Maceo Parker plays the sax on the main stage at the San Jose Jazz Festival in San Jose, Calif. on Saturday, August 14, 2010. (Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News)
Maceo Parker plays the sax on the main stage at the San Jose Jazz Festival in San Jose, Calif. on Saturday, August 14, 2010. (Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News) (Jim Gensheimer)

From 27-year-old Alfredo Rodriguez (a piano phenomenon mentored by Quincy Jones) to 84-year-old Sheila Jordan (a legendary vocalist mentored in her day by Charles Mingus and Lennie Tristano), the winter jazz scene around the Bay Area is beyond tempting. Here are some choice picks leading up to the New Year:

  • Pianist Denny Zeitlin has been "on the scene" since he was a teen in Chicago, mentored by the great Billy Taylor. More than half a century later, he is something of an icon himself, one of those players who can take you straight into a dream-space with his intimate reinventions of classic songs, as well as his many originals. Zeitlin - long based in the Bay Area, where he is a practicing psychiatrist - always gets the balance right in his music; he has a soulful intelligence. Give a listen to his new CD, "Wherever You Are: Midnight Moods for Solo Piano." Then go to his next solo recital, Dec. 1 at Piedmont Piano Company, 1728 San Pablo Ave. (at 18th St.), Oakland. Tickets: $20; call 510-547-8188 for reservations or purchase at the door.

  • For the second consecutive year, Montalvo Arts Center is presenting its Piano Masters Series, which runs the gamut from jazz to classical. In December, you can see solo recitals by two remarkable jazz pianists, Alfredo Rodriguez and Fred Hersch, one a relative newcomer (Rodriguez), one a veteran (Hersch), each carrying extensive classical training into his music. Rodriguez, who plays as if he eats Chopin for breakfast, is combustibly at home with Afro-Cuban folk forms and rhythms (no surprise; he's from Cuba) and has digested the last several decades of jazz piano evolution. Hersch -- who apprenticed long ago with Joe Henderson, Stan Getz and Art Farmer -- is an established master. Each performs at the 300-seat Carriage House Theatre at Montalvo, 15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga.

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    Rodriguez performs Dec. 2, $40-$45 ($36-$40 members); Hersch on Dec. 16, $55-$60 ($49-$54 members); 408-961-5858, www.montalvoarts.org.

  • Vocalist Sheila Jordan is 84 years old, a history book. Her lifetime of musical associations range from Tristano, Mingus, George Russell and Duke Jordan (to whom she was married) to Herbie Nichols, Roswell Rudd and Carla Bley. Jordan swings, she gets free, she mesmerizes -- and this year she was named a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts. On Dec. 3, the Jazzschool honors her with a special show at Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. What a lineup: Jordan will sing, as will Laurie Antonioli, Theo Bleckmann, Madeline Eastman, Kitty Margolis and Ed Reed. Get yourself a ticket to this love-fest before it sells out: $24.50; 510-644-2020 ext. 120; www.thefreight.org.

  • Guitarist Charlie Hunter and drummer Scott Amendola are the best of musical mates, going back a couple of decades to such time-honored Bay Area bands as T.J. Kirk and Hunter's own early combos. They have a new duo album ("Not Getting Behind Is the New Getting Ahead"), and they're on tour, stopping at a bunch of cool little venues. Expect anything and everything: jazz, rock, blues, groove, cowpoke eccentricities, free improvisation. Dec. 13 at Duende, 468 19th St., Oakland (www.duendeoakland.com); Dec. 16 at Dana Street Roasting Co., 744 W. Dana St., Mountain View (www.danastreetroasting.com); Dec. 17 at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz (www.kuumbwajazz.org); Dec. 18 at Hopmonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol (www.hopmonk.com); Dec. 19 at the Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco (www.theindependentsf.com). Check websites for details. Additional info at the artists' sites: www.scottamendola.com, www.charliehunter.com.

  • Maceo Parker was all of 22 years old in 1965, when he recorded his first saxophone solo with James Brown, on "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." That's Maceo, too, on "Say It Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud" (1968) and "Doing It to Death," otherwise known as "We're Gonna Have a Funky Good Time" (1973). He'll turn 70 in a few months -- hard to believe. And he still sounds great: that one-of-a-kind sound, tart and biting, snaking his way through a stuttering funk beat, or playing his long, fluid bebop lines, for Maceo came up playing jazz as well as R&B. Celebrate the new year with him and his band at Yoshi's San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore St. He'll be there four nights (Dec. 28-31), two shows per night. Tickets: $25-$100, depending on day and show; 415-655-5600, www.yoshis.com. (And here's a look-ahead: Yoshi's starts 2013 with trumpet great Roy Hargrove; Jan. 2-6.)

    Contact Richard Scheinin at 408-920-5069, read his stories and reviews at www.mercurynews.com/richard-scheinin and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/richardscheinin