By Tom Meek
Who: Larry Karush Quintet with Shutz Vtet
Better than…any other free music in L.A. on a Friday night.
The Angel City Jazz Festival kicked off Thursday, launching seven days of music across seven venues in Los Angeles over the next two weekends. Friday night's concert featured the Larry Karush Quintet at LACMA, which also served as one of the ongoing free Friday jazz series events at the museum.
Pianist Karush isn't one for jazz standards, preferring original compositions with a decidedly world/new music edge, which puts him in line with Angel City's overall theme. Karush has been a frequent collaborator with bassist Glen Moore of the group Oregon, a pioneer in bringing these types of sounds to jazz more than thirty years ago.
Karush's instrumentation was also less than standard fare, featuring upright bass (Chris Colangelo), flute (Danilo Lozano), and the percussion pair of Brad Dutz and Randy Gloss. Dutz, in particular, constantly offered unique and interesting colors and accents throughout the performance, giving reminders aplenty as to why he's one of the area's most sought after percussionists, as well as a prolific avant-garde composer in his own right.
Karush's “Songs For The New City 1” opened his set of “comprovisations” and featured flutist Lozano. The evening's second work “Seven Samba” featured an introduction on piano from Karush and an extended duet between Dutz and Gloss, with Gloss on pandeiro (a handheld frame drum) and Dutz on a variety of percussion.
The evening's main piece was a reworked version of Karush's “The Wheel,” which was originally commissioned for the City Of Los Angeles and first performed in 2003. Karush revised and extended the piece in 2010, and the LACMA performance was the West Coast premiere of this latest version for quintet, a challenging score lasting more than 30 minutes. As Karush introduced the piece he told the audience they were “taking a chance” trying a work that featured several very quiet passages in the public outdoor space at LACMA. His subtle plea for silence, unfortunately, went largely unnoticed, although the excellent piece was certainly deserving.
Opening the evening was the Shutz Vtet, winners of the prior week's ACJF Young Artist Competition at Blue Whale. The group of current students at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts showed why LACHSA music students continue to win competition after competition across the United States, along with full scholarships to prestigious music schools like Juilliard and Berklee.
Their seven-song set included six originals, along with “Delfeayo's Dilemma” from Wynton Marsalis. Of particular note were alto saxophonist Jasper Dutz (17, and son of Brad Dutz) and bassist Sarah Kuo (16), who's already impressing veteran L.A. players with her willingness to dig in behind soloists, best shown Friday on “Delfeayo's Dilemma.” Trombonist Kalia Vanderer (16) and tenor saxophonist Jacob Shulman (17) rounded out the horns, with the quintet topped by its newest (and youngest) member in the talented drummer Adrian Cota, who is 15.
Personal Bias: Having seen Brad Dutz in various musical settings for years, I knew just how good he'd likely be going in.
The Crowd: As usual at LACMA Jazz Fridays, the people there to listen arrived early and mostly sat in seats near the front. The grounds at the back are mostly for picnics, dogs, kids and folks there to enjoy the day, often mostly otherwise oblivious to the music being presented.
Random Notebook Dump: The best place to hear the quiet passages of “The Wheel” may well have been standing near a set of monitors placed 200 feet back from the stage, the only place largely free of the background chatter coming from the table seating area near the LACMA restaurants.
Set lists below.
Larry Karush Quintet:
Songs for The New City 1
That Golden Time
Mamuta & Goolix