Tag Archives: Ashkenaz

Benefit for Kevin Vance and the UC Theatre opens (really!)

Kevin Vance hosting the Front Porch Stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015 
(courtesy of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival)
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Kevin Vance has spent his life sharing his love of music over the airwaves, and now many of the musicians he’s championed are demonstrating their abiding appreciation for his efforts. Struggling with underemployment, Vance has fallen on hard times, a situation exacerbated by a prostate cancer diagnosis last year. On Saturday, a stellar roster of roots musicians will hold a benefit concert for Vance at Ashkenaz to help him to stay in his one-bedroom Berkeley apartment.

Organized by fellow KALW DJ Dore Stein, the influential conduit for international music and host of Tangents, the concert features roots-rocker Maurice Tani, the powerhouse all-women quartet Blame Sally, fellow KPFA radio host and global didgeridoo master Stephen Kent, and Thompsonia, the tuneful new band that brings Berkeley roots music stalwarts Eric and Suzy Thompson together with their daughter Allegra. … Continue reading »

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

Cal basketball head coach
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COACHING FOR LITERACY EVENT Coaching for Literacy has partnered with Cal Bears basketball to offer an “all-access” fan experience to raise funds for literacy work during the Saturday Feb. 6 Stanford game in Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears join 17 other NCAA institutions and the Washington Wizards as a member of Coaching for Literacy’s 2015-16 Assistant Coach Program schedule. The initiative is to raise valuable awareness about the problem of illiteracy in America. Currently, 19% of high-school graduates in America are functionally illiterate. Financial support will also be raised and directed to literacy efforts in the Bay Area through The Re(a)d Zone – an initiative of the 50 Fund, the legacy initiative of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. Details at CalBears.
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Events

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

BBCO. Photo: Bill Hocker
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BCCO 50TH The Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra celebrates its golden anniversary this weekend with three concerts at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. The program from the non-auditioned community chorus includes the first performances of “I Think I Shall Praise It,” composed by Napa-based Kurt Erickson for the BCCO 50th celebration, two movements from Brahms’ German Requiem, selections from Handel’s Messiah, Sibelius’ Finlandia and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. In addition to the concerts, the BCCO has built a special website for the 50th birthday, filled with stories about the group’s first half century. Performances are free, but donations are welcome. Friday, Jan. 8, 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 9 and Sunday, Jan. 10, 3 p.m., Hertz Hall.  … Continue reading »

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

Caribbean Allstars
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CARIBBEAN ALLSTARS The Caribbean Allstars, pioneers on the Bay Area reggae scene, return to Ashkenaz on Saturday Nov. 14 at 9:30 p.m. The ensemble, whose geographical roots range from Jamaica and South America to West Africa and the U.S., began joining together their musical forces and international backgrounds during the early 1970s. Not only do the Caribbean Allstars play Jamaican reggae with a traditional electric bass-drums-guitars-keyboards lineup, they also add steel drums to bring in South Caribbean calypso and soca styles of Trinidad and Tobago, producing rhythms that drive listeners to the dance floor. Tickets: $15 ($10 for students). More info at Ashkenaz. … Continue reading »

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

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DEMYSTIFYING BATS In an appropriately timed event, come learn about local bats on Saturday Oct. 31 at the UC Botanical Garden with Director of NorCal Bats, Corky Quirk. Quirk will talk about bats and discuss the harmful myths that surround these potentially cute animals. You’ll also learn the importance of bats in our environment. Live bats will be presented for viewing and discussion. Saturday Oct. 31, 10 a.m., UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, 200 Centennial Dr.. Price: $15 Adult/$10 Adult Member/$5 Youth (ages 3-17). Details on Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar.Continue reading »

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

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library opened in May 2013. Photo: Richard Friedman
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BANNED BOOKS WEEK BIKE PARTY Join the Berkeley Public Library for the second annual Banned Books Week Bike Party on Saturday Oct. 3, 10 a.m.-12 noon. This year, the event takes place at South Branch (1901 Russell St.) for a kickoff celebration featuring bike decorating, music and more. Participants will then ride as a group over to the Central Library (2090 Kittredge) via Russell, Milvia and Kittredge streets for a reading from some of the most frequently challenged books. There will be a raffle off a prize for readers at the end. The ride is about 1 mile long and is perfect for beginning cyclists and kids. Info on the BPL’s website. … Continue reading »

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Thomas Mapfumo kicks off Berkeley World Music Festival

Thomas Mapfumo
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The pantheon of African musicians who have put their bodies on the line while turning their music into a vanguard force against despotism and corruption includes Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and South Africa’s Hugh Masekela. But no one occupies quite the same role as Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo. His startlingly innovative musical vision, which transposed sacred Shona rhythms and cadences onto chiming electric guitars, came to fruition in the midst of the 1970s anti-colonial struggle that gave birth to his nation.

A frequent visitor to Berkeley over the past 15 years, Mapfumo kicks off the Berkeley World Music Festival 9 p.m. Friday at Ashkenaz with his longtime band The Blacks Unlimited. On Saturday the festival moves to the Telegraph corridor, with free live music at People’s Park (All Nation Singers), Amoeba (Soji & the Afrobeat Band, Georges Lammam Ensemble, and Candelaria), Remy’s Mexican Restaurant (As Tres Meninas), Cafe Milano (Riffat Sultana), Caffe Mediterraneum (Safra), and other venues, closing with a Romani Balkan brass celebration at the Village featuring Edessa and special guest percussionist/vocalist Rumen Shopov. … Continue reading »

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Getting Frisky with Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines

Macy-Blackman_5655
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Maybe a Manhattan methadone clinic wasn’t an auspicious setting for encountering a musical hero, but Macy Blackman wasn’t going let an opportunity to hang out with New Orleans drummer Charles “Hungry” Williams go to waste. Looking to get clean in the bitter winter of 1978, Blackman was sitting on a couch in the lounge of the Bernstein Institute strumming a guitar when someone informed him that Fats Domino’s drummer was in the next room.

“After a while he came in and started singing Chuck Willis’ ‘You’re Still My Baby’ with me,” says Blackman, a Kensington resident for the past 13 years. He celebrates the release of his new album Friskin’ the Whiskers with his band The Mighty Fines at Ashkenaz 9 p.m. Thursday, April 2.

A pianist, cornetist, and vocalist with a gruff, rhythmically assured delivery, Blackman is one of Northern California’s leading exponents of classic New Orleans R&B, and he absorbed a good deal of the music directly from the source. He and Williams struck up a fast friendship after that first encounter, and ended up playing music together up until the drummer’s death in 1986. Blackman, who still supplements his income as a piano technician, even taught Williams his trade. … Continue reading »

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Events

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

Peter Nero. Photo: Courtesy Cal Performances
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GERSHWIN PROJECT Pianist Peter Nero, a two-time Grammy winner, “romps through” George Gershwin’s music with bassist Michael Barnett and vocalist Katherine Strohmaier on Sunday, Feb. 8 at Zellerbach Hall, as part of Cal Performances’ jazz series. Nero’s trio will perform songs from musicals and films like “Strike Up the Band,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Funny Face,” “Girl Crazy,” and “Shall We Dance,” as well as standards from the Great American Songbook. Zellerbach Hall, 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8. Tickets available from Cal Performances.  … Continue reading »

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Update: Man found dead in Berkeley was Gary Skupa, 70

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Update, Feb. 2, 12:25 p.m. The man found deceased on West Street was 70-year-old Gary Skupa, according to a close friend of his who asked to remain anonymous. Skupa was a native of Colorado, a long-time Berkeley resident and activist, and a volunteer and board member of Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center on San Pablo Avenue. Authorities said they were unable to confirm the identity at this point. Asked why the case was first described as “suspicious,” Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said: “Initially, the investigation was classified as suspicious because it appears the victim passed away, unattended in a public area. We have to gather as much information as possible to try and determine what may have occurred.  It appears the victim may have been riding his bicycle and collapsed.  This is not a ‘murder’ investigation, it is a death investigation.”

Original story: The body of a man was found on West Street near Delaware on Sunday afternoon. Berkeley Police are classifying it as a suspicious death.

“We received a call of a person down, BFD responded and the male victim was pronounced deceased,” Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats told Berkeleyside.

The call came in around 4:30 p.m., Officer Coats said. There did not appear to be any sign of foul play. … Continue reading »

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Feel grateful (dead) for the holidays: Stu Allen in Berkeley

Stu Allen
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Stu Allen holds down one of the most consistent gigs in Berkeley. For the past three years the guitarist has led Mars Hotel, which is less a band than a revolving cast of accomplished players dedicated to the music of the Grateful Dead. While Allen and his merry crew perform around the region, his homebase is Ashkenaz, where he’s held down a weekly gig that now serves as the hub of the Deadhead community. He closes out 2014 next week with a three-night Ashkenaz engagment, exploring different facets of the Dead constellation.

The run opens Wednesday with Stu Allen and the Spike Drivers featuring Sandy Rothman, Brian Godchaux and Murph Murphy. The band formed in January to “explore the old-timey music that the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band was doing,” Allen says. “We branch out from there a little bit and bring that sound to some other tunes.”

On Thursday, he performs with the Reflections, a group that plays plugged in Garcia Band material, and on Friday he returns to the Dead with Mars Hotel.

“Spike Drivers is the only one with a consistent line up,” Allen said. “I put the Reflections and Mars Hotel line ups together from the same pool of guys on the scene. There are about 20 bass players,” including Robin Sylvester, a longtime member of Bob Weir’s RatDog, and Reed Mathis, who gained renown as a member of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and now plays with Tea Leaf Green. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley concert marks free speech movement’s birthday

Jo McDonald
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As a brief catalytic blast of energy, the Free Speech Movement achieved its primary goals so quickly that it didn’t have much time to inspire enduring songs and anthems. But music played an important role in those heady fall months of 1964, when students forced UC Berkeley’s administration to drop campus restrictions on political speech. Saturday’s concert at Ashkenaz celebrates the 50th anniversary of the FSM, while connecting the musical threads between the FSM and earlier progressive struggles.

See other events to mark the anniversary of the free speech movement

Hosted by Lynne Hollander, an FSM founder and the widow of movement icon Mario Savio, the evening opens with a song circle led by singer-songwriter-activist Hali Hammer, followed by brief sets by Country Joe McDonald and Nancy Schimmel, a veteran of the folk and women’s music scenes who sees many connections between the FSM and today’s Occupy movements. She’s likely to sing “Billy Boy,” a song by her mother, Malvina Reynolds, about the 1960 San Francisco protests over the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, an FSM forerunner. … Continue reading »

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Safra: The sound of coexistence at Berkeley’s Ashkenaz

Berkeley’s Jewish Middle Eastern ensemble Safra makes its Ashkenaz debut on Sunday
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If only coexistence was as easy in the Holy Land as it is on the bandstand. The East Bay ensemble Safra, which makes its Ashkenaz debut on Sunday, has developed a sumptuous body of Sephardic music drawn from North Africa’s intermingled musical traditions, combining Hebrew lyrics, Middle Eastern instrumentation, and popular melodies from the Middle East and beyond. The band’s vision isn’t so much utopian as a refraction of an increasingly riven region’s shared cultural heritage.

Launched in early 2013 by two Berkeleyans, vocalist Eliana Kissner and oud player John Ehrlich, Safra quickly took shape with the dynamic percussion tandem of Debbie Fier on dumbek, riqq and bendir, and

Susie Goldenstein on dumbek and riqq. For Sunday’s show, the quartet will be joined on violin, oud and percussion by the Bay Area’s great Moroccan musician Bouchaib Abdelhadi, a master of cross-cultural collaborations (Bruce Bierman teaches Yemenite dance before the concert). … Continue reading »

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