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Brick’s Picks: Bands on the Run

Lesa Terry has a band at LACMA on Friday, and she plays a terrific jazz violin. You might remember her from the Uptown String Quartet, which Max Roach paired with his own quartet to make some amazing music back in the ’80s. For some reason, most people don’t much think of the violin as a jazz instrument, believing that any ax that ain’t part of the rhythm section should be made out of brass. Well, a good violin player can kick any outfit into gear, so this will be a hot one. Of course, these LACMA gigs end way too early (around 8 p.m.) — your music jones is barely even scratched, so it’ll be time to head to another joint.

If you’re quick you can catch most of the first set at Café Metropol, where drummer Jason Harnell has an excellent trio with guitarist Bruce Forman and keyboardist Joe Bagg, three imaginative musicians in this great place. Music runs only to 10, so don’t be too late. Or head uphill to check out saxist Carol Chaikin at Vibrato. We really dig this lady’s energetic sax playing, but it’s rare she gets a leader spot, which makes this especially recommended. Or maybe you can head to the friendly (and affordable) Café 322 in Sierra Madre to catch Jack Sheldon, who’s always great in this room. Or head out to Spazio in the Valley for saxist Azar Lawrence. Lawrence used to be all over town, blowing like mad, but he’s spending a lot of time in NYC these days, so catch him when you can anymore. This is a superb quartet, too, with bassist Henry Franklin, pianist Theo Saunders and drummer Ramon Banda. This has been a working outfit for some time now, so the improv will have that comfortable cohesion that allows Azar to push things even further. Trumpeter Elliot Caine has a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday afternoon at the Pasadena Playhouse District Art Walk (46 South El Molino Blvd.) with his fine quintet, and then that night with the same bunch at Jax in Glendale. We’re looking forward to his new material, too. Also that night jazz pianist Howlett Smith and trio are at the Cornerstone Music Conservatory (12121 W. Pico Blvd. at Bundy, 310-820-1620) as the first in a series of jazz fundraisers for Students With Disabilities. Music starts at 8 p.m. And if you live near or can make the drive to San Pedro, the Dwight Trible Quintet plays Alvas Showroom on Saturday night, 8 p.m. Trible’s gripping vocals, so full of passion and soul (Leon Thomas fans take note), will resound in this acoustically perfect space. The material and performance — potent originals and remarkable takes on ’Trane and the like — get normally sedate jazz fans moving and grooving, caught up in the feel. Highly recommended.

No sleeping in on Sunday if you want to see the excellent Nick Mancini Organ Quintet. They’re doing the Lighthouse from 11 a.m. His superior vibes playing alongside Joe Bagg on the B-3 make this a solid bet, and you can drink your breakfast too. And Sunday night saxist Charles Owens is back at Charlie O’s. Owens is always a kick, the music adventurous and wide-ranging, his chops stellar. He’s got pianist John Beasley in the band, fresh from his own headlining stand at Catalina’s. Then on Tuesday at Charlie O’s it’s another brilliant saxophonist, Bob Sheppard. His playing is such a rush of ideas you just sit there and listen and try to take it in, knowing full well that you’ll never quite get it. Go down to Texas transplanted on Wednesday when Bruce Forman’s Cow Bop do their Bird-meets–Bob Wills thang at Spazio.

Friday through Sunday there’s that Stan Kenton extravaganza at the Four Points Sheraton (9750 Airport Blvd., 562-985-7076), just packed with gems and oddities and vast, sprawling arrangements. Friday features Shelly Manne’s Men (with Bobby Shew), a June Christy tribute, the music of Art Pepper with Fred Selden and former Pepper sideman Milcho Leviev, The Shorty Rogers Big Band and the Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra. Saturday features Andy Martin playing the music of Frank Rosolino, a Maynard Ferguson Birdland Dreamband Tribute packed with alumni (Lanny Morgan, Bobby Shew, Don Rader, directed by Don Menza), a Kenton alumni Contemporary Concepts Big Band, and the great Bill Holman Big Band. Sunday winds up with the John Daversa Big Band, the Mike Vax Orchestra, a Neophonic (love those Kentonisms) Orchestra, and a Kenton in the Seventies Big Band. But no National Anthems of the World Big Band, unfortunately. Plus films and panels and Kenton alumni stories. See lajazzinstitute.org.

(Brick can be reached at brickjazz@yahoo.com.)