Berkeley drummer John Hanes paid his blues dues at Larry Blake’s in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, a rigorous bandstand education in the fundamentals of laying down a sly Jimmy Reed shuffle and a searing John Lee Hooker boogie. His schooling in the crucible of Larry Blake’s “Rat Band” led to widespread work on the East Bay blues scene, and he attained the kind of authority that let him emerge at the end of a gig backing R&B legend Etta James without the salty tongue lashing she liberally bestowed on drummer’s faking the funk.
What started as a one-off fundraiser for the people of northern Japan stricken by the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 has turned into a musical mission of healing and remembrance. When drummer Akira Tana, bassist Ken Okada and flutist/saxophonist Masaru Koga first came together in the summer of 2011 at Fairfax’s Elsewhere Gallery, they brought in jazz arrangements of traditional Japanese songs, some dating back centuries. The music was so powerful that they ended up presenting it to stricken communities in Japan last year, and Sunday afternoon’s California Jazz Conservatory performance will raise funds for the trio’s return trip in July.
Berkeley guitarist John Schott doesn’t always write for large string ensembles, but when he does he’s aiming to capture the capabilities of a new generation of adventurous musicians.
John Schott doesn’t make a habit of approaching neighborhood eateries for gigs. But the capaciously creative Berkeley guitarist couldn’t resist reaching out to the owners of Giovanni, one of the oldest continually operating restaurants in town, when he stopped by for dinner with his family one night and heard Miles Davis playing on the house sound system. A Berkeley resident since 1988, Schott had eaten at the restaurant before, but that was when it wasn’t owned by the original Schipani family.