Independence Day weekend has always been good for John Phillip Sousa but bad for jazz. Seems everyone is out picnicking and watching fireworks — or at least drinking and playing with sparklers — and not in the clubs, so we were pleasantly surprised to see such a strong run of stuff this week. Let's start with tenor Rickey Woodard, a regular in town here with a career that includes a long stint with Ray Charles, and you sure can hear the blues in the man's sound. You serious jazzers will pick up the Hank Mobley in his playing, too, which is always a good thing (come to think of it, you jazz neophytes might want to check out Mobley's classic Soul Station). Woodard's at LACMA on Friday at 6 p.m., and it ought to be a perfect night for it. Then, if you want to see him in his element, get down to Charlie O's on Saturday, where he's backed by the ever-muscular John Heard Trio. Saturday is bassist Heard's birthday, in fact, so no surprise if there are some big names coming through. We really dig Charlie O's. We also really dig Charles Owens. Owens plays anything with reeds, and we've seen him stretch mightily on the medieval-sounding English horn. But his main ax is the tenor, and he has few limits on what he will do with the thing. He plays some serious blues — not like they teach in college but like they taught in the bars. Owens lays out some beautiful Blue Trane–sounding straight-ahead, or slips into a searchingly spiritual Love Supreme mood. We've also seen him go utterly out of his mind at the World Stage backed by nothing but hand drums. We loved his extended leads with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at the Playboy Jazz Festival. John Clayton pointed, Owens burst into flame, then Clayton waved in the whole band — and you could still hear Owens' searing lead above the horns and the cheers. He's at the Radisson in Culver City on Friday, with a different kind of lineup: organist Makel Magee, guitarist Steve Cotter and drummer Don Littleton. We're thinking a lot of groove here. He'll keep it plenty greasy.
We also recommend alto saxophonist Zane Musa at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Red, White and Bluezz in Pasadena (70 S. Raymond Ave., 626-792-4441). Zane is another whose soloing flits with madness, always bursting with energy and passion. And one of the masters, saxist Red Holloway, returns to Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday for another bout of classic tenor playing. Finally, sax-wise, we should mention another perennial tenor, Plas Johnson, who is at the Hotel Casa del Mar (1910 Ocean Way, where Pico runs into the sea, 310-581-5533) on Thursday from 7 to 11 p.m. Good band, too, with pianist Stuart Elster, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Gerryck King. No cover.
To get away from saxophones for a minute, the NYC vibraphonist Tyler Blanton has been making a run of the West Coast and is at Alva's in San Pedro on Saturday. Not sure who's in his band, but he certainly has his pick of adventurous L.A. players. And veteran violinist Michael White is at the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo on Friday. Cognoscenti of Impulse! Records will remember his days with heavies like 'Trane and Pharoah Sanders. Great to see him back.
We keep hearing through various grapevines of new spots downtown booking jazz, experimental jazz and jazz-inspired underground stuff. This week we see that guitarist Scott Heustis is at the Hive Gallery (729 South Spring St., 213/955-9051) at 8 p.m. on Saturday, with a quartet including David Ornette Coleman's drummer Breeze Smith. It's a healthy sign to see so much going on in the city's center. And don't forget Kevin Kanner's jam session on Mondays at the Blue Whale. The best young players in town let loose there.
The Bobby Matos Latin Jazz Band plays Typhoon Restaurant (3221 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica, 310/390-6565). We've still never been, alas, but the band is solid. The Arturo Sandoval Big Band is back at Vibrato on Tuesday and their last show there was apparently a sensation, with Sandoval's high-wire trumpet-playing displayed in all its glory (he also sat in the next night with the Chris Colangelo Quartet at Charlie O's, quite a treat.) Yari More is at the Autry Museum Thursday — the steaming salsa nights there all summer are a fave with us (and they come with a full bar). And finally, we just saw the last African-themed bill at the Hollywood Bowl, five great acts in one night. No reason why this next one on Wednesday won't be as good, with Femi Kuti & Positive Force, trumpeter Terrance Blanchard and the melodic bassist Richard Bona, whose new Ten Shades of Blue will fit the night perfectly.
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(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)