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Brick's Picks: Still Happening

The JackSheldonOrchestra is at Catalina’s this weekend, and what a damn fine band it is, with a West Coast sheen, the ensemble work so tight it hurts. Crack players all, their solos like the short, sharp bursts of a P-51. Lots of terrific Tom Kubis arrangements. And up front, on a bar stool, Jack himself, with that bemused stoned-Buddha expression, taking just beautiful solos — boppish fast, or gorgeous stretches of ballad, the notes still popping from the trumpet, blue and shiny and often so sad. And his patter still kills. He finds the celebrities in the crowd, they wave unwillingly, then Jack tells about their nude scenes. The jokes are funnier than hell, not the kind of things you would tell your grandmother, except maybe the grandmothers laughing themselves silly at the table next to you. Jack’s been doing this a long time. This is a birthday party, up in the 70s somewhere, which is a lot of candles. A lot of jazz, too, a lot of high and low moments. His signature song, “What Does It Take,” tells his story beautifully, so honestly; the room will go utterly silent for his solo, this cracked, flatted, blue-perfect thing that rings out and cuts through all the crap that life throws at us, and in some jazz kind of way it is deeply and movingly profound. Then Jack will talk about getting naked. Oh, yeah. He’s at Catalina’s on Friday and Saturday. You’ll need reservations.

Otherwise you can go check out the bebop maelstrom of alto Richie Cole at Spazio on Friday. Some people say he’s too much, too many notes, not enough space or art or restraint or whatever ... we dig him though. He’s had lots of releases since his AltoMadness days, but there’s a live album with Phil Woods called SidebySide that you can find on a twofer with Cole’s own Muse on the profoundly titled RichieandPhilandRichie. It’ll knock you out. There’s also a session with Boots Randolph called YaketyMadness that’s fun to mention just because jazz purists can’t handle Boots Randolph. Whatever, you’ll dig this gig. We also have to recommend tenor DonMenza with the JohnHeardTrio at Charlie O’s on Saturday. Menza is one of our great powerhouse tenors, a big-shouldered cat with a big, fat sound that once had to come through batteries of brass in Buddy Rich’s over-the-top arrangements. He don’t waste a note, either. A sparring buddy of his, tenor PeteChristlieb, is at the Langham Hotel Pasadena (1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.) on Saturday night. It’s a new venue to us, and there’s a $20 cover, but Pasadena has a lot of money tucked away in those big houses. If you got it, flaunt and drop the twenty and check out Pete. There’s a lot of Warne Marsh in his sound, for you cognoscenti.

And then there’s BennClatworthy, at Charlie O’s on Monday. This is the room where he hits his stride, plays the most astonishing solos, emotional stuff full of intense runs that seem to reach for that Sonny Rollins middle rail. (Yu grab onto that and you better spin out ideas fast and brilliant.) Sometimes, like the late Herman Riley, he’s best on the ballads, where he stretches a melody out to its notes, and notes into imperceptible, inaudible air. His shows ought to be packed with every jazz fiend out there who clings desperately to his Trane and Sonny reissues and wonders what happened. Well, it’s still happening. But trying to pry jazz fans out of their record collections and into the real world ain’t easy. .

Also ... pianist OtmaroRuiz with bassist JimmyJohnson, drummer JimmyBranly and saxist BenWendel at the Baked Potato on Wednesday. We’re still raving about Otmaro and this state-of-the-art quartet. The NickManciniOrganTrio is at the Foundry on Thursday (absinthe night at the Foundry, which Prez would have dug). They’ll be laying down the heavy ’60s grooves here, with Mancini’s vibes in place of the standard guitar. And then there’s saxist GilBernal at the Crowne Plaza LAX on Thursday. It’s a trio gig, with pianist JoeBagg and drummer BillyPaul, both of whom seem to utterly get what it is Mr. Bernal is getting at. We went on and on about this man’s sound recently, about his tone and feel, a deep, profound, moving sound that nails us every time. He’ll be stretching here, so go and let that sound envelop you; it’s pure jazz, mixed with nuthin’, no fusion, not a damn thing but jazz the way the gods of yore intended it. Prez would have dug this too.

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

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