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DeRose and Other Jazzy Delights

Vocalist/Pianist Dena DeRose Coming to SOhO


Thursday, July 28, 2011

FOR THE SAKE OF A JAZZ SONG: Friday night, July 29 at SOhO, the usual summer jazz drought comes to a temporary halt with the arrival of the wonderful pianist-singer Dena DeRose. With her trio, the fine and accomplished musician will play an early “dinner” show in which the surface calm and balm of her standards-plus songbook will also include subcurrents of sophistication, for those who care to listen on a deeper level. While another pianist-turned-singer, Diana Krall, has zoomed skyward in fame and public acclaim over the past decade and more, DeRose—who was on the NYC scene around the same time that Krall was making her way up—may be lesser-known on a broad scale, but is well worth getting to know.

A classically trained pianist who delved into singing when physical ailments kept her from her original instrument, DeRose has found ways to integrate her vocal and piano powers in a way unique from others on the scene, and has sometimes been compared to Shirley Horn vis a vis her symbiotic skills at the keys and vocal cords.

DeRose has put out several fine albums, most recently on the MAXJAZZ label over the last several years, and has mostly hailed from and had her base of operations in Graz, Austria, holding down the position as Head of Jazz Vocal studies at the the University of Music and Dramatic Arts there. DeRose takes education seriously, and is, in effect, on the West Coast come summertime in order to participate in the estimable Stanford jazz workshop and festival, where she heads after her Santa Barbara stop.

(As an aside, a visit to the Stanford Jazz Festival would be rewarding for any jazz-hungry aficionado: between July 31 and August 3, for instance, one can catch Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, the Bad Plus, and Taylor Eigsti with Gretchen Parlato—not at all bad for a jazz weekend on the far coast. See stanfordjazz.org/jazz-festival/events).

JAZZ FIXES AND FIXINGS: Any Santa Barbaran jazz fans who found themselves somewhat shocked by the conspicuous absence of any real jazz programming in the recently announced upcoming UCSB Arts & Lectures season—for the first time in recent memory—can take heart in the fact that the inspired “Jazz at the Lobero” continues undaunted. So we’ll have at least four strong concerts of world-class jazz in the coming season, and in the blissfully blessed ambience of the Lobero Theatre, which I maintain is one of the finest jazz rooms in America. Down Beat magazine agrees (and they agreed to let me write that plug in their latest listing of America’s finest jazz venues).

In fact, one of the fairly recent cases of the Lobero meeting with the international jazz-listening ear came when Santa Barbaran and jazz legend Charles Lloyd recorded his Sangam trio album for ECM in that ongoing group’s debut at the Lobero. Thus, multitudes of jazz listeners, critics and Charles Lloyd fans have “heard” the Lobero in action, whether they know it or not. (For the record, the late great pianist Horace Tapscott also recorded more than one album at the Lobero, years ago, for Thom Albach’s Nimbus label). Lloyd makes one of his roughly biannual Lobero appearances on April 18, 2012, and with his new Greek-flavored Amarando project, another special project off to the side of his decades-old format of the Coltrane-esque quartet (saxist up front, backed by bold piano-bass-drums unit). In April, following up on a project and recording being released on ECM in September, Lloyd and his regular quartet is joined by venerable Greek vocalist Maria Farantouri and Sokratis Sinopoulos on the lyra in what promises to be another memorable Lloyd-istic encounter in this space.

Opening the 2011-12 “Jazz at the Lobero” series with a gentle, highly musical wallop is consummate vibist Gary Burton’s New Quartet, making a reprise Lobero appearance after his great show with his reunion quartet here in 2006, featuring old bandmates Pat Metheny and Steve Swallow. Burton’s current aggregate gathers some truly stellar current instrumentalists—drummer Antonio Sanchez (who was heard on this stage with the Pat Metheny Trio), bassist Scott Colley (at the Lobero with one of Herbie Hancock’s more restlessly experimental groups, just before Herbie went pop), and young guitarist dynamo Julian Lage (heard on the Lobero stage just last year, in Mark O’Connor’s retro swing band).

An acknowledged and distinctive star of the thinly-populated field of jazz violin, Regina Carter brings her quintet to the Lobero on February 24, 2012, and another favorite repeat visitor to this room, the glorious jazz singer Tierney Sutton, plays there on March 23 in a special, intimate trio with the well-known flutist Hubert Laws and the should-be-better-known guitarist Larry Koonse. All four shows count as calendar-markers. I’m busting out the mental sharpie as we speak.

MAW WATCH: The Music Academy of the West is deep into its summer festival by now, but there remains much to get excited about in its final weeks, including the always-anticipated fully staged opera—this year, Rossini’s Barber of Seville—and, for the orchestra concert finale on August 13, a super-rare local performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, that 20th century orchestral masterwork (quite possibly the 20th century orchestral masterwork). Highlights of last week’s MAW events, aside from the usual bedazzlement of young soloist wizards at Concerto Night on Saturday, included a profound reading of Arvo Pärt’s meditative masterpiece, Fratres, by the impressive young violinist Niv Ashkenazi, at one of the much-coveted Friday night “picnic concerts,” where the programs are kept “secret” until day of, and the fare swerves to the left and right of conventional.

ART METAL/HARDCORE SURF REPORT: This week, I feel strangely light and relaxed. Thoughts are coming without the usual caking of muddle, and spirits are cleansed. What’s going on? It’s almost like the refreshed feeling after the focused pummeling of a rough, thorough massage. But of course, the columnist realized, I’ve been given a refreshing mental/sensory massage over last weekend by not one, but two rare extreme rock ‘n’ roll sources in our mellow town.

The first high volume, brain-clearing blast came courtesy of the Brooklyn art metal quartet Liturgy, which almost literally rattled the walls of Muddy Waters for 50 bumptious minutes late on Friday night. Never mind the band’s high fallutin’ references to contemporary classical influences: they really are chips off the Branca block (guitarmy general Glenn Branca, that is), and something to behold and brace for, live.

Meanwhile, over at Earl Warren Showground, no fewer than 60 (count ‘em) wild and woolly, mostly hardcore punk bands converged for the three-day Sound and Fury festival. I can’t say that I’m an avowed fan of the genre: despite the thudding and grinding power of the guitar/drum furies, the growling and howling, melody-phobic nature of the singers gets old after the fourth or fifth band. (My favorites from my few hours in-house: DYS, Twitching Tongues, and the young newcomers Xerxes). But this music is great in small doses, especially in a passion-fueled festival for the devout and dedicated, a ritualistic environment that seems to electrify the air.

Thankfully, the festival was allowed to return this year, after an anomalous ruckus and mishap involving a motorcyclist riding inside the venue caused an early closing to last year’s festival, with a few hours still to go on Sunday night. But the impression left this year, and also at last spring’s rave-by-any-other-name one-day Good Vibes festival, is that Earl Warren Showground is a great place for compact music festivals. The hopeful mind starts to ponder the possibilities … hm, anyone for revitalizing a humble, doable Santa Barbara Jazz Festival on this site? Perchance to dream.

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