Interesting perspective on the piano trio this week. Keith Jarrett’s standards trio, at UCLA’s Royce Hall this Wednesday, has been at it for a quarter of a century. So you can imagine how these musical minds have meshed over the years. The interplay between Jarrett (apparently not the easiest guy to deal with anyway), bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette is nearly telepathic. It’s not that they’re doing anything especially chancy, or as far out as any of them has done in the past, Jarrett with the penny whistles and DeJohnette with the noisiest Miles, or Peacock’s notorious stint with Albert Ayler. This is a piano trio playing the same standard tunes you’ve heard a zillion times. It’s just that some people really know how to play a standard. Profoundly beautiful jazz. Of course, you kids maybe want a little more edge, more volume. And that’s where The Bad Plus comes in. You couldn’t call them a standards trio, not yet anyway, but their latest Heads Up release For All I Care is covers, every tune. The usual Nirvana, maybe not so usual Ligeti and Stravinsky, some interesting versions of tunes we never wanted to hear again as long as we lived (“Barracuda”), or old tunes we’ve never tired of (Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”) — and every track either cranks or is at least interesting (even that damn Yes song). They have brought aboard vocalist Wendy Lewis, who turns out to be a real asset. Cool. It’s jazz, yeah, but with a sweaty rock & roll vibe, just as the Keith Jarrett trio has a formal piano concerto vibe. Different strokes, but both a thrill.
And now let’s talk a bit about saxophone players. Tenor Pharoah Sanders is at the Jazz Bakery this Friday and Saturday. Albert Ayler once called Coltrane the Father and Pharaoh the Son (and himself the Holy Ghost), which must say something. Certainly Pharaoh earned a lifetime of adulation for his work on Ascension and Meditation, but that was a long time ago, man, and Pharaoh has been creative all these many decades since, from state-of-the-art freedom in his Impulse years through some nice modal jazz and smoking hard-bop to working with Moroccan gnawa musicians and even (for our post-punk readers) a project with Jah Wobble. The gamut. But still, we really go to hear him because the cat can blow up and out and way out, and when he’s on fire, it gets interplanetary. The air turns static, your hair stands on end, there’s a whoosh up your spine and then you know it’s the Pharaoh. But then some of you might think overblowing is overblown, and jazz is best when soaked in blues, bop and straight-ahead, which is the very quintessence of Red Holloway, who’s at Charlie O’s on Friday and Saturday. This cat has played with just about every bluesman, torch singer and horn blower who came out of Chicago, and was Sonny Stitt’s jamming partner for eons. He has it down. He’s got the John Heard Trio behind him for this one and all will be solid. And that’s two completely different philosophies about how to play that horn. Take your pick. Or better yet, do both.
Other coolness about town this week: trumpeter Elliott Caine has his quintet (with tenor Carl Randall and drummer Kenny Elliott) at Jax on Friday. Caine is all about the Lee Morgan feel, writes a lot of effective originals and his sets are always up and jumping. This outfit really tears Jax up (they’re at the Bakery on Monday, too.) Also on Friday, Kneebody pianist Adam Benjamin does crazy things with drummer Zach Harmon at the Foundry on Melrose, and that, too, is a blast of a scene. On Saturday, saxist Dale Fielder’s Angel City Quartet returns to the Gallery Bar in the Biltmore Hotel downtown on Saturday night. He has a big, earthy sound on whatever horn he’s playing at the time (his baritone is molten Pepper Adams) and like Caine’s, his shows jump. On Sunday the veteran bassist Henry “Skipper” Franklin is at Charlie O’s, and if you went out to the Bakery to see Pharaoh, you’ll dig this band; pianist Theo Saunders really picks up a lot of McCoy Tyner’s color and dynamics, and saxist Azar Lawrence wails as close to free as they get in this joint. Then on Monday the storied L.A. arranger Bill Holman crams his 17-piece band into Charlie O’s for several sets of his dense, complex and fascinating charts. Awesome players in those ranks, too. And we ought to mention the small combo Latin jazz of Louie Cruz Beltran at Catalina Bar and Grill on Wednesday. It cooks.
(Brick can be reached at email@example.com.)