Cuba's Septeto Nacional is at Catalina's on Tuesday through Thursday. Founded by legendary bassist Ignacio Pineiro in Havana back in 1927, the band has remained true to its original rootsy and acoustic son habanero, full of rumbas and guaguancos, a style from which all the other styles, from cha cha chas and Cuban jazz to soukous, have derived. And dig that crazy trumpet — these guys did that first, too. Septeto's latest, Sin Rumba No Hay Son(on World Village), is a beautiful kicker, absolutely pure to the sound, and a blast from start to finish. We've been playing and playing the thing. And live, this band is only supposed to be better.
And on Friday (and for free) saxist Kamasi Washington & the Next Step at LACMA, beginning at 6 p.m. Kamasi's tenor playing is huge, the kind of sound that orchestra leaders like Gerald Wilson like to unleash in a number since the crowd invariably goes nuts. He's got lung power, this kid; he can just blow on and on in a solo, outdoing himself over and over. This should be really good.
Rickey Woodard is at Charlie O's on Saturday with the John Heard Trio, a solid saxophonist with a solid band. Pianist Otmaro Ruiz and quartet are at the Baked Potato on Wednesday, a heavy bunch instrumentally, including bassist Jimmy Johnson and great, Cuban traps drummer Jimmy Branly, plus an unnamed tenor. On Thursday there's a pair of gigs hopelessly across town from each other: Leimert Park saxist Michael Session's quintet at the Crowne Plaza LAX, with trumpeter Steve Smith, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, bassist Jeff Littleton and drummer Mekala Session, and at Vitello's in Studio City veteran trombonist Ed Neumiester's quintet with saxist Bob Mintzer, pianist John Beasley, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Peter Erskine. Session still burns with Horace Tapscott's fire, doing his damnedest to keep the sound alive, while Neumeister's more of an L.A. session and big-band cat, showing his stuff with this great outfit. Take your pick.
If you like that classic West Coast jazz sound, then the Phil Norman Tentet is at Charlie O's on Thursday. He's collected some great veteran players, including saxist Roger Neumann, trumpeters Carl Saunders and Ron Stout and trombonist Andy Martin, and a bookful of great West Coast arrangers like Bob Florence, Med Flory and Tom Kubis.
The Blue Whale in Little Tokyo is way hip with the bookings as usual, and Saturday all the way from Paris come the Kandinsky Effect, with saxist Warren Walker, bassist Gael Petrina and drummer Gautier Garrigue. They make a tough, sometimes out, sometimes funky, often loud sound, the kind of uncompromising thing we would have been blasting at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday when we were 25. Perfect for the downtown scene. And on Thursday, New York drummer David Ashkenazy has a trio at the Blue Whale, and knowing Ashkenazy's stuff, this won't be dinner music. This joint also has the best jam session in town every Monday, with drummer Kevin Kanner's ultra-talented house band and various killer players, mostly young but some open-eared vets, too, sitting in. Check it out.
And the Café 322 features a couple of rule-breaking virtuosos this week: bassist Jennifer Leitham's trio on Wednesday and guitarist Bruce Forman's western swing Cowbop on Thursday.
We've had a soft spot for the Sweet & Hot Music Festival for years now. It's not the hippest thing, and the Blue Whale crowd would think they're at grandma's, but it's four solid days from Friday through Monday of nearly nonstop jazz, a mad swirl of jam sessions and combos, most of it bop or small-group swing, and some name vocalists and a big band or three, too. Howard Alden, Harry Allen, John Altman, Dave Koonse, Jennifer Leitham, Roger Neumann, Ed Shaughnessy, Allan Vache and Johnny Varro are just some of the players listed. Ernestine Anderson and the irrepressible Herb Jeffries are among the vocalists.
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And Jack Sheldon appears with his quartet and his orchestra. Friday has six stages, Saturday and Sunday eight and Monday four. That is a helluva lot of jazz. Plenty of bars, too. And rooms to sleep it off in. This what parents do when the kids finally move out. It's at the Marriott LAX (5855 W. Century Blvd., 310/341-5700), check out sweethot.org for schedule and prices.
And the 2nd Annual LA Vida Music Festival is the Ford Amphitheatre on Sunday from 7-10:30 p.m. Hardworking Louie Cruz Beltran & his Latin Jazz Ensemble (with Poncho Sanchez sitting in) tops a varied Latin bill with Real Tango, the Mariachi Divas, the Robert Kyle Brazilian Quartet and the Carnaval sounds of Chalo Eduardo & the Brazilian Beat. Tickets are $30 (with some of that limited VIP seating going for $50), and we just love this venue.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)