Critic's Choice for the week of March 2-8, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

Poetic Jazz

Best known as one of the most respected pianists in jazz, Fred Hersch brings his ambitious project Leaves of Grass to San Francisco's Herbst Theatre Sunday -- its West Coast live premiere. The nearly-two-hour program features poems and excerpts from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," sung and spoken by Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry. But it's Hersch's use of a ten-member instrumental ensemble (a small orchestra, in his hands) combined with the words that elevates this project to one of the year's best performing-arts events. Expect something deeply moving and more than occasionally fun and illuminating. $26-$45, 7 p.m. 415-392-2545. (Larry Kelp)

Afro-Cuban Jazz

"To Cuba with Love" is a two-day celebration of the alchemy of Afro-Cuban culture. Friday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, Cachao will be honored with a special performance by the West Coast Afro-Cuban All-Stars, directed by John Calloway. Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez will be honored with the Marcus Award for Lifetime Achievement. Saturday is a day-long exhibit of "Afrocuba: Works on Paper" at SFSU Fine Arts Gallery, bolstered by the music of Palenque. Into Saturday, Cachao and the Cineson All Stars close it out at Bimbo's 365 Club in SF. 415-338-1236. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

Blues

Guitar virtuoso, storyteller, and blues historian Guy Davis delves deep into the roots of the Delta blues, tipping his hat to the time when the style was yet unnamed and merely another stream in the great river of African-American roots music. His reworking of tunes by Leadbelly and Skip James are just as inventive as his often-humorous originals. Tonight at 9 p.m. at SF's Biscuits and Blues. $12.50. 415-931-6012 or BiscuitsandBlues.com (j. poet)

Classical

In a week filled with visiting artists, the opportunity to attend a world-premiere commission from the extraordinarily gifted composer Paul Dresher without paying a cent stands out. Benjamin Simon conducts the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, featuring fifteen-year-old Albany High pianist Juliann Ma, this Sunday at Berkeley's First Congregational Church in a program that also includes music by Copland and Bach. Free, 3 p.m. 415-248-1640 or SFChamberOrchestra.org (Jason Victor Serinus)

Greek Folk

Greek diva Savina Yannatou and her band, Primavera en Salonico, play a unique fusion of modern jazz and Mediterranean folk, marked by the band's driving rhythms and Yannatou's stunning multi-octave voice. They'll be showcasing music from their new CD, Sumiglia, featuring songs of loss, war, and grief from Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Armenia, Albania, and Palestine. Monday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist, 1661 15th St., SF. 415-584-4367. (j.p.)

Vocal

"Left Turn at Albuquerque," Volti's provocatively titled a cappella concert of music from Cuba, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia, features world-premiere commissions from Gabriela Lena Frank and Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez. Robert Geary's first-class vocal ensemble holds forth in Berkeley's St. Mark's Episcopal Church Sunday afternoon with an enticing program of 20th-century works. $8-$20. 4 p.m. 415-771-3352 or VoltiSF.org (J.V.S.)

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