Things are tight. And this town ain’t cheap, especially for music fans. But if you look, you can find plenty of spots where you can dig some righteous sounds for nothing but the cost of a pair of brews and a tip. Maybe a smallish cover at most. So let’s start with those, like this good one for you edgier/free-jazz types, when Slum Gum play the Café Metropol on Friday. A nice schizoid crazy vibe to begin the week. Saturday there’s a slew of great jazz gigs scattered across the megalopolis, and there’s no cover at any of them. At Sierra Madre’s Café 322 it’s the ever-grooving Elliott Caine Quintet, one of those outfits that seem to thrive on the looser, noisier vibe this joint has. Or out at Charlie O’s there’s mighty tenor Don Menza with the John Heard Trio. Absolutely smoking stuff. Or up Beverly Glen just south of Mulholland is Vibrato, where there’s never a cover and the bar is cool, the drinks are stiff and one of L.A.’s finest tenors, the always-inventive Chuck Manning, will be there never repeating a lick. And no matter where you’ve been first, you can probably still make it to the Foundry on Melrose for the last hour or two of the night. The jazz runs late here, there’s always an exuberant young house trio, with Zach Harmon getting down on the drums in his crazy way. This night, pianist Josh Nelson joins them, and we dig his playing always.
For Sunday we’ll pick Gerry Gibbs’ Thrasher Band at Spazio, and Gibbs (the son of local vibes legend Terry Gibbs) is a brilliant, high-energy drummer and fun to watch whether he’s in one of his hurricane solos or just keeping time. On Monday back at Charlie O’s is the always-solid CJS Quintet, as pure a hard-bop outfit as you’ll find in this town. Tuesday we’re picking vibist Nick Mancini’s Collective at the Pasadena Jazz Institute. He has bassist Hamilton Price along with Katisse Buckingham and Zach Harmon, an ideal lineup for Mancini to explore that rig of his. On Wednesday the Tony Inzalaco Quintet plays at Charlie O’s with a monster lineup: saxist Benn Clatworthy, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, pianist Theo Saunders and bassist Chris Colangelo, all absurdly talented players who’ve been jamming together for years. Those of you beachside might check out bassist Henry Franklin’s quartet at Sangria just off the Hermosa pier . a guaranteed killer performance that draws on that ’60s thing. Closing out the week at the free clubs is the mighty Pete Christlieb at Charlie O’s, or a nice evening with guitarist Ramon Stagnaro and saxist Justo Almario, bassist Abraham Laboriel and drummer Walter Rodriguez at Vitello’s (4349 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818-769-0905). Actually, there’s a $10 cover tacked on for this, but man, that is a band.
Of course, if you have the bread to spend, then check out either saxist Eric Alexander at the Jazz Bakery or the great vocalist Tierney Sutton at Catalina Bar and Grill, both on Friday and Saturday. Alexander flat-out cooks, and Sutton is a jazz vocalist’s jazz vocalist. Pianist Lanny Hartley has a quintet at the Luckman Fine Arts Plaza on the Cal State L.A. campus on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. (323-343-6600 for details). Hartley cannot be seen enough around town anymore . you’ve heard him with the Luckman Jazz Orchestra these past several years, and we’ve caught him burning up the keys at Charlie O’s a few times, as loose there as he is stately with the LJO. His band includes tenor great Louis Van Taylor. Sunday at the Bakery will be a real treat when the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra performs a tribute to Horace Tapscott. With a whole mess of the original crew on hand, this will be equal parts out-there and beautiful, and worth every penny. And if you have never seen a jazz god, here’s your chance, with Sonny Rollins making a one-night-only local appearance at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. If all you know of Sonny is the name, then check out his Live at the Vanguard, as intense as pure jazz playing gets, nearly beyond belief. Not sure if that intensity will be there on Thursday, but see for yourself, and if you have a college ID, the student-rush tickets are priced at a mere $15, so enroll now.
One of Sonny Rollins’ greatest LPs is Way Out West, him in a Stetson on the cover and a profound “I’m An Old Cowhand” as track No. 1 . which reminds us that way out west (and north) in Santa Clarita this weekend, the Cowboy Festival (cowboyfestival.org) is happening again, and if you’re wondering what the hell it’s doing in a jazz-picks column, they do have a Western-swing act or two every year, and this year it’s the excellent Hotclub of Cowtown on Sunday, doing a genuine blend of Western swing and le jazz hot and having a very good time with it. And if we weren’t so damn hip, we’d own up to having had a helluva good time at this event last year. Even wore a cowboy hat. A black one, of course. —Brick Wahl
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)