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Banging Out Bebop

Exuberant drummer's versatility strikes a chord with band.

March 12, 1998|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For some people, like alto saxophonist Lanny Morgan, jazz is their lifeblood. And while they probably make most of their living playing elsewhere (Morgan, for example, is singer Natalie Cole's principal reed soloist), if they could manage by just doing jazz, they would.

For others, such as drummer Kim Edmundson, jazz is simply an essential element in being a well-rounded musician. The 44-year-old, who attended Cal State Northridge from 1974-87, has performed symphonic works, plays in rock and fusion bands, and is a drum programmer and composer who has contributed parts of scores to such movies as "Dances With Wolves" and "A Few Good Men." He also leads the Kim Edmundson Bebop Band, which appears tonight at Monteleone's in Tarzana.

That group includes Morgan and another alto sax ace, Med Flory, who is the leader of Supersax, a band which plays orchestrated versions of the complex style of jazz called bebop.

How do jazz stalwarts like these two get along with a musician like the drummer, who has more catholic tastes? Just fine, as long as he's as energetic and creative as Edmundson, Morgan said.

"When I first heard Kim years ago, I saw immediately that he was a good swinging drummer who was capable of anything," Morgan said from his home in Van Nuys. "We've been playing in Kim's band for over six years, including a two-year stint at Jax, and he's gotten even better. He's an exuberant drummer."

Edmundson, in turn, said that working with the likes of Morgan and Flory, who have played with everyone from Woody Herman to Maynard Ferguson, inspires and instructs him.

"They're incredibly talented," Edmundson said. "When you're around people like that, it rubs off. It's really technically challenging, and it's like going to school when I play with them."

The drummer, who was a guitarist until he discovered as a late teen a natural affinity for the trap set, brings a lot to the table when he backs the altoists and the others in the band: pianist Tom Ranier and bassist Chris Colangelo.

Primarily, Edmundson has a deep feeling for jazz, born from hearing the Count Basie and Duke Ellington records his parents played as he was growing up in Palm Springs. It really came home to roost when, at age 17, he heard albums by jazz legends Miles Davis and Horace Silver.

"Boom, it grabbed me," Edmundson said from his home in Granada Hills. And it still does.

"There's an integrity to this music, a dignity and forcefulness. When you're playing behind someone like Lanny or Med, improvising and the tempo's fast and you're flying, there's nothing like it. I don't play bebop as much as I'd like."

At Monteleone's, the program will be a feast for those who love bebop classics, with such numbers as "Hot House," "Confirmation," "Groovin' High" and "Yardbird Suite."

* Kim Edmundson's Bebop Band plays tonight, 7 to 11 p.m., at Monteleone's, 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover; without dinner, $9.95 food/drink minimum. (818) 996-0662.

Quick Hits: John Pisano's Tuesday Guitar Series continues to be a high point on the schedule at Papashon in Encino (15910 Ventura Blvd., Encino; no cover, no minimum; [818] 783-6664). This Tuesday at 8 p.m. Pisano--whose latest album, "Conversation Pieces," features such other acclaimed artists as Lee Ritenour, Phil Upchurch and Joe DiOrio--pairs with former Police guitarist Andy Summers. On Saturday, from 7:30 to 11 p.m., Pisano joins his wife and singer, Jeanne, performing Brazilian tunes and pop standards as the Flying Pisanos. Their guest will be reed player Ray Pizzi.

The veteran big-band writer Tom Talbert celebrates the release of his new CD, "This Is Living!," with performances Tuesday, 8 and 10 p.m., at the Moonlight (13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; no cover, $25 minimum; [818] 788-2000). His appearance will spotlight many of L.A.'s best players, while the CD features such greats as trumpeter Joe Wilder.

Fusioneers will want to know that the fast-fingered Australian guitarist Frank Gambale--affectionately known as "The Thunder From Down Under," as one of his CD titles proclaims--will hold forth each Thursday in March at 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. at La Ve Lee (12514 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; $8, two-drink minimum; [818] 980-8158).

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