1. J C Brooks & the Uptown Sound (above), Jan. 23rd at Dark Room “A modern-day soul band. They’re really fantastic.”

2. New Music DePaul (at DePaul) and Dal Niente (at Columbia College), both Feb. 13th “The first is contemporary classical music from DePaul composers. They bring in these hot players. Across town, the Dal Niente group is featuring French composer Tristan Murail, an amazing post-Debussy composer who you don’t hear much.”

3. The Model Citizens, Feb. 16th at Gallery Cabaret “A swing band that’s turning the whole jazz big band tradition on its ear. Quite amazing.”

4. Eighth Blackbird, Feb. 19th at the Harris “They combine virtuosic chops with stage presence, and they have the same mission as my group: to bring contemporary classical to new people.”

5. Frank Zappa, Burnt Weeny Sandwich “I was in this bar recently, and heard a song, and thought, Oh yeah. I dug out all my old CDs.”

Photography: (Uptown Sound) Fuzzy Gerdes; (Zappa) Shore Fire Media/The Zappa Estate