Breaking down Angel City Jazz Festival's 'Global Jam'
Now in its fourth year, If there's one thing the Angel City Jazz Festival doesn't do is play it safe. Though it began as a more conventional, single-day affair at Barnsdall Art Park, Angel City now sprawls across the city with seven nights at multiple venues including its third, multi-act festival at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. It begins Thursday with shows at the intimate Blue Whale in Little Toyko.
Calling this year's theme a "Global Jam," the festival again offers a fascinating sampling of the best that modern jazz has to offer. The festival may not have something for everyone, but odds are if you're curious about where jazz is headed in 2011, there's something here for you.
Thursday, Sept. 22 - The Necks
A magic act masquerading as a piano trio, this Australian group delivers long-form improvisations that shift with such patient beauty that it casts a bit of a trance. You'll seldom spend an hour that passes so quickly -- and rewardingly. The Blue Whale, 8:30 and 10 p.m. $20, $30 for both sets.
Friday, Sept. 23 - Young Artist Competition winner, Larry Karush
In the first competition of its kind for the festival, winners from a field of artists ages 16-24 judged by a panel of educators perform a free show opening for pianist Larry Karush. LACMA, 6 p.m. Free.
Saturday, Sept. 24 - Burkina Electric with DJ Spooky
Led by Lukas Ligeti (son of composer György Ligeti), Burkina Electric's driving mix of West African sounds and modern electronica should take on new complexity with DJ Spooky, an artist who has built a career out of a twisted, turntable-driven exploration of jazz's spirit. The Echoplex, 9 p.m. $20-25.
In a show at the Hammer last month, bassist Todd Sickafoose offered a brilliant mix of propulsive jazz touched with wistful folk that featured violinist Jenny Scheinman. Bleckmann, a singular vocalist who spans the gap between new music and jazz, should make for a beguiling opener. REDCAT, 7 p.m. $25.
The festival tilts toward the sound of Latin America with a date with the young Colombia-born harpist Castaneda, whose unique sound carries a nimble, flamenco-jazz drive. Venezuelan pianist Ruiz should also throw sparks in a pairing with Mancini's swinging vibraphone. Zipper Hall, Colburn School of Music, 8 p.m. $25.
Saturday, Oct. 1 - Angel City Jazz Festival's 'Global Jam'
If you can only go to one of these events, this night offers the closest one-stop approximation of its expansive mission. Featuring a stacked roster of international talent including Downbeat's "alto sax player of the year" Rudresh Mahanthappa, young pianist Tigran Hamasyan, the sprawling improvisations of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura and local jazz institution the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 5 p.m. $45.
Sunday, Oct. 2 - Roscoe Mitchell Trio, For People in Sorrow - An Homage by Alex Cline
A night dedicated to the ongoing legacy of avant-garde composer Roscoe Mitchell, who will perform in a trio featuring drummer William Winant and fellow woodwind player James Fei. An expansive improvisor as part of Chicago's groundbreaking Assn. for the Advancement of Creative Musicians scene, Mitchell will also be celebrated in a star-packed large ensemble led by percussionist Alex Cline, who will reinterpret a piece Mitchell composed for the Art Ensemble of Chicago. REDCAT, 7 p.m. $30.
-- Chris Barton
Photo: Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, scheduled to perform with Satoko Fujii at the Angel City Jazz Festival. Credit: Angel City Arts.