Miles Davis. Maybe you've heard of him. Columbia Records is just making sure. They repackaged everything He did for them, then repackaged the repackages and finally they stuck all the repackages into a trumpet case and are selling it for like a bajillion dollars, one of those way-limited editions that millionaire jazz fans just have to have. Not even critics get that thing.
Critics do get invited to the fancy release parties, though. Free food, free booze, free respect. Columbia and the Miles Davis estate do these things up good. The Bitches Brew one was atop a fancy Beverly Hills hotel. Rooftop, baby — look at all those rich people down there. They had live Miles projected on the side of a building and he was a dozen feet tall. A giant, huge Miles. A young hippie-ish Chick Corea was mad on the keys, and Wayne Shorter was so rad. If you stood just right, a gigantic mega–Wayne Shorter loomed over the Hollywood Hills, blowing crazy saxophone. A sky god. Even unstoned, it looked cool.
The thing is, though, that Wayne does not loom vast over the city. Not even Miles does. That's why they were throwing this big bash, so we'd tell you about this new Bitches Brew reissue that we've had in the changer here now for weeks. It's a good one, people. Real, real good. But we wish this stuff did loom over American culture like that giant Wayne Shorter. And that music meant as much to people nowadays as it did a generation ago. Those were different times. The poets, they studied rules of verse, and the ladies, they rolled their eyes.
And we wish there was more to tell you about this week. New Year's Eve is so lousy for music now. The days when you spent the last night of the year hopping from bar to bar checking out the tunes are long gone. It's a cash cow now, clubs offering a little bit of Vegas plus a glass of Champagne for a hefty cover. So we'll just plug Charlie O's again. They have saxist Don Menza there, one of the great living tenor saxists of the old school, and the John Heard Trio behind him includes pianist Tom Ranier and drummer Roy McCurdy. That's New Year's Eve the way the jazz gods intended it: hard and jamming.
Ain't much going down on Saturday. On Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts (2225 Colorado Blvd., a block west of Eagle Rock Boulevard), it's Cosmologic, the adventurous quartet of tenor Jason Robinson, trombonist Michael Dessen, bassist Scott Walton and drummer Nathan Hubbard, who scatter all to hell across the country between these rare appearances. Alex Cline describes them as a “fully realized combination of ensemble tightness and intricacy with freewheeling improvisational and interpretive looseness and fluidity.” Highly recommended. $10.
Nothing hit us on Monday or Tuesday, but on Wednesday pianist Otmaro Ruiz has his quartet at the Baked Potato, always brilliant. And on Thursday Bruce Forman's Cowbop are at Café 322, and if you haven't seen this amazing mix of Americana, Texas swing and bebop, you're nuts. Unbelievably good band.
And our New Year's resolution remains the same — to not listen to a single note off a jazz tribute to Michael Jackson. Not even the Grammy-nominated ones. Not ever.
Moyindau is a band from East Lansing, Mich., whose name, they explain, means “acknowledgment” in Kazakh (much as Brick's Picks means “Party on, dude” in Burushaski). And Moyindau describe themselves as a quartet of saxophone, piano, cello and drums that integrates experimental jazz, contemporary classical, folk and free improvisation. Quote unquote. We realize that 99 percent of you were scared off by that. And yeah, their website presents them as terrifyingly intellectual, a scary-smart bunch of not-just-jazz players who could really use a weekend in a cheap hotel room with a couple of bottles of Thunderbird and the first Ramones record.
Moyindau travels throughout the United States “to collaborate with inspiring artists and present their music to a wide array of audiences.” Which is why apparently they're at the Blue Whale out here in Los Angeles on Wednesday. That and maybe the fact that East Lansing, Mich., is colder than fuck in January and they've seen Baywatch. But you know, people, there's a fascinating tune on their site that we've been listening to. These cats have got chops, a light touch, even warmth. So what if they write prose like college professors? They play like real musicians, and when you come into a space like the Blue Whale in a town like L.A., that's all that matters. We say check them out. Plus they're sharing the bill with Slumgum, whom we really dig. Which kinda makes this one a pick.
Happy New Year, people.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)