The Angel City Jazz Festival returns for a powerful third edition, assembling a world class collection of must-see concerts and unique events, most with ironclad LA connections. Henry Grimes, Ravi Coltrane, Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, Nels Cline, John Abercrombie, Vijay Ayer, Tim Berne, Dwight Trible, and Motoko Honda are only some of the musicians populating the Festival’s celestial landscape. Jamming with the musicians at various points in the week-long journey will be poet David Breskin, legendary LA artist Ed Ruscha, film maker Steve Elkins, and master chefs Paul Canales and Kelsey Bergstrom, who will improvise a meal based on an all star improvised performance. Imagine being able to savor the flavor of Jeff Gauthier’s violin.
Festival founder and co-producer Rocco Somazzi brings his usual excellent taste and creativity to all aspects of the proceedings. His many years of staging daring, innovative, and rewarding shows in LA have earned him a reputation as one of the city’s cultural game changers. His long running series in Hollywood, staged in an old studio of Buster Keaton’s, provided a venue for many young artists, as well as showcasing veterans who worked outside of post-bop.
Recognizing the achievements of the previous festivals, several sponsors have come onboard this year expanding Festival ever further. Sumptuous seating and some of the best acoustics in the city welcome audience members to opening night at REDCAT, Oct. 2, featuring the return of Henry Grimes. Avant garde dragon Grimes walked away from music at a peak in his success, only to reemerge in LA decades later. Now a busy in-demand New York jazz star, Grimes’ LA send off show occurred at Rocco’s. Joining Grimes will be the stellar crew of Wadada Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, Ben Rosenbloom, and Alex Cline. Opener, singer Dwight Trible, with pianist John Beasley, can fill that hall without microphone, and he’ll be joining the Grimes band for a number, or two.
The second day boasts five blistering bands at the beautiful Ford amphitheater. Bring a blanket, although there should be enough heat radiating off of this stage to wilt the greenery. Ravi Coltrane returns to LA, good news for ears everywhere. Co-leading with Ralph Alessi, this frontline promises to pack a powerful punch. Larry Koonse makes it a guitar quintet, with the rhythm section of Steve Hass and Darek Oles feeding the flame.
The intensity becomes slightly more spacious when Wadada Leo Smith reconvenes a new version of his sublime Golden Quartet, this time with the great Vijay Iyer in the piano chair. John Lindberg and Phaeroan akLaff round out the band.
Then The Lung, as Nels Cline calls him, Vinny Golia, bringing in an electric sextet which will no doubt give the Sons a run for their money. The bill finishes with the young powerhouse, Kneebody, a quintet of fearless and gifted musicians, once regulars on the local scene, now lost to NY. Anyone still associating jazz with lounge music should spend the evening at the Ford getting the knots combed out of their aesthetics.
Day three features one of the most intriguing art events in recent memory. Master chefs compose a meal inspired by improvised music and dance. And what a band: Myra Melford, Nels Cline, Jeff Gauthier, Yuka Honda, Mark Dresser, and Alex Cline, meet Chefs Paul Canales and Kelsey Bergstrom of Oakland’s Oliveto Restaurant. Oguri performs the dance. This performance benefits the shows’ producer, Angel City Arts.
After a two breather, LACMA’s Bing Theatre plays host to another interdisciplinary collaboration, this time between Nels Cline, Ed Ruscha, and David Breskin. Ruscha’s Silhouettes and Cityscapes will be projected, while Cline leads 2 ensembles in performing his compositions, and Breskin reads his ghazals.
Motoko Honda explores her sonic world on piano at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater on day four, and a documentary called the “Reach of Resonance,” by Steve Elkins will screen. The film features several sound artists, including a virtuoso fence player, a musician who uses sound to connect with insects and plants, and an artist who uses music to study geophysical phenomena in Alaska. Film Forum cosponsors the event.
Finally, the much loved and lamented Jazz Bakery cameos on the last day as cosponsors, bringing the action to the Musician’s Institute Theater with a performance by legendary guitarist, John Abercrombie and his quartet.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll talk to several players involved with the Festival, but don’t wait until then to get tickets, as several venues may sell out. For tickets and more information go to: www.angelcityjazz.com