The Berkeley Main Post Office Salutes Ashkenaz and Fantasy Films

Gar Smith
Monday November 19, 2018 - 12:00:00 PM

In 1973, when David Nadel founded the Ashkenaz music hall on Sacramento Avenue, he had a vision of fostering intercultural understanding through music and dance. This past September 15, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley's famous independent filmmaking ("One Flew Over the Coco's Nest") and recording studio (Credence Clearwater), closed its doors as a place where the magic of musician friendships created at Ashkenaz Community Center regularly came to life.

Karen Lile, a producer at both Ashkenaz and Fantasy Studios, joined with filmmaker Michael J Kofford to create a documentary tribute to the musicians who enlivened Ashkenaz and Fantasy Studios over the years. The resulting film brought together more than 60 musicians for 20 recording sessions inside Studio D, between September 17 to 29th. Kofford has turned these recording sessions into a 38-minute documentary called "Two Weeks in Studio B: Berkeley."

The film features interviews and music from recording sessions with Grammy-winner Jamie Dubberly (Dharma Brass Band), Rob Dehlinger (Alpha Rhythm Kings), Erik Jekabson, Kenny Washington & the Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, Tammy L. Hall, Mimi Fox, George Winston, Allison Miller, Kendall Ross Bean and Taylor Eigsti. More information is available at http://comteams.com/studioDsept2018.htm"> this link. 

At 11am Saturday, November 17, the Main Post Office on Allston Way, hosted a public celebration as part of a Building Bridges Ceremony recognizing 70 years of Music Recording History in Berkeley. Speakers included Mayor Jesse Arreguin, the film's executive producer, Karen E. Lile, and KPFA stalwart Phil Allen. As befitted the occasion, live music was provided by Trinidad-born drummer Hugh "Sweetfoot" Maynard, one of the original Caribbean Allstars, a reggae/calypso/soca band that has regularly rocked the Ashkenaz stage over the decades. 

As part of the USPS’s special "cancellation series," the Post Office unveiled a special pictorial postmark (designed by Aneka K. Bean) that features the Building Bridges logo and a rendering of the three grand pianos that graced studios A, B, C, and D over the years. (Postal customers can now send mail with stamps cancelled by of these historic pictorial postmarks. For more details, see: http://musicrecordinghistory.com/

A planned screening of the film later Saturday night at Ashkenaz had to be cancelled due to poor air quality. After screening the documentary, Ashkenaz planned to present a tribute to the early music recordings from "Live at Ashkenaz" dating back to early 1980's and celebrate Ashkenaz's continuing contribution the local and global community of recording musicians. 

The screening will be rescheduled—along with the celebration of Ashkenaz's music recording history—for sometime in January. In the meantime, beginning on November 17, 2018, "Two Weeks Inside Studio D: Berkeley," will be available online for a free, three-day screening. Go to www.twoweeksinside.com and enter the private password "ashkenaz."