San Francisco Embarks on Year-Round Programming


The prospects for jazz on the West Coast are looking good for the new millennium. Jazz in the City, the producer of the San Francisco Jazz Festival, has made several announcements this week regarding developments that will have a significant impact upon jazz on the West Coast in general, and on the Bay Area in particular.

There is, first of all, a new name for the company: San Francisco Jazz Organization (SFJAZZ), chosen to reflect the new, year-round approach to jazz programming.

Next, a major new music series, SFJAZZ Spring Season 2000, a three-month sequence of thematic jazz weekends, films, matinees and education programs, will kick off March 17 and continue through June 18.


In addition to the new spring events, which will alternate with the annual San Francisco Jazz Festival in the fall, SFJAZZ has created a full-time education department dedicated to the development of creative information programs.

To top it all off, saxophonist Joshua Redman, born in the Bay Area and one of the most highly regarded young artists in jazz, has been appointed artistic director of SFJAZZ Spring Season 2000.

“When Randall Klein first approached me about being involved in the program,” says Redman, who has set aside time from his busy schedule to be fully involved, “my first thought was, ‘Wow, this sounds neat. This is something that could be a lot of fun.’ And now that it’s really happening, I realize that it actually is a pretty big deal. We’ve got some great people showing up for these programs. And the truth is, it really is a lot of fun, and I’m very happy to be involved.”

As well he should be. Here’s a quick look at the five weekends of programming:

* March 17-10. “The Saxophone.” A solo tenor saxophone recital by Redman at Grace Cathedral on Friday; a tribute to Wayne Shorter on Saturday, featuring the Shorter Band, with Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano and Redman and a rhythm section consisting of Brad Mehldau, Robert Hurst and Gregory Hutchinson; a Sunday matinee program with the Lovano group; and a Sunday night film history of the jazz saxophone, hosted by Redman.

* March 31-April 2. “The Guitar.” A Friday night film tribute to Jim Hall; a Saturday night performance by the Pat Metheny Trio; a Sunday matinee by the Jim Hall Trio; a Sunday night concert tribute to Hall, featuring guitarists Bill Frisell, Russell Malone, Peter Bernstein and John Abercrombie, with saxophonists Greg Osby and Chris Potter and trumpeter Tom Harrell.

* May 5-7. “World Fusion.” A Friday night film, “The History of World Fusion”; a Saturday night performance by the Richard Bona Group and the Joe Zawinul Syndicate; a Sunday matinee by the Zawinul ensemble.


* May 26-27. “The Drums.” A Friday night film, “The History of Jazz Drums,” hosted by Elvin Jones; a Saturday night performance by the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine and the Brian Blade Fellowship; a Sunday matinee by the Jones ensemble.

* June 15-18. “Latin Jazz.” A Thursday night Latin jazz film hosted by John Santos; a Friday night concert by Barbarito Torres; a Saturday night performance by the Arturo Sandoval Group and the David Sanchez Group; a Sunday matinee by Santos and the Machete Ensemble; a Sunday night salute to legendary timbalero Orestes Vilato with Vilato, flutist Jose Antonio Fajardo, percussionist-singer Felo Barrio, tres player Nelson Gonzalez and the Machete Ensemble.

“What we want to do with these weekends,” explains Redman, “is to present the idea that jazz traditions are not necessarily something of the past. For me, the jazz tradition is a living language, something that is active and vital, that is being spoken and interpreted in the present. We thought that the best way to illustrate that would be to present different musicians, from different generations, working in the same language, within the same tradition. And through that, hopefully, get a real feeling for the continuity of the jazz tradition.”

* Tickets for the SFJAZZ Spring Season 2000 go on sale Jan. 9. Info: (415) 788-7353. Web site:

Passings: The obituary notices for John Benson Brooks, who died last week at 82, were largely limited to noting his career as a pianist, a big-band arranger and the composer of the songs “Just as Though You Were Here” (recorded by Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1942) and the hit standard “You Came a Long Way From St. Louis.” But Brooks--as a few notices briefly mentioned--was also an early jazz avant-gardist.

Brooks was one of the circle of musicians (including Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans, John Lewis, George Russell and others) who frequently gathered at Evans’ New York apartment in the ‘50s. His “Alabama Concerto,” with Cannonball Adderley and Art Farmer, was an unusually adventurous combination of folk tunes, jazz rhythms and modally influenced improvisation.


In the early ‘60s, he developed an effective method of improvising using 12-note rows and rhythms structured around non-metric time units, and a set of pieces rendered within his system was preserved on the now hard-to-find Decca LP “Avant-Slant.”

Brooks, who lived for decades in a small house in Greenwich Village, was admired by many of the adventurous new young jazz artists of the ‘60s. His reclusive lifestyle and perpetual study of philosophy, astrology, religion, sound and music made a conversation with him an enlightening and a provocative experience. Regretfully, his extraordinarily imaginative music has not yet fully experienced the hearing it deserves.

Riffs: The first Oasis Awards, honoring artists in the smooth jazz genre, will be presented in 20 categories Jan. 28 at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Winners will be determined by the public, via online balloting (starting Wednesday) at, and mail-in ballots in the January issue of JAZZIZ magazine. . . . Global Music Network and Manhattan’s Birdland club have joined together to launch with two December events--live concerts from Birdland by the Dave Brubeck Quartet on Wednesday and, three nights later, “Tenor Summit” (with Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano). Two sets each night, at 6 and 8 p.m. , each lasting approximately 70 minutes, will be presented, via live audio and video streaming, on the Web site. A performance by the Joshua Redman Quartet will also be cybercast from the 27th International Assn. of Jazz Educators Conference on Jan. 13. . . . Artists Only! Records has made an alliance with Candid Records of the UK for an exclusive licensing agreement for the release of the classic Candid catalog. “Mingus,” a 1960 date including three lengthy performances by Charles Mingus groups, is the first release in the agreement, which also includes new items from the current Candid catalog from performers such as singer Stacey Kent and pianist Jessica Williams.