it was one of South Berkeley's delicious little mysteries, the small beige storefront next
to the police station where Martin Luther King runs into Adeline, with the blue light and
cryptic "ant" sign over the door. Rather than serving as a clubhouse for
renegade myrmecologists, the antique-store-turned-theatre-turned- performance-space known
as TUVA played an important role in the region's underground music scene, replacing the
late lamented Beanbenders as the East Bay's leading spot for independently produced jazz
and new music events. In its latest incarnation, the venue has been rechristened the Jazz
House, emerging reenergized with a compelling new mission. Rob Woodworth, a percussionist
dedicated to providing young musicians with opportunities to perform in public, took over
TUVA four months ago from throat-singer Arjuna when the latter decided to focus on his
play about Ishi, Dancing Song of Dead People in Other Worlds.
|Woodworth has fixed up
the once-ramshackle room, detailing the patterned pressed tin that lines the walls with
regal red paint and hanging handsome new curtains. He and a small circle of volunteers
have also turned the venue into a vortex of activity, with African drum workshops on
Sundays, weekend clinics for young musicians, and regular concerts, building on TUVA's
edgy jazz and new music base. As a nonprofit organization focusing on music education for
youth, kids get in free to all shows, and in keeping with the venue's family-friendly vibe
there's no alcohol served -- a policy that has led to some grumbling.
Nearby yet out there: Rob Woodworth
|"We're putting more and more
structure into it," says Woodworth, who moved to the Bay Area from his home in Kansas
City, Missouri, about five years ago. "We've built up the Web site and the e-mail
list. We're doing promotions on radio and local newspapers and the phones are ringing off
the hook. We do a lot of kids' stuff on the weekends, mostly in the afternoons, but then
on evenings and weekdays as often as we can we're having kids open up for the bands we
Some recent Jazz House
highlights include an all-Monk program by the brilliant Berkeley guitarist John Schott
with a group of his students, and a raucous show by Sun Ra trombonist Tyrone Hill and his
Arkestra. On Thursday, Erika Luckett and Ellis, two gloriously eclectic
singer/songwriters, hold forth on a double bill, and on Friday, guitarist Bill Horvitz'
stellar band celebrates the release of its new album The Disappearance (Evander).
Featuring ROVA saxophonist Steve Adams and LA-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt, the group
blends the melodic development of well-crafted rock with the rhythmic complexity of
post-bop jazz. Exploring original material that moves seamlessly between trenchant
composed themes and emotionally galvanizing improvisation, it's one of the most
consistently rewarding small jazz combos on the scene. For Woodworth, the trio is exactly
the kind of band he's hoping will find a regular home at the Jazz House.
"I've had musicians call up on my cell phone and I'm
amazed," he says. "I still don't have a clue how they're finding out about it.
Word of mouth, obviously, but I'm proactive as well. I'm calling all the time, trying to
get local people in here." The Jazz House is at 3192 Adeline Street in Berkeley. Call
415-846-9432 for more information, or log on to thejazzhouse.org