They didn't pop out of an egg or anything, so you may not have noticed that the Spanish Harlem Orchestra won a Grammy this year in the Tropical category for their magnificent Viva La Tradicion! They sing in Spanish, you see, and the music is rhythmically complex and the Grammy people figure that scares the bejesus out of everybody, so none of it got on television. Gotta be careful these days, ya know. Even a band as good as the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, with Oscar Hernandez and all those killer musicians putting on one of the best live shows in the land, and who celebrate a music that's been around a couple generations now. … Well, an act like that might just scare the bejesus out of people. They'll change channels or stop buying records or join the Tea Party or toilet paper Neil Portnow's house. So the Spanish Harlem Orchestra was robbed of the publicity it deserved, and this is probably the first time you've even heard that they're at the Shannon Performing Arts Center at Whittier College this Friday. That's not far, people — just off the 605. This'll be a helluva show, because these guys will rock your ass off in that fine old New York City Cuban style, and we have no idea when they'll be out here again. Ultrahighly recommended. Details at (562) 907-4203 or emersonbranmanagement.com.
There are more great Latin gigs this week. Rumbankete do the deep rumba at LACMA on Saturday at 5 p.m. And on Tuesday, master percussionist Luis Conte is at Hollywood & Highland and the place should be packed. Then head immediately over to Charlie O's for the Francisco Aguabella Tribute Latin Jazz Band. Turns out Benn Clatworthy thought Aguabella's band was so damn good that it was a shame to toss out the book and break the thing up when the boss died, so they found themselves a conguero who had some of Francisco's feel to add to the rhythm section, over which tenor Clatworthy, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed and trombonist Joey Sellers just wail. Highly recommended.
Mon David is brilliant, a masterful vocalist (and grooving acoustic guitarist) who is supremely musical, the type who can fearlessly improvise with jazz players. He's never cluttered with too much tradition, nor does he fall back on that “jazz singer cool thing” that seems more like living history now than living music. Mon's got a duet gig at the Blue Whale on Thursday, and you just can't be hep with the Great American Songbook at that joint — you got to play jazz. He's with guitarist John Chiodini. A perfect match.
Now for hard bop and straight-ahead and like that: On Friday the living legend (or ought to be) pianist Frank Strazzeri has his excellent Jazz Legacy at Jax. This is a great band, and Strazzeri's a long-underrated, if ornery, composer. Check it out. Also Friday, one of our fave tenors, Rob Lockhart, who's not the least bit ornery, is at Vibrato. Drummer Kevin Kanner leads a tremendous quintet at the Lighthouse on Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., including saxist Walter Smith III. Smith's not ornery, but he's intense. And then at the Lighthouse on Sunday, same time, is the brilliant bop alto Lanny Morgan's “6” with tenor Doug Webb, trumpeter Bob Summers, pianist Tom Rainier, bassist Chuck Berghofer and Steve Schaeffer. A major band, this one. Nice guys, too, but probably a little grumpy before noon.
Weeknight gigs look good, too. The Bob Mintzer Big Band swing Vibrato to its solid gold foundations on Tuesday. $20. Baritonist Adam Shroeder is at Sangria on Wednesday with some great players — guitarist Graham Dechter, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Kevin Kanner. Free.
The amazing saxist Bob Sheppard’s East/West Band, with our own Larry Koonse on guitar and a pair of NYCers, bassist Ed Howard and drummer Anthony Pinciotti, do Vitello’s Wednesday. Also Wednesday is the fearsome hard bop of drummer Tony Inzalaco’s quintet at Charlie O’s with saxist Benn Clatworthy, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed and bassist Chris Colangelo. These guys swing so goddamn hard you don’t even realize they’re playing nothing but Inzalaco’s own tunes. They just sound like the classics.
Who knows how the hell to describe David Ornette Cherry’s Organic Groove? He does his piano, melodica and wood flute thing, along with flutist Dawn Norfleet, bassist Reggie Carson, drummer Don Littleton and Jahian on ghanian drums cq per their calendar, but not sure it’s really right. Certainly fits the Leimert Park vibe. They’re at the World Stage on Saturday. $15.
And Rocco’s going nuts with Angel City fever — prepping the city for the upcoming festival’s weirdness with one crazy out gig after another. We got notice of four just this week. How the hell do we fit all those in this space? We don’t. And if we picked only one we might get beaten by angry cellists again. So we’ll just tell you to go to RoccoinLA.com. And if you dig what you see, then go. Hell, one has a $2 cover. You get cello, marimba, some singers, an alto trombone, even an intermission, all for two bucks. Weird on the cheap. Groovy.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)