January Concert Picks from Rhythm Planet

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Wednesday, January 9 | SomiMr. Musichead Gallery (Hollywood)

American vocalist Somi is the daughter of Rwandan and Ugandan immigrants. She has won a devoted following with albums such as Petite Afrique (2017) and The Lagos Music Salon (2014). The Lagos Music Salon album, inspired by a sojourn to Lagos, Nigeria, featured guest artists Common and Angélique Kidjo. Petite Afrique featured Aloe Blacc as special guest. She has been called a modern day Miriam Makeba and compared to Nina Simone and Diane Reeves. Her voice reminds me a little of the UK singer Laura Mvula.

This performance by Somi takes place at the Mr. Musichead Gallery, which is presenting a series of after-work jazz music/wine receptions along with food available for purchase. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

This song comes from Somi’s first album, If the Rains Come First:

Tuesday, January 15 | The Edge of Jazz | Walt Disney Concert Hall (Downtown)

Herbie Hancock curated this night of jazz music as part of the LA Phil’s Green Umbrella concert series, which features new music from the classical, jazz, and world music arenas. The evening features new compositions by Hitomi Oba, Vijay Iyer, Billy Childs, Kamasi Washington, Tyshawn Sorey, and Brazilian superstar Hermeto Pascoal. All works will be performed by the LA Phil New Music Group, with saxophonist Oba and veteran pianist-composer Childs making appearances. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Pianist and composer Billy Childs (photo courtesy of the LA Phil) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Friday-Saturday, January 18-19 | Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony (Susanna Mälkki conducts the LA Phil with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet) | Walt Disney Concert Hall (Downtown)

I first heard this gigantic, far-out work by Olivier Messiaen years ago on the radio and it just stopped me in my tracks. I had never heard the sound of an ondes martenot, an unusual early electronic instrument rarely heard these days. The symphony’s premiere took place in 1949 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein. It’s scored for a huge and unusual orchestra—32 violins, 10 double basses, piano, triangle, temple blocks, glockenspiels—just to name a few of the instruments. A chance to hear this work in the environs of Disney Hall’s amazing acoustics is an opportunity not to be missed. Not for the timid, to be sure. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (photo courtesy of the LA Phil) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Listen below for a taste of this challenging work:

Saturday, January 19 | Carmen Miranda Tribute by Ordinarius | The Moss Theater (Santa Monica)

Carmen Miranda was the first big Brazilian star to hit it big in the U.S. By 1945, with her albums and work in Busby Berkeley musicals such as The Gang’s All Here (think banana hat dance), Miranda had become the highest-paid female entertainer in the world. The award-winning Brazilian a capella vocal group Ordinarius celebrates the woman in the tutti-frutti hat in this performance, with original arrangements and colorful costumes. Their last album Novátel pays tribute to Miranda. Click HERE for tickets.

Watch them perform the song “Overjoyed”:

Sunday, January 20 | Southern California Slack Key Festival and Island Marketplace | Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center (South Bay)

Slack-key guitar playing comes from Hawaii, and this is the biggest Hawaiian music festival on the mainland that happens once a year in Southern California. This year’s events feature slack-key luminaries such as Kawika Kahiapo, Jim “Kimo” West, George Kuo, and others. The festival also includes an Island Marketplace (free admission), with authentic Hawaiian food, island-themed gifts, home décor, even shaved ice. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Here is George Kuo talking about slack key guitar, and playing it too:

Wednesday, January 23 | Musings on a Musical Prophet: An Evening of Eric Dolphy | Mr. Musichead Gallery (Hollywood)

Eric Dolphy grew up in Los Angeles, so it is fitting that a tribute to the jazz multi-instrumentalist would take place here. He moved to New York to play and tour with another Angeleno, Charles Mingus, then later worked with John Coltrane in the legendary November sessions at the Village Vanguard. Like Coltrane, Dolphy was a visionary musician whose life was cut short by medical conditions. The evening celebrates the Resonance Records release of a new 3-CD tribute set called Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions, with previously unissued studio recordings by Dolphy from 1963. This tribute show will feature many outstanding L.A.-based musicians like Bob Sheppard, James Newton, and Peter Erskine, who will honor and preserve Dolphy’s musical legacy. Alto saxophonist David Binney will conduct the band, and the evening starts with a panel discussion between Zev Feldman of Resonance, James Newton, and educator Robin D.G. Kelly, who wrote the liner notes for the new CD set. Click HERE for tickets and more information. Tickets include a free commemorative poster.

Check out Eric Dolphy playing bass clarinet in Norway, 1964, shortly before his death in Germany at the age of 36 from complications caused by untreated diabetes.

Thursday, January 24| The Soryaya at CSUN (Northridge) and Friday, January 25 | Segerstrom Center for the Arts (Costa Mesa) | An Evening with Branford Marsalis Quartet

One of today’s best jazz groups, The Branford Marsalis Quartet has bonded from years of touring and is as tight as a drum. Joey Calderazzo plays piano, Eric Revis is on upright bass, and Justin Faulkner plays drums.  Southern California fans have two opportunities to hear this fabulous group—Thursday at The Soraya at CSUN or Friday at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County. The Friday night show also features an opening performance by Japanese pianist Yuko Mabuchi, a classical musician who caught the jazz bug after hearing Herbie Hancock and Oscar Peterson.