Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Mamet’s latest on Broadway, an a cappella sing-off on NBC, a Tunisian oud player takes on jazz, and more.

Wonderfully warped

“RiffTrax LIVE: Christmas Shorts-Stravaganza,” featuring the stars of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and guest “Weird Al” Yankovic (r.), is a live in-theater event taking place on Dec. 16, at 8 p.m. ET, in 482 movie theaters nationwide (with a taped delay for the West Coast). Based on the cult favorite TV show, it brings its offbeat humor to a series of seasonal short films and TV commercials. For ticket information go to FathomEvents.com.

A cappella ‘American Idol

On Dec. 14, 15, 16, and 21, NBC premières “The Sing-Off,” a nationwide song hunt for the top a cappella singing group. The first three nights, ensembles will compete, “American Idol”-style, and the following Monday finale will feature the winner. Besides a national spotlight on their talent, the top prizewinners will take home a recording contract with Epic Records/Sony Music.

Haitian revelation

Musicologist Alan Lomax traveled throughout Haiti in 1936 and made field recordings of local musical talent for the Library of Congress. The occupation by US Marines had recently ended, and part of the island’s rebound from the invasion was musical. Drummers, woodwind players, and vocalists were performing with a rambunctious sense of nationalistic fervor. “Alan Lomax in Haiti” (Harte Recordings) consists of 10 CDs of never-before-released music steeped in African-flavored jazz, calypso, and Mardi Gras marches. Along with sultry merengues are mesmerizing children’s songs performed by another American passing through, writer Zora Neale Hurston. Enchanting and revelatory.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Mamet’s ‘Race

A year after the country elected its first African-American president, David Mamet serves up a new play, the provocatively titled “Race.” Directed by Mamet himself, it focuses on a firm made up of three lawyers – two black and one white – who are mulling over whether to defend a white man charged with a crime against a young black woman. James Spader, Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, and Richard Thomas star at the Barrymore Theatre in New York (RaceOnBroadway.com).

Meditations in time

Toki Woki’s digital clock slides the seconds along with a clever scroll design that you can find at http://toki-woki.net/p/scroll-clock/.

Ancient and modern

Tunisian Anouar Brahem (c.) is a master of the oud, the fretless Arabic predecessor to the guitar. In his latest CD, “The Astounding Eyes of Rita” (ECM Records), he has assembled a jazz quartet of top-notch musicians bridging East and West, jazz and classical Arabic music. The music has a lovely dark timbre, interweaving Brahem’s oud with German Klaus Gesing‘s bass clarinet. The occasional flashes of light are provided by the bright tone of Swedish six-string electric bassist Bjorn Meyer (not shown). Lebanese hand percussionist Khaled Yassine underpins the melodic instruments with grooves that propel the music yet still manage to leave lots of open space.

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