Denise Perrier’s theme song could be “Travelin’ Light,” as the supremely stylish San Francisco jazz singer continues to follow her wanderlust to the wide corners of the world. Since she first lit out to tour Australia some five decades ago, Perrier has performed in more than two dozen countries, a tireless itinerary that means she’s often introducing herself to new generations of Bay Area jazz fans when she gets back home. You can catch her Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory with Swing Fever, but then she’s off for San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, followed by her first trip to Cuba in December.
The big bang of 20th-century ballet was detonated by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a generative explosion that sent creative waves sweeping across the Americas, all the way to Berkeley. With Twyla Tharp in town for a Cal Performances residency to celebrate her fiftieth year as a choreographer on Oct. 16-18, Berkeley’s deep dance history is embodied Ramona Kelley (who connects with Ballet Russe by about three degrees of separation).
Interviewing choreographer Twyla Tharp for an upcoming story about her 50th anniversary tour I was struck by her description of her new dance “Preludes and Fugues” set to J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier as belonging to a utopian streak long at the center of her work. “You take a huge responsibility in imagining the world as it should be,” she said.
Chicago-reared George Cotsirilos arrived in Berkeley in 1969 as an aspiring young guitarist deeply under the sway of the three blues Kings (B.B., Albert, and Freddie). In the midst of his undergrad studies at Cal he took some time off to play with a blues band in Ann Arbor, and when he re-enrolled to continue his sociology studies he came under the sway of legendary East Bay guitar teacher Warren Nunes, who turned his attention to jazz and “opened up other vistas,” Cotsirilos says.
Berkeley oncologist Natalie Marshall plunged into jazz vocals to scratch her own creative itch. But as she’s gained confidence, technique and musical knowledge, Marshall has found that singing can also have therapeutic applications.
Is there anything that chocolate can’t do? An offering to the Mayan gods, a source of joy for children around the world, and an abiding bond between two great jazz musicians who perform 8 p.m. Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory.
The unassuming apartment complex at Seventh and Allston doesn’t look much like the cradle of a creative movement, but for spoken-word artist Raymond Nat Turner the West Berkeley locale provided everything he needed to launch UpSurge!
For Tony Corman, Five Play is all about second chances. The guitarist and composer co-leads the quintet with his wife, pianist/composer Laura Klein, and the band’s impressive track record speaks to his cussed refusal to let his body betray his passion for music. Featuring reed expert Dave Tidball on saxophones and clarinet, veteran bassist Paul Smith, and drum maestro Alan Hall, Five Play performs 8 p.m. Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory with special guest Ron Horton, a brilliant New York trumpeter who rarely gets to the Bay Area.
Fresh out of Berkeley High in the summer of 1979, Dan Wilensky had to make a fateful decision. The prestigious Eastman School of Music was offering a full scholarship at the same time that the Ray Charles Orchestra came calling for the young saxophonist. Wilensky chose Charles, and the gig turned into a six-month bandstand education that launched a gloriously diverse and insistently creative career. He returns to town next week for a series of gigs, making his first Berkeley appearances as a leader since heading to New York in 1980. Appropriately, he kicks off the run at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Freight & Salvage, performing as a special guest with the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble and Berkeley High Combo A (which just earned top honors at the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 2015 Next Generation Jazz Festival).
Stephanie Crawford has performed at top jazz clubs in New York City and Paris, but since settling in the East Bay about 15 years ago she’s been one of the region’s best kept jazz secrets. In recent months lucky Cheese Board patrons have been privy to her vocal artistry (she’s there Thursday afternoon with pianist Joe Warner), but Crawford’s mainstay is the California Jazz Conservatory, where she returns 4:30 pm Sunday for a performance with Warner, ace bassist Ron Belcher, and versatile drummer Greg German.
Paul Hanson has spent much of his life taking the bassoon into realms where the horn has never before traveled. From world jazz and klezmer to funk and rock, the Berkeley native refuses to be bounded by the irascible double-reed’s traditional symphonic role. Based in American Canyon since the end of a four-year stint with Cirque du Soleil in Japan, he returns to town for a California Jazz Conservatory performance at 8 p.m. Friday with the duo Oon featuring the inventive electric bassist Ariane Cap.