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Music Picks: Gary Clark Jr., Those Darlins, Wiz Khalifa 

Thursday, Nov 8 2012
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fri 11/9

Ute Lemper

SEGERSTROM CENTER FOR THE ARTS

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Ute Lemper is already a masterful interpreter of sad/romantic/tragic balladry, whether she's bringing to life "Mack the Knife" and other cabaret chansons by Kurt Weill or transmuting the surly poetry of Charles Bukowski into song form. But tonight her wonderfully expressive pipes are supported by the full force of the Pacific Symphony and conductor Carl St. Clair. The German diva is often backed by smaller jazz-cabaret ensembles, so it should be some kind of an enchanted evening when she wends her way through a grand, string-laden orchestration of Weill's "The Seven Deadly Sins" along with a trio of classic tunes by George Gershwin ("An American in Paris," "I Got Rhythm" and "Naughty Baby"). For all of her brassy declamations, Lemper will likely be at her most captivating when she brings it down and closes with a brace of intimate love songs by Edith Piaf. Also Saturday. —Falling James

Alphonso Johnson

BLUE WHALE

When the band Weather Report hired a young Philadelphia bassist who could be simultaneously free and funky, the resulting albums catapulted the group to international stardom in the '70s. That young man, Alphonso Johnson, eventually left the band, allowing a prodigy named Jaco Pastorius to rise to fame. But he kept close friendships with Weather Report founders Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. At age 61, he remains a compassionate powerhouse, teaching young musicians, maintaining an active performance career, and looking to revisit the music that changed his life. Johnson has arranged the music of Shorter and Zawinul for a larger ensemble, featuring horns alongside legendary percussionist Airto Moreira, who recorded on the very first album. The music remains visionary and fathomless, reinforcing its creators' reputation as two of the greatest jazz composers of all time. —Gary Fukushima

sat 11/10

Sera Cahoone

THE SATELLITE

Sera Cahoone's background as a drummer with Band of Horses, Patrick Park and Carissa's Wierd did little to prepare the world for what her music would sound like once she struck out on her own as a solo singer-guitarist. The Seattle resident returns to the fundamentals with little more than her own acoustic guitar and perhaps a starkly clucking banjo and weepy lap-steel guitar or an austere piano accompanying her on such folk-country laments as "Only As the Day Is Long," "Evita" and "Happy When I'm Gone." What sets Cahoone's music apart is the languidly rueful tone of her vocals, which imbues her ballads with a confessional warmth that helps to stave off those cold Pacific Northwest winters. —Falling James

Those Darlins

THE TROUBADOUR

Didn't they kinda used to be a country band? But Those Darlins aren't so darlin' no more. Instead, they're making born-to-be-on–Burger Records garage pop that plops the Leave Home–era Ramones down in Nashville with directions to the liquor store and Lover's Lane. Recent album Screws Loose is a second take on the punk greats of '78: crass like the Dictators, creepy like the Cramps and hilarious like the Dickies. The Southern drawl adds plenty of character, as on the let-'em-down-easy song "Be Your Bro": "I just wanna beat each other up on the playground/stay up till stupid late o' clock to see who can drink the most/... put a bunch of eggs in the microwave ..." Swap out "Hey! Ho!" for "Yee haw!," and you'll be ready to go. —Chris Ziegler

Mumford and Sons

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Mumford and Sons formed about six years ago, but it wasn't until 2010 that they took off. Now they're selling out multiple nights at the Hollywood Bowl. The new album, Babel, is a strong follow-up to Sigh No More and suggests that there's a long and robust career ahead of them. The band's four multi-instrumentalists craft exceptionally rich and varying songs that combine rock structure with folk techniques, using instruments common to both folk and pop. Sincere vocals blend seamlessly with powerful, rolling banjos, then layer delicately during sudden decrescendos and finger-style guitar parts. The lyrics often reference classic literature while beautifully telling a story. And if you think the albums kick ass, you're in for a treat with their live show. —Diamond Bodine-Fischer

sun 11/11

Jimmy Branly

VITELLO'S

Cuban-born drummer Jimmy Branly began studying music in Havana as a boy before being introduced to Deep Purple, Rush and Led Zeppelin — and then jazz. His first professional gigs were at age 15, and he moved through a variety of settings before meeting pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, with whom he honed his drumming skills before leaving for Los Angeles in 1996. Branly's joy over his drum kit is matched by the veteran bassist Abraham Laboriel Sr., who is part of every performance. He's also a great dancer. Venezuelan pianist Otmaro Ruiz is one of the finest jazz and Latin pianists on the West Coast — the three team tonight at Vitello's in Studio City to celebrate the release of Branly's first album as leader. —Tom Meek

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