6 - The Scene in LA Archives

June 18, 2007

A new venue for Cryptonight?

The time has come to start a discussion on when and where Cryptonight can rise from the ashes of the quirky and mostly wonderful Club Tropical. We had a nice run there, and it would be a shame to let any momentum that was built over the course of those three years disappear into the ether.

So, where might that venue be? We have yet to find that serendipitous combination of location, understanding, and vibe that we had at the most unlikely of places - a Salvadorian restaurant in Culver City.


First, the issue of location. We'd like to keep the series located on the west side of town for a few reasons. Cryptogramophone's HQ is located there, a lot of the musicians that are involved with the series live out this way, it's close to the airport for artists that are coming from out of town to play, and there's nothing like it going on in this part of town, at least to my knowlege. I realise that our audience base is small, but it seems like a city as large as Los Angeles should be able to support a few places to play new music. There are small theaters to consider, but the proposition of having to rent such a space would probably be cost-prohibitive. A lot of restaurants already have clientele that may or may not be receptive to what we're doing. Since running a restaurant is as tenuous as running a concert series, I can understand reluctance on an owner's part to turn over their place to someone else one night a week. Another suggestion has been to utilize different venues as they become available, but I'm afraid that the audience won't move with the show. Given all of that, maybe a non-traditional venue is the way to go. House concerts have risen in popularity in the last decade. Maybe we can find a patron of the arts that has a house large enough to facilitate something like this. It presents listeners an opportunity to hear music in an intimate and comfortable setting.

Then, there's the issue of understanding. Carlos (the proprietor of Club T) may not have liked every ensemble that passed through his doors, but he understood that we were serious about what we were doing, and gave us the opportunity to continue. By doing that, I think he was rewarded too, by our audience that came every Thursday to eat and drink, as well as listen.

Vibe is an important element in all of this, too. Club T was a nutty place - wild colors on the walls, a statue on the bandstand (I named her the Goddess of Liquid Refreshment), a crazy lighting rig, and a wooden dance floor that proved to be one of the key elements. It provided the foundation of the warm sound of the room. People spend thousands of dollars equipping their clubs for live music and don't come close to a sound like we had. This all proved attractive, both to musicians and patrons.
Plus, the wait staff were very friendly and respectful. That helps a lot.

We caught lightning in a jar at this place and kept it there for three years...who's to say we can't do it again. If anyone who reads this has any ideas or suggestions for a venue, PLEASE share them with us.

June 20, 2007

"MAKIN' A RACKET": An Exclusive Interview with David Witham, Pt. I

David Witham is a monster musician—and we mean not just his in-demand chops but the fact that the guy is around 6' 6'' with a big booming voice, linebacker’s gait and ham-sized hands that can lightly caress the 88 keys on a piano and then crush a metal napkin dispenser.


Continue reading ""MAKIN' A RACKET": An Exclusive Interview with David Witham, Pt. I" »

June 25, 2007

“LIGHT AT NIGHT”: An Exclusive Crypto Interview with David Witham, Pt. 2


Spinning The Circle, David Witham’s second solo album since 1988’s self-released On-Line, shows the pianist’s versatility with jazz, world beat, and jamband influenced originals—from the breakbeat electronica of "The Neon" to the gentle balladry of "Who Knows." But he brings some heavy-hitters along for the ride. “My associations with the members of this ensemble span the last thirty-some years, basically the course of my musical career thus far,” Witham writes in the liner notes. They include guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Scott Amendola are both on board, as are pedal steel guitarist (and frequent Bill Frisell collaborator) Greg Leisz, bassist Jay Anderson, woodwind player Jon Crosse, and percussionist Luis Conte.

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August 16, 2007

Dog-Day News & The Chicken Pox Blues

Sorry for the long wait between this and last posts. We were just plain lazy and there's no A/C in the "bloggin' office." Kudos to those 'nards over at Pitchfork Media for breaking the news of Nels Cline's chicken pox, which has sidelined our friend for a few Wilco gigs.


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March 11, 2008

Friday Night Prayer Meeting

By Kirk Silsbee
[courtesy of Arroyo Monthly]

It's the first Friday night of the new year and the drive from Santa Monica to Pasadena has been an ordeal. The peristaltic traffic is enough to make one question the wisdom of living in Southern California, and on Sierra Madre Boulevard, the wind blows the rain across the road in sheets. But at the building marked 322, the soft glow of internal light acts as a silent beacon in the darkness. It's a night when beacons are welcome.


Bobby Bradford (photo by Michael Germana)

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March 25, 2008

World Stage Stories Announces Spring 2008 Calendar

Chet Hanley, Clint Rosemond and Jeffrey Winston, our friends down at Leimert Park's World Stage Performance Gallery, just sent us the new Spring schedule for World Stage Stories, their next round of live oral history interviews with local jazz luminaries:

March 28: drummer Fritz Wise
April 11: author Steve Isoardi
May 2: vocalist Barbara Morrison
May 9: singer/washboardist Sweet Baby J’ai
May 30: cornetist/bandleader Bobby Bradford
June 6: pianist Harold Land, Jr.

Fritz Wise

All WSS interviews include a formal interview with the artist, then a Q&A with the live audience, followed by a short "woodsheddin'" segment where the artist blows the roof off the mutha. WSS takes place on Fridays at 8pm at the World Stage (4344 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008). A $10 donation is suggested. For more information, call Clint Rosemond at (323) 290-6565.

April 4, 2008

Boppin' with Maupin

Yes, we realize that the word "legendary" -- especially in jazz and blues circles -- is tossed around to the point where it nearly becomes meaningless, but it sure doesn't apply when it comes to multi-reedist/composer/bandleader Bennie Maupin.

The Maestro

For anyone who wants to see the master in action, Mr. Bennie will celebrate the release of his new recording Early Reflections on Cryptogramophone Records, Friday, April 18th at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood, CA. There will be two sets, at 8:00 PM and 10:00PM.

As anyone with a modem should know by now, Bennie Maupin's "comeback" (one might argue the man never left) came in a one-two punch with the release of the critically lauded Penumbra in 2006 and the re-release of his classic 1974 album The Jewel in the Lotus last year. Early Reflections is a beautiful recording of Maupin's Polish quartet featuring Michal Tokaj on piano (Tomasz Stanko's pianist), and guest vocalist Hania Rybka on two tracks. Joining Maupin, Tokaj and Rybka for this performance will be bassist Darek Oles, drummer Michael Stephans, and percussionist Munyungo Jackson. The ensemble will also be performing in New York City at the Jazz Standard, April 26-27 as a part of Cryptonights at Jazz Standard. Early Reflections will be released April 22nd.

Continue reading "Boppin' with Maupin" »

April 11, 2008

Jazz in the Modern Era

“We take a lot for granted in Southern California. We take the weather for granted. We take the ocean for granted. And we take it for granted that in our midst we have a group of legendary musicians and artists that play a music called jazz."
-Chet Hanley

For the past six years, professor and historian Chet Hanley has been literally putting these words to music. He had hosted over 150 episodes (many of them 3 hours long) of Jazz in the Modern Era, a college curriculum course and jazz music television show broadcast from the campus of Cal-State Dominguez Hills (Locally, it airs Tuesdays, 9:00 - 10:30PM on Time-Warner Cable Channel 36, and online). And Chet's in good company: cornetist Bobby Bradford once taught at the Dominguez-Hills campus in the late-60's-early 70's.

Chet Hanley (left) with Leroy Downs

JITME viewers are encouraged to call in to speak with in-studio guests and discuss their favorite selections or artists. Chet has featured jazz musicians, club owners, photographers, promoters, writers, historians and collectors from all over the country. But what makes his show so special is its documenting of the Southern California jazz scene: the show's archives, once they are completed and available online, will amount to a massive treasure trove of local jazz history from Central Avenue to Leimert Park. (Many of the writers, collectors and historians who stop by bring along rare performances of jazz greats, which makes it a terrific window into the tributaries of the SoCal jazz underground, who trade their wares they way Dave Matthews fans trade live bootlegs.) And then there's Chet, an urbane and genial host with an encyclopedic knowledge of not just jazz history but poetry, boxing, photography and art. (Think Tavis Smiley without all that flash and flummery.) And, true to jazz, the show often goes in unexpected directions, like the time funk great Rick James made a call in to the live broadcast...

Currently, the most recent season of "Jazz in the Modern Era" is available on the Cal-Sate Dominguez Hills website. It's a bit buried in the maw, so we'll give you some quick guidelines for access to the online archives:

(1) Go to the Cal-State Dominguez Hills website:

(2) On the top right-hand side of the homepage, click on the "Quick Links" and scroll down to click on "Distance Learning."

(3) You should be on a page with the title "DominguezOnline." On the left side, click on "Online-TV Archives."

(4) Click on the link: "IDS 336 Jazz in the Modern Era"

(5) A pop-up page should appear, titled "Index of /jazzS08"; below is the list of shows to watch. We'll let you know (when Chet lets us know) when all 168 episodes will be available.

Tonight at 8pm at the World Stage in Leimert Park, Chet and his compadres Jeffrey Winston and Clint Rosemond, will be hosting World Stage Stories, a live oral history interview with various luminaries and legends (oops, there's that word again) of the loCal jazz scene. Tonight, to commemorate of the birthday of pianist/bandleader Horace Tapscott (April 6 -- Happy B-Day, Aries!), fellow historian Steve Isoardi, author of the invaluable books Central Avenue Sounds, the Tapscott bio Songs of the Unsung, and The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles, will stop by for a lively chat.

April 28, 2008

Brick Kicks It

While the Crypto crew is flying home today after a week in New York -- and our Fearless Leader Jeff Gauthier is being administered oxygen and B-12 shots for chronic exhaustion -- we'd thought we'd "reprint" an impassioned piece of jazz journalism from our friend Brick Wahl on the state of jazz in America in This Our Last Year of Khmer Bush. (Quite timely, given the news of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the IAJE last week.) We were working on a similar post to commemorate Jazz Appreciation Month, but Brick beat us and wrote "The Unpackaged Groove," something so searing and so passionate -- and so goddamn TRUE -- that we will defer this space to him today.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Artwork by John Heard)

by Brick Wahl
The table was so close, it abutted the stage, and when Azar blew that soprano of his you could look straight up into its innards and almost see the frantic rush of notes coming out all harmonized. It was that close. So close that you could feel the rhythm section, Lorca Hart’s pounding toms and John Heard’s thrumming bass and Nate Morgan’s jagged chords vibrating through the stage and through the table and into our bones. They had a groove going, a monster jazz groove, and it was unstoppable. Even Azar gave into it, left the stage to let the groove whirl itself senseless, turning and turning, ever widening. Morgan’s fingers were completely mad, pounding and pirouetting insanely intricate melodies out of Monk and McCoy and the blues and Chopin. Lorca, laughing, was all motion and whirring sticks. Yet things did not fall apart. Because holding down that center was Heard, just his second night back at Charlie O’s after a long, scary illness. He leaned into his instrument and laid out a perfect lattice of bass notes that held everything together as it propelled it all forward. No mere anarchy, this. This was an infinite groove. This was a happening. This was jazz in all its overwhelming power, deep black music played white hot. Nothing else mattered. Not the whole crass music business, not the manufactured pop and rock and hip-hop that passes for American culture anymore, not a music press that pompously elevates mass-produced trash into art. None of that mattered, not an iota. This was a Sufi moment, all the horrors of the world dispelled by the twirling monster groove. No one slouching nowhere. When at last it came to a stop, the audience, spent, exploded with applause and rushed the stage to congratulate the players like they’d won the Stanley Cup.

But then if you dig jazz you’ve been there. Moments like that don’t happen every time; if you see enough jazz you’ll experience them. It’s one of the very last things in America, this battered America, that can take a sick and tired you and make you feel like you touched the sun. It still does what the American music industry has destroyed in almost every other music. It remains real, unpackaged, spontaneous. It’s immune to marketing campaigns and image consultants. They may have killed rock and pop and the rest, sucked them dry, but they haven’t touched jazz. Certainly not that night at Charlie O’s ... for if there had been any A&R people in the audience that night, as Lee Ving once said, they certainly went and died...That’s jazz appreciation. (published in LA Weekly, April 25-May 1, 2008)

And, finally, In Memoriam: Jimmy Giuffre, 1921-2008. Rest In Tempo.

May 19, 2008

"Guest Blogger": Kirk Silsbee

As part of our ongoing celebration of Crypto's 10th year in the red (ahem), we're featuring the writing of one Mr. Kirk Silsbee, who along with Greg Burk has been one of the deans of loCal jazz journalism for over 30 years. First up is "Livin' Large," a piece about the first rehearsals for Vinny Golia's Large Ensemble, which of course featured players who would go on to become part of the extended Crypto family. Enjoy!

Kirk Silsbee (right) presenting an award to Dr. Paul Martin, who treated Billy Higgins, at the Jazz Bakery in 2004
[photo by Skip Bolen]

Continue reading ""Guest Blogger": Kirk Silsbee" »

May 21, 2008

(a second helping of) Guest Blogger: Kirk Silsbee

As part of our ongoing celebration of Crypto's 10th year, we're featuring the music journalism of one of our local scribes Kirk Silsbee, a man crazy enough to attempt write about all the different nooks and crannies of L.A.'s jazz scene with any kind of acuity. Today, it's a piece that's close to OUR heart: the general state of independent jazz record labels in Los Angeles. Take it away, Sils!

Notre Chef Courageux [photo by Maura C. Lanahan]

Continue reading "(a second helping of) Guest Blogger: Kirk Silsbee" »

May 23, 2008

Kirk Silsbee (Last Time Around)

One truism of being a freelance jazz writer is the fact that some pieces you write never actually make it to print -- thanks to those pesky last minute editorial decisions (i.e., "$$$$$$"). Our guest blogger this week, Kirk Silsbee, was kind enough to provide us with an unpublished piece he wrote on Cryptogramophone's late, lamented concert series Cryptonight at Club Tropical, which ended almost a year ago when the new owners booted us out sooner than expected (cutting off a highly anticipated evening with singer Dwight Tribe.)

"Hola chicos! Vamos a poner en un espectáculo!"

Although this piece now reads bittersweet, it reminds us that, in the words of Crypto house pianist David Witham, "the time has come to start a discussion on when and where Cryptonight can rise from the ashes." Well, as it turns out, Mr. Witham will be dueting with our Fearless Leader Jeff Gauthier on June 6, 2008 at the Museum of Neon Art in downtown L.A., which just happens to be the re-launching of CryptoNight MACH 2!!!

Continue reading "Kirk Silsbee (Last Time Around)" »

June 13, 2008

A Rare Brief Great Day in the Park

[Per our previous post about the upcoming group photograph of L.A.'s jazz community in front of UCLA's Schoenberg Hall (the date has been changed to Sunday, Oct. 12 at 1:30pm), the following is an unpublished short piece I wrote a few years back about a group photograph of local L.A jazz and cultural luminaries from Leimert Park on Saturday, May 13, 2006. Once we track down the photo in question, we'll try to put it up. Enjoy!]

The fascinating headwear began to gather around noontime Saturday before the giant stone fountain in Leimert Park Village: tams, skull caps, straw fedoras, pork pies, Chinese coolies, top hats, fezzes. For passers-by curious enough to ask, the mélange was described as this: “Remember the ‘Great Day in Harlem’?” ?" The reactions were either that of recognition or feigned recognition. "Great Day in Harlem? What does that have to do with this?”

Jesse Sharps searches for The Oneness before the Leimert Village fountain

The reference was to Art Kane’s now-famous 1958 Esquire group photo that captured 58 jazz masters, from Lester Young and Thelonius Monk to Art Blakey and Mary Lou Williams, on a Harlem staircase and later became the subject of a book and a documentary film. What distinguished that image was that nobody—certainly not Kane or those who posed for it—really thought much of what it portended at the time; only later did filmmakers and writers seem to glean some sort of zeitgeist-defining moment.

Such group photos seem to have become cultural hallmarks in African-American life, particularly in the intersection of music and the visual arts. Thirty years after Kane's photo, Anthony Barboza’s photo of a 15-person collective helped to define the "New Black Aesthetic" in the 1980s, from George C. Wolfe and Russell Simmons to Spike Lee and Chris Rock, shot on a staircase at the Brooklyn headquarters of Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule production company and currently the subject of the documentary Smart Black People. "I use the photo here...because, for me, it captures the spirit of the time like a charm," wrote critic Nelson George. "Barboza’s photo is the future of our collective past."

But in many ways, what happened at the village fountain was quite different from those decidedly Gotham-centric scene. The Leimert Park group photo, assembled by photographer and Malcolm X festival co-organizer Torre’ Brannon-Reese, was the latest addition to a project called “cultural renaissance classic photo series.” It will be unveiled in all its sepia glory on May 18 at the Lucy Florence Cultural Center, exactly ten years to the day of the first photo of 60 local jazz legends standing, sitting and kneeling before the World Stage performance gallery.

In other words, this wasn’t just a single moment captured for posterity but an ongoing documentation of the comings and goings of generations in a city that was never a single city but a crazy quiltwork of them, each with their separate rhythms and identities, split by traffic and hamstrung by time—in many ways, a rebuke to the very idea of artistic interaction, musical or otherwise.

So, for exactly two hours, at least 84 musicians, artists, writers, dancers and poets who defined the African-American arts in South (Central) L.A. for the past half-century converged from all over the area: artist John Outterbridge and poet Kamau Daáood, graduates of the area’s first cultural flowering following the 1965 riots; trumpeter Clora Bryant, the only female to play with Charlie Parker, and Aman Kufahamu, host of the influential KUSC radio show Greg's Refresher Course; Dale Davis, co-owner of the first African-American owned business in Leimert Park, and Bob Watt, assistant principal french horn for the L.A. Philharmonic and the symphony’s first African-American; David Ornette Cherry and Harold Land Jr., pianist sons of great Los Angeles horn masters. (Louis Gossett Jr. was a no-show as was Buddy Collette, Arthur Blythe, Dr. Art Davis, Sonship Theus and Gerald Wilson.)

As usual, it was musicians who dominated the scene. Jackie Kelso arrived looking regal in a gray suit and sea-blue blouse, holding his soprano sax like a proud brass totem. Roberto Miguel Miranda showed up with his bass and jammed with the drum circle whose pulse created the backbeat for the reminiscing and joking, the raucous laughter and salty cajoling of people who haven’t seen each other in years, days or weeks. “We're dealin’ with jazz people here,” chuckled Reese. “When I said ‘arrive at twelve noon,’ they hear ‘one o clock.’” As the entire mass of people assembled itself on the lip of the fountain, or knelt before it with their instruments, homeless men crept up to the edge of this warm chaos and stare in wonderment, too taken aback to approach anybody. On the other hand, a dark-suited political hopeful materialized out of nowhere to shake hands and purr a teletype shpiel about supporting music in the schools. He was not run out on a rail.

It was a fun crowd but a prickly and self-assured one as well: They had somewhere else to be. Clora Bryant, sporting a halo of purple, pink and blue carnations in her hair, marched up and announced: “I want somebody to take my picture now!" Young bassist Nick Rosen glanced around distractedly, “This is such a great scene, but I gotta go help my mom put her dog to sleep.” Folding chairs were brought over from the World Stage and placed on two large rugs that had been laid at the south end of the fountain. ("Are we gonna have to bring these chairs back?" someone called out.) Reese pointed to a gray-bearded man who wandered by, looking both dazed and keyed up by all the familiar faces and voices. "Hey, I want you in the front of the photo ‘cause you missed it ten years ago!" A long three branch kept dipping into the corner of the shot until someone broke it off. After the photo was taken, some ventured over to a jam session at the Farmer’s Market down the street. Most, however, dispersed and melted back into the city as quickly as they came.

Reese seemed to recognize both the fleeting quality of the moment as much as the ghost trails left by those who had passed on since the original photo. (The next one, whenever it will be taken, many here will be noticeably absent.) Before he centered his subjects in the camera lens, Reese stepped up and addressed them with the exhorting musicality of a Baptist preacher: "We are standing on sacred ground, where Horace Tapscott and Billy Higgins once walked, where Richard Fulton started 5th Street Dick's and the Davis Brothers started the Brockman Gallery. We thank the Divine Creator for our lives. We thank you for the struggles of our ancestors. We thank you for being able to stand with our art in this spiritual village. We pledge to you oh God we will do all we can to make this world a better place for our children than it was for us.” He asked the crowd to repeat after him: “We are Focued! Powerful! Gifted! Tolerant! In Love!" Cheers and fists went up in the sun.


July 24, 2008

"The Wig"

The following is a personal remembrance of the late great pianist Gerald Wiggins by someone who knew him personally, author/patron Mimi Melnick:

May 22,1923-July 13, 2008: Rest In Tempo

Like everyone else, I dug Gerry Wiggins--his drive and swing, his melodic inventiveness, his signature block chord choruses, his ear for ballads and blues. But for me, his singular talent lay in the way he backed vocalists. He was an accompanist without peer.

That is how I first saw him, years ago, supporting aspiring vocalists at an audition for a TV show. He was totally sensitive to each performers style and idiosyncrasies, unfazed by any lapses in meter, tempo, key, tone, or phrasing the singers sent his way. He carried the music onward, covering all blunders until singer and song were back on track.

Many years later, after we became friends, I was privileged to have Gerry play a concert in my home. I still treasure the photo of him seated at my piano that hangs in my picture gallery today. He was a frequent guest at my Jazz Salons; on several occasions, when invited, he sat in with the group performing.

Gerry Wiggins was a shining light in our midst, a gift to the jazz community. His passing is an irreparable loss to all who knew and loved him.


FYI: A public memorial tribute to Mr. Wiggins is scheduled for 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. July 28 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center (4718 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; 323-964-9768).

August 4, 2008

Jesse Sharps: The Downbeast Interview

Jesse Sharps [photo by Jared Zagha]

At high noon on October 10, 2005 -- on what would have been the 88th birthday of Thelonious Monk -- a unique group of musicians gathered for a recording session at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, about 45 minutes north of Los Angeles. Many of the elders there were graduates of pianist Horace Tapscott's mighty Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, a musical insurgency formed in almost complete cultural isolation amidst one of the most violent and confrontational decades in American life.

Los Angeles in the 1960s was a city, like the nation, split down the middle over the subject of race, both sides staying behind their battle lines, eyeing the other with suspicion and rage, rarely venturing over to the other side, preferring to let their minds run rampant with the worst nightmares of what "They" were capable of. But, as Rick Perlstein writes in his current book Nixonland, in which the 1965 Watts Riots plays a central role: "Only one had the power to put the other in jail.”

What does this have to do with jazz? In South Central, this "hot" time gave new urgency to the Arkestra's gelling as a unit of musical and social change; Tapscott, whose mantra was "Contributive, Not Competitive,” adored children and used his "guerilla street band" to draw them from the dark lures of street life into musical transcendence and self-reliance via the Ark's signature woodwind-heavy Afro-jazz. One of those children was a 13-year-old named Jesse Sharps.

When the curfew was lifted after days of violence in Watts in August 1965, Sharps wandered out onto the National Guard-patrolled 113th Street, leaving behind a violent and tense home life, and wandered through the smoking ruins of his neighborhood ten blocks north to 103rd Street, the main artery of South Central. "I thought it was the end of the world," Sharps later told an interviewer. He came across a towering figure in a leather jacket and black tam tilted to one side, standing on the street with his arms crossed, looking out over the razed city with a wounded scowl on his face. "I thought he was a Black Panther, I thought he was one of Huey Newton's guys," Sharps recalled. It was Tapscott. "He was mad. I could read his mind: 'What happened to my community?' He didn't like what he was looking at. He did not like it one bit." Behind him, the Ark was playing in front of the embers of their destroyed concert space. "They weren't just 'playing' -- you could tell the music was telling you what just happened in the riots." If there ever was a life changing moment in Sharp's life, this was it.

The Gathering, Cal Arts, October 10, 2005

Flash forward forty years later to the stage at CalArts. Sharps, now in his 50s and a formidable composer/bandleader in his own right, is the driving force behind The Gathering, a CD and accompanying DVD released this week that chronicles a meeting of minds between, as its subtitle says, "The Roots and Branches of LA Jazz." The "roots" included many who began their distinguished careers in the Ark: saxophonist Michael Session (the current bandleader after Tapscott's death in 1999), singer Dwight Trible, poet Kamau Daaood, bassist Roberto Miguel Miranda, flautist Kafi Roberts, saxophonist Azar Lawrence, French horn player Fundi Legohn -- as well as other elder statesman of the SoCal scene: trombonist Phil Ranelin, drummer Ndugu Chancler, trumpeter Richard Grant, and percussionist Taumbu. The "branches" were up-and-comers young players like saxophonists Kamasi Washington and Randall Fisher, bassist Nick Rosen, pianist Brandon Coleman, trombonist Nathaniel Brooks, bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck and violinist-viola player Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, cellist Peter Jacobson, bassist/clarinetist Tracy Wannomae and English horn player/oboist Myka Miller.

Recently, we sat down with Mr. Sharps and producer Tom Paige at the World Stage in Leimert Park -- Taspcott's base of operations for many years and where he made connections with many of the musicians listed above -- to talk about the motivation behind The Gathering project. As Paige told writer Mimi Melnick, the title of the CD and film "truly conveys both the past and present Leimert Park connection that all the musicians shared, whether members of the Ark, friends of Jesse Sharps, longtime as well as recent players from the area, or other musicians who came in through their connection with those involved." (For a wonderfully comprehensive account of The Gathering session, as well as the deep history behind it and a virtuoso run-down of the songs performed, read Melnick's superb liner notes here,)

Continue reading "Jesse Sharps: The Downbeast Interview" »

August 18, 2008

"Jazz bass players rarely hang out together..."

Apparently, they are solitary souls who, when they pass on, draw so many mourners that it stuffs a performance space like the Jazz Bakery's back room to capacity. That was the unsurprising case of David E. Carpenter, whose memorial concert yesterday at the Bakery in Culver City was stuffed to the proverbial rafters with distinguished collaborators, admirers and colleagues. "Dave Carpenter played with a lot of musicians," Peter Erskine and Bob Sheppard wrote in the programme. "If you're reading this, the chances are pretty good that he played with you."

"Oh, how I love to say ciao! Ciao, ciao, CIAO!" (11/4/59 - 6/24/08)

There was John Beasley checking out Alan Pasqua's piano solo; there was the great Putter Smith checking out the free buffet (but not indulging); there was Jeff Gauthier sitting cross-legged on the floor watching Mike Lang's performance; and there was 80 years young Clare Fischer sitting next to his son Brent checking out the supple lines of surprise guest Billy Childs. And here's your humble dumbass blogger, sweatily running around trying to get the lineups for each song before realizing someone has posted the entire performance list on the wall. Ahem. Yes.

Drummer Peter Erskine made the appropriate opening remarks, apologizing for the lack of chairs and noting the "fantastic array of CostCo cheeses" laid out in the main foyer. Then came a brief video remembrance of Mr. Carpenter, a linear narrative from his first baby photo to the last picture taken of him in the recording studio on the last day of his life -- June 24, 2008. The show -- run by "Carp's Rules" ("no speech to last more than THREE minutes; no more than THREE chrouses per solo") -- kicked off with a rambunctious Clare Fischer being helped to the piano bench. "I may look old and decrepit," he told us, "but that's only because I am" -- to accompany his bassist son Brent Fisher, clarinetist Don Shelton and drummer Steve Barnes on one of Carpenter's favorite tunes, the elder Fischer's Latin-flavored "Pensativa," which the younger Fischer recalled Carpenter could solo "playing the harmony, the melody, accompanying himself, and even adding some inner lines between it all. Just the most amazing thing I've ever seen." Mr. Erskine and saxophonist Bob Sheppard followed with a fractured, street-corner take on "Young At Heart" sans bass -- intentionally leaving one to imagine what wonderful lines Carpenter would have added.

The next jam saw Erskine and Sheppard joined by pianist John Beasley (whom Jesse Sharps says I resemble but frankly I don't see it -- he's much better looking), guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist Chuck Berghofer. Unfortunately, we wrestled our way out to the food tables and could not wrestle our way back in until they were finished, but we did make it back in to catch pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La Barbera run through a trumpet-less take on Miles Davis' "All Blues." This was followed by a sublime and mournful version of "Love Lost" from bassist Kenny Wild, trumpeter Larry Williams and drummer Aaron Serfaty. (If it sounds like a bummer, believe me, it wasn't.) A brief speech by Head Baker Ruth Price led into a short jam by bassist Mitch Foreman and saxophonist Brandon Fields (with special surprise guest Walt Fowler on flugelhorn) on the Foreman original "Gorgeous." The show was rounded out nicely by a pianist Mike Lang, Joe LaBarbera and bassist Mike Valerio.

Quote of the day: "Dave Carpenter could complete ANY band."

August 29, 2008

Rocco Somazzi: The Downbeast Interview

How do you piss off a musician?
Get them a gig.

-old witticism


Rocco Somazzi is juggling two cellphones, and a third might be in order. It's Tuesday, less than one week before the highly anticipated Labor Day debut of his Angel City Jazz Festival. Many will be watching (and, no doubt, grousing at) this newest attempt to re-shine the spotlight on the city’s Creative Jazz community. Yet the guy is calm in that breezy, effusive European way. It’s probably what has gotten him through the last decade of being (a) a novice restaurateur (b) a jazz music promoter (c) a club owner (d) broke and near homeless (e) a waiter (f) a restaurant manager and, now (g) jazz-festival organizer. Which of course is all shorthand for one title: survivor.


Rocco is five years into his latest (4th) incarnation of his Rocco in LA club at the Café Metropol, which has achieved a steady rep as a space to hear The Weirdness in a profoundly sublime and romantic setting: a candlelit brick-walled European-style café in the heart of the scruffy downtown Artists’ District. Rocco is married to the bewitching Japanese pianist Motoko Honda, who will also play the festival alongside some pretty big names from the extended Crypto crew: Vinny Golia, Steuart Liebig, and chief boo-pah Jeff Gauthier. (For more on the lineup, go here. Go here for Brick Wahl's preview in the L.A. Weekly.)


During our sit-down at Cafe Metropol, Rocco jumps phones yet again to arrange the buying of his first official L.A. "commuting car." As it turns out, at 8am sharp the day after the festival he’s starting a new full-time day job (!?!) managing a new cafe/art gallery/teahouse in Culver City called the Royal T. He’s still doing his Saturday night shows at Metropol, but he’s already thinking of bringing his music-promotion skill sets to the new venue, featuring more electronic-based fare than the contemporary acoustic improv he’s been showcasing downtown. Oh yes, AND he's putting together two shows at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre and Redcat in November for Dutch ensemble the Willem Breuker Kollektief.

Which, taken with this weekend's festival, arguably means Rocco Somazzi is all healed up and ready for further punishment. And we can thank those temperamental Gods of Adventurous Music for it.

Continue reading "Rocco Somazzi: The Downbeast Interview" »

September 5, 2008

retour de cadavre exquis

This weekend, our pal Nels Cline -- fresh off a tour with Das Viclo and a mother-of-invention of a performance of the music of Jimmy Giuffre at the Angel City Jazz Festival last week (read Greg Burk's live diary here) -- will play a group improv at MONA and solo set for his bro Alex Cline's Open Gate Theatre Concert Series.


On the latter bill is Nels' frequent collaborator, guitarist Jeremy Drake [pictured above], who himself dabbles in concert curating as a board member of SASSAS (The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound). Drake, along with Cindy Bernard, Danny Gromfin, Joe Potts and Tom Recchion, is behind the vanguard sound. at the Schindler House summer series. Their next event on Saturday, Sept. 20th, proves to be a doozy.


"Exquisite Corpse II", billed as "L.A.’s only surrealist/improvisational concert," is based on the Surrealist technique of Cadavre Exquis, in which words or images (or in this case, sounds) are assmbeled in a group context. Six Los Angeles area improvisers will present a series of overlapping solo performances that will "explore the mystique of accident." According to the press release: "In a musical interpretation of this technique, the musicians will separate into groups of three positioned in the two rooms flanking the main courtyard of the Schindler House. The first musician plays solo for a brief period of time, and is then joined in a duet with a musician in the other room. After approximately five minutes the first musician will drop out, leaving the second musician to perform solo. The process repeats, alternating solo and duet and room to room, until all musicians have performed."

The 2008 concert will be performed by six acclaimed Los Angeles improvisers that includes some names from the extended Crypto Famdamily: Joe Baiza, electric guitar; Dan Clucas, coronet; Alicia Mangan, tenor saxophone; Dwight Trible, voice; Kira Vollman, voice and multiple instruments; Rich West, percussion.

For reviews of the first Exquisite Corpse concert from 2004, go here. Tickets for the Sept. 20 show may be purchased online at Go here for archived recordings from the sound. series.

There are also two CDs available of sound. performances from Gregg Bendian, Carla Bozulich, Alex Cline, Nels Cline, Extended Organ, Vinny Golia, Kraig Grady, Lynn Johnston, Pauline Oliveros, The Polar Goldie Cats, Rod Poole, Joe Potts, Rick Potts, Devin Sarno, Solid Eye, Mike Watt, Rich West and more.

September 11, 2008

The Eastsiders

We recieved an open invite from one of L.A.'s great jazz masters (not to mention jazz storytellers), Buddy Collette. Apparently, he's just finished scoring the music for a documentary called The Eastsiders. It celebrates, with interviews (including Jackie Kelso, Clora Bryant and Mr. Collette) and archival footage, exceptional people from the east side of Los Angeles (not East L.A., but the area around Central Avenue) from 1920 through 1965.


Here's the skinny on the screening:

A Documentary of the Eastside of Los Angeles 1920 to 1965

Free Admission! Light Snackies!
Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 1:00 PM
Auditorium of L.A. Trade Tech College
400 W, Washington Blvd. (Administrative Bldg)
(facing Washington Blvd at Grand Ave.)
Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90015

If you can't make the screening, The Eastsiders will be broadcast on October 14, 2008 at 9pm on KLCS-TV/DT.


Neko Case - Live from Austin, TX [New West] 2006

DNA on DNA [No More] 2004

Gang of Four - Entertainment! [Rhino] 2005 reissue

The Gathering - Leimert Park: The Roots and Branches of L.A. Jazz [self-released] 2008

Vinny Golia Quintet - One, Three, Two [Jazz'halo] 2003

M.I.A. - Kala [Interscope] 2007

No Age - Nouns [Sub Pop] 2008

Pearl Jam - Live at the Gorge [Rhino] 2007

The Sea and Cake - Everybody [Thrill Jockey] 2007

Horace Tapscott/Roberto Miranda/Sonship Theus - Live from Lobero Vol. 1
[Nimbus West] 2006

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is Is EP [Interscope] 2007


What Is The What by Dave Eggers

Zeroville by Steve Erickson

Warlock by Oakley Hall

That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History by Allen Lowe

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

November 11, 2008

The Gathering


Big night next Sunday (Nov. 16) at the Jazz Bakery: The Gathering, a multi-racial, multi-generational ensemble representing over 40 years of L.A. jazz history, will stage a two-set performance celebrating the release of its new CD The Roots and Branches of LA Jazz, recorded at CalArts in October 2005. Here's a short list of players who will be signifyin': Dwight Trible (vocals), Phil Ranelin (trombone), Michael Session (alto sax), Kamasi Washington (tenor sax), Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (viola), Roberto Miranda (bass), Nick Rosen (bass), Brandon Coleman (piano), Kharon Harrison (drums), and J.J. Kabasa (African drums). Led by reedman Jesse Sharps, this amazing line up will be featuring music from the CD as well as many new pieces, including some based on Eddie Harris' Intervallistic Concept. (Go here for our archived Downbeast interview with Mr. Sharps.) This is a once-in-a-lifetime concert -- and one hell of a way to celebrate the country we awoke to on November 5.

And, lest we forget: Jimmy Carl Black, Miriam Makeba, and the Mars Phoenix Lander -- REST IN TEMPO.

November 20, 2008

Pianist/Composer Nate Morgan


SoCal's own Nate Morgan, one of the premier jazz pianists/composers of his generation, recently suffered a stroke. "His left side is paralyzed," said a friend who visited Nate at a Torrance hospital. "But he is speaking and his mind is fine as ever."

Morgan, the very definition of the oft-used phrase "musician's musician," was a cornerstone of Horace Tapscott's Ark (it was he who told a teenage Jesse Sharps about this cat named "Horace" and this band he practiced out in front of the Watts Happening coffeehouse) and led the famous late-night jam sessions in the mid-nineties at the 5th St. Dick's Coffeehouse. He spent a few years in the 1970s with Rufus and Chaka Khan and collaborated in the early 90s with rappers Bone Thugs N' Harmony. He is also one of the best-kept secrets of Los Angeles jazz: besides his frequent residencies at Charlie O's in Van Nuys, Morgan most often popped up in a private home salons in Encino given by writer/historian Mimi Melnick, spinning his intoxicatingly (heavily influenced by Stanley Cowell and McCoy Tyner) on a prime-condition 1922 Steinway with the likes of Arthur Blythe, John Heard, Charles Owens, Onaje Murray, Michael Session, Roberto Miranda, Nedra Wheeler and Sonship Theus. He provided some of the salon's best moments, including a memorable "double piano" duet with Elias Negash and a 2-hour solo performance that many who attended consider the best live show they have ever seen, especially when Morgan played his ode to the late Horace Tapscott, "Tapscottian Waltz," a song that has never been recorded. "I think it's one of the most beautiful compositions I've ever heard--and the way he played it that day, everybody was crying," writer Steven Isoardi recalls. "I had to get up and leave. I was pacing in the front room. It was just too overwhelming."

For a taste of the master, check out his Nimbus West CDs Journey To Nigrita and Retribution, Reparation and Sharps & Flats, his collaboration with lifelong friend, woodwind player Jesse Sharps.

When we spoke with Mr. Morgan at a show a few years ago, he was going in on Mondays for dialysis, but he said playing the piano made the stent in his arm feel better. Now, he begins physical therapy, and hopefully a full recovery over time.

Get well soon, Sir Nate!

January 5, 2009

Phast Phreddie & Nate The Painter

Hi pholkes, we're back from our much-needed holiday snooze. We've got a lot to catch up on and we'll post something most substantial ASAWC, but we got this timely notice about the funeral service for Freddie Hubbard, which is, uh, tomorrow:


Funeral Services for Frederick Dewayne Hubbard
Tuesday January 6, 2009
Faithful Central Bible Church
The Tabernacle
321 N Eucalyptus Ave
Inglewood, CA 90301
(310) 330-8000
Viewing: 11am-1pm
Service: 1pm

Also, an update on the condition of master pianist Nate Morgan, from our friend Jeffrey Winston: "Nate is facing some serious challenges. He is paralyzed on his left side after suffering a stroke. Musicians have been playing for him at his bedside. Nate has also had multiple complications, including an infection and a heart attack because he was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Now, he needs a heart valve replacement but at this time, he is too weak for the procedure. All of this on top of the dialysis he receives three times a week."


Apparently, there was be a benefit for Nate at The World Stage on Friday, Dec. 26, 2008, the proceeds going to help the Morgan family with the enormous medical bills. Writes our friend Jeannette Lindsay: "We hope to secure a larger venue later, but for now, he needs our prayers and support, immediately. Please spread the word. If you are out of town and would still like to send a donation, card or otherwise, I know that would be deeply appreciated. Donations (yes, tax-deductible) can be made to "The World Stage" - be sure to write a memo on the check: "for Nate Morgan", so they know to keep it separate from general World Stage funds. (However, a direct donation to support the World Stage would also be deeply appreciated, I am sure!)"

Here is the address to send donations to:

Nate Morgan
c/o The World Stage
PO Box 83253
Los Angeles, CA 90083

(Be sure to send it to the PO Box and not the street address, so that it doesn't get lost in all the activity at the Stage.)

March 13, 2009

How The West Was One


Funny, just a week after that "No Cussing" Kid from was all over the TV box comes the opening of Ava Duvernay’s documentary This Is the Life, which chronicle's the early 1990s renaissance of L.A.'s "alternative hip hop" scene, centered around a health food store near Crenshaw & Exposition downtown called the Good Life Cafe. The GL's most distinctive innovation was the freestyle open mike nights that had one important rule: "No Cussin'" -- a sort of a rebuke to the profanity-laden gangsta scene happening in South Central and Long Beach. The Good Life gave voices to some of the most influential underground rappers of the 1990s -- Pigeon John, Abstract Rude, Medusa, Volume 10, the Black-Eyed Peas (original incarnation), Chillin Villain Empire, Rifleman Ellay Khule, Busdriver, The Pharcyde, Jurassic 5 and of course the mighty Freestyle Fellowship -- and was the precusor of sorts to the scene at the Project Blowed/KAOS network complex in Leimert Park. Read Ernest Hardy's LA Weekly preview here. This Is the Life is also available on DVD.


To go even further back, we visited Poo-Bah Records recently (despite the firing of our dear friend/radio host/L.A. creative jazz expert Michael Davis) and caught a copy of The Watts Prophets compilation Things Gonna Get Greater, 1969-1971 put out by the terrific indie label Water Records. The Prophets [pictured above] were the grandfathers of L.A. hip hop and a vital link between the politically charged Afro-jazz happening in Watts during the late 1960s and the modern hip-hop scene. And their songs are great too: "Amerikka," "Tenements," "Black Pussy" and the immortal "Response to A Bourgeois Nigger." A must-have for any local-music geeks.

April 7, 2009

Bad News from the Bakery (updated)

Folks, when The Jazz Bakery loses its lease, you know sh*t has gotten bad for this music we love here in Los Angeles. Off Ramp's John Rabe recently interviewed owner Ruth Price on the situation.


In a timely manner, before said lease goes bye-bye (on June 1), the annual Horace Tapscott Tribute Concert had moved its stakes from UC-Dominguez Hills to the Bakery on April 26 for two shows. Check out the players involved:

Piano - Mahash
Bass - Roberto Miranda, Nick Rosen
Drums - Koran Harrison, Makela Session
Percussion - Bill Madison
Flutes - Kafi Roberts, Maia
Sop Sax - Jesse Sharps
Alto Sax - Michael Session, Tracy Caldwell
Tenor Sax - Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq, Randel Fischer, Ralph Gibson
Bari Sax - Amos Delong Jr.
Trumpet - Steven Smith, Richard Grant, John Williams
Trombone - Phil Randlin, Rembert James, Issac Smith
French Horn - Fundi Legn
Spoken word - Kamau Daaoud, J.J. Kabasa
Vocals - Dwight Trible

Lord have mercy. With the return of Jesse Sharps and Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq, Ark bandleaders from the 1970s, this should be an amazing concert.


It's been little over 10 years since Mr. Tapscott's passing. He would have been 75 this April 6th. Coincidentally, April 6 also saw the release of the latest issue (#34) of the maverick music mag Waxpoetics, which features a 10-page article on Horace and the Arkestra. Many pictures included!

There are also several live musical events, many of them Arkestra/Tapscott related, coming up this month:

12 April, 8pm – Extraordinary vocalist Dwight Trible’s annual Easter celebration at -- guess where? -- the Jazz Bakery.

17 April, 8:30pm – at the World Stage in Leimert – The live oral history series World Stage Stories continues with an interview with drummer/label owner Alphonse Mouzon. Upcoming interviewees include pianist John Beasley (May 8) and vocalist Bill Henderson (May 22).

19 April, 3pm – Benefit for ailing, great L.A./Arkestra pianist Nate Morgan at the Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill, 6122 Sunset, at Gower, across from CBS.

April 30, 2009

Glad Tidings from the Great House

"Did you all see what just happened?" said Jesse Sharps from the Jazz Bakery stage last Sunday night. He was referring not just to the mass of musicianship displayed during the 10th Annual Horace Tapscott Tribute Concert, but to the eerie confluence of events that led to Leimert Park poet Ojenke reading off the roll call of Tapscott's students/collaborators in the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra (PAPA). When he read the name of Ark pianist Nate Morgan, who is currently on the mend from a stroke, the side door opened and -- unbeknownst to the incanting poet -- in came Mr. Morgan in a wheelchair with his posse of family and caregivers. Nate quietly sat in a baseball cap and watched the stage as 21 of his best friends and colleagues lit into one of Morgan's own compositions, the brassy and swinging "Mrafu," which featured a young longhaired pianist named Austin Peralta, a senior (!!!) from the Crossroads School sitting in for Morgan on the song's shimmering and challenging solo intro.


The Tapscott tribute was the unofficial second part of a duo of gigs last week that brought together most of the musicians from the Leimert Park/Watts/Crenshaw scene encapsulated by Tapscott and the Ark. (Go here for our pal Greg Burk's account of the Nate Morgan benefit concert last week in Hollyweird.) We spotted so many familiar faces in the audience it was hard to keep 'em all straight! We said hello to violinist and John Coltrane collaborator Michael White, producer/radio host Carlos Nino, historian/Tapscott biographer Steven Isoardi and writer/salonist Mimi Melnick, as well as members of Tapscott's prodigious family, including wife Cecelia, who gave us a big smooch and hug. Gotta love that lady!


The tribute started a bit late with an introduction by Executive Baker Ruth Price, who introduced Tapscott's granddaughter Raisha on flute and great-granddaughter Madeline on piano. Taspcott's love of children and family was mirrored by the duo's warm-hearted version of the song "Children." Then Ojenke took the stage with his ropes of grey-dreaded beard and read the Ark "roll call" -- including Gary Bias, Lester Robinson, Leroy Brooks, "Black Arthur" Blythe, Everett Brown Jr., Al Hines, Linda Hill, Azar Lawrence, "Butch" Morris -- while Roberto Miranda and Nick Rosen duelled with bowed and pizzicato bass and percussionist Taumbu revelled in a randy drum showcase. Then the rest of the Ark, directed by Mr. Sharps, slowly took the stage, among their ranks trombonist Phil Ranelin, French horn player Fundi Legohn, flautists Kafi Roberts and Maia, trumpeters Steve Smith and Richard Grant and a downright dangerous saxphone section that included Tracy Caldwell, Michael Session (looking quite the hep elder statesman in a bright blood-orange vest and African cap), Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq and Randall Fischer. The stage was so densely packed that many players simply had to step out of the way (moving their music stand with them) while someone behind them soloed. Vocalist Dwight Trible stood to the side offstage almost in the dark and incanted and wailed to a nearly 15 minute version of "Justice" -- the highlight of which was a face-melting trombone workout by tie dyed daishiki-clad Isaac Smith. By the end, Trible was bathed in sweat, and the audience was shrieking out its approval and even, yes, ululating.

PAPA at UCLA, 1981 [photo by Mark Weber]

(What is it about the Ark that can make sounds so mournful while at the same time seeming so celebratory and rapturous? We vote for its signature sound: where a bandleader like Ellington emphasized the brass section, Tapscott seemed to favor putting the woodwinds to the fore of the mix, creating a delightfully indescribable Salvation Army band roil that could be described as "a stampede from an army of avenging and forgiving angels." Truly nothing like it.)

Next, Mr. Sharps conducted the orchestra on his big band arrangement of Nate Morgan's "Mrafu," which featured among others muscular bass solo from Mr. Miranda. Jesse then joined the ensemble on bamboo flute and soprano sax for the biggest surprise of the evening, the epic "The Thin Line," which was last performed 22 years ago. (There is a recording that exists from 1987 of Tapscott conducting the tune with an orchestra from Humboldt -- "which may be either Humboldt, California or Humboldt, Germany," related Steve Isoardi). The song is one of Tapscott's more difficult compositions, moving through at least five seperate movements, all of them radically different in mood and timbre. The band even threatened to seize up with the difficult score halfway through -- but managed to land the mothership back home. It was a fascinating high-wire act to see the musicians -- young and old both -- grapple with the dense score. And well worth it.


Coincidentally, Jesse Sharps will be returning to LA over Labor Day weekend to conduct and play with The Gathering at the Angel City Jazz Festival, co-curated by our very own Cryptogramophone Fearless Leader Jeff Gauthier. Check out these vids of Mr. Sharps in action:

Performing in 2007 at the late, great Crenshaw club The Underground Railroad

Performing Abdul Salim's "Song for My Children" at Mimi Melnick's Jazz Salon in 2007

And check out the cool video from the first Nate Morgan benefit last December at the World Stage in Leimert Park:

June 18, 2009

Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Lineup & Schedule


Here This, Here This! Ye Newe Angel City Jazz Festival, Los Angeles' only alternative non-commercial jazz festival, has announced its 2009 artist lineup for concerts taking place Labor Day weekend (Sept. 6-7, 2009) at the intimate (and affordable!) John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. The Angel City Jazz Festival is a two-day outdoor event featuring innovative and original jazz musicians from the west coast and around the world. The 2009 festival -- expanded from one to two days -- presents established jazz artists as well as lesser known emerging talent, with a focus on west coast creative jazz. The Angel City Jazz Festival was founded in 2007 by jazz promoter Rocco Somazzi (pause for applause), and the first event was held last year at Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood. Co-Producing the festival this year is Los Angeles based Cryptogramophone Records (pause for riotous ovation).


Headlining this year's festival will be veteran woodwind player/composer Bennie Maupin [pictured] and Dolphyana, with an all-star band performing west coast premiers of newly discovered compositions by the great Eric Dolphy. Also headlining will be world renowned trumpeter Dave Douglas and Brass Ecstasy, a recently formed band with the unique instrumentation of trumpet, french horn, trombone, tuba, and drums. Other artists appearing at the festival are Grammy award-winning pianist Billy Childs' Jazz-Chamber Ensemble, The Nels Cline Singers with Jeff Parker of Tortoise, Nels' percussionist bro Alex Cline leading his cheekily named Band of the Moment, The Larry Goldings Organ Trio, The Satoko Fujii Four, Seattle-based pianist Wayne Horvitz's Gravitas Quartet, pianist Motoko Honda with Butoh master Oguri, Jesse Sharps' The Gathering featuring vocalist Dwight Trible, and many others.

Here's the schedule:

4:00 PM Plays Monk (Ben Goldberg, Devin Hoff, Scott Amendola)
5:15 PM The Satoko Fujii Quartet
6:30 PM Jesse Sharps' The Gathering with Dwight Trible
8:00 PM The Billy Childs Jazz-Chamber Ensemble
9:15 PM Larry Karush - solo piano
9:50 PM Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy

Drummer Nate Wood, bassist Edwin Livingston and vibraphonist Nick Mancini perform at ACJF 2008

4:00 PM Alex Cline's Band of the Moment
5:15 PM The Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet
6:30 PM The Nels Cline Singers with Jeff Parker
8:00 PM The Larry Goldings Organ Trio
9:15 PM Motoko Honda & Oguri
9:50 PM Bennie Maupin and Dolphyana

Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, the 1200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheatre is one of the oldest performing arts venues in Los Angeles. But there's more to this choice of venue than just it's rustic and endearing location. ACJF hopes to resurrect the Ford as a nexus for west coast creative jazz. The Ford Theatre was originally known as the Pilgrimage Theater, and in the 1960s and 70s the "Jazz at the Pilgrimage" series on Sundays was a destination for many Left Coast artists like Art Pepper, Mundell Lowe, Chico Hamilton, Henry Franklin, Harold Land, Oscar Brashear, Buddy Collette, Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, Don Ellis, Sonship Theus, Charles Owens, Oscar Brashear, George Bohannon, Kemang Sunduza and Bill Henderson. In fact, many -- if not all -- of these concerts were attended by young musicians who would make up the next generation of LA's postmodern creative jazz scene, including two blonde twin teens named Alex and Nels Cline. So, in many ways, it's some sort of spiritual homecoming.

For tix (you know you want them), log-on to, or call the Ford Box Office at (323) 461-3673. Tickets are priced at $35 for adults, and $12 for full-time students with ID and children 12 and under. Through the Ford's early buyer incentive, adults who buy tickets on or before August 30th pay only $30!

And, as an added bonus having nothing to do with ticket prices, Downbeast will be doing in-depth non-press releasey profiles of each of the 12 acts that will be performing Labor Day weekend. So stay tuned!

Free improv between virtuoso harmonica player Gregoire Maret and pianist/composer Andy Milne at ACJF 2008

August 22, 2009

L.A. Jazz on $10 a Day (UPDATED)

In today's L.A. Times, Chris Barton offers a budget-conscious survey of live jazz in Los Angeles and Orange County -- and a few familiar names (Alex Cline, Peter Erskine, Hans Fjellstad, G.E. Stinson, our fearless leader Jeff Gauthier, Ken Kawamura, David Witham, Darek Oles, Bob Sheppard, Will Salmon) get a shout out. Read the full article here.

Saxophonist Jason Robinson performs at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. (Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times)

(UPDATE: ...and the readers respond!

Thanks for the list of jazz venues ["Jazz at a Cool Spot," by Chris Barton, Aug. 22], but you missed a terrific one: Jazz Vespers at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica, the second Sunday of every month. Jazz performances with a brief vespers service. This charming little church presents a wide variety of jazz artists in a welcoming, intimate setting with amazing acoustics. It's become my favorite monthly outing, and I'm not even religious.

Kay M. Gilbert
Santa Monica

Ouch! How could you have failed to mention the free Friday evening concerts at LACMA? Or the rich, varied and free music performances at the Levitt Pavilion at MacArthur Park or downtown at the Grand Plaza?

Ruth Kramer Ziony
Los Feliz

Greg Burk's Live Picks (Aug. 21-27)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks (Aug. 20-26)

Berle Adams
John E. Carter
Chris Connor
Jim Dickinson
Adam Goldstein
Ellie Greenwich
Larry Knechtel
Joe Maneri
Sergei Mikhalkov
Virginia Ramo

October 21, 2009

Nels' Mug on the Cover of JazzTimes!

Boy, are we glad they didn't go out of business!


Check out an excerpt of Nate Chinen's article here.


Saturday, Oct. 24, 10:30am: The Huntington Library in San Marino debuts its exhibit titled Central Avenue and Beyond: The Harlem Renaissance in Los Angeles, which includes movie and music memorabilia, periodicals and literary treasures, manuscripts by Langston Hughes and papers from civil rights attorney and newspaper publisher Loren Miller. Read the L.A. Times preview of the exhibit here. (The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, 626-405-2100)

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7pm: Author/professor/historian Robin D.G. Kelley discusses and signs his epic new tome Thelonious Monk: The Life & Times of an American Original. Read a review of the book from The New York Times here. (Eso-Won Bookstore, 4331 Degnan Blvd, Los Angeles (Leimert Park), 323-290-1048)

(Speaking of great new books, Soul Jazz Publishing has just released Freedom Rhythm and Sound: Revolutionary Jazz Cover Art: 1960-1978, which documents the "untold journey" of independent jazz labels like Delmark, Strata-East, ESP-Disk, Zulu, Flying Dutchman, India Navigation, Mustevic and Impulse through their striking and unique cover art. Among the artists represented by art and appreciative essays include local heroes Horace Tapscott and Phil Ranelin. JazzWise's Stephen Graham gives a quick overview of the book here.)

Friday, Nov. 6, 8pm: The Fall 2009 installment of World Stage Stories is upon us. This live oral-history symposium with have as its special guest multi-instrumentalist and Ray Charles alumnus Louis Van Taylor. More will follow in the coming weeks, including keyboardist Rose Gales (Nov. 20), pianist Phil Wright (Dec. 4) and percussionist Daryl "Munyungo" Jackson (Dec. 18). (The World Stage Performance Gallery, 4344 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles (Leimert Park), 323-293-2451)

Saturday, Nov. 21, 3pm: The Clayton Library will be presenting Central Avenue Revisited: Masters of Jazz, a panel discussion featuring Ernie Andrews, Clora Bryant, Buddy Collette, Jackie Kelso, Charles Owens and Gerald Wilson. If that isn't enuff for ya, there will be a screening of the film Central Avenue Live 2005, a documentary about the Central Avenue Jazz Festival.(Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum, 4130 Overland Ave., Culver City, 310-202-1647)

Greg Burk's Live Picks (Oct. 23-29)
Don Heckman's Live Picks (Oct. 20-25)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks (Oct. 21-28)

Maryanne Amacher
DJ Roc Raida
Amy Farris
Steve Ferguson
Suzanne Fiol
Laura Mae Gross
Norris "Sirone" Jones
Liam Maher
Brendan Mullen

November 7, 2009


In his 75th year, the amazing Bobby Bradford -- who besides his partner in crime Ornette Coleman is the last original link to the birth of free jazz in Los Angeles -- is interviewed by All About Jazz's Clifford Allen. Read the profile here.


Coinciding with this renewed attention is the 2-CD re-release of Bobby Bradford with John Stevens and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Bradford's meeting of minds with a group of British improvisers [pictured below]. Check out reviews of the CD from Squid's Ear and All About Jazz,


Greg Burk's Live Picks (Nov. 6-12)
Don Heckman's Live Picks (Nov. 2-8)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks (Nov. 4-11)

November 30, 2009

The Early LPs of L.A.'s Free Jazz Scene

Mark Weber, photo documentarian of L.A.'s free jazz world, posted an essential guide to the scene's early releases, which features interviews with poo-bahs Bobby Bradford and Vinny Golia. (Note the notables who left comments at the bottom!) Check it out here. View Mr. Weber's boss photo collection here.


Greg Burk's Live Picks of the Week (Nov. 27-Dec. 3)
Don Heckman's Live Picks of the Week (Nov. 30-Dec. 6)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks of the Week (Nov. 25-Dec 2)

Norton Buffalo
Avery Clayton
Jeff Clyne
Jack Cooke
Art D’Lugoff
Bess Lomax Hawes
Tommy Jacquette
Billy James
Dick Katz
Bob Keane
Eddie Locke
Jaap Ludeke
Morris Nanton
Jack Rose
Aaron Schroeder
Hale Smith
Elisabeth Soderstrom
Joseph F. Wheeler
Eric Woolfson

January 8, 2010

Lady, So Long

A memorial for the late trumpeter/vocalist Stacy Rowles, who died last October from complications following a car accident, will be held this Sunday, January 10 in the auditorium of the Musicians Union Local 47 (817 Vine St, Hollywood, CA, 818-986-8733).


The ever-growing list of musicians slated to perform includes David Angel, Joe LaBarbera, Pete & Linda Christlieb, Gary Foster, Sandy Graham, Marty Harris, Karen Hernandez, Kendall Kay, Dave Koonse, Paul Kriebich, Sydney Lehman, Mike Melvoin, Roger Neumann, Darek Oles, Brian O'Rourke, Mike Peak, Charlie & Sandi Shoemaker, Linda Small, VR & Putter Smith and Jimmy Spencer. The memorial begins at 11am and goes until around 4pm. Donations will be accepted to further the effort to archive the musical legacy of the Rowles family. There will also be a food and beverage buffet. From the invite: "We'll be serving tri-tip and chicken with beer, wine and softer things at the bar. If you make a dish you are proud of, you are welcome to bring a taste for the table. One of the rules of the house when Stacy entertained was 'nobody leaves hungry', and we never did!" (Thanks to blog bud Doug Ramsey for the forward.)

Greg Burk's Live Picks of the Week (Jan. 8-14)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks of the Week (Jan. 7-13)
L.A. New Music Live Picks

January 28, 2010

Rod Poole Tribute on YouTube

Last September, the Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) mounted its 10th Anniversary Concert in numerous locations over L.A. for a 12-hour period. Just posted is undoubtedy one of the day's highlights, "Tributaries: Dedicated to the Memory of Rod Poole," a 26-minute microtonal mood piece with contributive solos by Jessica Catron, Nels Cline, Michael Intriere and Jim McAuley.

Don Heckman's Live Music Picks of the Week (Jan 25-31)
Brick Wahl's Live Music Picks of the Week (Jan. 27-Feb. 3)
L.A. New Music Events

February 8, 2010

Nels Remembers Stacy Rowles

It was quite a shock when I heard late last year of trumpet player Stacy Rowles' death from complications of a car accident. Stacy played on my first record as a leader, Angelica, in 1987. In the mid-80s, I was playing with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra (West Coast). Initially, Bobby Bradford (along with Oscar Brashear) was in the band's trumpet section, but when Bobby chose to depart, Charlie - wisely, to my mind - chose Stacy to replace him. Why wisely? Because, like Bobby, Stacy had a more intimate, melodic approach which eschewed loud, brassy histrionics. Anyway, she and I instantly became friendly from the first gig she did, which was in San Francisco, as I recall. It didn't hurt that her father, Jimmy Rowles, was and is one of my musical heroes. His piano playing and composing inspire me to this day.


Not long after that first LMO gig, my friends Eric Von Essen and Jeff Gauthier went with me to hear Jimmy and Stacy play in some Hollywood hotel lounge (actually, it was practically the lobby). Eric sat in on chromatic harmonica, and it wasn't long after that that Eric became Jimmy's first call bassist. Jeff and I even worked together to produce a CD for the Delos label by Jimmy and Stacy called Looking Back, with Eric on bass. Collaborations with these three continued for years, until Eric and Jimmy departed this Earth. Now Stacy is gone, too.


Stacy's trumpet sound was always understated and warm, melodic and relaxed. In this way, she was never going to be "cutting edge" or "intense". Her aesthetic was of the purest jazz sort, informed by the likes of Art Farmer and Thad Jones. I always thought of her as being the trumpet/flugelhorn version of someone like Paul Desmond, all inviting and logical melodic invention infused with alluring tone. As such, I am certain that survival was a struggle for her, as our society does not readily reward such subtlety. Like "Dad", Stacy also sang on occasion, her voice an uncanny counterpart to her horn. Stacy Rowles was a fine human and a remarkable, mostly unheralded musician. Seek out her voice in the lexicon of jazz music. It is a voice of timeless warmth and clarity.

February 16, 2010

Hunters, Gatherers, Warriors All

Jesse Sharps (center, on soprano sax) leads The Gathering at the Angel City Jazz Festival (9/05/09)

Anyone who has been reading Da Beast for the past couple of years is familiar with our friend Jesse Sharps, Horace Tapscott's former right-hand and current shaman in charge of The Gathering ensemble who released the critically acclaimed CD Leimert Park: The Roots and Branches of L.A. Jazz back in 2008.

In honor of President Barack Obama and Black History Month, Jesse and Gathering producer Tom Paige contacted me recently to let me know they are digitally releasing two new Gathering songs: a version of Abdu Salim's "Justice" recorded live at the old Jazz Bakery space back in November '08 and featuring a spoken-word intro by J.J. Kabasa and vocals by Dwight Trible.

The other song, "Warriors All," is a shout-out of sorts to Haiti. it was the final tune recorded at the original Gathering sessions back in 2005 but never released till now. Originally titled “Funeral,” it's from a musical based on the play La Tragédie du Roi Christophe by poet Aimé Césare about the life of Haitian revolutionary Henri Christophe and, according to Mimi Melnick's liner notes, "Horace [Tapscott] composed with Linda Hill and dedicated to all members of the community who struggle for civil rights and fight oppression." All proceeds from the sale of this song will go to UGMAA (Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension) and the Tapscott Family.

The Gathering blows the roof off the mutha at the Jazz Bakery (2 parts)

According to Tom, "The correct mixes are up and the best link to the music is actually where all of the singles and albums can be viewed. We have the original Leimert Park album up there for digital download now too!"


In fact, Ms. Melnick's next installment of her gold-standard Double M Jazz Salon is this Sunday, February 21 and will be a tribute to Horace Tapscott with Jesse Sharps (woodwinds), Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (viola), Kenneth Crouch (piano), Nick Rosen (bass) and Zach Harmon (drums). Admission is $20 for two sets, and 100% of the door goes to the musicians -- now THAT'S justice!

Greg Burk’s Live Picks of the Week (Feb. 12-18)
Don Heckman’s Live Picks of the Week (Feb 16-21)
Brick Wahl’s Live Picks of the Week (Feb. 18-24)
Los Angeles New Music Schedule

Ian Burgess
Larry Cassidy
Gene Chenault
Robert "Chilly B" Crafton
Sir John Dankworth
Richard Delvy
Bobby Espinosa
Doug Fieger
Lee Freeman
Jake Hanna
Dale Hawkins
John Mayer’s career
Territory BBQ + Records
Tom "T-Bone" Wolk
Yabby You

March 11, 2010

Jazz Bakery to Return?

Reportage from All About Jazz:

After nearly 20 years of bringing world class jazz to the Los Angeles area, the non-profit jewel of a music venue, the Jazz Bakery, had to close its doors at the end of May 2009. The inexorable forces of the real estate market had determined that another furniture store would displace this vital cultural institution.

Ruth Price [photo via Peak]

But have no fear jazz lovers. The irrepressible, indomitable and indefatigable director of the Jazz Bakery, Ruth Price, has committed her considerable energy and skills to the Bakery's rebirth somewhere on L.A.'s Westside. In pursuit of this lofty goal, Ms. Price, over the last few months has held several successful fundraisers at different locations in the city. These events, part of the Bakery's Movable Feast series, have recently featured flute legend Hubert Laws and vocalist extraordinaire, Tierney Sutton, piano playin' wit and wordsmith, Mose Allison, and the inimitable saxophone master, Pharoah Sanders.


This month's benefit performances include Japan's dynamic piano virtuoso, Hiromi, at the Japan America Theater this Thursday March 11th at 8pm. On Sunday March 14th, at Largo at the Coronet Theater, electric guitar wizard, Larry Coryell, will perform two shows, a matinee at 4pm and an 8pm evening performance. Finally, on March 27th, the Antonio Sanchez Quartet will perform 8pm and 9:30pm shows at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Jazz lovers, come out and support the non-profit Jazz Bakery and help bring back affordable, world class jazz to Los Angeles.

Greg Burk's Live Picks of the Week (March 12-18)
Don Heckman's Live Picks of the Week (March 8-14)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks of the Week (March 11-17)
Los Angeles New Music Schedule (March 11-June 3)

March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Shrimper

Be it Fabian or Pat Boone serving as a clean cut kid’s introduction to the real rock & roll music of Little Richard & Charlie Feathers, or ‘The Boss’ inadvertently turning young kids onto the fury of Suicide & Albert Ayler, it doesn’t really matter as long as the road winds though the same valleys & vistas and offers an exit to the less-trampled venues.
Dennis Callaci, The Village Idiot (1999)


We at Crypto were elated/amazed when we hit the ten-year mark as an indie alt-jazz concern, but we must pause to give props to the abovequoted Mr. Callaci, who since 1990 has headed the mystically resilient lo-fi mail-order label Shrimper Records.

Callaci founded Shrimper (unrelated to the slang term for "toe-sucking," as well as another fetish so disgusting that decorum forbids mentioning it here) with his wife Catherine Guffey in the sleepy bedroom-community of Upland, California. Shrimper is a truly indie operation, from its home office (Jazz-Age, red-brick bungalow behind white picket fence) and recording "techniques" (Shrimper helped make tape hiss hip), mom 'n' pop distribution (starting with $3 cassette tapes dubbed one-by-one and mailed from a P.O. Box in San Berdoo), slackerish promotional attitude (press kit: Ralph's grocery sack stuffed with cassettes, CDs and vinyl--often with a handwritten note in Callaci's apologetic scrawl). Although the Shrimper came to encompass acts from Boston and The Netherlands, Shrimper’s specialty was freakish folk, mellow hip hop, noisy experimentation and bash-pop from the tract-home anomie of SoCal's "Inland Empire." No doubt this aesthetic influenced L.A. junkyard-music hermits like Beck and Ariel Pink.

Dennis Callaci punches out Matt Damon

Continue reading "Happy Birthday, Shrimper" »

June 3, 2010

CD REVIEW: The Matt Ritvo Group

We here at the Beast don't usually do CD reviews (we overdosed on them in the Nineties and simply ran out of 10-cent adjectives) but we met guitarist/pianist Matt Ritvo at the old Pasadena Jazz Institute space and Mimi Melnick’s Jazz Salon (which, by the way, was just referenced in Rex Butter’s new AAJ profile of another gee-tar guy). Quite honestly, he was so soft-spoken we never would have guessed the guy had assembled a powerhouse L.A. sextet of elder statesmen for his debut CD: Rahmlee Michael Davis (trumpet), Bobby English (tenor sax), Michael Session (tenor sax), Roberto Miguel Miranda (bass) and Woodrow "Sonship" Theus (drums).


The opener, “Dirty Murray,” sets the scene for this understated disc that's ocassionally spiked with spirited intensity. Ritvo's solo piano intro takes its time before unfolding a slo-drag blues shuffle with simple sax harmony. Ritvo’s busy piano runs meld melody and dissonance, spurred by the Coltranisms of Session’s tenor sax -- soon joined by English as their voices intertwine like a pair of morning glory vines. “Blues for Sonship," the CD’s centerpiece, is named after the gloriously eccentric percussionist, who at live shows would often break into possessed and riveting holy pronouncements from his drum seat that could go on for twenty minutes (the Beast actually witnessed this). The tune launches with Ritvo on crystalline guitar -- firmly ensconced in the Joe Pass-Wes Montgomery pantheon -- and features a “snapping” bass solo by Roberto Miranda. Davis’ trumpet recalls muted Miles, although quicker and more acrobatic, like an ornery hornet. There's some furious vamping by Session and English before Mr. Theus himself -- who's been playing deceptive possum throughout the tune -- explodes in a thunderous drum break that enables one to understand why, back in the day, people like Alex Cline argued over who would carry his traps.

Matt Ritvo leads studio rehearsal with Roberto Miranda

With the exception of "Blues for Sonship," most of these tunes are bite-sized snippets (both "Queensberry Street" and its reprise clock in at barely more than a minute). "The Path" breathes like a funky film-noir soundtrack before ending in a horrified peal of dissonance. “396 Bellevue” carries an off-kilter melody that seems to backs up on itself, creating an aural illusion that almost sounds like you’re listening to it in reverse. Ritvo’s halting barrelhouse-inflected piano interlude brings the song down to concert-hall quiet softness before the tune fades out like smoke from a departing train.

The Matt Ritvo Group: "The Path"

All in all, a wonderfully under-the-radar release that will prove essential to any salt-worthy L.A. jazz snerd. You can pick up the CD here.

Matt Ritvo interviewed by Richard Blackwell

Francisco Aguabella
Fred Anderson
Stuart Cable
Roy Carrier
Larry Dale
Ronnie James Dio
Bill Dixon
Ernest Fleischmann
Paul Gray
Dennis Hopper
Lena Horne
Marvin Isley
Hank Jones
Jackson Kaujeua
Yvonne Loriod
Rob McConnell
Kazuo Ohno
Pete Quaife
Rosa Rio
Anneliese Rothenberger
David Sanger
Gary Shider
Ali-Ollie Woodson

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