Critic's Choice for the week of March 16-22, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

LATIN JAZZ

Grammy-winning pianist and bandleader Eddie Palmieri is one of the most extraordinary compositional voices in the NYC salsa and Latin jazz world. His ability to fuse traditional Afro-Cuban rhythmic patterns with the concepts of music theorist Joseph Schillinger has put him in a league of his own. Friday night, Palmieri brings his Latin Jazz Ensemble to Hayward's Chabot College Performing Arts Center (25555 Hesperian Blvd.) for a concert that includes the excellent CC Evening Jazz Band. $18, 8 p.m. 510-723-6831. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

COUNTRY TEASERS

The rip-roaring and shin-kicking Cowlicks -- past Bay Area Music Award winners for Best Country CD, beating out Merle and Buck -- unplug for an O Brother-style night at Albany's Ivy Room Saturday. Known for their fine original songs with country harmonies and twanging guitars, the 'Licks add to the fun this time with countrified covers of tunes by Gram Parsons, Black Sabbath, and such. Guest players include Dave Zirbel of the Mother Truckers on dobro and Eli Smith of Jug Free America on banjo. Sharing the stage is Mother Truckers offshoot band Chrome Johnson, offering some Ennio Morricone spaghetti Western-style tunes. 510-524-9220. (Larry Kelp)

ELOQUENT RAPPERS

Like Notorious B.I.G., Ras Kass raps with such eloquence and depth that he should be canonized along with such authors as Ralph Ellison, Frantz Fanon, and Richard Wright. The MC's most famous piece, "Nature of the Threat," is one of the closest things to a Ph.D thesis that hip-hop has ever produced. He performs Friday night at the Fillmore with ride-pimping West Coast kingpin Xzibit, who built his chops working with Dr. Dre and recently released his fifth album, Weapons of Mass Destruction. $25, 9 p.m. TheFillmore.com (Rachel Swan)

NASCENT RAPPERS

To mark the release of its debut album, Royalty, the indie hip-hop duo Co-Deez -- MCs Otayo Dubb and Skatta -- performs this Sunday at Blakes on Telegraph in Berkeley, with a lineup of all-star Bay Area acts including Equipto of Bored Stiff, T.D. Camp, and Sco Journers with DJ Pause. Like most true-school heads, the Co-Deez boys cut their teeth making beats in their bedrooms and digging in their parents' record collections; the result is a delectable mix of hip-hop, funk, and rocksteady influences. $10, 9:30 p.m. BlakesonTelegraph.com (R.S.)

NEW CLASSIC COUNTRY

Wayne "The Train" Hancock is one of the hardest-rocking, hardest-working dudes on the alt.country (or is that Americana?) scene. His band lacks a drummer, but his hard-as-nails rhythm guitar work and the feral slapping bass that backs him up give his honky-tonk-meets-rockabilly tunes plenty of rhythmic mayhem. Sunday at SF's 12 Galaxies. $10-$12, 9 p.m. 415-970-9777 or 12Galaxies.com (j. poet)

BAROQUE

The Bay Area's superb Magnificat ensemble makes a return visit to the exquisitely refined music of baroque master Heinrich Schütz this Saturday night in Berkeley's St. Mark's Episcopal Church. The Palm Sunday program, featuring German tenor Martin Hummel, includes Schütz' Seven Words of Christ on the Cross, Resurrection Story, and Ich bin die Auferstehung. $25, $18 seniors, $12 students; 8 p.m. 415-979-4500. (Jason Victor Serinus)

ACTIVE ACTIVISM

Showcasing the Bay Area's most noteworthy "homo-hop" MCs, guerrilla thespians, spoken-word poets, riot grrls, and crushworthy Green politicians, the eleventh Annual Radical Performance Festival has a little something for anyone preoccupied with linking art and agitprop. The festival runs Friday and Saturday at SOMARTS Cultural Center (934 Brannan in SF), and features Sparlha Swa, Dancers Without Borders, Sistas in the Pit, Matt Gonzalez, and others. Proceeds from the $10-$25 admission go toward various activist causes, including Art in Action youth scholarships and the Abu Ghraib Conference. 8 p.m. each night. 415-282-3104 (R.S.)

SINGER-SONGWRITER

Lou Barlow of Sebadoh and Folk Implosion fame is as bemused and confused about women as any guy, but he always offers winning insights, even if he doesn't see any happy endings on the horizon. With his acoustic guitar and a mouthful of witty words, Barlow dances through the minefield of modern relationships with a sly, downhearted grace. Tuesday at Café du Nord in SF. $10, 9 p.m. 415-861-5016 or CafeduNord.com (j.p.)

CHAMBER MUSIC

Winner of several major chamber-music awards (including those from Banff, Naumburg, and the Cleveland Quartet), the Miró Quartet makes its Cal Performances debut in Hertz Hall this Sunday. Although illness necessitates replacement of the second violinist with pianist Pei-Yao Wang, we receive in return piano quartets by Mozart, Walton, and Brahms. $38, 3 p.m. 510-642-9988. (J.V.S.)

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