Saturday, April 28, 2018

Entertainer, Vocalist, and Composer Johnny Meza Performs at Chef George Every Wednesday

Johnny Meza has been performing and exciting audiences in the Valley for many years.  I first discovered Johnny in the Desert Sage Restaurant in Old Town La Quinta around 10 years ago.   I loved the way he played Keyboard and sang but most of all I loved his stage presence and the way he connected with everyone in his audience.  Even though Johnny is a highly talented musician,  he never developed a performer's ego.  He is a truly kind and wonderful person who loves to perform for all audiences. He also has a great sense of humor.  So if you love the best of the Pop tunes from years gone by and love to laugh,  Chef George and Johnny Meza needs to be on your night out "To Do" List.

Johnny performs every Tuesday night starting at 7:00 PM at Chef George's Picasso Room in Bermuda Dunes.  The room is perfect for Johnny's style of performing.  It's small enough so Johnny can reach out and touch everyone in the audience, and he does.  Johnny talks to his audience between each song,  about the songs and takes requests.  His sweet spot is Pop tunes from the 50's through current Pop hits.  He also included some of the best songs from the Great American Songbook.

Chef George is located at 40100 Washington Street, Bermuda Dunes, CA.  The food at Chef George is a mix of Hungarian and Italian.  It's terrific and the portions are large but the prices are very reasonable.  Call for reservations at 7670-200-1768.

I have attached a "YouTube" of Johnny Meza playing and singing the popular hit he composed, "Dirty Martini"  along with Will Donato on Sax.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

New Arrivals To The Desert, Jasmine Tommaso and Lorenso Grasi Make Their Musical Debut At Backstreet Bistro

Bill Saitta, Lorenso Grasi and Jasmine Tommaso

Jay Lewis, Bill Saitta and Lorenso Grasi

Singer Jasmine Tommaso and Guitarist Lorenso Grasi have recently moved into the Valley from Italy.  They are two highly trained (Berkelee College of Music) musicians who want to start performing in our area.  Based on the audience response at Backstreet Bistro, finding venues to perform should not be a problem.  Vocalist Jasmine Tommaso has a wonderful, warm voice, sounding like a mixture of Lady Day and Nancy Wilson.   Her phrasing is very Jazz-like and pleasing,  especially when she sings great standards, like "You've Changed" and "All of Me".   Her stage presence is strong, and she knows how to lead her sidemen who quickly recognize they are dealing with a very experienced musician.  It didn't take long for the group, all new to playing with each other, to merge into one group voice.  Guitarist Lorenso Grasi who will be marrying Jasmine in a couple of months, worked perfectly with the rhythm section of Bassist Bill Siata and Drummer Jay Lewis.  Lorenso also provided some excellent solos in support of Jamine's vocals.  Another wonderful Tuesday night of Jazz at Backstreet Bistro.  Also, I have to mention the food at Backstreet Bistro continues to be excellent so you can come out on Tuesdays for great food and great Jazz.

You can get to see and hear Jasmine and the group as they performed at Backstreet Bistro on the "YouTube" attached below:

I am also attaching a "Youtube" I found with Jasmine Tommaso singing "Someone to watch Over Me".  Jasmine performs this musical gem perfectly at her father's 50th Jazz anniversary at the Auditorium Parco Della Musica in Rome Italy in 2014.  Jasmine's father is the internationally acclaimed Bassist, Giovanni Tommaso who makes some remarks in Italian about his daughter's singing.  Even if you don't understand Italian, you can feel his fatherly pride pouring out!

Players on the Video:
Giovanni Tommaso-Base
Jasmine Tommaso- Vocal
Anthony Pinciotti- Drums
Claudio Fillippini- Piano
Daniele Scannapieco- Sax

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

CD Review: Henry "The Skipper" Franklin Trio: "High Voltage, A Tribute to McCoy Tyner,"

This season in the California Desert, I was privileged to meet and get to know two fine "Gentlemen of Jazz", the talented Bassist and Composer,  Henry "The Skipper" Franklin and Jazz lover, Dan "The Jazzman" Sullivan.  I saw Bassist Henry "The Skipper" Franklin many times this season and each time I heard him I learned something new about his musical talents.  He gave me a new CD entitled, "High Voltage".  I shared this CD with a new Jazz friend, Dan Sullivan who was so excited about this CD that I offered him the chance to be a Guest Reviewer.  His thoughts are recorded below:

"My friend Bob Nicosia turned me on to this CD recently, and before I heard it, I had average expectations, but after hearing it, I was more than pleasantly surprised.  The CD has a very catchy groove with great support from Henry Franklin on Bass, Carl Burnett on Drums and a hidden Gem of a Piano player, Bill Heid.  Bill Heid is also a master-class composer and arranger as you will see listening to the 5 songs he has written and arranged for this CD.

"The CD states it is a "Tribute To McCoy Tyner" which it is but face it, there is only one McCoy.  Nonetheless, McCoy's "The Gathering" is done impeccably with Guest Artist, Chuck Manning blowing some nice Tenor.  I've grown tired of Soprano Sax, but Chuck impressed with his deeper, richer, more intense sound on Henry's composition "Off The Wall".  I was not familiar with Chuck before this listen, but he is really impressive.  Of course, Henry Franklin is greatly respected in all Jazz circles.  Franklin to me is cut in the cloth of Ron Carter and Rufus Reid and he really pushed the group.  No question he was in control of the music contained in this CD.  Drummer Carl Burnett has credits pages long and his performance on this CD explains to all why; he is top-notch.  "High Voltage" is a fine new CD that every Jazz lover should listen to."

1. "Brother George"  Bill Heid
2. "Unit B"  Bill Heid
3. "The Greeting"  McCoy Tyner
4. "Under Tanzanian Skies"  Henry Franklin
5. "Off the Wall"  Bill Heid
6. "Mr Wu"  Bill Heid
7. "Mellow Minor"  McCoy Tyner
8. "Bu Yao"  Bill Heid

Thanks for the review Dan, and nicely done!  I could not agree with you more, this is a fine Jazz CD with superb players!

I was able to find a "YouTube" of the first track from this CD,  "Brother George" and I am sure you will love it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

CD Review: Drummer Dan Pugach's Nonet Releases "Plus One"

Seems to me that it is getting harder and harder to find any big bands recording any more.  It is understandable, of course, considering the costs to bring in a gang of talented musicians, not to mention the talent required to produce new compositions and arrangements.  But when you do find a new big band CD, it's usually a winner.  That's what I found with Dan Pugach's Nonet, and their new CD, "Plus One".  Dan Pugach is a native of Israel who came to the US in 2006 to study at Berklee College of Music and then earned his Master's at The City College of New York.  Dan is a wonderful Drummer and most music fans might be surprised at his composing and arranging skills.  His playing and his writing is what you might anticipate from a Drummer: its on point, concise and selfless.  The result is some great music not so much from individual players but from a big band with a singular voice!  According to Pugach, "I believe playing less is more until it comes to my solo-then I explode. And in my music, I don't want to hear overblown drumming."

Dan Pugach composted 6 out of the 9 tunes on this CD and did most of the arrangements for all nine. The supporting players are top-notch talented musicians that help transform Pugach's written composition to live pieces of musical art.

1. "Brooklyn Blues"
2. "Coming Here"
3. "Jolene"
4. "Zelda"
5. "Belo's Bellow"
6. "Crystal Silence"
7. "Love Dance"
8. "Our Blues"
9. "Discourse This"

Ingrid Jensen-Trumpet
David Smith-Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Mike Fahic-Trombone
Jen Tinkle-Bass Trombone
Andrew Gould-Alto Sax, Flute
Jeremy Powell-Tenor Sax, Clarinet
Andrew Gutauskas- Bari Sax, Bass Clarinet
Nicole Zuraitis-Voice
Carmen Staff-Piano
Jorn Swart-Piano
Tamir Shmerling-Bass
Bernardo Agular-Pandeiro
Dan Pugach-Drums, Compositions, Arrangements

For your listening pleasure, I have attached a "YouTube" of Nonet playing an original composition by Dan Pugach, "Brooklyn Blues".  It is wonderful big band music I know you will enjoy!

                                                                 Brooklyn Blues

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kevin Tokarz Plays Wonderful Jazz Piano and Leads the Band at AJ's

Tim Pleasant, Larry Holloway and Kevin Tokarz

Doug  McDonald usually holds musical court at AJ's at the Date Palm Country Club in Cathedral City on Wednesdays but Doug had an out-of-town gig so he brought in Kevin Tokarz to replace him on Piano.  I had no experience with Kevin but it only took a few minutes of listening to him to realize he is a super-talented Jazz piano player.  Kevin spent many years playing Jazz in Chicago and Reno before moving to the Desert last year.  Tonight was a wonderful treat for anyone who loves music played by a Jazz trio.  For me, it's hard to top of the pleasure of listening to a Jazz Piano trio especially one playing great standards.  Tonight Kevin was joined by the great Bassist, Larry Holloway who never ceases to amaze me with his outstanding Bass playing.  I love the way Larry constructs his solos, not just combining a  long string of notes within the musical key but rather Larry improvises with thoughtful phrases and always ties in the basic melody of the tune.  Tim Pleasant was on Drums tonight and as usual provided stellar support for Kevin and Larry.

Kevin Tokarz does not have a regular gig in the Desert but he is frequently called upon to join various bands and anytime you get to hear him, don't miss it.  He is a remarkable Jazz pianist and also sings in a very enjoyable Jazz style.  I strongly recommend any band looking for a solid Jazz piano player to try to reach out for Kevin.  His contact info: Cell: 775-846-0187  Email: keveeno26@

I don't have any music from Kevin Tokarz at this point but since we are talking about terrific Jazz Piano Trios, I have attached a "YouTube" one of the best Jazz Piano Trios of all times, the great Oscar Peterson Trio playing "The Days of Wine and Roses" with Ray Brown on Bass and Ed Thigpen on drums.

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

San Francisco based Vocalist Clairdee has admired and been a fan of Lena Horne since she was four years old.  Clairdee was not just in...