Cameron Graves, Planetary Prince Album Release, The Troubadour

March 16, 2017 The “world famous” Troubadour is not the first venue that comes to mind for boundary morphing contemporary piano driven ensemble jazz. But then, the L.A. based collective known as the West Coast Get Down, has yet to do anything by the books. It’s been a heady 2017 already for these dudes coming on the heels of bassist Miles Mosley’s headlining date at the El Rey in January, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr.’s album release party at the Teragram a few weekends back and saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s post-Epic musical and visual installation for the Whitney Biennial in NYC. Last week, it was pianist Cameron Graves turn to front this band of one/band of many, for the drop of his stellar CD, “Planetary Prince” on Mack Avenue Records (disclaimer, more astronomical adjectives could follow). Like Mosley before him, Graves got a well deserved shout out as one of 10 new artists you need to know this year by Rolling Stone, and for good reason IMHO. My ears have been pretty stuck on “Planetary Prince” the past few weeks. With eight tracks covering almost 80 minutes and the shortest clocking in at 7:28, there is an emotional arc to each built […]

West Coast Get Down, El Rey Theatre

January 28, 2017 The West Coast Get Down is better known as the L.A. collective of talent including saxophonist Kamasi Washington. Washington has commanded a lot of attention the past few years, and for good reason. That audacious 3-disc debut, “The Epic” on Brainfeeder, his collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, and 2016 dates at Bonnaroo and Coachella, to name a few. But for a change, this isn’t about Washington. This is about the band that brings those head spinning sonics to life in studio and performances. When I finally caught up with Washington for the first time at the 2016 Newport Jazz Festival, I was pretty knocked out, but when upright bassist Miles Mosley took center stage, uh, the dimension took on another dimension. Whether feverishly bowing with Hendrix like distortion and effects, or running the neck, Mosley, has mad presence and skills. The LA Weekly dubbed him “an assassin on the upright bass” for good reason and Rolling Stone called him out as one of 10 new artists you need to know, and he has a rather impressive resume of his own (Jeff Beck, Rihanna, Lamar, to drop a few names, not to mention extensive film and television credits). It’s […]

Anders Osborne, The Troubadour

November 11, 2016 A bill of New Orleans’ Anders Osborne with Texas drenched songwriter James McMurtry at the Troubadour was just the salve for this soul after a tumultuous and historic week. Both delivered on a night of well spun tales and songwriting excellence armed with nothing more than a few guitars and a stirring songbook. When Osborne announced his second date at the Troubadour this year (he performed with his current band in late March), it came as a bonus to any Southland fan. Osborne has been prolific of late, releasing two records just this year (Flower Box and Spacedust & Ocean Views). And, yes, as a guitar jam junkie I missed the full monty of his plugged in band, but the depth of his quieter tunes shown brilliantly in this solo setting, as it has when I’ve happened upon acoustic Osborne with frequent mates John Fohl and Johnny Sansone at Liuzza’s By The Track, or Chickie Wah Wah in New Orleans, or sharing the stage with the Southern Soul Assembly of Luther Dickinson, Osborne, JJ Grey and Marc Broussard here in Los Angeles in 2014. Friday at the Troub, his vocals were as strong and clear and poignant […]

George Porter, Jr. & Friends, The Mint

October 21, 2016 Any chance to hear Meters bassist George Porter, Jr. in the southland is a treat, and he brought a little Maple Leaf with him for a generous two-setter at The Mint billed as a celebration of Porter, Jr. with special guests. GPJ was flanked by drummer Terrence Houston and Michael Lemmler on keys throughout the night. Tal Wilkenfeld, another absolutely remarkable four-stringer was the first to sit in, and the bass off that ensued was memorable, to say the least. Singer-guitarist Laith Al-Saadhi helped close the first set with a smoking “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley”. Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins joined Houston behind his kit to start the second set and took over for a few tunes digging in with all the physicality of his other band. The set featured a killer “Lovelight” and staples like “I Feel Like Funkin’ it Up”, “Hey Pocky Way”, ”Will it go Round in Circles” and a charging take of “Them Changes”. The show finished at a very Leafy 1:20 AM or so. Porter, Jr. was honored on Saturday with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Bass Player Live! and The Mint gig left no doubt of how deserving the funk […]

KAABOO 2016

September  16-18, 2016 KAABOO is an art and food festival with a serious music problem – a weekend away with a killer soundtrack. With a year to percolate since last year’s inaugural, KAABOO again flashed musical diversity, tasty cuisine, artisanal liquids, five-story art, good humor and an abundance of creature comforts around the historic Del Mar Fairgrounds. It’s an event and region meant for each other.The brainchild of entrepreneur Bryan Gordon, KAABOO is also a refreshing break from the AEG, Goldenvoice and Live Nation events that dominate much of the festival landscape. Sophomore KAABOO was not without its hiccups, but its place in the California festival landscape is certainly secure. Aerosmith saw to that. The unlikely pairing of Macy Gray and Chris Isaak kicked off the event Thursday night for those with “Amplify” passes. Her set was frothy, funky, full of sexuality and maybe a little lost on the not so danceable crowd, while his was schmaltzy, entertaining and well rehearsed with his band of 30 years (and the guy can still hit all the high notes of “Wicked Game” without flinching and probably ages slower than the rest of us). Not to mention there was so much good food being […]

Newport Jazz Festival 2016

July 29-31, 2016 Newport Jazz. Coltrane’s last performance. History that reaches back to 1954. And, yes, the oldest annual jazz festival in North America is still under the stewardship of founder George Wein for one last year. Newport, along with the Monterey Jazz Festival on the West Coast in September, stands taller than the rest and for good reason. The stunning Ft. Adams setting, the showcase for fresh directions and emerging acts, and the legacy of musical giants past and present all converge for an event that has long been on my jazz bucket list. Having the good fortune to drop in at Newport Folk the past few years, this was my first shot at Newport Jazz, which retains the stage layout from the previous week’s Folk Fest. The smallest tent is barely more than a dozen rows deep, while the largest stage is set against a backdrop of breathtaking bay and bridge views. Both events are incredibly relaxed and attendance is capped at 10K, creating one of the more intimate festival experiences of any year. Sure, the crowd and vibe skew differently between weekends, but damn if jazz isn’t alive and well in the Northeast, and a younger Millenial […]
May 23
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Reflections and Musings of a Jazz Fest Photographer – 2016 Edition

  Yeah, it’s been a year of musical losses. But, Prince, the day before Jazz Fest 47 got underway? WTF? From the glyph etched in the blue above the Fair Grounds the first weekend, to the Treme second line the Monday following, to My Morning Jacket’s howling “Purple Rain” finish second Friday, Jazz Fest did its part, as it always does. “I am because he was”, Janelle Monae confessed to the Congo Square stage crowd. And whether Prince or Bowie or Toussaint or B.B. or Merle, and on and on, Fest is where the music is honored and celebrated like no other gathering on the planet, even when heaven and earth throw everything at you. And this was a Fest like no other, where Stevie Wonder’s only Fair Grounds performance was an acapella Purple Rain through a bullhorn in a deluge, and where it was impossible to tell the booming thunder above, from Neil Young and POR below. The music stuck like the deep muck of the infield and never let go. And whether on stage, dancing with a stranger, singing along, holding back tears, sharing a bite, sleeping it off, that’s just a Jazz Fest fact. This photographer took […]

Lucinda Williams, Royce Hall

March 4, 2016 It seems many established acts are getting more artistically liberated in the deep end of their careers, or is that just me? Whether it’s an unusual union (David Crosby and Snarky Puppy come to mind in the moment), reaching way back into an early catalog, or running through entire albums from first groove to last, there’s a more untethered attitude towards a body of work than I ever recall. With a thriving concert renaissance, such deep track experiences and artistic reach have become especially rewarding for fans and bands alike (despite Billy Corgan’s distaste). Less constrained by sales and image, these can indeed be very satisfying times. Lucinda Williams knows this territory well. Long before Bruce rolled out The River from coast-to-coast, Williams played a 5-night stand at the El Rey Theatre running through her first five albums in their entirety in 2007. Yet, in the early days of her career, albums and tours had the frequency of a Terence Malick flick. Then “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” reached the masses and deservedly expanded her audience who mostly knew her tunes, but not the writer. A mighty vein was struck and an outpouring of excellent albums […]

The Infamous Stringdusters and Della Mae, The Troubadour

February 25, 2016 Some serious stringing occurred at The Troubadour last week courtesy of another nice Bluegrass Situation Presents double bill of the globe trotting Della Mae first on before the Infamous Stringdusters. The women of Della Mae’s resumes are top flight and they pulled no punches during their hourish set. Oh, and did I mention they know how to squeeze every bit of languor from “Love in Vain”?               Celia Woodsmith prepped the crowd for the “face melting” Infamous Stringdusters and she wasn’t far off. The floor was packed for these guys and their devotion among the growing jamgrass legion was apparent. Not a lot of pickers could make “In God’s Country” sound straight out Music City. Fiddler Jeremy Garrett fueled the ‘dusters throughout their headlining set, who were joined by Della Mae’s Woodsmith and the Bay Area’s Nicki Bluhm for the last few tunes at the world famous Troub. In case their jamgrass cred left any doubt, guitarist Andy Falco and dobro player Andy Hall, as well as Nicki Bluhm, joined Phil Lesh and Friends at the Vegas Brooklyn Bowl later in the week for what I heard was a pretty fine […]

Mardi Gras Bhangra with Red Baraat and Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9, Royce Hall

February 9, 2016 Fat Tuesday in Los Angeles is hard to discern from any other day of the year in this sun spoilt metropolis. Once you get past the pre-packaged king cakes in Whole Foods, there are limited options to channel any decent Mardi Gras energy. Fortunately, the Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) at UCLA, who never fail to pull a season together of the worldly and eclectic, really hit on something when renowned New Orleans pianist, Henry Butler (with Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9) travelled west at the same time Brooklyn dhol’n’brassers Red Baraat kicked off a coast-to-coast tour. This Mardi Gras Bhangra bill was as close to real deal as we’ll get in this town, and a convergence of river deltas like no other. Words tend to fall short when describing Red Baraat. This speaks less about my limited vocabulary and more about music that bends and infuses the seemingly disparate global elements of wedding music from Northern India (“baraat” is Hindi for a groom’s wedding procession) and the fat horns and funk of New Orleans, and then makes such utterly perfect sense when you experience it. Suffice to say it is a mashup of […]