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A Tale of Two Cities

What a difference a coast makes. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove was a kid in Waco when Wynton Marsalis heard about him. In no time he was the toast of the Big Apple, blowing bop and minds with heavy players at all the choice clubs, and he landed on a major label at 20. A string of fine hard-bop releases secured his place as a New York City jazz heavyweight — a Young Lion compared with Freddie Hubbard. With cred like that, he can afford to experiment, and his RH Factor probably drove Wynton mad with its funk and hip-hop elements. But Roy’s back to the hard bop with his excellent quintet this time, finishing his stand at the upscale Catalina Bar & Grill, Fri.-Sun., April 6-8.

Saxophonist Benn Clatworthy started in London but moved to Los Angeles. His playing is muscular and gutsy, and he’s always thinking — as with classic Sonny Rollins, you swear that every note he plays makes perfect sense, no matter the original melody. It’s not pretty, but it can be beautiful, and his languid overblowing and long, mournful stretches of high notes shush a crowd, as if they’re hearing something very intimate. He can honk with the best of them too, a Booker Ervin getting down. But when he really gets going and his ideas take him out, look out .?.?. But it’s never exactly free. Never just squawk for squawk’s sake. The sound is often Trane, but the thinking Sonny. His albums are all on the tiniest labels (Verve never did call). They’re all excellent, like the tough Tercet, or both Live at Charlie O’s CDs (the latest collaboration with pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Jimmy Branly). You can buy one off him at Charlie O’s this Sat., April 7. Or buy one at Jax on Tues., April 10. He’s still playing the smaller clubs; it’s a tough living, but the jazz is intense and bracing, gorgeous and angry. Like fellow saxophonists Charles Owens, Herman Riley and Pete Christlieb, Clatworthy is a jazz master tucked away on the wrong coast.

Even though it’s not Manhattan, downtown L.A. is roiling with jazz energy and drawing younger crowds. There’s NYC trombonist Alan Ferber in a quartet (down from Thursday’s nonet at Vibrato, but still with saxist Ben Wendel) at Café Metropol, Fri., April 6. And there’s a triple header (with a $3 cover!) with alto/soprano saxist Michael Mull’s quartet at 8 p.m., Tony Bennett pianist Nick Paul’s trio at 9 p.m., and a pure bop quartet featuring alto Justin Janer and pianist Brian Havey at 10 p.m., all at Land on 2nd, Mon., April 9. Guitarist Larry Koonse debuts in this room with The Matt Mayhall Trio at Land on 2nd on Wed., April 11.

For a little jazz madness just north of downtown, check out another triple header (for free) with The Nick Rosen Trio, The Dave Culwell Trio and Trio Formaggio at that doomed hipster dive Mr. T’s Bowl in Highland Park, Thurs., April 12 (details in Rock listings). Meanwhile, to the west, you can catch great young players at drummer Kevin Kanner’s gig at the Mint every Monday. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, alto Tim Green, pianist Josh Nelson and bassist Joe Sanders (from the Roy Hargrove Quintet) are the regulars, and players like young tenor phenom Walter Smith III sit in. Check it out.

But that Gene Krupa, man, he was hipper than hip. He was the wailingest, the craziest, and before Buddy Rich he was the drumming man .?.?. he even got popped for pot before Mitchum. Well, let me off downtown if The Gene Krupa Big Band isn’t at Charlie O’s on Mon., April 9. Apparently drummer Mike Berkowitz landed the legal name and tours the oldies circuit — but this being Charlie O’s, they’ll doubtless drop all the show biz and get serious. If not, the Buddy Rich Big Band will kick them off the bus.

—Brick Wahl