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Weekend music

The thrill remains the same: Honor BB King and go listen to live music

Like most music lovers, I'm listening to some sweet old B.B. King cuts on Friday. But, recalling the magic of the three times I was lucky enough to see him play, here are a few recommendations for spots to catch the fleeting magic that is live music this weekend.

One of the first vinyl LPs I bought was "King Size." In my mind, songs such as "Don't You Lie to Me," "Got My Mojo Working" and B.B.'s take on Willie Dixon's "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" crackle and pop along with the inevitable scratches and bits of dust that built up on my copy of that record.

But when I hear King's subtle vibrato guitar, I don't just hear those accretive memories, I recall the joy of watching and hearing him play live. Joking with the audience, his hands deftly — even into his 80s — gliding up and down the neck of his beloved guitar Lucille, and a band of able musicians and the entire crowd hanging on his every chiming note.

B.B. King may have died Thursday night, but his musical legacy belies his signature song, "The Thrill is Gone." Listening to him now, I can conjure up his appearances opening for U2 in 1987, and a 2007 show at Desert Diamond Casino.

Music is ever more a commodity — how many songs are in your iTunes? But there's magic that happens when great artists share their work with appreciative audiences. And whether it's an acknowledged legend or an under-appreciated genius, there are moments that we shouldn't miss happening all around us.

Updated: Taj Mahal announced Friday that he is cancelling his remaining shows in May. Which means you won't be able to listen to his art this week, but reinforces my point: get out and catch one of those lightning-in-a-bottle moments that a great live music experience can be, and do it while you can.

You can catch another bona-fide international legend on Wednesday night, as bluesman Taj Mahal takes the stage at the Rialto Theatre. Mixing classic blues riffs with Caribbean and Latin influences and touches from his adopted Hawaiian home, the composer, guitarist and singer remains as vital as ever nearing the 50th anniversary of his debut album.

By any rights, the opening act on Wednesday should also be a legend. Tucson's Tom Walbank has recorded 10 albums and appeared on a good two dozen others, singing, playing guitar and wailing on his harmonica. You wouldn't think a skinny white boy from Devon, England could bottle up the blues as if he'd distilled it straight from red Mississippi mud, but Walbank does it in spades.

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A different take on the musical experience can be found Monday at Club Congress, with Church of Beethoven (X) — violinist Samantha Bounkeua, cellist Michael Simmons and poet Joni Wallace — promising special ghost appearances by "Ravel, the Oppenheimers, Heidegger, and Hank" during the chamber music/spoken word performance.

Before that, you can hear Willis Earl Beal, who's been touted as an up-and-coming legend, with an almost too-good rags-to-riches story of being discovered busking while homeless in Albuquerque. Decide for yourself if he's the real deal at Congress on Saturday night; he's been compared to Tom Waits, Sade and a Twin Peaks performer.

If you're looking for a more spirited experience for a fun Saturday night, catch the Latin fusion of Santa Pachita at Che's Lounge. There'll be no cover as usual at the bar on the corner of 4th Avenue and East 7th Street, which means a couple more bucks in your pocket you can use to tip the band and bartenders.

And Sunday, if those physical artifacts of music are more your thing, you can get a taste of Nick Luca's latest recording during a listening party for "Line of Sight" at Tap & Bottle, 403 N. 6th Ave.

Perhaps a bit more sedate, the Tucson Pops Orchestra's "Music Under the Stars" series continues Sunday at Reid Park. This week's performance includes the Tucson Boy Chorus performing old favorites such as "Salute to Ol' Blue Eyes" and selections from "Annie." Spread a blanket on the grass at the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center starting at 7 p.m.

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