Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SFJAZZ All-Stars at 'Jazz in the Basement'

~ Jazz in the Basement ~

“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”  ~ Thelonius Monk

Despite Monk’s quote, I will talk about an extraordinary musical event that took place on Saturday night, March 1, 2014.  My son, Logan, and the SFJAZZ All-Star Combo (expertly directed by Dann Zinn) were the guests selected to perform at this month’s Jazz in the Basement, a serious, old-school jazz salon that has taken place every month for more than five years at the beautiful, classic San Francisco home of Michele and Jesse Foster.  Taking place in the detached, first-story music room off the garden of the Foster abode, there is an intimate theater set-up (drum set, bass amp, lighted music stands, theater and mood-lighting, framed photographs of jazz luminaries and classic-show bills on a freshly-painted, lovely ground of periwinkle blue) with seats for about 40 regular guests and guests of artists. There is an adjacent room where wine is poured and Michele’s chicken and snacks are served.  There is even a dedicated “green room” used by the band to take breaks between their two 45-minute sets.  The atmosphere is very friendly, most of the regular guests (including a 6-month-old baby girl named after Ry Cooter), are like family.   We are warmly welcomed and questioned about our life in the jazz lane.  This is the first time the SFJAZZ All-Stars have been invited and the first time they are hosting student musicians. 

Though Jesse Foster is a jazz singer, percussionist and educator himself (performing at Café Soliel, 2nd and 4th Saturdays, 6:30 – 9:30pm), Michele is responsible for the line-up.  She proudly says that Jesse gets “his own night” on the schedule.  They are both very open and willing to speak to The Lead Sheet SF about their unique event.  They have been able to attract some leading names in jazz, including Mads Tolling, Kenny Washington, Alvon Johnson, Mike Zilber, Peter Horvath, Dave Mcnab, Anton Schwartz, Wayne Wallace, Howard Wiley, Lady Memphis, Will Blades, Raz Kennedy, and Marcus Shelby, to name just a few, so special and attractive is their salon.  Nestled among the spread, is a basket labeled “$20” for guests to donate to the artists’ compensation.  By providing a venue and sharing the cost, I think it is notable how this group of music-lovers enjoys a private concert and in the process, supports the arts.

On this night, as is the group’s signature, the All-Stars perform nearly all original music, composed by the band members.  The introductory offering is an upbeat tune, entitled “Bebop,” by the band’s percussionist, Benjamin Ring.  Enthusiastically received, this is followed by two tunes by string bassist, Logan Kane, including the forceful “Doors Lead to Ceilings” and the odd-meter "Birdsong’s the Thoughts of a Wood.”  Included in the set list was “Supermoon” by pianist, Patrick Hogan and “Tune for Dann” by saxophonist, Matt Richards, ending with the rollicking “Grapes” by trumpeter, Edward Evans.  The audience is surprised and impressed by their self-compositions, receiving enduring applause and promises to be invited to return and perform again.  We hear comfort expressed about the future of jazz in the hands of these young giants.  I feel very fortunate to have attended, met the Fosters and friends, and am sure this will become a regular stop for the All-Stars.

Jesse has kindly agreed to be interviewed as an educator, so look for his upcoming article.
Photo: Jazz in the Basement
SF Jazz Salon

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