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Brick's Picks: Jazz-People Issues

There's so much groovy stuff this week, so where the hell to start? How about Echo Park? That's where the Cuban Festival takes place Sunday from noon to 7 p.m., with its beautiful late setting. Maybe you've seen the bust of Cuban liberation poet José Marti ("my poems/short, sincere/with the force of steel/forged into swords") on the corner there, just across from Aimee Semple McPherson's shrine. This is one of our favorite happenings in all the city! The clave never stops, with salsa and rumba and timba and whatever — it doesn't matter, all the bands are good (we recommend Rumbankete, who get down). The vibe is perfect, with an intense drum circle and seething dance floor and announcers who never shut up; plus great food and drink — everything. We'd say you should bring your own rum, but that would be illegal.

If you have the bread (the tickets are steep) and you live for serious jazz fusion, then the Baked Potato 40th Anniversary Jazz Festival at the Ford Amphitheatre this weekend is a must. On Saturday the Baked Potato All Stars, O.H.M., Scott Henderson, Volto!, Steve Lukather and the Michael Landau Group play — for nine solid hours, from 2 p.m. on — pure, uncompromising fusion. On Sunday things get a tad slicker, maybe, a little less heavy and decidedly more funky, with club founder Don Randi & Quest, Lee Ritenour, the Yellow Jackets, Larry Carlton and Jazz Ministry with Abe Laboriel and Alex Acuna. Google "Baked Potato" for details.

And if two solid days of fusion are too much, how about four solid days of straight-ahead? That's what the L.A. Jazz Institute's East Coast Sounds is, beginning all day Thursday at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. First day's lineup is the Sam Most Quintet, then a jazz orchestra doing Gil Evans, then Bob Brookmeyer leading a Gerry Mulligan Sextet, and finally a Maynard Ferguson Alumni Band led by Don Menza. Panels and films, too. Google "Los Angeles Jazz Institute" for details.

Now let's race through the club picks: The Jack Sheldon Orchestra is at Catalina's on Friday and Saturday, and their last time there, they tore it up (and when the hell will Jack record "Where Do You Start"?). On Friday the violin/drums/two bass/accordion/French horn and Alex Acuna madness of Flexible Reality is at Vitello's, while drummer Kenny Dennis (of Mingus, Miles, Bill Evans, both Sonnys — Stitt and Rollins — you name it) is at LACMA. Young and furious pianist Yoong Seung Cho blew our minds at the Foundry not long ago; he has a quintet at the Blue Whale on Friday and will make them play their asses off.

Finally, here are the saxophonists for Saturday: the brilliant alto Gary Foster at Vibrato, and tenors Chuck Manning at Charlie O's and Pete Christlieb (with pianist Jon Mayer) at Café 322; Bob Sheppard plays the Blue Whale. On Wednesday Bob Sheppard and Bob Mintzer hit Vitello's, and Pete Christlieb is at Charlie O's; Fred Horn is at Jax. You pick, we recommend all of them, every tune, every solo, every note. But then, we're suckers for saxophone.

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