Recently, we wandered into a posh Valley jazz joint. Alas, for a while no one else came in, so that even the lounge area away from the main dinner room seemed cavernous. Which was too goddamn bad, as one of the best pianists in jazz was up there with a remarkable quartet and the music was simply stunning. Chuck Manning was subbing for the regular saxophonist, and the stuff he came up with … freethinking rushes of chords that filled up all that space in the room. And low tones, held, that flowed over the rhythm section in shades of blue. And when he and the pianist met in the middle, entirely new compositions burst out of whatever standard they were doing, completely fresh creations that took the breath away and then disappeared forever. Oh, man, this jazz music is so ephemeral. All the recorded jazz that there is in the world — your entire music collection — is just an infinitesimal bit of all the jazz that’s ever been and will never be heard. Improvisation, it comes, and it goes. If you’re there, you’re lucky enough to hear it and maybe later you’ll remember a bit of it, can even pick out a trace on the piano, or try and write about it. Maybe a photo you took will spark a snippet in your mind’s ear. Maybe, just maybe, there’s even a recording somewhere. Those recordings: Jazz fanatics can be driven mad by those, like the junkie following Bird around, desperately trying to catch every last note of his solos on a wire recorder before the bartender throws him out for not buying anything. Imagine that poor tortured bastard, haunted by all Bird’s solos that the world will never hear again unless he can catch the sounds on his tinny little machine. And imagine his desperation as he is tossed, again, out into the street, hearing Bird’s alto spinning brilliance into the air that disappeared like a morning fog in the brutal summer sun.
Of course, had the bum just gotten a job, he could have bought a drink and not been kicked out in the first place. But never mind. Personally, we suggest just hitting the clubs a couple times a week and listening as the stuff is being created. The very same Chuck Manning, for instance, is at Café Metropol on Saturday with his excellent quartet (and fine pianist Jim Szilagyi is at Jax on Monday). Another tenor who consistently blows us away live is Charles Owens. We’ve done extended impressionist accounts of his playing in these pages before, so we’ll spare you now, but you can see him (with pianist Nate Morgan) at Charlie O’s on Tuesday. And then there’s Charlie O’s house bassist John Heard, celebrating his 70th birthday on Thursday with tenor Justo Almario onboard.
And tenor Benn Clatworthy and Friends continue at the Tamarack Inn in Pico Rivera every Sunday, 3-6 p.m. There’s probably not a player in town who takes more chances live than Clatworthy. With, say, Sonny Rollins as a base, he plumbs whatever it is he has deep inside his English hide, and the results can be intense and beautiful and over the top. Barbara Morrison is one of our very best singers; we recently saw her take an overtired amateur trio and make them sound fresh, tight and alive. Whatever that is — talent, charisma, fear — we wish there were more of it around. She’s at Vibrato on Friday, and then outdoors at the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena on Sunday at 7 p.m. Or if you want new blood, check out the massive talent Kevin Kanner has assembled at the Mint every Monday. Fierce stuff.
Poncho Sanchez was a highlight at Playboy and he’s at La Ve Lee on Saturday and Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday. L.A.-based Brazilian singer Katia Moraes is at the Skirball on Saturday at noon, and she is always highly recommended. And finally, if there are tix left for Gilberto Gil this Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl, grab them. One of the founders of the Tropicalia movement, Gil has run the gamut of Brazilian music, from (sometimes too) pop to brilliant bossa nova, MPB, rock, psychedelia, Bahian and even a fascinating forró soundtrack, Me, You, Them. Our friend Marianne describes his live shows with a fervor bordering on ecstasy, which ain’t quite her executive self. We’re sold.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)