Critic’s Choice for the week of December 8-14, 2004

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


As a flute player, Nestor Torres stands tall in the world of smooth jazz. A product of the Free Music School in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he paid his dues as a teen in the Afro-Caribbean jazz fusion band Batacumbele. Now, with the technical facility of a classical musician coupled with the urban soul of NYC and Miami, he continues to explore the sonic possibilities of his instrument. Torres performs at Kimball’s East in Emeryville Friday through Sunday. $28, 8 and 10 p.m. or 510-658-2555. (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


So-Cal combo Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys have so fully assimilated their nostalgic roots that they transcend any irony found in their retro duds and instruments. Sandy’s voice can be as sweet as Roy Orbison’s or as feral as Gene Vincent’s, and the group’s originals are as good as their finely selected covers of rockabilly, R&B, and West Coast swing. Dancing shoes recommended Saturday night at Albany’s Ivy Room. 510-524-9220 or (Eli Messinger)


The new Hives album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, is an exhilarating, outlandishly pompous Swede-punk melee that’ll blow your mind and dislocate your hips besides. Furthermore, Hives fanatics swear by the quintet’s live show, spearheaded by audacious frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and his Mick Jagger impersonation/evisceration. Request “Dead Quote Olympics” Saturday night at the Warfield with the Bronx and the Deadly Snakes. $20, 8 p.m. (Rob Harvilla)


Dan Zanes once led cult rock band the Del Fuegos, but since he became a father, he has concentrated on music that children and parents can enjoy together. His latest, Parades and Panoramas, showcases 25 songs from Carl Sandburg’s American Songbag in versions that will appeal to folk music lovers, not to mention kids of all ages. Sunday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. $24. 510-642-9988 or (j.poet)


He’s an Oakland rider, making money in LA, and you can call him Ray, or Ray Ray, or Raphael, or Mr. Saadiq, or just plain old Raphael Saadiq. The inventor of the gospel-delic sound has a blazing new solo album, Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray, that’s hotter than fish oil and slicker than chicken grease, ya heard? And Sunday he’ll headline the Oakland Music Festival, whose proceeds benefit much-needed school music programs — of which Saadiq is a product. Fellow former Tony Toni Toné member D’Wayne Wiggins — also a product of Oakland schools — is slated to make a guest appearance, and up-and-coming soul singer Mississippi opens the show. Congresswoman Barbara Lee and TV personality Barbara Rodgers will be on hand to add celebrity appeal to the event, which takes place at the elegant Ruby Skye (in SF, though). Tickets are $39.50 general admission or $75 for VIP, and advance tickets are available at Marcus Books in Oakland. 510-776-2022. (Eric K. Arnold)


Joseph Arthur may be a wimpy white guy, but he’s a wimpy white guy with vision, imbuing his fourth record, the nuclear annihilation paranoia lullaby Our Shadows Will Remain, with orchestras and flowery lyrical flourishes and generally gorgeous literary-pop melodrama. We’re sure he’ll joke between songs, though, Friday at Slim’s in SF. $14, 9 p.m. (R.H.)


They first met as students at Juilliard. And now, 29 years later, longtime collaborators Yo-Yo Ma (cello) and Emanuel Ax (piano) fill Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with the music of Beethoven Thursday night. The sonorous program also features variations inspired by arias from Mozart operas, if you’d like a little variety. $50-$150, 7 p.m. 510-642-9988. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Mali kora master Mamadou Diabate is the latest musician to participate in the acclaimed TapRoots & New Growth: Cultivating World Music series launched last summer by Berkeley’s world-class Ashkenaz, combining full-blown concerts with lectures in which artists discuss their music and lives. Before his performance Tuesday night (accompanied by guitarist Walter Strauss), Diabate will present an 8 p.m. lecture-demonstration showcasing his instrument, the kora, a large 21-stringed harp that produces some of the most lovely, lilting sounds in African music. $15. 510-525-5054. (Larry Kelp)


Stan Ridgway doesn’t easily fit into any of your preordained pop categories. Wall of Voodoo, his original band, was almost rock, but even back in the day its electronic textures, spaghetti Western twang, and skewed world vision set it apart from your average pop outfit. Now Stan is solo, and touring to support Snakebite, another collection of mutant blues, moody jazz, and arrhythmic rock delivered in his usual guttural croak to complement his usual dark humor. The Boxcar Saints close out the show tonight (Wednesday) at SF’s Cafe du Nord. $12, 9:30 p.m. 415-861-5016 or (j.p.)


Latoya London of American Idol fame is only the latest Oakland vocalist to get national recognition. From the Hawkins family to Ledisi, the East Bay is blessed with many great singers. So if you want to get a feel for future singing talents, check out the Oakland Youth Chorus in a benefit concert Saturday at the First Congregational Church (2501 Harrison Street). $20, $10 students and seniors, $5 kids. 8 p.m. 510-287-9700. (J.C.V.)


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