At the RUSKIN. Courtesy photo

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: 

TONIGHT! – LA OPERA, VERDI’S “AIDA” – You don’t want to miss this, and these are the last two performances. I haven’t seen 1,000 operas but I’ve seen a few, and some really good ones, and this “Aida” is among the best. With arresting, often bright red-against-black tall columns of “modern hieroglyphics” by LA graffiti artist RETNA, and at least four stunning principal vocalists and a great chorus (and spare but enhancing ballet moments), this production knocks it out of the park. Give credit to international star director Francesca Zambello for her vision, and to conductor James Conlon. The orchestra, sometimes the least noticed element, was the best I’ve ever heard them, precisely executing what I would consider a great piece of music by Verdi, inventive, taking some chances, that not only mirrored but subtly drove the action on stage, and avoided cliches. The story line was great: ancient Egypt, a war against Ethiopia, and prominent figures on both sides falling in love. What a finish! The plot made real life sense, something often lacking in operas. I’ve seen a few Verdis, and if “Aida” is one of his lesser works, according to some experts, you couldn’t prove it by this LA Opera production. It is a mesmerizing three hours of entertainment from at least five directions, and you may be able to snag a ticket for 29 bucks. Thurs 7:30 p.m., Sub 2 p.m., The Music Center, LA, $29-399. 

RAY BAILEY BIRTHDAY BLUES BASH – You may not be familiar with our homegrown master blues guitarist/vocalist Ray Bailey because he hasn’t played up this way much for a while. I ran into him in Watts last Sunday, playing a legendary local jam at Bell’s garage, just around the corner from the house he grew up in. He was looking healthy and happy and very much looking forward to this Harvelle’s gig that is a fundraiser for the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, so bring your fat wallet and slick credit card because the door price is a ridiculous 10 bucks. It would be event enough to have Ray playing in LA’s oldest blues club again, but he’s bringing a trainload of talented bluesmen, including Bernie Pearl, the great Southside Slim. This is definitely Don’t Miss. Fri 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.

EMMYLOU HARRIS – I’m not going to say much about the 18-time GRAMMY winner country music legend who can still wrap that voice around a single syllable to break your heart, except if you pass this opportunity by, in this setting, with these acoustics and sight lines, well, maybe you just don’t deserve her. Sat 8 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA, $51-144.

GERALD CLAYTON & Friends – Clayton and a new combo every Tuesday? Haven’t played together as a band? Isn’t that a bit iffy, especially for a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED? Probably, if it wasn’t Gerald Clayton, an absolutely magnificent, transcendent pianist. I would rather hear him in a smaller, duo or trio setting that spotlights his piano more, but… Clayton, now EVERY Tuesday night? This is spectacular news for all real music fans. And you don’t think he’s going to hang out with the very best players? This week, alto sax, bass and drums quartet. Don’t know how long this is going to last so don’t put it off. I may go every Tuesday, so say hello. Tues 7:30, 9 p.m., Sam First, LAX, $25.

EM the MASTER – She’s still amazing, she’s still here. Nothing good lasts forever, you know. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.

RECOMMENDED:

“GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER” – Let’s hear it for all the arts groups struggling to survive a pandemic for two years without box office, only to cautiously return, to limited seating, audience trepidation/absence, having to cancel rehearsals or even performances, losing key players to COVID at the last minute, never knowing what’s around the corner. But here they are, an arts gem of Santa Monica, launching a production everyone would be highly anticipating even in normal times. With the LA premiere of Todd Kriedler’s adaptation of the 1967 film about racial and generational family upheaval that, sadly, still has relevance half a century later. Directed by Lita Gaithers Owens. You can bet on whatever happens on the Ruskin stage. Fri, Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport, $20-35.

“THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR,” “MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” – Alright! Summer in LA is officially here. We’re off and running on a FULL schedule for our treasured theater-in-the woods, Theatricum Botanicum. If you haven’t EVER, in the last four decades, attended one of their performances or if it has been years, you really are missing out on one of the greatest reasons to put up with LA. To show up is like taking a short vacation. A lot of folks picnic beforehand. But don’t just go for the trees: this is one of the very best theatrical troupes you will find anywhere, period. Shakespeare is their specialty, but everything they choose to do comes out top notch and memorable. Sat 7:30 p.m. (Merry), Sun 3:30 p.m. (Midsummer), Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-60 (discounts for seniors, students, teachers, veterans, AEA, ages 5-15). 

101 FESTIVAL – This is pretty cool but a tad confusing. It’s the celebration of the Hollywood Bowl turning 100… which happened last year. But COVID prevented the proper recognition. And besides, everyone in show biz lies about their age, right? But they are also calling it the 101 Festival because it is being held on successive days at the Bowl and the Ford, which straddle either side of the 101 freeway. Saturday’s lineup at the Bowl appeals more to me with the incomparable Ben Harper, Sheila E, the LA Phil, violinist Ray Chen, Cut Chemist, and a duel between the famed marching bands of UCLA and USC. (Show Fleetwood Mac they made the wrong choice, Bruins!) I’m pretty sure it’s free but you have to register and then get picked. Sat 5 p.m., Bowl, Sun 5:30 p.m., Ford.

BILL CUNLIFFE TRIO with Darek Oles, Mark Ferber – I don’t know Ferber but Bill Cunliffe is an outstanding pianist and Darek Oles is one of my favorite jazz bassists in the world, so I think you should go and have a great experience.. Sat 7:30, 9 p.m., Sam First, LAX, $25. 

LIBRARY GIRL – It’s that time of the month again, second Sunday, and we are so lucky to have Library Girl back and healthy after having to hide for so long from COVID. This month’s offering honors the independent Moon Tide Press, with a handful of people you may never have heard of who will tug at your head and your heart. Take this vital injection once every month, please. Sun 7 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, Santa Monica Airport, $20 (includes dessert treat).

TOLEDO DIAMOND — Every time the thought pops up, what shall I do with my weekend, you should remember you can blow the top off it by ending it in front of Toledo Diamond and his superb, unquestionably unique show at Harvelle’s. The door man there recently told me that someone showed up and said, “I’ve been reading Charles Andrews recommend this for about a year, so I finally have to see for myself.” The report was that the patron was danged pleased he did not miss another Sunday. Every Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12. 

COMING ATTRACTIONS: “GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER,” Ruskin Group Theatre, 6/17 – 7/17; “THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR,” 6/18-10/2, “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM,” 6/19-10/1, “THE WESTSIDE WALTZ,” 6/25-10/1, Theatricum Botanicum; CHRIS ISAAK, LYLE LOVETT and His Large Band, Greek Theatre, 6/17; 33rd Annual MARIACHI USA FESTIVAL, Hollywood Bowl, 6/18; MARY GAUTHIER, McCabe’s, 6/18; TOM PAXTON, McCabe’s, 6/24; PIER 360 FESTIVAL, 6/24, 25; BRANDI CARLISLE, Greek Theater, 6/24. 25; HOLLYWOOD BOWL JAZZ FESTIVAL, 6/25; STEVE POSTELL’S NIGHT TRAIN MUSIC CLUB, McCabe’s, 6/26; NORAH JONES, Greek Theater, 6/29.

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 therealmrmusic@gmail.com