January’s in full swing with the holidays over, decorations gone, bills piling up, and jazz looking good. For starters, on Friday comes tenor Dave Pell and alto Med Flory at the recently resurrected Back Room at Henri’s Restaurant in Canoga Park. Both have some serious jazz history under their belts. Med began playing sax and arranging for the great Claude Thornhill, then freaking on Charlie Parker, and eventually leading/arranging the great SuperSax, plus zillions of gigs with the Lighthouse All-stars and Sonny Stitt and cats like that. Pell started with good swing bands only Chuck Cecil remembers (like Bobby Sherwood, Les Brown), then formed his own classic West Coast octet (Pepper Adams and Art Pepper and cats like that sitting in), all the while digging Lester Young; eventually his Prez Conference sorta did what Med did with Bird. So maybe Bird and Prez ain’t a natural fit, given that Med’s own Jazz Wave is a purist bebop big band, while Pell’s revived Octet has been quintessential California Cool. But it’s jazz and stuff just works, sometimes. Killer rhythm section, too, with pianist John Campbell, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Frank Capp (whose own Juggernaut does the greatest Basie you ever heard this side of the original). Will be good. Henri’s is a great little joint (21601 Sherman Way, 818-348-5582), and there’s no cover.
There’s also L.A.’s legendary trumpeter Jack Sheldon playing the Café 322 on Friday, Charlie O’s on Wednesday and Jax on Thursday, all of which are fun and all recommended. The superb altoist Lanny Morgan is with the John Heard Trio at Charlie O’s on Saturday, and his latest, Six, is one of the best local, straight-ahead things we heard last year. They’re calling it a Battle of the Saxes at the Lighthouse on Thursday, from 5 to 8:30 p.m., with tenors Pat Chartrand and Gil Bernal. Bernal, who’s played with everybody, slays us every time; he’s the real thing. You may not know Chartrand’s name, but he goes way back to Harry James in the ’50s. These cats will be getting into it, getting down, breaking your heart on the ballads, and kicking ass when they swing. Enjoy.
Someone laid Harriet Tubman on us, a two-disc concept thing by the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, and it knocked us out. The compositions and arranging have Mingus all over them, maybe not so pissed off, but ballsy, muscular music that gets the point across. Shelby (on bass) has trimmed the lineup to the bone for his Martin Luther King and Jazz project, so just tenor Howard Wiley, pianist Adam Shulman, drummer Jeff Marrs, and impressive vocalist Faye Carrol will be coming down from San Francisco for Sunday’s 7 p.m. gig at the Skirball. Expect something damn good. A little earlier the same day baritonists Dale Fielder and Adam Shroeder perform a tribute to the late Jack Nimitz. The rest of Fielder’s great Angel City Quartet — pianist Jane Getz, bassist Bill Markus, drummer Thomas White — fill out the lineup. Fielder we completely dig, with all that Pepper Adams inspiration, and Shroeder, like his teacher Nimitz, is pure swing, making this a dream team for fans of the big horn. It’s all happening at the Northridge United Methodist Church (9650 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, 818-886-1555) on Sunday at 5 pm. Then on Thursday at the Crowne Plaza, Fielder and the Angel City Quartet celebrate his latest, Stellar Moments, a fine piece of work. This outfit is always real good. Go to the gig, and buy the damn CD, too, people. (We also recommend Fielder’s very literate blog, Frugal Apathy. Check out the piece on Hank Mobley. That is jazz writing, and by a jazz musician, no less.)
Also always real good, at the very least, is the Theo Saunders Sextet, who’ll be at Charlie O’s on Tuesday. Tenor Chuck Manning, alto Zane Musa and trombone blower David Daulsten take invariably inspired solos or lay in some creative ensemble passages. Rhythmwise, Jeff Littleton is so centered, fingers dancing on those big, fat bass strings, and drummer Tony Austin’s fills and cymbal work are a perfect foil for Theo’s beautifully voiced, monkishly punctuated piano. The blowing, the tunes, the arrangements all come together beautifully. Exciting stuff, it’s no wonder they’ve been packing joints even on weeknights. Check them out.
Oh man, there’s so much good this week. One of our fave pianists, Otmaro Ruiz, is on with bassist Rufus Philpot and drummer Andy Sanesi at Alva’s in San Pedro on Saturday. There’s a $20 cover, but it’s bring your own beverages, people, which makes this a cheap night out. And there’s another great piano trio gig: Larry Goldings, who we totally dig, with bassist Gabe Noel and drummer Mark Green on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Mount Olive Lutheran Church (1343 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-452-1116). A free one (but better keep the liquor in the parking lot). One of the world’s truly great jazz singers, Tierney Sutton, is at Catalina’s on Sunday, the same time that daring violinist (or violist, really) Miguel Atwood-Ferguson has a quartet at Spazio. Who knows what’ll he be doing, but it will not be dull. Finally, Orange County alto Bruce Babad brings a quartet into Sangria in Hermosa Beach on Wednesday. He cooks.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)