Brick's Picks: Full-Frontal Jazz

When you think about jazz, you just don't think about naked women. Well, drummers might, but everyone else is way too busy reading the charts. The fans don't — they're so smart and sophisticated and well dressed. Critics haven't done so since college.

This is not to say that jazz and naked women were always so conceptually distant. After all, a lot of this stuff supposedly started in New Orleans bawdy houses. And the Kansas City sound came about in a similar neighborhood. (There's a fascinating article by Kirk Silsbee about jazz musicians working L.A. strip clubs, but alas it was tucked away in a program to the Playboy Jazz Festival, and good luck finding it now.) On a higher plane, Josephine Baker used to get very artistic over in Paris. And then decades later, hippies would run around naked to free jazz, but then hippies would run around naked to anything. No one runs around naked in jazz clubs anymore.

Which brings up Big Willie's Burlesque. They do jazzed-up strip club tunes, centered on Willie McNeil's bump-and-grind drumming. Bunny Girl is their debut. It certainly sounds like the real thing, a blast to listen to. Live, it's very stylized. Amazing he can drum at all with all those unattired women onstage. The CD release show is Thursday at the Edison (108 E. 2nd St., dwntwn.). There's a dress code.

There's also a CD release downtown over at the Blue Whale on Friday for Anthony Wilson's brilliant Campo Belo. He recorded it in São Paulo with a bunch of Brazilian players, but it's a jazz record, nothing bossa or anything. The cats he found down there sure seem to be on a similar plane, and it sounds like he's been playing with them his whole life. Wilson's guitar playing has never been better. We've probably listened to this thing a dozen times since he handed it to us and we keep hearing new things. He's put together an exceptional bunch of young L.A. musicians to play this stuff here, including pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Dave Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle. Highly recommended.

And it's about time NYC pianist Junko Onishi's trio made it out here. We've been listening to releases by her for years now, and love her intense music, just soaked in all that Monk and probably Ornette Coleman, Ellington even, the real stuff. She's always had some pretty uncompromising drummers blazing away beside her, and Gregory Hutchinson fits that bill nicely. Never seen her live (though dig her couple Live at the Vanguard sessions), but her music and playing will have no trouble resonating throughout Catalina's this Tuesday. She's touring behind Baroque, another solid release. One of the week's essential shows.

And Bill Frisell is doing one of his out-of-left-field things again, bringing a trio into Royce Hall on Saturday (2 and 8 p.m.) to do the live scoring for some Buster Keaton flicks (Go West, High Sign and One Week). Now Keaton ranks with, say, Duke Ellington in our genius book, and the combination on DVD might be a little iffy at times. But we love the music. So at Royce you're getting the Bill Frisell Trio plus some of the funniest movies ever at the same time, and you're gonna stay home? You nuts?

BONUS TRACKS: And damn, man, we almost missed this one — Branford Marsalis Quartet and the Terence Blanchard Quintet down at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Sunday at 2 p.m. How did the L.A. promoters miss out on this? We don't even have to tell you how good this'll be. Call (714) 556-2787 to see if there are tickets left.

Some nice stuff in the small clubs, too. We really dig the sax playing of Dale Fielder, who's at Vibrato on Friday; Louis Van Taylor, who's at Charlie O's on Saturday; and Bob Sheppard, who's featured in the Louis Perla Quartet (along with stellar pianist John Campbell) at Vitello's on Saturday. And the Elliott Caine Quintet invariably tear it up at Jax. Not just jazz fans but normal people seem to get into it. Something about Glendale brings out the fire in the eye-doctoring trumpeter. He's there on Saturday.

Jax, by the way, is loud and crowded and full of drunks, the food is heavy and the bar pours 'em stiff, and for some reason we're quite fond of this joint. We like the Lighthouse, too, but it's way the hell down in Hermosa Beach and the jazz is now on weekend mornings, from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. But it's a great excuse for bloodies and eggs. The inimitable guitarist Barry Zweig's quartet is there on Saturday, and veteran trumpeter Steve Huffsteter on Sunday. It's a very fun hang, the Lighthouse, and worth getting up before noon for. Really.

(Brick can be reached at


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