Saxist John Stephens is at the World Stage on Friday. Stephens has solid roots in L.A. jazz history (especially with Buddy Collette), but like most of our jazz history it's ignored. So every time a guy like Stephens starts telling stories, you wish you had a tape recorder rolling. The Stage should be full of Leimert Park luminaries, and the chance of spontaneous jazz jams full of great players is always high at night's end. Stephens also regularly provides arrangements for the Luckman Jazz Orchestra — we remember a mind-expanding take on John Coltrane's “Africa” that brought down the house last season. Doubtless Stephens has worked up one or two more for the LJO's Tribute to Thelonious Monk on Saturday night at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on the Cal State L.A. campus. Great players abound in the ranks (Bennie Maupin never fails to wail) and Charles Owens
directs, blowing some wild lead himself. If this is as great as their takes on Trane, Diz and, especially, Miles, the music will stay with you a long while. Highly recommended.
Drummer Ignacio Berroa's quartet at Alva's in San Pedro on Friday includes pianist Otmaro Ruiz, saxist Ben Wendel and bassist Rene Camacho. Ruiz and Wendel have been playing in high-intensity quartets for years now and enjoy that high-wire interplay. At Alva's on Saturday it's guitarist Russ Spiegel and vibist Nick Mancini plus clarinetist John Tegmeyer, organist Joe Bagg and drummer Matt Mayhall, a bunch just bursting with chops and open ideas. As is violinist Christian Howes, a jazz player who regularly delves into bluegrass and rock and fusion. At Spazio's on Saturday he's put together guitarist Robben Ford, organist Bobby Floyd, pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Joel Rosenblatt for some grooving, swinging music. At Henri's in Canoga Park on Saturday guitarist Bruce Forman trades solos and shares fleet ensemble work with fiddler Phil Salazar in Cowbop, a seamless blend of bop and western swing sure to drive your jazz-purist friends up the wall. Tenor Don Menza brings it all home again with solid straight-ahead at Charlie O's with the John Heard Trio on Saturday and his own quartet on Wednesday. Trombonist Scott Whitfield is there Thursday, always recommended.
Downtown on Monday reedist Katisse Buckingham leads a quintet (including longtime compadre Nick Mancini and trombonist Garrett Smith) at Seven Grand. The crowds being younger and edgier in this neighborhood, the music can get more intense or expansive or whatever the players feel like they want it to be. In the West Lounge atop the Hotel Angeleno in Brentwood the Cross Hart Jazz Experience (bassist Ryan Cross and drummer Lorca Hart) do their Monday session with exciting pianist Mahesh Balasooriya and powerful saxophonist Frank Fontaine. At Vitello's in Studio City on Monday Larry Goldings' Boogaloo & Beyond looks to be a hell of a band, with Goldings at the B3 along with saxist Bob Sheppard, the superb and very funky (in case you've never seen this side of him) guitarist Anthony Wilson and drummer Mike Green. Highly recommended. (If you want to see Goldings the jazz pianist, he leads a trio on Sunday at Vibrato. Wilson shows off his beautiful jazz chops at John Pisano's Guitar Night, now at Vitello's on Tuesday. And Sheppard does his thing at Vibrato on Saturday.) On Thursday Kneebody are at the Little Temple. The individual players — pianist Adam Benjamin, trumpeter Shane Endsley, bassist Kaveh Rastegar, saxist Ben Wendel, drummer Nate Wood — fill this column regularly. It's brilliant stuff, the kind of band you can bring your hip-hop and rock and outside-muzik pals along to see, and all will find something to grasp on to.
Piano-wise, the masterful Alan Broadbent Trio record live at Giannelli Square on Friday and Saturday. Cover is $20, which includes a little vino. Grammy-nominated pianists Taylor Eigsti and Gerald Clayton play a duo at The Edye (behind the Broad Stage on the Santa Monica College campus) at 7:30 on Saturday. Josh Nelson has a trio (with bassist Hamilton Price and great drummer Kevin Kanner) back at the Café Metropol on Saturday and is always highly recommended. Also downtown at a jazz spot we've just heard about, the Bev Manson Trio play the Blue Whale (in the Weller Court off 2nd Street between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets in Little Tokyo) on Saturday. Pipes-wise, the excellent Janis Mann does a Friday night at Charlie O's, while singer Mark Winkler is at Vitello's on Saturday. His new one, Till I Get It Right (on Free Ham), is plenty solid, but we finally just saw him perform for the first time and loved the vitality of it all — good singer with a great presence. And if you missed the Django at 100 gigs at Catalina you can catch guitarist Dorado Schmitt and crew (with clarinetist Ken Peplowksi too) on Friday and Saturday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. You gotta love Django.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)