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Brick's Picks: Excavatin' the Melody 

Dig these jazz treasures, Feb. 15-21

Wednesday, Feb 13 2008
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Jack Sheldon's latest, It's What I Do (on Butterfly), is a knockout, kicking off with a gorgeous, spare and exploratory "Naima." Follow his lines, man; Jack is poking around some dark corners of that melody that we didn't even know were there. And then he launches into a joyous "Pursuance" (that's right, from A Love Supreme), and listen to Joe Bagg's piano there. Not the real McCoy, of course, but beautiful. It's all Monk and Miles and Bird and Strayhorn from there. He'll be at the Café 322 on Friday. That same night, out in Canoga Park, trumpeter Carl Saunders plays the Back Room, while downtown the always-stirring baritonist Dale Fielder (performing pieces from his new "Light and Shadow" suite), in his excellent quartet with pianist Jane Getz, bassist Trevor Ware and drummer Thomas White, is at the Café Metropol on Friday night from 8 till 10. Fielder's music is deadly serious stuff, but trumpeter and cutup Nolan Shaheed, at the Pasadena Jazz Institute, brews up some hard bop, funk, soul, and even down-home New Orleans jazz, with his altoist Zane Musa showing his Maceo roots (see www.pasjazz.org for location and directions to this excellent spot). Shaheed is also there on Saturday (and dares all takers at his Wednesday Cutting Contests). Out in the Valley on Saturday, you can pick from two virtuosic reedmen: Justo Almario (with pianist Nate Morgan) at Charlie O's, or Ray Pizzi at the Landings in the Airtel Plaza Hotel (adjacent to the Van Nuys Airport). For Sunday's hair of the dog, do the Lighthouse boozy jazz brunch where the Kim Richmond/Clay Jenkins Quintet play till 3 p.m. And Jenkins is yet another exceptional trumpeter. This town seems loaded with them sometimes.

Terrific jazz singer Tierney Sutton is at Catalina Bar & Grill on Tuesday. Trumpeter Elliott Caine brings his quintet to Jax in Glendale for some cooking sets on Wednesday, and, something really special, tenor Chuck Manning is having a CD-release party for his truly excellent Notes From the Real at Cafe 322 that we heartily recommend. Down in Hermosa the same day, the Nick Mancini Quartet are at Sangria; and there's some killer stuff happening at the Jazz Bakery Wednesday and Thursday, when trombonist Curtis Fuller joins the Nicholas Payton Quintet. But there's even more on Thursday: Fine (and funny) trombonist Scott Whitfield is part of the Composers' Sextet at Charlie O's, while at the soon-to-be-no-more Vic in Santa Monica, the Mike Garson Quartet (with violinist Christian Howes, bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Billy Mintz) get crazy. And finally, Dee's Guys (oh jeez, just got that pun now), with trumpeter SteveHuffsteter and wife, Dee, are at Cafe 322 on Thursday. They do a range of things, including "Rockin' Chair" (apparently Dee grew up next door to Jack Teagarden).

The second half of Black History Month brings several tributes. Trombonist Phil Ranelin continues his weekly series, this time saluting the great trombonist J.J. Johnson at the Sheraton Universal Jazz Bar on Friday. George Benson does "An Unforgettable Tribute to Nat King Cole" (with Patti Austin) at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday. No idea who's on piano, or if that's even the point, but you can thank the gods that Nat Cole never recorded "On Broadway." On Monday they're "Remembering Jimmy Smith" with Atsuko Hashimoto on the B3 (along with drummer Jeff Hamilton) at the Pasadena Jazz Institute, while the same night (and stepping out of the theme a bit here) the Bill Cunliffe Trio play Cole Porter at the Jazz Bakery. That fine, hard-bop outfit the CJS Quintet salute Dexter Gordon at Charlie O's on Tuesday, while Luther Hughes' Cannonball/Coltrane Project are at Charlie O's on Wednesday and the Lighthouse on Thursday.

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And there are generally all sorts of tributes: There's one to Chet Baker — at the Newport Beach Jazz Party, billed forthrightly as "3 Days of Right Down the Middle & Straight-Ahead Jazz," Friday through Sunday at the Marriott Newport Beach. Call (949) 759-5003 or visit www.newportbeachjazzparty.com for schedule and ticket info. It's not exactly cheap, but there's plenty of talent, with the likes of Jeff Hamilton, Alan Broadbent, Mike Melvoin, Ken Peplowski, Rickey Woodard, Gilbert Castellanos, Warren Vache, Jackie Ryan, Atsuko Hashimoto, Tamir Hendelman, Kenny Drew Jr., Bill Cunliffe, George Bohanon, Ira Nepus, Kenny Burrell and Lewis Nash. On Sunday, amid all the small-group action, the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra provide some big-band bang for all your bucks.

It's a good week for big-band fans, in fact, with the Isaac Smith Big Band hosting a "Harlem Rent Party" on Sunday (complete with all the fixins) at the Pasadena Jazz Institute, and there's quite a buzz happening in jazz circles about this outfit. The Don Menza Big Band are at Charlie O's on Monday, and after all those years playing with Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson, Menza ought to know a thing or two about kicking a bunch of great players into high gear. And then there's a very rare appearance by the Buddy Collette Big Band at the Pasadena Jazz Institute on Thursday, featuring a reed section that includes George Harper, Lewis Van Taylor and John Stephens, with Les Benedict and Garnett Brown among the brass. If you've heard the band's Live at El Camino College CD (recorded back in 1990 but released in 2005), you have an idea of the richness of Buddy's Ellington-inspired arrangements. It's beautiful and inspiring stuff, making this a very highly recommended night at this very hip spot.

Brick can be reached at brickjazz@yahoo.com.

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