Author Archives: Andrew Gilbert

Faye Carol, artist and mentor, to be honored as Jazz Hero

Faye Carol
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Benny Green was a standout player in the Berkeley High jazz band in the late 1970s, but his formative education took place on the bandstand with Faye Carol, a veteran vocalist whose command of blues and jazz prepared the pianist for his career-making stints with jazz legends Betty Carter, Art Blakey and Ray Brown.

A Berkeley resident since the early 1970s, the Pittsburg-raised Carol has provided firm but loving guidance to hundreds of aspiring musicians over the years, which is why the Jazz Journalists Association is presenting her with a Jazz Hero award at Yoshi’s on Saturday afternoon (full disclosure: I’m a JJA member involved with planning the event).

Green was 16 when he started playing with Carol, and she made a point of featuring him at the beginning of every set.

“I’d open the show playing a trio number or two, and that was my first time getting my feet wet leading a band,” says Green, 51, who’s the first artist-in-residence at Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory (formerly known as the Jazzschool). … Continue reading »

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Lost and found: Nathan Clevenger Group and the Lost Trio

clevenger group 2014
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When it comes to discovering new bands, musicians make the best sources. Over a quarter century covering music I’ve found that the surest way to hit upon unfamiliar sounds is by paying attention to the colleagues mentioned by musicians. Which is why my ears perked up a few years ago when several players I greatly respect made a point of praising Albany guitarist/composer Nathan Clevenger, who leads a talent-laden sextet dedicated to extended dreamscapes that unfold with their own quirky, internal logic.

The Nathan Clevenger Group performs Wednesday at the Berkeley Arts Festival performance space at 2133 University Avenue as part of a double bill with the Lost Trio, a collective ensemble featuring saxophonist Phillip Greenlief, bassist Dan Seamans and drummer Tom Hassett. A long-time Oakland resident, Greenlief is an inveterately inventive improviser with a three-decade track record as a creative force. He was one of the first players to drop Clevenger’s name to me, noting that he’d watched him develop from an avid listener in the mid-90s to a composer and bandleader possessing his own unmistakable sound. … Continue reading »

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A journalist discovered, undercovered: Vivian Maier

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The most mind-blowing fact about Vivian Maier isn’t that she managed to shoot more than 120,000 photos while supporting herself a nanny. Or that the families for which she worked had little clue about her double life. Or even that she often took her charges into rough Chicago neighborhoods while she captured intimate images of life on the street. What’s hardest to comprehend is that she acquired such an exquisite sense of composition while never seeing most of her shots, which were discovered as undeveloped negatives shortly before her death in 2009 at the age of 83.

Now Maier’s vast and breathtaking body of work is coming into view via photography books, documentaries, and exhibitions like See All About It: Vivian Maier’s Newspaper Portraits at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s newly endowed and just-christened Reva and David Logan Gallery of Documentary Photography in North Gate Hall. Featuring 23 beautifully printed photos drawn from the Jeffrey Goldstein Collection, the exhibition officially opens Wednesday April 2 with a late afternoon reception and lecture by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, authors of Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows (the show remains on view through May 1). … Continue reading »

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Leave sharp objects at home: David Bromberg is back

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Multi-instrumental wizard David Bromberg isn’t indulging in drug humor when he says that his most important memories of Berkeley “are the ones I don’t have.”

It’s true that he was a ubiquitous presence in the late 1960s, a studio legend who collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, George Harrison, and Jerry Jeff Walker before he even started releasing his own classic albums for Columbia in 1971. But the Berkeley memories he lost came not via acid dropped but a road not taken.

Relocating from the East Coast to the Bay Area in the spring of 1977, he settled in Marin “when I should have moved to Berkeley,” says Bromberg, 68, who performs with his band at Freight & Salvage on Sunday. “There were and are so many good musicians there, and one guy I learned more from than anybody was Jody Stecher. He was the biggest influence on my playing. But I was locked up in the studio and didn’t get out and around a lot.” … Continue reading »

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Erik Jekabson Quintet in Berkeley: Let the good times roll

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Normally, lightning striking twice in the Berkeley Hills would be a cause for concern, but when trumpeter Erik Jekabson is the force responsible for the conflagration, it’s an invitation to let the good times roll.

The Berkeley High alum wasn’t expecting to record a live album when he brought his talent-laden quintet featuring percussion star John Santos to the Hillside Club back in 2011. Thrilled at the opportunity to collaborate with Santos, he wrote and arranged a passel of new music, and when he listened to the recording of the concert months later he was so pleased that decided to make it available on the CD Live at the Hillside Club.

Featuring bassist John Wiitala, drummer Smith Dobson V, and pianist Grant Levin, Jekabson’s quintet returns to the intimate venue Saturday to celebrate the new album’s release (the group also plays the Jazzschool on April 18).

A grant from San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music helped Jekabson pay the musicians a recording session rate, but he hails the Hillside Club’s music director Bruce Koball with making the CD possible by putting in many hours of post-production work. … Continue reading »

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Subterranean rising: An arthouse grows in Berkeley

Rob Ewing (trombone)/ Brandon Essex (bass)/ Michael Bello (drum)/ Ken Husbands (guitar)- photo credit: Sol Gutierrez
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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 »


Tango with a Z: Playing the seductive dance in Berkeley

Photo: James Marco Starr
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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 »

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The Best Songs In Life Are Free, With Kim Nalley

Kim Nalley. Photo: Scott Chernis
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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 »

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Karl Evangelista and Grex headline at typhoon benefit

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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 »

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Discovering ‘The Possible’ at Berkeley Art Museum

Fritz Haeg's Domestic Integrities, Part I. Photo: Berkeley Art Museum
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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 »

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Joshi Marshall: A child of Berkeley is back in town

Berkeley boy Joshi Marshall is making two rare appearances in his hometown, the first Friday night at Jupiter. Photo: courtesy Joshi Marshall
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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 »

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Foolish Hearts: Peter Eldridge and Matt Aronoff

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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 »

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Z’Amico: A world of sound… in Berkeley Thursday

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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 »

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