Showing posts with label SFJAZZ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SFJAZZ. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

India.Arie & Idan Raichel at the Paramount Theater and finding politics where there is none


Open Door - an India.Arie and Idan Raichel collaboration

Last Saturday night I went to a beautiful concert in Oakland's Paramount Theater presented by SFJAZZ with neo-soul singer India.Arie and Israeli world-fusion pop artist Idan Raichel. I am a fan of both artists independently and was curious about this collaboration that resulted in the soon-to-be-released album Open Door.


Turns out, Arie and Raichel are a perfect pairing; both artists have a steady stream of humanitarian sentiment throughout their music as well as self-acceptance. Arie sang in both Hebrew and English, and Raichel brought a very cool world fusion vibe to Arie’s bohemian soul vibe. While at times I felt the music was overly cheesy, I was also moved by the sentiment.


So, we all have pet peeves. They’re built into our DNA and there’s often not much we can do about them. They just sort of follow you around, pissing you off.


One of my pet peeves is talking during a live show. It’s one of those that things that if I try to ignore a loud conversation, it just gets more annoying, especially if the comments are frustrating.


Saturday night, there were two women sitting behind me who did not do their research about this performance. In its program, SFJAZZ titled this show “India.Arie and Idan Raichel”; this was a collaboration project. These women were obviously not aware of Idan Raichel or that simply, he would be there. And, it seemed that they took offense to the mere fact that he was Israeli.


Now don’t get me wrong, yes, I definitely have my own politics when it comes to Israel. I am Jewish, and I am also pro-peace and a raging humanitarian (if there is such a thing). I have traveled to Israel and the West Bank. I have been moved, disturbed, frightened, inspired, depressed and excited by what I experienced and what I continue to learn about the country. I also have wonderful Israeli family that I love very dearly.


I am very much torn about the whole issue of Israel. And I believe that if a person takes a hard stance either pro- or against, you have not learned or experienced enough of the larger issue. It’s very easy, especially from half way around the world, to listen to media and believe that one group of people are in the wrong, but the issue is so much more complicated than that.


From stage Raichel and Arie told the story of how they met, simply that Arie had traveled to Israel for personal exploration and she had discovered Raichel’s music there. The woman behind me took offense to the fact that she had even been there, saying loudly “It’s an apartheid state!” Raichel added to the story that they first met at a falafel shop to which the women responded “that’s Palestinian!”


What? Really? I don’t think so. I can’t believe she took it there.


I also heard her say, “I just didn’t expect this!” to her friend and something like “this is just so glorifying…” But there was no mention of politics, no mention of Palestine. Just some songs with Hebrew lyrics and talk of falafel.


Unfortunately Israel is the modern day South Africa and to many, any mention of the country brings up politics. I’m also assuming that if it were up to this woman, there would be a cultural embargo on Israel, much like the one placed on South Africa during its Apartheid, making a collaboration like Arie and Raichel’s fraught with controversy (much like Paul Simon’s Grammy winning Graceland).


I moved to seats across the aisle so that I didn’t have to listen to any more comments. I was very close to saying something to them. I understand that these women were unhappy, but they did not do their research and they didn’t have to spoil my enjoyment.


This is all so ironic considering that one of the central tunes (and wonderfully cheese-tastic) on Open Door is called “The Gift of Acceptance” with the lyrics:

We can debate to the end of time who's wrong and who is right,

Or I can honor your choices and you can honor mine.

They call you Israeli and they call me an American,

I look at you and I don't see a country, I just see my friend,

I pray we're in each other's lives for a long, long time

because I honor your choices and you honor mine.


We all want the same things from life,

We want peace, love and prosperity.

But can we give up our need to be right?

Give the world a present, give the gift of your acceptance.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

My SF Music Examiner.com SFJAZZ Fall 2011 Season picks

India.Arie performs this weekend at the Paramount Theater in Oakland

The SFJAZZ 2011 Fall Season is well underway, and there are still plenty of exciting shows to look forward to. While presenting the best living jazz on the planet, SFJAZZ has become well known for new and innovative artists as well as top-notch international artists.

Click here to see the shows I am most excited about

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A crazy weekend in music: another song-a-day, dancing with Angelique Kidjo and meeting Wynton Marsalis


With baby faced Wynton Marsalis backstage at Davies Hall

This last weekend was one of those crazy weekends where I was so overbooked with stuff, I finally had to go home and take a nap.

Friday I recorded another song with Jonathan Mann, the song-a-day guy, called "One of These Mornings". It came out pretty darn good considering that one of the computers totally crashed. I got to overdub all sorts of fun Doo-Wap vocals. I also love that the more Jews there are in a room, the more likely Jesus is bound to be referred to as small club entertainer...

And Jonathan, why do all the songs I record end up having super-creepy videos of you staring into the camera? I swear readers, they're not all like that. Jonathan isn't creepy, well not too creepy... okay maybe he's kind of creepy...



Here are some behind the scenes... including some funny faces at :45... and one by Miss Sarah Dabby at 1:38.



Friday night I went to see Angelique Kidjo and Youssou N'Dour presented by SFJAZZ at the exquisite Paramount Theater in Oakland. I saw Angelique perform last year at Stern Grove, and she likes to invite folks to come dance with her on stage. So we did. It was pretty excellent. She's a tiny person with a huge personality. She acts tough and full of attitude, but really, she seems like a sweetheart who likes to boogie. And boogie she does.

The Paramount Oakland marquee, I love this place. It's an art deco fantasy.

The ceiling of the Paramount Theater

Youssou was fabulous as well, but I almost felt like his band was so polished that it lacked some of the excitement that I felt with Angelique, but that could have also been due to how freaking tired I was by the time his band went on.

Saturday I rehearsed with The Backorders for our upcoming show covering the entire Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies on July 14th at the Starry Plough in Berkeley. I sing lead vocals on a song about booze and one about tea. Haha! This is "Alcohol", I'm going to sing it sort of like this lady...



Sunday was the first show of the 2011 Stern Grove Festival, and what an amazing season it is! We saw Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings with Ben l'Oncle Soul, both were phenomenal. l'Oncle is a French Soul Singer and busts out Ray Charles and Otis Redding vocal deliveries with no problem. He had these incredible dancers/backup singers with him. Stern Grove is a LARGE stage, and I've heard reports that there were ten thousand people there. And l'Oncle rivaled the Dap-Kings for sure, but I still love me some Sharon Jones, that little lady is FIERCE. And at 55, she's still getting down like no one's business.

Between her and Angelique, who is 50, these women give any performer 30 years younger than them a run for their money. They are amazing!

Check out this performance of Ben l'Oncle Soul's cover of The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army":



(Tip: if you are driving to Stern Grove, park just north of the park and enter on Wawona and 23rd. I got to the park ten minutes before the music started and I parked two blocks away on Ulloa, entered right there in the back and walked right in down the hill. I couldn't believe how little of a hassle it was. And even if you aren't driving to Stern Grove, it's still a much easier place to enter the park than 19th.)

Sunday evening, I headed on down to Davies Symphony Hall for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The show was incredible. My favorite piece, hands down, was Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" performed in its original "chamber" (my quotations) arrangement: rhythm section (bass, piano, drums) a single clarinet, trumpet and trombone. It was subtle and gorgeous.

My friend knows the drummer, so she got us backstage to say hello, and then we hung out with them for drinks and shot the breeze. Everyone was super nice and I always love listening to folks who spend too much time together banter, this was no exception. It was really cute.

Another tip: If you ever want to buy Mr. Marsalis a drink, he likes high-end Scotch from the bottom of the bottle, so it's really thick with sentiment.

Oh, and Pomplamoose left their East Coast tour today, and that's been a bundle of work. But they've got four shows starting Tuesday night, Brooklyn and Boston are already sold out. They're playing at the Kennedy Center with OK Go for the Millennium Stage's 14th Anniversary, (which we'll be able to stream live) and there's a new single out today called "River Shiver". Things are happening, and it's really exciting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SFJAZZ presents West African Superstars Youssou N'Dour & Angelique Kidjo


Angelique Kidjo performs at Stern Grove in 2010

Friday night is guaranteed to erupt the Paramount Theater into a giant dance party. As always, SFJAZZ presents the best touring African music: Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo are no exception.

Almost exactly a year ago Angelique Kidjo kicked off the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg as well as the first show of the Stern Grove 2010 season. Kidjo’s powerful voice and funky grooves got the people on their feet. I hope she again sings the classic song "Malaika" made famous by Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte. I also really like her rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s classic “Move On Up” which is off her most recent album Oyo.

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you have heard Youssou N’Dour perform...
Continue reading on Examiner.com

Monday, October 11, 2010

Esperanza Spalding: an extraordinary young jazz musician


I first saw Esperanza Spalding open for Dianne Reeves three years ago. All I remember from my crappy seats is a young black woman with huge hair and enormous talent.

Three years later she is still at it, performing for the White House, the youngest professor at Berklee School of Music and already reinventing herself musically with each album and concert tour.

I am enthralled by this woman. She is young, she is of mixed race, she is ridiculously talented and, I'm going to say it, makes a HUGE statement wearing her hair this way. Whatever it is, I dig it and I hope that people are paying attention (especially young women).

(I really hope that SFJAZZ didn't pick this season's image based on her, but then changed the hair just to suit their marketing material, that would seriously bother me.)

Spalding's career has just begun and I think it's obvious that she's here to stay.

READ MY REVIEW OF HER CONCERT AT DAVIES SYMPHONY HALL HERE

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My picks for the SFJAZZ Fest 2010 Fall Season

Check out my picks for the SFJAZZ 2010 Fall season, my favorite "festival" in the Bay Area, including:
- Nellie McKay - a tribute to Doris Day
- Olodum
- Taj Mahal, Toumani Diabaté and Vieux Farka Touré - tribute to Ali Farka Touré
- Meklit Hadero
- Lila Downs
- Slavic Soul Party!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bobby McFerrin's VOCAbuLaries and the joy of improvisation

Who knows if Bobby even knows what's coming next? But we know it's going to be fun.

I've had the wonderful opportunity to see Bobby McFerrin twice now in my life. Once in the 90s at UCLA's Royce Hall and once last weekend with SFJAZZ. For a vocalist and performers in general, his performances are nothing short of amazing. The joy he exudes for music and his talent is so overwhelming that it's hard to not get sucked in for those two hours.

Read my review of the San Francisco show here. It was the world premiere of his VOCAbuLaries performances and the unveiling of his new album of the same title.

Skip to 2:10 to see how McFerrin performs Bach's "Ave Maria" with the audience.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My picks for the SFJAZZ 2010 Season

The SFJAZZ fest is one of the most reliably exciting festivals I've come across in this country. The variety of talent that comes to the Bay Area from across the Bay and across the globe is astounding. When I first picked up the brochure for the 2010 Spring Season, my jaw dropped: Joshua Redman, Bobby McFerrin, Keith Jarrett, Dianne Reeves, Ladysmith Black Mambazo... the list just goes on and on.

There are festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival where the word "jazz" seems like it's either a guide for picking music or a remnant of another era. SFJAZZ is both. I would say that music in the jazz idiom is in the majority of SFJAZZ performances, but the idea of "jazz" has been stretched to include R&B, Afropop, Fado, Samba and singer-songwriters.

As a lover of international music, innovative musical fusions and straight up good musicality, I wanted to shine my humble spotlight on some of the 2010 SJFAZZ Spring Season's acts that might be a little more obscure and/or interesting.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: my picks include Malian Tinariwen and Salif Keita, South African Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Singer/Songwriter Raul Midon, Saxophonists Joshua Redman and Pharoah Sanders and Kurt Elling and the Basie Band.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Count Basie Orchestra at Anthology in San Diego, a fun night out with my teenage cousin

"It's like touring with your grandpa, or great-grandpa! But they swing just as hard" says singer Carmen Bradford

Saturday night I was down in San Diego for work and wanted to take my 16-year-old cousin out for a nice evening. Going to the movies didn’t seem special and she’s not the kind of kid I would take to an all-ages punk show. And lets face it, I didn’t want to go to a punk show either. I saw that Anthology is all-ages and that the Count Basie Orchestra was rocking the house for two nights. This legendary Kansas City big band is swinging towards San Francisco and will be performing on May 30th at Davies Hall with Kurt Elling as part of the SFJAZZ spring season.

Celebrating their 75th anniversary, the Basie Band has never sounded better. It’s obvious from the smiles, the goofiness, mutual encouragement and choreography (the trumpet section has it down) that these guys thoroughly enjoy themselves on stage. And with songs titles like “Fun Time,” “Way Out Basie,” Right On Right On” and “Cute” a good time is guaranteed.

Some members of the Basie Band are new, yet the majority of the sound still swings from musicians handpicked by Count Basie himself. I would guess that at least 75 percent of the band is over 50 years old. Bill Hughes is the current director and has been in the band since 1953. That’s pretty incredible if you ask me. Basie hired singer Carmen Bradford in 1982 when she was 22.

TO READ THE REST OF MY ARTICLE CLICK HERE

The Count Basie Band makes an appearance in Mel Brooks' 1974 film Blazing Saddles