Critic's Choice for the week of August 25-31, 2004 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


Guitarists with amazing technique and unique approaches are abundant in the Bay Area, but Italy's Peppino D'Agostino stands out as an artist who turns an evening of solo guitar instrumentals into a delightful journey through sound. D'Agostino and his guitar provide the entire show at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage Sunday night -- the guitarist's style blends Mediterranean strains with American folk and blues on mostly original compositions. While he can outplay most of the masters, D'Agostino has, over the course of nine albums and 25 years of performing, brought out the romance of great melodies, filled with emotion and cinematic sweep. 8 p.m., $16.50-$17.50. 510-548-1761 or (Larry Kelp)


Winston Rodney, aka Burning Spear, recently created Burning Spear Records and recorded the Grammy-nominated album Free Man, another masterpiece of soul and sufferation. As he nears his sixtieth birthday, Spear remains vital, and his band remains one of the top purveyors of Jah Music. Friday and Saturday at Slim's in SF. 9 p.m., $26-$28 each night. 415-522-0333 or (j. poet)


Ranking Joe is a certified roots reggae OG, one of the last practitioners of the old-school style of mic chanting identified with such Rasta stalwarts as U-Roy and Big Youth. You may have heard him recently on the Easy Star All-Stars' Dub Side of the Moon, where he voices "Time" and the bonus track "Step It Pon the Rastaman Scene" with 'nuff style and fashion (ribbit!). Dubwise and otherwise, he's an article don, the real McCoy in a world of Seanny (Paul)-come-latelys. He's also down with the local East Bay massive, and will be appearing live and direct Sunday night for the ongoing "Kings of Kings" Sunday reggae night at Berkeley's Shattuck Down Low Lounge, whose red-gold-and-green vibe takes on added importance this week as the official afterparty for the Marley Brothers/Toots shindig happening at the Greek Theatre earlier that day. Hardcore reggae supporters can carry their irie ites on into the evening after a day in the sun, while cheapskates can simply opt to check the dancehall session, seen? 9 p.m., $15. (Eric K. Arnold)


Of course, if you're a super hardcore reggae fan, you can get your niceness on even earlier in the weekend, warming up for the Greek festivities and the after-party with a likkle pre-party, also at the Down Low, featuring another legendary Jamaican vocalist, Junior Reid. After replacing beloved Rastaman Michael Rose in reggae supergroup Black Uhuru in time for the Brutal album back in '85, Reid quickly established himself as a worthy successor to Rose's crown, one whose flavor was still roots-oriented, but even more contemporary. Combining the half-singing, half-rapping "sing-jay" style popularized by the late Tenor Saw with Rose's crucial ad libs, Reid infused a fresh energy into now-classic Uhuru chunes like "Fit You Haffe Fit" and "Great Train Robbery." He's probably best known as the voice behind the endearing unity anthem "One Blood," although he also has worked with Sly & Robbie, Guru's Jazzmatazz, Wu-Tang Clan, and Coldcut, to name a few. Assuming he has no visa problems, he'll be "Mashing Up da Earth" before your very eyes Saturday evening. 9:30 p.m., $20. (E.K.A.)


For those who know Girl George solely as the eccentric impresario of East Bay open mic nights, you might wanna drop by the Plough Tuesday night for a bit of history -- the joint is screening Pre-Madonna, a documentary covering the weirdo 1970s Nashville music scene, of which Ms. George was a proud, eccentric part. 8 p.m., $5 suggested donation. 510-841-2082. (Rob Harvilla)


The Earl Brothers have a high lonesome moan that sounds like the voices whispering out of a Depression-era radio: part bluegrass, part old-time music, part working-class folk. Robert Earl Davis and John McKelvy's high harmonies (and stellar picking) make every tune on the Brothers' self-produced album, Whiskey, Women and Death, ring with harsh truth and chilling emotion. Dave Gleason's Wasted Days complete the bill at an early show Sunday afternoon at Thee Parkside in SF. 5 p.m. 415-503-0393 or (j.p.)


As far as nostalgia concerts go, the Third Annual Old-School Funk Fest Reunion beats jaded, tired-ass money-grubbers like the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac anytime (and ticket prices are much more reasonable). Here's why: Old-school funksters still love to play music together, and they're more than grateful for another chance to dust off their Jheri curls and break out the fringed silver bodysuits. Plus, with Rick "Superfreak" James recently moving on up to the great VIP room in the sky, there might be a little extra emotion in the air at Sunday afternoon's throwdown. The line-up is certainly stellar: the Gap Band ("You Dropped a Bomb on Me"); Midnight Star ("No Parking on the Dance Floor"); Whodini ("Freaks Come Out at Night"); Lakeside ("Fantastic Voyage"); Club Nouveau ("Why You Treat Me So Bad"), and the Sugar Hill Gang ("Rappers' Delight"), featuring original members Wonder Mike and Big Bank Hank. Up jump the boogie to the bang bang boogie to the rhythm of the boogie the beat, and ya don't stop. Noon Sunday at the Chronicle Pavilion, $41.25-$64.75. 510-625-TIXS or (E.K.A.)


In a rare joint appearance, the great composer and pianist Terry Riley, father of minimalism, joins pianist and composer Larry Karush this Saturday at San Francisco's Noe Valley Ministry for an evening of solos, capped by a possible duo. Both men's music shows the influence of jazz and North Indian musical forms. Thanks to a shared vision that extends beyond the physical, expect time and boundaries to be stretched. $16-$18, 8 p.m., 415-454-5238. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Join John Santos and his world-acclaimed Machete Ensemble in a benefit for Comfort for Kids of Contra Costa, a unique program that cares for children with life-threatening illnesses at home, enabling families to spend quality time together. Dedicated to Amaly Celeste Santos Salazar, the show at Yoshi's in Oakland this Tuesday night includes such performers as Bamuthi Joseph, Genny Lim, Destani Wolf, Rhiannon, Maria Marquez, Frank Martin, Molly Holm, Kahlil Shaheed, Avotcja, E.W. Wainwright, Coto Pincheira, Francis Wong, and others. $10-$15, 8 and 10 p.m. 510-238-9200 or (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


American Bach Soloists give us good reason to cross the bridge with Tuesday's opening of their four-night Summer in the City Chamber Music Festival. Soprano Shawnette Sulker joins a host of superb early music instrumentalists in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral to perform Bach's Non sa che sia dolore and Flute Sonata in A major, plus Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in G minor and Violin Concerto in E major. $25-$30, 7:30 p.m. 415-621-7900. (J.V.S.)


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