Ken Poston’s Los Angeles Jazz Institute has a habit of throwing weekend-long bashes featuring scads of big bands, and sometimes it seems there ain’t a big band around that Poston hasn’t corralled into whatever venue he’s managed to book. There’s always a theme, too — this time he’s brought everyone together to the Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach (1107 Jamboree Road) for a Big Band Fiesta to celebrate the great Latin big-band tradition. That musical history goes back to Mario Bauza and Dizzy and Chano and NYC’s hallowed Palladium days, when Havana was a happening party stop for rich Americans, Puerto Ricans were flooding into New York City looking for work, and the swing bands toured endlessly and remorselessly, as bebop stewed uptown. It was an incredible time for Latin jazz musicians, creative and wild, with dancers packing the floor, dressed to the nines and lines running ’round the block, trying to get in.
So look who Poston’s lined up: The Palladium Big 3 Orchestra, made up of young players and veteranos of the Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Machito orchestras (and led by their sons); trumpeter Jon Faddis’ Cubana Be-Cubana Bop, with dizzy high C’s and Dizzy charts and no less than Candido himself (who’s beaten the congas for the big Latin jazz outfits since the ’40s); Arturo O’Farrill, doing father Chico O’Farrill’s classic big-band charts; Jose Rizo’s awesome Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars, updated with a little salsa and lots of Justo Almario and Francisco Aguabella; the Estrada Brothers’ tribute to Cal Tjader, with special guest Armando Peraza (we saw him tear it up with Santana waaaay back when); and a diversion with tenor Bud Shank’s Brazilliance. Plus, there will be Poston’s usuals, including all the former Kenton players performing Cuban Fire; the under-recognized arranger Bill Holman; a re-formed Shorty Rogers Big Band; the Lighthouse All-Stars (with Jack Costanzo!); Bobby Shew and a pile of Gil Evans–Miles Davis charts; and our faves, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, doing “Viva Tirado.” And there’s more, even. Call (562) 985-7065 or check out lajazzinstitute.com for all the details.
Of course, there’s plenty around town if you’re looking for something closer and with smaller groups. For starters, trumpeter Elliott Caine’s quintet hits LACMA on Friday — Caine can play some mean Latin horn himself, though lately, he’s been focusing on the bop and beyond. Ever smaller-grouped and at a decidedly more intimate venue is the remarkable trio of drummer Matt Slocum, pianist Bill Cunliffe and bassist Darek Oles at Café Metropol; their sounds should be especially rich in those confines. Slocum also has a trio at the Lighthouse on Thursday; he’s a very tasty drummer, and it’s always nice to see him back in town. … For some solid, solid straight-ahead, there’s tenor great Ernie Watts at the Jazz Bakery this Friday and Saturday; his latest, The Point, was recorded there last year, and positively burns. At the Bakery on Tuesday, Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Schalk promotes his own excellent new release, Wanted, with a nice trio that includes bassist Jeff Littleton and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. It’ll be interesting — Schalk’s a fine writer and beautiful player, and his music has a spare quality, a European take on the music.
But back to the weekend: Gas-conscious Pedro residents can hear stellar jazz right in the ’hood, at Alva’s Showroom on Saturday (1417 W. Eighth St., San Pedro; formerly Rosalie & Alva’s). The molten Azar Lawrence Quartet is there, with Nate Morgan at the piano. Azar really lets his players play, and the whole crew feeds off his own dervish energy. Wild, thrilling stuff. But in our estimation, Zane Musa on alto can probably stay with Azar in terms of sheer energy, so the matchup of Musa with the very swinging John Campbell’s trio at the Mount Olive Lutheran Church (1343 Ocean Park Blvd., in Santa Monica) on Sunday at 5 p.m. seems like a dare. When Musa picks up his soprano, it can get flat out dangerous. The Devil always seems just around the corner. But in the Lord’s house? Is this any place to be exorcizing jazz demons? Then again, where better? Come see for yourself; it’s free.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)