Critic's Choice for the week of December 24-30, 2003 

Our writers tell you where to go this week.

"DAWG MUSIC"?!

Mandolin picker and composer David Grisman was one of the founders of the "newgrass" movement, an offshoot of bluegrass that incorporated jazz, swing, folk, Latin, and a rock 'n' roll sensibility into the music, although Grisman prefers to call his stuff "dawg music." He'll be playing with a pickup band of local heavies including Bill Evans, Jim Nunally, Chad Clouse, David Thom, and Sam Grisman Sunday at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. Two shows, 5 p.m. (sold out) and 8 p.m. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)

JAM-JAZZ FREAKS

Skerik is a freak, but he's a freak who plays saxophone really well, so that makes it okay. He's played his unique brand of funky jazz-rock with Charlie Hunter; Mike Clark; Medeski, Martin and Wood, and other luminaries of the jam-jazz scene. In addition to his horn work, Skerik's frenetic stage antics will entertain (and might even offend) you - he packs his quirks and his band, Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet, into Bruno's in SF on Monday and Tuesday. 415-648-7701. (Michael Gowan)

CARIBBEAN FETES

The day after Christmas can be pretty anticlimactic, as we all know. All that buildup, and what are you left with? A bunch of plastic toys that break pretty quickly, hand-knit sweaters from grandma in godawful colors you'll never wear, a migraine-level hangover, and/or your drunk Uncle Fred passed out on the couch. It's enough to make you pull a Kurt Cobain, if only someone had given you a shotgun. But don't despair, mon frère - there's hope for you yet. Quicker than you can say "Give ah de fete, me want music fe sweat," you can change the latitude of your attitude Friday night with Ashkenaz' Caribbean Allstars show. Lose your holiday blues with an infusion of the Allstars' feel-good West Indian rhythms, ranging from reggae to soca to calypso. You can also trade endless versions of "Little Drummer Boy" for the steel drum soundscapes of Pan Extasy, who open up the show. 510-525-5054. (Eric K. Arnold)

MEXICAN RAPPERS

It appears 2003 will go down as the year hip-hop fused with regional Mexican pop music, as rappers such as Jae P, Chuy Chavez Jr., Jesse Morales, and Akwid took banda and conjunto norteño and reinvented it for a new generation. Akwid had the biggest hit with "No Hay Manera," a balada beat with lyrical flows and musical textures that owe as much to Outkast as they do to Banda del Recodo (the granddaddies of Mexican bandas). The group's Univision album, Proyecto Akwid, is the debut release for brothers Sergio and Francisco Gomez. See 'em Friday night at Casino San Pablo. 510-215-1719. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

CLASSICAL

Occasionally blue-hairs do let their hair down. Such is the case Sunday afternoon in SF's Davies Symphony Hall, when Edwin Outwater conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Vienna Woods/New York Nights: Songs of Two Cities. The program begins on the Blue Danube and segues into Broadway stars Lisa Vroman (Phantom of the Opera) and Brett Barrett (Chicago) dazzling up the waters. 415-864-6000. (Jason Victor Serinus)

JAZZY GUITARISTS

The quartet James T. Kirk featured three of the East Bay's hottest young electric jazz and rock guitarists - Charlie Hunter, John Schott, and Will Bernard - joining drummer Scott Amendola in playing medleys and improvisations on tunes composed by James Brown, Thelonious Monk, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk (thus the group's name). When the Star Trek lawyers balked at the name, the band (composed entirely of William Shatner fans) modified it a bit to still include the proper initials, nodding to another Shatner TV show (T.J. Hooker) by becoming T.J. Kirk. Even with two albums on big-time Warner Bros., the members went their separate ways before the group could catch on. But nearly a decade later, the old gang is back together for a T.J. Kirk reunion, Friday and Saturday at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall. 415-478-2277. (Larry Kelp)

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