Bassist Charles Thomas has a long history on the Bird & Beckett bandstand, playing bebop, bossas and standards as well as originals with any number of combos, and often leading his own. His performing career has run the gamut from R&B to funk to hard bop and more. Tonight, it’s jazz in a straight ahead mode with Ben Ball on saxophone, Steve Carter on piano and Michael Spencer on drums.
$20 cover charge, byob.
Reservations, call 415-586-3733
Charles Thomas was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Fillmore District. He started playing cello in junior high school, but his music teacher needed more bass players and thus, the conversion was made. From there, he picked up the guitar, piano, and drums. He studied a variety of musical styles, formally and informally, from Fillmore blues and San Francisco acid rock/funk, to classical and jazz, graduating with degrees in music, first from City College of San Francisco and then San Francisco State University. He’s become a steady working Bay Area player in the pop, reggae, jazz and classical idioms, and a composer, arranger and producer. He performs in the Bay Area with various high profile groups and also runs his company, Sea Tea Music Co., a production and creative force specializing in working with artists and companies on recording and soundtrack projects.
Saxophonist Ben Ball graduated from Berkeley High School and received his Bachelor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1992. He returned to Berkeley and taught at Berkeley High School, and has been a full-time musician working in the Bay Area ever since, playing in any number of bands and gigging constantly, including a regular gig at Grace Lutheran Church in Richmond.
Pianist Steve Carter was an engineering student at UC Berkeley when he began playing in the UCB Jazz Ensemble; bitten, he transferred to Berklee College of Music in Boston where he took lessons with Jaki Byard and other great musicians on the faculty. He toured through the western U.S. and Canada with an R&B band in the early 1980s. and became a first-call piano player in the thriving Bay Area Funky-Latin-Jazz scene, where he was Pete Escovedo’s piano player for several years and also worked with Pete’s brother Coke’s band, Sheila E., Ray Obiedo’s band, Linda Tillery, Bill Summers and Summers Heat, Benny Rietveld, Bo Freeman, Able Zarate, Andy Narell, Billy Cobham, Vicki Randle, Will Kennedy, Malo and many others. He lived in Tokyo for eight months and played with Japanese fusion artist Miyaura Kiyoshi. After that, he was a member of The Freaky Executives, and in the 1990s worked as a sideman with George Benson, Bobby Womack, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Kenneth Nash, Samba Ngo, Nicolas Bearde, Tony Lindsey, Charo, Don Cherry, Andy Narell, Benny Reitveld, Love and Rockets, Taj Mahal, Rebbe Soul as well as his old friends Ray Obiedo, Pete Escovedo and many others. He joined Los Mocosos, a Latin/Hip Hop band, touring internationally and putting out three cds, has his own trio, and is in a new band, FIVE TEN, with Dennis Smith, Marquinho Brasil, Jeff Narell and Billy Johnson with two cds out, “Cinco Um Zero” and “New World”. He’s also played with Pascal Bokar, Mary Jenson, Jeff Chambers, Greg Abate, John Faddis, Afro Blue Grazz, Dave Haskel and Chinese superstar Francis Yip, and has played on recordings with Mexican band Maldita Vecindad, Tom Scott, The Headhunters, George Clinton, Mos Def and Snoop Dog, among others.
Drummer Michael Spencer’s education began in the Oakland Unified School District’s Brookfield Elementary and King Estates Junior High, then continued at Berkeley High, where he studied under Charles Hamilton and played drums for the school’s award-winning jazz band in 1986 and 1987. In 1987, he was awarded a full scholarship to Berklee in 1987 but declined it to go on tour with the late J Spencer, Motown Mo Jazz recording artist. Between 1987 and 2021, while working in the Bay Area musical community, nationally and internationally, he attended all the Peralta Community Colleges (Alameda, Laney and Merritt) before entering San Francisco State University on the school’s first John Handy Scholarship in 2008, receiving his BA in Liberal Studies with a Minor in African American Studies and an emphasis in Music in June 2021. Through the years since 1987, he has played, traveled and recorded with John Handy With Class, J Spencer, Najee, Mark Wright, Dave Bernstein, Pete Escovedo, Pharoah Sanders, Bill Bell, Calvin Keys, Jeff Othello, Joshua Redman, David Byrd, Shugee Otis and Dave Ellis, to name a few. He has taught in Oakland Unified and Berkeley Unified schools, the Oakland School of the Arts and the Oaktown Jazz Workshops, and operates Denardo’s World Beats, a music school. He does mental health and wellness, and restorative justice drum circles in the community and inside the San Quentin Health Fair and the Juvenile Justice Centers in Alameda County. He also works as a Family Outreach Specialist and Care coordinator for the Alameda County Public Health Dept.
Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.
The BBCLP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit...
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Gigging musicians! You have nothing to lose but your lack of a collective voice to achieve fair wages for your work!
The IMA can be a conduit for you, if you join in to make it work.
Read more here - Andy Gilbert's Feb 25 article about the IMA from KQED's site