Town Crier: Oakland School for the Arts girl band jazzes up Yoshi’s

MONTCLARION: March 28, 2014

Jerry Brown was a great mayor for Oakland — and word has it he may run again when he leaves Sacramento.

This was the news that lit up the house at Yoshi’s last week. Brown’s brainchild, the Oakland School for the Arts, was having a musical fundraiser when OSA’s director — Donn Harris — brought up the possibility of Brown’s return.

It was a night of surprises, kicked off by OSA’s talented all-girl jazz band Sharp 5. The high-school ensemble features Dylan Hadley on the drums, Gema Pelcastre on bass, Brianna Washington on piano, Sasha Berliner on vibraphone and Vinkiya Hunter playing trombone. They nailed the performance with their bright, funky rhythms and you can hear them on YouTube under “OSA Jazz Concert March 8 2013 OSA Sharp Five” ( v=Dep8K3QeVyY).

And the place really sizzled when the silver-haired “Pops” Pete Escovedo took the stage with son Juan. The famed Latin rhythm percussionists played alongside the OSA Jazz band with a jammin’ rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” and standards “Cry Me a River” and “Stormy Weather.” At 78, “Pops” has still got it — and he stole the stage with his advice to the students about growing old. I don’t know if the kids could relate, but I could. All that talk about senior discounts and the IHOP 2x2x2 breakfast (2 eggs, 2 sausages and 2 pancakes) made me want to run to get my AARP card.

Hearing these young musicians and seeing how poised and secure they were in their talent — well, it gave me a great feeling of pride. Oakland has a long musical history and these are the next generation of performers.

Old school: Speaking of music, vinyl collectors will love next month’s exhibit at the Oakland Museum. “Vinyl: The Sound and Culture of Records” opens April 19 — complete with listening stations, interviews with Bay Area musicians and live performances. Does music really sound better on vinyl? Collectors swear to it, and you’ll be able to hear the difference when you drop by and tune in.

Dessert alert: In the back of every smile there’s a sweet tooth. Mine is more active than most. Thanks to Red Boy Pizza, I’ve found a new favorite that keeps me coming back to the inviting Italian restaurant on Leimert. It’s their cannolis — the most wonderful explosion of pastry and cream you can imagine. I haven’t found a better one … even in North Beach.

Feed the beast: Got lettuce? Bring your salad stuff to the Oakland Zoo Saturday, and watch the animals chow down. There’ll be feedings every half-hour from 10:30 (elephants) to 3:30 (sun bears), and your fresh produce is sure to tickle the palate of even the most finicky eater. And you thought the black-throated monitor only ate rats.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web at



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