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Brick's Picks: Bebop Tempests 

Jazz around L.A.

Wednesday, Jan 9 2008
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There’s good jazz all over town this week. Too bad this is such a big, wide town. But it is possible to actually club hop the L.A. jazz scene, if you time it right, even though the damn jazz clubs tend to finish up at midnight in this town — which makes absolutely no sense at all from a jazz hopper’s point of view. Still, it’s possible, if you keep an eye on your drinking and avoid the vipers out back. So let’s check out Friday for starters, where the West Coast bop veteran Jack Sheldon is at Café 322 in Sierra Madre, and avant-saxist Vinny Golia is just down the 210 a tad at the Pasadena Jazz Institute (in the Paseo Colorado). Of course, that’s the kind of jarring genre change that will make your skull crack. But somewhere in between there, stylistically, will be saxist Chuck Manning at Café Metropol downtown, and Manning never fails to knock us out with his playing . . . when he’s leading his own quartet his horn is set so beautifully inside the understated arrangements that you can almost miss just how brilliant and even edgy his ideas can be. Now, because the Metropol has to quit at 10 p.m. (the yuppie neighbors complain), you can check this one out first and then decide between Sheldon or Golia. It’s so simple. Logical, even.

Now Valley-wise on Friday, saxist Pete Christlieb and trumpeter Carl Saunders do the Back Room out in Canoga Park, but to be honest, the jams will be so good and the between-set breaks so long you won’t want to leave — which makes this a bad start for club hopping. Trumpeter Kye Palmer’s quartet at Spazio is a much better starting point for a set or two, and he’s such a fine, straight-ahead player .?.?. ?then go to La Ve Lee in Studio City for an uproarious Poncho Sanchez set, or head deep into the innards of the Valley to Charlie O’s for saxist Charles Owens. When Charlie O gets cooking at Charlie O’s it just might turn into some of the best jazz you’ve seen since gawd knows when; a Cole Porter standard segueing into some Eddie Harris funk into some deep Trane into a plain dirty blues .?.?. Then again, the quintessentially swinging guitarist Kenny Burrell’s quintet is at Catalina Bar and Grill, but he’s there all weekend, which gives you options. So maybe on Saturday you can combine that with a wild couple of sets by Justo Almario at Charlie O’s or combine it with the great jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan at Landings in the Airtel Plaza in Van Nuys. Alas, catching ex-Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman’s trio at the Rosalie & Alva Performance Gallery in San Pedro on Saturday at 8 p.m. rather limits your options. The Valley is out — that 405 is a club-hop killer, and the easy thing would be to head into old-town Pedro to the Whale and Ale on Seventh, where we once heard a saxman play some lazy Prez. But a determined hopper would split Rosalie’s after a set and do double nickels on a dime (or 75 without the dime) — up the 110, where you might just catch the last set of young bassist Mike Gurrola’s quartet at the Pasadena Jazz Institute on Saturday. It’s a terrific space, the bar’s open till 2 a.m. and Gurrola has fine saxist Javier Vergara, pianist Austin Peralta and drummer Tony Austin, so the hard bop will be happening.

Sunday starts grooving hard at 5 p.m. with the absolutely cooking CJS Quintet at Glendale’s First Lutheran Church at 1300 E. Colorado. Then shoot up the 134 into the Valley for a mellow doubleheader. First, the spacey, cool-toned Joe-Less Shoe (that’s tenor Matt Otto, guitarist Jamie Rosen and drummer Jason Harnell) celebrate their CD release at the Baked Potato. And at Charlie O’s, bassist Luther Hughes presents a Nat King Cole tribute (John Proulx doing the Nat, Barry Zweig the Oscar Moore).

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On Tuesday, our pick is Med Flory’s Jazz Wave at Vibrato. This powerhouse big band has a lineup that includes Pete Christlieb, Rob Stout, Steve Huffsteter, Jack Nimitz and Frank Capp. Probably the sentimental core of the thing has to be the old Supersax charts (that is, Bird solos arranged for a big band) that Flory puts the band through. Bebop tempos, blistering solos, smart-ass commentary .?.?. what more could you want?

On Wednesday, drummer Roy McCurdy brings his quartet to Sangria in Hermosa Beach, and Jack Sheldon is at the Westin LAX. Scott and Ginger Whitfield celebrate their take on the Great American Songbook, Dreamsville, at Catalina, and the pianist Cyrus Chestnut is at the Jazz Bakery on Wednesday and Thursday. Fired-up tenor Azar Lawrence will blow out the Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill on Wednesday and Vibrato on Thursday. Also on Thursday, you can find two of our finest local pianist-led trios, and both are highly recommended: Tateng Katindig at Spazio (just a beautiful, advanced, swinging player); and Josh Nelson, who has Matt Slocum on drums, plays Red, White, and Bluezz in Old Town Pasadena (and Nelson’s latest, Let It Go, has been knocking us out lately.)

Of course, if you’re lazy or broke or live near Glendale, there’s a four-night run of jazz quartets at Jax, beginning with pianist Alexandra Caselli on Monday (which often includes saxist Carol Chaikin); then ?multireedman Fred Horn on Tuesday (who shifts from Tower of Powery funk to straight bop); then Benn Clatworthy with the great pianist Theo Saunders on Wednesday (and Clatworthy’s playing here lurches from offhand craziness to pure beauty); and finally, Jack Sheldon packs them in for his regular Thursdays. Go every night and see if you can tell a jazz fan from a lush. Here’s a hint: the lushes talk through the bass solos. (Just kidding .?.?. the sax players talk through the bass solos.)

Brick can be reached at brickjazz@yahoo.com.

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