Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Brian Nova At The Wonderful Cafe des Beaux-Arts

Last Wednesday March 16, went to Cafe des Beaux-Arts to have dinner and enjoy the music of Brian Nova. If you like live music, and you talk to any of the great jazz musicians in the Desert, you are sure to hear Brian's name mentioned.  I certainly have but I had only heard Brian playing in groups with his stand up bass.  I knew from the few solos that Brian played that he was a talent I needed to know more about. 

Before I get to Brian, I have to mention a few comments about Cafe des Beaux-Arts. For anyone who has not dined at Beaux-Arts, you are really missing one of the best restaurants in the desert. It is one of my favorites and just not for dinner. It is one of the best restaurants in Palm Desert. It is right in the heart of the best shopping street in the Desert, El Paseo.  In addition to lunch and dinner, Beaux-Arts also serves an excellent breakfast. A great way to enjoy your morning coffee and read the morning newspaper. Didler Bloch is the proprietor of Beaux-Arts and he has been at the restaurant each time we visited.  This no doubt explains why Beaux-Arts is one of the best-run restaurants in the country. Be sure to say hello to Didler next time you visit.  Didler is a true renaissance man with a love for music, art, theatre and of course great French cuisine. 

Almost as soon as I heard Brian play Guitar, there was no doubt that he mastered this instrument. Brian played a few great classic jazz numbers, and I was very impressed with his finger dexterity and ability to compose some very original improvisations. Brian must have the fastest fingers in the West. But the quality that impressed me the most was Brian's ability to not only play notes fast but with great clarity, separation and composition.  In talking with Brian at one of his breaks, I learned that he has studied with two music icons that top everyone's list of great jazz guitarists, Herb Ellis and Joe Pass. Understand that no one gets to study with this caliber of musicians unless they see very unusual talent in the student.
Brian told me he spends the winters in the Desert and then tours the world the rest of the year. So there you have it, another example of why the Desert is the best place on earth during the winter for live music played by superb musicians.  But Brian's talent does end with guitar and stand up bass, he is an excellent singer with a soft, warm voice that is perfect for great songs from the "Great American Songbook".  I had a wonderful couple of hours dining and listening to Brian playing guitar and sing and my only regret is that the night had to end.   I will be back to hear more from Brian and I strongly urge anyone of my readers here in the Desert, to get to Beaux-Arts on Wednesday nights to enjoy Brian's great sounds from along with the outstanding food and service. 

Of course, in the tradition of the desert, a few guests dinning at Beaux-Arts came up to perform with Brian and as usual they were all very good. I think I have their names correct, Missoni Lanza, Erich Stratmann and Jim Salestrom. If I didn't and they read this blog, please send me any corrections and I will post them. 
Lastly, the great Vancouver flautist, Tom Keenlyside made an appearance and performed several songs with Brian. As always, Tom was just brilliant. Tom has been sitting in with most of the best jazz players in the Desert this season, and I would love to see Tom performing with his own group.  He is such a great talent who has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Natalie Cole, Harry Connick, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Diana Krall and David Foster just to name a few.  Tom moved here last winter and is a great gift to all of us who love great live music.

Brian & Tom Keenlyside

Brian & Missoni Lanza

Brian & Jim Salestrom

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Lounge at Club Trinidad Is Still Going Strong!

Last week at the Pat Rizzo show at Vicky's, I met and heard a wonderful singer, Beverly Jensen-Leys. A few days later, I received an email from Beverly giving me a heads up that on Sunday night, March 13 there was going to be an informal birthday party at "The Trinidad Lounge" which was open to the public.  I had heard that Trinidad was a great place to go for live music because they always have a lot of musicians and singers who go and sit in.  I arrived around 7:00 pm and the Lounge was almost filled even though the music had not yet started. The program started with Poupee Boccaccio singing.  However, after just a few songs, Poupee started calling people in the audience up to sing or play some songs.  It turned out that over the course of 2 hours, at least 20 different people came up to sing, play bass, vibs, sax, trombone, harmonica.  Every single guest performer had great musical skill. After a while, it seemed that I was the only person in the audience that was not a performer! In talking to some of the regulars, I found out that this kind of get together happens every Wednesday and Sunday at Trinidad and it has been this way for years.  This is where musicians go to hang out and sit in with other musicians.  It was such a great time and I got to hear some really gifted singers & musicans.  If you want to find out what the Desert live music scene is all about, head out to Trinidad on Wednesday or Sunday nights.  I was able to take some pictures although they did not come out as well as I had hoped because I was too far back from the stage but I do think they capture the excitement of the evening.
Beverly Jensen-Leys

Picture Wall At Trinidad

Poupee Boccaccio

Beverly & John Leys

Jeanie Stanhope

Carole Hampton

Ken Steele

Anita Gardiner

Tom McMorris

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pat Rizzo, He Does It All At Vicky's Lounge in Indian Wells

  On Tuesday March 8, I made it over to "The Desert Home" of live music in the Cochella Valley, Vicky's of Santa Fe in Indian Wells.  Vicky's is always the go to place to hear music. What other place in the Valley has live music 7 days a week?  None that I know of. My mission this night was to see the "Tony Bennett" show put together by Pat Rizzo.  I have seen Pat Rizzo performing as a member of many groups in the desert, but I really wanted to hear him leading a group so I could get a comprehensive view of his talent.  My first comment is that there is no doubt that Pat Rizzo has one of the strongest followings in the desert. And for good reason because Pat really does it all, plays tenor and alto sax, is a great flautist and has a great singing voice. In tonight's show, I was really impressed with Pat's sax playing, but the real surprise for me was how well Pat sings.  He sounds just like Tony Bennett. This is not an act. Pat's voice is really very similar to the great Mr. Bennett. Pat is not trying to sound like Mr. Bennett. He has an excellent voice and range of his own that is really exceptional.  Pat sang a lot of songs without one note he off key.  Remarkable for any singer.  I was really impressed with his ability to hit every high notes. Young singers could learn at lot listening to Pat.  Being a sax player myself, I can only tell you that I love the way Pat improvises his solos.  I only wish that I could have achieved the tone and dexterity that Pat puts forth every night.  Being the high- level musician that Pat is, it was no surprise to see that he had added the most professional sidemen to support him.  His pianist was the "great" Yarek Urant.  I have heard Yarek play for many other jazz groups but this is the first time I got to experience what Yarek could do with standards.  And the answer is he is one of the best pianist I have ever heard, bar none. If I could sing, I would want Yarek in back of me on the piano.  Brian Nova was on stand up bass.  I never heard Brian play, but I have heard great reviews from lots of musicians that know Brian.  Brian told me that bass is really not his best instrument, but not from my perspective.  He was perfect for the group.  I intend to catch Brian at one of his performances at "Beaux Arts". I can't wait to hear him play guitar.  The last member of the group was the drummer, Steve Neilen, whom I had not heard before.  He provided the perfect 4th for Pat's group and, his backup rhythums were solid.

One of the great things about live music events in the desert is that more times than not, talented people in the audience come up to sing a number or two.  Tonight was no exception.  Pat introduced Beverly Jensen aka: Beverly J. Leys and asked her to come up to sing.  What a treat she was!  Beverly has a great voice and a wonderfully way with a lyric. She was given a rousing ovation after she sang a couple of standards. Beverly could be staring in her own show, she was that good!  There was one other guest that came up from the audience to sing, Denny Seidenfeld.  Denny was a burning ball of energy and that's how he sings.  He did a great job especially since he later told me that performing is just a hobby with him.  Only in the desert do you get this high level of talent every where you go. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Hagen/Steele Trio: Jazz Under The Desert Sun At Beautiful Le Paon Restaurant

This past Saturday afternoon March 5, my wife and I had the delightful experience of enjoying lunch at the French Restaurant, Le Paon.  This gem of a restaurant is located above the most beautiful street in the Desert, El Paseo in Palm Desert, California. The purpose of our visit, in addition to lunch was to hear the new trio put together by Marty Steele that features the wonderful vocal sounds of Laura Hagen and the always great bass sounds from Bill Siata. I heard Laura sing a song or two at a couple of jazz events I had attended here in the desert, and I was looking forward to hearing more.  The setting at Le Paon is as close to perfect as it can get.  Sunny, temperatures in the low 80's, dining outside under a crystal clear blue sky while listening to some really great jazz songs directly out of the "Great American Songbook".

Laura's performance of a lot of my favorite songs, including several made famous by the great Peggy Lee, were just outstanding.  She had the ability to sing not only up-tempo tunes but also soft love songs. we all love. My own regret was that it took me too long to get to hear Laura perform her full show.  In addition to Laura's great voice, the arrangements played were some of the best I have heard in a long, long time. I later found out that Marty had written all the arrangements for the group.

But there were others surprises that afternoon.  First, I heard Marty Steele play with many of the Jazz groups I follow out here, but I never really got the chance to hear Marty play some great solos with some slow standards.  In particular, Marty did a solo on the old chestnut, Laura, that was just wonderful. I also got to hear Marty do what Mel Torme was renowned for, scatting.  Marty referred to this as "mindless scatting" but it was far from mindless, it was right on target. I had been told by all of the musicians I respect out here that Marty is a really outstanding talent. I agreed after hearing him play several times but I really got to hear and study him close up on Saturday and he really is one of the best I have heard anywhere. The third member of the trio was the always great bassist, Bill Saitta.  I try to get to wherever Bill is playing because it is rare today that you can get to see any one of his talent playing the Stand Up Bass.  I love the way Bill can play standards and especially like listening to his intelligent jazz improvising lines.  He is just one of the great bass players I have heard.
The last surprise was hearing my favorite flutist here in the desert, direct from Vancouver Canada, Tom Keenlyside.  Tom has surprised us at many of the jazz concerts we have attended and it appears he has become part of the desert jazz family. He played a few numbers with the band, and did a remarkable solo on the evergreen gem, "Stella by Starlight".

The Steel/Hagen Trio performs at Le Paon Restaurant every Saturday afternoon from Noon to 3:00 PM. If and when you find yourself on El Paseo on Saturday, this is the place to be.  The restaurant is beautiful, the food is great, the weather is always good and the sounds from Laura, Marty and Bill make it the most perfect afternoon lunch you will ever have.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Top 10 Best Selling Dance Movies Of All Times

I was watching the Academy Awards with most of you the other night and thought it would interesting to list top 10 Best Selling Dance Movies Of All Times .  So, here is:

     The Top 10 Best Selling Dance Movies Of All Times

1. Saturday Night Fever   1977

2. The Full Monty   1977

3. Dirty Dancing   1987

4. Save The Last Dance   2001

5. Step Up 2 The Street   2008

6. Shall We Dance   2004

7. Staying Alive   1983

8. Step Up    2006

9. Coyote Ugly    2000

10. Billy Elliot   2000

CD Review: Clairdee Releases Her Forth CD, "A Love Letter to Lina"

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