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Brick's Picks: That Old-Time Jazz Religion 

Thursday, May 6 2010
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So maybe your idea of a good time ain't hanging around a church on a Saturday night. Maybe church is something better left to someone else's wedding or someone else's funeral. But jazz has a way of popping up in churches, good jazz, even great jazz. Like pianist Patrice Rushen this Saturday night at the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Westchester. You get Ms. Rushen's splendid piano chops, the brilliant reedman Bennie Maupin, superb bassist Darek Oles and drummer Ralph Penland, who swings like mad and has a very personal way of framing that beat that we just love.

Many years ago, in fact, we tried explaining what we dug about Penland's playing, something about how he gets into the basic meter of the music and works out his ideas there and (we said) his solos are variations on the framework he is laying down, as if he is trying to draw the most perfect square imaginable, how the patterns build a perfect latticework for the other soloists to build on. Not exactly sure what that means now, but Ralph Penland sure lays down some solid syncopation, and the soloists really do fly over the thing. Maupin definitely will, on sax, flute and bass clarinet. You've heard him on Bitches Brew and a dozen Herbie Hancock sessions, and you ought to know his own subtle, grow-on-you releases Penumbra and Early Reflections, both on Cryptogramophone (a label you should also know about). Rushen herself is playing beautifully but recording little lately — hopefully something is coming.

We've been going on way too long about this gig, so just remember it's at the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church (6700 W. 83rd St., Westchester) on Saturday, at 6:30. It's $30, but the price includes a "fabulous New Orleans–style dinner," and even a drink. The money goes to help keep this excellent jazz series running, God bless 'em. Call (310) 670-4777 or e-mail holynativity@sbcglobal.net for info.

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Another fascinating reed player, Ray Pizzi, leads a group at LACMA on Friday. Pizzi is a virtuoso sax/woodwind/reed/whatever player, and one of those exceedingly rare jazz bassoonists. Dig up his old vinyl to hear the thing, eerie and jazz and cool and exotic and just beautiful. It's a free gig. There's hot dogs and expensive booze in cups and art inside, all kinds of art, and it's a cool scene. The Tar Pits are right next door if you wanna groove on that for a while, big blooping bubbles of glop slow-motioning from the ooze with the city all around and bassoon wafting over doomed beasts. And a little later on Friday Chuck Manning's tenor will waft over doomed beasts at Vibrato, while the same night out in the Valley at Charlie O's saxist Justo Almario burns up the joint with the John Heard Trio. Justo is one of the crazy-blowing cats you take your jaded friends to see. Eyes will pop, ears will open, words will fail. On Saturday at Charlie O's it's saxist Rickey Woodard with the John Heard Trio, and the dude bops with such a bluesy undercurrent you'll have a helluva time not blowing your jazzbo cool and dancing in your seat. Go ahead and let it go, nobody will care. The chicks might even dig it.

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There's also some fine happenings later in the week. We really dig the all out tenor madness of Doug Webb. He just threw himself one hell of a half-century bash at Spazio, and is back again there on Tuesday, a little older, a little wiser, with a solid bunch including pianist Joe Bagg, bassist Lyman Medieros and drummer Paul Kreibich. There's a trumpeter, too, though we don't know who. And he's got the same group at the Crowne LAX on Thursday. This is good stuff, check it out. At Charlie O's on Wednesday the top flight bassist Chuck Berghofer has his Midnight Jazz Band featuring alto Gary Foster, whose solid gold tone, will pin you to your chair. Real whiskey-sipping stuff, and we don't mean the cheap stuff. And Thursday at Charlie O's one of our favorite bassists (even if he is from the home of the Flyers), Chris Colangelo, leads a quartet. Don't know the line up, but it is guaranteed to be pretty heavy. Check it out. Colangelo plays some fine jazz bass.

We see the words Great American Songbook and sometimes we involuntarily wince, but done Brazilian and Afro-Peruvian style? Bassist/vocalist Kristen Korb mixes the two, or three, with a great trio including pianist Otmaro Ruiz, at Café Metropol on Friday and then at Vitello's on Thursday. This just sounds too cool, and in venues ideal for this kind of thing. Oh...CowBop at the Café 322 on Thursday. Swing those pardners.

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

 

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