Critic's Choice for the week of May 4 - 10, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

CLASSIC SWING

Gypsy-jazz guitarist Biréli Lagrène channels the irrepressible swing of the legendary Django Reinhardt with a power and precision like few others. His melodies are gorgeous, his rhythms addictive, and his improvs astonishingly fleet-fingered. He appears on this once-in-a-lifetime double bill with the renowned Romanian Gypsy group Taraf de Haïdouks, whose barrage of violinists, accordionists, and wailing vocalists promises an energy that will kick even the most buttoned-down Zellerbach audience members out of their seats and into the aisles. Sunday at Zellerbach Hall. $22-$42, 7 p.m. 510-642-9988. (Sam Prestianni)

HONKY-TONK BLUEGRASS

The Earl Brothers play a blend of bluegrass and old-time hard-core country music that is hard to classify. Their self-released debut, Whiskey, Women & Death, hits hard on all three subjects, while the quartet's instrumental prowess and full-on attack will impress rockers as well as lovers of traditional country music. The James King Band headlines Sunday at p.m. at SF's Plough and Stars (116 Clement St. at 2nd Ave.). $10. 415-751-1122. PWeb.jps.net/~jgilder/plough.html (j. poet)

JEWISH ARABIC

One of the world's best-known Israeli musicians, Yair Dalal stages a peace concert in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah) tonight (Wednesday) at 8:30 at Berkeley's Ashkenaz. Playing violin and oud, Dalal is joined by percussionist Jim Santi Owen in a concert that features both traditional classical Jewish Arabic music and Dalal's original compositions. Dalal, whose parents immigrated to Israel from Iraq, has taken his heritage and music into prestigious collaborations with artists from classical conductor Zubin Mehta to Indian violinist L. Shankar and Nubian oud master Hamza el Din. $13-$15. 510-525-5054 or Ashkenaz.com (Larry Kelp)

FOLK JAZZ

When John Renbourn and Jacqui McShee founded Pentangle in the late '60s, their acoustic blend of British folk, jazz, swing, blues, and Celtic music was revolutionary, not to mention a welcome respite from the clanging folk rock of the day. The current incarnation of the John Renbourn Group is still on the folk/jazz edge, and features McShee's crystalline soprano (a perfect match for Renbourn's fretboard virtuosity) as well as local fiddler Sue Draheim. Sunday at 8 p.m. at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $20.50-$21.50. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (j.p.)

ECLECTIC JAZZ

Berkeley electric guitarist Will Bernard has more musical hats than Imelda Marcos has shoes. From the pioneering Hieroglyphics Ensemble through guitar band T.J. Kirk with Charlie Hunter; from projects backing such artists as Indian classical singer Shweta Jhaveri to collaborations with clarinetist Beth Custer; and from his own jam and funk bands (including Motherbug) to his current gig in Odile Lavault's Baguette Quartette playing Parisian swing, Bernard easily spreads his talents around. But Tuesday at Yoshi's, he strips down to just a trio (with drummer Ches Smith and bassist Devin Hoff) to celebrate the release of the trio's CD, Directions to My House -- the group works in the realm between rock and jazz, generating often edgy, always lyrical material that perfectly showcases Bernard's taste and musicianship. 8 ($10) and 10 ($6) p.m. 510-238-9200 or Yoshis.com (L.K.)

LATIN JAZZ AND BEYOND

John Santos and the Machete Ensemble celebrate twenty years together this Saturday at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco. The Grammy-nominated Ensemble defines a distinct sound that's more than just Latin jazz; for this SFJAZZ party, the gang will feature special guests Jerry Medina (the sensational singer and trumpeter from Puerto Rico), jazz hornman Ray Vega, and resident diva Bobi Cespedes. $20-$34, 8 p.m. 415-788-7353. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

METROSEXUAL ELECTRONICA

Credit (or blame, depending on your perspective) for the metrosexual revolution can be assigned almost entirely to Thievery Corporation, the Washington, DC, DJs and producers who revived lounge lizardry by transforming it into downtempo electronica, sparking a clubgoing militia of well-groomed, immaculately coifed men with expensive footwear. TC's Rob Garza and Eric Hilton aren't ones to rest on their mojitos, however: they've upped their hipster cred on their new album, The Cosmic Game, with cameos from Perry Farrell and David Byrne, and are touring large venues instead of dingy clubs, backed by a live band. These princes of thieves come to the Fillmore Saturday and the Warfield Sunday for a much-anticipated two-night stand. BGP.com. (Eric K. Arnold)

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