Last week we went on about all the completely affordable jazz in the local clubs around town. This week we’ll talk a bit about another side of jazz: one-of-a-kind, don’t-miss deals. Take this Friday at Farmers Market at the Taschen Bookstore. A European outfit whose volumes adorn upscale coffee tables, Taschen is throwing a bash for its new Jazz Covers, a vast tome the size of a phone book, heavy as a Sears catalog, and full of hundreds and hundreds of stunning reproductions of jazz LP covers. You’ll recognize much smaller versions of these in your CD collection; you might even own some of the genuine platters (we do — a few). It’s the sort of book that only a fanatical collector, a crate digger, could envision. And speaking of which, Los Angeles Jazz Institute director Ken Poston will be speaking. The party runs 7-9 p.m., and the CJS Quintet will provide the perfect sounds.
On Saturday there’s the Sierra Madre Jazz Walk from 4 to 7 p.m. In many suburbs these things can be a little too smoove — good players trying not to scare the nice people with, like, jazz — but the acts here are handpicked by Café 322 bartender Boomer Lalli, and he prefers his music real. Check it out: vocalists Judy Wexler and Roger Cairns (who each always feature great players); trumpeters Steve Huffsteter and Elliott Caine; Thelonious Dub; Bruce Lofgren; the Bruce Eskovitz Jazz Orchestra (whose stirring Invitation is spinning right now); and the Leimert Park groove of saxist Mike McDaniel — each at a different venue around the square (well, triangle) where Sierra Madre and Baldwin boulevards cross. Tickets are $35 and proceeds go to City of Hope; see sierramadrewineandjazzwalk.com.
There’s sure to be big-time haps in UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall at the Thelonious Monk Institute 2008 International Jazz Saxophone Competition. On Saturday from 1-5 p.m. a dozen burgeoning saxophone colossi engage in a sort of cutting contest, judged by no less than Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, Greg Osby, Jane Ira Bloom and David Sanchez (now that would be a competition). Once the bloodletting is done, the three finalists clash again at the Kodak Theatre on Sunday at 5 p.m. Dee Dee Bridgewater fronts the band. We’ve bet the mortgage on contestant Walter Smith III, though Josh Greene is certainly a favorite, and word from Vegas is that the money is all over the place. To check the current odds, go to monkinstitute.org. The UCLA gig is free, but the Kodak ain’t; there’s also a fancy Monk Institute fund-raiser ball on Sunday evening with all kinds of famous musicians performing (Herbie Hancock and B.B. King among them). It’s supposed to be quite the bash; alas, our tux is still at the cleaners. (See monkinstitute.org.)
Way-cool songstress Raya Yarbrough (check out her self-titled debut on Telarc) has found a venue for the long-missed Alternajazz Festival, which starts up monthly at the Mint beginning this Thursday. Music kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with Doug & the Mystics, followed by the EarthAustria Trio (a Supernova String Quartet project) and Raya with her own band. Topping the bill is one of our very fave pianists, Otmaro Ruiz, whose amazing quartet includes one of our very fave tenors, Ben Wendel. Highly recommended; see alternajazz.com for all the dirt.
Finally, veteran NYC pianist Hod O’Brien is at Vibrato on Sunday and the Radisson in Culver City on Wednesday, bringing back the sounds and feel of late-’50s hard bop, not to mention a time when jazz was full of Hods and Zoots and Chus and Tinys, Birds and Flips and Dizes and Bixes, a Trane and a Slide and even a Cannonball. Back then jazz musicians had names.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)