Get better as you get older. That's the idea in art, or anything else. Trumpeter Sal Marquez, one of Los Angeles' premier post-bebop trumpeters, subscribes to this viewpoint.
A journeyman who's made his name playing with top-of-the-line talents such as Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Frank Zappa and the Beach Boys, Marquez says that he has experienced some recent artistic growth, which has allowed him to further relax and play from within.
"Music is a quest, and I'm getting to the point where I don't want to think on the bandstand, I just want to play," said Marquez, 56, of Mar Vista. "It's like the more you play, the more taking things in a different direction feels natural. It's like, 'Let's just listen and go with it.' "
Marquez, who has eye-catching silver gray hair and a resonant barrel-bottom voice, is impressive. He has a powerful controlled tone that can deliver a number of brass colors as he renders timeless themes, from "Bye Bye Blackbird," which Miles Davis brought into the jazz pantheon to "Inner Urge," a difficult but enchanting modern piece, written by the acclaimed saxophonist Joe Henderson. His subsequent solos, buoyed by a lithe rhythmic sense, are filled with appealing lines that touch the ear and the intellect.
The trumpeter appears this weekend and next week in two Valley rooms. On Saturday, he's at Rocco in Bel-Air, with his long-standing quintet that features on-the-rise tenor saxophonist Chuck Manning and the invigorating pianist Theo Saunders.
On Thursday, he holds forth at Spazio in Sherman Oaks. He's there each week, leading another quintet that usually includes saxophonist Doug Webb, who has been his close musical associate for 15 years. Collectively, these musicians represent the cream of the L.A. crop of contemporary modern acoustic jazz musicians.
IN BRIEF: Dave Pell, a tenor saxophonist and arranger whose writing for his eight-piece ensemble, the Dave Pell Octet, was one of the musical highlights of the '50s jazz scene in Los Angeles, reassembles his band for a performance at 8 tonight at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in Studio City. (818) 985-6567.
Sal Marquez plays Saturday at 10 p.m. at Rocco Ristorante, 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel-Air. (310) 475-9807; and Thursday at 8 p.m. at Spazio, 14755 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 728-8400.
Zan Stewart writes about jazz for the Valley Edition. He can be reached at Zansky@aol.com.