Shadow Language Electric Guitar Quartet at The Electric Lodge

Shadow Language Electric Guitar Quartet

Ken Rosser’s Shadow Language Electric Guitar Quartet is playing a show at The Electric Lodge in Venice, CA Thursday April 22 at 8 pm. In addition to the repertoire from their premier performance (see my interviews with Ken) they will be performing a piece by Nick Didkovsky and a world premier, Rooms of Marble and Red Grass by composer Stefano Giannotti.

If you are a fan of modern electric guitar music be sure to check this out. SLEGQ is pushing the boundaries of the electric guitar and contemporary chamber music. If you think “it’s all been done” on the electric guitar… think again!

Guitarist Ken Rosser

Jensen-Macchia-Lockett-Briggs at The York 3-21-10

I played a very nice gig at The York in Highland Park Sunday night. The band consisted of yours truly on guitar, Frank Macchia on bass flute and tenor sax, Tommy Lockett on bass, and Frank Briggs on drums.

…a mix of standards and my originals…

Great players, friendly staff, and a good crowd at this hip, neighborhood bistro….


Rizzo, Breadman, Oles – March 5, 2010 at The Blue Whale, Los Angeles

At The Blue Whale in downtown Los Angeles last Friday night I was reminded of the spirit of openness and musical invention I experienced as a music student in Boston. I was quite fortunate to stumble into  a very inspiring, wide open, musical community. Gary Burton’s groups included groundbreaking guitarists Mick Goodrick and Pat Metheny and featured new composers like Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, and Michael Gibbs. The music was crossing boundaries, exploring approaches beyond the language of bebop and post-bebop traditions. Manfred Eicher’s ECM records was a rising force, bringing European classical harmony and a lush sonic palette to the mix, and ‘world music’ influences were making deep inroads into the American improvisational tradition. Some of the most influential guitarists in the last thirty years passed through Boston during this time; John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Mike Stern, and many others less well known. It was an exciting time when anything seemed possible.

Tom Rizzo (Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen) guitar, Scott Breadman (Jose Feliciano, Lindsey Buckingham, The Rippingtons) percussion, and Darek Oles (Brad Mehldau, Billy Higgins, Pat Metheny) upright bass, brought their unique, collective sound to this intimate venue. After warming up with their take on a couple of classic tunes (including a beautiful version of Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered”), they dug into their own material, primarily composed by Rizzo.
Rizzo is a seasoned writer and his strong compositions focused the band’s identity and sound. His guitar playing has a playful, uplifting feel. He is a modern, straight-ahead guitarist with fluid single note and chordal chops. His lines are melodic and he builds his solos well, developing thematic ideas and directing the energy of the band. I enjoyed his use of harmonics and at one point he played a comping figure that sounded like a Brazilian berimbau. It was great. Rizzo’s “straight into the amp” tone was warm and present. His sound sat perfectly in the room between the bass and percussion.
Darek Oles is a powerful, emotive bass player. His time feel and intonation were dead on, laying down a solid foundation for the trio’s explorations. His solos were melodic and passionate. Rizzo’s light touch and sensitive, conversational accompaniment was the perfect compliment.
Breadman has mastered a multitude of percussion styles from around the world. He seamlessly integrates a variety of techniques across his unique setup: congas, tablas, cymbals, hand percussion and various miscellaneous noise makers including a frying pan. He is very sensitive to dynamics and at one point laid down a solid fatback groove with only a shaker and a few accents…Right in the pocket…Breadman moves effortlessly across his array of instruments, following the ebb and flow of the music.
I saw this group several weeks ago and they sound more comfortable and adventurous with each gig. I look forward to hearing this band develop and grow…Perhaps extended compositions, grooves, free improvisation..Who knows? With musicians of this caliber anything can happen.
The Blue Whale is a great new music room in downtown LA. It’s comfortable, hip, and has an excellent bar…see Mitch for his special concoctions. The proprietor, Joon Lee is committed to showcasing the best musicians in LA. They are continually expanding their music nights. Check the online calendar and Facebook page for updates. The club is a little off the beaten path, on the top floor of a mall in Little Tokyo, off of East 1st between Grand and South San Pedro. Drop in for a drink and enjoy the great music…then tell your friends!

Tongue and Groove LA – Feb 28, 2010

I caught up with Conrad Romo last night at his monthly spoken word and music event Tongue and Groove, one of the real gems of the LA spoken word scene. Conrad has been producing T & G for six years. Shows happen on the last Sunday of the month at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood from 6 to 7:30 pm. Conrad has his finger on the pulse of the LA literary scene and always puts together a great mix short fiction, personal essays, poetry, spoken word, and music.

Last nights show featured Brendan Constantine, (Letters To Guns), Antonia Crane (Tales of a Sexual Outlaw) Rob Roberge (Working Backwards From the Worst Moments of My Life), Patrick O’Neil, and the “cowpunk” band, Speedbuggy.
Conrad says:
“Brendan Constantine holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is currently poet in residence at Loyolla Marymount University Extension and the Windward School.
His work has appeared in numerous journals, most notably Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, The Cortland Review and RUNES. His collection, Letters To Guns, was released in 2009 from Red Hen Press. He lives at Bela Lugosi’s last address.

Antonia Crane is a freelance journalist, editor and sex worker from Humboldt County. She has been a sex educator and harm reduction counselor for at-risk youth and women in SF and LA. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch, edits the on line journal, “The Citron Review” and is a contributing columnist for “The Rumpus.” Excerpts from her forthcoming memoir “Tales of a Sexual Outlaw” have been published in the Black Clock Journal, Coachella Review and the Sylvan Echo. She can be spotted hanging upside-down in precarious positions from stripper poles in L.A. and New Orleans.

Rob Roberge is the author of the upcoming book of stories, WORKING BACKWARDS FROM THE WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE and the novels More Than They Could Chew and Drive. He teaches writing at the Antioch MFA in Creative Writing, UC-Riverside’s Palm Desert MFA program and the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. His stories have been featured in ZYZZYVA, Chelsea, Other Voices and Alaska Quarterly Review, to name a few. He plays guitar and sings with several LA bands, including the punk pioneers, The Urinals. He also works with JAIL GUITAR DOORS, a program to bring music and therapy into prisons.

Patrick O’Neil is a former junkie/bank robber, turned writer/teacher. He received his MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. His first book of memoir is titled Opacity. His essays have appeared in Word Riot, SoMa Literary Review, Blood Orange Review, The Citron Review, Sunsets and Silencers, The Sylvan Echo, Nouveau Blank, and AUDEMUS. “
The readings were captivating. The general tone of the evening was a bit dark, but with compassion and humor. The four piece band (2 guitars, bass & drums) sounded great; an update on the classic Bakersfield country sound. It felt like they hit the stage straight out of the van after a twelve hour drive from their last gig. Strong songwriting, dynamic vocals from frontman Timbo, and solid support from the rhythm section.
Check out the T & G website and shoot Conrad an email to be added to his mailing list. To find out more about these artists dig into the links above.
Tongue and Groove is one of my favorite Hollywood hangs and always full of surprises. Maybe I’ll see you there next month.

Review of the Bob Sheppard Quartet at Vitello’s, Feb 25, 2010

Last night I caught Bob Sheppard’s quartet upstairs at Vitello’s in Studio City. Bob is one of the best saxophonists in Los Angeles and this was a particularly exciting band; Steve Cardenas on guitar, Jeff D’Angelo on bass, and the remarkable Steve Hass on drums.
Bob is a versatile player with a beautiful, rich and detailed sound. He has absorbed the music of the jazz masters as well as pop styles, and created a strong personal voice. He burns without overwhelming the band, leaving plenty of space for musical conversation. The interaction between these guys was remarkable. It was a pleasure to watch them listening to each other. At times the exchanges between Sheppard and Cardenas were reminiscent of the classic Sonny Rollins – Jim Hall quartet.
Bob pulled up a mix of standards, originals and lesser heard jazz tunes including two delightful Thelonious Monk compositions; “Green Chimneys” and “San Francisco Holiday”. Of particular note was his gorgeous rendition of the Jimmy McHugh ballad, “Say It (Over and Over Again)” perhaps best known as recorded by John Coltrane on the classic “Ballads” album.
I first heard Steve Cardenas many years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area when we were both playing with trumpeter Jeff Beal’s bands. Steve’s playing knocked me out back then and today he has become one of the premier voices in modern jazz guitar, performing with a wide range of artists including: Paul Motian, Norah Jones, John Patitucci and Ben Allison. He is an esteemed educator and is in town for a guest semester at CalArts. Besides his brilliant guitar playing, Steve is an expert on the music of Thelonious Monk. His book, The Thelonious Monk Fakebook is the definitive collection of Monk’s compositions. Steve’s playing is fluid and musical, moving seamlessly from muted two and three note voicings into perfectly voice-lead chords and flowing single note lines. He was always listening, responding to the music around him, developing motifs, and continually surprising with his ideas. His tone was warm with just a bit of edge. He has a slightly bluesy, behind-the-beat time feel which compliments his melodic phrasing and contrapuntal lines.
I had not heard Steve Hass play live before but was immediately enthralled. He has enormous energy, rock solid time, and swings like a master, incorporating Cuban, African and Middle Eastern influences without ever losing the groove. At times he played with his hands, brushes or mallets (in combination), moving back and forth in response to the other musicians. Steve is an exciting inventive player, not afraid to take chances. He grooves hard but never overpowers the rest of the band. He has worked with a myriad of top artists including The Manhattan Transfer, John Scofield, Art Garfunkel, Billy Joel, George Benson and Ravi Coltrane. It was a real treat to discover this fantastic drummer.
Jeff D’Angelo is one of the most sought after bass players in Los Angeles and has a longstanding musical relationship with Bob Sheppard. He sounded particularly good last night, holding down the center of this four-way conversation. His sound was rich and warm, he contributed some excellent solos and really hooked up with Steve Hass.
The folks at Vitello’s have created a comfortable, intimate environment for this great music. They are aggressively booking outstanding musicians and have established several regular events including John Pisano’s Guitar Night and Larry Golding’s Organ Night, both featuring a revolving door of great guest artists. The Tiramisu is good too!
Keep your eyes and ears out for this quartet. If you have a chance, check out Steve Cardenas while he’s in town, and please support Vitello’s and live music in LA.

Independent Music Publishing: What’s Working, What’s Ahead?

On Tuesday evening the California Copyright Conference (CCC) hosted a lively panel of independent music publishers discussing the current state of their industry; what’s working, the challenges ahead and opportunities for innovation. The panel was moderated by Eric Polin, Sr. VP, Music Publishing, Universal Pictures, and Jonathan Rosner, President of the CCC and co-President of Bicycle Music.

The panel:

David Hirshland – President, Bug Music
Kathy Spanberger – peermusic, President, Anglo American Region
Kenny MacPherson – President, Chrysalis Music Group
Randall Wixen – President and Founder, Wixen Music Publishing
Ron Sobel – President of North Star Media; Partner at Winogradsky/Sobel; and Chair/Music Business Division, McNally Smith College of Music

The companies represented range in size and manage a mix of established and independent artists. Most are grounded in traditional catalog administration, but North Star Media in particular partners with unknown artists without mechanical or performance royalties and is primarily focused on artist development and leveraging innovative revenue streams and new media opportunities.

The panel felt that this was generally a good time to be an independent publisher. David Hirshland discussed the dangers of complacency and the need to repurpose catalogs and encourage writers to work in new, creative ways. Randall Wixen said that his company is being approached by many new artists who are looking for more attention from publishing partners due to shrinking or non-existent advances from record labels. All the panelists emphasized the importance of quality and focusing on great music. David Hirshland: “It’s still about being moved by what you hear…” Kathy Spanberger discussed the importance of partnering with artists who have a strong work ethic because of the demands of social media and the exploding opportunities provided by the Internet.

The panel discussed “360 deals” and the trend for publishers to expand their services beyond catalog administration. While none of the speakers would consider their services truly “360”, they are all innovating aggressively, seeking out new revenue streams and pushing artist development as mechanical royalties decline.

Ron Sobel threw down the gauntlet (at one point donning a referee’s shirt), opening an energetic discussion on the practice of issuing minimal or “free” synch licenses to build and artist’s brand. He shared the story of an unknown artist who approached him to manage his catalog. Sobel was appalled to see that he had issued a synch license to MTV for $1 until he saw his ASCAP statements which had generated a living wage for eight years and helped the artist build his career. The idea of “free” was discussed quite passionately, particularly by Kenny MacPherson, who was strongly opposed to lowering the bar for synch licensing fees. All the panelists shared a concern for the de-valuation of music catalogs but acknowledge the need to examine each deal on a case by case basis.

Ron Sobel discussed his role as a teacher and asked where this industry will be in 2020. “If we don’t innovate I think we lose.”

For more information on the California Copyright Conference and their monthly panels see their website:

Mike Clinco Quartet at The Oyster House

I caught guitarist and composer, Mike Clinco with his quartet, at The Oyster House in North Hollywood Monday night. Mike is a fluid, melodic player with a warm, open, sound and a great relaxed feel. He has worked with many extraordinary artists including: Bo Diddley, Bobby McFerrin, Ella Fitzgerald and Henry Mancini. Mike has composed music for film and television, including underscore and source music for ‘Big Shots’, ‘Outer Limits’, and ‘Sex in The City’.

Mike’s group featuring Jeff Driscoll on tenor, Adam Cohen on bass, and Bob Leatherbarrow on drums, played a mix of originals, jazz standards, and tunes by John Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi, Vic Juris, and Marc Johnson (“Union Pacific” from The Sound of Summer Running…a great record featuring Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Joey Baron). Singer Janelle Sadler and trumpeter Ron King sat in for a couple of tunes adding their magic to the mix.
The sound of the group was conversational, chamber jazz with a swinging groove and a deep pocket thanks to Adam and Bob. The melodic interplay between the guitar and sax was super musical and sensitive. The rhythm section listened hard, provided solid, energizing support and contributed some nice solos.
Mike and I both studied with the late Charlie Banacos, legendary jazz educator. In one way or another, Charlie’s influence touched many of the musicians who were there last night. 
Great players and a wonderful night of music. Thanks Mike! I’m looking forward to the next gig…

Support live music in LA…

One of the things I have really enjoyed since moving to Los Angeles a few years ago is the incredible wealth of skilled musicians living here. The boom years of the recording industry attracted and developed a remarkable pool of talent. One could work in music in this town for decades and still not meet half of the great players and writers.

The live instrumental music scene in LA is perplexing. Any night of the week you can hear world class musicians that would be A Big Event anywhere else, particularly outside of the United States, yet the local scene never seems to take off. I would love to do my part to instigate change. One of the best ways to start change in a difficult situation is to figure out what’s already working and do more of that. On that note I have some ideas to start a conversation with local music fans:

  1. CD release parties and special gigs always seem to be well attended by friends who generally spread the word. Even if you don’t get out to see all the shows you would like, keep track of what’s happening each week in the clubs and post upcoming gigs by your favorite artists on Facebook, Twitter, your blog. It only takes a minute.
  2. Email artists you like. Get on their mailing lists. Ask them what they are doing to promote local music and what you can do to help. Are they using social networking and the web to it’s fullest potential? What clubs do they like best and where do they see the most potential growth? Let them know you’re a fan!
  3. Become a fan of local musicians and venues on Facebook, etc. Comment on gigs you like and let the club owners know what’s working.
  4. Blog about local music. Spread videos and recommendations.
  5. If you don’t know where to find great live instrumental music contact me and I’ll share what I know!
Any other ideas?