Four weeks ago I listed the best local concerts of the previous year. But it was a pretty short list: five shows, in a COVID-crippled year. NICOLE RECOMMENDS added nine more, and six of them were in one long weekend.

But the year before that — boy howdy! “What a banner year 2019 was,” I wrote. “A cornucopia of amazing performances, large and small.” There were too many great shows I missed, but here are more of the ones I caught, that caught my imagination, in 2019. (List started last Thursday, at the beginning of the year.)


It will, but will all the venues be able to hang in there? I sure hope so. Some of our LA clubs and halls are known worldwide, part of the essential history of rock and roll, folk and other genres of music. A few weeks ago my trusty sidekick (and daughter) Nicole wrote about a book she contributed to about iconic music venues all over the country, the 400-page “Bring Music Home.” It should be out within a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait to see it. You can order it here:

This same group, working with NIVA and Save Our Stages, successfully lobbied Congress (more than 2 million emails!) to include some funds for live music and theatre venues in the most recent COVID relief package. Good job!

You might also want to check in on your favorite live music watering holes, their websites, to see how they’re doing, and maybe drop a contribution if you can. Tell them you miss them! And so does NOTEWORTHY.


Mar. 2, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion — Just to remind you what a Dude MOZART was, this gripping story, “THE CLEMENCY OF TITUS,” with fantastic music and singing was his last opera, very near the end of his life, and — he wrote it at the same time as his masterpiece “The Magic Flute,” using some of the same music in both. Simultaneously. Dude. Shows what you can do under pressure of deadline, I guess.

Mar. 8, The Broad Stage — ALASH, Tuvan throat singers! Simultaneous different pitches and notes! Fascinating, mind-blowing even, I’d seen such groups before but this trio was a real treat, playing authentic instruments, wearing their native dress, and taking you a few centuries back, straight to the Siberian-Mongolia border but without the freezing temperatures.

Mar. 9, First Presbyterian Church — Santa Monica’s cutting edge classical music series JACARANDA has been gifting us for years now with performances you won’t find anywhere else, by world class players, and FLYING DREAM, with compositions by DUKE ELLINGTON and William Grant Still, plus Florence Price’s “Piano Sonata” and George Walker’s “Lyric for String Quartet” (of course featuring their superb, resident LYRIS QUARTET), was riveting, and fun.

Mar. 23, LA PHIL presents OSCAR, WITH LOVE — oh man, this one just might make my All-Time Top 20. I have never seen such a lineup of so many of the best jazz pianists of our generation, and it was thrill after big-grin thrill, though mostly ballads. This was the road show of the 2016 tribute album to the great Oscar Peterson, the man Duke Ellington called “the maharajah of the keyboard,” and a pretty decent songwriter to boot, with many of the players from that album. Monty Alexander, Kenny Barron, m’man Benny Green, Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap, Gerald Clayton (with his dad John on bass), this would have been great even if it were only Benny Green. Peterson was beloved by jazz and classical audiences alike for his virtuosity, equally influenced by his classical training and jazz icon Art Tatum, and this all-star crew did him justice.

Mar. 29, The Cinema Bar — RICK SHEA, I SEE HAWKS IN L.A., two of my favoritest California country groups, together, at a cool little watering hole just outside SM, no cover charge and sanely priced drinks, a friendly crowd, it was a great night.

Apr. 6, Japanese American Cultural Center — do you even know about PACIFIC OPERA PROJECT? Enough do that it’s hard to get tickets, but it’s still a bit of a precious secret. They started on a shoestring and still have only sneakers, putting together an entire costumed, orchestrated, well-sung opera with only a couple of rehearsals in a couple of weeks, and in six years they have gotten a lot of critical praise and quite a following. Most of their first shows were at Miles Playhouse here in SM, now all over LA including Forest Lawn Cemetery and the South Pasadena Library. This one was another appropriate site choice because this was the first time the beloved MADAMA BUTTERFLY was sung in both English and Japanese.

Risky, ambitious as heck, but will it work? It did! Perfectly. They take chances and sometimes it doesn’t quite work, but usually it does, and then you’ve had an evening as memorable as this one.


EXCAVATED SHELLAC: AN ALTERNATE HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S MUSIC — is a brand new 100-track album featuring largely never-before-released songs from 89 different countries, all recorded between 1907-1967.

The album is accompanied by an extensively detailed 186-page PDF contextualizing each track’s history and significance, as well as touching on the complexities of colonialism, economic agendas, and cultural tourism.

The album is being released exclusively by our friends at Dust-to-Digital, who have lovingly and expertly-restored each track thanks to the help of Michael Graves at Osiris Studio. I have listened to every track available for preview multiple times — “Los Chinacos – Zacamandú (Mexico)” and “Ishmulla Dilmukhametov – Hyr (Bashkortostan, (Russia)” — are so far tied for my favorites, and I am already getting my wallet out to order.

You can purchase (or preview a few tracks) here:

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at