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Brick's Picks: Staying Local 

Jazz in L.A., June 6-12

Wednesday, Jun 4 2008
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There’s a nice selection of local talent in the clubs this week. Take Friday: Over at Il Moro you can catch Peter Erskine’s Lounge Art Ensemble, a virtuosic mix of his drums meshing with Bob Sheppard’s reeds and Dave Carpenter’s bass. Or out in Sierra Madre the idiosyncratic Bobby Bradford Mo’tet are back for their monthly gig at the Café 322 on Friday. Or pop by Jax in downtown Glendale for tenor Benn Clatworthy. Clatworthy can get down and loose or be tight and right in there ... and he can go way out, too. An intense, personal, brilliant player — and rooms don’t get much more intimate than Jax. The Café Metropol comes damn close, though: The patrons listen here, and the food is actually good for you. On Friday they’ve got pianist Chris Dundas with drummer Alex Cline, guitarist Ken Rosser, saxist Farzin Farhadi and bassist Nick Rosen. And then on Saturday Rosen brings his own group, which includes Jesse Sharps on bassoon/accordion/bass clarinet and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson on viola/piano, plus reedman Katisse Buckingham on woodwinds and drummer Tony Austin. Will be interesting.

L.A.’s own Brazilian songstress Katia Moraes is at La Ve Lee on Saturday. She’s an excellent Brazilian singer, in every Brazilian genre, and a terrific live performer, with a confidence and breezy charisma you don’t always see behind the microphone. On Sunday at the Lighthouse (from 11 a.m.), drummer Gerry Gibbs is joined by amazing singer Dwight Trible; that night at Charlie O’s, saxist Charles Owens will blow that wild, soulful horn of his, taking chances, playing the blues, looking deep inside and over the edge. His band this time includes bassist Henry Franklin and cymbal-crashing drummer Alphonse Mouzon. And trumpeter Elliott Caine is at Jax on Wednesday, his Lee Morgan–soaked sound running through some great post-bop and grooving material. He’s got tenor Chuck Manning on board for this one, and it’ll be nice to see how they play off each other’s runs. (This same band is playing Saturday June 14, 7-9 p.m., at the Farnsworth Bowl in Altadena’s Farnsworth Park, 568 Mount Curve Ave., off of Lake Avenue; call 626-798-6335.)

Pianist Brad Mehldau is one of those rarities: a jazz pianist who seems to have crossed over to a larger audience on his own terms. Thus you can see his exquisite trio at the El Rey Theater on Sunday. Funny how his rendition of “Blackbird” still resonates clearly round the skull all these years later (from way back on Art of the Trio, Vol. 1). So if you dig Bill Evans at all, you’ll be all over Mehldau. If you’re in a hard-bop space, then pianist Cedar Walton finishes up his Jazz Bakery stand on Friday, and his quartet includes drummer Lewis Nash and very fine alto Vincent Herring. There’s also some great big band action this week, including the Gary Urwin Big Band (with Bill Watrous, Pete Christlieb and Carl Saunders) at Charlie O’s and the newer Winston Byrd/Clayton Cameron Big Band at the Pasadena Jazz Institute, both, alas, on Monday. Then, on Wednesday, the excellent Buddy Collette Big Band (with Ernie Andrews) plays at Catalina.

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And there’s a very special Tribute to John and Alice Coltrane with saxist Azar Lawrence and the brilliant pianist Nate Morgan, bassist Jeff Littleton, drummer Roy McCurdy, and guests (so far) Ravi and Oran Coltrane and Bennie Maupin. The vibe will be otherworldly at this thing, spiritual and celebratory, even ecstatic. It’s happening at the Coltrane Estate in Woodland Hills, 7 p.m.-midnight on Saturday. Tickets for this Coltrane Foundation fundraiser are not cheap; call (818) 226-9991 for details. And we’ve mourned the sudden passing of Mal Sands in these pages before, but his beloved Vibe Summit (XV!) lives on, this Sunday, 3:30-7:30 p.m. Union Hall is being remodeled, so the haps this year will be at the jazz-friendly First Lutheran Church, 1300 E. Colorado St., Glendale. Among the couple dozen vibists scheduled are Terry Gibbs, Emil Richards, Bob Leatherbarrow, Nick Mancini, Joe Locatelli and Onaje Murray, with other musicians sitting in. Food and beverages available. Call (310) 216-9100 for details.

And ending with a little celluloid news: Sponto Gallery in Venice (7 Dudley Ave, Venice, 310-306-7330) finishes its free series of jazz films on Monday with a night of Avant to Jazz, including heavies Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, while the excellent Jack Sheldon documentary Trying To Get Good continues its run at the Westwood Crest Theater (1282 Westwood Blvd., south of Wilshire; validated parking on Glendon). Take a break from YouTube.

Finally, better dig out that ol’ bass clarinet (in the closet there, behind the sitar), because Thursday is Eric Dolphy Day. That’s right, it’s official. Somehow the indefatigable Phil Ranelin got both the city and county of Los Angeles to declare it so, on what would have been Dolphy’s 80th birthday. There’ll be a plaque in Leimert Park and everything. And of course Ranelin’s gig at the Crowne Plaza (5985 W. Century Blvd., L.A.; 310-642-7500) that night is all about Eric. (But they really should have a parade. An Eric Dolphy Day Parade would just be the coolest thing.)


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

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