Evan Price: Have fiddle, will travel

Though he’s best known for his long run with Turtle Island Quartet and his ongoing tenure in Hot Club of San Francisco, violinist Evan Price steps out on his own Sunday at Freight & Salvage. Photo: Lenny Gonzalez

Considering all the destructive paths a man can wander down in the throes a midlife crisis, Evan Price may have found the avenue that provides the most pleasure.

Best known for his long associations with two signature Bay Area ensembles — he earned two Grammy Awards during his decade-long run with Turtle Island Quartet and continues his two-decade tenure in the pioneering Hot Club of San Francisco — the Mill Valley-based violinist decided at the age of 45 that it was high time to make his own musical statement.

On Sunday at Freight & Salvage he celebrates the release of Dialogues (Azica), his first album under his own name. It’s a gorgeous project showcasing lithe lyricism and stylistic breadth. Describing it with a chuckle as his “midlife crisis album,” Price said it’s “something I’ve been putting off and couldn’t put off any longer. I’ve been a sideman since I left school, and it felt like any more delay would be cowardly.”

As the title suggests, the project features a series of duo encounters, ranging from Bach’s Partita No. 2 for Violin and Bass with Paul Keller,  improvised pieces with guitarist Jason Vieaux, and Celtic fiddle duets with Jeremy Kittel. Since the three players weren’t available to perform on Sunday, Price is presenting music from the album with several Bay Area luminaries, including Oakland cellist Lewis Patzner and veteran pianist Jonathan Alford (whose composition “Marcha” is one of the album’s highlights).


Dialogue will certainly raise Price’s profile, but it won’t do much to solidify his amorphous musical identity, as he effortlessly moves from European classical settings to the Gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt (Stephane Grappelli was one of his first musical heroes). A pleasingly protean player, Price shape shifts in the best of company.

A few weeks ago he was part of an all-star string quintet at SFJAZZ with bassist Christian McBride playing Dvořák and Schubert. Next week, he’s at Ashkenaz on Oct. 28 with the Ivory Club Boys, which is a Hot Club of SF spinoff celebrating the small-group swing sound of the 1930s, with a particular focus on the music of jazz violin great Stuff Smith (whose career encompassed collaborations with Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and Sun Ra).

“I’m emulating Stuff Smith as much as a I can, using a vintage pickup to help me channel that sound. He’s a player I’ve really studied, though that may be more evident to me than to anyone else,” Price says, while noting that Hot Club of SF founder Paul Mehling plays archtop guitar in the Ivory Boys rather than his usual Maccaferri-style instrument. “And Clint Baker plays trumpet, so there’s a three-horn front line that contributes to party atmosphere. It’s music that works extremely well for dancing.”

A longtime sub in the New Century Chamber Orchestra (his wife, violinist Deborah Tien Price, joined the ranks of the NCCO in 2000), he’s playing the upcoming season with the ensemble. So will Dialogues open up space for Price to start performing regularly under his own name?

“I still don’t know if I want to be a bandleader, but I did know I wanted to do something under my own power, make a statement that’s personal,” he says. “These are some friends I wouldn’t have gotten to play with if I didn’t make it happen. I’d love to be playing more with any one of them.”


Recommended gigs: Zigaboo Modelista / Amilton Godoy

Zigaboo Modeliste, who defined New Orleans funk with The Meters, brings his New Aahkesstra to the Freight on Saturday.

Oakland drummer, composer and bandleader Zigaboo Modeliste, one of the archetects of New Orleans funk via his seminal work with The Meters in the 1960s and 70s, performs with his New Aahkesstra Saturday at Freight & Salvage. Featuring guitarist Chris Rossbach and vocalist Kelly Jones, both 20-year Aahkesstra members, the band also includes guitarist Timm Walker, bassist Blyss Gould, keyboardist Max Cowen, and saxophonist Paul Branin playing Meters classics and Zig’s more recent book of groovalicious material.

The Berkeley Festival of Choro returns to the Freight on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Showcasing some of Brazil’s finest musicians devoted to choro, the fourth annual BFC includes Choro Das 3, a family band featuring three sisters — Corina (flute and piccolo), Lia (seven-string guitar), and Elisa (mandolin, clarinet, banjo and piano — and their father Eduardo (pandeiro).

The duo of pianist Amilton Godoy, a major force since founding the influential Zimbo Trio in 1964, and flutist/composer Léa Freire, and the Berkeley Choro Ensemble with flutist Jane Lenoir, clarinetist/saxophonist Harvey Wainapel, Rio-born guitarist Ricardo Peixoto, and percussionist Brian Rice, round out the triple bill.

A playfully virtuosic style that emerged in the middle of the 19th century, choro was the first New World style to combine African-derived rhythms and percussion with European forms and instruments. In the early decades of the 20th century, choro absorbed influences from jazz via one of the style’s first great composers, flutist and saxophonist Pixinguinha (1897-1973), who also played an essential role in samba’s rise as popular music. Reborn every few decades, the style has found passionate advocates around the world, while continuing to attract some of Brazil’s most exciting instrumentalists.