Fri. Aug. 5 -- I caught Leni Stern again last night (Thursday) and had my mind regrooved. Her upcoming "Sabani" shows a quieter, more acoustic side to her thoroughly grounded African music; she says she wanted the songwriting to come through more clearly. So I was surprised to see her in her normal electric quartet format, but delighted to hear how skillfully she adapted that format to the new tunes. Surinamese drummer Harvey Wirht applied a light, insistent touch to his traps that kept the airways open; he also put a serious whomp on a calabash when required. Most of the time, the talking drum of Kofo felt almost subliminal; although he calls himself "the Wonderman," he showed himself a real team player, ultrasensitive to the precision required to make the complex rhythms work. His rough-throated singing fugue with the more delicate Stern rang completely natural, as if they were jamming around a bush campfire. Having ridden in the Stern Caravan for a few years now, 7-foot bassist Mamadou Ba has developed a true rapport with Stern's guitar, as several perky unison runs showed. He shaded his solos with amazing subtlety -- I kept looking at his feet for effects boxes (especially when he did that little pluck-strum thing), and there warn't none. Stern sang with light soul from the deepest subtext of her lyrics about love, loss and beauty. Her electric guitar spieled out in bright, inviting weaves, and then she'd briefly transcend into a seemingly unrelated alternate scale and just about saw yer heart out. Big chrome-plated minor-7th chords -- WHANG! WHANG! Finished with a deft acoustic turn on the little six-string n'goni, too. Audience: much applause and bobbing of heads. Stern told me she's experimenting with what she called baritone guitar -- just a normal electric with thicker strings, tuned down to a B. Hey, that's a METAL method; mayhap she'll tour with fellow New Yorkers Suffocation and make my metaljazz dream come true. Anyway, Long Beach ain't that far; make the drive. At Alva’s Show Room, 1417 W. Eighth St., San Pedro 90732; 8pm; $20; www.alvasshowroom.com; (800) 403-3447, reservations suggested.
Fri. Aug. 5 -- Saxist Ben Wendel of Kneebody keeps reconfiguring himself, but you can always expect ear-friendly modern abstraction with a taste of funk and rock. Tonight's ensemble includes old pal Mark Ferber on drums along with John Escreet (who's got a charged-up new album with Dave Binney and Wayne Krantz) on keys and Dave Robaire on bass. At the Blue Whale on the third floor of Weller Court Plaza, south of East First Street between South Los Angeles Street and South San Pedro Street, Little Tokyo 90012; 9pm-midnight; $10; validated parking underneath off Second Street at the sign of the P in a circle; (213) 620-0908; www.bluewhalemusic.com.
Sun. Aug. 7 -- At about 10 years, windman Pask is the new kid in the avant-stardust reeds-keys-bass-drums ensemble of Andrew Pask-Wayne Peet-Steuart Liebig-Alex Cline; the others basically suckled at the same wolf teat, and all four share one incredible improvisin' brain. Plenty of local respect too with the guitar-trumpet-trombone trio of Tom McNalley-Jeff Kaiser-Michael Vlatkovich -- McNalley rarely applies his zippin' electric skatery to drumless ensembles, so it'll be helium to see how the atmo piles up. At Center for the Arts, 2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock 90041; 7pm; $10; (626) 795-4989.
Sun. Aug. 7 -- Here's an imaginative meld of kinda traditional and shades of outness, reminds me of something you might've seen with Coleman Hawkins around 1960. It's keyboardist Theo Saunders' sextet with saxist Chuck Manning (cool + Trane = LA Jazz Quartet), alto man Zane Musa (wildman bop), trombonist Joey Sellars (an avant genius with a flair for arrangement), and the beat-conscious rhythms of bassist Jeff Littleton and drummer Tony Austin to hold it all together. Brick Wahl forwarded me this bulletin, and I'm gonna miss pillaging his fine column for similar low-profile gig shouts that nobody sent me. You may know that he quit LA Weekly, and is happy as a clam in a gulf o' tequila to be a civilian music fan again. Part of the "Jazz on the Lawn" (or is it "Jazz on the Lam"?) series in front of Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main St., Santa Monica 90401; 5-7pm; FREE; free parking at the nearby Santa Monica Civic Center, 1855 Main St.
Sun. Aug. 7 -- Veteran Chicago metal twisters Macabre top a terrific bill featuring Colorado's Cephalic Carnage (pictured; brilliant superheavy abstraction and theater, love these guys), Withered (damburst death & blackness) and Enthraller. At the Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood 90069; 7:30pm; $14; 18+; www.keyclub.com; (310) 274-5800.
Mon. Aug. 8 -- Can it be that Sascha Konietzko has found a permanent vocalist in Lisa Cifarelli? I guess KMFDM is TWO people and their heavy friends now, pounding an enormous factory of dance metal that will make you buy earplugs by the case. Always great lights and great sound, almost like 20 years ago but a bit less arty now. With Army of the Universe, 16 Volt, Human Factors Lab. At the Mayan Theater, 1038 S. Hill St., downtown 90015; 8pm; looks like it's sold out, but, y'know; www.livenation.com.
Wed. Aug. 10 -- When it comes to reggae, I'm more of a riddims bwai than a singah devotee, but vet chirper Marcia Griffiths will tolerate no weak vampires behind her. Keep in mind that the house DJs also spin the very deepest trax. At the EchoPlex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park 90026; doors 8pm; $15, $10 before 10pm; www.attheecho.com.
Thurs. Aug. 11 -- Did you know that our fave vibraphonist, Nick Mancini, learned to play every Rush hit on drums when he was a kid? Request "2112" on vibes, but it'll be way enough if he and his quartet with Vardan Ovsepian stick to the jazzier beauty & brilliance side of things. At the Blue Whale on the third floor of Weller Court Plaza, south of East First Street between South Los Angeles Street and South San Pedro Street, Little Tokyo 90012; 9pm-midnight; $10; validated parking underneath off Second Street at the sign of the P in a circle; (213) 620-0908; www.bluewhalemusic.com.
You can't read Brick Wahl’s jazz picks in LA Weekly anymore, because he decided to go sane, but you can still read Don Heckman’s jazz picks here and MoshKing's metal listings here. Read John Payne's plutonic Bluefat.com here.