TONIGHT! – LA PHIL with Michael Tilson Thomas, Symphonic ELLINGTON, “New World A-Comin”with GERALD CLAYTON – I am really excited about this one. And it demonstrates that a truly exceptional Philharmonic Orchestra group reaches beyond its usual parameters, with knowledge, insight, expertise and an eye to history and the community, to push boundaries in the right directions, 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 Clayton’s musical upbringing in LA he is the perfect one to both re-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. Clayton’s own genius is matched only by his knowledge of and respect for his music forebears. Thurs, Fri 8 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $63-214.
TONIGHT! – HAMILTON — Still with us, thank goodness. I think I can only go wrong by not recommending it, from what I’ve heard and read. Tonight – Thurs, Fri, Sat, Tues, Wed, next Thurs 8 p.m., Sun 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m., also Sat 2 p.m., Pantages Theater, Hollywood, $49-3000+, depending on time.
PONCHO SANCHEZ – What is a leading conguero, Latin jazz band leader, and salsa singer doing with a new album (“Trane’s Delight”) of John Coltrane songs, ones the tenor sax giant composed and made famous, and new ones Sanchez wrote in his honor? Well kids, this is why you must go hear live music whenever you can, and why LA is the best live music town there is. Cross pollination. Willingness to experiment and break rules. A treasure trove of local musicians who inspire each other and try weird stuff that sometimes turns out wonderful. Sanchez is considered one of the most influential percussionists in jazz, jazz not just Latin jazz, worth a listen for his “usual stuff,” but this show may be a rare and memorable treat. Sat 9 p.m.,Venice West, $45.
FOUR FRESHMEN – Wait, is that a typo, a time warp? Haven’t those Freshmen graduated decades ago, and passed on? Formed in college in 1948, they have toured constantly ever since, behind 75 albums and four Grammy nominations and universal recognition as one of the best vocal harmony groups ever. I used to be more skeptical of lingering groups with only one or two original members (or none), but I have also learned that you don’t continue to sell tickets if you are not delivering what people have come to expect. From the photos, none of these four are in their 90s, but if you’ve got the rights to the name and the talent and done the hard rehearsal work, you are in a unique position. When I was doing an interview of Brian Wilson as he was finishing recording his first solo album, I was shown around the studio and there in a notebook, open on a stool, was his list of his favorite albums of all time. The Beach Boy got a few entries, but I think the Four Freshmen got an equal number. And Bian is the Master of Vocal Harmonies, the final authority. I’ll take all bets that he will be there that night. Taken together with Pepperdine’s recent concert by Take 6, I think this makes Smothers Theatre the absolute center of vocal harmonizing in the universe. Sun 2 p.m., Pepperdine, Malibu, $10-25.
COLIN BLUNSTONE, Sat 8 p.m. Downtown Palace Theatre, nevermind the ticket price because another one bites the dust. Canceled (not postponed). Dang. I was really looking forward to seeing him again. About 10 years ago he was back fronting The Zombies on a tour that hit the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. Outstanding show. I think they had all the original members, including great keyboardist Rod Argent. So maybe a couple dozen other fans are crestfallen about this cancellation? That’s a slight exaggeration, because in LA the fans of anyone good and different, no matter how obscure, will come out of the woodwork, even come in from other cities if the appearance is rare enough (Paul McC at Amoeba a few years back saw fans fly in on two days notice from Japan, South Africa, Siberia, lining up with locals standing in line for two days. Of course – not obscure. But illustrative of the passionate LA music scene.)
Blunstone was the lead voice for The Zombies in their heyday – the four hits. After the excellent “Odessey and Oracle” album they broke up over management issues in ‘68. He briefly worked as a clerk in the insurance business before resuming his musical career the next year. His recordings under a pseudonym didn’t do anything but by ‘72 his “Say You Don’t Mind” hit 15 on the British charts, his best showing, but he continued to have modest success and a following. In Britain. Hardly any US music fans can claim to have all his solo albums… as I do. If you need help getting over the finish line on a home date, pick one of his first five albums. Sweet, supremely romantic. Yes, you can thank me. And I probably should warn you: his solo albums drive some out of the room, put others to sleep. Choose your music and your friends and lovers carefully.
SARAH SILVERMAN & Friends, Largo at the Coronet 1/22 – rescheduled to 1/29.
LA PHIL with ITZAK PERLMAN, Wed 8 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall – also vanished. (I’m sorry! Don’t shoot the messenger!)
And on a final note, I guess I should apologize to Vilray, Rachael Price’s singing partner for their duo act. I went off on him as not being worthy, and I stand by the musical assessment, but I charged ahead on an incorrect piece of information for the rest of my humorously-intended rant. (They aren’t married.) I don’t think he’ll be hurt. He’s still making the bucks and getting to hear her sing every show. Don’t envy the lottery winners, just count your own blessings.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: BJORK, Shrine Auditorium, 1/ 29, 2/1; 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; SARAH SILVERMAN & Friends, Largo at the Coronet, 1/29, 2/19; JOHN MAYALL, Venice West, 1/30, 2/27; BJORK, Shrine Auditorium, 1/26, 29, 2/2; NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS, Venice West, 2/2; SPARKS, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 2/7,8; 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 email@example.com