KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great shows around the Bay Area this week.
One of the things we brood about here at the Do List (besides global annihilation) is the shortage of music clubs in the South Bay. And then along comes San Jose Jazz Winterfest, with its conucopia of great shows, and our mood lifts off like a Roy Ayers solo. Yes, Roy Ayers is playing his neo-soul vibes during the fest.
And check out Bay Area native Natalie Cressman's fine trombone work, veteran San Francisco singer Mary Stallings, and dozens of other shows. Details for San Jose Jazz Winterfest are here. Now onto the rest of our show.
Feb. 11: Austra has such a cool, polished electronic sound, but I still feel a blast of heat off the voice of singer Katie Stelmanis, formerly of Galaxy. She’s the force behind Austra, and wrote 'Utopia,' the song above, for her new album Future Politics. She’s working with Maya Postepski, Dorian Wolf, and Ryan Wonsiak, and they make quite a wall of beautiful sounds. Details for Austra's show at the Mezzanine in San Francisco are here.
Feb. 11: Tap dancing hasn't been cool in a long time, but I'm partial to this deeply American art form, born out of the same stew of influences that created jazz, and with a similar attention to rhythm, beat and improvisation. Here’s a chance to show tap some love. Rhythmic Circus is a troupe out of Minneapolis with a showoff style and a production called Feet Don’t Fail Me Now (slightly misquoting Stepin Fetchit's line.) Details for their show at the Palo Alto JCC are here.
Feb. 10–18: Lou Harrison was the very definition of an American maverick. An early champion of Charles Ives and the challenging twelve-tone compositions of Schoenberg, his own music evolved into a lush and melodic tapestry of influences, including Gamelan from Bali and Indonesia, Native American music and jazz. He was a pacifist and activist against nuclear war, a fan of Esperanto, a calligrapher, and an out gay man at a time when that was still a large risk. Conductor and pianist Dennis Russell Davies calls him a great craftsman. "He could write beautiful twelve-tone dissonant music, he was at home in a Renaissance style," Davies said. "Lou was not only gifted but also very well educated as a musician and composer. And I miss him very much, he was a good friend, and I’ve never forgotten the lessons I learned." A number of music organizations (including SF Symphony's SoundBox, in a magnificent program last month) have been celebrating Harrison, with Bay Area concerts through June. Here's the most comprehensive list from the folks at Other Minds, which is staging what should be an extraordinary Harrison concert on Feb. 18, where Davies will conduct.
Feb. 10–12: The other big Lou Harrison event this month is the world premiere of Choreographer Nancy Karp's Memory/Place at ODC in San Francisco, featuring Harrison’s Grand Duo for Violin and Piano (among other pieces). Karp's ambitious evening-length dance is accompanied live by cellist Gianna Abondolo, pianist Sarah Cahill and violinist Kate Stenberg, with a set design by artist Thekla Hammond. Details for this show at ODC in San Francisco are here.
Continuing through Feb. 26: San Jose author Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is about a mother/daughter like friendship between two women in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the abuse they endure from a patriarchal society. It's now a brand new play, adapted for the stage by Irish-Indian playwright Ursula Rani Sarma, a co-commission from the American Conservatory Theater (and Theatre Calgary). Hosseini told the Los Angeles Times he's hoping the show can be a dramatic reminder of our shared humanity, at a time when the Trump Administration seems to be scapegoating Muslims. Details for the play's run at ACT in San Francisco are here.
Feb. 16: Variety shows and vaudeville are hip again. And Wesley Stace, a.k.a. John Wesley Harding, gets some credit. He's been touring his 'Cabinet of Wonders' literary-variety mashup for a while now, featuring a rotating cast of performers. For this show at San Francisco's JCC, he's booked a remarkable troupe, including Joan Baez; screenwriter and novelist Barry Gifford; comedians Caitlin Gill and Bobcat Goldthwait (a team known as the Crabapples in Los Angeles); Ryan Miller from Guster; local hero Thao Nguyen and Langhorne Slim. Details here.
Feb. 11 and 12: Cherry Glazerr is Clementine Creevy, who’s just put out her second album, Apocalipstick, at the age of 19 (making us feel soooo old and underachieving). She's an L.A. girl with the history of women’s punk and grunge in her bones, and I just love when she howls, “I was a lone wolf,” at the top of the song "Told You I'd Be with the Guys." Cherry Glazerr plays shows at Slim's in San Francisco, details here; and at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, details here.