LAJC Residency at Blue Whale, Part II, Blue Whale, Los Angeles, CA, Wednesday, January 11, 8pm
Leonard Thompson/Matt Otto duo (CD release)
Ariel Alexander Group
Matt Otto Quintet
Leonard Thompson/Matt Otto Duo
Pianist Leonard Thompson grew up listening to jazz via his father Rex, a well known jazz pianist in Orange County, and eventually followed in his dad's footsteps, after a brief flirtation in college with becoming a geologist. Sexy rocks couldn't pull him away from his true love, and now he has consummated that relationship with the ultimate vow of moving to New York, where he has been living and playing for years now. He is an intensely musical and creatively thoughtful pianist who manages to avoid the temptation to overplay simply to keep pace with a current world of visceral virtuosos. His avoidance of the dark side probably has kept him under the radar in terms of notoriety but is nonetheless a hidden gem of a musician well worth the discovery. His collaborators over the years include San Francisco saxophone legend Harvey Wainapel, Pacific Northwest guitar standout Justin Morell, New York saxophone veteran Rich Perry (no he's not running for President), and his longtime friend, saxophonist Matt Otto, which whom he will be playing with for this set. Otto, who in his youth played with Leonard's father Rex, had featured the junior Thompson in his own band up until Leonard decided to move to New York. They have recorded a number of projects together, including their most recent release, entitled Anima (Jazz Collective Records 2011), a beautiful series of duets exquisitely recorded at a church near Matt's home in Kansas City. Their set will of course feature music from this album. Matt and Leonard, through their years of playing together, have an intimate knowledge of each others' musical choices, and the mind reading will be on display for all to see on Wednesday.
Ariel Alexander Group
Having recently completed her degree at the University of Southern California, Dr. Ariel Alexander is one of the fresher faces to have completed the grueling slog, escaping the asylum with her diploma and all her amazing musical and mental faculties intact, the best years of her life ahead of her. She is an exceptional alto saxophonist, able to perform intricate and nimble calisthenics on her horn with an absurd ease of execution. Her young career has already put her in good company among an elite class of musical stars, having performed with luminaries ranging from Stevie Wonder to Steve Miller, in various settings such as the Kennedy Center in D.C. and on television as part of the vaunted Great Performances" series on PBS. Ariel's most recent project is an electric band featuring brilliant guitarist and her devoted husband Dr. Jon Bremen, pianist and musical improvisational and compositional genius Vardan Ovsepian, noted pop/rock drummer Chaun Horton (who can be seen on tour with the likes of Macy Gray, Natasha Bedingfield, and Colbie Caillat), and bassist extraordinaire Tim Lefebvre, whose recent expatriation to L.A. from NY has managed to disrupt the space-time continuum of jazz in this city with his innovative electronica bass approach and the endless cycle of incredible musician friends out from New York at his behest. This band is probably going to be white-hot, so those planning to go need to do whatever needs to be done to prepare for that.
Matt Otto Quintet
Followers of our blog and subscribers of our emails have undoubtedly read, heard, or have already known about Matt for the entirety of the existence of the Los Angeles Jazz Collective. Some things most people already know about Mr. Otto:
Matt is a really good saxophonist
Matt co-founded the LAJC
Matt moved to Kansas City and is doing great there, thank you very much
Here's some things that aren't as commonly known:
Matt has a cat named Leon
Matt used to be a vegan but now he loves ribs
Kansas City is in Missouri, not Kansas
These days whenever Matt comes back to L.A. it's always a notable event. For this set he is getting his old band back together, featuring the amazing and clever Jason Harnell on drums, who is able to accomplish the rare feat of playing increasingly complex systems of rhythm that are inexplicably easy to follow, a trait that makes Jason one of the best accompanists among his peers in this city. Joining Harnell is bassist Ryan McGillicuddy, as of late has been the sideman of choice for pianistic standouts Russell Ferrante, Bill Cunliffe, Tamir Hendelman, the aforementioned Ovsepian, and pianist Gary Fukushima, who took over for the New York-bound Thompson in Otto's band several years ago, just in time to see Matt also split town. Too bad for Gary. Matt's regular guitarist, Steve Cotter, will be on tour with the great organist Joey DeFrancesco, so in his place we have the more than capable Jamie Rosenn, another longtime friend of Matt's, both collaborators in another notable group (along with drummer Harnell), JoEleSs ShOe. Matt's skill as a composer of jazz is unmatched, his melodies and harmonies intersect with each other in crystalline structural forms that also serve to cradle a vulnerable lyricism that is evident in all his writing. It's great music, and it's also rare music, with very few documented performances and no recordings of the full band. Hopefully both of those items will be remedied in the coming year.
Most of the sets will be recorded as well so those who come to the show as well as absentee fans can relive their favorite moments over and over again. Hopefully there will be more than a few of those moments on display Wednesday evening.