Phonte and 9th Wonder
As one of the most beloved underground hip-hop upstarts of the early aughts, Durham, N.C.'s, Little Brother retired far too early for their fans' liking. Creative differences and record label issues had spoiled the good vibes, which were the group's foundation. But only two years after the group's fourth and final album, Leftback, there's good news to report: Members Phonte and 9th Wonder have reunited. While the former is a rapper-singer with a workmanlike flow and blue-collar concerns, the latter has gone on to produce soul-soaked beats for big hitters like Jay-Z, Chris Brown and Drake. Still, when these two come together, they never fail to see eye-to-eye in delivering the kind of golden age gem that inspired them in the first place. —Chris Martins
EL REY THEATRE
This longtime musical shapeshifter is worth hearing no matter what project she's pursuing: Last spring at Largo, I saw her do a set of Prince covers that revealed aspects of the Purple One's work I'd never heard before. (Who knew how much melancholy was lurking at the center of "I Would Die 4 U"?) Tonight Ndegeocello hits El Rey behind the recently released Weather, a gorgeous set of avant-soul tunes she recorded here in L.A. with producer Joe Henry; it might be her most sensual effort since 1999's Bitter. A natural bandleader who hasn't lost touch with her bass-player roots, Ndegeocello never tours with anything less than a knockout band. The current one includes ace guitarist Chris Bruce and wild-man drummer Deantoni Parks. —Mikael Wood
Alan Ferber Extended Ensemble
In August, NYC trombonist Alan Ferber sprang a short-notice West Coast version of his Extended Ensemble big-band project on a Monday night at Blue Whale. The result was one of the standout jazz shows of the year in Los Angeles; in fact, it recently was named one of the Weekly's Top Five Jazz Concerts of 2011. This weekend, Ferber returns with a nearly identical all-star lineup, including heavyweights Phil O'Connor, Katisse Buckingham, Anthony Wilson and Josh Nelson. Ferber's compositions and arrangements are inventive, original and challenging; they're a key reason he has been able to attract so many of the area's finest players, some of whom are rarely seen in big-band settings. Go, and get the new year off to a very musical start. —Tom Meek
QUETZAL at Cafe Club Fais Do-Do; NO AGE, HELLER KELLER, PALM READER at the Smell; MARIACHI EL BRONX at Natural History Museum of L.A. County; KRAYZIE BONE at the Terrace (Pasadena).
One of the many promising metal bands killed off by the music industry's myopic obsession with grunge at the turn of the 1990s, Seattle's Sanctuary reunited last year in a more favorable climate for their ambitious, Iron Maiden–influenced thrash. Ultraproficient instrumentally, and with proudly proggy leanings, Sanctuary remain distinguished by the apparently gender-straddling vocal range of frontman Warrel Dane (who, rumor has it, physically injured himself while hitting the ludicrously high notes of the band's 1988 debut album, Refuge Denied). Diehards consider both of Sanctuary's studio collections thrash classics, and there's an air of unfinished business about the band's initially truncated career. Comeback shows like this Club Nokia stop should offer horns-aloft vindications for the faithful. —Paul Rogers
Baked Potato All-Stars
THE BAKED POTATO
Guitarist Jeff Richman has been a staple at the Baked Potato for more than 20 years, putting together all-star lineups on a regular basis to play originals and a few tunes from the fusion/rock songbook. Tonight's lineup is no exception, with heavyweights Brandon Fields (ex-Rippingtons) on sax; 2011 Grammy nominee Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets) on bass; and former longtime Frank Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman. Richman's music is accessible to a wider audience than some heavier fusion players, but still interesting enough for the most ardent fans. —Tom Meek
LAWRENCE LEBO at McCabe's; VIZA at Key Club; TOTAL CHAOS at the Can (Garden Grove); JEFF RICHMAN ALL-STARS at the Baked Potato; NIPSEY HUSSLE at Saint Rocke (Hermosa Beach).
Elvis Birthday Bash
When it comes to orgiastic rock & roll ritual, this annual birthday meltdown always delivers a tall stack of musical thrills. Gallivanting from loud and lurid to intimate and affectionate, you get a snootful of impassioned homages. These inevitably span not only the Memphis Flash's entire artistic spectrum but also frequently, and drastically, redefine formerly familiar material. Rendering tribute unto the King from 4 to 10 p.m. today are the likes of deft, sultry chanteuse Lisa Finnie, card-carrying EP colleague and rockabilly originator Ray "Caterpillar" Campi, those hip hicks the Groovy Rednecks, incomparable guitar-slinger Rosie Flores and the bop-mad, 70-something teen idol Jimmy Angel. Plus dozens of additional acts, always some wig-flipping surprise big-name guests and, most importantly, the fact that all proceeds go to the L.A. Mission. Gonesville! —Jonny Whiteside