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Celebrating Miles and Gil 

With Christian MacBride, Terence Blanchard and Jimmy Cobb

Wednesday, Jul 29 2009
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Bassist Christian McBride winds up his stint as the LA Phil’s jazz chief with this Wednesday’s Miles Davis/Gil Evans: Still Ahead. They are not only performing parts of Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain and Miles Ahead, but they do so from Gil Evans’ original charts, getting as close to the original as you can. There’s some excellent jazz players in the mix, respectful soloists like Terence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton, not to mention the great Jimmy Cobb, who, of course, played drums on the original sessions. What a trip all this must be for him so many years later, especially when footage of those original sessions starts rolling across the giant screens. This is an ideal jazz event for the Bowl; this was Miles at his most vast, sweeping and orchestral, stuff to encompass such a huge venue, but when the horns let loose to improvise, it’s still intimate — just a horn working out a new take on an old melody. Remarkable music, these Miles and Evans creations, and it all ought to make for a memorable evening.

In the clubs, a lot of very creative music arrives this week. On Friday at the Radisson in Culver City, bassist Henry Franklin brings in his intense quartet, which features saxist Azar Lawrence and pianist Theo Saunders, for some ’Trane-inspired stuff. The pair work together beautifully. And there’s a good chance you’re not familiar with pianist Cecelia Coleman, which is a shame, because her music and chops are so advanced, so thrilling and beautiful. She spent decades in L.A., and is now in New York. Coleman plays Vibrato on Friday, and comes highly recommended. Meanwhile downtown at the Café Metropol, there’s some freely inspired craziness from Boston saxist Mark Zaleski on Friday. (He’s also at Vitello’s on Saturday.) We’re digging what we’re hearing from this guy; if you like the stuff edgy, outish and energetic, catch one of his gigs.

On Saturday, trumpeter Scotty Barnhart returns to Charlie O’s with the John Heard Trio. His Say It Plain knocked us out earlier this year, with its solid, pure straight-ahead — and word has it he is even better live. We’re also really digging pianist Josh Nelson’s new I Hear a Rhapsody, which he’s celebrating at Café Metropol on Saturday. Nelson is one of the finest young (well, youngish) pianists in town, and what a band he’s assembled for this thing: saxists Tom Catanzaro and Ben Wendel, guitarist Charles Altura, bassist Hamilton Price, drummers Kevin Kanner and Zach Harmon, making this a must-see gig. On Sunday, peaceful Eagle Rock is set upon by Orange County’s freeform Crepuscule Trio, who do their crazy thing at the Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. You might just need a dose of this. And that’s it for the weekend.

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Damn, Monday mornings can be rough. You blew your mind on freaky jazz in Eagle Rock and wound up who knows where. Suddenly, you’re at work, at your desk staring at a computer screen. Ouch. That’s why the good Lord created people like alto saxist Zane Musa, who’s at Charlie O’s that night. The guy goes nuts, his music pouring out in crazy, jagged bursts through that little horn — rushes of notes — or in long, bluesy stretches of ballads. It’ll help, really. Tuesdays roll in easier. Acceptance. Especially when the Theo Saunders Sextet are at Hollywood & Highland early that evening. He has the killer lineup here, including Zane Musa, trombonist David Dahlsten and tenor Chuck Manning, himself a font of solo ideas. That slides you right into Wednesday, when you wake up before the alarm even goes off. Two excellent picks that night: Amazing pianist Otmaro Ruiz is at the Baked Potato with saxist Ben Wendel, bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Jimmy Branly. Wild stuff. And at Charlie O’s, one of our favorite local saxophonists, Benn Clatworthy unveils his new Luminescence. We’ve been spinning it steadily, soaking in its Afro-Latin-Brazilian rhythms, which Clatworthy’s intense playing seems to explore every corner of. Nice band on it, too.

Finally, blessed Thursday. If you’re near Westwood, we recommend cleaving through traffic to catch guitarist Mary Halverson’s trio at the Hammer Museum (who have a remarkable jazz series under way). Halverson’s playing is fired up on Hendrix and Dolphy and the like; you’ll dig it. If you’re in Hollywood, make your way to the Ford Amphitheatre for Jose Rizo’s Jazz on the Latin SideAll Stars, who, as the metal kids say, shred. Totally. The arrangements, the soloing, the whole spirit of the thing. And finally, if you’re out near Sierra Madre, pop into the Café 322 for some pizza and Cow Bop. We’re talking Western swing, like Bob Wills bopped-out like Charlie Parker in a Nudie suit and Stetson. Bruce Forman and crew do some flat-out virtuosic picking and fiddling, and that, Pammy, is a pistol. Sing it, girl. Hoo-boy.

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

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