Recent Stories

  • Traveling to Jupiter with Planet Loop

    For the average patron the music at Jupiter might seem like an afterthought. Most people show up to dine and drink with no foreknowledge of who’ll be performing underneath the towering redwood at the back of the patio. But the restaurant’s longtime music policy provides an essential anchor for many East Bay musicians, giving them a friendly and easily accessible forum at home. Jupiter’s gravitational pull can even attract artists from far beyond the local constellation, like Planet Loop, who return to the patio on Saturday night.

  • Guitarist George Cotsirilos: A nighthawk flies in Berkeley

    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.

  • Exploring the round world with Ramon and Jessica

    To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, song is a song is a song is a song. The Oakland-raised writer’s elliptical verse serves as the source of inspiration for the latest project by Ramon and Jessica, the singer/songwriter duo of Dina Maccabee and Jesse Olsen Bay. They present Roses are Blue, a suite for vocal ensemble inspired by Stein’s 1938 children’s book The World is Round, Friday at Berkeley’s Subterranean Arthouse and Saturday at San Francisco’s Red Poppy Art House.

  • Howard Alden: Seven strings, will travel

    Howard Alden makes a powerful impression, even when you can’t see him. In Woody Allen’s great 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown the veteran jazz guitarist supplied the beautiful fretwork delivered by Sean Penn’s fictional Emmet Ray, a tormented musician who describes himself as “the second greatest guitarist in the world” (topped only by the very real guitar legend Django Reinhardt). At the time, Alden wasn’t particularly associated with Reinhardt’s Gypsy swing sound, but he’s a highly versatile player who thrives in just about any setting.

  • Alive! in Berkeley: All-women jazz combo comes to town

    Alive! wasn’t the first top-flight all-women combo in jazz. Going back to at least the 1940s, when the International Sweethearts of Rhythm earned the respect of their male peers and discerning audiences, excellent female musicians have come together to swing and improvise. But the women in Alive!, who mark the 40th anniversary of the band’s founding with a reunion concert Sunday at Freight & Salvage, boldly trod onto new territory when they came together in the mid-1970s.

  • The best bets for SF Beer Week in the East Bay

    We’ve done the hard work for you and picked out our best bets for SF Beer Week events in the East Bay, including three Pliny the Younger sightings and an array of events for Valentine's Day.

  • 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.

  • Amendola Vs. Blades play Berkeley — more great gigs

    Berkeley fans of the Hammond B-3 organ don’t get many opportunities to experience the mighty instrument close to home. It’s a sad state of affairs for funk and soul jazz aficionados, especially considering that Wil Blades, the Bay Area’s most prodigious mid-career B-3 player, has long called Berkeley home. He returns to Jupiter on Friday with Oakland drum maestro Scott Amendola.

  • Otonowa plays Berkeley: To Japan, With Love

    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.

  • Joshi Marshall: A child of Berkeley is back in town

    There’s nothing quite like having children to put your own upbringing in perspective. Looking back, saxophonist Joshi Marshall realizes that growing up in west Berkeley in the 1970s and 80s with two prominent musicians for parents provided a fabulously rich creative environment, albeit one with little of the structure that he provides for his two kids.