Freight Fest Berkeley — taking it to the streets

Rising Cape Verdean vocalist Lucibela makes her Bay Area debut Saturday afternoon as part of Freight Fest, a free all-day festival presented by Freight & Salvage. Photo: Alex Tome

What happens when you cram more than two weeks of Freight & Salvage programming into a single day, unleashing an international wave of sound on the streets of downtown Berkeley? Find out Saturday when Freight Fest turns the venerable venue inside out, with more than a dozen acts running from 10:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. on two Addison Street stages at Shattuck and Milvia, and a singer/songwriter showcase in the Freight itself.

There are far too many artists to detail the entire program, but the highlights include both fresh and familiar faces. The free event also features food trucks and family-friendly activities with Imagination Playground Blocks provided by Habitot Children’s Museum, face-painting with Betty Buttons, and balloon creations.

Lucibela / Shattuck Stage, 1 p.m.

Following the death of world music star Cesária Évora in 2011 Cape Verde’s  musical future seemed to be in good hands, with at least half a dozen singers she’d nurtured performing around the world, including Lura, Sara Tavares, Mayra Andrade, Fantcha, Maria de Barros, Gardenia Benrós, and Carmen Souza. But over the past decade the musical reach of the remote island nation off the coast of West Africa has receded from international stages. All the more reason to welcome the East Bay debut of Lucibela, a Lisbon-based Cape Verdean singer steeped in the undulating blues-like Cape Verdean form known as morna and the celebratory rhythm called coladera.

She was already a veteran entertainer with years of experience working hotels in Cape Verde when she released her impressive 2018 debut album Laço Umbilical (Lusafrica). Cut from Evora’s rich and verdant clothe, she takes her time with a lyric, while borrowing liberally from jazz and bossa nova. Her repertoire draws on Cape Verdean standards, a songbook that either celebrates the sea or longs for the sights, smells and tastes of home and people left behind.


The John Santos Sextet and Friends: Sentimiento Antillano / Milvia Stage 4:30 p.m.

A hometown hero who always seems to rise to the occasion, percussionist, bandleader and creative catalyst John Santos has assembled an extraordinary array of artists for Sentimiento Antillano. Building on his talent-packed sextet with pianist Marco Diaz, flutist John Calloway, saxophonist Charlie Gurke, bassist Saul Sierra, and drummer David Flores, he’s created a Cuban dance party orchestra versed in mambo, rumba, bomba, changüí, son, danzón, guaracha and other classic forms. Drawing on the Bay Area’s deep pool of players, he’s added a percussion batterie, strings and vocals, starting with Javier Navarrette on bongos and legendary Cuban timbalero Orestes Vilató, who was in the thick of the action creating salsa in New York City in the late 1960s. Other guest stars include violinists Anthony Blea and Fernanda Bustamante, trombonist Raul Navarrette, Pedro Pastrana on cuatro Puertorriqueño, and vocalists José Roberto Hernandez, Christelle Durandy, and Juan Luis Pérez.

Maurice Tani 3:30 p.m. / Freight Singer-Songwriter stage

A trenchant singer/songwriter with a gift for turning a barbed phrase (targeted at himself as often as others), Maurice Tani has released one winning album after another. Decked out in his trademark cowboy hat, he’s a jovial tour guide through our foibles, misadventures, and fleeting pleasures. One of the guiding spirits working with Jim Pugh on the Little Village Foundation, which has released an epic assortment of recordings by artists largely shut out of the mainstream music industry, Tani has contributed his own project to the label. His latest release is a live acoustic album This Is It!, a session that fully earns its exclamation point.

Recommended gig: Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz at CJC

In another coup for the California Jazz Conservatory, the wondrous vocalist Kate McGarry and her husband, guitarist Keith Ganz, are joining the faculty. In the process of relocating from Durham, North Carolina, they introduce themselves with a performance Saturday night at Rendon Hall with Julie Wolf on piano, keyboard and accordion. One of the finest vocalists working in jazz, McGarry has released a series of consistently enthralling albums, most recently 2018’s Grammy-nominated The Subject Tonight Is Love (Binxtown).