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Double Trios - Bal du Kor (African) & Brisas do Brazil



Sunday June 26th at 3pm, Outside concert










Bal du Kor


  • Three veteran performers/composers/recording artists join forces to create an enchanting fusion of traditional and original West African melodies and rhythms.
  • Michael Smolens -- balafon, djun-djuns, shakers, bell, dumbek, tambourine, alto flute, melodica, vocals

    ProfessorSlap (aka Ben Isaacs) -- djembe, dun-dun, udu, shekere, bell, pandeiro, congas, cajon, dumbek, riqq, ocean drum, vocals

    Daniel Berkman -- kora, djembe, bell, tambourine, ukulele, vocals

  • The heart of this dynamic and captivating ensemble are the indigenous instruments balafon (marimba), dun-dun (talking drum), and kora (harp), uniquely combined with alto flute, ukulele, melodica, djembe, djun-djuns, shekere, bells, tambourine, and vocals.

  • The band's emotional range spans from the delicate and longing to the inspiring and ecstatic, while their collective cosmopolitan backgrounds give birth to unpredictable musical excursions.

  • Michael Smolens
  • has been jokingly diagnosed with A.B.L.S. (Acquired Band Leader Syndrome) by leading many jazz, international, and classical ensembles. These include The BABKAS Duo, trios (Bal du Kor, BRISAS do BRASIL, NUVO Chamber Trio), quintets (earPlay Jazzquintet, New American Songbook Project), the KRIYA Octet, and 9-person vocal MIRABAI ENSEMBLE.

    He has performed or recorded with Stefon Harris (vibes), Paul McCandless & Gene Burkert (reeds/flutes), Zakir Hussain (tablas), and vocalists Claudia Schmidt, Rhiannon, and members of Bobby McFerrin's "Voicestra". He has appeared at Yoshi's Jazz House six times and has been commissioned by Meet The Composer, the Bernard Osher Foundation, Occidental Choir, and numerous artists in the Bay Area and New York.

    Whereas all of these other groups are highly arranged, Bal du Kor is primarily improvised, fusing his love for free improvisation (four CDs of free duos) with his fascination for West-African music. Though employing different instrumental colors in one ensemble is typical, this is the only ensemble that works equally well with young children as well as adults.

  • ProfessorSlap (aka Ben Isaacs)
  • has been playing music his whole life. Starting with violin at age 7, he played trumpet, guitar, piano, voice, clarinet and saxophone during his youth. When 19 he was introduced to West-African percussion and started a passionate connection with hand percussion that has grown for the last three decades. At the same time, he started playing bass and has been working with that instrument in many different styles—from American funk, rock, jazz, and R&B to working with many African artists from different countries on the African Continent.

    P-Slap has traveled four times to West-Africa to better understand the culture from which the music comes and to study with master percussionists there, as well as here in the USA. His teachers are from all over West-Africa and include Abdoulaye Diakite, Karamba Dioubate, Abdoul Doumbia, Mabiba Bagne, Sulemon Diop, Dibi Diop-Faye, Mohammed Camara, Moussa Traore, Diop Percussion, Bolocada Conde, Mamady Keita, Fara Tolna, and many more. He has played with various touring international artists including: Djaily Kunda Kouyate, Ibro Diabate, M'Balou Kante, Sekouba Bambino, Balla Tounkara, Karamba Diabate, Mohammed Kouyate, Lokole West and Central African Dance Ensemble, Delou West-African Dance Ensemble, Panjea, Onye Onyamachi, as well as many local groups including the Miles Ahead Group, Ousseynou Kouyate, The Tom Finch Group, Say Bobby, Tracy Blackmanas, Antioquia, and the RhythmAddicts. P-Slap also leads his own original 14 piece urban hip-hop, soul, funk, jazz, West African group The Slaptones in California.

    He has taught and still teaches private and group lessons for both adults and children, performing from large venues to living rooms to school assemblies to festivals. Ben has worked with school children in various school districts throughout the San francisco Bay Area. For him, music is a language that has no boundaries, and he plays with his full heart and soul behind every note expressed.

  • Daniel Berkman
  • Daniel is a composer, multi-instrumentalist (keyboard, guitar, percussion, drum set), vocalist, electronic musician, RTFM recording artist, and innovator on the kora (a 21-stringed harp from West Africa). Upon finding this ancient jewel in 1996, Daniel wasted no time in unearthing the kora's compositional and sonic potential, first by exploring its rich heritage of traditional playing techniques and repertoire, then by extending its electronic possibilities through devices such as the Whammy Pedal and the Oberheim Echoplex. His first three CDs, "Heartstrings", "Feverdreams," and "Headlands" While touring West-Africa (Senegal, Gambia and Mali) Daniel also studied kora, djembe and ngoni with various masters there. The result is his latest work, "Calabashmoon" , a collection of crafty and poignant kora pieces woven into a tapestry of recorded samples and impressions of that region. Daniel has recently added the gravikord (a 21-stringed stainless steel electric kora) to his arsenal of instruments which he manipulates, loops and transfigures with laptop, looping software, and other devices. His brand new CD "Tape" under the moniker "Colfax" is now available on iTunes and Amazon.

    He is an original member of Bal du Kor and has also collaborated with Michael Smolens in various duo and large ensemble performances as well.

    Check out these links for sample tunes....


    Bal du Kor

    Brisas do Brasil


  • Brisas do Brasil creates an exciting and tropical environment, serving up intricate original arrangements of Bossa Nova and Samba, refreshing the listener with its constantly shifting textures. The trio features sublime compositions by the Brazilian master Antonio Carlos Jobim (The Girl From Ipanema, Corcovado, Desafinado), along with gems by Sergio Mendez, Toninho Horta, Milton Nascimento, Edu Lubo, Ivan Lins, and Aecio Flavio, plus evocative original works.

  • Mary D'Orazi (voice, percussion)
  • Mary's warm, lyrical, mezzo soprano voice can color melodies across various genres. When she sings a jazz tune, her clear, rich, round tone, rhythmic sensibility and thoughtful phrasing fit into the ensemble that she interacts with. On a rhythmically complex, highly syncopated Brazilian song, her vocal lightness and flexibility come into play. In vocal harmony, singing jazz or pop, she has the aural sensitivity to blend, nuance and dance with other voices. San Francisco Bay Area solo performances include: Jazz at Filoli, Jazz at Peace, Montclair Jazz and Wine Festival, Rockridge Jazz & Wine Stroll, Sonoma Arts Guild Art Show, Cafe Claude, Hotel Donatello, Jupiter Restaurant, Bread and Roses volunteer performer and private functions. Oakland Jazz Choir, 1996-2009: Solo and small ensemble and choir performances included Yoshi's, Kimballs East, Great American Music Hall, The JazzSchool, San Francisco Jazz Festival, Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, 142 Throckmorton Theater, Grass Valley Center for the Arts and more.


  • Greg German (drum set, cajon, pandeiro)
  • Greg German has been playing music in one form or another for most of his life. After years of playing tenor saxophone and guitar, he found his way to the drum set at the relatively "late" age of 23. He has studied drums privately with Eddie Marshall, Pete Magadini and Alan Hall. Over the last twenty plus years, he has been performing with SF Bay Area bands that run the spectrum from pop and rock to latin and Brazilian and jazz in it's many varieties. He has recorded with numerous groups including Terrence Brewer, Makeshift Ensemble, The Blue & Tan, Humanistic, Ben Stolorow, The Oakland Jazz Choir, Gerald Beckett, Marcos Silva, Steve McQuarry and Resonance. He has also performed with other distinguished artists such as Madeline Eastman, Claudia Villela, Benny Rietveld (Miles Davis, Santana), Mingus Amungus, Fillmore Jazz Preservation Big Band, Mandala Orchestra, Yancie Taylor, Anne Sajdera, Stephanie Crawford and Muziki Roberson.


  • Keyboardist/arranger Michael Smolens magically imitates a nylon-string guitar and acoustic bass with uncanny accuracy while adding alto flute, melodica, and voice to the mix.

    Check out this link for sample tunes....


    Brisas do Brasil





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