As we swing into the fall season, some legendary musicians are in town this week. Still shaping jazz, Ornette Coleman comes to Royce Hall on Wednesday with another of his two-bassist quartets (plus Denardo Coleman on drums). Considering the rapturous response (at least from jazz lovers in the audience) to his appearance at Disney Hall a couple of years back, expectations will be very high for this one, and word has it that the music should attain the same heights. It’s hard to say anything about this jazz icon that hasn’t been said by others before (and better), but if you can get tickets for this you should be a very happy jazz fan. Ornette Coleman is perhaps the last of the revolutionary figures of 1950s jazz who is still making daring, challenging music. And Dave Brubeck, with his quartet featuring saxist Bobby Militello (who is a nice stand-in for Paul Desmond), performs at Pepperdine on Tuesday. Brubeck’s polyrhythms and polytonalities were certainly a refined new thing before the New Thing (of all people, Anthony Braxton flipped over Paul Desmond), so despite himself Brubeck helped bring art-school cachet to a music so steeped in the blues. Some still resent him for that, but he has a catalog of swinging albums going back half a century, and here, especially with Militello on board, the sets will be nice, very nice.
It’s almost a cliché how jazz fans and academic types alike bemoan an alleged lack of current icons, but there are new heavies out there, such as the two pretty major NYC trumpet players appearing this week at Catalina Bar and Grill. Roy Hargrove is there through Sunday with his quintet, and Terence Blanchard begins his stand on Thursday. Hargrove’s acoustic music is kicking hard bop, edgy, joyous and plenty fired up; while the expansive and creative New Orleans native Blanchard will be playing music from his requiem for Katrina, A Tale of God’s Will.
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Dwight Trible will celebrate John Coltrane’s birthday at the Jazz Bakery on Sunday. The vocalist and his band make powerful, stirring jazz, steeped in Trane and Tapscott. Tenor Azar Lawrence — also infused with the sounds and feeling of Coltrane (especially the later stuff) — is all over town this week. His quintet is at LACMA on Friday, and then he’s with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O’s on Saturday, and with his quartet at the Grand Star Jazz Club in Chinatown on Sunday. He’s also playing tenor in the Henry “Skipper” Franklin Sextet (alongside pianist Theo Saunders and alto Michael Session) at the Crowne Plaza on Thursday. Franklin was a highlight at this year’s Central Avenue festival — his music was soaring, intense and beautiful.
If you’re looking for more of that jazz saxophone, there’s some wonderful stuff: Javier Vergara at Vibrato on Friday, Bob Sheppard at Spazio on Friday and Vibrato on Saturday, and a too-rare appearance by Carol Chaikin with Alexandra Caselli’s quartet at Jax on Monday. Or catch a whole battery of saxes on Monday with the Frank Capp Juggernaut at Charlie O’s, where on Thursday the fierce alto Zane Musa joins the Cross Hart Jazz Experience.
Saxophonist Yuri Yunakov is in town again, the first time since the extraordinary UCLA show two years ago when he joined clarinetist Ivo Papasov, accordionist Neshko Neshev and drummer Sasho Ali and absolutely blew the minds of all in attendance with the torrid rhythms and dumbfounding improvisations of “Bulgarian wedding music” (in the bad old communist days, the only way they could play this exhilarating stuff was under the pretext of a wedding). Yunakov is in town with his own quartet (sax/clarinet/accordion/percussion), and in the looser confines of this hall this ought to be one wild Roma (a.k.a. Gypsy) party. If you dig crazy virtuosic improv, wild time signatures and sheer undaunted exuberance (not to mention Balkan food, drink and, earlier in the evening, dancing lessons and a Roma documentary), don’t miss this one. It takes place at Highland Cultural Center, 104 N. Avenue 56, Highland Park, on Sunday. Doors open at 5 p.m., music at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20; (310) 577-9872, (310) 820-3527 or voiceofroma.com.