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Festival Beating

Two back-to-back days of great music, down-home food and good vibes in a mellow setting — that’s what to expect at the 26th annual Day of the Drum on Saturday and the 31st annual Watts Towers Jazz Festival on Sunday. Saturday’s highlights include the Francisco Aguabella Group (with Orisha dancers!) and the Derf Reklaw Drum Ensemble. Sunday’s jazz includes Aguabella and his excellent Latin jazz ensemble (with saxophonist Benn Clatworthy), classic Central Avenue blues singer Linda Hopkins, pianist Larry Nash, and the resurrected Pan Afrikan People’s Orchestra (all your favorite World Stage all-stars, directed by brilliant saxman Michael Session). There’s plenty of parking and a shuttle at Markham School (104th and Central), or take the Blue Line to 103rd and Graham. Music runs 1–8 p.m., the grounds are well-shaded and comfortable, and it’s free.

It’s a feast of trumpeters this week, beginning Friday with Carl Saunders (alongside saxophonist Bob Sheppard) at the Back Room, and Richard Grant at the World Stage. Terence Blanchard is at Catalina Bar and Grill through Sunday, performing material off his latest, A Tale of God’s Will. The Elliott Caine Quartet docks at Ports o’ Call Restaurant on Saturday. And Marvin Stamm joins pianist Bill Mays for an afternoon of solid Jazz at the “A” Frame (see aframejazz.com for details). And there are few things in this music as exciting as a pair of hot trumpeters mid-duel, like Joe Magnarelli (out of NYC) and Ron Stout at 2nd Street Jazz on Sunday. The same day, Geoffrey Keezer has a trio at the Jazz Bakery; he was a Jazz Messenger at 17 — talent like that can just drive you up the wall.

For some straight-ahead saxophone, there’s Don Menza at Charlie O’s on Friday, or Gary Foster at Vibrato on Friday (and with Chuck Berghofer’s Midnight Jazz Band at Charlie O’s on Thursday). Intense but always having a blast, Azar Lawrence is at the World Stage on Saturday, while that same night, bop altoist Lanny Morgan does Charlie O’s, and is in a quartet with drum great Frank Capp at the Lighthouse on Sunday afternoon. Another of L.A.’s absurdly under-recognized young musicians, Matt Otto, has a quartet at 2nd Street Jazz on Sunday (opening for those battling trumpets). Frank Fontaine — who burns it up regularly with Bobby Matos — plays it straight at Charlie O’s on Tuesday. And if you’re looking for something a little edgier, NYC saxophonist Marty Ehrlich and pianist/composer Myra Melford play material from their new Spark CD at Café Metropol on Friday. Ehrlich’s releases can be utterly uncompromising, and while this release seems more melodic and straightforward, one never knows what a couple of talents like these two will come up with. And the Oliver Lake Organ Trio is at the Jazz Bakery through Saturday. Lake’s reed playing pushes limits, and this one might well be out of this world. When New York players go out, they go out.

For some variety, there’s guitarist Thom Rotella with a trio at the Sheraton Universal on Friday. The always-good vibist Nick Mancini joins up with the house band at Vibrato on Saturday. There’s good Latin jazz from Cartaya’s Enclave at La Ve Lee on Saturday. Also on Saturday, pianist Larry Karush performs “comprovisations and unstandard treatments of jazz standards” with world percussionists Miles Shrewsbury and Randy Gloss at Occidental College’s Bird Recital Hall, 1600 Campus Road in Eagle Rock, (323) 259-2785. Begins at 7:30 and it’s free. The New West Guitar Quartet do their thing at the Grand Star Jazz Club on Sunday. NYC punk jazzers Gutbucket are at 2nd Street Jazz on Monday, and the free jazz/John Zorn/Beefheart/Contortions/electric-era, Ornette-loving downtown crowd ought to dig them.

The Big Band Showcase at Four Points Sheraton kicks off on Thursday with the Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra (featuring saxist Pete Christlieb and trombonist Bill Watrous), the Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra, the Buddy Childers Big Band, and the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra with drum legend Louis Bellson and Kenny Burrell doing the film music of Duke Ellington. And there’s a whole weekend following that. Over at the Ford Amphitheatre on Friday, the great saxophonist Carol Chaikin directs this year’s Lady Jazz “Kicking Brass” concert. With bassist Nedra Wheeler and vocalist Sweet Baby J’ai among the collected talent (and special honors for Central Avenue trumpet legend Clora Bryant), this should be a lot of fun.

Now for some something really special: the brilliant Cuban flutist Orlando “Maraca” Valle at King King on Tuesday. We’re talking salsa and timba here, state-of-the-art Cuban music. Looks sensational.

—Brick Wahl