Last time we saw Dave Liebman he was going stark raving bonkers on "Impressions" with Joe Lovano and Joshua Redman as the Saxophone Summit at the Playboy Jazz Festival. They made a giant, passionate sound, those three, wailing and wild and free, but Liebman especially was out in the stratosphere. Well, he's back, and at Vitello's on Friday. Don't expect an ear-splitting reprise of the Saxophone Summit here, but do expect some amazing creativity, inside and outside. And check out his band: saxist Bob Sheppard, pianist John Beasley, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Joe La Barbera. Out at Spazio on Friday there's another righteous gig, with monster tenor Ernie Watts with the Jon Mayer Trio. We dig Mayer's subtly unpredictable playing. His roots are in late '50s and early '60s New York, when it was the center of the whole jazz world, and his playing still reflects that: his gorgeous sense of melody, the sudden shifts, flashes of dissonance, tempo changes, the melody there again in beautiful pieces. Watts is a huge presence up front, and 'Trane's influence is in there, yeah, but he's his own man. Drummer Roy McCurdy, by the way, is exactly where he should be. Now if you're feeling a tad more restrained, maybe, and you'd like your swing stripped down to the beautiful jazz bones of a piano trio, it's hard to surpass Kurt Elling's pianist Laurence Hobgood, who's at the Café Metropol on Friday and Saturday. He arranged Elling's Coleman/Hartman tribute Dedicated to You (with Watts doing the 'Trane parts in fact); his own When the Heart Danceswith Elling and Charlie Haden is an equally nice piece of work, too.
Lanny Morgan's sextet album, 6, positively kicks. There's an echo of Bird in his chops, sure, but retro it ain't. He's blowing that alto with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O's on Saturday. And the Peter Smith Collective is down in San Pedro at Alva's on Saturday night. Young pianist/vocalist Smith can be found in some challenging lineups (we recently saw him with Charles Owens), and he's recruited a great band here, with vibist Nick Mancini, bassist Trevor Ware, drummer Clayton Cameron and soulful vocalist Patrice Quinn. There's a $20 cover, but bring along your own bottle (or two); there's never a bar tab in this beautiful room. And the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey gigs at The Mint on Saturday. One Day In Brooklyn was their latest inventive release (dig that pedal steel!), and these guys have a college hipster following that older players would die for. Highly recommended.
On Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lighthouse you got the Nick Mancini Organ Quartet (with guitarist Russ Spiegel, saxist Tom Catanzaro, B3 man Joe Bagg, drummer Matt Mayhall and Nick on the vibes) laying out their take on classic '60s organ groove. And while the 11 a.m.-2 p.m. jazz brunch at the Twist in the Renaissance Hotel (at Hollywood and Highland) ain't cheap, about $35 a head, the spread they put out is vast and decadent, they're quick with the free bubbly. This week, it's legendary Central Avenue vocalist Ernie Andrews. If you haven't blown the bank by Sunday then check it out. If you have, well, there's always a couple beers and the absurdly talented Otmaro Ruiz Trio at Charlie O's on Sunday night. And if you have a 10-spot, the Motoko Honda Band (keyboardist Honda with great players Jeff Gauthier and Maggie Perkins on violin and cello) and Ken Rosser's Shadow Language Guitar Quartet (four electric guitarists!) are at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. that night doing god knows what. Open up your ears wide as they go and check this one out. On Monday, there's Theo Saunders on piano with a quartet at Charlie O's, or Larry Goldings on organ with a trio at Vitello's. Guitarist Bruce Forman's bopped-out western swingers CowBop are at the Café 322 on Thursday and they absolutely cook.
Finally, Katia Moraes and Sambaguru are at the Radisson in Culver City on Friday and at Spazio on Saturday. We swear that Katia is the best Brazilian vocalist in town, and we've been digging this band for years. We like all their releases, but their latest, Tribo, is probably our favorite; they nail the styles you expect, the bossas and sambas, but never get stuck, and the music comes from all sorts of places — rocks here, grooves there — people dance like mad to it and her voice reminds us of Elis Regina.
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(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)