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Brick's Picks: Masters at the Greek with Ellis Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Marc Ribot, Brad Mehldau

There is a lot of jazz this week, but if we have to pick a fave it’s Jesse Sharp’s Gathering at the Jazz Bakery this Sunday. Jesse, a key player in the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, released The Gathering a few years back, an excellent slice of Leimert Park jazz featuring a couple dozen of the neighborhood’s finest all blowing like mad on some great compositions and nice arrangements. He’s gathered them up again for this show, which features, besides Sharp’s own sax, reedmen Charles Owens and Kamasi Washington — each capable of extraordinary fireworks (this is Eric Dolphy’s hometown, after all) — along with trombonist Phil Ranelin and the incredible vocalist Dwight Trible. So good to see the great tradition of Leimert Park jazz alive and kicking.

Bit of a shame, though, it has to do its lively kicking out in Culver City, a long way from Degnan Avenue. Or that Jesse Sharp has to come all the way from Germany to get the ball rolling. Leimert Park is probably this town’s last living jazz neighborhood. Central Avenue is but a memory brought brilliantly to life once a year at its jazz festival, and the downtown and Little Tokyo scenes exist only in fond memories and some books. The older days are utterly gone, no memory, no history, no names, nothing. But Leimert Park is still here, charming and lovely and full of life. Now the music of Horace Tapscott echoes over at the Bakery while the spirit of Billy Higgins inhabits a too-often-empty World Stage. So sad. Perhaps some of our local politicians whose election posters still grace the walls around there will deign to take notice. Or perhaps not. Jazz is a hard-luck story, no matter who wins elections. But we digress ...

There’s a big gig at the Greek Theatre on Sunday night: the Ellis Marsalis Quintet (with trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and drummer Jason Marsalis), plus the McCoy Tyner Trio (with guitarist Marc Ribot) and a solo Brad Mehldau. They’ll all be sitting in with each other, and presumably others will be dropping in. It could be one great jazz night. Some of the local record stores and other outlets have especially good bargains on tickets, too (recession time!). Oh, and Sonny Fortune — whom we raved about last week — finishes up his Jazz Bakery stint on Friday and Saturday. And the awesome Pharoah Sanders begins his Catalina stand on Thursday. Big-name stuff there at big-name venues. If you got it, flaunt it.

For you cheap people there’s loads to see at the local joints, and here’s a discriminating selection. On Friday, Jack Sheldon’s at the Café 322 and Barbara Morrison’s at the Pasadena Jazz Institute. On Saturday spend as much money as you can at Neiman Marcus. Sunday we talked about already (Jesse Sharp), but on Monday you can drop by Spazio and take in Chuck Manning’s splendid saxophonery and then shoot through the Sepulveda Pass to the Hotel Angeleno right there on the Westwood end to finish out the night with the intense Justo Almario. On Tuesday pianist Larry Goldings is back for another excellent night of pure jazz jamming at the Foundry on Melrose. On Wednesday head down to Hermosa, where bassist Trevor Ware leads a quartet at Sangria (and he always brings along killer players), and if you wake up on the beach in Hermosa on Thursday morning surrounded by seagulls, just wander into the Lighthouse where Lorca Hart has a great quartet. If you wake up in the Valley, head on over to Charlie O’s for the powerful tenor work of Don Menza. There ya go: five nights of jazz and you didn’t even use up all your money.

(Brick can be reached at brickjazz@yahoo.com.)


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