Byline: S. McKenzie/All Photos by Arun Nevader
It was a magical, unforgettable night of fusion and acoustic jazz on April 8, 2015, at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood. Celebrating the dual CD release for Kaylene Peoples and Bunny Brunel (My Man and Invent Your Future); together the two jazz musicians put on a show to let the world know their respective albums were available—but they also did a marvelous thing for the classical music community, and specifically that community’s newest charity called Bella Composers. The concert was also a benefit to raise money and awareness for this new outside-of-the-box organization, giving women the opportunity to not only shine as composers, but to earn a living at it, too.
The CD release featured a red carpet, which happened just prior to downbeat. The packed venue, which is an oddity for jazz on a Wednesday evening, made the atmosphere at the Catalina Bar and Grill even that much more exhilarating. Actor Chase Masterson, best known for her breakout role in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, emceed the event. Masterson introduced Grammy nominee bassist Bunny Brunel and the show got off to a great start.
The band played fusion in its finest form. Brunel started off with the song “The Slide” by Chick Corea. You could almost hear the crowd exhale as this mellow groove played; and the Front of House sound by Rich Mouser was stellar from the first bass note. The second piece was “Invent Your Future,” written by Bunny Brunel; and drummer Clayton Cameron came up on stage and skillfully showcased his signature “brushing” technique. Up next was “March Seventeenth,” also written by Brunel; the tune was thoughtful with a hypnotic groove, and Brunel played those famous bass harmonics for which he is known. “Continuum,” a song composed by Jaco Pastorius, took us on an introspective musical journey. Alas . . . Brunel’s interpretation of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” was very reminiscent of the Cobham 1973 number 1 Billboard jazz hit. Brunel recorded that song on his L.A. Zoo & L.A Zoo Revisited albums. At the closing, Brunel kicked things into high gear with Chick Corea’s “Night Streets,” demonstrating skillful, intricate playing for all musicians involved, including Kaylene Peoples on flute. The Latin-infused, high-energy tune was exciting, and the perfect ending to the fusion portion of the show.
“It is always a pleasure for me to watch Bunny Brunel in concert. He is a masterful player and definitely one of the best!” –Jeff Moore, Vice President of ESP Guitars
(Images in Order: 1. Bunny Brunel; 2. Patrice Rushen; 3. Tony MacAlpine; 4. Tom Brechtlein; 5. Doug Webb; 6. Monette Marino)
It was fun to watch the musicians in action on such an energized set. Doug Webb played both tenor and soprano saxophone; Drummer Tom Brechtlein drummed steadily, and with Bunny they led the groove together through several tempo changes. Other musicians in the lineup included Monette Marino on percussion, and Grammy nominee Tony MacAlpine on guitar. (MacAlpine is the co-founder and original member of Bunny Brunel’s fusion band CAB.) And last but definitely not least, Patrice Rushen wowed everybody with her inventive solos and her dexterity on the keyboards; tiny fingers—big player!
During the break, Kaylene Peoples spoke about Bella Composers. Peoples’s background on the topic of women composers answered many questions. “Did you know Mozart had a sister? Did you know she was a composer, too?” The topic of ghost writing was addressed, the lack of job opportunities for women in the field, backed up by an article from the New Yorker‘s April 29, 2013 issue; and the fact that several musical pieces written by women as early as the 8th century are documented in music research libraries, specifically Peoples’s own alma mater, UCLA. Kaylene Peoples acknowledged the audience for their support on this problem and thanked them for being part of the change.
“The organization will be launched with a composer’s competition in which five women are chosen to have their original music performed by a live orchestra in a performing arts center or traditional concert setting. One of the female composer’s works will be presented posthumously, resurrecting her composition for the world to hear. How does it all work? Composers submit scores; a panel of composers/orchestrators rank the top finalists; and the top five winning scores will be performed live by famed virtuosos at a top Los Angeles venue, kicking off what will become an annual event. There are no restrictions, just that you have to be born a woman.” –Quoted from the program at the benefit concert on April 8, 2015.
“Bella Composers is genius—a vibrant feminine voice in a male dominated landscape!” –Christina Willows, Owner of Reel Noble Entertainment
After the speech, the band came up on stage, but this time with a change in personnel: Guitarist Mark Hammond replaced Tony MacAlpine and Kaylene Peoples’s flute replaced the saxes. The first song was Dave Brubeck’s and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five,” redirecting us away from fusion, and moving us into classic/straight-ahead acoustic jazz. Following Mark Hammond’s and Patrice Rushen’s outstanding solos, Tom Brechtlein finished with his very fluid and colorful drum solo; and the vocals on “Take Five” reminded me of Al Jarreau’s version back in the 1970s, I tried to sing along, “. . . won’t you take a little time out for me, just take five, just take five.” With a sultry, hauntingly beautiful style, Peoples sang with profound emotion Irvin Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean,” holding her audience captive with every nuanced phrase. Chick Corea’s “Spain” had a lot of complex intervals and challenging melodies performed in an allegro. (It’s very challenging to sing this song in tune in the right tempo—many have tried, most have failed!) “Spain” featured exciting, fast-paced solos by Bunny Brunel (this time on his upright bass), Mark Hammond on guitar, and Patrice Rushen on the grand piano. Then Kaylene slowed down our pulses with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” What an an emotional piece; it featured Peoples’s sultry voice and her vibey flute . . . I was awe-struck. Kaylene brought up on stage her dear friend and coloratura Forté Carter. The two sang together “Lullaby of Birdland.” It was a delightful, fun song delivered beautifully with their juxtaposed vocal styles. Carter’s high angelic voice and Peoples’s low, smokey alto made this piece quite memorable. My all-time favorite “Girl from Ipanema” showcased Kaylene Peoples taste for variety as she sang in English, played the flute, and then switched to Portuguese. At the close of the concert, guest Gordon Tillett, Jr. came up on stage as Peoples serenaded him with “My Funny Valentine.”
(Images in Order: 1. Kaylene Peoples; 2. Mark Hammond; 3. Forté Carter with Kaylene; 4. Bunny Brunel; 5. Kaylene Peoples; 6. Godon Tillett, Jr. and Kaylene)
“Kaylene Peoples plays the flute with such incredible style—and in my opinion style trumps everything any day of the week!” – Ben Brooks, Independent Record Promoter who attended the concert.
“Kaylene Peoples’s performance was show-stopping—truly extraordinary. her voice ranges from sultry and intimate to powerful, gutsy, and is empowering to hear. Equally captivating is her musicianship, as a flutist, an arranger, and a composer . . . AND HEAR HER LIVE to fully grasp the range of her talent—Kaylene Peoples has it all!” – Chase Masterson, Actor
Special guests that evening included drummer Clayton Cameron, recording artist Matthew “M-Dot” Finley, and Jeff Moore of ESP Guitars; Sponsors for the event were SIR Studios, The Mouse House Studio, Spacefather.com, Victor Alfaro Productions, Boogsey Music, Nikaia Records, Agenda magazine, and Arun Nevader. Table Sponsors: Danny White Maintenance Service (www.dwmsinc.com); Viewpark Auto (e: email@example.com); A Comfort Limousine (A_comfort_limo@yahoo.com); Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken (www.honeykettle.com); and Lois Thornburg and Mick Linden
Visit www.bellacomposers.org to learn more about this exciting charity. Bunny Brunel’s CD Invent Your Future is available everywhere online. Visit him at www.bunnybrunel.com, and follow him on Twitter.
To learn more about Kaylene Peoples My Man, visit Kaylene’s website: boogseymusic twitter, Facebook, and CDbaby.com. All proceeds from the sale of Kaylene Peoples My Man go to benefit Bella Composers (bellacomposers.org).
(All Photos by Arun Nevader)