Critic's Choice for the week of March 9-15, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

EXPERIMENTAL TERROR

Mephista puts the avant-jazz patriarchy on notice: The devil isn't a woman, but a hydra-headed improv beast whose roar bends ears and spins heads. Picture the spidery fingers of the classically trained Sylvie Courvoisier on the 88s, the elegantly ferocious tentacles of Susie Ibarra on the gong-heavy trap set, and the otherworldly histrionics of Ikue Mori on laptop. Then say your prayers. Saturday at Mills College. $12, 8 p.m. 510-430-2296. (Sam Prestianni)

OLD-SCHOOL R&B

Grammy-winning Rock Hall member Ruth Brown was one of the original stars that made Atlantic Records a powerhouse. Her first single for the label, 1949's "So Long," cracked Billboard's R&B charts and earned her the title "Miss Rhythm." Her powerful voice is a bit ragged today, which adds an extra depth of emotion to her always-intense performances. Thursday ($22) and Friday and Saturday ($26) at Yoshi's. 8 and 10 p.m. each night. 510-238-9200 or Yoshis.com (j. poet)

BEYOND FOLK

Andrea Prichett and Lisa Zeisler -- formerly of the radical folk trio Rebecca Riots -- may be known for protest songs and lesbian love ballads, but the politics of their lyrics definitely play second fiddle to their slick fretwork and masterful musicianship. In fact, the lineup of female singer-songwriters for La Peña's sixth annual In Song & Struggle -- which also includes Marca Cassity, Shelley Doty, Rachel Garlin, and Green & Root -- promises music with more depth than the "folk" moniker typically implies. Proceeds from the event will benefit local female-founded activist organizations, such as Bay Area Copwatch. $10, 7 p.m. www.lapena.org (Rachel Swan)

CLASSICAL

Berkeley's Crowden Music Center continues its low-cost, family-friendly Sunday concerts with the Sor Ensemble performing Béla Bartók's Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano; Antonin Dvorák's Piano Quintet in A Major, Opus 81; and Sergei Prokofiev's Overture On Hebrew Themes, Opus 34. Unless the kids start screaming, it's one of the best deals in town. $12, children free. 4 p.m. 510-559-6910. (Jason Victor Serinus) CLASSICAL JAZZ

Lately, we've had no regular renditions of A Love Supreme to raise our spirits and bring us closer to enlightenment. But as part of SFJAZZ's Coltrane Project, two famous jazz sons -- Branford Marsalis and the composer's offspring Ravi Coltrane -- will offer their interpretations of the scripture according to John Saturday night. Hallelujah. At the Nob Hill Masonic Center, $25-$60, 8 p.m. 415-788-7353. (Michael Gowan)

YOUNG JAZZ

Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble has hosted a fund-raising jazz brunch every spring, but last year's combination of the band with Berkeley Repertory Theater and gourmet food was a quality upgrade that's being repeated Sunday afternoon. From 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Rep at 2025 Addison will be filled with hot, award-winning music from the BHJE (warming up for a possible, unprecedented third straight win as the nation's top high school band at next month's Monterey Jazz Festival competition), in addition to its small combos and the Berkeley High Lab Band (a big band known for winning its own competitions). 510-527-8245. (Larry Kelp)

SINGER-SONGWRITER

Robin and Linda Williams have been writing and performing their original blend of folk, bluegrass, and acoustic alt.country for more than twenty years. Their balance of traditional material and original heartfelt compositions always leaves audiences wanting more. They appear with their Fine Band Sunday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $18.50-$19.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (j.p.)

LIFE-SAVING DJS

Head down to Club Oasis Saturday night for A Musical Journey with Knowmadic DJs, a trip guaranteed to span continents, featuring grimy West Coast slumper beats by Big G of the 808 Sound Squad, hip-hop by Raw B of Beatsauce, and the Kenyan émigré DJ Impenzi spinning dancehall, reggae, and the calypso-influenced sounds of soukous and zouk. Derived from "nomad," the name "knowmadic" illustrates the crew's combination of international flavors and an underground hip-hop edge. 10 p.m. 510-763-0404. (R.S.)

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