Critic's Choice for the week of April 11-17, 2007 

Why the Bay Rules: The GZA in Oakland, Brubeck in SF, and Kronos at Cal.

Path of Genius

As a member of Staten Island's famous Wu-Tang Clan, rapper GZA the Genius became known for the paranoiac conspiracy theories and medieval Shaolin combat fantasies that percolated into his rhymes. Yet he has plenty of eccentricities outside the world of hip-hop. Take his interest in alternative medicine, which he discusses with fellow Wu-Tang emcee (and cousin) the RZA in the "Delirium" scene of Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee and Cigarettes. The two encounter Bill Murray in an old-school diner, where they sit drinking decaffeinated tea and touting its salutary effects. The GZA descends on West Oakland's 2232 MLK this Saturday, April 14, along with Killah Priest, Ironfist, and DJs Sokrates and Brycon. Hosted by Delinquent Monastery, the show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $30. (Rachel Swan)

Brubeck with Big Band

Concord-born Dave Brubeck returns to the San Francisco Jazz Festival this week for a concert with his current quartet and a rare big-band accompaniment. Even rarer, they will perform his '60s magnum orchestra-plus-quartet work, "Elementals" along with hits ("Take Five") and jazz standards. As pianist and composer of catchy tunes in unusual time signatures, Brubeck is one of jazz's true living legends. Best known for vibrantly energized performing, in recent years he has also recorded a few gorgeously intimate solo piano CDs. At the Masonic Center in SF Sunday, April 15. 7 p.m., $25-$85. (Larry Kelp)

Toot It Up

There's no American equivalent of Jamaican musical legend "Toots" Hibbert, who's actually credited with recording the first reggae song, "Do the Reggay," back in the late-'60s rock-steady era. Since then, he has sung of "perfect panderers" in the film The Harder They Come, funkified the Kingston sound, covered John Denver and Radiohead, recorded duets with Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt, and won a Grammy. Toots is getting up there in years, but he can still move with 'nuff vitality onstage, and if you've yet to see him and the Maytals perform classics like "Monkey Man" and "Sweet & Dandy," well, what are you waiting for? At the Fillmore in SF Saturday, April 14. 8 p.m., $26.50/$29.50. (Eric K. Arnold)

Kronos Debuts

Ever since its inception in 1973, the Kronos Quartet has remained at the forefront of contemporary music by constantly commissioning works that respond to the world we live in. This week's sold-out Cal Performances appearance in the relative intimacy of Hertz Hall is no exception. Central to the program are the local premieres of two works written for Kronos: Stephen Prutsman's Particle 423, for string quartet and sound design; and Henryk Górecki's oft elegiac String Quartet No. 3, "... songs are sung." Throw in music by John Zorn, Hamza El Din, and an arrangement of the anonymous "Oh Mother, the Handsome Man Tortures Me," and you have the makings of an extraordinary afternoon. Sunday, April 15. 3 p.m., $48. (Jason Victor Serinus)

Royal Blues

Known for her husky voice and long gold nails, Mississippi-born jazz diva Faye Carol says she learned to sing by trial and error. Now she's the closest you get to royalty in South Berkeley. Besides collaborating with Ray Charles, Bobby Hutcherson, and Marvin Gaye, she has spent years teaching teen vocalists how to sing the blues. The blueswoman says her after-school classes at Berkeley's Black Repertory Theatre feature songs about social issues like AIDS, teen pregnancy, or the prison industrial complex, just to keep up with the times. Wednesday, April 18, she'll perform a tribute to Billie Holiday at Yoshi's, backed by an all-star Bay Area quartet. Fortune may even grace us with a guest appearance by Carol's daughter Kito Gamble, an accomplished jazz pianist who could play circles around most of her contemporaries. 8 and 10 p.m., $18/$10. (R.S.)

Blues + Fusion

David Jacobs-Strain has an age-old voice and bottleneck-guitar chops that make players twice his age break out in a cold sweat. Born in Eugene, Oregon, and raised on folk and blues, he came into his own during his years at Stanford where he started blending Arab and African sounds. Soulful and subtle, virtuosic and modest, Jacobs-Strain is one of today's finest young bluesmen. At the Freight Thursday, April 12. 8:00 p.m., $18.50 (j. poet)

Don't Miss

Cowboy Junkies known for their "Sweet Jane" cover years ago — still making new music at the Great American Friday (; Encore: Everything's a Dollar in this Box — Tom Waits songs played on cheap instruments at 21 Grand in Oakland Friday and Saturday (; Silversun Pickups return for all kinds of fuzzy hard rock fun at the sold-out Independent Monday (; New CDs released Tuesday, April 17 by Nine Inch Nails, Avril Lavigne, and Robert Pollard (D2).


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