Best Bets: Free brassy jazz, Brian Copeland, Ravel, and Piaf 

San Francisco’s Honor Brass Band performs in a free concert April 18 at Fulton Plaza in San Francisco presented by Mr. Tipple's. (Courtesy Honor Brass Band)

Freebie of the week: Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, the San Francisco joint founded by London-born entrepreneur and music lover Jay Bordeleau, is indeed a recording studio, but local jazz fans also know it serves up first-rate jazz acts, tasty snacks and a thoroughly impressive collection of cocktails, beer, wine and other drinks.

This week, Mr. Tipple’s is teaming with San Francisco’s Soundtrack Series to present a free show in the Civic Center area featuring top-notch Bay Area purveyors of New Orleans jazz. The lineup includes the Honor Brass Band, known for contemporary and traditional jazz fueled by some fine funk and classic swing. Next up is MJ’s Brass Boppers, described by event organizers as the “next best thing to following a brass band down New Orleans’ famed Claiborne Avenue.” That’s no idle boast: The outfit is said to be the only Bay Area New Orleans brass band whose members were all born in the Crescent City.

Wrapping things up is the acclaimed Jazz Mafia, a New Orleans style big brass ensemble powered by trombone, trumpet, saxes, drums and tuba. Led by trombonist and co-founder Adam Theis, the Jazz Mafia incorporates traditional jazz with styles from blues and R&B to hip-hop and more, so you’re never quite sure just what you’ll encounter when the musicians take the stage.

The free show runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Fulton Plaza, on Fulton Street between Hyde and Larkin streets. For more information, go to

Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to the Bay Area for a pair of performances April 20-21. (Courtesy Theik Smith/Dance Theatre of Harlem)

From Harlem, with love (and grace): The Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in the wake of a tragedy—the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. — but has emerged as one of America’s leading lights of traditional and contemporary ballet.

Founder Arthur Mitchell, who had gained fame as the first Black principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, reportedly was en route to Brazil to start a national company there when King’s assassination convinced him to stay in New York and create a company to serve the African American community of Harlem. Partnering with Karel Shook of the Dutch National Ballet, Mitchell created a school and then a performance company of the school’s top dancers.

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s first official performance was in 1971, and the company, with support from George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, evolved into one of the top ballet troupes in the country. The Los Angeles Times has described the company’s work as “a pulsing celebration of love and life.”

The company returns to the Bay Area with performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. The programs will reportedly be a mix of Dance Theatre of Harlem favorites and new contemporary works. Tickets are $69-$99 (and going fast). Go to

Brian Copeland is bringing his best-known work, “Not a Genuine Black Man,” back to The Marsh. (Courtesy Joan Marcus/The Marsh)

Revisiting a classic: The Marsh in San Francisco has for years been the go-to venue for solo stage performances and dedicated to the art of storytelling. With minimal staging and sets, a typical show features a single artist embarking on an autobiographical tale with themes ranging from love to racial attitudes to microdosing.

Perhaps the best-known artist in this realm is Bay Area comedian, TV personality and writer Brian Copeland, creator of the acclaimed “Not a Genuine Black Man.” The autobiographical tale—told with Copeland’s trademark blend of humor, humility, honesty and biting social commentary—recounts Copeland’s family settling in San Leandro in the 1970s, at a time when the city was derided by a national housing agency as a “racist bastion of White supremacy.”

Twenty years after he performed its debut, Copeland is bringing “Not a Genuine Black Man” back to The Marsh at 5 p.m. Saturdays through May 4. This Saturday’s show will mark the 1,000th time Copeland has performed the work.

Some tickets are free, others are $25-$100. More information and tickets are at

Guest conductor Karina Canellakis leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program of works by Maurice Ravel and Richard Strauss this weekend in Davies Hall. (Courtesy Mathias Bothor)

A remarkable work: A piano concerto composed specifically for a World War I combatant who lost his right arm in the conflict will be the centerpiece of this weekend’s San Francisco Symphony concerts in Davies Hall led by Karina Canellakis, chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic.

The musician who commissioned the work was Austrian-American pianist Paul Wittgenstein, the composer was Maurice Ravel, and his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is a powerful, propulsive masterpiece that astonishingly manages to sound like a two-handed affair. The soloist who will be able to turn the score’s pages with his idle right hand (should he need to) will be Cédric Tiberghien, a prize-winning French pianist who described his passion for it in this YouTube interview he gave before a recent performance of the work he gave in Sydney, Australia. Also on the program are Ravel’s sensuous “La Valse” and tone poems by Richard Strauss, “Death and Transfiguration” and “Don Juan.”

Performance times are 2 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Find tickets, $39-$169, at

Renowned soprano Patricia Racette sings the music of Édith Piaf in the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco on April 19-20. (Courtesy Kyle Flubacker)

Patricia sings Piaf: Those of us fortunate enough to have witnessed the extraordinary talents of soprano Patricia Racette on San Francisco Opera’s War Memorial stage over the years (her Madame Butterfly is still the quintessential interpretation for many), or in any of the innumerable other opera houses throughout the world, will doubtless be pleased to find her on stage at the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco channeling another iconic vocalist from an earlier era.

Well, channeling may not be the most precise word. In presenting the kind of repertoire that the great French chanteuse Édith Piaf (1915-1963) made famous, Racette, backed by arranger-accompanist Craig Terry, wants to bring her back to us in a more personal way. Calling her “a shining example through words and music,” Racette says, “I want to evoke Piaf without ever crossing the line of trying to imitate her. I want to create an experience.” 

Those eager for that experience, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, can get their tickets, $50-$75, at  

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