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October’s Best Jazz and Beyond Around the Bay Area

October 2, 2018

It’s a good thing that autumn is such a welcoming season in the Bay Area. Even if the hoped-for Indian summer doesn’t keep temperatures balmy, the gentle weather and long twilights make it an easy decision to head out in the evening, and no month is packed with more musical action than October. With every presenter seeming to compete with each other for notice, there are dozens of events brimming with music. Here are a few I’m hoping to catch.

Berkeley Festival of Choro | Oct. 6–7

With origins dating back to the late 19th century, choro is one of the essential traditions running through Brazilian music. A bravura instrumental style that’s reinvigorated every few decades by a new wave of virtuosi, choro is in the midst of yet another resurgence, and some of the music’s most influential figures are performing in the 5th Annual Berkeley Festival of Choro (along with some excellent Bay Area choro devotees). Encompassing a series of concerts, workshops and jam sessions, the festival centers on an Oct. 6 triple bill at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley featuring Rio guitar masters Rogério Souza and Edinho Gerber in Duo Violão Brasil, the Bay Area’s Grupo Falso Baiano, and the Berkeley Choro Ensemble with special guest Ian Coury, a mandolin expert from Brasilia. And on Oct. 7, Coury, seven-string guitarist Nando Duarte, and Berkeley Choro Ensemble percussionist Brian Rice perform at Oakland’s Sound Room. Tickets via Brown Paper.

Fatoumata Diawara | Oct. 7

Since the release of her gorgeous 2011 debut album Fatou (World Circuit), Ivory Coast-born, Mali-raised, Paris-based singer/songwriter Fatoumata Diawara has earned international attention as one of West Africa’s most eloquent artists. While maintaining a parallel career as an actress, she’s collaborated with fellow Malian artists such as her mentor Oumou Sangaré and Amadou and Mariam, as well as Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Paul McCartney. Joined by an excellent cast of New Orleans musicians, she performs at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage, one of only three North American dates marking the release of her impressive second album Fenfo (Shanachie Records).

The Second Silicon Valley Jazz Festival | Oct. 13–14

Running from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. this two-day free event brings an array of ensembles to Burton Park in San Carlos. Launched and booked by guitarist Pascal Bokar Thiam, who runs the San Carlos club Savanna Jazz, the event features middle school, high school, college and professional ensembles playing a variety of jazz idioms. Saturday highlights include the ebuellient Menlo Park vocalist Rebecca DuMaine backed by the joyfully swinging Dave Miller Trio, and a trio led by the polished Redwood City pianist Scott Dailey. Sunday’s program includes the superb West Coast jazz of Octobop and Oakland-born trumpet great Jon Faddis, whose has lived up to his sensational New York debut as a teenager in the early 1970s. More information at the festival website.

Lynne Arriale | October 17

A rapturously lyrical pianist with a crystalline touch, Lynne Arriale has released a string of finely wrought albums over the past two decades. Her latest release, Give Us These Days (Challenge Music), is a stellar trio session with a Dutch rhythm section alternating between her originals and smart arrangements of songs by Joni Mitchell, Lennon and McCartney, and Tom Waits. For her recital at Oakland’s Piedmont Piano, she’s performing solo, a format in which she excels.

Jason Hainsworth-Michael Dease Quartet | October 25

Since joining the San Francisco Conservatory faculty three years ago as the assistant director of the Roots, Jazz, and American Music Program, Texas tenor saxophonist Jason Hainsworth has been slowly introducing himself to the Bay Area scene. He’s well worth getting to know. With his brawny tone and hurtling sense of swing, he generates tremendous heat and light. He’s joined by trombone master Michael Dease, too rarely heard in these parts, and pianist and RJAM Director Simon Rowe. At Bird & Beckett Books and Records.

Sheldon Brown’s Blood of the Air | Oct. 27

The 2014 SFJAZZ premiere of reed expert Sheldon Brown’s suite based on the verse and recitation of surrealist poet Philip Lamantia, Blood of the Air, was one of 2014’s musical highlights. An invaluble component of the Bay Area music scene, Brown went beyond the poetry to incorporate Lamantia’s distinctive speech patterns into the intense, playful and emotionally incisive music. Celebrating the impending release of his Blood of the Air album, Brown’s ensemble features a powerhouse cast of improvisers, including trumpeter Darren Johnston, Andrew Joron on Theremin, guitarist John Finkbeiner, pianists Jonathan Alford and Dan Zemelman, bassist Michael Wilcox, drummer Alan Hall, and the singular vocalist Lorin Benedict. At the Back Room in Berkeley.

A Los Angeles native based in the Berkeley area since 1996, Andrew Gilbert covers jazz, international music and dance for KQED's California Report, The Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, Berkeleyside and other publications.