When you think jazz you don't think sweet old ladies sniffing the flowers in Descanso Gardens, but that joint booked the Elliott Caine Quintet this Thursday, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Just shell out the regular eight bucks to get into the park and stroll the grounds and don't let anyone catch you toking, and you'll be in the mood for some jazz soon enough. Trumpeter Caine has two especially brilliant improvisers with him this time: pianist Mahesh Balasooriya and saxist Charles Owens. Balasooriya, who would seem more comfortable in the rarefied jazz atmosphere of, say, the Blue Whale, or a white-hot Foundry session, seems totally at home here with Caine's book: While (of course) he nails the straight-ahead and postbop stuff, you cannot believe how this Sri Lankan cat plays the blues. The inimitable Owens also loves the blues, loves it greasy and down-home and real. And for a jazz group, Caine's bunch can play it as down and dirty as they play the hard bop real and the crazy stuff, well, crazy. It's a great mix, and the Mahesh-Owens combination with Elliott's horn should be a thrill. But jazz in a flower garden? Wow. Butterflies and beetles and birds and babies and babes. Bring a lot of wine.
Okay, how about some sex. Or anything Latin, which is kind of the same thing — that whole earthy pheromonic tight-dress, chiseled-dude kinda scene. Like salsa. The girls just love Adonis Puente — maybe it's that name, or the hat, or the fact that he is such a classic singer. He certainly stepped gamely into the great Freddie Crespo's local role when Freddie split town for a spell. He's got a killer band of his own — you'll recognize half the players — and will be shaking up the lunchtime crowd at California Plaza on Friday at noon. And your mother warned you all about women like Cecilia Noel. But your mother never told you she's one of the greatest entertainers you ever saw. We are talking wild, the wildest salsa-rock-jazz-Latin show you've ever seen. Her band, the Wild Clams, are all great players, too, jazzers rocking their fusion asses off. A lot of it's, um, not for the kiddies, which makes the fact that it'll be outdoors in MacArthur Park's Levitt Pavilion at 7:30 this Friday night pretty damn funny. But kids gotta learn sometime.
There was a time when young drummers fell madly in love with Sheila E. whenever she bounced her sticks across those rack toms. Now, of course, we just feel a pang. But she still wails, and looks great wailing, when she's anchoring her dad Pete Escovedo's Orchestra. Pete too mixes the rock and fusion with the Latin thing (always has — remember his brother Coke's band, Azteca?), and they're at Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday. And Freddie Crespo is at the Autry on Thursday, with Conjunto Costazul (alongside his brother Johnny Crespo). You really do have to hear this master salsero sing.
Two great male jazz vocalists have gigs this weekend: Mon David at the Radisson Culver City on Friday and Dwight Trible at the Blue Whale on Saturday. They sound nothing alike, but both are utterly original, and both put on outstanding shows. As does tenor saxophonist Don Menza, a big, tough Buffalo tenor with a big, tough Pittsburgh bassist, John Heard, fronting the house trio behind him. One of our favorite local pianists, Bill Cunliffe has his Latin jazz Imaginacion at LACMA on Saturday at 5:30 and then rushes over to Vitello's for a couple sets that night with flutist Holly Hoffman. Fine stuff. And Thursday (if you're not gamboling through the roses in Flintridge) we heartily recommend drummer Matt Slocum, who'll be at the South Pasadena Music Center with Cunliffe and bassist Darek Oles, an almost absurdly talented trio. Slocum is a wonderful player, imaginative and way smart. You will dig it. And of course you'll dig guitarist Kenny Burrell and quintet at Catalina's on Thursday. He's an icon.
There's a cool one cross town at the Crowne Plaza LAX the same night: sax/flute/clarinet player Fausi Abdul-Khaliq, formerly a conductor/arranger with the Pan-Afrikan People's Arkestra. He has bassist Henry Franklin's excellent trio behind him, with drummer Ramon Banda and pianist Theo Saunders. These three guys slayed them at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival a couple weeks ago, when they had Azar Lawence out front. And Abdul-Khaliq and Azar share the same L.A. roots (same part of L.A. even, Horace Tapscott's Leimert Park), so you know this will be a killer gig.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)