Tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III is at Café Metropol on Friday and Saturday. First time we ever saw him was from a front-row table in some tiny dive a few years ago and his playing was so intense and virtuosic, the ideas coming so fast, that it was nearly overwhelming. The band was young and tough and it was a crazy '50s time warp — black and white and curling smoke — back to when the saxophone colossi walked the stage. Smith will have pianist Josh Nelson's trio with him, making this a prime sampling of the exciting young jazz scene happening all over town. And when NYC tenor Dayna Stephens
joins the lineup for the Saturday gig, it'll only get more intense. Tenor madness, indeed.
Also on Friday and Saturday, Kenny Werner — one of NYC's finest jazz pianists — finishes up a three-day stretch at Catalina's. He's got a killer quartet, too, featuring the exceptional saxophonist Chris Potter, truly a player's player. Catalina's is on a roll this week, with vocalist Gretchen Parlato on Monday and then major-league trumpeter Terence Blanchard's quintet there Tuesday through Thursday. Blanchard's latest, the post-boppish Choices (on Concord) pushes things in many directions, all of them beautiful. Walter Smith III is on that session too and simply burns, a nice contrast to all the sensitive trumpet playing. And even if it might be far removed from Blanchard's hard-bop days, you straight-ahead people will dig this thoroughly.
On Saturday night, for those of you with very open ears, there's trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre (4800 Hollywood Blvd., 323-644-6272). He has the same bunch — including brilliant pianist Vijay Iyer — as on disc one of his new Spiritual Dimensions (on Cuneiform). Spare, spacey, out there (at times way out there), it's thoroughly challenging, beautifully played and pure Wadada. Some of it you get instantly, some of it takes a while, some utterly perplexes. (The second disc is wild, heavy, fusiony grooving by a different lineup with a pack of guitars — and also really good.) If you dig avant-garde jazz, this one's well worth the $25 ($15 for students).
Another avant-ish trumpeter, Tomasz Stanko, is in town Wednesday, doing the latest Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute (1635 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood, 310-271-9039), $25. His music is ethereal and impressionist, and the way he structures his pieces is always fascinating, almost a bridge between the edgier Wadada Leo Smith and Terence Blanchard at his most post-bop. Like those two, highly recommended.
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Thursday, Dwight Trible is at Vitello's. The longtime Horace Tapscott vocalist is as much a musician as any instrumentalist, certainly on par with any players we've talked about this week. Inspired by Leon Thomas, he can soar gospel-style or sing gently, like a mellow horn, always reaching down deep inside himself for the stuff. The audience is often swept up by the power of his performance, rocking to the pulsing rhythms laid down by bassist Trevor Ware as pianist John Beasley takes off into a passionate piano solo. Call for reservations.
The Horvitz-Krauss-Ninh Trio play the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts (2225 Colorado Blvd., 626-795-4989) at 7 p.m. Sunday, $10. With Seattle keyboardist Wayne Horvitz and New Yorkers Briggan Krauss (ex–Sex Mob) on sax and Le Quan Ninh on percussion. The ideas, often crazy ideas, will be flowing. Opening are Such Simple Ears (trumpeter Dan Clucas and percussionist Brian Christopherson), both well-known players in that strange world where out-ish jazz and underground weirdo rock converge. On Wednesday, there's vibist Nick Mancini with pianist Otmaro Ruiz (on the brand-new grand piano, in fact) at the Blue Whale for some extremely creative interplay.
And Cecilia Noel & the Wild Clams are at Harvelle's in Santa Monica on Thursday. Maybe you've heard Noel's excellent Algozar. We finally caught her at Harvelle's one night and immediately dug the sound, a jazzed-up and way funky rocking salsa fusion thing with some great arrangements. The nine-piece band — seemingly handpicked Baked Potato regulars — was James Brown–tight, with Eric Jorgensen fronting the brass and Bernie Dresel behind the drums. There was great soloing on the horns, a wailing guitar, even some extended piano. But it was all about Cecilia, and man, she was nuts. Think Tina Turner meets Celia Cruz ... and then some. Quite the singer and dancer and entertainer, she's funny and fearless and gorgeous and can do the most amazing things with a trombone solo. Wild. Catch her while she's still playing the little joints. But don't take Mom.