Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Archive for May, 2007

No thanks, Yoshi’s

By awoodall

Is that all the thanks they get? Something to ask the folks at Yoshi’s — Oakland’s pedigreed jazz club — who stirred up some bad feelings with a 10th anniversary CD featuring live performances over the years. What the CD didn’t include was any black artists. Zero. Zilch. Nada. The only “musician of color” on the CD is Pancho Sanchez.

There is still plenty of love for Yoshi’s, which, let’s be honest, is among the cream of the crop in terms of Bay Area venues.

But the exclusion just didn’t sit right with a lot of people, including saxophonist David Murray, who weighed in on the matter Thursday night during a meeting at the Black New World in West Oakland. He wasn’t on the CD, nor was he asked, even though he packed the place many nights, Murray said. He would have refused anyway, and so would a lot of people, Murray said. “This whole Yoshi’s thing, beng a problem, it’s not that important. Not anything to really beef about. There are other positive things to focus on,” Murray said.

Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale called it “institutionalized racism crap going on.”

I was wondering how much money Yoshi’s made off of the musicians they excluded from the CD.

“Forget about Yoshi’s. They don’t care about the music. They care about what will sell drinks,” said a community radio announcer and jack-of-all trades in the music business.

But people were not getting bogged down at the meeting, or going out of their way to snipe at Yoshi’s. The exclusion — whatever the reason — wasn’t nothin’ new or unexpected, folks said. “Our music will always be taken advantage of,” Murray said, adding that he often is the only black player at European jazz festivals. “We can’t expect those kind of people to do our business. We have to do it ourselves,” he said.

And that’s pretty much what the brains behind Black New World and other groups such as East Side Arts Alliance are trying to do.

In the meantime, however, it was time for some music. The Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans rocked the club (picture a two trumpets, two trombones, and a tuba the player spun like a toothpick), which is increasingly modeled after the social aid clubs of New Orleans. It was a meeting of minds and rhythms.

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2007
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By awoodall

“I just think of it as a great, big aquarium.” — A man in a suit talking to another man in work clothes about Oakland as they walked during lunch hour toward 13th Street from the City Center.

“It’s Oakland. You know, the Vegas of the East Bay.” — A San Francisco resident describing the Land of Oaks to a transplant from Arkansas.


Posted on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007
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Intro to the Night Owl

By awoodall

Oaklanders are tired of hearing about violence. At least, that’s what I heard over and over on Friday. Folks said they want to hear about the good things happening in Oakland; that they want a balance to the bad news, which was another way of saying there is too much reporting about shootings and homicides.

About the time I was wrapping up a night of prowling around the city’s buzzing bars and galleries (getting ideas and material to launch this blog and for upcoming stories) — and hearing the last of the bad vs. good news pleas — a woman was shot in the face near Ritchie Street and Macarthur Boulevard.

About that same time, crowds of young artists were laughing and dancing in 23rd Street between Broadway and Telegraph during the monthly Artmurmur. It was pure joy outside the Esteban Sabar and Mama Buzz galleries.

But by the time the sun rose, two men were dead and five others were wounded in shootings, including Byron Richardson, 27, a father of two children, and Willie V. Hickman III, 18, whose family had recently moved to Stockton to protect him from the violence of Oakland’s streets.

A few readers of the story reporting their death responded online with comments that crime in Oakland is out of control and they were sick of it. It reminded me of an afternoon when my older daughter and I were hanging out in at World Cup Tamale near the Fruitvale BART station. It was warm and people were out on the streets shopping and chatting. I loved seeing how much the district had blossomed since I lived on 58th and High (aka International Boulevard) back in the early 1990s.

But hours later, a 19-year-old man was shot dead while walking with friends to a party.

The district seems to suffer from a split personality. That’s the way parts of Oakland are.

So, here I am, the night beat reporter for the city’s paper, whose job since April 2 is to cover the nightlife and night crime. The reality is that there are plenty of both.

But I think the tension between the two makes for a beautiful, crazy, frustrating and compelling city — one that I will do my best to cover for readers.

Posted on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007
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