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Brick’s Picks: Carnival Cruising

Pianist Josh Nelson has already made a big impression locally, backing vets and major players all over town. He's also a mainstay wherever you find the younger and more adventurous players, at the Foundry, say, or one of Kevin Kanner's jam sessions, or those secret little places in and around downtown that only occasionally come to our notice. We dig his two albums, Let It Go and his latest, I Hear a Rhapsody, love the way he lays out a melody and his fierce, fleet chops, the blend of grace and white-hot, almost staccato fingering when he really lets loose. Nice composer, too, with beautiful balladry, some pure straight-ahead, or the kind of mind-jarring angular things that the kids love to play. He has a trio at Red, White and Bluezz in Pasadena on Friday and then a quartet on Sunday at Spazio with the excellent saxist Dayna Stephens, bassist Dave Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle. On Saturday it's the same quartet at the Café Metropol but with Schnelle in charge, so you get the same players but different tunes and vibe. Schnelle is an up-and-comer himself, a serious player no matter the setting — and a lot of fun to watch, too. Incidentally, since Metropol sets end at 10 sharp, don't be surprised if some of these cats wander into the Foundry on Melrose later in the evening for some fired-up sitting in. Nelson is also with the exceptionally talented guitarist Graham Dechter's quartet at the Sunday jazz brunch at Twist at the Renaissance Hotel (at Hollywood and Highland). And you can see all these players on a pretty regular basis at Kevin Kanner's Monday Night Jam Session now at the suddenly happening Blue Whale in Little Tokyo. And there are great saxophonists at Charlie O's all weekend, with 'Trane-inspired Justo Almario on Friday, the hard bop and blues of Rickey Woodard on Saturday, and Chuck Manning doing his own unique thing on Sunday. The brilliant and ever-imaginative saxist Bob Sheppard is at Vibrato on Saturday and Vitello'son Thursday.

And there are a couple great events from other continents on Saturday. We've been digging Mali's Tinariwen for quite a while, with their mix of Sahel feeling and melodies set to a very gritty instrumentation. It's very bluesy, like so much Malian music, and it strikes a deep chord with many of us, but the rhythms are often wonderfully alien, loping, chunk-a-chunk swaying stuff, and it's absolutely irresistible. It's rock & roll, too; 2007's Aman Iman was almost a Saharan Exile on Main Street. Their latest, Imidiwan, is a touch lighter and less gritty but just as good. The men in this band did a brief stint long ago as Tuareg guerrillas, a romantic story that pop journalists still mooning over Che Guevara just love. But military service is just an interruption in many a young musician's career, and Tinariwen are and always have been musicians first and foremost, turning ancient musical traditions into a formidable new style that certainly blows our mind. They're at Royce Hall on Saturday and are highly recommended. Then get back in your car and haul ass downtown to Club Nokia for the 10th annual Brazilian Carnaval. Patricia Leao of BrazilianNites.com manages to throw this together every year, and we love her for it. A crazy mini-Carnaval, this, with massed percussion and wild samba dancers, feathers and spangles everywhere. This year she's flown up from Bahia the legendary Trio Eletrico, featuring Armandinho — "the Brazilian Hendrix" — on guitar and electric cavaquino. Trio Eletrico was founded by Armandinho's father as a wailing power trio on a flatbed truck at Carnaval back in the hippie days; it then caught on to become a style all over the country. Huge down there, unknown here. Brazilian Nites certainly sets the right atmosphere — the bateria, the feathers, the sambistas, the frenzy. You'll get an eyeful and an earful. Highly recommended. And yes, we know it ain't jazz, but look up at the stage: If those feathers the women are wearing ain't bopping, then we don't know what bebop is.

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

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Red White + Bluezz

37 S. El Molino Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105

626-792-4441

www.redwhitebluezz.com