Author Archives: Andrew Gilbert
Whether you call it fate, karma, or kismet, the friendship of Claire Duplantier and Nicole Rodriguez exemplifies the power of seizing an opportunity when it’s ripe. They’ve spent the past five years pouring their energy into downtown Berkeley’s Subterranean Arthouse, a cozy and invitingly bohemian performance space and art gallery in the historic Odd Fellows Lodge building at Fulton and Bancroft.
An essential East Bay cultural outpost particularly known for presenting singer/songwriters and South Indian classical music, the Subterranean marks its fifth anniversary Saturday with a fundraising “Benefest” featuring music by the Doppler Trio, Dirt Wire, the Camille Mai Trio, a silent auction, and a showing by East Bay visual artists Hugh D’Andrade and Daniel Lipincott. … Continue reading »
With its seductive conflation of eros and combat, tango has beguiled many a music and dance lover, so there’s nothing surprising about Bendrew Jong’s obsession with Argentina’s most passionate export. What’s unexpected is that his expertise in tai chi and kung fu provided ideal physical and mental training for mastering tango’s intricate dance moves, and that dancing has made him more dangerous on the mat.
“Tango is the ballroom dance closest to martial arts, and when I spar I use tango moves all the time,” says Jong, the lead singer and bandoneon player for Orquesta Z, which performs at Ashkenaz on Thursday, March 6 and Palache Hall in St. Clement’s Episcopal Church on Claremont Avenue on Sunday afternoon, March 9.
“Tango is all about balance, keeping focused, extending a leg but not shifting weight, and it felt natural after all the tai chi I’ve done.”
Founded by Jong around the end of 2010, Orquesta Z is a quintet featuring an impressive cast of musicians, including violinist and Crowden School instructor Jim Shallenberger, a founding member of Kronos Quartet who spent years touring with the hugely popular production Forever Tango. Holy Names Symphony violinist Carol Braves was earliest member of the ensemble to join Jong, followed by Prometheus Symphony bassist Sandy Schniewind, and pianist Barbie Wong, who teaches at the Oakland Public Conservatory and also plays a mean ukulele. … Continue reading »
By aesthetic, academic and cultural inclination, Kim Nalley is ideally suited for presenting “Freedom Songs,” a program at the Jazzschool on Sunday afternoon tracing the role of music in the long African-American struggle for liberty and human rights. A supremely soulful jazz singer who’s equally versed in the blues, Nalley is also a doctoral student in history at U.C. Berkeley focusing on American ex-pat musicians in post-war West Germany.
As landmark anniversaries of events in Civil Rights movement arise, she’s often been asked to offer musical insight, like at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute’s commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington last year, where she also served as musical director. For Sunday’s Jazzschool program, Nalley is taking an encompassing view, drawing connections between familiar Civil Rights anthems and earlier resistance movements. … Continue reading »
Keeping up with the latest weather-induced disaster is difficult in the best of times, but with the rapid succession of floods, freezes and droughts it’s too easy to lose track of the ongoing misery inflicted by Typhoon Haiyan. The strongest storm ever recorded making landfall, it brought unprecedented devastation to the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
Guitarist/composer Karl Evangelista, a Los Angeles-born Filipino-American, has organized a benefit concert for Typhoon Haiyan relief Saturday at the Berkeley Arts Festival space at 2133 University Avenue. With all of the evening’s proceeds (including CD sales) going toward a ground-level mission in the hard-hit Visayas islands, the event brings together a stellar cast of Bay Area improvisers in three interlaced but very different ensembles.
I feel it’s important to bridge musical experimentation and social activism,” says Evangelista, 27. … Continue reading »
Over the next four months the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive is the site of a grand experiment optimistically titled The Possible. Rather than showcasing finished objects and artifacts, the building is hosting a series of interdisciplinary encounters involving nearly 100 artists and museumgoers organized by Oakland illustrator and renegade impresario David Wilson.
Built around interactive Sunday workshops featuring a dye lab, print shop, ceramics studio, and recording facility, The Possible sprawls through five galleries and, weather permitting, the museum’s sculpture garden, turning the institution into a beehive of activity that runs through May 25. Families are encouraged to attend the Kids Club gallery, which is designed to involve children in the creative process.
In preparing for the building’s closure at the end of the year, BAM seems to be stretching conventional notions of what an art museum is beyond recognition. As works are completed they’ll end up as part of The Possible’s installation. … Continue reading »
There’s nothing quite like having children to put your own upbringing in perspective. Looking back, saxophonist Joshi Marshall realizes that growing up in west Berkeley in the 1970s and 80s with two prominent musicians for parents provided a fabulously rich creative environment, albeit one with little of the structure that he provides for his two kids.
“There was no nighttime routine,” Marshall recalls. “There were real artists over playing music all the time and everything was about music and art. It was like, you sleep here and you sleep there, and you have to be part of our trip. It was such an unorthodox way of raising kids. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, there was so much love.”
Best known as a founding member of Mingus Amungus, the pioneering jazz/hip hop combo directed by bassist and fellow Berkeley High alum Miles Perkins, Marshall has been a scarce presence on Bay Area stages in recent years as he’s thrown himself into teaching music. He makes two rare hometown appearances in the next few weeks, playing Friday at Jupiter with drummer Bryan Bowman and Lorenzo Farrell on Hammond B-3 organ, and Valentine’s Day at Chez Panisse.
The Jupiter combo is a new project that’s taken shape as bassist Lorenzo Farrell, a longtime member of the popular blues band Rick Estrin and the Night Cats, has increasingly concentrated on the organ. A Berkeley High grad who went on to earn a philosophy degree from Cal, Farrell brings his deep knowledge of the low end to the B-3, laying down supple bass lines with the instrument’s pedals. … Continue reading »
As a vocalist and composer who has forged an intoxicating jazz-steeped sound that draws on R&B, pop and Brazilian music, Peter Eldridge is best known for keeping company with other singers.
A founding member of the vocal quartet New York Voices, he’s also a part of the all-star vocal ensemble Moss, which features Luciana Souza, Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann, and Lauren Kinhan (a fellow New York Voice). For his performance Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool, Eldridge changes gears, performing in a stripped down duo Foolish Hearts with bassist Matt Aronoff that couldn’t be more different from his cooperative vocal ventures.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying this so much.” Eldridge says. “In Moss and New York Voices you get to be a kid in a candy store with all these people offering all these colors. What’s fun about the duo is how intimate it is. It’s all about seeing how little you can get away with and still have the music be transcendent, having all that space and seeing how effective that can be.” … Continue reading »
At 26 years old, David Eagle hasn’t had a chance to travel much outside the United States. But by just about any measure the Berkeley percussionist is a supremely cosmopolitan artist well versed in many African diaspora rhythmic traditions. He plays the trap drums Thursday at Ashkenaz with his hard-grooving Afro-Brazilian-Caribbean band Z’Amico, and then picks up the washboard as a member of the funk-soul-reggae combo FenToN CooLfooT and The Right Time.
Weaned on capoeira, the graceful Afro-Brazilian martial art dance form, Eagle credits the East Bay’s wealth of musical talent with providing an invaluable cultural education.
“This is the coolest place ever,” Eagle says. “I haven’t even been to Brazil yet or Cuba, but I’ve played with Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Jamaicans. It has everybody you can imagine at the top levels. Either I’m playing with them or I can go see them at La Peña or Ashkenaz, venues that understand the importance of music.” … Continue reading »
Some 40 years ago, Suzy Thompson inflicted on her mother and father just about every aspirational parent’s worst nightmare. Though she had been accepted to Yale, the folk-music-besotted teenager left her Connecticut home, boarded a Green Tortoise bus and headed to Berkeley, where she knew exactly one person.
Thompson not only ended up staying, she’s played a central role in turning the city into an extraordinarily vibrant nexus for an intersecting array of American roots music traditions. A powerful fiddler, skilled guitarist, and beguilingly blues-inflected vocalist, she’s an invaluable force as a player, bandleader, and inveterate organizer responsible for the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention.
Thompson celebrates her amazing musical journey Wednesday at Freight & Salvage with a stellar cross-section of friends and family, including bluegrass icon Laurie Lewis and her long-time musical partner Tom Rozum, and Kate Brislin and Jody Stecher, whose potent and celebrated partnership in old-time music making dates back 40 years. Amazingly, the evening features the first musician she heard perform in Berkeley, jug band legend Jim Kweskin, who she encountered at the Freight within days of her arrival. “I didn’t actually meet him, but I met other musicians and one thing led to another. It was a life-changing thing to hear him play.” … Continue reading »
Josh Jones has had a fair share of glory. An early product of the Berkeley Unified School District’s jazz education program, he’s toured and recorded with jazz legends, helped spark the Bay Area’s acid jazz scene in the 1990s, and worked with hip hop icons like Tupac Shakur, Digital Underground, and Too Short. But his most important work has taken place away from the spotlight, teaching young musicians about the intricacies of swing, funk, and clave, the essential pulse of much Afro-Cuban music.
On Friday night he leads the Josh Jones Latin Jazz Orchestra at La Peña, an annual event for an ongoing rehearsal band that he launched around the turn of the century. His connection to the cultural center goes back to grade school days when he was drawn to La Peña by the regular presence of Cuban music workshops and bands. About 13 years ago he applied for a California Arts Council grant to support an array of classes he wanted to teach, covering salsa, hop hop, hand percussion and drum kit. … Continue reading »
In Andalusia’s Jerez de la Frontera, where impromptu gatherings often burst into extended flamenco sessions, the holidays offer numerous opportunities for celebrating the season. In another sign of Bay Area Flamenco’s steadily expanding footprint, the decade-old organization presents its first ever Zambomba Gitana, an evening of dance and music Friday at Brava Theater in San Francisco and Saturday at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley.
The show features a cast of Gypsy flamenco artists from Jerez, including Jose Gálvez, El Pele de los Reyes, María Bermúdez, Angelita Agujetas, Kina Méndez, Antonio de Jerez and Luis de la Tota. More than a concert, the gathering is designed to capture the energy and spirit of the zambomba, a celebration by the Gypsy community that transforms traditional Spanish carols, or villancicos, into slow burning bulerias, a flamenco form strongly identified with the region.
“There are all different ways a zambomba can happen,” says Nina Menendez, Bay Area Flamenco’s founder and artistic director (and an accomplished flamenco vocalist herself). “It emerged as a celebration at home, where people live in these buildings with rooms arrayed around a central courtyard. Families often live together in these buildings, and everyone comes out to courtyard, chips in for nice meal, lights a bonfire, and sit around and have a jam sessions on these flamenco-ized holiday carols.” … Continue reading »
Julia Chigamba had been living in Oakland for about three years when she returned home to Zimbabwe in 2003 with a group of Americans who had been studying Shona dance and music with her. Eager for them to experience her culture in context, she brought them to her family village about 10 miles outside of the capital Harare and quickly discovered that much had changed in her absence.
“My family was so excited, they killed the cow and had a big ceremony,” recalls Chigamba, who teaches dance and drumming at schools around the Bay Area. “But when we wanted to show the community dancers no one was doing it any more! In only three years, even the elder women who had led rituals for the village, they were all into Christianity. I had to really talk them into getting out their drums and costumes.”
In much the same way that American popular culture often crowds out local production in countries around the world, Chigamba has found a steady erosion of traditional Shona culture in both rural villages and the capital, Harare. But Chigamba and her family, a cultural force amongst the Shona for generations, are working to reverse the slide. On Saturday, Chigamba and her Chinyakare Ensemble perform at Ashkenaz in a fundraiser for Chigamba Cultural Center, a family compound in Harare where her family teaches traditional rhythms, dances, songs and rituals. … Continue reading »
Whether she’s improvising fearlessly on stage, teaching a master class, or raising organic produce on her farm in Hawaii, Rhiannon wants to change the world.
A legendary figure among vocalists who helped found Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra, the former Berkeley resident returns for an all too infrequent run of engagements over the coming week, an array of events that offer rare insight into this singular and widely influential artist. On Saturday she celebrates the release of her memoir Vocal River at the Jazzschool with a discussion and performance (she also teaches a Jazzschool master class Sunday morning). On Monday she’s performing at the Jazzschool’s 5th Annual Mark Murphy Scholarship Concert, joining a glittering cast of jazz vocalists at Yoshi’s including Clairdee, Nicholas Bearde, Jackie Ryan and Laurie Antonioli. And on Nov. 25 she performs at Freight & Salvage with the WeBe3, an improvisational vocal trio with Joey Blake and David Worm. … Continue reading »