You dig Count Basie? That big, BIG band sound, with topflight brass and reed players taking high-flying solos over great arrangements locked around that trademark monster swinging groove. The Count’s piano at the nucleus, perfect solos with notes you can count on your fingers. Forty years ago, drummer Frank Capp took a trunkful of Neal Hefti’s classic Basie arrangements and some of the best players he could find into a West Valley bar, and the Juggernaut was born. This is hard-swinging stuff. In the ranks are battling tenors Pete Christlieb and Rickey Woodard. Bopping Lanny Morgan on alto. Trumpeters Bob Sommers and the inimitable Carl Saunders. Newcomer pianist John Proulx has the right less-is-more touch. And, of course, drummers’ drummer Frank Capp (digging Buddy Rich’s solos and Jo Jones’ perfect time) exuberantly drives them all from his kit. A band with enough power to swing the Hollywood Bowl concentrated into the intimate confines of Charlie O’s: The Atomic Mr. Basie ready to explode. Call (818) 994-3058 for reservations; this show on Mon., Feb. 19, will be packed.

Aside from the Christlieb-Woodard juggernaut, there’s plenty more sax in the city. Christlieb (with Carl Saunders) plays the Back Room on Fri., Feb. 16, and does Charlie O’s on Thurs., Feb. 22. Also at Charlie O’s: Gary Foster stops by Sat., Feb. 17, and Houston Person brings his big fat sound (think Gene Ammons) on Wed., Feb. 21. Paired-up locals Louis Van Taylor and Carl Randall will be cooking, chorus after chorus, at the Westin LAX on Wed., Feb. 21. Lanny Morgan is at the Lighthouse, Sun., Feb. 18. Longtime Tabackin big-band alto Tapscott veteran Michael Sessions’ passionate playing elevates the World Stage on Fri., Feb. 16. More fire from Justo Almario (celebrating a birthday) at Catalina with drummer Alex Acuna on Sun., Feb. 19. And Bay Area saxist George Young makes his L.A. debut at Vibrato on Sat., Feb. 18.

Not in the mood for sax? On keyboards: splendid young Josh Nelson and trio at Charlie O’s on Tues., Feb. 20. Alexandra Caselli’s quartet (with saxist Steve Marsh) play Jax on Mon., Feb. 19, and Italy’s Rossano Sportiello plays swing and stride at the Pasadena Jazz Institute on Thurs., Feb. 22.

Some good shows downtown: Café Metropol has Monk and beyond from Ben Rosenbloom’s Lumina on Fri., Feb. 16, and the Brad Rabuchin Quintet with saxophonist Andy Suzuki on Sat., Feb. 17. Land on 2nd has vibist Drew Jorgenson’s quartet on Mon., Feb. 19.

And get your one-two one-two-three’d by Poncho Sanchez at La Vé Lee on Sat., Feb. 17.

—Brick Wahl

LA Weekly