The hip-happening "StraightNoChaser" series started in late August and has taken off thanks to great word of mouth. "It's really blowing up," says Joe DiPadova, speaking of the expanding popularity of his brainchild, which he says is nominally inspired by London's Jazz Café. DiPadova describes "StraightNoChaser" as "a timeline of jazz influence. Throughout the course of a single evening, an attendee will experience live jazz bands; live funk bands; live, jazzy, downtempo/jazz-influenced hip-hop DJs; and live nujazz/jazz-influenced uptempo DJs." Wow. And as if that weren't enough, "StraightNoChaser" also includes live art demos by the likes of Banding Hendrix, Claudia Bona, and Katie Romans, plus free, early evening wine tastings prepared by sommelier Brent Karlicek and House of Tricks wine buyer Ryan "R.B." Brown. Rotating musical "residents" include Calumet, Raul Yañez, Lars Behrenroth, Santos, Kasey Kauakahi, the Energy Trio, the Lymbyc Systym, Gannon Burleigh, Raza, Brazilia, Xtra E, and Delikacy. The 21-and-over event starts at 6 p.m. each Friday, continuing until 2 a.m. Admission is free before 8 p.m., $5 after. The locale is The Loft, 420 South Mill Avenue in Tempe. Call 480-968-2399 or 480-967-8188, or visit www.snc-az.com.
Even those who like their salsa muy caliente will need a fistful of Tums on Saturday, September 24, after the concert by New York's 13-member collective known as the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Led by pianist/musical director Oscar Hernandez and featuring genre heavy-hitters such as trombonist Jimmy Bosch and percussionist Bobby Allende, the big band specializes in Dura ("hard") salsa in the same vein as Puerto Rico's great Fania All Stars and Cuba's Afro-Cuban All Stars. SHO puts on a great one, with tunes like "Mama Guela," "La Banda" and "Bailadores," drawn from its 2002 album Un Gran Día en el Barrio and the group's acclaimed follow-up, 2004's Across 110th Street. The sonic hot sauce starts flowing at 7 p.m. at Gammage Auditorium, 1200 South Forest Avenue on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Tickets are $30, $15 for students. Call 480-965-3434 or 480-784-4444, or visit www.asugammage.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
Blue-collar workers of the world unite in Nickel and Dimed, Actors Theatre's take on Barbara Ehrenreich's best seller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. The tragicomic book was based on a social experiment by Ehrenreich, in which the author spent nearly a year working thankless, low-paying gigs in order to get a firsthand feel for the plight of the average Joe and Joanne. Director Matthew Wiener and his talent-filled cast (Cathy Dresbach, Maria Amorocho, Patti Davis Suarez, Elaine Bardwell, Maren MacLean Mascarelli, and Christian Miller) have deftly brought Ehrenreich's tale to life with a partly cloudy but mostly sunny production based on a theatrical adaptation by Joan Holden. The run closes with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, September 25, at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe Street. Tickets range from $20 to $36, $15 to $31 for military personnel and those over 65. Call 602-252-8497 or 480-784-4444, or visit www.atphx.org or www.ticketmaster.com.
DJ Evren offers a mellow, downtempo alternative to all of those Monday Night Football-blaring sports bars with his Industry & Jazz'n House Mondays at Mythos Mediterranean Bistro, 2515 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Each week, Evren spins jazzy house, deep house, and Latin while diners mow down kebabs, moussaka, falafel, paidikia, saganaki, baba ghanouj and other specialties of the house. There's also a hookah bar featuring more than 20 tobacco flavors, as well as drink specials that include $1 domestic beers, $2 well drinks and $3 martinis. Admission is free. Call 480-947-6896.
Arizona author Diana Gabaldon is a hugely successful goddess of Gothic mystery. Born in Williams and raised in Flagstaff, she now lives in Scottsdale, but makes frequent visits to the New York Times best-seller list thanks to her highly detailed historical fiction. Gabaldon's ongoing Outlander series is particularly popular with her fans, and is centered on the recurring characters of Jamie Fraser, an 18th-century Scotsman, and Claire, Fraser's 20th-century wife. Gabaldon unveils her latest Outlander adventure, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, on Tuesday, September 27, at the Poisoned Pen Central Bookstore, 215 East Grant Street. The event marks the official "English Language Launch Party" for the book, as it's simultaneously released in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Gabaldon commences autographing copies at 6:30 p.m. Admission to the party is free, but entree to the "signing line" requires purchase of the new book. Call 602-252-0663 or visit www.poisonedpen.com.