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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

It was on a gorgeous night last September at the Los Angeles County Arboretum that I first heard Patti Austin sing live.

A friend had invited my partner and me to the Pasadena Pops’ summer-season closer, and she was one of conductor Michael Feinstein’s guest vocalists. Although I had heard of Patti Austin before, I didn’t know a thing about her or her music. Well, on that lovely night, we learned one thing about Ms. Austin: Man, can she sing.

After she knocked our figurative socks off that night, we wanted to see more of Patti Austin, so we made a point to check out her show at the McCallum Theatre last Saturday night.

We expected a night of great vocals—and we certainly got just that. The 64-year-old R&B/pop/jazz singer was simply stunning as she took the too-sparse audience on a journey through the life of Ella Fitzgerald, backed by a tight three-piece band (piano, drums, upright bass).

What we didn’t expect was the hilarious, irreverent aspect of the show: Austin is a fantastic storyteller, and she kept the audience in stitches with her between-song banter about Fitzgerald’s life, the plight of being single, and the evils of Diana Krall.

She kicked off the show with “Too Close for Comfort,” immediately showing off her scat-singing skills. After adjusting the position of a stool with two large mugs atop it (and musing out loud: “Does Barbra Streisand have to go through this crap?”), and telling the story of how she finally won her first Grammy after eight previous nominations in the Best Jazz Vocal Album for Avant Gershwin (because “that bitch from Canada, Diana Krall, finally got out of my way”), she began her tribute to Fitzgerald with “Honeysuckle Rose.”

Austin—wearing an oversized, shining silver blouse, with grey pants and heels—would tell an anecdote from Ella Fitzgerald’s life, and then sing a Fitzgerald song that corresponded to that period of Ella’s life. The most amusing moment came after Austin sang “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” and explained how Fitzgerald finally started to embrace the Great American Songbook with that song. Austin said all great artists eventually sing the Great American Songbook to cement their legacies—and wondered out loud what would happen when Snoop Dogg finally did so. Austin then rapped several lines of “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” earning an ovation from the audience. She transitioned back to Fitzgerald by stating: “Speaking of drugs, Ella never did them,” before speculating Fitzgerald may have had a contact high when she wrote “A-tisket, A-tasket.” Of course, Austin then knocked the song out of the park.

Austin said she’d be returning to Cologne, Germany, next month to again record with the WDR Big Band; this time, the music of Cole Porter will be the focus. She’s made a number of albums with the WDR Big Band, including 2002’s For Ella, the aforementioned Grammy-winning Avant Gershwin, and a yet-to-be-released Ellington collection. “They play their asses off, and their government pays for it,” she said of her German collaborators. Austin then hoped out loud that Elvis Costello, Diana Krall’s husband, would perhaps clear the way for another Grammy award by “jacking her (Krall) up with another set of twins.”

Wow.

“Miss Otis Regrets” (my favorite song of the night) and “Hard Hearted Hannah” led Austin to discuss Fitzgerald’s constant problems with the romantic interests in her life. After a couple more songs, Austin “concluded” the concert with “How High the Moon,” featuring Austin’s exact replication of Fitzgerald’s singing/scatting to the Charlie Parker song.

Of course, this wasn’t the real conclusion; after walking off the stage and then returning for the encore, Austin joked about the “obligatory fake ending.” She then sent the delighted and amused audience off with a gorgeous version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—a perfect way to kick off the holiday season in the Coachella Valley, thanks to one of the most amazing under-the-radar singers working today.

Published in Reviews

Season is here! Let’s celebrate with some great events.

Greater Palm Springs Pride takes place Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9. There are a ton of related musical performances—many of those taking place at the new festival location in downtown Palm Springs. Get all the details at www.pspride.org.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be celebrating Greater Palm Springs Pride with special events on Friday, Nov. 7, and Saturday, Nov. 8. Offerings include performances and sets by JD Samson, W. Jeremy, Sparber, Amber Valentine, Nark, Chelsea Starr and Victor Rodriguez; Murray Hill is the host. There will also be pop-ups from Wacky Wacko and Peggy Noland. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club will be having Pride pool parties Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov 9. DJs scheduled to perform include Aaron C, All Night Shoes, COLOUR VISION and others. Admission is free. Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-778-8954; www.haciendacantina.com.

The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing for the season. At 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, a group of all-star high school musicians throughout the Coachella Valley will join up for the All Coachella Valley High School Honor Band. Tickets are $10. Patti Austin will be coming through at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The jazz vocalist has had an extensive career and was even a guest artist on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. Tickets are $35 to $75. If you want to enjoy some laughs, the Last Comic Standing Live Tour will be at the McCallum at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23. Tickets are $25 to $65. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several excellent events taking place. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1, Def Leppard will be performing. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past four decades, or you’re just too young to know, Def Leppard is one of the big names of the British wave of heavy metal. The group’s drummer, Rick Allen, only has one arm, which makes Def Leppard the best nine-armed band ever. Tickets are $95 to $185. The reunited Culture Club (bottom) will be opening its reunion tour at Agua Caliente at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. The group, fronted by the infamous Boy George, was a big hit in the ’80s, and the reunion includes all original members. Tickets are $90 to $160. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great November schedule. Country-music sensation Reba will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. Reba has been in the business for almost 40 years and is a powerhouse in country music. She’s also an actress who is probably best known for her television sitcom on the WB Network. Tickets are $59 to $149. Howie Mandel will be bringing the funny at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8. While Mandel is a hugely successful comedian and actor, he’s almost as famous for being a germophobe. Tickets are $29 to $59. Finally, the great Sheryl Crow will be returning to Fantasy Springs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth noting. LeAnn Rimes will be appearing at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2.Her record-breaking single 1997 “How Do I Live” was recently the answer to a trivia question at Bella da Ball’s Ace Hotel trivia night. Tickets are $29 and are only available at the Morongo Casino Box Office. Los Lobos (above right) will be stopping by with Los Lonely Boys at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. I had the opportunity to see Los Lobos perform in Riverside back in July, and band put on an amazing show. The members joked with fans who were cheering for them to play “La Bamba”; they said the song was actually performed by Los Lonely Boys. Tickets are $39 to $49. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has great things going on in November—as always. At 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, J.D. McPherson will be performing. McPherson performed locally at Stagecoach back in the spring. Tickets are $15. If you’re a fan of both lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling) and rock ’n’ roll, stop by for Los Straitjackets at 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13. I’ve seen the band twice before—and the shows are crazy fun. Tickets are $15. Now here’s something rather… odd: Macaulay Culkin and his band The Pizza Underground will be performing with Lizzo and Har Mar Superstar at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18. The Independent tried to interview someone from The Pizza Underground, but it didn’t work out, in part because the band only wanted to talk about pizza. So it’s a little odd that the band is performing in a barbecue restaurant that doesn’t serve pizza. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Speaking of pizza, The Hood Bar and Pizza has a fine November schedule. At 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8, Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes will be hosting his next installment of FRESH Sessions Live. His guests will be Aimlo and COLOUR VISION. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, the Hellions will be throwing a Turbojugend party that will include Monolith and Whiskey and Knives. Turbojugend, the legendary fan club of the Norwegian band Turbonegro, has a chapter in Palm Desert—made up of the Hellions. The Hellions will most likely be bringing in their brothers in denim jackets from Los Angeles, so you don’t want to miss this one. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 26, Machin’ will offer a special free Thanksgiving Eve performance. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed continues to make a comeback after a dormant period. Fortunate Youth will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. The Los Angeles reggae group has received accolades for a brilliant stage show. Tickets are $15 to $20. If that’s not enough reggae for you, San Diego reggae group Tribal Seeds is coming back for another show at The Date Shed at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The crowd at the last show was packed, so get there early. Tickets are $17 to $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time for a breather.

During the month of January, the Coachella Valley is experiencing a slowdown in the number of music events—so it’s all about quality over quantity. Thankfully, there’s plenty of quality.

The McCallum Theatre will host Shirley MacLaine at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19. MacLaine will be speaking about her experiences in Hollywood, her private life and her spiritual journey. Tickets are $35 to $75. Jazz vocal artist Patti Austin will be performing at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 28. Austin, best known for her 1981 duet “Baby, Come to Me” with James Ingram, is a live delight. Tickets are $35 to $75. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1, Pink Martini will take the stage. The modern-day alternative lounge-music act has always had a feel good vibe and will definitely put on a fun show. Tickets are $35 to $95. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a solid schedule throughout the month. The Golden Boys will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 3. The supergroup includes three heartthrobs from the early days of pop: Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Fabian. They’ll be onstage together crooning each of their hits. For those who remember the heyday of these singers back in the ’50s, it will be a special night. Tickets are $29 to $59. And now for something completely different: At 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, Snoop Lion, aka Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, will be performing in the Coachella Valley for the first time since his headlining slot with Dr. Dre at Coachella in 2012. It’s hard to predict what to expect from Snoop, since his recent conversion to Snoop Lion has also included a shift in sound. His most recent release, Reincarnated, is a reggae album; Snoop’s conversion to the Rastafarian religion was shown in the documentary with the same name. He was a no-show at a scheduled performance in Portland, Ore., a few months back, and he seems to be more open to being called Snoop Dogg again, so who knows what to expect? (He turned down an interview request from the Independent, for what it’s worth.) Tickets are $39 to $89. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31, country-music star Martina McBride will close out the month in style. Her career goes all the way back to 1988, and she’s had quite a run ever since; she also has a new album slated for release in 2014. This should definitely be a treat for country-music fans. Tickets are $39 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa has a slower January compared to other recent months—but the resort’s schedule does feature an undeniable legend. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24, country legend Dolly Parton will bring her classics to the Agua Caliente. The “9-to-5” singer is still going strong and is inspiring younger generations after being covered by artists like the White Stripes. Tickets were $90 to $160, but the show is sold out. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11, comedienne Kathleen Madigan will be performing. Thanks in part to her high-profile comedy specials, including Gone Madigan on Showtime, she’s become a huge success. Tickets are $20 to $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25, Morris Day and the Time will be performing with Sheila E. Morris Day is a well-known cult hero thanks to his song “Jungle Love.” Day was also in Prince’s Purple Rain as Prince’s nemesis. Speaking of Prince: His former drummer, Sheila E, will also be performing. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com

Morongo Casino Resort Spa doesn’t have much going on in January, but the Cabazon resort will kick off the next month with Foreigner, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1. While Mick Jones is the only remaining member, the band’s hits make them worth experiencing live. Also, for those of us who watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, we know the powers of the “Foreigner Belt.” Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s, meanwhile, has another great month of shows booked. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, Pappy’s will host the Bobby Nichols Band. The high-desert band is a hit with the local crowd, thanks to their smooth electronic instrumental grooves; it will be a perfect night to be in Pioneertown for dinner and a show. Admission is free. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10, The Palominos (right) will be performing. The San Diego based honky-tonk band is helping keep the California country music sound alive. This show is free, too. After hosting the Weirdos in December, Pappy’s will be hosting another punk band at 9 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19: Parquet Courts. Since forming in 2010 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the band has been a hit in the underground—and has even gained some attention from the mainstream music press. Tickets are $12. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza is unfortunately losing booking mastermind Brandon Henderson. The good news is he will be replaced by War Drum frontman Jack Kohler. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, The Hood will host its new Industry Night. DJ Bent will be spinning during the all-vinyl night. Attendance is free (21 and older). At 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18, Flower Boy and Giselle Woo and the Night Owls will be playing. Attendance is again free (21 and older) The Independent wishes Brandon Henderson well in his new journey. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

We’re finally getting a better look at the Hard Rock Hotel’s entertainment plans. The hotel will now feature DJs every Friday and Saturday in the lobby from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and poolside from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-325-9676; www.hrhpalmsprings.com.

Vicky’s of Santa Fe has some great music events to go hand in hand with the restaurant’s fine dining. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:30 to 10 p.m., jazz musician Pat Rizzo performs with the All That Jazz Band. Every Tuesday, from 7 to 10 p.m., the restaurant features Michael Dees and Trio. Fans of swing music can enjoy Carolyn Martinez and Trio every Thursday from 6:30 to 10 p.m. John Stanley King performs every Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. Vicky’s of Santa Fe, 45100 Club Drive, Indian Wells; 760-345-9770; www.vickysofsantafe.com.

The Ace Hotel has added a monthly event to its lineup in the Amigo Room. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10, The Full House Band featuring Nena Anderson will perform “gypsy jazz,” Americana and Western swing. The event will be every second Friday of the month going forward. Attendance is free to those 21 and older.The Ace Hotel, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The newly opened Copa Room is hopping; the new spot has a lot to offer thanks to its old-school lounge appeal. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 3 and 4, the Copa will host Well-Strung (below), an all-male string quartet playing the works of artists from to Mozart to Vivaldi to … Lady Gaga? Yes, that’s right. Tickets are $25 to $35. Check the Copa’s website, as the folks there were adding a variety of shows to the lineup as we went to press.The Copa Room, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Zena Bender, in collaboration with the folks at Radio Free Joshua Tree, will be holding a second fundraiser at the Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley, at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8. The nonprofit radio station was founded by Teddy Quinn to serve as an outlet for Coachella Valley and high-desert musicians, poets and artists. The effort is worth your support. A suggested donation is $10. Sky Village Swap Meet, 7028 Theatre Road, Yucca Valley; www.radiofreejoshuatree.com.

Published in Previews