Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
Grammy Awards set Christmas special airing, nominations for Dec. 5

The Recording Academy dives into the ever-expanding universe of Christmas music with a new holiday special “A Very Grammy Christmas,” slated to air Dec. 5 on CBS with performances by Ariana Grande, Pharrell Williams, Tim McGraw and Maroon 5.

In addition, the show will be the platform for a key bit of 2015 Grammy Award news with the unveiling of the album-of-the-year nominees.

Other performers will be added for the hour-long show to be taped Nov. 18 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

The Christmas special supplants previous years’ prime-time specials revolving around the newest batch of Grammy nominations, which this year will be announced — except for the album category — on the morning of Dec. 5.

“A Very Grammy Christmas” will feature live performances of holiday songs plus current hits, and guests also will discuss favorite holiday memories and what being nominated for a Grammy means to them.

Tickets to the taping of the special can be found at Ticketmaster.com.


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Jazz picks: Dave Liebman, Stefon Harris and more this weekend

A selection of jazz and jazz-adjacent shows in the days ahead.

Dylan Ryan's Sand at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts

One of the tougher ones to categorize, L.A.-by-way-of-Chicago drummer Dylan Ryan draws freely from elements of twisted metal, post-rock and free jazz for a trio called Sand. Backed by Timothy Young on guitar and bassist Devin Hoff (maybe best known for his long stint with the Nels Cline Singers), Ryan celebrates the release of Sand's new album, "Circa," a recording that further expands upon Ryan's already wide-screen focus.

Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, 2225 Colorado Blvd, L.A. 8 p.m. Friday, $10. www.cfaer.org.

Stefon Harris at Zipper Concert Hall

A progressive force for jazz on the vibraphone, Harris has been recently heard collaborating with Christian Scott and David Sánchez in the Cuban jazz group Ninety Miles as well as the SFJAZZ Collective and his own ensemble Blackout. Here he performs in a trio with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jonathan Pinson as part of the...

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R.I.P. Raphael Ravenscroft: More sax that made music pop

Studio musicians contribute immeasurably, and often anonymously, to the fabric of pop music, making it a rarity when one rises above that anonymity the way saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft did as the result of his signature wailing solo on Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit “Baker Street,” a hook that is every bit as important to the song’s popularity as Rafferty’s voice and lyrics.

It also came not long before the era of the synthesizer dawned in the 1980s, when organic sounds of a wind instrument were largely abandoned, at least in terms of what surfaced on pop radio.

With that in mind, an in recognition of Ravenscroft’s passing, Pop & Hiss offers an entirely subjective selection of 10 other great saxophone moments in pop history:

Bill Haley & the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” (1954): The hit often cited as the Big Bang for rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have a formal sax solo, but tenor saxophonist Joey Ambrose’s instrumental shouts in conjunction with the band’s electric guitar and steel guitar...

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Red Bull Sound Select offers more details of L.A. 'music takeover'

Those who peruse online music sites have perhaps been bombarded of late with exclamatory ads regarding a month-long series of events dubbed Red Bull Sound Select Presents: 30 Days in LA. A music-centered set of cultural happenings sponsored by your 2 a.m. juicing-up beverage of choice, the series will occur throughout Los Angeles in November. 

In addition to a full roster of gigs at various venues by acts including Run the Jewels, Future Islands, Warpaint, the Head

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An Appreciation: Elvis Presley photographer Alfred Wertheimer (1929-2014)

The first thing that springs to mind about my encounter in 2010 with Elvis Presley photographer Alfred Wertheimer, the man who shot the celebrated intimate images of Presley on the cusp of stardom in 1956, was the marrow-deep passion about his vocation.

I interviewed Wertheimer, who died Sunday at 84, in conjunction with a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of his photos that the Grammy Museum hosted at that time. Wertheimer came out from his home in New York to attend the show's gala opening, but did he stop to revel in all the adulation being heaped on him and the revealing photos he’d shot more than half a century earlier?

No, he had his camera around his neck and will snapping shots of all the activity and people surrounding him, ever-determined to document the event. He was endearingly unassuming about his photographic accomplishments and spoke matter-of-factly about the Presley photos and other assignments he’d spent his life chasing.

The call to shoot Elvis shortly...

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Avenged Sevenfold brings 'Deathbat' to life in video game

The members of Orange County’s heavy metal slayers Avenged Sevenfold recently found themselves in a rather enviable position in this depressed music sales climate. That is, the band had money to spare — about a cool half-million — for a dream project.

So the group made a video game.

Late last week, Avenged Sevenfold released “Hail to the King: Deathbat,” a mobile role-playing game available for iOS and Android devices. This isn’t a quick cash-in, says lead singer M. Shadows, noting that the $4.99 game was two years in development and boasts levels that can encourage multiple hours of exploration. The game uses touch controls to have players battle a multitude of undead creatures, telling the story behind the group’s long-standing “Deathbat” logo.

“A band like Mumford & Sons or Imagine Dragons or Coldplay — there’s no game to be made there,” Shadows says. “They’d have to come up with something completely fresh. When you look at us, or Iron Maiden, someone with a logo and a strong...

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