LAJC Picks: Michael Mull Octet, Steel House Trio, Vijay Iyer, Brad Mehldau Trio/Bad Plus, Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz

by Gary Fukushima

It’s a packed week of really good shows in Los Angeles.  Every now and then our cup runneth over…


source code

Michael Mull Octet
Thursday, December 4  8pm
Curve Line Space
All Ages

First up is saxophonist/clarinetist and composer/arranger Michael Mull, with the release of his new album for octet, Source Code (Orenda Records).  Mull is an exceptional player and improviser, but he really has a gift for understanding the intricacies of jazz harmony and orchestration, which is why this twenty-something has already been hired to teach jazz arranging and lead a big band at the vaunted CalState Northridge jazz program.  He’s had this octet for a few years now, and it’s exciting to see the project mature and coalesce into a finished product.  Kudos also to Curve Line Space, the Eagle Rock art gallery which has been providing an increasingly steady stream of good shows.



Edward Simon, Scott Colley, Brian Blade


Steel House with Edward Simon, Scott Colley, and Brian Blade
Thursday, December 4 and Friday, December 5
$20 presale; $25 door

All-star bands are usually a hit-and-miss prospect; sometimes you get the ’96 Olympic Dream Team, other times you get the ’04 Lakers.  This big three, however, shouldn’t fail to exceed expectations.  Pianist Edward Simon is at the top of his game, playing in the SF Jazz Collective (another all-star team) for the past four years.  Bassist Scott Colley is one of the best in the world (and the best bassist from Eagle Rock High School).  Brian Blade has toured with Seal, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell, yet he remains one of the most creative and dynamic jazz drummers alive.


Vijay Iyer
Friday, December 5 8pm
UCLA Center for the Art of Performance

The pianist has won almost every award the past three years, including the rare JazzTimes “quadruple crown” (best artist, group, pianist, album), allowing comparisons to Katy Perry, or maybe even One Direction.  The latter actually doesn’t fit, as Iyer seems everywhere at once, touring as an improvising musician, lecturing as a full-time professor at Harvard, and lately, writing music for chamber groups.  This show presents music from his debut on ECM, Mutations I-X, featuring a traditional classical string quintet w/ the composer on piano, and RADHE RADHE: Rites of Holi, a work for music and film to be presented simultaneously.  Up next, writing songs for One Direction.


Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson (credit: John Rogers)


Brad Mehldau Trio, The Bad Plus
Saturday, December 6 8pm
Valley Performing Arts Center

If it were boxing, it would be the main event of two heavyweight champion piano trios. In one corner, Brad Mehldau is the reigning king of jazz piano, whose pianistic prowess has knocked people out for two decades. In the other, the Bad Plus have developed a sound concept with taut execution and ferocious yet restrained intensity that allows them to explore a rock aesthetic, even as they play free jazz. These two über groups have taken the piano trio genre to places heretofore never ventured, which for this show means the Valley. BMT vs. TBP, the Rumble on Reseda!!!


Kate McGarry & Keith Ganz
Saturday, December 6 9pm

Their new duo album is called Genevive & Ferdinand, after McGarry’s middle name. Overlooking the oddity of a woman having a middle name Ferdinand, Kate and Keith have put together a married musical act to rival the Dresden’s Marty and Elayne. If McGarry would only stop singing jazz, she would be a star on the singer/songwriter circuit — her marvelous voice effluences unguarded power and affecting detail — but then she would no longer be one of the best and most interesting jazz singers alive. Ganz’s nylon-string guitar playing is excellent and tactfully supportive, a clinic on how a husband helps his wife to be her best self.



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