Let's start this week with one of L.A.'s hidden treasures, trumpeter Richard Grant. About the only place you'll ever find him is the World Stage in Leimert Park (4344 Degnan Blvd., 323-293-2451). He's there Friday.
There's been nights when we'd swear Grant blows the most beautiful trumpet we've ever heard, perfect, like some exquisite bird song. Then he'll blow hot, 1950s hot, in stinging rapid-fire runs near the top of his range and then down, down to a real deep-down blues. Nails us every time.
At the Culver City Radisson Hotel's Culver Club, the great bassist Henry Franklin has his quartet (with pianist Theo Saunders and tenor Chuck Manning). And Franklin's tentet is at the Lighthouse on Sunday from 11 a.m. We caught pianist Tigran Hamasyan after midnight at the Foundry last Friday — they play till nearly 2 a.m. there — and he was mad with ideas, working things you never, ever hear other jazz folk work. He's there again on Friday. Saxist Bob Sheppard's at Vibrato on Friday and then on Saturday at Vitello's — he's doing material from his new Close Your Eyes CD. Sheppard is always highly recommended, especially this Vitello's gig.
Jazz is a rare thing in the greater Silver Lake–Los Feliz hipsterpolitan region. The hipsters talk the talk — just utter “Ornette Coleman” at a wine tasting to get it going — but they rarely walk the walk into a jazz joint. Well, drummer Mark Stevens has made it easy for them; on Saturday he's bringing some major players to the Desert Rose (1700 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz). Out front is tenor great Pete Christlieb, and it's incredible you can see a player of this caliber in a smallish venue at all (but then this is L.A.). On bass he has Jim Hughart and on piano one of our very favorite pianists, Jon Mayer. Mayer's technique and ideas are sometimes beautiful and sometimes jagged, his solos furious or loll about the keys sounding gorgeous. What a quartet. Music 7:30-11:30 p.m.
A couple of years ago we went to the Jazz Grammys. It was at the Nokia, and if there was any jazz in the room anywhere, you couldn't hear it. The smoove-jazz fans talked right over Charlie Haden as he was presented his lifetime achievement award. He said a few words. The crowd was clueless, while the jazz royalty were all upstairs in the VIP room. Livid, we split to a jazz club swearing never to say anything good about the Grammys.
Then this year they go and nominate all kinds of good jazz. Albums that we are familiar with and listen to and like a lot, and musicians we even know personally. Like John Beasley, for his great Positootly, in the instrumental category, up against the Clayton Brothers, Vijay Iyer, James Moody and Danilo Perez. All great stuff. Or the fact that incredible pianist Ruslan Sirota, whom we've caught at the Foundry several times, is on the Stanley Clarke album in the contemporary category, up against the likes of John McLaughlin and even Trombone Shorty. Or vocal nominee Denise Donatelli, a real sweetheart whom you can see all over town (and up against Lorraine Feather, whose Ages we liked so). Alan Broadbent's solo was recorded out at Giannelli Square. The excellent Dave Holland Octet and Mingus Big Band are in there. Chucho Valdez vs. Poncho Sanchez. The wonderful Esperanza Spaulding. Gerald Clayton, Tim Hagans, Bill Cunliffe (again!) and Billy Childs. It goes on and on.
So the nominees are the real thing. Now about that ceremony …
Incredibly, bop alto Richie Cole is at Sangria on Wednesday. Be there. And brilliant and versatile guitarist Bruce Forman plays jazz at Vibrato on Thursday — highly recommended.
The Blue Whale is great all week. On Friday, bassist Edwin Livingston's group make intense jazz, always good, and Saturday is just as good with brilliant trombonist Garrett Smith with guitarist Brady Cohan, saxist Evan Francis, pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Dan Schnelle. On Sunday, pianist Richard Sears' Standards Trio plays tunes by Thelonius Monk, Ornette Coleman and John McLaughlin, then rad NYC pianist Randy Ingram's trio in there on Wednesday; and the brilliant young clarinetist John Tegmeyer is there on Thursday. Every one of those is recommended.
At Charlie O's there's a very rare leader gig by saxist Keith Fiddmont (usually seen in the sax line of the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) on Friday and then burning hard-bop tenor Rickey Woodard on Saturday, both with the great John Heard Trio. Then pianist Otmaro Ruiz's quartet on Monday with saxist Bob Sheppard and drummer Jimmy Branly, which will tear the roof off the joint, then bassist Chris Colangelo's quartet on Tuesday with saxist Benn Clatworthy and drummer Alex Acuna and they will tear the roof off again and on Wednesday it's Jimmy Branly's quartet. Goodbye roof.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)