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If the true art of jazz is improvisation, it makes sense that Little Tokyo's Blue Whale jazz club seems to pop up out of nowhere. The in-the-moment space atop Weller Court is a dim mix of modern lines and classic looks, much like the genre-mixing music that emerges nightly from the open stage. The eclectic audience queues up at the bar in the back, or slumps into one of the many padded benches that surround the impeccable performers. For those in need of satiation, the small kitchen churns out top-notch small plates Tuesday through Saturday, from an early tomato polenta to a series of pulled pork sliders. The house cocktails and small collection of local craft beers keep everyone tapping their feet to the sometimes bluesy tunes that emerge from the best jazz players in the country.
Drummer Kendrick Scott is a man of faith, introspection and Conviction, the name of his latest, best-selling album. He's also a fan of Bruce Lee an...
There are a number of nice jazz rooms in Los Angeles, but none as accessible and forward-thinking as the Blue Whale. Joon Lee's dark, low-key room atop Little Tokyo's Weller Court consistently books some of the most important jazz musicians not just locally but globally -- we're talking folks like John Daversa and Dwight Trible. It's an indispensable part of the scene, and it's actually a very pleasant place to hang out. People bring dates and sometimes, believe it or not, there are... More »
Coolest and most progressive jazz venue in Los Angeles. Stylish and comfortable. The owner Joon Lee is a vocalist himself and gets it. Bar staff keeps quiet during the performances. Rumi and Hafiz quotes on the ceiling and drawings of Miles and Coltrane on the wall. Not easy to find the first time but once you do you will be hooked. Five stars.
Last night (7/9/10) I went to the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo (directly across from the LADWP in Weller Court / 3rd Floor) to hear Marcel Carmago's set of musical puzzles. The Blue Whale opened discreetly a while back and has slowly picked up traction as a place run by true patrons of the arts. Marcel was set up in the main performance area surrounded by pedals and microphone stands. I got there just after he had started and what followed was a combination of beauty, humility, and rhythmic interactions that might serve well to be a philosophy for society. Marcel hails from Brazil, a land that conjures all things sensory and delicious. Think of the women, the cigars, the grilled delights. I don't think of the women, not too much except to be jealous of their tans, but the meat! The meat! It has flavor, soul, just the right seasoning, and a long tradition of good timing. Hence, Marcel. Very simply explaining the ideas behind the pieces we would hear, he played a series of compositions based on different principles of rhythmic development. He demonstrated a series of straightforward hand claps that evolved through addition, to illustrate how you could "build something from nothing, basically." Unlike some loop-based music which gathers force through layering and density and tight syncing, Marcel's approach was about another kind of listening and matching, not playing to a downbeat, but more to whatever was already happening. Filling in the spaces in between. Finding the right response. The results were unique and wonderful. In one piece, the pedals were used to arrange the music live--into sections and small movements that were epic and lyrical. In another, he created a beautiful lattice of melancholy harmonics that showed a completely different way of things holding together. And then, of course, there were the one man bass / breath / guitar / funk jams that had people howling from the rear of the room. These would usually start with Marcel carrying the beat in his body before a sound came out. But those sounds, they did come out. I've known Marcel to play pop/rock sets that were completely improvised and be able to find a way to contribute creative / original ideas without creating mayhem. After this show I felt like I had been privy to the underlying workings of his musical mind. By listening carefully and responding quickly. . . he can make a handshake with just one hand. If that doesn't make sense to you, catch his next show. Ba dum Bum.