Arts: Jazz Greats and Newcomers Fill Out Fall Programs By IRA STEINGROOTSpecial to the Planet

Tuesday August 30, 2005

The Bay Area will play host to an abundance of great jazz this fall. The single most important event of the next few months is the San Francisco Jazz Festival with almost 50 events scattered around the city. In Oakland, Yoshi’s continues to bring some of the best jazz musicians in the world to their restaurant/nightclub, while in Berkeley, there will be great jazz offerings at the Jazz-school and at Anna’s Jazz Island.  

This year’s 23rd annual San Francisco Jazz Festival offers nearly 50 imaginatively c onceived programs in venues all over San Francisco. The events take place at beautiful locations like the Palace of the Legion of Honor’s Florence Gould Theatre where admission to the museum is included in the ticket price, Davies Symphony Hall, the Palac e of Fine Arts, and Herbst Theatre with its magnificent autumnal murals by Sir Frank Brangwyn. Besides straight ahead musical performances that range through mainstream, avant garde, Latin, African, French, klezmer, Broadway and gospel, there are also cla sses, interviews and films that can broaden and enhance the experience of the music. The following half dozen shows are just the cream of a consistently great festival. 

Abbey Lincoln has moved from one among many jazz vocalists to take her place in the p antheon of all-time great jazz singers. She has done this by learning to express herself through her original songs, poems set to lovely tunes that are the perfect vehicles for her emotion-drenched voice. She also knows which standards work best for her and can turn a group of talented young accompanists into top-flight jazz performers. This event, at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 19, at Herbst Theatre, kicks off the festival and is only open to SFJazz members, an incentive to join.  

The World Saxophone Quartet—David Murray, Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett and Bruce Williams plus guests Gene Lake, Matthew Garrison and Lee Pearson—will present the music of Jimi Hendrix at 7:30 and 10 p.m., Oct. 20, at the Great American Music Hall. The Quartet is one of the all-time great jazz combos with wide-ranging interests and stellar performers in Murray, Bluiett and Lake . 

Etta James, the Queen of Rhythm and Blues, brings her Roots Band to Nob Hill Masonic Center at 8 p.m., Oct. 22. Although known as a blues singer, like Dinah Wash ington or Big Maybelle, she is just as great doing jazz interpretations of standards, as witness her album of songs dedicated to Billie Holiday. 

Clarinetist Don Byron was at the festival a few years back playing the klezmer compositions of Mickey Ka tz. He returns this year, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Oct. 30, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, to present the music of Sam Musiker, a great swing and klezmer player, and his father-in-law Dave Tarras, arguably the greatest klezmer clarinetist to ever record. 

Barbara Cook is not a jazz singer, but she is one of the greatest Broadway and cabaret performers of the last half-century. She’ll present masterful interpretations of tunes from the “Great American Songbook” at 8 p.m., Nov. 4, at Davies Symphony H all.  

Finally, the Ornette Coleman Quartet will perform at 8 p.m., Nov. 5, at Nob Hill Masonic Center. Although his rhythm section, two string bassists and his son Denardo on drums, seems beside the point, his own playing is always fresh, lyrical and su rprising and he remains one of the seminal influences in the history of post-bop jazz. 

For great jazz in a club setting, you cannot beat Yoshi’s Japanese Restaurant and World Class Jazz House, 510 Embarcadero West in Jack London Square, Oakland. This fall’s lineup includes at least five promising shows.  

From Sept. 1–4, an all-star hard-bop band including tenor saxophonist and Jazz Messengers alum Billy Harper, alto saxophonist and flutist James Spaulding, trumpeter Charles Tolliver, pianist John Hicks and drummer Roy McCurdy will perform as Night of the Cookers. These musicians have all performed brilliantly for decades both together and with many of the greatest bop musicians. 

Oakland’s own Carla Bley, a brilliant composer, bandleader and pianist, m akes a rare Bay Area appearance with her Lost Chords, a quartet including the great bassist Steve Swallow, a long-time accompanist, from Sept. 13-14.  

The great Argentinian tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri follows hot on her heels from Sept. 15-18. Barbie ri, who did the music for Last Tango in Paris, combines passionate, lyrical playing with Latin and avant-garde influences. 

The great hard bop trumpeter Clifford Brown would have turned 75 this year. Yoshi’s honors him from Oct. 25-30, with performances by Latin trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, pianist Mulgrew Miller and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, who penned the haunting homage to Clifford, “I Remember Clifford,” following his death in a car crash in 1956. 

The last great fall event at Yoshi’s will be the return of violinist Regina Carter, from Nov. 16-20. Carter has played in many musical contexts from classical to rhythm and blues, but she always approaches her instrument with the freedom of jazz and the aggressiveness of a swing era saxophonist like Ben Webster. 

The Jazzschool at 2087 Addison St. in Berkeley offers classes for those who want to learn the art of playing jazz from professional jazz musicians. They also offer a full schedule of concerts featuring a variety of their teachers, local musicia ns, visiting world class performers and their own student ensembles. This fall’s lineup includes such well-known players as Dick Hindman, Art Lande, Mel Martin, Mark Levine, Dick Whittington, Keith Terry and the school’s executive director, Susan Muscarel la. The highlight of the season should be the appearance of world-class trumpeter Wallace Roney at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 16 in the Jazzschool’s Hardymon Hall. 

Finally, the poetical/musical combination Upsurge celebrates its fifteenth anniversary at Anna’s Jazz Island, a new jazz and blues venue at 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 23. The group includes saxophonist Richard Howell, poets Raymond Nat Turner and Zigi Lowenberg, pianists Dee Spencer and Tammy Hall, bassist Ron Belcher and drummer Darrell Green. 



For more information on the San Francisco Jazz Festival call (415) 788-7353, or visit their website at sfjazz.org. For more information on Yoshi’s call 238-9200, or visit their website at yoshis.com. For more information on the Jazzschool call 845-5373, or visit their website at jazzschool.com. For more information on UpSurge call 835-5348, or visit their website at upsurgejazz.com.?