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ALL THAT JAZZ

Saxman Hart Stands for a New Direction

March 28, 1997|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

How can a young lion saxophonist like Antonio Hart stand out from the current, crowded saxophone pack? Not by doing another standards album.

"The record companies have a lot of young guys playing old tunes," says the 28-year-old Hart, who appears at Catalina Bar & Grill beginning Tuesday as a member of pianist Benny Green's quintet. "I've done that kind of thing with [trumpeter] Roy [Hargrove] and on my earlier albums, and that's cool. But I want people to know that I have interests in areas other than mainstream."

Instead, Hart's first album for the Impulse! label, "Here I Stand" (the title comes from Paul Robeson's autobiography, which Hart says inspired him to follow his own muse) spans a number of styles. Blues, beat and Latin sounds share space with an organ trio number featuring keyboardist Shirley Scott and a jazz-meets-poetry piece with street poet Jessica Care Moore.

"I'm not trying to prove that I can do a lot of different things," says Hart, while admitting the record company pushed him to do something more traditional. "But I'm a product of the day. I might spend a week listening to Bob Marley, a week listening to Prince, or rap, and then a week listening to Bartok or Debussy or to Middle Eastern music. My music reflects all those experiences."

The Baltimore-born Hart spent a brief stint with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers while a student at Boston's Berklee School of Music in the late '80s, and is best known as a member of trumpeter Hargrove's combo. He has recently started appearing with Green and is heard on the pianist's latest recording, "Kaleidoscope."

But his focus remains on developing his own audience. "I'm definitely going for a younger crowd. But above all, I'm striving to be an artist, to do something that will identify me, that will separate me from the others. If musicians stuck to the usual all the time, we would have never have had Ornette Coleman or Eric Dolphy or any of the others that now get credit for creating a new direction."

* Antonio Hart appears with the Benny Green Quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, Tuesday-April 6, 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. (213) 466-2210.

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Scene and Heard: John Leitham, best known as Mel Torme's longtime bassist, used the contrasting tenors of Pete Christlieb and Rickey Woodard to spark a live recording session at Catalina Bar & Grill, March 17-18. The Tuesday set featured the wonderfully intricate play of pianist and USC jazz instructor Shelly Berg. . . . Tenor saxophonist Jay Migliori's tone and temper echoed the late Hank Mobley when he joined drummer Danny Pucillo's trio with bassist Leitham and pianist Dick Shreve at Monty's in Woodland Hills March 22. Pucillo leads a trio, often with pianist Tom Ranier and bassist Bob Maize, every Wednesday, then brings in different hornmen every Friday-Saturday. Tonight and Saturday saxophonist Bill Perkins guests. . . . Warm-voiced vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia's first set at Ca del Sole in Studio City on March 22 was so intimate, some in the audience at the friendly, farm-house family room felt invited to chat with her and pianist Marty Harris, making for an impromptu cabaret-styled session of song, laughs and stories. Segal-Garcia sings there every Friday-Saturday, Stephanie Haynes every Thursday.

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Easter Sunday: The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach hosts a jazz LP swap this Sunday at 11 a.m. with guitarist Doug MacDonald, saxophonists Bill Perkins and Dave Sills, pianist Cecilia Coleman and others providing musical entertainment. Attendees are encouraged to bring their old or unwanted recordings to trade. No cover. Information: (310) 542-3431.

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Not So Stormy Monday: Restaurants now livening up the first day of the workweek with music include Typhoon in Santa Monica, where guitarist Bruce Lofgren's Quartet now plays every Monday, (310) 390-6565; Hal's in Venice, with guitarist Hideaki Tokunaga Saturday and saxophonist Dale Fielder, April 7, (310) 396-3105; Hollywood's Miceli's with keyboardist Karen Hernandez and vocalist Jimmy Spencer, (213) 466-3438; Ca del Sole, which has just added pianist-vocalist Ron Kalina on Mondays, (818) 985-4669; and Chadney's in Burbank continues to host drummer Jack Ranelli's 16-piece big band every Monday, (818) 843-5333. All at no cover.

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