Swing Shift

Howard Alden gets Lowdown

SUN 7/25

Howard Alden may have started his career performing at Disneyland, but he’s no Mickey Mouse musician. Since his teenage days playing rhythm banjo in a Dixieland combo on the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street in the 1970s, Alden has developed into one of the most skillful guitarists in mainstream jazz. While often associated with neo-swing players such as tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton and cornetist Warren Vaché, Alden has developed a supple, harmonically sophisticated style as much influenced by Bill Evans as by Charlie Christian. He’s also recorded a series of rewarding albums for Concord Jazz that have often paired him with such collaborators as seven-string guitar great George Van Eps and clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski. Last heard in the Bay Area with the Newport Festival All-Star band at Zellerbach Hall in March, Alden makes an extremely rare solo appearance Sunday (7 p.m.) at Berkeley’s Downtown, focusing on the early swing-era music heard in Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown — the connection being that Alden supplied the music Sean Penn’s character played in the film.

2102 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-649-3810. Info: DowntownRestaurant.com — Andrew Gilbert


Lit Happens

Happily ever after: Parents and their preschool-through-third-grade kids can become coauthors at the Write a Book with Your Child workshop hosted by author and artist Lynn Ruth Miller at Altamont/Goodenough Books. A $10 fee covers the cost of materials for composing a short story together, then illustrating it and making a cover (Wed., 11 a.m.). … Remembering what’s sacred, Cal State Sacramento professor emeritus Frank LaPena — who is also a Wintu dancer, singer, painter, and ceremonial leader — appears at Black Oak to discuss Dream Songs and Ceremony: Reflections on Traditional California Indian Dance (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). … Learn the dirty secrets behind why some legal drugs cost as much as illegal ones at a breakfast discussion in the UC Press Library (2120 Berkeley Way) with journalist Merrill Goozner, author of The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs (free for UC faculty, staff, and students; $5 for others. Reservations required: 510-642-9828) (Fri., 8:30 a.m.). … Join the quatrain-slinging crowd at Berkeley’s Mediterraneum Caffe, where the Word Beat Reading Series presents a party honoring late San Francisco Oracle editor Allen Cohen. Among the readers are Clive Matson, Geoffrey Cook, Debra Grace Khattab, and Deirdre Evans (Sun., 7 p.m.). … Award-winning yarnspinner Gay Ducey (above) waxes Appalachian at this week’s installment of the Thirteenth Annual International Storytelling Festival, in the San Ramon Library Community Room (Mon., 7 p.m.). … An ex-Hollywood screenwriter heads back to the housing project of his youth — and bloody violence ensues — in Samaritan, the latest thriller by Richard Price. Meet the Stanford alum and Clockers author at Diesel (Tues., 7:30 p.m.)Anneli Rufus

FRI 7/23

Crooked Scene

“Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman,” opines Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), the man at the heart of The Asphalt Jungle‘s crime scheme. “Just when you think one’s all right, he turns legit.” John Huston’s prime slice of noir, released in 1950, is just festering with such quotable, cynical gems — and it features Marilyn Monroe in her first big role. The cops are crooked, the muscle’s dumb, and just about everyone gets screwed in the end. Catch it at the Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway, Oakland) Friday at 8 p.m., after the raffle, the film shorts, and Jim Riggs on the Wurlitzer. (Doors open at 7.) $6. 510-465-6400. — Stefanie Kalem

FRI 7/23

Snakes in the Grass

In a presidential election year, you’d expect muckraking journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair to be denouncing the incumbent National Embarrassment. But no. The capricious CounterPunch duo visits AK Press Friday evening (7 p.m.) to talk about their new book, Serpents in the Garden, a loosey-goosey collection of essays on sex and the arts torn from the Web site, CounterPunch.org. 674-A 23rd St., Oakland. Info: 510-208-1700 or AKPress.org — Kelly Vance

SAT 7/24

Six Arms, Six Legs

Tarentel spaces out the Jass House

Deaf Electric is the name of Dielectric Records’ bimonthly music event at Berkeley’s Jazz House. The experimental electronic nights usually take place on Sundays, but this week, Dielectric takes over the former silent movie house at 3192 Adeline on a Saturday for something special. Fresh from performing Brian Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy) with members of Waycross and Dirty Power at Bottom of the Hill a few weeks back, San Francisco’s Tarentel brings its graceful post-rock to the East Bay. With a name that suggests simultaneously a spider and a courtly dance, the trio manages, over and over again, to pull off that holy grail of spacey, ambient music — yer Mogwai, yer Godspeed — making its songs sound like the very best parts of Pink Floyd, stretched out infinitely over the fabric of time and space. Big, evocative holes intersperse with hypnotic textures; repetitive guitar noodles echo and dance with wavery keyboard warmth until they fall into each other; drums keep a lazy pace around patient bass; and the songs stretch out for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. The songs can be whimsically mathematical, and when the band wants to chug, it chugs hard, sometimes recalling the intensity of other instrumental warhorses such as of Trans Am or the Fucking Champs. Tarentel has released music on many labels over the years, including Temporary Residence, Static Caravan, and Neurot. And though it isn’t a Dielectric band per se, the Oakland label welcomes it tonight with Coconut, starting at 9 p.m. Cover charge is $8-$15, sliding scale. Look for the “ANT” and the blue light over the door. Visit TheJazzHouse.com for more info. — Stefanie Kalem

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