By Don Heckman
- Dec. 27 – Jan 1. (Tues. through Sunday) Jane Monheit. The beautiful Monheit gets an early start, ramping up all week to the big Saturday night New Year’s celebration. And what better way to bring in 2012 than by hearing her velvet voice and gentle swing delivering “Auld Lang Syne.” Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.
- Dec. 28. (Wed.) Joe Bagg Organ Trio. Bagg’s unique approach to the B-3, which happily avoids most of the predictable repetitions often heard from the instrument, makes his gigs especially appealing musical events. He’s backed by Steve Cotter, bass and Ryan Doyle, drums. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.
- Dec. 28. (Wed.) Gerald Clayton Trio. Pianist Clayton, blessed with musically rich genes (his Dad is bassist/composer/bandleader John Clayton, his uncle alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton) has thoroughly established himself as one of the most important new jazz arrivals of the past few years. Steamers. (714) 871-8800.
- Dec. 29. (Thurs.) Luciana Souza. Brazil’s Souza brings far-ranging musicality to the jazz vocal art, adept in the music of her native land, well-versed in jazz and contemporary classical music, always a pleasure to hear because of her quest to explore fascinating creative territories. She’ll be well-aided toward that goal by guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist David Piltch. Blue Whale. (213) 620-0908.
- Dec. 29. (Turs.) Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band. Yes, the filmmaker/comedian really does play the clarinet, and does it well via a deep understanding of the essential elements of New Orleans music in general, and the New Orleans clarinet style in particular. Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.
- Dec. 29. (Thurs.) Billy Mitchell & Friends. Pianist and all-around entertaining jazz artist Mitchell is featured at In-House Music’s early New Year’s Eve party, complete with cocktails, party hats, streamers, dancing and more. With Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet, Rob Kyle, saxophone, Tomas Gargano, bass, Frank Wilson, drums. LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza LAX. Information: In-House Music. (310) 216-5861.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
- Dec. 20 & 31. (Fri. & Sat.) Billy Childs Quartet. The live performance by pianist Child’s musically compelling quartet — with Childs’ exploratory, ever searching piano playing in company with the saxophones of Bob Sheppard, the bass of Tim Lefebvre and the drums of Gary Novak — will also be delivered over FM radio via a live broadcast on NPR. Blue Whale. (213) 620-0908.
- Dec. 31. (Sat.) Brazilian New Year’s Eve Celebration. Here’s a spectacular new way to celebrate the arrival of 2012, aboard the historic ocean liner, The Queen Mary. Rio’s Marcos Ariel, his keyboards and his Quartet will cover the full range of Carioca music — from samba to bossa nova to chorinho. The samba dancers of Joany’s Samba Show will display the latest dance moves, and DJ Chris Brasil will keep the beat alive. At midnight, 2012 will come in amid a spectacular fireworks show. Rio de Janeiro at the Queen Mary. (818) 566-1111.
- Dec. 31. (Sat.) Sherry Williams. The smooth sounding voice, effortless swing and artful interpretive skills of Williams still don’t receive the full attention they deserve. She’ll be backed in this elegant celebratory night by the Pat Senatore Quartet. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.
- Dec, 31, (Sat.) Frank Strazzeri. Pianist Strazzeri’s diverse career path has led from Dixieland jazz (with Al Hirt) through the bop years (with Charlie Ventura and Woody Herman), West Coast jazz (with Art Pepper, Chet Baker and more) and still swinging into the present. This time out, he’ll be leading his stellar Legacy Group, with George Harper, tenor saxophone, Steve Johnson, trombone, Jeff Littleton, bass and Kenny Elliott, drums. JAX Bar & Grill. (818) 500-1604.
- Dec. 31. (Sat.) Jane Monheit. New Years Eve celebration. See above. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.
- Dec. 31. (Sat.) New Year’s Eve with Pink Martini. The ultimate cabaret act, Pink Martini – mixing their originals with such camp-edged classics as “Amado Mio” from the film Gilda — find common ground between French cabaret, jazz, Latin dance music, Brazilian samba and a lot more. They’ll bring in the New Year with a memorable collection of songs. Disney Hall. (323) 650-2000.
- Dec. 31. (Sat.) Chris Williams Sextet. Moving freely across mainstream, Latin and bebop territory, Williams spices his vocals with a dramatic ability to find the essential meaning of a song. Steamers. (714) 871-8800.
- Dec. 29 – 31. (Thurs. – Sat.) Maceo Parker’s New Year’s Party. Alto saxophonist Parker has been a definitive voice of funk and soul since his prominent visibility with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic. And he’s still going strong. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.
- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.) Roy Hargrove Quintet. Grammy winning trumpeter Roy Hargrove has thoroughly established himself – at 42 – as one of the jazz world’s most versatile artists, moving compellingly across jazz and pop styles, from small groups to his own big band. Jazz Showcase. (312) 360-0234.
- Dec. 28 – 31. (Wed. – Sat.) Monty Alexander. Alexander’s articulate jazz skills made him one of the most admired post-Oscar Peterson, bebop-driven pianists. But more than that, he’s enhanced those skills with fascinating inner tinges of the sounds and rhythms of his native Jamaica. Blues Alley. (202) 337-4141.
- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.) Wynton Marsalis: ”The Music of Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver.” Few contemporary jazz artists understand – or even care to understand – the compelling musical delights of the music of Morton as well as Wynton Marsalis does. And in addition to authenticity, Marsalis brings joyful, timeless swing to his memorable performances of works from these iconic jazz figures. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. (212) 258-9800.
- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.) The Bad Plus. The trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to carry the torch for ever-evolving new views of the classic piano jazz trio. Village Vanguard. l (212) 255-4037.
- Dec. 27 – Jan. 1. (Tues. – Sun.) Chris Botti. An epic three week run — with two shows every evening — wraps up with a climactic New Year’s weekend for trumpeter Botti and his all-star collection of players. Enhancing the music — the far-ranging versatility of singer Lisa Fischer. Tickets may be hard, even impossible to get. But it’s worth the effort to hear the best-selling American jazz instrumental artist in action. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.
- Dec. 27 – Dec. 31. (Tues. – Sat.) The Harlem Gospel Choir. The 40-voice choir has established itself over the past 2 ½ decades, in performances around the world, for their expressive interpretations of the classic gospel repertoire. The Blue Note Milano. 02.69.01.68.88.
- Dec. 29 – 31. Thurs. – Sat.) Fourplay. The Fourplay quartet, often identified in the contemporary, even the smooth jazz, arena has always nonetheless maintained a solid connection with mainstream jazz roots. And the addition of guitarist Chuck Loeb to the original trio of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason has further enhanced Fourplay’s musical solidity. The Blue Note Tokyo. 03.5485.0088.
Billy Childs and Wynton Marsalis photos by Tony Gieske.