Of the several new music venues slated to open this year in Berkeley, the Back Room will probably be the comfiest.
If the actor who intones “stay thirsty my friends” ever gives up his Dos Equis gig, the brewery should look into hiring Roger Glenn as a pitchman. The veteran jazz musician could run ploymathic laps around that poseur who claims the title of “the world’s most interesting man.”
For the vast majority of musicians making an album is a money-losing proposition these days, a time-intensive undertaking that’s hard to justify looking at the bottom line. But the urge to make a statement, the call to document a particular program of music interpreted by a specific cadre of collaborators, is no less potent, which is why drummer/composer Bryan Bowman rounded up some of the region’s finest improvisers for his album Like Minds.
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.”
A consummate musician who can be found playing jazz, salsa, samba, rock, fusion and any number of other styles, Fred Randolph is one of the busiest bassists in the Bay Area. The story of how he attained that enviable status is full of unlikely twists, with several instrumental detours along the way.
Denise Perrier’s theme song could be “Travelin’ Light,” as the supremely stylish San Francisco jazz singer continues to follow her wanderlust to the wide corners of the world. Since she first lit out to tour Australia some five decades ago, Perrier has performed in more than two dozen countries, a tireless itinerary that means she’s often introducing herself to new generations of Bay Area jazz fans when she gets back home. You can catch her Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory with Swing Fever, but then she’s off for San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, followed by her first trip to Cuba in December.
The big bang of 20th-century ballet was detonated by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a generative explosion that sent creative waves sweeping across the Americas, all the way to Berkeley. With Twyla Tharp in town for a Cal Performances residency to celebrate her fiftieth year as a choreographer on Oct. 16-18, Berkeley’s deep dance history is embodied Ramona Kelley (who connects with Ballet Russe by about three degrees of separation).
Interviewing choreographer Twyla Tharp for an upcoming story about her 50th anniversary tour I was struck by her description of her new dance “Preludes and Fugues” set to J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier as belonging to a utopian streak long at the center of her work. “You take a huge responsibility in imagining the world as it should be,” she said.
Chicago-reared George Cotsirilos arrived in Berkeley in 1969 as an aspiring young guitarist deeply under the sway of the three blues Kings (B.B., Albert, and Freddie). In the midst of his undergrad studies at Cal he took some time off to play with a blues band in Ann Arbor, and when he re-enrolled to continue his sociology studies he came under the sway of legendary East Bay guitar teacher Warren Nunes, who turned his attention to jazz and “opened up other vistas,” Cotsirilos says.
Berkeley oncologist Natalie Marshall plunged into jazz vocals to scratch her own creative itch. But as she’s gained confidence, technique and musical knowledge, Marshall has found that singing can also have therapeutic applications.
Is there anything that chocolate can’t do? An offering to the Mayan gods, a source of joy for children around the world, and an abiding bond between two great jazz musicians who perform 8 p.m. Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory.
The unassuming apartment complex at Seventh and Allston doesn’t look much like the cradle of a creative movement, but for spoken-word artist Raymond Nat Turner the West Berkeley locale provided everything he needed to launch UpSurge!
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