June Concert Picks from Rhythm Planet

You can always tell that summer’s around the corner when the outdoor concert venues kick off their seasons. The month of June offers a number of fine events around the city—both indoors and out—from flamenco to soul, African art and music, plus Cuban sounds, too. Here are some Rhythm Planet-approved shows to start your summer early!

Friday, June 1 | Chano Domínguez’s Flamenco Sketches | Ford Theatres (Hollywood)

Chano Domínguez is a flamenco veteran, but he plays an instrument not typically associated with the genre—the piano. He adapts the keyboard to fit the flamenco style in a spectacular way. I first heard him play Coltrane’s classic “Naima” with upright bass and cajón drum, and I immediately became a fan. Domínguez will play tracks from his record Flamenco Sketches, a reimagining of Miles Davis’s classic Kind of Blue with flamenco rhythms and instrumentation. Flamenco singer Blas Cordoba and dancer Daniel Navarro will join him on stage, along with bassist Alexis Cuadrado and drummer Henry Cole. Plus, this is a rare LA appearance for him. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Saturday, June 2 | Opening Party: Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths | Fowler Museum at UCLA (Westwood)

Image © Musical Instrument Museum. Photograph Troy Sharp, 2016

As a longtime fan of African music and culture, I’ve always admired the Fowler Museum at UCLA for its programs on African and other global arts. Their latest exhibition, Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths explores the art of ironworking with over 225 works from across the African continent, including blades and currencies, wood sculptures with iron, musical instruments, and body adornments. Iron smelting and forging go back 2,500 years, and rarely do we see such a comprehensive exhibition as this one. After the presentation at the Fowler, the exhibition travels to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in D.C. and the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Paris. I’ll be spinning African music from all four corners of the vast continent on Saturday night to provide the soundtrack at the opening party for this fascinating show. An mbira ensemble performs at 7:30 p.m. Click HERE to RSVP. (Artwork at right: Artist unknown (Chokwe peoples, Angola), Lamellophone (chisanji), late 19th century. Wood, iron. Musical Instrument Museum 2013.56.1.)

Saturday, June 9 | MOKOOMBA | The Miracle Theater (Inglewood)

Hailing from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Mokoomba performs traditional Zimbabwean Tonga and Luvale rhythms seasoned with funk, soul, soukous, and other African pop styles. On a North American tour from June-July, Mokoomba makes its first visit to Los Angeles at the newly renovated Miracle Theater in Inglewood, which had been abandoned for over 15 years before being converted into an entertainment venue. Mokoomba has wowed the crowds at the famous Apollo Theater, The Kennedy Center, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and most recently, SXSW. Jon Pareles said in his New York Times review that lead singer Mathias Muzaza’s vocals were “riveting” and “griot-strength.” African music fans, this is a show not to be missed. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Saturday, June 16 | Aaron Parks & Little Big | bluewhale (Downtown)

Aaron Parks is one of the most talented improvising pianists on the scene today. If I owned his ECM releases Aborescence and Find The Way on vinyl, I would have worn them out by now. His new group, Little Big, features Greg Tuohey on guitar, Adam Chilenski on bass, and Darren Beckett on drums. The group sounds less introspective, more edgy than his solo work, with propulsive drumming, great unison playing between Tuohey and Parks, and interesting improvisation throughout. Parks is likely to play both acoustic and electric pianos, with electric bass and the drums pushing the band all the way. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Saturday, June 23 | Dayren Santamaria & Made in Cuba | LACMA (Mid-City)

The gifted and versatile Cuban violinist Dayren Santamaria graduated from the National Art School in Havana and was concertmaster for the amazing (truly so) chamber group Camerata Romeu. Santamaria performs not only the sweet charanga style Cuban music (which features violins and flutes), but also jazz, R&B, salsa, and chamber music. Since relocating to Los Angeles, Santamaria has played with the Latin jazz ensemble Mongorama and most recently formed her own group, Made in Cuba. Click HERE for more information about this FREE event.

June 1-30 | Various Artists | Grand Performances (Downtown)

Last but not least, the summer 2018 performance series from Grand Performances kicks off on June 1 with a celebration of the genius of Sly and the Family Stone. With raw material coming from legendary Sly and the Family Stone classics like Fresh, Dance to the Music, and Stand, this promises to be a fun and funky show. Music director Dexter Story really knows how to put together a fabulous orchestra, and arrange and conduct it, too. Visuals will be handled by Señor Quiza from Museum of Traffic. Click HERE for more information about this free show.

Other shows in the June lineup include the Native American ensemble Ulali and French composer/pianist Christophe Chassol. Remember, all performances are FREE! Click HERE for more information about the full summer series.

Banner image of Mokoomba by David Garr, courtesy of ALIA Prod