Critic's Choice for the week of October 19-25, 2005 

Rock operas, Gypsy punks, and thug-incapacitating crooners.

SMOOVE JAMZ

Okay, admit it: You're a closet KBLX listener. In fact, nothing turns you on more than the ripple of a Moog synthesizer, a sultry R&B saxophone lick, and lyrics about sweeping you off your feet, baby. But damnit, you don't wanna spend another Saturday night alone with an old Donnie Hathaway record and a rented copy of How Stella Got Her Groove Back. (Okay, secretly you do, but pretty soon you're gonna lose face.) Saturday night, you're in luck: Famed slow jammer and Hathaway acolyte Frank McComb offers a special performance at Emeryville's Linen Life, along with guest saxophonist Angelo Luster. $25-$30, 8 p.m. GrooveTickets.com (Rachel Swan)

BLUES

John Hammond first emerged in the '60s, one of the first artists to trigger the pointless "Can a white man sing the blues?" argument among folk purists. Over the years he has become a powerful interpreter of classical blues, performing the big hits while searching out obscure but worthy gems. Hammond has a commanding slide guitar style and can wail with a forceful conviction: Find out tonight (Wednesday) at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $18.50-$19.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (j. poet)

PURPLE HAZE VIA BRASS

A saxophone quartet is not the first thing that comes to most people's minds when they think of Jimi Hendrix, but what the World Saxophone Quartet does to classic Hendrix tunes is brilliant, using them as foundations for inspired group improvisations. As part of the 23rd annual San Francisco Jazz Festival, the World Saxophone Quartet (David Murray, Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett, and Bruce Williams) are joined by other big-shots Thursday for two gigs at SF's Great American Music Hall. $25, 7:30 and 10 p.m. 415-776-1999 or GAMH.com (Larry Kelp)

THUG-INCAPACITATING CROONERS

So you're a sucker for porkpie hats, gold medallions, cheesy R&B choruses, and that "Rumors" song they always play on KMEL's old-school mix hour. Reacquaint yourself with Mike Marshall -- famed rap-soul innovator and original "Rumors" man -- who has a rare talent for bringing out the fragile underside of any turfed-out, Uzi-toting, blunt-smoking Bay Area rapper. In fact, when you hear San Quinn or Equipto rap over a Marshall hook, you feel as though you're witnessing a rare moment of candor. Awwwwww. Tonight (Wednesday) help him celebrate his new album, Love, Lies and Life, at the Million Dollar Dream release party at Blake's on Telegraph. $10-$15, 9 p.m. BlakesonTelegraph.com. (R.S.)

ROCK OPERAS

Nah, not American Idiot or The Wall or what have you -- the East Village Opera Company pounds out tunes from Carmen and Rigoletto with screeching electric guitars and a shredding string quartet. They're joking, sort of, but that doesn't mean these dudes won't melt your face off. Behold the synergy Tuesday at SF's Great American Music Hall. $15, 8 p.m. GAMH.com (Rob Harvilla)

CUBAN

For the last few years, La Familia Son jammed on vintage Cuban music at local festivals and spots like La Estrellita in Oakland; Friday, the family celebrates the release of its debut CD, La Clave de Mi Corazon, at Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center. Codirected by percussionists Sylvia Sherman and Roberto Medina, the septet features the beautiful voices of Violeta Contreras and Lena Luna, as well as the potent tres guitar of Sekou Heath. $10, 9 p.m. www.lapena.org, or 510-849-2568. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

WORLDLY INDIE-FOLK

Samuel Beam, the bearded man who conjures weepy folk hymns under the guise Iron & Wine, has joined forces with the Southwestern-flavored collective Calexico to record the EP In the Reins, a splendid concoction of introverted whispering and globetrotting pop. Tonight, each group plays a full set before combining to pimp Reins in its entirety. $25, 8 p.m. 415-775-7722 or BGP.com (Jenny Tatone)

CLASSICAL AND SUCH

Cal Performances has dangled no fewer than three world-class classical performances before us this week. Tonight (Wednesday) heralds Anne Sophie von Otter's return to Zellerbach; the mezzo was brilliant in a recent Met Mozart performance and delightfully broke through genre barriers at her last SF recital ($34-$58, 8 p.m.). All piano lovers need to know about András Schiff's Sunday afternoon Zellerbach recital ($34-$58, 3 p.m.). Later that night brings the Bay Area debut of medieval vocal ensemble Sequentia performing The Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper. This group made a sensational impact on those lucky enough to see them at the Lincoln Center Festival a few years back ($42, 7 p.m.). 510-642-9988 or CalPerfs.Berkeley.edu (Jason Victor Serinus)

GYPSY PUNK

The immigrant experience is the sacred poetry of American life, so whether it's invoked by Emma Lazarus or Neil Diamond, we bow our heads. Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hütz has a different idea: Go fucking nuts. Like few frontmen since Fishbone's Angelo Moore, the Ukraine native has the energy of an asylum escapee -- he shouts in full halting accent about naturalization, assimilation, and overthrowing czars over itchy Gypsy grooves played with hardcore propulsion. Thursday and Friday at Slim's in SF, you too will shout Mishto! With Throw Rag and the Scotch Greens. $15, 9 p.m. each night. 415-255-0333 or Slims-SF.com (Andrew Marcus)

DILIGENT DJS

Oakland may be home to some of the most enterprising DJs and industrious club promoters in the world, but few could hold a candle to Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist, a local wax-grinder and founder of the hip-hop events-planning organization True Skool. Since 1999, Ren has regaled Bay Area heads with affordable shows that feature the scene's most activist-chic and famously wacked-out legends, among them DJ Afrika Bambaataa, Jean Grae, and Medusa. Friday night, True Skool celebrates its sixth anniversary at DNA Lounge, and you can expect the whole cast of characters: Apollo, Sake 1, Mr. E, Chicken Scratch, Jah Yzer, Halo, and yes, the Vinyl Archaeologist himself. $5, 10 p.m. DNALounge.com (R.S.)

HYPHY OGS

If you ain't never heard of Krushadelic, you better either a) leave town or b) ask somebody. The West Oakland emcee and producer qualifies as an authentic OG 'round these here parts, having been on the scene since 1991 as part of the Underground Rebellion crew. Since then, Krush has evolved into a fairly prolific producer and entrepreneur: According to his MySpace page (!), he has helmed tracks for such notables as Too $hort, Saafir, E-40, George Clinton, Ying Yang Twins, Keak da Sneak, Mistah F.A.B., Andre Nickatina, Chaka Khan, Kenny Lattimore, and "plenty of underground artists doin' da damn thang." He's also been responsible for such cinematic productions as the Hip Hop Comedy Hut, and this Saturday at Blake's, he debuts his third solo album, Hyph a Del, along with the Whoridas, Underground Rebellion, Purpose, and Laroo. Be there or be un-hyphy. $10, 9 p.m. BlakesonTelegraph.com (Eric K. Arnold)

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