Charles Jazz

Remember When The John Cocuzzi Band Nearly Blew the Roof Off the Glendora Ballroom?

Tony Ventura stepped up to the microphone and faced the crowd. “Today, we’re going to hear John Cocuzzi play vibes. We haven’t heard him before, but he’s supposed to be good,” he said. The stocky Ventura stepped down from the small stage and weaved through the tables to stand in the back of the room as the lights dimmed.

Cocuzzi looked to be somewhere in his forties. With his long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, he looked more like a modern jazz musician than a guy who would play in front of the Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz.

It was the club’s monthly Sunday afternoon concert at the Glendora Ballroom in Chicago Ridge. It amazes me that hundreds of people drive past this ballroom’s uninspiring façade at 102nd and Harlem, across the street from a Wal-Mart, without a clue that hot jazz is happening inside. The building looks structurally sound, but inside it feels like some old cartoon where there’s a party and the walls of the house sway in time with the music.

Some 200 people came to hear this vibes player “prove” himself. He wore a suit and tie. I like it when musicians dress up for their audiences. It shows respect. Most of the members of this jazz club have gray or white hair, and their generation dresses for concerts. Many were dressed up like the musicians. Others came in their July casual attire.

The Jazz Side of Afrobeat

Ayetoro is a Yoruba word that means a world of peace. Ayetoro is also the name of a band formed in Nigeria just over twenty ago in 1996 by Funsho Ogundipe. Funsho has quite an interesting and unusual biography for a musician. He has never played the piano before he was seventeen and he only discovered his deep love for music while he was at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria.

After he graduated he worked in a law firm for five years and then for the Prudent Merchant Bank (now Prudent Bank). Oddly enough one of his early encounters with a world famous musician ended in disaster. “I remember when I was in Law School, I used to hang out and go and watch Fela play at the Shrine on most Friday evening after school,

The Life of B.B. King: A Legendary Blues Master

B.B. King has enjoyed one of the most distinguished and influential musical legacies in the history of recording. He is known for prolifically touring the world and has played at least 200 shows annually for over half a century. His career is inspration to many musicions and people who look for second chances,  his story is even included in GED tests, says Chris from Best GED Classes.

His expansive catalog includes close to sixty albums and dozens of live releases. You may be able to view some of his world performances by ordering a TV package from and check out also this video where he plays with John Mayer (2012):

A man of humble origins, the renowned blues musician was born on September 16, 1925, within the confines of a desolate cotton plantation in the outskirts of Berclair, Mississippi. His father abandoned him with his mother when he was four. This created a bleak financial situation and he was subsequently raised by his grandmother. Having already sung in the gospel choir his entire childhood, he played guitar from the age of twelve.

A Blues Chronicle: From Robert Johnson To Robert Cray

The Evolution of The Blues
The blues began in America. It was made popular by traditional artists like Blind Willie Jefferson, Son House, Blind Willie McTell and Robert Johnson. However, the most influential period of the blues was in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Electric instruments heavily dominated this blues scene. Check out this video: Sweet Home Chicago with (among many others) Cray and Clapton. Does it get any better?

The blues artists that dominated this period were Slim Harpo, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker. In addition, it was the blues artists of the ’60s that influenced the next wave of blues that included Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Taj Mahal.

Jazz Guitarist George Turner

George Turner’s jazz guitar playing offers up mellifluous round tones, influenced by the masters of the archtop jazz guitar such as Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Grant Green. In Turner’s hands, these influences, as well as his own deep musical sensibilities, are woven together to produce a rich personal sound.

Turner honed his skills as a jazz guitarist while he was a student at Virginia Tech, as a member of the Virginia Tech Jazz Orchestra under the direction of legendary jazz violinist Joe Kennedy. In the late 80’s Turner studied with nationally known jazz guitar master Paul Bollenback, who was teaching and performing in the Washington D.C. area at that time.
Turner then joined the University of Virginia Jazz Ensemble under the direction of trumpeter John D’earth and had the opportunity to play with legendary jazz drummer Bob Moses. These early experience gave Turner a strong foundation in jazz performance and helped develop his compositional style. In the mid 90’s Turner gigged, composed, and taught the guitar in the Washington D.C area. During those years, Turner played with many well known Washington D.C. jazz musicians including pianist and organist Greg Lamont, and pianist Lawrence Wheatley.

John Coltrane: Will there be another like him?

John Coltrane – One of the greatest

Some people ask if there will ever be another like him. The answer is no. The answer is no with Miles Davis. The answer is no with Herbie Hancock. and his music is still alive though John passed away in 1967.

People just don’t have the kind of passion about jazz that Coltrane had. He came from a different time and era where the music spoke volumes. People play around with jazz right now, but more of the jazz music that is out there is secular.
There aren’t any bands like the band that Coltrane had. No one is doing the 8-minute drum solo. No one is playing the trumpet with a madman-type of fury that made the jazz come alive. Only Coltrane had that in him. He could do this with great ease.

Keb-mo – a legend in the making

The Texas Bedford Blues Festival took place over the Labor Day weekend a few years ago. The music portion is part of the overall Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival. One of the leading acts was Keb Mo and take a look at his 2017 video where he plays together with Taj Mahal:

On Saturday, acts included Gibson Road Band, Jimmy Lee Reeves Band, website, Cole Dillow, and Alan Fry on the second stage; with Rastus, Southside Blues Kings, Kayla Reeves & Wes Jeans, Ana Popovic, and headliner Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band on the main stage.
Sunday’s acts included Jimmy James Arnold, White Hot Soul, Sweet Jones, and Texas Cotton Kings on the second stage; with Rusty Burns & Big Wampum, Guitar Shorty, Buddy Whittingham, CJ Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, and headliner Keb Mo on the main stage.

Where to go in LA to hear creative music

A nice piece in the LA Times outlining the “alternative” jazz venues.  Chris Barton has an overview of the handful of places where you can go to hear more adventurous music, most of the places I would think of, including Metropol, Open Gate, ResBox, MONA, even Vitello’s gets a nod as the new establishment of the “establishment” that still dares to feature more risky acts.

He even goes so far as to highlight a great series being put on by saxophonist (and LAJC member) Ken Kawamura down in Orange County.  Ken poignantly sums up the challenges of programming art music.

Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet at the LA Blue Whale

Los Angeles is a long way to travel for jazz musicians living someplace other than Los Angeles.  Logistically it’s pretty tricky to set up a series of gigs with the price of airfare and lodging, especially if you have a band traveling with you.

Couple that with the current lack of viable jazz venues in L.A. and the thought of trying to do anything out here is daunting, to say the least, and downright impossible for most.  Aside from the advent of a few more jazz festivals, the opportunities for a traveling jazz band in this town are pretty slim.

The Melbourne Jazz Cooperative

The Melbourne Jazz Cooperative has introduced quite a few later top stars at its Bennetts Lane venue.

Let’s highlight a few of the artists that, through the years, have contributes to MJC’s success:

Matt Kirsch

Guitarist/composer (and vocalist) Matt Kirsch has long been highly regarded by his musical peers, but his distinctive instrumental capabilities were finally displayed to a wider audience on his strong selling debut CD Translucent (on NewMarket). Since leaving Melbourne several years ago, he finally settled with his family in Port Douglas, Far North Queensland).