Back in 1946, when the babies were booming, Dave Brubeck and a host of jazz-greats-to-be flocked to Mills College to study composition with French composer Darius Milhaud. Influenced by his new heroes Bach and Stravinsky, Brubeck started an octet consisting mostly of friends in Milhaud's composition class. According to surviving octet clarinetist Bill Smith, "We were largely a rehearsal band -- an underground movement -- playing our own music for our own delight." Soon they became pioneers of what is called the West Coast jazz style, where each musician has an independent musical line that interacts contrapuntally with the others' lines.
Although the octet played random college gigs, they first became known after the early-'50s recordings of their own music (still available on Fantasy) caught on. Remaining in the Bay Area, the octet's rhythm section soon morphed into the Dave Brubeck Trio. With the addition of octet alum Paul Desmond, the famed Dave Brubeck Quartet emerged. Smith returned in the 1980s, replacing Desmond as clarinetist for the next ten years.
This Friday night, the Mills College Music Department, the Center for Contemporary Music, and the Brubeck Institute of the University of the Pacific -- where Brubeck continues to occasionally teach -- host Music by Dave Brubeck, an extraordinary evening in the Mills Concert Hall devoted to Brubeck's music at Mills. In the first half, Jeremy Cohen and his Quartet San Francisco perform Cohen's string arrangements of Brubeck's "Strange Meadowlark" and "Blue Rondo à la Turk," both sanctioned by the master himself. At Brubeck's urging, two Mills students, Terran Olson and Damon Waitkus, also debut contemporary modernistic works. ("Dave wanted the same exposure for young working composers as he enjoyed when his student pieces were performed on Mills concerts," Cohen explains.)
After the quartet presents the exciting West Coast premiere of two movements from Brubeck's new quartet, "The Chromatic Fantasy" (based on Bach's "Chromatic Fantasy"), Bill Smith joins Brubeck Institute Young Artists from the University of Pacific to recreate the original octet. Don't miss it. 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, 8 p.m., $12, $6 seniors. BoxOfficeTickets.com or 510-430-2296. Jason Victor Serinus
Jewish comedians, we've all heard of. From Fanny Bryce to Ben Stiller, that particular religious ethnicity seems to be permanently aligned with the yuckstery arts. But are we ready for Muslim comedians? We'd better be, because Allah Made Me Funny, the Official Muslim Comedy Tour, is coming to Oakland's Castlemont High this weekend. Tour producer Preacher Moss has been a comedy writer for Darrell Hammond and George Lopez; he's been on Politically Incorrect, and his riffs cover every aspect of racism, from 9/11 to the KKK. He'll be joined by Azhar Usman, who has been called both the Ayatollah of Comedy and Bin Laughin, and by Azeem, founder of Azeem's Kids Foundation. $15. 510-414-8881. -- Stefanie Kalem
span class="storyhed">Who's Your Dada?
When a young man winds up in a London mental hospital claiming he is the son of former Uganda dictator Idi Amin, two psychiatrists compete to treat him. The shrinks are white, the young man is black, and one of his delusions is that oranges are blue -- and if you then surmise that playwright Joe Penhall's stage comedy Blue/Orange is all about color, go to the head of the class and buy a ticket for the play. It previews April 8, 9, 10, and 13, then opens April 14 and plays Wednesdays through Saturdays through May 15, at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre, under the direction of Tom Ross. 2081 Addison St., 510-843-4822, AuroraTheatre.org -- Kelly Vance
Down to Earth
All over the world and throughout time, stories have been told of deities paying visits to the mortal coil, in human form and otherwise. Sure, the Greek gods were a bit abusive of their powers, largely using them to mack. But the Hindu god Vishnu manifests a part of himself whenever he is needed to fight evil down below, which is pretty often. These incarnations and others will be brought to life in Avatar , the latest show by Jyoti Rout and her Jyoti Kala Mandir company. They perform the Odissi Indian classical dance production this Sunday at 5 p.m. at Julia Morgan. $12-$15. For more info, call 510-486-9851 or visit JyotiKalaMandir.org -- Stefanie Kalem
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