The late, great vocalist Ella Fitzgerald possessed a remarkable ability to appeal to jazz listeners and the popular audience alike, as does Cleo Laine. Fittingly, Laine and her longtime accompanist and husband John Dankworth are touring with a tribute called "Forever Ella," landing at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara on Saturday.
Laine's lineage goes back to an earlier time in jazz, when the distinction between the jazz and popular worlds was less marked. She linked with Dankworth in his big band, and they married in 1958, frequently performing together.
Laine, recently named Dame Cleo by the queen of England, continues to sing for a loyal following, even though her presence on the recording scene has been minimal of late.
FRENCH ACCENT: The music of Ravel will be the focus in this weekend's concerts by the revitalized Ojai Camerata, under the guidance of ambitious director and composer Miguel del Aguila. The centerpiece of the program called "Cher Maurice--Dear Ravel" is a concert version of a Ravel rarity, the gently surreal opera "L'Enfant et les Sortileges."
Soprano Deborah Mayhan and baritone James Kenney are the principal singers. Also on the program will be Ravel's "Trois Chansons" and excerpts from "Don Quichotte a Dulcinee."
The operatic Muse is smiling on the Camerata this season, with this weekend's fare, last fall's concert version of Kurt Weill's "The Rise and Fall of Mahagonny" and May's eagerly anticipated premiere of Del Aguila's own new opera, "Composer Missing."
FESTIVAL SIDELINES: The Ojai Festival is still a few months off, running May 29-June1 this year. But the it has maintained at least a modest presence on the music scene, planting interesting musical depth charges in Ventura County.
In December the festival hosted a concert by the Green Ensemble at Thacher School. Sunday afternoon, the it is sponsoring a concert by the esteemed Southwest Chamber Music group, known for its venturesome programming and concert series in Pasadena.
The program by violinist Agnes Gottschewski, cellist Maggie Edmonson, bass clarinetist Gary Ginstling, French horn player Jeff von der Schmidt and pianist Gayle Blankenburg includes piano trios by Schubert and Mendelssohn and "Five Objects Darkly," a new piece by Alexander Goehr. Admission to this well-rounded program is free.
CHORAL DEPT.: In other classical music news, the Ventura County Master Chorale continues its season Saturday at the Ventura College Theater, with a program different from the one originally announced. Instead, Vivaldi's "Credo," Bruckner's "Te Deum" and Vaughan Williams' "Four Hymns," featuring soprano Karen Medrano, will be offered.
Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Lobero Theater, 33 Canon Perdido, Santa Barbara. $25 and $35; (805) 963-0761.
"Ojai Camerata Presents the Music of Maurice Ravel," Friday at Ventura City Hall, 501 Poli St., Ventura, and Saturday at the Ojai Presbyterian Church, 304 N. Foothill Road, Ojai. 8 p.m. $12, $9 for students and seniors; (805) 289-4890.
Southwest Chamber Music, Sunday at 3 p.m. at Ventura City Hall, 500 Poli St. Free. To reserve a space, call (805) 646-2094.
Ventura County Master Chorale, Saturday at 8 p.m. at Ventura College Theater, 4667 Telegraph Road, Ventura. $15-$18, with a $3 discount for seniors; (805) 653-7282.