Tag Archives: Berkeley High Jazz

One to watch: BHS grad, musician Spencer Stevens

Spencer Stevens. Photo: Courtesy of Spencer Stevens
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Ask Spencer Stevens how he became so musically inclined and he’ll probably give you a modest response. Something like: “I don’t know, I’m just blessed,” or “A lot of time and effort.” Whatever humble answer the 22-year-old Berkeley High graduate chooses, he’s downplaying the truth. That truth is that Spencer Stevens is just flat-out talented, and he seems to possess a clear understanding of most aspects of music. The work he’s done as a producer, engineer, manager and DJ has put him in the position of being one of the hottest rising stars in the Bay Area’s underground music scene.

With the success he’s had managing up and coming Oakland artist Legendvry, and playing the role of lead man for his DJ collective, Wavbros, Stevens has made himself a familiar face around the Bay. It seems there isn’t a musical event you can go to in the Bay Area where Stevens isn’t in attendance, and you can bet that each time he’s doing something different. … Continue reading »

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Jazz blooms in Berkeley with a rich choice of performers

Marcus Shelby
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On any given night one can find a handful of jazz gigs in Berkeley interesting enough to coax even a casual fan out of the house. But this Sunday offers something altogether rare with a convergence of two events that auger well for the future of the scene.

From noon to 5 p.m., the Berkeley High jazz program’s 20th annual Jazz on Fourth Street fundraiser turns the shopping district into a music-filled street party. And at the David Brower Center from 2-5 p.m., Jazz in the Neighborhood celebrates its second anniversary with a fundraiser and concert featuring the lustrous vocalist Clairdee, pianist Ken French, bassist Marcus Shelby, trumpeter (and Berkeley High alum) Erik Jekabson, pianist Glen Pearson, saxophonist/flutist Mary Fettig, trombonist Wayne Wallace, and drummer Hamir Atwal. … Continue reading »

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David Bowie to Broadway: Dan Wilensky back in Berkeley

Dan
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Fresh out of Berkeley High in the summer of 1979, Dan Wilensky had to make a fateful decision. The prestigious Eastman School of Music was offering a full scholarship at the same time that the Ray Charles Orchestra came calling for the young saxophonist. Wilensky chose Charles, and the gig turned into a six-month bandstand education that launched a gloriously diverse and insistently creative career. He returns to town next week for a series of gigs, making his first Berkeley appearances as a leader since heading to New York in 1980. Appropriately, he kicks off the run at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Freight & Salvage, performing as a special guest with the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble and Berkeley High Combo A (which just earned top honors at the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 2015 Next Generation Jazz Festival).

“I’ve played in the East Bay as sideman over the years with artists like Stevie Winwood and Joan Baez, but this is the first time I’m coming back under my own name,” says Wilensky, who relocated to Portland, Oregon in 2012 after three breathless decades on the New York scene. “I’m really excited to go back to Berkeley High to play and work with the students and tell them some stories about the life of a working musician.” … Continue reading »

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Paul Hanson: Bringing the Bass(oon) to Berkeley Friday

Oon with Paul Hanson and Ariane Cap
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Paul Hanson has spent much of his life taking the bassoon into realms where the horn has never before traveled. From world jazz and klezmer to funk and rock, the Berkeley native refuses to be bounded by the irascible double-reed’s traditional symphonic role. Based in American Canyon since the end of a four-year stint with Cirque du Soleil in Japan, he returns to town for a California Jazz Conservatory performance at 8 p.m. Friday with the duo Oon featuring the inventive electric bassist Ariane Cap.

Pronounced like the last syllable of Hanson’s instrument (“just subtract the bass from bassoon,” he says), the duo released a debut album Polaris in 2013, and they’ve continued to refine and expand a surprisingly varied array of material. While the album focuses on original material by both musicians (Cap often composes with Austrian multi-instrumentalist Wolf Wein, the album’s co-producer), they’ve also devised striking arrangements of familiar songs, such as “Stella By Starlight” and “Dear Prudence.” … Continue reading »

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Events

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

Dr. Herb Wong, Washington Elementary School Principal invited world class big bands to perform for BUSD students.
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BERKELEY HIGH JAZZ ALUMNI CONCERT The “father” of Berkeley High’s acclaimed jazz program will be commemorated on Sunday at the third annual Berkeley High Jazz Alumni Concert. Musicians, spanning decades of Berkeley High jazz, will celebrate Wong’s life. Performers will include multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum, saxophonists BEnnett Friedman and Hitomi Oba, bassoonist Paul Hanson, percussionist Josh Jones, trombonist Sarah Cline (the current director of the program), and surprise guests. Charles Hamilton, who led the jazz program for 28 years to 2009, will be the day’s music director, and KCSM DJ Jesse “Chuy” Varela will emcee the day. Wong was principal of Washington Elementary in the ’60s, and was an early advocate for jazz education. The City of Berkeley will present a posthumous award honoring Wong’s inspiration to generations of Berkeley students. Sunday, June 1, 2-5 p.m., Coventry Grove, Kensington. Tickets are $20 at the door or through advance purchase on Eventbrite (recommended). Children under 5 are free. The concert benefits Berkeley High’s jazz programs. Doors open at 1 p.m.  … Continue reading »

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Three cheers for Jazz on Fourth, Sunday in Berkeley

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There’s nothing like free music in a public space to bring people together, and there’s no better line up on tap in town this season than the 19th Annual Jazz on Fourth, which runs this Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

A festival supporting the Berkeley High School Jazz Program, the event features powerhouse blues belter Sista Monica Parker, the dance-inducing Afro-Cuban grooves of Tito Y Su Son De Cuba, and the stylish jazz balladeer Ed Reed, whose remarkable late-blooming career has brought him international renown in his 80s. Of course, the festival is also a student showcase with performances by the award-winning Berkeley High School Combo A and the full 22-piece Berkeley High School Ensemble, directed by Sarah Cline.  … Continue reading »

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Herb Wong: Visionary founder of Berkeley jazz program

Dr. Herb Wong, Washington Elementary School Principal invited world class big bands to perform for BUSD students.
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Herb Wong, the founding father of  the pioneering jazz program at Berkeley’s schools, died on Sunday April 20, 2014. He was 88.

In an obituary published today on Berkeleyside, Sarah Cline, Jazz Program Director at Berkeley High School, remembers the visionary principal of Washington Elementary School who believed in jazz education for young children — as music education, as a part of the civil rights movement, and as a way of propagating a democratic and artistic spirit — and who brought famous jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson, to give concerts at the school. … Continue reading »

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Obituaries

Herb Wong: Visionary founder of BUSD’s jazz program

Dr. Herb Wong, Washington Elementary School Principal invited world class big bands to perform for BUSD students.
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By Sarah Cline, Jazz Program Director at Berkeley High School

We at Berkeley High School and in BUSD Jazz lost our founding father this Easter. Dr. Herb Wong passed early in the morning Sunday April 20. He was 88.

Wong was the visionary principal of Washington Elementary School who was responsible for hiring Phil Hardymon, Dick Wittington and Bob Chaconas to teach jazz to little kids in the Berkeley Unified School District, way back in the late 1960s. At the time, Wong was one of a … Continue reading »

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18th annual Jazz on Fourth kicks off on Sunday

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The 18th annual Jazz on Fourth Street Festival kicks off on Sunday, May 19 at noon. The free festival supports the renowned jazz programs at Berkeley High.

“School districts around the country have trouble keeping their arts and music programs thriving,” said Marshall Lamm, who helps organize the festival. “Berkeley High’s jazz program has been a source of pride for the community for so long. It takes a community and it takes concerned citizens to support the kids. Every bit helps.”

Sunday’s program includes Dixieland from Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz Band, blues from Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors, and Latin jazz from drummer and BHS alumnus Josh Jones and his Latin Jazz Group. The full 22-piece Berkeley High School Ensemble, directed by Sarah Cline, will provide the festival’s finale. … Continue reading »

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BHS alum has ‘Daddy Skills’ in new DJ Dave video

Even rockers and rappers grow up and have kids. Two Berkeley High alums, both musicians, have collaborated on a music video that, while being upbeat and funny, also makes a candid stab at exploring the peculiar transition that happens when you segue from carefree youth into parenthood.

DJ Dave, aka David Wittman, will be known to Berkeleyside readers as the creator, via his company Fog and Smog, of the popular “Whole Foods Parking Lot” video, and the “Berkeley Enough” follow-up he put out with local performer LaeCharles Lawrence. Wittman met Sam Dorman at Berkeley High, although Dorman graduated in 1994, two years behind Witman. The pair got to know each other well when they both lived in Los Angeles. … Continue reading »

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Foxtails Brigade: Roots on Berkeley’s Fourth Street

Foxtails
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On a sunny day, Berkeley offers few better venues than the corner of Fourth Street in front of Peet’s Coffee. Prime real estate for buskers, the unregulated spot seems to attract an unusually accomplished array of performers, from Berkeley High jazz combos and string bands to soul outfits and lone fingerstyle guitarists.

Hanging out there last year with my toddling daughter led to my first encounter with Foxtails Brigade, a captivating chamber pop band created by Oakland guitarist/vocalist Laura Weinbach. While she launched Foxtails in 2006 with violinist Sivan Sadeh, by the time I caught up with her she had recreated the duo with violinist Anton Patzner, a highly sympathetic accompanist who’s also a founding member of the East Bay string metal trio Judgment Day. … Continue reading »

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Out in Berkeley: First annual Women in Jazz Festival

Susan Muscarella performs during The Jazzschool's International Women's Day concert on March 11
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Trumpeter Ellen Seeling and saxophonist Jean Fineberg have never been the types to sit around and moan about injustice. When they got frustrated by the dearth of opportunities for women in Bay Area jazz orchestras, they went ahead and launched their own rip-roaring combo, the Montclair Women’s Big Band, which has earned a devoted following on the strength of its tight ensemble work and improvisational firepower.

Two years ago, they struck another blow for female players by creating a summer Girls’ Jazz & Blues Camp, a program produced with the Jazzschool in downtown Berkeley. And this weekend, Seeling and Fineberg introduce another showcase for the region’s impressive array of women instrumentalists, the First Annual Women in Jazz Festival. … Continue reading »

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Support your high school and have some fun at BHS Live

BHS Live 2011
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Fancy lunch with Robert Reich? Or perhaps you’d prefer to break bread with both Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi and Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan? How about a getaway weekend in an architecturally stunning home in Healdsburg or a simple “tree house” with views of Tomales Bay?

These are just a few of the many prizes up for grabs at the BHS Live auction which takes place as part of Berkeley High’s biggest annual fundraiser this Saturday, 5:30-9:00pm, at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.

BHS Live, which is organized by the BHS Development Group, raises funds for supplemental resources for all students at the school: be it to provide free after-school tutoring, classroom supplies or to allow educational field trips. … Continue reading »

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