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Brick's Picks: Swinging in the Season 

Jazz picks around L.A.

Wednesday, Nov 28 2007
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This weekend’s jazz looks solid in the clubs, beginning with pianist Josh Nelson with a great quintet(including saxist Ben Wendel, guitarist Mike Scott, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Nate Wood) performing music from his new Let It Go at the Café Metropol on Friday. Music there runs from 8 to 10 p.m. Also at 8 p.m. over at the World Stage in Leimert Park, vibist Onaje Murray will deliver the latest in the World Stage Stories series, talking about his music, his instrument and his own story. Afterward the powerful young tenor Kamasi Washington plays two sets on Friday, and he’s back Saturday as well. If you’re out in the West Valley, drop by the Back Room in Canoga Park where the superbly swinging John Hammond Trio hosts the great tenor Pete Christlieb alongside trombonist Scott Whitfield. And over at Charlie O’s, the excellent house trio led by bassist John Heard (and man can Heard and drummer Roy McCurdy get a groove going) hosts tenor Don Menza on Friday and that fine-grained-whiskey tone of tenor Plas Johnson on Saturday. Jon Mayer is at the piano for that one. If you’re up in the moneyed hills, then drop by Vibrato on Saturday night for a couple late sets of trumpeter Sal Marquez (now there’s a character). Good solid choices all right there. Take your pick.

There’s a big (and big-ticket) fund-raiser Sunday at the Catalina Bar and Grill that’s a good deal for those with $150 they don’t need. The California Jazz Foundation (which helps out jazz musicians with unexpected medical and financial costs) presents its first Jazz Summit fund-raiser. You get yourself a gourmet meal plus some star-studded jazz, including the altoist Charles McPherson,tenor Ernie Watts, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, vocalist Roberta Gambarini, guitarist Bruce Forman, pianists Tamir Hendelman and Gerald Clayton, bassists Chuck Berghofer and Tony Dumas and drummers Joe LaBarbera and Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Figure in all that talent, the fancy eats and the do-gooder feelings you’ll radiate, and the event is well worth the price of admission. For more information, call (818) 400-3263 or see www.californiajazzfoundation.org.

If your wallet sees far more of President Lincoln than General Grant, then Sunday offers the excellent pianist Tateng Katindig’strioat Charlie O’s. Very swinging, very classy. And that afternoon, tenor Benn Clatworthy’s quintet (including bassist Henry Franklin) at the Whittier Radisson, makes a great place to end some interminable Sunday drive with hard bop and a hard drink. On Monday, believe it or not, it’s the Gene Krupa Big Band at Charlie O’s. No idea who’s in the band, or who’s filling in for Mr. Krupa, or even if he’s holding. And drummer Kevin Kanner’s quintet is at the Mint every Monday.

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On Tuesday, the solidly straight-ahead CJS Quintet are at Charlie O’s, NYC guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg brings his good trio to the Baked Potato, Poncho Sanchez and band are at Vibrato and trumpeter Brian Swartz and The Gnu Sextet hostthe weekly jam session at Club 1160. On Wednesday, trombonist Scott Whitfield’s quintet are at Charlie O’s, while The Moutin Reunion Quartet (with bassist Louis and drummer Michael Moutin and that nice sound of tenor saxist Rick Margitza) begin their four-night stand at the Jazz Bakery.

Billed at Catalina for this Friday and Saturday is The Escovedo Family. This is the latest incarnation of the Pete Escovedo Orchestra, with drumming daughter Sheila E now on board. Pete Escovedo is a longtime player (with his late brother Coke) in the West Coast Latin jazz scene (and through Santana and Azteca, in the Latin jazz/rock scene), and he still plays a mean set of timbales. Like Tito Puente, Pete sure can smile no matter how hard he’s wailing. The Escovedos were out of Oakland, and in a way were to the East Bay what Poncho Sanchez later was to our Eastside, putting this slice of the West Coast on the Afro-Cuban map. Pete settled his crew in L.A. a few years back, and once again it’ll be fun to see him and his musical brood onstage. On Thursday, the Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Quintet (with Benn Clatworthy blowing some fierce tenor) are at Charlie O’s, and that gets intense; if you haven’t seen this band yet you’re robbing yourself. For a mix of bossa and samba and jazzy MPB, the splendid Brazilian singer Katia Moraes and her Sambaguru are at La Ve Lee on Friday. On Saturday, Youssou N’Dour brings his brand of irresistible Senegalese mbalax music to Royce Hall, while the same night, downtown guitarist Leni Stern brings her quartet — including oud, kora and percussion — to Cafe Metropol. This could be a remarkable one. And down from San Francisco, the Fishtank Ensemble perform the Django-gypsy-klezmer-Balkan-etc. mix (hear it on their latest, Samurai Over Serbia) at a pair of gigs this weekend, beginning Saturday night at the Pacific Arts Center (10469 Santa Monica Blvd.) and then throughout Sunday afternoon at the Skirball’s Hannukah Festival. Mazel tov.

—Brick Wahl

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