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Brick's Picks: That's How It Grows 

Thursday, Apr 22 2010
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We slipped up last week and totally forgot the Monterey Jazz on Tour was at Royce Hall last Thursday. They're calling them the MJF/52 All-Stars, with pianist Kenny Barron, violinist Regina Carter, guitarist Russell Malone, vocalist Kurt Elling, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and the brilliant Johnathan Blake on the drums. Real live jazz stars, most of them, and if not TMZ fodder, they certainly rate high in our passionate little music world. They're down in Costa Mesa at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. It'll be a major jazz event with terrific music, and while terrific music is in no short supply (just read on), jazz does need some major events, if only to get people to notice. Casual fans will see this band and, minds blown, maybe they'll check out Charlie O's or the World Stage or even some L.A. Jazz Collective craziness. That's how this stuff grows, just a fan or two or three at a time. Think Minton's, where bop was born: Just a bar, a smattering of folks just like you and some crazy, inspired music. A jazz dive full of jazz people digging jazz music. That's what this stuff is.

You can get a taste of that bebop scene on Friday at the Culver City Radisson from alto Richie Cole. It's a Bird thing, not a copy but the overwhelming inspiration, the racing tempos, the mad melodic deconstructions, the sheer exuberance of genuine bebop. The stuff had come right out of hard, roaring swing, when Basie could send a ballroom wild with chorus after chorus, and bop had that same excitement, just in a zillion crazy directions and at lightning speed. Nothing was cool yet, nothing was modal or 'Trane or angry, bop was just supersmart and fun. Cole's brought in Supersax alto Med Flory (who actually met Bird), and has a great trio behind him, too.

Tenor Don Menza is at Charlie O's on Friday. Menza has a big, powerful, utterly confident tone, as you'd expect from a man who spent all those years in Buddy Rich's big bands. If you're looking at the future of this stuff, drummer Zach Harmon — who blows minds at the Foundry every weekend — has a bunch of like-minded conspirators at the Blue Whale on Friday. They're recording it, too, so clap loud. Pianist Josh Nelson is there on Saturday. And way over at Vibrato the extraordinary saxophonist Benn Clatworthy has his first local gig in ages.

Tenor Benny Golson, a genuine jazz legend, is the star of Saturday's Jazz Bakery Moveable Feast at the Grammy Museum (Olympic and Figueroa, downtown). He's got pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Roy McCurdy with him. On Sunday tenor Doug Webb is throwing himself a 50th-birthday bash at Spazio. This cat wails, seeming to pull in every style, and has serious fun doing so. It can be intense, yeah, but it's always such a blast. And on Monday (besides the jazz jam at the Blue Whale), our pick has to be the Larry Goldings Organ Trio at Vitello's. Grooving, smart stuff. And he's got a bass player, too, the hell with pedals.

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BONUS TRACKS: We've been digging pianist Mahesh Balasooriya everywhere, and his doubtlessly exciting quartet plays the Lighthouse on Thursday, 5-8:30 p.m., giving you time afterward to get to the Crowne Plaza LAX for pianist Jon Mayer with bassist Chris Conner, drummer Roy McCurdy and tenor Chuck Manning.

Mayer and McCurdy have roots in East Coast jazz of the late '50s and '60s, and Conner has played with both for years now, but Mayer and Manning are a new pairing for us. Both like to go to interesting (if different) places in a solo, and this should be fascinating. Out in the Valley the same night, one of the great tenors, Pete Christlieb, is in familiar surroundings at Charlie O's, while the brilliant, genre-bending violinist Christian Howes is at Spazio with an exceptional outfit, including guitarist Bruce Forman.

Forman likes to do some genre-bending himself, and dang if his western swing outfit Cowbop doesn't mix the Bob Wills with the Diz and Bird. Seriously. We're talking bebop in cowboy hats, and vice versa. Just to prove the point, they're playing a Valley jazz spot, the Back Room at Henri's, on Friday, and then the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival on Saturday (11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and Sunday (1 and 3 p.m.), which is like a Calico Ghost Town writ large. We're cracker enough to admit we love the thing. Even got the right hat.

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

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