Author's Note: This column ran last month in Issue 105 of LA Record
The sad thing about writing this column is that I have to sit back four times a year and remind myself that the jazz scene in Los Angeles is severely lacking in high-profile jazz bookings. Some venues try harder than others but few can actually offer a season's worth of jazz programming and even fewer offer anything more than a rotating selection of artists that float by as frequently as leap years. As the LA Times' Chris Barton eloquently goaded the LA Philharmonic last summer, regarding their staid jazz bookings, "There' s terrific potential here to showcase the music as every bit the same vibrant, still-evolving organism as any other genre, to say nothing for the potential of drawing new fans." Obviously, vibrant music is being created and performed in Los Angeles every day. The hard part is finding it.
The ever-tasteful Kenny Burrell will be celebrating his 80th birthday at UCLA's Royce Hall on November 12. Helping to celebrate will be Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lalo Schifrin and B.B. King. It's hard to resist two of the most economic guitar legends of the last 60 years sharing a stage.
Disney Hall, usually a venue for high-quality jazz legends, will be offering up the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on November 22. For those who dig the old-timey shit, these guys do it well and are celebrating their 50th year of actively preserving the roots of New Orleans jazz.
Amid the one-off cabaret acts at Catalina's in Hollywood, the most promising band of heavy-hitters booked looks to be pianist Kenny Werner's all star band from December 9 through 11. With saxophonist David Sanchez, trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Antonio Sanchez, the band is poised to blow the roof off that club in a way that few other bands could and certainly no moonlighting television actor with delusions of artistry ever will.
So where does one go for the remaining days of the year? One venue consistently booking the most adventurous bands in our fair city is the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo. The location, obviously chosen for its rent rather than its accessibiltiy, features some of the most progressive bands willing to schelp their instruments up the stairs, whether they are members of the Los Angeles Jazz Collective or chain-smoking intellectuals from the farthest corners of Brooklyn. You can never go wrong dropping into their darkly lit, metallic treehouse for an inexpensive night of boundary-pushing music that would make any jazzbo proud.
Hesitation Blues @ LA Record