February Concert Picks from Rhythm Planet

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Wednesday-Thursday, February 6 & 7 | Chinese New Year Program with Ray Chen | Walt Disney Concert Hall (Downtown)

Celebrate the Lunar New Year with an East-West program of both European and Chinese classics, with works by Huanzhi, Saint-Saëns, Pulitzer-winning composer Du Yun, Ravel (including the rhapsodic “Boléro”), and others. The programs feature the superb violinist Ray Chen, a rapidly-rising star in the classical music universe. Chen will be on hand after the shows to sign copies of his latest Decca CD The Golden Age, which I loved and showcased previously. Dudamel Fellow Elim Chan conducts the LA Philharmonic. These two shows promise to be a delightful way to bring in the year of the pig! Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Violinist Ray Chen (Photo courtesy of Decca Classics) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Thursday, February 7 | Kinan Azmeh City Band | The Broad Stage (Santa Monica)

The clarinet virtuoso Kinan Azmeh was born in Damascus, Syria and currently lives in New York.  You may have heard his name in the news when the Trump administration’s first travel ban in 2017 briefly left him stranded outside the U.S. (his home of 16 years) after he had left the country to perform. I first discovered him on a luminously beautiful duet album with a Sri Lankan pianist named Dinuk Wijeratne called Complex Stories, Simple Sounds. He formed City Band in 2006, and the group’s sound has more of a gypsy and klezmer feel. Azmeh has also performed with Yo-Yo Ma’s celebrated Silk Road Ensemble. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

In this video, Kinan Azmeh performs at the Physicians for Human Rights 2016 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I love his introduction to this song, “Wedding.” He talks about how young people in Syria are still falling in love, in spite of the devastation, death, and chaos.

Kinan Azmeh (Photo by Connie Tsang) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Thursday, February 14-Wednesday, February 27 | San Jose Jazz Winter Fest 2019 | Multiple Venues | Bay Area

The San Jose Jazz Winter Fest features an eclectic lineup of talent from the jazz, blues and Latin arenas. Showcases that caught my eye include piano wizard Aaron Diehl, The Bad Plus, a tribute to Charles Mingus, Chéjere (a contemporary son jarocho group from Veracruz), and a deejay set on Valentine’s evening from globetrotting British turntablist Gilles Peterson. Betto Arcos, our local peripatetic world music producer, curates the Latin side of this festival. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Check out pianist Aaron Diehl in a 2016 European concert clip:

Friday, February 15 | Tribalistas | Orpheum Theater (Downtown)

The Brazilian group Tribalistas wowed fans in Brazil and around the world with their eponymous first album in 2002. Formed by three Brazilian superstars—singer Marisa Monte, Timbalada alum and percussionist Carlinhos Brown, ex-Titãs (Sao Paulo’s #1 rock band) songwriter Arnaldo Antunes—the group waited a whopping 15 years before releasing their second album in 2017. This will be a fun and rocking show in the storied Orpheum Theater. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Tribalistas (Photo by Leo Aversa) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Friday, February 15 | Jacob do Bandolim 101 – A Century of Brazilian Song with Tio Chorinho | Skirball Cultural Center (Sepulveda Pass)

This concert celebrates the classic choro style of Brazilian music and Jacob do Bandolim, the mandolin virtuoso who composed over 100 choro songs. Bandolim (=mandolin) played in casual bands since by day he worked variously as a pharmacist, insurance salesman, and notary public. His mastery of the small guitar was legendary. He specialized in choro, a filigreed style of acoustic music that celebrates melody and style. The evening features the Canadian group Tio Chorinho, vocalist Kátia Moraes, and an opening set from the fabulous seven-string guitarist Fabiano do Nascimento. This show harkens back to early 20th-century styles as played in small clubs in Rio, and should appeal to classical music devotees as well as Brazilophiles. Click HERE for tickets and more information, and HERE for a taste of Tio Chorinho in performance.

Tio Chorinho (Photo by Gili Zemer) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Saturday-Sunday, February 16 & 17 | Eric Whitacre’s The Sacred Veil | Los Angeles Master Chorale | Walt Disney Concert Hall (Downtown)

Composer and conductor Eric Whitacre has popularized choral music among young audiences in schools and conservatories all over. His followers love his fresh, accessible choral writing. I was so smitten by his choral magic on the album Cloudburst that I featured it on NPR’s All Things Considered many years ago.

Whitacre conducts the Los Angeles Master Chorale in this world premiere of his most extensive choral composition to date called The Sacred Veil, with texts by poet Charles Anthony Silvestri. With its themes of love and loss, The Sacred Veil collaboration began when Whitacre set music to a Silvestri poem called “The Other Side of Eternity” about the experience of losing his wife to cancer. This became the foundation of The Sacred Veil, which Whitacre describes as using “choral music to explore the journey of a soul across the threshold between finitude and eternity into and ultimately, out of this life.” Watch a montage of one of the movements called “I Fall” HERE. Walt Disney Concert Hall, with its beautiful acoustics, is the perfect place for a large choral performance. This show is bound to move hearts and souls. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Eric Whitacre conducting the Los Angeles Master Chorale (Photo by Tao Ruspoli/Marie Noorbergen) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Friday, February 22 | Ralph Peterson and The Messenger Legacy Sextet | Moss Theater (Santa Monica)

Ralph Peterson’s jazz career started auspiciously. He was handpicked by the legendary Art Blakey to play alongside the fabled leader of the Jazz Messengers as a second drummer—and this happened 35 years ago. The Jazz Messengers was an iconic hard-bop band and incubator of new jazz talent, as much a band as a school. It launched countless giants—Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, and many others are a part of the band’s history. Ralph Peterson is a special part of the story, and his band continues the legacy. Saxophonists Bobby Watson (alto) and Bill Pierce (tenor) are joined by trumpeter Brian Lynch, pianist Zaccai Curtis, and veteran bassist Essiet Essiet. It’s a high-energy band without fat or pretense. “All killer, no filler,” as jazz jocks used to say. Click HERE for tickets and more information.