It’s summer in the city and world music is everywhere. Percussionist Luis Conte and Cuba L.A. are at LACMA on Saturday at 4 p.m., and they are hot. Gypsy jazz guitarist Gonzalo Bergara plays Hollywood & Highland on Tuesday, and a little later the same night 15-year-old Chas Morrin & the Latin Jazz Connection Quintet do Catalina’s. Songstress Luba Mason goes Brazilian (with husband Rubén Blades on hand) at Catalina’s on Wednesday and Thursday. And Thursday is especially rich, with hot salseros Lucky 7 at the Autry at 7 p.m., great Congolese salsero/soukous singer Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca in the Culver City City Hall courtyard at 7 p.m., pianist Otmaro Ruiz with Brazilian guitarist and vocalist Teka’s bossa quartet at the Crowne, and even some irresistibly bebop-soaked western swing from Cow Bop at the Foundry on Melrose. But the big event this week has to be the Sergio Mendes, Eddie Palmieri and Poncho Sanchez show at the Hollywood Bowl. Poncho, you all know, of course, though maybe not in a venue this large. Palmieri was the man who really put together jazz piano and Latin rhythms, who brought trombone up front with the flute and put the trumpets in back. And maybe you remember Sergio Mendes’ cool Brazil 66 records, or you’re even hip to his great Brazilian jazz trio stuff before then. Alas, a lot of folks showed up last time to flick the lighter and sing “Never Gonna Let You Go.” But that’s OK (though we could do without the fat rapper who rhymed “Sergio” and “Hollywood Bowl” a good 60 times), just so long as he cooks plenty elsewhere, and maybe even loosens up on some of his ’60s classics, which had plenty of room for jamming.
Now straight jazz-wise there’s an interesting band at LACMA on Friday: pianist Larry Nash & The Jazz Symphonics, with a lineup including heavy-hitters like tenor Rickey Woodard, trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez, drummer Harold Mason, and always inspired percussionist Derf Reklaw. Looks like it might be a little on the wild side. Mr. Woodard then dashes out to Charlie O’s to play tenor for bassist John Heard’s birthday bash later that night. Woodard has a great sound, a Hank Mobley kinda thing that you don’t hear much of anymore, and he seems to soul-cook no matter what style music he’s set in. Heard has pianist Lanny Hartley in the trio with him, too, and man, does he swing all over that keyboard. Now if you were digging Harold Mason’s impressive chops at LACMA, then superdrummer Stephen Smith is a natural follow-up. His band Vital Information will be finishing their Catalina’s stand on Friday; yhey’re an inspired jazz and fusion outfit (Tom Coster plays a mean accordion). There’s a hefty cover, but if you got it, flaunt it and drop in.
A rash of fascinating saxophonists is popping up around town this week. Kim Richmond tends toward edgy stuff, though he might play closer to the vest at the Lighthouse on Sunday (from 11 a.m., Bloody Mary time) and at Charlie O’s on Tuesday. Bassist Brandino & Friends includes saxist Keith Fiddmont, who doesn’t seem to play out much. Bob Sheppard is at Sangria on Wednesday (right next to the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach) and Charlie O’s on Thursday. The only thing Sheppard (an extraordinary saxophone player) ever holds close to the vest is the melody (a listener really has to listen sometimes). It’s there, just maybe not in ways that those of us who are not Sheppard can detect. Then he drops it into your laps and you realize it was there all along. Of course, Pete Christlieb never messes around. Ever. He’s with pianist Jon Mayer’s quartet at Spazio on Wednesday, and it will be solid.
Speaking of melody — or the lack thereof — when was the last time you heard some honest-to-God free jazz? Not just scary little bursts cropping up between head arrangements now and then, but full-on, take-this-melody-and-shove-it freedom — total skronkdom. You almost never hear the stuff anymore, but it’s out there, tucked away in coffee houses, galleries, even rock clubs, when the booker is too stoned to know what is going on. And you small coterie of devotees are in luck this Sunday at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts (2225 Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock, 626/795-4989, $10). The headliner is vocalist Bonnie Barnett and the Barnett Band doing her Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein. Now that’s a 40-minute piece, structured, arty, significant (as things are in general at these gigs). But come on, you know what you want, what you need, is the Bay Area trio Shelton Berman Walter, “a group of accomplished and experienced musicians dedicated to the classic tenets of so-called free jazz.” Oh yeah. It won’t be pretty, but it might be beautiful.
(Brick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)