We're welcoming back as co-host this week comedian, co-host of the Good Muslim, Bad Muslim podcast, and KQED Women to Watch honoree Zahra Noorbaksh. Somehow she and I couldn't fit in the Petaluma Music Festival, a terrific concert featuring the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Poor Man's Whiskey and other American roots bands Aug. 5 at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, which benefits music programs in Petaluma schools. Details are here. Now on with the show.
Aug. 3–6: We start with the cosmic jazz of the Sun Ra Arkestra, which carries on the Afrofuturist ideas of founder Sun Ra -- born Herman Blount, who claimed to be from the planet Saturn. Sun Ra died in 1993, but the band continues under the direction of longtime member Marshall Allen, who maintains Sun Ra's artistic vision for the band, including on-stage costumes that look like Egyptian spacesuits. Years after Sun Ra's seminal recordings, the music is still mind-blowing; a cacophony of free jazz resolves into a hard bop solo, chased with a chant about space travel. Zahra ran into a number of artists at the recent Sundance Creative Change Retreat who were deeply influenced by Sun Ra's Afrocentrism and surrealist approach to his art; even stars in the pop realm like Solange Knowles hail his influence. This series of concerts at SFJAZZ is as big a deal as the solar eclipse happening this month, and just as rare. Details here.
Aug. 5–Sept. 10: There are a handful of great storytellers in the Bay Area -- people like Brian Copeland, Dan Hoyle and Al Letson -- who can hold the attention of a roomful of people with the detail, warmth and humor of their tale-spinning. Don Reed belongs in that lofty company, and he’s bringing back one of his classic one-man shows, The Kipling Hotel. It's about his experience as a student at UCLA on a bare-bones scholarship that left him too broke for a dorm room or apartment. Zahra notes he brings the same level of energy and presence every night, something she strives for herself, and the shows reward repeat viewings. The Kipling Hotel returns to the Marsh in Berkeley starting Aug. 5; details here.
Aug. 5–20: West Edge Opera is a scrappy little Bay Area company with big ambitions, and they're experts at discovering little-known but deserving work. This year they're producing new versions of Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus by Libby Larsen, a rare opera by a (living) woman composer; The Chastity Tree, by Vicente Martín y Soler (the Valencian Mozart); and Hamlet, by the French composer Amboise Thomas, featuring some beautiful arias. Listen to the show (above) to hear former Adler fellow Edward Nelson nail the "To be or not to be..." monologue during a piano rehearsal. West Edge got kicked out of its former home at the old Oakland train station, but they landed safely at Pacific Pipe, an old factory and warehouse in West Oakland. There will be shuttles from the West Oakland BART station -- a good thing, because we hear parking is limited. Details here.