Saxophone Players

[c. 2008, from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly]

There are a pair of saxophonists bookending the weekend at Charles O’s that absolutely slay us every time. On Friday we got Charles Owens, fresh from a big LACMA appearance. A masterful player (and orchestra leader…the Luckman has done brilliantly under his direction), Owens plays just about every reed and woodwind ever made (just dig him on English horn) and plays a mean dirty flute; but it’s on tenor that he is on fire. At the World Stage we’ve seen him go what looked like utterly out of his mind, all Dolphy and Roland Kirk and late period Trane or a way gone Sonny running down East Broadway, you know, crazy clusters and Fulani scales and notes flying so fast, damn…. And at Charlie O’s we’ve heard the most soulful A Love Supreme, the crowd utterly silent, not a whisper or a stir till it fades on that final bass thrum…then hot damn it’s Charlie getting down with Eddie Harris, music so funky people are actually dancing at Charlie O’s, and so greasy they’re getting drunk. That’s Charlie Owens, delivering. And that’s part one. Part two is Benn Clatworthy, same stage on Sunday. You’d never think a foul mouthed Michael Cain-as-Alfie-sounding Brit would play saxophone as good as any Yank, even better than most. He’s got a voice on that thing, steeped in mid period Trane, in Booker Ervin, in lots of Sonny Rollins when Sonny was the greatest of them all. But that’s just the sound. But the ideas, the vision, the places he goes, pushing, daring…god damn. Nobody in LA does this. Maybe nobody nowhere. It can be the most radical. It can be the most hard bopping. It can be so gorgeous you will not draw a breath till that horn has expended his. His is an intense, radical, beautiful jazz playing and still completely in the tradition. So there ya go, two of LA’s most exciting saxophonists, just waiting for your ears. Oh…and who’s got the floor on the Saturday between them? Tenor Don Menza is who, and he can kick anybody’s ass. Don’t let no one tell you this town ain’t got great saxophone players.

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