Nina Simone

By CHARLES ANDREWS

I was privileged to have seen her perform once in the mid-’80s, playing piano and singing in a small jazz club in Silver Lake named Mark’s. If that wasn’t special enough, it was like a private concert for my jazz singer wife and me and the one or two other people there (plus Mark). It was raining hard, it was mid-week, Mark’s was not in the right part of town for a jazz spot, and had not promoted the show well. Simone gave a fine performance anyway and seemed in good spirits. We approached her afterward, offered to buy her a drink and had a nice long conversation. With a towering music icon. She was really nice.  

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

TONIGHT! — GARY CLARK JR. (I was knocked out the very first time I heard him years ago and he’s only gotten better, this will be in front of a crowd of music fanatics and they will get there EARLY, if you’re not reading this in the morning you may already be too late, but the Amoeba stage is a great place to see anyone, always go at least two hours early, face it, you’ve got plenty to occupy your time until the show starts), Thurs 6 p.m., Amoeba Music, Hollywood, free.

Mark Hummel’s GOLDEN STATE LONE STAR REVUE featuring WES STARR, ANSON FUNDERBURGH, MIKE KELLER, RW GRIGSBY, MARK HUMMEL (it’s Gary Clark Jr.’s fault, and a slew of other TX musicians, that you don’t know this Golden State Lone Star Revue better, there are so many great players in TX and especially around Austin, like Clark and Wes Starr, that only some get really famous, but this TX-CA group is landing right here in SM and blues lovers who miss this show will be kicking themselves, five great players but listen up to that rhythm section, drummer Starr and bass man Grigsby have been playing together since HS in Rome, GA, and with the likes of Asleep at the Wheel, Carlene Carter, Jimmy Vaughn, Delbert McClinton, and in ‘86 Starr toured with Jimmy Page post-Zep in The Firm, I’ve seen this revue a couple times and Starr in other bands and I can tell you, he could hold his own, in ANY style, with anyone, maybe even that Brit drummer with the same last name, no relation), Fri 8 p.m., McCabe’s, $30.

LA PHIL: GUSTAVO DUDAMEL conducts MAHLER Symphony No. 9 (Dudamel has built his reputation partly on his affinity for and mastery of Mahler’s emotionally complex work, so this will be memorable I guarantee, I’ve been waiting for this, Mahler’s official last symphony, he always felt the no one should try to write more than the master Beethoven, don’t forget the informative and entertaining pre-concert lectures an hour before the performance), next Thurs 8 p.m., next Fri 11 a.m., Sat, Sun 2 p.m., Disney Hall, DTLA, , next Thurs $79-$237, next Fri $78-$229, next Sat $135-$158, next Sun $79-$156.

RECOMMENDED:

TONIGHT! — VICKI RAY (is she really “phenomenal and fearless,” this Grammy nominated contemporary piano master? — you can drive downtown LA and pay $20-$35 at Zipper Hall the following Tuesday to find out, or get a preview of that show for nada at our own Main Library), Thurs, 7:30 p.m., Santa Monica Library Main Branch, DTSM, free.

TONIGHT! — JUILLIARD STRING QUARTET (they’re only a year older than I am so just imagine if I had kept up those accordion lessons…), Thurs 7:30 p.m., Musco Center for the Arts, Chapman University, $25-$45.

THE JOY WHEEL (I saw it last weekend, I predicted it, it is terrific, really funny, topical, directed by JASON ALEXANDER, another hit for those Ruskin people, and you still didn’t even know that great little theater at the airport is there? — boy have you missed out), Fri, Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport, $25-$35.

BOB SEGER & the Silver Bullet Band (“sold more than 75M records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time,” the figure seems accurate but doesn’t even put him in the top 100, tied with the likes of Journey/ack!, Kiss/please, Manilow/gag, R.Kelly/PU, shame, and Kenny G/ack! hack! gack!!, I remember getting a review copy of his second Capitol album in ‘70, Mongrel, great cover, and I became an instant fan, what a voice, this guy rocks hard, didn’t pay much attention till 5 years later when Katmandu bent my ear, a stone cold great rock performance, Seger also has many ballad hits and I hope he still has that remarkable scream because this is his last tour, I think you should go), Sat 8 p.m., The Forum, Inglewood, $69-$129.

MAZZY STAR, Gold Star (fascinating Santa Monica band from 1989, this is the original group with hiding Hope Sandoval, rabid cult following, rare appearances, get tix while you can, I’m warning you), Tues, Wed 8 p.m., Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Koreatown, $59.50

COMING ATTRACTIONS: LA OPERA: MOZART’s The Clemency of Titus, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mar. 2, 7, 10, 13, 16, 24; STEVE EARLE, Amoeba Music, Mar. 4.

BAND NAMES OF THE WEEK: The Coathangers, Mannequin Medicine, Turbulent Hearts, Well Hung Heart, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Pretty Vicious, Lords of Acid, Verbal Abuse, Single Mothers, Dog Tag Tattoo.

BODACIOUS BIRTHDAY: NINA SIMONE (1933) — a unique talent, performer and person, widely regarded as one of the most influential recording artists of the 20th century, took up piano at 3, performed at church and gave her classical concert recital at 12 in Tryon, NC but when her parents, who proudly took seats in the front row, were moved to the back for some white folks, she refused to play until they were seated in front again — this is 1945!– which she said contributed to her getting involved later in the Civil Rights movement.

After graduation she spent the summer at Julliard preparing for her anticipated admission to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and her family moved there. When she was denied it crushed her, and she always suspected it was racially motivated. She performed and spoke at civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches, and wrote tough songs like Old Jim Crow and Mississippi, Goddam, which she penned right after the murder of Medgar Evers and the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL that killed four young black girls and partially blinded a fifth; she said it came to her “in a rush of fury, hatred and determination.” She also felt the music industry shunned her because of that song. She was next door neighbor to Malcolm X in Mount Vernon, NY and espoused black nationalism and violent revolution rather than the non-violent ways of Dr. King.

She wound up in self-exile and… so much more, her gripping story told in several books, and most interestingly in a biopic I saw in 2015 and highly recommend, What Happened, Miss Simone? I was so fortunate to have heard her in LA in a small club, and chatted afterward (see above).

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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