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A World of (Jazz) Music 

Wednesday, Aug 5 2009
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The World Stage Jazz Festival is this Sunday, and it’s looking like another great one. Loosely a tribute to Billy Higgins, it’s really a tribute to the Leimert Park jazz scene — or what that jazz scene and Leimert Park itself could be if the city began to give a damn about the place. It’s a beautiful slice of town, all right, and if you’ve never been, you’ll be amazed by its charm. Which makes this little jazz festival so important. It puts the place culturally back on the map. In one afternoon you’ll hear the concentrated essence of the living black jazz scene in Los Angeles. For starters there’s a new outfit that rolls off the tongue sweetly as Hope, Heath and Devereaux. That’s pianist Bertha Hope, legendary drummer TootieHeath and jazz violinist YvetteDevereaux (with bassist Jeff Littleton as the plus-one). There are the Estrada Brothers and the World Stage All-Stars, which’ll feature just about everybody, including saxist Charles Owens. Trombonist Phil Ranelin’sJazz Ensemble tore it up at LACMA a couple weeks ago. He has saxists KamasiWashington and Louis Van Taylor, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, bassist Nick Rosen and drummer Don Littleton, a monster aggregation capable of great things. So check this bash out, people. It’s under the tarp at 43rd & Degnan in Leimert Park, runs from noon to 7 p.m., and is free.

Now reedman Buddy Collette might be in a wheelchair — one of them damn strokes — but he’s still on fire with a million things to say that need to be heard. They’re throwing him a birthday bash at Catalina’s on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The man is 88 now, a full piano’s worth, and he’s got himself a terrific band here, including saxists Louis VanTaylor and John Stephens, trumpeter Everett Turner, pianist Llew Matthews, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Kendall Kay. The music is all Buddy Collette and running buddy Charles Mingus, which right there makes this a special event, and the cover is an easily affordable $15. Combine part of this with the rest of the World Stage Festival and you got a memorable jazz day.

But let’s go back and take things from Friday. Drummer Winard Harper’s sextet does this fascinating African-tinged jazz at the Radisson Culver City on Friday, while the young NYC vibist Tyler Blanton is downtown at the Café Metropol that night, bringing out West some Manhattan intensity (all those miserable summers and freezing winters make for great jazz, apparently — less time to dawdle in the sun). Blanton’s at Charlie O’s on Sunday, too. The Lucky 7 made the people crazy at the Autry a couple weeks back, and their high-energy mambo ought to do the same trick at LACMA on Saturday at 5 p.m. On Saturday night pianist Motoko Honda is back at the Metropol doing her charming experimental jazz. And we’ve been fans of tenor Fred Horn ever since his bopping Relaxin’ inMilwaukee; he’s at Jax in Glendale on Saturday. At the Foundry on Melrose until way late will be the Foundry Three with pianist Josh Nelson on Friday and cooking bop guitarist Perry Smith on Saturday. Purists complain about the Foundry because it’s loud and it’s fun and it’s full of girls. But the bar is great, the grub is great, the owner is delightfully mad and the jazz is whatever the players feel like doing, which to us more than makes up for the loudness and the fun and all those girls. And they got some gnarly absinthe at the Foundry. If you wake up somewhere in Hermosa Beach on Sunday morning, just head over to the Lighthouse for some hair of the dog and the brilliant alto Lanny Morgan’s sextet, called, uhh, 6. His tone will help your pounding head, until tenor Doug Webb lets loose, anyway.

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Okay, midweek we say Francisco Aguabella’sLatin Jazz Ensemble at Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday. It’s a cheap date and you’ll be broke by then. Then Thursday Wayne Horvitz’s Sweeter Than the Day are in from Seattle. Try as we might, we could never quite get into their soft-stepping kinda groove. We’re missing something, since everybody we know who’s way smarter than we loves these guys (see the Rock Pick in our Music section for a different opinion). Odds are you’ll think they’re the greatest thing ever. They’re part of the excellent jazz series the Hammer Museum in Westwood is putting on for free on Thursdays from 7 p.m. (go to hammer.ucla.edu for details). That gets out early, and since there’s never any traffic between Westwood and Hollywood, you can be at Catalina’s in no time for the outrageous quartet of bassist Buster Williams, pianist PatriceRushen, drummer Cindy Blackman and saxist Bennie Maupin, who’re opening a four-night stand. Not sure, but we’re thinking it’s acoustic. So catch the first set and then bolt for Charlie O’s, where bassist Henry Franklin with pianist Theo Saunders and saxist Azar Lawrence go nuts with ’Trane-inspired passion. That gets you out toward midnight, which gives you just enough time to hightail it to the Foundry for that last Cow Bop set. So you burn some gas. So you spend a little money. Live a little.

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

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