Check out the new Downbeat mag. Doesn’t Benny Golson look fine there on the cover? Yeah, man, imagine looking that good after all those decades in this busines. Still sounds fine, too, and he’s finishing up his umpteenth Jazz Bakery stand this Friday and Saturday. And check out Catalina’s on Tuesday, where there’s a Tribute to Tommy Dorsey. Getting that utterly perfect, sweet trombone will be Bill Watrous; indeed, he’ll nail it, even on the valve. To really nail it he could beat someone up, fire a player on the stand, chase your wife — but now we’re getting sentimental over Tommy. And the Clayton Brothers kick off their stand at the Jazz Bakery this Wednesday and Thursday (with excellent trumpeter Terell Stafford). We recall a Hollywood & Highland show a couple seasons ago in which the two of them just tore it up. It should be no different here. Treat yourself.
And for those with lots of bread, there’s the Jazz Summit II, the California Jazz Foundation fund-raiser at Catalina’s on Sunday. It’s soliciting contributions for sick and needy players, with flutist Lori Bell’s bossas, the Gerald Clayton piano trio and the Dream Sextet, with pianist Shelly Berg, trumpeter Terell Stafford, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, sax and clarinetist Ken Peplowski, plus bassist JohnClayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. Hot stuff there. Tickets are $175 per person (remember … it’s a charity gig). (Details at 818-400-3263; 4:30-10:30 p.m.)
Between holiday parties and endless shopping and Andy Williams Christmas special repeats (was Claudine singing or just exhaling?), it sometimes seems there’s neither time nor money to go out and dig the music. Ain’t true. You can slip into some dark room for a bit and just listen to what unfolds from the stage, often for the price of a beer or two. Like tenor Benn Clatworthy, for instance, who’s at Vibrato on Friday and Jax in Glendale on Tuesday (we love Jax … when the jazz is right, it’s a perfect dive). Nobody plays horn like Benn. It’s a big sound, yeah, but that’s not the heart of it. Rather, it’s the crazy fluidity, the pitching pitch, the way he can reduce a melody to a hard, breathtaking kind of beauty. Of course, then he starts baiting his band like Michael Caine on a bad day — but never mind. Or BarbaraMorrison over at the Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill on Friday. She doesn’t need to bait her bands; when she’s up there, they just obey. We’ve seen her turn a claptrap bar band into a smooth-running V-8, and man does she put on a show, too. (The Studio is throwing a birthday party for the legendary LindaHopkins on Sunday, too.) Friday is also JackSheldon’s monthly Café 322 gig, with all the smart-assed, lunatic patter and superb jazz between it. (You should hear his tone on “Naima” … it’s really something.) Over at the Foundry on Melrose, they keep the jazz going into the wee hours for their motley assemblage of local hipsters, stray oddities and jazz freaks. Josh Nelson is at the piano on Friday, and the tunes will run from quietly beautiful to unquietly berserk (check out Zach Harmon’s drumming) and in that intimate room it’s something special. No cover (great bar fare, too).
And some out-of-towners are appearing in the local joints, too. On Saturday, pianist and composer Cecelia Coleman returns to Vibrato. Her compositions are beautiful, complex and often dense with notes and changes, and her playing flashes here and clusters there — and man she works her band. Thrilling stuff. Finally, on Thursday, the house bassman John Heard returns to Charlie O’s. About time. Saxist Justo Almario will be giving him a workout. Shake off those cobwebs and rattle them bones.