Jazz But Not Least

What's that you say? You've forgotten that this town has an immense, thriving jazz scene? Well, shame on you.

So where do you go in S.F.? If you're looking for newer sounds, head over to Bruno's on Mission Street, where jazz, funk, and hip hop get creatively shaken and stirred by veteran S.F. ensembles like Alphabet Soup, Mingus Amungus, and the Realistic Orchestra. Inventive acoustic players like Todd Sickafoose and Scott Amendola, many of whom also date back to the acid jazz heyday, also play at Bruno's, as does Marcus Shelby, with his hip Ellington-ian big band. Fiery trombonist Adam Theis, who leads the Realistic Orchestra and a slew of other groups in the hip hop/jazz genre, can also be found leading an ensemble at Pearl'sin North Beach on a regular basis. For funk and rock-based jazz grooves, keep an eye out for the Post Junk Trio, the Broun Fellinis, and the Supplicants, who show up often at the Beat Lounge and Enrico's, both in North Beach. The funk and jam band groups are also to be found at the Boom Boom Room at Fillmore and Geary.

If you want to catch some more traditional jazz (by "traditional" I'm covering about 200 styles, from blues to big band to Latin to straight bebop and "post bop"), check back in on Pearl's, a sharp room with a stylish jazz club vibe. Other good spots in S.F. for mostly straight-ahead jazz are Savanna Jazz, a relatively new club on Mission Street -- dark and cool -- that's slowly gaining momentum, and Shanghai 1930 (yes, inside the Chinese restaurant), on Steuart Street down by the Embarcadero. For a great, old-fashioned bebop jam session, check out the Dogpatch Saloon (Third Street at 22nd, near Potrero Hill) Sundays from 4-8 p.m. Twice a month, the nonprofit Intersection for the Arts on Valencia in the Mission offers a fascinating range of jazz programs in a terrific intimate setting. Also on Valencia, great young sax player Mitch Marcus has started a Wednesday night jam session at Amnesia that is already attracting some of the best young jazz players in the city.

As I said up top, we are blessed with a horde of great local players in this town, so any list has got to be ridiculously incomplete. Just for starters, look for sax players like Andrew Speight, Howard Wiley, Dayna Stephens, Charles McNeal,and Mitch Marcus and for pianists like Matt Clark, Mark Levine(who just copped a Grammy nomination), and Glen Pearson. Check out contrasting drum styles: the multirhythmic power and wizardry of Darryl Green and the elegant, infectious swinging of Vince Lateano. Get a kick out of bluesy, righteous singers like Kim Nalley, Denise Perrier,and Madeline Eastman. Again, that's the shortlist.

Many of the clubs now have Web sites with interactive calendar listings featuring descriptive links for every band scheduled, so you can find out not only where people are playing, but who they are and what they sound like.

I just want to make sure you know that jazz is alive, that it's accessible, and that it's killer music. Just go find out. Yeah, it can be challenging stuff sometimes, but you, you're up to a challenge.

One More Reason to Get Excited About Local Jazz ...

Diehard jazz fans will no longer have to skip town to Oakland to hear great jazz at Yoshi's. The venue, known for its jazz, sushi, and elegant ambience, is hauling its multimillion dollar operation to San Francisco. A new Yoshi's will soon appear at the corner of Fillmore and Eddy streets in the historic Fillmore district. The bummer, however, is that fans chomping at the bit to visit the joint will have to wait a while to do so. Workers break ground this summer, and the venue will then open in 12-16 months. "We're excited about the new club," Yoshi's artistic director Peter Williams says. "It has always been the owner's dream to open a San Francisco Yoshi's."

Alongside the upcoming 405-seat club, fans will find a French West-Indo fusion restaurant called Blue Mirror, a Jazz Heritage Center, a retail store, and a commercial parking garage. So what will become of the current Yoshi's? "There will definitely be jazz in Oakland at Yoshi's until at least 2007," the club's publicity director Marshall Lamm says. "Beyond that, we can't say. As far as the S.F. Yoshi's goes, all engines are go."
-- Daniel King

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