Critic's Choice for the week of July 31-August 6, 2002 

A hot Hammond in Oakland, a striking soprano from Mali, mucho Mozart, assorted accordions, and a Locust landing at Gilman.

JAZZ
Fire promises to break out at Rasselas on Fillmore when drummer Babatunde Lea brings pianist Hilton Ruiz and the lava-spewing saxophonist Ernie Watts to town for a Thursday-through-Sunday engagement. 415-346-8696. (Lee Hildebrand)

Jimmy Smith is certainly one of the last of the red-hot Hammond B-3 players. He's renowned for countless best-selling LPs on Verve and Blue Note, and his churchy sound and bluesy touch have distinguished him and helped him cross over to pop charts with instrumental hits such as "Back at the Chicken Shack" and "Walk on the Wild Side." Now living in the Sacramento area, the 77-year-old legend rolls through Kimball's East for Friday-through-Sunday performances of classics delivered with the famous J.S. attitude. 510-658-2555. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

CLASSICAL
Just when you might have bemoaned the dearth of summer classical offerings, conductor George Cleve and the Midsummer Mozart Festival come to the rescue. On Friday evening in Berkeley's First Congregational Church, these specialists perform Mozart's Overture to "Lucio Silla," Piano Concerto No. 25 (with soloist Claude Frank), and Symphony No. 39 in E flat. 415-292-9624. (Jason Serinus)

ACCORDION MADNESS
The main squeeze on Saturday night is Smythe's Accordion Festival, featuring an eclectic assortment of accordion ensembles at Oakland's 21Grand, the multidisciplinary arts space between Broadway and Telegraph in Oakland. The lineup mostly consists of contemporary and experimental accordionists: the one-woman Bunnyphonic, Big Lou, the pickPocket Ensemble, Jason Webley (of Seattle), Amaldecor, Bass Line Dada, the Lemon Lime Lights, and Aaron Seeman. 510-444-7263 (Larry Kelp)

MALIAN
An impassioned vibrato radiates from the soprano voice of Rokia Traoré. It's akin to that of Tracy Chapman, one of the 27-year-old singer-songwriter's heroines, yet foreign to her Malian traditions. Such international influences "call out" to her, explains this daughter of a diplomat, who spent portions of her childhood in Belgium, France, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. She surrounds her lilting vocals with traditional instruments, however, including kora and ngoni (lutes) and balafon (wooden xylophone). One of the brightest lights to have emerged on the world music scene in recent years, Traoré appears Saturday night at Ashkenaz. 415-525-5054. (L.H.)

ROCK
"Intense. Hella intense." That's how the sponsors are describing Vultures' Row 2002, a skateboardin', punk rockin', heavy metal extravaganza Saturday on Treasure Island on Saturday. The event is sponsored by Zero and Live 105, so you know it's gonna be, uh, "extreme." All kidding aside though, it's only $15, and you get all these bands: One Man Army, Machine Head, Death Angel, and Skinlab. There's also a battle of the bands, with a $10,000 prize, featuring ten bands including Unjust, Angry Amputees, and the Sick. Go to www.vulturesrow.net for directions and ticket info. (Katy St. Clair)

Few bands get as heavily name-checked as the Locust these days, possibly because it has managed to raise the proverbial bar above and beyond post-punk noise, or maybe it's because no one expects sounds like that to emanate from San Diego. Few bands live up to their names as well as this outfit, though, which either comes at your head like a swarming plague (and you know you like it) -- or suffocates you while slowly devouring your flesh. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Sunday at 924 Gilman. 510-525-9926. (K.S.)

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