You've probably seen Bob Muenckler (known to all as Redtop) at gigs, sprawled across the floor in front of the stage, or hiding behind a corner, snapping endless pictures without blocking your view. Solid pics, too, all jazz and all local. An exhibitor once asked him if he had any legends — 'Trane, Sonny, Ella, like that. Pointing at his pictures, he said, “These people are our legends” — James Moody and Rickey Woodard and Sam Most and the rest. L.A. people. Shot in color even. His show opens on Thursday at the Crowne Plaza LAX; come in to meet him (he's the guy with red hair, talking), from 6 p.m., eat some cheese and drink some wine, and observe. Then at 7:30, trumpeter Steve Huffsteter's Visions of Silver and Gold band — pianist John Campbell, tenor Chuck Manning, bassist James Leary and drummer Ralph Penlanddoing all Horace Silver and Bennie Golson classics. Nice.
In fact, there are a zillion great gigs this week, beginning at LACMA on Friday with pianist Otmaro Ruiz, and if you've seen him play at Charlie O's, say, or the Baked Potato, you already know how intense he can be. This will be wild — his playing, his players, his tunes, his concept of rhythm. The same time over at the Hammer Museum (Wilshire at Westwood) guitarist John Schott's Dream Kitchen (that is, a drummer and a guy doing bass lines on tuba, bass trombone and jug) are doing Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, which is just too cool.
Clarinet and sax virtuoso Eddie Daniels is at Vitello's on Friday (and Saturday, too), and he's rated up there with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Buddy DeFranco — wow — and he has a great band here, too: pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La Barbera. At the World Stage Friday (and Saturday, too) the excellent NYC drummer Ocie Davis returns with his straight-ahead quintet. Well worth the drive down here and the $10 cover, people, as this cat is so good and there's nothing like the feeling of great jazz in Leimert Park.
In Little Tokyo on Friday, trombonist Garrett Smith has his great quintet (including tenor Dayna Stevens) at the Blue Whale, while at the Café Metropol saxist Walter Smith and quartet will lay down some absolutely killer and utterly uncompromising jazz. This Smith is a monster tenor. As is, of course, Ernie Watts, who is throwing a release bash for his latest, Four Plus Four, at the Metropol on Saturday. The $22 cover is worth every cent, because this is world-class saxophone, big-toned and hard and warm and wall-to-wall power, and in an intimate setting.
Over at the Blue Whale on Saturday bassist Hamilton Price leads the impressive quartet of Larry Koonse, pianist Adam Benjamin and drummer Kevin Kanner. Or you can go to Glendale to see the smoking Blue Note–inspired quintet of Elliott Caine at Jax, or head into the Valley to see the exciting match of tenor Chuck Manning with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O's, or head west and uphill to Vibrato for the brilliant tenor Bob Sheppard, or maybe get yer butts out to the Café 322 in Sierra Madre for guitarist Bruce Forman's bebop and Bob Wills' outfit CowBop. And think about it, put all these shows on one street and we'd have our own 52nd Street or a reborn Central Avenue!
On Tuesday there's an incredible quartet — organist Larry Goldings, saxist Bob Sheppard, guitarist Anthony Wilson and drummer Joe La Barbera — at Hollywood & Highland, 7-9 p.m. One of those must-see things. A little later that night, the Clare Fischer Clarinet Choir are at Vibrato. All the clarinets, from contrabass on up, plus a smattering of other woodwinds, some brass, etc. Don Heckman's “the charts shimmered with a gorgeous range of multihued sounds” pretty much nails it. On Wednesday, drummer Dan Schnelle has a quartet at Sangria, full of the usual heavy, young cats. And Thursday there's pianist Jon Mayer's quartet, with saxist Pete Christlieb at the Café 322, the wonderful male vocalist Mon David at the Blue Whale the same night or a players' favorite, vocalist Michael Dees, at Vitello's. Both these vocal gigs are highly recommended.
If you dig the sounds of Mali — and if you don't you're are missing out big-time — the Taureg band Tinariwen are at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, opening for Baaba Maal [see Music Picks]. Everybody knows their story, the whole rockin' guerrilla thing — but damn if this isn't one of the best rock & roll bands maybe ever, even if (or perhaps because) the rhythm and roots and instrumentation are African as can be.