Jazz Pick of the Week – Kenny Werner Quintet


Pianist Kenny Werner is best known as a longtime accompanist of harmonica legend Toots Thielemans, who’s still playing unspeakably beautiful and sophisticated music at the age of 89. But Werner is also one of jazz’s most prodigious bandleaders.

An improviser of fearless temperament, he has a gift for transforming personnel who look interesting together on paper into sensational ensembles. Featuring an all-star quintet with tenor saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeter Randy Brecker, his latest CD “Balloons” (HalfNote) is a case in point.

Jazz Pick of the Week – Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch


Southern California and the Bay Area both boast large and fervently creative communities of jazz-steeped sonic explorers, but there’s surprisingly little cross pollination between the two scenes. Hopefully bassist/composer Lisa Mezzacappa’s SoCal sojourn this week will set some interesting collaborations in motion. She’s performing a series of gigs around the region with her rough and tumble quartet Bait & Switch, a garage jazz band steeped in the avant-garde lexicon of Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Eric Dolphy, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

Jazz Pick of the Week – Benefit for Barbara Morrison


Barbara Morrison always demurs when she’s described as a jazz singer, asserting that her primary and predominant allegiance is to the blues. But over the course of a career spanning five decades, she has earned the love and respect of an international array of jazz artists, and now that community is rallying to her at a difficult hour.

Jazz Pick of the Week – Judy Wexler at Vitello’s


Not to complain, but jazz writers are regularly besieged by press releases comparing the latest young singer to Ella, Sarah and Dinah, hype that always seems to accompany a CD by a winsome vocalist with a pellucid tone and bland, unformed musical personality.

Jazz Pick of the Week – Roseanna Vitro: “The Randy Newman Project”


Every once in a while you come across an idea so good it’s hard to figure out why no one’s acted on it before. That’s how I felt hearing veteran jazz singer Roseanna Vitro’s new album “The Music of Randy Newman.” Working closely with veteran pianist and longtime collaborator Mark Soskin, Vitro infuses Newman’s songs with her soul-deep feel for blues and gospel. The results are revelatory, insistently raising the question of why no jazz singer has previously tackled a Randy Newman project.

Jazz Pick of the Week – Taylor Eigsti Quartet


Bay Area-raised jazz pianist Taylor Eigsti was already a seasoned veteran when he moved to Los Angeles at 18 to study music at USC, with several albums to his credit and numerous high profile gigs under his belt. Now based in New York City, he returns to LA on Sunday for a performance at Catalina’s with his extraordinary quartet featuring vocalist Becca Stevens, bassist Rueben Rogers and drummer Kendrick Scott. He’ll be focusing on music from last year’s Concord Jazz release “Daylight at Midnight.” While always responding to jazz’s improvisational imperative, the 26-year-old Eigsti has found inspiration in contemporary pop songs by artists such as Elliott Smith, Bjork, Coldplay, and Nick Drake, essentially building on a jazz tradition that dates back to Louis Armstrong’s stunning reinvention of Tin Pan Alley tunes in the 1920s.

Jazz Pick of the Week – Bill Frisell Trio Takes on Buster Keaton, Jim Woodring and Bill Morrison


With his perpetually dazed, beatific gaze, jazz guitarist and composer Bill Frisell found an ideal creative foil in the deadpan mug of silent film genius Buster Keaton. An ongoing relationship first documented on Frisell’s 1995 albums “Music for Films of Buster Keaton: Go West” and “Music for Films of Buster Keaton: One Week and High Sign” (Nonesuch), Frisell revisits his evocative scores for the three films Saturday afternoon at UCLA’s Royce Hall with bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen (the original recordings featured bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Joey Baron).