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Best Bets Orange County HERE AND NEAR

April 22, 1999

TODAY

8pm

Pop Music

Taj Mahal, the man, not the building, has been a landmark on the blues and roots-music scene for more than 30 years. Born Henry St. Clair Fredericks, Mahal has applied his sweetly gruff voice to every variety of traditional blues, not to mention calypso and world music strains. Dynamic as a solo performer and skilled as a bandleader, he plays this engagement with backup from his Phantom Blues Band.

Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band and Mighty Mo Rodgers, Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. $28.50-$30.50. (949) 496-8930.

TODAY

7pm

Theater

Jack London was arguably America's greatest writer of adventure stories. "The proper function of man," London once wrote, "is to live, not to exist." And live he did, until his early death at 40. London is being immortalized in a one-man show by and starring Milton McMenamin, who has nurtured a lifelong fascination with the author. McMenamin, a retired teacher, performs regularly on cruise lines and is a lecturer and naturalist. He brings his portrait of the author, "Jack London, an American Original," to the Newport Beach Central Library.

"Jack London, an American Original," Friends Meeting Room, Newport Beach Central Library, 1000 Avocado Ave. Tonight only. Free. (949) 717-3801.

FRIDAY

8pm

Theater

When it opened in Boston, it was called "Away We Go," and its biggest number was a solo by the leading man. The authors, Rodgers & Hammerstein, realized just in time that the song would be better as a big production number, and the song's title became the show's title. "Oklahoma!" is still alive and kicking more than half a century later. For this spirited revival at UC Irvine, choreographer Donald McKayle has designed all new dances, and director Robert Cohen has rethought the text in terms of "assimilation" and the simple love story as "a metaphor for the many awkward choices a society has to make to civilize itself."

"Oklahoma!" Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive. Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; also Sunday, and Saturday, May 1, 2 p.m. Ends May 1. $14-$16. (949) 824-2787.

FRIDAY

all day

Movies

British director Mike Newell has carved out a reputation for stylish filmmaking with the romantic romp "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and the gritty American mob drama "Donnie Brasco." His latest, "Pushing Tin," is an inside look at the high-pressure world of air-traffic controllers in which John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton square off as two very different but competitive controllers. Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie co-star.

* "Pushing Tin," rated R for language and a scene of sexuality, opens in general release Friday.

FRIDAY

7pm

Pop Music

Lenny Kravitz has been successful with--and sometimes knocked for--songs patterned after such '60s heroes as the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. His new album, "5," veers into funk territory, using more modern studio techniques. But retro fans will still hear some '60s-vintage Sly Stone moves. Kravitz heads a big bill that includes the Black Crowes (also known for some retro-jamming), the hot-selling Everlast and newcomer Cree Summer, whose debut album Kravitz produced.

* Lenny Kravitz, Black Crowes, Everlast and Cree Summer, Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8808 Irvine Center Drive. $20-$42. (949) 855-6111 (venue information) or (714) 740-2000 (Ticketmaster).

FRIDAY

7:30&9:45pm

Jazz

Drummer Jack DeJohnette is the consummate percussionist, with a list of credits that ranges from Miles Davis through his long association with pianist Keith Jarrett. The World Saxophone Quartet--Oliver Lake, Hamiett Bluiett, David Murray and John Purcell--brings outrageous harmonics and free-thinking improvisations to everything it plays. Here, the quartet focuses on--who else during this Ellington centennial month?--the Duke.

Jack DeJohnette and the World Saxophone Quartet, Founders Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Also Saturday. 7:30 p.m. shows $36, 9:45 p.m. shows $32. (714) 556-2787.

SATURDAY

8pm

World Music

Ali Akbar Khan, India's best-known master of the sarod--the 25-string, sitar-like instrument--teams with Zakir Hussain, tabla player and veteran of performances with Ravi Shankar, for a concert of North Indian ragas and traditional music.

Ali Akbar Khan, Zakir Hussain, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive. $27-$42. (800) 300-4345.

SATURDAY

Art

all day

As a leader of the Chicano art movement in the late '70s and early '80s, Patssi Valdez was part of an outspoken, pioneering group that challenged traditional notions of Latino culture in the United States. For the last decade, the Los Angeles artist has tended to look inward. The first Southern California museum survey of her work illuminates this voyage through paintings and photography.

* "Patssi Valdez: A Precarious Comfort" runs through July 11 at the Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach. Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $4-$5. (949) 494-6531.

SATURDAY

8pm

Music

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