Appearing as The B.E.C.K. Quartet, pianist John Campbell, bassist Isla Eckinger and drummer Bob Leatherbarrow show off their vibraphone skills. Leatherbarrow (filling in for the missing “K,” Paul Kreibich) plays vibes in Polychrome. Campbell, a splendid pianist who combines his great swing with some very tasteful bop, rarely appears in public with the mallets, so it’ll be great fun hearing what he comes up with. And Swiss-born Eckinger is such a musical bassist (his bow work is breathtaking) that his facility with any other instrument is no surprise. As they switch places, listen to each player’s approach to melody and rhythm on the vibraphone — the subtle differences in the way a pianist, a double bassist and a drummer pull music from that big, whirring, ringing metal machine. And wait for non-vibesman pianist Joe Bagg to kick in on the B-3 organ; the man can groove. Should be a fun and eclectic night at Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel, 5985 W. Century Blvd., Thurs., March 15.
There’s also plenty of good straight-ahead this week. Charles Owens plays all reeds in all styles, from blues to bop to free, but he’ll be mostly blowing exultant hard-bop tenor at Charlie O’s, Fri., March 9. Out in the West Valley, hot bop alto Greg Abate and trombonist Scott Whitfield are at The Back Room, Fri., March 9. And the inventiveness of tenor Chuck Manning will be on display at the Café Metropol, Fri., March 9. A saxophonist originally from Wisconsin (check out Relaxin’ in Milwaukee), Fred Horn makes an appearance at Jax, Mon., March 12; that same night edgy baritone Adam Schroeder is at Land on 2nd Street. Fans of boppish straight-ahead trumpet will dig madman Sal Marquez at Vibrato, Sat., March 10. And the brilliant Carl Saunders leads his Be Bop Big Band at Charlie O’s, Mon., March 12. With arrangements nearly as imaginative as his trumpet solos, this should be another exhilarating Big Band Monday at this great jazz spot.
Best vocal gig of the week has to be Kurt Elling at the Catalina Bar & Grill, Fri.-Sun., March 9-11. He’s a great improviser with a terrific Windy City beatnik vibe, the jazz and poetry and smarts coming together uncompromised. You can say the same about The Ahmad Jamal Trio, also at Catalina, Wed.-Thurs., March 14-15. Economical, almost minimal: He plays less and expresses more than most. It’s said his style had made an impression on young bopper Miles Davis.
For Latin grooves, the veteran timbalero Bobby Matos’ Afro-Latin Ensemble plays the downtown Millennium Biltmore. If you dig contemporary Brazilian sounds, check out exuberant singer Katia Moraes at La Ve Lee, Sat., March 10. And finally, master flutist Dave Valentin’s quartet is at the Jazz Bakery, Wed.-Thurs., March 14-15. His albums can be slick, but his playing is fiery and he will cook in this room.