We don't know anything about art, really. It's like classical music or philosophy or poetry or anything really cerebral like that, universes we don't traipse around much. So we had no idea who George Herms
was before we met him. We were occasional drinking buddies at Charlie O's, always right up front rocking out and applauding too loud and laughing, just really digging the music. He never let on he was famous, like Getty Museum famous. Then one Friday we saw him do his thing at LACMA. There was a band, they took a break, and then there's George and this huge sphere, an immense hollow iron ball he'd found in the mud somewhere and thought, "Wow, Thelonious Sphere Monk." He finds things that way. And he's dragging the damn thing around the stage at LACMA, then stops, thinks a minute, and then starts beating on it, making this ethereal music. Freaky. After a while he dragged it off again. For some goddamn reason it was the coolest thing ever, Beat beyond belief, and the band had to blow their asses off afterward to get anywhere near the space he'd taken us.
Well, REDCAT has given him three nights to get to that space again. He'll be doing the sphere thing, his legendary spiral staircase thing, he'll be assembling some sort of mondo clarinet out of throwaways, oddities and detritus. He has two incredible bands to score this madness: Theo Saunders & His Lesstet (including Azar Lawrence, Chuck Manning and Henry Franklin) doing mad things with Monk and Trane and Saunders, and the Bobby Bradford Motet doing "Sideman," one of our fave tunes ever. Herms calls the thing his Free Jazz Opera, and talks of Horace Tapscott and John Carter and Ornette and, well, get him going, he can go on and on. He's breathed this stuff for 50 years, inhaling jazz and exhaling creativity. This will be a real happening, people, each and every night. It's Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Feb. 3-5). Tickets are $25.
And hope you got a lot of money, man, because this is some week. On Friday night the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble — that's percussionist Kahil El'Zabar, saxist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins and trumpeter Corey Wilkes — is at the Musicians Institute (1655 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood, 310-271-9039). Intense stuff, think Threadgill and the AACM. Highly recommended. $25. And the thrilling, Trane-inspired saxist Kenny Garrett is at Catalina's Friday through Sunday, also highly recommended. $22. And then there's this one: the legendary — truly legendary — pianist Randy Weston at the Lenart Auditorium at UCLA Fowler Museum (310-825-2101). He'll be playing and talking and telling stories. History, people, right before your eyes and ears. Tickets $25 and $45. Alas, at that same exact time the remarkable Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble and the Sonus String Quartet are at Vitello's. $15.
And for the no-cover-charge stuff, the beautifully lyrical bop pianist Tateng Katindig is at Charlie O's on Monday. The ferociously creative Otmaro Ruiz is there Tuesday. London-based soprano saxist John Altman is there Wednesday, always a swinging show. And the extraordinary saxophonist Benn Clatworthy is at Jax on Wednesday. Clatworthy's a beautiful player, intense and brilliant and gutsy, and every single time we see him we are completely blown away by every single note.
Guitarist Bruce Forman plays Vibrato on Saturday. We're always raving about his band CowBop, but here he sets his dazzling chops to straight jazz. That same night saxist Louis Van Taylor is at Charlie O's. Underrated around town, he's one of our greats. Pianist Otmaro Ruiz and vibist Nick Mancini duet at the Blue Whale on Wednesday. They hold a master class beforehand from 7-8:30 p.m. The class is $10, the gig the same.
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Out-wise, at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts (2225 Colorado Blvd., 626-795-4989), there's a solo set by daring woodwinds player Phillip Greenlief and then the quartet of Jie Ma on the pipa (that Chinese flute thing) with flutist Will Salmon, cellist Maggie Parkins and percussionist Alex Cline. Cool. $10. Things get weird at the REDCAT again on Monday with the Mark Dresser Trio (bassist Mark Dresser, "hyperpianist" Denman Maroney and flautist Matthias Ziegler). $20. Rad. Then on Wednesday the very entertaining and triple-hyphenated Jewish-gypsy-jazz-rock PLOTZ! plays Royal/T (8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City). Good. Loud, even.
But you can't get louder than a bunch of gnarly dudes wailing on kodo drums. Still, we were surprised by the new Akatsuki by the Japanese band Kodo. Between all the great drumming, there's some gorgeous spooky stuff. The melodies hang with you — eerie, Asian and beautiful. This is their 30th-anniversary tour, and they're at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Thursday. Tickets run the usual price range for the joint.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)