Critic's Choice for the week of April 16-22 

A bilingual braided MC, Cuban piano giants, Waifs from Down Under, an Shaver, an Oaklander from West Africa, Motown's unsung heroes, and a planet-friendly festival.


Deuce Eclipse has got to be one of the most talented MCs anywhere, not just in the Bay Area. The bilingual Braided One raps in English and Spanish, affecting both hip-hop and raggamuffin cadences, on his solo debut It's the Hour, released last year on his own Oywalk Musica label. He's been highly visible of late, helping out Zion-I with their stage show and busting some rather wicked freestyles. He'll be holding it down Saturday at La Peña's Collective Soul showcase, along with the Basics, the Attik, and Isis. 510-849-2568. (Eric K. Arnold)


The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra returns to Zellerbach Hall Tuesday night for the exciting world premiere of Régis Campo's Symphony No. 1. Not content with one premiere, Stuart Canin plays the US premiere of Unsuk Chin's Violin Concerto, a work whose Berlin premiere inspired eight curtain calls. Also featured are Mozart's Overture to Don Giovanni and Benedetto Lupo performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24. 510-841-2800. (Jason Serinus)


Three piano giants who mine Cuba's rich Afro-American connections hit the Bay Area for a crash course in the past, present, and future of Cuban music. Chucho Valdes, founder of Irakere, won acclaim for his ability to meld his improvisational genius to a danceable groove. He appears with a quartet featuring saxman Joe Lovano. Gonzalo Rubalcaba has electrified audiences with his fiery technique since Charlie Haden introduced him to the international community at Montreux in 1989. Omar Sosa immigrated to the Bay Area in 1995, where his roots-heavy duo performances with drummer and percussionist John Santos caused a sensation. Chucho Valdes Quartet and Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco. 415-776-1999. Omar Sosa & the New VJ Ensemble Friday and Saturday at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. 415-978-2787. (j. poet )

Latin percussionist and bandleader Pete Escovedo may now live in Southern California, but his contribution to East Bay Latin music cannot be denied. From his Oakland Ballroom mambo days, Latin rock daze with Santana and Azteca, the Pete and Sheila Band with daughter Sheila E. and son Peter Michael -- now musical director for the Wayne Brady Show -- Pops E. is a legend. He returns to join host John Santos and Mingus Amungus as part of the Bay Area Latin Jazz Legacy Series this Friday at La Peña in Berkeley. 510-849-2568. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Ten years ago, Australian sisters Donna and Vikki Simpson packed up their guitars and hit the road as the Waifs. When they met singer/songwriter and guitarist Joshua Cunningham, the trio was complete. Their sizzling live shows and several self-produced albums made them household names Down Under. They'll probably be playing a lot of the tunes on Sink or Swim, their excellent American debut, Friday at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. 415-474-0365. (j.poet)


Billy Joe Shaver is one of country music's most original and confessional songwriters. A crony of Willie, Waylon, and the boys, Shaver had tunes covered by Elvis and the Allman Brothers in the '70s. In the '90s he was reborn as a country rocker when his son Eddy joined the band on electric guitar. Eddy OD'd in 2000, just after Shaver's wife of 43 years passed on, and in the aftermath Billy Joe has created some of the finest, most emotionally wrenching music of his career. Friday at the Cafe du Nord. 415-861-5016. (j.p.)


Canadian singer/songwriter and guitarist Kathleen Edwards has generated a media frenzy unusual for a new artist. Dozens of magazines not known for their music coverage, including Elle and Interview, have run features on her, and critics are heaping superlatives on her debut album Failer, praising its subtle, low-key power. She plays with her band Friday at Bimbo's in San Francisco. 415-474-0365. (j.p.)


Baba Ken Okulolo's musical roots run deep. Born into a family of traditional musicians in Aladja, Nigeria, he worked with artists such as King Sunny Ade, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and Afro-rock group Monomono, before coming to Oakland and founding the groups Kotoja and West African Highlife Band. Fans have a special Sunday treat in store when Baba Ken presents the Nigerian Brothers at Freight & Salvage. The group includes bassist/drummer/vocalist Okulolo, as well as guitarist Adesoji Okugogbe (a member of Fela's groups Afrika 70 and Afrika 80), talking drum specialist Rasaki Aladokun (King Sunny Ade), and vocalist/percussionist Lemi Barrow (Kotoja/West African Highlife Band). The Nigerian Brothers -- whose Songs from the Village album is available from Oakland's Inner Spirit Records -- play an intoxicating mix of traditional, highly rhythmic West African folk and dance music, with lyrics sung in Yoruba, Urhubo, Itsekiri, pidgin, Hausa, and English. 510-548-1761. (E.A.)


Last year, the critically-acclaimed documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown shed light on a bunch of guys who pretty much define the phrase "unsung heroes." The Funk Brothers -- a group of blues and jazz musicians recruited to do session work for the Motown label -- played on more Number One pop hits than the Beatles and Elvis combined -- yet were never credited for their contributions to hits such as "What's Going On," "Baby Love," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and "Dancing in the Street." The group -- whose original members included Joe Messina, Eddie Willis, Joe Hunter, Johnny Griffith, and Bob Babbitt, as well as the late James Jamerson, Uriel Jones, Earl Van Dyke, Benny Benjamin, and Pistol Allen -- forged a bond that extended far beyond friendship. According to bassist Babbitt, the Funk Brothers' camaraderie was "really a spiritual connection." The doc not only restored the Brothers' reputation and gave them credit where credit was due, it reunited them as an active band. Currently on a national tour with special guests Joan Osborne, Maxi Priest, and Darlene Love, the Funk Brothers hit the Paramount on Tuesday, April 22, for what promises to be an emotion-packed concert. Somewhat at a loss for words to explain what playing together again has meant for the group, Babbitt says, "Sometimes, when you hear something that's still here after all these years, it's unbelievable." 510-465-6400. (E.A.)


If you love the earth and all things green, you'll love this: We the Planet, a one-day festival combining music, consciousness, and activism, comes to Golden Gate Park's Speedway Meadow on Sunday. Organized by model-turned-tree-hugger Julia Butterfly Hill's Circle of Life organization, this pro-environmental celebration boasts some fairly big-name acts, among them De La Soul, Concrete Blonde, the Coup, and Cake. Bonnie Raitt and Alanis Morissette are scheduled to do special acoustic performances. The event will be completely run on green energy sources -- bio-fuel and solar power -- and tickets and posters are printed on hemp/flax tree-free paper. Recycling is highly recommended; concertgoers are requested to bring their own utensils, if possible. (E.A.)


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