Tag Archives: Subterranean Art House

Laura Inserra: A Rose grows in Berkeley

Laura Inserra. Photo: Marco Snchez
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In the midst of a thriving practice as a musician, composer and arts presenter in Rome, Laura Inserra decided that a year or so in the Bay Area could offer a welcome change of scenery. That was 2007, and instead of returning home to Italy the North Berkeley resident has become an invaluable presence on the Bay Area arts scene, bringing evocative music to unusual settings.

A multi-instrumentalist who specializes in percussion, Inserra performs Saturday at the Subterranean Arthouse with BEL Trio, an improvisation-laced ensemble with a global sensibility featuring bassist Ben Levine and multi-instrumentalist Evan Fraser, best known for his work with Hamsa Lila and Beats Antique on kalimba, berimbau, calabash, and various frame drums. … Continue reading »

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Getting around with Cylinder and Lisa Mezzacappa

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There’s simply no point playing Six Degrees of Lisa Mezzacappa. A prolific performer who collaborates with a vast array of filmmakers, poets and fellow musicians, the San Francisco jazz bassist is probably no more than three steps from just about any contemporary American artist who comes to mind.

More than a mover and shaker, Mezzacappa is an essential catalyst with an international web of musical connections who is always on the lookout for opportunities for creative cross pollination.

After a fairly subdued summer, she kicks into her usual frenetic mode in September, including several exciting gigs in the East Bay.

On Saturday, she performs with Cylinder at the Subterranean Art House. Anchored by her thick, imposing tone and reactive lines, Cylinder is a rambunctious collective quartet featuring trumpeter Darren Johnston, alto saxophonist Aram Shelton, and drummer Kjell Nordeson, who are all prodigious improvisers. The ensemble corrals “a lot of strong personalities,” Mezzacappa says. “We all bring in our own compositions, mostly stuff we’ve written for each other.” … Continue reading »

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Sameer Gupta: North meets South

Tabla player Sameer Gupta
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Sameer Gupta is on a mission to bring classical Indian music into places where it rarely ventures. A percussionist who plays tabla and trap drums, Gupta was a mainstay in Bay Area creative music circles until his 2008 move to Brooklyn, where he’s helped kindle a thriving Indian music scene with a weekly jazz-style jam session in a Prospect Park cowboy bar. He returns to California this weekend for a performance Sunday at the Subterranean Art House with Rohan Krishnamurthy
, a master of mridangam, the drum that plays a central role in South Indian music.

“It’s a North Indian meets South Indian percussion concert,” Gupta says. “We want to present each drum on its own and show them together, trading the rhythmic languages back and forth. Both the tabla and the mridangam have amazing timbres and mathematics, so we’ll talk about that and where the instruments fit in the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions.”

You can listen to Gupta’s Aaye Na Balam here. … Continue reading »

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Musical Art Quintet: Blowing up the chamber music scene

Musical Art Quintet
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Sascha Jacobsen wasn’t trying to foment a string insurrection. The conservatory-trained bassist just wanted to play some music. As a regular participant in Classical Revolution, the organization that launched a national movement of chamber music jam sessions from San Francisco’s Café Revolution in 2006, he and Sri Lankan-born violist Charith Premawardhana were looking for material. The only piece that fit the ensemble on hand, a string quartet plus double bass, was Dvořák’s String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Opus 77. The group had a ball, and then looked around wondering what to play next. Jacobsen took matters into his own hands.

“I would work on something, print it out, and literally bring it down and throw it in front of whoever was there, and we’d sight read it,” Jacobsen recalls. “It wasn’t always successful. Some times we’d play a piece twice in a row to get it down. After a few months, I realized that we have a repertoire. I wasn’t trying to form a group, and it just worked out that way with the guys who had been there week after week.” … Continue reading »

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Out in Berkeley: Jazz quintet, Irish music and more

Photo: Jim Newberry
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One of the pleasures of living in Berkeley is that the world beats a path to our doorstep. Over the next week the city hosts a deliriously diverse array of musicians, from a virtuosic traditional Irish duo and a beloved Chilean cantadora to a new Brazilian dance band and a Near Eastern electro-acoustic ensemble.

But let’s start with the most exotic combo, Canada Day, a capaciously inventive jazz quintet led by Toronto-born drummer Harris Eisenstadt that makes its Bay Area debut Wednesday at the Subterranean Art House.

The Brooklyn-based bandleader and composer is associated with jazz’s exploratory left field. Over the past decade he’s collaborated with some of music’s most insistently creative artists, including Bobby Bradford, Butch Morris, Yusef Lateef, Wadada Leo Smith, and the recently departed Sam Rivers. He’s also soaked up far-flung rhythmic traditions through work with ensembles exploring the music of Bali, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco, Iran and Senegal. But it’s as the leader of Canada Day that Eisenstadt has truly found his voice as a composer. … Continue reading »

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Ex Berkeley teacher Marie Schumacher plays hometown

MS at F&S3
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Back in the mid-1990s when Marie Schumacher was teaching at Berkeley’s King Middle School, her students didn’t know she was living a double life. By day she elucidated math and science for sixth graders, and by night she performed at venues like Albany’s Club Muse and Berkeley’s Rose Street House of Music. While honing her craft with bands like the retro-pop combo Agent 99, she started to develop her own book of tunes as a singer/songwriter.

Based in Portland, OR  since 2000, the vocalist, guitarist, pianist and vocal arranger has maintained close creative ties to the East Bay through her long-running faculty position at Cazadero Music Camp. She plays her annual Berkeley concert Saturday February 4th at the Subterranean Arthouse with bassist John Foster, drummer Jon Arkin and guitarist Steve Gibson, co-founder and co-director of Berkeley’s innovative music program BandWorks.

Her latest album, “Island Set Aflame,” is the result of her revived collaboration with Gibson, with whom she often performed back in the 90s. While developing the new music in the fall of 2008, she received a jolt of inspiration from a spectacular brush fire that swept across Angel Island, with flames visible from her rehearsal. Crystallizing themes of destruction and creation, life and death, she wrote a series of thematically linked songs that Gibson set to beautifully latticed arrangements. … Continue reading »

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Tonight at the Subterranean: A saxophone sisterhood

The Tiptons Saxophone Quartet in action. Photo:
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On the bandstand at least, sisterhood still packs a punch. For more than two decades, the all-female Tiptons Saxophone Quartet has delivered fiercely grooving music and vocals complete with synchronized stage moves and kinetic arrangements drawing on a daunting array of rhythmic traditions, from post-bop jazz and Cresent City funk to West Africa and the Balkans.

“The main criteria is music that really expresses soul,” says Tiptons alto saxophonist Amy Denio, an internationally esteemed composer and multi-instrumentalist who has received commissions from numerous modern dance companies. “Wherever it comes from, that’s what we’re looking for.”

In a well-considered Subterranean Art House double bill tonight at 8:00 pm, the Tiptons join the Real Vocal String Quartet, another all-female ensemble that combines gorgeous four-part vocal harmonies, foot stomps, and percussive bow techniques with melodies and rhythms from Brazil, West Africa, Appalachia and the Balkans. … Continue reading »

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