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Recent Stories

  • Susan Brand: Jazz in your head; Larry Ochs, Eric Van James

    At the age of 50, with her children safely out of the house and enrolled in college, Berkeley psychologist Susan Brand decided to pursue a longtime dream of learning to play jazz piano. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, “but I had no idea how difficult it was going to be,” she says. “It’s been a steep learning curve ever since then.”

  • Audrey Martin: A dream fulfilled, plus more Berkeley gigs

    On her 40th birthday Audrey Martin decided to sing. As a marriage and family therapist, she had spent years helping other people work through traumas, resolve deep-seated conflicts, and discover their true selves. Along the way she had set aside her adolescent ambition for a life in music, a sublimated dream that resurfaced with her midlife milestone. Martin’s long and winding creative journey resulted in the captivating debut album Living Room (full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes). She celebrates the CD’s release Sunday afternoon at Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory, which played an essential role in her musical education.

  • Kavita Shah: Bringing a world of jazz to Berkeley

    If Kavita Shah had stuck to her usual morning ritual, she would have missed the fateful subway ride that changed the course of her life. For some reason, instead of hustling down the stairs to catch the train to her job at Human Rights Watch in midtown Manhattan, she decided to wait for the next train. When it arrived, and the doors opened, she immediately recognized Sheila Jordan, the extraordinary jazz singer who has served as den mother to a diverse array of aspiring vocalists for more than four decades.

  • The Best Songs In Life Are Free, With Kim Nalley

    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.

  • Saxophonist Steve Heckman gets off the Trane track

    For much of his career, Oakland saxophonist Steve Heckman has worshipped at the altar of John Coltrane, with every gig a veritable quest to attain the spiritually charged intensity that defined Trane’s epochal recordings of the early 1960s. He left no doubt about his mission with first two albums, 2003’s With John In Mind and 2005’s Live at Yoshi’s. But his new CD, Born To Be Blue, finds Heckman in a more lyrical state of mind, focusing on American Songbook standards like Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean,” Van Heusen’s “I Thought About You,” and Schwartz’s “Alone Together.”

  • The Six String Season / BHS jazz at Ashkenaz today

    Most guitar quartets are highly rehearsed ensembles devoted to a repertoire of intricately arranged material. Seasons is something very different. Balancing searching improvisation with exquisite through-composed passages, the ensemble brings together four brilliant, versatile, and accomplished composers and bandleaders with Anthony Wilson and Larry Koonse from Los Angeles, São Paulo’s Chico Pinheiro, and New York City’s Julian Lage. The group performs Friday at the Jazzschool as part of a California tour, a tricky undertaking for a group with so many divergent musical commitments.