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BRICK'S PICKS: TRYING TO GET GOOD

It's always a weak week jazz-wise right after Thanksgiving, like everyone is off somewhere digesting and watching football and not playing a lot of jazz. But you can set your clocks on the fact that the Jack Sheldon Orchestra will be at Catalina's the day or two after Thanksgiving. And sure enough, he's got them there on Friday and Saturday. Jack's place is up front on a stool, making jokes and playing his beloved trumpet. To this day the man remains a great horn player. The tunes are good, too, and the band awesome and the crowd full of old-timers, celebrities, snickerers, jazz greats and people who just dig a good big band and a good trumpeter. Worth every cent, we'd say. Call for reservations. You might pick up Trying to Get Good ... , the documentary on Jack put together by Doug McIntyre and Penny Peyser. A lot of the whole Jack Sheldon thing makes more sense after you see it — it gets deeper and cooler and sadder and better and funnier. It's a beautiful film.

Speaking of legends, John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension are at UCLA's Royce Hall on Wednesday. It's a four-piece: his guitar plus Gary Husband on percussion and keyboards, Etienne Mbappé on bass and Mark Mondesir on drums. We remember growing up on free-form rock radio that was full of huge rushes of Mahavishnu Orchestra — big, vast, crazy pieces that confused our little minds, but we dug it. That guitar of his ... wow, enormous swaths of notes. Very electric, very different. We tried to grasp Love, Devotion, Surrender with Carlos Santana, then loved him on Santana's Welcome. Only then did we hear his Miles stuff and all the jazz stuff. He still surprises us. We listened to Five Peace Band Live with Chick Corea over and over. It jammed so hard, so well, and was a return to an older form that we loved. Expect a great one here.

In the small clubs, we'd say check out a favorite saxist of ours, Louis Van Taylor, at a place (new to us) called Point08 (95 E. Green St., Pasadena, 626-792-4441). At Vitello's on Saturday, The Trio — pianist Terry Trotter, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Peter Erskine — play exquisitely. And trumpeter Elliott Caine has a quartet (including pianist Cengiz Yaltkaya) on Saturday night at Colombo's in Eagle Rock (1833 Colorado Blvd., 323-254-9138).

On Sunday afternoon at 1 and 4 p.m., the Jazz Cruise on the Grand Romance Riverboat gets bluesy with Ray Bailey & His Organ Trio. He's got saxophonist Charles Owens and pianist Art Hillery aboard, giving this one a touch of Central Avenue. Owens, one of our favorite jazz saxophonists, ups the energy level of any band he's in, and loves playing down-and-dirty blues. The man can skronk when a tune needs a good skronking. Board the paddle steamer at 200 Aquarium Way, Dock #4, in Rainbow Harbor down in Long Beach. See rainbow.com for details. Tickets are surprisingly cheap, too. On Sunday night pianist Chris Dundas' group is at the Blue Whale. He has saxist Marty Krystall, guitarist Ken Rosser, bassist Steuart Liebig and drummer Alex Cline with him — a serious bunch of players ideally set for the free and avant-skewed melodic pieces he devises.

Last Friday was one of those way-hip nights. Anytime you start out at LACMA, it's way hip. The crowd is hip. The music is hip. The Kandinskys and that Pollock are hip. The fact that it's all free — the music, the art, the cool people (not the drinks, though) — is too hip, as Frazer Smith used to say. We showed up late (way hip) but caught most of John Altman's last set. The band was a swing precision machine: Altman beamed, Pete Christlieb burned on tenor and Bob Sommers played gorgeous trumpet, notes of soft, shiny gold. Afterward we were somehow at a Korean restaurant with Altman and his beautiful coterie eating things we couldn't recognize (again, too hip) and then later sitting at the bar at the Foundry listening to the house trio cook. The pianist was on fire, one scintillating run after another. Close your eyes for a second and it was Bud Powell. Alas, never got his name. The room was full of listeners. (We even got shushed.) Chef Eric lets these kids do what they want. He told us he's got Tigran Hamasyan coming in Dec. 6. Which is unbelievably hip. He also mentioned he was gonna be on Iron Chef that Sunday. We're talking mondo hip, or something. Whatever. The jazz was happening, the crowd real, the whiskey good, a buzz was coming on. Too much for one night. Back to squaresville, fast.

Chef Eric won, by the way. Did weird, delicious stuff with a goose. But this is the wrong column for that.

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


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