Fri. Sept. 4 -- Saxist Michael Session was Horace Tapscott’s right-hand man; now he leads his own sextet in a traditionally rooted but often wide-open vein. On the patio off the grand entrance of LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., LA 90036; 6-8pm; FREE.
Sat. Sept. 5 -- The call: poet Dottie Grossman. The response: trombonist Michael Vlatkovich. The percussion: Christopher Garcia. The inspiration: Kerouac, Corso, Ginsberg, Grossman. At South Pasadena Music Center and Conservatory, 1509 Mission St., South Pasadena 91030; 8pm; $5; free parking behind; (626) 403-2300; www.southpasadenamusic.com.
*** Sun.-Mon. Sept. 6-7 -- Before last year’s Angel City Jazz Fest, Los Angeles had not hosted a wide-scale progressive jazz festival drawing from beyond local environs in something like a quarter of a century. What an embarrassment -- cities less than a tenth of our size such as Portland and San Francisco constantly kick our ass in this category with conclaves far larger than L.A. has ever mustered. Equally embarrassing was the response to the event by the media, which virtually ignored it. (LA Times improved its record this year via Chris Barton’s online interview with festival promoters Rocco Somazzi and Jeff Gauthier here.) There ought to be a sign at the city limits that says NOW ENTERING HICK TOWN: NO WILD JAZZ OR PRO FOOTBALL. Despite his personal challenges, Somazzi has not given up, and he and Cryptogramophone’s Gauthier are acting as a pair of bolt cutters in a nation of artistic shackles: They’ve expanded the fest to two days and invited a dream lineup. Here’s a rundown, listed from closers to openers.
SUNDAY: Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy is the brass ensemble of a borderline avant-garde trumpeter whose combination of chops, taste and daring has enabled him to make an actual living at it! Don’t step out for the short set of pianist Larry Karush, a little-known local master who stirs up a shockingly inspired brew of musics from around the world. Billy Childs’ Jazz-Chamber Ensemble shows off the disciplined beauty of the perennially Grammy-nominated pianist’s compositions with the assistance of drums (Smitty Smith!), bass, guitar, winds, harp (!) and a string quartet (!). A scaled-down version of The Gathering will nevertheless generate the kind of African elevation that saxist Jesse Sharps and vocalist Dwight Trible helped invent when they were rocking the stage with Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra some three decades ago. I sometimes find pianist Satoko Fujii abstract to the point of vapor, but her quartet today includes two of the very, very finest musicians in avant jazz, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black. Opening the day at 4pm is Plays Monk, the avant supertrio of clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola, the kind of guys who make thinking hurt good.
MONDAY: You know the austere, harmonically stretched neoclassical compositions that the great L.A. windman Eric Dolphy was coming up with toward the early end of his life in 1964? Well, Dolphy never got around to recording some of them, and saxist-flutist-clarinetist Bennie Maupin (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock) has managed to secure the scores from Dolphy’s estate. He’s also secured world-class musicians: drummer Billy Hart, bassist Darek Oles, flutist Nestor Torres and vibesman Jay Hoggard. Pianist Motoko Honda’s short set is also no time for a bathroom break; her electronic treatments and intuitive logic are fascinating, especially when enhanced with the explosive/static butoh dance of Oguri. In a more traditional vein, who can resist the goosh of a bluesy Hammond organ, especially when a gent with fingers like Larry Goldings is kneading it in a trio with drummer Bill Stewart and guitarist Peter Bernstein? Following in the footsteps of last year's fest, the singerless Nels Cline Singers (the guitarist with bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola) will be essaying a quieter-than-usual tribute to West Coast jazz, abetted by Jeff Parker of Tortoise and some special guests. (Cline does a meet-and-greet after his set.) Keyboardist Wayne Horvitz has been plumbing the quieter realms of inner space in recent years, this time with a Gravitas Quartet featuring intriguing trumpet-cello-bassoon instrumentation from Ron Miles, Peggy Lee and Sara Schoenbeck. If you don’t want to miss some of the most inspirational music of the fest, get there in time for drummer Alex Cline’s Band of the Moment, which has been hitting unbelievable heights of late, here with violinist Jeff Gauthier, keyboardists Wayne Peet and David Witham, and bassist Steuart Liebig.
Damn, this is gonna be fun.
At the wonderful John Anson Ford outdoor amphitheater in Hollywood’s Cahuenga Pass, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East 90068; 4-11pm; $35 per day; food and drink available on site or bring your own picnic basket; you probably want to avoid the $5 stacked parking, but free shuttles run every 15-20 minutes from the Universal City Metro station at the junction of Lankershim Boulevard and Campo de Cahuenga (Universal Place); buy tix at www.fordtheatre.com; listen to clips of the artists here.
Wed. Sept. 9 -- Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey find the most listenable ways to make jazz new. Read my review of their new EP here. At Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood 90028; 8 & 10pm; $15 (cheap!); (323) 466-2210; www.catalinajazzclub.com.
Wed. Sept. 9 -- Ryan Moore, a.k.a. Twilight Circus Dub Sound System, is quite simply the finest latter-day exponent of dub. The bass, the dynamics, the riddmic simplicity, the freak factor -- just crushing. He will be deejaying with his own dub plates; Dub Club’s superb house selectors Tom Chasteen, Roy Corduroy, the Dungeonmaster and Boss Harmony will open (worth hearing every Wednesday on the Plex’s righteous speakers). At the EchoPlex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park 90026; whaddaya mean it’s FREE before 10pm and only $5 after?; www.attheecho.com.
Wed. Sept. 9 -- Topnotch metal bill: Tampa’s Obituary, Brazil’s Krisiun (who made one of my favorite albums last year, reviewed here, L.A.’s Goatwhore, more. At the Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood 90069; 6:30pm; $28; 15+; www.keyclub.com; (310) 274-5800.
Wed. Sept. 9 -- Variegated world-class metal with 3 Inches of Blood, Saviours, Abysmal Dawn, more. At the Knitting Factory, 7021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood 90028; 8pm; $14; http://la.knittingfactory.com.
Thurs. Sept. 10 -- Guitarist Chris Poland thinks drummer Kofi Baker (son of Ginger) adds that extra psychedelic edge to his fusion trio Ohm, and I agree. At the Baked Potato, 3787 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Studio City 91604; 9:30 & 11:30pm; $20; (818) 980-1615.