The Palladium in New York City was the epicenter of Latin jazz in the 1950s. The wildly energetic bands of Machito, Tito Puente and the more romantic Tito Rodriguez (together, the Big 3) battled for the top of the marquee. That competition was fictionalized in The Mambo Kings, though the documentary The Palladium: Where Mambo Was King is better, with film clips that show the big, smoky hall with the hundreds of gyrating dancers and bands playing as if their lives depended on it. Though the Palladium has passed into myth, the music continues (just listen to Jose Rizo’s Jazz on the Latin Side any Friday). Now the sons of the Big 3 — Tito Rodriguez Jr.,Tito Puente Jr. and Machito’s Mario Grillo — have assembled their own hot orquesta to play the music of their fathers . . . and word from NYC is that their fathers would be proud. Rodriguez and Grillo lead a 23-musician lineup on Sat., Feb. 24, at Luckman Fine Arts Complex on the Cal State L.A. campus.
And then there’s samba, born of Angolan rhythms — propelled by the heartbeat of the surdo, instead of the West African clave that saturated Cuba. Jazz fans know its descendant, bossa nova, but at this year’s Brazilian Carnaval you can experience the energetic and addicting original and related styles — batucuda, samba, frevo, forro and more — as done in Rio and Bahia. Katia Moraes and Pure Samba, Sambada and members of Ilé Aye will keep it rootsy and danceably loose. Plus a bevy of samba dancers, feathers aquiver . . . all aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach on Sat., Feb. 24. See www.braziliannites.com.
Other Latin-jazz events this weekend include the Pan-American rhythms of Tolu, with exciting soloists such as saxist Justo Almario, drummer Alex Acuna, trombonist Arturo Velasco and pianist Joe Rotundi playing Fri.-Sat., Feb. 23-24, at the Jazz Bakery. Charismatic trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez leads his fine LatinJazz Band (including tango bassist Pablo Motta) at Palmira at 11:30 a.m. on Sun., Feb. 25. And intense young Chékéré (with percussionist Yvette Summers) appears at the Jazz Bakery that evening.
Finally, for a taste of homegrown L.A. jazz that looks back to the African roots, saxophonist Michael Sessions keeps the Tapscott spirit flowing with the Pan-African Peoples Arkestra at the World Stage on Sun., Feb. 25. In the same spirit, extraordinary vocalist Dwight Trible brings his ensemble, with free-blowing Charles Owens on saxes and Derf Reklaw’s seriously African hand drumming, to the Jazz Bakery on Tues., Feb. 27. Trible’s latest, Living Water, is a brilliant example of sophisticated spiritual jazz. Live, he is even better.