Critic's Choice for the week of December 17-23, 2003 


The contributions Paris has made to hip-hop -- especially the local scene -- should not be overlooked. Thirteen years ago, the SF MC (currently living in Danville) proved that Afrocentric, politically conscious rap was no mere East Coast phenomenon. Ever since, he's been speaking his mind and speaking the truth, battling the forces of ignorance and censorship with a true soldier's spirit. Go ahead and call it a comeback: Paris' most recent album, Sonic Jihad, has been a resounding critical success, and hasn't done too bad sales-wise either, to the tune of 94,000 units moved (at last count) in little more than two months. That's damn good for an indie album these days, even if P-Dog still has a long way to go before he replaces 50 Cent at the top of the charts. Help support Paris' bravery and your own civil liberties by showing up tonight (Wednesday) at Slim's for a rare live performance by the man they call the "Black Panther of Rap." Grrrrr. 415-255-0333 or (Eric K. Arnold)


More than a decade and seven CDs after Jeff Pehrson and Jim Brunberg met and formed Box Set, the duo is about to launch a cross-country tour opening for Hot Tuna. But first, there's a Thursday headlining gig at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. While Box Set expanded for a time into an electric band, these days the pair's finely honed harmonies -- offset by chiming acoustic guitars on folk-rock songs that mix personal and political lyrics -- provide as complete a sound as they need. The guys' latest CD, Live Duo II, captures most of the Box Set magic, but their spontaneous interplay is only available onstage. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)


Although he'd cut two earlier albums for Prestige, it was his eponymous album for Elektra that put Tom Rush on the map as a country blues picker and vocal stylist of note. Today he's as well known for his tall tales as he is for his dexterous picking and finely crafted songs. Saturday at the Freight & Salvage. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)


Poet-musician Avotcja is a Bay Area cultural treasure. A radio host at KPFA and KPOO, she has performed with Rahsaan Roland Kirk and other luminaries. Now she has a new CD out and a performance this Friday at Berkeley's La Peña with her group Modupue, featuring Jon Jang (piano), Francis Wong (reeds), John-Carlos Perea (bass) and John Santos (percussion). As poet Rafaela Ocasio put it, "Avotcja is a sound junkie, a storyteller/musician, a weaver of magical cloth, a gatherer of poetic wisdom and musical medicine, and definitely somebody not to be missed." 510-849-2568. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


And so it is Christmas. And what have you done? Nothin' yet? Then let us humbly suggest you haul ass to SF's Thee Parkside Thursday night for the Rockin' Your Stockin' Christmas Pageant and Toy Drive . Local luminaries from Bart Davenport to past and current members of the Mother Hips, Red Meat, and Harold Ray Live in Concert will be throwin' down special versions of such holiday classics as, uh, "Drunk Daddy X-Mas." Guest appearances by Santa Claus and the San Francisco Fire Department (to pick up the toys, not extinguish anything) will also occur; admission's $5 with an unwrapped toy and $10 without. 415-503-0393. (Rob Harvilla)


The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra pulls out all the stops Sunday night. Fresh from the UK, the extraordinary Baroque violinist Andrew Manze conducts an all-Bach Christmas program at Berkeley's First Congo, featuring his Violin Concerto in A Minor, the glorious Magnificat (including four rarely performed Christmas movements), and one of Bach's celebratory Christmas Cantatas. Soloists include SF Opera tenor Jonathan Boyd and current Adler Fellows Saundra DeAthos, Greta Feeney, Katherine Rohrer, and Ricardo Herrera. 415-392-4400. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Looking for some pre-Christmas festivities? Got relatives or guests in town and want to give them a night on the town they won't soon forget? It's time to trade the eggnog and fruitcake for sake and fried calamari and get yourself on down to Jack London Square. Freshly returned from her international tour, the Bay Area's own Ledisi sets up shop for a special holiday-themed two-night stand at Yoshi's Monday and Tuesday. Expect her to perform local favorites like "Take Time," as well as seasonal jazz and soul standards and -- rumor has it -- debut some new material. (But only if you've been good). 510-238-9200 or (E.K.A.)


Mel Torme still gets a gleam in his eye when he discusses his composition "The Christmas Song" -- "It captured a moment," he said once. Nat Cole made it a huge hit, and no doubt you'll hear it at Ledisi's two-night holiday party. But if she doesn't play it, perhaps Clairdee will on Wednesday, December 24, when she welcomes Santa at a Yoshi's party celebrating the national release of her album This Christmas. "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ..." 510-238-9200. (J.C.V.)


This pick originally ran in our 12/10 issue, but unfortunately the show it described is happening this Thursday, and not last Thursday, as it had misstated. So we're running it now, strongly suggesting you attend (it's this Thursday, honest), and apologizing for the confusion.

The Palm Wine Boys play the lilting, danceable brand of West African folk music known as "palm wine," an irresistible rhythm that was probably one of the forebears of Trinidad's calypso. Guitarist and songwriter Richard Linley learned the style from S.E. Rogie -- one of the genre's great innovators -- but the band adds its own blend of Zulu jive, Congolese soukous, and American folk and blues to the mix. Thursday at La Peña in Berkeley. (510) 849-2568. (j.p.)


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