It’s the 30th Anniversary Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend. Three decades ago a lot more jazz giants (and fans) walked the Earth, and the lineups have changed over the years to reflect new realities. But there are still straight-ahead gems in the mix of contemporary, world and assorted jazzoid sounds. Highlights Saturday include Poncho Sanchez with (knock on wood) Eddie Floyd, James Moody, horn-driven funk from Tower of Power, and Bill Cosby with pianist Benny Green and great saxman Billy Harper. Plus, there’s pianist Hiromi’s lush take on Gershwin, and Dr. John and Al Jarreau. Sunday has Roy Hargrove; Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Red Earth (“a Malian Journey”); hot Puerto Rican salseros Plena Libre; and a double highlights of Monk Legacy Septet with Thelonious’s drummer Ben Riley and, best of all, the Herbie Hancock Quintet featuring bassist Dave Holland. Keb’ Mo’ and Brazilian composer Ivan Lins fill out what will be a huge, sun-drenched party.
Brazil’s Djavan is at the Ford on Friday, touring behind his new Matizes, a nice one, in which his bossa roots come to the fore. There’s always something special about Brazilian music at the Ford; maybe it’s the art deco look of the place. There’s also something to be said about hearing great Latin jazz with vast concrete elephants looming overhead, which you can experience as the excellent Francisco Aguabella Sextet at Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday. These guys burn, and when Francisco gives the go-ahead to tenor Benn Clatworthy, it can get flat-out intense. These H&H events have wine and cheese and zillions of tourists spilling over from Mann’s Chinese right next door. The LACMA scene, on the other hand, is relatively subdued vibe-wise — a nice place to catch great tenor Red Holloway on Friday night or vibist Bob DeSena’s Latin jazz outfit on Saturday afternoon.
There’s a lot of terrific jazz in the clubs, too. Pianist Jon Mayer has a pair of gigs with his excellent trio this week, first at the Jazz Bakery on Monday and then at Café 322 on Thursday. The latest in the exceptional David L. Abell Memorial Jazz Salons features pianist Benny Green at UCLA’s Lenart Auditorium on Monday at 7:30. And it’s nice to see pianist Cengiz Yaltkaya fronting a trio; he’ll be at the Wine Bistro (11915 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City) on Thursday. Visits, his duet with vibist Eldad Tarmu, is one of those striking jazz releases that you’ve probably never heard. On Saturday Ben Wendel is at the Café Metropol, and not only does he blow some magnificent tenor (and soprano) but his quintet makes music that runs across the jazz spectrum, from bop to ballads to groove to the kind of nonscreaming out-there sort of stuff that can be absolutely stunning and is so popular with the jazz kids these days. And thank the gods it is. If you ever think that maybe you’ve heard this all before, or maybe you’d rather dig through your old Blue Note collection than go out and hear something not all that new, there are new players, with great chops and daring conceptions, who will rattle your addled mind. Wendel is also with the ingenious pianist Otmaro Ruiz at Spazio on Monday.
Guitarist Kenny Burrell is at Vibrato on Tuesday, giving lessons on just where to place the notes. (The notes he doesn’t play can be just as striking as the ones he does.) And the mighty John Heard Trio — with drummer Roy McCurdy and the glorious piano playing of Nate Morgan — show how it’s done at Charlie O’s with trumpeter Nolan Shaheed on Friday and the hard-blowing, ’Trane-channeling Azar Lawrence on Saturday. Either of which could easily be the best jazz you will see this week, indoors or out, elephants or not.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)