Latin music gets a jump on the summer festival season in a big way this weekend. On Saturday night at the Greek Theatre, they’re throwing the Second Annual Los Angeles Latin Jazz Festival, and once again the promoters have assembled a great lineup. You get Dave Samuels and the Caribbean Jazz Project with the brilliantly virtuosic saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, Jose Rizo’s Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars with a killer lineup, including dueling congueros Poncho Sanchez and Francisco Aguabella and Justo Almario going stone mad on his tenor (and there’ll have to be a pairing of him and Paquito at some point). Guitarist Kenny Burrell and flutist Hubert Laws dig into their Latin roots (Kenny played with Mongo). Boriqueno trumpeter Charlie Sepulveda and the Turnaround and world-class percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo complete this terrific bill. Be there. On Sunday, the Cuban Festival is back in Echo Park, right there at the lake, with the usual collection of frenzied Cuban bands playing salsa, bomba, charanga and lots of rumbas — this year it’s Bayalo, Timbao, Bombachante, Los Puros and Orquesta la Farandula. There’s dancers and drum circlers and domino players and Cuban-cigar smokers and Cuban-food eaters and Cuban coffee drinkers and Cuban everything. It’s a great time, it’s from noon till 7, and it’s free. Bring a flask.
And Friday to Sunday, Jane Bunnett & Spirits of Havana are at the Jazz Bakery. This Canadian soprano saxist makes extraordinary Afro-Cuban jazz (in fact, we’re listening to her Ritmo + Soul right now) — passionate, high-flying, experimental and earthy stuff, with none of the dusty nostalgia that permeated, say, the Buena Vista Social Club. And while you’re at it, check out the Brazilian sounds of Katia Moraes and Sambaguru, who are at Spazio on Friday. Katia’s at home no matter what Brazilian music variety is called for, we’ve seen her sing samba, choro, bossa nova, MPB . L.A.’s Sambaguru are a crack five-piece MPB outfit, and the mesh of pop and samba and groove and soul and Afro-brazilian sounds works perfectly (check out their latest, Tribo . even Justo Almario takes a few burning moments on it). Live, Katia rules the stage, few performers have that kind of charisma . if only they did.
Jazz-wise on Friday, trombonist Andy Martin plays with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O’s. Martin’s ability to play absolutely gorgeous lines on that thing is incredible . close your eyes and you hear a flugelhorn. Brilliant guitarist Bruce Forman steps out of his Western-swing self to play the pure jazz Friday at Vibrato. On Saturday, trumpeter/arranger Josh Welchez’s Miles Davis Kind of Blue Tribute Sextet are at Spazio with the exceptional lineup of tenor Matt Otto, trombonist Matt Zembly, pianist Gary Fukushima, bassist J.P. Maramba and drummer Tim Pleasant. And at Charlie O’s, it’s The John Beasley Sound and Feel with bassist John Heard, drummer Roy McCurdy and, get this, vocalist Dwight Trible. He’s doing mostly originals, but ask nicely and he’ll probably slip in something Hancock from his Letter to Herbie.
Tuesday, the Theo Saunders Quartet comes to Charlie O’s after their triumphant standing-room-only night here last month. Then Wednesday at Charlie O’s, eminent bassist Chris Colangelo takes a rare leader gig with a quartet including excellent saxist Rob Lockhart and Beasley at the piano. Colangelo has a habit of playing in a lot of the most impressive quartets in town (he’s a regular with Benn Clatworthy) so this could be a great one. And Nick Mancini ... if he stops playing, he dies, apparently; he’s everywhere doing everything. The gigs we know of this week include a Saturday at the Foundry on Melrose, then on Monday jamming with Otmaro Ruiz and the Cross-Hart team atop the Hotel Angeleno, and then — get this — playing with three bands in one night at the Jazz Bakery on Wednesday. Must be a dozen players in the lineup, and good ones too, even awesome (like pianists Otmaro Ruiz and Mahesh Balasooriya). When you got it, flaunt it.
And Thursday for us jazzheads is ridiculous. The Jon Mayer Trio at the Café 322; highly regarded NYC saxist Jerome Sabbagh celebrating his new One Two Three at the Café Metropol with Darek Oles and Mark Ferber; the ingenious Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble opening at the Bakery; trombonist Phil Ranelin’s heavyweight quintet (saxist Keith Fiddmont, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, bassist Trevor Ware and drummer Don Littleton) at the Crowne Plaza LAX; and drummer Lorca Hart’s crew at the Foundry on Melrose. Every damn one of those is a pick. To make it worse, The LA Jazz Institute kick off their four-day big-band extravaganza, “A Swinging Affair,” on Thursday, including the John Altman Big Band and the mighty Frank Capp Juggernaut. Nice seeing Altman here — of late his London version has been getting more play — but he’s bringing that crazy curved soprano of his along with a superb bunch including Wayne Bergeron, Gilbert Castellanos, Andy Martin, Jim Self, Pete Christlieb, Rob Lockhart and loads of others to swing Basie and Duke style. They begin at 4:30, Frank Capp ends it toward midnight, and that’s just day one. The rest are for next week’s Picks. Go to lajazzinstitute.org or call (562) 985-7065 for details.
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