Category Archives: Events

Photos: Children revel in winter play on Berkeley Snow Day

Snow Day Berkeley 2016. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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Kids and their adults came out to enjoy a fresh, albeit manmade, snowfall in North Berkeley Sunday. Snowballs were thrown, snowmen were crafted, photos were taken with the resident Snow Queen and, generally, a good time was had by all.

The event, on Shattuck Avenue between Rose and Vine streets, was also slated to offer free DIY crafts for kids, hot cider and ginger snaps courtesy of Andronico’s, musicians, dancers, and a balloon twister.

Contributing photographer Nancy Rubin was there to document the event.

The seventh annual Snow Day in Berkeley was sponsored by the North Shattuck Association in conjunction with Coldwell Banker of Berkeley, Andronico’s Community Markets, M. Lowe & Co., Thornwall Properties, Left Coast Lit, and Buy Local Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Kronos Quartet’s ‘Strange Fruit’ Saturday at Zellerbach

Kronos Quartet--John Sherba, Sunny Yang, Hank Dutt and David Harrington-- perform at Zellerbach Hall on Saturday.  Photo by Jay Blakesberg.
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Kronos Quartet lives in the vanguard. The celebrated San Francisco string ensemble returns to Zellerbach Hall Saturday for a Cal Performances concert with three new works from Fifty for the Future, a program that turbo charges the group’s longtime practice of commissioning and presenting music by young composers.

But the emotional centerpiece of Saturday’s concert is likely to be the Bay Area premiere of ‘Strange Fruit,’ a song that was written and recorded before any members of Kronos were born. Arranged by trombonist Jacob Garchik, a gifted New York-based improviser and composer who’s collaborated widely with Kronos over the past decade, the anti-lynching anthem made famous by Billie Holiday has taken on a new resonance.

Berkeleyside recently caught up with Kronos violinist David Harrington just after he returned from a European tour, where the quartet performed the arrangement in Warsaw as the third encore “in a program of music written by Jewish composers,” Harrington said. “I introduced it saying that in my opinion this song is right at the center of most of the problems that exist in our country.” … Continue reading »

KPFA honors Phil Elwood, jazz critic, pioneering disc jockey

Phil Elwood on the job at KPFA. The station dedicates the Phil Elwood Music Library on Saturday, before airing a documentary about his legacy at 2 p.m.
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FM radio was an obscure broadcasting technology when Phil Elwood started sending out jazz over the airwaves on KPFA, a station that was just three years old when he came on board in 1952.

On Saturday afternoon the station honors one of its foundational voices when the Phil Elwood Music Library is dedicated to the late disc jockey before an 80-minute radio documentary about Elwood’s legacy airs at 2 p.m. It’s a labor of love spearheaded by Elwood’s son, Berkeley resident Josh Elwood, who has been taking care of his father’s vast archive of interviews, articles and broadcasts. Elwood died at the age of 79 in January 2006, just one month after his wife Audrey.

A radio pioneer, Elwood was one of the first people to spin jazz records on an FM station when he started his “Jazz Archive” program on KPFA in 1952, a weekly show that ran until 1996. The son of UC Berkeley agriculture professor Clifford Franklin Elwood, he was a proud Berkeleyan who graduated from Berkeley High in 1943. He earned a history degree from Cal, served in the Navy, and spent several decades teaching history at Albany High (the great jazz singer Denise Perrier was one of his students). … Continue reading »

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Storyteller Joel ben Izzy has new book on Hanukkah (or Channukah or Chhhanukah or Chanaykayah)

Joel Ben Izzy
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Joel ben Izzy has been regaling audiences around the globe for years with his delightful stories, many with a Jewish twist. A graduate of Stanford University and a long-time Berkeley resident, ben Izzy brings humor and pathos to the tales he spins. He has performed and led workshops in 35 countries (he is also a story consultant, helping companies and organizations better tell their own stories), and his six recorded story collections have garnered numerous awards.

Ben Izzy wrote his first book, The Beggar King and the Secret to Happiness, after he  unexpectedly lost his voice, threatening his career. Now he has written a fictionalized prequel of sorts geared to middle-school kids 10 and over. (Although it is a fun read for adults, too). Ben Izzy will be talking about Dreidels on the Brain all around the Bay Area in December (just in time for Hanukkah, which is spelled every which way in the book) with his first appearance Thursday at Books, Inc. in Berkeley at 7:00 p.m. Berkeleyside caught up with the author before his book tour began.

You have been a teller of stories for more than 30 years, mostly in oral form. You wrote one book for adults, The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness. Why did you decide to write a book for kids over 10?

For one thing, I love telling stories to kids that age, when there is so much at stake. I wanted a chance to go back to that time, when I was miserable and confused, wondering whether I should believe in magic or miracles or anything at all.

Dreidels on the Brain is also something of a prequel to my first book. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness is a memoir, set in modern times, based on the true story of the journey that began when I awoke from surgery to discover I could no longer speak. That book included a couple forays into my childhood and the stories of my family — my mother’s smile, my father’s inventions and my grandmother’s insanity. Readers told me they wanted to hear more, the story behind the story.

Technically, Dreidels on the Brain is a novel, or perhaps a “fictionalized memoir.”  Because it’s set in 1971, when I was 12, it’s now considered “Historical fiction.” Oy! I was going for “Hysterical fiction,” but what can you do? … Continue reading »

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Author Jeff Chang: Is resegregation the unexamined issue of our time?

Jeff Chang will be speaking Nov. 29 at Berkeley Arts & Letters. Photo: Jeremy Keith Villaluz
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Hours after Donald Trump was elected president, UC Berkeley students and others took to the streets to protest a man they felt was unsuited to lead the United States. The next day, 1,500 Berkeley High students walked out of school. Across the country, thousands of people rallied against Trump and what they saw as his racist, sexist, divisive message that blamed immigrants and people of color for this country’s woes.

In his new collection of essays, We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, Bay Area author, hip-hop historian, and director of the Stanford University Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Jeff Chang reports on and examines the unrest that has exploded onto the streets in the past couple of years. (Chang was also appeared at the Berkeleyside-produced Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas in 2014, in conversation with Berkeley author Adam Mansbach).

Chang’s new book, according to the publisher’s description, “links #BlackLivesMatter to #OscarsSoWhite, Ferguson to Washington D.C., the Great Migration to resurgent nativism. Chang explores the rise and fall of the idea of “diversity”, the roots of student protest, changing ideas about Asian Americanness, and the impact of a century of racial separation in housing. He argues that resegregation is the unexamined condition of our time, the undoing of which is key to moving the nation forward to racial justice and cultural equity.”

Chang will be appearing at the Hillside Club Nov. 29 as part of the Berkeley Arts & Letters series. In advance of his talk, Evan Karp, the organizer of the series, asked Chang about his concept of ‘resegregation’ and other matters.

Evan Karp, Berkeley Arts & Letters: I was preparing for our event and then the election went down, and, like many people, I’m left with a lot of complex questions and anxieties. But if I had to boil it down to one question it would be: what now? To be more specific: how do the election results change the conversation on race (generally) and resegregation (as you describe it)? … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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BERKELEY HALF MARATHON The Berkeley Half Marathon has rapidly established itself as a fixture in the city’s annual calendar. The organizers expect more than 9,000 runners on Sunday for the half marathon, 10K and 5K races. The feature event starts at 8 a.m. on Milvia Street next to Berkeley High, wends through the Southside neighborhood, heads north on Shattuck Avenue through the Gourmet Ghetto to the Marin Circle before heading west to Fourth Street and a waterfront loop before climbing east to the finish back on Milvia. Community members are encouraged to cheer on the runners, and to join them for the Finish Line Festival in Civic Center Park.  … Continue reading »

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Hundreds gather at sunrise in Berkeley, the ‘greatest little city in America,’ to celebrate unity in wake of election

People form a peace sign in Berkeley's Civic Center Park after sunrise on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo, taken using a drone, by Kevin Kunze
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Hundreds of people rose at dawn Friday to greet the sunrise together in “the greatest little city in America,” at a quintessential Berkeley event that was dubbed a celebration of shared values rather than a protest of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.

“While many of us may still be coming out of the darkness, we are here, and our love for Berkeley shines bright,” mayor-elect Jesse Arreguín told the early-morning crowd. “We live in the greatest little city in America, we are here, together, and the sun is rising as we speak. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

While Arreguín said he felt “energized” by recent events — “it takes a lot more than one crummy election to defeat us, right?” — many of those who showed up for the chilly event said they were still in shock.

“People have been really really depressed and upset and frightened,” said Lisa Bullwinkel, talking on Thursday. Bullwinkle organized the gathering at the request of Arreguín and Sophie Hahn, newly elected councilwoman for District 5. “We wanted to do something for the community.” The hastily arranged gathering was not an official city event and was totally volunteer-run, she added. “We want to provide a contrast to what is going on elsewhere. We are now once again the counter-culture.” … Continue reading »

Drummer Ruthie Price’s ‘Sounds of Life’

Ruth Price's Sounds of Life plays the California Jazz Conservatory 8 p.m. Friday. Photo by Esther Karibe.
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As a rambunctious child with a precocious feel for rhythm, Ruthie Price saw any available surface as a potential piece of percussion

“I was beating around on everything and broke a coffee table at five,” she admits. “At church I’d sit by the drums. My foster mom bought me a kit at six, and I’ve been playing drums ever.”

Now the Oakland-raised Price is one of the region’s premiere drummers, a player sought out by singer/songwriters, jazz ensembles, R&B combos and various genre-blending permutations thereof. She’s provided an array of beats for Rhonda Benin’s annual Just Like a Woman revue at Freight & Salvage, and propelled Fantastic Negrito to his career-making January 2015 triumph in NPR’s first Tiny Desk Concert Contest.

But these days she’s putting as much energy into developing her own music as she is into accompanying other acts. Price presents her Sounds of Life ensemble 8 p.m. Friday at the California Jazz Conservatory, a band featuring Berkeley native Maya Kronfeld on piano, bassist Aneesa Al-Musawwir (a.k.a. Aneesa Strings), and vocalist Viveca Hawkins, a graduate of Berkeley High who fronts Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen’s stripped down garage band The Memorials … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘National Bird’

Survivors of an American drone strike as seen in 'National Bird'
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Last week’s feature The Love Witch was the sort of fluffy distraction we could use right now, but alas – all I can offer you this week is an ice cold cinematic shower entitled National Bird (opening at San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre on Friday, Nov. 18th; no East Bay playdates are currently scheduled). A timely and depressing reminder of the powers soon to be vested in the man some call Cheeto Jesus and others call names that aren’t quite so nice, it’s one of the best documentaries of 2016.

Director Sonia Kennebeck’s film takes a close look at three former drone warfare soldiers, each of whom provides a unique and valuable perspective on their participation in this distinctly 21st century brand of warfare. They possess knowledge few others possess and believe the American people should be made aware of the realities of long distance killing.

The Obama administration has famously prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined, and with a paranoid, secretive, and unpredictable new President entering office in January such prosecutions seem likely to increase further. That’s not good news for America, and especially not good news for the whistleblowers we meet in National Bird. … Continue reading »

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Mayor-elect Arreguín, Berkeley community leaders, to host unity gathering Friday morning

Human Peace sign. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Jesse Arreguín, who will take over as Berkeley’s mayor on Dec. 1, has called for a sunrise gathering Friday to celebrate the city’s shared community values – many of which President-elect Donald Trump does not share.

Arreguín, numerous members of the City Council, as well as community leaders, are calling for Berkeley residents to gather at 7:00 a.m. in Civic Center Park, 2100 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, for an hour-long celebration. Participants – who are encouraged to wear their “best tie-dye” – will form a giant peace sign. Breakfast will be served.

“I will join other community leaders to address the crowd on the topics of unity, positive action, and Berkeley’s tradition of promoting human rights,” Arreguín said in an email invitation. “Let’s let all our students and community members know that in Berkeley, we rededicate ourselves to a fair, inclusive, progressive, and sustainable world.” … Continue reading »

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‘Safe House’: Stirring tale of free brothers of color in 1843

The Pedigrew’s (l-r, Dawn L. Troupe*, Lance Gardner*, David Everett Moore*) argue about what to do with fugitive slave Roxie (back c. Jamella Cross) in the West Coast Premiere of SAFE HOUSE
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Keith Josef Adkins has written an admirable play that tells the tale of two free brothers of color in 1843’s Northern Kentucky. I use the word admirable because the plight of the very different brothers — one with small goals for the future and one with brave principles — brings to light the dark and largely unexplored cruel treatment of free people of color before the Civil War. The impetus for Safe House, which is playing at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre, is Adkins’ extensive genealogical research, which traced his roots back to a mixed-race couple who lived before the American Revolution and settled in Northern Kentucky, where one line of their free Black descendants were shoemakers.

In Safe House, all the ambitious controlling older brother Addison Pedigrew (David Everett Moore) wants from life is to operate a shoe business from his house, rather than having to be an itinerant cobbler, knocking on white families’ backdoors with his tools and shoes. But since his free-spirited younger brother Frank (Lance Gardner) was caught trying to help a slave escape to Liberia two years before the action of the play, the local sheriff, represented by his underling Bracken (Cassidy Brown), placed the family on even more onerous restrictions than the routine indignities that were foisted on free people of color in that time and place. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Japanese pond at UC Botanical. Photo: Avi
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FIND PEACE IN THE GARDEN The UC Botanical Garden is offering free admission from 9-11 a.m. daily until Wednesday, Nov. 30, to “help community members, friends, and families find resilience and calm.” The UC Botanical Garden is at 200 Centennial Drive in Berkeley. Visit the garden’s website for information. … Continue reading »

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Spanish jazz pianist Alex Conde’s flamenco soul

Pianist Alex Conde performs at the California Jazz Conservatory Sunday afternoon with John Santos and Jeff Chambers. Photo: Courtesy of the artist
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Oakland pianist Alex Conde isn’t the first musician to uncover the kindred roots linking jazz and flamenco. Born of diaspora, longing and communal celebration, the traditions share African lineage and an improvisational imperative. On the American side, jazz and flamenco first came together memorably on Charles Mingus’s uproarious 1957 masterpiece Tijuana Moods, and Miles Davis hugely popular 1960 collaboration with Gil Evans Sketches of Spain (which is more a moody evocation of Spanish folklore than a flamenco-infused project). Spanish saxophonist Pedro Iturralde and rising guitar legend Paco de Lucía offered an unprecedented synthesis with 1968’s Jazz Flamenco, a session more talked about than heard.

Conde, a conservatory-trained Spanish pianist who moved to the Bay Area in 2009 to compose for local flamenco dance companies, contributed one of the finest examples of this still emerging hybrid with 2015’s Descarga for Monk (ZoHo Music), a set of classic Thelonious Monk compositions ingeniously reimagined as emotionally scorching flamenco. He performs Sunday afternoon at the California Jazz Conservatory with bass master Jeff Chambers and percussion maestro John Santos, who are both featured on the album.

“I didn’t want to do the usual thing, getting a tune and imposing a rhythm on top of it,” says Conde. “I’d play for a tune for a couple of hours and if it didn’t feel natural. I drop it. I decided to keep respect the melodies, but took freedom to change the chords as much as I like.” … Continue reading »

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