Kings from Different Addresses

by Josef Woodard

THE VIEW FROM EIGHTY-SOMETHING: In the space of a single month, the Arlington Theatre will have hosted two octogenarian musical legends, great musicians with staying power and vast cultural influence. You might not find Ravi Shankar (86) and B.B. King (80) within easy jamming or riff-swapping proximity, but they share some common traits. Each is a singularly important artist on his respective stringed instrument — Shankar on sitar and King on his “Lucilles” (the name given his signature Gibson 335s). And each helped to evangelize about the power and beauty of precious musical idioms — Hindustani music and the true-blue American blues — outside the market-manipulated pop music monopoly.

King’s concert at the Arlington next Tuesday is part of a yearlong celebration. It promises to be a more focused affair than the multi-artist blues revue he brought to the Santa Barbara Bowl a few years back (although that show included a rare and highly memorable appearance by the King-loving Jeff Beck).

Shankar’s concert at the Arlington last week, in collaboration with his virtuosic sitarist daughter Anoushka and an elaborate Festival of India ensemble, had to be one of the standout events of the season. To hear Shankar live is evermore a sublime experience as he gets older, and proof of his thorough commitment to the fabric and the spiritual iridescence of his great, ancient tradition. We race forward into the future, but passionately played Indian classical music hovers over the folly of fashion and time, a reminder of deeper, truer things.

MULTI-CULTI CAST OF CHARACTERS: Rebecca Kleinmann is a fairly ubiquitous musical figure around town. The flutist has played often at SOhO and has been espied jamming at the Farmers Market. She calls Santa Barbara home but also hits the road for gigs elsewhere. Late last year, she released a fine and ambitious self-produced CD, Raio de Sol (Sun Ray), with a far-ranging cast of musicians and a stylistic map-quest configuration situated around a diverse but somehow unified Brazilian-cum-flamenco-cum-Latin-jazz sound.

Kleinmann, who plays SOhO on Mother’s Day night, May 14, in celebration of the new CD, is proudly featuring the noted Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto in her live band for the occasion (as well as a show at La Ve Lee in Studio City tonight, May 11). The nimble Neto plays on several tracks on the CD, as do such famed players as percussionist Airto Moreira, and Neto’s original “Flauta de Tamoio” juicily opens the proceedings. Neto plays both piano and accordion on the intriguing closing track, “Shedding Skin,” a cerebral sort of waltz credited to both Kleinmann and Brazilian legend Hermeto Pascoal. Also in the album’s musician mix are favorite Santa Barbara-bred sons, bassist Randy Tico, drummer Kevin Winard, and hot young pianist Mitchell Yoshida, who lays out in a sinewy solo on “Nardis.”

Speaking of celebrated guests, one of the finest pieces on the CD is a seductively moody version of Tony Williams’s “Sister Cheryl,” featuring the sweet-smart stylings of Benin-born Lionel Lueke (subject of a Jazziz cover story this month, coincidentally). One of the most interesting and inventive new guitarists on the current jazz scene, Lueke has been playing in Terence Blanchard’s band and his own culture-cross-stitch group. On Kleinmann’s album, his supple, non-clichéd nylon-string musings nuzzle up nicely against the flutist’s own heartfelt and versatile peregrinations.

TO-DOINGS: Fans of so-called world music, check out An Evening of Near Eastern and Arab Music, Friday night at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center, featuring Lebanese musicians A.J. Racy and Souhail Kaspar. (Got e? Email

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