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Tribute to Ray Brown, More Blue Note, Christian McBride 

Jazz in L.A., January 23-29

Wednesday, Jan 21 2009
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The Blue Note Records 70th Anniversary Tour completes its Southland sweep this Friday and Saturday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. We raved last issue about pianist Bill Charlap and Ravi Coltrane and the rest of the Blue Note 7 and the classic tunes on their celebratory Mosaic, and obviously all still applies behind the orange curtain. (We also raved about the new Ravi Coltrane release Compass on Nonesuch. Alas that is actually Josh Redman’s newest. Ravi’s new Savoy release is Blending Times. The crow, by the way, is especially scrumptious today.) If you missed the Royce Hall gig here’s your chance.

On Saturday night The Luckman Jazz Orchestra celebrates the music of Wayne Shorter at their Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State Los Angeles. Director Charles Owens, one our very favorite saxophonists, has also found special magic in all of these tributes so far (like Dizzy, Eddie Harris, and especially Miles) with animated and sophisticated arrangements that bring out not only the depth of the compositions but leave plenty of room for intense soloing by this exceptional 17 piece outfit. With players like tenor Bennie Maupin, mad trombonist Isaac Smith, trumpeters Nolan Shaheed and Sal Cracchiolo, drummer Ndugu Chancler, and, of course, Owens himself, there will be aural fireworks.

And the Jazz Bakery has a very strong lineup this week, with intense trumpeter Jeremy Pelt on Friday and Saturday, assisted by our own prodigal son Danny Grissett on piano. On Tuesday it’s a one-nighter from the Hoenig-Pilc Project. Ari Hoenig’s drumming is just absurdly on, while Jean-Michel Pilc is one of those cats whose pianistics are regularly described as dazzling. And a West Coast legend, altoist Bud Shank — with a sound that is equal parts cool and burning — begins a four night stand on Wednesday. No, the Bakery isn’t a party place, and the lecture hall atmosphere isn’t exactly date-friendly (the only scoring there is in the arrangements), but they do have the most amazing jazz. And don’t forget the student rush discount, you kids, and goldstar.com often has half price tix for the penny pinchers.

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On Wednesday at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Christian McBride has assembled quite an outfit for his Tribute to Ray Brown. (There’s a lot of tributes this week. ’Tis a pensive time . . .) John Clayton plays the bass here, alongside Brown sidemen like pianists Benny Green and Geoff Keezer (who also did a long Blakey stint), and drummers Karriem Riggins and Greg Hutchinson (who by the way plays beautifully on the aforementioned Compass). Guitarist Russell Malone and two classic L.A. vocalists, Barbara Morrison and Ernie Andrews, are also on the bill. Solid swing this night. And like the Bakery, check out the discount possibilities. And it’s just terribly romantic there too, if that is your thing. Hint. Hint hint. A wink even.

But what about the bars, you ask? Well, Friday’s choices include the tony Vibrato Grill up in Bel Air with Justo Almario, a quiet man till he puts that reed to his mouth and screams. You can’t really call Pete Christlieb quiet. Understated, maybe. But man can he blow some of the greatest swingingest saxophone you have ever heard. Seriously. He’s at Charlie O’s on Friday with The John Heard Trio. And to be honest we weren’t even aware that the Café Metropol — right around the corner from the legendary Al’s Bar, which stands eerily quiet and unmarked — was still happening. But on Friday the L.A. Jazz Collective honcho Gary Fukushima has his piano trio in the house. Good stuff from the new jazz underground. They run early too, until ten, so you can hit one of the other two, as well. Then on Saturday we recommend veteran guitarist Bruce Forman’s jazz (with western swing licks all sneaked in) over at the Foundry on Melrose. His wildly imaginative runs, matched with mindfucque drummer Zach Harmon, is a thrilling experience. And they play till the law says last call. Imagine that in LA, jazz till 2 am. What a novel idea.

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

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