Saxophones, Suits, and Second Bests
Listen to modern Indian chamber music and read about corporate oil greed and resilient underdogs.
The Alchemy by Elements (Earth Brother, Elements Trio.com)
The combination of saxophone, violin, and harp is as beguiling as it is unusual on this CD. Berkeley saxophonist George Brooks is steeped in jazz improvisation, Indian music, and contemporary classical, having studied and/or performed with Jaki Byard, Larry Coryell, Pandit Pran Nath, Zakir Hussain, and Terry Riley. The modern chamber music he makes with Indian violinist and vocalist Kala Ramnath and Dutch harpist Gwyneth Wentink transports the listener to a place of trancelike concentration and romantic reflection. Sinuous tenor and soprano sax lines weave through the sparkle of plucked harp strings and the weave of bowed violin, with Ramnath singing the elegiac “Traveling Music for Ann” (for the late Ann Riley). Selvaganesh Vinayakram adds kanjira frame drum on one track, Kai Eckhardt plays acoustic bass guitar on another, and Wentink solos dazzle on the ethereal suite “The Alchemy of Happiness.” —Derk Richardson
Fallout: The Shocking True Story of Suffering, Corporate Greed and a Young Lawyer’s Fight For Justice by Scott Edward Cole (2605 Media LLC, 2018, $18.95, 333 pp.)
1994 found tiny Crockett solidly on the East Bay map. California oil company Unocal leaked somewhere between 80 and 225 tons of a substance called Catacarb into Crockett’s air in a gambit to meet production schedules. The dangerous chemical, which purifies hydrogen for gasoline production, sickened more than 6,000 Contra Costa residents, according to articles in the San Francisco Chronicle. Lawyer Scott Edward Cole details his efforts to rally Crockett into a class-action lawsuit that brought the suits at Unocal to justice. This triumph of communal strength over corporate greed is a testament to the difference individuals can make when they blow the proverbial whistle on injustices in their community. —Francesco Guerrieri
Like a Champion by Vincent Chu (7.13 Books, 2018, $15.99, 238 pp.)
A longtime employee fired on his birthday, a person out of his depth at her new boxing class, and a potluck gone wrong. Like a Champion by Oakland native Vincent Chu reminds us life comes at us fast, but it’s never worth giving up on. The novel is a collection of 18 short stories that recounts stressful, tragic, and awkward moments in Chu’s thoughtful and comedic voice. Chu’s debut collection of stories not only details the generous amount of difficulties life has at its disposal, but it also finds solidarity and solace in the strength all must conjure to combat these challenges. Like a Champion celebrates the underdogs and second bests — and finds the light when all we might see is darkness. It turns out there may be moments of glory at times when it is least expected. —FG