April Concert Picks from Rhythm Planet

April is almost here, bringing eight cool shows to Los Angeles that I’ve been especially looking forward to. These are terrific opportunities to catch rare performances and hear new music, so I hope you’ll make the time and check them out.

Return to Myanmar | Aratani Theater | Saturday, April 1 at 7 p.m.

Burmese pat waing master Kyaw Kyaw Naing. (Photo courtesy of the Aratani World Series)

How often do we have the chance to hear a drum ensemble from Myanmar (formerly Burma)? Aside from the country’s ongoing civil war, Myanmar has lived through years of cultural and political isolation. The only exception being state counselor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi. Music from Myanmar never travels to the U.S., so the Kyaw Kyaw Naing Ensemble’s upcoming performance at the Japanese American Cultural Community Center’s Aratani Theater on Saturday, April, 1, is a rare treat. The New York Times put it this way:

“Kyaw Kyaw Naing’s Burmese music is an exhilarating tease, defying expectations of symmetry or steady tempo.”

I’m a fan of music from around the world, but Burmese music is like no other. Don’t miss this unique show! For tickets and info, click here.

Charles Lloyd | Center for the Art of Performance, UCLA | Friday, April 14 at 8 p.m.

From left to right: Charles Lloyd, Lucinda Williams, and Bill Frisell. (Photos courtesy of CAP-UCLA)

Charles Lloyd is one of the most protean of jazz musicians and an elder statesman as well. Credited with introducing pianists Keith Jarrett and Michel Petrucciani to the music world years ago, he continues to morph his group’s sound and explore new musical territories. Bill Frisell fans will be happy, because he’s part of the current incarnation, along with bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Eric Harland, and a second guitarist, Greg Leisz. Singer Lucinda Williams joins them as a special guest that night at UCLA’s Royce Hall. For tickets and info, click here.

Dance India! | Aratani Theater | Saturday, April 15 at 7 p.m.

Kathak dancer Rina Mehta. (Photo by Margo Moritz)

Lovers of classical Indian music and dance are in for a real treat. The Aratani World Series returns to the Japanese American Cultural Community Center’s Aratani Theater in April with “Dance India! Four Visions,” which showcases four classical Indian dance styles: Odissi, Mohiniyattam, Bharata Natyam, and Kathak. Learn the aesthetic, technical and gestural differences between each of these distinct styles, as the artists “capture and amplify the shifting dimensions of human emotion, spirit world and cosmos.” Early birds can even catch a pre-concert performance of Rajasthani gypsy folk dance that will take place on the plaza at 6 p.m.; the pre-concert performance is free and open to the public. For show tickets and info, click here.

Reykjavík Festival: Jóhann Jóhannsson and Bedroom Community’s Valgeir Sigurðsson, Nico Muhly & Sam Amidon | Walt Disney Concert Hall | Monday, April 17 at 8 p.m.

So much interesting music pours out of Iceland beyond Bjørk and Sigur Rós that we never hear about. Lucky Angelenos will finally get a proper taste of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s stunning, large-scale work as it’s meant to be heard: in the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s soaring, cathedral-type space, performed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. I’ve been a fan of Jóhannsson’s for some time, beginning with IBM 1401: A User’s Manual and Fordlandia. It’s good to see that his more recent film scores for Arrival, The Theory of Everything, and others have been gaining him more exposure Stateside.

From left to right: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Valgier Sigurðsson, and Nico Muhly (Photos courtesy of Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Also on the bill as part of the L.A. Philharmonic’s Reykjavík Festival program that evening is Bedroom Community label founder and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson with one of today’s most prolific contemporary composers, Nico Muhly, and American folk singer Sam Amidon. This is a rare opportunity to hear the type of thought-provoking new music that Angelenos don’t get to hear enough of. For tickets and info, click here.

The Afro-Cuban All Stars | Catalina Bar & Grill | Wednesday, April 19–Sunday, April 22, 8:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.

This Cuban group is the lesser-known offshoot of the more famous Buena Vista Social Club, but any fan of tropical music will love them. The Afro-Cuban All Stars come to Los Angeles very rarely, so an entire week’s worth of gigs at Catalina’s is something to celebrate for any fan of Cuban music. Many of the group’s members have played with most—if not all—of Buena Vista’s great stars, including the late pianist, Rubén Gonzalez.

The Afro-Cuban All Stars, under the direction of Juan de Marcos Gonzaléz, excel in all Cuban styles: son, cha-cha, and salsa. Several of its great musicians rarely leave La Isla (that is, Cuba) to tour, so this week is your chance to see them perform! Not to mention, you have an entire week of concert dates to choose from. For tickets and info, click here.

Juan de Marcos Gonzalés and The Afro-Cuban All Stars (Photo by Luiz C. Ribeiro Photography)

Vieux Farka Touré | Echoplex | Tuesday, April 25 at 8:30 p.m.

Despite his name, Vieux Farka Touré (“vieux” means “old” in French) is the youngest son of the late Malian bluesmaster, Ali Farka Touré. His North American spring tour will showcase his new album, Samba. For tickets and info, click here.

Zakir Hussain & Rahul Sharma | Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA | Saturday, April 29 at 8 p.m.

Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain teams up with santoor (the Indian hammered dulcimer) player Rahul Sharma for an exciting evening of Indian music at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Both musicians come from long lineages of classical Hindustani virtuosos. Hussain’s father and guru was the venerable Alla Rakha, who was Ravi Shankar’s tabla player. Sharma continues the santoor tradition passed down to him by his father and guru, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Heard together, their playing is mesmerizing. For tickets and info, click here.

Rahul Sharma on santoor and Zakir Hussain on tabla. (Photos courtesy of CAP-UCLA)

Helen Sung Quartet | Blue Whale | Saturday, April 29 at 9 p.m.

Helen Sung is a great jazz pianist and composer who demands the best from the musicians in her group. She’s bringing some fine musicians with her to the Blue Whale in April: John Ellis (sax), Boris Kozlov (bass), Darrell Green (drums), and guest vocalist Christie Dashiell. Sung’s Blue Whale gig showcases her new project, called Sung With Words, which will also be her next recording. For tickets and info, click here.

We’re lucky to have the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo. With its great acoustics and well-maintained piano, it’s no wonder that this venue has become such a hotspot for performers and rapt audiences alike. When the artists play, this audience listens, which is a welcome change from concertgoers at some of the other places around town. It makes me wish I lived Downtown so that I could catch more shows there.

Don’t stay home when there is so much going on around town! Hope to see you at some of these concerts next month.