GOTTLIEB'S MUSICAL MELANGE

Jack Gottlieb is clearly a lover -- of puns, music and his heritage. And the composer-writer-teacher-lecturer has found a novel outlet for his passions -- what he calls "Funny, It Doesn't Sound Jewish."

The "lecture-entertainment" features Gottlieb playing piano and recordings, singing, chatting, translating Yiddish tunes and showing antique slides. He covers the "golden age" of American music (roughly 1910-1960) that includes Jewish composers such as Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

The free show is being presented at 3 p.m. today at Coolidge Auditorium in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

"A lot of the evolution of Jewish music has been controlled by rabbinic or theologic pronouncements," Gottlieb says. "It started out as Hebrew liturgical music, single-line melody sung either by soloists -- like a cantor -- or by a congregation in unison ... it was linked to the mystical idea of reaching God with one voice."

This sacred style, along with Yiddish folk and theater songs, influenced Hudson River and Lower East Side Jewish artists. "It's immediately striking how these two branches feed off each other, like wheels within sacred wheels," says Gottlieb. "Eventually, the music found its way into Broadway, Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood."

Acculturation played a part -- "the stirring of ethnic fruit into plain American yogurt -- another kind of culture," he says.

Gottlieb notes the number of Jewish composers, but says, "I just can't explain that mystery of talent. It's like the moon -- ever since we walked on it, it's not as romantic as it used to be. Maybe it's more alluring not to have so many answers."

For information, call 287-5502. -- Gigi Anders

GREAT JAZZ, STEP BY STEP

"Chicago is a place where you can walk in the footsteps of the great jazz players," says pianist James Dapogny. "You can actually pass the buildings they played in."

Tonight at the Smithsonian, when the Chicago Jazz Band takes the stage, the audience will have the chance to travel in those same footsteps as Dapogny uses a map of Chicago to point to the origins of the jazz he performs.

Dapogny, a professor of music at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, started out sneaking into the back doors of clubs to hear the music that would become an addiction. He has since spent 30 years researching Chicago jazz of the '20s and '30s.

For authenticity, he transcribes the music of original recordings. In some cases the band plays tunes note for note; in others, it uses the same arrangements but improvises. "It's the equivalent of being an impressionist," he says.

Tonight's program will be in three parts: "Chicago's Two Great New Orleans-Style Working Bands," "New Orleans Style in Transition" and "The Chicago Modernists." Selections will include King Oliver's "Dipper Mouth Blues," Jelly Roll Morton's "Grandpa's Spells," Louis Armstrong's "Symphonic Raps" and Elmer Schoebel's "Prince of Wails."

The performance, sponsored by the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Baird Auditorium in the Natural History Museum. Tickets are $10 for RAP members, $13 for nonmembers. Call 357-3030. -- Cristina Del Sesto

FAR AWAY, RIGHT HERE

The Lontano ensemble hails from England and was founded by a Cuban, conductor Odaline de la Martinez, and a New Zealander, flutist Ingrid Culliford. Its repertoire includes music from England, France, Poland, North America and Latin America. So it's logic of a sort that "lontano" means "far away" in Italian.

Saturday, Lontano makes a stop nearby as it opens the Hirshhorn's 20th-Century Consort season at 5:30 p.m. in the museum's sculpture garden. "Each member in the ensemble is also a soloist," Martinez says. "This is the reason we are able to perform well each country's style."

Lontano's concert, which is its American debut, complements the Lucian Freud exhibition displayed through Nov. 29 at the Hirshhorn.

The international atmosphere continues at 7 p.m. Tuesday when Trio Lorenz of Yugoslavia performs at Baird Auditorium in the National Museum of Natural History. The three Lorenz brothers will perform Primov Ramov's "Contrasts," composed especially for the chamber trio.

Lontano tickets are $10 for Smithsonian Resident Associate members, $12 for nonmembers and $5 for students with ID. Call 357-3030. Tickets for Trio Lorenz are $6 for members, $10 for nonmembers and $4 for students. Call 357-3030. -- Cynthia Dunlevy

SCHUBERT TIMES THREE

Despite how it sounds, "Schubert, Schubert and Schubert" is not a child crying for dessert. It's the fifth annual festival honoring the music of a "melodic genius," says cellist Ross Harbaugh of the New World String Quartet.

The quartet, the first in-residence ensemble in Harvard University's 350-year history, along with mezzo-soprano Julia Bernheimer and pianist Robert Lehrbaumer will perform Schubert melodies Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Georgetown's cozy Gaston Hall.

The hall is a particularly appropriate setting for the festival. "There's a tradition of intimacy between the performers and the audience," says Harbaugh, "because the funny little man with the glasses, whom no one took seriously, first performed many of his works for a small gathering in a private home."

Harbaugh takes special pleasure in the chance to perform so much Schubert. "To immerse oneself into a single composer's work, not for a lifetime but for a couple of days or a week, to explore his own special musical language can ease the frenzy of modern life," he says.

Friday, Bernheimer and Lehrbaumer pair to perform Schubert's Phantasie in C Major, "Wanderer" and "Impromptu." Saturday, the quartet performs Schubert's String Trios D. 471 and 581 and "The Death and the Maiden." And on Sunday, the final concert -- traditionally entitled "Schubertaide" after those small gatherings Schubert favored -- culminates in the appearance of both the quartet and Bernheimer and Lehrbaumer. Interwoven through the concerts are works by Dvorak, Mendelssohn and Liszt, all Schubert admirers.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. For more information call the Arts Connection at 699-5440.

An added plus for concertgoers: If you bring guests who have never been to a classical concert, they get in free. -- David J. Marek