Monday, January 26, 2015

Eric Harland: SFJAZZ Residency Teaser

2014-15 SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director Eric Harland gives a teaser of his first SFJAZZ Residency coming up January 29 - February 1, 2015—featuring Snarky Puppy, Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage, Walter Smith III, Chris Turner + live video gaming!

Check out the full Residency.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

SFJAZZ Honors Black History Month

Selma to Montgomery march, March 25, 1965

In 2015 there is much to celebrate, yet there is still much to be done as we mark 50 years in the quest for social justice and equity. In the struggle for civil rights, music has long played a critical role in defining our nation's identity, and this February, SFJAZZ Education honors the soundtrack of the African American experience with several performances and workshops. We invite you to help us mark Black History Month at the SFJAZZ Center, and around San Francisco, with these special events:

18th Annual Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Monday, January 19, 2015, 7pm * Each year, a few of the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars participate in this lively and moving tribute to Dr. King's legacy alongside our partners at Youth Speaks, when young Bay Area spoken word artists and musicians showcase their original work and creativity, and give voice to their concerns in today's world. This community program takes place at the Nourse Auditorium right across the street from the SFJAZZ Center at 275 Hayes Street, at the corner of Franklin St.

Sounds of Resistance: Tracing the African American Experience - Koret Discover Jazz Series, Tuesdays February 3 - 24, 2015 at the AAACC, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco * SFJAZZ is thrilled to partner with the African American Art & Culture Complex (AAACC) as we host our critically-acclaimed jazz appreciation series in this historic Western Addition venue. Vocalist, educator and award-winning bandleader Linda Tillery curates this in-depth look at musical activism at the root of the African American experience. Joining her for this lecture-performance program will be some of the Bay Area's celebrated jazz and blues artists, including the Cultural Heritage Choir, Terrie Odabi, Tammy Hall and many more! The program takes place from 7-8:30pm at the AAACC, 762 Fulton St., S.F. Limited free parking is available.

Harriet Tubman & The Blues: SFJAZZ Family Matinee with the Marcus Shelby Orchestra - Saturday, February 14, 11am-12pm, Miner Auditorium, SFJAZZ Center * Bassist, bandleader and composer Marcus Shelby presents his critically-acclaimed work tracing the legacy of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in this exciting and educational family program. Joining the Shelby Orchestra is dynamic vocalist Faye Carol. Following the concert, Shelby and members of the Orchestra will lead a Family Workshop and blues jam in the Joe Henderson Lab from 12:15-1:15pm, which is FREE to matinee ticket-holders. Sign-ups take place in the lobby prior to the performance. This program is generously supported by PG&E.

For more information on the many exciting SFJAZZ Education programs for spring 2015, please visit our website at We look forward to seeing you at the SFJAZZ Center, and in our neighborhood!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Eric Harland on his introduction to jazz + finding your voice

Eric Harland talks about his introduction to jazz and finding your voice as a musician. A 2014-15 SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, Harland's first Residency at the SFJAZZ Center begins January 29th, 2014—featuring Bay Area stars Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage (w/ TEJ Trio) and Chris Turner (w/ Harland's Voyager), Snarky Puppy and even some live video gaming!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014: By The Numbers

4 new SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Directors

32 years of the San Francisco Jazz Festival, going on 33!

$64 million Capital Campaign for the SFJAZZ Center reached

50th Anniversary of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme

©Bob Thiele

1 home run by Wynton Marsalis

301 shows at the SFJAZZ Center
241 sell outs
101 shows presenting Bay Area artists

©Scott Chernis

10 year anniversary of the SFJAZZ Collective

300+ classes, rehearsals, and performances put on by SFJAZZ Education.
18 free concerts and clinics, for over 2,000 people.
300 education work opportunities for local musicians and poets.

1st place at NextGen Jazz Festival awarded to SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, earning them a spot at the 2015 Monterey Jazz Festival

©Scott Chernis

$1.4 million raised at the SFJAZZ Gala honoring Herbie Hancock

©Drew Altizer

11,000 SFJAZZ Members, and counting...

©Scott Chernis

20+ skaters in Miner Auditorium's half pipe (Jason Moran's Jazz + Skateboarding)

©Scott Chernis

216 bottles of champagne to ring in 2015 (Maceo Parker's Funky New Years)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Eric Harland's Top 5 of 2014

SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director Eric Harland is hands down one of the most versatile and active drummers on the scene today. In the past year alone, we've caught him with Dave Holland's Prism and Sangam (w/ fellow Resident Artistic Director Zakir Hussain + 2014 NEA Jazz Master inductee Charles Lloyd). He held down the drum seat in the SFJAZZ Collective for eight years (2005-12). And today, Harland's carving his own path—notably dropping beats with The Loop Loft and leading his own project Voyager, who released their debut studio album Vipassana earlier this year.

Before his 2015 SFJAZZ Residency in January—featuring Snarky Puppy, Bay Area stars Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage and Chris Turner, and even Madden 15 videogamers—Harland took a quick look back on 2014, sharing his Top 5!

Snarky Puppy We Like It Here

Walter Smith III Still Casual

Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band Landmarks

Flying Lotus You're Dead!

James Farm City Folk

Want more lists? Read SFJAZZ's Top 15 of 2014.

Monday, December 29, 2014

High School All-Stars Alumni Interview: Aaron Bahr

As we bid adieu to 2014, we have a special December feature on alumnus Aaron Bahr, whose name you may recognize as our recent winner of the first annual HUT Foundation Alumni Commission Award. Aaron was a member of the High School All-Stars 2006-2008, and has been composing and performing with some of the greats ever since.  Click here to learn more about Aaron's commissioned piece, and read on to get more acquainted with this incredible young trumpeter and composer.

How soon after you starting playing jazz did you start arranging and composing?

"I’d say I became interested in composition maybe a year or two after I began playing. I recently went through a stack of old handwritten scraps of compositions from my early high school days -- mostly horrible, illegible, bad voicings, strange melodies, unresolved dissonances -- but a few were surprisingly okay. I can tell I was going for something, but just hadn’t learned the language properly. The process of writing those pieces was important for my own personal growth, though."

You went to two great music schools: Berklee College of Music for your undergrad and the New England Conservatory for your graduate work. Were there any ways that you felt the High School All-Stars program gave you an advantage going in?

"Absolutely! For one, auditioning for SFJAZZ added familiarity and comfort with the audition process, which was invaluable experience when it came to applying for schools. Secondly, the program is also a bit of a resume builder, which schools notice. But most importantly, playing with a group of amazing musicians on a weekly basis improved my own musicianship, both in terms of section playing (like reading and intonation) as well as improvising. I was in awe of what some of my fellow students were capable of, and was inspired to reach those levels and come to my own musical voice."

What's one of the most rewarding musical experiences you've had yet?

"This is a really tough question to answer, because there are just too many. A few were actually during my high school days playing with the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars. Getting to perform with Joshua Redman, Miguel Zenon, and Stefon Harris definitely comes to mind. If I were to choose my most rewarding experience though, it would have to be studying with Maria Schneider. During my Berklee years, I had the amazing experience of studying with the her several times over the course of a semester, culminating in a big band concert featuring a piece of mine, as well as three other student composers’ pieces. The things I learned from her are instrumental even today in what I value as a composer and my own approach to melodic development."

Can you tell us what to look for on your album, Prologue, that really shows how you are growing as a composer?

Prologue features a four-part suite that was my most ambitious piece up to that point. I was experimenting a lot with harmony, using very dark colors with brighter, more vibrant colors, and seeing the way that they can either transition slowly from one to the other, or suddenly change in a more stark contrast. Melodically, I was trying to create something self-inclusive; the whole suite begins with a chorale which contains the melodic seeds of the entire piece. I sometimes feel like jazz compositions can feel like several pieces with nothing in common jammed together, that they lack some kind of common thread. The chorale in the beginning is the thread that holds together the suite."

Aaron being awarded the HUT Foundation Alumni Commission Award by Ravi Coltrane 

Be sure not to miss Aaron’s commissioned piece, “Kenny’s Song,” which will premier in the Miner Auditorium on March 22, 2015 at a specially recorded performance (tickets here). You can download Aaron’s CD, “Prologue,” on iTunes or order it online. You can also keep up with Aaron on Facebook and SoundCloud.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top 15 Albums of 2014 (Part 3)

We're fortunate to experience so much new music year after year at SFJAZZ—2014 being no exception! We've compiled a list (in no particular order) of our Top 15 albums of 2014 that we've also experienced live. We posted the first five and second five already. Below is the third... Again, the list isn't exhaustive—if you have any favorites from the year, let us know!
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For those who got down at Jason Moran's Fat's Waller Dance Party (remember that Fats mask?) back in 2013 during his first residency as a SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, All Rise (Blue Note) is the record! Moran, who has bridged jazz with skateboarding, comedy, hip-hop and classical music, brings the spirit of Fats Waller—the consummate entertainer and stride-pianist—to modern jazz.

Trios Live (Nonesuch) differs from many previous Joshua Redman releases. The accomplished saxophonist, Berkeley-native, and co-founder of the SFJAZZ Collective sounds freer than ever before playing live with his new piano-less trio. It was a homecoming when Redman finally took the SFJAZZ Center stage leading his own group this past October.

Since winning both the Thelonious Monk and Carmine Caruso Competitions in 2007, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has blossomed into one of the most compelling new jazz artists and instrumentalists on the scene. A native of Oakland, Akinmusire performed at the San Francisco Jazz Festival as far back as 1999. In his sophomore Blue Note release, the imagined savior is far easier to paint, Akinmusire expands on his Quintet's unique sound and chemistry, weaving in strings and vocals.

For those familiar with Miguel Zenón, this album title should sound familiar. As a 2013-14 SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, Zenón explored Latin American identity and consciousness in different musical contexts. Identities are Changeable (self-released) shifts the focus to the Puerto Rican community in New York, how identity changes, and stays the same in a new environment. Easily one of Zenón's most ambitious projects to date, Identities brings together an all-star big band (writing reminiscent of some of Zenón's larger works for the SFJAZZ Collective), as well as recorded interviews.

Yes, we admit to a bias, but SFJAZZ Collective: 10 switches things up for our all-star octet. Over the past 10+ years, many of the leading voices in jazz (several included in this Top 15) have contributed to what has become a robust SFJAZZ Collective Book. 10 features the hits—hip arrangements of jazz greats plus originals by members past and current—all performed live by today's Collective.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top 15 Albums of 2014 (Part 2)

We're fortunate to experience so much new music year after year at SFJAZZ—2014 being no exception! We've compiled a list (in no particular order) of our Top 15 albums of 2014 that we've also experienced live. We posted the first five already. Below is the second. Third coming tomorrow. Again, the list isn't exhaustive—if you have any favorites from the year, comment below or give us a shout on social!
—  —  —

Long-time member of the Wayne Shorter Quartet, founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective, and leader of The Fellowship BandBrian Blade is everywhere! The Fellowship Band doubled up between Monterey Jazz Festival and SFJAZZ back in September, winning over any audience member not already hip to the project with beautiful new music off Landmarks (Blue Note), as well as pianist-cowriter Jon Cowherd's Mercy (Blue Note, Artist Share)

Who better to fill Brian Blade's seat in the SFJAZZ Collective than drummer Eric Harland? Since leaving the Collective in 2012 to focus on his own projects, Harland has established himself as a go-to collaborator, and a leading voice on all things drum. He brings Voyager to SFJAZZ in January for his first residency as a 2014-15 SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director. Although we haven't experienced the group live yet, we can't get enough of Vipassana (GSI Records), and can't wait for the live debut!

Melissa Aldana blew up in 2014, a year after winning the 2013 Thelonious Monk Competition (for good reason!). Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord Music Group) is the young Chilean sax star's first definitive statement as an artist. The "strolling" (piano-less) trio tore it up in the Joe Henderson Lab back in September (sharing the weekend w/ Brian Blade).

Marc Ribot, Henry Grimes, and Chad Taylor pay tribute to the great Albert Ayler and John Coltrane. The trio's SFJAZZ performance back in May was pretty "out" (in a righteous way), and they definitely aren't holding back on the live recording, at one of the world's greatest jazz clubs. From the music itself, to the heavy dynamics within the trio, Live At The Village Vanguard (Pi Recordings) carries some serious weight.

Triveni also hasn't yet performed at SFJAZZ, but we're fortunate to hear trumpeter Avishai Cohen regularly with the SFJAZZ CollectiveDark Nights is something special. Triveni gets an eclectic, layered sound for a trio (plus special guests, including sister Anat Cohen). On Dark Nights (Anzic Records), Cohen takes his innovative use of electronics and effects up a notch, a sound that played a vital role in the Collective's award-winning Wonder (2012).