Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Monday, October 30, 2006

Asleep at the Wheel/ Rani Arbo October 28

“Asleep at the Wheel” Wakes Up Cerritos

by Glen Creason

If laughter and grinning does increase the health potential of folks then the Performing Arts Center faithful attending the “Asleep at the Wheel” concert over the weekend should be in the pink. The big show was a like a boogie-woogie flu shot for all as Good Old Boy Ray Benson and his charges chased away the blues and even made a heart flutter once or twice in their Texas sized show. “Asleep at the Wheel” has been at it for a while and the three decades of stage experiences showed in the eclectic offerings from pop gems of the early 50’s to Fats Waller to a heaping helping of Bob Wills’ Texas swing. The old band has been brightened by young songstress Elizabeth McQueen who provided eye-candy and a feminine force to the driving sound of this rock-solid octet.
Certainly, Asleep’s fans filled their seats with enthusiastic support and they were rewarded with the lone star state sendups of great Western swing songs, particularly from the Bob Wills biography-musical they produce called “A Ride With Bob.” Adding to the polish of these beauties is the fine fiddling and singing of Jason Roberts who plays Wills in the show. His work on great ones like “Liza Jane,” “Cherokee Maiden,” “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” and the glorious “San Antonio Rose” provided pillars of rhythm in this strong show. Of course, Benson is the rock on which “Asleep at the Wheel” is built and his easy charm and gruff vocals soaked the standards in a sort of Texas soul. “Miles and Miles of Texas,” “Hot Rod Lincoln, “House of Blue Lights” and “One of These Days” were terrific. Strangely enough however, the best of Benson was in a perfectly lovely tribute to Cindy Walker’s “You Don’t Know Me” and a deeply moving Guy Clark masterpiece “the Cape.” Cute Elizabeth provided a counterpoint to the rugged Ray and her “Faded Love,” “I’m an Old Gal-hand” and even “Mele Kalikimaka” demonstrated a sweet Texas soprano. Obviously “Asleep at the Wheel” does not rest on it’s laurels and the playing was sharp and polished, especially Benson’s expressive electric guitar, Robert’s fiddle, Eddy River’s mercurial pedal steel and piano playing dynamo John Whitby’s driving style on the 88’s. Unlike some local football teams on this day, they came to play.
The show was opened by Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, a seriously talented quartet with impeccable taste and roots deep in traditional music. The group is centered around Ms. Arbo and her versatile fiddle and strong voice but its’ uniqueness stems from the unusual drumming of Scott Kessel on his “drumship enterprise” comprised of cardboard box, tin cans, Velcro and a suitcase. That’s not to say the bass and humor of Andrew Kinsey and the fine guitar and singing of Anand Nayak are not essential in the Mayhem sound. Nayak kept it together despite a broken/lost guitar string proceeding professionally with dobro instead. The music on this night ranged from traditional to inspirational drawn from amazingly disparate sources. The show commenced with a two hundred year old piece from the mostly unknown Bessie Jones from the Georgia Sea Islands “Turtle Dove” and followed later with the chilling but seasonally appropriate “Oh Death.” “Big Black Bird” was gut-bucket blues and “Oil in My Vessel” was straight up traditional mountain music. These old gems were mixed in with fresh treatments of a wonderful Leonard Cohen song “Heart With No Companion,” an electrified Irish fiddle tune “Red-headed Boy” and the spice of some swinging Lefty Frizzel “I Do My Crying at Night.” The best of the fine show came in several uplifting songs “Let It Go,”“Shine On” and “I Want to Be Ready” which were refreshingly optimistic. Without flash or empty posturing Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem just put together a quality concert containing first-class musicianship and content.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Karrin Allyson Wed. October 18, 2006


Karrin Alysson: Elegant, Intelligent and Sounding Great
at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Music pundits would agree that Karrin Allyson is one of the very best Jazz singers in the land without hesitation. Her liquid-velvet voice can handle any kind of style and her range seems limitless, moving from introspective ballads to amazing vocalese as quickly as SUVs change lanes on the nearby 91 freeway. Despite a superb jazz trio behind her I do believe she could sing fast food jingles accompanied by glockenspiel with maracas and sound fabulous. This little lady from Kansas City has most certainly arrived and she seems to be right in her prime as the lucky at Cerritos found at a mid-week show in the Sierra Room. Ms. Allyson is easy-going on stage until she wraps her pipes around the fine and eclectic compositions of great songwriters obviously chosen by someone with impeccable taste and a broad knowledge of the art form. She also chose the strong trio on stage with her to achieve a certain, spare but pristine sound. Todd Strait on drums with Tom Warrington on bass gave the lady a perfect platform to stand on but guitarist Larry Koonse provided a precise counterpoint to the slight rasp of character in the lady’s vocals with his strummed jazz technique.
The clubby intimacy of the packed room seemed just right for the program chosen on this night which began with a free and swinging “Let’s Fall in Love” from the Harold Arlen treasure chest then went south to Brazil for “O Barinquinho” that featured perfect Portuguese. There was more from way south of the border later in “O Pato,” a samba that balanced Cole Porters “Night and Day” in a version that put meat on the bones of the classic. As was the case in all the music on this night there was absolutely no filler or fluff. Allyson obviously loves this music and seems bound to get the most out of every lyric. The set bounced from Mose Allison’s wonderful “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” to Blossom Dearie’s quirky but delicious “Bye Bye Country Boy” that had a naughty but satisfying slant. Still the high points came, as they did all night, from Karrin Allyson’s newest release “Footprints” with songs by Nat Adderley, (Never Say Yes), Dizzy Gillespie (Con Alma) and the wise and powerful “Long As You’re
Living” by Oscar Brown Jr. Typical of the evening the songs have both melody and words to remember.
After an extended intermission Ms. Allyson woke the big crowd up with the jazz-blues of Bobby Timmons-Jon Hendrix’s Moanin’ which she spiced heavily with scat she seems to have sharpened to a point in working with the master Hendrix. There was also the homage to other masters in “How Long Has This Been Going On” and Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues.”
Also the reading of Hank Mobley’s romantic “The Turnaround” just left you thinking wistfully of the magical moments that are possible with music. However the twin glories of Wayne Shorter’s “Follow the Footprints” and a solo with piano of “Live for Life” from the French film were nothing short of masterpieces. When the lady scatted “That’s All” as her finale she did so with many sighs from the audience who spent a goodly time around the CD table later grabbing up copies of “Footprints.” Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 16, 2006

Larry Carlton/ Chuck Mangione October 13, 2006

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Larry Carlton and Chuck Mangione at the Center: Nice and Smooth

By Glen Creason

When you think of Smooth Jazz you might think of hammocks, low flying sonics, lowered blood pressure and laying up like denizens of the boneless chicken ranch. Yet, on Friday night at the Cerritos Center two stars of the Wave wave accelerated the genre a bit and gave us a pretty nice three hours of music with flavor and somewhat elevated temperatures. The Flugelhorn’s poster boy, Chuck Mangione headlined the show but had to run to catch up to the fine, curtain-raising hour of pumped up Jazz-Pop that guitar maestro Larry Carlton dropped in the chair-dancing laps of another full house at the Center.
Mangione began his set with “…Feeling” and cruised easily through “Doing Everything” but began to get some wind beneath his sails by “Main Squeeze” which rocked the hall. Mangione was steady and strong with his horn but much of the elevations in the set’s range came from multi-faceted horn ace Chris Vadala who played flute plus soprano and tenor sax with genuine fire. Mangione’s sweet tribute to his Mom “Bella Via” was smooth but he broke again into more adventurous territory with the be-bopping “Dizzy Miles” highlighted by vocals from drummer Dave Tull. “Land of Make Believe” was wistful and truly smooth which lead into familiar but extremely well received Mangione hit-territory including both “Children of Sanchez” and his signature smooth groove “Feels So Good.” This is a show that is crisp and clean, moving at a decided pace broken only by Mangione’s pithy remarks and an occasional bow to the solo skills of an excellent ensemble behind the leader.
The show was opened by a fit and ready to rumble Larry Carlton who lulled the house a bit on his opening solo number, the intimate and introspective “LC.” However, he then threw it into high gear with the rocking “Qui Qui Si,” a sax-appealing “Roll With It” and “Blues Force” that showcased a really fine band lead by drummer Marcus Finne, keyboardist Greg Mathieson, son/bass player Travis Carlton and old favorite saxophone wiz Tom Scott. If you liked the sound of Steely Dan’s “Aja” then you would have liked this set. Carlton stood at the center and played some tasty guitar licks that would make young musicians drool, often with his hands just inches apart on the neck of the ax. “Minute by Minute” and “Smiles and Smiles to Go” kept up the heat until the pristine and lyrical “Sunrise” showed the connection the band had to the best connotations of smooth. This was not music for an herb tea afternoon and the strong band kept the energy at full-throttle for the most part. The only thing missing was a Michael McDonald vocal on “Minute…” A finishing kick of the funk-drenched “Prince” flavored by powerful bass from the kid, a stinging guitar journey on “Deep Into It” and a spicy “Slightly Dirty” once again showcasing the symbiotic relationship between Scott’s horn and Carlton’s guitar. Despite being the opening act, the big crowd demanded some more from Mr. Carlton and he indulged them with “Tenor” that left them quite satisfied. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 09, 2006

Three Mo' Tenors October 7, 2006


Three Mo' Tenors: Mo' Than Good at a Cerritos

By Glen Creason

It's nice to be able to rave at full throttle when describing shows at the Performing Arts Center and Saturday's reprise of the “Three Mo' Tenors” may well exhaust the superlative keys on the word processor. While the concept of this musical review was originally conceived to play off of the Original ‘Three Tenors’ of Opera this show has taken on a life of its own. No Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras are here but Phumizile Sojola, Duane A. Moody and James N. Berger Jr. are more than capable of hitting the high notes and are far more versatile than the Italian superstars. This is a meticulously rehearsed and perfectly performed evening of eclectic song drawn from the rich vault of Popular and Classical music, particularly from the grand African-American influence on the American musical culture. This time through, the arias were only used as an appetizer but the main course was delicious visually, spiritually and especially acoustically.
Each artist excels in certain areas but all stood even on a stage that emphasized the songs and not the setting. A jocular "La Donna E Mobile" provided a link to the Three Tenors but the Three Mo' Tenors took it with tongue in cheek and tossed in showmanship that continued throughout. "Recondita Armonia" from Tosca and "De Miei Bollenti Spiriti" from La Traviata pretty much concluded the grand opera portion but each were done quite professionally with vocal power up to any tenor on the Operatic stage. Samuel Barber's challenging "I Hear an Army" was a revelation with an edge as done by James N. Berger. The remainder of the show drew from a deep well of song, covering traditions are varied as Rhythm and Blues, Broadway musicals, Jazz, Blues, Soul, Spirituals, Gospel and even a delightful chunk of Hip Hop. The performances were so good you could take slices from any portion and build an impressive show just from that genre.
"Let the Good Times Roll" featured harmony so tight it came to the audience as one rhythmic voice and the Sojola-Berger duet on "Bring Him Home" from Las Miserables built into an emotional crest further climbed by the towering "Make Them Hear You," a signature tune by the trio. A true sign of the variety was the potent high C's of the Broadway gem "Rain" followed by a dead-on-perfect recreation of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” complete with zoot suits and full audience “hidey-hidey-hidey ho’s!”
The second half of the show was even more casual but even more intense while saluting Ray Charles in triplicate: “Don’t Set Me Free,” “Hit the Road Jack,” and a sweet as peach cobbler “Georgia on My Mind.” There was also stalwart Blues singing and an enthusiastically received foray into soul which sent a crackle of electricity through the charged up crowd including Marvin Gaye’s sensual “Let’s Get It On,” the ageless marvel “My Girl” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The beauty of this show is the high-quality vocal abilities of the Three Mo’ which exhibit amazing range in every genre, getting to notes most singers won’t or can’t reach. Case in point was the tour de force reading of the old spiritual “I Don’t Feel No-Ways Tired” that followed on the heels of a Hip Hop jamboree marked by tight dance steps and self-effacing clowning during songs by Robert Kelly and Alicia Keys. They saved the best for last and finished with Gospel, lifting up an entire hall in unison to “Let the Praise Begin,” “It’s Time to Be Blessed” and the fitting finish of the reprise of “Make Them Hear You.” Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Leon Russel and Dave Mason September 30, 2006

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Smokin’ Oldies at Cerritos: Leon Russell and Dave Mason

By Glen Creason

They say that if you can remember the 60’s you didn’t live through them. But the old gray cells were stirred and so were the pulse rates in an outstanding display of rock music by two old pals from back in the psychedelic day at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. Both Leon Russell and Dave Mason demonstrated tight, disciplined and highly talented ensembles who provided musical muscle and a sturdy platform for the lead guys considerable skills and repertoire. In equal halves of this show, the bands had definitely eaten their wheaties.
You could have flip-flopped the acts since each garnered standing O’s but Leon Russell opened the show at a sprint that did not subside until he slowed it to a canter in “Lady Blue” from the full out giddy up of “Delta Lady,” “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Nighttime is the Right Time.” The group presented a high-octane, ragged but right sound highlighted by Russell’s barrelhouse piano with roadhouse cayenne sprinkled in and lead guitarist “Curly” Speegle’s face-melting solos spicing an already tasty wall of sound. Russell doesn’t do much talking and the pace was exhilarating, continuing through “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Any Way You Want It,” and the twin glories of “Wild Horses” and “It’s a Hard Rain Gonna Fall” that paid tribute to two of Russell’s most distinguished pop partners.
Not everything boogied at full-tilt and some classic ballads offered softer moments including “Georgia On My Mind,” and the truly classic “Song for You” that strangely works perfectly with Leon’s nasal Oklahoma drawl. If he had closed the show the crowd would have demanded encores but instead the old-timer politely withdrew amidst standing adulation from the packed crowd.
Dave Mason had a hard act to follow but he offered no let-up in quality or energy levels. I would submit that Mason has always possessed one of the sweetest guitar tones in pop history and on this night he was astounding from start to finish. Father time has taken his toll on all of us who heard Mason as a teen with the band Traffic but on this night he sounded as great as ever, only now he plays those tasty licks while wearing reading glasses. The Mason band was also top drawer, especially organist Bill Mason who recreated the lush, beautiful sound of Dave’s all-time great album “Alone Together” with songs “World In Changes,” “Only You Know and I Know,” and “Shouldn’t of Took More Than You Gave.” Dave Mason’s more mature status helped to flesh out what were classic solo passages and such was the case on “Look At You, Look at Me” with utterly sensational guitar playing by any standards. Mason gave the faithful a set-full, traveling across his career including “We Just Disagree,” a journey in the time machine to “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” a new one called “Ain’t Your Legs Tired Honey (because you’ve been running through my mind)?” and a sizzling “All Along the Watchtower.” This time, the happy audience kept up the hoo-rahs until Mason came back for encores that left the house “Feelin’ Alright.”