We'd almost given up on the L.A. Jazz Collective, so seeing their Spring Jazz Fest on Vitello's calendar this Sunday was a happy surprise. You'll get a mess of creative music for your money, five ensembles worth, including the Brian Carmody Trio kicking things off at 5 p.m., the Ryan Seward-Josh Welchez Group, including saxophonist Walter Smith and pianist Gary Fukushima; Sigmund Fudge (love that name) with guitarist Jamie Rosenn, pianist Joe Bagg, bassist Ryan McGillicuddy, and drummer Jason Harnell; the brilliant L.A. Jazz Quartet with saxist Chuck Manning, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Kendall Kay; and trumpeter Brian Swartz's Gnu Sextet with saxist Bob Mintzer. That is a helluva lot of new, inspired jazz. Call for reservations.
It's a busy weekend for Manning, by the way: His tenor playing can get downright aggressive when combined with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O's on Saturday, and then after Vitello's he finishes up Sunday night with one of our favorites, trumpeter Sal Marquez, at Spazio. Years ago we heard Manning and Marquez duet into the wee hours at a party in the hills above Pasadena. The home was old and Spanish, the lights of the city spread out in all directions, and Manning blew long, low tones for Marquez to softly cavort in and around. Just one of those boozy late night jazz memories…
Vitello's is strong all week, with Poncho Sanchez making his monthly appearance on Friday and a real treat on Saturday: a rare appearance by Bill Cunliffe's 17-piece big band, which we haven't seen in ages. This event — or “Event,” as he just won a Grammy — will be packed, so call for reservations. On Monday, Vitello's grooves to Larry Goldings' Organ Night, and on Wednesday there's another new bunch, the JLB Collective, which is drummer Jason Lee Burns with a mess of players, including pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, guitarist Angelo Metz, and saxist Zane Musa.
Over at Charlie O's on Monday Bill Cunliffe pares his act to a trio, so you can see the two sides of a jazz pianist — arranging and pure improvisation — almost side by side. On Wednesday, the venue has the high-powered hard bop of the Tony Inzalaco Quintet, with trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, and on Thursday, there's the beautiful trombone playing of Scott Whitfield. And there's never a cover at Charlie O's.
LACMA kicks off its early-evening Friday jazz series with tenor great Red Holloway, who'll tear it up in his own hard, relaxed, bluesy way. The same night, Peruvian trumpeter Gabriel Alegria's Afro-Peruvian Septet is at the Cafe Metropol (Allegria also plays here on Saturday). It's subtler than the more emphatic Afro-Cuban jazz, and Alegria plays a beautiful horn — the Metropol made quite a catch with this one. Highly recommended and call for reservations. If you're on theWestside Friday, guitarist Bruce Forman has a quartet at Vibrato, playing pure jazz with an almost startling fluidity and invention. And on Saturday, Dale Fielder has a trio at Alva's, in San Pedro. Fielder plays a mean tenor and baritone right out of the '50s or '60s, and certainly has the lung power, ideas and huevos for a couple hours of straight trio action.
Lanky drummer Dan Schnelle is in the middle of a month of drummers' Thursdays at the Foundry on Melrose (Kevin Kanner and Zach Harmon have each had a month), and he is pretty free to do as he pleases with the dates. The results can be impressive. It also makes the Foundry one of the few venues in town where young and extremely talented jazz players get the stage for three nights running, with bassist Matt Cory and drummer Zach Harmon and guests on Fridays and Saturdays. No cover, either.
The Blue Whale in Little Tokyo is a happening jazz room, anchored by Kevin Kanner's thriving Monday Night Jam, with probably the best house band in town. And there's that long-running Monday night session with Ryan Cross, Lorca Hart and assorted serious players atop the Angelus Hotel in Westwood. Great stuff is happening if you know where to find it.
Finally, in Leimert Park, there will be a Living Legends & More Jazz Panel Discussion & Jam Session at the Regency West Supper Club (3339 W. 43rd St., 323/292-5143). Moderated by KKJZ's Bubba Jackson and Tommy Hawkins (wonder if they'll keep up their Jack Benny-Fred Allen on-air feud in person?) the panel members will include Larry Nash, Ndugu Chancler, Bennie Maupin, John Daniel Stephens and James Benson, and Buddy Collette and violinist Michael White will be honored. You can imagine the stories. Guitarist Jacques Lesure will lead the house band — and there will be a lot of talent in the house.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)