Playing With an Open Ear


Jerry Pinter’s got his own thing.

Listen to the tenor saxophonist’s two solos on trumpeter Carl Saunders’ CD “Out of the Blue,” and you hear a musician with a profound knowledge of modern jazz who speaks with his own voice, a horn man whose singing lyricism works hand-in-hand with his unique sense of contemporary harmony. His playing is both compelling and intriguing.

Pinter is a regular member of Saunders’ quintet, and he also appears in bands led by drummer Ralph Penland, trumpeter Ron Stout and pianist Celicia Coleman. The native of Plainfield, N.J., likes the role of side man with strong players, and savors the way that role can lead to memorable musical experiences.

“No one player is perfect but everybody has good qualities,” says Pinter. “If you play together long enough, you get a deeper insight into the way the other players conceptualize. If you’re all growing together, helping each other in deficient areas, taking the good qualities from each other, you can create a beautiful and unique picture.”


Pinter appears tonight through Saturday as guest artist with drummer Danny Pucillo’s trio at Monty’s Steakhouse in Woodland Hills. It’s the first time he will have played as a unit with Pucillo, pianist Tom Ranier and bassist Bob Maize--who have worked with such greats as tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, vibist Terry Gibbs and singer Mel Torme. But Pinter hopes to make the situation as comfortable as a more established one.

“The key is balance and to finding your spot in the picture, making the situation be something kinetic,” says the Newport Beach resident, who also has played with jazz notables such as bandleader Woody Herman, saxophonist Lee Konitz and trumpeter Maynard Ferguson.

“I’m enough of a chameleon to be able to adapt, to make the most of other musicians, however they play,” he goes on. “I’ll have my antennae out, with an open ear to the other three players, looking for those notes that would make things that much more beautiful right then, and try to hit them. If you have too many preconceived ideas about what is supposed to happen--and someone doesn’t have the same ideas--it can be a real tug of war.”

At Monty’s, Pinter will concentrate on standards, meaning sax classics by John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, and pop tunes from Gershwin et al. ‘I’d like to slant toward those,” he says. “As time goes on, you develop your own musicality of playing on those tunes.”

The slightly built saxophonist, who shields his hazel eyes behind lightly tinted glasses, started out as an alto player at 8, inspired by his older brother John, who remains a good jazz trumpeter.

Pinter attended North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas), from which he earned a degree in jazz education, then lived in Las Vegas for a time, working in show bands. He performed with Herman’s band from 1984 until the leader’s death in 1987 and he’s since been an active member of the Southern California jazz scene.


The business side of music also attracts Pinter. With his partner, James Higgins, he has started a jazz label, Prologue Records, which is affiliated with Alexia Records, and is seeking national distribution. The line’s first release is “The System,” by sax man Gene Burkert.

Pinter talks about why he remains so drawn to music. “I like the way you spend so much time on one thing and watch it develop,” he says. “Then there’s the communication and the openness that are necessary for a band to collaborate. And work well done, when I play something that requires that I give my best, that makes me feel good.”

* Jerry Pinter plays tonight through Sat. with Danny Pucillo’s trio at Monty’s Steakhouse, 5371 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills. Show times: today, 7:30-11:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. No cover, no minimum. (818- 716-9736).


Quick Hits: Ann Patterson’s Maiden Voyage big band, with singer Christine Ebersole, is one of the groups celebrating the reopening of the remodeled Moonlight Tango Cafe in Sherman Oaks. The band plays Tuesday at 8 and 10 p.m., at Moonlight Tango, 13730 Ventura Blvd.; $13 cover for 8 p.m. show, $9 cover for 10 p.m., $9.95 food or drink minimum. Call (818) 788-2000. . .

Catch NYC-based sax man Alex Graham on his first West Coast trip when he plays Friday, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., at Chadney’s, 3000 W. Olive St., Burbank; no cover, one drink minimum per show. Call (818) 843-5333 . . .

There’s always heat when conga drummer Poncho Sanchez’s Latin/jazz band takes the stage. Hear the Norwalk native’s alluring blend of sounds Friday, 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. at La Ve Lee, 12514 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; $10 cover, two-drink minimum; (818) 980-8158 . . .


Tenor player Jim Honeyman and singer Anita Cortez, a dandy husband-and-wife musical team, lighten things tonight, 9 to 1:30 a.m. at Jax, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; no cover, no minimum. Call (818) 500-1604.