Music Picks: Shelby Lynne, Marsha Ambrosius, John Scofield Quartet, Wiz Khalifa
This erstwhile L.A.-based band continues to roll. From their recent Grammy nomination for their Charles Ives collaboration with Theo Bleckman, to their latest masterpiece, titled You Can Have Your Moment, they continue to raise the bar beyond the reach of everyone else in terms of their technical and artistic acumen, and their focus on sound production usually is found only on studio albums by those who don't do jazz. Saxophonist Ben Wendel, trumpeter Shane Endsley, keyboardist Adam Benjamin, bassist Kaveh Rastegar and drummer Nate Wood are among the elite on their instruments, which makes their reunions especially mind-blowing. Their three-day residency starts Friday, so beware: If you go even once, you might need to adjust your weekend plans. —Gary Fukushima
After working with top-tier session dudes for 2008's Just a Little Lovin' and a handful of her homies for last year's Tears, Lies, and Alibis, Shelby Lynne made her new album all by herself at her home studio. Part of that decision no doubt is attributable to Lynne's declining commercial fortunes since her late-'90s/early-'00s peak, when the country veteran landed a couple of tunes on the Bridget Jones's Diary soundtrack. (One of those, "Killin' Kind," is as fine a love song as you'll ever hear.) But the operational retrenchment hasn't been accompanied by an artistic one; Revelation Road uses smaller-scale settings to enrich smaller-scale stories. "I don't need a reason to cry," Lynne sings at one point, and so she doesn't. Also Sat. —Mikael Wood
These gnarly Norwegians are all about roots. Celebrating 20 years as a band with their current North American tour, they're both a living homage to Norway's now-mythologized early black-metal scene and the pioneering epitome of so-called Viking metal, which itself reaches back into centuries of Scandinavian folk music and Norse legend. But if Enslaved have one eye on heritage, the other is on distant horizons, with heroically galloping rhythms and progressive structures framing expressions of utter damnation (bassist Grutle Kjellson's withering croak) and airy optimism (keysman Herbrand Larsen's relatively angelic interjections). Last year's Axioma Ethica Odini tempers its furnace-blast guitars with contemplative interludes and wads of keys, yet still suggests nostalgia for the disciplined fury of Enslaved's first couple of albums. See, it's that roots thing again. —Paul Rogers
Azar Lawrence Quintet
Seabird Jazz Lounge
Azar Lawrence is an L.A. native who's charted an unusual musical career. At age 20, he was a phenom in the band of John Coltrane's pianist McCoy Tyner, his stylistic similarities to Coltrane drawing both praise and criticism. In the mid-'70s he joined the band of Miles Davis and played with trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, but then personal issues saw Lawrence largely depart the jazz scene for more than two decades. He re-emerged half a dozen years ago in L.A., often working with veteran local pianist Nate Morgan. Since Morgan's stroke in late 2008, Lawrence has been spending more time on the road but mostly on the East Coast. Be there tonight and experience a saxophone voice that will remind you of A Love Supreme like no one else. —Tom Meek
E-40 at Key Club; RED SIMPSON at Viva; TECH N9NE at the Roxy; BARBARA MANNING, CIRCE LINK at Taix; FOO FIGHTERS at the Forum; TRMRS, COSMONAUTS at Catnap; TV GHOST, THE FUSE, DEAD MEAT, LA GHOST at Blue Star.
Beneath that cocksure swagger and those slinky, doo-wop grooves Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. would have labeled "soul bubble gum," Detroit's Mayer Hawthorne is a hip-hop head with an affinity for sizzling funk. Since Andrew Mayer Cohen left his past life as soul-sampling DJ Haircut — now going full force with the Mayer Hawthorne shtick, thanks to his breakout album, A Strange Arrangement — he's found a way to meld his retro-soul inclinations with a new-school, hip-hop attitude. "From the moment that I met you I thought you were fine, so fine/But your shitty fuckin' attitude has got me changing my mind," he whispers on "The Walk," the first single off his new LP, How Do You Do. Hawthorne might make you swoon, but this Motor City mouth is no featherweight. —Dan Hyman
One tends to forget the utterly strange thrill it was hearing Bryan Ferry's audacious warble on that first Roxy Music album, or gawking at the band in their mylar spacesuits, pompadours, mascara and EMS synths. Ferry famously streamlined his persona over the years in solo outings that spotlighted his suave figure lounging about, ruing the past and fending off femmes fatales drawn to the ageless allure of the world-weary dreamer. Amid a familiar haze of languidly thumping groove you'll find Ferry gazing out to sea as he performs songs from his latest album, Olympia (yes, that's Kate Moss on the cover), a slightly more upbeat thing done in collaboration with the likes of Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, the Scissor Sisters and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. Perhaps he'll throw in the odd Lennon or Dylan cover as well. (Sigh ...) In any event, you know it shall be done with consummate style, grace, wit and élan. —John Payne
FOSTER THE PEOPLE at the Wiltern; ZEE AVI at El Rey Theatre; THE HOLD STEADY at the Echoplex; A DECADE OF DIFFERENCE at Hollywood Bowl; DROPKICK MURPHYS at Hollywood Palladium; METRONOMY at the Troubadour; AUDRA MCDONALD at Segerstrom Concert Hall; THE DOGS, THE GEARS at the Redwood; THUNDERCAT, DADDY KEV at the Getty; FRIENDLY FIRES, THEOPHILUS LONDON at Club Nokia; PETER ERSKINE TRIO at Vitello's.
Triple threat? Think again: This Ohio-born musician is a singer, songwriter and producer who plays multiple instruments. His first album, which included sexy slow burners "Down Here in Hell (With You)" and "Seconds of Pleasure," showed off a talent for constructing real rhythm & blues records, and he was nominated for a Grammy. Seven years and a couple of label scuffs later (Blue Note never released his third album, Popular), he's relocated to L.A. from Atlanta. His latest, what were you hoping for?, is full of rollicking rock & roll, but he proves he can still accompany candlelit nights with the gently driving "Moving Targets." —Rebecca Haithcoat
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when rock bands were branching out with album-length songs and 20-minute drum solos, San Francisco's Flamin' Groovies stubbornly went in the opposite direction — playing rock & roll instead of rock, and distilling the music to its primal essence in perfectly rendered three-minute pop songs. Although they paved the way for the DIY indie and punk scenes, the Groovies were more accurately a power-pop group, blending old Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly covers with their own melodic gems, including the sublimely yearning classic "Shake Some Action" and the riff-heavy antiheroin anthem "Slow Death" (which was a harder-rocking and less cheaply sentimental answer to Neil Young's "The Needle & the Damage Done"). Former members Roy Loney, George Alexander, James Ferrell and Mike Wilhelm appeared on onetime Groovies singer Chris Wilson's recent solo album, Love Over Money, whose title hints at the motivation behind this totally unexpected reunion. —Falling James
EMPIRE OF THE SUN, MAYER HAWTHORNE at Club Nokia; JENNY LEWIS at McCabe's.
Marsha Ambrosius, Miguel
True to its corporate billing, the Grey Goose Rising Icons Tour presents a pair of midlevel R&B acts on the way up: Marsha Ambrosius, formerly known as half of the English-expat duo Floetry, and L.A.-based Miguel, who wrote songs for Usher and Jaheim before striking out on his own. (Like so many soul singers these days, Ambrosius has written for other artists, too, including Michael Jackson.) Late Nights & Early Mornings, Ambrosius' recent solo debut, rarely lives up to its sly lead single, "Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)." But opening for R. Kelly at the Nokia Theatre in June, she had the crowd cursing a no-good ex right along with her. Miguel aims for a kind of space-age D'Angelo vibe and usually gets there. —Mikael Wood
PETE ANDERSON at the Moose Lodge; BATTLES at the Mayan; JENNY LEWIS at Largo; CATALINA 25TH ANNIVERSARY at Catalina; TRAE THA TRUTH at Key Club.
Beth Gibbons has a chillingly beautiful voice that should sound even more majestic rattling around in the echoing catacombs of the Shrine. Her soulfully quavering entreaties are always given atmospheric depth by her Portishead bandmates Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow, who surround her fragile vocals on songs like "Glory Box" and "Roads" with somber waves of synth, trip-hop beats and intriguing wisps of guitar. This summer the English trio headlined a series of large European music festivals and recently curated both the British and American editions of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival. One never knows when this reclusive and unpredictable group will drop out of sight again, so don't miss Portishead as they turn this old hall into their own personal Shrine. Also Wed. —Falling James
First he was Butterfly from Grammy-winning jazz-rap titans Digable Planets, then he moved on to velvety electro-funk as Cherrywine, and now Ishmael Butler is Palaceer Lazaro, ruler of Shabazz Palaces' carefully constructed, closely guarded universe of dense, blasted beats, airtight rhymes and existential musings on freedom, identity, motivation and desire. The most exciting hip-hop act to come out of Seattle in decades, Shabazz Palaces released two mini albums in 2009 (s/t and Palaces of Light), and their debut LP, Black Up, came out a few months ago on indie-rock powerhouse Sub Pop. They return to L.A. with TheeSatisfaction, the similarly enigmatic and spaced-out project of Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons, who sing and rap on Black Up. —Lainna Fader
The eternally high Pittsburgh rapper with the hyena laugh shook off the dirt of his underground fame earlier this year when his hometown anthem "Black and Yellow" became the Steelers' unofficial Super Bowl anthem. His very public relationship with Kanye West's former paramour, video vixen Amber Rose, also helped. But the weed-n-women devotee didn't just luck out — he'd been touring relentlessly since his split with Warner Bros. in the summer of '09, building an online army of fans who call themselves the Taylor Gang. The ranks scorned his spring debut with new label Atlantic, calling him a sellout for its radio-friendly sound. But they'll turn up tonight anyway to be enveloped in the weed cloud that is still Wiz's trademark. —Rebecca Haithcoat
John Scofield Quartet
Catalina Jazz Club
John Scofield is one of the most respected guitarists in jazz, making a major mark in Miles Davis' band in the early 1980s. Before that, Scofield had already recorded with jazz legends Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan and Gary Burton. Scofield's own bands have been some of the finest anywhere, producing classic recordings such as Blue Matter and Still Warm. He has split his time over the past three decades between traditional jazz and more eclectic settings, including collaborations with the likes of Medeski, Martin & Wood, Phil Lesh and Government Mule. Through Thursday he fronts a quartet in support of his new album, A Moment's Peace, backed by Michael Eckroth on piano, Ben Street on bass and Greg Hutchinson on drums. —Tom Meek
ST. VINCENT at Music Box; HUGH CORNWELL at Bronson Bar; BEN LEE at Largo.
Paul Simon, The Secret Sisters
At a time in his life when he seemingly has little left to prove, the 70-year-old Paul Simon recently returned to action with his best album in many years, So Beautiful or So What. Rootsy strains of Americana fuse joyfully with serpentine African-style guitars wrapping themselves around coolly groovy shuffles. Although the album is ostensibly a meditation on spirituality and mortality, with songs like "The Afterlife" and "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light," Rhymin' Simon keeps the mood playful, even as he finds out — after climbing "up the ladder of time" — that Heaven is a place where he has to fill out a form and stand in line, just like everybody else. The retro-fixated Secret Sisters open with their dreamy, old-time country-pop harmonies. —Falling James
ROGER DALTREY PERFORMS TOMMY at Nokia Theatre; STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS at Music Box; JANEK GWIZDALA at Café Cordiale; SCOTT KINSEY GROUP at the Baked Potato.
Chris Brown, T-Pain, Bow Wow, Tyga
Yes, we know Chris Brown is not high on the public's exemplary citizens list — his fall from grace stemming from his abusive relationship with Rihanna is well documented. But what really matters, at least from a critical perspective, is the man's talent. And, like it or not, Brown is dripping with it. After the dud of an apology-in-album-form that was 2009's Graffiti, the showstopping, fleet-footed entertainer returned this year with F.A.M.E., an album stockpiled with pulsating nuggets that can't help but make you re-evaluate his premier status in the pop game. Sure, you may not like C. Breezy, but damn, you've gotta respect him. Brown is joined by, among others, the robo-charged voice of T-Pain, who apparently also comes in human form. —Dan Hyman
THE CANYON CLUB
Leon Russell's career certainly got a shot in the arm when he recorded The Union last year with his longtime fan Elton John. The album's surprising success brought welcome attention to the prolific Russell, who's been toiling away in relative anonymity in recent years, but it also gave John a much-needed boost of credibility after several decades of manufacturing MOR fluff and pandering to the rubes in Vegas. It may be hard to remember now, but in the early 1970s Russell was the bigger star, tapping out divinely carnivalesque melodies like the hit "Tight Rope" and such winsomely melancholic ballads as "Manhattan Island Serenade." Truth is, whether he's goosing up rock standards like "I've Just Seen a Face" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" or digging into his endless bag of originals, Russell is always a fiery performer, pounding on his piano and growling with plenty of funky Oklahoman soul. —Falling James
Brooklyn-based art and music collective NewVillager are a couple of guys named Ben Bromley and Ross Simonini, whose "mythologically woven" new-slant arty pop is but one small component of a live show that crosshatches beat/sound excursions and resonant visual corollaries. They've earned their art cred with installations at galleries and art spaces such as L.A.'s Human Resources Gallery, where a recent exhibit featured the construction of a village in which the band lived, slept and performed in 10 different rooms, each symbolizing a song from their jarringly beautiful recent debut album. Tonight they're doing a DJ version of all of the above; for the complete experience catch them also at the Troubadour on Oct. 15. —John Payne
Popular monthly dance party Check Yo Ponytail 2 is taking its show on the road this fall. Spank Rock, the electro/alt-rap duo who won over club kids and hip-hop heads alike with their 2006 song "Bump" (featuring an incredible verse from Amanda Blank), have a new album and headline. But they get big support from L.A. stoner indie boys Wavves and the bounce-obsessed beats of NOLA's Big Freedia, who continues to take over clubland with her proud rainbow-flag waving and booty battles. Bonus: We hear a special guest headliner or two may show up for the Los Angeles date. Go get sweaty. —Lainna Fader
If the bestial soccer riots of 1980s England had a soundtrack, this was it. Looking like extras from one of Guy Ritchie's guilty-posh-bloke gangster flicks, these burly London geezers have — on-and-off and with revolving lineups — been rousing shaven-headed and Doc Marten–clad rabbles since 1979. Though only vocalist Micky Fitz remains from their original lineup, the Business' puffed-chest, working-class pride is undiluted. Their rudimentary, belligerent punk, with titles like "Hardcore Hooligan," "Drinking and Driving" and "England 5–Germany 1" (yes, that's a soccer reference), is made for sloppy sing-alongs. It's also so essentially British that it's a wonder they have an audience in America at all. Don't wear your best duds. —Paul Rogers
BRIAN WALSH TRIO + KRIS TINER at Blue Whale; CALLE 13 at House of Blues Anaheim; EVERLAST at Viper Room; JULIETA VENEGAS at Music Box; SHELLAC at Eagle Rock Center; MARIA TAYLOR at the Echo; FISHBONE at Bootleg Bar; ROY MCCURDY at Nola's; JERRY VIVINO at the Baked Potato.
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