Critic’s Choice for the week of October 20-26. 2004

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


Alpha Blondy is probably the greatest reggae artist ever to come from Africa, and the Ivory Coast native has done much in his storied career to raise the profile of the genre internationally. Recording with both his own band the Solar System as well as the Wailers, he has become a longtime fan favorite because of irie tunes such as “Cocody Rock,” “Come Back Jesus,” and “I Love Paris.” He’ll always be remembered for the classic albums Apartheid Is Nazism and Jerusalem, but his catalogue goes much deeper than that, stretching from 1983’s Jah Glory to 2002’s Merci. He doesn’t make it out this way often, so his two-night run at Slim’s Tuesday and Wednesday definitely qualifies as a honest-to-Jah world music/reggae event. $25-$30, 8 p.m. both nights. (Eric K. Arnold)


Musicians get inspiration from the most unexpected sources: For example, Oakland contemporary folk-Celtic duo Robin Flower and Libby McLaren go fly-fishing. On Steelhead in the Riffles — their first CD in five years, collecting Celtic tunes, jigs, reels, waltzes, and plain ol’ songs — the fishing trips ranged from the Klamath River to streams around Ireland’s great pubs and sacred places. The two celebrate the album’s release Saturday at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage with guests including bassist Jan Martinelli, hammered-dulcimer expert Barbara Higbie, and percussionist Peter Maund. $18.50-$19.50. 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or (Larry Kelp)


World music is not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Dick Dale, but he borrowed the rippling, nimble-fingered 32nd-note runs that are the keystone of his style from the Lebanese folk music he heard his uncle playing on the oud when he was a boy. Dale is, of course, the Father of Surf Music, and one of the first rock guitar gods. At 67, he still plays with the controlled fury of a teenager. Tonight at Slim’s in San Francisco. 8 p.m., $20. 415-478-2277 or (j. poet)


Some folks have declared Katya Roemer the best Tosca they’ve ever heard, so if you’ve been dying to hear her in performance, the opportunity comes this Sunday, when Oakland Lyric Opera presents the soprano, accompanied by Miles Graber, in Legends in Song, a sometimes-humorous look at female archetypes. Performed in the extraordinary acoustics of Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes, the duo performs Libby Larsen’s “Songs from Letters of Calamity Jane,” John Corigliano’s setting of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” and music by Antonio Celaya, Kurt Weill, Cole Porter, and the Gershwins. Reception, tea, and tour follow; reservations requested. $18-$20, 2 p.m. 510-836-6772. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Josh Workman is a hot guitar picker who has paid his dues studying and playing in the Bay Area and New York City. On his debut outing, Jumping at the Border, he shows the influences of Django Reinhardt’s Gypsy jazz guitar and modernists like Jim Hall that are winning him national recognition as a soloist after band stints with Indigo Swing, Groove Collective, and Jazz Passengers. Tonight (Wednesday) he hosts an East Bay CD release party at Yoshi’s in Oakland with Larry Vuckovich (piano), Buca Necak (bass), Omar Clay (drums), John Santos (percussion), and Noel Jewkes (tenor sax). $10, 8 and 10 p.m. 510-238-9200 or (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


In the 1940s, trumpeter Lu Watters and the Yerba Buena Jazz Band took the early traditional jazz music of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, and others and revived it for a young Bay Area generation. Stellar members of the group such as trombonist Turk Murphy became internationally recognized stars who furthered this trad-jazz sound. Saturday, SF’s 650 Townsend St. will host a Lu Watters Tribute with a superb band featuring Jim Cullum, Leon Oakly, John Gill, Clint Baker, and others re-creating the music of this historic band. $20, 3 p.m.. 415-392-4400. (J.C.V.)


Neo-soul may be dead (according to Raphael Saadiq), but Lizz Fields is very much alive. The Philly soul singer is a new voice, yet on her debut album, By Day by Night (released on Oakland indie ABB Soul), she brims with a veteran’s confidence. Fields has created a cool lil’ buzz in the clubs with the hits “I Gotta Go” and “When I See Love,” but this full-length should catapult her into the stratosphere. A tough cookie with a soft spot for romance, her vocal style falls somewhere in between Jill Scott and Goapele. Plus she’s got that thing — call it diva-tude — that all great soul singers must have. But don’t take our word for it; see for yourself Thursday night at Mighty in SF, when Fields plays live along with the SA-RA collective. $15. (E.K.A.)


Ye’ve never heard of Chocolate O’Brian, eh? Reckon ye have heard of No Doubt, Green Day, the English Beat, and the Specials, though, right? COB’s Stephen Bradley and Dave Tweedie have toured or recorded with all of them, and those experiences led them to create their own band and do the damn thing themselves. The CO’B sound — evidenced by songs like “Hero’s Welcome,” “The Candle,” and “Hitting the Wall” — has been described as a cross between Seal and the Beach Boys. If that sounds intriguing, check out its record release party Saturday at the Golden Bull in downtown Oakland, eh? It’s only $6 to get in, so no blarney, ya dig? 510-893-0803. (E.K.A.)


Singer, filmmaker, dark cabaret star, and frighteningly charismatic singer-songwriter, storyteller, and autoharp player Billy Naylor fronts the eccentric and ever evolving Billy Naylor Show — the group’s “dense, psychedelic-flavored glam meets avant-garage” aesthetic is rough, raw, and always unpredictable. Sunday at the Ivy Room in Albany ( and Monday at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco (j.p.)

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