Critic's Choice for the week of April 21-27, 2004 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

UKULELES

The time has come to reclaim the ukulele's greatness from the cheesy Hawaiian luau doofuses and Tiny Tims of the world -- perhaps a Saturday night uke extravaganza at Berkeley's Starry Plough will help. In addition to live performances by quirky folksters Carmaig de Forest, Oliver Brown, and Songs from a Random House, you'll also enjoy a screening of the bitchin' ukulele documentary Rock That Uke! The mind reels. $6, 9 p.m. 415-861-2082. (Rob Harvilla)

LYRICAL EXTRAVAGANZAS

Vast Aire is large -- he contains multitudes, to paraphrase Walt Whitman. And we're not just talking about size (although size matters) -- we're talking about lyrical expanses, territorial verbalisms, realms of speech, and such. The ex-member of Cannibal Ox recently dropped his first solo album --Look Ma ... No Hands is firmly rooted in the type of futurist B-boy material that made Definitive Jux such a breath of fresh air on the rap scene. Joining Vast Aire on Thursday's show at the DNA Lounge (one of SF's best live venues) will be the legendary liquid swordsman GZA of Wu-Tang Clan, plus Rhymesayers crew rhyme-sayer Brother Ali. All in all, it's a phat as phuck lyrical extravaganza. 415-626-1409. (Eric K. Arnold)

CLASSIC JAZZ

Elvin Jones made his reputation as a member of John Coltrane's groundbreaking Quartet, and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest jazz drummers ever. The current Elvin Jones Jazz Machine includes young hardbop alto sax man Sherman Irby, turbulent tenor man Mark Shim, pianist and composer Carlos McKinney, and bass man (and ex-Roy Hargrove collaborator) Gerald Cannon. At Yoshi's in Jack London Square Wednesday through Sunday, shows 8 and 10 p.m. (7 and 9 Sunday), $15-$28. 510-238-9200. (j. poet)

OLD VOCAL

Ukrainian singer Mariana Sadovska, who has received praise from The New York Times, joins our own Eastern European vocal ensemble Kitka to make her Bay Area debut this Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. The concert in Oakland's Lake Merritt Church showcases Sadovska's "Enchantment Songs," which she slowly acquired through word of mouth while traveling her native country. $18 advance, $20 door. 510-444-0323 or Kitka.org (Jason Victor Bellecci-Serinus)

NEW VOCAL

Volti, Robert Geary's SF-based choral ensemble dedicated to new vocal music, presents a 25th-anniversary concert this Friday in Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church. Joined by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the choir presents music by Alex Post and Kirke Mechem, plus the world premiere of Mark Winges' A Choral Symphony: Image and Motion for choir and chamber orchestra. $25, 8 p.m., 415-771-3352 or VoltiSF.org (J.V.B-S.)

FOLK

As Bay Area residents and celebrated purveyors of roots music, Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin have been lauded for their solid American mountain soul music -- a confluence of bluegrass, folk, and pre-Nashville country. Their multi-instrumental prowess and gorgeous harmony singing tap the timeless stream that flows from British folk ballads to the contemporary songs of their pal Utah Phillips. Saturday at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. 8 p.m., $17.50-$18.50. 510-548-1761. (j.p.)

MEXICAN ROOTS

What started as a class to teach youngsters the various regional musical styles of Mexico has become a full-blown cultural center in San Pablo. On Sunday at 8 p.m., Los Cenzontles, the band of musicians, singers, and dancers from the center of the same name, perform their colorful repertoire of rancheras, sons jarochos, mariachi roots, and original songs at the Freight & Salvage. The blend of voices with the array of folk instruments makes for a rewarding experience of real folk traditions that haven't been slicked up for a pop audience. Los Cenzontles is the real thing. $16.50 advance, $17.50 door. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)

AVANT-JAZZ

Larry Ochs, one of the founders of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, breaks more new ground with the Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core featuring Scott Amendola and Scott Robinson. The trio explores the polyrhythmic drone that forms the foundation of American blues, from Eastern European folk to traditional African singers to the Far East. Thursday at the Jazz House, 3192 Adeline in Berkeley. $8-$15 donation, 8 p.m. 510-655-9755. (j.p.)

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