Bay Boppin': March 2005


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News and views from around the San Francisco Bay Area...


March has been an exciting month for live jazz in the Bay Area. Fred Hersch launched his Leaves of Grass tour in San Francisco, Pat Metheny's The Way Up tour stopped in Oakland and Santa Cruz, and SFJAZZ kicked off its 6th annual Spring Season with powerhouse performances from Branford Marsalis and Ravi Coltrane.

The Stanford Jazz Workshop was also busy, presenting a Latin Jazz weekend on the Stanford University campus March 11-13. Brazilians Claudia Villela and Ricardo Peixoto performed in the intimate confines of Stanford's Campbell Recital Hall, trombonist Wayne Wallace led a descarga clinic, and percussionist Michael Spiro revealed the secret inner workings of Latin jazz in a lecture and concert.

Rounding out the Stanford event, Rebeca Mauleón's Latin Fire quintet lived up to its name in a Saturday evening concert. Mauleón's punchy, rhythmic piano dovetailed nicely with drummer Carlos Caro's restless beats and Edgardo Cambon's phalanx of congas as the three laid down a series of rolling grooves. Alex Murzyn pulled triple duty on tenor and soprano saxophones plus flute, leaning into his instruments to produce long, powerful lines that Mauleón topped with vocal interjections (such as a tongue in cheek chant of "No way, José"). Under it all, bassist Gary Brown mixed fluidly melodic solos with dense, stormy arpeggios on his electric six-string. The night's program was varied, incorporating Cuban classics, jazz standards such as Benny Golson's "Killer Joe," and Afro-Cuban originals from Mauleón's recent Latin Fire cd. A three-way shekere jam between Mauleón and her percussionists was a highlight of the night, as was a percussion-heavy take on Irakere's "Bacalao con Pan."

Other March standouts included Omar Sosa's virtuoso 2-night stint at Yoshi's March 1-2 and Roy Haynes' 80th birthday show at Masonic Auditorium on the 13th. Reviews of both are available in the All About Jazz Article Center.


Need a Rush?: Jazz concerts can be expensive, but students on a budget can still catch the big names thanks to SFJAZZ's new student rush ticket program. A limited number of tickets to SFJAZZ's Spring Season concerts are being made available to eligible students (grade school through college) at half-price, 30 minutes before showtime. For more information, visit SFJAZZ online.

Bravo! Brubeck: Next month, the 2005 Brubeck Festival will celebrate the music and legacy of pianist Dave Brubeck with a wide array of events spread over eight days and two cities. Concerts in Stockton, CA include the premieres of three experimental works dedicated to Brubeck on April 4, performances by student groups on April 5, and a visit from the SFJAZZ Collective on April 6. The Stockton Symphony Orchestra is also getting into the act with a new composition by Chris Brubeck. Meanwhile, the man himself will bring his New Brubeck Octet to Mills College in Oakland on April 8, before heading to Stockton on the 10th. It all wraps up at Yoshi's jazz club with a concert by the Brubeck Institute Jazz Sextet, featuring guest artist Christian McBride. The festival is presented by the University of the Pacific, Brubeck's alma mater. For complete details and tickets, visit UoP's Brubeck Institute.

Future Stars: The Monterey Jazz Festival's "Next Generation" event also takes place the weekend of April 8-10, with downtown Monterey playing host to free concerts, clinics, and the Festival's renowned High School Jazz Competition. A new Big Band Composition Competition is also on the program. It all kicks off with artist-in-residence Branford Marsalis leading an all star band on Friday night, and caps with the selection of young musicians for the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, coming this summer to a jazz festival near you. More details on this event are available on the Monterey Jazz Festival website.


Escovedo has Left the Building: Pete Escovedo's Latin Jazz Club is no more. Faced with weak attendance and mounting bills, Mr. E was forced to pull the plug on his San Jose venture after only eight months. The heavily remodeled club booked live acts five nights a week, but never caught on with the public. Nightclubs on San Jose's South First Street strip have had a long and turbulent history, but things appeared to be looking up in recent years. An uncredited article in the San Jose Metro's March 16 issue fingers two likely culprits for Escovedo's woes: the youth-culture image of South First Street, which drives more sophisticated crowds away even if they're attending other events nearby, and the city of San Jose itself, which, the paper says, has supported tenants such as House of Blues with financial incentives and subsidies while leaving Escovedo to sink or swim on his own. Whatever the facts of the case, the loss of this venue is another blow to the already rickety South Bay music scene.

New Nouveau: Club Jazz Nouveau, a scrappy venue in San Francisco's touristy Cannery, was closed in March for renovations but plans to reopen soon with a new music lineup. Jazz Nouveau first opened its doors in the summer of 2003, and since then has played host to local jazz and blues artists such as Ricardo Scales, Walter Earl, and Zakiya Hooker. The club also partnered early on with several television projects, making use of its own in-house recording studio.


Fillmore revival?: Rumors of a pending San Francisco sister to Yoshi's, Oakland's famed jazz 'n' sushi spot, have swirled for years. Now jazz journalist Phil Elwood says a San Francisco Yoshi's is close to becoming a reality, with a club in the city's storied Fillmore district possibly opening sometime in 2006. Stay tuned for further info.

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