Mention that a band or an artist records on the Windham Hill label and watch the yawning begin. The label's association with cheesy, New-Age fluff is a stigma, sure, but if you like your jazz light, the Rippingtons are where it's at. When jazz guitarist and keyboardist Russ Freeman was signed to record with the Japanese label Alpha in 1987, he put together an all-star contemporary jazz ensemble featuring keyboardist David Benoit and sax phenoms Kenny G. and Brandon Fields. The band switched to Windham in 1997, and by then Benoit and Kenny G. had long since moved on to shining solo careers. Freeman formed a touring band, in and out of which shuffled such standouts as drummer Tony Morales and bassist Kim Stone (Firefall, Spyro Gyra). Who knows exactly who will show up with Freeman when he and some version of the Rippingtons play tonight at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre (1801 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach), but no matter, he writes all of the group's pop- and R&B-inflected jazz tunes himself. Tickets for the 7:30 show cost $22.50 and $25. Call 954-946-2402.
Is there anything soap stud Walt Willey can't do? He's been playing lawyer Jackson Montgomery on All My Children since 1987 and has just extended his contract for four more years. He obviously has the technique of memorizing those intellectual soap dialogues down to a science, because in addition to taping the show, he finds time to devote to his wife, son, and their family farm and bed-and-breakfast in New Mexico. He's also a musician and a published satirist and artist: His collection of drawings, The Arthurian Legend: A Re-Telling of the Christ Myth, was exhibited to critical acclaim in Chicago. As if all that weren't enough, five years ago he began taking the stage as a standup comic. His topical humor ranges from pets to sex, and he parodies his own soap -- set in fictional Pine Valley in upstate New York -- with the song Here in Pine Valley, during which he riffs on the show's plotlines and characters. Soap fans will get it. Will the rest of us? And is his shtick funny? Audiences will find out when Willey performs 8:30 and 10:30 shows tonight at Bocanuts Comedy Club, 8221 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Tickets cost $15. Call 561-470-6887.
It's hard to imagine anything worse than being a Jew in Hitler's Germany during World War II, but gays were just as harshly persecuted by the Nazis. Playwright Martin Sherman combines this Holocaust reality with the theme of gay pride in Bent. Protagonist Max denies his sexual orientation to Nazi guards when he and his lover, Rudy, are loaded onto a train bound for a concentration camp. He backs his denial by beating Rudy when ordered to do so, but at the camp another gay prisoner, Horst, makes Max question whether it's better to live a lie or to be true to oneself and risk death in doing so. The play premiered in 1979 and was lauded for its ability to move audiences, but the 1988 movie adaptation came off as contrived, at least to some critics. Lucky for audiences, the play is back on stage locally, running through June 27 at the Academy Theatre, 2700 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $20. Curtain tonight is at 7; Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m. Call 954-486-8876.
Pick a card, any card... and learn your future? Hmmm. We doubt it, but the deck of 78 picture cards known as the tarot has an interesting history, and learning their supposed meanings couldn't hurt, could it? The origin of the cards, of course, is shrouded in mystery, but by the 15th Century, it is known, wealthy patrons in Italy were commissioning elaborate decks and playing games with them. By the late 18th Century, occult scholars had begun assigning the pictures meanings based on Egyptian mysteries, Hermetic philosophy, the Kabbalah, and alchemy. The card depicting a knight in armor on a white horse became the Death card. The Empress card features a woman in a flowing robe seated on soft pillows in a lush outdoor setting, which stands for the abundance and sensual richness of nature. At a tarot reading, the cards are shuffled, cut, and picked by the "seeker" -- the person receiving the reading -- and the "reader" lays the chosen cards out, interpreting them based upon the image on each card and its position in the spread. How can the random selection of cards tell us anything about ourselves, let alone our future? The tarot class at the Cosmic Salamander (5631 NW 77th Ct., Coconut Creek) purports to reveal just that. The knowledge can be yours for just $20, and the class is offered every Monday from 7 to 9 pm. Call 954-698-6926.