The Jazz Bakery’s schedule is swinging along, as if blissfully unaware it’ll be closing its doors come June 1 (the venue lost its lease). This week is quite the knockout there, with the fierce and rhythmic experimentation of Steve Coleman’s 5 Elements on Friday and Saturday, then superb saxist Chris Potter’s Underground there from Monday to Wednesday. Talk about a New York state of mind: Both saxmen are exceptional, from completely different stylistic planets, Coleman darting and dashing and skronking, Potter doing the same while exulting in that perfect tone. Too, both seek to explore the outer and inner reaches of what jazz offers nowadays. If you got the bread, we heartily recommend both. The Bakery has also tucked a pair of the very best male jazz vocalists L.A. can offer in there, too, beginning with a Sunday matinee Easter celebration by the astonishing Dwight Trible, and we’re not talking “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” This is real resurrection kinda stuff. A tad less spiritual, but just as redemptive is Filipino jazz vocalist Mon David, a tremendous talent, swinging and daring. He accompanies himself on some primo bossa guitar as well. The Bakery ain’t cheap, which was probably its (hopefully momentary) downfall, and the vibe in the room is purist, even academic, but man do they have good music in there.
Now Charlie O’s has a purist vibe, too, but it’s still a place where you can just waltz in on most nights (there is a cover on Mondays) and sit at the bar and down a few, as well. It’s a jazz joint, our one true jazz joint, and as the music has always been made in such places, it is in that sense maybe the purest jazz venue in town. It certainly has a helluva line up this week, beginning with house band the John Heard Trio (with drummer Roy McCurdy and pianist Theo Saunders) hosting a pair of ’Trane-mad saxists this weekend: Justo Almario on Friday and Azar Lawrence on Saturday. Saunders’ McCoy Tyner inspirations connect especially well with Azar; his Monk underpinnings work beautifully with Justo. On Sunday trumpeter Carl Saunders leads his sextet there; the man’s technical skills are extraordinary, his Live at Charlie O’s (of course) is a veritable handbook on the things one can do on a horn without need of another breath. And grooving trumpeter Elliott Caine has his Charlie O’s debut on Tuesday. But the high point for us is Theo Saunders again, fronting his own sextet on Wednesday. He’s collected some exceptional players: tenor Chuck Manning and alto Zane Musa (both are fine and completely distinct soprano saxophonists as well), his longtime trombonist David Dahlsten, and the powerful team of bassist Jeffrey Littleton and drummer Tony Austin. Saunders is an underrated composer; his pieces can be difficult, if beautiful, and are rhythmically complex, and his solos are always surprising. For some reason, we really dig his unpredictably right-on-the-money comping best of all. Four whole sets of the stuff and no cover, baby, just a couple of drinks. Can’t beat that. All things considered, this just might be the recession-busting gig of the week.
Not that there aren’t other great gigs at other great venues, too. Trumpets abound this week. Besides Caine and Saunders (and Steve Coleman’s Jonathan Finlayson), Jack Sheldon’s at the never-a-cover Café 322 in Sierra Madre this Friday, while Nolan Shaheed plays his funk- and New Orleans–soaked hard bop at the Pasadena Jazz Institute Friday and Saturday, and the golden-toned Kye Palmer is at Vibrato on Saturday. (This cat does a drop-dead gorgeous “Skylark” — and when was the last time you heard that?) Members of our extremely creative L.A. Jazz Collective have three shows this week, beginning Friday at the Café Metropol with drummer Jens Kuross’ trio, amd return on Saturday with drummer Dave Ashkenazy’s quartet (and fine guitarist Steve Cotter and the excellent saxist Matt Otto). Then some LAJC members are out at Spazio on Thursday with Cotter again and pianist Joe Bagg, bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Jason Harnell, all leaders and composers in their own right. This one, especially, ought to be real good. And there’s a treat the same night at Vitello’s, where the Larry Goldings Hammond B-3 Trio make a rare appearance. We caught this act a few times at the Foundry on Melrose last year (with Anthony Wilson on guitar) and they positively smoked. It’s not your papa’s greasy organ trio dripping in BBQ sauce, but they certainly do get down (and sometimes out); Mr. Goldings sure can play that thang. Of course, he can probably tear it up on anything with keys, be it a Steinway, an accordion, or a melodica. Some people are like that. And the rest of us, well, aren’t.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)