A Cultured Summer

With the San Francisco Jazz Festival fully underway, aficionados will not want to miss Esperanza Spalding and the Radio Music Society at the Paramount Theater in Oakland this month.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #193, 1989; Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; 2012 Cindy Sherman.

By Paul Duclos

Published: August, 2012

With the San Francisco Jazz Festival fully underway, aficionados will not want to miss Esperanza Spalding and the Radio Music Society at the Paramount Theater in Oakland this month. A bandstand-levitating bassist, enchanting singer, savvy composer and charismatic bandleader, Spalding is truly a jazz star for the 21st century.


With her celebrated triumph at the 2011 Grammy Awards, where she became the first jazz artist ever to win Best New Artist, Spalding is rapidly fulfilling her promise as one of the era’s defining musicians. She followed up last year’s hit album Chamber Music Society with another genre-bending gem, Radio Music Society, a project that binds her love of Brazilian music with threads of gospel, soul and big band swing. She brings largely the same talent-rich ensemble to the Paramount, with the fiery alto saxophonist Tia Fuller serving as musical director.


Born and raised in Portland, Spalding was a precociously curious musician who discovered the upright bass as a teenager and soon became immersed in blues, funk, hip-hop, jazz and Latin American genres. Since then she’s collaborated with jazz elite including Joe Lovano, Milton Nascimento, Lionel Loueke, Gil Goldstein, Jack DeJohnette and many others. Still just 27, now she’s an international jazz icon. Festival organizers say this event is certain to be standing room only. www.sfjazz.org


The mission of Lamplighters Music Theatre is to share its enthusiasm and love for the works of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan through productions of their comic operas and of other works of comparable wit, literacy and musical merit.

Next month, the Novellus Theater at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco will be the venue for four staged performances of The Mikado, a playful tale set in a make-believe Japanese town where flirting is a capital offense.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Nanki-Poo has fallen in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum, fiancée to the Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko. When the Mikado, emperor of Japan, demands the execution of Ko-Ko, and Nanki-Poo volunteers to take Ko-Ko’s place under the condition that he first be allowed to marry Yum-Yum, chaos, desperation, and comical mayhem ensue.

The Lamplighters are now recognized as one of the world’s pre-eminent Gilbert & Sullivan companies. Critically acclaimed artistic successes include honors for Best Production and Best Overseas Society at the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England.   www.lamplighters.org




Through October, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) hosts the sole West Coast presentation of Cindy Sherman, a traveling retrospective of one of the most significant contemporary artists and arguably the most influential one working exclusively with photography.

Known for photographing herself in a range of guises and personas that are by turns amusing and disturbing, distasteful and affecting, Sherman has built an international reputation for an extraordinary body of work. Tracing her career from the mid-1970s to present, the exhibition is the first major U.S. retrospective of the artist in nearly 15 years, introducing Sherman to a new generation of audiences.

Organized by Eva Respini of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Cindy Sherman brings together more than 150 photographs from both public and private collections, including key works from SFMOMA’s own holdings. The presentation at SFMOMA is overseen by Erin O’Toole, assistant curator of photography, and is the first major exhibition of Sherman’s work ever mounted in San Francisco.

Throughout her career, Sherman has presented a sustained, eloquent and provocative exploration of the construction of contemporary identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography. Her works resonate deeply with our visual culture, drawing from the unlimited supply of images from movies, television, magazines, the Internet and art history. Today Sherman’s work is the unchallenged cornerstone of postmodern photography.

Masquerading as myriad characters in front of her camera, Sherman has served as her own model for more than 30 years, constructing invented personas and tableaus. To create her photographs, she works unassisted in her studio, and assumes multiple roles as photographer, model, art director, makeup artist, hairdresser and stylist. Through her skillful guises, she has created an astonishing and continually intriguing variety of culturally resonant characters, from sexy starlet to clown to aging socialite.