Brick’s Picks: Hang On, Snooky

Snooky Young has been playing trumpet a long time, long enough to have been lead trumpeter with the Jimmie Lunceford band when it ruled Central Avenue. That was the late 1930s, and afterward he had several spells with Count Basie, a stay or two with Lionel Hampton, a year with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and Gerald Wilson, and a couple decades with the Tonight Show Band. Rocks fan will remember his beautiful intro to “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” on the Band’s Rock of Ages. He’s still playing with Gerald Wilson and the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. That’s seven decades of playing for people, beginning when jazz (and he) were scarcely 20 years old. Jazz is a hundred now, and Snooky’s 90. What is history to us was living jazz to Snooky. He and Gerald Wilson recently won NEA Jazz Master Awards. Maybe you saw it on PBS, Gerald lecturing and Snooky next to him, cracking wise. The stories the pair has go all the way back to their Lunceford days. It’s only fitting, then, that trombonist Ira Nepus convinced the city to give Snooky a coveted Los Angeles Treasure Award, and there’s a righteous free concert at LACMA celebrating it on Friday. The band is stocked with Tonight Show Band and Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra members like Nepus, tenor Rickey Woodard, trumpeter Chuck Finley, pianist Rich Eames, bassist Jennifer Leitham and drummer Ed Shaughnessy. They’ll even be doing a Lunceford tune or two.

Barbara Morrison is throwing herself a 60th birthday bash at the Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday. Some of the names lined up to join her onstage include Tierney Sutton, Gerald Wilson, Ernie Andrews, Wycliffe Gordon and scads more. The lady is a blast live, hysterically funny between numbers and a master of her distinct bluesy jazz vocal style. Recommended. Frank Sinatra Jr. and his excellent orchestra are at Catalina Friday through Sunday. If you like that trumpet-vocalist combination that doesn’t seem to happen much anymore, Jack Sheldon is at Café 322 on Friday. His (still unrecorded) magnificent take on “What Does It Take” nails us every time. And singer/songman Mark Winkler plays Café Metropol on Saturday. His Till I Get It Right (on Free Ham) is one hip disc, hip like Kurt Elling hip, smart and fresh and swinging. Plus, the cat just plain sings great.

There’s an explosion of straight-ahead this week, with saxists like Houston Person at the Culver City Radisson ($20), the always brilliant and inventive Chuck Manning at Cafe Metropol ($10), and the stunning tone and fleet playing of Gary Foster at Charlie O’s (no cover) — all on Friday. On Saturday, the cooking Rickey Woodard’s at Charlie O’s, and drummer Joe LaBarbera has an extremely talented quintet in there on Sunday, with saxist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Clay Jenkins with pianist Bill Cunliffe. That will be an especially good one. One doesn’t see bop saxist Bruce Babad on his own much outside Orange County, but he has a quartet at Sangria on Wednesday. That same night the power trio of pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Darek Oles, and drummer Peter Erskine play Vitello’s. And on Thursday Bob Sheppard at the Foundry. Try and follow his crazy solos (good luck).

Trumpeter Josh Welchez has his own Miles Davis Kind of Blue tribute at Spazio on Saturday night with a very impressive line up of younger cats, including monster tenor Water Smith III, alto Matt Zebley and pianist Gary Fukushima. Great stuff. (Smith’s gigs at the Metropol a couple weeks ago were explosive. The guy’s got it, people.) Ya gotta love something called Sigmund Fudge, which is what bassist Ryan McGillicuddy calls his quartet with pianist Joe Bagg, guitarist Jamie Rosenn and drummer Jason Harnell at the Baked Potato on Sunday. The music is as cool as the name. The same bunch are calling themselves the Joe Bagg Quartet at Spazio on Thursday. Make special note of tenor (and some clarinet) Robby Marshall’s Root System, a nonet playing Spazio on Wednesday. Players include alto (and some bass clarinet) Sam Gendel, trumpeters Jumaane Smith and John Daversa, trombonists Vikram Devasthali, mad man Justin Kirk, pianist Matt Politano, bassist Dominic Thiroux, and drummer Gene Coye. Jazz with lots of Afro-Peruvian rhythms and Balkan touches. Which we can totally dig.

There’s a nice Brazilian double bill at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday with seductive Bebel Gilberto and the brilliant Seu Jorge. (Complete with fireworks, too.) Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure is at the Echoplex on Tuesday. His Fondo is beautiful, lilting, hypnotic Sahel blues. For just the opposite effect, rattle your skeleton silly on Tuesday at the Baked Potato with the thoroughly jazzified salsaeros Cecelia Noel & the Wild Clams. Her A Gozar is a knockout, hot in every way. Finally, Brownout are at Zanzibar (see rock listings for venue details) on Thursday. Their latest, Aguilas and Cobras, is a major mix of horn-driven Latin funk, JBs rhythms, afro-funk and acid guitar and a lot of jazz-soaked breaks. Put it in the CD player, get on your nearest freeway and just floor it.

(Brick can be reached at

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