Monday, April 29, 2013

CD Review: Thisbe Vos: Under Your Spell

Thisbe Vos
Songwriter/Singer Thisbe Vos has just released her 2nd CD, "Under Your Spell" and as soon as you hear it you will be under her spell! This wonderful woman was born in the Netherlands and has an impressive resume for her young age.  She started working with a British swing band, "The Jive Aces", and toured with them across Europe, Canada and the United States.  Thisbe recalls, "I was the girl singer in the band, and did Louis Prima/Keely Smith type of duets with the lead singer and some ballads on my own".  In 2008 she moved to LA to work on recording a solo album in the style of traditional Jazz, featuring both classic Jazz standards and original songs she had been working on over the years. She released her first solo CD in September of 2011. An excellent CD that contains six standards and six original songs.

Thisbe Vos is a terrific singer with a soft velvet voice that is both sophisticated and elegant.  But her greatest talent may be in her songwriting abilities. According to Thisbe, "As a songwriter, my influences are the songs of Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers and Cole Porter amongst others". Now that is setting the bar about as high as you can get, and, yet, Thisbe's songs and especially her lyrics fit perfectly among the standards she included in "Under Your Spell". This is an excellent album from a  polished musical talent. Thisbe Vos is destined to become a major national musical star.

Songs on the Album

1. Shanghai Blues
2. Under Your Spell
3. I Thought About You
4. That's All Right With Me
5. I Need You
6. Round Midnight
7. He's A Tramp
8. Now You Are Here
9. Just A Fool Over You
10. Rue de la Huchette
11. Always
12. Ain't Misbehavin'

Supporting Thisbe Vos are: Gary Matsumoto-Piano, Henry Franklin-Upright Bass, Donald Dean-Drums, Nolan Shaheed-Trumpet, Geoff Nudell-Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Contra Bass Clarinet, Flute, Alto Flute, Carl Randall-Tenor Sax, Michael Higgins-Guitar, The Pasadena String Ensemble-Strings

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sherry Williams Lights Up Woody's Jazz CLub

Andy Fraga Jr., Larry Holloway, Sherry Williams and Keith Droste
The Divas: Sherry Williams and Yve Evans
Tuesday night Sherry Williams performed with Andy Fraga Jr. on Drums, Larry Holloway on Bass and Keith Droste on Keys at Woody's Burgers and Beer in Palm Springs. This was the first time I had the opportunity to hear Sherry sing. I also had not heard Keith Droste before tonight's performance. Tonight, Sherry was sitting in for the always great Brian Nova.

Sherry Williams has a strong but soft voice that has hints of Ella, Sarah and my personal favorite, Nancy Williams. Her style, stage presence and timing are impeccable. I have mentioned before in several blogs that only the very best singers perfect the ability to interpret a lyric and make it come alive.  Sherry Williams is a charter member of this special group of singers.  Sherry brings her own personal interpretation to lyrics and then paints a picture of the story the composer had in mind when the music was written. Tonight Sherry sang the song that I have rated the number one song in the "Great American Songbook" The Nearness of You". I honestly have never heard anyone sing and express the lyric any better!  Tonight was my first experience with Sherry Williams, and I am now in love with her!  Sherry is a big supporter of Jazz and she hosts a different Jazz group every Thursday at "The Merc" in Temecula. You can get more information and tickets by going the the Old Town Temecula Theater online site:  Http://www.Temecula Tickets are a bargain at only $15!

There are levels of Jazz performance at every live Jazz event and tonight Andy Fraga, Jr., Larry Holloway and Keith Droste performed at the highest level adding to this superbly-enjoyable evening of Jazz.  In particular, Keith Droste was especially impressive on Keys. I hope of get to hear more from Keith in the near future.

Adding to the night's excitement, everyone's favorite, Yve Evans came to hear and support Sherry.  To the audiences' delight, Sherry invited Yve to sing with her. It's clear that Sherry and Yve have a strong mutual respect and admiration for each other.  In addition, they both are sensitive and caring people.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pre-Release CD Review: The McCrary Sisters: All The Way

The McCrary Sisters
The supremely-talented singing McCrary Sisters, Alfreda, Ann Deborah and Regina have scheduled the release of their 2nd CD, "All The Way" on April 30, 2013.  This CD is a follow-up to their 2011 debut CD, "Our Journey". "All The Way" was produced by Kevin McKendree & Tommy Sims and it includes 10 McCrary Sisters' original songs, plus take on the Tom Hambridge/Gary Nicholson gem, "Skin Deep". They also recorded a new song written by Bonnie Bishop/Jimmy Wallace entitled, "Right Where You Are". In a previous blog I mentioned how I admired the song writing skills of Bonnie Bishop, and this song proves she is still going strong! Joining The McCray Sisters on "All The Way" are some exceptional musicians: Rob McNelley/Akil Thompson/Tommy Sims (Lead Guitar), Kevin McKendree/DeMarco Johnson/Jeremy Nixon (Keyboards), Dwan Hill (Organ), Quentin Ware (Trumpet), Dana Robbins (Saxophone), Steve Mackey/Anton Nesbitt/Tommy Simms (Bass), Derrick Phillips (Drums).

It's hard to classify or define the genre of the music The McCrary Sisters create because it is part Gospel, part Soul, part Funk and a large measure of R & B. It is unimportant because these girls can sing! The theme of this CD tells the story of the continuation of The McCray Sisters' journey. The McCray Sisters' songs are inspiring as they sing of loving and living life and keeping a positive attitude through all that life brings.

The Sisters were raised in a home where singing was always present and was reinforced in their church. While this is only the 2nd CD for the group, all four sisters have experience singing professionally in one form or another for years. The result of all this singing experience for these talented women has transformed their four voices into a powerful sound filled with passion and soul. This group is moving into national recognition, and this new CD will move them even quicker.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jacob Collier, Age 18 Proves That There Still Are Young Adults Who Do Know What Great Music Is All About!

                                           Jacob Collier singing "Isn't She Lovely"

I recently received a posting from a music blog I follow called "People vs. dr. chilledair" authored by Bill Reed. The topic of the blog was a story about a 18 year old singer/Bass player/Piano player/Guitar player and arranger named Jacob Collier. Jacob lives in London, England, and I was blown away by the musical talents of this young musician and wanted to share his great sounds with you. Jacob has several musical postings on YouTube and I urge you to check out all of them.  He sings standards and also is very comfortable with contemporary tunes. I have attached two YouTube videos from Jacob. In the first one, Jacob sings his own arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" and in the second one, he sings his own arrangement of Jerome Kern's "I've Told Every Little Star". Jacob sings all six harmony parts in both videos. Jacob Collier is a musical wonder!

                                           Jacob Collier Singing "I've Told Every Little Star"

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Coachella Valley: "Jazz Centre Of The World" By J. Crawford Reid

La Quinta Desert Flowers
J. Crawford Reid is a Canadian who loves Jazz especially Jazz in the Coachella Valley and he is our guess author of this post.

The Jazz Centre of the World--New York City?  No.  Birdland?  No. I think the Jazz Centre of the World is the Coachella Valley in Southern California.

My wife and I started regular vacations in Palm Desert 8 years ago.  We went there for all the usual reasons, the weather, good dining, shopping and lots of nice places to see.  We really didn't anticipate that Jazz would become a very important reason for returning year after year, in addition to all the other benefits of the area.

Let me talk about some of the places and people that have so impressed us. First, without doubt, is the Backstreet Bistro, where it started for us.  Perfect hostess, Lavane, perfect music, and really good dining!  A must every Tuesday night.  In that context, I have to thank Bill Saitta, who plays there often.  A great Bassist, but also a great leader, and a guy who creates a lot of work for Jazz musicians.  We have so enjoyed Jay Lewis' Drums and Steve Madaio's Trumpet.  This year, a new guitar player, James Moody (not that James Moody), and some nights, Chase Huna, a teenage saxophone player who's getting better each year--may be the most perfect Jazz Club anywhere.

At the other end of town, Vicki's!  In addition to Jazz almost every night, they have great Sunday afternoons!  A delightful Band with many different guest vocalists.  In past years, we've heard some brilliant guest musicians who travel out from LA, like Dave Pell.  The regular front line is Stan Watkins on Trumpet and Don Shelton on reeds.  Don is a superb Saxophonist, but also a brilliant singer.  He paid his dues in Singers Unlimited.  On Bass in that band is Larry Holloway, one of the best Bass Players I've ever heard.  This Band sometimes features the very good Tom Keenlyside, a transplanted Canadian.  Tom is outstanding on Flute and Reeds.  Are you starting to get the picture of the musical strength in this area?

Across the street from Vicki's is the Indian Wells Hotel, which has good music several nights a week.  Frank Di Salvo does a great Sinatra-type show, and on Tuesday nights, there is Ron Kalina on Piano and Harmonica, with again, the great Larry Holloway on Bass and Gino Antonacia on Vibes.

Can't leave out Palm Springs.  Palm Springs has Woody's!  A hamburger place which presents Jazz very, very well.  Yve Evans entertains there on vocals and Piano just about every month.  Yve would be welcome in any Jazz community in the world.  Brian Nova is a regular every Wednesday playing his wonderful Guitar.  Brian has been in the area for years, and Woody's is his current home base.  Brian's trio consists with him on guitar, Andy Fraga, Jr., on Drums and (again) Larry Holloway on Bass is among the best anywhere! Woody's features Jazz almost every night

One of the secrets of this Valley Area is that musicians and singers are welcome to sit in.  It happens at all of the venues, and can make for a very exciting evening.

I haven't covered all of the places where good music is offered, but I've tried to give you a sense of why I think the Coachella Valley is the Jazz Capital of the world.  This has happened for years.  I hope it never ends!

CD Review: Keri Johnsrud, "All Blue"

Keri Johnsrud
A long time friend of mine, now living in Iowa sent me a CD of a young singer he recently heard performing at the Tremont Theatre in Marshalltown, Iowa.  He thought the singer was terrific and wanted me to hear her sing.  The singer is Keri Johnsrud and she has been singing as a professional Jazz singer for the last 10 years. Keri is part of a third-generation of musicians. Her debut CD, "All Blue" was released in late 2009. Her voice could be described as cool with a Jazz flavor. Keri selected 10 wonderful songs for her CD that are a mixture of classic standards and country songs.  Keri has her own style and approach to these songs that is soothing and refreshing. Keri has been working in Jazz clubs in Atlanta, Chicago and New York City and after you listen to this CD, the reason is clear. Keep a lookout if Keri comes to your neighborhood to perform, you won't be disappointed. I would love to see Keri do another CD in the near future! 

Keri is joined on her CD by a group of excellent musicians: 

Matt Nelson- Piano, Keyboard, Organ
Cory Biggerstaff- Double Bass
Darren Scorza- Drums
Ari Seder- Guitar
Matt Cashdollar- Flute
Ogie Merced- Congas
Chris Graham- Vibes

CD Songs:

1. Anything Goes

2. (The Old Man From) the Old Country

3. But Beautiful

4. More and More

5. The Great City

6. Cabin

7. For Every Man There's A Woman

8. Cryin' Time

9. A Blossom Fell

10. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Coachella Valley Symphony Joined by Featured Artists Steve Madaio & Tom Keenlyside

Tom Keenlyside, Conductor Wayne Abravanel and Steve Madaio
The Coachella Valley Symphony, Steve Madaio and Tom Keenlyside
The Coachella Valley Symphony

The Coachella Valley Symphony

On Tuesday April 16,  Jazz merged with Classical when Steve Madaio and Tom Keenlyside brought the KM Project's new CD, "Slices" to The Coachella Valley Symphony.  The KM Project is an idea created by two dynamic musicians Steve Madaio and Tom Keenlyside.  After meeting by chance in Palm Desert in 2010, they soon discovered that they had much in common.  Shortly after their first meeting, Steve and Tom played a few gigs together and quickly realized that their individual phrasing made their music very compatible.  The progress of their collaboration quickly moved as they began talking about the classic songs of the 70's and the impact these songs had on their lives.    As soon as the songs were selected, they both worked on new arrangements for these classic tunes.  The result is "Slices" their hot new CD.  

A chance meeting with Maestro Wayne Abravanel gave Steve the opportunity to discuss Tom's and his new project.  As soon as Steve shared his story about the songs and arrangements he was working on with Tom, Wayne suggested that Steve and Tom perform with The Coachella Valley Symphony incorporating the songs on the CD; and this is how "A Symphony of Rockin' Jazz "was born.

Playing to a capacity audience consisting of both Classical and Jazz followers, the concert was wildly appreciated.  What was somewhat surprising to me was that as each song was announced, there was an spontaneous reaction of recognition from the audience.  These songs of the 70s obviously brought back memories for so many people.

 Jazz met Classical and we all were winners because we got to experience it live! I hope that Jazz and the wonderful Coachella Valley Symphony continue their partnership next season.

Pat Tuzzolino At His Very Best At Castelli's Ristorante in Palm Desert

Pat Tuzzolino
Pat Tuzzolino

Patrick Tuzzolino
Robert Callister & Pat Tuzzolino
Ron Kastas & Pat Tuzzolino

I heard Patrick Tuzzolino sing and play piano for the first time at the Rizzo/Tuzzolino gig at the Purple Room Lounge last Sunday and I wanted to hear more from Pat. So I went to Castelli's Ristorante in Palm Desert where Pat performs Wednesday through Saturday. My first reaction about Pat proved to be on target. Sitting at one of the high-top tables in the bar area gave me the opportunity to see Pat close-up. He is a terrific musician.  He plays great piano and has a deep golden voice that when applied to great American standards it is hard to not be impressed.  What I especially liked about Patrick's singing is that he does not try to sing like the great vocalists who came before him.  He blazes his own vocal trail in his own unique style. His voice is like velvet, and I am sure that even if Patrick sang names out of the phone book it would great!

Patrick was born and raised in New York City, came to California and became part of the LA music scene.  While in LA he got to play with a lot of the musical greats like Pete and Conti Condoli, Ross Tompkins and Eddie Shaughnessy.  In 1991 Pat headlined in Las Vegas at the Aladdin Hotel Casino playing alongside Slide Trombone player Carl Fontana and the great Sax player, Sam Butera.  It was while Pat was working in Vegas that he met his now long-time-friend, Pat Rizzo. I learned that Patrick, in addition to playing piano and singing,  plays major league guitar and, in fact, he joined Jack Jones at a recent gig Jack did at Feinstein's in New York.  Patrick also has had a long career writing TV commercials and his own charts for some of the classic songs out the of the "Great American Songbook". 

Patrick Tuzzolino is a musical treasure to all music lovers here in the Desert.  When you go to hear Patrick play at Castelli's Ristorante you might want to reserve one of the high top tables in the bar area.  The view and sound from this location is perfect if you really want to be into Pat's music.

Castelli's Ristorante has been around for a long time and it is a great place to dine and hear wonderful music . It has a comfortable feel due to the excellent staff, the food is as good as any Italian food you can get even in the New York area,  The maitre d', Ron Kostas made us feel at home as soon as we entered the restaurant and our server, Robert Callister was attentive and friendly. Put Patrick Tuzzolino and Castelli's on your "To Do" list, you won't be disappointed.

I have a treat for you below, a YouTube video of Pat singing "I'll Remember April" live!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dorothy Doring and Phil Mattson: CD Review: "Compositions By Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

Dorothy Doring

Vocalist Dorothy Doring and Pianist and arranger Phil Mattson are each recognized performers with long and outstanding resumes.  These two talented musicians have gotten together on a project called "Compositions By Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn" and the results are what you would expect: a simply wonderful new CD that captures the brilliants of Ellington and Strayhorn.  The duo reviewed 30 songs and settled on 11 gems that are sure to please even the most serious Jazz devotees. Most of the songs they selected will probably be known by most Jazz buffs like "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good", "Love You Madly", "In A Mellow Tone", and "Lush Life" but included several other s that might be new to some listeners. If you love hearing Jazz vocals with just a piano, this is a CD for you.

Dorothy Doring has been singing for several decades and is at home and comfortable with a wide variety of music from  Country to Rock, Blues and Jazz. She had been recording new CDs about every six to seven years and every effort is always sterling and always different.  She never just sings words, she understands the message of the lyric and uses her own style to present it to the listener. She is a true pro.

Phil Mattson is a two-time Grammy nominee, and his resume includes being an arranger including commissions for: Manhattan Transfer, Chanticleer, The Dale Warland Singers, The Four Freshmen among others. He has been an accompanist for Mark Murphy, Bobby McFerrin, Sunny Wilkinson, Barbara Morrison, Richie Cole, Carmen Lundy and Ernestine Anderson.  He is a true pro.

Together these two splendid musicians have produced a wonderful study of two of the most cherished American Songwriters with some of their best material. This CD was released on March 28, 2013 and is available on iTunes, and

Dorothy Doring on Vocals and Executive Producer
Phil Mattson on Piano, Arranger and Producer

1.  Day Dream                                                         6. In A Mellow Tone

2.  Everything But You                                         7. Lush Life

3. Something To Live For                                     8. I'm Just A Lucky So And So

4.  Love You Madly                                               9. I Didn't Know About You

5.  I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good                   10. Heaven

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pat Rizzo and Patrick Tuzzolino Rock At The Purple Room Lounge In Palm Springs

Patrick Tuzzolino & Pat Rizzo
Patrick Tuzzolino & Pat Rizzo

Riz & Tuz

Pat Rizzo

Patrick Tuzzolino

There was excitement in the air in Palm Springs last Sunday night in the Purple Room Lounge at Club Trinidad.  Pat Rizzo, a long-time Palm Springs favorite joined with Pianist, arranger and vocalist Patrick Tuzzolino opened a new show to the delight of a packed house of Palm Springs Jazz lovers. For Pat Rizzo this was a nostalgic return to a place that holds many fond and important memories.  It was in the Purple Room that Pat auditioned for an unexpected listener. According to Pat, "Jilly Rizzo sent a limo to Los Angeles to pick me up in Hollywood. I was recording with Sly and the Family Stone at the time. They brought me to Palm Springs and gave me a room at the famous Howard Manor. They took me to the club and put me onstage to blow my horn accompanied by the great Pianist Jose Massters.  I had no idea at all that I would be playing four feet away from Frank Sinatra and his complete entourage".

Sinatra liked what he heard and as a result, Rizzo played all of Sinatra's parties including the famous New Years Eve Parties at Sinatra's home. It's easy for anyone that has heard Pat play Sax to understand why Sinatra loved Rizzo. Pat swings with his Sax in the same groves that Sinatra sang in. Rizzo had a warm and long relationship with the Chairman of the Board and delighted the crowd by relating lot of Sinatra stories during the show.

Joining Rizzo in this new show is the extremely talented singer, Pianist and arranger, Patrick Tuzzolino.  Patrick has been performing in the Coachella Valley for many years and has a large group of fans. This was my first experience hearing Patrick play and sing and he was very impressive.  Patrick has a rich, deep voice and a smooth Jazz singing style that reminds me of a young Joe Williams. He is a double musical threat. He plays swing Piano in a perfect compliment to Rizzo's Sax playing and also does a great job on the Great American Standards. Patrick has an outstanding voice and I need to hear more of him in the near future.

In the audience tonight was the new singing trio, The Blonde Divas.  This talented sister trio is on tour and just finished a gig in Las Vegas and were invited to sing a few songs. They live in Portland Oregon and they sing in the harmony style similar to the sound of the McGuire Sisters. Their sound was sensational, and they received a very warm reception from the audience.

The Blonde Divas, Dixie Lou, Dixie Jo, Dixie Sue

This Rizzo/ Tuzzolino duo will be holding court at Trinidad's Purple Room every Sunday from 7pm to 11pm.  From the positive reaction they received from tonight's appreciate audience, I sure they will be performing in this stop for a long time.

Pat Rizzo also performs with his great quartet at Vicky's of Santa Fe in Indian Wells on Monday and Tuesday.  And Patrick performs at Castelli's in Palm Desert every Wednesday through Saturday.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pre-Release CD Review: Steve Madaio and Tom Keenlyside Release "Slices"


Question: What do you get when you put a world class trumpet master with a world class flute master and then mix them together with eight great songs from the sixties and seventies? The answer is "Slices" one of the best CD's I have heard in many years!

It is with great pride and pleasure that I had the opportunity to review a new CD from two of my favorite musicians and friends from the Coachella Valley in  the California Desert. This CD has been cooking in the minds and hearts of Trumpeter Extraordinaire Steve Madaio and  the Great Flutist and wind player Tom Keenlyside for a long time. Both of these highly talented musicians earned their musical stripes playing and listening to the music of the sixties and seventies. Although their talents  expanded since that time, there is still something about the songs of that period that never left them.
Indeed, if you enjoyed the sixties and seventies, I won't have to say anything more about the 8 wonderful classic songs that Steve and Tom have selected for their first album.  Every song on this CD is a dream catchers for this generation. These songs revive fond memories about our life experiences during these times. There were hundreds of songs that could have been chosen for this CD but Steve and Tom spent over two years culling the potential list of songs down to just the absolute eight best songs.

The CD begins with a perfect mix of Trumpet and Flute playing the Procol Harum classic, "A Whiter Shade of Pale".  This song recorded in 1968 was and still is a classic sound of the sixties. I admit that I  have no idea what the lyrics mean but hearing the song now as an instrumental, leaves no doubt that the melody is still a gem!

The second cut on the CD is the Rolling Stones Classic, "Sympathy For The Devil" written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. My guess is that this unusual song was picked by Steve since his relationship with "The Stones" goes way back to early 1960s when he joined "The Stones" on their European tour. I would love to hear the reaction from Jagger and Richards after they hear this rendition of their song!

Next up was the popular hit for Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, "The Lonely Bull" written in 1962 and still wonderful to hear today especially the warm tones from Steve's Trumpet.

The forth cut is the "Steppenwolf's" 1968 hit "Born To Be Wild". This song represents much of the culture of the sixties for teens who yearned for more personal freedom in their lives.

The fifth cut is "Theme From A Summer Place" recorded in 1960 by Percy Faith and his orchestra for the film of the same name. "A Summer Place" starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue and everyone experiencing this period knows and loves this song. The recording won a Grammy for the Record of the Year.

The sixth song on the CD is "Lowrider" recorded by the band "War" in 1975.  This remarkable song has been featured in 14 movies which speaks to its attractions for this generation of kids.

The seventh song is "Memphis Underground" that was recorded by jazz flutist Herbie Man in 1969. You can bet this song had special meaning for Tom in his musical development.  To me this song is  the combination of Rhythm and Blues with a big dose of "Cool"!

The last song "Ode To Billy Joe" was written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry in 1967.  Her recording received 8 Grammy nominations resulting in 3 wins and one win for the arranger, Jammie Haskell.

And there you have it, 8 wonderful songs full of vivid memories for all of us to rediscover again and again.

This wonderful album was perfectly produced, arranged and mixed by Steve Madaio and Tom Keenlyside with Tom Keenlyside on the Flute, all Keyboards, and programing.  Steve Madaio on Trumpet.

Also, Doug Stephenson on guitar on "The Lonely Bull", Born To Be Wild" and Lowrider.  The great Brian Nova on guitar on "A Whiter Shade of Pale".  Michale O'Neill on guitar on "Sympathy For The Devil", "Ode To Billy Joe" and "Memphis Underground".

If you were around during the sixties and seventies, you absolutely need to get this CD which will be available right after the first of the year. Steve and Tom are just wonderful playing together on this CD.  At times, Steve's Trumpet and Tom's Flute join together almost as one, leaving the listener to immerse himself in the magical sounds of Trumpet and Flute.

I hope this is only the first of a series of CDs from Steve and Tom. In my opinion, this CD deserves Grammy recognition and I bet it will get a nomination or two. It's that good!

You can decide how good this CD is for yourself because on Tuesday, April 16, Steve and Tom will be playing songs from their CD with the Coachella Valley Symphony.  You need to call to get tickets quickly because this concert is nearly sold out.  Call 760-360-2222 for tickets and details.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mike Costley, Simply One Hell of a Singer!

Mike Costley

Mike Costley

Mike Costley, Al Lopez and John Pagels

Mike Costley and Al Lopez

I recently visited Three Sixty North in Palm Springs where Mike Costley performs every Thursday night. I heard Mike sing last season, and I was anxious to see if he was still singing as good as he was last year. What happened is exactly what happens every season I hear Mike sing. I am always reminded how good a singer he is! In addition, Mike is so much more than a great singer.  He is an astute professional performer who never takes his trade for granted. When it comes to performing Mike Costley is a perfectionist and expects no less from anyone he selects to support his singing.  The result is, no matter when you go to see and listen to Mike Costley, you will hear superb singing supported by musical excellence.  Tonight's performance was a perfect example because Mike's usual drummer, Sal Frisaura, was unavailable and Mike asked my old friend, the always dependable Al Lopez, to sit in with him and his Guitar player, John Pagels. Al played Tenor Sax and flute and handled the Costley arrangements beautifully.

I have heard a lot of great singers in the Desert but I have not heard any singer better than Mike Costley. There are several factors that put Mike Costley far above other singers.  First, Mike has one of the strongest voices I have heard. His range is nothing short of remarkable.  In addition, while a lot of singers simply try to copy the style of the great singers that came before them, Mike approaches every song he sings with his own style and interpretation. Mike sings the "Great American Standards" as good as any of the great singers of our time but his talent doesn't stop at singing great ballads.  Mike also excels singing almost every Genre of music including The Blues, Country, Contemporary and good old Rock and Roll!

We are thankful for all the live music that we have in the Coachella Valley, but having Mike Costley performing live every Thursday night in Palm Springs is the topping on the cake.  I can honestly say that I would gladly pay to see Mike Costley sing. Here in the Desert, we all get the chance to hear Mike sing with no cover, music or admission charge at Three Sixty North.  In addition, the food at Three Sixty is excellent and reasonably priced. It's the best deal in town.  I hope this review convinces
 you to get over to Three Sixty North on Thursday, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Live" CDs Trump "Studio" CD's Almost Every TIme!

Brown Onions

I had an interesting conversation with one of my favorite singers, Aubrey Tadman, about why it seems that CDs recorded "live" produce better recordings compared to recordings by the same musician that are cut in a "studio". I am sure many of you have purchased CDs recorded by an artist who you heard singing "live"in a club or restaurant. You loved the artist's performance but when you got home and listened to one of their recorded CDs, it just didn't have the exact effect on you as did the live performance, right?

I would like to offer some reasons that cause this difference. First, music is art and in great music and works of art, producing a perfect reproduction of your subject or written notes in a song, can be great but seldom outstanding. Most time the beauty in art and music is found in the embodiment of emotion that the painter or singer adds to the subject. Also, sometimes slight imperfections in art and music can enhance the value to the listener or viewer. Life is not perfect but real beauty in life can be found when we uncover the emotional spirit of the creator, unveiling not only the perfect parts but also the slightly bruised parts.

Consider the difference between two of the best singers of the Great American Songbook,  Frank Sinatra and Vic Damone.  Even Sinatra said more than once that Vic Damone had the best singing voice of anyone he had ever heard, and I have no argument with that.  Damone has had a wonderful career, lots of fans and sold millions of records So what was missing in his recordings that put Sinatra on the top of the heap? I think the answer is Sinatra's ability to bring his life experiences both good and bad and inject them into his recordings. If anyone can record in a studio and instill emotional life into the cuts, Sinatra can; but to me, Sinatra's greatest recordings are the ones recorded live. They were not as perfect as his studio recordings. A Great performance like great art can sometimes create greater value with slight blemishes or imperfections. Listening audiences do not necessarily crave perfection but they do want emotional reality.

The last factor in the mix is the emotional lift that all performers get from an appreciative audience. If you ever played or sung for a live audience, you know exactly what I mean. Another friend of mine, the great bassist, Jim De Julio played in Sinatra's band in Vegas for years. Jim shared this story with me.  Just before the curtain was set to go up, Jim would look over to the side and he would see Sinatra standing there waiting to come on.  According to Jim, he would almost know exactly when the curtain would rise because he could see Sinatra's blue eyes actually getting bigger and this was Jim's signal that Frank was ready to roll. As great as Sinatra was, he always became bigger than life on stage and I believe it made his live recordings just the greatest!

I have attached a couple of YouTube recordings that I think support my point. The first is a live recording from Diana Krall from her "Live In Paris" CD.  As you listen to this recording, I believe you can feel the emotion and love for great American Jazz coming straight from the audience to Diana and her band which impacted her performance.  This is one of my all-time favorite "live" CDs and one of the reasons is the great supporting musicians that performed with her.  I don't think it is possible to put a better Jazz group together than this one with the great Jeff Hamilton on Drums, the one and only John Clayton on Bass and the marvelous Anthony Wilson on Guitar.
                                                   Diane Krall "Live In Paris" CD

The second YouTube is of Ella Fitzgerald singing "Mack The Knife" from her 1960 classic "Ella In Berlin" recording. It's far from perfect but just a brilliant recording!

CD Review: Jenny Davis, "Rearranged"

Composer, Arranger, Bandleader and Jazz Vocalist, Jenny Davis has just released her 4th album as a leader.  This CD spotlights Jenn...