Brick's Picks: Jazzapino Sounds
It's been a sweet summer, so cool, the heat sneaking in only at the end. The festivals have been good, as have the free concerts everywhere. Alas, it's fading now; you switch on the lights earlier to read this paper, and find fewer free places to go. But there are still a few series left.
Indeed, luck has it that two of jazz's finest imports from the Philippines are playing this weekend on consecutive nights and within a short stretch of Wilshire Boulevard. Mon David, who is at LACMA on Friday, has been building his reputation as a jazz vocalist around the world for some time now, though his introduction to the States has only been recent. He's quite the master, with a splendid voice, a daring sense of rhythm and the ability to take over anything, from Wayne Shorter and bossa nova to traditional Filipino melodies. Good-looking cat, too. Check out his U.S. debut, Coming True.
Then on Saturday evening at the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park, well-known "jazzapino" vocalist Charmaine Clamor will do her unique thing: combining jazz standards and spare arrangements of homeland classics, a little pop and some funk even. It's an unusual mix in the stylistically conservative world of female jazz vocalists — her talent and persona (and looks) have gone over real big back at home, where she's quite the star. We're told she'll have a horn section with her at this gig, led by tenor Robby Marshall — who tore it up with Dave Douglas at the Bowl not long ago, and who sounds good on her latest, Something Good (on FreeHam). After, dash over to Nyx in Glendale (156 S. Brand Blvd., 818-545-0333), where Katia Moraes & the Brazilian Hearts perform at 8:30 p.m. Superb and very genuine bossas and sambas, and she'll melt your heart. Free.
Alas, this year's Hollywood & Highland series comes to an abrupt end Tuesday, with Oscar Hernández & the L.A.-N.Y. Connection. This venue's a blast, there are tourists everywhere, the men in Bermuda shorts, the women in whatever it is the world thinks women are wearing out here but never are, and we dig those crazy concrete elephants. There can't be another venue in the world like it. Nor like California Plaza, where Grand Performances comes to an end early this season. You can catch the Turtle Island Quartet there Saturday night — apparently they'll do a night of Jimi Hendrix. It's doubtful any cellos will be set ablaze or violins smashed, but then you never know with this bunch. And that crazy fountain-and-waterfall backdrop is plenty psychedelic.
OK, let's get down to talking pure jazz here: There's a great event at Vibrato on Friday, with two of L.A.'s most imaginative jazz players, pianist John Beasley and saxist Bob Sheppard. Beasley is a different kind of jazz player, perfectly willing to flout established tradition with solid New Orleans funk, crazy takes on the more radical Piazzolla, and rock quotes, yet he is one beautiful jazz musician. Sheppard can veer from pure straight-ahead into utterly unknown territory and then back again like it's nothing. Vibrato can be a little loud early when full of power diners, but it's a jazz room for the later sets. Trumpeter Scotty Barnhart simply cooks, and he's at Charlie O's on Friday with the John Heard Trio. One of our favorite classic tenors, Don Menza, whose muscular soloing drove the Buddy Rich Big Band, is there Saturday.
Hardworking drummer Mark Z Stevens' trio had a long run in Glendale, though it appears he is now settling into Desert Rose (1700 Hillhurst Ave. in Los Feliz) on Saturdays, from 7:30. He has the superb jazz accordionist Frank Marocco with him, whom you heard all over The Godfather sound track. Pianist Josh Nelson seems to rarely be in town anymore (he's always out on the road somewhere with somebody), but he has a trio at Vibrato on Sunday, and catch him if you can. Saxist John Altman is in from London, where he writes and conducts scores for just about everything. Live he mixes hot, boppish standards and utter obscurities with charming stage patter. He's at Charlie O's on Tuesday.
And it's a helluva drive, but if you are near Aliso Viejo, there's a seriously great gig at the peace-and-love Buddhist Soka University. As part of the Jazz Monsters Concert Series Under the Stars (now there's a name), trumpeter Gil Castellanos' quintet plays on Friday at 7 p.m. on the Peace Lake Stage. This cat absolutely kills, and his bop will be hard and pure. It's somewhere off Highway 73 (call 949/480-4081 for details and directions), and it's $15.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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