8 p.m. The Joint, Argenta. $20.
Maxwell Blade is 53 years old and since 1996 has been performing in downtown Hot Springs as a "Master of Illusion." He operates a 112-seat theater on Central Avenue with enormous playing cards on the walls. He does close-up magic, far-off magic, spectacle magic, comedy magic, prop magic, magic involving cups and balls and cards and confetti and doves and fire and, on some nights, a guillotine. He wears a black blazer, black shirts and black sunglasses, and has a shock of wild white hair. From a distance, he looks a little like the filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. Earlier this year he performed in Las Vegas, and alerted the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, beforehand, that his colleagues Chriss Angel and Penn and Teller had "promised to attend." Next-door to his theater, last year, he opened the Maxwell Blade Odditorium and Curiosities Museum. Inside are model ships, skulls, odd figurines, jars filled with bizarre and unidentifiable objects, exotic masks, mummified animals and other magical implements.
ROMERO LUBAMBO AND PETER MARTIN
8 p.m. South on Main. $20.
One of the indigestible problems of bossa nova guitar-playing is the difficultly of translating samba rhythms while simultaneously playing fluid jazz chords, an unpredictable bass note and a melody. For anyone who thinks linearly or who isn't accidentally brilliant, it's a migraine-inducing puzzle. They say Joao Gilberto used to lock himself in the bathroom playing only one chord for hours at a time. Usually that's phrased as an inspirational anecdote, but it's also possible he was just losing his mind. Romero Lubambo makes it look embarrassingly easy. Born in Rio de Janeiro, he came to the United States in 1985 and has performed and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Mann, Al Jarreau, Harry Belafonte, Astrud Gilberto and Yo Yo Ma. Thursday night, as part of the Oxford American Jazz Series, he'll perform with fellow jazz luminary Peter Martin. Martin, a pianist who has recorded with Wynton Marsalis and played at the White House (and in a George Clooney film) returns to South on Main after a great and memorable set last year.
SHOVELS AND ROPE
9 p.m. Revolution. $17 adv., $20 day of.
"We love what we do, but when we're not out playing music we'd rather be mowing the grass," Michael Trent said to Rolling Stone not long ago. Trent is one half, along with Cary Ann Hearst, of the husband-wife folk duo Shovels and Rope, who hail from Charleston, S.C., and have become fairly successful in recent years, playing late-night talk shows and climbing the Billboard charts and speaking candidly to Rolling Stone magazine about mowing the grass. In the same article, we learn further that the couple "recently purchased a ride-on lawnmower for the expansive yard at their home in Johns Island, South Carolina." They raise chickens. They have a hound dog named Townes, and used to tour around in a Winnebago, passing the guitar and tambourine back and forth and wowing audiences with Deep South imagery ("The Devil Is All Around" was last year's single) and the kind of organic harmonies that could only come as the result of marriage and arduous practice. They claim to have been influenced by "Smithsonian recordings ... of Gullah Gospel." In their own category, however, the world of roots Americana and alt-country and gritty, earthy authenticity, they do not attempt to push the envelope so much as to revive, embrace and celebrate the envelope. And they do it all while raising chickens, looking after their hound and, occasionally, mowing the grass.
ALVIN YOUNGBLOOD HART
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Alvin Youngblood Hart grew up in Oakland, Los Angeles, Ohio, Mississippi and Chicago. His earliest musical memory, he claimed in one interview, is a Bugs Bunny ukulele he used to lug around: He broke all the strings off and replaced them with rubber bands. Since then, he has won a Grammy, toured with Bo Diddley, tutored Samuel L. Jackson and made a record with Jim Dickinson. On the one hand, he is the iconic, idealized, spitting image of "The Blues," having performed in Martin Scorsese's PBS series of the same name over black-and-white footage of the old South. He appeared, also, in a Denzel Washington movie credited as "Juke Joint Musician No. 1," has been celebrated by the likes of Living Blues magazine and frequently covers Charley Patton. His blues credibility has been abundantly established, is what I mean. On the other hand, if his interviews are any indication, he'd rather be listening to Thin Lizzy. He's a thrilling guitarist with a sense of humor and spontaneity that always comes through. "I think if you get too serious it starts scaring the kids off," he said once, referring to "The Blues," and so he never gets too serious.
WHIRLING DERVISHES OF RUMI
6:30 p.m. Albert Pike Memorial Temple. $25.
"It is scientifically recognized that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no being or object which does not revolve, because all beings are comprised of revolving electrons, protons and neutrons in atoms. Everything revolves, and the human being lives by means of the revolution of these particles, by the revolution of the blood in his body, and by the revolution of the stages of his life, by his coming from the earth and his returning to it." That is the explanation given by the Order of the Whirling Dervishes for their famous Sama ritual, inspired by Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic and poet who believed that music could offer a route to the resurrection of the soul. The Sama is the simplest dance imaginable: You turn around in circles. You meditate and give thanks to the Prophet, moving steadily if indiscernibly toward perfection. The performers request, kindly, that we do not applaud. As the 10th-century Persian poet Abu Said ibn Abil-Khair once explained, "What's in your head — throw it away! What's in your hand — give it up! Whatever happens — don't turn away from it."
SATURDAY 1/31-SUNDAY 2/1
RANDALL GOOSBY AND THE ARKANSAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
7:30 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. Maumelle Performing Arts Center. $19-$58.
When he was 9 years old, Randall Goosby made his solo orchestral debut with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in Florida. After that, in short order, came the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic. His family moved to Memphis, but Goosby commuted to Juilliard so that he could continue studying with Itzhak Perlman. He played Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. He was featured on NPR. In 2010, at age 13, he won the prestigious Sphynx competition and, in an online interview about the prize, said, "I like to hang out with my friends, checking Myspace and playing outside with my younger brother & Dad." In concert, as a 14-year-old, he played a 16th century violin built by Giovanni Paolo Maggini, on personal loan from the Stradivarius Society of Chicago. Goosby comes to Little Rock this weekend as guest violinist with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, performing in two concerts with a program featuring two pieces by Tchaikovsky and Mozart's "Concerto for Violin No. 5 in A Major." He'll also appear at the Mosaic Templars Cultural center at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 29.