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 Wednesday, 25 November 2015
LA Beat: Henry “Skipper” Franklin and Crew at Crowne Plaza LAX PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   
Thursday, 08 December 2011

Henry Franklin Quintet( R.: Henry Franklin, Ramon Banda, Chuck Manning and Theo Saunders) ©Glenn A. Mitchell

Longtime jazz bassist Henry “Skipper” Franklin brought his crew, a highly organized quintet, to Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel, November 10th.  His group of all-star performers includes Chuck Manning (tenor sax), Nolan Shaheed (trumpet), Theo Saunders (piano), and Ramon Banda (drums).  Franklin always has a large following of jazz fans and tonight was no exception, as the room was filled to capacity.

Jazz hostess Merle Kreibich introduced the players and announced that Crowne Plaza LAX now has a new club called Crowne Plaza Jazz Club.  Franklin and his crew started, minus Shaheed coming from another gig, with a well-known Sonny Rollins gem, “Vierd Blues.” Solos cut in quickly from Manning, Saunders and Banda, with Franklin soloing last and very definitively.  Shaheed joined the quartet for a great version of Wayne Shorter’s “Black Nile.” Frontline work of Manning and Shaheed was superb.  “Soko,” a tune composed by Saunders, cooked well and was a highlight of the first set. This piece had a Latinized feel it at its start and also doubled the time in several places, creating an exciting performance. Shaheed’s trumpet grooved extremely well through all the changes.  Another Shorter tune, “Mahjong,” featured Franklin’s remarkable bass work. Additional impressive solos came from all of the band, especially Shaheed and Manning, exploring a wide spectrum of musical range. Franklin kicked off a nice bass intro for the great classic “Body and Soul,” the composition providing many possibilities for fantastic solos, here from Manning, Saunders and Franklin.  

 The second set began with a Saunders composition, “Swala,” a purely jazz-oriented tune that gave all members of the quintet opportunity for fine solos.  “Swala” in Swahili means “graceful antelope.”  Franklin wrote a piece for his special lady, Midori, titled “Love Song for Midori.”  Once again, Manning got into some phenomenal grooves and Shaheed added greatly to the mix as well. The opening and closing melodies were sweet. Franklin demonstrated a lot of feeling for his lady in his special and eloquent bass solo.  There were some nice surprises, with several friends of the Franklin crew sitting in: Franklin’s cousin, 14-year-old tenor saxophonist Ryan Campbell, sat in with the quintet, performing Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” He created some impressive lines as well as his solo – pretty good for a young jazz musician!  Next, notable sax great Azar Lawrence sat in with the group and, alongside Shaheed, came out swinging with another vibrant version of “Body and Soul,” followed by Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice.”  The frontline playing of both Saunders and Banda was totally exceptional and burning beyond the norm!   See Franklin’s website: and

Reprinted with permission from L.A. Jazz Scene, December, 2011 issue    

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