VALLEY WEEKEND : MUSIC : SOUNDS : Learning the Horn From Masters of Jazz : Saxophonist Dale Fielder developed his warm, distinctive sound by working with some of music’s older, experienced players.


Dale Fielder’s timing is great.

The saxophonist came on the jazz scene in Pittsburgh in the mid-'70s. In many other cities, the classroom had replaced the bandstand as the place where a young player learned jazz through contact with older, experienced players. But in Pittsburgh, things hadn’t changed that much.

“Although I didn’t realize it until years later, the era of the ‘40s and ‘50s was well preserved for me in the ‘70s,” says Fielder, 39. “While I went to college at the University of Pittsburgh, I didn’t learn to play there. I learned by playing with older guys, watching them.”

Fielder appears Thursday at Bjlauzezs in Sherman Oaks and Friday and Saturday at Fifth Street Dick’s in Los Angeles. When he was 18, he landed a job with Joe Harris, the drum ace who had played and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. A year later, he joined a band led by pianist Carl Arter, who became his mentor.


“He was a legendary guy in Pittsburgh. He still plays there,” says Fielder, who owns the Clarion Jazz label on which he’s released three solo albums, the latest being “Know Thyself.”

“Erroll Garner, Kenny Dorham and John Coltrane used to study with him. He took me under his wing. He showed me the right changes, he taught me to listen so that I could hear them correctly in my ear.”

Fielder brings a warm, user-friendly style to the bandstand, one that was first nurtured in Pittsburgh, then developed in New York, where he lived from 1980 to 1988, working both as a trade-ticket processor at a brokerage firm and as a jazzman. He has lived in Los Angeles since 1989, and now employs a moist, distinctive sound on alto, tenor and soprano saxes. He plays compelling solos that reflect the passion and attention to detail heard from the great pianist Sonny Clark, a chief influence.

“Every note should be meant,” says Fielder. “You should never become disinvolved, never let your attention leave while the horn is in your mouth.”

The horn man appears at Bjlauzezs in his quartet, with Jane Getz (piano), Bill Markus (bass) and Brett Sanders (drums). The group presents a refreshing bouquet of standards and originals. Performing with the foursome allows Fielder a chance to explore and experiment. “When you’re improvising, you never know what is going to come up next, but you need the freedom to plumb your instrument, find different things to play.”

* Dale Fielder’s quartet, with pianist Jane Getz, plays tonight, 8 p.m. to midnight, at Bjlauzezs, 14502 Ventura Blvd., at Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks. $5 cover without dinner. Information: (818) 789-4583.

Mayer in Front: Jon Mayer likes the spotlight. The pianist has been a solid accompanist, working with Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day and Les McCann, but seems to thrive as a leader, playing an accessible mainstream jazz repertoire.

“I’ve always been drawn to music that makes me feel good, that makes me and the audience smile, and that music tends to be melodic,” says Mayer, who’ll play with Bob Maize (bass) and Harold Mason (drums) on Friday at New York West in Tarzana and the Saturday and Sunday brunch at Bjlauzezs. “And I’m always conscious of pacing a set, trying to have variety in tempos, in key tonalities, so the ear doesn’t get used to anything.”

Mayer, a New York native who has lived in Southern California since 1992, just issued his first album, “Round Up The Usual Suspects.” But he’s no stranger to the drama that can occur on the jazz bandstand. During the New York heydays of hard bop in the late ‘50s, Mayer had his share of the action, working with Kenny Dorham, Jackie McLean and others. “I was playing all the time then,” says the pianist who was born in Harlem in 1938. “It was a good period for me. Music was my raison d’e^tre.”

It still is.

* Jon Mayer’s trio plays Friday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at New York West, 19540 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover, no minimum. Information: (818) 758-3900. The group also plays Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at Bjlauzezs. Information: (818) 789-4583.

Superb Stylist: Gerald Wiggins swings like mad. The pianist, who is at New York West on Saturday, derives his punch from juicy, elegant statements that are hit with an alternately delicate and firm touch. The fact that he knows just when to hit those notes, and where to place them for maximum effect, doesn’t hurt.