Creating the ultimate “house party” vibe for L.A. based jazz fans, Betty Hoover began opening her uniquely constructed Hollywood Hills home to musical events in June 2001, and it has since become a regular Sunday afternoon hang for fans of some of Southern California’s top artists. With high white wooden ceilings (yes, shaped like an “A”), great acoustics and a grand piano in the center of a living room whose pane windows look out over the city, it’s a brightly lit but intimate room where conversations flow and friendships are made over a mutual passion for jazz and the artists performing it.
On the last Sunday in February, veteran San Diego flutist Lori Bell worked her swinging, melodic and improvisational magic with a quartet featuring her longtime musical partner, guitarist and vocalist Ron Satterfield, pianist Tamir Hendelman and drummer Dean Koba. Fashioned as a release party for the new duo Bell-Satterfield project blue (s), the two sets featured fresh, spontaneous renditions of gems from the album, including the lively “Bells Blues," highlighted by brisk flute and piano interaction, Satterfield’s trademark high range vocalese and Taba’s booming drum fills; the whimsical and, yes, fluttering note filled samba-esque “Blue Butterflies”; and playful re-imaginings of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” (featuring Bell’s percussive flute energy and Satterfield’s Brazilian-flavored vocalese) and Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk,” which they drove with a shuffling, easy rumbling groove. The ensemble also gave Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” a gentle folky treatment, with Bell’s graceful intro giving way to Satterfield’s dreamy, soulful vocals.
Beyond the blue (s), Bell and her quartet deftly tackled a few Duke Ellington classics (“I Let A Song Go Out My Heart,” “In A Sentimental Mood”); turned “God Bless the Child” into an exotic and brisk burst of global fusion, featuring vocals by Satterfield and explosive soloing by Bell, Satterfield and Hendelman; brought a jamming, whirlwind romance upon “Stolen Moments”; and took Gershwin (“They Can’t Take That Away from Me”) in a lushly sensual direction. Bell also paid homage to one of her mentors, famed pianist Dave Mackay, with an exuberant romp through his composition “Joyful.”
Saving perhaps the quirkiest and most fun-filled medley for last, the quartet embarked on a spry, jazzy journey down the yellow brick road with their “Wizard of Oz Medley.” After Bell and Hendelman gently introduced the motif of “Over the Rainbow” on flute and piano, Satterfield whipped up the winds with Bell, zipping quickly through “If I Only Had a Brain,” which gave way to “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” featuring Satterfield hamming it up on the vocals. The medley wrapped back where it started, sharing a few notes of the glory of “Over the Rainbow” for a true trip off to see (and hear) the swinging wizard.
An award winning flutist of admirable depth and broad musical sympathies whose recordings and live performances over the years have set new and exciting standards in contemporary jazz and classical music, Lori Bell is truly a wonder to behold. Hanging with her amazing quartet was the perfect, most exciting way jazz fans from near and far could spend a festive Sunday afternoon at the “A Frame.”