For several decades, sax whirlwind Joe Lovano has been one of the premiere forces preserving and expanding the post-bop tradition. Whether pursing complex and imaginative original compositions or backing up giants such as McCoy Tyner and Dave Holland, there's fire, wit and integrity in everything he does.
Lovano is often at his best leading one of his "Us" ensembles, which bring together some of the brightest talents working the New York jazz scene. The current Us Five -- featuring a sassy little bassist named Esperanza Spalding (I hear she can sing, too) -- checks into Yoshi's Oakland for shows at 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Tickets are $20 and $25.
Also worth noting on the Bay Area jazz scene this week:
- The Mingus Big Band, dedicated to promoting the work of composer, bassist and provocateur Charles Mingus, performs 8 p.m. Friday at Stanford Univeristy's swell new Bing Hall. $10-$56
- Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley celebrates the grand "gypsy jazz" legacy of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli with classes, clinics and concerts by the Turtle Island Quartet (8 p.m. Saturday, $26.50-$28.50) and the David Girsman Sextet (8 p.m. Sunday, $36.50-$39.50).
- Veteran jazz vocalist Stephanie Crawford shows how the pros swing it, 8 p.m. Friday at Berkeley's Jazzschool. $12-$15
- Disappear Incompletely, led by trombonist Rob Ewing, re-imagines the music of Radiohead, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Red Poppy Art House.
- The San Francisco Quartet, comprised of some of the Bay Area's top instrumentalists, celebrates an "Ode to Swing," 4 p.m. Sunday at Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland. $20
- Saxophonist Michael Zilber and bassist Jeff Denson anchor a new quartet dedicated to the unexpected, performing 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Berkeley's Jazzschool. $12-$15
- Oh, right -- SFJAZZ also has some little shindig happening in Hayes Valley this week.