When Ray Armando steps on stage Saturday at Chadney's in Burbank, he arrives steeped in jazz history.
Armando was just 8 years old and living in Harlem when he started taking conga drum lessons from one of the acknowledged masters of the instrument, Cuban drummer Mongo Santamaria.
"He lived across the street from me, and I used to see him all the time," said Armando, 56, a native New Yorker who now lives in Glendale. "When I asked him if he'd teach me, he asked me, 'Can you play a conga beat?' I could, because a cousin of mine was a musician. So then he showed me things, different rhythmic patterns, shortcuts, like how to fake it if you're not sure of the beat."
At 15, Armando joined his first band, and by his late 20s, having added bongos and timbales to his repertoire, he'd worked with such Latin greats as Santamaria, Tito Puente and Joe Cuba as well as jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey. "I was on the road with Blakey for a year. That was great. And I was in Dizzy's band with James Moody and Mickey Roker," said Armando. After a couple of years with Argentine saxman Gato Barbieri, Armando got a call in 1971 to join Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Brazilian songwriting wizard. "Oh, man, I was on top of the world just speaking to him on the phone," said Armando. Armando lived in Brazil for four years, performing with Jobim, Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz, and recording with all three.
Armando moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to appear on singer Michael Frank's hit Warner Bros. album, "Sleeping Gypsy." Here he's worked with many of the top musicians, and has recorded on such albums as Teddy Edward's "Mississippi Lad" and "Blue Saxophone."
At Chadney's, Armando, on timbales and bongo, will lead an ace quintet--reedman Charles Owens and conga drummer Victor Pantoja are included. The program will include jazz classics like Horace Silver's "Nutville," a Jobim tune or two, and some originals, Armando said.
As you might imagine, everything will have a Latin tinge. "I grew up playing it," he said. "It makes me feel good, I can't put it down."
* Ray Armando's quintet plays Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Chadney's, 3000 W. Olive St., Burbank. No cover, no minimum. (818) 843-5333.
Jazz, BraziB--you'll hear them all from singer Kevyn Lettau, who appears Saturday and Sunday at La Ve Lee in Studio City.
"I get criticized for doing such a variety of things, but these styles are what I listen to, this is what I like," said Lettau, whose name is pronounced Leh-toe . "So what I do is take the musics that I love and combine them, marry them as best I can."
Lettau, whose latest album is "Universal Language" on JVC Records, believes audiences get a better show from her when she mixes things up. "If you put on a record and every song sounds the same, you'd be bored," she said. "So by changing moods, rhythms, key signatures, feelings, I come out with the kind of show I'd like to listen to."
Working at La Ve Lee is a particular kick for the singer. "There's not a bad seat in the house and the people that come there come to hear you," she said. "It's a homey sort of place." And since she lives in Van Nuys with her husband, drummer Michael Shapiro, the club is practically in the neighborhood.
* Kevyn Lettau sings on Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 and 11:30 p.m., at La Ve Lee, 12514 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Cover charge, $10, two-drink minimum. Information: (818) 980-8158.
Clarinetist-bandleader-author Artie Shaw, who retired from playing in the mid-'50s, is anything but tongue-tied. You'll get a chance to witness his loquacity when the great artist holds court tonight at the Performing Arts Center of the Student Union at Cal State Northridge.
The affair begins with a screening of "Time is All You've Got," the 1986 Oscar-winning documentary by Canadian filmmaker Brigitte Berman. The film is a retrospective on Shaw's life. Following the screening, Shaw takes over, issuing his informed, often insightful views on jazz, the Big Band era, music in the movies and other issues. Then he will take questions from the audience.
* Artie Shaw appears 8 p.m. Friday in the Performing Arts Center, University Student Union, Cal State Northridge, 18000 Nordhoff St., Northridge. Enter parking lot C off Zelzah Ave. Tickets, $25, general public; $20, CSUN faculty and staff; $15, students. Information: (818) 885-3180.