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Straight Ahead

Saxophonist Dale Fielder prefers to play his jazz traditional-style.


The other day, the saxophonist Dale Fielder was talking to a fellow in his early 20s. Fielder was trying to explain why he'd picked straight-ahead jazz as his mode of expression, rather than, say, the more contemporary and lucrative "smooth jazz" style.

"I'm not into this for the money or to be a star," Fielder, 42, told the youth. "This is a calling. This is my passion. I want to play the highest form of music there is, basically challenging myself."

And jazz is definitely a challenge. Fielder, like many others, has to work a day job--he's an administrative assistant--to keep himself fiscally sound.

"A lot of that is due to the nature of the music I play," he said. "Not that many people are into [straight-ahead] acoustic jazz."

Still, people are into Fielder, a native of East Liverpool, Ohio, who grew up in Pittsburgh, where he played with the legendary drummer Joe Harris and who has lived in Los Angeles since the late '80s.

He has made several CDs--"Short Forms" is his new one--and he appears regularly in such Los Angeles clubs as 5th Street Dick's and Lunaria. He plays with his quartet on Saturday at Rocco in Bel-Air.

Rocco, an Italian restaurant, started hosting jazz about two months ago and has featured such top L.A. talents as guitarists Larry Koonse, Ronald Muldrow (he's there tonight) and Jon-Pall Bjarnason (Friday) and saxophonists Chuck Manning and Fielder.

Music is played in the bar, adjacent to the dining room. It's a good place to listen. "The staff makes you feel relaxed and the people are into the music," Fielder said. "You don't feel restricted."

The saxophonist will perform with a band that's composed of pianist Jane Getz, bassist Steve Huested and drummer Cornell Fauler. They'll play tunes from "Short Forms," engaging, invigorating pieces "designed as launching pads into the improvisations," Fielder said.

Lately, things have been good for the saxophonist. In 1997, he made a tour of Korea, and returned last month, playing a concert to 2,500 people at a large hotel in Seoul. He'll take his quartet into Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood on Monday. And he's made plans for his next album, a tribute to the late alto saxophonist Art Pepper.

"I just got a new alto and I have been listening to some alto players, and one was Art. I've always dug him," said Fielder, who offers a Pepper program at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City on Oct. 5.

Fielder's career is progressing, bringing him nearer his goals. "I'd just like to make a good living and try to add to the jazz canon," he said.

* Dale Fielder's quartet plays Saturday, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., at Rocco, 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel-Air. No cover, no minimum. (310) 475-9807.


Grand Guitars: You can catch three very distinctive guitar stylists in our area this week. Phil Upchurch, that stalwart blues-meets-blues ace who can play funk with elegance, leads his quartet plus a small string section (!) at 10 tonight at Cafe Cordiale (14015 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; no cover, no minimum; (818)-789-1985) . . .

Another bluesmeister, though in strictly a straight-ahead jazz vein, is the superb Herb Ellis, first heard in the 1950s with Oscar Peterson's trio, then later as a member of the Great Guitars, with Charlie Byrd and Barney Kessel. Ellis, whose amazing swing feeling can easily move you, makes a rare club appearance, performing with John Pisano on Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., at Papashon (15910 Ventura Blvd., Encino; no cover, no minimum; (818) 783-6664) . . .

Finally, there's Jamie Findlay, who plays both electric and acoustic guitar with finesse and subtlety, lending a warm, ringing tone to his unhurried statements. Findlay often works with the dandy jazz-based singer Julie Kelly, whose classical training adds to her deeply emotional treatments of standards and such. The pair perform Tuesday, 7 to 11 p.m., at Ca' del Sole (4100 N. Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood; no cover, no minimum; (818) 985-4669).

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