On Friday trombonist Phil Ranelin and Tribe Renaissance play the Radisson in Culver City. Ranelin's bands are always a step above, and he's collected some exciting soloists, especially tenor Kamasi Washington, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya and, a real treat, special guest trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. Music begins at 7:30 p.m., $10. Drummer Babatunde Lea's Umbo Weti is an excellent Leon Thomas tribute, with players like tenor Ernie Watts, pianist Patrice Rushen, bassist Gary Brown and the great singer Dwight Trible. He has that same quintet at the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church (6700 W. 83rd St., L.A., 310-670-4777) on Friday at 7:30 p.m., $30. The church should swell the sound, Watts filling the space with his huge tone, Trible's voice soaring.
That same night in Vitello's in Studio City it's the Dave Liebman Group. This is his own band (he played there with great locals last time) and they know his sometimes difficult, sometimes beautiful playing. They've done a pretty amazing Ornette Coleman tribute, Turn Around, and a lot of harsh and startling Ornette music is rendered, well, beautiful as Liebman infuses it with harmony. His liner notes, incidentally, are so musicological they're terrifying (even more so in German), but they do explain what he's doing. The CD and this gig are essential for fans of edgier, hopelessly uncommercial jazz. They're at Vitello's on Saturday, too; $20.
On Saturday at 3 p.m., one of our favorite local pianists, Jon Mayer, appears with his trio at Keyboard Concepts (8162 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-651-3060); $10. The thing about Mayer is that he learned his craft in the hothouse of NYC jazz in the '50s and '60s, even playing on a Trane date. You can hear it — his ensemble playing is just a tad looser, full of surprises, and he breathes those standards — they were still living things then, not just pages in a book with origins lost in history. Saturday night has a real big one: the Charles Lloyd Quartet at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center (4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., 310-271-9039). His new one, Mirror, is beautiful, subdued but for flashes of bop and beyond. Perhaps one of the last great tenors of the old school, his playing is intensely personal. It's so intimate you'd swear he blows notes the way we use speech. His exceptionally sensitive quartet includes pianist Jason Moran. Tickets top out at $45. The same night at UCLA's Royce Hall, the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (with George Duke, Luciana Souza and Raul Midon) mix swing and a lot of strings in ways you didn't think possible; there will be new works, Brazilian and Latin numbers and plenty of jazz. Pete Christlieb's in the sax section.
The 34th annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival happens Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at Watts Towers (1727 E. 107th St.). Highlights include pianist Harold Land's tribute to the late and much-missed Nate Morgan; the Babatunde Lea Quintet; reed master Bennie Maupin with a high-powered L.A. all-star band; and, best of all, legendary pianist Randy Weston. The cat is 85 and still creating music, still a force and a presence, and he makes this free event a serious pick. The iconic McCoy Tyner is at Catalina's on Wednesday and Thursday. He plays through the weekend (so more next issue).
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)