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Brick's Picks: The Mysteriously Vanishing Gig 

Thursday, Apr 29 2010
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You know, we totally dig Richard Grant's trumpet playing — his Clifford Brown–gorgeous tone, his fluid and fluent solos whether fired up or working out an aching ballad, and the fact that he's so damn emotive. You just know it's the essence of Richard Grant flowing out that horn. And he has an instinctive knack for perfect ensemble passages with spontaneous groupings of players, any players. Alas, he rarely plays outside Leimert Park, even outside the World Stage. This is the pick this week. Except, there's a problem. We look at the sketchy calendar at theworldstage.org, and it says nothing about Richard on Friday. Not a damn thing. But the booker himself tells us Richard Grant will be there on Friday. So who do you believe? We say call and check. If he is playing, head down there. Only the most jaded of you will not be blown away by this cat. Of all the hidden treasures in L.A. jazz, and there's a mess of them, Grant is maybe the most hidden — and the most treasured by those in the know. Just call first before heading there.

And if he ain't happening, look at all this other amazing jazz across town. For starters, one of our favorite saxophone players of all time (even though you are actually supposed to say that about the dead ones) is Charles Owens. We've seen so many killer gigs, as leader or sideman, so many outrageous solos, that we know if the man is on, as he usually is, it's gonna be a freaking crazy night. Even at Charlie O's, when he keeps it more on a straight-ahead keel (nothing too Dolphy-esque), it can get glorious, and we've heard movements of A Love Supreme in there that stunned the crowd. He's there Friday with the John Heard Trio.

Alas, at Spazio saxist Charles McPherson makes a rare local appearance, and this will be amazing as well. And at Vitello's — call to reserve a seat for this one — the great guitarist Anthony Wilson regroups his knockout nonet for the night. What a lineup, with tenor Matt Otto (we love this guy's sound), alto Matt Zebley, baritonist Adam Schroeder, trumpeter Josh Welchez, trombonist Alan Ferber, brilliant pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Darek Oles, drummer Mark Ferber. This is serious stuff, as is Nick Mancini's bunch at the Blue Whale downtown, where he has a front line of reeds and flutist Katisse, clarinetist John Tegmeyer and trombonist Garrett Smith. That is another fascinating-sounding gig.

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Speaking of clarinets, one of the greats, Israeli Anat Cohen, has a great quartet with pianist Benny Green, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash at Catalina's on Friday and Saturday, performing material from her new Clarinetork: Live at the Village Vanguard. We dig Anat Cohen. Also Saturday is not quite as jam-packed as Friday, but the brilliant bebop alto player Lanny Morgan is at Charlie O's on Saturday with the John Heard Trio, while Katia Moraes & Brazilian Hearts are at 9 p.m. at Nyx in Glendale (156 S. Brand Blvd., 818-545-0333). We love Katia — she's the genuine Brazilian article, not another jazz singer who shaves off all those unsightly, rhythmically ragged edges. Katia keeps it real with bossa nova, sambas, MPB, choro, etc.

On Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Beverly Hills Civic Center (450 N. Rexford Drive) there's the Bill Cunliffe Septet and Johnny Crawford and His Orchestra; it's free and brought to us by the cool folks of the Playboy Jazz Festival — which comes up in June, with a schedule that looks really good this year. Check their site (which you can get through by way of playboy.com, as if you dudes didn't know that already). Monday at Charlie O's, there's the always-recommended Theo Saunders Sextet, a superb outfit featuring alto/soprano saxist Zane Musa, tenor/soprano saxist Chuck Manning and trombonist David Dahlston. Tuesday at Charlie O's it's trumpeter Elliott Caine's fine band, grooving hard with a '60s Blue Note feel. On Wednesday at the Baked Potato, pianist Otmaro Ruiz has his monster quartet with flat-out brilliant saxist Ben Wendel, bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Jimmy Branly. Intense. And Thursday it's the Jeff Littleton Jazz Conclave at the Crowne Plaza LAX, with Littleton on bass and his brother drumming, plus ace pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, saxist Pablo Calogero and percussionist Ramon Banda.

Also cool: the South Pasadena Eclectic Music Festival from 2 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, completely free (except the main stage with the big and nonjazz acts, which is $20). There are two jazz stages, and the Elliott Caine Quintet is on the KKJZ stage (538 Mission) at 5 p.m. We've been to this venue: It's a good time, with beer and everything. See southpasadena.net for maps, etc.

And that is a whole lot of great music, people.

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

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