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L.A. Discgrace

I know Smogtowners are supposed to be dumfuqs, so all these sharp abstractionist discs must be by Manhattanites pretending to be from L.A., right? Right?

Dwight Trible, Living Water (Zen). L.A.’s most passionate wailer keeps trying new studio sounds, this time a Courvoisier-sipping urban slickness that lends an appealingly perverse sensuality to his African riffs and peace chants. Bobby West’s greasy synths against the brisk rhythmic challenge of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” will unscrew your head.

Leviathan Brothers, Leviathan Brothers (Knee High). What clean, pneumatic piano (Sean O’Connell). What righteous swing (bassist Miguel Sawaya, drummer Miles Senzaki). What a keen choice of covers (Harry Nilsson, Lou Reed, Fiona Apple). Add just a scratch of harmonic violence, like artful spray paint, and you’ve got modern jazz you can play for anybody.

Julie Christensen, Something Familiar (Household Ink). Standards of several eras, from swing to Jimmy Webb, sound right-now when Christensen sings them straight through your ribcage. She’s got an engraver’s way of etching/buffing a lyric, and as Josef Woodard’s guitar screwdrivered around the harmonic edges at B.B. King’s last month, she had us reopening a lot of cold cases.

Elliott Caine Quintet, Blues From Mars (EJC/Rhombus). Joy is no dirty word to flexible trumpeter Caine, who taps the freshest players (pianist John Rangel, drummer Kenny Elliott, vibist DJ Bonebrake) for his swaying Latin hammockry, Caribbean jaunts, even some sockheaded blues with spooky theremin. If only the mainstream could channel music this real.

Brassum, Live (PfMentum). You’re in an echoey loft around 1965, then you suck the long pipe and the walls open up onto dim, winding roads lined with moss-draped cypresses. Dan Clucas (cornet), Michael Vlatkovich (trombone), Mark Weaver (tuba), Harris Eisenstadt (drums).

Rich West, Heavenly Breakfast (PfMentum). Ensemble noise that really coheres despite ever-changing structures, thanks to players who listen: drummer West, trumpeter Bruce Friedman, reedman Lynn Johnston, keyboardist Emily Beezhold, bassist Dan Krimm. Citrusy.

Bobby Matos, Made by Hand (www.bobbymatos.com). Latin, yeah, but the jazz component is strong; Matos cooks low, unusually dark, almost menacing. Which doesn’t mean you’re scared to dance.

Roberta Piket Trio, Love and Beauty (www.robertajazz.com). All right, so she actually is from New York, but her grass-whispering drummer, Billy Mintz, is a part-time Angeleno. With Ratzo Harris throbbing on bass at Joseph’s in Hollywood last month, the trio swamped our sensibilities in Piket’s irresistible flow, dual-brained harmonic coordination and outward-leaning inwardness (“Alone Alone,” “I’m My Everything”).

Kraig Grady, Beyond the Windows Perhaps Among the Podcorn (Transparency) and Orenda (Anaphoria). Our microtonal malletman & co. spin tiny spheres around and around within the larger sphere of your head, which spins within all the other great spheres of the universe. Also, you will breathe.


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