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

A quartet of wiseguys from DC, Radiohead on classical piano, a fund-raiser to help move the Freight, and a singer who cured her stage fright with a Ph.D. Go see for yourself.

Da Vinci's Notebook is a quartet of wiseguys from Washington, DC, who delight in close vocal harmonies, political satire, and guttersnipe humor. Last year the group stirred up a bit of controversy when several NPR stations began airing its ode to self-love, "Enormous Penis." They sing everything from jazz to doo-wop to bluegrass, and prove that you don't have to be serious to be a serious musician. Wednesday at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)

You may consider yourself a fan, but until you record a CD of studious solo piano classical versions of Radiohead tunes, you ain't got nothin' on Christopher O'Riley. Ring yourself up True Love Waits for loving renditions of everything from "Everything in Its Right Place" to "Fake Plastic Trees"; better yet, catch the dude live Wednesday night at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. 510-642-9988. (Rob Harvilla)

On Saturday, Berkeley husband-wife folk team Barry & Alice Olivier turn the Freight & Salvage into their living room for a night of sharing songs. Actually, they prefer the term "Buzzard's Roost" to "concert"; this time, the Roost is their fund-raiser to aid the nonprofit folk club's move downtown. Barry was a teenage DJ in the '50s on fledgling indie radio station KPFA. He also launched and ran the decade-long Berkeley Folk Festival that hosted everyone from Lightnin' Hopkins to Jefferson Airplane, and has taught guitar to budding stars or folks who just want to enjoy making music for themselves. The Oliviers certainly do. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)

Shira Kammen, the Bay Area's treasured performer of medieval music, unites her fiddle and harp with the crystalline voice of French soprano Anne Azéma for a Saturday night SFEMS program entitled Etoile du Nord in Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church. The artists will perform a mixture of sacred and secular works from northern France, many of which proclaim tales of Mary's miracles. 510-528-1725. (Jason Victor Serinus)

In the early '80s, Lucy Kaplansky was an up-and-coming artist in NYC's folk scene, sharing bills with Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin, with whom she also formed a duo. Stage fright led her to complete a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology, but music lured Lucy back to the stage, where her psychological savvy is evident in the dark humor and emotional complexity of her songs. Local six-string goddess Nina Gerber supplies her always-sympathetic accompaniment. Sunday at the Freight & Salvage. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)

Last Wednesday night the grand opening of the new Mr. E's Nightclub unveiled an eight-thousand-square-foot spring-loaded dancefloor -- it's like dancing on air. Located at Historic Sweet's Ballroom on Broadway, the Wednesday night salsa sessions will feature two local salsa bands along with DJs Jose Ruiz and Carlito's Way. 510-893-3500. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

Hey, just so you're aware, Norah Jones' dad plays music sometimes, too. Ravi Shankar, the Jimi Hendrix of the sitar, has forgotten more about culture-transcending world music than you'll ever wish you knew. Perhaps "shred" is not the operative word, but he'll rock the sitar like nobody's business with another musically inclined daughter, Anoushka Shankar, Saturday night at Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. (R.H.)

"Tears welling up behind the door/I can't stop until I find myself a little bit more/It's my own little trip/My pony ride/There ain't one damn reason you should see inside of me," Cafe R&B singer Roach divulges on "Our Town." Such profundity is always appreciated, especially coming from an unlooked-for corner. We don't expect too much from our bar bands and juke-joint entertainers, but when they come through, it's like getting two longnecks for the price of one. Cafe R&B delivers big-time on its latest album, Blues and All the Rest, which spotlights a range extending from original blues-rock tunes to gutsy covers of classics such as "Born Under a Bad Sign" to boogaloo-style R&B to somber balladry. Roach has a tendency to wow critics with her live performance: She's been called a "High Priestess of Voodoo R&B," a job for which there's an opening after the passing of the great Nina Simone. Saturday at Eli's. 510-655-6161. (Eric K. Arnold)


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