Reggae legend Bob Marley's birthday is Feb. 6, but it's always been a good excuse for celebrations throughout the month. The big one this week is a People Productions thing Friday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge featuring German reggae star Gentleman plus Jamaican veterans Israel Vibration.
Born Tilmann Otto in Osnabrück, Germany, son of a Lutheran minister, Gentleman started visiting Jamaica when he was a teenager and now considers it his second home. He's been accepted into the island's music scene and has collaborated with just about every JA reggae star.
The always amazing Izzy Vibes go way back. After meeting at a polio rehab center as youths, the harmonious trio recorded a string of hits in the '70s before Apple Gabriel Craig went his own way leaving Wiss Bulgin and Cecil "Skelly" Spence to carry on. Support acts for the ATL show include Indubious, Ishi Dube, Jarabi Africa and Selecta Prime. Should be smokin'.
More reggae? Jamaica Youth Foundation presents Norrisman and High Sight Band at the Red Fox on Thursday in a Black History Month celebration with special guest Jah Tory. A dude from Kingston who calls himself Junior X is at the Jambalaya Saturday night. His vocal style reminds me of the late great Lucky Dube, and that's a good ting. Then there's the Tuesday show at the Red Fox with Soja, a seven-piece reggae outfit from Washington DC on tour behind their new single, "Everything Changes."
The love for Brazilian-style samba has grown in recent years to the point where it's impossible to escape the boom of the samba drums and the gorgeous costumed dancers who are part of almost every local cultural occasion. A similar passion exists in Santa Cruz where the band SambaDá emerged from a Brazilian dance troupe founded by capoeira master Papiba Godinho. Born and raised in Brazilia, he leads the band on guitar and the mini-guitar known as a cavaco or cavaquinho, sharing lead vocals with Dandha Da Hora from Salvador, Bahia. Both also supply percussion parts for the very percussive group; Dandha also leads the dancers. Among the other percussionists is Marcio Peeter from Ilê Aiyê, a group known for its hybrid Samba Afro rhythms. SambaDá plays Friday night at the Jambalaya; Marcio will be in town earlier that same day teaching an Afro-Brazilian percussion workshop in HSU's West Gym.
Florida-based southern swamp blues master JJ Grey is back in town Saturday for a show at Humboldt Brews, this time solo, without his band Mofro. He's on a 16-date national tour including a series of gigs up and down the West Coast with blues guitarist Sunny War opening. She got her start busking on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, picking and singing old time blues tunes for tips.
Expect a wild time Friday at HumBrews as Austin's Harry Apes BMX mash together rock, jazz, Latin, Afro-funk, hip hop and punk with Matt Dillon of Critters Buggin, The Dead Kenny G's, etc. out front on vibes. Thursday HumBrews has jammers Flowmotion once again on the road out of Seattle with guitarist/vocalist Josh Clauson in the lead.
Ready for another tribute? This time Neil Young gets the treatment but not with a new band, just an open mic and jam at Fieldbrook Market Friday night featuring members of The Rezonators, The Grass Band and The Fickle Hill Billies. Starts acoustic; shifts to electric later. Think they'll play anything off Arc? Nah, more like "Rockin' in the Free World."
Folk/blues singer/guitar player/philosopher Chris Smither, who plays the Van Duzer Friday, is the kind of musician you're pretty sure you've heard before. And there's a good chance since he's been recording, touring and writing songs for others since 1970. As he notes in "The Drawbacks of a Modest Celebrity," a recent piece for the New York Times, "Once I was stopped by a guy on [an airport] concourse who said, 'I know who you are! Wait! Don't tell me! I'll get it in a sec ...uh ...uh ...,' so I finally told him my name and he said, 'No, that's not it.' I just started laughing, because I really do know who I am."
Time for some classics: The Eureka Chamber Music Series continues with a Friday concert at Calvary Lutheran Church with the Canadian ensemble Afiara String Quartet performing works by Haydn and Nielsen and Beethoven's "String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op.131" (originally commissioned by Russian Prince Nikolai Golitzin).
Same night at the Arcata Library, it's an evening of Baroque music with young Jet and Lin Glover on violin and harpsichord along with Mie Matsumoto and early music stars Rob Diggins and Joli Einem. Proceeds benefit the library.
More chamber music Saturday afternoon at the Morris Graves Museum of Art: HSU music prof Daniela Mineva takes the lead on the Graves' baby grand.
The HSU Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra share a concert that night in Fulkerson Recital Hall. The Jazz O offers a Mingus tune and Bennie Moten's Kansas City classic "Moten Swing" among others; the Symphonic Band program includes "Paris Sketches," a four-movement tribute to one of my favorite cities by Brit composer Martin Ellerby.
Then on Sunday afternoon, again in Fulkerson Hall, violinist Cindy Moyer and pianist John Chernoff play a little Brahms and Beethoven and "String Poetic" by acclaimed contemporary composer Jennifer Higdon, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy among other awards. Also worth noting: Moyer will be debuting the Music Department's brand new Feurich model 197 grand piano.
Trumpeter Ron Miles returns next Wednesday leading a trio at a Redwood Jazz Alliance show at the Morris Graves Museum. I first heard Miles play years ago in one of guitar wizard Charlie Hunter's bands. Both were in Go Home, the quartet with Ben Goldberg and Scott Amendola (of Nels Cline Singers etc.) that played a RJA show in 2008. Miles is joined here by pianist/organist/accordionist Gary Versace, another versatile player who works with scads of combos and leads a couple of his own. Drummer for the trio was supposed to be Matt Wilson, but a family emergency pulled him off the tour. His replacement, Rudy Royston, is the cool cat we heard when the Tom Harrell Quintet played for RJA last October. He's also a longtime Miles associate; they've recorded together many times and both played in Bill Frisell's "Beautiful Dreamers" trio. In addition, Royston played in at least a couple of organ trios with Versace. As always, the visit also includes a free workshop with the musicians, this time on Thursday morning at 10 (March 3) in HSU's Studio Theater. RJA notes, "No musical experience is necessary," although the musician teachers have plenty.
Before he was Berel Alexander, I knew him as Bernie Steinberg, a kid who played in a Fortuna punk band called RBS Syndrome. Fifteen years after the last time he played in Fortuna with RBS, Berel's back this Saturday for a show at Fortuna Veteran's Hall joined by vocalists Bianca Mankai and Lorenza Simmons with Mike Lee on cello. It's a fundraiser for the nascent Redwood Foundation for Educational Travel so there're doing an art and wine sale first (4 p.m.) then an international dinner with Shrimp Fettuccini (5:30); music at 7. More details at redwoodeducationaltravel.com.
Humboldt Folklife Society hosts the British Columbia-native mandolin virtuoso John Reischman and The Jaybirds on Tuesday, March 1, at the Arcata Playhouse. Yes, stellar is a word that comes up often describing the Canuck bluegrass combo -- and not just because their most recent album is called Stellar Jays.
Speaking of Folklife, the HFS is currently circulating a survey that in part invites you to, "Imagine in the near future, there is a Humboldt Folklife School of Music, Dance and Performing Arts." They're looking for input as they prepare to set sail on this new adventure. If you'd like to complete the survey or get involved, check the North Coast Journal Blog -- we'll supply the link to the Zoomerang survey where you can make yourself heard. No musical experience is necessary.