Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2014-2015 High School All-Stars Album

Listening to the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars begin their season in the fall is like watching a paddock full of colts all jockeying to make it to the Derby in May. These colts are the myriad of charts with which they begin their run, and from them emerge a select few that clicked and have been worked and worked for months until they shined. In other words, these sonic American Pharoahs are the tunes you hear on their double album each year.

After all of the concerts and festivals and competitions and awards, May marks studio season. The All-Stars head to the recording studio to spend a full weekend in headphones, baffling, and iso-booths, because (in case you were unaware) a jazz big band is one of the most challenging ensembles you can possibly record. Then the process of mixing and mastering begins – and if recording a jazz big band is challenging, it’s no match for mixing one. These engineers work for over a month with the band directors to make sure the recordings are faithful and clear.

As for design, this year’s album jacket was the lucky winner of several contenders; the warm/cool, chiaroscuro look reminds us of the intense span of sounds these young musicians can access.

Lastly, fully eleven of the final eighteen tracks across both albums are original arrangements or compositions. Eleven! We’ll leave you with some of our recommendations to listen closely to:

Disc 1
Track 4 – Kenny (this lush, symphonic tune was the inaugural winner of the SFJAZZ Alumni Commission Award, composed by alumnus Aaron Bahr)
Track 7 – Gesundheit! (written by pianist Matt Wong, this tune is a funk-laden imagining of the motif from the 1974 film The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3)

Disc 2
Track 6 – Must Be Bop (Combo alto player Matt Richards told us that he wrote this tune, chosen by the San Francisco Ballet School Trainees to be choreographed this spring, because there needed to be more “happy jazz”)
Track 8 – Dream On (penned by Combo trumpeter Akili Bradley, this tumbling, cascading tune is like a celebration of the trumpet)

 Be sure to pick up the 2014-2015 High School All-Stars double album (Disc 1: All-Stars Orchestra; Disc 2: All-Stars Combo) the next time you are at the Center for a show or when you are down at the Monterey Jazz Festival -- the $15 donation goes straight back to the All-Stars program.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015-16 Season Playlist

The season's just keep getting bigger and better! The 2015-16 Season Playlist ties together many of the themes, artists, debuts and tributes all happening at the SFJAZZ Center in year ahead. Here's just a few of the highlights. You can stream recordings from all 2015-16 Season artists at!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Get To Know Trumpeter Sean Jones, Newest SFJAZZ Collective Member

Sean Jones, one of the baddest trumpet players on the scene today, now joins the SFJAZZ Collective, replacing long-time member Avishai Cohen! Jones' list of accomplishments as a composer, trumpeter, educator, and activist is long and robust (see press release).

We were fortunate enough to sit down with Jones when he was in town back in 2014 (as artist-in-residence for San Francisco Performances) performing and working with the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars.

Below, Jones shares his wisdom on the trumpet (funny Freddie Hubbard story), and jazz education (all about the game plan) as a prelude to his subsequent Festival of the Trumpet appearance (2014 SFJAZZ Summer Sessions). Get to know the newest Collective member!

Check out the SFJAZZ Collective Fall & Spring Tour Dates, The Music of Michael Jackson!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Club Foot Orchestra World Premiere

On August 23, the Bay Area masters of live silent film accompaniment perform a program reminiscent of classic movie matinees, with the world premiere of their score for the Buster Keaton comedy Go West. Released in 1925, Go West is widely regarded as one of Keaton’s great masterpieces, combining his signature physical comedy and breathtaking stunts with innovative special effects, culminating with the incredible sight of a cattle drive through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. The performance opens with the 1920 Felix the Cat cartoon Felix Woos Whoopie as well as Winsor McCay’s early short How a Mosquito Operates (1912) and Max Fleischer’s Koko the Convict (1926).

Founded in 1983 by trombonist and composer Richard Marriott and named for the Bayview district performance art club where they got their start, Club Foot Orchestra has performed original scores for many of the greatest silent films in cinema history, including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Metropolis, Pandora’s Box, and The Hands of Orlac. Their performances have taken them to venues around the world and renowned cultural institutions including Lincoln Center and the Smithsonian.

For more information and tickets, click here

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Notable Jazz Artists Appearing in "‘Round Midnight"

From left: Herbie Hancock, Pierre Michelot, Dexter Gordon, Billy Higgins, Bobby Hutcherson

Based loosely on the lives of expatriate piano genius Bud Powell and saxophone icon Lester Young, Bertrand Tavernier’s beautiful 1986 film about a fading American jazz musician in Paris stars a number of real-life jazz giants in on-screen roles.

  • Dexter Gordon plays the lead role of Dale Turner in an unforgettable, Oscar –nominated portrayal. The soundtrack to the film contains Gordon’s last recorded performances
  • Herbie Hancock won a GRAMMY for his soundtrack, and appears in a speaking role as the character Eddie Wayne 
  • Hancock, guitarist John McLaughlin, renowned French bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Billy Higgins perform as part of Gordon’s house band at the Blue Note club in Paris. Michelot performed with Powell and Young at the real Paris Blue Note in the 1950s as part of a trio called "The Three Bosses"
  • Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson plays the role of Gordon’s next door neighbor, Ace, and performs in the film
  • Saxophonist Wayne Shorter appears as a musician at the Blue Note club in Paris and during the studio session scene
  • The late trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams perform on stage at the Jazz Corner club in New York near the end of the film
  • Other notable European musicians appearing in ‘Round Midnight are: trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, bassist Mads Vindig, guitarist Michel Pérez, trumpeter Éric Le Lann, and percussionist Cheikh Tidiane Fall
For more information on the 8/21 screening of 'Round Midnight, which will be preceded by a panel discussion with Bobby Hutcherson, Dexter Gordon's widow Maxine Gordon, and vocalist Ed Reed, click here

Friday, August 14, 2015

High School All-Stars Alumni Interview: Zach Ostroff

California got a reprieve last year and welcomed one of its native sons back into the fold when Zachary Ostroff, High School All-Stars bassist from 2009 to 2011, made the move from an East Coast university to a West Coast university to complete his studies (incidentally, the two are tied this year for the #4 position on the list of top ranked universities in the nation). With this move, Zach not only brings the West’s jazz average back up a notch, he is also a passionate student of environmental science and climate change, and spoke with us this summer about how he is finding ways to champion one via the other.

What is your favorite memory of the High School All-Stars?

"My favorite memory of the High School All-Stars was performing one of my compositions for the entire SFJAZZ Collective -- Matt Penman, Eric Harland, Stefon Harris, Mark Turner, Miguel Zenon, Ed Simon, Robin Eubanks, and Avishai Cohen -- right after watching them rehearse their arrangements of the music of Stevie Wonder. Those guys are my heroes! I remember feeling so relieved and grateful that we didn't mess it up (at least too badly). They were so supportive of what we were trying to do at that age. Looking back, I'm still in awe at what an opportunity that was for all of us."

Zach playing in the All-Stars Combo

Tell us about your time in New York.

"Before transferring to Stanford, I attended Columbia University for two years in New York City where I studied Sustainable Development in Jeffrey Sachs' newly founded program of study, following my passion for climate change mitigation. During that time I was also fortunate to get to play with some of my heroes, particularly Taylor Eigsti and Dayna Stephens, two Bay Area natives who have been creating some of my most cherished music since I was twelve years old. I will never forget one of my first gigs in New York, playing a trio show with Taylor and Dayna -- no drums -- at Le Poisson Rouge, double billing with one of my favorite bands, Tigran Hamasyan's trio featuring Sam Minaie and Nate Wood. New York forces you to learn so much about who you are as a person and a musician. I've met so many of my favorite people and artists in that city and it gave me an arena to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. For this reason, I think if given the opportunity, every young musician should spend some time there. Though there's no rush either; New York isn't going anywhere and some of the most beautiful music this country has to offer is happening in other places, too."

You're doing some work with Warner Music this year involving environmental action; can you give us quick description of what that looks like? How else would you like to see environmental studies work symbiotically with music?

"As a member of the first year of the Stanford/Warner Music Group Leadership Initiative, I've been on the ground at Warner Bros Records and Rhino Records in Los Angeles creating a few projects that will use climate change action as a means of spurring support for the artists and label, and vice versa. These projects will continue into my upcoming senior year. In my eight weeks here so far, I've become more and more convinced that music is the world's greatest cultural driver of change, and harnessing it in the right ways will help push this country and world towards the ambitious political agreements necessary to ensuring a safe and livable planet for future generations of people. Stay tuned for what's to come."

Zach playing at the 2014 All-Stars Alumni Jam Session 

What advice would you give to rising High School All-Stars?

"If I had two pieces of advice for a young, aspiring, inspired musician, the first piece I would offer is, "Keep finding new ways to fall in love with music every day." For me, this can happen when I hear a new inspiring record of any genre, when I play through a movement of the Bach Cello Suites, when I play along with a Paul Chambers bass line from Soul Station, when I learn lyrics to a Hoagy Carmichael song or a Chance the Rapper verse. You never know where you'll find it, but when you do, that feeling will keep you going for years along your musical path. The second piece would be, "Learn everything you can from everyone you meet, but be courageous enough to let the world know who you are through your music." Music constantly amazes me because I can learn so much from literally everyone I meet and play with, regardless of age or experience. But I think that with all that I've learned over the years, the moments where I've made the greatest musical strides have been when I've spent focused time learning to express my music in the clearest way possible. And that can take courage sometimes, but to me, that's what jazz is all about. Just this morning, I read a Thelonious Monk quote, giving advice to a young drummer: "A genius is the one most like himself." And I know that for all of my favorite musicians, they lived with records of many genres for years, and eventually synthesized all of this musical knowledge into a clear approach for how they wanted to play and sound. The learning never ends, and I'm so thankful for that fact."

Six Things You Should Know About Tinariwen

  1. “Tinariwen” translates from the Tamasheq Tuareg language as “deserts”
  2. They were formed by guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who was originally influenced by North African chaabi and rai music as well as American rock and blues
  3. Their 2011 album, Tassili, won the GRAMMY for Best World Music Album
  4. When asked to describe Tinariwen’s sound, bassist Eyadou Ag Leche used the word ”assouf,” a Tamasheq word that loosely translates to “a longing and nostalgia for the desert life”
  5. The band performed at the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa
  6. Due to the political unrest in Mali, the band recorded their new album, Emmaar, in a different desert than their usual home in the Sahara – California’s Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree
More information about Tinariwen here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Through The Years: SFJAZZ at Davies Symphony Hall

SFJAZZ has a long history presenting some of the world's greatest artists at San Francisco's coveted Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. As we gear up for the first-ever "SFJAZZ at Davies" Series this Friday through Sunday (8/14-16), featuring back-to-back-to-back performances by Los Van Van, Buddy Guy and Jake Shimabukuro, we also take a look back at many of the memorable performances at Davies throughout SFJAZZ history...

Sonny Rollins
1997 San Francisco Jazz Festival

The Roots
2009 Spring Season

Kurt Elling with The Count Basie Orchestra
Spring Season 2010

Rosemary Clooney w/ Paula West
2001 San Francisco Jazz Festival

A Night In Treme
Spring Season 2011

Dave Brubeck Quartet & Gerry Mulligan Quartet
1994 San Francisco Jazz Festival

Ravi Shankar & Anoushka Shankar
2009 San Francisco Jazz Festival

Tony Bennett
2011 Spring Season
"We Love Joe" Festival
Joe Henderson & John Scofield
1993 San Francisco Jazz Festival

Buddy Guy
2011 Spring Season

Ornette Coleman Trio
2002 San Francisco Jazz Festival

Legends of Havana Piano
Ruben Gonzales & Band, Ibrahim Ferrer, Chucho Valdés Quartet
1998 San Francisco Jazz Festival

A Tribute to Ernesto Lecuona
Chucho Valdes, Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Michel Camilo
2015 San Francisco Jazz Festival
Photo by Bill Evans

"SFJAZZ at Davies" Series runs Friday, 8/14 through Sunday 8/16. Tickets.