Monday, September 26, 2011
All That Jazz
The wonderful vocal jazz quartet The Manhattan Transfer will give an all-too-infrequent Bay Area performance this Saturday at a garden party in concert promoter Danny Scher's backyard in Kensington. It's a benefit for the Jazzschool in Berkeley.
"We're doing this concert simply because we believe the Jazzschool is a much-needed musical institution, and we want to make sure it sticks around," says singer Janis Siegel. "The Manhattan Transfer is proud to help in any way we can, and we are looking forward to singing at our old friend Danny's home to aid the cause."
The tickets aren't cheap - $175, most of it tax-deductible - but if you dig the elegant sangfroid with which they swing the classics as much as I do, this is a rare opportunity to hear them up close and personal.
Besides, as she said, it's for a great cause. The Jazzschool is one of most comprehensive schools for jazz, blues, funk, rock, gospel, R&B, Brazilian, world and Afro-Caribbean in the country, offering vocalists and instrumentalists at all ages and skill levels a broad spectrum of performance classes, lectures and workshops ranging from "Exploring the Bebop Scale" to "Personal Financial Planning for Musicians."
It offers two distinct educational programs - the Community Music School, which includes the Adult Music Program and the Young Musicians Program; and the Jazzschool Institute, an academic degree program offering a B.Mus. in jazz studies.
"Although I've never run this analogy by Alice Waters, I like to compare the community music school, where students take classes on an a la carte basis, to the café upstairs at Chez Panisse, and the degree program, where students participate in a program of study, to the fixed-price restaurant downstairs. Either way, they're sure to get a fabulous meal!" says Jazzschool founder and director Susan Muscarella.
Nestled in the basement of the old Kress five-and-dime store on Addison Street, next to the Aurora Theater and Berkeley Rep, the Jazzschool is a little bit of Greenwich Village in the middle of downtown Berkeley.
Among its features: a café, book & CD store, photo gallery, guitar repair shop, and 12 practice rooms with no 90-degree angles.
"That's important because parallel walls aren't good for acoustics," Muscarella explains. "Also, I think being in the basement is cool for jazz."
On one wall of the main hall - Hardymon Hall, named after the late Phil Hardymon, who founded the award-winning jazz program at Berkeley High - hangs a huge, hammered-steel sculpture that replicates, note-for-note, Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite," which he composed as a tribute to Stravinksy's "Firebird Suite."
The Manhattan Transfer concert begins at 7 p.m. For tickets and directions, visit www.jazzschool.org or call 510-845-5373. And remember: It's outdoors, so dress warmly.
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Finally, we're in the middle of the Jewish High Holy Days, which began Wednesday night with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and ends next Saturday with Yom Kippur, the day Sandy Koufax refused to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series.
At this time of year it's customary for Jews to seek out whomever they have offended during the prior 12 months and ask forgiveness. So let me apologize to everyone this column has offended in the past year. I'll try to do better next year.