Let's start with the weird: San Francisco's Rova Saxophone Quartet are at the Blue Whale on Saturday. Formed back in the late 1970s when, for some reason, saxophone quartets were a bit of a rage, these guys have been honking and skronking and even sweetly playing all manner of craziness, from European art music to free jazz classics to whatever they felt like, basically, pushing four saxophones in some pretty amazing directions. Incredibly, they are still at it all these years later, and still wildly inventive. It's not always easy music to listen to, but then challenge is part of the fun.
On the same night Vitello's has pianist and composer Billy Childs' Chamber Jazz, about as far removed in every way from the Rova people as you can imagine, except just as cerebral. The music is soaked in classical tradition but it swings too, and his players are fine: saxist Bob Sheppard, guitarist Larry Koonse, harpist Carol Robbins, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith. Fascinating and beautiful music, and Childs' potential seems boundless.
Then there's Kneebody, a rather extraordinary young bunch who've been making utterly original music that defies any description we've yet come up with. Four of the players — pianist Adam Benjamin, saxist Ben Wendel, bassist Kaveh Rastegar and drummer Nate Wood — were heavyweights in our younger players scene, and trumpeter Shane Endsley from NYC fits in seamlessly. The compositions are striking, odd, rhythmic and unburdened with too much tradition, their following young, and we keep waiting for some kind of commercial breakthrough for these guys. They're at Angel's in Santa Monica (2460 W. Wilshire Blvd., 310-828-2115) on Monday, 8 and 10 p.m., and also the Harvard Westlake Festival (Rugby Auditorium, 3700 Coldwater Canyon, N. Hlywd.) on Sunday. The festival runs 7-9:30 p.m., they go on at 8 p.m. $15, and proceeds go to Inner City Arts.
We probably first heard Stanley Clarke on FM rock radio, back when free-form was hip and station programmers didn't assume their listeners were too stupid to dig anything new. Thus Return to Forever was huge, and Stanley Clarke himself a solo star. Basically, unlike the Kneebodys of today, Clarke lucked out — right man, right place, right time. The cat is a monster bassist, you know that. And has no trouble assembling a monster band (pianist Ruslan Sirota amazes us). And the promised special guests will be name players. He's doing tunes off The Stanley Clarke Band, the one the Grammy people noticed before they began slashing jazz categories all to hell. His four-night run at Catalina's ends Sunday. Call for reservations.
Now back to weirdness, courtesy Rocco of the un-normal Angel City Jazz Festival. On Wednesday at his latest joint, Royal/T in Culver City (8910 Washington Blvd., 310-559-6300), he has Chord Four. With tenor, trumpet, bass, drums, etc., they "explore sound in space and culture, setting up sound structures that will resonate." We have no idea what that means, but we trust Rocco. 8 p.m., $10. And at the Blue Whale on Thursday it's trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf and trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom's Paris-L.A. Connection. While Maalouf is new to us, Rosenboom's got excellent jazz edge cred, and it sure sounds interesting.
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BONUS TRACKS: Pianist Theo Saunders' Intergeneration Sextet, with alto Zane Musa, tenor Chuck Manning, trombonist David Dahlsten, bassist Jeffrey Littleton and drummer Tony Austin, play the Crowne Plaza on Thursday. Saunders drives this band hard and into constantly interesting places, and as usual is highly recommended. The Kevin Kanner Hard Bop Quintet are at Angel's (2460 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica) on Thursday. Kanner swings like mad, and has assembled the cream of the newer crop of players to play the classics.
Saxist Rickey Woodard lays out his Hank Mobley-inspired hard bop at Charlie O's on Saturday with the excellent John Heard Trio, while the same night down in San Pedro, alto man Richie Cole goes bebop crazy. He's got guitarist Bruce Forman with him. And guitarist Peter Curtis plays Leimert Park's World Stage on Saturday with pianist Billy McCoy, bassist Trevor Ware and drummer Clayton Cameron. That is a serious quartet, people. Alas, he's on his way to NYC and this is his last local gig.
Switching genres, continents and easily pronounced names, the amazing Vieux Farka Touré will be playing material off his excellent The Secret (on Six Degrees) at the Satellite (formerly Spaceland) in Silverlake on Thursday. Malian music that rocks — we totally dig this guy's CDs and can't believe he's in such a small venue. Doors open at 8:30 and it's probably best to get there early to avoid standing in the line that wraps around the block whenever some name act is in the joint. $17.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)