Toledo Diamond: Performs on Sunday at Harvelle’s. Courtesy photo


Heard these three groups, now is the perfect time, while we are still in the holiday lull for live shows. And two are right here in downtown Santa Monica, at the oldest blues bar in LA, Harvelle’s, the other just over the border on Sepulveda, just south of Venice, at the cool Cinema Bar. All three great shows will cost you $22 – total. Note: tonight only is the first one, the donkey-kicking blues duo Celso & Darryl. You just might see me there. (Go anyway.)


Maybe that’s a little harsh. A guy’s got to make a living, right? But Three Dog Night was a special band for me. I saw them seven times, and I rarely go back for seconds even for the best bands. The hit against them was that they were “too commercial,’’ whatever the heck that means. I get some funny looks when I occasionally, boldly, declare that Three Dog Night was one of the best live bands ever. The four-piece band was outstanding all around, but no knockouts among them really. The magic was in the three lead singers, and each of them was a knockout. Chuck Negron won Amateur Night at the Apollo – all three singers were white but often didn’t sound it – but a heroin habit drove him out of the group. Cory Wells died a few years ago. So original founder Danny Hutton seems to now be the lone singer. They had a slew of great songs, showing they were terrific at spotting a great tune: Nilsson, Randy Newman, John Hiatt, Hoyt Axton, Laura Nyro, and were early on gifted with “It’s For You” from none other than Sir Paul. They sold 60 million records. From 1969-74, no other group had more Top 10 hits, sold more records or more concert tickets. But to keep things honest, I think Hutton should be touring as “One Dog Night,” and he could add, “All the Hits!”


TONIGHT! – CELSO & DARRYL – Am I getting tired of writing about these guys? No, because they are the real deal, an under-recognized LA treasure, and until Harvelle’s is packed every time they play, with blues fans coming from near and far, my job is not done. My world travels have shown me that with the exception of our UK cousins, the rest of the world’s musician’s have difficulty “getting” American music. DNA, maybe. Jazz, blues, country. Some years ago I received an album of “country music” by a Swedish band, led by a black Swede vocalist. The players knew all the notes to play, but – it just wasn’t country. The best Scandinavian jazz artists are superb, an exception to my “rule.” But country, blues – no. Except – one great blues guitarist I heard in central Italy, Paolo Ventura. Turns out he booked passage to Mississippi, the Crossroads, and spent a long time ensconced in obscure libraries reading about the blues, and listening. Recordings, and local juke joints. When I heard him in Italy I was floored. His pilgrimage paid off. Celso Salim was born in Brazil but, no problem, he breathes American blues, in his bottleneck guitar assault and his vocals. Darryl Carriere probably had a small harmonica instead of a pacifier as a baby, because he is now a master of the kind of blues harp blowing that knocks you back in your chair. He sings pretty good too. 10 bucks for this show? Ridiculous. A steal. Tonight, Thurs 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.

THE HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES – It’s just outside Santa Monica, street parking is easy, it’s a friendly little neighborhood bar where you can see and hear everywhere in the tiny room, the sound is great, the stage is maybe a foot high and right next to the patrons, drinks are reasonable and there is no cover. Hot Club’s brand of virtuoso, breakneck Django-style 1930s gypsy swing jazz is found nowhere else and even if it was, it couldn’t possibly be this good. It’s a show worth 50 bucks cover, and worth waiting a year for. These guys are masters, individually and collectively. You will find it hard to stop smiling all night. Mon 9 p.m., Cinema Bar, Culver City, no cover.


TOLEDO DIAMOND – Unique, riveting, first class act. Just trot your procrastinating carcass down this Sunday night and see what you’ve been missing. Choreographer to the biggest stars, his stage show is funky but finely crafted. His persona is unique; octaves-low growl vocalizing that is ‘50s hipster poet meshed with ghetto cool. His band just keeps getting better and are worth the show themselves. And The Dames? – well I remember back when he was on Sunset Strip that we were still taken by surprise when a young woman seemed so moved by the moment that she slid to the dance floor to gyrate to the groove, progressing (by Diamond design of course) to a featured dance number, even incorporating chairs, table and bar tops, and unsuspecting patrons as props. With Toledo barely noticing and never skipping a beat. There’s nothing like it, it is high performance art and great fun, and he’s been doing it at Harvelle’s every dang Sunday night for more than two decades, no misses, even when he had to fly back from making a film in France. Rarely is degeneracy so well disciplined. Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: BEETHOVEN’S NINTH, LA PHIL, MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS, Disney Concert Hall, 1/13, 14, 15; JACK WHITE, MUSE, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, FALL OUT BOY, PHOENIX, Kia Forum, 1/14; TOLEDO DIAMOND, Harvelle’s, 1/15, 22, 29; HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES, Cinema Bar, 1/16, 23, 30; EM, Harvelle’s, 1/17. 24, 31; , MONTEREY JAZZ FEST on Tour, Disney concert Hall, 1/20; AX – MA – KAVAKOS, Disney Concert Hall, 1/28; P-22 CELEBRATION OF LIFE, Greek Theater, 2/4.

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 37 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at