Kyra Gordon appears in “Loving Janis” in Berkeley. (Courtesy photo)

‘Loving Janis’ pays tribute to music greats Ian, Joplin

Bay Area jazz and blues vocalist and teacher Kyra Gordon is focusing on two powerful artists who came to fame in the 1960s in her new show, “Loving Janis.”

Contrasting and complementary tunes — folk, rock and jazz — by Janis Ian and Janis Joplin comprise the live show, onstage at Ashkenaz in Berkeley on Friday.

Describing Ian, perhaps best known for the hits “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen,” Gordon says, ”All around, she’s what I strive to be… a great storyteller, in total command of the building blocks of a song.”

On the other hand, Joplin, she says, represents, “This freeing feeling, of throwing everything against the wall. … the ability to let go of trying to be somebody else’s idea of you.”

Gordon’s connection to Joplin goes back to her youth, during a spell in Los Angeles; as a teen, she was asked to try out for the part of Joplin for a Paramount Pictures film project called “Piece of My Heart” that never came to fruition.

In 2017, she sang in a jazzy tribute to Joplin — accompanied by pianist Larry Steelman, bassist Paul Eastburn and drummer Bryan Bowman — at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley. (The first vocalist to graduate from the school, Gordon continues to teach there today.)

Wanting to expand on that endeavor, which was called “Turtle Blues,” Gordon came up with the idea of a “yin and yang” tribute in which she compared Joplin’s charisma and power with folk-singer-songwriter Ian’s masterful, poetic song craftsmanship.

On Friday, Gordon’s band includes Steelman and Eastburn, as well as drummer Alan Hall and guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt.

Rounding out the fun will be a liquid-projection light-show by Kitty Crowe, 70, whose work appeared at the 1966 Trips Festival, a concert at San Francisco’s Longshoremen’s Hall considered by some to be the beginning of the counterculture movement.

Loving Janis
Where: Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. March 23
Tickets: $17 to $20

AshkenazJanis IanJanis JoplinKyra GordonLoving JanisPop Music

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

CalTrans settles lawsuit over homeless sweeps on state property

Settlement requires agency to give warning before taking property and assist with retrieval

Plan to relocate Bayview charter school meets with resistance

School district wants to move KIPP elementary to vacant Treasure Island school site

Black like Bey

SFMOMA showcases photographer Dawoud Bey’s beautiful, sociopolitical images

Musician shot by off-duty FBI agent on Haight Street speaks out

Man thought official was a ‘fake cop’

Newsom: California’s homelessness crisis ‘a disgrace’

Governor uses State of the State speech to call for new revenue to tackle problem

Most Read