There’s some oddball stuff in town this week, lotsa different degrees of differentness. For example: Kurt Elling is finishing up his Catalina’s stand on Friday and Saturday. His Dedicatedto You isn’t weird or anything but its beat is certainly gorgeous, a way-real jazz beat. And he has Ernie Watts there blowing the music hard, blowing it right. (Watts, by the way, is at Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday; get there early.) And then there’s jazz accordion — not the most normal ax in the world. You don’t get a lot of dates playing accordion. So Frank Marocco, gawd bless him, is something special, an exceptional jazz accordionist. He’s at Giannelli Square (itself a unique little joint) on Saturday out in Northridge (19451 Londelius St., 818-772-1722) with bass (Mr. Giannelli himself), drums and alto sax — and the sax and squeeze box make amazing tones together. (Frank Marocco joins drummer Gerry Gibbs with another alto player at Spazio on Wednesday, too). There’s also the flat-out weird, like Brad Dutz’s Many Axes Trio gig at Alva’s (1417 W. 8th St. down in San Pedro, 800-403-3447) on Saturday. Percussion and tablas and shakers and ceramic flute — i.e., everything you don’t get at Charlie O’s, ever. You’re gonna love it or hate it. Then the Pasadena Jazz Institute does its thing with their Day of Jazz Violin in their lovely J.I. Lounge (which is the same old joint, but with booze). Featured are Christian Howes, Mads Tolling, Charlie Bisharat, Lisa Haley and AntonioPontarelli, all swinging and sawing with the house band. Hopefully they’ll be putting the fiddle back into people’s awareness as a righteous jazz ax. It’s Sunday night from 7 p.m., and it’s free.
A number of outstanding jazz outfits gig in the clubs this week, too, none of them really sticking to any hard bop rules. Saxist Bob Sheppard is at Vibrato on Saturday; his solos are lessons in something we haven’t fathomed yet. We go on and on about saxist CharlesOwens, and when he brings his quartet into Charlie O’s it’s a knockout. He’s there Sunday. Alto and soprano saxophonist Zane Musa leads a potent quartet at the Bar Melody (9132 S. Sepulveda Blvd.) on Tuesday from 7 to 11 p.m., featuring pianist Mahesh Balasooriya. Both these guys veer toward musical craziness, with unbelievably exciting solos. Zane is always recommended. He’ll certainly jar you out of any slump. They’ve also got regular Wednesdays at the Left Coast Wine Bar & Gallery in Glendale (117 E. Harvard St., 818-507-7011). On Thursday pianist Theo Saunders brings his great sextet into Spazio on Thursday with alto Zane Musa again, plus tenor Chuck Manning and trombonist David Dahlsten. A great front line there. The same night over at Vibrato pianist Josh Nelson runs a quartet through cuts from his excellent new I Hear A Rhapsody. You pick.
Nice selection of Latin stuff all week, beginning Friday noon at California Plaza with Justo Almario; the same venue Saturday offers a set from the extraordinary Cuban chanteuse, Albita. Poncho Sanchez rocks Vibrato on Tuesday. And, finally, a cat you just have to check out at the Autry on Thursday: Perico Hernandez y Son de la Tierra. You remember Caravana Cubana? This is him, though that classic disc seems almost slick compared to the man and his band in person. This is the real rumba, man, son montuno. Street music, mountain music, music of the earth and lotsa rum. Oh yeah. Shifting continents a bit, there’s the latest Brazilian rage Ceu at the Roxy of Saturday. Her Vagarosa is nice, a Sao Paulo nice, pretty irresistible. But there ain’t a Brazilian singer in town who is as irresistible as Katia Moraes. Crowds go nuts when she performs. The energy, the charisma, the sheer joy of Brazilian music just fills a space. Her Sambaguru is a sharp band, too. They’ll probably be mining their latest, Tribo (she’s yet to record a clinker) and Culver City will be rocking Rio-style when they hit the stage in front of City Hall on Thursday night.
A young NYC jazz band called Origin Blue (sometimes a quartet, sometimes a trio) have been doing a spunky little California tour ranging from Sierra Madre to Bakersfield to Claremont last week. This week they’re at Vitello’s in Studio City on Monday, Jax in Glendale on Tuesday, then they finish up big-time at Catalina’s on Wednesday. Check ’em out on MySpace for a drop-dead gorgeous interpretation of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” For that alone they’re worth checking out. But ya know — L.A. needs its own Brooklyn real bad. We choose Highland Park. It’s cheap, full of unpretentious bars and crawling with unhip hipsters fleeing what Silver Lake turned into. Move there and get creative, people. Whatever Brooklyn’s doing, you can do too. And besides, we have better weather. And taco trucks.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)