SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- SFJAZZ celebrates the return of one of the nation's longest-running jazz festivals as the 40th annual San Francisco Jazz Festival kicks off Wednesday night. The eclectic, 12-day musical party hosts a wide variety of sounds during its opening week.
Founded in 1983 as a two-day event that was originally called the Jazz in the City Festival, the San Francisco Jazz Festival has established itself as a globally renowned institution presenting some of the world's greatest jazz artists including such icons as pianist McCoy Tyner, singer Tony Bennett, and saxophone greats like Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman at a variety of venues across the city.
While SFJAZZ had to weather pandemic-related shutdowns like all music and arts organizations, it maintained its outreach to members and fans throughout the struggle against COVID-19, hosting live and recorded streaming sessions available for viewing (and listening) pleasure that has continued even after reduced health restrictions allowed the Center to reopen.
The SFJAZZ Center and its two performance spaces -- Miner Auditorium and the more intimate Joe Henderson Lab -- will be the main location for the scheduled concerts this year, with an additional show being held at the Herbst Theatre. The festival gets underway Wednesday evening with fiery soul-jazz group the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. Led by talented Seattle-based Hammond B-3 phenom Lamarr, the threesome has risen to become one of the most popular contemporary instrumental units working today.
While their album artwork hearkens back to the stylized photography and graphic design of '60s-era Blue Note record covers, the group's series of 45s and full-length recordings for throwback R&B label Colemine Records owes as much to the taut, syncopated funk sounds of Booker T. and the MGs and the Meters as it does to the work of noted Hammond organ maestros like Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff. Lamarr has been the sole constant of the trio, but their music has remained solidly in the pocket and eminently danceable. This Miner Auditorium show on Wednesday features an open general admission dance floor and showcases the latest line-up of the trio with guitarist Miles "Smiles" Harris and drummer Ehssan Karimi (6/7, 7:30 p.m. $25-$45). The same night, organ sounds will fill the Joe Henderson Lab as Oakland-born musician, producer and composer Sundra Manning plays two shows. A veteran performer who toured with gospel legend James Clevelend when she was just a teen, Manning has collaborated with such local luminaries as songwriter Michael Franti, powerhouse vocalist Ledisi (writing, arranging, producing, and engineering her 2000 debut, Soulsinger) and R&B star Lalah Hathaway (6/7, 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., $25).
A focus on the keyboard continues through much of the first week of the festival with Thursday's multi-media show with classical and jazz pianist Dan Tepfer playing solo in Miner Auditorium with the room's Immersive Media System creating instant abstract art generated by the music being played (6/8, 7:30 p.m. $20 free to SFJAZZ members), teenage piano virtuoso Brandon Goldberg leading his trio through two shows in the Joe Henderson Lab (6/8, 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., $25) and SFJAZZ Collective pianist Edward Simon presenting his salute to Latin American female songwriters Femeninas in the Joe Henderson Lab Friday with his trio and special guests Mexican vocalist Magos Herrera and Venezuelan percussionist Luis Quintero (6/9, 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. (sold out), $30). Other weekend highlights include four sold-out shows in Miner Auditorium by British multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jacob Collier and two sets from jazz guitar great Al Di Meola on Sunday.
First coming to fame as a member of the fusion supergroup Return To Forever (with late keyboard giant Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White) before moving on to an illustrious solo career, Di Meola became one of the most celebrated jazz guitarists of his generation whether playing blazing electric or dazzling with his acoustic chops. He recorded the landmark guitar trio album Friday Night in San Francisco featuring fellow maestros John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia at the Warfield in 1980, a live document that remains one of the most influential acoustic guitar albums ever made. More recently, the guitarist put out Across the Universe, his second all-instrumental tribute to the Beatles (6/11, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., $35-$95).
The SFJAZZ Festival continues with daily concerts through June 19th, including shows by such notable artists as young piano great Gerald Clayton playing Miner Auditorium solo and in a trio with trumpet star Ambrose Akinmusire and the masterful young vibraphonist Joel Ross (6/12, 7:30 p.m. $25-$45), a global dance double bill with international outfit Barrio Manouche and San Francisco gypsy-jazz heroes Gaucho (6/12, 7 p.m., $25-$45), longtime Buena Vista Social Club pianist Rolando Luna performing with percussion master Yaroldy Abreu (6/13, 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., $25), and a tribute to iconic jazz drummer Tony Williams and his power trio Emergency with powerhouse player Cindy Blackman Santana leading a band with organ player John Medeski, Living Colour guitar shredder Vernon Reid and a secret surprise guest guitarist (6/14, 7:30 p.m., $35-$95). For a complete San Francisco Jazz Festival schedule (as well as the full list of concerts SFJAZZ has planned for its 10th anniversary 2022-2023 season) and ticket information, please visit the SFJAZZ website.
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