Saxophonist Brandon Fields has been on the road quite a bit during the past year, playing in Europe, Australia, Japan and the U.S. with the popular group led by fiery jazz-fusion drummer Dave Weckl.
While it can be grueling, touring forces a certain level of concentration on a musician, said Fields, who has also spent time on the road with the Rippingtons and George Benson.
"The focus of the day is that night's performance," he said. "In town, it's hard to get that same focus."
But being out of town means missing a lot of action. So Fields, a native of Santa Ana who lives in North Hollywood with his wife, Gina, will stay home for the rest of the year. "I love the influx of new material, all the various people I play with," he said. "I miss doing film work and records in the daytime, which warms me up for a good jazz gig at night, where I can have fun with my friends."
Fields, a warm and engaging performer, plays with his seven-piece band Saturday at the Baked Potato in North Hollywood, and on Wednesday at La Ve Lee in Studio City. Though the saxophonist has most often been heard in quartet settings, he's recently been inclined to perform with a larger ensemble.
Appearing with Fields will be a crack L.A. crew composed of trumpeter Walt Fowler, trombonist Nick Lane, pianists Mitch Forman (at the Baked) and Jeff Babko, bassist Jimmy Earl, drummer Joel Taylor and Latin percussion expert Michito Sanchez. On tap will be mainly Fields' originals--jazz-oriented pieces with a heavy Latin or funk element.
"I love the way those rhythms bounce off each other," he said. "You can play similarly on both, with one of the compositional challenges being to keep the harmonic ideas flowing, so the rhythm section can be as responsive as in a quartet."
Fields is shopping his latest recorded project, an album of standards played by his quartet plus strings arranged by the renowned Jorge Calendrelli.
He said his goal in any performance is to deliver quality music. "More than anything else, I want to put out the idea of someone who is dedicated to the saxophone," he said. "I'm trying to develop as a writer and player all the time."
* Brandon Fields plays Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at the Baked Potato, 3787 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood. $10 cover, two-drink minimum. (818) 980-1615. He also appears Wednesday, 9:30 and 11:30 p.m., at La Ve Lee, 12514 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Cover charge, $8, two-drink minimum. (818) 980-8158.
Piano Plums: The modern-minded pianist Kenny Werner is also the author of an impressive book, "Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within," which proposes insightful concepts on mastering anything, not just music.
Werner will offer ideas from the book as well as a concert when he appears at 8 p.m. Monday at the Performing Arts Center of Cal State Northridge (18111 Nordhoff St.; enter parking lot C off Zelzah Ave; $20, CSUN students, $10; (818) 677-2488.
Another intrepid pianist is Theo Saunders, back in the area after spending several years in Santa Barbara and Ventura County. Hear the versatile, emotive artist Tuesday, when he joins saxophonist Harold Bennett for duets from 7-11 p.m. at Ca' del Sole (4100 N. Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood; no cover, no minimum; (818) 985-4669).
Bye-bye Big Minimums: Earlier this year, the Moonlight Supper Club (13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks) dropped cover charges in favor of huge minimums--sometimes more than $25. Bad idea. So consultant, and former owner, Linetta Kidd, has reverted to low covers, usually $5, but $13.95 for big bands, and a two-drink minimum. Upcoming performers include pianist-singer Pat Tuzzolino on Saturday, 7 p.m., and the Oleg Lundstrem Moscow Big Band on Monday, 8 p.m.; closed Tuesday. (818) 788-2000.