Don't you just hate Fridays like this? Easily half a dozen great gigs the same night and, corporeal existence being what it is, you can only be at one at a time.
Well, one's easy: pianist David Arnay at LACMA. He's usually playing jazz at the Parkway Grill in Pasadena on Fridays, but has taken the night off there for this, bringing along one of his favorite bassists, Nedra Wheeler, and drummer Aaron Saferty. Good tunes, mostly his own, with (admitted) traces of Herbie, Monk, Bill Evans, even Abdullah Ibrahim in the strong melodies and interesting grooves. Since Jazz at LACMA Fridays ends by 8 p.m., you'll have time to hit another spot. And there's the rub.
For starters, the hot-as-hell trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos has driven up from San Diego for a show at Vibrato, and he's a don't-miss every time. At the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo the same night, pianist Otmaro Ruiz's quartet includes tenor Walter Smith III, bassist Dave Robaire and drummer Jimmy Branly. Wild. At the same time, give or take an hour, saxist Charles Owens will be laying out his signature blend of hard-bopping blues, soulful Trane and dollops of Dolphy at Charlie O's backed by the John Heard Trio. It's such a shame — you have to pick between a molten trumpeter and Otmaro and Smith trading passages faster than you can hear them or Owens blowing sax that'll nail you to your barstool.
It might just be easier to head over to Vitello's, where we are surprised as hell to see Katia Moraes & Sambaguru playing Friday. In fact, if you love Brazilian music, this is a must. The band smokes no matter what style, so tight, so limber. And she is a world-class Brazilian vocalist who at times will remind you eerily of Elis Regina. She has more stage presence, charisma and enthusiasm than maybe anybody in town. We have to wonder how the nice white people in their little chairs at Vitello's are going to handle just sitting there once she and her band get moving. They'll be wriggling over their pasta and then realize it and stop. And then start wriggling again. Make reservations now.
Saxist Doug Webb races through the stylistic handbook, all energy, passion and chops, at the Lighthouse Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. If you want even more energy, passion and chops, check out alto Richie Cole's bebop crazy thing on Saturday night at Giannelli Square (19451 Londelius St. in Northridge, 818-772-1722). Pianist Bill Cunliffe is in the quartet. $25 includes refreshments. You will not be bored. And we're never bored by the ideas saxist Chuck Manning comes up with, especially backed by the powerhouse John Heard Trio at Charlie O's on Saturday. And pianist Ruslan Sirota in full flight can stop a conversation cold. You'll just sit there, listening. That kind of brilliance is not heard every day. He plays till late closing on Saturday at the Foundry on Melrose.
On Tuesday at Charlie O's the Chris Colangelo Trio is joined by tenor Benn Clatworthy for a night of Sonny Rollins. No one in town does Sonny like Clatworthy. No one. We can't believe how recommended this gig is. If you aren't there, don't even talk to us. Well, we don't talk to anybody anyway, but that's not the point. Just be there.
We said nice things about Kurt Elling at Catalina's last week, and we'd repeat them here, but the guy is a jazz vocal superstar who actually got press in the Times, so you already know. The material is a mix of pop and soul and jazz and King Crimson (not “21st-Century Schizoid Man,” though). He finishes up there Friday night, two sets; call for reservations. Vibist Nick Mancini's trio hosts the Blue Whale jam session on Tuesday, and its Nick's birthday, which means he wants your presence.
On Wednesday, Robbie Marshall's Root System do their amazing avant jazz once again at the Blue Whale, while two of L.A.'s finest soloists are playing across town from each other — saxist Bob Sheppard at Charlie O's and trumpeter Carl Saunders at Sangria down in Hermosa Beach.
On Thursday, trombonist Steve Johnson's Jazz Legacy with pianist Frank Strazzeri, bassist Jeff Littleton, drummer Kenny Elliot and tenor George Harper are back at Jax, a very cool gig, and we dig Strazzeri's material. The same night downtown at First and Hope (at 1st & Hope), vibist Nick Mancini and pianist Otmaro Ruiz do their impressive duo, while out in Culver City trumpeter Kris Tiner and quintet do God knows what at Royal/T (8910 Washington Blvd.). Check out the lineup: keys and electrician Motoko Honda, guitarist and electrician Chris Schlarb, bassist and electrician Steuart Liebig, drummer and percussionist Nathan Hubbard. Plus a filmmaker. Not sure if he's making one or showing one. Whatever. Weirdness is good, even in Culver City.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)