Mr. Alto Madness himself, Richie Cole, is back in town this week. A little too lighthearted for some and too frenetic for others, Cole plays some really wild saxophone — a pure and joyful bebop. On Friday and Saturday at Charlie O’s he has solid backing too from the John Heard Trio (with John Beasley on piano and Roy McCurdy on drums). Call for reservations, as the room will be full of horn players and who knows who’ll be sitting in (but I hope Med Flory, for one). If you miss this one, then catch Cole on Wednesday at the Westin LAX, where his backing band will be the superb Jon Mayer Trio.
The Bobby Bradford Motet has them lining up outside whenever he plays Café 322, and this Friday should be no different. Cornetist Bradford and band (including tenor Chuck Manning) become truly inspired, even intense, in this great space. And even though they play the real thing, the people eat it up. If only this happened all over. For the surreal thing, the Electric Lodge in Venice offers three nights of out-there stuff. On Friday it’s the Life Force Trio and Double Duo; then, master percussionist Adam Rudolph’s Vashti (an all-percussion ensemble that includes Munyungo Jackson) do Saturday and Sunday. Vashti’s music is inspired madness, a mesh of world syncopation and hippie vibes.
Thursday has some great music scattered across the Basin. The Jon Mayer Quartet is at the Crowne Plaza. Mayer has tenor Pete Christlieb out front this time; his mastery on that sax is always a thrill to witness, and his style will be quite a contrast from the zany bop of Richie Cole. Over in Hollywood, guitarist Kenny Burrell and the Jazz Heritage All-Stars begin their four-night Catalina stand. Burrell has put together a nice outfit that includes alto Jeff Clayton, trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez and pianist Tom Ranier. And at La Ve Lee it’s the amazing NYC vocalist Barbara Sfraga and Center Search. Sfraga’s latest, Timelessness Frozen in Time, is a funkier, groovier concoction than her earlier stuff. Still, the opening tune, hook laden and suffused with a Flora Purim feel, extends for a non-radio-friendly 10 minutes. And aside from a terrific take on the Rufus classic “Tell Me Something Good,” the rest of the tunes are just as stretched and spacy. Expect some wildly inventive singing and plenty of improv workouts even if the newer material is distinctly less radical than before. Just wait until she slides into Cole Porter or Dylan. The lady’s a trip, in a vocal field where trippiness is nearly nonexistent. Good band too. Even if she calls her bass player a “bass artisan” and drummer a “soundrhythmist.”
Other noteworthy gigs include super bassist Jennifer Leitham’s trio at the Jazz Bakery on Friday. Ms. Leitham never fails to put on a great show, suitable even for a non-jazz-digging date. Also on Friday, pianist Larry Nash & the Jazz Symphonics (with terrific solos from tenor Rickey Woodard and trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez) play at LACMA. And hard-working vibesman Nick Mancini kicks off the free summer jazz concert series at the Pasadena Playhouse on Sunday, and then plays the Vic on Thursday with the exceptional lineup of pianist Otmaro Ruiz, bassist Dan Lutz and drummer Nate Wood. On Tuesday, tenor Fred Horn brings his hard funk outfit into Jax, which ought to be fun. On Wednesday at Jax, young and fired-up drummer Bill Wysaske has a trio with pianist John Beasley. This ought to be a pretty no-holds-barred event… for some reason, players take chances at this old Glendale watering hole. And on Thursday, Patricia Leao’s Brazilian Nites (see www.brazilianites.com) kicks off a new Thursday series at the Temple Bar with renowned bossa artist Ze Renato, while the consistently excellent hard bop CJS Quintet are back at Charlie O’s, and the more post bop Elliott Caine Quintet (with tenor Carl Randall and pianist Jim Szilagi) are at La Zona Rosa Caffe in Pasadena. And it’s summer in the city, so get out and breathe the night air and take in some jams.