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Music Notebook: Rising bluesman Buffalo Nichols, who had musical epiphany in Ukraine, sets San Diego debut

Houndmouth, with Buffalo Nichols

If a biopic is ever made about rising blues sensation Buffalo Nichols, the screenplay won’t require any embellishments or poetic license.

Born in Houston, raised in Milwaukee and now based in Austin, the 30-year-old singer, guitarist, songwriter and avowed atheist was a teenager when he began playing in Wisconsin punk-rock bands.

Then came a multi-year stint in a West African music band, Jali Kunda, which he joined via Craigslist. Trips to Senegal and Eastern Europe followed, where a chance encounter with the Ukrainian folk band DakhaBrakha inspired him to explore how he could make blues more relevant for a contemporary audience.

Nichols achieves this primarily through his powerful lyrics, not his deeply felt singing and guitar playing, which are firmly steeped in earthy Delta and Piedmont blues traditions.

Witness this wrenching couplet from “Another Man”: When my grandpa was young / He had to hold his tongue / ‘Cause they’d hang you from a bridge downtown / Now they call it ‘Stand your ground’ / Another man is dead.

Or this one from “Living Hell”: There’s police and crooks and they’re the same to me / That’s why they say you’ll either end up dead or in jail… / Will I die and go to heaven, or keep living in hell?

You can hear both songs on Nichols’ gripping, self-titled 2021 debut album, and — very likely — at his area debut concert.

8 p.m. Monday, Belly Up, 143 South Cedros Ave., Solana Beach. Sold out. bellyup.com.

Celebrating Bert Turtezky

How will contrabass master, composer and former University of California San Diego music professor Bert Turetzky’s 89th birthday be celebrated?

With lots of music-making, of course, as befits the man who almost single-handedly established his instrument as a solo voice in the worlds of contemporary classical and cutting-edge music alike.

The lineup of notable artists who will perform includes fellow bass great Mark Dresser, Pulitzer Prizewinning composer and pianist Anthony Davis, poet Jerome Rothenberg and violinists Jamie Shadowlight, Francesca Savage and Andrea Alatona.

Also taking the stage will be cellist Lorie Kirkell, the UC San Diego Bass Ensemble, bassist Mark Olsher, the PerrinMarr duo, Second Avenue Klezmer, featuring Ellen Weller, Debbie Davis and Robert Zelickman. Other musicians will also be joining in to help celebrate Turetzky’s rich legacy.

8 p.m. Saturday. Dizzy’s at Arias Hall (behind the Musician’s Association), 1717 Morena Blvd., Bay Park. Free (donations accepted). (858) 270-7467; dizzysjazz.com

Marc Ribot

A proudly idiosyncratic guitar innovator, Marc Ribot has released more than two dozen albums as a solo artist.

His other credits cover a dizzying range of styles and collaborators. They range from Elvis Costello, Wilson Pickett, John Zorn, Beck and former San Diegan Tom Waits to Diana Krall, Elton John, Yoko Ono, Cassandra Wilson, Chocolate Genius and McCoy Tyner.

In any setting, Ribot has an unmistakably singular sound. His singing is an acquired taste. Here’s hoping his concert here will be an all-instrumental affair.

8 p.m. Wednesday The Loft at UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla. $9 (students), $28 (general admission), $33 and $40 (reserved). artpower.ucsd/edu.

COVID protocols: For policy details, visit each venue’s website.