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Carnival Time

Samba, steel drums etc. for Mardi Gras, plus Will Jam for Food and stars from Jersey


Samba na Chuva
  • Samba na Chuva

Let's talk holidays, specifically, semi-religious holidays. Carnival and the related Mardi Gras, aka "Fat Tuesday," are age-old celebrations marking the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, when some folks start fasting. Big parties use up all the meat, drink and other stuff they're about to give up. As with many Christian holidays, elements of old Pagan rituals have lingered. Wikipedia notes, "Popular practices included wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, parades, etc."

Mardi Gras 2011 falls on Tuesday, March 8, but the partying starts much earlier.

For authentic Carnival dancing/drumming Afro-Brazilian style, check the Balé Folclórico da Bahia performing Thursday, March 3, at the Van Duzer. Founded in 1988, the 38-member troupe of dancers, musicians and singers from Salvador in the northern Brazilian state of Bahia have been around the world sharing folkloric dances of African origin, slave dances, capoeira, samba -- and dances celebrating Carnival.

The "Red Fox Carnival" that same night has New Orleans-style jazz combo Slippery Society plus the sambalicious sounds of Jankey Mallets and the cleverly-named Steel Standing, a steel band of some sort.

The Brazilian Carnival fundraiser for Jerold Phelps Community Healthcare Foundation at the Mateel on Saturday features Humboldt-style Brazilian drum/dance troupe SambAmore, steel drumming by Humboldt Calypso Band and AfroCuban folkloric dance/drum/vocal ensemble Club Cubano from HSU -- very hot and very cool, especially Lorenza Simmons' lead vocals.

The Nat Keefe Concert Carnival Saturday at Humboldt Brews is led by Mr. Keefe, guitarist from Hot Buttered Rum, frontman for a traveling multi-media variety show with movies and music from his recent music expedition to Ghana. The musical review includes members of HB Rum and assorted folks from Elephant Revival, Poor Man's Whiskey, Izabella, The She's, The Railflowers and Rad Cloud, some of whom were on the African trip. Humboldt's own Absynth Quintet opens. (I believe the "carnival" connection here is more along circus lines.)

Six Rivers has their Fat Tuesday Party on Mardi Gras proper, Tuesday, with a Samba na Chuva Fifth Anniversary Party and a hint that "Carmen Miranda may make an appearance again!" Samba na Chuva ("samba in the rain") began in 2005 as a Brazilian-style dance ensemble. In 2009, the dancers started collaborating with HSU percussion students, which led to the formation of a Samba na Chuva drum-line. "We are very lucky to have a dedicated band," says Samba na Chuva Co-director Desiree Meinardi. "In learning this art form from Brazilian teachers, you come to an understanding that the percussion and dance are never separated." Their annual Fat Tuesday celebration includes an unveiling of new material including an arrangement developed by Jorge Alabe, master percussionist from Rio de Janeiro.

That night at Humboldt Brews it's an evening of New Orleans-esque funk with The New Mastersounds, a truly fine, very funky Brit neo-soul four-piece from Leeds, England who seem to channel The Meters' organ/chicken-scratch guitar style. They're touring with The Fox Street All-stars, a like-minded quartet from Denver.

Remember that list of "New Guitar Gods" in Rolling Stone that included Nels Cline? The only woman on the list and the youngest player was Kaki King, a fluid finger-style picker who will be at the Jambalaya on (Fat) Tuesday with her "traveling freak guitar show" (with little or no carnival connection).

Keyboard wiz Brian "Swiz" Swislow says he spent the last couple of years focusing on business: He became a partner at the Red Fox, built up FatBol, the clothing line he co-owns, worked on selling his music. "Then one night I was watching the news; I heard that one out of five kids in Humboldt can't afford to eat right." He wanted to do something. He figured he knows how to put a jam session together -- maybe that could be a means to help kids can eat better. Thus was born Will Jam For Food, a music night/food drive that kicks off Saturday at the Red Fox. Swiz and drummer Pete "PC" Ciotti of the Jambalaya (and a few bands) assembled a house band with Shasta Kersh on bass and Mike Lee on cello. Among the many performers volunteering their services: Ishi Dube, Berel Alexander and Moo-Got-2 (who also play at the Jambalaya Friday night). "I've had emails from a slew of guitar players, singer/songwriters, DJs and rappers who want to step up and play," said Swiz. A silent auction is in the works with donations from local businesses. Admission: two cans of food or cash on a sliding scale starting at just $3. Watch for more Jam For Food nights in the future.

Big names from New Jersey in town: Jersey-born fusion guitar hero Al Di Meola plays a plethora of notes Thursday night at the Arcata Theatre Lounge on his Pursuit of Physical Rhapsody Tour with World Sinfonia. Since his start with Chick Corea's Return to Forever in the '70s, Di Meola built a rep on Latin-tinged jazz fusion and "distorted acoustic music." The Passion Presents show opens with a set by the Steve Watts Sextet.

Saturday, '80s hair metal band Skid Row rolls out hits like "18 and Life," "Youth Gone Wild" and "Monkey Business" at Cher-Ae Heights Casino. Guitarist Dave "The Snake" Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan (a dude), the last from the band's original formation, spent just about a quarter century playing everywhere from Jersey dive bars to stadiums to Indian casinos.

Mike Gordon, bass player for Phish (who are not from Jersey) is on tour with his own band playing tunes from a new album, Moss, with guitarist Scott Murawski (from Max Creek, BK3, etc.) among others. They're at the Van Duzer Sunday.

An exclamatory note from Julie Thompson of the always-groovy Kulica (playing Friday at the Arcata Playhouse) says excitedly, "This is our 10th anniversary show! It's early (7 p.m.) all ages, and Chris Parreira opens too!" Expect "oldies but goodies."

Chris P. also plays Sunday evening at Robert Goodman Winery with special guests including Eugene folky Tyler Fortier, on the road with his new record: ...And They Rode Like Wildfire Snaking Through the Hills 'Neath the Scarlet Sun, a collection of songs about the Old West including "October 26, 1881." We all know what happened on that day, right? OK, maybe not. (Hint: a gunfight was involved, one near a corral.)

Speaking of all ages shows, Yogoman Burning Band presents an all-ages/family soul/ska/brass dance show at Six Rivers Brewery on Saturday starting at 2 p.m. Half price for kids, the whole family gets in for just a Jackson ($20).

Later on Saturday local "soul-punk" combo Splinter Cell plays the Alibi (in Arcata) with The Connies, a punky trio from Santa Rosa led by ex-local John Kinses.

Scandi-Celtic-mando shredder Lief Sorbye and Tempest hit The Wave at Blue Lake Casino for a Friday/Saturday two-night run.

Got dubstep? Rebel Bass Collective presents: ill-esha, Protohype, Seied and Carly D vs. Knobz Friday at the Red Fox. Womp on.

The R&B/blues boys of ShinBone play their final gig with ace guitarist Robert "Swamp Thang" Franklin at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates for Saturday's Arts Alive! Robert's movin' on, presumably to bigger and better things. "No definite plans for the band after his departure at this point," says Chas "South Side" Horn. "His style makes him impossible to replace in a sense, but we may carry on with one or more different players, or maybe fold up the tent."

If not for that gig, I'm sure Chas would be at the Riverwood Inn Saturday night to hear hot R&B belter John Németh and his band. As SF Chronicle/Living Blues critic Lee Hildebrand declared, "Németh is with little doubt the most accomplished male vocalist of his generation traveling the blues highway today." Yes, the Avenue of the Giants is part of that highway.



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