GERALD CLAYTON plys ELLINGTON - Courtesy photo LA Philharmonic

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

TONIGHT! LA PHIL with MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS, EMANUEL AX plays BRAHMS – I know we’ve all fallen deeply in love with The Dude(amel), but many remember fondly how local-born prodigy MTT led our great orchestra in the ‘80s, and LA Times music critic Mark Swed praised the “transcendent”return last week of “an eternal LA prodigal son,” especially poignant following his surgery late last summer for a brain tumor. Emanuel Ax is one of the best classical pianists on the planet, and the Brahms’ epic “Piano concerto No. 1” will follow the intermission, with the treat of opening number “Blumine” by Mahler, a movement from his tone poem First Symphony. MTT loves him some Mahler – except when there are helicopters. Also in the opening round, Thomas leads one of his all-time favorite works, Alban Berg’s “Three Pieces for Orchestra,” which he describes as “a musical journey to the “borderline of sanity.” Sounds like quite a program. Thurs, Fri 8 p.m, Sun 2 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $71-229.

LA PHIL with Michael Tilson Thomas, GERALD CLAYTON plays Symphonic ELLINGTON – I am really excited about this one. And it demonstrates that a truly exceptional Philharmonic group reaches beyond its usual parameters, with caution, intent, knowledge and skill, to push boundaries in the right way, not just for the sake of experimentation, and without sacrificing artistry and their reputation. My two favorite jazz pianists on the planet are Benny Green and Gerald Clayton and with his musical upbringing in LA Clayton is the perfect one to both expose the grandeur of Ellington’s orchestral work, and reveal things we may not have heard before. When you want to grapple with the genius of a giant past, call in a giant of the present. Next Thurs, Fri 8 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $63-214.

RECOMMENDED:

15th Annual SoCal SLACK KEY FESTIVAL – This is definitely where I would be if I weren’t at Disney Hall at that same time, with MTT and The Ax, Mahler, Berg and Brahms. As much as I love Hawaiian music, and have been to slack key festivals in the islands, somehow I’ve never made it to this one, just down the block, in 15 years. But I am familiar with the lineup of performers and I know they will have island dancers and special food and drinks and other cultural foo-faw so it will be like taking an afternoon trip to Hawaii, with a great live soundtrack. You will probably be grinning the whole time you’re there. Sun 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., concert at 2 p.m., Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, $20-135.

BEYOND BAROQUE, a famous spoken word institution in nearby Venice, has decided to remain closed through the end of February, because of omicron.

RACHAEL & VILRAY – Don’t recognize the names? I have no idea where Vilray came from or if he even has a second name, I could look it up, if I cared, he’s probably some wannabe producer, or musician or songwriter or hanger-on who managed to meet Rachael Price, the very talented vocalist for the band Lake Street Dive, and somehow X-ray, for all his lack of good looks and a workout ethic, bespectacled and balding, talked her into, well, marrying him. So now they tour as a duo doing romantic pop songs of the ‘30s and ‘40s. I caught them a couple years ago playing in an abandoned church in some unlikely part of town and it was packed and the crowd loved them, went nuts after every song. I enjoyed it but kept thinking two things, that she is holding way back to not make him sound like a last – minute third-choice fill-in, and, I have heard so many people do these songs better than this. I think the young crowd just never heard that material before. For all that Lake Street Dive goes on about how democratic the band is and everyone contributes equally, they would be nowhere without Price. The Australian-born, Tennessee-raised singer can sell the bejeezus out of any song, any style, and the video cam loves her. But the duo vocalizing doesn’t give her the opportunity to cut loose. If it sounds like I have a crush, it does not take into account the marital status of both of us but, isn’t that really what rock and roll is all about, kids? Show of hands: how many picked up the guitar for the art, or for the chicks/dudes? Some might not consider Rachael a classic beauty but, we all have our types, don’t we? I still don’t forgive that wimpy, homely little Jimmy Taylor for taking Carly Simon off the market. Oh, by the way, the R&B show Sunday at the Troubadour just got canceled. But I wanted to write about Rachael anyway, and it’s a slow concert week. Not that what I wrote above, dissing all her musical friends and lovers, will get me anywhere with her except barred from concerts. Maybe a restraining order. We’ll have to wait until October to catch Lake Street Dive at the Hollywood Bowl. Look for me. In disguise.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: PONCHO SANCHEZ, Venice West, 1/22; COLIN BLUNSTONE, Joe Wong, The Downtown Palace Theatre, 1/22; SARAH SILVERMAN & Friends, Largo at the Coronet 1/22; ITZAK PERLMAN, Rohan De Silva, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 1/26; BJORK, Shrine Auditorium, 1/26, 29, 2/2; NATHANIEL RATELIFF & The Night Sweats The Novo, 1/28; THE ENGLISH BEAT, The Bourbon Room, 1/28, 29; RAUL MALO, The Canyon Agoura Hills 1/28, The Canyon Santa Clarita 1/30; MUSICARES honors JONI MITCHELL, LA Convention Center, 1/29; FEE WAYBILL, Troubadour, 1/29; JOHN MAYALL, Venice West, 1/30; NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALL STARS, Venice West, 2/2; BARBARA MORRISON, Vibrato, 2/13; PETE ESCOVEDO, Vibrato, 2/20.

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 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com