Esperanza Spalding got the kind of publicity this past week that rarely comes to a jazz musician. A lot of it wasn't exactly positive, and not just from Bieber believers (The Atlantic's pop critic got all riled up and said she only won because she's a woman, and even pulled statistics to prove it). But any publicity is good publicity and promoters must be tripping over each other at Spalding's door. So where is she this Saturday night? At USC's Bovard Auditorium (3551 Trousdale Parkway in Los Angeles, 213-740-4211). That's right, a student gig. No idea what she has planned: Part of it seems to be with the Chamber Music Society, but she also has vocalist Gretchen Parlato, Brazil's Milton Nascimento and awesome drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Tickets are $25. Good luck.
The Phil Ranelin Jazz Ensemble returns to the Culver City Radisson on Friday with special guest trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. He's got a terrific band: tenor Kamasi Washington, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, bassist James Leary and drummer Kenny Elliott. And he's got a long-awaited new CD, Perseverance. Highly recommended.
On Saturday night at the World Stage it's David Ornette Cherry with Organic Groove, musically a groovy hippie-ish eclectic-jazz bunch that gets out there as only one sired by Don Cherry (the one with the pocket trumpet, not the one with the pink suits) can. Recommended. There's also a couple different kinda gigs at Royal/T in Culver City (8910 Washington Blvd.). On Wednesday they have the Brad Dutz Quartet, one of those cello/bass clarinet/oboe/marimba things that are all the rage on some planet somewhere. As are The Industrial Jazz Group, who do mad big-band–ish things with a mess of brash brass, loose but tight rhythms, crazed vocals and pianist Andrew Durkin's brilliant arrangements. They're at Royal/T on Thursday, and are so recommended it hurts.
On Friday pianist Oscar Hernandez's LA/NY Connection does its feverish Latin-jazz thing at Vitello's. He's got saxist Justo Almario, who'll blow his stack at Charlie O's on Saturday as well. Veteran old-school tenor Don Menza is at Charlie O's on Friday, while new-school clarinetist John Tegmeyer is at the Blue Whale the same night. And great saxist and flutist Sam Most is at Sangria on Wednesday.
Fridays and Saturdays are about piano trios at the Foundry on Melrose, with the extraordinary Otmaro Ruiz on the bench Friday and Gary Fukushima on Saturday. Zac Harmon is the house drummer we raved about already.
There seems to be a tradition of big bands based in the San Gabriel Valley, maybe due to the long-running rehearsal band out of Pasadena City College, or maybe it's a vestige of the old territory band days. Anyway, John Fick's SoCal Jazz Co Big Band are an SGV outfit, and they're back to swing Sierra Madre's Café 322 on Wednesday. Come to think of it, the San Gabriel Valley in more rural times was a hot spot for western swing as well (Bob Wills himself had a gig in Pasadena for years). So it's only fitting that Bruce Forman's CowBop also are at Café 322, the last Thursday of every month — that is, this Thursday. Forman is an extraordinary guitarist, and maybe you've seen his excellent straight-ahead combos. Now check him out doing Bob Wills. OK, a bebop Bob Wills, but real hick, hip and hep. And try saying that in The Atlantic. Even with statistics.
The L.A. Philharmonic has Jazz and the Orchestra: Symphonies for Youth this Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Pianist John Beasley explores the differences and similarities of jazz for the orchestra and quintet. He'll wail away with jazzers, then call shots with the L.A. Phil. What a rush. The NYC-based Jazz Reach education group led by drummer Hans Schuman is at Café Metropol on Friday and Saturday. He's got a good band: tenor Marcus Strickland, alto Greg Ward, pianist David Bryant and bassist Joshua Ginsburg. No cover.
Pianist Helen Sung has made her name in NYC with a lot of major NYC outfits (including the Mingus Big Band). She doesn't get out here too often, so grab the chance to catch her at Vibrato on Sunday. One of our favorite L.A.-based pianists, Bill Cunliffe, has his trio (with drummer Joe La Barbera) at Vitello's on Wednesday. And there's two great piano gigs on Thursday: Gerald Clayton with his trio at Catalina's and Eric Reed at Vibrato with a superb local quartet, guitarist Jacques Lesure, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Kevin Kanner. All four of these gigs are highly recommended. If you dig the organ, Joey DeFrancesco is at Catalina's Friday through Sunday, while Vitello's has Dave Siebels' Hammond B3 organ trio there on Tuesday.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)