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Brick's Picks: Generation Modulation

If you hang around enough jazz clubs in this town, you’ll begin to notice a decided generation gap. In some clubs, the players — and even more so the fans — tend to be older; in others, they tend to be younger. It’s not absolute, by any means; there are always a few young cats, bassists mostly, in the older clubs, and fans, too. You’re less likely to see the reverse, but they’re there, too, the veteran cats, the veteran fans. But not many. The younger jazz scene exists pretty much under the radar, a lot of it in or near downtown, at weekly jam sessions like 2nd Street Jazz or the 1160 on Vermont, in bars like 7 Grand, or a little more publicly at the Café Metropol. The Foundry out on Melrose is an offshoot. Of late, stuff has even been popping up over the hill at Spazio. And at places we don’t even know exist. These rooms are crammed full of deadly serious jazz players (many of them USC and Monk Institute grads), who live and breathe the music, who all want to play, and who’ll lose you instantly if you try to talk to them about music, like talking about how pretty the stars look with a roomful of CalTech students. But their heroes are your heroes, ’Trane and Bird and Hank Moberly and Monk and Elvin Jones, and their music often swings like mad, can be fascinating as hell, gorgeous even, and they solo with a desperate, youth-driven urgency that you just know all those great jazz heroes did at that same age. And the very best of these rooms, these nights, is the jam session that drummer Kevin Kanner has been holding every Monday at the Mint for the last five years. All the young, local cats have taken this stage, the best and the best of the best, and the house band alone — with Kanner, bassist Hamilton Price, pianist Matt Politano, guitarist Charles Altura, tenor Tom Catanzaro and pianist Josh Nelson — is certainly tops.

They do a set, and then begins the battles, the real stuff, the NYC-level jazz jamming. Big-time cats drop by regularly to sit in. The room is full of young players and young fans and sometimes you can’t believe you’re in our mellow Los Angeles. The music runs from 9:30 to 2 a.m., and there’s no cover. Only one problem: This Monday is the very last one; the club owner pulled the plug. Going to be some nice middle-of-the-road R&B in there from now on. You knew it was too good to be true. So be there for the final session. Everyone else will be; all the best players will be lining up to get on that stage. This will be an epic night of L.A. jazz at its finest. Sad, maybe, but swinging and forward-thinking.

Bassist John Patitucci’s trio play Catalina’s through Sunday. We talked about his latest Remembrance (spinning again right now, in fact) which is a pretty damn exciting slice of pianoless trio; we hear something new every time, and he and drummer Brian Blade work together almost like a single entity. And saxist Joe Lovano, man, every opening they make for him, every path they limn out, he makes his own. Both the disc and the gig are highly recommended. (As is pianist John Beasley, who begins his Catalina’s stand on Thursday. His excellent new one is Positootly, his live quartet features Nicholas Payton and Terry Lyne Carrington — but more about all this next week.) The often avant-garde viola player Miguel Atwood-Ferguson is at Spazio on Sunday with Josh Nelson, bassist Gabe Noel and drummer Tony Austin. This could be really interesting. Noel’s Six Thirty (on Thrilljockey) of a couple years back was a favorite of ours, and it’s nice to see him in the listings. And we just happened to notice that the great Ahmad Jamal is at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center (4718 W. Washington Blvd., 323/964-9768) on Friday, with a quartet, including drummer Kenny Washington.

Some of the locals around town we really dig this week include trumpeter Carl Saunders at Vibrato on Friday; when this cat decides to play, to really play, look out. Just-out-of-high-school bassist Mike Gurrola has a trio at the Café Metropol on Saturday, which is always worth a look. Two chances to see saxist Bob Sheppard this week, on Saturday at Vibrato and Wednesday at Vitello’s. He plays around town a lot, so if you haven’t caught him yet, we’d advise it. Trumpeter Elliott Caine brings his fired-up Lee Morgan inspired hard/postbop into Jax on Saturday, turning the joint into a noisy, old-fashioned jazz joint for a night. And there’s yet another good run at Charlie O’s, with tenor Don Menza playing it straight and solid on Saturday, pianist Theo Saunders in that place where Monk and McCoy Tyner mix on Monday, pure straight-ahead from the CJS Quintet on Tuesday and pure hard bop from the Tony Inzalaco Quintet, featuring a terrific lineup of tenor Chuck Manning, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, pianist Theo Saunders and bassist Chris Colangelo on Wednesday. When people ask us to recommend the best jazz club in town, we still say Charlie O’s.

And we began this thing with Kevin Kanner, who is probably the swingingest young drummer in town. And no wonder, as he studied with maybe the swingingest veteran drummer, Jeff Hamilton, for years. Well, the Jeff Hamilton Trio are at Vibrato on Tuesday. There’s a $20 cover, but you just know it’s gonna be solid.

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

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