Critic's Choice for the week of October 24 

Black Fag, Matthew Shipp, Jimmie Reign, Marcus Shelby, Big Star, Mills College Center for Contemporary Music, Groundation


One of the leading jazz innovators of the past two decades, NYC pianist Matthew Shipp embraces musical extremes — from ecstatic free-jazz to cerebral 21st-century classical to groovy electro-acoustic hybrids. His brilliantly crafted compositions makes space for open improv while maintaining a focused character that channels all of jazz history, and then some. Shipp's playing, as evident on the dynamic Piano Vortex (his latest recording with bassist Joe Morris and drummer Whit Dickey), is both visceral and cosmic, combining virtuosic musicianship with dreamy vision. The album is one of the most compelling of the year, and this concert is not to be missed. Matthew Shipp Trio appears on Wednesday, October 17 at Yoshi's. 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., $12-$20. — Sam Prestianni


Of all the outrageously named metal and punk outfits that pass through 924 Gilman Street, Black Fag deserves a place somewhere near the front. The California group's handle namechecks that of hardcore-music pioneer Black Flag — born of the late '70s, when homosexuality was hardly welcome in punk rock — and then shatters any ensuing expectations with a wickedly ironic reversal. This move is more than gimmick — or at least it's a faithfully executed one — as Black Fag performs flamboyant covers of classic Black Flag songs, injecting camp where it was never meant to be. The gap may be too wide to reconcile, but it's the niche Black Fag calls home. Tipper's Gore, Warkrime, Sabertooth Zombie, and Lost Boys open the show. Friday, October 19. 8 p.m., $6. 924Gilman.orgNate Seltenrich


Legend has it that Beyoncé's father used to make her run laps while singing to develop the coordination she'd use later in life — singing melismatic cadenzas while executing perfectly choreographed dance moves. And balletic poise is just a minimum requirement to compete in Oakland's R&B scene, where the most prominent female vocalists — Ledisi, Femi, Goapele, LaToya London, Jennifer Johns, and most recently, Jimmie Reign — are also competent bandleaders. Charming and diminutive offstage, slinky and flirtatious onstage, Reign performs Friday, October 19 at Maxwell's Lounge, accompanied by four background singers, a five-piece band, and a dance crew. Also starring Erika Sulpacio, the show kicks off at 8 p.m. and costs $10. MaxwellsLounge.comRachel Swan


Sandwiched among the stars of the 25th Anniversary San Francisco Jazz Festival this fall is a special event focusing on two of the Bay Area's most adventurous composer-performers, whose new major works are inspired by great women. On Friday at the Great American Musical Hall, Marcus Shelby leads his big band in his composition "Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman," a jazz oratorio featuring singers Faye Carol and Kenny Washington. One of the leaders in the Asian-American music scene, pianist Jon Jang leads a septet featuring Chinese pipa (lute) player Min Xiao-Fen, in "Unbound Voices: A Musical Tribute to Alice Fong Yu," his salute to the San Francisco educator. Friday, October 19. 8 p.m., $25, $40. — Larry Kelp


In the pantheon of influential bands, Big Star nearly always gets the backseat to the grittier street sounds of the Velvet Underground — despite the fact that groups like R.E.M. and Teenage Fanclub are avid disciples, and the Replacements found BS frontman Alex Chilton rad enough to name a song after him. While the former's mastery of power-pop doesn't have the sexy cachet of VU's more primal nihilism, it's just as vital given Chilton and company's stellar blend of guitar jangle, keening harmonies, and oftentimes brooding lyrics. In the past decade-plus, Chilton seems to have made peace with the short stick Big Star got during its existence by reuniting with bandmate Jody Stephens and rounding out the group with Jonathan Auer and Ken Stringfellow — whose band the Posies readily reflects Big Star's influence. With Chilton's Big Star reunions hinging on whims that most recently yielded the 2005 effort In Space — the group's first studio outing in nearly three decades — this is a rare chance to experience underappreciated rock royalty firsthand. Saturday, October 20 at the Fillmore. 9 p.m., $35. TheFillmore.comDave Gil de Rubio


Crowden Music Center's 25th anniversary season kicks off Sunday, October 21 with its annual Community Music Day. Dubbed a free musical carnival for the entire community, the five-hour celebration includes instrument-making workshops, face painting, games, an instrument "Petting Zoo," and a special kids' concert by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. The free event starts at 11 a.m. (For info, e-mail Just as those festivities die down, the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music in Oakland celebrates its fortieth anniversary with a concert featuring Joan Jeanrenaud, William Winant, Chris Brown, and others playing new music for acoustic instruments and electronics. That happens at 4 p.m. at Mills' Lisser Hall, and costs $6-$12. 510-430-2296 — Jason Victor Serinus


Local reggae heavies Groundation plays roots music with an accent on jazzy improvisation and a phat dub-wise bottom that's made it possibly the only American reggae band with international cachet. Its grooves and soulful songwriting never stray from the populist message of Jah music. Fans around the globe eagerly await their live shows, so get your tickets early. Tuesday, October 23 at the Independent. 9 p.m., $20, $22. — j. poet


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