A pair of very gutsy horn players takes the Jazz Bakery stage this Friday and Saturday as tenor Billy Harper comes to town with his quintet, featuring trumpeter Eddie Henderson. Harper’s credits are pretty stellar — Max Roach, Art Blakey, Leon Thomas, Randy Weston and Woody Shaw, among many — and he has a tough NYC sound that really comes to fore on his own sets (check out Somalia for some spirited music and intense playing). Of course, if all that Trane-inspired music is a little too new on the ears this week, and even bebop makes you nervous, then plunge back into the roots of jazz NYC style with boogie-woogie and stride pianist Carl Sonny Leyland’s tribute to Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller at the Pasadena Jazz Institute on Friday and Saturday. And maybe after all that you might need to plunge into the post-Trane world again with saxist Charles Owens at Charlie O’s on Sunday. Owens is a kick: funny, intense, bluesy, outside, inside, funky, swinging and virtuosic all in the same set, in the same medley even. He never gets as out at Charlie O’s as he is liable to at, say, the World Stage (where he goes just plain bonkers), but he does things to the straight-ahead that you don’t hear too often.
There’s also a lot of Brazilian music in town this week. Katia Moraes is a joy no matter what style she’s in at the time — samba, bossa, jazz, MPB, choro or gyrating to a batucada; she does them all with equal passion, skill and personality. She’s with her eclectic Sambaguru at La Ve Lee on Saturday. On Wednesday and Thursday pianist Eliane Elias begins a four-night stand at the Jazz Bakery, playing and singing the intensely beautiful music of Bill Evans. With her are the great drummer Billy Hart and Evans’ last bassist, Marc Johnson. And Airto & Flora Purim are part of an eclectic bill of jazz and world and hip-hop and DJs and conspiracy theorists performing at the KPFK Benefit at Crash Mansion downtown on Thursday (see www.crashmansionla.com for details). That same Thursday, Vibrato will feature the Brazilian percussionist, guitarist and composer Mayuto Correa & the Sound of Brazil (with a cast of Brazilian players plus the Colombian-born saxist Justo Almario).
Beloved jazz and blues singer Barbara Morrison plays Vibrato on Friday. She also stars in Howlin’ Blues and Dirty Dogs, in which she portrays the legendary blues singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton (who did the original “Hound Dog” and “Ball and Chain”). We know nothing of the production itself, but it’s hard to imagine anyone better at getting the sound and spirit (but not the physique) of Big Mama. The show debuts this Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center (4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.), followed by two performances at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on March 29-30. Go to www.fortpcproduction.com for details.
And it’s yet another great week to catch the regulars as they pursue their improvisational art in the various joints and nightspots. On Friday, Jack Sheldon is at Café 322. His playing was simply in the pocket for all three sets the last time he gigged there. And high-wire alto Zane Musa goes for broke at Charlie O’s. Bassist Luther Hughes steps away from Cannonball and Trane for a bit for his Tribute to Nat King Cole project at Il Moro. Also on Saturday, the accordion great Frank Marocco (that’s him all over The Godfather score) has a quartet at Vibrato, doing jazz and standards for the paisans and the big-spending wiseguys, while saxist Dale Fielder plays his saxophones for keeps and gets the same out of his deadly dangerous band at Rosalie & Alva’s. Also on Saturday the exciting tenor Doug Webb is at Charlie O’s. And finally, vibist Nick Mancini brings his Collective to the Café Metropol on Saturday (and joins guitarist Graham Dechter at the Edison downtown on Thursday), while Sunday rolls in with veteran trumpeter Ron Stout at the Lighthouse, beginning at an ungodly 11 a.m. — which is why the good lord created Bloody Marys.
Come Monday, saxist Bob Sheppard joins the Cross Hart Experience at the duo’s regular Hotel Angeleno gig. The killer Latin jazz outfit known as Cartaya’s Enclave are in residency every Tuesday night at the Baked Potato, the same night that the potent trio of pianist Mike Melvoin, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland are at the Jazz Bakery, and harpist Carol Robbins swings on that thing at Vibrato (and it’s a real harp like up in heaven, not one of those harmonicas all those bluesmen are playing down below). Wednesday has one of our favorite local pianists, Tateng Katindig, back at Spazio; while out in Sierra Madre the up-and-coming trumpeter Josh Welchez has a quartet with pianist Joe Bagg, drummer Jason Harnell and bassist Christian Wunderlich at the Café 322. And finish out the week Thursday with bassist Nedra Wheeler leading one of her no doubt exceptionally inspired combos at the Pasadena Jazz Institute on Thursday, or head out to the Valley to see the superb tenor Pete Christlieb at Charlie O’s. Christlieb’s regular gigs at the Back Room in Canoga Park are now a thing of the past, as the club has closed. It’s a shame and leaves a big hole where the John Hammond Trio made some of the best jazz you have ever heard, where soloists like Christlieb or Don Menza or Carl Saunders seemed to get a brandy-lit groove happening, and the jazz just flowed, filling the room, settling in the bones of everyone who was there listening, watching, feeling, living. When things were just right — and they often were — it could be a beautiful scene. But beautiful scenes never last, do they?
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