Generations of Berkeley jazz fans have gone to San Francisco’s North Beach to get regular fixes of their favorite kind of music. They were not happy when one of the last real jazz venues in San Francisco—Pearl’s, at Columbus and Broadway—closed its doors in April, but they will be delighted to learn that Pearl’s has re-opened as Jazz at Pearl’s, thanks to a strong infusion of East Bay talent.
The new owners are vocalist Kim Nalley and her husband Steve Sheraton.
She’s a UC Berkeley alumna who sang with the Cal Big Band circa 1991, but she’s gone on to greater triumphs since then. Her up-to-the-minute Web page boasts this quote from Phil Elwood, dean of Bay Area jazz critics: “Her ability to shift vocal styles and to work through all types of songs with informal ease are the kind of cross-town leap that few singers, anywhere, can handle.”
She’s even appeared with Michael Tilson Thomas (another jazz fanatic) and the San Francisco Symphony.
In the course of getting her jazz chops up to speed, Nalley took lessons from some of the older generation of jazz masters. One of her teachers, saxophonist Hal Stein, will be featured at Pearl’s this Thursday, Oct. 2, in the lineup for the shake-down week which precedes the club’s official grand opening on Oct. 11. Nalley reminiscences about her lessons with Hal: “Oh, this was maybe eight years ago when I was a student at Cal.
“I would go to his house in Berkeley and he would teach me all the hip scales and melodies to sing over difficult chord changes. He would charge me almost nothing and spend hours with me.”
Hal Stein has plenty to teach. He played tenor sax at New York City’s Town Hall with Don Byas in 1943, when he was only 15, and he’s been playing with the greats ever since. He counts himself as part of the Charlie Parker tradition. He’ll be appearing on Thursday with his quartet.
Nalley and Stein are familiar to Berkeley jazz fans from their recent appearances at Downtown, on Shattuck Avenue. Other East Bay stalwarts who will appear at Jazz at Pearl’s include Jeff Chambers, who lives in Albany, Kim’s pianist Dave Mathews, a longtime resident of Kensington, and Oakland’s Charles McNeal with his bassist Ron Belcher, Richmond-born and raised.
WHEN: Jazz at Pearl’s is now offering music Monday through Saturday, with a grand opening party Oct. 11 and 12. The Hal Stein Quartet appears on Thursday, Oct. 2. Show times are 9:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. weekdays, 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m. weekends. The doors and the kitchen open at 7 p.m., with chef Stephanie Chan promising real food, a significant upgrade from the perfunctory kitchen maintained by the previous owners.
WHERE: 256 Columbus Ave., at Broadway, San Francisco. (415) 291-8255.
COST: Ticket price $5 weekdays, $10 weekends (except for special shows), no drink minimum.