The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.
Fresh air and fine music: The San Francisco Symphony, under the direction of community-engagement conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, packs up the fiddles, kettledrums and all those brass and woodwind instruments and heads to Stern Grove for the annual free concert in that beautiful amphitheater surrounded by the redolent eucalyptus trees. Picnicking is highly recommended, as you take in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with the young American musician Benjamin Beilman as guest soloist. Also on the program are Stravinsky’s “Scherzo à la Russe,” Dinuk Wijeratne’s “Polyphonic Lively,” Jessie Montgomery’s “Coincident Dances,” Brahms’ “Tragic” Overture and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol.” Concert time is 2 p.m. Sunday in the park at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard in San Francisco. Please register for free admission at https://www.sterngrove.org/.
Do-good drugs: The latest from the ingenious Berkeley author Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “The Botany of Desire,” “Cooked” and more) continues the intriguing pivot he took from food to psychoactive substances in 2018 with the runaway bestseller “How to Change Your Mind.” In “This Is Your Mind on Plants” (Penguin Press, 2021), the ever-curious and willing-to-experiment Pollan turns his attention to three plant-based drugs that have a dramatic impact on how humans think and feel: mescaline, opium and caffeine. Now winding up a national tour for the July 19 publication of the paperback edition, Pollan will appear in an in-person and virtual event at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. in Corte Madera, at 1 p.m. Saturday, with fellow author, journalist and educator Mark Danner. Tickets are $23 and include the book, available at any Book Passage location. Find them at https://www.bookpassage.com/.
All that jazz: It was 50 years ago that an impromptu jam session on the Stanford University campus led to the founding of the Stanford Jazz Workshop, a nonprofit that arguably has done as much to further the cause of jazz music as any organization in the Bay Area. With its classes, camps, workshops, concerts and the annual Stanford Jazz Festival, the organization aims at bringing musicians, students and music appreciators together in myriad ways. All this month, the SJW has been hosting special events and concerts to mark the milestone, and the celebration hits a high note this weekend with a star-studded concert. The headliner is the all-world, multi-Grammy-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves, who has been a force in the jazz world for some four decades now. Reeves, an NEA Jazz Master, will perform with her longtime quintet and an orchestra conducted by another Grammy winner, conductor and arranger Vince Mendoza, who has collaborated frequently with Reeves over the years. But wait! There’s more! Also on the concert bill is the SJW 50th Anniversary Band, featuring some of jazz’s top players, including trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, drummer Eric Harland, sax stars Joshua Redman and Yosvany Terry, bassist Larry Grenadier and pianist Taylor Eigsti. These musicians on their own could headline at pretty much any jazz club or concert hall in the world. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater. Tickets are $15-$140; go to https://live.stanford.edu/.
Love it or list it: Is it just us or does it seem like everyone these days is hooked on those HGTV shows where people remodel their homes and sell them for a gazillion dollars, while turning their lives into made-for-TV chaos in the process? Credit L.A. playwright/screenwriter Eliana Pipes with recognizing that the red-hot reality TV genre was ripe for satire and responding with a dark comedic play titled “Dream Hou$e,” which just opened in Berkeley, presented by Shotgun Players. In it, two Latina sisters agree to go on an HGTV show titled “Flip It or List It” and sell the historic house that has been in their family for decades. Although there’s plenty of comedy on hand, the 90-minute play uses the premise to explore a variety of deeper themes, such as gentrification, cultural attitudes and stereotyping, family obligations, the power of history and the corrupting influence of money. “Dream Hou$e,” which got its world premiere earlier this year, plays at the Ashby Stage through Aug. 14, in a production helmed by Karina Gutiérrez. You can livestream Thursday’s 7 p.m. show for $20. “Dream Hou$e” will also be available on demand Aug. 10-21 (prices TBA). Tickets and more information are at https://shotgunplayers.org/.
Time for the blues: It’s called the SFJazz Center, but the blues will command the spotlight at the esteemed San Francisco hall with an impressive concert series this week. Dubbed “Summer Sessions: Blues Week,” the series features a variety of blues stalwarts, many from the Bay Area, in concerts that will be staged at SFJazz’s Miner Auditorium and Joe Henderson Lab venues Thursday through Sunday. The series kicks off Thursday with South Bay “Bollywood Blues” performer Aki Kumar in the Joe Henderson Lab at 7 and 8:30 p.m., and guitar-slingers Tommy Castro (with his tight Painkillers band) and Joe Louis Walker at Miner Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday’s offerings feature San Jose’s underappreciated bluesman Chris Cain performing at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at the Joe Henderson Lab, and the rollicking New-Orleans-meets-Texas pianist/singer Marcia Ball and “Crown Prince of Zydeco” singer/accordion player C.J. Chenier performing 7:30 p.m. at Miner Auditorium. Saturday finds the revered Oakland West Coast blues singer Terrie Odabi holding forth at the Joe Henderson Lab 7 and 8:30 p.m., and an epic double bill of guitar great Elvin Bishop and harp master Charlie Musselwhite performing at the Miner Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s card has the terrifically nimble guitarist Mimi Fox and soulful singer Pamela Rose playing 6:30 and 8 p.m. at Joe Henderson Lab and singer Ruthie Foster delivering her stirring blend of folk, blues and gospel at the Miner Auditorium at 7 p.m. Tickets run $25-$65; go to https://www.sfjazz.org/.