Arts Listings

Albany Jazz Band Plays Anna’s

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday February 29, 2008

The Albany Jazz Band, a big band of more than 20 pieces from an Albany Unified School District adult education class, meeting and practicing Wednesday nights over the past decade in the band room at Albany High School, will make its Berkeley debut, playing two sets of swing and featuring a vocal harmony quartet, 3 p.m. Sunday at Anna’s Jazz Island. 

“It’s an amateur and semi-professional group,” said vocal director Rich Kalman of Berkeley, whose quartet, Conalma, will perform with the band Sunday afternoon, and who’s one of “a triad” taking over the responsibilities of Frank Jensen, the course’s instructor and band director on leave. “We have several really good soloists. Mostly, the members have day jobs, then come together once a week to turn out quality big band music.” 

The course and the band’s popularity is borne witness by the website,, which announces: “All chairs currently filled except third and fourth trombones.” 

Susan Archuletta, a Berkeley school-teacher who plays alto sax “and a little clarinet and flute” with the group, emphasizes the diversity of the band: “The people are interesting. I’d like to know everybody’s story. We have public defenders, ophthomologists, retired Rabbi Stuart Kelman playing the Benny Goodman part on ‘Down South Camp Meeting’—and filling in for our director is Dr. Robert Levenson of the UC Psychology Department, head of the Psychophysiology Research Lab there, who’s a great conductor and a phenomenal tenor saxophonist.” 

Multi-instrumentalist Archuletta, whose musical career began in the ’60s with Berkeley’s Floating Lotus Magic Opera Co. and The New Age (with Pat Kilroy), has played in community orchestras of all types for years, joining the Albany Jazz Band when she met Frank Jensen photocopying flyers for the group. “I knew him as ‘Weights & Measures’—the county office he presides over!’” 

“We’ve played the Solano Stroll a couple of times,” Archuletta said, “and we perform holiday swing music every year on Solano Avenue. But we’ve never had a show in Berkeley before.” 

Sunday’s show will feature two sets “of ’30s swing, a few vocal harmony numbers, including the Andrew Sisters hit, ‘Stolen Moments’ by Oliver Nelson with Mark Murphy lyrics, ‘Vei Mir Bist Du Schoen,’ and ending on a great Dizzy Gillespie Latin-style number, ‘Manteca,’” said Kalman.  

Besides standards and showtunes, the band will play the monkeys’ song from The Lion King and a number from Porgy and Bess.  

“I’ve been singing with the band for the past year,” Kalman said. “We’ve been working the band more into a mainstream jazz mode and started featuring vocal harmony groups, which I teach, last semester. It adds a lot to the overall band sound. And Conalma is my own group. I’ve worked nightclubs, including Anna’s. It’s a positive growth experience for the musicians. Anna’s onto the idea—and she booked us!” 



3 p.m. Sunday at Anna’s Jazz Island,  

2120 Allston Way. $10. 841-JAZZ.