Texas Songwriters Salute Alejandro Escovedo is one of the fine entertainers who will perform free, out there in the open air. Rolling Stone judges his music "a Tex-Mex Astral Weeks." The moody-looking musician with the almost-shy stage presence defies categorization, even flattering similes. Escovedo often does a cover of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog," true, and he does a note-for-note lift from Kill City, but the very fact of doing a classic like that with a string section (he plays with female violinists and a cellist)... He's just so damn earnest and not the least bit sappy, and will probably spend the next decade right on the edge of stardom. See him with a very successful HSPVA grad, Sarah Hickman, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Jimmie Dale is... well, some people don't take to him right off. He can sound disturbingly old, and unnervingly eerie. Gilmore's serenely candid lyrics and compassionate warble combine to present the ethos of contemporary country. Or folk. Or bluegrass. Gilmore's tunes do any number of things musically, but what they are is raw-boned and reflective poetry. Country Stage, Lamar at Bagby. Escovedo 5:45, Sarah Hickman 7:15, Jimmie Dale Gilmore 8:30 p.m.
Just Friends Jazz greats George Shearing and Joe Williams perform together in Galveston. Shearing, who penned "Lullaby of Birdland," is responsible for more than 300 compositions. The British pianist can also handle the works of others with his own style. Joe Williams has sung jazz, ballads, blues and pop for 50 years. The two are indeed friends, which should make this union more exciting than the usual meeting of two legendary artists. 8 p.m. The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, (409) 765-1894. $15, $27, $30.
Cruise for Wildlife This is a three-hour tour, but we don't expect any mishaps with this 101-foot yacht. This one's got good karma -- it's a cruise and wildlife watch to benefit Wildlife Rehab & Education, a nonprofit organization that mends the broken wings of seabirds and raises orphan critters. If you find a bird or animal in need of help, call 643-WILD. If you'd like to take the cruise, call 621-8143 or 332-8319. Launch at 4:30 p.m., Houston Yacht Club. $30, includes dinner.
Overcoming Adversity... A New Direction Stage and screen star Ben Vereen, author-slash-actress P.K. McCary and local talent join together for the first benefit for the Community Artists' Collective. The Collective, says executive director Michelle Barnes, "seeks to link the artistic process to the extraordinary potential for success that inner-city youth display. Our mission is to cultivate this inherent entrepreneurial drive, emphasizing the development of skills that involve problem solving and analytical thinking, decision making and goal setting." 4:30 p.m. Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre, University of Houston. Advance tickets through the Collective, 523-1616. $35. Further donations accepted.
Clit Notes Holly Hughes, nemesis of the NEA, known dyke and author of The Well of Horniness, has better things to do than focus on being controversial. Hunter is cute as a bug, smart as a whip and spunky, and somehow her intelligent, insightful take on life in these United States provokes people. How can this be? Every one of us has family of some sort, and sexuality, more or less, and a goodly number have held hideous jobs like waitressing at Red Lobster. Those are the simple subjects she tackles. So why does she create such a stir? Hughes bills herself as "the pre-eminent performance artist of southeastern Michigan," and now here she is in the great Southwest, advancing her "ten-point plan to advance lesbianism globally using song, dance and monologue." It's a one-woman show. Check it out. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m., $12. Free writing workshop -- "wear loose clothes and clean undies" -- today at 2 p.m. Special Milam House benefit tonight, 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. $12.
Fellini scholar speaks Dr. Peter Bondanella is a former friend of the maestro, and a noted scholar of his films and of Italian culture and literature. Bondanella is the chairman of the Department of West European Studies and director of Western European Studies Center at Indiana University. Today he discusses the filmmaker and his culture. Bondanella will give his talk, The Birth of an Auteur: Federico Fellini's Artistic Origins, at 1 p.m. University of Houston, Main Library, George R. Brown room, fifth floor, entrance 1 off Calhoun. Bondanella will also present America's Italy: The Power of Images and Images of Power at, fittingly, the Italian Cultural and Community Center, 1101 Milford, 6 p.m. For more details about both talks, call 639-7530 or 743-3070.
LASSO'S Third Annual Latino Leadership Conference The Latin American Student Services Organization, mindful of its future, has organized a conference; guest speaker Marisa Rosazza of the Texas Catholic Herald will participate in the opening events. The festival will continue Wednesday with a program on higher education and successful Hispanic role models. Restaurateur Ninfa Lorenzo, Constable Victor Trevino and other Latin professionals will offer advice and encouragement. 10-3 p.m. University of Houston- Downtown, One Main Street, 221-8573. Free.
Sankofa Science fiction does social criticism -- in African-American director Haile Gerima's most recent film, a young black woman travels back in time to experience slavery. The rather obvious plotline is painstakingly developed into a rich and complex story. Oyafunmike Ogunlano, as the central character, handles her role so well that, when the crisis comes, there is no comfortable answer. The title is a West African term meaning "to reclaim the past in order to go forward." Gerima, the director of this study in passion and history, was born in Ethiopia and is currently a professor of film at Howard University. His lecture precedes the film -- meaning that viewers will have to find their own answers. The free lecture is at 4:30, a reception follows at 6:30 and Sankofa shows at 7:30 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, entrance #8 off University, 527- 4853. $10.