One of the things fans love about jazz is that it's such a small-venue kind of music. You can see 95 percent of it in bars, and often in really small bars. Non–jazz fans and neophytes can find it disconcerting that someone everyone says is legendary — like Jack Sheldon, who's at the Café 322 in Sierra Madre on Friday — can be seen tableside at some little family eatery with great pizza and no cover. That's him? The famous guy? But he sure does play a gorgeous trumpet.
Sheldon saunters through the bebop like he owns it, which he doesn't, but he certainly took it to heart in its heyday, and you can still hear it, the bebop, when he takes off into a solo, playing with it, bouncing the melody around like it's nothing. Wonderful. But it's true, you can see these really famous guys in little hole-in-the-wall joints on any given night around L.A. Larry Goldings is another. His B3 playing is renowned, certainly among serious fans, and he can get profoundly funky, but set him at a piano like the new grand at the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo on Friday and you get serious vibes from the classic swing pianists: those big, solid chords and spare solos, the notes dropping one at a time like Basie, or maybe things not so spare but that make so much sense to the casual listener.
Goldings reaches us easily, he's more Hank Jones than Bud Powell, and while some people, really smart people, might not see why that's a plus, it is. Players like Goldings have the potential to expand the jazz fan base, maybe get some of those normal people out there into a club where they shush you for talking a little loud. And that's good. We really dig Larry Goldings.
You gotta just love a cat like Terence Blanchard, whose quintet finishes a Catalina stand on Friday. You pay some fairly serious bread to see this, and the nice menu ain't cheap, but check out his new Choices — this cat is taking the whole hard-bop thing that made him a Young Lion in the first place and he blows it out that beautiful trumpet sideways. It flows crazily, not free by any means but restructured all to hell into amazing shapes. The playing is inspired, and the whole thing makes you think hard.
Vocalist Charmaine Clamor returns to Catalina's on Saturday, where she really pulls them in with this "jazzapino" thing — traditional Filipino songs rendered into jazz by her strong quartet. The stuff can be spookily effective: Throw in some standards, a couple soulful, Joe Bataan–like pinay anthems, a dirty blues, plus her tune from the latest David Byrne project, Here Lies Love (an Imelda Marcos tribute), and you've got a powerful couple of sets. Once again there's the money thing at Catalina's — you will spend some — but budget accordingly and check out this show.
And there's no cover (and never is) for pianist Theo Saunders at Charlie O's on Monday. This is his own band, with tenor Chuck Manning. They tackle his often difficult-to-play (but not to listen to) material. Highly recommended — he's been packing clubs with this stuff this past year.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com)
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BONUS TRACKS: Highland Park is kicking this Friday night with the debut of Latin Night at Mr. T's, a weary old bowling alley on Figueroa (where we've spent untold hours listening to music or mumbling Russian to the bartendress). Great lineup for this event, with the passionate blowing saxist Justo Almario and his Latin Jazz Allstars Ensemble, guitarist Andy Abad's Blue Agave, Trio Ellas performing traditional tunes, and what we're assured is some world-class tango from Sandor and Passa. All for $25. Mr. T's (5261 Figueroa, 323/256-7561, americanbritishmusicproductions.com). Parking is ample and we love this neighborhood.
On Saturday the exquisite Kátia Moraes will do a mix of storytelling (she is a wonderful short writer) and Brazilian singing with a band at a new French place in Glendale called Nyx (156 S. Brand Blvd., 818/545-0333). She never fails to entertain.
On Sunday the astonishing African guitarist Lionel Loueke has a trio at the Café Metropol. This is one crazy booking, and if you want reservations, call now. On Thursday Caetano Veloso is at Greek Theatre [See Gustavo Turner's The Beat column]. We have a zillion of his albums and finally caught him last year in Pasadena, and that show's enshrined forever in our 10-best-ever list. Caetano is one of the greats, and you really ought to catch this show.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)