Curt Yagi & the People Standing Behind Me
Curt Yagi was the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s “2008 Best of the Bay Singer-Songwriter.”
“People keep comparing him to other artists, but I think he just sounds like Curt Yagi, and that is plenty good enough. This is one excellent singer and songwriter,” said Ben Fong-Torres, former Senior Editor, Rolling Stone.
On all nine original tracks on “Close My Eyes,” Yagi delivers captivating lyrics and hummable melodies, augmented by a buoyant threepiece horn section and edgy and layered guitars built on the foundation of a rock solid, driving rhythm section. His songs are delivered in an inimitable and endearingly charismatic persona the San Francisco Bay Guardian describes as “the swagger of Lenny Kravitz and the lyrical prowess of Jack Johnson,” and the San Francisco Chronicle called Yagi “a talented songwriter who sings — like Kenny Loggins.”
GoldSea.com states, “Hearing one of Curt Yagi’s original songs from his ‘Close My Eyes’ album for the first time is like going for a walk in the woods and finding a unicorn. You keep listening to make sure it’s really what it seems to be — a real find.”
Such glowing accolades, delivered in rapid succession soon after the release of his November 2007 full-length debut, “What’s Come Over Me,” combined with numerous live club and radio, as well as fair and festival appearances from San Francisco to Napa exposed Yagi to a wide and diverse demographic of fans.AsianWeek.com called the long-time San Francisco resident, and fourth generation Japanese American, a “must see entertainer” describing his music as, “filled with percussive guitar licks, breathy vocals, rhythmic beats and driving bass lines, (that) will keep you going the entire day.”
Fans of Sublime, Bare Naked Ladies, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and Dave Matthews gravitate to the easily accessible Yagi style, and his new album, “Close My Eyes,” was produced by Larry (The O) Oppenheimer at Studio Faire La Nouba for Toys in the Attic Productions.
“Close My Eyes” features the singles “Sweep Me,” a vibrant Ska-inspired love song; the title track, “Close My Eyes,” a moving tribute to the beloved father he lost in 2002; and “Live My Life,” a groove-infused four/four rocker that melds a Rolling Stones-esque danceable bass line, a Chicago-style horn section, with John Mayer-meets-Ben Harper vocal delivery.
If you have yet to witness a Swoop Unit show, you’ve been missing a rare revival of pure juke joint, jazz-dripped funk that is seldom seen in clubs today. The kind of stuff that sits right up there with the best of your Stax, Impulse, and Blue Note records and reminds you of what jazz, soul, and funk should sound like when performed by a tight group of players. Comprised of John Gibson (trumpet), Patrick Greene (guitar), Les Harris (saxophone and flute), Steve Neil (bass), Scott Okamoto (trombone), Paul Rustigian (keyboards), Rossana Schneider (vocals), and Adam Willis (drums), this veteran collective of groove slayers has a combined experience spanning decades, playing alongside such heavy hitters as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Fred Wesley, Los Angelitos, George Porter, Joshua Redman, the Uptones, Merl Saunders, the Mo’fessionals, and Primus. Take that alongside the tracks by Charlie Hunter, Fela Kuti, Grant Green, James Brown, and Ray Manzarek bumping in their headphones and you now have that which is known as Swoop Unit. The sound is best described as rare instrumental groove with original dance floor funk.
There is no doubt that this group can also work a show, born in the sweaty sunken orchestra of Bruno’s San Francisco in 1999 and shaking down Bay Area clubs ever since. Combine the jazz of New York’s Smalls and the New Orleans Frenchman Street funk and you might find yourself in a Swoop Unit sweat session. Many a dedicated crowd have dropped their best assets for Swoop Unit, soul clapping and all. A show by these eight soul survivors is nothing short of a house party, with now famous performances at such venues as Slim’s, Grant and Green, The Make-out Room, Jupiter, The Uptown, Rasselas, and many other concerts and festivals. Grab a drink but don’t bother with a seat; you won’t need it once they get it going…
Kendyl Ito, 17, is currently a junior at CK McClatchy High School in Sacramento and thrilled to perform at this year’s Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival. Her love of musical theater began at the age of 5 when she saw her first musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” at the Orpheum. Years later she would perform with one of the actors and herself play the lead as Belle.
Since then, she has performed in a variety of venues in the Sacramento and Davis regions — California Musical Theatre’s Music Circus, Broadway Sacramento, Davis Musical Theatre Company, the Lion’s Pride Players and Runaway Stage Productions. Favorite credits include Sandy in “Grease,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” July in “Annie,” Alice in “Alice in Wonderland,” The Medium in “Rashomon” and Children’s Chorus in “Whistle Down The Wind.”
She has received a SARTA Elly nomination for her role as Princess Robin in “A Dragon’s Tail” and was a finalist in the 2011 Lion’s Club World of Talent Competition. This spring she will play the role of Sarah Brown in her high school musical, “Guys and Dolls,” and perform at the Lion’s Club Joint Council of Governors’ Meeting in Sacramento.
When not performing, Kendyl enjoys playing volleyball and spending time with friends. She is especially excited to travel to Rwanda this summer as part of a Youth Peace and Cultural Education Program and has interest in pursuing a career in Global Studies.
Kendyl feels fortunate to have had some amazing opportunities to perform and she credits all the directors, voice teachers, choreographers and actors that she has had the pleasure of working with. Most importantly she thanks her loyal following of family and friends that have supported her in all her endeavors.
San Francisco Taiko Dojo Rising Stars
The San Francisco Rising Stars Dream Team consists of a group of teenagers and young adults who have literally grown up studying and performing taiko together under Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka for 13 years — learning to respect each other as well as taiko.
They have performed in Japan, Rhode Island, Indiana, Chicago, Hawai’i, New York and across the United States, and are considered one of the finest taiko youth groups in the country, and the most disciplined and traditionally trained taiko youth group in the world.
Cherng Loong Lion Dance Group
The Cherng Loong Lion Dance Group performs the Chinese lion dance for various events around the San Francisco Bay Area. Besides performances, Cherng Loong has participated in the National Freestyle Lion Dance Competition.
The group has been performing around the San Francisco Bay Area since 2001 and has been involved in a variety of occasions such as wedding banquets, festivals, concerts and parties. A few notable performances include the 49th annual San Francisco International Film Festival, LucasArts and “Fancy Dance Good Luck Lion” for the Heard Museum in Arizona, as well at the AIDS Walk in San Francisco.
Special Edition, featuring Francis Wong & Wesley Ueunten
Few musicians are as accomplished as Francis Wong, considered one of “the great saxophonists of his generation” by the late jazz critic Phil Elwood. A prolific recording artist, Wong is featured on more than 40 titles as a leader and sideman. For more than two decades, he has performed his innovative brand of jazz and creative music for audiences in North America, Asia and Europe, with such with such luminaries as Jon Jang, Tatsu Aoki, Genny Lim, William Roper, Bobby Bradford, John Tchicai, James Newton, Joseph Jarman, Don Moye and the late Glenn Horiuchi.
But to simply call the Bay Area native a musician would be to ignore his pioneering leadership in communities throughout Northern California. Wong’s imaginative career straddles roles as varied as performing artist, youth mentor, composer, artistic director, community activist, nonprofit organization manager, consultant, music producer and academic lecturer.
Wesley Ueunten is a third generation Okinawan from Hawai’i who practices and performs traditional and contemporary Okinawan music. His main instrument is the three-stringed sanshin, which is derived from the Chinese sanshien and is the predecessor of the Japanese shamisen. Since coming to the Bay Area, his playing and singing has infused with influences of the social justice consciousness and creativity of musicians such as Francis Wong and others.
Ueunten teaches Asian American studies at San Francisco State University.
Jiten Daiko is a young Bay Area Japanese taiko ensemble. With deep respect for the taiko art form, the group strives for artistic excellence in creating an exhilarating musical experience for its audiences.
They ground their practice in hard work, collaboration and a fusion of innovation and tradition. As the group continues to grow under their unique training system, and draw from both Japanese and American influences, it aspires to bring a youthful and energizing sound to the stage.
Their name, Jiten or “self-powered,” draws from the fact that they must work as a team if they want to innovate faster and grow stronger. One of the group’s core philosophies is to consistently support each other in order to grow their collective energy.
C.D. Ka’ala Carmack
C.D. Ka’ala Carmack has dedicated his life to fostering music excellence, both as an educator and as a performer. Originally from Honolulu, he is a past winner of “Kulia I Ka Nu’u,” which was awarded to him by the Hawai’i Chamber of Commerce of Northern California in 2005.
During the past 40 years, Ka’ala’s students have ranged in age from children at the preschool, elementary and high school levels to college students and senior citizens. He has taught music in different venues around the Bay Area, including San Francisco State University, Elderhostel of San Francisco, College Preparatory School in Oakland, Stanford University, Urban High School of San Francisco and the Creative Arts Charter School.
Currently, he performs regularly around the Bay Area, and he offers several sections of ukulele classes and another course called “Hawaiian Expressive Singing” at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in San Francisco’s Japantown.
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