People & Places

Comments (0)

Best Street Name San Francisco 2006 - Vernon Alley

Bassist Vernon Alley was not only San Francisco's premier jazz musician, but he was also a rockin' repository of the form's great traditions and one of the city's leading exponents of civil rights. Alley made his name in the Fillmore jazz joints of the 1930s, and despite touring and recording with the likes of Count Basie and Lionel Hampton (his solid support on Hampton's "Flying Home" is one of the signature sounds of the Swing Era), returned home to hone his craft and master the difficult transition from big band to bop, making music with such touring giants as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Errol Garner. As chairman of the black musicians' local in the days when a jazzman from the Fillmore crossed Van Ness Avenue at his peril, Alley faced down the city's strict segregationist policies, welcoming white musicians into the union and serving, triumphantly, as president after the two sides merged in 1960. Alley's alley, located within the 200 Brannan complex in South Beach, was dedicated just before he died in 2004 at the age of 89 — after a long and swingin' life.
My Voice Nation Help
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.