Brick's Picks: Three-Horn Circus

Damn, man: three heavyweight saxophonists on the same weekend — and you could work it to catch all three. Saxist Pharoah Sanders made his name with Coltrane in the man’s free-jazz days, and has had a long, intense run since then. He still plays with fire and emotion, though maybe mellowed just a tad. He’ll be at the Jazz Bakery on Friday and Saturday, the same nights the intense alto Kenny Garrett, with serious fire and amazing chops, plays Catalina Bar & Grill. (And if you’re digging his older releases, check out 1996’s Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane. He nails it.) Now, Charles Lloyd with his New Quartet (including the often-outside, always-ingenious pianist Jason Moran) takes a different tack: Listen to his new Rabo de Nube, with that ECM vibe. It’s a quiet fire in places; even at its most intense, it’s still introspective, and his playing remains utterly gorgeous. A lot of Santa Barbara sunsets in there, shades of brilliant red over blues. He’s at Catalina Bar & Grill on Sunday.

Other visitors include the Australian clarinetist Andy Firth, who’s been making big waves at home and does a one-off at Il Moro on Friday. On Saturday, the superb Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa leads a helluva quartet with saxist Ben Wendel, pianist Tigran Hamasyan and bassist Carlitos del Puerto at Rosalie & Alva’s Performance Gallery down in San Pedro, the same night the under-recognized NYC pianist and composer Cecilia Coleman brings a quintet into Vibrato. And if you’re looking for some groove, the funky jazzman (or jazzy funkman) Roy Ayers and Fela Kuti’s drumming machine Tony Allen are at Crash Mansion on Saturday. Even funkier will be Crescent Boogaloo at the Jazz Bakery on Wednesday and Thursday, with the good Dr. Lonnie Smith on the organ, surrounded by alto Donald Harrison, trumpeter Christian Scott, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, all getting down.

The Phil Ranelin Jazz Ensemble are in concert at Santa Monica College Concert Hall on Friday at 7 p.m., which is always a treat. Early too, so you can check out the way Ranelin gets his players fired up and enjoy his beautiful J.J. Johnson–inspired trombone playing before heading out elsewhere for more jazz afterward. Also early on Friday, at 8 p.m. at the World Stage, it’s World Stage Stories with guest artist Fritz Wise, whose drumming drives many a great local ensemble. In fact, he’s with saxist Michael McDaniel (and pianist Nate Morgan and bassist Trevor Ware) at the Café Metropol on Saturday, a good venue for McDaniel’s spiritual explorations. Out in the Valley on Saturday, bassist and singer Kristin Korb harmonizes with vocalists Inga Swearingen and Kathleen Grace, along with the remarkable young pianist Mahesh Balasooriya and drummer Zach Harmon, at Landings in the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, while over at Charlie O’s, the straight-ahead tenor Rickey Woodard blows a soulful bop. With him is terrific pianist John Beasley (who leads a trio at Spazio on Monday). On Sunday, another favorite pianist, Josh Nelson, duets with guitarist John Storie at Rosalie & Alva’s Performance Gallery, while back at Charlie O’s is saxist Benn Clatworthy. In fact, you could spend a lot of nights at this great jazz joint this week, since its Big Band Monday features the Frank Capp Juggernaut, which brings the Atomic Basie charts back to life. On Tuesday, the CJS Quintet lay out their pure straight-ahead there.

Finally, Russian art rockers Auktyon appear at Safari Sam’s on Tuesday. Their album Girls Sing was a real surprise — experimental Slavic weirdness with a typically Russian sad streak (those people sure know how to bum out). The result sounds way cool, so much so that trumpeter Frank London (of the Klezmatics), guitarist Marc Ribot and organist John Medeski got involved. Not sure if any of them will be joining the Russians onstage at Sam’s, but no matter, as they ought to be creative enough to impress all on their own.

Brick can be reached at

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