Last time Roy Haynes brought his quartet into the Catalina Bar and Grill, every set was a sensation. The jazz was intense — bebop and hard bop and post-bop and assorted off-the-wall takes. Alto player Jaleel Shaw burned in the spotlight, looking and sounding a lot like the horn players Haynes gigged with back in the day. And Haynes himself — his drum chops were so on, his patter so warm, his jokes and gibes and stories so damn entertaining, you could not believe the man was 81 years old. Anyone over 50 in the audience felt old in comparison. Haynes has played with towering figures of jazz history — Prez and Bird and Monk and Trane and Getz and Miles among them — but Haynes himself is not just history. The guy still dominates a room from behind that kit, driving his young quartet to make killer jazz music. Between solos he takes a breather now and then, goofing with the crowd; after all, he is 82 now. If you are a jazz fan, you must see Roy Haynes once before you die, because apparently he never will. Haynes plays Thurs.-Sat., May 24-26, at Catalina.
Trombonist Phil Ranelin has become an L.A. treasure: exquisite player, great bandleader, fine writer (his A Close Encounter of the Very Best Kind is superb) and passionate jazz educator, whose city-sponsored public lectures highlighting jazz greats ought to be a model for spreading the word on this music. All this comes together Friday night at Barnsdall Art Park, when Ranelin presents his new suite, Sweets for Melba, dedicated to trombonist and arranger Melba Liston. It’s a terrific band, with tenor Wendel Harrison, Ralph “Buzzy” Jones on woodwinds, pianist Tigran Hamasyan, bassist Nedra Wheeler, drummer Don Littleton and percussionist Taumbu. The music will be great, and on top of everything, it’s free. That’s at 8 p.m. in the Barnsdall Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood Blvd.
Sax fans should check out Ben Wendel at Café Metropol on Fri., May 25. He’s an outstanding young player, maybe a master in the making, and, like so many of the newer horn players in town, seems to effortlessly draw upon tradition while exploring new jazz possibilities. Tenor Chuck Manning has an excellent quartet that supports his subtle playing beautifully. He’s at Café 322 on Sat., May 26. For the pure straight-ahead, there is the Luther Hughes Cannonball/Coltrane Project, with fine saxists Bruce Babad and Glen Cashmen in the title roles, on Sat., May 26, at The Vibe at Landings, in Airtel Plaza Hotel, Van Nuys. Don Menza spent years with a slew of big bands — that’s his roaring tenor on a lot of the classic Buddy Rich Big Band albums — and he’s leading his own big band at Charlie O’s on Mon., May 25. And then there is the odd duo of pianist Joanne Brackeen and alto saxist Greg Osby at the Jazz Bakery, Wed.-Thurs., May 30-31. Both Brackeen and M-Baser Osby are well versed in the edgier side of jazz, and one can only imagine just where their interplay will be heading in any given set.
And don’t forget that the L.A. Farmers Market concert series is under way. Jack Sheldon is there Friday. Good jazz, good food and good brew. And it’s over early, so you can still catch the later sets at one of the clubs. Great way to kick off a jazz weekend.