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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.