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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

You review: Tony Bennett

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I’ve mentioned before how difficult an endeavor it is to book the two weeks of entertainment for the Big Fresno Fair.

It should be applauded for the job. This year for instance, the fair managed a strong draw for its second weekend with KONGOS (by all accounts a young band making moves), REO Speedwagon (the definition of “classic” rock) and La Ley (arguable one of the tops in the rock en Espanol scene).

It also scored a humdinger of a closing-night show with jazz crooner Tony Bennett.

At 88-years old, Bennett is still at the top of his game. Earlier this month he released a duets album with none other than Lady Gaga and earned the distinction (for the second time) of being the oldest performer to have a No. 1 album on the Billboard chart.

Bennett played last night at the Paul Paul Theater and and was every bit the entertainer he was 20, heck even 40 years ago. At least according to our friend (and Fresno Film Commissioner) Ray Arthur, who sent along this review:

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Win tickets to Eva Scow’s Brazilian Nights at Arte Americas Nights in the Plaza

nightsFresno’s summer days can be brutal. But our nights … our nights are so very lovely.

Which is why Arte Americas hosts a series of Friday-night concerts in it outdoor pavilion each summer. The Nights in the Plaza series features local and regional bands playing Latin lazz and mariachi, Brazilian, Son Jarocho and rockabilly.

We’ll be giving away passes each week (except Sept. 26) for the rest of the series’ run, which has just two weeks left. The countdown begins this week with Brazilian Nights, a special showcase curated by Eva Scow and featuring her band Espacio and San Francisco vocalist Sarah Cabral.

To enter to win passes to see the band, leave a comment in this post. Tell us your favorite way to spend a warm summer’s night in the Valley. The contest runs through noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up the passes at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours. Passes are good for any concert night, but do not guarantee entry, so early arrival is suggested.

We’ll have a new contest up every Monday so keep checking back. Complete performer schedule and contest rules on the jump.

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Win tickets to The Experience at Arte Americas Nights in The Plaza

nightsFresno’s summer days can be brutal. But our nights … our nights are so very lovely.

Which is why Arte Americas hosts a series of Friday-night concerts in it outdoor pavilion each summer. The Nights in the Plaza series features local and regional bands playing Latin lazz and mariachi, Brazilian, Son Jarocho and rockabilly.

We’ll be giving away passes each week (except July 25 and Sept. 26) for the rest of the series’ run. This week’s concert features Fresno all-star jazz group The Experience. To enter to win, leave a comment in this post. Tell us your favorite way to spend a warm summer’s night in the Valley. The contest runs through noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up the passes at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours. Passes are good for any concert night, but do not guarantee entry, so early arrival is suggested.

We’ll have a new contest up every Monday so keep checking back. Complete performer schedule and contest rules on the jump.

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Win tickets to: Trio Ellas at the Arte Americas summer concert series

nightsFresno’s summer days can be brutal. But our nights … our nights are so very lovely.

Which is why Arte Americas hosts a series of Friday-night concerts in it outdoor pavilion each summer. The Nights in the Plaza series features local and regional bands playing Latin lazz and mariachi, Brazilian, Son Jarocho and rockabilly.

We’ll be giving away passes each week (except July 4, 25 and Sept. 26) for the rest of the series’ run. This week’s concert features the Fresno return of the Latin Grammy-nominated group Trio Ellas. To enter to win, leave a comment in this post. Tell us your favorite way to spend a warm summer’s night in the Valley. The contest runs through noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up the passes at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours. Passes are good for any concert night, but do not guarantee entry, so early arrival is suggested.

We’ll have a new contest up every Monday so keep checking back. Complete performer schedule and contest rules on the jump.

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Win tickets to: Arte Americas summer concert series

nightsFresno’s summer days can be brutal. But our nights … our nights are so very lovely.
Which is why Arte Americas hosts a series of Friday-night concerts in it outdoor pavilion each summer. The Nights in the Plaza series features local and regional bands playing Latin lazz and mariachi, Brazilian, Son Jarocho and rockabilly.

We’ll be giving away passes each week (except July 4, 25 and Sept. 26) for the rest of the series’ run. This week’s concert features Steve Alcala’s “little big band,” Rumba 32. To enter to win, leave a comment in this post. Tell us your favorite way to spend a warm summer’s night in the Valley. The contest runs through noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up the passes at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours. Passes are good for any concert night, but do not guarantee entry, so early arrival is suggested.

We’ll have a new contest up every Monday so keep checking back. Complete performer schedule and contest rules on the jump.

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Karen Marguth lands on the Grammy ballot

karen_boothFresno jazz vocalist Karen Marguth has landed on the Grammy ballot.

According to a release from JazzFresno, Marguth’s latest album “A Way With Words,” is listed on the initial ballot for this year’s best Jazz Vocals category. It’s not an official nomination– those will be announced after the voting members of the National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences submit their final choices — but it puts her in the running and is an honor in itself.

It’s also a good advertisement for the city. Marguth, a Bay-Area native, is a fixture in Fresno’s jazz scene. The album was produced here (at Maximus Media) and features a number of local players (Eva Scow, Mike Taylor, Pat Olvera, Nathan Guzman, Kevin Hill, Robert Ruffner, Jeff LaRose, Nate Ketner, Ray Moore and Gilbert Castellanos).

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Tonight: Jazz Hop

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Tonight is Jazz Hop, FYI. I sometimes don’t give it the attention it deserves. So, here’s a quick rundown of where to go tonight.

Tonight: Chris Botti plays Visalia’s Fox Theatre

Live in Boston / Photo Credit: LeAnn Mueller

Live in Boston / Photo Credit: LeAnn Mueller

Chris Botti yearns for that ultimate performance.
Even after 10 years of touring (at close to 300 days a year), the Grammy-winner trumpet player will do a show, then spend the next day in his head figuring out how to make it better.

“I’m obsessed about it. I sweat the small stuff,” says Botti, who plays tomorrow night at Visalia’s Fox Theatre. The show is part of a 10-day stretch of West Coast dates for Botti and his band before they leave for China in September.

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Donald’s mailbag: Why no love for Fresno State jazz?

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I received a thoughtful note from Brigid de Jong, a Fresno State music professor:

Thank you for the fine article about our local players participating in the Fresno Phil’s pops concert on Saturday. Jazz is alive and well in Fresno.

I was disappointed, however, that you didn’t mention the connection that exists between Fresno City College and Fresno State. The fine teaching that the students receive at FCC can segue into a degree with a jazz emphasis at Fresno State, headed by Alan Durst (whose name you did mention, but perhaps you didn’t know he developed and runs our instrumental jazz major.)

Since you made a point of acknowledging the strong jazz program at FCC, I think it would have been good to point out that our local students can continue that fine beginning by earning a BA in music with an emphasis in instrumental jazz. As it is a relatively new option, this would have been a great opportunity to inform the community about it.

Thank you for your extremely thorough and thoughtful coverage of the arts in our area. You do the community a great service by constantly showing the people here that the arts are alive and well in the Fresno community.

My response is after the jump.

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ROGUE REVIEW: Benjamin Boone Quartet

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The live jazz of saxophonist Benjamin Boone and his quartet is a fixture at the Rogue Festival. It’s popular. It’s celebrated. And all with good reason.

This band is slick.

Boone and Co. — Nye Morton on bass, David Aus on keyboards and Grammy winner Steve Mitchell on drums — manage to turn the Severence Theatre into a cool jazz club. They hop up on the stage (many Rogue shows there are on the floor), set up some tables and bring a bopping vibe to the room. All that’s missing is smoke and a cocktail waitress.

While the faces are familiar, the band creates a new show each year with new compositions. One is new as a few days ago. One is an ode to Aus’ dog. One is inspired by passed-away Tower District icon Hippie Dave. Boone calls it “weird.” I’ll call it exciting.

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To-Do Tonight: All that jazz

Tokyo Garden has a cool-sounding jazz show lined up tonight. The Kandinsky Effect — a Paris-based trio — is set to play its post-modern style of jazz. That’s a fancy way of saying the group blends jazz with rock, electronica, hip-hop and other experimental sounds.

The Kandinsky Effect played Angel City Jazz Festival in L.A. over the weekend and played Yoshi’s in San Francisco on Tuesday night. Sounds like a nice treat for Tokyo Garden and Fresno jazz fans.

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To-Do Tonight: Kurt Elling serenades Fresno

Acclaimed jazz vocalist Kurt Elling — considered the “standout male vocalist of our time” per the New York Times — is at Tower Theatre tonight. Jazz fans already know this, but if you’re just looking to see a top-notch concert tonight and you’ve got $40-$50 to drop on tickets, Elling is supposed to be great live.

Here’s the EPK for his most recent album, “The Gate,” on which he collaborated with legendary producer Don Was (he works with the Rolling Stones). It’ll give you a good idea what Elling’s all about and how golden his voice is. There’s a live performance video below.

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To-Do Tonight: Jazz + Sunlight + Swarm

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A treat for jazz lovers tonight, as the One O’Clock Lab Jazz Band performs a rare West Coast concert at Fresno City College’s theater. The band, made up of students from the University of North Texas, has been around since 1947.

The group was nominated for two Grammys over the weekend, but didn’t win in either best large jazz ensemble album category or best instrumental composition. For more, read this piece from The Bee last week.

ELSEWHERE
Starline is dark tonight, but get your Indie Tuesday fix at Audie’s Olympic where Seattle’s By Sunlight is playing a FREE show.

Also, don’t forget our first Swarm event is today at The Brig, right after work at 5:30 p.m.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Remember to wear your raincoat …

1. PICK PICKFORD
Jazz lovers, head down to Club One Casino tonight to see saxophonist Loren Pickford. It’s nice to see Pickford, considered a Fresno music icon by many, back in town. He’s a Fresno native, who spent many years in New Orleans, then set up shop in Kansas City after Hurricane Katrina. Pickford was nominated for a Grammy in 1991, making him one of the few Fresno musicians to get that honor. It’s also nice to see Club One Casino doing more concerts. It was a great venue at the re:FUSE Festival. More details here.

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To-Do Tonight … and the week ahead

Happy Monday everybody — ’tis the start of another busy week of Fresno happenings. We start tonight with an unusually busy Monday night. There’s NYC band Golden Ghost stopping at Veni Vidi Vici tonight, Jersey hardcore band Mongoloids at CYC and Jazz Composers Orchestra, a concert of local jazz educators, at Roger Rocka’s.

After that, you can see a full rundown of happenings for the week ahead — including who’s playing Indie Tuesday at Starline, how The Standard is getting naughty on Wednesday and what radio station is taking over Palomino’s on Thursday nights.

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To-Do Tonight … and the week ahead

Jazz lovers, tonight you have a chance to see New York City’s The Claudia Quintet, a contemporary jazz group playing at the very nice Shaghoian Concert Hall. Says Downbeat: “The Claudia Quintet creates a fresh, distinctive sound while it obliterates barriers between jazz, classical and progressive rock.”

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Elsewhere, if you’re a house music fan — or just like to Wax On and Wax Off — head over to Audie’s Olympic this fine evening for a shindig with these fine local DJs:

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