April 29 -May 1: Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, once nicknamed Dollar Brand, is a pioneer of Cape Jazz, as in Cape Town, South Africa, where he grew up. His song “Mannenberg” (you’ll know it when you hear it) became the unofficial anthem of the Anti-Apartheid movement.
Nelson Mandela called Ibrahim “South Africa’s Mozart.” He got his first recording gig after Duke Ellington saw him in Europe and championed his music. And he even led the Ellington Orchestra a few times in the 1960’s. He’s still making gorgeous music, so no excuse if you miss this 81 year old master at SFJAZZ this weekend. We won’t get many more chances. Details here.
April 30: Erik Jekabson is one of the Bay Area’s indispensable session players. I caught him a few weeks ago backing Natalie Cressman in her gig at SFJAZZ, and he offered impeccable support and artfully shaped solos. He’s leading his Stringtet Saturday at the Musically Minded Academy in Oakland’s Rockridge, and you won’t find a more tasteful evening of jazz. Details here.
May 6 – May 29: There’s so much good theater right now in the Bay Area, but here’s another show you have to make time for, The Most Dangerous Highway in the World by Kevin Artigue, the opening show for Golden Thread’s new season. The play is inspired by a New York Times article about an Afghan boy who helps direct traffic with a plastic Pepsi bottle on a mountain highway in Afghanistan in return for tips from long haul truckers and American soldiers. Details here.
May 4 – June 26: The Cypress String Quartet set out 20 years ago to play and record all of Beethoven’s string quartets (with a few detours for some modern composers). Now that they’re done, they’re disbanding. It’s not, said cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, that they aren’t still finding fresh insights into Beethoven’s amazing cycle of quartets: “My colleagues tease me and say Beethoven is like your boyfriend, because I’m so obsessed with how he dug very deep. I can perform one of these quartets hundreds of times and always find something new in it.”
But Kloetzel said she and the other members (Cecily Ward, violin; Tom Stone, violin; Ethan Filner, viola) have other projects they want to pursue. Still they’re going out like “Thelma and Louise, full speed ahead,” with a series of free concerts in every district of San Francisco, the quartet’s home, plus ticketed concerts in Napa, Berkeley and Palo Alto. Details for this lovely parting gift are here.
May 5: The Oakland School for the Arts had a world premiere earlier this year — they mounted the very first amateur production of the Broadway hit School of Rock. And now the 120 students in the OSA’s School of Vocal Music are putting on their own show. The theme is Identity, a big deal for any high-schooler. The difference is these kids can really sing, and dance. I caught a contingent of the Vocal Music students recently doing a song from the Broadway show Fun Home, and they just about broke my heart. Details for their show at The Fox in Oakland are here.
May 2: Echo Park’s Bleached have been described as “Evil Go-Go’s, and their new album is Welcome the Worms, which I guess is a graveyard expression suggesting we all embrace the darkness of life. But you can hear a hint of sunnier West Coast pop peeking through the punk negativity. Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin formerly of the Mika Miko, bassist Micayla Grace, and drummer Mark Jordan play with extraordinary energy. Definitely a Cheap Thrill. Details for Bleached’s Bottom of the Hill gig are here.