Nachito Herrera's got jazz hands.

Swing High 

Nachito Herrera's got jazz hands.

SAT 2/5
Columbia's Jazz Series might "always swing," as its title suggests, but it hasn't always connected. Founded in 1995, the jazz promotion and preservation program struggled to fill seats for its first six concerts and posted a daunting $9,500 loss during its second season. Still, organizers persevered, reaching a season-ticket-sales zenith in 2003. Last year's peak performance, propelled by Herbie Hancock and Dianne Reeves, will be tough to top, but We Always Swing has stepped back in the box with confidence, signing modern masters Brad Mehldau and John Scofield for spring shows. Nachito Herrera, who headlines the Dr. Carlos Perez-Mesa Memorial Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Note (218 North Eighth Street), doesn't have much name recognition outside of jazz circles, but his flashy, catchy piano playing makes him an instantly accessible virtuoso. Herrera's band includes vocalist Mirdalys Herrera, who moves smoothly between Cuban numbers and standards such as "My Funny Valentine," and two percussionists who reinforce his songs' robust rhythms. For tickets, call 866-646-8849. -- Andrew Miller

Mint Condition

THU 2/3
In past area appearances, the Starlight Mints have made a convincing case for artificially sweetened stage shows. Lacking the personnel to pull off the string-section swirls from its studio sessions, this seven-piece ensemble became a multitasking trio during its sets. Singer and guitarist Andy Nunez moved behind the drum kit, fellow vocalist-axman Allan Vest contributed cello solos, and keyboardist Marian Love Nunez played the flute.Recently, though, the Mints welcomed their long-absent bassist back into the fold and resumed writing songs like a regular band. Still, the Mints don't seem to be slimming down their sound, which still shimmers with experimental energy. The band plays at 10 p.m. Thursday at the Jackpot Saloon (943 Massachusetts). Aqueduct and Cheyenne open. For more information, call 785-832-1085. -- Miller

Muriel's Musical

2/8-2/13
Like many failed attempts of models-cum-actresses (Shalom Harlow) and actors in bands (Keanu Reeves), some pop stars' hits should not be turned into musical scores (Billy Joel). Luckily this isn't the case with '70s supergroup Abba. A smash hit in London when it opened in 1999, Mamma Mia! spins a story of family and friendship around 22 of the Swedish performers' singles, including the title song, "Dancing Queen" and "Super Trouper." The show opens at 8 p.m. Tuesday and runs through February 13 at the Music Hall (301 West 13th Street). Tickets start at $51; call 816-931-3330 to purchase. -- Annie Fischer

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