Critic's Choice for the week of August 28-September 3, 2002 

A sensitive songwriter's homecoming, an R&B bash in downtown Oakland, mobile jazz, two Latin trios, and a symphony subset in the city.

Head out to Cafe Eclectica in Albany on Friday if you want to see what free public transit, stunning arboreal beauty, and constant drizzle can do to clever, sensitive songwriters. Owen Ashworth, aka Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, has left the Bay Area for Portland, but hopefully he's still the left coast's battery-powered answer to Stephin Merritt. Cuspidor (also from Portland), the Anchors (from San Diego, featuring former members of the Moon and Sixpence), and Clarendon Hills also perform. 510-527-2344. (Stefanie Kalem)

After Malcolm Mooney left Can in the early '70s, Damo Suzuki stepped in, filling the mike with his own invented language, along with Japanese, German, English, and scatting. And what a sweetie pie ... during his last Bay Area appearance he hugged each and every one of the audience members. He performs on Friday night at the Stork Club, along with Secret Janet and Invisible Cities. Come early and get a seat. 510-444-6174. (Katy St. Clair)

The city of Oakland caps off its 150th anniversary celebration with a most impressive free festival of music, dance, and literature. Held Sunday and Monday on various stages within a few blocks of 14th and Broadway, the Art & Soul Festival boasts national attractions like Joan Osborne and the Spinners. The focus of the blues and gospel stages is more Oakland-centric, with such East Bay R&B greats as Jimmy McCracklin, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Jesse James, Freddie Hughes, Lady Bianca, the Ballads, and the Natural Four gracing the blues stage, and Edwin and Walter Hawkins on the gospel stage, which also features a solo appearance by Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams. Check for the complete schedule. (Lee Hildebrand)

The Groovemobile broke new ground in July with a concert at Verdese Carter Park in East Oakland. A second free concert this Saturday at De Fremery Park in West Oakland features the John Handy Quartet, Ledisi, the Grass Roots Ensemble, Oaktown Jazz Workshop, Big Belly Blues Band, and Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir. Kudos to director Khalil Shaheed for keeping jazz real in the community! 510-562-4546. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

Known nationally for his work with Charlie Hunter, Scott Amendola is perhaps the Bay Area's most versatile jazz drummer -- a master of swing, funk, and grooves beyond. Before heading out on a string of one-nighters from Santa Monica to Seattle, he and his band -- violinist Jenny Scheinman, saxophonist Eric Crystal, guitarist Nels Cline, and bassist Todd Sickafoose -- bring their searing sounds to Yoshi's on Monday. 510-238-9200. (L.H.)

Two post-nueva canción vocal and instrumental trios offer inspiring Latin American music in La Gran Noche de los Trios on Saturday at La Peña. The Snake Trio features Venezuelan singer and multi-instrumentalist Jackeline Rago with flutist Donna Viscuso and bassist Saul Sierra. The new Lichi, Hugo & Weber Trio combines the amazing Chilean singer Lichi Fuentes with Argentine guitarist Hugo Wainzinge and Brazilian pianist Weber Iago. 510-849-2568. (Larry Kelp)

It's worth a pilgrimage to San Francisco for Friday night's Old First Church concert featuring the San Francisco Symphony's fabulous principal violist Geraldine Walther and pianist Roy Bogas performing great 20th-century viola repertoire. The program includes Ernest Bloch's Suite for Viola and Piano, Paul Hindemith's Opus 25 No. 1 for Viola, and Rebecca Clarke's Sonata for Viola and Piano. 415-474-1608. (Jason Serinus)


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