Jazz musicians work hard and play hard — sometimes too hard — and too often can’t afford medical care. “Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon” benefits the California Jazz Foundation, which helps ailing players with their doctor bills. Lined up are The Thom Rotella Quartet (the guitarist sheds the smooth when he plays live and will swing hard with drummer Roy McCurdy and fine vocalist Janis Mann), plus Bobby Rodriguez Latin Jazz, the hard-bopping Rickey Woodard Septet and The Phil Norman Tentet. Musician’s Union, 817 Vine St., Hlywd.; Sun., March 18, 2-6 p.m.; $20. (818) 528-2893 or www.californiajazzfoundation.org.
There’s also a lot of excellent jazz from out of town this week. NYC trumpeter Ralph Alessi & This Against That are downtown at REDCAT on Sat., March 17. His latest, Look, is edgy enough for the M-Base fans but with melodic forays to please the straight-ahead folks. Very nice. And here he’s added longtime associate Ravi Coltrane. Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett headlines the Inner City Arts benefit at Harvard-Westlake Upper School in North Hollywood on Sat., March 17; call (818) 487-6564 or go to www.hw.com/boxoffice. Latin-jazz flutist Dave Valentin finishes his stand at the Jazz Bakery, Fri.-Sat., March 16-17. Those same nights Ahmad Jamal continues at Catalina Bar & Grill, while prodigy jazz pianist Eldar begins his run there on Wed., March 21.
And you can see quality local jazz in small venues on any night of the week. Take this Friday: There’s the invention and pure jazz skills of Kneebody saxophonist Ben Wendel at Café Metropol, and Justo Almario purées bop, Trane and Latin ideas through his tenor and flute at Charlie O’s. Out in Canoga Park the extraordinary solos of trumpeter Carl Saunders (with trombonist Scott Whitfield) fill the Back Room, and up in Altadena saxist Michael James Turre & Brazilian Detour (with Enzo Tedesco’s great Brazilian drumming) are at The Spot. Later in the week check out the beautiful tone of saxophonist Matt Otto at Land on 2nd Street on Mon., March 19, or virtuoso reedman Bob Sheppard at Spazio on Thurs., March 22. And don’t forget Big Band Mondays at Charlie O’s . . . this week it’s The Emil Richards All-Stars.
Finally, UCLA’s Royce Hall has two nights of fascinating music. On Saturday the 17th, Brazil’s Badi Assad combines her astonishing guitar chops with breezy vocals and fine songwriting. Think Joyce, maybe, with body percussion. And Friday the 16th is really special, with Iranian lute virtuoso Hossein Alizadeh and the Hamavayan Ensemble. Their highly improvised music runs deep, and the melodic themes are not so alien to Western ears as you might imagine . . . more familiar perhaps than Arab or Indian music, really. Persian civilization is ancient, the musical roots run deep, and who knows how much of Western music can be traced back to the time of the mighty Persian empire? John Coltrane fans can detect strains: Listening to the excellent new Endless Vision, there’s a pulse, a thrum, like the mantra Reggie Workman strummed on A Love Supreme. And the reedy dudek brings to mind Trane’s soprano . . . or is that the other way around? Add the vocals, the polyrhythmic percussion and stunning lutework, and your ears open wide. Civilizations clash, civilizations mesh, but oh what beautiful music they make.