Vibist Nick Mancini draws fans by the roomful, quite a feat for a player who’s new in town and unrecorded. And he’s good, but what sets him apart in a town full of good vibraphonists is that Mancini puts on a great show. The music is plenty happening, with some Miles here, a Beatles tune there, a little funk, some originals… and his Collective always has the best young players. But the clincher is his showmanship, the rapport he builds with fans between tunes. He talks about his music, his ax, his bandmates, his years in New York. It’s funny and genuine, and it pulls listeners, from neophytes to jaded scribes, into what he’s doing. Sat., April 28 at Café Metropol.
The tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Musician’s Union on Fri., April 27, looks pretty nuts, with all kinds of singers and musicians. No idea if anyone is going to do her Live in Berlin “How High the Moon,” but the impressive roll of performers includes Charmaine Clamor, Tierney Sutton, Janis Mann, Barbara Morrison and Ernie Andrew with the Frank Capp Juggernaut, among very many.
Almost as out as Ella’s “How High the Moon” scatting should be Russian free-jazz pianist/composer Roman Stolyar with the CalArts Improvisation Ensemble performing “new collaborative multimedia works” using “improvising orchestra methodology” on Fri., April 27 at — where else? — REDCAT. If you prefer your jazz piano straight up and over the top, there’s Eldar at the Orange County Performing Arts Center Fri.-Sat., April 27-28. Those same nights the extraordinary Cuban pianist Chuchito Valdés Jr. solos at the Pasadena Jazz Institute. But for pure class, Central Avenue style, there’s Gerald Wiggins’ CD release party at Giannelli Square on Sun., April 29.
Hot meets cool when trumpeter Carl Saunders duets with flugelhornist Stacy Rowles at the Back Room on Fri., April 27 (and Saunders’ own sextet is at Charlie O’s on Wed., May 2). Elliott Caine is the featured guest at the World Stage on Friday, April 27; then on Sat., April 28, his quartet plays the post-bop at the Cafe 322. Also on Saturday, hard-bopping saxist Ernie Watts plays Boston Court (and his new Analog Man really cooks). Even harder and post-boppier, saxist Benn Clatworthy, pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Branley play Charlie O’s on Tues., May 1. Their new Live at Charlie O’s is excellent. And saxist Azar Lawrence performs the music of John Coltrane (with pianist Nate Morgan, bassist Trevor Ware and drummer Ndugu) at Catalina Bar & Grill, Wed., May 2.
There’s all sorts of takes on Latin jazz this week, like the funky fusion of Cartaya’s Enclave at La Ve Lee on Fri., April 27. Bronx kid Bobby Matos is all over town with his Afro-Latin Ensemble: at the Millennium Biltmore on Fri., April 27; at Jewels’ Place on Wed., May 2 (with emcee James Janisse); and at the Crowne Plaza on Thurs., May 3. Power trio Canela (saxist Justo Almario, bassist Abe Laboriel and drummer/percussionist Alex Acuna) storm through Catalina Bar & Grill on Sat., April 28. And the brilliant Caracas-born pianist Otmaro Ruiz brings his exceptional quartet of Ben Wendel on sax, bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Jimmy Branly into the Baked Potato on Wed., May 2. Ruiz’s conception of Latin jazz extends well below the Caribbean, and his music is a swirl of South American rhythms, European classical elements and kicking, beautiful straight-ahead jazz. And the improv is mind blowing.
But if you dig Brazilian music you must see guitarist/chanteuse Joyce wind up her stint at the Jazz Bakery Fri.-Sun., April 27-29. Her Just a Little Bit Crazy was an exquisite slice of bossa and stony Brazilian pop, including a brilliant, languid take on “Hard Day’s Night.” With her quintet, including guitarist Dori Caymmi, this will be absolutely fine.