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ALL THAT JAZZ

Alex and Luckman Theaters Heating Up the Music Scene

August 09, 1996|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The jazz schedules for the 1996-97 season are beginning to shape up nicely, with one new venue, the Alex Theatre in Glendale, and one nearly new venue, Cal State L.A.'s Luckman Theatre, joining the Southland's list of those with far-ranging programs.

The revived Alex Theatre, now celebrating its 70th anniversary, is one of the best reasons to spend an evening in Glendale. And its jazz lineup, sponsored by Playboy Magazine and titled the "Playboy Jazz Festival in Concert," features an impressive array of talent.

Equally important, virtually every program has been prepared with a different twist. The opening event on Sept. 27, for example, will showcase pianist Marcus Roberts--rapidly becoming one of the most visible jazz players in the country--performing his innovative revision of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Academy of the Ascension Orchestra.

When George Shearing arrives at the Alex on Oct. 30, he will play in a variety of formats, from solo and duo to his classic quintet. Bassist Charlie Haden's popular Quartet West will perform on Nov. 17 with the hot new piano star Jacky Terrasson and his trio, and veteran pianists Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis will pit their opposing styles against each other in a duo presentation on Jan. 10.

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Young lion tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman will play with his group on Feb. 23 on a bill that also includes local heroes pianist Patrice Rushen and drummer Ndugu Chancler with the Jazz Classics. And the series will come to a dramatic close on April 20 with an unusual mixed-media presentation of Jean Bach's much-praised documentary film "A Great Day in Harlem" followed by live music.

The Luckman Theatre returns to action after a wounding experience earlier this year in which several events, most notably a program featuring Ellis and Branford Marsalis, were canceled. But spokeswoman Diane Turner said she anticipates no such problems in the coming year.

"The way our scheduling worked out," she explained, "we had very little time to prepare the way for [the Marsalis] concert. And then it was canceled on us. But this year's programs--we've got four outstanding jazz events--are already locked in, and we're expecting a good turnout for them."

Underscoring the Luckman management's desire to reestablish the venue's credibility with the jazz audience, the first event, on Sept. 29, will be a free concert by the Brotherhood and Sisterhood All Star Jazz Band. Among the players: Buddy Collette, Bobby Rodriguez, Art Davis, Abe Most, Stacey Rowles, Betty O'Hara and others.

On Nov. 8, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, led by Jon Faddis, will perform at Luckman, bringing its new takes on familiar big-band-era hits. Award-winning tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano will appear with the equally acclaimed bassist Christian McBride on March 8, followed by Bobby Rodriguez and the explosive 23-piece Hispanic Musicians Assn. Orchestra on April 27.

More information for these programs can be obtained by calling the Luckman office at (213) 343-6610 and the Alex Theater ticket office at (818) 243-2611.

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Reissue of the Week: It's easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of jazz reissues turning up on record store shelves these days. Delving through the jazz past obviously is advantageous both to record companies (low initial cost, long catalog life) and serious jazz fans (an opportunity to fill in the gaps in a collection).

Rhino Records, aware that there also are listeners who will be perfectly satisfied with broader, less comprehensive compilations, has released the first four CDs in what will eventually be a seven-volume "Masters of Jazz" series. The titles are descriptive of the contents: "Traditional Jazz Classics," "Big Bands of the '30s & '40s," "Bebop's Greatest Hits" and "Big Bands of the '50s & '60s." And each glistens with jazz diamonds: Louis Armstrong's "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," Bix Beiderbecke's "Singin' the Blues," Fletcher Henderson's "King Porter's Stomp," Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy," Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" and "Ko-Ko," Thelonious Monk's " 'Round Midnight," to name only a very few in this warm and wonderful anthology of music.

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Sounds Around Town: There's plenty of Latin jazz on the burner in the next few days. Saxophonist Justo Almario headlines "A Grand Night of Latin Jazz" at the John Anson Ford Theatre Saturday night. . . . Tito Puente (whose new album, "Jazzin'," has just been released, featuring his group performing with the Count Basie Orchestra) appears at the Orange County Performing Arts Center the same night. . . . Pete Escovedo takes his band of rhythm-makers to Universal CityWalk, Sunday. . . . Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba is at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday on a bill with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.

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