We've been listening a lot to A Handful of Stars, the excellent debut CD from baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder. You've seen him a zillion times if you love big bands — he's effectively taken Jack Nimitz's empty chair in a slew of them. He plays a big, fat, solid and somehow lightly swinging horn, and his rhythm section is fantastic: guitarist Graham Dechter, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The release bash is Friday at the Culver City Radisson (6161 W. Centinela Ave.).
Also in Culver City but a planet away, drummer Allison Miller is doing material from her excellent Boom Tic Boom. We play this one a lot, too. Her band is great — pianist Myra Melford, violinist Jenny Scheinman and bassist Todd Sickafoose — but still it's a drummer's disc, as you can tell right off. Drums, baby, are the coolest ax, and brilliant piano and some striking, even eerie fiddle only make them cooler. It's at Rocco's new digs at Royal/T (8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City; $12).
We totally dig trombonist Phil Ranelin, and his intense Central Avenue Jazz Festival gigs stand out in our memory. Doubtless that same vibe will fill Leimert Park's World Stage on Friday; when Ranelin hits that stage, it'll be transcendent. He recently lost his mother, one of the grand dames of Indianapolis, who was responsible for his pursuing jazz in the first place, and the show is dedicated to her. Like we said, transcendent (4344 Degnan Blvd.; 323-293-2451, call for set times; $10).
Downtown at the Blue Whale, saxist Robby Marshall & Root System are recording live on Friday. The band is Marshall's brain scan: It's a smallish, way modern big band, often radical or funky or hard-grooving or just plain Mingus-melodic, sometimes all that simultaneously. Marshall plays beautiful saxophone, too. And we raved about Tigran Hamasyan last week; turns out he'll be at the Foundry on Friday (and next Friday, too). There's no cover, and they play into the wee hours at this joint. You're crazy to miss it. Finally on Friday, the way hip and brilliant Bad Plus are at the Mint, Poncho Sanchez does a Christmas bash at beautiful Vitello's and Jack Sheldon does his monthly Café 322 gig, always real good.
Saturday's a marathon creative blowout at the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo from noon to midnight. Not sure of the order, so call, but here goes: the Richard Sears Quartet, the brilliant (and Grammy-nominated) John Beasley's trio, the also brilliant Nick Mancini's group, the Gary Fukushima Trio, Solstice, saxist Kim Richmond's quartet, the rad and even beautiful Slumgum, creative pianist Bevan Manson (with Brad Dutz), the exceptional drummer and scenemeister Kevin Kanner's stellar Blue Whale Jam Band, the underrated Sigmund Fudge (guitarist Jamie Rosenn, pianist Joe Bagg, bassist Ryan McGillicuddy, drummer Jason Harnell), and ending it all is the inspired Brooklyn out jazz madness of Endangered Blood — avant trombonist Joey Sellers says they're amazing, which is a helluva recommendation. It's a freaking Woodstock of underground jazz, but without the mud and acid and nakedness (we think); $10 before 6 p.m., $20 after. The Blue Whale is upstairs in Weller Court at San Pedro and 2nd Street in Little Tokyo. Validated parking underneath.Read the rest of our picks at laweekly.com.
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Four out of five doctors recommend you should do the Blue Whalefest all day and nite, score an after-party or two, not go to sleep, and then collect what's left of you on Sunday morning and head way the hell out to Hermosa Beach by 11 a.m., where the salt air and Bloody Marys and pure jazz at the Lighthouse will do you good. The jazz is the bebop of the Lanny Morgan Sextet. He plays a crazy Bird-inspired alto, the real thing; plus he's got longtime compadre trumpeter Don Rader with him, plus explosive tenor Doug Webb and a great rhythm section, too, with pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Chris Conner and drummer Paul Kreibich. His release 6 (as in sextet) is a fave around here still, its unrepentant bop and some excellent modern straight-ahead — and even classic jazz — thing kills us every time. Recommended.
Café 322 has gone nuts and booked two nights of big band music midweek, with the terrific Elliot Deutsch Big Band on Tuesday and local heroes the PCC Big Band (and PCC Jazz Combo) on Wednesday. The PCC jazz program is Bobby Bradford's baby ... and he'll have his gorgeous, outish cornet on hand, too. And really quick, the Trane-inspired Henry Franklin Quartet is at Charlie O's on Tuesday, tenor Chuck Manning and trumpeter Sal Marquez, one of our favorite pairings, are at Vibrato on Wednesday, and on Thursday swinging guitarist Barry Zweig's Quartet lays out the joy at the Lighthouse while bassist Nick Rosen does something crazily creative at the Blue Whale.