Carl Saunders Quartet @ Soho Santa Barbara Review 6.16.19

Carl Saunders Quartet June 2019

by Natalie Wilson

Well, it was definitely the Carl Saunders show last Sunday. He showed us that after being around for many years, he is still at the top of his game. There is no one that plays the trumpet better or has the same sound. And he brought some great players along to help get his jazz message across. Opening with the Johnny Mercer tune, I Thought About You, we were introduced to the young, phenomenal pianist, Sam Hirsh who continued to wow us with his solos all afternoon. While playing a blues tune, Carl did his show biz thing and took over the bass, the drums, and then the piano, playing some far out altered cords. And that’s not all, he sang belting out an original, You’re So Cute…complete with scatting! At one point, Carl asked for requests and the audience suggested a couple of standards and the band obliged with I Can’t Get Startedand a rip roaring, Night In Tunisia. On all the tunes, Carl left room for his excellent sidemen, Sam on the piano, bassist Dave Stone and drummer Kevin Kanner to stretch out and solo. It looked like the musicians were really enjoying to play for our appreciative audience. It was such a pleasure to hear such fine musicians play our timeless jazz standards.

Dee Dee McNeil's Review of Sam Hirsh Trio show at the Lighthouse 1.27.18


February 1, 2018 


By jazz journalist/Dee Dee McNeil

January 27, 2018 – Live Jazz Review

Much to my delight, Sam Hirsh and his swinging trio were on stage when I walked into the club. I caught the last of their first set. On their second set, they began with the spirited Horace Silver tune entitled “St. Vitus Dance” from his “Blowin’ the Blues Away” album. Hirsh handled Silver’s composition skillfully, fingers flying across the electric keyboard, while Alex Boneham on bass and drummer, Kevin Kanner held the uptempo number in place like a vice. The next tune was an original composition by Hirsh. It shuffled into the room and grooved the audience as waitresses served scrambled eggs with spinach and fried potatoes or bar-b-que chicken pizza’s to the hungry patrons. A strong bassline began the third tune titled, “Minor Rundown,” a Benny Golson tune written for Paul Chambers. This was followed by Tadd Dameron’s composition, “Our Delight,“ was played at a maddening pace. The trio solos raced around the room, in a straight-ahead-jazz kind of way and Kevin Kanner on drums took the liberty of showing off his chops on this one. “Sunset Tides” settled the room down as a lovely ballad and let us appreciate Sam Hirsh’s mastery of the piano keys. It was one of his original tunes. “Who to Choose” featured a BeBop arrangement and gave Alex Boneham an opportunity to show his harmonics on the upright bass, using a technique of playing a 2-string solo that was enchanting. This was followed by a jazz waltz tune “Satya” (Sam’s sister’s middle name) and the set closed with a swinging tune titled, “No C,“ that be-bopped us out the door. Sam wrote this original tune because everybody always tries to add a C to his name and it’s spelled with no C. Judging by the strong applause, a good time was had by all. 

On Wednesday, February 7th , Sam Hirsh joins the L.A. Jazz Machine group that is comprised of Henry Franklin, bass, Benn Clatworthy, saxophone, and Yayo Morales, drummer at the famous Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach from 6pm to 9pm. It’s their CD release party. No Cover Charge. Be there!

Bolivia Trip Part 1: Sept 7-9 2017 "Into the Hurricane"

"You didn't check anything?" Benn asks me as I arrive to the gate. I never check anything, ever since one time, I got my bags back covered in soy sauce. I don't trust it... We were off to la Paz, Bolivia to play the jazz festival there, and I couldn't be more excited. This would be my first trip out of the states to play real jazz, and to do it with some of my best friends? What a gas. 

First stop, Miami. All American Airlines flights to South America go through Miami international. This flight was particularly empty as hurricane Irma was due to hit Florida on Saturday. Our original flight was for Saturday, but we moved it to Thursday to avoid all of the potential disaster. I remember the clouds looking so beautiful over the sea. 


As we get closer to Miami, night falls and I can see a little thunderstorm off in the distance. Ooo, the storm is brewing. I love feeling that energy, always have. We touch down and turn off airplane mode to find that our flight to Bolivia has just been cancelled... why?? The hurricane isn't here yet. Our best guess was that there just wasn't enough people boarding the flight to make it worth while for them, and that they would have to leave the plane in Bolivia to wait out the hurricane. At any rate, who cares? We were stuck in Miami, fu*k American Airlines!

 We didn't realize how bad the situation was until we got off the plane and saw that the entire airport was in complete chaos. Thousands of people stranded just like us. Frustration and fear were in the air. Henry and I were joking that our better halves told us not to go on this trip.. and we should have listened- Woman always know best. We had just flown 3,000 miles straight into what in a few days would be the eye of the hurricane. What were we going to do? Officials were giving us options. Option A: get a hotel around here and wait it out. (No...) Option B: stay in the airport over night and tomorrow at 4pm, the airport will close and police will escort everyone to a shelter to wait out the storm for x amount of days (Hell no!!...) 

I had Sophie and my family on group text and they were freaking out! Simon, Sophies younger brother had texted me saying his girl friend Helene just moved to Atlanta and would be happy to house us for the weekend. Forget Bolivia, let's just go north- to Atlanta! Amtrak was all booked up, greyhound was all booked up. We were told that there were no rental cars available. Really? Let's double check that... and good thing we did. Hertz had a whole lot of cars ready to go. The deal was they were to be returned to that location. That's why no one was taking them. We took it. Our little Nissan four door sedan. I went and got the car while Henry, Benn and Yayo went searching for their suitcases in a sea of luggage. After about an hour of searching, American Airlines said they wouldn't release luggage at that time. What?!? The cats had no choice but to leave the airport without their bags! Benn had his flute and clarinet in there (luckily he was carrying his tenor), Henry had his blood pressure pills in there. This was a drag! I was the only one with all my shit. It was already 1am at this time. 663.8 miles up I-75, my phone said it'd take roughly ten hours. The governor said the state of Florida was running out of gas, luckily we stared with a full tank. I was the first to drive, 5 hours straight through the night. Every gas station had a line you wouldn't believe. We found a gas station a little off the beaten path that didn't have too long of a line. Yayo took over just before sunrise for about 5 hours.  


The traffic didn't start until Benn took over the driving, around 11am. The entire state of Florida was told to evacuate, and this was the only road going north. We were in bumper to bumper traffic all the way through. Everyone had all of their belongings in the car with them. Going south on the other side were only service vehicles, ambulance, fire trucks. It was the apocalypse. It ended up being another 10 hours to Atlanta, over 20 hours of driving total. We stopped at various convenient stores, meeting  people along the way, people fleeing for their safety. We started to plot different ways we could get to Bolivia or if we should scratch it and have the embassy buy us tickets back to LA. As Benn drove, Yayo was in the back seat next to me doing everything he could do to rebook tickets out of Atlanta to Bolivia. Speaking Spanish with Walter, the coordinator of the jazz festival, we were able to confirm that the embassy would book us whole new tickets from Atlanta early the next morning to Bolivia via Cartagena, Columbia and Lima, Peru. We couldn't believe it! We were going to make it after all! Henry had a prescription filled at a Walgreens in a suburb of Atlanta and Benn found the last box of vandoren saxophone reeds at a local music store. We got to Helene's house around 9:30pm and it felt so good! We got pizzas, had a shower, washed our clothes (keep in mind the guys only had what they were wearing). Thank you Helene for taking us in, the trip wouldn't have been possible without her. Two whole days of travel, and the trip hadn't even started yet!! 


New Recording: "Conversation" Duo with Saxophonist Benn Clatworthy

Benn and I have been playing together for just under a year. We were introduced to each other by bassist Henry Franklin. We had quite fun playing duo together that he decided to cut an album at Nolan Shaheed's studio in South Pasadena. The idea with this project was to play with the time and really stretch and have musical conversations. For a copy of the CD, please personal message me in the Contact tab of this website and i will send it to you. they sell 1 for $10 or 2 for $15. Hope you enjoy!

"La Fiesta" Big Band Album Review

For the past 3 years, I've had the pleasure of rehearsing almost every Tuesday morning at Local 47 with the Mike Barone Big Band. Mike's a brilliant composer and arranger who wrote for the Tonight Show for 30 years. His band includes some of the finest cats in town, who I feel lucky to share the room with. Anyway, we just recorded an album entitled "La Fiesta". Below is a link to a review that came out recently.

Come hear the band play the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach on Sunday October 4th. If you like big band early in the morning, you can also come to any of the rehearsals at the Musicians Union Local 47 in Hollywood from 10am-12:30pm!