Critic’s Choice for the week of March 22-28, 2006

Native American reggae, free ska, and folk songs about cats.


If anyone in the jazz world is worth a 45-minute wait in a line that wraps around the block — on a night so cold you have constantly hammer your T-Mobile Sidekick just to keep Old Man Winter from numbing your fingers — it’s Philadelphia-raised bassist Christian McBride. A master of the contemporary laid-back style that’s drawing younger, more hip-hop-oriented crowds into jazz, McBride is one of those armchair types you always picture in a fedora and skate shoes. Even when the guy starts his solo on a crescendo, he ends up sounding like the jazz equivalent of pillow talk: deceptively simple and instinctively cool. He’ll perform at Yoshi’s Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets range from $12 for the matinee to $20 for the evening shows. (Rachel Swan)


When’s the last time you saw a local ska band? What about your last free concert by a group with a decade of experience and a faithful following? Hell, when’s the last time you went out of your way to see a show in Fremont? Thursday is your chance to hit all three in one evening at the Mojo Lounge. Monkey is, after all, the Bay Area’s premier ska band: Playing old-school ska seasoned with swing, reggae, and rockabilly, this Cupertino sextet is tight enough to satisfy your inner critic and loose enough to get you moving in spite of yourself. Splurge for a couple extra beers and skank, dammit. 9 p.m. 510-739-1028 or (Nate Seltenrich)


Club Anton is worth checking out for the decor alone (it’s one of those places where the lighting is set up to bathe you in that ultraflattering soft orange glow), or for the chance to see someone light the bar on fire (supposedly a Friday night ritual). But rest assured the venue’s bells and whistles are far eclipsed by its musical lineup: a cool, international, cross-generational mix that includes house on Wednesdays, live old-school R&B on Thursdays, and the best salsa Saturdays in town. This Saturday, help the club’s founder Mr. Carlos Anton celebrate his birthday in style, with live salsa and rumba by Son de Caña. The doors open at 7 p.m. (R.S.)


Before hosting the upcoming Big Sur Songwriters’ Weekend, the longtime folk duo Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen make a welcome return to Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on Thursday night for an evening of fine songcraft and warm harmonies. Gillette was already one of the hottest fingerstyle guitar pickers before his songs found their way to dozens of singers from Linda Ronstadt to Garth Brooks; Mangsen came out of a more traditional rural music heritage. Together they’ve forged heartfelt and inviting music, not to mention a stack of CDs that seem like best friends even before they even hit the stereo. Mangsen’s new solo CD, Cat Tales, is devoted to feline songs written by the likes of Cheryl Wheeler and Les Barker. $17.50-$18.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or (Larry Kelp)


There’s a tough Sunday afternoon choice for chamber music lovers. It’s either Chamber Music Sundaes‘ presentation of San Francisco Symphony principal cellist Michael Grebanier and select colleagues playing Mozart Divertimento in E-Flat and Dvoràk Trio in F Minor at Berkeley’s St. John’s Presbyterian Church ($9-$21, 3:15 p.m., 415-584-5946), or Cal Performances’ enticement of major violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Nikolai Lugansky doing Bartók, Schubert, Pärt, and Franck in the dry caverns of Zellerbach Auditorium ($34-$58, 3 p.m., 510-642-9988). The only clear winner is music. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Tchiya Amet has been igniting dancefloors throughout the greater Southwest with her blend of reggae, rock, Latin, and Native music for more than a decade. Amet (who is of Cherokee, Blackfoot, and African-American heritage) writes lyrics that deal with the history of black Indians and other social concerns while her tight, horn-driven Lighthouse Band lays down a powerful, percussion-heavy backbeat. Friday night at El Rincon in SF. Free before 10 p.m., $10 thereafter; show starts at 9. 415-437-9240 or (j. poet)


Though plenty of Bay Area emcees are putting out singles with enough blast and bombast to guarantee heavy radio play, on the actual album front, few can hold a candle to Fillmore’s San Quinn. Long before his brethren started trafficking in hyphy, club-friendly beats and fratboyish bravado, Quinn was experimenting with looped, distorted R&B samples and cut-and-paste studio effects (producing tracks that could have been the work of some effete, highbrow “knob twiddler”) and combining them with gangsta raps that always sounded honest and grimy enough to appeal to the urban teenage palate. Indeed, if someone were to canonize all the great auteurs in Bay Area turf rap, Quinn would be one of its leading exponents. He performs this Saturday at PoundSF with cohorts Bailey, Smoov-E, Grisitory, Stadium Kings, and host Empty Mynd. $20-$25, 9 p.m. (R.S.)

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