Looking like a major jazz week in town, at least our kind of jazz anyway. Trombonist Phil Ranelin and Tribe Renaissance are at the Radisson in Culver City on Friday (with saxists Keith Fiddmont and Louis Van Taylor, guitarist Jinshi Ozaki, the very exciting pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, drummer Kenny Elliott and percussionist Don Littleton). Ranelin’s tunes and arrangements are steeped in jazz history, laced with funk and afro-groove and way-down blues, and are a thrill live. We went on and on about pianist Theo Saunders last week, which means we can’t really go on about the Theo Saunders Sextet this week, at Alva’s Showroom in San Pedro on Saturday. We totally dig the sextet for some of the same reasons as above, though, right down to the trombone work. David Dahlsten plays it here, along with saxists Chuck Manning and Zane Musa, bassist Jeff Littleton and drummer Tony Austin. It’s a tad more straight-ahead and less funky of the two, but just as exciting live.
Benn Clatworthy’s Luminessence is at Alva’s on Saturday, with baritone-sax player Pablo Calogero, bassist John Belzaguy and percussionists Don Littleton and Jorge Carbonel. Clatworthy has long been a fixture of Francisco Aguabella’s band, where he blows incredibly hard. His own sets are unique in this town, balls-out and exploratory and straight-ahead with a sound that’s Trane-toned and Sonny-inspired but mostly just pure Clatworthy. He must have a dozen CDs, though try and find anyone you know who owns one. His new Luminessence is a departure, Latin all over in a spooky way; the band is the same as at Alva’s, but with Nolan Shaheed taking trumpet runs that Freddie Hubbard would have dug. Another solid weekend pick. Clatworthy’s also at Jax on Tuesday, getting loose, as always in that joint, taking chances, sloughing off a bit and no doubt expanding jazzbo minds once or twice.
On Wednesday drummer John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet play REDCAT downtown. The group includes vibesman Matt Moran (Slavic Soul Party), clarinetist and tenor Ted Reichman and bassist Drew Gress (Urri Cane, Tim Berne, Ravi Coltrane and Fred Hersch between them). It’s a pure NYC neo-whatever jazz thing that mixes in everything. Gary Versace sits in on piano.
Then on Thursday another New Yorker, jazz-harmonica player William Galison, is doing the latest in the L.A. Modern Jazz Series at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks (13500 Ventura Blvd., 323-251-0748). Alas, we’re not especially hip to him, but we’re really intrigued by the mix of players: pianist Otmaro Ruiz, bassist Greg Swiller, drummer Dan Schelle and John Tegmeyer on clarinet. All of them are serious chance takers, Otmaro especially, with his incredible chops and rhythmic imagination. So we’re probably not talking “Theme From Midnight Cowboy” here.
Charlie O’s cooks all week, beginning with two of our favorite local saxophonists, Justo Almario Friday (a lot of Trane, some Bird and Gato Barbieri fans will dig this guy too) and the absolutely solid and swinging Don Menza on Saturday. And they finish out the week on a trumpet roll, with NYC’s Jim Rotondi (with tenor Doug Webb) on Tuesday, the beloved Jack Sheldon on Wednesday, and another visiting New Yorker, Lew Soloff, on Thursday. Soloff finds the high notes with ease (and is handy with the mute too), has played for years with some of NYC’s hippest outfits (Gil Evans, Carla Bley, a long stint with the Manhattan Jazz Quintet), and has roots, of course, way back in the post–Al Kooper Blood, Sweat and Tears, replacing Randy Brecker. Rotondi is also at the Crowne Plaza LAX on Thursday. His latest is a bebop/hard-bop/postbop/whatever-bop (we need some new terminology) tribute to Ray Charles, and when he and Webb light into the stuff it will fly high. Webb has his own quartet at Sangria on Wednesday.
Saxist Dale Fielder is at Vibrato on Friday, a powerful player who just hurls himself into the solos. Local tenor legend Red Holloway is at the Radisson Culver City on Saturday with a quartet, and Larry Goldings has a quartet at Spazio on Saturday. It was Goldings who brought the Angel City Festival down to earth for a set between all the exhilarating craziness. Vocalist Sara Leib is at the Café Metropol on Saturday. On Sunday violist Miguel Atwood Ferguson is at Spazio with pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Gabe Noel and drummer Tony Austin. Haven’t seen them together but as a sum of those parts this bodes very well for sheer creativity. Kevin Kanner’s Monday Night Jam has found new digs at the V Lounge (2020 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-829-1933), 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m.
Finally, the storied Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo has finally been allowed into the States, and is at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Friday with a great band (including Avishai Cohen, Trilok Gurtu, Robert Fonseca) that will make for an incredible show. And then Saturday night Brazil’s Gal Costa is at Royce Hall. A splendid singer, she’ll be doing some of her Tropicalia classics, as well as material off her latest releases. You gotta dig Gal Costa.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)