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Mike Park and pals are "Asians in Rock"; the beautiful pianist Rachel Z brings her contemporized smooth jazz to Pearl's

Wednesday, Aug 25 2004
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In the music world, like in the rest of this country, ethnicity is all too often condensed into an overly simplistic black/white binary that leaves a whole lot of damn good musical perspectives out. Chicago singer/songwriter Jenny Choi created the "Asians in Rock" tour in 2003 to give voice to Asian indie rock artists -- and to combat the idea that Asians, long stereotyped as the quiet, mild-mannered, "model" ethnicity, do not rock. Take the Skyflakes, for instance. The Bay Area Filipino band sounds kind of like the Breeders if Tanya Donelly had stayed on and combined her vocals with Juliana Hatfield's for the ultimate in baby-doll power pop. Headlining the San Francisco stop is local music impresario Mike Park, whom if you don't know by now, you should. His carefully crafted acoustic punk and point-blank lyrical attacks on racism are all part of a diabolical world-changing master plan that also includes his excellent Asian Man record label and nonprofit Plea for Peace Foundation. Catch these Asians rocking on Wednesday, Aug. 25, at Slim's; call 255-0333 or go to www.slims-sf.com.
-- Rachel Devitt


With her long black tresses, leather pants, and platform heels, Rachel Z is a hottie. Which is how she made her name on the commercially viable "smooth jazz" circuit in the early '90s. But the Manhattan-born pianist not only looks good; she can also play. And in the long run, that's what counts. So she set out to prove herself by teaming up with her hero, former Miles Davis sidekick and saxophone titan Wayne Shorter, on his 1995 comeback album, High Life, which won the Grammy that year for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Her reputation cemented, Z could take on any project she wished. Naturally, she went where the money was, releasing mildly creative jazz-lite records, performing with high-profile all-girl groups, and touring with Peter Gabriel. On her latest CD, the pianist improvises on cool pop songs like Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," proving once again that she's got the skills, the sensibility, and the look to steal the spotlight, which she'll be bathed in when she takes the stage at Pearl's on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 27-28; call 291-8255 or go to www.jazzatpearls.com.
-- Sam Prestianni

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