It’s fun listening to Wolff, Clark et al turn these standards inside out and still bring them home in more or less one piece, but I do want to point out the compositional skills, particularly of Michael Wolff. There are several originals of his on the new CD, including “Elise,” written for his mother, which he performed in the first set. It’s a brief, lilting melody, extended nicely in live performance with sensitive support from Clark and Dumas.
But I digress. The band has been bringing in guests throughout their tour, and Mike Clark recounted Jimmy Heath’s date with them at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in New York. They played Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy” there, and recreated it here with Bob Sheppard on soprano sax. It was a fitting recipe for closing out a late night set. Sheppard soared through hard bop lines on the soprano, completely in control of the instrument’s tonal challenges. Clark, the former Headhunters drummer, agile and inventive as always, had plenty of room to stretch out, driving the pace from the opening downbeat. Tony Dumas, with an insistent bass, kept things alive from underneath. And then there was Michael Wolff with riff after riff, darting through his arpeggios, taking the theme home.
So that was it, not a lengthy set but a memorable one, the kind of thing that happens when a couple of touring stars combine with the type of local talent available in few places outside of LA. It’s what happens when the musicians have an extra hour to find their way with compositions and arrangements new to some and familiar to others.
It is why some of us always stick around.
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