Cutting up with Amy X Neuburg; Brazilian jazz with the San-São Trio

Amy X Neuburg “Gets Rid” at BAMPFA on Thursday as part of Sarah Cahill’s Full series. Photo: Sean Carson

Amy X Neuburg needs your help. Over the years the Oakland avant-cabaret singer, composer and electronics maven has gradually acquired a house full of now-obsolete gear, along with props from long-dormant productions and sundry objects that no longer bring her joy.

Thursday at the Berkeley Art Museum she presents Gets Rid, a site and object-specific performance that involves shedding unwanted possessions. The performance is part of the BAMPFA “Full” series programmed by Sarah Cahill.

In Neuburg’s case, the old expression that you can get it for a song is literally true, as she’s composed odes to various things she hopes to cast off. Working with director/choreographer Risa Jaroslow, Neuburg has devised “the dance of archaic cables” and a suite of half-minute ditties for useless objects. There’s a semi-improvised anti-plastic rant and a ballad for medical waste. The program notes caution: Be prepared to leave with an object!

“The idea is the stage is full of junk and I’m giving it away,” Neuburg says, noting that the performance is a one-time deal, as she’s composed songs for the specific objects slated for dispossession. “Half of the music is brand new, and half of that I’m still creating as we speak. It’s both a site-specific and action-specific theater piece, and I’m running all around the museum.”


At a time when Marie Kondo has become a cultural force, it might seem like Neuburg is latching onto the minimalist moment. But her initial inspiration for the piece came from a very different Japanese-born icon. The first musician to perform in the museum when it reopened in 2015, Neuberg was walking around the galleries a few months ago pondering what to present next when she thought of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, an early performance work from 1964 that premiered in Kyoto.

With a pair of scissors in front of her Ono sat silent and stationary alone on stage decked out in her best suit, which the audience had been instructed they could take turns cutting off piece by small piece (swatches they could keep and sell later on EBay). Cut Piece, which Ono has performed as recently as 2003, ends when she says it’s concluded.

“I wasn’t particularly inspired by Kondo’s popularity, though I know about the zeitgeist,” Neuburg says. “The Yoko piece came first. It just flashed in my mind. The opportunity to do something in a museum felt a little titillating to me. I’m weird enough, I can do something more bizarre than usual. There’s risk and danger and who knows what’s going to happen or how exposed I’ll be? There’s a loss of power, and a tremendous amount of power since it ends when I say it ends.”

Along with her rendition of Cut Piece and the dispersal of her stuff Neuburg will be performing several of her signature songs created with live-looping, material that interestingly also revolves around “a lot of metaphorical cleaning,” she says.

Thursday’s gig is the first of a high profile run for Neuburg, who also performs Sept. 12 on the opening night of the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival. She’s back in Berkeley on Oct. 11 at the California Jazz Conservatory for her solo show “None of Me,” which features her intricately constructed covers of songs by Ultravox, XTC, Talking Heads, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, and a number from Fiddler on the Roof. And on Nov. 15 she’s at Chabot Space & Science Center for a concert and equipment demonstration with planetarium projections.

But before Neuburg can travel the space waves or channel her inner David Byrne, she’s got to shed some possessions and possibly some clothes. “There so much to the idea of Gets Rid,” she says. “Getting rid of actual objects and all the memories those objects hold. Getting rid of part of your life. And then people are going to cut my clothes off. It’s more about shedding until what’s underneath is exposed.”

San-São Trio plays series of local gigs

On the first night of Harvey Wainapel’s first trip to Brazil in 2000, he wandered into a São Paulo nightclub and met Léa Freire, a renowned flutist, pianist, composer and professor at the highly regarded Souza Lima Conservatory. They struck up a friendship and whenever the Berkeley reed master returned to Brazil, an almost annual occurrence, “I’d go to her house for lunch and I’d never go to without an instrument,” he says. It was only a matter of time before Freire introduced Wainapel to her longtime duo partner, pianist/composer Amilton Godoy, a creative force since he co-founded the influential samba jazz combo Zimbo Trio in the 1960s. An accomplished jazz musician who’s been immersing himself in Brazilian music for the past three decades, Wainapel expanded the duo and the new San-São Trio recorded the gorgeous album Novos Caminhos featuring compositions by Freire and Godoy.

With Freire and Godoy in town for California Brazil Camp in Cazadero, the trio is performing a series of gigs around the region, starting on Sunday afternoon at St. Alban’s Episcopal, where they’ll join forces with the Berkeley Choro Ensemble with flutist Jane Lenoir, percussionist Brian Rice and Rio-born guitarist Ricardo Peixoto. The trio also plays Chez Hanny in San Francisco on Aug. 25 and Oakland’s Piedmont Piano on Sept. 1. “They’re both very important figures in Brazilian music and they opened up their duo arrangements for another woodwind voice,” Wainapel says. “It’s a very unusual group, and I’m playing clarinet about 75% of the time, and soprano sax the rest. We recorded Novos Caminhos last year, half in São Paulo and half in Berkeley. Amilton’s role is very heavy. He’s the orchestra and rhythm section. Every time I listen to him on the CD I hear more details and how astounding he is.”