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THE CREME DE L.A. CREME | Jazz

From Pre-Bop to Post-Fusion: a Rich Array

Bustling arena offers major touring acts, serves as home base for world-class players.

August 10, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

So, you're a jazz fan. If you're from anywhere east of the San Joaquin Valley, you probably have this idea that New York is the Big Apple for jazz and that any place west of the Hudson is bush league.

Think again. And recall that Los Angeles was once the home of Jelly Roll Morton, that Central Avenue was a burgeoning music center in the '30s and '40s. And that the West Coast jazz of the '50s was pop music for a generation of the decade's college kids.

True, that's all in the past, but Los Angeles continues to be a bustling jazz arena, a major stop for national tours and home base for a substantial population of world-class players, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Charlie Haden.

Check out the scene by starting at the Hollywood Bowl, a traditional summer destination, particularly favored for the listening pleasures of its open-air dining atmosphere. On Wednesday, as part of an eight-concert summer jazz series, the legendary pianist Dave Brubeck will perform in a program honoring his 80th birthday.

L.A.'s two best-known jazz rooms are Catalina Bar & Grill and the Jazz Bakery. Catalina is featuring the superb veteran guitarist (and director of UCLA's jazz program) Kenny Burrell, Tuesday through Sunday. The Jazz Bakery, Wednesday through Sunday, has all-star trombonist Steve Turre. Long beset by delays, the Knitting Factory Hollywood--a West Coast version of the idiosyncratic Manhattan club--finally opens today.

But it would be just as interesting to stop in at some of L.A.'s more offbeat locations. Up in the top of Bel-Air, the elegant restaurant-jazz club Rocco's features guitar nights every Monday.

In the San Fernando Valley, a top choice is La Ve Lee in Studio City, a main stopping point for Latin and fusion acts. And don't overlook the venerable Baked Potato in North Hollywood, not much larger than a good-sized family room but a jazz standby for more than 25 years, and its larger blues and fusion-oriented spinoff, the Baked Potato Hollywood.

Addresses, prices, Page 26.

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