Bennie Maupin brings his group to the World Stage on Friday and Saturday. It's $20, they don't serve drinks, the place is a storefront with folding chairs, and the neighborhood needs a serious infusion of stimulus money that doubtless is being held up by the various political shenanigans, infighting, greedy landlords and bureaucratic incompetence that have plagued the Village in Leimert Park for years, denying this splendid, historic, culturally significant, low-crime and charming-as-hell artistic center its proper place in our city. Oh, well.
But just because the political establishment doesn't give a damn doesn't mean that some of the best jazz you'll ever see doesn't still go down at the World Stage. Bennie Maupin is brilliant, original, fired up, daring, passionate, and an amazing player with a hell of a band and well worth the drive out (or into) here. Here he is in his creative element. You remember him way back on Bitches Brew or with Herbie Hancock. Great stuff, but he's way beyond even that now. Jazz musicians never stop learning new things. And fans shouldn't either. Check it out. (But first call the joint at 323-293-2451 … rumor has it this might have been canceled. Sigh ...)
Speaking of jazz musicians who never stop learning new things, Jack Sheldon is there for his monthly gig on Friday, and every one of his sets we've caught there has been something special. Not sure what it is about the joint, but it brings out the fire in Jack. He's generally there with younger players, often Baked Potato regulars, and the music reflects that, so fired up and even loud, and his chops still amaze. Earlier in the evening vibist Nick Mancini's quartet joins vocalist Celia Chavez at LACMA. Chavez's striking voice is new to us, but Mancini is a favorite, with his great chops and modern compositions and open attitude.
Out in the valley, saxist Justo Almario joins the powerful John Heard Trio at Charlie O's Friday night. If you've seen Justo around town at all, you know how energized and passionate a saxophonist he is. Well, with Dwight Trible at California Plaza last week he was all that plus some.
Saturday you might head to the Foundry on Melrose, where the music runs late, the food is good, the bar great, the women lovely and plentiful. And man, does owner Eric get the craziest, most talented young pianists in there, and he lets them do whatever they want. He gets guitars and horns in there too, but you get some young phenom pounding at the upright, with Zac Harmon breaking all the drumming rules, and this place absolutely rocks. No cover.
And the knockout surprise gig of the weekend is in Pasadena on Sunday night, where pianist Vijay Iyer's trio plays the Levitt Pavilion. Not sure how that happened, but a lot of the music you used to see at the Jazz Bakery now pops up where it can. Iyer has a Ph.D. in physics from Berkeley and his music has that sort of deep, way-deep thought to it, ultracerebral but wild as any string theory and just as elegant. It's simply fascinating and here it's free.
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Drummer Tony Inzalaco is back at Charlie O's on Wednesday with his hard-bop powerhouse of tenor Benn Clatworthy, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, pianist Theo Saunders and bassist Chris Colangelo. Saunders is back at the Charlie O's piano on Thursday night with bassist Henry Franklin and exciting tenor Kamasi Washington. And out of far left field, maybe out in the parking lot even, comes Oregon's 15-piece jazz dementia known as the Industrial Jazz Group (appearing at the Hammer Museum in Westwood on Thursday for free). It's all Andrew Durkin's fault. He writes the stuff, fronts the band and lets the singers and horn players go nuts performing what he calls his "avant-garde party music." It's jazz to the core, Mingus all over to our ears, but God bless the boy, he tosses in everything else that's not supposed to be there. If it sounds like your thing, it is.
And real quick: The brilliant Brazilian singer/composer/player Seu Jorge is at the Nokia on Saturday. We saw him at the Bowl and still remember every minute. If you're too broke for the Nokia, the awesome and rocking Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba are at Grand Performances on Friday. It's free, it's gorgeous, you bring your own and you can afford to toss a five spot in the donation bucket. Finally, if you dig the rumba — that deep-down-spooky Cuban music that begins so slowly and ends stark, raving mad — then the great Jose Perico Hernandez and his eleven-tet, Son de la Tierra, are at the Autry on Thursday. Never slick, this guy: just the real thing.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)