Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, June 24, 9pm
To most, he’s known as the long-time drummer for blues god Muddy Waters. That in itself is quite a credential, but factor in that he was just 17 at the time and you can quickly see that there was, and is, something special about this now elder statesman of the blues. This Helena, AR native was born in 1936 and ventured to the brighter lights of Chicago just prior to his 18th birthday. There, while manning harp duties, he formed a trio with drummer Clifton James. Around the same time, he played for such luminaries as Bo Didley and Arthur “Big Boy” Spires.” A short time later, Willie began sitting in with Muddy and was soon made a permanent member of Waters’ historic band.
I hope by this point, you realize I wouldn’t steer you wrong. If you want to enjoy an evening of history, right here, in the present, with one of the all time blues masters, this is a must-see. Harvelle’s, 1432 4th St., 310.395.1676, www.harvelles.com
Poncho Sanchez, June 29, 7:30pm
He helms what’s probably the most popular Latin jazz band in the world – and for good reason: Poncho Sanchez is a tremendous conga player who, along with his terrific ensemble, weaves tales reflecting the colorful tradition born from the merging of Afro-Cuban and bebop rhythms. This Texas-born Mexican-American grew up in Los Angeles, where he immersed himself in a broad range of Latin and non-Latin popular music. Inspired by the conga artistry of Cuban great Mongo Santamaria, he worked his craft as a percussionist and ultimately went on to join famed vibraphonist Cal Tjader’s Latin outfit back in 1975. He remained there until Tjader’s passing in 1982. Since that point, he’s released a series of outstanding albums; many of which have come to be thought of as modern-day classics. Twilight Dance Series, Santa Monica Pier, 310.458.8900, ww.twilightdance.org