By Don Heckman
– Dec. 21 – 23. (Mon. – Wed.) Lady Gaga. Performance as pop art reaches a new level in Lady Gaga’s ‘The Monster Ball’ — a multimedia artistic experience she describes as the first-ever ‘pop electro opera.’ Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE. (213) 763-6030.
– Dec. 22. (Tues.) Marilyn King. Still singing from her heart, the soloist with the King Sisters celebrates Christmas with a too-rare club appearance. Upstairs at Vitellos. (818) 769-0905.
– Dec. 22. (Tues.) Chuck Berghofer’s Midnight Jazz Band. With Gary Foster, alto sax, Tom Rainier, piano, Peter Erskine, drums. With four of the Southland’s veteran jazz players on hand, the Midnight Band always seems to find amazing new musical adventures whenever they get together. Charlie O’s. (818) 989-3110.
– Dec. 22. (Tues.) Zane Musa Quartet. Alto saxophonist Musa has been a cutting edge player since he was still a teen-ager, and he just keeps getting better. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.
– Dec. 22. (Tues.) “Holidays with Sweet Honey in the Rock.“ The Grammy winning a cappella vocal group brings simmering African rhythms and lush harmonies to a program of holiday celebration. Disney Hall.
– Dec. 23. (Wed.) “A Creole Christmas” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Expect Crescent City classics interwoven with Christmas standbys and the Preservation players’ irresistible second line swing. Disney Hall.
– Dec. 23. (Wed.) Josh Nelson and Pat Senatore Duo. A musically stimulating meeting of the generations, between pianist Nelson’s youthful versatility and bassist Senatore’s sturdy rhythmic drive. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.
– Dec. 23. (Wed.) Dave Koz Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour. Alto saxophonist Koz celebrates the 12th Anniversary of his annual smooth and mellow romp through the musical highlights of Christmas. Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal City Walk.
– Dec. 26 – 31. (Sat. – Thurs.) The New Shanghai Circus. If there’s a manipulation of the human body that can’t be done, the Shanghai artists haven’t encountered it yet. But what’s really amazing is the fact that their astonishing acrobatics are always done with deceptive ease and utterly engaging artistry. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. (562) 916-8501.
– Dec. 26 & 27. (Sat. & Sun.) Sharon McNight. “Twisted Christmas: An Orthodox Druid’s View of the Holidays.” The title says it all. McNight is witty, sardonic, hilarious and a sneakily talented singer. The Rrazz Room. (415) 394-1189
– Dec. 26 – 28. (Sat. – Mon.) Arturo Sandoval All-Star Band. Trumpeter/pianist/percussionist Sandoval is always a joy to hear, especially when he’s backed by an all-star Latin band. Featuring Horatio “El Negro” Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Rebecca Mauleon and others. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.
– Dec. 26 – 28, (Sat. – Mon.) Jonathan Butler. South African singer/guitarist Butler has been a standout since his 1987 Grammy-nominated hit, “Lies.” And he’s still one of soul/smooth jazz’s most dynamic performers. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.
– Dec. 22 – 26. (Tues. – Sat.) Freddy Cole. He plays piano, sings softly and leads a trio that includes guitar and bass. And his name is Cole. But although Freddy does have some of the qualities of his older brother Nat “King” Cole, the spirit, imagination and interpretion that he brings to his music is all his own. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.
– Dec. 22 – 27. (Tues. – Sun.) Cedar Walton Quartet. Pianist Walton continues a two week run at the Vanguard, with the added participation of saxophonist Vincent Herring joining David Williams, bass and Willie Jones III, drums. Village Vanguard. (212) 255-4037.
– Dec. 23. (Wed.) Lew Soloff & The Latin Ensemble. Trumpeter Soloff takes a foray into Latin jazz, backed by Pedro Martinezk, timbales, Axel Tosca, keyboards, Alvaro Benavides, bass and Jhair Sala, congas. But whatever Soloff plays, expect him to be swinging hard, from the first note to the last. 55 Bar. ( 212 ) 929-9883.
– Dec. 24. (Thurs.) A Child’s Christmas in Wales. A highly praised film version of the classic poem in which a reading by Thomas is illustrated by photographic sequences of life in an actual Welsh Village. Marvin Lichtner conceived, photographed and produced. (Full disclosure: I wrote the music that accompanies Thomas and the visual images.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 12 noon – 12:30 p.m. Free with Museum admission. (212) 535-7710.