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Brick's Picks: Living the Blues

Things seem a little low-key jazzwise this week, with the excitement of summer past and the fall concert season (Ornette Coleman at Royce Hall, for one) still to come. But as always in this town, there are gems to be found. The Arthur Blythe Quintet is at Café Metropol on Friday and Saturday, and if the music has cooled since his big-label days, he still has one of the most distinctive alto sounds around. This is pretty cerebral stuff, maybe emotionally detached, but perfect, actually, for the smart and arty vibe of the neighborhood. If you’re looking for soul, there’s saxophonist Red Holloway’s 80th-birthday bash at the Jazz Bakery Friday through Sunday. The Bakery might be a little smart and arty itself, but you’ll forget all about that once Red begins to blow the blues. They don’t teach this stuff, you know. You can learn all the chords and fingerings and changes and whatever . . . but none of that will ever teach you how to get the sound that Red gets. He feels this stuff, he’s lived it, he plays it, he is it — eight decades compressed into gorgeous sound. Maybe that explains why a great, profound solo can shake you to your core. Who knows how or why . . . but just go to a gig sometime and sit there and just listen. When that certain solo gets rolling, you’ll feel it, down in your bones you’ll feel it. And Red is one of those players who’ll do it to you.

Med Flory’s Jazz Wave featuring Supersax blows into Charlie O’s on Monday. Med’s got a year on Red and is still raising holy bebop hell. With a core of surviving Supersax reedmen, like himself and Lanny Morgan and Jack Nimitz, he’s added a bunch of other killer players (Carl Saunders, Ron Stout, Bob Sommers, Andy Martin, Rob McChesney, Tom Ranier, Chuck Berghoffer, Frank Capp . . .). And he’s dug out some of those old Supersax charts (with Bird’s solos fanatically transcribed and arranged for an entire battery of reeds), and done up some new ones with wide-open spaces for all his crazy soloists, and plans to blow Big Band Night at Charlie O’s to kingdom come. Or at least have a good time trying.

And if you’re looking for other ways to catch the feeling, there’s Lanny Morgan’s pure bop alto and Carl Saunders’ ingenious trumpet blowing out the Back Room on Friday night. Or tenor Michael McDaniel’s more spiritual jazz track at the Café 322 on Saturday, and the Kim Richmond Ensemble at 2nd Street Jazz on Sunday, where (ironically) they’re celebrating the saxman’s new Live at Cafe Metropol. It’s a good ensemble, too, with trumpeter John Davera, trombonist Joey Sellers and wonderfully talented bassist Kristen Korb. Trumpeter Brian Swartz & the Gnu Sextet are at 2nd Street Jazz on Monday. This hard-working local player’s stuff is always worth listening to (Live at the Jazz Bakery is especially good). And drummer Kevin Kanner’s Monday Night jam at the Mint (with pianist Josh Nelson) is still blowing strong. A little out of left field, harpist (as in Harpo, not Little Walter) Carol Robbins has a quartet at Vibrato on Sunday, and way out of left field (from Honolulu, in fact) comes drummer, vibist and jazz-ukulele virtuoso Abe Lagrimas Jr., who’ll join Michael Konik’s Tasty Band at Catalina Jazz Club on Tuesday. Konik says you haven’t really lived till you’ve heard “Confirmation” on the uke. And if that ain’t a pitch, nothing is. If only Rufus Harley could show up with his bagpipes.

The superb Chuck Manning Quartet are at Café 322 on Wednesday. No matter what the context, tenor Manning’s mix of smarts and heart will get to you — he always seems to work out just the right solo for the moment (and he’s at Vibrato on Saturday as well). Trumpeter Roy Hargrove is back with his quintet for another hard-bopping Catalina stand on Wednesday and Thursday, and that should be something. And though Charlie O’s is a good bet almost any night, alto Zane Musa makes a nice pick on Thursday; his passionate and physical alto solos take straight ahead to the edge and nearly tumble over into craziness. And that is a feeling.

—Brick Wahl


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