"Austin's King of Jewish Bluegrass Tuba"

I awoke this morning at the historic Anglican rectory just north of U. Cal Berkeley, to be shuttled to the Elmwood Elementary for a school program with Kosher Gospel singer Joshua Nelson. (Not to be confused with the lame Israeli rock singer of similar name.)

It was a wonderful bunch of kids asked probing and sensitive questions for the musicians.

Then it was a short cab ride into Southwest Berkeley to the workshop of master ukulele builder Mike DaSilva. Mike made a uke (the "Lucky Lady") for my buddy Pops Bayless and it’s quite possibly the finest constructed, sounding and playing string instrument I’ve ever encountered. And I have some mighty fine custom instruments myself. Mike took time out his busy day slicing tone woods to show me around the shop and talk ukes. I’d only ever communicated with him via email and phone and I was gratified to find such a kind and thoughtful gentleman.


Modest and quiet in person, he really does let his instruments do the talking. I’m a big fan of his historical instruments, which he had several in the pipeline and are as fine as you will encounter. But he also showed me an amazing semi-cutaway tenor he was building for James Hill, designed to accommodate his playing style. And we discussed at length his experiments with carbon fiber tops and I even put in a tentative order for a concert model (allowing funding!!)


While there, I got to see his latest line, a low cost, hand made entry-level uke. It’s an all solid Koa box in the Hawaiian style with PegHed tuners and one of his amazing new uke cases, all at $650.00!! An AMAZING value for a hand made instrument I assure you. It plays and sounds to my ear in no way appreciably different from and custom made instrument. Put in an order now.


Then it was a long stroll on an uncharacteristically warm summer day back to the rectory. On the way this caught my eye and I checked out one of the many Indian import shops on University Ave.


So here’s what’s way in the back: and that’s just a few pics. There was every imaginable bell, shaker and tambourine, and hand pump organs and stuff I couldn’t begin to identify.



After a running a short errand I was dropped off at the festival director’s house for a shabbes meal. I had arranged to meet my old pal Djordje and it seemed we were both early, so we sat down on the stoop and caught up. After a short while, a nice lady across the street called out to us a bade us come into her house. As it turned out, she was married to another musician pal of mine, John Schott and they got a call from the director telling her she was running late.


They served us tea and snacks and John’s wife (so sorry to forget her name) is a writer and had a story about he trip to Belgrade, Djordje’s hometown, back in ’89. John accompanied the story with a wonderful minstral style, 6-string banjo made by a local maker and one that I coveted immediately.



Soon enough, the director arrived along with Joshua and some of his singers and other local Yid’n, and after the barruchas we sat down to eat. Chulent, asparagus, and some of the finest BBQ Chicken I ever had. No pictures, too busy eating.

But after a cognac or two, the honored guest took to the keyboards for a few tunes.




Then off to bed. They pick us up to play on KPFA at 8am and then we go to KALW for a live broadcast on West Coast Live. Then it's the big concert tonight! It's important to note that now that it has been in print twice, I am formally "Austin's King of Jewish Bluegrass Tuba."

Sunday morning I magically turn into a Bad Liver and do shows out here Sunday and Monday. Hard to believe sometimes this is my profession.