Shirley Horn

Shirley Horn

Outta town, outta mind
I was delighted last weekend when my lady surprised me with front-row-center seats at Yoshi’s jazz/sushi restaurant in Oakland for one of my favorite living jazz vocalists, the eloquent Shirley Horn. Having recently had a leg amputated due to diabetes, the 69-year old Horn delivered her late-night set from a wheelchair directly in front of our table, backed by a dedicated trio featuring piano, upright bass and her longtime drummer. Oh mannn, was it nice.

With worldly wisdom, Horn caressed each classic jazz standard using sultry, half-spoken, half-sung vocal phrasing that moved from vintage purrs to stark shouts to stunning whispers. She cast a spell over the darkened audience, especially on such bewitching ballads as the memorable “Here’s to Life” and a soulful interpretation of McCartney’s “Yesterday” that would have made Sir Paul himself misty (the song is included on her new album coming in late June).

Afterwards we stayed at a sleazy pink motel around 30th and Telegraph, which I only recommend if you enjoy being awakened at 4:30 a.m. by the violent sounds of an angry pimp smacking “his ho” around the room above. Not the worst I’ve stayed in, but certainly down there.

Next morning, we walked around Berkeley shopping for music, clothes and books you can’t find anywhere in Chico, ate salad portions worthy of a small bathtub at Intermezzo, and chatted with socialists selling the paper of the International Socialist Organization (Socialist Worker). Based in Chicago, the 12-page jam-packed paper can be partially viewed on the web at Recent articles offer an interesting spectrum from Bush’s tax cut theft (front page) to war threats in Iran, FCC rule changes, NYPD brutality, Cuba’s right to self-determination, teachers’ union battles in Chicago and Oakland and a special feature with author/activist Arundhati Roy on war and occupation.

It’s always refreshing to step outside of Chico, with its white-bread, Wal-Mart-and-Target-shopping, McDonald’s-apple-pie-shoveling, car-blasting-butt-rock and flag-waving jingoism. But there’s a certain relief in coming back, too.

Go KMAC Kids!
Props to the Hooker Oak School KMAC kids for sending me a big thank-you card and their well done 2001 coloring book Mama Didn’t Know about the dangers of smoking. The group originally evolved from a 1996 science fair project that wrote to physicians and scientists for answers about toxins from indoor air. Today, KMACers consist of third- through sixth-grade students who gather info about how to grow healthy then present their stories in colorful, artistic books that only kids could create.

For more information on how you can pick up their new book, What’s Wrong with Whiskers (a true story about a kitty that gets sick), email

Weekly props
1. Chico yard sales

2. Spellbound

3. Yo La Tengo and The Clean at the Fillmore 6/17-6/20

4. Eric North’s solo CD, Bancho

5. Bitter Betty at Duff’s