Walter Smith III

Blue Whale, December 17

Joon Lee, the modest personality behind Little Tokyo's Blue Whale, is an indispensible part of the local jazz community who books some of the most daring acts in Los Angeles. Saxophonist Walter Smith III, a hard-swinging transplant, was one such act earlier this month. His band of ringers put on an powerhouse set before a standing-room only crowd that reminded everyone that there is a sizable (and bar-patronizing!) jazz community in Los Angeles. -Sean J. O'Connell

Kneebody with special guests, Daedelus and Busdriver

Little Temple, December 4

At a seemingly covert show at the Little Temple, this progressive-jazz-rock band delighted the boisterous crowd that somehow found out about the event. DJ and computer music genius Daedalus was somehow able to use the band as his own human turntable, setting up grooves and samples to which they played in a strange, fantastic courtship. Fast-rapping Busdriver closed it out, fronting the band with impressive flutter-beat poetry. Such collaborations only enhance Kneebody's unlimited creative capacity. (NOTE: Clip above from the Vienna Jazz Festival 2009.) -Gary Fukushima

Alex Machacek/Jimmy Johnson/Terry Bozzio Trio

The Baked Potato, November 4

Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek and former Frank Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio teamed for the first time with uber-bassist Jimmy Johnson at The Baked Potato for two nights in early November. The results were nothing less than electric, as Johnson both complimented and pushed Bozzio more with each song. The compositions from Machacek and Bozzio were both dense and intense, but still left enough space for each musician's virtuosity to shine. -Tom Meek

Alan Ferber Extended Ensemble

Blue Whale, August 23

NYC trombonist Alan Ferber rolled through L.A. in late August with a short-notice Monday night event at Blue Whale. His big band of West Coast all-stars, many rarely seen in big bands, worked their way through an evening of challenging arrangements that were inventive and original, driven by a rhythm section including pianist Josh Nelson and guitarist Anthony Wilson. Maybe the best thing about this gig is it's scheduled to be repeated for two nights the first weekend in January. -Tom Meek

Donny McCaslin with Uri Caine, Fima Ephron, Mark Guiliana and special guest Tim Lefebvre

Blue Whale, September 13

The Blue Whale has given Angelinos a taste of the New York jazz scene, with cats who rarely ventured West suddenly making appearances. Saxophonist McCaslin was simply playing out of his mind, with Uri Caine, the grandmaster of keyboard, responding with sage advice. Fima Ephron held steady with sick groves, despite fellow bassist Lefebvre's best efforts to distract with sonic insanity. Mark Guiliana was conquering the impossible on the drum set. Electrified crowd, incredible night. (NOTE: Clip above from Hague Jazz Festival 2011.) -Gary Fukushima

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