May Concert Picks from Rhythm Planet

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The Los Angeles Master Chorale will join Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil in the first-ever performance of Mahler’s monumental “Symphony of a Thousand” at Disney Hall Photo: Jamie Pham

Thursday, May 2 | Sacred Sounds and Medicine Music Featuring Luis Perez Ixonexztil | The Art of Living Los Angeles Center (West Adams) 

Luis Perez Ixonexztil specializes in Aztec Pre-Columbian music—some of the most unusual and haunting music I’ve ever heard. He uses bee’s wings, hollow cocoons, and other musical instruments that harken back before Hernán Cortés arrived in Aztlán in 1519 to depose Moctezuma and claim the country for Spain.  Many of the instruments he performs on are actual centuries-old artifacts from the Aztec civilization. Ixonexztil explores an utterly different and fascinating musical world, and this sacred sound bath performance celebrates the ancient music in a beautiful acoustic space. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Friday-Sunday, May 3-5 | CalArts World Music and Dance Festival | CalArts Campus (Valencia)

CalArts’s School of Music embraces all kinds of music and has always shown a strong commitment to world music. This year, their annual celebration features 25 performances of music and dance from Brazil, Peru, Korea, the Middle East, Bali, India, Iran, Japan and Turkey, among other countries. The family-friendly festival takes place over 3 days on 2 stages. It’s a great introduction to traditional world music and a fabulous tour of world culture. All events are FREE but RSVPs are requested. Click HERE for more information.

This video captures some of last year’s festival performances:

Sunday, May 5 | Randy Ingram and Drew Gress | Sam First Bar (Los Angeles, near LAX)

I admit that I’d never heard of Randy Ingram before I got his most recent album The Wandering on the Sunnyside label. I liked it right away, asking myself, “Where has this pianist been all my life?” Ingram has a light touch and is a superb melodist in the Bill Evans tradition. The New York Times praised him as a “pianist drawn to contemporary harmony and a sleek rhythmic sensibility; astute, self-possessed.” I agree with that. He’ll be joined in spirited duets by veteran bass maestro Drew Gress. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Ingram performs here with Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber at Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar in 2017:

Wednesday, May 8 | Mulatu Astatke | Regent Theater (Downtown Bank District)

A giant of Ethiopian music, Mulatu Astatke is known as the father of Ethio-jazz, a soulful and funky sound in which western instruments like keyboards, congas, and vibraphones are combined with traditional Ethiopian music. Astatke’s early albums, like much of Ethiopian music, was lost during the civil wars of the 1960’s and 1970’s, but were rediscovered by French musicologist Francis Falceto, who released them in his stupendous 20+volume series Éthiopiques. Now 75, Astatke rarely performs and this is his first show in Los Angeles. This is a not-to-be-missed chance to hear a cultural treasure. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

One of Astatke’s most famous songs, “Yegelle Tezeta”:

Sunday, May 12 | Marcel Camargo and Friends| bluewhale (Little Tokyo)

São Paulo-born guitarist and arranger Marcel Camargo studied at UCLA with such talented musicians as Gerald and Anthony Wilson, Kenny Burrell, and Billy Higgins. A busy musician and singer, Camargo has worked with artists such as Sérgio Mendes, Bebel Gilberto, Seu Jorge, and Flying Lotus. For this bluewhale gig, he’ll be joined by singers Kathleen Grace, Sravya Rallapalli, Jessica Vautor, Jarrett Johnson, and Olivia Morreale, with instrumental backing from Camargo and Luís Mascaro (violin), Craig Polasko (acoustic bass), and Clarice Cast (Brazilian and Indian percussion). This show promises to be a true singer’s showcase. Click HERE for tickets and information.

 Check out Camargo and company, with Inara George from The Bird and the Bee as guest vocalist:

Sunday, May 19 | Cuban-American Music Festival | La Plaza de Cultura y Artes (Downtown) 

Veteran Alma del Barrio deejay Guido Herrera Yance lives and breathes tropical Latin music, and he has organized a terrific lineup at the outdoor La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles. The third annual Cuban-American Music Festival will feature Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez with his group as well as tres heavyweight Nelson González leading the Arsenio Rodriguez Project, which honors the great Cuban musician’s legacy. Iliana Rose and her all-female group Las Chikas will pay tribute to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine in their set, and percussionist-singer Lázaro Galarraga will perform with his group Sitara Son. Local vendors will be on hand to provide Cuban cuisine and there’s even a Cuban cigar rolling session. And, of course, there is a dance floor next to the bandstand. The festival is a great way to explore and experience Cuban culture. Click HERE for tickets and more information. 

The great Cuban tres virtuoso Nelson Rodriguez in a descarga (jam session):

Thursday, May 30 | Dudamel Conducts Mahler’s Eighth | Walt Disney Concert Hall (Downtown)

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 is called the Symphony of a Thousand because it is one of the biggest works ever in classical music. This show will feature the full LA Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Pacific Chorale, PLUS the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus AND the National Children’s Chorus. All that plus Disney Hall’s pipe organ will make for a huge and explosive musical event. LA Phil conductor Gustavo Dudamel received international acclaim when he recorded the entire Mahler repertoire with Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra a few years ago. Mahler’s monumental 8th is so huge that it is rarely performed, and this will be the first time it is performed inside Walt Disney Concert Hall. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Here is Gustavo Dudamel with the LA Phil performing the work in Caracas, Venezuela in 2012. It gives you an idea of the size and scope of this titanic, stupendous work: