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Monty Alexander's Jamaican Jazz 

Plus, Brazilian Carnival, Lou Donaldson, Carl Saunders Sextet

Wednesday, Feb 18 2009
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The 9th Annual Brazilian Carnival occurs on Saturday at the Hollywood Palladium, replete with eye-popping dancers and crazy kicking capoeira and battalions of percussionists and DJs and all the trimmings. But best of all are the two main acts. First is Nation Beat, a Brazilian/New York mind-meld that seeks out the common ground between American and Brazilian–roots music, western swing, samba, forro, Tex Mex, frevo, klezmer, bluegrass and choro. Their latest, Legends of the Preacher (featuring some Klezmatics) actually works beautifully in most places, and probably works even better live, though maybe Hank Williams and Willie Nelson could have been left alone. And even better is our own Katia Moraes & Pure Samba. This is the real thing, baby, and the charismatic Katia is a whirlwind performer and world-class Brazilian vocalist whose tone bears a nice resemblance to Elis Regina’s. What a night. See braziliannites.com for details.

Spazio, which had been jazz backwater a year ago, springs a surprise with two nights of the great Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander, with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton on Friday and a larger jazz and roots ensemble (including the drummer HerlinRiley) on Saturday. Ticket prices are as you might expect for something of this caliber — $35 — but totally worth it. Also Friday, tenor Azar Lawrence is with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O’s, and we love his new Prayers For My Ancestors, a fascinating album that puts to rest any notions you may have had that Azar is pretty much an all-Trane, all-the-time player. And then back to Spazio on Sunday, we’ve got the makings of a tenor battle when hard-blowing Doug Webb has the temerity to take on Pete Christlieb in a cutting session. (OK, maybe it ain’t like that anymore, with reputations left in pieces on the stage, but these double-barreled tenor shows can be a thrill, and Christlieb seems to revel in the competition.) No cover for this one, either. A lot of varied saxophonery around town on Monday, too, like out at the Jazz Bakery, where NYC tenor Sean Nowell has a one-nighter. We’re really digging his Firewerks, with Nowell pairing up with alto Travis Sullivan, where the interplay is tight and simpatico. Art Hirahara’s work on the Fender Rhodes grooves hard — man, those NYC electric piano and organ players regularly go places that L.A. crowds are just getting hip to. The same night, Brad Dutz’ Other Three and the Vinny Golia/Bobby Bradford Duo play the South Pasadena Music Center (1509 Mission St., 626-403-2300). The Other Three is yet another creation of ultra-creative percussionist Dutz, this time featuring trumpeter John Fumo and saxophonist Rob Lockart. Fumo, with that steady CalArts gig, you’d expect here, but Lockhart is better known as a straight-ahead player, so it’s cool to see him doing this. We just saw Golia with Bobby Bradford’s Mo’tet in Sierra Madre a couple Fridays ago, and we never knew he had so much soul. It was beautiful (especially on the soprano). So together again, sans rhythm, who knows what will result? All for five bucks. The same night downtown at Seven Grand (515 W 7th St.) there’s saxist Robby Marshall. The kid’s a trip, man, with a tone right out of 52nd Street, but musical ideas reaching in all directions, genres, dimensions. Intense quartet, too, with guitarist Christian Wunderlich, radically different drummer Zach Harmon and veteran bassist JP Maramba, who laid down a gorgeous two-note pulse behind Bobby Bradford for the longest time recently, minute after minute after minute, mesmerizing the room as Bobby’s players laid down long, curvy lines all around it. But we digress.

On Tuesday, the Carl Saunders Sextet is at Charlie O’s, and the trumpeter Saunders is a treat; his complex, beautiful passages always find new places. And we always dig seeing tenor Benn Clatworthy at Jax on Tuesday; if you can grab one of the spots in front of the stage, you’ll hear every pad close as he exhales the very last breath of a melody, or you’ll get zonked into the floor in a ferocious blast of what they used to call the New Thing. Brilliant every time. And finally, the legendary Blue Note Records veteran Lou Donaldson is at the Jazz Bakery Tuesday through Thursday. The jazzbos will show up to hear his bluesy hard-bop alto playing (and the cat even has an early Monk connection); the groovers will show because the bins are full of funky soulful stuff he released in the ’60s and ’70s. It’ll be jazz here, but with plenty of soul, and his distinctive tone will be soaking through everything.

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

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