May Concert Picks from Rhythm Planet

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The month of May brings a panoply of jazz, classical, and world music performances to Los Angeles. Without further ado, here are Rhythm Planet’s selected recommendations.

Alan Pasqua Trio

Saturday, May 13, at 9 p.m. Blue Whale Jazz Club, Little Tokyo

Alan Pasqua is an elegant pianist and a fine composer. I’ve followed his music for years, and he’s performed on my KCRW shows multiple times. This will be a trio outing, with his regular bassist, the superb Darek Oles, along with Connor Malloy on drums.

The venue—the Blue Whale—is God’s gift to jazz lovers in L.A. Not only are the cover charges low and the piano a top-knotch instrument, but people really go there to listen. It makes me wish I lived downtown. You can grab a light bite there but there are also plenty of restaurants nearby to make it a whole night out on the town. Click here for tickets.

Ethio-Afrobeat-Tropifunk Fest with Jungle Fire plus Ethio Cali & Mexico68

Saturday, May 13, at 7 p.m. The Broad Stage, Santa Monica

The busy Betto Arcos is at it again, curating a smoking festival showcasing the 10-piece tropifunk juggernaut known as Jungle Fire, who fuse African dance music with Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Also on the bill is Ethio Cali, a local band that captures the sublime sound of 1970’s Ethiopian music led by virtuoso trumpet player Todd Simon. The third group in this rhythm orgy is Mexico68, a 13-piece afrobeat band that evokes the big sound of the late Fela Kuti. This is a night that will blow the roof off the Broad Stage. Click here for tickets.

Jungle Fire performs at the Broad Stage on May 13. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Kenan Adnawi Trio

Sunday, May 14, at 6 p.m. UCLA Schoenberg Hall, Los Angeles

Syrian oud virtuoso Kenan Adnawi fronts a trio featuring cellist Naseem Alatrash and Tony Barhoum on qanun. The performance will also include members of the UCLA Near East Ensemble under the direction of Professor Jihad Racy. The show unites Eastern and Western musical traditions, with experimental rhythms and sounds. Adnawi has performed with Lebanese superstar Marcel Khalife, toured with the Qatar Philharmonic, and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. A chance to hear them at UCLA is rare indeed. Click here for tickets or call the Turath Project at 626-502-7627.

Chucho Valdes

Saturday, May 20, at 8 p.m. The Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State Los Angeles 

Chucho Valdes, famous for leading the Cuban jazz band Irakere, is hailed as the godfather of Cuban jazz piano. Son of the legendary Bebo Valdes, who led Havana’s Tropicana nightclub band in the 1950’s, Chucho will make the big Steinway sing melodies and harmonies you didn’t think possible. He is an extraordinary musician. Click here for tickets.

Chucho Valdes performs at the Luckman on May 20. Photo by Francis Vernhet (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Forever Flamenco – Entre Jerez y Sevilla

Sunday, May 21, at 8 p.m. The Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles

Dancer Fanny Ara. Photo by Bruce Bisenz (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Flamenco music and dance combine to create an incendiary art form, and to see it in a relatively small venue (The Fountain Theatre) is a treat. This performance showcases the music of Jerez and Sevilla, two epicenters of flamenco music and dance. Reyes Barrios is the artistic director, with dancers Fanny Ara (star of Jennifer Lopez’s World of Dance on NBC), Reyes Barrios, and Alejandro Vega. Singers include Antonio de Jerez and Jesus Montoya. Master guitarists Kai Narezo and Antonio Triana complete the group. Click here for tickets.

Graham Dechter

Friday, May 26, at 9 p.m. Blue Whale Jazz Club, Little Tokyo

Graham Dechter is a jazz guitarist par excellence. I just received his most recent Capri release Takin’ It There with Jeff Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman, and John Clayton. A guitarist would have to be really good to play with these heavyweights. For this show, he’s joined by Jeff Hamilton on drums, Tamir Hendelman on piano, Mike Gurrola on bass, Walter Smith III on tenor, and trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. This will be a great night for jazz guitar lovers. Click here for tickets.

Bartók Cycle with Dudamel and Yuja Wang

Friday, May 26, at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28, at 2 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown Los Angeles

Yuja Wang is not just an amazing classical pianist, she is a true phenomenon. Wang tackles impossible works like the Rach #3 like it’s kids’ play. She will partner with the L.A. Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel to present Bartók’s three piano concertos between May 26-June 4. First up will be Bartók’s Piano Concerto #1, plus two choral works by Bartók’s contemporaries—Igor Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles and Leo Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass. The Bartók Cycle shows continue on June 1-2 (concerto #2) and June 3-4 (concerto #3). Click here for tickets.