We used to see Tigran Hamasyan at the Foundry pretty regularly — he spent a lot of time at that upright piano. The kid was vastly talented, a virtuosic improviser, an explosion of rapid-fire creative energy and new ideas. Kevin Kanner or Zach Harmon usually drummed and the music was endlessly intense: exquisitely beautiful passages, then chunks of Monk, then stretches of pure bop, then Armenian progressions and then reductionist rhythmic pounding that only a genius can get away with. Owner Eric Greenspan lays out no rules for the cats here and the crowd is not quite jazz enough to demand conformity, so Tigran just went a little nuts sometimes. And while we saw Tigran in a more sophisticated and more structured guise elsewhere — and were blown away every time — his performances at the Foundry were a special kind of madness. Doubtless he's matured a bit, and certainly been schooled even more than he was, as he's been studying and playing in the meantime in NYC and all over Europe. After this, his next local gig is January at the Broad Stage playing his new Fable album for a big room full of jazz critics and rich people. (You might start looking for tickets now.) That'll be a real concert — a solo recital, in fact. This Foundry booking is just a no-cover bar gig, with that hoary old piano just a step or two from your bar stool. We love jazz in bars.
We're also recommending saxists Louis Van Taylor at Charlie O's on Friday, Bob Sheppard at the Blue Whale on Saturday and Benn Clatworthy at Vibrato on Friday and Charlie O's on Saturday. All three are uncompromising, often mind-blowing soloists, with Clatworthy especially knocking us out every single time he plays. Pianist Theo Saunders is at Charlie O's on Tuesday, highly recommended. The creative duet of pianist Otmaro Ruiz and vibraphonist Nick Mancini play the Blue Whale on Thursday. At Vitello's on Thursday the superb baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder holds a release party for his impressive debut, A Handful of Stars (Capri). It's a quintessentially straight-ahead session that should be getting plenty of radio airplay. His outstanding band is guitarist Graham Dechter (who lays in some really nice work), bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. This one's gonna swing.
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The very first jazz Christmas show of the season happens Saturday at Vitello's with Bill Cunliffe's Big Band Holiday Kickoff. We saw this band earlier this year at Vitello's and they were splendid; here they'll be doing holiday tunes and Cunliffe's West Side Story arrangements. Great players all, too. $20 cover.
And the Filipino-American Jazzfest returns to Catalina's this weekend. Friday features a varied bunch — Johnny Alegre, Abe Lagrimas, JP Maramba and Bo Razon among them. Saturday celebrates the release of Charmaine Clamor's Something Good, with the extended band featured on the session, including Robby Marshall's horn section. And that afternoon there's a concert by a traditional maguindanao kulintang ensemble. Hard to pronounce, but groovy to listen to. It's noon-3 p.m. at SIPA, 3200 W. Temple St. ("in Historic Filipinotown"), (323) 382-1819. $5. Clamor herself instigated this one, which is pretty damn cool. But then she was dipping into this on her classic My Harana. Would love to hear more in her future.
Jazz's eternal schism is old-timers set in their skilful ways versus younger jazz fans mixing everything all up. It's post-bop and grooves and bossa and rock of all kinds and funk of all kinds and eclectic world and cult crooners and MMW and Brooklyn madness, all gumbo'd up into a newfangled jazz. To wit: the Charlie Hunter Trio at the Mint Friday with its unique guitar/trombone/drums lineup. Seriously jamming shit. Hence the annoying Deadheads. On Friday and Saturday George Duke joins Dweezil Zappa and does Frank Zappa's Apostrophe. Hence the annoying Zappaphiles. On Sunday the Alice Coltrane Tribute is at Royce Hall. Kyp Malone (of Brooklyn's TV on the Radio), Pharoah Sanders, Nels Cline, a scheiss-load more. Ultra coolness. Lotta hippies, though. Also Sunday, Brooklyn's Hammond organ hipster dude Marco Benevento's trio is at the Mint on Sunday, and it'll jam. And Portland tenor Rich Halley with Bobby Bradford is at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts — sounds awesome for Sunday, too. Albuquerque tubameister Marc Weaver opens. On Monday it's Kevin Kanner's Jazz Jam at the Blue Whale. Essential. On Wednesday it's Tigran Hamasyan at the Foundry. Also some weird jazz food thing at Royal/T in Culver City with Jeff Gauthier and crew. And Minneapolis nujazz heroes The Bad Plus are at the Mint on Thursday. Open that wallet, baby.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)