Category: Elton John

Elton John fetes crowd at Ron Burkle's estate in support of Prop. 8 court challenge

Lel29nnc From the diamond boulder glittering in his right ear to the broad grin spreading across his face as he took the stage, it appeared that Elton John wanted for nothing.

"As a gay man, I think I have it all," the singer told the intimate crowd of several hundred gathered to hear him play in a lawn tent on a sprawling Beverly Hills estate Wednesday night. "I have a wonderful career, a wonderful life. I have my health, I have a partner of 17 years, and now I have a son. But I don't have everything, because I don't have the respect of people like the church or politicians who tell me that I'm not worthy, that I'm lesser because I'm gay. Well, [forget] you!"

John, whose son with partner David Furnish was born via a surrogate on Christmas Day, played for more than 90 minutes at the event, a fundraiser for efforts to overturn Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage.

In a dynamic, 14-song set peppered with fiery and introspective remarks, he rolled through older hits such as "Rocket Man," "Bennie and the Jets" and a boogie-woogie-inflected "Levon," as well as more recent compositions such as "When Love is Dying" and "You’re Never Too Old" from his 2010 album with Leon Russell, "The Union."

Many in the celebrity-larded audience sang along with John's hits, including, in a life-imitates-art moment, Matthew Morrison of "Glee." Other noteworthy attendees included Jane Lynch, Adam Lambert, Marisa Tomei, Rob Reiner, Jason Mraz, J.J. Abrams, David Geffen and "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. 

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Leon Russell on Elton John, crystal radio sets, and playing piano for Phil Spector

Elton-Leon smiling 2010 
When Leon Russell was in the midst of what possibly was the busiest period in his life, he was often referred to by the musicians he worked with as “the master of space and time” for his otherworldly ability to fit into any musical situation.

The Oklahoma pianist, singer, songwriter and producer tapped a wellspring of American roots music forms, from country and gospel to blues and soul, during his assignments as a studio session player in Los Angeles who worked with Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and countless others in the '60s. Later that decade, before launching his solo career, he became the leader of bands assembled by Southern rock musicians Delaney & Bonnie (Bramlett), and English rocker Joe Cocker.

“He was the greatest bandleader of the late-'60s and early-'70s,” longtime admirer Elton John said recently.  “At [George Harrison’s] Concert for Bangladesh, on [Cocker’s] Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, he was the man. He walks into a room of musicians [today], sits down at the piano and he still is the bandleader; he still is the man.”

Where did that musical expertise come from? 

“I started playing in nightclubs when I was about 14 in Oklahoma,” Russell, 68, told me recently during a conversation about his forthcoming album with John, “The Union,” which was produced by T Bone Burnett and is the subject of a profile of John and Russell in Sunday's Arts & Books section. “At that time I made a crystal radio set, and oddly enough, with a crystal radio you can only get one station.

“So after I would get off my job at 1 or 2 in the morning, I’d get home and put on the crystal set with the headphones and just listen,” he said. “The station it got was a blues and gospel station, so I heard a lot of that music. That was a simple twist of fate.”

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Buffalo Springfield to reunite for Neil Young's 24th Bridge School benefit

Buffalo Springfield press shot

Neil Young will reunite with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay for a pair of performances as Buffalo Springfield for Young’s annual Bridge School benefit concerts in Northern California, with lineups that also include Pearl Jam, Elton John and Leon Russell, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams and several other acts.

The reunion of the influential country-rock band born in 1966 in Los Angeles will feature Young, Stills and Furay as an acoustic trio, given the Bridge School’s history of unplugged performances by all participants. The group's other two original members, bassist Bruce Palmer and drummer Dewey Martin, died in 2004 and 2009, respectively.

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John Jorgenson brings Django Reinhardt-inspired Gypsy jazz back to SoCal

John Jorgenson

In the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gypsy jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt, Southland fans will have reason to celebrate with several Southland appearances later this week by contemporary Reinhardt devotee John Jorgenson.

The guitarist-mandolinist-clarinetist brings his jazz quintet for a show that's part of the 16th annual Culver City Music Festival on Thursday night outside City Hall, then Saturday for an indoor set at Boulevard Music, the city’s answer to McCabe’s in Santa Monica, for intimate folk, jazz, blues and other concerts. In between, he’s heading to his hometown of Redlands, Calif., for a tour stop on Friday, and Sunday afternoon he’ll also be at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena.

Five years ago, Jorgenson became the first American musician to headline the annual Reinhardt festival in Samois sur Seine, France, the town where the guitar great lived until his death in 1953. He also portrayed Reinhardt in the 2004 film “Head In the Clouds.”

Jorgenson released a pair of Reinhardt-inspired albums earlier this year, the quintet-focused “One Stolen Night,” and the more expansive “Istiqbal Gathering” with compositions for guitar and orchestra that he recorded with backing by Orchestra Nashville, the town where Jorgenson makes his home when he’s not on the road.

Now he writes and performs Reinhardt-style originals along with vintage Reinhardt classics such as “Minor Swing.”

Jorgenson also has been on the road this summer in one of his many other guises -- as lead guitarist for the country-rock Desert Rose Band led by ex-Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers founding member Chris Hillman.

After starting a brief reunion tour in May at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, the group that also includes steel guitarist Jay Dee Maness, guitarist-singer Herb Pedersen, bassist Bill Bryson and drummer Steve Duncan has continued revisiting its hits from the 1980s and ‘90s, most recently with shows in Nashville, where the likes of Emmylou Harris and Brad Paisley joined them onstage.

“In this last little batch of shows,” Jorgenson told me during a rare day off at home, “I don’t know what it was, but something magical happened. It raised things to this other level, and that really kind of surprised me. …The [booking] agents were pretty fired up from the Nashville shows. I think I speak for everybody in the group in saying we were pretty happy with these shows, and we enjoyed it so much I think we’ll probably do some more next year.”

Jorgenson cut his musical teeth in Southern California, playing in three different groups at Disneyland, and in bands he’d formed on his own including Cheating Hearts, which more or less morphed into the Desert Rose Band when Hillman came calling in 1985. After about half a dozen years in that group, Jorgenson was drafted by Elton John for his touring band, where he spent much of the next seven years.

This summer he also received an invitation to play for U.S. troops in Iraq as part of an ad hoc classic-rock group that also contained members of the ‘70s New York pop-rock band Orleans.

As for his L.A.-area stops this week, Jorgenson said, “The shows in Culver City have become kind of a tradition. It’s such a pleasant evening, nice place to play. You wouldn’t think of being in front of a City Hall as a great place to play, but the sound bounces around off the building and it sounds kind of big. They get a lot of community people showing up, and it’s actually a show I really look forward to doing every year.”

-- Randy Lewis 

Photo: John Jorgenson at Boulevard Music in Culver City earlier this year. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times

First listen: Elton John, Leon Russell and T Bone Burnett unveil 'The Union' in Santa Monica

Elton John has always been passionate about his musical taste, always ready to throw his support behind new acts that capture his imagination, whether it’s the Scissor Sisters or Lady Gaga.

But in recent years he’s also been on a special mission to turn the spotlight on veteran artists who never got the attention he and other pop stars received, a key reason he dreamed up the Sundance Channel music interview and performance series “Spectacle,” and persuaded his friend Elvis Costello to take on the job as host.

That mission is front and center with “The Union,” his forthcoming duet album with fellow piano-pounding rocker Leon Russell, to whom John doffed his cap during the first episode of “Spectacle.”

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Live review: Elton John and Billy Joel

Saturday night’s alright for the piano men, who gave fans a three-hour show full of hits.


Partnerships between pop superstars usually deliver less than the sum of their talents. Nostalgia isn't always enough, but a surprising collaboration between Elton John and Billy Joel, who play nothing more than their best-known hits from the '70s and '80s, has been going strong since 1995.

That was enough to land the singer-pianists in front of a full house at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Saturday as part of their latest "Face 2 Face" tour. If either of the headliners had any new material, it remained a secret during three full hours of music, including a short opening from the two and two separate sets followed by a big finish of Joel and John together.

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