Brick's Picks: Saxes Roasting on an Open Fire

There is a great selection of local saxophonists across town this week. Tenor (and occasional soprano) Chuck Manning does a long-awaited night with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O’s on Friday. This should be a highlight, as Heard and crew are one powerful rhythm section and Manning will respond in kind. Then on Saturday, he’s at Vibrato with a quartet; it’s a different room, different vibe, different lineup and different Manning. A little lighter maybe, less aggressive, at least till late in the evening. On Sunday he joins trumpeter Sal Marquez’s quintet at Spazio, and expect good things: These two have been pairing up on stages for years, and Manning brings out the best in Marquez, who, when he’s on, is just a terrific bebopper (not to mention personality). On Wednesday, the classic Chuck Manning Quartet (the bunch you heard on his excellent Notes From the Real) play the Café 322 Christmas bash from 7 to 9, which ought to be a merrily groovy time.

Another saxist we really dig, Bob Sheppard, is at Spazio on Friday, with a quartet featuring pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Gabe Noel and drummer Steve Hass. Then he’s putting on his Feliz Hanukah Show at Vitello’s on Wednesday, this time with guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Hass. Not sure what he has in store holidaywise (a little klezmer, maybe?), but Oles and Koonse are major players. Bringing it back down to rich, loamy earth is Rickey Woodard at Charlie O’s on Saturday, where he’s backed by Heard’s trio, and the notes will fly thick and fast and blue. Then it’s back into otherness with Benn Clatworthy, who’s at Jax on Monday. We love his sets at this little Glendale joint. The man’s balladeering is gorgeous, refrains fade into air, and then he rips into an “Inner Urge” or some Monk, and all hell breaks loose. Speaking of which, alto (and occasional soprano) Zane Musa is at Spazio on Tuesday, and we have never seen him do a set that was not on overdrive. It’s thrilling stuff, really, a lot of Cannonball and Bird and Maceo come from the bell of his horn, if you can dig that. But if we’re talking tone, then alto-saxophonist Gary Foster has it down, a beautiful, perfect tone, the kind of sound that can stop you mid-sentence, drink in hand, to listen. He’s with the veteran West Coasters of Chuck Berghofer’s Midnight Jazz Band at Charlie O’s on Tuesday, and then leads his own quartet at Sangria on Wednesday. Like we said, a nice week for all of us saxophone fans.

Of course, there are other things in life that are important, namely drums and percussion or anything you get to hit with a stick. You can ask the great Munyungo Jackson all about that when he’s the featured guest at World Stage Stories on Friday at 8 p.m. He’ll talk some, play some, chat some and take questions. Poncho Sanchez has been wailing on the congas for a lifetime, ever since his days in the drum circles in Griffith Park, and on Friday he’s at Vitello’s doing his Afro-Cuban and classic R&B blend. Cartaya’s Enclave blow out the Baked Potato on Friday while raising funds for Children’s Hospital, and bassist Oskar Cartaya has filled this octet with great players like keyboardist Bryan Velasco, saxist Frank Fontaine, violinist Quetzal Guerrero and conguero Joey De Leon. And Nick Mancini gave up a perfectly good career playing drums in really loud bar bands in upstate New York to become one of the most innovative vibraphonists in L.A. He’s doing the 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday brunch with a quintet at the Lighthouse, and is always a serious pick. We also ought to mention the Blue Morning Quintet on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. at the World Stage in Leimert Park, especially as fabled poetess Wanda Coleman joins them at the Sunday gig. Also on Sunday, guitarist Mike Stern leads his quartet at Catalina, featuring megadrummer Dave Weckl and trumpeter Randy Brecker. Chops for days.

We finish the holiday cheer, jazzwise, with two quick blurbs. It ain’t Xmas without Vince Guaraldi’s ’60s groove on Charlie Brown, and it shouldn’t be Xmas without Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s sweet Nutcracker. The Nutcracker Swings has ’em both, with the Pasadena Jazz Orchestra providing the swing and vocalists Renee Olstead and James Torme the stories. It’ll be at the Pasadena Convention Center (300 E. Green St.) on Saturday, shows 7 & 10 p.m. Finally, going back to the roots of the roots, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform “A Creole Christmas” at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday. Speaking of things New Orleans, you might dig up a copy of Wynton Marsalis’ Crescent City Christmas, second only to A Charlie Brown Christmas for jazzing around our tree. And we recommend Peace by the Rotary Connection if those aren’t chestnuts you’re roasting.

(Brick can be reached at

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >