Ever since his early gigs as a bandleader playing Bill Graham-produced shows at the Fillmore -- as well as his star-making 1966 appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival (with his epochal quartet featuring pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Jack DeJohnette) -- tenor saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd has found an avid audience in the Bay Area. At 77, he’s as passionately expressive as ever, and still forging creative ties with artists who can take him into uncharted realms. Opening a four-night run at SFJAZZ, Lloyd celebrates the release of a stellar new album Wild Man Dance Suite (Blue Note). On April 23 and 24, his New Quartet is joined by lyra virtuoso Sokratis Sinopoulos and Miklos Lucacs on the Hungarian Gypsy cimbalom (hammered dulcimer), who help bring to life music inspired by Lloyd's encounter with these Greek musicians several years ago. On Friday, April 25, Lloyd performs with his New Quartet (drummer Eric Harland, pianist Gerald Clayton, and bassist Reuben Rogers), and on Saturday, April 26 with Harland, Rogers, guitarist Bill Frisell, and Greg Leisz on lap steel guitar and dobro. Details and ticket information here.
'Head of Passes'
Before he’d even turned 30, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney made a huge splash in the Bay Area in 2010 with the West Coast premiere of his trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays -- one of them at Marin Theatre Company, one at Magic Theatre and one at American Conservatory Theater in an unprecedented cross-company collaboration. Five years later, McCraney is a MacArthur “Genius” grantee and a member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and he’s back with the West Coast premiere of Head of Passes, which debuted at the latter theater in 2013. On a stormy night at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the troubled matriarch Shelah gathers her family for a birthday celebration that turns to catastrophe when the roof caves in. McCraney has a second production, Choir Boy, premiering June 4 at the Marin Theatre Company. Read more from Cy Musiker on the playwright here, and find details and ticket information here.
Talk about your fresh starts. Fantastic Negrito, the stage name for the musical output of Oakland's Xavier Dphrepaulezz, could teach a master class on self-reinvention: One of 15 children, the singer and musician bounced between foster homes as a teenager, and as an adult has bounced back from near-death experiences, car crashes, a $1 million major-label record deal gone awry, you name it. His latest rebirth? After winning NPR's first-ever Tiny Desk Concert contest, Fantastic Negrito continues to live up to the considerable hype, wowing crowds at South by Southwest with his wholly unique blend of Delta blues, Memphis soul, and Oakland funk — so it's no wonder he's graduated from street busking (though Colonial Donuts on Grand in Oakland is still a favorite spot) to headlining stages. This show's pre-sale is long sold out, but there will be tickets at the door for those who want to see a rising star on his way to the top. Read more on Fantastic Negrito from Max Savage Levenson here, and find details and ticket information here.
Marking a gift to the Cantor from the Kayden Family, Promised Land celebrates the life and work of Jacob Lawrence, leading painter of the 20th-century African American experience. The exhibition showcases paintings, drawings, prints and an illustrated book spanning over fifty years of Lawrence’s career. This collection, made public and exhibited together for the first time, represents a major resource for the research, study and appreciation of Lawrence’s dynamic and commanding work. Read more from Sarah Hotchkiss on the exhibit here, and find details and ticket information here.
The next time someone tells you San Francisco’s garage-rock scene ain’t what it used to be, point them toward Mikal Cronin. Sure, it may be nearly impossible for a musician to afford a place with an actual garage in the city these days, but that hasn’t stopped Cronin, a multi-instrumentalist with an ear for grungey power-pop tinged with psychedelic and punk hues, from crafting the kind of songs that get into your head and don’t leave for hours. Once known mainly as Ty Segall’s sideman, Cronin -- who played nearly everything on his forthcoming album, MCIII, including guitar, bass, drums, piano, organs, tzouras, and saxophone, in addition to arranging the strings -- has earned his spot in the limelight over the past five years with his earnest brand of songwriting and dynamic live performances. This hometown show at the Independent kicks off a West Coast tour leading up to the record’s May 5 release, after which we can only expect Cronin to play bigger venues here in the Bay. Catch him in a cozy room while you can. Details and ticket information here.
When it comes to instantly-recognizable Berkeley figures, few stand as tall -- or as stoically -- as UC Berkeley's famed Campanile, whose full name is the Jane K. Sather Tower. In recognition of the 307-foot campus icon's 100th birthday, the university is throwing a yearlong party, with events throughout 2015. This weekend, daring vertical dancers from local aerial performance company Bandaloop will turn the bell tower's surfaces into a stage as they leap, pirouette, and careen through the air during two free afternoon performances, at 2:00 and 4:00pm. Leave this one to the pros -- especially if you get vertigo. Watch Bandaloop on the cliffs of Marin here, and find details on the Sather Tower performance here.
With a jazz background that touches on the African diaspora worldwide -- from Cuba to Brazil, from Ecuador to Barcelona -- seven-time Grammy Award-winning pianist-composer-bandleader Omar Sosa embodies the spirit of global music. Blending modern electronic elements with the soulful sounds born of his formative years in Havana in the late '80s and early '90s, his Quarteto Afro-Cubano weaves an exhilarating path through geography, history and culture. They'll perform twice each evening (at 8pm and 10pm) on both Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18. Details and ticket information here.