Searching For Music in the South Bay Leads To Great Discoveries

American-born jazz singer Somi finds inspiration in the rhythms of East and West Africa (Photo: Devin Doyle)

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When it comes to technology, Silicon Valley exerts an out-sized influence on world culture. At home, the South Bay’s cultural offerings are less than robust, especially when it comes to music. Yet there is a scene there, if you look for it. For music lovers in the South Bay, the problem isn’t that there’s nothing going down; it’s knowing where to look.

On any given night the most interesting gigs might be happening at a comic book store, a Masonic lodge, or a restaurant devoted to the legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the blind saxophone player known for playing three horns simultaneously. And for those who enjoy variety in their acts as well as their venues, the fall brings an international array of acts to the South Bay, from a soul diva with East African roots to a Brazilian guitar star.

Slime Girls
Slime Girls

Freq.Fest.Norcal

Sept. 11-12
The Art Boutiki, 44 Race St., San Jose
Tickets and info

8bitLA presents the inaugural edition of Freq.Fest.Norcal, a northern annex of LA’s annual chiptune festival. Each night features a diverse array of nine acts dedicated to creating music from the bips, beeps, bleeps and tones from vintage video game consoles, computers, and arcade games, including Pedro Silva’s Slime Girls, the San Jose duo Curious Quail, and chiptune master Moran Tucker and vocalist Keiko Takamura’s Crashfaster.

Rogério Souza
Rogério Souza

Rogério Souza and Edinho Gerber

Sept. 24
Café Pink House, 14577 Big Basin Way, Saratoga
Tickets and info

When it comes to guitar, no country has produced a more luxuriant body of music than Brazil. Hailing from Rio de Janeiro, Rogério Souza is a seven-string wizard who has collaborated with an astounding roster of Brazilian stars. He’s been at the forefront of a movement reviving the instrumental style known as choro, and he’s joined here by fellow Brazilian guitar master Edinho Gerber and the Bay Area’s Grupo Falso Baiano, a combo devoted to choro and samba.

Darcy James Argue
Darcy James Argue

Darcy James Argue “Real Enemies”

Oct. 2
Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University
Tickets and info

Given that Canadian-born composer/arranger Darcy James Argue named his award-winning big band the Secret Society, it’s not surprising that the New York ensemble’s collaboration with writer/director Isaac Butler, Real Enemies, is devoted to investigating contemporary conspiracy theories. Featuring a stellar array of East Coast talent, including reed expert John Ellis, trumpeter Jason Palmer, and SF-raised trombonist/tubist Jacob Garchick, the paranoia-laced score draws loosely on 12-tone technique as well as the film scores of Michael Small and David Shire, Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Carlos Mejia Godoy, early 1980s LA electrofunk-influenced hip hop, and much more.

Somi
Somi

Somi

Oct. 8
Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz
Tickets and info

As the daughter of immigrant parents from Rwanda and Uganda, Somi is an American-born jazz singer who has found inspiration in the rhythms and cadences of East and West Africa. Her latest album The Lagos Music Salon (OKeh) resulted from an 18-month sojourn to Lagos, and she taps into the fervent and resourceful creativity of Nigeria’s teeming capital. Possessing a luscious voice and intrepid musical spirit, she’s keeping exceptional company on the bandstand, including the brilliant guitarist Liberty Ellman, a standout on the 1990s Bay Area jazz scene.

Alice Gerrard
Alice Gerrard

Piedmont Melody Makers with Alice Gerrard

Oct. 17
Mountain View Masonic Lodge, 890 Church St.
Tickets and info

Alice Gerrard, 80, is bluegrass and old-time music icon who released one of her finest albums last year, Follow the Music. She’s outlived most of the artists with whom she so memorably collaborated, like Hazel Dickens and her then-husband Mike Seeger, but Gerrard soldiers on, singing traditional and original songs filled with unspeakable ache and beatific joy. She’s touring with the Piedmont Melody Makers, featuring Chris Brashear on fiddle, guitar and vocals, Jim Watson on mandolin, bass and vocals, and Cliff Hale on vocals and guitar.

Tessa Souter
Tessa Souter

Tessa Souter

Oct. 24
Café Pink House, 14577 Big Basin Way, Saratoga
Tickets and info

New York jazz vocalist Tessa Souter is known for finding material unaccountably overlooked by other artists. On this rare trip back to the Bay Area (she lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, working as a journalist and helping found the Writer’s Grotto), the London-born singer is focusing on music from her upcoming album based on her discovery at the age of 30 that her father wasn’t a white Spaniard but a black Trinidadian. Whatever material she explores, Souter is a beguiling artist who infuses everything she interprets with voluptuous intelligence and keen emotional insight.

Kim Nalley
Kim Nalley

Kim Nalley

Nov. 12
Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz
Tickets and info

San Francisco jazz and blues vocalist Kim Nalley celebrates the release of her powerhouse new album Blues People, a project that veers from outrage to the outrageous without missing a beat. There’s nobody better at delivering bawdy, blush-inducing erotica like “Trombone Song (Big Long Sliding Thing),” but Nalley is equally commanding channeling her anger over the killing of Trayvon Martin in her original “Big Hooded Black Man.” Amidst the sex and violence, Nalley offers glimpses of redemption, from hymns (“Amazing Grace”), spirituals (“Trouble of the World”), and a fantastic gospel version of The Jefferson’s theme “Movin’ On Up."

Runners Up

Edmar Castaneda

Oct. 15
Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz
Tickets and info

California Banjo Extravaganza

Nov. 14
Etz Chaiyim Hall, 4161 Alma St., Palo Alto
Tickets and info

Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan

Nov. 22
Montalvo Arts Center, 15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga
Tickets and info

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