Otmaro Ruiz is at LACMA this Friday. He is a jazz pianist, and exquisitely so, but is pretty fearless the way he drops in everything else, including classical and Latin influences, so that his solos run the gamut, from Monk and Peterson to Chopin and Piazzolla, syncopated with South American rhythms we can’t even name. Beautiful balladeering too. And what a quartet: Saxist Ben Wendel gets right to the heart of whatever Otmaro laid down ahead of him, as do stellar bassist Edwin Livingston (standing in for the late Dave Carpenter, in fact) and the indescribable drumming of Jimmy Branly. Watching him and Otmaro trade breaks, Branly mirroring every rhythmic curve Otmaro can throw at him, is about as thrilling a duel as you’ll see on any local jazz stage. (Branly’s education in Cuba comes out in every beat. They play the traps different down there.) It’s free, with the music running from 6 to 8 p.m. outdoors in the courtyard. If you miss that one, Otmaro brings the same quartet into the decidedly indoor Charlie O’s on Tuesday (and a rare chance this is to catch Wendel at this straight-ahead paradise) and on Wednesday he’ll be at the Baked Potato in Studio City. Carlitos del Puerto will be on bass at this one (he and Branly used to jam together in Havana).
Plenty of other cool gigs this week, too, of all types. Our favorite local Brazilian singer Katia Moraes brings her Sambaguru to the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park on Friday at 7:30. Downtown at the Café Metropol it’s pianist Brian Friedland’s Space Viking Quartet, and who knows what the hell that will be, but, odds are, it won’t be cocktail music (in fact, the name alone will probably draw a couple dazed Hawkwind fans). Friedland is quite an inspired player — he’s terrific on Alexei Zoubov’s great Rejuvenation if you can find the damn thing — and you never know what to expect at the Metropol. Another nearby option is saxman Azar Lawrence (with Theo Saunders at the piano) at 2nd St. Jazz (366 E. 2nd in Little Tokyo). There’s a cover, but it’ll be worth it. And the Kevin Kanner Quartet, with various guests, are featured at the Fresh Roots Festival at California Plaza on Friday. It’s free, a beautiful, trippy setting, and, man, that Kanner cooks; he’s got Josh Nelson on piano too. Good stuff. (Details at grandperformances.org). Up at the Ford Amphitheatre (another beautiful setting), NYC’s Imani Winds — flute, bassoon, oboe, clarinet and horn — do chamber-music takes on Mongo’s “Afro Blue,” and Piazzolla’s “Libertango” and all sorts of other pieces of a decidedly nonchamber-music nature.
On Saturday, there’s the St. Andrews Jazz Festival, with the hip and ubiquitous Barbara Morrison, plus Larry Nash & the Jazz Symphonics, Evan Pigford’s Mixed Bag, and saxist Keschia Potter. It’s at St. Andrews Recreation Center (8701 S. St. Andrews Pl., 213-485-1751) on Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. It’s free. Or, you can do the LACMA thing again, where Bobby Matos’Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble does the good da Bronx meets da Trane kind of stuff at 5 p.m. And then head to Café Metropol, where Larry Karush performs his “Comprovisations for Solo Piano” (including something called “Bach de Rhythm”). Jazz, with world-music inlays.
On Tuesday, the brilliant trumpeter Carl Saunders and his Be Bop Big Band are at Hollywood & Highland. It’s free and in the courtyard (yet another trippy setting) and utterly awash in tourists disgorged from tour buses out on the boulevard. These shows start at 7 p.m. and get pretty crowded, what with KKJZ plugging the things like mad. And they end soon enough for you to make it over to Catalina Bar and Grill for the annual Thurman Green Scholarship Fundraiser. Phil Ranelin and (of course) Barbara Morrison headline. And on Wednesday,flutist Rebecca Kleinman leads a quartet (with pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Lorca Hart) at La Ve Lee on Wednesday, promising jazz-soaked world music (or the other way around). The real Africa’s in town too: Mauritania’s Daby Touré at the Skirball on Thursday, the same night legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela begins a four-day stand at Catalina, on Thursday.
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