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Brick's Picks: Jazz Central 

Two days of great jazz on the avenue

Wednesday, Jul 25 2007
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The 12th-annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival happens this weekend; it’s still this town’s best jazz festival, hands down, with a great mix of classic Central Avenue sounds and newer jazz creations. On Saturday check out veteran soul jazz organist Paul Bryant, the great jazz vocalist and Avenue institution Ernie Andrews (man, does this crowd dig him), the outstanding trombonist and composer Phil Ranelin (Phil needs to record a few albums!), the Leimert Park–meets–NYC feel of the Arthur Blythe Quintet (there is no mistaking this man’s alto sound), and a wild set from Jose Rizo’s Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars. Rizo’s collection of clave superstars absolutely cooks on the descargas, those long instrumental jams. On Sunday there’s Central Avenue veteran Buddy Collette’s Jazz America, the excellent straight ahead of the CJS Quintet, veteran L.A. bassist Henry “Skipper” Franklin’s combo featuring impassioned saxman Michael Session (check out his excellent Session N Session), blues legend Roy Gaines, horn man Gilbert Castellanos (a regular at Kevin Kanner’s Monday night Mint sessions) and his Latin Trumpet Summit, the lyrical bop of alto player Charles McPherson, and Sandra Booker’s Underground Jazz Movement. Slap on the sun blocker and get on down to Central Avenue between 42nd & 43rd. Music runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and it’s free. Plus, there’s plenty of parking with shuttle service at the school on Vernon at Wadsworth (just west of Central).

Dwight Trible is at LACMA on Friday night. Trible’s a stunning vocalist with something of a Leon Thomas feel in places; he and his excellent band (including the likes of reedman Charles Owens, pianist John Beasley and the solid bassist Trevor Ware) make extraordinary music, soaked in Trane and Afrocentric soulfulness but an entirely original jazz vision. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it should be. If your tastes run toward unadulterated hard bop, not too weird but plenty ass-kicking, then check out the Donovan-Muradian Quintet (with saxist Chuck Manning and trumpeter Kye Palmer) at the Cafe 322 on Saturday. On Monday at our beloved Charlie O’s you can see the mighty Frank Capp Juggernaut. All those first-call players whipping through those classic Neil Hefti arrangements from The Atomic Mr. Basie can be nearly overwhelming in such a small room. If you prefer your Mondays with something small and a little outside (or edgier, anyway) wander into 2nd Street Jazz Bar and Grill (former Land on 2nd) in Little Tokyo, where trumpeter Josh Welchez is joined by the fine saxist Matt Otto, pianist Joe Bagg and bassist Ryan McGillicuddy for some edgier stuff; the Mark Ferber/Duane Allen Trio are also on this bill.

Through the end of summer, Tuesdays at Hollywood & Highland are a blast, with all that wine and jazz and those concrete pachyderms looming overhead. This week it’s percussionist Luis Conte’s Cuba L.A. (there are so many quality Latin jazz and salsa acts in L.A. right now!). Then catch the prime mover behind the explosion of Latin jazz in Los Angeles when Poncho Sanchez plays Vibrato. Or head over to Glendale to see Benn Clatworthy at Jax, where you can see some incredible jazz when the right people are taking chances on the tiny stage. And whether Clatworthy’s breaking down a ballad or reworking a supercharged “Inner Urge,” his is a vital music.

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Thursdays are always good in summertime Los Angeles. Over at the Skirball you can see Hugh Masakela, whose recent double CD Live at the Market Theatre does a nice job of mixing his jazz and groove and South African sounds. Cuba’s West African–derived rumba has made the reverse trip to Africa more than once; Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loka bring the Congolese rumba back to Los Angeles, playing the Japanese American Museum at First & Central. Over in Griffith Park you can dance (or drink margaritas and watch others dance) to Orquesta Son Mayor at the Autry museum. And if salsa dancing is too confoundedly confusing, try some zydeco two-step with Oakland’s Queen Ida at the Santa Monica Pier. It ain’t jazz, but this American art form sure is infectious as hell. Then head over to the Vic, give the feet a rest and let the brain go to work taking in the extraordinary jazz of pianist Otmaro Ruiz. A demanding stylist, Ruiz needs accompanists like bassist Carlitos del Puerto and drummer Jimmy Branly to keep up with his fast-tempo, dynamic and radical takes on wide-ranging Latin rhythms, jazz themes and classical motifs. He’ll probably be doing mostly original material, which someone really needs to record. If you somehow haven’t yet seen Ruiz, get down to the Vic this Thursday. It’s a snazzy venue and will be a nice way to end the week.

—Brick Wahl

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