Some amazing music coming into town … Nate Birkey Quintet will be playing at SOHo next week — 8 p.m. March 19 — and it’s been awhile since he’s played here; fall of 2007, to be precise. Birkey was one of the regulars at Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens and that’s how we met. Late at night, listening to bartender Willy Gilbert’s jazz collection, playing Liar’s Poker while quaffing potent cocktails or munching down on chef/owner Tommy Chung’s delectable dishes.


Mo McFadden

Nate played “Taps” on his trumpet at the hangout’s closing night, July 29, 2006. It brought tears to my eyes and there still isn’t a place like Jimmy’s that I’ve found to replace it, yet. Sure, there’s the first Monday of every month at the Wildcat (on Ortega) where Willy mixes drinks and jazz … and I started the B.Y.O.C. night. That means Bring Your Own Chinese. Without a kitchen to compete with, the Wildcat is the perfect place to do this. It’s low-key, but it’s a chance to see some of the “regulars” not so regularly anymore.

But, back to Birkey and his music. Nate taught music and gigged around Santa Barbara for a decade or more, and finally moved to the Big Apple, where he could concentrate on his music career. It’s been said often that his vocal stylings are like that of jazz great Chet Baker. There’s a new CD Birkey is working on with his East Coast Quintet and he says he’ll be playing some of the new material in Santa Barbara.

Nate will be reunited with members of his West Coast Quintet, a group that has recorded four CDs and played together for nearly 10 years. Los Lobos drummer Cougar Estrada will be back on drums, with Jim Connolly at the bass, and the ever-exciting Jamieson Trotter at the piano. Tom Buckner will round out the horn section on tenor saxophone.

The 411 on Birkey’s return is 8 p.m. March 19 at SOHo Restaurant & Music Club, 1221 State St. There’s a $7 cover charge. Click here for more information or call 805.962.7776.

Music choices continue to dazzle with Cash for the Coast, a March 21 benefit concert for the Naples Coalition at the Lobero Theatre. The concert stars Kenny Loggins, Karla Bonoff, Glen Phillips, Kenny Edwards, Jonathan McEuen, MoJoW & the Vibration Army, and Jeff Pevar with a who’s who “house band” of well-known Santa Barbara players: Randy Tico (bass), George Friedenthal (keyboards), Maitland Ward (guitar), Donzel Davis (drums) and Lois Mahalia (vocals). The concert begins at 7 p.m. and is hosted by star local surfer Shaun Tomson.

“I totally believe in this cause to help keep the Gaviota coast preserved as a rural area for the future,” said Scott Bull of Santa Barbara Surfrider Foundation. “The performers and the Lobero are donating their time so that we have the opportunity to have a very successful fund raiser.”

Love this community — puts its money where its mouth is.

Bonoff, playing for the first time in the lineup this year, got right to the point.

“For me it’s about not letting them take the last beautiful piece of undeveloped coastline in Southern California — it’s precious,” she said. “It’s a biological place full of threatened species. No houses ought to be there.”

Huzzah! Karla, I agree the Naples coast is certainly one to preserve and pass down to our children’s children’s children … maybe the Moody Blues did that last phrase better than me.  Hey, it’s a musical cue. I’m on a roll here.

The 411 on Cash for the Coast is 7 p.m. March 21. Click here to order tickets online or call the Lobero Box Office at 805.963.0761.

And for those who don’t like their music straight, no chaser, there’s the prolific performance artist, Laurie Anderson, who always surprises me. She’ll be playing “Homeland,” an enigmatic and intelligent new piece at 8 p.m. April 9 in UCSB Campbell Hall. Click here for tickets or call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805.893.3535.

Dubbed “the reigning performance artist of our time” by the Boston Globe, Anderson’s multidisciplinary approach to “live art” has been challenging traditional conventions and creating torrents of imagery, light, words, music and sound for more than three decades. Her combination poem, play and concert, “Homeland” incorporates the synthetic and the sensuous languages of technology, songwriting and poetry to remark on a rapidly changing 21st-century America and the persistent language of war.  Ireland’s Independent calls the show “Anderson’s most politically charged offering to date.”

Speaking of Ireland — Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you.

Last Words:  On the Citizen McCaw documentary … having been present at the premiere I have been voraciously reading all the blogs, comments and stories about it. I’ve noticed one aspect no one has mentioned. And if you were there you’ll know what I mean.

It was one of the most interactive movie experiences I’ve had since the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I found myself talking back to the screen … and I wasn’t the only one. The entire audience was having a dialogue with the doc.  Like the moment Travis Armstrong showed up on the screen and the entire house made the “sssssssssss” sound — like in a melodrama when the villain appears.

And when the 80 names of those who have left, resigned or been fired from the Santa Barbara News-Press since this all began were accompanied by a strong round of applause lasting the entire time the names were on the screen …  I was kvelling! There were times when the entire house groaned, laughed or yelled back at the myriad machinations emanating from the Ivory Tower.

I want to send a shout out to the producers/filmmakers — Rod Lathim, Chuck Minsky, Peter Seaman and Sam Tyler and thank them for getting it on screen for the world to see.