Neo-klezmer trumpeter David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana (on John Zorn’s Tzadik label) is an absolute cooker, and his band Odessa/Havana, with veteran Cuban pianist Hilario Duran (of Irakere, among many), produces a seamless mesh of Cuban and klezmer forms that seems like the most natural thing in the world. There’s a lot of jazz arrangements in there too, and sax solos that tumble like a clarinet at a Bulgarian wedding. Oh man, this is a good one. And like any Cuban or klezmer band, they can only be even better live. They’re at the Skirball on Thursday, November 29.
Alexandra Caselli is cool people and one of those fine pianists (a touch of Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett) around town who remain a bit in the shadows, though you can catch her solo and with her band fairly regularly at Jax, where she’ll be celebrating the release of her brand new Rough Edges this Tuesday. It’s a nice one, opening with a samba featuring just the right mix of lilt and syncopation, Caselli comping and soloing lightly round the surdo, and then proceeding jazzily on with a damn fine mellowed tinge that gets cut up with soloing by Jennifer Hall, Jonathan Dane and especially saxophonist Carol Chaikin (who nails it on soprano, on that title cut .?.?. man, can that lady play). Her live band here includes Chaikin, guitarist Brad Rabuchin, the great bass lines of Jennifer Leitham and, from Leitham’s great trio, drummer Randy Drake. Considering that we’re regularly plugging hard-ass stuff that scares people, this is one you can bring a date to.
And speaking of hard-ass scary stuff, it’s hard to come up with saxophonists more passionate, intense and soaked in Coltrane than Azar Lawrence and Justo Almario. Azar, who seems the closest to the source in sound, appears at Charlie O’s on Saturday (with the potent rhythm section of bassist John Heard, pianist Nate Morgan and drummer Roy McCurdy), and again at the Jazz Bakery on Sunday performing a Coltrane set. Justo will be with bassist Ryan Cross and drummer Lorca Hart at the Hotel Angeleno, and that will blow away the local rich folks in the room. (The always good Cross is also at Chaya on Sunday.) Tenor Doug Webb has also listened to a Coltrane record or two; he’s at Charlie O’s on Sunday (with Gerry Gibbs — who performed a mind-boggling drum solo with Ravi Coltrane at Catalina a while back). To run the theme of this paragraph into the ground, saxist Benn Clatworthy can lay down a mean sheet of sound with the exceptional Francisco Aguabella Quintet, who are at Vibrato this Tuesday; and finally beating it to death, pianist Jon Mayer actually once recorded with Coltrane on some obscure thing in the earlier days, but man he is a fascinating bop pianist with inspired ideas and a really nice melodic edge. His trio is at the Café 322 on Thursday.
Also, fiery East Coast alto player Jim Snidero is at the Jazz Bakery on Wednesday and Thursday; hear some beautiful horn from the Matt Otto Trio at 2nd Street Jazz on Sunday; and it’ll be chop city with Brian Bromberg, Michael Brecker and Dave Weckl’s fusion quintet at Catalina Bar and Grill Friday through Sunday. It’d be a blast to see an old-fashioned trumpet battle between Brecker and Carl Saunders someday; my money would probably be on Saunders, whom you can see at the Back Room on Saturday and with his sextet at Charlie O’s on Tuesday. It would also be entertaining to see an insult battle between Saunders and Jack Sheldon, who celebrates another birthday at Charlie O’s on Wednesday.
Mad drummer Jimmy Branly has a quintet at the Crowne Plaza on Thursday. And there’s a pair of trios at 2nd Street Jazz on Monday with Argentine tango and jazz (and jazz tango) bassist Pablo Motta (with pianist Eli Breuggeman and Lorca Hart) and the young bassist Mike Gurrola (with pianist Austin Peralta). Guitarist Barry Zweig has a quartet at the Lighthouse on Sunday; Zweig’s mix of intensity and the sheer joy of playing is infectious. And Rhiannon seems to have made her reputation locally through a series of Vic appearances, wowing local players with her vocal instrumental skills. This time she’ll be performing Wednesday at the Vic with two other Bay Area vocalists of the same often wordless stripe as WeBe3.And Otmaro Ruiz will be on the piano, and you can be sure that this is not another lounge act. (It marks the end of Vic’s season for the year too.)
Finally, you can actually see a big band almost every night this week, beginning with the Mike Barone Big Band at LACMA on Friday. The great Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra perform a Central Avenue–themed set at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Saturday, and considering the quality of the band, the scholarship of John Clayton, the natural swing of drummer Jeff Hamilton and the wealth of material at their disposal, this ought to be one of the most fascinating shows of the week, and is highly recommended. (Clayton gives saxist Charles Owens plenty of stretching room too and he can stretch like a contortionist.) For something 180 degrees different, there’s the John Daversa Contemporary Big Band at the Baked Potato on Sunday. Getting back to the bop and swing roots is the Pete Christlieb Big Band at Charlie O’s on Monday, and this is one great band. Also highly recommended. Tuesday is eerily silent. On Wednesday the San Gabriel Valley’s John Fick Big Band (one of our local territory bands) play Café 322. And finish it all off with the Claire Fischer Big Band at Vibrato on Thursday. You’ll be hearing high Cs in your dreams.