Starting with the straight-ahead, we see saxist Gil Bernal is doing one of his from-the-heart trio things in the dinner slot at Café 322 on Friday, 6-8 p.m. Trumpeter James Smith is Houston-born, close enough to New Orleans to give his horn hints of the Crescent City. He's at Charlie O's on Friday (and with the CJS Quintet at Farmers Market on Thursday). Up the hill at Vibrato, saxist Bob Mintzer fronts the house trio on Friday. The Yellowjackets made him a star, and his excellent big bands are loved by the critics, but Bob must be feeling the urge to jam, as he's done a few of these small group collaborations lately. The extraordinary trumpeter Carl Saunders is at Vibrato on Saturday, and you know how much we dig tenor Don Menza, who's at Charlie O's on Saturday. Come Tuesday, one of L.A's great trombonists, Scott Whitfield, leads a quintet at Charlie O's. That same night at Vibrato is a quintet called The Sounds of Shearing, a Knight to Remember that includes vibist Charlie Shoemake and guitarist Ron Anthony, both members of the classic George Shearing Quintet. $20.
Okay, a little crazier now. The young and beautiful drummer Tina Raymond has a trio with pianist Gary Fukushima on Friday at the First and Hope Downtown Supper Club (710 W. First St., 213-617-8555). It's a new joint to us, and there's no cover. At the World Stage on Friday Randall Willis' Sax Trio performs originals and heavy improv. Willis has been in Gerald Wilson's orchestra for some time and in that band you have to play your ass off, so we expect righteous things here. And we caught clarinetist John Tegmeyer at Jax last week, sitting in with Benn Clatworthy. Listening to his Can't Never Go Back Home Again, we hear just what it is that the local cats love about this guy — he plays one hell of a clarinet. He's all over that thing, dragging it places not many players this side of Eddie Daniels dare to venture. Tegmeyer leads a bunch at the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo on Saturday. Now we should probably shut up already about Chuck Manning — we've gone on and on about how much we dig his ever-expanding tenor saxophonery. He's at Charlie O's on Monday. The 17-piece Psych! The Unexpected Big Band is at 2nd Street Jazz (366 E. 2nd St., Little Tokyo, 213-680-0047) on Monday, and while the outfit is new to us, players like Doug Webb, Vince Suzuki and Eric Jorgensen lurk in the ranks. Cover is $10. And going by the rule that if it's from Brooklyn it must be interesting, we heartily recommend vibist Tyler Blandon's quartet (including saxist Bob Sheppard) at Charlie O's on Thursday.
We first heard Grupo Fantasma on their album Sonidos Gold a couple years ago and were knocked out by their crazy mesh of everything Latin American — cumbia and salsa and son montuno and folklorico and whatever — with psychedelic and Afro-funk and jazz and Larry Harlow and whatever. The thing grooved. Then we received a new album, El Existential. It grooved too, and had all that stuff we said the first one had, including Larry Harlow, and tossed in a Meat Puppet (Curt Kirkwood) besides. They're supposed to be even better live, so check them out Friday at the Commonwealth Lounge in Fullerton (112 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, 714-525-8888, commonwealthlounge.com). On Saturday night at Nyx in Glendale (156 S. Brand Blvd., 818-545-0333) one of our favorite Brazilian singers ever, Kátia Moraes, celebrates her birthday with what looks like every Brazilian player in town sitting in (or dancing in — she also has the Viver Brasil Dance Company along). Even flutist Rebecca Kleinman will be there. Expect some wonderful samba and choro at the very least.