Spreading the love: Lilan Kane; Peter Apfelbaum’s Sparkler

Oakland vocalist Lilan Kane presents a concert for cold times Sunday at the Marsh Theater. Photo by Ricky Kelley.
Oakland vocalist Lilan Kane presents a concert for cold times Sunday at the Marsh Theater. Photo: Ricky Kelley

As a child of divorced parents, singer Lilan Kane came to dread the holidays. Even before the recent spate of aggressively dispiriting news, she planned to produce a concert offering a celebratory space for everyone who might feel conflicted about celebration in the midst of woe. Now more than ever her “All We Need Is Love” concert 7:30 p.m. Sunday night at the Marsh Theater offers a balm for all us who are more than ready to kick this annus horribilis to the curb. Kane is donating a portion of the evening’s proceeds to support the families of people lost in the Ghost Ship fire.

“Once my parents got divorced when I was in high school the holidays were like the opposite of togetherness,” says Kane, whose first name is pronounced Lee-lawn. “It was like, let’s fast forward to January. Then I realized I can change that for myself. I wanted to create a place where we could come together and unite through music, which is what we do best.”

Kane recently released a soul-steeped debut album Love, Myself featuring her finely wrought original songs. On Sunday, she’ll be joined by many of the musicians from the album, including Berkeley-raised brothers Julian and Steve Hogan (on drums and bass, respectively). The third Hogan sibling, Colin, played piano and keyboards at her Yoshi’s album release concert back in March, and he’ll joining his brothers again at the Marsh.

The lineup also includes San Jose soul singer Tracy Cruz, Oakland rocker Yvette Pylant, Oakland singer/songwriter Gabriela Marguerite, and Oakland singer Juan Perez (who’s been making a name for himself working with R&B vocalist and producer Mike Blankenship). Conceived as an all-ages event, the concert is part holiday celebration and part showcase “for all these special guests, who I’ve asked to choose two songs each, either covers or originals,” Kane says.


“The Hogan Brothers are long-time friends and collaborators and they’re some of the kindest people I’ve met. Gabriela is an incredible singer who writes about mindfulness and healing through art. Yvette is an awesome soul singer who’s done a lot with the Jazz Mafia. Tracy Cruz has been winning a lot of awards, and Juan is a fantastic musician and singer/songwriter. He hasn’t been out in public as much, but he sang at Yoshi’s at Mike Blankenship’s CD release concert.”

Kane has been gaining attention with the release of her album, a polished project that captures her love of sultry 1960s soul. She connected with the Hogan brothers through a key collaborator, keyboardist Michael Aaberg, and the friendship has deepened through a mutual commitment to music education. Kane teaches several music classes at San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Steve Hogan is the band director at Richmond’s Silesian College Preparatory, and a few months back they did a teacher exchange.

“She came to my high school and worked with my singers, and they loved her,” says Hogan, who performs Sunday nights with his brothers at Oakland’s Room 389, and Dec. 30 at Jupiter with tenor saxophonist/bassoon master Paul Hanson. “And I went to her school and worked with her singers, doing some vocal percussion. It was a great exchange. She has a great rapport with her choir.”

Kane grew up in Novato, and earned a degree in vocals and music business at the Berklee College of Music. After several years working for record labels and clubs in New York City she moved to the East Bay in 2009. She credits a Jazzschool class on gospel music taught by Terrance Kelly, director of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, with exponentially deepening her connection to soul and R&B. She’s performed extensively in Berkeley in recent years, and her Marsh concert is the first in what she envisions as an ongoing relationship with the theater, where she’ll be hosting a monthly jam session with the Berkeley High jazz combo.


She has a lot to teach beyond her vocal skills. A consummate professional, she “always puts together a stellar band,” Steve Hogan says. “Got all the skills of diva but not the attitude. Her people skills are really aiding in her art, as she’s able to get all these people together, sounding seamless and well rehearsed. The energy and vibe of her album really come across in her live sound. The record sounds like a band, like people playing classic R&B and soul based on organ, Rhodes, electric guitar. It’s a timeless sounds that doesn’t rely on electronics.”

Recommended gig: Peter Apfelbaum’s Sparkler at the Freight on Dec. 26

Peter Apfelbaum's Sparkler, featuring, l to r, Jill Ryan, Will Bernard, Kyle Sanna (not appearing), Natalie Cressman, Charlie Ferguson, Apfelbaum, and Erika Oba (not pictured), plays Freight & Salvage on Monday, Dec. 26. Photo by John Abbott.
Peter Apfelbaum’s Sparkler — (l to r): Jill Ryan, Will Bernard, Kyle Sanna (not appearing), Natalie Cressman, Charlie Ferguson, Apfelbaum, and Erika Oba (not pictured) — plays Freight & Salvage on Monday Dec. 26. Photo: John Abbott

Berkeley-reared New York-based multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum returns to town for a concert Monday Dec. 26 at Freight & Salvage with his band Sparkler featuring fellow Berkeley High alumni Will Bernard on guitar, Charlie Ferguson on drums, and special guest Erika Oba on keyboards. Trombonist/vocalist Natalie Cressman, who played a spate of Bay Area gigs last month celebrating the release of her beautiful new duo album with guitarist Mike Bono, Etchings in Amber, and saxophonist/vocalist Jill Ryan round out the band, which plays melodically driven world jazz. The band’s repertoire includes  “The Ambidextrous Nature of the Universe,” a piece commissioned by the Newport Jazz Festival, where it premiered in July.

Andrew Gilbert writes a weekly music column for Berkeleyside. He also reports for the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and KQED’s California Report. Read his previous Berkeleyside reviews.

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