The Jazzcat

Archive for February, 2008

Hank Jones our National Treasure at the Fowler Museum at UCLA

by on Feb.27, 2008, under News


Slide Show
The Friends of Jazz Organization have come together along

with radio station 88.1 fm KKJZ.Org and Keyboard Concepts to sponsor this

wonderful jazz salon in honor of a man known in this town at the best friend of

jazz, David Abell, tonight presenting the piano great Hank Jones.


This is the first time that I have had the opportunity to

experience music here at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Tonight, the word

experience is especially prevalent because Hank Jones, a true national treasure

who represents every essence of the word, will perform with his wonderful trio

of John Clayton on bass and Joe Labarbera on drums. If I yelled out loud, “Can

I get a witness”, everyone in the place would reply a thunderous, “Amen’.


Many folks came together to make this salon happen and

proceeds from tonight’s performance go toward contributions to help jazz

students at UCLA. Two other major cats that have been producing jazz music for

over six decades Gerald Wilson and Kenny Burrell along with Hank are all from

the motor city of Detroit

and are all in attendance.


Hank and Kenny have known each other since childhood and

Kenny remembers how many of the cats in the neighborhood looked up to Hank and

his brothers as they were all coming up and learning the music. Later this year

both Gerald Wilson and Hank Jones will be honored in celebration of their 90th



Photo by

Friends of jazz are exactly who are in the house tonight. I

feel like George Clooney up in here because I know so many of these patrons of

jazz personally and I can tell you for a fact that these people support,

respect, adore, admire and understand what it takes to love this music let

alone perform it and make it you life. 89 is a serious number when it comes to

years on this earth and Hank has fought off health battles as well as the

rigors of age, the road and the business to be here in this moment smiling,

delighting and creating a lifetime of melody!


I spoke with Hank shortly after his return home from a

little health stint a few months back with heart problems. He sounded as strong

as he looks today and his internal metronome is allowing him to play



There is lots of room to play in trio settings and Hang is

as versatile as he glides and swims through the arrangements of such familiar

tunes as “Body & Soul”, “Star Eyes”, “What is This Thing Called Love”,

“Autumn Leaves”, “Bluesette”, “But Beautiful”, “Stella by Starlight” and Joe

Henderson’s classic “Recorda Me”.  So romantic,

so lyrical and the old school rules the swing!  It is evident that the lush beauty of the

standards has been some of the most wonderful material for Hank over the years.


Tonight is an evening of standards and even though we all

know the music so well, when you listen to the facility of the personal

approach, the way that the melodies and rhythm are crafted with such timing,

precision and effortless mastery, you begin to understand the essence and

nature of a time that existed when these tunes were composed.  There is so much dance in the music and the

delight that exists in the air is evidence of the heart warming and heart felt

sound that these three elements provide.


Just like old school, Hank introduces each tune and there is

the excited anticipation from the audience as to how the trio is going to lay

out the sound for us.  John Clayton has

his eyes glued on Hank for most of the performance.  He is feeding off of the energy, soul and

spirit of the man while sweetly accompanying and soloing with such tenacity

that you can visualize the lovely scenic imagery as he plays. The exchanges are

so special and represent a blend of love and humanity that is entrenched in the

music. Joe Labarbera is swinging and smiling as he provides just the right

touch and feel for the occasion; deep down in the serious pocket with lots of

air and space left for everyone’s imagination.

image imageimage

Hank is feeling the music, as his expressions during and

after playing a tune are so beautiful. Witnessing the smile of a man who is

happy, loving life and the music, makes us all feel ever the more blessed to be

here and have our lives enhanced by that love. Precision and execution are so

pristine; you really can breathe and experience the classical essence of jazz

performed at its finest. For humor and character, Hank tosses in a little

“Eleanor Ruby” riff that I am sure Paul McCartney would appreciate. Our hearts

are all waltzing in three quarter time!


After the intermission, pianist Mike Melvoin conducts a one

on one interview with Hank. Hank has a wonderful sense of humor which he

displayed with much charm as he and Mike had their conversations. Here are some

of the answers and the Hank Jones outlook on life and the music…


a.       Respect

what the composer had in mind and play the melody first before improvising on

the composition

b.      Focus

on the music weather there is a singer or not. Don’t get in the way of the

continuity of thought from the soloist.


c.       There

must have been something in the Detroit

water to breed such pianists as Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan and he took a few

sips too!


d.      His

parents believed in the talent and worked hard to provide the best that they

could for the Jones family


e.       Hanks

parents had thousands of records and a player piano which shaped his approach

to the music. Teddy Wilson, Earl ‘Father’ Hines, Fats Waller etc.



Worked with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and learned

from the two different styles of band leading

g.       Influenced

by a prodigy sister who was playing concerts at age twelve before a fatal

accident on thin ice



Shortly after the interview, Hank was presented with an

award from the Friends of Jazz!


There are lots of singers in the house and you know that

they would just love to be accompanied by such a stellar rhythm section. One

singer that Hank has been working quite bit with lately is the Italian

sensation Roberta Gambarini. She got up and took “My Romance” and “Skylark” to

those gorgeous places of sweetness in the music! A wonderful evening from a

National Treasure, Hank Jones, the beauty of a man, his dedication and

extraordinary contribution to the art form.


LeRoy Downs

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Anthony Wilson and LeRoy Downs on "Live with the Jazzcat"

by on Feb.27, 2008, under News, Radio

Click and listen to the interview with Anthony Wilson and LeRoy Downs

Live with the Jazzcat

Hello all, this is LeRoy Downs and each week I will broadcast a live 15 minute segment every Tuesday at 5:15 PM PST on and 1410 AM KRML radio in beautiful Carmel California.


Hamada ,who is a director at KRML Jazz and Blues station, has taken me

on to do a weekly segment that I am sure your are going to enjoy! He

has one hour show Monday thru Friday called

For Locals Only.

On each Tuesday of the month @ 5:15 for about 15 to 20 minutes, Gary will turn it over to me for a segment of

Live with The Jazzcat

Each week there will be an interview of someone special and wonderful in this beautiful art form we call jazz.

I will see you there!

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Anthony Wilson on "Live with the Jazzcat" Tues Feb 26, 2008 @ 5:15pm PST

by on Feb.26, 2008, under Radio


LeRoy Downs will be live on the air

A constant player on the scene producing jazz music like no other guitarist

Anthony Wilson

Click picture to listen live online!

“Monterey Bay's Jazz and Blues station in Carmel California”

From broad perspectives to quiet simplicities, jazz guitar with range and melodic focal destination

Anthony Wilson

live on or on

1410AM KRML radio in Carmel California

Click picture above for Anthony Wilson Interview

Click here for all archived Interviews

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Russell Malone and Nicholas Payton Headline at the Jazz Bakery

by on Feb.21, 2008, under News


Slide Show

We have a path in life and although you look forward to

specific things happening, certain circumstances are inevitable. Originally,

the headliner was Curtis Fuller opening with Nicholas Payton but Curtis could

not make it. I did hear that it was not a health issue so thank God for that.

When you put a rock in the stream, the direction of the flow takes on a new

course. Such is the situation when Russell Malone steps in to fill the space

(pun) here at the Jazz Bakery.


Pinstripe pimpin’ and playing his ass off, the combination

of Russell along with Nicholas add quite a different twist in the sound that all

expected to hear. Of course we all miss Curtis but Russell is rockin’ the

Bakery with a group of players that know how to hit it hard. The front line is

a monster and the precision on the trumpet along with tenacity of improvisation

coming from the guitar proves that the spontaneous switch in direction takes

flight in a whole new sky!


The rhythm section is comprised of LA’s own Nate Morgan on

piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums, a trio that in their own

right, know how to play the game on such a high level. A last minute switch can

sometimes be a drag because the musicians get locked into a zone where trust is

a major component. This software comes with an antivirus program that Norton

validates will have no bugs and will play with the utmost efficiency. The

Matrix of the music!


I got there for the second set and when it started with a

Joe Henderson composition, I knew that the sparks were going to fly. I could

see in the eyes of Nicholas that the spontaneity of new sound allowed him to

explore different options in the music. Nicholas’s sound is shines like a new

Benz off of the showroom floor, classic, clean and ready to roll! Russell is

clean as well, but when he takes his vehicle off road, you better watch out

because you might get hit with some rock or a splash of low down dirty Blues. I

don’t know what music was originally planned but the new road maps is a

welcomed detour.


Russell has this way of laying these thick chords all up in

the melody and Nicholas comes right behind him with such a solid tone that is

direct and undeniable in its delivery. Nate Morgan is droppin’ these notes like

water flowing down the rapids with ease and power maneuvering all of its

curves, bumps and turns as he glides his way towards destination in through the

out door!


Tony Dumas speaks as the rhythm is thrown his way. He played

with the great Joe Henderson so he definitely knows his way all that music and

adds so many colors to the rest of the tunes. He keeps the music riding on low

register love as Roy McCurdy holds the force down with his polyrhythmic

grooves, marching traps and keen sense of time.


From eighty miles an hour down to twenty in less than sixty,

Russell leads the crew into a version of “Witchcraft” that sings and dances in

four that Frank didn’t know nothin’ about! These cats are serving smiles with

this head swingin’, finger poppin’ romance. Back in the day folks use to go

home reflecting on the music and nine months later, “A Child is Born”.


It is just a pleasure to sit back and listen to which

direction these guys take the music. The embellishments articulated on the

melody are astounding. Monkering the mix with blues, hand crafting the melody

with precision, and constructing sculptures around new sounds make the fun,

creative, spontaneous and a blast!


LeRoy Downs


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"Down with Downs" a tune composed by Brian Swartz for LeRoy Downs

by on Feb.20, 2008, under News

About five years ago, I was an on-air program host with 88.1fm KKJZ, our jazz station here in Los Angeles. During that time I celebrated my 40th birthday party and invited all of LA’s musicians to come on out for a 40th Birthday Party Jazz Jam! Many of the jazz musicians came out and we had a great time!

Trumpeter Brian Swartz came and handed me two sheets of paper and said that this is your gift. It was two pages of notes, musical notes, it was a song and on the top of the page it read, “Down with Downs”!

What an outstanding gift! I wanted to hear it but, the musicians that were at the party did not play the tune. A few months after, Brian invited me down to the Jazz Bakery where he was going to feature the tune that night! I was honored as he introduced the song and gave me a shout out in the audience. But, then they proceeded to play, “Down with Downs” and it was SLAMMIN’!


Brian has just recently recorded a rough mix with his group The Gnu Sextet that sounds just as great and you can check it out when you visit my Myspace Page.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!
Are you “Down with Downs”
I hope so.


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Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Jazz Orchestra at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

by on Feb.20, 2008, under News


There are iconic figures in jazz and when you think of them,

most have ascended to a higher source. 

That is why it is so important for each generation to pass on the torch

so that the flame and passion for this music never dies.  Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, under the tutelage

of a family dedicated to the preservation and exploration of this music has

emerged as the “appointed one” to speak, play, read, re-create the music at the

highest level.


He employs a group of youthful like minds that serve to

represent the tradition as well.  Dressed

like Wall Street, these cats walked on the stage and are ready to do

business.  The mergers, acquisitions and

negotiations take place with the stage as their boardroom, the music as their

commodity and the audience as the major stockholders.


Wynton puts the trumpet to his lips and the first sounds

that we hear are those that represent his home, the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans.  The implications are subtle and tremendous as

he plays the Duke Ellington classic “Creole Love Call”.  Love is definitely a key in the vocabulary of

the music and he definitely shows that as he and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra

embody the heart and soul of an entire night devoted to the king Duke Ellington

and his music.


The dedication to the classics are evident as Wynton and the

band run through a beautiful version of “Satin Doll” with Walter Blandley Jr.

featured in this traditionally arranged piece. 

Wynton does not conduct his orchestras from the front of the bandstand.

His chair is in the trumpet section in the rear, which puts the focus on the

sound as an entire entity and not a “star” and his band.


 “Prelude to a Kiss”

featuring Sherman Irby on alto, is sounding so lovely as he delivers the warm

sultry tone that the classic calls for. 

Love is definitely a theme and the romance of the days of old are every

so prevalent.  Bodies are swaying, hands

of couples are caressing and it is beautiful how music can take us back in time

to slow dancing and those old feelings of love.


“Moon over Cuba” another tune arranged by Duke and written

by one of his band members emphasizes joy, happiness and the poignantly

energetic dance of life with solos by Elliot Mason on trombone and Carlos

Hernandez on bass.  The clarinet implies

the festive mood, the percussion provides the attitude and the trumpet and

trombone solos serenade the three ladies: “Lady of Lavender Mist”, “Lady

Mac” and of course the most popular diva herself the “Sophisticated

Lady”. Duke loved all of these ladies each with their own sass, style and

flair; a trilogy of estrogen influenced sweetness! Victor Goines featured on

Clarinet with the first lady, Marcus Printup on trumpet with the second and Joe

Temperly on baritone with the third.


“Old Man Blues” a Duke piece from a movie called “Check and

Double Check”, a fast paced super old school swing with all of the character,

lyrical humor, hustle and bustle of an old black and white film. Mutes, plungers

and hats are the tools used as essential elements that make those horns sing

and swing. Duke wrote a piece for Coolie Williams called “Concerto for Cootie”

featuring trumpet player Ryan Kisor who demonstrates through his technical

facility how that plunger is actually used and singing those phrases.


“Self Portrait of the Bean”, Duke’s tribute is his fine

compadre Coleman Hawkins expresses so eloquently the passion and tender emotion

of the man though a tone and tempo that suggest nothing but love for the man

and his uniquely wonderful sound; classical music if I have ever heard it.  “The Perfume Suite”, a stridish romp set off

by a piano and bass duo and joined in by the percussion of finger snaps, foot

slides, toe taps and hand claps which lead to more of the same by the entire

audience which, I must say, is at capacity tonight here at the Walt Disney

Concert Hall.


On his solo, Wynton turns around and faces the orchestra

seats that visually only see the rear of the performance and serenades their

presence; a thoughtful and kind gesture to personally include everyone in the

music.  The cats proceed with a wonderful

rendition of “Most Indigo” a  1940’s 78 B

side of a record that included “Warm

Valley” and “The Flaming

Sword”.  Ted Nash, a multi-instrumentalist

plays his version of Duke’s “Sultry Sunset” and what would a set of Duke

Classics be without a swinging version of “In a Mellow Tone”.


Joe Temperly, who played with Dukes original orchestra,

remembers “The Queen Suite” for Buckingham Palace and the tour of England as

well as he lays down some spiritual mysticism on bass clarinet which is the

loveliest resonation looming in the hall.


The final piece for the evening was Duke’s “Rocking in the

Rhythm”, and of course this orchestra rocked their version as hard as the

original! They all came back to close the performance with an encore of  “Braggin’ in Brass’


That’s it for another tribute to tradition, don’t miss the

opportunity to listen, hear and experience Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln

Center Jazz Orchestra.

LeRoy Downs

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Niki Haris and LeRoy Downs on "Live with the Jazzcat"

by on Feb.20, 2008, under News, Radio

Click and listen to the interview with Niki Haris and LeRoy Downs

Live with the Jazzcat

Hello all, this is LeRoy Downs and each week I will broadcast a live 15 minute segment every Tuesday at 5:15 PM PST on and 1410 AM KRML radio in beautiful Carmel California.

Gary Hamada ,who is a director at KRML Jazz and Blues station, has taken me on to do a weekly segment that I am sure your are going to enjoy! He has one hour show Monday thru Friday called

For Locals Only.

On each Tuesday of the month @ 5:15 for about 15 to 20 minutes, Gary will turn it over to me for a segment of

Live with The Jazzcat

Each week there will be an interview of someone special and wonderful in this beautiful art form we call jazz.

I will see you there!

  LeRoy Downs 
Click here for all archived Interviews

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