by John Lawrence
Friday, May 27, Lori Bell had one of her long standing gigs at the La Jolla Community Center with Mike Garson, piano, and Ron Satterfield, guitar and vocals. Amiable and buoyant, Lorie established good rapport with the packed audience. She's the kind of person you wish you had for a classmate when you were going to school. The music was excellent with stellar performances from Ron Satterfield, a major talent, and Mike Garson, former pianist with David Bowie. That being said this review will be packed with anecdotes like the time Lorie gave piano lessons to my granddaughter, Monique. She was so good with her and a wonderful teacher.
Lorie has a new CD out, Brooklyn Dreaming, which has gotten rave reviews. Brian Zimmerman, writing in downbeat gave the album 4 stars and said this:
West Coast flutist Lori Bell has been quietly amassing acclaim as a composer and improviser for the past three decades. Daughter of a bandleader father and an accordion-playing mother, she grew up in a music-filled household in Brooklyn. As a youngster, she would take the train to Manhattan to hear jazz in the tiny clubs of Greenwich Village. On Brooklyn Dreaming, her ninth album, Bell returns to her Big Apple roots for a nine-track program featuring six bold originals and three New York-centric interpretations. Bell’s playing is lithe and energetic, her lines unspooling with ease.
It cannot be stated too strongly what a great pianist Tamir Hendelman is and how much he contributes to the album. He swings hard, more so than most contemporary jazz pianists these days, reminiscent of Oscar Peterson. The album creates a unified mood, a reflection of the locale Lori inhabited growing up. Lori's compositions evoke Brooklyn as she knew it long ago. The tributes on her website testify to the excellence of the album and Lori's playing and composing.
The pianist for Lori's gig at the La Jolla Community Center was Mike Garson who has a connection with Brooklyn as well having studied at Brooklyn College. He is best known for his association with the late David Bowie with whom he performed for 25 years and whose presence was felt and alluded to many times throughout the concert. He made his mark on numerous Bowie albums and has traveled thousands of miles on Bowie tours. As a pre-med student Mike was interested in the power of music to heal.
From his website:
Mike premiered his commissioned work, "Symphonic Healing Suite" on March 1, 2014 at the Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California. Written in collaboration with patients with various disorders and ailments, this work is a set of movements of original music compositions. The follow-up concert, Music Heals II, in conjunction with the Foundation for Neuroscience, Stroke and Recovery, took place on November 2, 2014.
Ron Satterfield has played with Lori for years. There's not too much biographical information about Ron online, but, suffice it to say, he played up a storm last Friday night especially on a tune Lori wrote for Mike, Avant Garson, on which the interplay between Garson and Satterfield was fantastic.
Lori's playing throughout the evening tied the whole group, which could have easily flown off in different directions, together. Her beautiful tone and fluid scalar lines and emphasis on melodicism makes her music especially accessible to audiences for whom hard core, Charley Parkerish bebop jazz is not a way of life. Her style is characterized by fluid runs and trills rather than arpeggiated chord changes. You can tell she has listened to flute master Hubert Laws.
They started off with a rubato introduction to Stella by Starlight before kicking into the groove. That was followed by Joe Henderson's Inner Urge. As one of the anecdotes I referred to earlier, I almost presented Joe at a concert for the San Diego Jazz Society. Our Board member, Ann Williams, who knew all the jazz greats, was supposed to contact him, and offer what our constrained budget was capable of. Instead she offered him $1500. more, figuring he was worth it, and putting the balance of the tab on her own credit card. Well, Ann was not a rich person and we felt she shouldn't have done that so I had to write Joe a letter canceling the whole event. Such are the experiences and lessons of life.
Joe's composition was followed by Ron singing a David Bowie tune, Wild is the Wind. "Love me, love me, say you do. Let me fly away with you." The emotional urgency and consummate musicianship Ron put out there the entire evening was overwhelming at times. The crowd ate it up.
Next came Freddie Hubbard's Up Jumped Spring. Freddie was, after Clifford Brown, my favorite trumpet player. He was a veritable gladiator of the trumpet; he was fearless. He tried for anything and everything like a high wire artist and usually made it. That made it even more of a heart break when I saw him at the now defunct club Anthology in Little Italy on his 70th birthday tour. Freddie could hardly play at all. In place of the power and elan there was only the inability to get the meagerest air flow through his horn. I thought to myself, "He must have had a stroke."
That made it a little frustrating when Lori engaged Mike, who had played with Freddie, in repartee which was inaudible. I wished Mike had been on mike, because I'm very curious about Freddie's life and what happened to him. Anecdotally again, Freddie stuck John Rubino, proprietor of the Bella Villa jazz club in Cardiff, many years ago with a $3000 bill for cocaine. Freddie himself said his later misfortunes were caused by "partying too much with the rock crowd". Freddie's son, Duane Frederick Hubbard is keeping Freddie's legacy alive on the website. I wish someone would write a biography though. He suffered a heart attack in late November 2008 in Sherman Oaks, California, and died a few weeks later, on December 29, at the age of 70.
From Lorie's website:
In December 2011 Lori received a Global Music Award, the Award of Excellence for her depth of playing, composing and arranging for the "Lori Bell" CD (Beezwax Records). In April 2014 Lori won a second Global Music Award, the Gold Medal Award for her composition "Une Chanson Pour Claude" on the CD "Night Soliloquy" (Azica Records). In March 2016 The GMA's honored a third award for Outstanding Achievement for her 9th studio CD "Brooklyn Dreaming" for album and composition.
They did Miles Davis' All Blues for an encore leaving the crowd wanting more. One more anecdote... Some years ago I presented Lori at the San Diego Library and in the advanced notices I made up a name for her group, - the "ergonomic gastronomers." Lorie didn't get offended and took it all in stride. Thank you Lori for bringing us great music and being your good-natured, happy-go-lucky self.