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Music Box: Get carried along with the playful, friendly songs of pianist Joe Sample

I'm a big fan of Joe Sample.

His music, since I've been tuned in, has always straddled the line between accessible pop and improvisational jazz. The pianist creates atmospheres I resonate with. If his songs were stories, they would carry me along with a Sherlock-style sense of intrigue, and their playful and friendly couplets.

Sample is the founding pianist of the Jazz Crusaders (later just The Crusaders), where he held court for two decades, first performing bop while easing his own signature funkiness into the mix. Sample met sax player and fellow Crusader Wilton Felder in high school, later running into trombonist Wayne Henderson in college at Texas Southern University.

Sample was in demand as a solo instrumentalist performing on records by Steelly Dan, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Marvin Gaye, George Benson and the great Miles Davis, to name just a few.

The Joe Sample Trio appears at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis this Friday night (8 p.m.).

At the historic Avalon Theatre in Easton, don't miss an audience Friday night with The Clovers, one of the seminal doo-wop vocal groups from the 1950s (8 p.m. show).

The Clovers had a string of 15 No. 1 singles on the R&B charts, including classics such as "Blue Velvet" and "Love Potion Number Nine" (later a big hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders). Others influenced by The Clovers include Ray Charles and Bobby Vinton, both who covered their songs.

I'm also listening to the new Angus Stone album, titled "Broken Brights." Angus and his sister Julia Stone have been making waves in their homeland of Australia for nearly a decade now. Angus Stone, with his new album invading the hearts of new listeners around the globe, appears at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington on Friday night (8 p.m.).

Other shows this Friday night include Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls along with Larry and His Flask plus Jenny Owen Youngs at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore (8:30 p.m.), while folk singer Bob Sima and Marc Douglas Berardo play the early show at the NightCat in Easton (7:30 p.m.), with Von Grey in the late show slot at NightCat (9:30 p.m.).

Japanese rock duo B'z plays the Fillmore in Silver Spring on Friday night (7:30 p.m.). In Japan, B'z is huge with 46 No. 1 singles in a row and 80 million albums sold. They play a youthful classic rock sound, a la Deep Purple leads and Rush vocals.

Electric guitar master Eric Johnson Electric Band appears at the Howard Theatre on Friday night (8 p.m.). After establishing his skills recording with Cat Stevens, Carole King and Christopher Cross, Johnson has gone on to sell millions of his own albums.

The Pat McGee Band comes to the Music Center at Strathmore Friday (8 p.m.), and New York's Indian processional wedding music band Red Baraat performs at The Hamilton in Washington, D.C., Friday night to lift your spirits (8:30 p.m.).

Elsewhere Friday, Afghan Whigs play the 9:30 Club in D.C. (sold out), and Vicente Fernandez plays his popular brand of old school Mexican ranchera folk music at George Mason University's Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. (8 p.m.).

All weekend long you have opportunities to catch up with Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist Mark O'Conner at Blues Alley in Georgetown (Friday through Sunday, 8 and 10 p.m. shows each night). Originally working out of the American roots traditions, O'Conner played bluegrass fiddle as one of the go-to session guys in Nashville.

Saturday


Another sensational American roots player in town this weekend is Darrell Scott, appearing at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on Saturday night (8 p.m.). Scott has kept busy for the past few years, applying his talents as a multi-instrumentalist to tours with the Band of Joy featuring Robert Plant, and his own award winning albums such as "A Crooked Road" (2011 Independent Music Award Best Country Album, and Grammy nominated song "Willow Creek").

Scott's songs have been recorded by an eye-popping collection of artists such as Joan Baez, Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks, among many, many others.

Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore has the 11-piece Pink Floyd tribute band Several Species this Saturday night with their faithful recreations of Floyd's psychedelic musical creations and a sumptuous multi-media presentation that includes a color laser light show, video projection and quadraphonic surround sound (6 p.m. doors).

Don't miss the Casey Cares Foundation's 10th annual Rock & Roll Bash at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore Saturday featuring a night of classic rock tributes to legendary rock bands from the 1970s and 80s (6:30 p.m.). Artists include Christine Ohlman, Mark Rivera and Jeff Kazee along with AC/DC tribute band High Voltage, Bon Jovi tribute band Bad Medicine, Kiss tribute band Cold Gin, and the 80's band Blatant 80's. There will be dinner, an open premium bar, dancing, auctions and more. Casey Cares Foundation is dedicated to providing uplifting programs with a personal touch for critically ill children and their families.

At The Hamilton on 14th Street in Washington, get ready for a double shot of blues and New Orleans piano rhythms as Shemekia Copeland appears Saturday night with Allen Toussaint (8:30 p.m.).

Musician, songwriter and record producer Allen Toussaint is truly one of the most influential figures in the storied history of New Orleans R&B. For more than 40 years he has produced, written for, arranged, had his songs covered by, and performed with the A-list of artists, such as Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle, "Dr. John," Aaron and Art Neville, Joe Cocker, The (original) Meters, Glen Campbell, The Band, Little Feat, The Rolling Stones, Devo, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, Etta James, Ramsey Lewis and many others.

Toussaint is credited with writing a string of hits for New Orleans artists like Ernie K-Doe ("Mother-In-Law"), Irma Thomas ("Ruller of My Heart"), Chris Kenner ("I Like It Like That"), and Benny Spellman ("Lipstick Traces"), Lee Dorsey and The Meters hits such as "Working in a Coalmine" and "Ride Your Pony," to name a few.

He composed the tunes "Java," a smash hit for Al Hirt, and "Whipped Cream," a hit for Herb Alpert, too. His tune "Yes We Can Can" went sky high for the Pointer Sisters, as did his "Southern Nights" for Glen Campbell, and "Lady Marmalade" for LaBelle.

Shemekia Copeland is simply one of the finest blues belters ever, carrying on in the tradition of Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Janis Joplin. She takes after her daddy, the late bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland. Her shows are aimed directly at your heart, with a distinct two-way musical conversation between audience and artist. It's a wonderful and magical feeling to behold the joy in Shemekia's performances and the struggles and pain depicted in her songs.

You have two chances of enjoying the artistry and power of the blues according to Copeland. First, at The Hamilton Saturday night, then at a family matinee show at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on Sunday (1 p.m.).

Also this Saturday night: In Easton you can hear a recreation of songs by The Band performed at the historic Avalon Theatre on Saturday night (8 p.m.). Across town at the NightCat enjoy an evening with indie folksinger Katy Pearson aka Bearkat performing in the realm of Cat Power and Feist (8 p.m.).

There will be an Oktoberfest celebration at Blob's Park in Jessup Saturday night where you can dance to the world's finest polka bands while enjoying delicious suds and snacks at the German beer garden. This is a unique area experience, fun for the whole family, dancing in a great circle (whether you know how to or not) to an up-and-down waltz tempo. Heavenly!

Sunday


On Sunday night it's the return of Australian wiz-kid guitarist Joe Robinson to Rams Head On Stage (7:30 p.m. show). He simply floored everyone who was lucky enough to attend his show at Rams Head about a year ago (or was it two?) with lightning fast licks and the nimble fingered dexterity that won him the World Championship of Performing Arts where he was named the 2009 Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World.

It's well deserved praise for a guy who can do anything with a guitar, acoustic or electric. And he'll do it all on Sunday night at Rams Head. You won't believe your ears.

At Strathmore Center for the Arts in North Bethesda this Sunday, it's going to be a night to remember as progressive dance rocker David Byrne teams with indie experimental rocker St. Vincent to perform songs from their new due album, and a few choice "Talking Heads" cuts to seal the deal (8 p.m.).

Byrne met St. Vincent in 2009. The two first traded guest spots on each other's albums. Now they've put together a full collaboration album titled "Love This Giant." It's a singer's dream come true to vocally dance between intertwined brass and sampled drums.

Also this Sunday: David Gray (the former Cheadle Heath) plays the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric in Baltimore (8 p.m.). Gray topped the British music charts with the album "White Ladder" in 1999 after releasing other deserving songwriter collections starting in 1993.

Belgian-Australian singer Goyte and Missy Higgins fill the air at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia on Sunday the summer comes to a close and the fall chill sets in (7 p.m.). Also, get funky Sunday night with former Sly Stone bass player Larry Graham and his Graham Central Station as they tear the roof off The Howard Theatre (8 p.m.).

Monday


Monday night Deborah Harry hits the spotlight with her band Blondie for an 80s-style sing-a-long at The State Theatre in Falls Church, Va. (8 p.m.).

Italian singer Jovanotti brings his sensational pop rock soundscapes to the 9:30 Club in D.C. (7 p.m.), and Los Lobos electrifies the crowd at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., Monday night (7:30 p.m.).

Tuesday


Tuesday night finds Nashville band Sixpence None the Richer at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis (8 p.m.), and 3OH!3 and Sammy Adams rock Rams Head Live! in Baltimore (7:30 p.m.).

Merriweather Post Pavilion presents a big Tuesday night of post progressive rock waves and anthems as Animal Collective returns to the scene of their original crime (a critically acclaimed album named after the legendary venue). Also on the bill are Micachu and the Shapes (6:30 p.m.).

Don't miss Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit with Louisiana-born singer-songwriter Dylan LeBlanc as they perform at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington on Tuesday (7 p.m.).

Maybe the most exciting show this Tuesday night is the show by fun and funny chanteuse Regina Spektor with Only Son at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric in Baltimore (8 p.m.). Spektor never ceases to amaze with her angular takes on everyday living smeared over tasty and textural piano prancing.

R&B singer, rapper, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Leslie's long-awaited release "Les is More" is set again to be released next month. Leslie and hip-hop artist

J. Holiday appear Tuesday night at the Howard Theatre (8 p.m.).

Wednesday


Japanese producer, contemporary jazz pianist and composer Keiko Matsui's career spans three decades and more than 20 CDs. She returns Wednesday night to Rams Head On Stage (8 p.m.). Her piano compositions sail slightly troubled waters with a steady confidence and glory.

"Music has no borders and it creates a oneness among people," confides Matsui in her promotional materials. "There is a connection between my fans and I and together in my music we are sharing harmony."

Also this Wednesday at Rams Head Live! it's Godspeed You! Black Emperor (8 p.m.). The rock band mixes guitars, keyboards, cello, violin and tape loops in front of screened projections. Performance art rises again!

Singer-songwriter Danielle Ate the Sandwich plays the Stoltz Listening Room in the historic Avalon Theatre Wednesday (7 p.m.). Dubbed "Joni Mitchell meets Sarah Silverman," the Colorado-based Danielle became a YouTube hit a few years ago when someone posted videos featuring her offbeat humor, ethereal voice, and honest, lyrical observations of the world.

And, the progressive band Renaissance re-emerges for a show at The Howard Theatre featuring a full performance of their album "Novella" plus other choice quality stuff on Wednesday night (8 p.m.).

Thursday, Oct. 4


Next Thursday night, Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons return to Rams Head on Stage for a night of smooth jazz (shows at 6 and 9 p.m.), while up the interstate at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore Snoop Dogg howls out a few of his gazillion-selling laundry list of hip hop hits (9 p.m.).

Even smoother, Carlos Nunez performs Celtic magic at The Barnes of Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va., on his Galician bagpipes next Thursday night (8 p.m.). Galicia is the Celtic region of Spain.

And finally, at the 9:30 Club next Thursday night, get in the middle of The Walkmen with The War on Drugs (sold out).

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