HEATHER RAFFO'S acclaimed one-woman spoken-word show, 9 Parts of Desire, explores the pressing conflicts of the Iraq war from multiple perspectives, which include those of Iraqi-Americans as well as women actually in Iraq. Raffo teams up with Amir ElSaffar, an accomplished jazz trumpeter and Iraqi santoor player, to create a dramatic performance that combines theater with music. Both Raffo and ElSaffar were born of American and Iraqi parents, and both were raised in the Midwestern United States. When the current Iraq war began in 2003, the two artists reached a pivotal point in their careers, drawn by the connection they shared with the place of their ancestries. Issues of culture, society and war converge in this unique portrayal of a modern-day conflict.
Sunday March 30
62 S. Second St
OUT OF all the kids who grew up taking piano lessons, few can match the stunning accomplishments that Toshiko Akiyoshi has reached in her career tinkling the ivory. Hailed as one of the greatest and most unique contributors to the contemporary jazz world, Akiyoshi began playing as a girl in China before her eventual rise to prominence on a global level. Her list of accomplishments includes 14 Grammy Award nominations, 18 albums released with her Jazz Orchestra and a No. 1 Best Big Band award by DownBeat magazine. As a big band leader, Akiyoshi followed the Duke Ellington tradition of individual emphasis, while her jazz trio is a fitting stage to showcase her stunning mastery of the piano. Over the years, Akiyoshi has come to be in a class of her own, yet her modesty and focus remain unaltered. Says Toshiko, "I hope the notes I produce today are more selective than 20 years ago."
Friday March 28
Red Rock Coffee Co.
201 Castro St.
BASED in Santa Cruz, Amy Obenski plays a jazzy version of acoustic folk that simmers with hits of Joni Mitchell and Carol King. Touching on some of the same serious emotional and spiritual themes of those forebears in her lyrics, Obenski has a confident vocal style that is soothing and honest, but with enough drama to land one of her songs on an episode of Grey's Anatomy. Obenski performs in support of her second album, Kite.