Critic's Choice for the week of January 29-February 4, 2003 

A blues benefit in Albany, 17th century sound in Berkeley, and a sax prodigy in San Francisco.


This month's most intriguing concert is a benefit for the Albany Schools Music Program. Harmonica ace and longtime Steve Miller sidekick Norton Buffalo and friends are joined by one of the 2002 San Francisco Blues Festival's hottest acts, guitarist and singer Elvin Bishop, Saturday at Albany High School gym. Jazz-drenched Turtle Island String Quartet (nominated for a 2003 Grammy for its Danzon CD with Paquito D'Rivera) opens. 510-559-8474. (Larry Kelp)

Political activist and blues, jazz, folk, and proto-Americana artist Barbara Dane has been entertaining Bay Area audiences since 1949. The singer-songwriter's early albums for Tradition, Capitol, and World Pacific showcased a restless artist able to mix blues, jazz, and folk idioms into a powerful style all her own. As good as the albums were, it's Dane's dynamic onstage presentation that wins new fans and continues to wow the already converted. Friday and Saturday at the Freight & Salvage. 510-548-1761. (j. poet )


The superb early-music ensemble Magnificat, conducted by Warren Stewart, returns to Berkeley's First Congregational Church this Saturday to champion the music of Isabella Leonarda, a nun who became one of the Baroque era's most prolific women composers. Leonarda's Vespro della beata virgine heads an evening of psalms, motets, and trio sonatas by the renowned Muse of Novarro. 415-979-4500. (Jason Serinus)


East Bay saxophone prodigy Howard Wiley is no longer the whiz kid from Hercules. With his sophomore CD outing 21st Century Negro, the veteran of Lavay Smith's band shows that he is now a mature talent. This Tuesday, he brings his 21st Century Negro Project to Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, featuring his sax mentor, Jules Broussard. 415-626-3311. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela).

Piano legend McCoy Tyner exploded onto the scene in John Coltrane's groundbreaking '60s quartet. For the second week of his ninth annual residency at Yoshi's, Tyner fronts an intimate trio with Christian McBride, whose blend of funk, blues, hip-hop, and jazz makes him the country's best young bassist; and drummer Lewis Nash, a rhythm master who has made over 300 albums with musicians such as Diana Krall, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, and others. Two shows nightly, Wednesday through Sunday at Yoshi's. 510-238-9200 (j. poet)


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