Blues and Ballads on a Budget

So say you got no money at all. Nothing. Well, damn, kid, you’re in luck because some of the best gigs of the week will cost you nada. Trombonist Phil Ranelin brings his stellar sextet to LACMA from 6 to 8 p.m., which might be a little early for the working stiffs, but for those of you currently not beholden to a boss, it’s perfect. Ranelin wields a fine trombone, is a fascinating composer whose works push boundaries without plunging over the edge, and, ever the historian, regularly weaves the greats into his sets. With a career that began in Indianapolis with long, fruitful stretches in Chicago and Detroit, he’s resided in L.A. long enough to have become part of its jazz fabric. A great start to the week. Then on Saturday Buika is downtown at California Plaza. She’s an Equatorial Guinean raised in Spain among Gypsies, and her self-titled debut is a raw, soulful mix of African, flamenco, bolero, funk and jazz. Combine that with the setting — that crazy kaleidoscope of water behind the stage, the twinkling skyscrapers, the cool summer evening — it just don’t get no more magical in Los Angeles. On Sunday, head out to Pasadena, where the Nick Mancini Quartet is at Vroman’s Courtyard (695 E. Colorado) from 5 to 7 p.m., and then hop over to the Levitt Pavilion in Old Pasadena’s Memorial Park, where the legendary Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra performs. Saxist Michael Session has resurrected this group, and is keeping the Horace Tapscott flame alight (even as the Leimert Park jazz scene flitters). The Bobby Matos Latin Jazz Ensemble burns hard at Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday, and on Thursday Orqesta Son Mayor is at the Autry Museum (okay, that one actually has a $5 cover), Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca do their great soukous-salsa thing at Santa Monica Pier, and Issa Bagayogo is at the Skirball. Since fellow Malian Vieux Farka Touré slipped by us unseen (and we so dug his Fondo), this is one not to be missed. Issa’s mix of traditional acoustic, great players — a couple of whom he shared with Dee Dee Bridgewater — and all sorts of funk and electro elements kept his Mali Koura in the player here for ages. And it’s free.

Then there are the no-cover jazz gigs, like Jack Sheldon at the great little Café 322 in Sierra Madre. Excellent band, some beautiful trumpet playing, plenty of laughs. On Saturday trumpeter Elliott Caine turns Jax into a jazz club again with his quintet, which has been playing some fine, heated hard/post bop in that room lately. Dwight Trible, whom we raved about for a paragraph last week, is at Spazio on Saturday, while the same night at Charlie O’s, saxist Azar Lawrence joins the John Heard Trio for passionate jazz in his beloved Trane mold. These sets are often over-the-top intense, and Theo Saunders is the ideal accompanist. Carl Saunders plays Charlie O’s on Wednesday, and if you haven’t seen this cat play trumpet you should make a beeline for this place. It’s an experience. And we’re digging a lot of clarinet lately — Anat Cohen blew us away again at Playboy, and we’re knocked out by Frank Glover’s brand-new Politico. So the chance to see the great clarinetist Mort Weiss at Charlie O’s on Thursday is a rare treat.

You say you just sold your screenplay and you’ve got some bread to blow? How about helping the California Jazz Foundation raise some money to pay ailing jazzers’ medical bills? They have Ernie Andrews, Bill Cunliffe, Gerry Gibbs’ Thrasher Band, Bennie Maupin, Janis Mann lined up for this bash at All Saints Church (132. N. Euclid Ave. in Pasadena,, and festivities run 2 to 6 p.m., all for a tax-deductible $25. More money to spend? On Sunday way down in San Pedro the Cold Sweat Sextet play Alvas at 5 p.m. Chuck McPherson is the drummer (you’ve seen him kicking it up behind his alto-playing dad, Charles McPherson). Nuthin’ but James Brown, baby, with Azar Lawrence as Maceo. If you’ve still got cash to burn, there’s the great Kurt Elling at Catalina’s on Wednesday and Thursday. Elling dispenses with predictable sets of standards to do whatever the hell he wants. Like Dedicated to You, a live album — with strings — of the music of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, even the outtakes. It’s a flawless, beautiful thing, with Ernie Watts filling the tenor chair and Elling his usual masterful self. They bring the show to Catalina’s starting this Wednesday.

(Brick can be reached at


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >