Four-time Grammy nominee Mike Stern brings jazz guitar greatness to Yoshi's

While most attention to '90s Britpoppers Pulp focuses on lead singer Jarvis Cocker, member Richard Hawley deserves adoration as well. Pulp's guitarist for the band's later years, Hawley has assumed the underdog role very well, quietly releasing several albums that wallow in his baritone voice, often over sparse song arrangements. He's a singer-songwriter who loves his hometown of Sheffield, a place that pops up often in his lyrics. Hawley's recent disc, Lady's Bridge, continues paying homage to his stamping grounds, but he diversifies the sound a bit, getting a little bit doo-woppy here, a little bit country there. In concert, he gets chatty with his audiences, so be prepared for a healthy dose of droll Brit wit when he comes to town on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Café du Nord at 9:30 p.m. Advance tickets have sold out; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com for more info. Michael D. Ayers

I think about diamond terminology when I listen to Office's A Night at the Ritz: Words like "brilliant," "radiant," and "flawless" come to mind. The Chicago quartet's high-gloss, sexy alt-pop connects from the first bars of the opening track ("Oh My") and makes Ritzone powerhouse of a record. As a native Chicagoan myself, "Wound Up"'s fanny-shaking beat and unfettered chorus ("Let's go to the beach tonight/With a bottle of wine/Baby, it's a lot harder to stay in/When you're wound up so tight") is enough to give me spring fever in the middle of December. Office performs on Thursday, Dec. 13, at Popscene (330 Ritch) at 10 p.m. Admission is $8-$10; visit www.popscene-sf.com for more info. — J. Niimi

The Coup brings incendiary beats and rhymes to hip-hop, spending its 14-year career pushing for provocative, intelligent thought in a genre not always gifted with such qualities. The group talks about serious subjects, but has a definite sense of humor (though it's often pretty dark). This year, CoupTV launched as a channel on YouTube. Its programs display the band's social/comic balance nicely, interspersing live performance cuts with random witty commentary and even a few commercial parodies. Turn off the computer and check out The Coup onstage on Saturday, Dec. 15, at The Independent at 9 p.m. Admission is $20; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com for more info. Tamara Palmer

True-school bookworms should listen to Seattle's Blue Scholars for a revitalization of the MC-DJ dynamic that was defined by duos like EPMD during hip-hop's golden era. DJ Sabzi and MC Geologic have been fighting injustice with Emerald City slang since 2002, when they met as undergrads. Their download-only Joe Metro EP, released in November, repackages material from the Scholars' 2007 LP Bayani, and features a severe and bombastic remix of their rally cry, "North by Northwest." Expect Geologic to stick it to the man while bobbing to Sabzi's sultry, piano-heavy beats as the duo makes a tour stop on Sunday, Dec. 16, at Cafe du Nord at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $12; call 415.861.5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com for more info. — David MacFadden-Elliott

Having performed with both Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius, Mike Stern is a well-respected jazz guitarist. When performing live, the four-time Grammy nominee juxtaposes incredibly subtle moments -- in which there is nary a sound in the room -- with loud, electric grooves. For his residency this week, Stern will be backed by Dennis Chambers (saxophone), Bob Franceschini, and longtime friend Richard Bona (bass and vocals). Bona is a highly talented musician in his own right who uses his pipes as both a leading and backing instrument. Mike Stern performs from Tuesday, Dec. 18, through Saturday, Dec. 22, at Yoshi's in San Francisco. Admission is $20-$28; call 655-5600 or visit www.yoshis.com for more info. Ernest Barteldes

 
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