Playboy Jazz Festival is the big daddy of our local jazz events. The main draws are the smoove jazz acts, yes, but they do bring in the folks with picnic baskets and coolers who proceed to have a helluva good time out there in the stands — a rarity at jazz events anymore. This is a serious art form, you understand, which is kinda sad but inevitable given its evolution from New Orleans street parade to America’s Classical Music. So if the crowds at Playboy talk too much and laugh too much and even dance — well, just get into it. And there is some terrific jazz on the bill. Saturday’s highlights include alto legend Phil Woods, the hard-grooving James Carter Organ Trio, the ever-lovin’ Count Basie Orchestra, and Randy Brecker doing a soul-bop thing. Plus fun stuff from blues great Buddy Guy, rowdy salserosIsaac Delgado and our own Johnny Polanco, and the slick Afro-world sounds of Angelique Kidjo. Sunday’s roster runs the jazz gamut with the likes of trumpeter Terence Blanchard, the angry young jazz players of the Taylor Eigsti Quartet, pianist Marcus Miller, and sax veteran Red Holloway (with vocalist Kevin Mahogany). Plus, R&B legend Etta James returns, and the irresistible sounds of Louisiana with Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas should get the folks moving and drive jazz critics to distraction. Bill Cosby emcees, of course, leading his annual outfit on Saturday. Like TV father, like TV son, Malcolm Jamal-Warner’s Miles Long takes a spot on the Sunday lineup. All at the Hollywood Bowl, Sat.-Sun, June 16-17.
And on Sunday, across the street from the Bowl, there’s the annual Brazilian Summer Festival at the Ford Amphitheatre. Grupo Fundo de Quintal fly in from the favelas of Rio to provide the genuine samba experience. All that crazy percussion and tiny guitars and squeaking cuicas and those feathered dancers. And here the crowds not only bring coolers and talk and laugh and dance, they even sing along. Mestre Amen and Capoeira Batuque open up with some percussive dancing that you couldn’t do without hurting yourself. Parking is available, but check braziliannites.com for all the details.
Joshua Redman is at Catalina Bar & Grill through Sunday. He has a nice new one, Back East, and check out his tenor playing on organist Sam Yahel’s exceptional Truth and Beauty — Redman snakes and shifts about wonderfully. That unheralded great of the tenor, Benn Clatworthy, is at Charlie O’s twice this week — first with the tough John Heard Trio on Friday; and then with pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Chris Colangelo and freestyling drummer Jimmy Branly on Wednesday. This bunch’s recent Live at Charlie O’s is heartily recommended. For something a little edgier, a prodigiously talented Ben Wendel Group (guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles, drummer Nate Wood, pianist Adam Benjamin and Ben Wendel on sax and bassoon) are at the Pasadena Jazz Institute on Friday. And it’s Latin jazz every Saturday afternoon at LACMA, and this week the Taumbu International Ensemble expands the genre with the veteran conguero’s mélange of Cuban and West African and Brazilian and Haitian rhythms, while trombonist Phil Ranelin and saxist Michael Session play for all they’re worth. And then the Phil Ranelin Quartet are at the Westin LAX on Wednesday; the same night James Janisse hosts the CJS Quintet at Jewel’s Catch One. CJS’s Chuck Johnson plays quick and smart and solid; aside him, trumpeter Smitty Smith blows blues-soaked solos, and the combination makes for some excellent straight ahead. Hit this happy-hour gig early enough and you might just be able to do both. After a night like that, you dream jazz.