R.I.P. PHAROAH SANDERS (81)
He was a giant, for having dramatically transformed the very ground that jazz rested on, but also for his spiritual life that came through that tenor sax. Great musicians can move us with their virtuosity, but few, like Sanders, can speak directly to our heart and soul, with the notes they play. They were controversial, sometimes harsh, squawking notes, but they came from deep down (or far out in the cosmos), and his “The Creator Has a Master Plan” has influenced generations. He joined Coltrane’s quartet in 1965 and soon went solo after he died in ‘67. I was fortunate enough to see him once, at the original Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, and I will never forget it.
“TROUBLE THE WATER” – I’ve misled you. All this time I figured the riveting, barely believable true story of Robert Smalls’ bold plan to escape slavery, with his family and crew, by commandeering the armored and well-armed Confederate transport he was serving on, delivering it into Union hands, would naturally be the focus of this play. But it is only one dramatic part of a remarkable man’s life, which has been left out of our history books but now is so artfully, humanely set forth by this always adventurous drama troupe.
Full disclosure means I should tell you my family has been good friends for many years with one of their lead actors, Earnestine Phillips, and she has always provided us with tickets. But it was more than a decade before I had the NOTEWORTHY column, to write about them, and I still could have stayed silent if they weren’t that good. But they are, you bet they are, and there have been very few productions in all those years that I couldn’t confidently recommend whole heartily and honestly.
I mention this now because I have studiously avoided singling Earnestine out for any of her many outstanding roles, for several reasons. But I just can’t help myself here. She is so damn good, nuanced, animated and achingly immersed in her role as the mother Lydia, that she might get everyone’s vote. But, this very large cast had a plethora of superb performances. Terrence Wayne Jr. as Trouble was incredible.
The first half tells you much about Smalls’ early life, revealing the man he would become. The second half… had a number of surprises, and I will not be a spoiler. You must, MUST, must see this performance this Sunday. Very last chance. – Sun 7:30 p.m., $10-60 (discounts for seniors, students, teachers, veterans, AEA, ages 5-15).
THE HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES – Breakneck, virtuosic 1930s Django-style swing music in the cozy Culver City dive (almost 75 years old) with live music almost every night and never a cover charge. It’s gigs like this that make putting up with the bad side of Santa Monica worth it. Every Mon 9 p.m., Cinema Bar, Culver City, no cover.
EM – She’s still amazing. But nothing good lasts forever, you know. Don’t push your luck. So why not go this Tuesday night? Betcha, you’ll thank me. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.
LA OPERA, “LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR” – Poor Lucia. She loves a guy but her domineering brother has another man picked out, who will better benefit the family’s failing finances. Not acceptable! Is murder the only way out? This terrible situation is driving her to the edge of madness, which of course opera just loves. I haven’t seen it yet, was out of town. But I made this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED sight unheard, even with a new company director this season, and the classic Donizetti drama adapted to present day rust belt America and all that adds, because, well, I haven’t seen LA Opera falter for many seasons, despite some rough sledding. So there. Sun 2 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA, $24-274.
ALL WORTH SEEING! —“A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” – Sat :30 p.m. “WESTSIDE WALTZ” – Sat 7:30 p.m. “THE MERRY WIVES of WINDSOR” – – Sun 3:30 p.m. All shows Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-60 (discounts for seniors, students, teachers, veterans, AEA, ages 5-15).
DESERT DAZE with IGGY POP, KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD, TAME IMPALA and dozens more – Excellent headliners each day but I don’t know many of the other bands. But I think the point is the lake, the beach, the bikinis, the booze, the bongs, the trippy art – you know, fun, for the last gasp of summer. Fri-Sat-Sun, Lake Perris, $139-1,999.
KURT ELLING with CHARLIE HUNTER – Bingo! Two artists I’ve been wanting to see for many years but somehow always missed, and now they are together. During COVID they got together and recorded “Superblue” and finally have the chance to play it for audiences. Hunter was a favorite of my son Christopher, simultaneously plays bass lines, chords and melodies on his custom seven- and eight-string guitar, and will bring along a seven man band that features four horn blowers. Chicago bred, singing in churches, Elling “swings, with poetic insight,” first recorded with Blue Note, 15 GRAMMY noms with two wins, 14 years topping the Downbeat Critics and Readers polls, four-octave range, NY Times: “Standout male vocalist of our time.” Note early show. Sat 6 p.m., Zebulon, Highland Park, $25.
CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE, ELVIN BISHOP – I used to think Elvin Bishop was overrated, having too much fun on stage to be a serious bluesman, way too loosey goosey to punch out a tough blues number. But hey, he’s got a following. And if you hang around long enough – you can become an elder statesman. But the one you really want to shell out for is Charlie Musselwhite, recognized for decades as one of the best blues harp blowers and vocalists anywhere. The man has chops, and soul. Still carrying the torch for his early ‘60s south side Chicago indoctrination. Note early showtime. Sun 6 p.m., Saban Theatre, Beverly Hills, $49-89.
TOLEDO DIAMOND — The true hipster (when that sobriquet meant something way cool), choreographer to the stars, smoky Svengali, showman supreme. Toledo and his unquestionably unique show always pleases, if you are ready for the very different. Every Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12.
MAHLER, DUDAMEL – It’s the LA Philharmonic, it’s Dudamel, and he’s conducting one of his very favorite mighty composers. Don’t fret that this is Mahler’s 1st Symphony: he started out on the mountaintop and just kept offering very different versions of genius, heart and soul. Next Thurs 8 p.m., Disney Hall, LA, $
COMING ATTRACTIONS: LA OPERA, “LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR,”10/9; TOLEDO DIAMOND, Harvelle’s, 10/9, 16, 23, 30 ; HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES, Cinema Bar, 10/10. 17.24. 31; EM, Harvelle’s, 10/11, 18, 25; MAHLER, DUDAMEL, Disney Hall, 10/7, 8, 9; MARCUS KING, Wiltern, 10/7; LIBRARY GIRL, Ruskin Group Theatre, 10/9; JAKE BUGG, Belasco, 10/11; MISTY COPELAND (speaking), Saban Theatre, 10/16; “SHADES OF DJANGO,” Pepperdine Smothers Theater, 10/23; DANNY ELFMAN Halloween Shows, Hollywood Bowl, 10/28, 29; SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR, The Soraya, 10/29; RICK SHEA, , TONY GILKYSON, CINDY BERRYHILL Songwriters Showcase, McCabe’s, 10/30; CHAKA KHAN, Disney Hall, 10/30; JEFF BECK, Orpheum Theater, 11/6 (also Thousand Oaks, Anaheim, Temecula); LYLE LOVETT, JOHN HIATT, The Soraya, 11/9; RHIANNON GIDDENS, Disney Hall, 11/12; ALBERT LEE, McCabe’s, 11/12; NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, Saban Theatre, 11/13; ELTON JOHN, Dodger Stadium, 11/17, 19, 20; LIZZO, Kia Forum, 11/18, 19.
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