Critic's Choice for the week of November 26-December 2, 2003 

BRAND-NEW FUNK

If you thought funk was a thing of the past, go ahead and slap yourself silly with the dookie-stick, because you are so wrong. Funk ain't dead -- it's just spread out. And it can now be found in some nifty new configurations all over the East Bay and SF. Take Friday's show at Ashkenaz, for example: A mini-festival of local groups who all fly variations on the funk flag. Headliners the People mix their funk with Latin and reggae influences, but make sure to keep their horns horny. Singer LZ Love of LZ Phoenix is a funk/soul diva who regularly elicits babbling praise from big-shot critics who make way more cash than anyone at this paper. Rounding out the bill is the mysterious Dr. Masseuse, about whom not much is known, but with a funky name like that, it's gotta be all good, right? 510-525-5099. (Eric K. Arnold)

MEDIEVAL MUSICALS

The Play of Daniel, often considered the most involving biblical musical drama of the 12th century, receives a rare complete staging at Berkeley's St. Mark's Church Monday through Saturday. A collaboration between the Pacific Mozart Ensemble and Aurora Theatre Company, the must-see production features Dutch vocalist Henk Verhoef and a cast of fifty, directed by Richard Grant and Dunbar Ogden. 510-843-4822. (Jason Victor Serinus)

LIVING COLOUR, DUDE

After initial acclaim and success, Living Colour disbanded in 1995 after three full-length albums, leaving the promise of its ferocious mix of metal, soul, jazz, and funk unfulfilled -- guitarist Vernon Reid returned to experimental jazz, while singer Corey Glover ended up as a host on VH1. Oh, the humanity. Thankfully, you can tear a band down but you can't erase its desire to rock. Living Colour has reunited to bring its funny vibe to Bimbo's in SF Wednesday night in support of its new album, Collideoscope. 415-474-0365. (Michael Gowan)

WORLD

Occasional East Bay resident Taj Mahal brings his trio (drummer Kester Smith and bassist Bill Rich) to Yoshi's Tuesday through next Sunday for evenings full of old and new favorites of the blues-Hawaiian-Caribbean-African sort. In the past couple of years, he's done more than most singers do in an entire career: performed with the "Down from the Mountain" tour, published an autobiography, issued a DVD (with another centered on last December's Yoshi's run on the way), and released several new albums -- some for adults, some for children -- including the recent Hawaiian-flavored Hanapepe Dream. We hope he still has time in February for his annual Taj Mahal Fishing Tournament in Costa Rica. 510-238-9200. (Larry Kelp)

FOLK-JAZZ

Geoff Muldaur's recent major-label debut Private Astronomy: A Vision of the Music of Bix Beiderbecke (Edge) is one of the best albums of the year, a funky, jazzy romp that's equal parts blues, jazz, folk, and nostalgic pop. Muldaur is also a bluesy singer/songwriter and jug-band aficionado, so the set list is sure to hold many surprises Saturday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. Fritz Richmond will join in on jug and washtub bass. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)

CUBAN JAZZ

Barbarito Torres plays the laoud -- a Cuban lute with five double strings that's part oud, part guitar. He's been playing for more than thirty years in bands like Sierra Maestra and Orquesta Cubana de Cuerdas, but it was his work with the Buena Vista Social Club that finally gave him an international profile. His picking is sublime and his band is equally adept at son, guajira, cha-cha-cha, and bolero. Saturday at the Fillmore in San Francisco. 415-747-0365 (j.p.)

DANCEHALL CROONERS

The lovers' rock style of reggae is to dancehall what urban R&B is to rap. In the '70s and '80s, dancehall crooners such as Gregory Isaacs, Sugar Minott, and Dennis Brown laid it down; in the '90s, artists such as Cocoa Tea and Wayne Wonder stepped up to influence a new generation. Before last year, Wonder was primarily known as Buju Banton's frequent spar, collaborating on numerous Jamaican hits with the Rasta toaster and occasionally notching solo hits like "Joyride" and "The Saddest Day." But in 2002, Wonder blew up like popcorn with the utterly infectious "No Letting Go," which rode the Diwali riddim straight to a tropical groove paradise. "Girl, I'm so glad we made it," Wonder remarked on the song, one of the biggest crossover reggae hits in recent memory not done by Sean Paul, and the primary reason the singer now has a record deal with an American label. Catch Wayne Monday at Slim's. 415-255-0333. (E.K.A.)

JAZZ JAM SESSIONS

There's a healthy jazz jam scene happening on Sundays around Jack London Square in Oakland. From 6 to 10 p.m. Khalil Shaheed leads a session at Mingles that is open to all. Also, this Sunday famed trap drummer E.W. Wainwright kicks off "New York-Style Jam Sessions" at Sapphire's Restaurant (380 Embarcadero West) from 4 to 8 p.m. E.W. is a seasoned jazz elder who has played with McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and other jazz greats; he's ready to school all with his intense desire to improvise. 510-208-3663. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

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