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Brick's Picks: Festivals of Nations

Three big jazz festivals in the area this weekend, each completely different. Way different describes the Angel City Jazz Festival at the Ford Amphitheatre. The whole point of this event is to collect all kinds of creative-for-creative’s-sake jazz in one place — hours of it. And they’ve certainly assembled two days of brilliant stuff. Sunday’s headliner is trumpeter Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy (trombone, French horn, tuba and drums). Their Spirit Moves (on Greenleaf) is a glorious mix of a nearly New Orleans–style classic jazz — hence the tuba — and some strikingly expressive pieces with melodies that really stick with you in their odd way; the semi-oddball mix of horns blending beautifully. And Douglas blows a beautiful trumpet. Also on the bill is saxist Jesse Sharp’s stunning collective known as The Gathering (with saxist Kamasi Washington and violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson). Just wait till Dwight Trible joins them, his voice soaring and filling the whole place. Pianist Billy Childs’ Jazz Chamber Ensemble (with harpist Carole Robbins and saxist Bob Sheppard), the Satoko Fujii Quartet with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, pianist Larry Karush, and the clarinet fronted trio Plays Monk fill out the rest of the day.

Top of the Monday’s bill is brilliant reedman Bennie Maupin & Dolphyana, an all-star band — flutist Nestor Torres (filling in for an ill James Newton), vibist Jay Hoggard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Billy Hart — performing newly discovered compositions by the great Eric Dolphy. Wow. Also, drummer Alex Cline’s Band of the Moment ought to be playing material from his striking Continuation; Larry Goldings has the great NYC guitarist Peter Bernstein in his organ trio; The Nels Cline Singers pair Nels with Jeff Parker of Tortoise, doing who knows what, pianist Motoko Honda improvises with butoh master Oguri, and the Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet feature the often radical trumpeter Ron Miles. Incredible lineup in one of our favorite outdoor venues. See angelcityjazzfestival.com for prices (not bad at all) and details.

If you prefer your jazz to be pure straight-ahead, haul on down to the Irvine Marriott (18000 Von Karman Ave., Irvine 949/553-0100) for the WestCoastJazzParty. Goes all weekend, from Thursday through Monday, and the zillion combos scattered about the place (in the ballrooms, poolside — there’s even a cruise) feature Ken Peplowski, Houston Person, Terry Gibbs, Ernie Andrews, the legendary guitarist Mundell Lowe, Mimi Fox, the mighty Frank Capp Juggernaut, Jon Mayer, Paul Smith, Byron Stripling, Jack Sheldon, Peter Erskine ... and half the players in L.A. See westcoastjazzparty.com for details and pricing.

And then the Sweet’n’Hot Jazz Festival goes on all weekend at the LAX Marriott Hotel (5855 W. Century Blvd., 310/641-5700). We have to admit to having a weakness for this thing, not only because it makes us feel young (in comparison — the crowd is a tad mature) but also because it’s so unpretentious, relaxed and unserious. Vocalists Ernestine Anderson, Herb Jeffries and Ernie Andrews, West Coast cool Dave Pell & the Prez Conference, Jack Sheldon, Howard Alden (another legendary guitarist), John Altman (just wailing on that curved soprano), Gil Bernal, Chuck Hedges, Carl Saunders, Johnny Varro, Allan Vache, Nedra Wheeler ... plus half the players at the thing down in Irvine. The music tends toward swing and cool and some bop, a little ’20s, even. Good times (and reasonable prices). See sweethot.org for details.

Elsewhere around town, saxist and longtime Tapscott veteran Michael Session will blow some furious sax at LACMA on Friday. Zane Musa thrills the crowd at Vibrato on Saturday with his passionate alto playing. Charlie O’s has three heavyweight tenors this week: Benn Clatworthy on Sunday, Charles Owens on Tuesday and Pete Christlieb (with the very creative Jon Mayer on piano) on Thursday. Go all three nights, and you’ll get a serious education in the art of the saxophone. Bob Sheppard, not a bad teacher himself (especially with pianist John Beasley), is at Spazio on Thursday.

Talk about eclectic: Catalina’s begins its week with comics Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (from the days when jazz and comedy were a natural fit; Gregory is still the man, and octogenarian Sahl remains absolutely brilliant). The club finishes on Thursday with the very underrated Frank Sinatra Jr. (His orchestra should be something special.) On Wednesday, Tulsa natives The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey are at Catalina’s to celebrate their latest, One Day in Brooklyn. They do Monk (a gorgeous “Four in One”), Abdullah Ibrahim, Roland Kirk (a crazier “Black & Crazy Blues” that weaves and darts and cooks), and some Beatles. Their own “Country Girl” is just lovely, a little off the track, languid here, hurried there (we’re digging it right now in fact). Not sure where JFJO are going — their albums veer wildly in direction — but it’s an interesting trip to say the least. Recommended.

Brick can be reached at brickjazz@yahoo.com.


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