Martin Luther King Jr Day will have an added resonance for Bay Area jazz aficionados this year. Monday, January 21, 2013 will go down in history as the date on which the city’s SFJAZZ Center opened. After 30 years of performing in a range of rented venues throughout the Bay Area, SFJAZZ will have a home of its own - the first freestanding building for jazz in the country.
“Jazz was born in New Orleans and is a mix of indigenous and imported cultures, particularly the generation of African-Americans just-removed from slavery,” says Randall Kline, Executive Artistic Director and Founder of SFJAZZ. “It’s an art form defined by freedom, individual expression, collaboration, improvisation, and recognizing the past, while resolutely moving forward. The SFJAZZ Center has been built to be a home where artists and audiences can experience the vibrancy of those defining jazz values together. San Francisco, a town that also shares those values, has proven to be the natural match for SFJAZZ’s ambitious dreams.”
Since its founding three decades ago - when it was known as Jazz in the City - SFJAZZ has grown from a fledgling concert promoter to the largest non-profit presenter of jazz and world music on the West Coast, becoming a vital element in the culture of San Francisco - a city with a rich history of jazz. The organization, says Randall Kline, is committed to developing the audience for jazz in the Bay Area and internationally, and through its music education programs, to help maintain and build a strong future for America’s indigenous art form.
This purpose-built center will enable SFJAZZ to expand its mission by helping to preserve
a century of jazz heritage, providing a permanent home for local and world-renowned musicians, while nurturing the next generation of artists and fans. More than a superb concert hall, it will be a hub of culture, community and commerce for locals and tourists alike - a home for concerts, youth and adult education programs, the city’s award-winning SFJAZZ High School All-Star Ensembles, the world-renowned SFJAZZ Collective, and the new SFJAZZ Community Band.
“For the first time, jazz in America will have a counterpart to the symphony hall, an edifice that proclaims the value of jazz to anyone who sees it on the street,” writes The Chicago Tribune.
ABC 7, KGO-TV San Francisco proclaims: “When the Center opens it will only formalize what we already know. There may be New Orleans and New York, and other places, but San Francisco is a great jazz city.”
And the Huffington Post quite simply says: “Jazz just got a whole lot better!”
Located in San Francisco’s vibrant Hayes Valley neighborhood, and designed by award-winning architect, Mark Cavagnero, the Center comprises an innovative transparent structure, designed for LEED™ Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Three murals by acclaimed artists Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet were commissioned for the interior of the Center. The first two, ‘Jazz and the Nation’ and ‘Jazz and the City’, installed on the second floor lobby, combine to form a fictionalized cityscape of influential and important jazz venues - from San Francisco and across the United States. The third, 'Jazz and the Afterlife', is located in the Lester Young Green Room of the auditorium. It’s a parody of religious ‘Judgment Day’ paintings depicting club goers going up to a ‘heaven’ of harps and bagpipes, or down to a swinging party in a jazz ‘hell’, where horns blast and jazz fans celebrate.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony launches two weeks of what are described as “once in a lifetime concerts”. The Opening Night concert of the SFJAZZ Center takes place on Wednesday, January 23 - a star-studded event “consecrating” the stage of the Robert N Miner Auditorium. Hosted by Bill Cosby, it includes McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Joshua Redman, Bobby Hutcherson, Esperanza Spalding, Mary Stallings, John Handy, Pete Escovedo, the SFJAZZ Collective, and the newly appointed SFJAZZ Center Resident Artistic Directors, Regina Carter, Bill Frisell, Jason Moran,John Santos and Miguel Zenón.
This is followed by four further star-filled nights, and a week of performances from some of the Bay Area’s greatest artists. Other big names scheduled to appear during the Center’s first season - which runs until June 2 - include Tony Bennett, John Santos, Ute Lemper, Zakir Hussain, Ana Moura and Mariza.
“An extraordinarily generous, skilled and passionate group of benefactors, trustees, staff, fans and artists have worked, sometimes against strong headwinds, to realize the promise of jazz in San Francisco,” says Randall Kline. "Let’s all enjoy it and continue to soak in the soul of this beautiful music, in this energetic new building! Jazz has a home in San Francisco. The first season begins. See you at the Center!”
The SFJAZZ Center is located at 205 Franklin Street (at Fell), San Francisco, CA 94102.
For more information and details on programs and ticketing, vist www.sfjazz.org.
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