Fri. July 6 -- The ever-inventive vibesman/composer Nick Mancini has been lurking in his laboratory cooking up new sounds, and he's back leading a sextet with the vet big-band leader John Daversa on trumpet, plus cellist Artyom Manukyan, pianist Gary Fukushima, bassist Dave Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle. At the Blue Whale on the third level 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.
Fri. July 6 -- The other day I stumbled across a TV replay of a 2004 concert dubbed "The Strat Pack," a memorial of the Stratocaster's 50th anniversary. There stood David Gilmour, Joe Walsh, Ron Wood, Brian May, Phil Manzanera and a host of other Stratmasters, but who plucked the cleanest, tightest strings? A tiny smiling white-haired dude named Albert Lee (not Alvin Lee). Not every music fan knows the name, but most every guitar player does. At McCabe’s, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica 90405; 8pm show sold out, second show 10pm; $25; (310) 828-4497; www.mccabes.com.
Sun. July 8 -- When it comes to improvising avant quartets, few have more chemistry than Polarity Taskmasters: flutist-vocalist Emily Hay, pianist Motoko Honda, percdude Brad Dutz and keysman Wayne Peet. Read my live review of three-fourths of this unit here. At Alva’s Show Room, 1417 W. Eighth St., San Pedro 90732; EARLY SHOW 4pm; $20; www.alvasshowroom.com; (800) 403-3447, reservations suggested.
Wed. July 11 -- An exeptional two-unit night, so stay for both: Opening is the duo of extrapolated trumpeter Dan Clucas and percussion outman Ted Byrnes; the second set is the quartet-plus of adventurous yet tasteful saxist Beth Schenck, bassist Devin Hoff, drummer Corey Fogel and wind shiva Vinny Golia, plus a Special Guest whose name I could possibly guess from the context but I'm not gonna risk it. At the Blue Whale on the third level 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.
Wed. July 11 -- Can't argue with paying Tribute to Ray Charles, especially since we get a mutation of the Count Basie Orchestra featuring the likes of George Duke, Terence Blanchard, Houston Person and Tom Scott, and Special Guests such as Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Martina McBride and Dee Dee Bridgewater. According to Spot, who lived on the same street as Ray, the Legend wasn't really blind -- drove his riding lawnmower with uncanny precision. At the Hollywood Bowl, 2301 Highland Ave., Hollywood 90068; 8pm; $2-$146; (323) 850-2000; www.hollywoodbowl.com.
Wed. July 11 -- Local saxist Charles Owens, who knows how to please any room with deft standards, shoulder-shaking rhythms or wild-ass improvisations, makes a rare appearance at one of L.A.'s last remaining posh jazz spots, fronting his crack quartet. Read my LA Times article here. At Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood 90028; 8:30 & 10:30pm; $15; (323) 466-2210; www.catalinajazzclub.com.
Wed. July 11 -- When it came to Judas Priest imitators, L.A.'s Malice had it down in the '80s. Their current lineup includes original guitarist Jay Reynolds and a couple other dudes who've been with them on and off for ages. With vintage L.A. thrashers Heretic (featuring two original members), plus Steelgrave, Exterminate and more. At the Whisky, 8901 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood 90069; 7pm; $13; www.whiskyagogo.com; (310) 652-4202.
Thurs. July 12 -- I first saw Edwin Livingston play bass several years ago with Leni Stern (she's here on the 21st, by the way), and his feel & technique really grabbed me. After catching him in other contexts, I have retained the respect, and he's got a stellar band tonight showcasing his own tunes in an acoustic and then an electric set: drummer Smitty Smith, guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, windman Keith Fiddmont and vocalist Lynn Fiddmont. At the Blue Whale on the third level 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.
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Most avantists have dug John Coltrane's 1965 mass blowout "Ascension," and ROVA Saxophone Quartet are no exception. They dig it so deep, in fact, that they're putting on a concert September 7 at the Guelph Jazz Festival in Ontario, Canada, with musicians including Nels Cline, Carla Kihlstedt, Fred Frith, Rob Mazurek and more. They also aspire to making a pro DVD out of the show with the aid of Kickstarter; they're halfway toward their goal and would love you to push them toward the top with a contribution here.