Whoever said that Los Angeles is a cultural wasteland is, in jazz parlance, “out to lunch.” Well, granted, New York probably stages more theater and dance, but the City of Angels is no slouch when it comes to its music offerings. L.A. is still a musical capital and these September shows—from superb jazz to Afro-Brazilian music and dance, and Mexican cumbia to flamenco guitar—provide ample proof of it!
Wednesday, September 6 | Quincy Jones: The A&M Years; Richard Bona & Mandekan Cubano, Jonah Nilsson (Hollywood Bowl)
I put this concert in my calendar as soon as I heard about it. This spectacular evening will celebrate the one and only Q, focusing on three special recordings made during his highly creative A&M years — Walking in Space, Gula Matari, and Smackwater Jack. The show also features a big cast of musical heavyweights, among them musical director Christian McBride, plus special guests Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, and flutist Hubert Laws, whom I’ve always admired for his beautiful tone and creative improvisations. Talented Cameroonian singer and bass player Richard Bona and the group Mandekan Cubano are also on the bill with music that merges the sounds of Africa and Cuba. Vocalist and keyboardist Jonah Nilsson of the Pop-Jazz band Dirty Loops will open the evening. For tickets and info, click here.
Sunday, September 10 | Roger Kellaway & Mike Lang: “Many Moods of McCartney” & The American Song Book (Downtown L.A.)
The Jazz Bakery presents Roger Kellaway and Mike Lang, two veteran piano virtuosi who have worked with Sonny Rollins, Paul Horn, and a myriad of other jazz groups. The two have a brand new album out, featuring their interpretations of Paul McCartney classics, plus evergreens from the popular American Songbook. Hearing these Kellaway and Lang on a pair of Steinway D grands at The Colburn School’s Zipper Hall should be a special night to remember. For tickets and info, click here.
Saturday, September 16 | Kenny Barron Trio (Downtown L.A.)
Kenny Barron is one of jazz music’s great pianists—a pianist’s pianist, if there ever was one. Jazz fans will flock to this Jazz Bakery show at The Colburn School’s Zipper Hall. For tickets and info, click here.
Saturday, September 16 | Cumbia at the Bowl! (Hollywood Bowl)
Get ready to shake your hips for one soulful night of cumbian beats at the Hollywood Bowl. Cumbia is the equivalent of soul music in Latin America. This huge cumbia celebration will feature Los Ángeles Azules, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles), Grupo Cañaveral Big Band, and Colombia’s own mighty La Sonora Dinamita. For tickets and info, click here.
Wednesday, September 20 | Vicente Amigo (Redondo Beach)
Vicente Amigo is one of flamenco’s greatest guitarists, and he has been at the top of his game for the past 20 years and counting. Amigo doesn’t perform in L.A. nearly as often as I wish, but I can tell you from the times that I have seen him that this is one artist you must see, even if you’re only remotely interested in this most passionate of genres. For tickets and info, click here.
Thursday, September 21 | Brazilian Music Get Together: Tribute to Baden Powell’s Os Afro Sambas (Beverly Hills)
The Brazilian Consulate will host a celebration of Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell’s recording of Os Afro Sambas, with lyrics by poet Vinicius de Moraes. The 1966 album was an exploration of Afro-Brazilian culture and its entry into the Brazilian mainstream music scene at the time. The Brazilian Music Get Together will feature the acclaimed 7-string guitarist, Fabiano do Nascimento, and his group. The show is free and open to the public. For more info, click here.
Friday, September 22 | Viver Brasil Celebrates 20 Years: Agô Ayó—Spirits Rising (Hollywood)
Viver Brasil is a Los Angeles-based dance company specializing in Afro-Bahian, maracatu, and other Brazilian dance styles. As the former program director of the Hollywood Bowl’s Sunday series—now called KCRW’s World Festival—I first met Viver Brasil back in 1999, when they opened for Carlinhos Brown and some other big Brazilian names. It was one of the most memorable shows for me.
This month’s “Viver Brasil Celebrates 20 Years: Agô Ayó—Spirits Rising” exalts the Afro-Brazilian ancestral wisdom of orixa dance and music, the socially charged dances of frevo, samba and the bloco afro Carnaval spectacle. The company’s 20th anniversary performance will also feature the world premieres of “Para Onde o Samba Me Leva” by choreographer Vera Passos and Marina Magalhães’s “Cor da Pele.” Viver Brasil will also perform “Orixas, Revealed,” “Avaninha” and more. Special guest Ebomi Cici from Salvador, Bahia, will also join the festivities.
Rhythm Planet fans receive a 20% discount off tickets! Enter VBFRIENDS upon purchase. For more information, click here.
Saturday, September 23 | Celebrate Fela: A Benefit Concert (Downtown L.A.)
Grand Performances wraps up this summer season with a bang. This year’s annual gala will pay tribute to the music of Fela Kuti, while honoring longtime executive director emeritus, Michael Alexander. For the past 27 years, Alexander’s tireless work has brought Los Angeles countless—and always free—evenings of great musical wonder: Beijing Modern Dance Company performing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; El Gusto’s Big Band Chaabi from Algiers; Baaba Maal; Bembeya Jazz; Miguel Atwood-Ferguson; Todd Simon’s Ethio Cali; France’s Caravan Palace and countless other groups that made my musical summers complete.
As former executive director, Alexander traveled everywhere, fundraised constantly, and was always out there at half-time with the red bucket to gather any donations to support the organization’s worthy cause. Now it’s time for payback. Grand Performances will host a big dinner and ceremony for those of you who want the full monty, or you can catch the tribute to Fela for just $20. You won’t be disappointed either way, so I urge you to support this incredible organization. For tickets and info, click here.
Banner image courtesy of Vicente Amigo.