Brick's Picks: Winter Songs

There’s a nice selection of jazz if you crave the experimental, edgy, cathartic, visceral, or just a nice new sound. Sierra Madre is just down the 210 from Bobby Bradford’s Pasadena hometown crowd, so they pack the Café 322 when the Motet’s first Fridays come up. Bradford’s cornet wails and bleats beautifully, or wends its way through pretty passages, as his adventurous band kicks it up all around him. It’s loose, but never too loose, and the casual jazz folks in the house eat it up. Also on Friday, the Nick Rosen Group is downtown at the Café Metropol, and this urgent young bassist has no trouble collecting tough, young players for jazz that pushes at the edges and sometimes jumps off into free flight. On Saturday, at Rosalie and Alva’s Performance Gallery, up the hill in San Pedro, Brad Dutz’s quartet brings his marimba and hand drums, and cello, oboe, English horn and bass clarinets. It works. Meanwhile, back at the Café Metropol, vibist Nick Mancini brings in his Collective for a more accessible, grooving take on a new jazz sound, built around his terrific malletry. You can bring a date to this one. Which cannot always be said about the sometimes astonishing sounds that poly-reedman Vinny Golia and drummer Alex Cline come up with. They play at 7 p.m. on Sunday inside the avant-garde preserve known as the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. Erudite and challenging stuff by a swell coupla guys. Now if after all this, you want some of that pure passion of the soaring, searing ’Trane-at-the-Vanguard variety, then you have to see the Azar Lawrence Quartet at the Crowne Plaza on Thursday. Leimert Park veteran Nate Morgan plays beautiful piano in the rhythm section, and bassman Trevor Ware absolutely centers it. And local vibist Eldad Tarmu used to play his often extraordinary post-bop (pick up basically any of his releases you can find) in some of the local jazz joints over the years till he was whisked away to Romania or somewhere. And now we stumble upon the news that he’ll be playing a pair of Sunday gigs out in Claremont. The first is an afternoon house concert as a solo (call 909-625-9194 for details), followed at 7:30 by a duo performance with pianist/vocalist Gaea Schell at Galli’s Piano Bar in nearby Alta Loma — (909) 941-1100. If you like vibes, post-bop, Middle Eastern textures and some fairly mind-blowing chops, check this guy out.

If you’re looking for some straight-ahead, for starters there’s cool-toned Gary Foster at Vibrato on Friday; or down the hill and halfway across the valley at Charlie O’s, trumpeter Carl Saunders has a quartet (with Roy McCurdy on drums) on Friday, and he’s with a trio at Spazio on Wednesday, then back at Charlie O’s on Thursday with his sextet, and all are recommended. The generally relaxed tenor Plas Johnson is at Charlie O’s on Saturday (with Jon Mayer on piano), and the hot ElliottCaine Quintet (with tenor Carl Randall and swinging drummer Kenny Elliott) slips into Jax on Wednesday — that will be a fun gig in that tiny joint. The great flute-and-sax man (and not a bad singer either) Sam Most has a Birthday Bash with a trio featuring guitarist Barry Zweig at the Wine Bistro Restaurant (11915 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-766-6233) on Wednesday. Most’s bop flute is hushed but pretty fantastic (check out some of his early stuff if you can find it), and the drummerless trio will frame it well. And the peerless guitarist Kenny Burrell begins a four-night stand with his quintet at Catalina Bar and Grill on Thursday. If you’re looking for some nice jazz pianistics, check out classy Mike Melvoin at Landings at the Airtel Plaza on Saturday, while on Sunday hard-working Joe Bagg is at Spazio. One of our favorites, Jon Mayer, plays the Claremont jazz joint the Hip Kitty. Furthermore, our mama done tol’ us that Bill Cunliffe plays the music of Harold Arlen — he of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — at the Jazz Bakery on Tuesday. And it’s niece work if you can get it when Alexis Gershwin sings her uncle Gershwin’s tunes at Catalina’s on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Among the zillion jazz-vocal gigs in town, there’s the outstanding Jackie Ryan with pianist Tamir Hendleman and L.A. sax legend Red Holloway at the Jazz Bakery Friday; or the bluesy and sometimes blue-lit tunes and storytelling of Barbara Morrison and quartet at the Hotel Casa del Mar (1910 Ocean Way in Santa Monica) on Wednesday. And, finally, bassist and vocalist Kristin Korb is always a delight; her bass chops are on the money, and so is her singing, and when she does them simultaneously, it seems to be the most natural thing in the world. Very, very nice stuff. She’ll be at the Lighthouse, just yards from the Hermosa pier, on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Order some breakfast and a bloody or two and just dig her style. (Brick can be reached at

—Brick Wahl

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