A pair of saxophonists who absolutely slay us every time bookend the weekend at Charles O’s. On Friday we got Charles Owens. A masterful player (and bandleader … the Luckman Jazz Orchestra has done brilliantly under his direction), Owens plays just about every reed and woodwind ever made (just dig him on English horn), but it’s on tenor that he is on fire. At the World Stage we’ve seen him go what looked like utterly out of his mind, all Dolphy and Kirk and late period ’Trane, crazy clusters and Fulani scales and notes flying so fast. At Charlie O’s we’ve heard the most soulful A Love Supreme, the crowd utterly silent, not a whisper or a stir till it fades on that final bass thrum … then he’s getting down with Eddie Harris, music so funky people are actually dancing at Charlie O’s, and then right into a blues about meeting him with the black drawers on. That’s Charlie Owens, delivering. And that’s part one. Part two is Benn Clatworthy, same stage on Sunday. You’d never think a Michael Caine-as-Alfie-sounding Brit would play saxophone as good as any Yank, even better than most. He’s got a voice on that thing, steeped in midperiod Coltrane, in Booker Ervin, in lots of Sonny Rollins when Sonny was the greatest of them all. But that’s just the sound. The ideas, the vision, the places he goes, pushing, daring. Nobody in L.A. does it his way. Maybe nobody nowhere. It can be the most radical but remaining intense and beautiful and still completely in the tradition. Oh, and who’s got the floor on the Saturday between them? Tenor Don Menza, as solid as they come. Don’t let no one tell you this town ain’t got great saxophone players.
And while flipping through Playboy recently — reading the articles — we were surprised to see mention of Greg Osby. Turns out he’s Playboy’s 2009 jazz poll winner. Their critics liked his intensity, daring, imagination, chops. The Bakery had been his usual stop in L.A., so it was cool to see that he’s part of guitarist Jimmy Herring’s band at the Sunset Strip House of Blues on Friday. Herring is ex-Allmans and Widespread Panic, all bluesy jammy, and Osby, of course, seems to be comfortable in any setting, never short of ideas no matter where he’s at. There will be plenty of stretching here, these jam band fans dig long takes and open, wandering grooves.
Some genuine jazz guitar legends are in town this week, as well, like the extraordinary Mundell Lowe, a featured guest at John Pisano’s guitar night on Tuesday at Spazio. Lowe, who’s creeping up on 90, got his start at the tail end of classic jazz, then into swing and beyond. Sessions with Prez and Bird and Lady Day, with Getz and Mingus, with everybody. He still plays beautifully, too. And Kenny Burrell kicks off his Catalina stand on Thursday. We get so much of Kenny Burrell in L.A. that we lose sight of his status, but the man is one of them living legends, an extraordinary guitarist (and hard to top the fact that he was Duke Ellington’s favorite). And, as always, there are singers everywhere. We’re picking two this week. Barbara Morrison don’t take guff from nobody, puts on a helluva show and sings like they sang on Central Avenue and 52nd Street. She’s at Vibrato on Saturday. And Janis Mann is just one incredibly good jazz vocalist, a complete natural. She’s at Spazio on Saturday and Charlie O’s on Thursday.
This Friday is the annual Brazilian Festival at the Ford Amphitheatre. Headlining is one of Brazil’s top samba singers, Diogo Nogueira, who has some of that Jair Rodriguez flair, with the brilliant pianist Marcos Ariel, who does a mean Jobim. Plus capoeira and gorgeous sambistas in feathers and glitter and more feathers. Last time we attended one of these at the Ford, it was sheer madness — grannies running madcap, the audience singing along to every song, a 1,000 or more Brazilians completely beside themselves. Gloriously nuts.
Just across the freeway at the Hollywood Bowl, KCRW debuts its World Festival on Sunday with the great Femi Kuti headlining, along with Raphael Saadiq and Santigold. And up the Cahuenga Pass an exit or two, the uninhibited jazzy funky salsa of Cecelia Noel & the Wild Clams are at the Baked Potato on Tuesday. Finally, we’ve been flipping over Goran Bregovic & His Wedding and Funeral Band’s latest, Alkohol. It’s crazy Balkan brass-band stuff, that Gypsified thing, trumpets and tuba and the horns that range in between them, along with a drum and Goran’s guitar. The tempos and harmonies will startle anyone unfamiliar with the style;it’s a musical universe away from our blues-based forms. Same feelings, though, the pain and despair and love and drinking and finding release all night long. The album is great, but word has it that this stuff is best served live. They’ll be at Royce Hall on Friday and Saturday.
Brick can be reached at email@example.com.