The jazz week begins strong with the Charles Owens Quartet at Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Friday. Maybe it’ll be the open air, or all that art just feet away, but expect multireed man Owens to give in to his wilder impulses here. He’ll play some blues, sure, and some hard bop, but he will also take this audience into the stratosphere, willingly or not. Always has a great band too. Later that night, the Chuck Manning Quartet are at Café 322. Tenor saxophonist Manning’s touch is more subtle — a lot more Joe Henderson, say, to Owens’ Trane and Dolphy. But like Owens, his is really an original voice, his ballad playing sensitive, his high flying ingenious. And his quartet — pianist Jim Szilyagi, drummer Tim Pleasant and usually the world-class bassist Isla Eckinger — are a perfect fit.
Also at LACMA is Francisco Aguabella, playing Saturday afternoon. Throw out all your preconceived notions about Latin jazz for this one. It’s true that if they ever compile a list of the world’s greatest congueros, Francisco’s name will be near the top. But he isn’t about palm-splitting solos. His is a subtle art. He hints and shades and directs his band with a subtlety you have to be alert to pick up on. And what a band. Benn Clatworthy is the tenor, and at times he’ll lay down sheets of sound in extended solos that nearly become a wall of dissonance from which Francisco and his players can bounce off their intricate rhythms. It might not be the easiest thing to dance to, but then neither were Dizzy and Chano — or Irakere, for that matter. But you’ll dig it. After blowing his lungs out with Aguabella all afternoon, Clatworthy will be down in Pedro later that night, at Rosalie and Alva’s, for hardass bop with the Tony Inzalaco Quintet. He’s in fine company: Trumpeter Nolan Shaheed plays some deep-blue bop lines, hard and soulful; Theo Saunders and Chris Colangelo are inventive and sympathetic accompanists who shine in solos. Inzalaco himself, of course, is a master at the kit. If you’re heading downtown later that night, the excellent Matt Slocum Quartet are at Café Metropol; Slocum’s projects are always recommended. And out at Café 322 in Sierra Madre, drummer Dave Ameele brings a sextet with superb reed work from tenor Rob Lockhart and alto Bruce Babad, and the beautiful trumpet playing of Kye Palmer.
On Sunday, a remarkable young band from Michigan called Nomo stop at Spaceland (see Rock listings). They play a horn-heavy Afro-beat, and their NewTones (on Ubiquity) is absolutely irresistible. Hot solos, tightly syncopated arrangements and some subtle sampling make this a great find. And just seeing horns in this staid alt-rock haven will be a treat. (They’re also at the Temple Bar on Monday.)
Back to jazz . . . you can catch Chuck Manning and Kye Palmer again with the Donavan-Muradian Quintet at Glendale’s First Lutheran Church on Sunday. Shades of Art Blakey and the Messengers — they swing hard. And shadows of Basie when the amazing Frank Capp Juggernaut do their monthly Monday at Charlie O’s on the 25th. Put these guys up against today’s Count Basie Orchestra, and the Juggernaut win.
On Tuesday, Aguabella is at Hollywood & Highland. It’ll be just like the LACMA show, but with giant concrete elephants and a looser vibe. It’s a fun, crowded venue; get there early and save a place for us. Then head on over to Charlie O’s for the John Beasley Circle. Beasley is a regular there, a sensitive pianist with an edge. And he has put together a fascinating combination: the great saxist Pete Christlieb, bassist Carlitos del Puerto and explosive young drummer Bill Wysaske. No idea here what will ensue, but Beasley’s CDs are always fascinating. If you can hit only one show this week, make this one.
On Wednesday, you can experience the Trane- and Higgins-inspired intensity of Leimert Park when explosive tenor Azar Lawrence appears at Catalina. And his exciting quartet includes pianist Nate Morgan, something of a legend and rarely seen outside Leimert Park, it seems. Across town at the Jazz Bakery on Wednesday and Thursday, alto Frank Morgan and pianist Ron Mathews explore possibilities as a duet. Morgan’s beautiful playing has been celebrated by jazz critics over the years, and he is worth every word. He provides a subtle end to an explosive week. Now get out and see some of it.