Regular readers probably already know about the free concerts that are presented in Yerba Buena Gardens as part of the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (YBGF). In past summers I have tried to write about the few musical events that I have been able to work into my schedule. This year, however, there will be an impressive diversity of musical offerings during the month of August. As a result, I wanted to account for these through a single preview article.
Yerba Buena Gardens is the open space located between Mission Street and Howard Street and between Third Street and Fourth Street. Most of the events take place on a single outdoor stage, which is located on the Third Street side of the space. All events are free, and those who have not attended in past summers should bear in mind that there are few seating locations in the shade. Performances tend to run for between one and two hours. The musical events planned for next month are as follows:
Thursday, August 1, 12:30 p.m.: At the end of this past May, the Nomad Session octet concluded its second season of concerts. For those who do not already know, this group brings four woodwind players, Christy Kim (flute), Jesse Barrett (oboe), Jon Szin (clarinet), and Kris King (bassoon), together with four brass players, Ian Cochran (trumpet), Stephanie Stroud (horn), Matt Carr (trombone), and Jonathan Seiberlich (tuba). They have built up a repertoire that consists primarily of commissioned compositions and arrangements of familiar works for the octet’s resources. Those arrangements take in not only the classical genre (such as Gustav Holst’s Opus 32 suite The Planets) but also popular music, such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The YBGF program has not yet been announced, but it is likely to serve up something for everyone’s tastes.
Saturday, August 3, 1 p.m.: YBGF will provide the venue for the launch of the 25th AfroSolo Arts Festival, produced by the AfroSolo Theatre Company. The event will be a free jazz concert featuring an all-star quintet drawn from AfroSolo alumni. The group will be led by Tammy Hall at the piano. The front line will feature rising young Oakland saxophonist Ranzel Merritt and vocalist Destiny Muhammad, who also plays harp. Rhythm will be provided by Leon Joyce Jr. on drums and Marcus Shelby on bass. (Most likely the program will include Shelby’s compositions.)
Thursday, August 15, 12:30 p.m.: A Sign of Rain will provide a rare opportunity to experience some of Korea’s most celebrated traditional musicians. The program will involve a synthesis of old and new practices, as well as influences from both East and West. The group is led by Kim So Ra, one of the most skilled and prominent masters of Korea’s double-sided janggu drum. The other instrumentalists will be Lim Ji Hye on gayageum (the Korean version of the zither) and Lee Hye Joong on piri (a bamboo wind instrument with an oboe-like double reed). Ra’s husband, Seung-Hun Hyun, will also perform as both dancer and multi-instrumentalist.
Thursday, August 15, 6 p.m.: This will be the August installment in the Let’s Go Salsa@Jessie miniseries. It will see the return of the event that began last year’s miniseries, the Cabanijazz Project. This group is named for its founder, conga player Javier Cabanillas. Born in Mexico, Cabanillas now lives in the Bay Area and recently received a GRAMMY Award for his work with the Oakland-based Pacific Mambo Orchestra. For the Cabanijazz Project he has assembled a nine-piece band, which has recorded ten of his original compositions for its debut album Infrasonic. For this performance the group will include two of the Pacific Mambo vocalists, Omar Ledezma Jr. and Christelle Durandy. The performance will take place across the street from Yerba Buena Gardens in Jessie Square at 736 Mission Street.
Saturday, August 17, 1 p.m.: Pianist and composer Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes was raised in Berkeley and trained at the Juilliard School. In 2016 he released his debut album, The Transformation Suite, taken from a multimedia project that evolved in tandem with the national movement focusing on black lives cut short by violence. He will return to the Bay Area to present a program entitled I’m Still Here. This will follow up on the social issues raised in The Transformation Suite with a concert combining pieces from his past works and excerpts from The Healing Project, a work in progress.
Sunday, August 18, 1 p.m.: This will be the annual Brazil in the Gardens concert featuring musicians from the faculty of the California Brazil Camp. The concert will also present the California debut of São Paulo vocalist Fabiana Cozza. Her latest album Partir connects Afro-Brazilian music with its African roots in Cape Verde, Congo, and Angola. She will be joined by São Paulo players including percussionist Douglas Alonso and Henrique Araujo playing both bandolim (the Portuguese variant of the mandolin) and the ukulele-like cavaco.
Thursday, August 22, 12:30 p.m.: Swings Left is a band launched by pianist and accordionist Rob Reich. The group is a sextet that puts a contemporary spin on the classic swing genre. It takes its point of departure from the hits that were performed by Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw; and these lead to Reich’s own originals that combine cool sonorities with hot rhythms.