Japan's been awful good for jazz. Not Smoke on the Water good maybe, but it's been a steady gig, a source of albums and kids who come all the way from Tokyo to cluster round a table at Charlie O's and worshipfully gaze upon some stoned geezer with a saxophone. But Japan is hurting now, so on Sunday there's a Jazz for Japan benefit from 10:30 a.m. till closing, featuring Bruce Lofgren, the Ron King Big Band, Bobby Matos Latin Jazz Band, Doug Webb, Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra and others at Typhoon Restaurant (3221 Donald Douglas Loop S, Santa Monica, 310-390-6565). $30, kids cheaper.
We've long considered Dale Fielder one of this town's best-kept secrets. He plays all the saxes, but what kills us every time is his baritone. The guys rips on that big horn, with plenty of technique.
What seals it for us is the energy and passion in his attack. It's a molten, fierce sound he gets, heavily influenced by Pepper Adams. Which makes his new repertory outfit so perfect. The Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Quintet Project celebrates one of the great if less remembered hard-bop outfits of the Blue Note era, featuring two horn players with vastly different approaches together with Wynton Kelly, Duke Pearson or a very young Herbie Hancock, and often the World Stage's Billy Higgins on the drums. Fielder fills those roles with his own Tribute Quintet, a tough outfit featuring pianist Jane Getz, bassist Trevor Ware, drummer Don Littleton and the inimitable Nolan Shaheed in Donald Byrd's spot. Highly recommended, this one; things kick off at 9:30 on Saturday at the World Stage in Leimert Park.
And there's so much more this week. Jazz superstar bassist Christian McBride & Straight Ahead are at Catalina's through Sunday, guaranteed solid. Vibraphonist Nick Mancini brings his group into the Blue Whale on Friday, and Mancini is not only a wonderful musician but an impressive composer as well. One of our fave tenors, Chuck Manning, is back at Charlie O's on Saturday. Saxist Doug Webb is a hard-bop player exploding with energy, and he has a gig at the Oyster House in Studio City (12446 Moorpark Ave., 818-761-8686) on Monday night. Free. And another great baritone player, Adam Shroeder, plays Sangria on Wednesday.
Vitello's is happening midweek with trombonist Bob McChesney's quintet on Wednesday — a serious bunch of improvisers, featuring saxist Bob Mintzer, pianist Andy Langham, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Ralph Humphrey. On Thursday drummer Joe La Barbera returns to Vitello's with pianist Bill Cunliffe, his longtime section partner bassist Tom Warrington and some superb hornmen — saxist Bob Sheppard and trumpeter Clay Jenkins.
Good lord, we nearly forgot Jim Hall. And we've had The Bridge running through our heads for days now, not irritating us a bit, he and Sonny Rollins interlacing those rapid lines. (If you didn't catch the reference, it's the title cut off Sonny Rollins' essential 1962 release.) Jim Hall is a jazz guitar icon, hell, a jazz icon period, and he's playing Saturday night at the Musicians Institute (1665 McCadden Place in Hollywood, 800- 255-7529). The man has saxophonist Greg Osby with him. Hall may be 80, but he is hip as they come. Be there.
Publicists can drive you up the freaking wall. They're like mosquitoes, clouds of them everywhere, pitching and pitching. Thank God. Else we'd never have heard Wahid's Inside Silence. It's Dimitris Mahlis on the spookiest and sparest oud you ever heard in your life. Chris Wabich on the subtlest percussion, there but almost not. We waited till tonight to put the damn thing on, and it's on its third spin. The music is all by Mahlis. We're not up on our Middle Eastern music varieties — we just love it all — but this stuff reminds us strongly of Ottoman music, very stripped down and pared down to the essentials. Of course, perhaps it's Greek and we just started a war. Better yet, just ask them. They're at the Blue Whale on Thursday.
And the Tord Gustavsen Ensemble are at the Skirball on Friday, doing their blend of Bill Evans-inspired jazz, subtle world rhythms and Norwegian folk themes arranged for a piano trio. It's quietly fascinating stuff. They're on ECM and are very ECM, whose beautiful, ethereal catalog usually makes us nervous and irritable (but we have an album of Gustavsen's and liked it a lot). Maybe we're just maturing with age.
And finally, at UCLA's Royce Hall on Saturday, it's a trio of African guitarists, Malians Habib Koité and Afel Bocoum and Zimbabwean Oliver Mtukudzi. We don't know what they'll do together here, but we love their individual stuff ... and the contrast between the Malians and Mtukudzi should be striking. This one's highly recommended.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)