There's no genre to file the Mo'tet under: not bop enough for Charlie O's, not conceptual enough for the way-hip art crowd. But he gets serious players, like Chuck Manning, and serious fans, like artist George Herms. If you've hung around the coolest joints for the past several decades, you know Herms — he's always totally into it — but this time he ain't watching the show: He's part of it. Creating what, we have no idea, but his crazy work — just things he's found and combined with other things he's found, which he turns into cool, new things — somehow matches the whole feeling exactly. It's a real, live happening. Be there.
Seems we never talk about solo piano players. But they're everywhere, playing standards for the drinkers the way they've always done. Some are OK, maybe a few not so OK, but in a town like L.A., with its surfeit of jazz talent, there are some great ones. Like the stable of virtuosos that the Hollywood Miceli's has had for years, and the topflight players sitting solo at Vibrato. Or especially David Arnay at the Parkway Grill in Pasadena on Fridays. Sure, dinner for two there is half your rent, but the bar won't break you. No cover, no minimum, free parking even. You can get by with nothing but drinks.
We dig Arnay, who's been at this gig so long — 21 years now — that he has it down, mixing exceptional jazz playing and cool, swinging takes of the sundry requests people stuff bills in the tip jar for. Not every number is solo, because he always has exceptional bassists along with him (very often Nedra Wheeler) and the tandems really swing. And not many cocktail lounges can say that.
There's a jazz thing happening at the Sunset Junction Fest, believe it or not. It's (yet another) Miles Davis tribute project, the Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary Re-Mix. Yes, DJs are part of it (one of the Beat Jockies), and there's a pretty amazing list of Miles alumni, topped by Wallace Roney, as well as Antoine Roney, Darryl Jones (of the Stones), Munyungo Jackson, Fausto Cuevas, Darren Johnson, Miles' nephew Vince Wilburn Jr. and Blackbird McKnight (of P Funk). This could actually be a cool thing, and Bitches Brew being just this side of A Love Supreme in hipster heaven, the crowd will be totally into it. It's at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Bates Stage, and if you time it just right, you could see this and the Ohio Players and the Bad Brains all in one weird night.
And Johnny Polanco y su Conjunto Amistad play the Autry this Thursday. They're a great salsa band, and we especially dig Johnny's soulful tres playing; his extended solos are as loose as those dancers in the crowd freestyling it, moving however they feel like, as all the people around them dance in beautiful lockstep to that lean, mean salsa machine.
Real quick now, one of the last of the classic L.A. tenors, Gil Bernal plays for the Friday dinner crowd at the Café 322, while bassist Chris Colangelo leads a trio (with pianist Otmaro Ruiz) at the Café Metropol on Friday. Colangelo has an excellent new quartet release, Elaine's Song, which you need to hear. Saxist Chuck Manning is at Charlie O's on Saturday, and in Pasadena on Sunday, with the pure, straight-ahead Donavan-Muradian Quintet at 5 p.m. at Vroman's Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Blvd.) And it's cool to see the excellent tenor Rob Lockhart at Vibrato on Saturday. Pianist Otmaro Ruiz has a quartet with vibist Nick Mancini at Charlie O's on Tuesday, highly recommended. The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra are at Vibrato on Tuesday. It's a well-spent $20 cover. At Catalina on Tuesday the Thurman Green Scholarship Fund benefit features vocalist Barbara Morrison and the Phil Ranelin Jazz Ensemble, with pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, bassist Trevor Ware, drummer Don Littleton and Najite on congas. Ranelin doesn't play around town nearly enough, but his extended solo passages are always a thrill and never repeat an idea, just new stuff pouring out of the bell. This will be special. On Wednesday at Catalina's it's saxist Dale Fielder and his Angel City Quartet. We dig this guy's sound and feel, and his molten baritone work especially kills us. And saxist Bob Sheppard is at Charlie O's on Thursday, and this guy is a knockout player, always.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)