Saturday, January 19, 2019

Shelley Yoelin Hold Musical Court At Woodys in Palm Springs Every Wednesday

David Ring, Shelley Yoelin and Andy Fraga Jr.
Woody's Palm House in Palm Springs is a great spot to hear live music any day of the week because they have live music 7 days a week.  And the quality of the performers is always some of the best the Desert music scene has to offer.  The owner of Woody's Palm House, Wayne Woodliff, is a former musician himself and he personally selects every act that performs there.  Tonight, I enjoyed the Shelly Yoelin Trio that performs regularly every Wednesday night.  Shelly usually invites one of our great Desert singers to be a special guest and tonight the fabulous Michael Dees joined the group.  Michael has had a long career of doing studio, movie and TV work in LA until he moved to Palm Springs a couple of years ago.  His singing and his original compositions are top draw.  He is simply one of the finest singers on the scene today even though we only get a few chances to hear him sing locally.  I try never to miss one of his gigs.

Tonight Michael vocally joined the Shelly Yoelin Group consisting of Shelly Yoelin on Tenor and Flute, David Ring on Keys and Andy Fraga Jr. on Drums.  These are three of the most talented musicians anywhere and when joined by Michael Dees, it's magic!  Michael sang many songs tonight including the evergreen "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life" the song Michael sang for the movie "The Happy Ending".  Michael also sang several beautiful and sensitive songs he wrote the music and the lyrics for, one in particular is the sensational, "In A Moment".  It was a great night for quality music!

I recorded Michael singing a swinging version of the classic "All or Nothing At All" at the event.  I was recording from my table and caught some of the crowd sounds but I think you will still enjoy Michael Dees and the Shelly Yoelin group.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Craig Yancy and the RPM's Star at Backstreet Bistro

Niles Yancey, Mark Ferguson, Craig Yancey, Bill Saitta  
Bill Saitta and Jeff Olson
Hello again to all my Jazz friends in the Coachella Valley!  My winter Jazz season has started and it's appropriate that it started at the Tuesday Jazz session at Backstreet Bistro.  Tuesdays at Backstreet Bistro have been a Desert Jazz lover's staple.  The outdoor setting on the patio is informal and intimate.  For me, I try to get there early so I can sit right next to the musical group.  As a former musician, it brings me back to my playing days!  Each week Bass player, Bill Saitta, schedules different Desert-favorite musicians who have their chance to show us their musical chops.

Tonight, Sax player extraordinaire Craig Yancey had three wonderful musicians, Bill Saitta on Bass, Mark Ferguson on Keys, Jeff Olson on Drums and Craig's son, Niles on Alto Sax to join him.  I heard Niles Yancey perform before but it was clear tonight that he had advanced to the point where he can hold his own next to the most experienced Jazz players.

Craig Yancey has a natural love of music and Jazz in particular and he enjoys playing as much as his audience enjoys hearing him.  Bill Saitta was impressive on Bass and also sang a few songs that have become audience favorites.  Jeff Olson was on Drums and it was a pleasure hearing him again.  I like to say that Jeff Olson has the softest hands in the West.  His drumming is always right on target for the group he is playing for.

I found a short "YouTube" of the group that was recorded and published in July of 2017 that I think you will enjoy.  It contains a major drum solo by Jeff Olson.

Remember, Tuesday is always Jazz night at Backstreet Bistro and reservations are always a good idea,

Monday, December 31, 2018

CD Review: Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard

Question: Is there something in the music world that can be described as an intelligent, caring, sensitive and thoughtful Piano Trio?  I think there is and the 1997 never-before-released recorded performance titled, "The Fred Hersch Trio @ The Village Vanguard" fits this description perfectly!

Fred Hersch has been recording outstanding music over the past 20 years,  but he is now allowing us to travel with him back 21 years to share his first performance with his own trio at the Village Vanguard.  Fred Hersch performed at the Village Vanguard for years before 1997 as a sideman for legendary bandleaders including Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, Lee Konitz, Ron Carter, Al Foster and others.  But in July of 1997, Hersch performed at the Village Vanguard with his own Trio.  The Fred Hersch Trio performed three Friday night sets in 1997 that were captured on tape and now Hersch has hand-picked his favorite songs from these live performances for his latest CD.

Fred Hersch wrote the liner note for this CD, and I think it tells us how proud he is of this gig and his Trio.  Hersch writes: "This recording documents a huge moment in my life as a Jazz musician.  I had played numerous times at the famous Village Vanguard as a sideman starting in 1979.  The Vanguard had been in existence at the same location since 1935-virtually unchanged. The magic of the acoustics and the history of all the greats who played and recorded there make it the "Carnegie Hall of Jazz clubs"."

Improviser, Composer, Educator, Bandleader, Collaborator and Recording Artist Fred Hersch has had a heavy influence on the American Jazz scene over the past 30 years.  His awards would fill a book and include twelve Grammy nominations.  I think a quote from "Vanity Fair" hits the target perfectly, "The most arrestingly innovative pianist in Jazz over the last decade".  If you have not heard any music from Fred Hersch, you are in for a real treat.  If you are already a fan of Fred Hersch, this new CD will thrill you!

Bassist Drew Gress and Drummer Tom Rainey had been working with Hersch for five years at the point they took the Vanguard job.  The three players were at their height of perfection as a group and this CD represents the only live recording of this much-loved trio.  This CD is a gift to all Jazz lovers of  Jazz Piano Trio music!

Fred Hersch-Piano
Drew Gress-Bass
Tom Rainey-Drums

1. "Easy to Love"
2. "My Funny Valentine"
3. "Three Little Words"
4. " Evanessence"
5. "Andrew John"
6. "I Wish I Knew"
7. "Swamp Thang"
8 "You Don't Know What Love is"

I have attached a "YouTube" of the Fred Hersch Trio playing "My Funny Valentine" like you have never heard it before.  Please enjoy!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

CD Review: Shirley Crabbe, "Bridges"

Vocalist Shirley Crabbe is a marvelous Jazz singer who makes singing seem effortless.  Her interpretation of Lyric and her beautiful Voice produce a sound as smooth as silk!  Her CD is called "Bridges" and it's all about connections through our lives.  It contains an eclectic list of songs, including some Jazz standards, a Pop tune, a couple of originals and a hip, updated version of "Blessed Assurance" which is a well-known Christian hymn that is one of her mother's favorite songs.  The first cut on the CD is the Irving Berlin classic "Isn't It A Lovely Day" that is closely associated with Ella Fitzgerald who was an important influence on Shirley Crabbe.  Whenever I listen to a singer for the first time, I really like to hear them sing a classic standard song.  Singing a song that has been covered by all of the greatest Jazz vocalists in history usually tells me up front the level of talent the vocalists has.  Most singers simply copy the style of the performer who had the hit and most times the results are less than satisfying.  However, even though Ella was one of Shirley's influences, she takes on the classic song and brings some of herself to it, adding something new but retaining the integrity of the original recording.  Few singers can accomplish this feat and Shirley is one of them.  It was a pleasure to experience her talents on this CD and I highly recommend that this CD would make a terrific Christmas present for any lover of the "Great American Songbook". 

Shirley has gathered two brilliant Jazz Pianists to join her on this CD, David Budway and Donald Vega who also was the musical director for the CD.  In addition, the fine list of musicians below helped make this CD an outstanding musical presentation.

Shirley Crabbe-Vocals
Donald Vega-Piano & Musical Director
David "The Budman" Budway (1,8,9)
Clovis Nicolas-Bass
Ulysses Owens Jr-Drums
Alvester Garnett-Drums- (2,10)
Brandon Lee-Trumpet
Chris Cardona-Violin
Sean Carney-Violin
Todd Low-Viola
Stephanie Cummins-Cello

1. "Isn't It A Lovely Day"
2. "Taking A Chance On Love"
3.  "Bridges"
4. "The Bridge"
5. "I Didn't Know What Time It Was"
6. "Promise Me"
7. "The Windmills Of Your Mind"
8. "And So It Goes"
9. "Thief In The Night"
10. "Blessed Assurance"


I found two "YouTube" videos showcasing the great Jazz vocal singing by Shirley Crabbe.  I am sure you will enjoy the wonderful arrangements also!  The first one is an Irving Berlin classic, "Isn't This A Lovely Day" and the second is the Evergreen "Taking A Chance on Love".

Sunday, November 11, 2018

CD Review: "The Music of Gary Lindsay: Are We Still Dreaming" Featuring the South Florida Jazz Orchestra"

Grammy-nominated Arranger Gary Lindsay has released a new CD,  "The Music of Gary Lindsay: Are We Still Dreaming"  featuring The South Florida Jazz Orchestra.   Gary Lindsay has written big band charts that have been performed by everyone from Maynard Ferguson and the Atlantean Driftwood Band to the Airmen of Note and the Florida Philharmonic.  This is Gary's first CD that is devoted entirely to his big band arrangements.  Gary Lindsay is also an Alto Sax player and performs, records and arranges for the Miami Saxophone Quartet.  To say he is a gifted Arranger would be a serious understatement.  He arranges in the tradition of Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and all the other great big band arrangers of the 50's and 60's.  His arranging is thoughtful,  spirited, traditional and, yet, new and inspiring.

 I have to hear a new CD several times in order to really get a clear feel as to its message.  Not so with this CD.  The South Florida Orchestra is so talented and performs seamlessly on every song with wonderful arrangement.  Anyone who likes the big band Jazz sound will flip over this CD.  The orchestra was directed perfectly by Chuck Bergeron who let the players and singers have their way without any loss of control of the ultimate sound.  The musicians who performed on this CD are all sensational, and I thank them for their world class contributions to this project.

Gary Lindsay has received multiple well-deserved awards and I am sure his Grammy nomination for Jazz arranging for Arturo Sandoval's album "I Remember Clifford" is at the top of his list of accomplishments!

Doing reviews is not always fun for me , however,  getting to listen to this great big band CD one that I probably would have missed if not reviewing, make it all worthwhile!

1. "Moment In Time"
2. "Spring Is Here/Up Jumped Spring
3. "Toward Hope"
4. "Easy Living"
5. "Better Days Ahead"
6. "Are We Still Dreaming"
7. "Round Midnight"
8. "Ummg"

Gary Keller- Alto, Soprano and Flute
Gary Lindsay- Alto, Clarinet
Ed Calle- Tenor, Flute
Phil Doyle- Tenor, Flute
Jason Kush- Tenor, Flute
Mike Brignola- Bari Sax, Bass Clarinet
Rick Margitza- Guest Soloist on "Toward Hope"
Augie Haas- Trumpet 
Jeff Kievit- Trumpet
Greg Gisbert- Trumpet
Jason Carder- Trumpet
Alex Norris- Trumpet
Peter Francis-Trumpet
Richard Todd- French Horn
Martin Bejerano- Electric & Acoustic Piano
John Hart- Guitar
Chuck Bergeron- Acoustic & Electric Bass
John Yarling- Drums
Brian Potts- Shaker, Pandeiro
Ksenija Komljenovi- Vibes & Xylophone
Dana Teboe- Trombone
Dante Luciani- Trombone
John Kricker- Trombone
Major Bailey- Trombone
Derek Pyle- Trombone
Andrew Peal-Trombone
I found two "YouTube" videos of two songs from this new CD.  Both are just outstanding examples of master Jazz arranging and some of the best Jazz singing and playing you can find anywhere!  The first is a medley of "Spring is Here" by Richard Rogers and "Up Jumped Spring" by Freddie Hubbard.  There is no way to top this creative combination.  The recording features some great singing by Julia Dollison and outstanding solos by Dante Luciani on Trombone and Phil Doyle on Tenor.  

The second "YouTube" video is a cover on the Thelonious Monk classic "Round Midnight".  According to Gary Lindsay, this arrangement was inspired by the Stan Kenton sound.  It's a  magnificent arrangement that features a soulful sound from Ed Calle on Tenor.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Drummer, Composer and Arranger Mike Spinrad is a stalwart on the San Francisco Bay area Jazz scene.  According to Spinrad his goal as a musician and composer is "to project emotions and have fun with his music".  I believe he has accomplished this goal in his new CD,  "Horns" that was released this past August.  As soon as Spinrad decided to do this CD the first person he contacted was his old friend Guido Fazio who in addition to playing wonderful Tenor sax and flute on the CD, also arranged the horn sections.  According to Spinrad, "He's a monster player with amazing instincts, and even more important, his approach to music mirrors my approach.  For me, music needs emotional content.  It's great to listen to someone with incredible technique, but technique alone doesn't move me. Guido has great technique and plays with an incredible amount of heart and soul".  Mike Spinrad wrote all of the eight songs on this CD and all are terrific compositions with wonderful emotional output!

Mike Spinrad- Drums, Percussion and Composing
Don Turney- Piano and Organ
Guido Fazio- Tenor Sax,  Flute and Horn Arranger
Richard Conway- Trumpet and Flugelhorn
Larry Stewart- Baritone Sax (Tracks 3,4,5,6,7,8)
Eric Lyons- Bass (Tracks 1,2)
John Hettel- Bass (Tracks 3,4,8)
Daniel Parentis-Bass (5,6)

1. "Smarter"
2. "Chaim"
3. "Bette'n Hy"
4. "Shelia"
5. "Raul"
6. "Brooke"
7. "Manny"
8. "Texarkana"

I have attached a "YouTube" of the first cut on the CD "Horns" written by Mike Spinrad and John Groves entitled "Smarber".  But I also loved the last cut on the CD so you are getting a double treat.  Listen to "Texarkana", it really cooks!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

CD Review: Stephane Spira :New Playground"

Stephane Spira

Saxophonist and Composer Stephane Spira's success has not come easily or quickly.  Stephane is self-taught while also pursuing an engineering degree.  He worked as an engineer in Saudi Arabia and then in the 1990s he headed back to his hometown of Paris to pursue music full time.  After 15 years of playing in Paris clubs and recording two albums,  Spira decided to make a major life change by moving to New York City and start over.  Rather than finding rejection in the sometime cold "Big Apple", he found inspiration and a Jazz career playing with a core group of tremendous musicians.  He also fell in love with an equally creative women who became mother of his son.  Spira wrote 7 of the 8 songs included in "New Playground" to celebrate the creative and personal happiness he discovered since making the change in his life.  You may find it interesting as I did that Spira got his first Saxophone at the age of 22.  Late for most Jazz musicians but not for those whose inspiration and creativity must be freed.

Stephane Spira plays Soprano Saxophone, an instrument that is not exactly a staple in American Jazz, however, his tone and skill will impress even the toughest critic!  His composing, phrasing and tones are infectious and totally uplifting for the listener.

The supporting cast on this CD is also outstanding!  The four remarkable players fit perfectly together, as if they are one.  Featured are Steve Wood on Bass, Joshua Richman on Piano and Keyboard and Jimmy Macbride on Drums.

Stephane Spira: Soprano Saxophone
Joshua Richman: Piano and Keys
Steve Wood: Bass
Jimmy Macbride: Drums

1. "Peter's Run"
2. "Gold Ring Variations"
3. "New York Windows"
4,  "Underground Ritual"
5. "Nocturne (Song For My Son)"
6. "New Playground"
7. "Kaleidoscope"
8. "Solid Wood" 

I have attached a "YouTube" of the first cut from "New Playground".  It's one of 7 wonderful songs written by Stephane Spira.  I think you will love the sound and the feel of the song after just 4 measures!

Shelley Yoelin Hold Musical Court At Woodys in Palm Springs Every Wednesday

David Ring, Shelley Yoelin and Andy Fraga Jr. Woody's Palm House in Palm Springs is a great spot to hear live music any day of the ...