By Clark Suprynowicz
Special to the Planet
If you’re looking for something provocative in the performing arts here in the East Bay, you’re too late for “Vocalists and the Musicians Who Manipulate Them” with Amy X. Neuberg. That was this past Tuesday (the 11th) at the Oakland Box Theater on Telegraph. Ditto a rare visit to Yoshi’s on the part of Michael Stevens, a true cult figure in the New York jazz scene, with drummer Gerry Hemingway and bassist Joe Fonda. That was Monday (I am sad to report that Yoshi’s is severing its long-term relationship with Jazz in Flight, tireless producers of the Monday night series. Who will champion local music at Yoshi’s?)
More things you missed: Bob Geary’s chamber chorus “Volti” (formerly the San Francisco Chamber Singers) did one of their mesmerizing concerts of contemporary choral works at St. Mark’s in Berkeley this past weekend, and the crackerjack Empyrean Ensemble was just at UC Berkeley on Sunday with a program of brand-spanking-new music.
Don’t despair. If you’re hoping to imbibe a healthy swig of creative music from the frothy stein that is the East Bay music scene, there’s plenty to be had before we’re faced with our annual glut of Messiahs and Nutcrackers. Why not try, for instance...
Laetitia Sonami, who designs and builds her own instruments. She’ll be at 1750 Arch in Berkeley this Saturday, brought to you by CNMAT, those wacky people over at UC Berkeley who are edging us into a musical future of their own devising, where lasers are used to conduct racks of electronic gear and a concerto may integrate white noise with sampled duck calls. By the way, kudos to our friends at 1750 Arch. We are not living in a time when contemporary artists are growing fat and complacent, so it is heartening to see spaces like this offered up to the community. John Halle was out here from Yale earlier in the year, offering one of his Politics and New Music evenings, the sort of thing that gives polemics a good name.
Then there’s the CCM Songlines Series at Mills College. On Saturday, Nov. 22, cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and the ROVA Saxophone Quartet will perform music of visiting Milhaud Professor of Composition Annie Gosfield. 430-2296 gets you the details.
This Sunday (the 16th), music of Anthony Braxton will be performed by Triaxium West over at the Jazz House, the room formerly known as TUVA (3192 Adeline, 649-8744). I once went to see Mr. Braxton when he was teaching over at Mills, there to pick up a score from him for a grant application. He’d gone to see the movie Batman with his son the night before, and they were both in love with the Batmobile. As to his score, Anthony looked it over, seemed about to reconsider, then thrust it out, saying “If they don’t like it, f— ‘em.” They didn’t like it, and Braxton is now at Wesleyan.
What about some edgy new opera? On Wednesday, Nov. 26, at 8 p.m. at 21 Grand (449B 23rd St. near 19th Street BART station in Oakland, telephone 444 GRAND) Opera Viva presents Noh Body—a neo-dada topless “impropera” in two acts with Aurora Josephson, Jacob Lindsay, and Scott R. Looney. Now that’s definitely not Handel or Haydn.
Are the members of ROVA the hardest-working guys in show-business? They may be. On Tuesday the 18th, Larry Ochs of ROVA and his friends Ches Smith and Chris Brown are at the Oakland Box Theater at 1928 Telegraph. My vote for new space most worth checking out goes to the aforementioned Oakland Box, next door to Sears in downtown Oakland. With this space, and the Ookland Metro down at the base of Broadway, you might almost forget that California is now 50th in funding for the arts. Of course, dedication and getting paid are not the same thing. But as someone who lives five minutes from these two illustrious dives, it's a pleasure to recommend them. Here's hoping they continue to flourish.
Speaking of the Oakland Metro, composer Tom Dean's brainchild, they've got a lively agenda lined up for the rest of November, with Oxbow, Azigza, and Glasshouse performing (respectively) Thursday, Friday, Saturday this week. More info on Metro's calendar at 763-1146.
Back at Yoshi’s, you can go see Pat Martino this weekend, from the 13th to the 16th. I have a soft spot for Pat. Back in my tender youth I heard a Pat Martino record and had that reaction good new music will (I hope) always have in store for us: I said “What IS this stuff?” Then, before John McLaughlin and Paco DeLucia were household names, I’d never heard anybody play the guitar like that. Now the scuttlebutt is that a brain aneurysm sent Mr. Martino on a long hiatus from performing a few years back. He had lost all memory of having learned the guitar. After an arduous process of re-learning the instrument, both he and his amazing fingers are back, and he is touring again. Amazing.
Just to give equal time to those looking to imbibe Brahms, Handel and Haydn this season, the first out of the gate may well be the University Chorus, who on Sunday December 2 at 3:00 PM will sing Missa Sancti Nicolai (The Saint Nicholas Mass) at the First Congregational Church.
There’s plenty more coming down the pipeline. I’ve got a message out to Stephen Kent, and I’ll be sending on the news as to the music of India, Tashkent, and the great beyond ... all right here in the yeasty firmament of our own East Bay.
Go in peace. And if you can’t go in peace, just go.