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Brick's Picks: Phil Ranelin salutes Dolphy 

Also: Don Menza cites Getz, Azar Lawrence takes on Trane, and more

Wednesday, Feb 6 2008
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Trombonist Phil Ranelin is celebrating Black History Month with a special gig each week, and on Friday it's a tribute to Eric Dolphy (with Charles Owens doing Dolphy as only he can) at the Seabird Jazz Lounge, 760 E. Broadway in Long Beach, (562) 606-0250. And Friday out at the Cafe 322 in Sierra Madre, bassist Luther Hughes' Cannonball/Coltrane Project builds on the sounds and ideas that came together on that one LP where their two iconic saxophonists came together. Excellent stuff. And trumpeter (and showman) Nolan Shaheed is at Charlie O's that night, peppering his music with jazz history. Jack Sheldon is sounding awesome lately, and Friday he's at Sheraton Universal Jazz Bar. And for something way out there, like out there, guitarist Lorenzo Grassi has a group at the Cafe Metropol on Friday that includes trumpeter Dan Clucas and other local underground players. We're not talking straight-ahead here, so be forewarned. Then again, this might be exactly the stuff you need to purge another week wasted working for the man.

The jazz around town on Saturday is intense. There's pure straight-ahead in the Jazz Messenger tradition by the Donovan Muradian Quartet at the Cafe 322 on Saturday. Chuck Manning is the tenor here and he cooks, joined as often as not by trumpeter Kye Palmer (and you can hear that stellar matchup on their lively Live at the 322). Tenor Don Menza has a big sound (not loud, but big, he'll explain — there's a difference) and man, can he cite Getz just beautifully; he's at Charlie O's on Saturday. Down in San Pedro, the Azar Lawrence Quartet play the Rosalie & Alva Performance Gallery. Azar is back in a big way, and his oft-times fierce take on Trane is backed by the terrific trio of pianist Nate Morgan, bassist Trevor Ware and drummer Fritz Wise. Back downtown, altoist Jason Goldman appears with one of those ferociously talented young quintets that include tenor Walter Smith III (who's blown minds with his work with Morrie Louden lately), pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Bill Wysaske. Very highly recommended, and the music at the Cafe Metropol runs from 8 to 10 p.m., so you can catch their sets and still get out to see more. (And for some serious strangeness, the notorious Philadelphia native Elliott Levin goes in your face with his solo flute/sax/words at 5 p.m. — check out Eugene Chadbourne's piece on Levin at www.allmusic.com; it's a riot.)

Isaac Smith continues his Sunday nights at the Pasadena Jazz Institute (which is on the second level of the Paseo Colorado on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena). The rest of their schedule this month is good too (go to www.pasjazz.org); Nolan Shaheed is hosting cutting sessions on Wednesday night, and you know those will be fun (unless you're the one getting cut). And if that ain't enough for you, Vinny Golia adds his combo to some crazy underground bill at the beloved Mr. T's Bowl in Highland Park on Sunday.

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Eldar'soverwhelming piano virtuosity and the fact that he is barely out of his teens have attained him the sort of celebrity that jazz players rarely enjoy. He's Backstage at the Vault 350 (350 Pine Avenue in Long Beach or www.backstagejazz.com) Friday through Sunday. Since Eldar hit so big, there's been a rush by the labels to jump on the public fascination with young jazz virtuoso pianists, hence Taylor Eigsti is at the Orange County Performing Arts Center Friday and Saturday. It's always a blast to see really talented young players like Eigsti (whom we've seen at spots like the Metropol and the Vic) get a shot at the big time. He'll be with his touring quartet, and the music ought to be excellent.

But enough of the kids already. The legendary Hank Jones is appearing at the UCLA Fowler Museum's Lenart Auditorium on Tuesday, with bassist John Clayton and drummer Joe La Barbera. Jones is the surviving member (and the eldest, at 88) of the famous jazz-playing brothers (with Thad and the legendary Elvin), and his often-stately, always-swinging style has graced innumerable records, out front and on the side. His Catalina's appearance a few years ago still resonates clearly in the memory. Mr. Jones remains one of the very last of the school of players who learned their art from the originators — Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum — and this concert, the latest in the David L. Abell Memorial Jazz Salons series, is aimed at students who want to learn directly from the masters in person. Also ... the Mulgrew Miller Trio are at the Jazz Bakery on Friday-Saturday, and the Jon Mayer Trio perform at Glendale First Lutheran (1300 E. Colorado Boulevard) on Sunday at 5 p.m. All in all, it's a great week for devotees of the art of the jazz piano.

The wonderful Brazilian singer Katia Moraes is at La Ve Lee on Saturday, while the same night over at UCLA, South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela'sChissa All-Stars are at Royce Hall, UCLA on Saturday, adding top South African vocalists to the band heard on last year's Live at the Market Theatre. And at Spazio, storied conguero Ray Armando (well, he tells a lot of stories) brings his Latin Jazz Quintet (with some great players, including tenor Chuck Manning) on Monday. Always fun. And for something out of left field, jazz ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro appears in a quartet at Norris Pavilion in Rolling Hills Estates on Friday.

Valentine's Day is coming up, and the wonderful jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan appears with the exceptional Otmaro Ruiz Trio on Thursday at the Vic. Nice romantic room, too, with dinner and wine and roses. Sigh. That pick was for the ladies. Of course, if it were up to us guys, we'd be at the bar at Charlie O's drinking whiskey and eating burgers and digging Pete Christlieb's crazy saxophone. But then it's never up to us guys.


(Brick can be reached at brickjazz@yahoo.com.)

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