Harp that shim­mers in a whole new way

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - ARTS & ENTERTAINM­ENT - By Jesse Ham­lin Jesse Ham­lin is a Bay Area journalist and for­mer San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer.

Ella Jenk­ins, the Half Moon Bay harpist and song­writer whose blues-tinged bass lines and drones de­part from the ce­les­tial plucks and swirls typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with her an­cient in­stru­ment, be­came a singer by ne­ces­sity.

“There were things I wanted to hear, sounds crash­ing around in my head. For that mu­sic to come out, I had to start singing it,” says Jenk­ins, whose un­der­stated, in­ti­mate vo­cals are set off by the rhyth­mic snap and res­o­nance of her harp strokes.

She’s a grad­u­ate of the Royal Scot­tish Academy of Mu­sic in Glas­gow, Scot­land, where she stud­ied Scot­tish harp and Gaelic song, freely in­cor­po­rated other styles into her play­ing and be­gan writ­ing songs. She plans to sing some of the “blues-, folk- and pop-in­flu­enced” num­bers off her de­but al­bum, “Who Asked You Back,” dur­ing a show Satur­day, Feb. 3, at the Mi­rada Art Gallery in Half Moon Bay and Feb. 10 at Sands Stu­dios on Bryant Street in San Fran­cisco.

Jenk­ins, who stud­ied clas­si­cal harp as a child in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (she lived in Mal­ibu till she was 16, then the Te­jon Pass moun­tain town of Fra­zier Park in Kern County), ap­pre­ci­ated the beauty of the in­stru­ment in its dreamy and heav­enly modes. But she wanted to go a dif­fer­ent route, “look­ing at the in­stru­ment from a song­writ­ing per­spec­tive,” she says, “ap­proach­ing it more like a gui­tar than how it’s tra­di­tion­ally used.”

Jenk­ins, 29, has good mu­si­cal genes. Daugh­ter of the very mu­si­cal Chron­i­cle sports colum­nist Bruce Jenk­ins and his for­mer wife, Dawn, she is the grand­daugh­ter of three noted mu­si­cians: Bruce’s fa­ther, the cel­e­brated ar­ranger and com­poser Gor­don Jenk­ins; Bruce’s mother, the fine singer Bev­erly Mahr; and Dawn’s fa­ther, the ver­sa­tile reed player and ban­dleader Bill Uly­ate.

“I never got to know any of my grand­parental mu­si­cal in­flu­ences,” says Jenk­ins, but she grew up lis­ten­ing to their records.

Jenk­ins plays a one-of-a-kind fold­able harp. She de­signed the alu­minum-framed in­stru­ment with her boyfriend, met­al­smith Zachary Schultz, who fab­ri­cated it.

“It was de­signed to fit in the over­head com­part­ment of an air­plane,” the harpist ex­plains. Rather than the usual 30 strings, hers has 29. She tends not use the up­per oc­tave any­way, “so we ditched the high A string,” Jenk­ins says.

She was ini­tially con­cerned about the tone qual­ity of an in­stru­ment with an alu­minum box. The wood-framed harp has a warmer, richer sound, but she’s come to love the cooler sound of this one, which is “bright and clear, with a kind of bell-like ring. It’s a much larger sound than you’d ex­pect. The res­o­nance is lovely.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to https://el­la­harp.com.

Gar­cia, live

Vet­eran Bay Area artist Ru­pert Gar­cia is sched­uled to be on hand at the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Fran­cisco’s Dog­patch district Satur­day, Feb. 3, to talk about the paint­ings and prints in the cur­rent show there, “Ru­pert Gar­cia: Rolling Thun­der.” It’s a 50-year survey of his work, fo­cus­ing on the war im­agery in­formed by his ex­pe­ri­ences in the U.S. Air Force dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

Gar­cia plans to con­verse with Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco pro­fes­sor and for­mer Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art cu­ra­tor John Zaro­bell, and sign copies of the ex­hi­bi­tion cat­a­log.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to http://renabranst­en­gallery.com.

Sta­dium rock

Fans of ’80s rock should have a field day when San Fran­cisco’s Jour­ney and the English band Def Lep­pard team up for a mega 2018 North Amer­i­can tour that starts in Hartford, Conn., in May and winds its way to San Fran­cisco’s AT&T Park on Sept. 21. The ag­ing rock­ers last toured to­gether 12 years ago.

Tick­ets go on sale at 10 a.m. Satur­day, Feb. 3. For more de­tails, go to www.tick­et­mas­ter. com.

Jewish and Iraqi mu­sic

For some­thing a lit­tle more off the beaten path, con­sider the World Strings shows in the street-side space at SFJazz Cen­ter this week­end.

On Fri­day, Feb. 2, the Joe Hen­der­son Lab be­longs to Book of J, the duo with gui­tarist Jeremiah Lock­wood and singer Jewlia Eisen­berg that mixes Yid­dish songs, Pied­mont blues, African Amer­i­can hymns and Leonard Co­hen cov­ers. They’re cel­e­brat­ing the re­lease of their new record, “Book of J.”

The fol­low­ing night, the Iraqi oud vir­tu­oso Rahim AlHaj serves up mu­sic from his lat­est re­lease, “Let­ters from Iraq: A Mu­si­cal Med­i­ta­tion.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.sfjazz.org.

Cour­tesy Ella Jenk­ins

Ella Jenk­ins, Half Moon Bay harpist, singer and song­writer, will per­form mu­sic from her de­but CD, “Who Asked You Back,” at two shows.

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