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San Francisco Chronicle — 96 Hours, Bandwidth

Jara Queeto [former name of bandleader Jara Ra] doesn’t just have the coolest name in the Bay Area music scene, but he’s also leader of the coolest jazz brass band in Northern California. Called the Blue Bone Express, the Oakland group’s earliest roots were planted after Queeto and drummer Jesse Randell took a break from studying music at San Francisco State University to check out the International Association for Jazz Education conference in New Orleans. “Having never heard a jazz brass band, I was blown away by witnessing a few hundred people at the Maple Leaf dancing away to the Rebirth Brass Band playing entirely acoustically and without any sound system,” says Queeto. With a new perspective on jazz, Queeto spent the next several years assembling a lineup of players with influences in pre-swing jazz and dudes tough enough to proudly walk around any part of town lugging a sousaphone. The BBX’s first gig was in 2004, at Amnesia, where the band soon after got paired with a burlesque lady dance troupe, Hot Pink Feathers – now their regular partners in crime of stealing shows. With a five-plus-hour repertoire of music, BBX and Hot Pink Feathers can be found together every first Saturday of the month at Oakland’s Cafe Van Kleef.

Regular Lineup: Jara Queeto, pianist, trumpeter, singer, composer, leader; Kevin Brunetti, saxophonist (alto and baritone); Jason Freidenfelds, trombonist; Brandon Stasch, sousaphonist; Jesse Randell, drummer.

1. BBX’s music should be filed between:

James Booker, Louis Armstrong, the Cantina Band from Star Wars (they were called the “Figrin D’an and the Modal Nods”).

2. The soundtrack to what movie would your music best match?

A lesser known film (check it out if you can): “The Legend of 1900.” A more well-known film: “Moulin Rouge.”

3. If you could collaborate on a song with any person, living or dead, who would that be?

Too many greats to choose from … Astor Piazzolla, Jellyroll Morton, Leonard Cohen, Led Zeppelin, Tom Waits …

4. If a junior high school asked you to play a cover song at the next talent show, what song and school would you choose?

I actually wrote, arranged, rehearsed and performed an original piece of music at my school, Chipman Middle School in Alameda. But all the prize winners were dancing/lip synching acts. So maybe we’d just do a dancing/lip synching act to whoever the current “American Idol” winner is.

5. What is the meaning of life?

That there is no opposite to life, except in our limited perceptions. Lifelessness is an illusion. Just ask Francois, the ghost who inhabits Cafe Van Kleef in Oakland.

Check them out:;

Next gig: 9 p.m. Saturday. Part of monthly Burlesque n’ Brass show with Hot Pink Feathers. This being the Saturday before Mardi Gras, there will be bead throwing and Louisiana king cake. $10, 21 +. Cafe Van Kleef, 1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. (510) 763-7711.; Bonus Fat gig: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Norm’s Place, 356 Hartz Ave., Danville. Free, all ages.

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