I could hardly believe my ears, and my good fortune. I was thoroughly enjoying the presentation Sunday afternoon at the Getty of the music and culture of Afghanistan, by tabla virtuoso Salar Nader. Then he trotted out an enthusiastic and skilled dance troupe, in gorgeous native costume, then the revered “Barbra Streisand of Afghani singers,” then a solo dancer, in flowing costume but on point and performing ballet to an Afghan soundtrack. But then Nader blew all our minds when out marched none other than esteemed jazz bassist and composer Stanley Clarke, with whom Nader has been collaborating for four years. Clarke gave a short, touching rumination about the importance of artists in the world, then gave one of the finest single one-song performances I have ever heard, 15 minutes of “No Mystery” – “my favorite Chick Corea song,” Clarke said. (They were in Return to Forever together.) Nader took his playing up to outer space as the blazing tabla “drummer” in this unusual trio.
And… it was a free show. Live music is like that, you never know what you will get. Sometimes – priceless. I strongly urge you to take in the last of the series next month, the music and culture of Hawaii.
LA OPERA presents BACH’S ST. MATTHEW PASSION – Oh boy, oh boy, it’s been months since LA Opera’s last great productions, classic Rossini in “Cinderella” (like you’d never seen her), and then there was weighty Wagner in “Tannhauser” before that. How can they top that? Possibly with the Bach opera that many consider one of the finest pieces of sacred music in the Western world, and with the Hamburg Ballet on stage as well. Sat, Thurs 7:30 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA, $23-292.
EM the MASTER –Every Tuesday night, witness the multi-talented Em, a force of nature. I’ve been giving EM’s show a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for months now and still do. She sings, dances, has dancers. She crawls across the floor like a reptile, gripping the mic and never missing a beat. She doesn’t play the piano, she attacks it. Uses her voice as an instrument in creative ways. Her energy is seemingly limitless. Writes terrific songs perfect for her act. More talent than anyone has a right to. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III – If you’re a fan, here’s a reasonable suggestion: go both nights. Because I can’t imagine the Bard of Buffoonery and Bald-faced Truths being able to remember exactly what he said and sang the night before. Even if he did, it will come out new, and natty. So why wait another couple of years between LWIII ecumenical extravaganzas, when you can get two in two nights? Mon, Tues 8 p.m., McCabe’s, Santa Monica, $45.
TONIGHT! – HILLARY HAHN – Hahn is a really interesting musician, always exploring and learning, as well as being regarded as one of the very best. She began playing violin at three, was admitted to the prestigious Curtis Institute at 10 and completed her university coursework at 16, but remained there three more years because there were so many courses she still wanted to take. Major orchestra debut at 11, and at 19 recorded the lyric Barber concerto, on the program tonight, that Gramophone Magazine called “one of the best ever.” She has recorded for Oscar-nominated film scores, and with folk singers Tom Brosseau, who recently played at McCabe’s and was for years a local fixture at the Church In Ocean Park, and also toured with Josh Ritter. She has recorded with rockers …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. Since 2016, she has piloted free concerts for parents with infants, art students, a knitting circle, community dance workshop, and yoga class. Since a lot more people now know where Estonia is, bordering Russia, it is perfect timing for her performance of “Silhouette“ by the great, living Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, conducted by fellow Esto Paavo Järvi. And, you’ll also get the exquisite, emotional 7th by Dvorak. What a profound music city we have. Fri 11 a.m., St 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA, $73-260.
TONIGHT! – HAMILTON — You kept putting it off. Now, after Sunday, you will have to fly to New York to see it. Tonight – Thurs, Fri, Sat 8 p.m., Sun 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m., also Sat 2 p.m., Pantages Theater, Hollywood, $49-3000+, depending on date/time.
PACIFIC OPERA PROJECT presents TCHAIKOVSKY’S “IOLANTA” – Hooray! The little opera company that could, that started out in SM at Miles Playhouse and has progressed to bigger stages and projects, is now back, in a nice theater in Little Tokyo that’s not on a front lawn (but that was necessary recently, and just fine), with “Iolanta,” a different kind of fairytale. (POP loves “different.”) Cristina Jones, a.k.a. “The Blind Soprano,” stars in the opera’s title role about a princess who is unaware that she is blind. Their first opera in Russian. With a 32-piece orchestra. Founder and creative whirlwind Josh Shaw is directing. OK, I’m in. Sun 3 p.m,. Aratani Theatre, Little Tokyo, $12-60.
DAVID HIDALGO, RICK HOLMSTROM BAND – I’ve never heard Holmstrom but two things I know that are gold: he spent a lot of time in Mavis Staples’ band, and his drummer this night is her drummer, local legend Steve Mugalian (he’s everywhere!). That’s good enough for me, and also good enough is opening act David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, worth the price of admission on his own. But it is sold out, so you will have to go and beg and/or bribe someone in line. Sun 8 p.m., McCabe’s, Santa Monica.
TOLEDO DIAMOND — Have you gone to catch his unique show yet, every Sunday night at Harvelle’s, here in SM? I’ve been recommending him for… decades. Choreographer to the biggest stars, smoky-voiced hep cat, creator of a unique floor show, with his dames, circus hoops, and a band that is truly a knockout. Trust me. You’ve never seen anything like Toledo. You will not forget this show and likely you will be back, friends in tow. Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: LA OPERA presents BACH’S ST. MATTHEW PASSION, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 3/26, 27; PACIFIC OPERA PROJECT presents TCHAIKOVSKY’S “IOLANTA,” Aratani Theatre, 3/26, 27; LA PHIL with Bychkov conducting, MAHLER’S 7TH, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 3/26, 27; PETE ESCOVEDO, Vibrato, 3/30; JAVIER CAMARENA, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 3/31, 4/2; LA PHIL with ZUBIN MEHTA, MOZART’S GREAT MASS, 3/31, 4/1, 2, 3; ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 4/6, 7; MEHTA Conducts BRUCKNER, BERG, 4/7, BLASTERS, Bourbon Room, 4/9; SOUNDS OF LA: “AUKAHI” (Flowing Harmony) with Kumu Hula Kealiʻi Ceballos, Daniel Ho, and Ohana, Gtty, 4/9, 10; “YEHEMANDJA” starring ANGELIQUE KIDJO, Broad Stage; 4/15; ROGER McGUINN, Smothers Theatre, 4/25.
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 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org