Thinking globally and acting locally has served Kronos Quartet well over the past five decades. Founded in Seattle by violinist David Harrington in 1973 and based in San Francisco since 1978, the celebrated ensemble has gleefully kicked open a multitude of doors for string quartets by commissioning new works and collaborating with artists from Azerbaijan’s Franghiz Ali-Zadeh to Zimbabwe’s Dumisani Maraire.
Featuring violinist John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt and cellist Sunny Yang Kronos Quartet has steadily expanded a toolkit that allows the group to interpret and integrate a dauntingly diverse and far-flung array of styles and idioms. But what stands out most about the music on tap at Kronos Festival 2022, which runs from April 7 to 9 at the SFJAZZ Center, is that the group finds many of their most important collaborators close to home.
The festival’s artist in residence is Jacob Garchik, a San Francisco native who has carved out a fascinating career as a New York City jazz trombonist with a series of albums featuring unusual instrumentation. While maintaining his primary musical identity, Garchik—the son of San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik—has become a potent secret weapon for Kronos, tackling any and all arranging tasks that Harrington sends his way.
His work is represented throughout the festival’s five programs, starting Thursday night when he joins the quartet on trombone and tuba for Upon a Star, a suite Garchik arranged for Kronos based on John Williams’ scores for Steven Spielberg films. Performed only once before for a film event honoring the director, the piece is wacky, playful and emotionally compelling. “It’s so fun and no one could do this but Jacob,” Harrington said. “There’s always a logic and a reason for his choices.”
Thursday’s program also includes the world premiere Garchik’s arrangement of “Janety,” a jubilant piece by Malian griot Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté from Trio Da Kali (who collaborated with Kronos on the 2017 World Circuit album Ladilikan). Part of the Kronos initiative 50 for the Future, which shares scores of newly commissioned works to expand the string quartet repertoire, “Janety” is based on a Malian musical tradition of girls spontaneously creating handclapping songs and dances. The evening concludes with Cadenza on the Night Plain, a 13-movement work written for the quartet by legendary Northern California composer Terry Riley, a key Kronos confidant for decades.
One of Friday’s highlights, the world premiere of My Lai Suite, was adapted from composer Jonathan Berger’s and librettist Harriet Scott Chessman’s acclaimed opera My Lai about Hugh Thompson, the Army helicopter pilot who intervened in the U.S. Army massacre of unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Joining Kronos are vocalist Rinde Eckert and El Cerrito-based multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ, the Hanoi-born master of traditional Vietnamese string instruments such as the t'rưng, đàn bầu, and đàn tranh. The concert also includes Garchik’s arrangement of Laurie Anderson’s “Flow” and the world premiere of his 50 for the Future arrangements of Benin-born superstar Angélique Kidjo’s “YanYanKliYan Senamido #2” and “Maduswara” by Indonesian composer Peni Candra Rini.
The festival concludes Saturday night with pieces that happen to draw on Kronos’s East Bay ties. The celebrated Iranian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat, a resident of Berkeley in recent years, performs in “Where Is Your Voice”, a new, original song arranged by Aftab Darvishi. Soo Yeon Lyuh, the Korean-American composer and master of the haegeum (2-string Korean fiddle), joins the quartet to perform “Tattoo (Extended Version),” her response to a harrowing Berkeley incident in which someone fired a gun at her car.
The program also includes Russian nonagenarian composer Sofia Gubaidulina’s “Quartet No. 4,” and Garchik’s “Storyteller,” a 16-minute work featuring archival recordings of folk music icon Pete Seeger singing, speaking and playing his banjo. A centerpiece of the 2020 album Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet and Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger, “Storyteller” represents the long road Garchik has traveled since his first piece for Kronos.
— Andrew Gilbert
SFJAZZ Center, 201 Franklin St.
Thursday-Saturday, April 7-9, Various Times | $20+
War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness
April 8-16, Various Times | $29+
San Francisco Ballet shows off its playful side with choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s dive into the surrealist world of Beligan painter René Magritte. Dancers wear bowler hats (and sometimes bobbing green apples) atop their heads while swirling to a score modeled after Beethoven and spiked with cartoonish sound effects. Things really get meta when a quartet of bowler-hatted men—a nod to Magritte’s recurring symbol for the bourgeois man—take over the stage mirroring each other like clones in mesmerizing ripples of movement. SF Ballet principal Jennifer Stahl is a seductive and striking presence, reincarnating one of Magritte’s shrouded figures in a slitted apple red dress. But Magrittomania isn’t the only painterly piece on the program. Outgoing artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s The Fifth Season sets the tone for the evening’s foray into abstract art. Against a backdrop of panels splashed with black ink, SF ballet shows off a range of movement styles as diverse as the colors on an artist’s palette—from a sensuous tango to a staid waltz washed in hues from across the rainbow. (CJC)
W San Francisco, 181 3rd St.
Friday, April 8, 7-8:30 p.m. | Free
Downtown luxury hotel W San Francisco hosts an evening of cocktails and discussion focused on women in the music industry as part of its “What She Said” conversation series. Hermixalot moderates a panel featuring LP Giobbi, the co-founder of the nonprofit Femmehouse, which is dedicated to advocating for more equity for women and gender-expansive people in the music industry, and pop music and eyewear design duo Coco & Breezy. Drinks, photo ops and DJ beats follow the panel discussion in the W’s Living Room Bar. RSVP via Eventbrite. (CJC)
151 3rd St.
Friday, April 8, 6 p.m.-1 a.m. | $95+
SFMOMA’s annual art extravaganza and fundraiser is back in person with seven stories of immersive art and music experiences spaced out over three phases of partying and donation levels. Early birds (with deep pockets) can start knocking back cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and a live art auction at 7 p.m. Fashionably late partiers (with medium-sized pockets) can glide in for DJ sets and derby car painting for SFMOMA’s Saturday Soapbox race starting around 8 p.m. And night owls looking to ball out on a budget can drop in at 10 p.m. for late-night revelry featuring a live set by punk rockers The Linda Lindas and electro-pop by Nite Jewel, among others. (CJC)
Manny’s, 3092 16th St.
Saturday, April 9, 6-9 p.m. | $35
The location of a Sofar Sounds concert is usually kept under wraps until the day before the show, but the secret is already out that Mission hangout Manny’s will host the pop-up music show on Saturday. (Manny spilled the beans in his newsletter!) The lineup still remains a mystery, but snag your tickets fast as these intimate shows devoted to intensive listening and spotlighting local talent in an intimate setting tend to sell out quickly. (CJC)
24th St. and Folsom Ave.
Saturday, April 9, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. | Free
Cesar Chavez, a Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist, devoted his life to what he termed la causa (the cause): agricultural laborers in the United States organizing and negotiating contracts with their employers to better their working and living circumstances. This Saturday the Mission District celebrates the workforce hero and his legacy, joined by religious groups and labor unions. There will be live performances, arts & crafts, a lowrider car show, games for children and food, health & wellness vendors. (MM)
Japantown Peace Plaza
Sat-Sun, April 9-10th 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. | Free
When the cherry blossoms begin to bloom in the spring, San Francisco's Japantown comes to life. It's also when the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, known to attract over 200,000 visitors each year, takes place in the area surrounding Japantown's Peace Plaza. The event has been one of the biggest cherry blossom festivals in America since 2007. Expect traditional Japanese-inspired cuisine, music, and performances. Heads up: There will be no procession this year. Can't make it this weekend? The festival continues next weekend, April 16-17. (MM)
200 Folsom Street
Sunday, April 10, 3:30 - 5 p.m. | $5
Spring has finally sprung in the city. Embrace the change of season at this explosive festival of colors. San Francisco marks the South Asian celebration with music, dancing and an array of multicultural dishes in a community marketplace co-hosted by civic engagement organization TogetherSF. The first 300 to sign up will receive free scoops of colorful Holi powder. Sport a white T-shirt, bring your sunglasses to protect your peepers and get ready to light your friends up like a technicolor rainbow. The event is free for kids under 12. (CJC)
The Tenderloin at Ellis, Larkin and Golden Gate
Sunday, April 10, 11 a.m. | Free
Sunday Streets returns this weekend—bringing a mile-long, car-free community space to the Tenderloin. The event will be held on Ellis Street, Larkin Street and Golden Gate Avenue. Expect live outdoor performances from ensembles like MJ’s Brass Boppers, who will lead a second-line brass procession hosted by the Tenderloin Museum. You can also stop by GLIDE and get your groove on with DJ King Most and peruse the goods on offer at the Tenderloin Flea Market. (MM)
Cobb's Comedy Club
Tuesday, April 12, 7:30 p.m. | $30-45
We know it’s hard to accept the end of an epic HBO show, but don’t go to Cobbs Comedy looking for Issa Rae’s best friend, Molly Carter. The Emmy nominated actress and standup comedian Yvonne Orji is coming to San Francisco as herself for one night only. (MM)
Andrew Gilbert, Christina Campodonico and Meaghan Mitchell contributed additional reporting for this story.
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