Tag Archives: Berkeley High Jazz


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

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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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Zongo Junction: Drawing inspiration from Berkeley roots

The 12-piece Brooklyn Afrobeat band Zongo Junction plays hard-hitting West African funk inspired by grooves emanating from Nigeria, Ghana, and Benin, but the group’s roots extend directly to Berkeley. Founded by drummer Charles Ferguson after a six-month sojourn in Ghana, the band features several of his fellow Berkeley High jazz band buddies, including keyboardist Eli Sundelson and bassist Noah Garabedian.

A California tour brings Zongo Junction to Berkeley on Saturday for a gig at Ashkenaz (see them in action in video above).

“I think the biggest influence that the BHS jazz program had on us and the band’s sound was the diversity of music we would play,” Ferguson said. “Charles Hamilton, the band director, opened a lot of us up to a ton of different styles of music, as did a bunch of other guys in the area we all took lessons with (like Josh Jones, Peter Apfelbaum, Wil Blades). We would go to these high school jazz festivals where other bands were just playing boring straight ahead jazz tunes. We would play Tower of Power, Duke Ellington and Mongo Santamaria all in the same set.” … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley: Trumpeter Erik Jekabson, singer “El Cigala”

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Trumpeter Erik Jekabson isn’t among the Berkeley High Jazz Band’s best known alumni, but that says more about program’s glittering roster of graduates and Jekabson’s far-ranging musical interests than any deficit in talent or imagination.

Since graduating in 1991, Jekabson has collected several degrees from conservatories (Oberlin and San Francisco Conservatory of Music) and extensive first-hand knowledge from veteran masters in New Orleans and New York City. Equally comfortable composing chamber music or West African-inflected funk, he possesses a lustrous, singing tone and an expansive rhythmic vocabulary. He also has a knack for assembling interesting ensembles.

Jekabson performs on Friday at Berkeley’s Hillside Club (a venue with a fascinating story itself), accompanied by largely the same cast featured on his impressive 2010 CD, “Crescent Boulevard”, which he released on his own label: Jekab’s Music. Featuring ace bassist John Wiitala, pianist Grant Levin, drummer Smith Dobson V, and special guest John Santos on percussion, the band is focusing on new Jekabson pieces conceived specifically for these players. … Continue reading »

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Out in Berkeley: The highly talented BHS Jazz Ensemble

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Living in Berkeley, it’s easy to take the Berkeley High jazz program for granted. Every few years, a new generation of ambitious students emerges from the jazz ensemble and heads off to music programs in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

Since the mid 1970s, no high school in the United States has produced more world-class jazz talent than Berkeley High.

A short, and by no means complete, list of major artists who describe their BHJB experience as essential to … Continue reading »

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Jazz on Fourth: Great music and food, good cause, no rain

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After everyone crossed their fingers hard, and the weather gods took heed, the sun shone bright, the live jazz exceeded all expectations, great food sizzled on the grill, the vibe was mellow and Jazz on Fourth, a benefit for Berkeley High’s award-winning jazz program, was a splendid affair. Thanks to all of you who stopped by Berkeleyside’s booth to say hello. It was great to meet you.

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Saxophonist Joshua Redman: Forged in Berkeley

Jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman/Photo: IMN
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When Joshua Redman was growing up in Berkeley, his mother took him to a bewildering variety of music performances: Indonesian gamelan, Japanese Taiko drumming, African drumming, Persian traditional music, and so on. “It’s quite possible that if I hadn’t grown up in Berkeley I wouldn’t have been the musician I am — or even a musician,” Redman says.

That eclectic musical upbringing did, of course, create a musician: one of the world’s most sought-after jazz saxophone players, who will perform with his quartet tomorrow night at Zellerbach Hall, where he heard many of those concerts in his youth. The New York Times, reviewing a Redman gig in 2008, enthused: “Joshua Redman is a saxophonist of such intelligence and energy that you could probably place him in any musical setting, and he would find a way to make himself at home.”

It wasn’t just the music he heard in Berkeley that helped form Redman. He took up saxophone in 5th grade at Longfellow, before going to Willard for middle school. “In the Berkeley public schools, there was a growing tradition for jazz,” Redman says. “Playing in the Longfellow jazz band I thought maybe someday I could play in the Berkeley High jazz band.” Redman reels off a list of great players that were at Berkeley High ahead of him: Craig Handy, Peter Apfelbaum, Benny Green, Will Bernard. … Continue reading »

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Birdland Jazz and Multi Culti Grill: Update

Michael Parayno of Birdland. Photo: Eric Arnold.
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Many Berkeleyside readers have weighed in on the fate of the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz evenings hosted by Michael Parayno out of his garage at 1733 Sacramento Street, across from North Berkeley BART.

Here’s an update:

Last Thursday, December 8, Parayno received a Notice of Violation from the Code Enforcement Unit of the Office of the City Manager.

The document lists eight code violations, including a lack of a special-event permit, loud and unruly gatherings which … Continue reading »

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What next for the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz club?

Michael Parayno.
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So Berkeley finally gets a not-so-secret supper club, a down-home version of guerrilla gourmet hipster hangouts in Oakland and San Francisco, but now its future is uncertain.

At press time, the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz, the city’s only underground BBQ and jazz joint is retreating from its street-front presence in North Berkeley and morphing into the more clandestine Birdland Jazzista Social Club. This, says its founder, is to circumvent city action to shut down the nascent nightclub for code violations — including a lack of a special-event permit.

For those not in the know, the spontaneous community chow and music spot has been a happening Friday night attraction in a converted garage for seven months now.

The brainchild of artist Michael Parayno, better known as the Bird Man for his one-of-a-kind rustic birdhouse creations made from recycled materials, the grill-and-groove venue has been bringing a little cultural nightlife to an otherwise sleepy stretch of Sacramento Street opposite the North Berkeley BART station. … Continue reading »

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