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SFJAZZ Collective at SFJAZZ Center

SFJAZZ Collective at SFJAZZ Center

Courtesy Rick Swig


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The SFJAZZ Collective
The SFJAZZ Center
San Francisco, California
November 4, 2023

Taking the stage at the commencement of a four-night run at San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center SFJAZZ Collective launched into vibraphonist Warren Wolf's arrangement of three amalgamated Miles Davis compositions: "In a Silent Way," "Directions," and "Nardis." Then, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez took the microphone to introduce their new suite, tentatively titled "Golden Gate Suite."

The group was founded in 2004 by saxophonist and band leader Joshua Redman (son of the late legendary saxophonist Dewey Redman), in collaboration with SFJAZZ Executive Director Randall Kline. Originally, an eight-member ensemble, they would perform their arrangements of tunes by a jazz or pop legend, and each member would contribute an original number. At the season's conclusion, SFJAZZ would release a limited edition CD.

In its current version, the Collective has evolved into a tight septet, one which largely plays its members' compositions. Each of the four performances presented at SFJAZZ Center began with an interpretation of an older tune (the following night it was to be Stevie Wonder's "You've Got it Bad Girl," arranged by group leader saxophonist Chris Potter). This was followed by the hour-long 20th-anniversary suite for which each member contributed a movement. During the composing process, the members kept in touch with each other in order to maximize overall harmony between the movements. As Potter told SFJAZZ-employed journalist Richard Scheinin: "We found an order of movements that we liked. Then we figured out transitional sections to join the pieces, sometimes referring back to previous movements for connecting material." Titles of each movement were projected above the band during performances, along with lighting effects, and each member was afforded ample room to stretch out sonically.

The suite led off with "Opening," composed by the Venezuelan-born pianist Edward Simon. Simon's delicately-fingered solo piano initiated the piece, and then Potter entered with his soprano for a lovely solo. Baltimore native Wolf's enthused, muscular vibraphone playing and Rodriguez's trumpet added to the mix. Potter launched into yet another powerful solo, and David Sanchez followed.

Next up, Sánchez's "The Golden, the Beauty and Down the Hill the Sadness" featured a vibe workout by Wolf. Then, Potter and Rodriguez stepped back to allow Sánchez to work out on tenor. Bassist Matt Brewer soloed, and drummer Kendrick Scott added some atmospheric brushwork to the mix.

Brewer's "Ritual" gave ample space for Potter to solo on tenor saxophone. His fellow reed players stood to one side while Simon launched into a pensive piano solo. Rodriguez's "One for Chick," followed, and horns blazed as Wolf employed his mallets rapid fire on the vibraphone. Rodriguez and Sánchez soloed before it was the turn of bassist Brewer to shine and before drummer Scott launched into a dynamic solo.

Wolf's "Octobers in San Francisco" put Sánchez and then Wolf in the spotlight. Scott's "Witnessed but not Measured" saw Potter soloing fervently on tenor while Sánchez added congas to the mix. Rodriguez soloed sonorously on muted trumpet and flugelhorn, while Simon intoned lyrically on piano. Potter then came in vigorously on soprano.

Potter initiated vigorous handclapping, by audience and band, to usher in the final movement, his "Holiday in San Francisco." The title presumably refers to Thelonious Monk's classic tune "San Francisco Holiday." Deft stick work by Scott complimented Rodriguez's trumpet on this propulsive tune. All three horns entered to be buttressed by Wolf's fervent vibraphone. Scott's attentive stick work on his snare underpinned Potter's energized tenor.

Standing applause brought them back for Simon's arrangement of "Amparo," a short Antonio Carlos Jobim piece. And thus the evening wound down after working its magic—beginning with the work of seminal trumpeter Miles Davis, presenting a brand new suite, and concluding, 90 minutes later, with the legendary father of the Bossa Nova.

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