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Happenings By Chris J. Walker

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Double-sensation soprano singer Leslie Odom, Jr. is the recipient of both Tony and Grammy Awards for his acting and singing on the mega Broadway hit musical Hamilton (he was Aaron Burr). Odom presently a Los Angeles resident has been touring and even performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September. At Disney Hall with his backing quintet, Michael Mitchell-piano, Senfuab Stoney-percussion, John Davis-drums, Steven Walker-guitar and Orlando Le Fleming-bass, the singer received a very warm welcome from a sold-out crowd. Furthermore, it didn’t hurt that his opening song was “Wait For it” from Hamilton.

From there he served up “Look For The Silver Lining” from one of his two jazz chart-topping solo CDs and admitted that he was terrified to be at Disney Hall. He seemed to get over that pretty quickly segued into a Nat King Cole Medley doing velvety versions of “Mona Lisa,” “Straighten Up And Fly Right” and “Unforgettable.” Odom then shifted to standard “Autumn Leaves” and let his band stretch out and also showcased “Joey, Joey, Joey” from his self-titled CD.

For more flavor his wife singer Nicolette Robinson joined him to perform folksy acoustic guitar-driven “What Are We Waiting For” written by her best friend. Odom also did stark and crescendo-driven “Without You” from his first Broadway show Rent with only acoustic guitar to wow the audience. “Forever Young” was enchantingly sung a cappella, and with full band “Dear Theodosia” from Hamilton. Of course, most in the audience were waiting patiently for the upbeat songs from the musical and they were rewarded with the jumping “The Room Where It Happens” to receive a strong standing ovation. For the encore Odom beautifully sang “The Christmas Song” that’s coincidentally on his Simply Christmas CD.

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Renowned Swing House Studios in Atwater Village had a special “secret” Christmas Party with singer Aloe Blacc and The Grand Scheme Band sextet as the main act. Blacc an extremely personable entertainer wowed the crowd with modern soul grooves such as “Lift Your Spirits” that had touches of The Jackson Five’s “Want You Back.” Continuing with a theme of universality was mid-tempo “The Answer is Love” boosted by the crowd singing the chorus and his band working out. Blacc even went briefly into a gospel tangent before doing nu-soul groove “I Need a Dollar” strongly accented by brass and vocal choruses. For a respite of sorts he passionately sang “Let Me Carry You Home” with only acoustic guitar and light keyboard support, and later country flavored “Wake Me Up.”

Returning to R&B was ballad “You Make Me Smile” and prompted the audience to intermix as the band grooved away. Blacc returned to economics with pulsating “A Million Dollars a Day.” Citing some of his influences the singer did revamped versions of Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Candyman” and Elton John’s “Your Song.” Also showing he’s a man for the times he rapped furiously to the audience’s delight and wrapped up the set with retro sounding “I Can Do That” featuring the audience doing Soul Train-like line dancing. Getting the party started was lounge and lush sounding The Marias featuring the haunting vocals of lead singer Maria for “Only in My Dreams” and other songs. For more info go to YouTube, & .

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Christmas shows abounded during December 2017, but none were as soulfully authentic as The Blind Boys of Alabama presented at The Theater at the Ace Hotel in conjunction with UCLA’s Center For The Art of Performance. The five-time Grammy-winning and legendary sightless singers fronted by longstanding lead Jimmy Carter were exhilarating in concert. Other members rounding out the entourage were Paul Beasley, Eric “Ricky” McKinnie, Ben Moore, Joey Williams-vocals/guitar, Austin Moore-drums, Ray Ladson-bass and Matt Hopkins-organ/keyboards, with The Preservation Hall Legacy Horns consisting of Kevin Louis-trumpet, Freddie Lonzo-trombone and Calvin Johnson-saxophone.

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They began with heartfelt and only piano supported Almost Home, the title track of their new Grammy-nominated CD. Also new were soul rocking “I Can See” and blues/gospel drenched “God Knows Everything” tastefully accentuated with beautiful harmonies and a guitar solo. Afterwards the Blind Boys shifted to Christmas songs such gospel/rocking “Do You Hear What I Hear” and then blew the audience away with a very soulful version of “White Christmas.” The horns came out to join the singers for a joyful New Orleans rendering of “Merry Christmas (Having a Ball).” Ruthie Foster from Austin, TX who opened the show joined in to further enhance “Silent Night” and continued reeling with the singers and brass on “Go Tell it on The Mountain” to thoroughly delight the audience.

Getting back to their essence The Blind Boys without brass and Foster did their electrifying mash of “Amazing Grace” and “The House of The Rising Sun” with guitar and organ radiantly accenting. They took the audience to church with soul shaking “Look Where He Brought Me From” and raised excitement level several notches by singing in the crowd as the band jammed away. The Blind Boys received a roaring standing ovation after that and for their encore Foster and the Preservation Hall Legacy Horns also returned. The ensemble raucously did “(When Was Jesus Born) Last Month of The Year” to bring down the house.

Foster’s set featured her playing electric guitar and singing Delta blues and gospel styled songs. Standouts were “The Promise of a Brand New Day,” “Another Rain Song (Tribute to Sam Cooke),” Sister Rosetta Thorpe’s “Up Above My Head” and a cappella take on Son House’s “Grinning in Your Face” with the audience clapping along.

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Leo Nocentelli (The Meters) Bill Dickens, Felix Pollard, Albert Margolis, plus Special Guests - -

Leo Nocentelli
January 27, 2018
The Mint
6010 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, 90035
(LATE SHOW Doors Open 9:45)
Show: 11:00 PM

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It was a bittersweet affair when John McLaughlin performed with his Fourth Dimension Band and Jimmy Herring’s Invisible Whip at UCLA Center For The Art of Performance at Royce Hall. McLaughlin who turns 76 on 1-14-18 decided to closet his famed double-neck guitar after the Los Angeles date. However, those who did get to see him play, possibly for the final time witnessed a full-tilt concert that extensively exploring the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s catalogue and included some the guitarist’s work outside of the groundbreaking fusion group formed in 1971. Missing were legendary sidemen such as drummers Billy Cobham and Narada Michael Walden, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and keyboardist Jan Hammer.

That withstanding, McLaughlin’s Fourth Dimension consisting of Gary Husband-keyboards/drums, Etienne Mbappé-bass and Ranjit Barot-drums/percussion/vocals were very tight and remarkable in their own right. Somewhat new tune “Here Comes The Jis” got the quartet off to a fiery start as the guitar icon blazed away with his cohorts laying down a powerful foundation and spotlighting their skills that included Barot doing India styled scatting. “New Blues Old Bruise” was also jazzy and energetic. Wedged between the pieces was early ‘70s Mahavishnu Orchestra composition “Lila's Dance” with also a jazzy flair featuring Husband coolly soloing, along with McLaughlin. In honor of his flamenco guitarist friend Paco De Lucia who died in 2014 was Spanish flavored hard-hitting “El Hombre Que Sabia.”

art work lips with music notes on it

About an hour into the set Herring’s band, Matt Slocum-organ/clavinet, Jason Crosby-keyboards/violin, Kevin Scott-bass and Jeff Sipe-drums joined McLaughlin and crew for the much-anticipated Mahavishnu segment. Raga open chord tinged classic “Meeting of The Spirits” (name of the tour) and “Birds of Fire” kicked the second part of the set off. Later, “Dance Of Maya” engulfed the audience with the assaulting power and virtuosity of McLaughlin and Herring playing together. They also soloed individually and threw in some classic rocking jamming. For a breather of sorts, thematic and fusion waltz “Lotus On Irish Streams” and “Earth Ship” were pleasantly embellished with Barot’s vocals.

He continued singing with Husband and some of Herring’s band for ethereal “Eternity's Breath Pt 1” and hard-jamming “Eternity's Breath Pt 2” with the ensemble all wailing away to get a thunderous standing ovation. For the very much in demand encore McLaughlin and the musicians conjured up mystical raga classic “You Know, You Know” that was laded with Crosby’s violin playing and Barot’s scatting. They afterwards stepped things up tremendously with all out jam “Be Happy.” Herring’s

Invisible Whip, a Southern rock mix of the Widespread Panic, Jazz is Dead and The Allman Brothers opened with classic rocking instrumentals that whet the audience’s appetite. Needless to say, they got more than their fill of music and hopefully McLaughlin might have a least one more tour in him.

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Image of Victor Wooten, El Rey Theatre<

The five-time GRAMMY award-winning bass player, producer, composer, author, and educator, and founding member of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, is touring in support of his newly released, widely acclaimed album, TRYPNOTYX, his 10th solo album and first in five years.

Produced by Wooten, the album features legendary drummer Dennis Chambers and veteran saxophonist Bob Franceschini, who are on tour with him playing as a trio. Listen:

Named “one of the Top 10 Bassists of All Time” by Rolling Stone, he has been voted “Bassist of the Year” three times by Bass Player magazine reader’s poll, and in February 2017 Huffington Post named him one of “50 Iconic Black Trailblazers,” pictured just after President Barack Obama.

As an author, he penned a novel, "The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search For Growth through Music," which is now part of the curriculum at The Berklee College of Music, where he is a performance scholar in residence, Stanford University, and other prestigious institutions.

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January 25, 2018
El Rey
5515 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036

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From September 2017 through January 2018, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA celebrates the connection between Latin American art and Los Angeles culture at select Southern California venues. A recent installment of the project was: That Bad Donato The L.A. Brazil Connection at UCLA’s Center For The Art of Performance at Royce Hall and currated by Josh Kun, writer and USC Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity. João Donato, Bixiaga 70, Mateus Aleluis and Thalma de Freitas highlighted the event. Donato’s 1970’s album That Bad Donato, a groundbreaking melding of funk, jazz and Brazilian music boosted by fellow countrymen Eumir Deodato, Dom um Romão and Oscar Castro Neves, along with renowned jazz players Bud Shank, Ernie Watts and Pete Candoli was the main focus of the unique concert.

Bixiaga 70 10-piece band

Bixiaga 70, a 10-piece band from Sao Paulo, Brazil fusing cumbia, Afro beat and funk, somewhat similar to Brooklyn’s Antibalas, were the backing band for Donato. Most importantly the younger musicians provided a connection between ‘60s/’70s and today’s music. Getting things underway was jazzy groove “Here’s JD” featuring the celebrated bandleader and baritone sax. Contrarily “Urbano” and “Malandro” leaned to Afro beat and were funky with a big sound bolstered by baritone accenting.

The “Frog” sounded like a TV or film theme as Donato grooved away and include call and response solos from percussion, guitar and sax. While “Elegua” slowed things down with a strong Ethiopian jazz backbeat and a soaring trumpet solo that generated noticeable crowd response. Interestingly, “Cadel Jodel” and “Rio Branco” had a New York/Rio Dejaniro vibes and featured Donato with the band accenting. “Xaxado” was a strong departure with guitar setting the foundation and the band injecting vocal and brass choruses. “Night Ripper” spotlighted the bandleader on Fender Rhodes and clavichord keyboards, with flute and trombone also soloing to garner an enthusiastic standing ovation. In response, singers Aleluis and de Freitas who opened doing acoustic folk selections returned with the ensemble for samba pulsating “Cala Boca Menino” and Bahia flourishing “Emorio” with the audience singing and clapping along for a fitting end to a memorable concert.

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The 2017 installment of KKJZ 88.1’s Jingle Jazz was at The Moss Theatre and focused on Latin jazz, featuring Jose Rizo’s Mongorama with special guests that included Kareem Abdul Jabbar in attendance. Rizo was also the emcee and organized an appealing concert for a full capacity crowd. Before the show began he detailed the genesis of his group and Jingle Jazz now in its seventh year. The musicians heated up the auditorium with sizzling Afro-Cuban numbers from their soon to be recorded new CD. “Mongorama” was bolstered by a sax solo by Katise Buckingham, piano from Joe Retondi and Joey De Leon on percussion. Other members of the group were Dayren Santamaria-violin, Ramon Banda-timbales, Alfredo Ortiz-bongos/vocals, Rene Camacho-bass and Danilo Lozano-flute/Musical Director and James Zavaleta-lead vocals. Another new number featured their lead singer, vocal choruses heating things up as percussion boldly accented and violin nearly stole the show with emphatic soloing.

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Lesser-known Santa Maria tropical tune “Kindimbia” also spotlighted the singer and flute who coolly lit up the stage. Special guest flautist Hubert Laws joined the ensemble and predictably raised the level of playing. Santamaria on violin was ready and answered the challenge profoundly to blow the audience away, along with the percussion players who got into a closing jam. For something different Laws was featured for a beautiful classical-tinged danzon number that mesmerized the concert attendees.

Last, but definitely not the least was master conguero Poncho Sanchez who tastefully augmented and soloed on vintage Santa Maria number “Mi Guaguanco,” with Rotundi also soaring. Additionally, vocalist Zavaleta returned to the forefront during a spirited number and Laws further adorned it with an impressive solo. Without doing any Christmas songs Rizo and his group closed out the engaging set doing child rhyming “Tin Marin” from their Grammy-winning first CD that was full of explosive percussion and energetic singing. For more info and upcoming events go www.kkjz.orgto:

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11th Annual Southern California
Slack Key Festival

Produced by Kala Koa Entertainment

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11th annual celebration of today's best & brightest Hawaiian music talent will one of the most acclaimed Hawaiian concerts to ever leave the islands. It takes fans on a Hawaiian musical journey that showcases Grammy-winning slack key guitarists, the best hula dancers in the world, special guest performers and an Island Marketplace.

Played from the heart and soul, through the fingers and flowing with vivid tropical images, Hawaiian ki ho'alu is truly one of the great acoustic guitar traditions in the world. In slack key, some of the strings are slacked from the standard tuning, with the thumb playing the bass while the other fingers play the melody and improvise in a finger-picked style.

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Artists playing:

Jeff Peterson
Stephen Inglis
Ikaiko Marzo
Jim “Kimo” West
Weldon Kekauoha
Alan Akaka
January 14, 2018 2:00 PM
Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd Redondo Beach, CA 90278
(800) 595-4849

Special Mention

Reedist Anat Cohen, born in Tel Aviv, Israel and a graduate of Boston’s famed Berklee College of Music is a boundless musical whirlwind continuously impressing both fans and critics. The Brooklyn-based musician’s output in 2017 is a prime example, resulting in the release of Brazilian themed projects Outra Coisa and Rosa Dos Ventos, along with tenet-oriented Happy Song, all on Anzic Records that she co-owns with Music Director and longtime friend, Oded Lev-Ari. Additionally, Cohen has toured and recorded with many other artists since the late ‘90s, including her brothers, Yuval-soprano saxophone and Avishai-trumpet (3 Cohens). They however, didn’t appear with sister Anat at Cal State Northridge’s Valley Performing Arts Center that instead featured the tenet led by Lev-Ari, who handled all the arrangements.

Essentially, the large combo project celebrated the 100th anniversary of The Original Dixieland “Jass” Band recording. Cohen and her MD, however barely focused on centennial music and alternatively went on an astounding journey that included Benny Goodman’s swing band drenched “Oh Baby,” klezmer styled “Anat’s Doina” and percussive jamming “Loro.” All the while, the bandleader’s poll-winning and two-time Grammy nominated clarinet playing masterfully soared over her tenet’s rousing rhythms and interactions to amaze the audience. Also thrown into the mix were a fused funk groove, progressive rock sounding “Trills And Thrills” boldly augmented by guitarist Sheryl Bailey and Cohen, and samba/Zappa tinged “Espinha de Bacalhau.” It featured the band coolly grooving and soloing extensively to garner a hearty standing ovation. For the encore, Cohen graciously played choro piece “Kenedougou Foly” that was playfully laden with accordion, drums, clarinet and pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine) interplay.

As part of the Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast series, New York-based guitarist Peter Bernstein played at the Moss Theatre with his “MOSTLY MONK” Quartet. It consisted of Gerald Clayton-piano who the guitarist has recorded with, Mike Gurrola-bass and Roy McCurdy-drums. The quartet wasted little time with fanfare and quickly got into the classic “Monk’s Dream” as the opening piece. The guitarist was spry and flowed coolly with Clayton also soloing and being an equally capable counter balance as Gurrola and McCurdy also soloed. Shifting gears the quartet continued with lesser-known ballad “Reflections” mostly featuring the bandleader, and haunting upbeat theme “Ugly Beauty” with all the band members making strong contributions.

Offsetting “Misterioso” displayed Bernstein and Clayton’s inventive approach to Monk as they coolly interweaved and soloed, with Gurrola and McCurdy also being showcased for interludes. Very popular and hard swinging “In Walked Bud” provided ample space for the group to stretch out and burn with lengthy solos to the audience’s delight. For a respite Bernstein played ballad “Crepuscule With Nellie” solely and then shifted to swinging coolly with the quartet. Closing out the tasteful set was lively classic “Well You Needn’t” featuring the bandleader blazing away with the others solidly supporting and soloing too to garner a standing ovation. For the encore a breezy version of “Ruby My Dear” was rendered and augmented by strident solos from guitar, piano and bass.

Gregory Porter jazz’s modern-day poet and multiple Grammy-winner has developed a remarkable following and received critical acclaim mostly singing his own songs. Nonetheless, it seemed inevitable that the soulful crooner would eventually expand his repertoire. At The Theater at The ACE Hotel Porter adroitly peppered his set with selections from his newest CD Nat King Cole & Me. It was recorded with the London Studio Orchestra and arranged, conducted and produced by Vince Mendoza. Some questioned the necessity of the undertaking and for Porter it was long-held dream to pay tribute to one of his biggest influences, who was also one of his mother’s favorite singers.

Rousing “Musical Genocide” got the concert started and had Porter’s loyal fans grooving along to jazz/soul stirrings from pianist Chip Crawford, Tivon Pennicott-saxophones, Aaron James-bass and Emanuel Harrold-drums. Embedded into the singer’s rousing song was “Nature Boy” considered a Cole signature song along with touches of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” Porter feeding off the audience’s vibe mentioned the show was like being at a “Sunday afternoon service” and got plenty of affirming amens. Afterwards he transitioned to very uplifting “On My Way to Harlem” featuring his saxophonist and pianist wailing away.

Porter got even more soulful with gospel-tinged ballad and previous album title song Take Me to The Alley. It was quickly followed with Cole standards “L-O-V-E” and “I Wonder Who My Daddy Is” both elegantly treated with the singer and his band’s touches. From there they quickly returned to regular faire with jolting “Don’t Lose Your Steam” and gospel fueled/crowd clapping Liquid Spirit that got everyone fired up again, along with romantic ballad “Consequence of Love.”

For added diversity Cole’s tearful ballad “For All We Know,” Porter’s lightly funky “In Fashion,” poetic “Insanity” and jazz/soul “Free” were also included in the fast moving set. It drew an enthusiastic standing ovation with the quartet soulfully jamming away after Porter exited the stage. For an encore the singer robustly performed Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” with only his pianist to further excite the audience.

Subbing for ailing Diane Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater performed at Disney Hall with trumpeter Theo Croker’s Quintet for a special Christmas show. The band included Michael King-keyboards, Eric Wheeler-bass, Irwin Hall-sax and Kush Abadey-drums. The singer quickly got into a nuanced version of Mongo Santamaria’s classic “Afro Blue” with lyrics by Oscar Brown, Jr. It featured evocative singing with heated sax and trumpet solos. Nancy Wilson popularized song “Save Your Love For Me” was less intense and flowed along musically. Bridgewater though vamped it up with a hot scatting close and sultrily sang/scatted “Santa Baby” with light band vocal and brass choruses to amuse the audience. For a changeup Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help it” was jazzily arranged by Croker and zestfully sang by Bridgewater that closed with a sweltering drum solo.

The singer and quintet additionally did a jazzy version of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” with phrases from other Xmas songs mixed in to further delight the audience. Charles Brown’s bluesy classic “Merry Christmas Baby” featured bass lusciously soloing. In honor of recently departed keyboardist Geri Allen, her arrangement of “Silent Night was performed subtly by Bridgewater with bass being prominent and soloing. Wrapping up the show was Donny Hathaway’s soulful gem “This Christmas” with band tastefully supporting and soloing to receive an enthusiastic standing ovation. For the encore the singer and pianist beautifully did Louis Armstrong’s timeless song “What a Wonderful World.”

Somewhat related to the season was Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” funkily and passionately sung by Bridgewater with sax wailing away. In the same category was Billie Holiday’s jazz/blues immortal “God Bless The Child” sung vigorously by Bridgewater with Croker soloing stalwartly and his cool embellishment of Bobby Blue Bland’s “Going Down Slow.” Injected into the set was icon BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone” that was soulfully sung and drew strong crowd response.

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The Mint Jam

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Kevin Kanner
Gerald Clayton
Rickey Woodard
Graham Dechter
Eric Reed

January 15 & 29, 2018

The Mint

6010 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, 90035

Jazz Bakery January Shows

Twins - Alex + Nels Cline: 50 years of Making Music Together

The Jazz Bakery will present the duo of guitarist Nels Cline and drummer/percussionist Alex Cline in concert Saturday, January 13th at the Moss Theater at the Herb Alpert Educational Village in Santa Monica. The concert begins at 8:00 PM, and tickets are available at and at the door. The Moss Theater is located at 3131 Olympic Blvd. in Santa Monica, on the campus of New Roads School.

Nels Cline is known most recently as the guitarist in Wilco. He and his twin brother, Alex, took up their instruments in 1967. Fifty years later, after playing music in many co-led groups from their early years as aspiring rockers through their exploration of the creative frontiers of jazz and improvised music, the Cline brothers have become synonymous with adventurous, innovative, and genre-bending music. Having generated an impressive output of projects as composers, bandleaders, and improvisational collaborators, Nels and Alex Cline individually and collectively have played with an impressive array of important artists, including Charlie Haden, Charles Lloyd, Julius Hemphill. Tim Berne, and many others. This concert is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The brothers didn’t perform as a duo until a musical celebration of their fiftieth birthdays in 2006. The Jazz Bakery performance will mark only the fourth time they have undertaken the duo format together. When they come together, the full thrust of their shared musical experience, inspiration, and accomplishment is abundantly present. Weaving both pre-determined and spontaneous improvisation together with selected thematic material by both brothers as well as composers whose music has influenced and inspired them, the Clines create a deeply affecting musical experience that demonstrates, honors, and extends the great musical traditions they have adopted and the wonderful artists who have inspired them.

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The Jazz Bakery

Nels and Alex Cline in concert
January 13, 2018 8 PM
January 14, 2018 7:30PM
Pianist Monty Alexander
January 20 8:00pm
Diane Schuur with saxponist Ernie Watts
Moss Theater 3131 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica (New Roads School
(800) 838-3006

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