Summertime Jazz: Still Alive and Swingin' in Los Angeles
On Aug. 1st, Ms. Kreibich brought Louis Van Taylor's quartet to Bar Melody, another venue near LAX in Westchester, Calif. Taylor, a master of all the reed instruments, as well as the flute, may not be a familiar name on the jazz scene but his vibrant, impassioned and often funky sound has, nevertheless, been heard by many lobes around the world. Taylor has played and recorded with the Gerald Wilson for over 20 years, the Ray Charles band for over 15 years, as well as with performers as varied as The Temptations, Kool and the Gang and Mariah Carey. Nice resume.
Tonight, however, Taylor was fronting his own band which included Jacques Lesureon guitar, Mikal Majeed on organ and Paul Kreibach on drums. Taylor had feet tappin' and fingers snappin' throughout the packed lounge when his funky tenor blew the Eddie Harris classic, "Cold Duck Time." He gave an impassioned interpretation on flute to Freddie Hubbard's jazz classic, "Little Sunflower." On the Duke Ellington tune "In a Sentimental Mood," Taylor displayed a rich, warm tenor sound that had couples around the club moving just a little bit closer to each other. Ah, "If music be the food of love, play on."
Taylor's amiable stage presence, masterful musicianship and choice of instrumentation, the classic blues and funk form of sax, guitar and organ pioneered so lustily by the Blue Note recordings of Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith, worked to perfection, percolating a good time, party atmosphere for all. Not bad for a Tuesday night in the flight path to LAX.
One of the hippest and most valuable contributors to Southland jazz for decades, Ms. Mimi Melnick is owed a deep debt of gratitude for her efforts in keeping jazz alive. She has opened her home in the hills above the San Fernando Valley several times a year to present intimate jazz salons, where guests imbibe tasty snacks and all manner of beverages, while nourishing their souls on epicurean, musical sustenance.
On Aug. 23rd, bassist Roberto Miranda and his quartet, composed of multi-reed master, Charles Owens, keyboardist and recording engineer, Wayne Peet, drummer extraordinaire, Sonship Theus, and augmented on this occasion, by the spoken word of Steven Blake, performed at Mimi's Place.
Recently inspired to devote himself solely to making "sacred music," defined as marrying the African-American jazz tradition with the Biblical word, Miranda has enthusiastically embraced this new direction, preaching the word through music.
The performance opened with an unaccompanied drum solo by Theus, invoking the spirits and joining those gathered together in harmony. The bass drum thump, thumped; the cymbals shimmered and crashed; the bowed bass groaned; the tenor saxophone blew deeply; and, appropriately for this Sunday "service," the organ wailed. Finally, Blake read from the Bible and intoned, "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!"
Then the band started to swing.
On "The Creator's Musicians," the Rev. Miranda reminded the congregation that the ancient Israelites used musicians to induce the people into a proper meditative state in order to receive the Word. After a song of praise spoken by Blake, the band took flight again, swingin' the people into a celebratory mood.
And thanks to the efforts of progressive jazz promoter, Rocco Somazzi, of Rocco's as well as Café Metropol, on Labor Day, the second annual Angel City Jazz Festival was held at the John Anson Ford Theatre. The audience was treated to seven hours of performances by "creative musicians dedicated to stretching the boundaries of modern jazz." The amphitheatre, nestled in the sylvan setting of the Hollywood Hills, though, at first, worrisomely bereft of patrons, gradually filled with aficionados of alternative music, (jazz doesn't really begin to describe the sonic explorations that transpired on stage).
Opening the second day's program was Alex Cline's Band of the Moment. First, each musician gravely jiggled bells. Then, Cline tapped the gong; John Fumo blew a muted horn; Jeff Gauthier caressed the violin, and the band slipped into a laid back groove reminiscent of Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way." Next, a seamless, yet sudden shift to an edgy, up tempo pace, as Cline propelled the band with insistent beats. The band's set also included trumpet passages suggesting Humpback whale conversations, a funky interlude highlighted by Leubig's throbbing bass, and a jagged, free form break of clanging and screeching instruments that satisfied the more primal urges within the human heart.