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Award Show Performers 

Thursday, October 21, 2004 at Ruby Skye

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Singer/songwriter Hyim Ross and his backing band, the Fat Foakland Orchestra, won a California Music Award this year for Outstanding Jam Band, but don't go breaking out the incense and patchouli oil just yet. The group's sound is actually more closely related to the sexy, rhythmic vibe of hip hop, funk, and world music than to the stoniness of Phish or the Dead. Though frontman Ross describes his groove as "urban world beat," the pianist-cum-vocalist can channel Randy Newman one minute and Buena Vista Social Club's Ibrahim Ferrer the next. Ross, whose first name is Hebrew for "life," spreads his gospel over some fat beats inspired by Afrobeat, bossa nova, reggae, club music, and even classical, sprinkling in some contemporary pop/rock for good measure.

Over the past two years, Ross has been hitting the local club circuit, from Slim's to the Starry Plough, with his newly formed Fat Foakland Orchestra. A veritable supergroup of session players, the FFO features Wyclef Jean's drummer, Michael Faiella; Omar Sosa's percussionist, Ajayi Jackson; and bassist Mark Calderon, who's shared the stage with the likes of Dave Matthews Band drummer Carter Beauford.

Live, the group attracts a varied audience, united in the feel-good groove these players put out. The Hyim experience is soulful and uplifting, an infectious blend of rock-your-body funk and heartfelt vocals. Ross most recently recorded, produced, and released his own debut CD, Let Out a Little Peace.

John Santos & the Machete Ensemble
See the International/Latin/World nominees.

Kid Beyond

Kid Beyond is Andrew Chaikin, a self-professed voice-over artist, musician, and namer ("I have named, helped name, or helped rename all sorts of things: Internet start-ups, telecommunications companies, consulting firms, medical devices, software products, yogurt products, juice drinks, coffee, and so on. I've even named a spokesdog"). When assuming his Kid Beyond identity, however, Chaikin is all about the beat-boxing, which seems to be very much in vogue now that Björk has released a whole record of it. Like the strange love child of the Roots' Rahzel and Bobby McFerrin, Kid Beyond does spot-on impressions of drum kits and sings soulfully over his own looped beats. On "Kashmir," from The House Jacks, the self-titled Warner Bros. release by Chaikin's former a cappella band, it's uncanny when you realize there is no John Bonham or drummer whatsoever in the studio. What's striking is how much of a rock aesthetic Chaikin is able to achieve using a technique traditionally adopted by hip hop purveyors. Born in New York, he moved to San Francisco in 1991 with a very diligent work ethic that has resulted in musical contributions to countless records, television and radio commercials, cartoons, and video games. It's no surprise, then, that Kid Beyond has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in the Bay Area.

Realistic Orchestra
See the Jazz nominees.

Stymie & the Pimp Jones Luv Orchestra
See the Soul/Funk/R&B nominees.

Jason Wheeler

It takes some balls to get up onstage in front of a crowd of skeptic comedy clubbers and try to make 'em crack a smile, armed only with a mike and whatever wit you can muster through the stage fright. It takes a lot of balls to get up there, bomb completely, and go back for more. But that's just what S.F. transplant Jason Wheeler did after suffering through a particularly brutal performance at a Cleveland comedy competition hosted by future sitcom star and King of Comedy Steve Harvey. After putting some serious mileage and several years' distance between himself and the Cleveland incident, Wheeler decided to give comedy another shot, this time hitting up an open mike night in Portland. Shortly after, he landed his first paying gig at an area comedy club called, oddly enough, Harvey's.

Recognizing that being funny takes practice and good stand-ups don't just spring fully formed from the craniums of the comedy gods, Wheeler's spent the last eight years honing his craft, most recently at local laugh houses like Cobb's and the Punch Line. Creating bits out of life's everyday trivialities -- ranting about everything from reality television to politics to dating to the insane cost of living in the city -- Wheeler manages to be edgy without going too blue, an all-too-common rookie mistake. His rap has earned him opening spots for marquee names like Tim Allen, Robin Williams, Dave Attell, and Will Durst. Next up, he's headed to the New Zealand Comedy Festival, but first he'll be yukking it up as a performer and MC at this year's SF Weekly Music Awards.

Honorary Music Award for Commitment to the Local Music Community

Quannum Projects

Quannum Projects is the rare underground hip hop label that understands that the most interesting things happening in the genre are taking place on the peripheries. In Quannum's world, the inspirational boom-bap of the Lifesavas collides with the revamped Afrobeat of Fela Kuti; the soaring, classically informed vocals of Joyo Velarde careen above the dark back roads of legendary producer/archivist DJ Shadow; and the dense, cerebral lyrics of Gift of Gab languidly slide alongside the jazzy German funk of Poets of Rhythm.

Smart yet unpretentious, consistent yet prolific, local yet universal, Quannum is not only the finest independent hip hop label in the Bay Area, but also perhaps the most artistically and commercially viable collective anywhere. This past year saw the label releasing Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, the excellent solo debut from Gift of Gab, as well as Ambush, the collaboration between Latyrx's Lateef the Truth Speaker and Blackalicious producer Chief Xcel -- who has also recently released a Fela Kuti remix project on the imprint. As always, these records represent a progressive take on hip hop that offers a viable alternative to the mainstream without defining itself in opposition to anything. Quannum and its artists have received a lot of attention lately, and they deserve every bit of it. Blackalicious. DJ Relm. DJ Tom Thump. The Exies. Hyim & the Fat Foakland Orchestra.

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