Cy and David's Picks: Musical Notes from Native California, Trance Blues, and Bell X1's High-Flying Pop

Claude Monet's 'Regatta at Argenteuil,' from 1872, is part of the exhibition 'Monet: The Early Years' at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. (Photo: Courtesy of FAMSF)

KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.

The list is long this week for amazing stuff we couldn't fit in the show. Yiddish songbird Heather Klein premieres her new one–woman musical, Shanghai Angel, about her grandmother's emigration from Austria to Shanghai to America through Angel Island. It's Feb. 26 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Naatak opens the very timely play Airport Insecurity, a Trump-esque tale of an Indian techie stuck at an airport in immigration limbo. It's at the Cubberley Community Center in Palo Alto, running Feb. 24-March 4. And for the ultimate in cool and classical, Mason Bates DJs and directs one of his Mercury Soul shows on Feb. 24, called Baroque & Beats at the DNA Lounge. Now for the show.

Feb. 24–25: Otis Taylor’s new album, Fantasizing about Being Black, is about the history of the African American experience, from the slave ships to the Mississippi Delta, and the blues music that was born of those influences. Taylor has always recognized that the blues are a form of protest music, and there's plenty of comment here on the racism that endures in America today. He's got a great band, too, with Anne Harris on violin. Details for his two shows at Biscuits and Blues are here.

Monet's 'Pointe de la Heve.' part of the exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco
Monet's 'Pointe de la Heve.' part of the exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. (Photo: Courtesy of FAMSF)

Feb. 28–May 29: The French painter Claude Monet is most famous for his huge water lily paintings, done late in life. But we get a new perspective on the French artist in a show coming to the Legion of Honor called Monet: the Early Years, with 60 paintings demonstrating a period in the mid-19th century when the artist was part of a generation re-inventing painting. "I didn’t become an impressionist," the catalog quotes Monet. "As long as I can remember I always have been one." He was always, as well, a master of color and a lover of landscapes. What a treat to see this first major U.S. exhibition devoted to Monet's early works. Details for the show are here.

Kanyon Sayers Rood sings with the Oakland Symphony in its program 'Notes from Native California'
Kanyon Sayers Rood sings with the Oakland Symphony in its program 'Notes from Native California.' (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

Feb. 24: The Oakland Symphony is presenting its annual concert celebrating world music traditions, and this year Conductor Michael Morgan sticks close to home with a program called Notes from Native California. Among the pieces is Big Sur: The Night Sun, by John Wineglass, featuring the voice of Ohlone/Chumash singer Kanyon Sayers-Roods, whose amazing soprano voice I first heard a few weeks ago at the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland. Sayers-Roods told me she makes up her own songs, and quotes her mom on how they’re not traditional, but still authentic. “My mother goes, 'That is spirit. Those are our ancestors speaking through you. That is your culture being awakened. That is truth,'" Sayers-Roods said. "Because my mother and my grandmother have always shared a quote, 'When song, ceremony and dance stop, so does the earth,' and I too believe that." She's just one of the highlights for a concert that also features Shostakovitch's Ninth Symphony. Details here.


Feb. 24–March 3: There’s a category called CNN Opera, describing a musical about a modern political event or movement. Think The Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams and Alice Goodman, or The Life and Times of Malcolm X by Anthony Davis. Now added to that list is The Source, from 2016, about soldier Chelsea Manning’s decision to disclose hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive documents to WikiLeaks, her courtmartial, and her sex reassignment surgery. Composer Ted Hearne, who teaches composition at U.S.C., and librettist Mark Doten have created a kind of pop collage out of vocal, instrumental, and recorded sounds sung by a group of vocalists using a lot of autotune. The story is all the more compelling after former President Barack Obama's pardoning of Manning. Details for the show at the San Francisco Opera Lab are here.

Feb. 28: The Bell X-1 was the first plane to break the sound barrier, and the name also inspired a group of young rockers from Ireland. Bell X1 make lovely danceable pop and gorgeous ballads. They write smart lyrics, mixing the personal with the political on song like "Sons and Daughters," asking future generations for forgiveness for the mistakes of the present -- and on "The End is Nigh," they ask “Will the wrong guy get the codes," which seems an apt question for Europeans worried about our election of President Donald Trump. San Francisco is the last stop on a short U.S. Tour for the Bell X1, before they return to their home base in Dublin, Ireland. Details for their show at The Chapel in San Francisco are here.

Feb. 28–March 2: We squeezed in a pair of shoutouts as well. David picked former Bay Area resident Bill Hayes, who returns to read from his new memoir Insomniac City, focusing on his love affair with both New York City and the late author and psychiatrist Oliver Sacks. Hayes reads at Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley on Feb. 28, at Rakestraw Books in Danville on March 1, and Book Passage in San Francisco on March 2. Details for all appearances are here.

Feb 25–26: And I champion the Villalobos Brothers, a marvelous band of violinists playing jazz and Mexican roots music. They’re part of San Jose Jazz Winter Fest on Feb. 25, and at Freight & Salvage on Feb. 26. Details here.