It's a balmy Wednesday night and your after-work life is about to step into a relaxing low gear. You and your honey--or maybe your family, or your pals--had the foresight to pop a blanket or beach chairs in the car so you can stake out a space on the gently rolling lawn-by-the-sea of the Long Beach Museum of Art.
You'll pick up some good eats en route (or at the museum, where Belmonte, Belmont Shores' gourmet mecca, will offer diverse dishes for about $6) and open a bottle of wine (also available on site, along with nonalcoholic beverages). Then you'll drink in the sound of live music--jazz, country, reggae, big band, Afro-pop, Cajun, flamenco or various hybrid genres--that continues until 9 p.m. or later, under a starry sky.
The seventh annual outdoor summer concert series at the museum began July 1 and continues every Wednesday at 7 p.m. through Sept. 16. This year's theme is "International World Sound," with music and/or musicians from South and Central America, South Africa, the West Indies, the Far and Middle East, and the United States.
Exhibitions manager Martin Betz explains that the concert series formerly emphasized jazz, which reached only a limited audience. When he added added world music to the mix last summer, attendance doubled and audiences became more diverse. Betz singles out Macaw, Zulu Spear, the Underthings, T-Lou and the L.A. Zydeco Band, and La Boom as the most appealingly novel acts on this summer's roster.
Here's the schedule:
July 8: Macaw is a group of seven musicians and singers from Watts, under director Khalid Abdullah, who specialize in "joy music" from South and Central America, the West Indies and Africa.
July 15: Zulu Spear, a South African world beat group recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, combines African rhythms with rock 'n' roll. The songs, written by band members, are about timely issues ranging from the destruction of the rain forests to world peace. One Bay Area critic called the group's music "as soothing as a baby's laughter and as powerful as a punch in the face."
July 22: David Zasloff and his band blend blues, jazz and funk with musical influences from the Far East, Middle East and Africa. The band's eclectic array of instruments includes the shaku-hachie (a traditional Japanese bamboo flute), trumpet, piano, autoharp (a type of zither), shofar (a ram's horn used ceremonially in Jewish worship) and acoustic guitar.
July 29: Tom Kubis Big Band, a 17-piece brass, reed and rhythm group that tips its cap to the styles of Count Basie and Thad Jones, plays fusion as well as mainstream jazz.
Aug 5: T-Lou and the L.A. Zydeco Band, a group of Louisiana natives, whip up the energetic rhythms of Cajun dance music, mixing Bayou country music with Creole and rhythm-and-blues.
Aug 12: La Boom offers Afro-pop dance rhythms (similar to the sounds you'd find in a Rio de Janeiro lounge, says one devotee). Band members include Mozambique vocalist Loide Mandlhate and her husband, Eliseu, on guitar and percussion.
Aug. 19: The Underthings, who play saxes, mandolin and upright bass, zigzag from rock to folk to jazz to Brechtian-style cabaret. They describe their music as "post-lounge jazz." Their recent, eponymous album made the Top 10 list of the College Music Assn.
Aug. 26: Yatiri performs traditional folk music of Bolivia and Peru. Costumed members of the quartet play such native instruments as the charango (a small guitar), zamponas (variously sized pan pipes), quena, tarka and moceno (different types of flutes), and bambo and wankara drums. In the Aymara language, yatiri means "folk healer and keeper of the legends."
Sept. 2: Chu Chu and the Lovely Band, established 12 years ago in Watts, play funky blues under the direction of Roosevelt Stringfellow, who says that the letters in "Lovely Band" stand for "Loyalty, Organization, Variety, Enthusiasm, Lyrical, Youthfulness, Bonded, Achievers, Naturals, Determined."
Sept. 9: Huayucaltia ("Why-yoo-cal-tee-ah," which means "unity and brotherhood" in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs) consists of five musicians and singers from Argentina, Columbia, Mexico, Peru and the United States. Their material ranges from flamenco to sounds evocative of South American jungles. The group performs on guitar, flute and percussion--including numerous unique instruments played in the countryside and cities of South America.
Sept. 16: The series ends with San Antonio-born Western beat singer and guitar player Rosie Flores. A former member of the all-female Los Angeles cowpunk bank, the Screaming Sirens, her sound combines country, blues and rockabilly.