When Wallace Roney strides onto the Berkeley Jazzschool's stage Sunday afternoon, he'll be holding on tight to an emblem of his past: the black, engraved trumpet that was a gift from his mentor, Miles Davis. But while Roney is proud to be called Davis' standard-bearer, he's quick to point out that he's not retreading old ground. "Miles gave me my point of departure," he says. Roney counts Davis' fusion albums of the late '60s as his greatest inspirations, when the master of mood began using synthesizers and electric instruments to weave his spell. Davis' easy embrace of new sounds and loose way of playing with melody left a lasting impression on Roney, who was a trumpet-playing tot when these seminal records came out. But years later, after Roney proved his capabilities in straight-ahead jazz in the late '80s and early '90s, those themes would re-emerge. Roney struck off on a new path, bringing elements like West African percussion and spoken word into his music. Of late, he has caught flak from some critics for his sextet's inclusion of DJ Val Jeanty on turntables, but says that bringing in new sounds has always been part of the fun of jazz -- whether it's djembes, turntables, or a pennywhistle. "Fusing new things into this music shouldn't be a difficulty if you're an artist," he says. "There's only a difficulty if you're not open."
Roney claims he's always had youthful audiences, so his recent collaborations with musicians like Mos Def and DJ Logic haven't skewed the demographics younger. However, he thinks he may have lost a few members of the old guard. "I may have turned off the so-called jazz purists, and I mean so-called, because they don't understand that what I'm doing now is still pure jazz," he says. "People who can't accept that are the same kind of people who didn't accept modern jazz of the '40s and '50s. It's not like I'm playing Muzak jazz, or I'm trying to play rock 'n' roll. I'm playing with the same intention that I did when I was playing with Tony Williams," the great Bay Area jazz drummer.
What is that intention? To uplift, Roney says. He performs with his sextet at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, with a clinic for young musicians to follow. Tickets: 866-384-3060 or Jazzschool.com -- Eliza Strickland
You know you want to know: How to Be a Wicked Witch author Patricia Telesco dishes pixie dust and more at Change Makers (Wed., 7 p.m.). ... Saigon was tipping and ready to fall when little Andrew Lam, son of a South Vietnamese general, left it. Today Lam is an NPR commentator who reads from Perfume Dreams, his lyrical look at a diaspora, at Cody's Telegraph (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... India and Africa, sure, but -- Rudyard Kipling ... in Vermont? That's where he wrote The Jungle Book, and that's the fiction fictionalized in Victoria Vinton's novel The Jungle Law, based on Kipling's productive maple-sugar years. Ask Vinton about oryxes at Orinda Books (Thu., 4 p.m.). ... Kids with divorced parents are secretive and overburdened with big choices, Elizabeth Marquardt reveals in Between Two Worlds, her new book about a population sector that keeps getting bigger. Bring Mom and Dad to meet her at Pleasant Hill Borders (Thu., 7 p.m.). ... Who's who? Mary Monroe asks that question in her novel In Sheep's Clothing, whose biracial heroine is forced to face the consequences of her own choices, one of which entails identity theft. Meet Monroe at Barnes & Noble Oakland (Fri., 7:30 p.m.). ... What are Saturday mornings for, if not sonnets, strophes, and enjambment? Bring ten copies of your own poem to a new drop-in poetry group hosted by Pleasanton Poet Laureate Cynthia L. Bryant at Towne Center Books, 555 Main St.; for details, call 925-931-5350 (Sat., 9 a.m.). ... Tell it: Contributors to Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs, an anthology by and about mature women of color, read and sign at Oakland's African American Museum and Library (Sat., 6 p.m.). ... Island rhythms abound at Alameda's Second Saturday Prose & Poetry Reading, which includes featured readers and an open mic at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St. (Sat., 7 p.m.). ... Iraq means many things to many people. Born into a Jewish-Arabic family, poet Jack Marshall elegizes an exodus in From Baghdad to Brooklyn, from which he reads at Black Oak (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus
Pinay is a Filipino abbreviation of Filipina, a woman of the Philippines. Peminist is the Filipino pronunciation of "feminist" in an alphabet that doesn't contain the letter "F." So when the title of Saturday's panel discussion (2 p.m.) on the UC Berkeley campus is Pinay Power: Peminist Critical Theory, we can expect cultural politics with a flavor of Filipino nationalism. The panel, led by California College of the Arts professor Melinda L. de Jesús, features six other female Phil-Am theorists, many of whom are authors -- and the subject is the Filipina/American experience. What better place for some hyphenated-American cultural criticism than the new multicultural center in Heller Lounge on the second floor lobby of the Cal student union at Bancroft and Telegraph? Want to learn more? Go to the East Wind Books Web site: EWBB.com. They're sponsoring, along with UCB's Asian American Studies and Asian Pacific Student Development orgs. -- Kelly Vance
It's Fair Trade Month -- what's in your mug?
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Fair Trade. It's not exactly Quaker Oats, but it's the right thing to do -- support sustainable economic development and quality of life issues for agricultural producers in Third World nations. In case you were too busy ordering a half-caf/decaf venti latte at Starbucks to care, October is Fair Trade Month, and among the events happening in its honor is a presentation and coffee sampling at Nomad Cafe (6500 Shattuck Ave.) -- a local place where you can purchase an organically grown, Fair Trade-certified cup of Joe (or José, as the case may be). Saturday's event, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m., features Nicaraguan coffee farmer Fatima Ismael Espinoza discussing the cooperative model as it relates to growers and pickers, and John di Ruocco, roastmaster for Oakland-based Mr. Espresso, who will address Fair Trade from an over-the-counter perspective. A Q&A session follows the presentation. To find out more, visit NomadCafe.net -- Eric K. Arnold
Culture Spy - April 20, 9:52 AM
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