Gershwin's Americana at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

Photo by Scott Feinblatt
Pacific Symphony
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

From alt rock acts to classical orchestras, the cozy and scenic Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, formerly (and more dignifiedly) known as Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, has hosted many types of concerts and musical festivals. And although music appreciation depends upon the taste of the individual, it is difficult to imagine that the strains of George Gershwin's most popular compositions would not command respect from anyone who heard them performed -- much less all in one program. On the evening of Sunday, July 20, Carl St. Clair opened his 25th season as the Musical Director and Conductor of the Pacific Symphony with performances of An American in Paris, Rhapsody in Blue, selections from Porgy and Bess, and the "Overture" from Strike Up the Band.

Gershwin is popularly regarded as one of the prototypical American composers. He synthesized classical music with jazz and yielded wonderfully theatrical music, which has become hallmark Americana. Gershwin referred to Rhapsody in Blue (1924) as "a musical kaleidoscope of America." It has been influential on numerous musicians and has featured prominently in many movies -- most notably as Woody Allen's theme for New York in Manhattan and in Baz Luhrmann's recent film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

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Getting Naked With Charlie "Bird" Parker at the Wildest Party in L.A. History

Categories: all that jazz

Courtesy of the William P. Gottlieb Collection
Charlie Parker, the party animal, on sax

By Chris Walker

Charlie "Bird" Parker has been called the greatest saxophonist who ever lived, a jazz legend who not only spearheaded the bebop movement but also laid the foundations of modern jazz.

He was also a party animal.

In 1952, Los Angeles would play host to one of Parker's wildest exploits. The New York-based musician was in L.A. for some club gigs, even as his health was rapidly declining -- fat, and alternately strung out on heroin or in the throes of withdrawal, he nursed his pain with alcohol binges. He went hard until the end. When Parker died in 1955 from a bleeding ulcer and liver disease, the coroner estimated his body to be between 50 and 60 years of age. He was 34.

See also: 10 Jazz Albums to Listen to Before You Die

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Wynton Marsalis - Segerstrom Center - March 14, 2014

Categories: all that jazz

Press photo of Wynton Marsalis by Frank Stewart
Wynton Marsalis
Segerstrom Center

It is a rare treat to hear brilliant music performed live by the geniuses who composed it. Young jazz aficionados must rely on old recordings, books and documentaries to transport themselves into the music halls of yesteryear if they want to experience performances by the legendary jazz orchestras of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. However, on the evening of March 14, the audience at Segerstrom Center for the Arts got the next best thing.

Nine-time Grammy Award winner Wynton Marsalis is not only a brilliant musician and composer but he is also an educator and a champion of the arts. Last Friday, he and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra raised awareness about a cross-section of songs while providing renditions of them that were so beautiful, words simply cannot do them justice. Segerstrom's senior music programming director, Aaron Egigian, was responsible for the program, and pursuant to his request, the orchestra performed the songs of Count Basie and Duke Ellington in their original arrangements.

See also: Kyle Eastwood Was a 10 Year-Old Jazz Club Regular

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Kyle Eastwood Was A Ten Year Old Jazz Club Regular

Categories: all that jazz

Jean-Baptiste Millot
Bassist Kyle Eastwood grew up immersed in the world of jazz. The classic sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane filled his home as a child and his father, legendary actor Clint Eastwood, introduced him to many of the genre's greatest practitioners before he was old enough for middle school. Between breaks on a film scoring session, the younger Eastwood spoke with the Weekly about that path to becoming a globally-recognized commander of the upright and electric bass. He will be appearing with his band this Saturday at Spaghettini in Seal Beach.

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Top Five Soul-Jazz Organists

Categories: all that jazz

Luke Ratray
The Hammond B3 organ weighs over 400 pounds. At the height of their popularity, the Spice Girls combined probably weighed less than that but unlike 400 pounds of manufactured girl power, 400 pounds of funk is a very good thing. The electric organ is an oscillating, one-man band, running the gamut from smooth to shrill. Bass pedals allow the organist to provide their own funky low-end and when suited up with an electric guitarist and a drummer, the soul-jazz triumvirate is complete. The soul-jazz genre was a populist sound with compact performances and often recognizable melodies taken from the pop charts.

One of the best jazz organists and pop interpreters is Dr. Lonnie Smith - a turban-wearing, unlicensed practitioner of funk who released a series of backbeat goldmines in the late 1960s and early 1970s that defined the genre. Smith self-released a double album last year revisiting those classic sessions and, if it is possible, sounds stronger now. He will be performing this weekend at the Segerstrom Center's Samueli Hall. Here is a primer on some of the funkiest first-generation jazz organists.

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Darkside's Dave Harrington Always Keeps Improvisation Paramount

Nicolas Jaar (left) and Dave Harrington (right) as Darkside
Part humid, steamed electronics, part Krautrock, part jazz and blues, and existing as something that can only come from the minds of Dave Harrington and Nicholas Jaar, their project as Darkside has produced some of the most sonically interesting and distinct music of the past few years.

"It all happened gradually and naturally," Dave Harrington says when speaking of the groups origins.

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Sara Gazarek's Five Favorite Vocalists

Categories: all that jazz

Courtesy of Sara Gazarek
Pianist Josh Nelson and vocalist Sara Gazarek keep themselves amused.

Jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek has been in Los Angeles for over a decade. In that time, she has established herself as one of the pre-eminent young interpreters of the Great American Songbook as well as tackling her own material and recent pop tunes. She embraces the story of a song, lilting through lyrical gems, buoyed by her great trio of pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Zach Harmon. Before the band plays at Spaghettini this Saturday night, Gazarek put a lot of careful consideration into identifying the five vocalists who are currently inspiring her. Ask her at the gig and she might have a completely different list.

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McCoy Tyner Quartet - Samueli Theater - 12/13/13

SJ O'Connell
Pianist McCoy Tyner turned 75 years old last Wednesday and his body reflected most of those years when he approached the piano on Friday night. Obviously, it is unfair to expect anyone to radiate the heat they were so famous for decades ago. No one has expected Willie McCovey to hit a home run since the Carter administration but they do like to see him step out on a field and wave his hat occasionally. This four night stand was Tyner's opportunity to wave his hat and bask in the glow of the adoration he rightly deserves, overcoming his limited mobility in order to entertain a rapt audience.

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Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington - Samueli Theater - 10/26/13

Categories: all that jazz

SJ O'Connell
Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington
Samueli Theater

"Women in jazz." What a sadly overused phrase.

The fact that three African American women from multiple generations playing jazz for a full house is considered a novelty is incredibly unfortunate. Three African American men from multiple generations playing jazz for a full house is simply referred to as tradition. But the best-rounded artists from any discipline access all gender roles. A great jazz musician can't have physicality and no sensitivity. A great jazz musician has to be able to play a ballad as well as a burner. When jazz is at its best, gender cannot be detected.

Pianist Geri Allen, bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington all draw from a deep well of technique and emotional dexterity. Although it took a little while, last Saturday, before a sold out crowd at the Samueli Theater, that trio showed a wide emotional range and the ability to demolish any jazz band working today regardless of gender, race, height or hairstyle.

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Terri Lyne Carrington Is Having Too Much Fun

Categories: all that jazz

Geri Allen (l), Terri Lyne Carrington (c), Esperanza Spalding (r)
Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington is a tremendous link to the history of jazz. Her grandfather played the traps behind Fats Waller and Chu Berry. Her father, Sonny, was the president of the Boston Jazz Society. She was immersed in the sounds from birth and appears to have paid a lot of attention because for over thirty years she has been at the forefront of modern jazz drumming. Recently, she teamed up with pianist Geri Allen and bassist Esperanza Spalding (Best New Artist Grammy Winner, enemy to all Beliebers) to form the all-star trio ACS.

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