Whenever a jazz icon or jazz legend or jazz god comes to town, jazz journalists get to strut their stuff and write beautiful, smart prose. The whole tight little, spoiled-rotten bunch of us pull out big, beautiful, educated paragraphs explaining just how and why some jazz great is a jazz great, and why you should lay out the bread — serious bread, usually — to make sure you see this guy. And everything is true and beautiful and the writing just flows … except for yours truly, who is invariably rendered speechless.
This column can go on and on about people you've scarcely heard of (see below), but faced with writing something real about a McCoy Tyner or a Herbie Hancock or a Sonny Rollins or an Ornette Coleman, we haven't a clue what to tell you. Nothing flows. Which is a drag, because heavyweight jazz icon Ornette Coleman is at Royce Hall on Wednesday, and this is a really big deal. Like the biggest deal all year, jazz-wise. Bigger than Charles Lloyd, even. Bigger than Herbie. Yet the only thing we can think of to tell you is that we really dig Ornette Coleman. And that you really need to go to this show.
He's 80 now, but stubborn and creative as ever. He flipped jazz on its ear more than once, blowing some minds and pissing others off. You already know about his classics from the '50s, when he really did show the shape of jazz to come. And you might even know why At the Golden Circle (spinning now as we write) is so uncompromisingly beautiful. And maybe some of his later transmutations left you cold, but who cares, he can't please everyone, if he even cares about pleasing anyone at all. Ya do what ya gotta do, and that goes double for making jazz. You play what you feel, and if the audience digs it, or even gets it, well, that's OK, too.
We caught this Ornette-inspired vibe from Wayne Shorter at Playboy a couple summers ago. Nobody got it, and it was perfect. Wayne did not care. He played for those of us who did get it. Expect the same here. But then you all will dig it. Ornette Coleman's in town, people. Get your tickets now. Hurry.
Now back to the local cats. Saxist Louis Van Taylor is back at Charlie O's for the first time in forever this Friday. He's a powerful player, with some serious funk chops alongside all those jazz skills — his solos are fired up and intense. This is a good one. Drummer Mark Stevens has lately been setting up his trio every Saturday at the Desert Rose in Los Feliz (1700 N. Hillhurst, 323-666-1166). He's upped the ante this week with a quartet, a serious one at that, with pianist Jon Mayer and saxophonist Pete Christlieb, one of this town's premier tenors. Veteran bassist Jim Hughart just piles it on talent-wise. Quite a gig; call for reservations. And we also need to mention trumpeter Elliott Caine is at Jax on Saturday, since we had him there last Saturday and were utterly wrong, confusing everybody. But honest, we swear the trumpeter and his smoking hot quintet will be at Jax raising holy Blue Note hell this Saturday.
Vitello's in Studio City has become quite a jazz spot (Walter Weiskopf blew some serious and unrelenting tenor last weekend, quite a thrill) and they've got pianist Eric Reed there on Saturday with bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Kevin Kanner, which is one great piano trio.
Downtown at the Blue Whale, there are three nights running of interesting music. Friday has the Bevan Manson Group, and pianist Manson lives in a pretty unusual musical world, half in jazz and then half in chamber music. The jazz influences his chamber works, and you can definitely pick up the reverse as well. It's an interesting blend, but jazz freaks can rest assured that the jazz is most definitely jazz.
Then Saturday at the Blue Whale the Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Group pushes the envelope in several directions. And on Sunday it's excellent guitarist Tomas Janzon's turn in this cool spot. He has a new release, Experiences, and two of the three players in his live band — outstanding veteran pianist Art Hillery and one of our fave local bassists, Jeff Littleton — played on the sessions. Tootie Heath couldn't make the live gigs, but Janzon has drummer Donald Dean, whom you've heard laying it down on the classic “Compared to What?” with Eddie Harris. Not bad for a kid from Stockholm. Another guitar player, Barry Zweig, gets into the Oscar Moore thing at Charlie O's on Monday, as part of Llew Matthews' tribute to the Nat King Cole trio.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)