Berkeley Monthly 2010
Whenever guests arrive from out of town and I want to provide them with a quintessential Berkeley experience, I head directly for the Cheeseboard Pizza Collective. It’s not so much that I’m looking to brag about the Gourmet Ghetto’s culinary riches as I can’t resist the combinationof free jazz, outdoor dining, and the lively street scene of upper Shattuck. As if making delectable pizza wasn’t enough of a public service, the Cheeseboard hosts a revolving cast of top-rate local musicians playing jazz tunes and American Songbook standards, aural offerings often overlooked by patrons. But listen closely, and you can hear true artists at work. Vocalist Ed Reed parlayed his regular Tuesday night gig (now every other Tuesday) into national acclaim. And lately, big-toned tenor saxophonist Nancy Wright has been blowing the blues at the worker-owned collective. She performs on Friday, Jan. 29 with Hammond B3 organ veteran Wayne De La Cruz and supple drummer Kent Bryson. The Ohio native cut her teeth on the blues scene, and she’s toured and recorded with legends like B.B. King, Joe Louis Walker, and John Lee Hooker. A California resident since the mid-1980s, she developed a taste for jazz while working with Oakland Hammond B3 great Jackie Ivory, who turned her on to the history of soulful organ/tenor sax collaborations. She made her own contribution to the soul jazz tradition with last March’s release of Moanin’ (Chicken Coop Records), an impressive debut session produced by B3 expert Tony Monaco, who accompanies with his tight working trio. Whether navigating classic jazz tunes like Gigi Gryce’s “Minority,” interpreting standards like “When Sunny Gets Blue,” or grooving on her original blues and boogies, Wright treats the music right.