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What's In a Name?

Trumpeter turns his moniker into play on words to reflect his musical style.


Trumpeter Dan Bagasoul's given name isn't Bagasoul. It's Bagasao--he's of Filipino American heritage. But he found that so many people who heard him play couldn't pronounce his name that he changed it.

"They'd say, 'Baga, Baga. . . . What's your name?"' he recalled. "So I came up with Bagasoul. It's a distortion of my name, and a play on words, but people remember it."

Bagasoul's name is about the only thing about him that's not genuine. The 49-year-old Santa Monica native who lives in Mar Vista is authentic as a musician and as a person. In conversation, he doesn't mince words. And on the bandstand or on records, this under-recognized jazz ace combines a fine ear, solid technique and deep emotion in creating ear-tingling solos.

"I try to play from the heart," Bagasoul said. "It might have mistakes, but people know it's honest. Listeners have commented that when I play a ballad, they can feel the emotion. It's not a sham. What you hear is what I feel, what I've experienced in life."

Bagasoul plays with his quintet Saturday at Rocco in Bel-Air. There he'll offer straight-ahead jazz, a genre for which he wears his enthusiasm on his sleeve.

"I'm a bebop cat," he said adamantly. "I'm not fusion and all this way out, weird stuff. I just like good melodies that swing. That bebop never gets old to me. It's always fresh. It makes you want to stomp your feet, snap your fingers. It swings, period, that's the bottom line."

At Rocco, Bagasoul will work with some longtime associates, including John James, alto saxophone; Joe Gaeta, guitar; Gene Stone, drums; and Chris Golden, bass. The band will play some of the leader's originals, including the intricate "Bag 'n' Soul" and a sweet love song for his wife, "Ballad for Beulah." Also on tap are songs by Gaeta, some jazz classics like Donald Byrd's "Ghana" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop," and a pop standard or two.

Bagasoul said he tries to write in what he called "the Horace Silver method," referring to the jazz giant. "His tunes tell a story, with introduction, beginning, middle and end," he said. "It's a whole production, not just a chorus to blow on."

Bagasoul is basically self-taught. He was given a trumpet at age 7 by his uncle and really started practicing about a decade later. He was initially inspired by Joe Newman's solo on Count Basie's "April in Paris," then came the great Clifford Brown's "Easy Living."

"It made me want to cry, it was so perfect. His tone was so warm," he said. Brown remains his hero today. "He could do everything, yet he didn't play to impress people. He played from his heart."

Bagasoul's playing experiences include stints with saxophonist/educator Hafez Modir--"He helped me to get serious"--saxophonist Dale Fielder, with whom he recorded such albums as "Free Flow" and "Dear Sir," and his own group. The members have similar viewpoints.

"We all love the music," he said. "We'd rather play than watch TV."

Bagasoul gets the occasional gig but, with his talent, he should be working more. He shoulders the blame. "I'm too laid back," he said. "I should promote myself more. Maybe it's insecurity, or personality weakness, but that's who I am. I should be more like Dale Fielder. He's got that business thing down pat."

Dan Bagasoul plays Saturday, 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Rocco, 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel-Air. No cover, no minimum. (310) 475-9807.


Quick Hits: Drum maestro Earl Palmer, who turns 74 on Saturday, hosts a birthday party at his regular jam session on Tuesday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Chadney's (3000 W. Olive St., Burbank; no cover, one-drink minimum per show; [818] 843-5333).

A dandy trio of drummer Peter Erskine, bassist Dave Carpenter and saxophonist Bob Sheppard will heat things up when they offer their unique versions of classic standards Wednesday, 9:30-12:30 a.m., at Cafe Cordiale (14015 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, no cover, no minimum, [818]-789-1985).

For hearty, swinging stuff, you can't go wrong with the A-1 trio of pianist/singer Dave Mackay, bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bert Karl, who play Friday, 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., at Mr. B's (1333 Hollywood Way, Burbank; no cover, two drink minimum; [818] 845-1800).

Bruce Lofgren's big band is always up to something. Hear the outfit Tuesday, 8 and 10 p.m., at the Moonlight (13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; $13 cover, $5 minimum; [818] 788-2000).

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