Bing Ji Ling
If you believe the legend (and there's no reason why you shouldn't), Quinn Luke was christened “Bing Ji Ling” when he was a jazz and blues singer working a nightclub in Shanghai. Upon introducing himself to the proprietress one night, she mistook “Quinn” for “cream.” The Mandarin word for ice cream is bing ji ling, and this, even after the mistake was explained, was what she continued to call him, because Bing Ji Ling is 31 flavors of smooth. Dude lives here now, and for the past few years has been drizzling his caramel-covered blue-eyed soul throughout the city alongside a rotating band that at times includes keyboardist merkely??? and No Doubt members Tom Dumont (guitar) and Adrian Young (drums). If you happen to catch one of Bing's five-star performances, these will be but a few of your observations: 1) Bing Ji Ling is wearing some kind of John Travolta-in-Saturday Night Fever white suit with ice cream cones embroidered up and down it — holy shit! 2) Bing Ji Ling is wearing medallions the size of Frisbees and sweet-ass gold sunglasses — ohmygod! 3) Bing Ji Ling and his band are playing superfly-funky soul music that makes me want to make it with the ladies — baaadddaaasss! As you are making these and other observations, sexy girls in snappy uniforms will be handing out ice cream, free of charge. Where, you will ask yourself, has this man and his music been all my life?
Federation burst straight outta Fairfield in 2003 thanks to “Hyphy,” the trio's collaboration with old-school rapper E-40 and producer Rick Rock. That track, which eventually showed up on the group's debut disc, The Album, was the biggest radio hit to come from a local act in ages and helped spearhead the new “Yay Area” sound (now documented in such bastions of cool as Newsweek.com). Besides adding to the long list of colloquialisms that bay rappers had popularized, hyphy offered a Left Coast version of crunk. (“Hyphy” is even a combination of two words — “hyper” and “fly” — just like the latter term.) All the hype over the hit threatened to obscure the fact that Goldie Gold, Mr. Stres, Doonie Baby, and Rock had created an album brimming with great tracks. After producing hits for Fabolous, Jay-Z, and Busta Rhymes, Rock came up with a fresh new sound, making, as he once put it, great “shake-your-dreadlock music,” with crazy synthesizer parts, cascading video-game bleeps, and wild uptempo beats. The MCs matched the musical landscapes, offering rapid manic verbiage for party freaks and sideshow jockeys, taking crunk's vivid pace and speeding it way up. The group's live performance should showcase material from its upcoming sophomore release, which Rock has been working on alongside E-40's latest.
Tommy Guerrero has always had a ton of tricks up his sleeve. Initially, they were of the four-wheeled variety: The native San Franciscan took up skateboarding at the age of 9, and by his midteens had become a member of the Bones Brigade — skate manufacturer Powell Peralta's famed pro team — at the height of the '80s skateboard renaissance. Soon, he was being mentioned in the same breath as Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, and company co-owner Stacey Peralta (the former skate champ who went on to direct 2001's Dogtown and Z-Boys), and was spotlighted in the Bones Brigade's groundbreaking skate videos. In 1990 he left Powell Peralta and started his own successful company, Real Skateboarding. But his tricks have extended into the musical realm as well. Guerrero started playing guitar and bass when he was 12, and during his skating years was way into the punk rock music so closely tied to that scene. However, his first two albums — 1998's Loose Grooves and Bastard Blues and 2000's A Little Bit of Somethin', both recorded on four-track — were ultramoody, trip hop-informed efforts, the latter even coming out on James Lavelle's über-hip Mo' Wax label. Mainly instrumental affairs, they combined blunted hip hop beats, twisty Latin-tinged guitar passages, and melodies and arrangements inspired by Guerrero's love for jazz, particularly John Coltrane. 2003's Soul Food Taqueria — which featured guest vocals from Lyrics Born — continued down a similar mellow-groove path. Guerrero is also a member of the local post-rock outfit Jet Black Crayon, and he recently signed a solo deal with Quannum Projects, which is slated to drop his next album in 2006. In the meantime, he's got a brand-new, electronics-heavy 12-inch single, “Year of the Monkey,” just out on Galaxia Records, which may signal a whole new bag of tricks.
The veteran East Oakland independent hip hop collective Hieroglyphics has been a model of integrity, perseverance, and flat-out dope beats and rhymes for more than 15 years. Formed by a bunch of school friends in the late '80s, the crew includes rappers, DJs, and producers Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, A-Plus, Opio, Tajai, Phesto, Casual, Jaybiz, Domino, and Pep Love. Though they all originally came together under the Hiero banner and created names for themselves locally with a boho style that drew comparisons to the East Coast Native Tongues posse, many members of the crew split off as, one by one, they inked major-label deals. Del — a cousin of gangsta rapper-cum-actor Ice Cube — came out of the gate first with 1991's excellent I Wish My Brother George Was Here (Elektra), which spawned the playful smash single “Mistadobalina.” Up next was Souls of Mischief (A-Plus, Opio, Tajai, and Phesto), which signed to Jive and dropped the indisputable 1993 classic 93 'Til Infinity. Then came Casual, who also signed to Jive for his 1994 debut, Fear Itself. Despite the lyrical prowess and funky, soulful production skills from each of those acts, the one-two punch of gangsta rap and hip-pop resulted in them all eventually being dropped from their respective labels. The Hiero crew regrouped in 1998 for the terrific Third Eye Vision, the first album to be released under the Hieroglyphics name, then began using the Internet and incessant touring to generate impressive sales and interest in both individual and crew efforts. 2003 brought another great Hiero album, Full Circle, and over the past few years, several members have seen their careers come full circle — among them Del with his Deltron 3030 project and, most notably, Gorillaz, and Casual with his well-received new album, Smash Rockwell.
Killing My Lobster
The Killing My Lobster comedy troupe has been tickling funny bones (and other body parts) in the Bay Area since 1997, when a bunch of Brown University crackups decided to reconstruct their old collegiate group, Out of Bounds. Actually, the first couple of years saw Marc Vogl, Erin Bradley, Paul Charney, Brian Perkins, Daniel Lee, Jon Wolanske, and other Lobsters toiling in anonymity. But a 1999 Fringe Fest skit called Killing My Lobster Boards Flight 354 won the troupe a “Best of Fringe” award and garnered attention from HBO. Since then, KML (which was named via a drunken game of Celebrity) has played venues large and small, composing several new shows a year from scratch as well as offering the more free-form Killing My Lobster Kabaret and the annual Mustaches for Kids contest (both of which benefit worthy causes). KML shows have focused on politics, travel, sports, science, financial windfalls, fairy tales, sex, and 21 other topics, all with sidesplitting results. Where magazine called the troupe “hip, irreverent, and brilliantly funny,” while Comedy Central online deemed one KML show “An orgy of comic genius.” In November, the Lobsters will offer their latest comic tour de force, Nothing Is Original, a series of sketches created out of recycled ad copy, junk e-mails, yellowing photos, Hollywood screenplays, to-do lists, and random litter. KML is sure to prove, once again, that one person's trash is another person's treasure.
Mitch Marcus Quintet
Twenty-nine-year-old tenor saxophonist Mitch Marcus has been leading his quintet through snaking, occasionally disorienting modern progressive jazz compositions since 1999. A native of Long Island, N.Y., Marcus moved to Berkeley in 1998 after several years at Indiana University under the tutelage of jazz professor David Baker (who also serves as the conductor and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra). He was soon joined by longtime friend Sylvain Carton, an alto saxophonist with whom he played at Indiana, and Marcus eventually plucked a handful of leading musicians from the Bay Area jazz scene to form the first incarnation of MMQ. The current lineup includes Marcus, Carton, bassist George Ban-Weiss, drummer Ches Smith, and guitarist Mike Abraham; all the members have also been affiliated with such notable local outfits as Trevor Dunn's Trio Convulsant, Good for Cows, Japonize Elephants, the Realistic Orchestra, Mr. Bungle, and the Shotgun Wedding Quintet. As you can hear in the original numbers found on MMQ's 2002 album Entropious and Live at Yoshi's (recorded in July 2003), Marcus and his mates have a firm grasp of, and respect for, traditional jazz forms, but their improvisational expertise and fondness for the avant-garde often make for unique compositions that are usually accessible, sometimes quite edgy and challenging, and always melodically and rhythmically compelling. Over the years, Marcus has been spotted wailing away during improv sessions at clubs all over town; he's also played Carnegie Hall, and, in surely the high point of his career to date, has performed the national anthem at Oakland A's games.
See Hard Rock, under Award Show Guide..
The dot-com crash, a personal name change, Craigslist, Napoleon Dynamite, and tennis great John McEnroe all play important roles in the back story of San Francisco indie-pop quartet Rogue Wave. Curious yet? Well, here's how it all goes: Back in 2001, Zach Schwartz was a Web site designer by day and a member of local indie rockers Desoto Reds by night. When he got pink-slipped later that year, he headed to New York to stay with buddy Bill Racine, a producer/engineer who got his start at S.F.'s Tiny Telephone studio and eventually moved on to assist producer Dave Fridmann on albums by Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips, Mogwai, and others. Schwartz initially planned to simply lay down a few of his ideas on a four-track, but with Racine's help he soon had an album's worth of material recorded. Schwartz adopted the name “Zach Rogue” in order to get a fresh start, and those lush, multilayered, upbeat songs — reminiscent of the Shins, the Kinks, and a host of Elephant 6 bands — became the basis for his 2003 self-released debut, Out of the Shadow. Back in the Bay Area, Rogue began playing solo shows but soon realized he needed a band to fully re-create the sounds on the disc. So he put an ad on Craigslist and found drummer Pat Spurgeon, guitarist Gram LeBron, and bassist Sonya Westcott (who's since been replaced by Evan Farrell). While touring behind Shadow, the foursome drew the interest of Seattle's Sub Pop Records, which signed the band and released the album last year to widespread acclaim. Added exposure came when the group's “Every Moment” appeared on the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack, and hey, it even got to play the now-defunct John McEnroe Show on CNBC! Now Rogue Wave's back with a fantastic (and slightly darker) new album, Descended Like Vultures, which hits store shelves at the end of this month.