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Tom McDermott with the Loose Marbles
9 p.m. Thu., Dec. 13
Donna's Bar and Grill, 800 N. Rampart St., 596-6914

New Orleans' favorite nontraditional traditional jazz player, Tom McDermott, has an understanding of music that's akin to total fluency in a language. In his compositions and covers of styles from Brazilian choros to ragtime to musette, an intuitive listener can hear commentary, poetry, even wit, all tossed off with ease. He's joined at this gig by the sprawling ensemble Loose Marbles, a group of changing size most often seen busking in the Quarter and Marigny (and in New York City) looking and sounding as if it just stepped out of a sepia-toned print (or a boxcar) circa 1930. Touted enthusiastically by New Yorker correspondent Dan Baum in his blog for the magazine, the Loose Marbles have happily come in from the cold for this club gig. The shifting instrumentation includes washboard, trombone, string bass, banjo and accordion employed to play hot, whimsical, old-timey jazz. Occasional vocalist Mechiya Lake is a real treat, with a rich, smoky tone straight out of a vintage cabaret. Free admission. — Alison Fensterstock




James McMurtry
10 p.m. Fri., Dec. 14
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361;

The wry, laconic son of Texas historian and Old West novelist Larry McMurtry has made his name with a different, though equally trenchant take on Americana. His guitar-driven honky-tonk is the catchy base to blackly honest, spur-sharp observations on everything from the unpleasantness of family holidays to the politics of poverty and the fine mess the Bush administration has gotten us into. With authentic twang and grim wit, McMurtry turned out Childish Things in 2006, an award-winning, critically praised album. It included a song ("We Can't Make It Here Anymore") that Stephen King, an unlikely commentator on both rock and activism, says "may be the best American protest song since (Bob Dylan's) 'Masters of War.'" Tickets $10 in advance, $12 at the door. — Fensterstock




Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Swing
8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 15
Loyola University, Roussel Hall, 6363 St. Charles Ave., 461-9013

If you believe that Christmas don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, then Lula Elzy has just the right holiday celebration for your tastes. In what's becoming an annual event, Lula Elzy Dance Theater presents Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Swing. Ellington reworked Tchaikovsky's classic Suite by transforming "Sugar Plum Fairy" into "Sugar Run Cherry," "Arabian Dance" into "Arabesque Cookie," and "The Waltz of the Flowers" into "Floreadores." Choreographer and dancer Elzy is joined by a troupe of nine dancers performing original pieces. The evening opens with John Mahoney's jazz orchestra playing some of the bandleader's arrangements of popular Christmas songs. The evening concludes with a theatrical staging of Wynton Marsalis' 'Twas the Night Before Christmas by New York choreographer Nat Horne. Tickets $25 general admission, $20 students/seniors. — Will Coviello




Harry Shearer and Judith Owen's Holiday Sing-Along
8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 14
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3800;

Harry Shearer and Judith Owen are coming to town this holiday season, and they're bringing the next best thing to a fruitcake: a witty, satirical night of holiday music and entertainment. Owen and Shearer's Holiday Sing-Along brings a fresh approach to classic holiday fare, delivered with the twist expected of the talented couple. Actor, comedian, satirist and radio show host Shearer is known for, among other things, doing voices on The Simpsons, starring in This Is Spinal Tap and Le Show. Owen is a jazz singer/songwriter with copious performing experience in cabarets and intimate venues and has put out seven albums. This show is both a performance and an interactive sing-along for the audience. It will feature special guests Leah Chase, Phillip Manuel, the Pfister Sisters and Tom McDermott. What began as a private, family-and-friends affair for the couple eventually swelled into a 2005 performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Since then, the party has gone on holiday tour to cities like New York and San Francisco, and special guests have included everyone from Paul Shaffer to Marshall Crenshaw to They Might Be Giants. Tickets $20 adults, students/seniors $18, members $15. —Lindsey Netherly

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