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Brick’s Picks: Jazz in Orbit

Jack Sheldon was hot at Jax last Thursday. Jennifer Leitham swung the bassline like mad and plunged into these beautifully dense solos with great washes of chords or hanging, aching notes; drummer Dick Weller kicked it up crazily as Joe Bagg finessed coherent melodies (or chunks of Monk) from a piano last tuned during the Eisenhower administration. Jack just got hotter and hotter, those near perfect solos, the trumpet’s single notes celebrating the tune like Satchmo taking off into the bop galaxy. In Glendale of all places. We wandered in for a drink and there was this great jazz, and a table right in front where you could feel the bass thrumming right through you. Stayed way too late, but the jazz experience is like that, you know. Often as not it’ll happen at some local hang, utterly unexpected, where some absurdly talented band plays for a smattering of fans and there you are, drink in hand, thinking just how lucky you are to be in the right place at the right time (for once in your life).

So let’s celebrate the great jazz to be experienced in the local hangs. Like downtown the pianist Jon Mayer plays the Sheraton (711 S. Hope St.) on Friday; it’s an early gig, 6-9 p.m., and he has bassist Chris Conner and fine drummer Fritz Wise alongside. Mayer’s a one-of-a-kind — a vet from NYC who’s been laying out his beautiful and maybe just a tinge mad licks out here for ages now. (And the flier says no cover and two hours free parking and 50 percent off the bar grub — with discount on dinners — ain’t recessions wonderful?) Also downtownish is the Café Metropol over on Third just past Alameda, where young gun trumpeter Josh Welchez fronts a quartet on Friday that includes tenor Matt Otto. Welchez blows nice, but man can he write a tune. Close your eyes and it can sound like an obscure Blue Note session. Compositional skills like his are rarer than great chops, even. Crazy jazz drummers are rarer still. Not crazy brains-wise, but crazy playing, crazy ideas, like, 'What the hell is that kid doing?' Take Zach Harmon. Crazy accompaniment, crazier solos. Madness. Dig him at the Foundry this Friday and Saturday; pianists Adam Benjamin (of Kneebody) is there Friday and Josh Nelson (one of our faves) on Saturday, too. Two utterly different approaches to melody and rhythm and improv. The creativity flows.

Chuck Manning blows some beautifully expressive tenor, and we dig his ideas, which come out of that bell one new thing after another. He has his quartet at the Café 322 on Wednesday, the same night that tenor Benn Clatworthy plays with drummer Tony Inzalaco’s powerhouse outfit (trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Chris Colangelo) at our fave digs, Charlie O’s. That’s a stretch drive-wise, so you’ll have to pick one or the other and just settle in. Really a stretch Wednesday is Sangria down in Hermosa, right next to the Lighthouse, but if you’re in the area, Jack Nimitz and Adam Shroeder are doing their double-baritone quintet. Hermosa was long one of the centers of West Coast jazz, where bop met cool, and nice to know you can still see it a couple times a week down there.

And speaking of the West Coast thing, alto Bud Shank finishes up his Jazz Bakery stand on Friday and Saturday. Man, does he play some beautiful horn. And for something out of town, pianist Jacky Terrasson’s begins their four-night Bakery stint on Wednesday. Terrason’s a thrilling player, his ideas come at you in a rush, surging and flying, reaching and swinging. On Sunday afternoon at the Bakery, vocalist Bill Henderson celebrates his Live at the Vic release. The Vic is defunct, a stately, intimate room in Santa Monica done up like a speakeasy for who knows what reason but the vibe comes through on this disc. Nice.

And also on Sunday, at 7 p.m. at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, 2225 Colorado Blvd. (626-795-4989), the out-there quartet of guitarist Noah Phillips, woodwinder Phillip Greenlief, electronics wiz Tim Perkis, and drummer Alex Cline (whose brand-new disc has been spinning like mad around here) meets trombonist Michael Vlatkovich’s trio. All you neo-Beats take note.

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

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