A pair of big jazz events goes head-to-head this weekend. Looking like Lollapalooza for the swing set (maybe with fewer piercings and tattoos), the Los Angeles Jazz Institute’s Big Band Showcase continues through Sunday at the Four Points Sheraton at LAX. Congregations include The Bill Holman Band, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Claire Fisher Big Band, Jack Sheldon Big Band, Pete Christlieb Big Band, Terri Gibbs Dream Band, Primal Scream (playing Maynard Ferguson), 7.5 on the Richter scale (playing Stan Kenton), Med Flory Be Bop Big Band (playing some Supersax), Gary Urwin Big Band, Chris Walden Big Band, Jack Sheldon Big Band, Miles Ahead (playing Miles and Gil Evans), Kim Richmond’s Concert Jazz Orchestra and the Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra (playing mellophoniums). Ticket prices vary. For details: (562) 985-7065 or lajazzinsitute.org.
And this year’s Jazz at Drew Festival has some exceptional music. Saturday includes Leimert Park All-Stars (a monstrously talented collection of just about everyone who has played the World Stage, assembled by Michael Session); the Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars, featuring Kenny Burrell; the David T. Walker Quartet with Kamasi Washington; the Pete Escovedo Family Orchestra (with Sheila E); and the Keischa Potter Group. Sunday gets some Tapscott feel from the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (again led by Michael Session), a great lineup of the Cedar Walton Quintet with trombonist Steve Turre and saxman Javon Jackson, and the Curtis Fuller Super Band with trumpeter Nicolas Payton and saxist Rene McLean (Jackie’s son and a terrific player . . . check out the wailing Dynasty to hear them side by side). Plenty of funk, soul and smoove too (including Jerry Butler and the Impressions). At Drew University, 1731 E. 120th St., L.A.; $50. (323) 563-9390 or www.jazzatdrew.com.
Saturday night’s Eagle Rock Music Festival is a great time, and its medley of rock and jazz and Latin and groove brings to mind the old Sunset Junction (though lacking all the leather and subcultures) before it became a big business. The top act here is the thrilling Chuchito Valdes, but loads of others line traffic-free Colorado Boulevard (between Argus Street and Eagle Rock Boulevard), including such disparate stuff as Dengue Fever, Jessica Fichot, Mariachi Divas, KPFK’s Divine Forces Radio with Carlos Nino, Open Gate Ensemble (including Alex Cline, Bruce Fowler, William Roper, Sarah Schoenbeck, Vinny Golia), the Juan Vega Trio and the Kathleen Grace Band — 40 acts in all. Beauty of it is, if you don’t like what you hear, then just head up the street; there’s something else a block away. Music runs from 5 p.m. to midnight. For info, call (323) 226-1617 or go to www.centerartseaglerock.org. And to top it off, on Sunday at 7 p.m., the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts presents the interesting bill of Gutpuppet (with the gnarly harmonicist Bill Barrett) and TIN/BAG (with outish trumpeter Kris Tiner).
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The clubs are hot this week too. At Catalina Bar and Grill there’s the Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Ensemble on Saturday (and Spazio on Sunday), Chuchito Valdes on Sunday, and saxist Justo Almario on Thursday. L.A. Tango Quartet bassist Pablo Motta has a trio at Café Metropol on Saturday. And at the Jazz Bakery there’s the superb saxist Javon Jackson (check out any of his many releases) on Friday and Saturday, followed by several days of Monk: pianist and groovy B-3 man Larry Goldings on Monday, pianist Bill Cunliffe on Tuesday and, oddly but perfectly, flutist Dave Valentin on Wednesday and Thursday.
And there’s loads more, beginning Friday with Phil Ranelin at LACMA. The man’s a mean trombone player, free and easy and volcanic; his ensemble was the high point of the Central Avenue Festival for some of us. Intense, beautiful, passionate stuff. The Bobby Bradford Motet is at the 322 on Friday as well. NYC trumpeter Joe Magnarelli fronts the house quartet at Charlie O’s in a rare two-night stand at this straight-ahead haven. The brilliant local reedman (especially on bari) Dale Fielder is at Vibrato on Saturday, while Houston Person blows blues and bop there on Tuesday and Wednesday. The reunited Black Note are at the 322 on Wednesday. This was a Billie Higgins–inspired project, pure straight-ahead, and provides us an amazing opportunity to see trumpeter Richard Grant with Oaktown tenor Robert Stewart work it out (and Stewart is one of the Bay Area’s greats . . . you have to hear his mean debut, In the Gutta). Two drummer-led outfits play the Lighthouse this week: the powerhouse Tony Inzalaco Quintet (with the killer lineup of tenor Benn Clatworthy, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, pianist Theo Saunders and bassist Chris Colangelo) on Sunday, and the Kevin Kanner Quartet on Thursday. Kanner still collects about him a fiery young bunch — including trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos — at his Monday sessions at the Mint. Pianist Jon Mayer is one of our favorites; he celebrates his new So Many Stars at Gianelli Square on Sunday.
Finally . . . we don’t know if the ukulele is the instrument of the future, but Benny Chong is yet another jazz-uke man. He’ll be tiptoeing through the too-hip at Vibrato on Sunday.