Critic's Choice for the week of August 14-20, 2002 

Sci-fi rumination rock in the West Bay, a percussionist bandleader at Yoshi's, a Berkeley-born classical composer at Cal, and a Latin-influenced jazz singer at the Freight & Salvage.

ROCK

It's been more than a decade since the Grifters dropped their sloppy, blues-drunk kiss on indie-rock's lips, and since then, cofounder David Shouse has been honing his penchant for dark, soulful rumination in a number of projects. When his latest of these, Bloodthirsty Lovers, performs Wednesday with Enon and T.K. Web at the Bottom of the Hill, you can see just how rough a beast was spawned last summer, when Shouse was under the influence of old-school sci-fi cinema, keyboard technology, and attic recording sessions. 415-621-4455. (Stefanie Kalem)

Jay Bennett is finally coming clean about why he left Wilco, explaining to a journalist that Jeff Tweedy told him "a circle can only have one center." (And the sound of a leaden bullet ripping through Tweedy's shoe could be heard for miles.) So now Bennett is a semi-solo performer, travelling cross-country in a Toyota with longtime Chicago collaborator Edward Burch, stopping at every Stuckey's and IHOP while moving from show to show in support of The Palace at 4AM. The record gives nods to Nick Lowe and the Beatles, but still retains that grizzled edge that infuses all his stuff. Bennett's weakness is his vocals, which never come as naturally as his brilliant guitar work, and certainly don't hold a candle to Tweedy. But perhaps that's not fair -- this is Jay Bennett's endeavor, not Wilco's. See him perform live at the Cafe Du Nord on Saturday night. 415-861-5016. (Katy St. Clair)

JAZZ

Propelling bands with a loose, undulating swing that suggests an Elvin Jones influence, Jeff "Tain" Watts has proven himself to be one of the most consistently exciting drummers in jazz over the past two decades through his work with the bands of Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, and Kenny Garrett. Now the Pittsburgh-born percussionist is leading one of his own -- a quintet that includes saxophonist Marcus Strickland and guitarist Paul Bollenbeck -- and is performing with it Wednesday and Thursday at Yoshi's in support of a powerful new Columbia CD of mostly original compositions titled Bar Talk. 510-238-9200. (Lee Hildebrand)

Diana Krall gets the media attention, but another lovely jazz singer, Karrin Allyson, has developed into a chance-taking and fabulously expressive artist. Last year's Coltrane tribute, Ballads, finally got her some notice, and with In Blue, her eighth Concord Jazz CD, Allyson roughens it up with blues grit on jazz, pop, and country songs. She sings 'em Friday through Sunday at Yoshi's with her powerhouse quintet. 510-238-9200. (Larry Kelp)

REGGAE

Native Elements, one of the top reggae bands in the Bay Area, rolls through Ashkenaz on Friday to showcase a new album titled For the Love. With solid island riddim and soul, the San Francisco-based group offers original songs that exude strong musicianship and one-love spiritual charisma. 510-525-5054. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

CLASSICAL

On Saturday night in Hardymon Hall at Berkeley's Jazzschool, Sarah Cahill hosts her second Composer Portrait, a unique monthly new music event featuring onstage interviews, live performances, recorded music, and audience dialogues. The evening spotlights Berkeley-born mestiza composer Gabriela Frank performing selections from her Piano Sonata and other compositions and discussing her recent work with a Latino prison group. 510-345-5373. (Jason Serinus)

SINGER-SONGWRITER

Singer-guitarist Erika Luckett was born in Mexico, bred in Brazil, busked in Paris subways for a period, and cut her current My Little Crime CD in both Emeryville and New Orleans. Based in the East Bay, this world citizen brings folk, soul, jazz, and Latin elements to her thoughtful, elegantly crafted songs, which at times suggest a Joni Mitchell influence, and renders them in warm, dusky contralto tones, sculpting her lines with subtly melismatic contour. Luckett appears Sunday at Freight & Salvage. 510-548-1761. (L.H.)

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