The absurdly talented bunch known as the SF Jazz Collective play the Catalina Bar & Grill Friday through Sunday. Formed in 2004 by San Francisco nonprofit SFJAZZ, the group features mostly non-Frisco types of exceptional pedigree, and finally getting to see tenor Joe Lovano in a club instead of a concert hall or the cover of Downbeat is worth the price alone. The dude can skronk with the skronkingest or weave the most graceful Prez lines, but here, we’ll get to see him up close, and hear him stretch. Miguel Zenón is a firebreathing alto, trumpeter Dave Douglas is near the top of today’s heap. Trombonist Robin Eubanks, pianist Renee Rosnes (with a knack — listen — for single-noted melodies from nursery rhymes), bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland are all major players; dig Harland’s seismic long-roll solos. They record anew each year, and the releases are exceptional, with Lovano and Zenon especially working their successive extended improvs beautifully. Three nights of these guys at Catalina, Friday through Sunday — be there. And that Friday, March 13, vocalist Nnenna Freelon is at the Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine in Malibu. She’s certainly the real thing — a wonderful singer, honest, has the coolest name in jazz (and she’s gorgeous). All you former millionaires, now hundred-thousandaires, out in the Colony need a night like this.
Meanwhile those exact same nights and sets times tenor saxist David Sanchez has a quartet at the Jazz Bakery. This man slings that horn with such confidence, with a tone so sure that you’ll flash on ’Trane and Dexter Gordon hard. It’s not so much brand-new as it is a pure mastery of his chosen ax. Pianist Chick Corea and guitarist John McLaughlin certainly have their respective axes down, and their Five Peace Band includes alto Kenny Garrett; the soloing and interplay should be incredibly intense. This happens at Royce Hall, UCLA on Thursday, March 19.
Our local players are out in creative force too, especially Friday, which is almost overwhelmed with great choices. For starters, the Pasadena Jazz Institute has a night of “Chasing the Trane” with extended sets by Chuck Manning, Zane Musa, Charles Owens and Louis Van Taylor, each doing his own variations on several John Coltrane pieces. Every one of those players is a brilliant soloist with a distinct stylist, and each is a passionate performer, as well. Somehow this works into the whole Pasadena Art Night thing, and runs from 6 p.m. till 10 p.m. And afterward you can go west out to Charlie O’s in the Valley to see Charlie Owens do three more sets, or just head east a couple exits on the 210 to Sierra Madre, where Jack Sheldon is back at the Café 322, and lately he has been on fire. Just pure West Coast bop, really, with lots of character (or maybe he’s just a nut ...) Cool place, the 322.
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