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Brick's Picks: LA Jazz Collective's Fall Festival, Saxophone Summit 2008

The biggest jazz event of the week has to be the L.A. Jazz Collective’s Fall Festival, a three-night, four-venue bash that begins Friday at the Pasadena Jazz Institute with the Josh Aguilar Group, Damon Zick and Friends, the Joe Bagg Quintet (with trumpeter Ron Stout) and the Steve Cotter Group; then Saturday at PJI again with the Scott Cummings Group, the Mike Scott Quartet (with pianist Josh Nelson), the Josh Welchez Quartet and the Ryan McGillicuddy Quartet. Matt Otto — such a tone — is scattered throughout. Bagg, too. On Sunday, catch your breath, nap, watch football, then head over to the Jazz Bakery on Monday for the Gary Fukushima Quartet (with Otto again), a kinda Getz-meets-Bird vibe from the David Sills/Gary Foster Quintet, and drummer Jason Harnell’s trio. Solid. Finally everyone piles into their jalopies for the quick run to the whiskey bar at Seven Grand downtown (7th between Grand and Olive) for SLanG — that’s trumpeter Brian Swartz, keyboardist Andy Langham and incredible drummer Gerry Gibbs. All four events might be a stretch, but you can easily make one of those gigs and see L.A.’s new jazz on display, with some fine veteran company in the mix. The young cats can be hard to find, playing little joints on underpublicized nights around downtown, but this time, the LAJC has flipped on the lights. Check it out.

Of course, if you prefer your avant-garde, funk-flavored, polyrhythmic sounds combined with European new music in a performance of a series of song cycles by Charles Ives, there’s Kneebody with Theo Bleckmann on Friday night at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica (broadstage.com has the details). Kneebody features local favorites, like radically innovative drummer Nate Wood and the brilliant saxist Ben Wendel; just about anything these guys do seems to work. Even Ives, apparently.

And Saturday there’s a monster gig at the Musicians Union — and the highpoint of the two day Saxophone Summit 2008. Check this lineup: James Carter, FrankCatalano, Azar Lawrence, Donald Harrison and Red Holloway. Damn, man, all here for one crazy night. Runs from 8 till 11 p.m. (at 817 N. Vine St. in Hollywood). Call (323) 462-2161 for details.

We’re not done yet, because Charles Owens, whose playing we’re just nuts about, is performing with his own powerhouse quintet on Saturday night in the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State L.A. (323-343-6600). Owens has been directing a series of wildly successful Luckman Jazz orchestra gigs in the hall, but now you can hear him cut loose and out — and man, when this cat gets the feeling, rooms elevate.

The last couple times superbassist Morrie Louden was through town he blew roofs off the joint, with absolutely state-of-the-art scintillating jazz. He’s back this weekend, hitting the geographical edges with a show Friday night at Hip Kitty out in Claremont (909-447-6700) and down at Alva’s Showroom in San Pedro on Saturday (800-403-3447). Word is out on this cat, so call ahead for reservations. And then force-of-nature Pharaoh Sanders is at Catalina’s on Friday through Sunday. Oh man. That is an insane amount of great music, and if you decide against holiday shopping this year, you could afford all of it.

However, if you must waste your money on others, you can still see great jazz for the price of a couple of drinks. Café 322 in Sierra Madre is a good bet, with the solidly straight-ahead Donovan-Muradian Quintet (with Chuck Manning and trumpeter Kye Palmer) on Friday, or a more international kinda vibe from the Michael McDaniel Joint on Saturday. On Sunday guitarist Barry Zweig has a terrific quartet at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach from 11 a.m. (bloodies and eggs, anyone?), and on Wednesday pianist Otmaro Ruiz performs stunning jazz at Spazio. Which brings us to Thanksgiving. The river, the woods, grandmother’s house, football. Calories and cholesterol and whatever that stuff is in turkey that gets you high. Plus Zane Musa at Charlie O’s. Dude never eats, from the look of him, just plays that damn saxophone to the point of madness. He’ll wake up the overfed, somnolent crowd, with impassioned alto (and soprano) work that seems to get the very air in that dark room to vibrating and brings to an end one hell of a week for jazz in Los Angeles.


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