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"Blackhawk" and Beyond: Five favorite Bay Area live albums

Flipping through my CDs the other night, I was struck by how many were recorded live in the Bay Area. That led me to want to post a list of my favorites. Please note, I am not saying these are the best live albums ever recorded here; rather, I’m just offering a glimpse at the ones I dig the most. So here goes, in no particular order.

Live in the Bay Area Select Discography -slide0
Jazz CDs
Bay Area live jazz albums
Bay Area live jazz albums
Bay Area live jazz albums

“The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Live in San Francisco” (1959): As much as I enjoy everything the Adderleys did, I do have a penchant for their live stuff, including “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “Live In New York.” This is my favorite of the three, however, given the sheer level of exuberance present not just in the music but Cannonball’s stage announcements. It’s even evident in the song titles – “Spontaneous Combustion,” “Hi-Fly,” “You Got It!” With Cannonball (sax), Nat (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano), Sam Jones (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums).

“Friday Night in San Francisco” by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía (1981): Any regular reader of this feature probably has already detected my love of guitar (jazz and otherwise) so it makes sense that this classic makes the cut. Recorded at the Warfield in December 1980, it features three six-string masters at the height of their powers with the standout track being Di Meola’s "Fantasia Suite.” A big seller too, having moved in excess of 6 million copies.

“Live at Yoshi's” by Pat Martino (2001): The guitar great shares the stage with Billy Hart (drums) and Joey DeFrancesco (organ) on this Grammy-winning set. The disc kicks off with a deadly one-two punch of “Oleo” and “All Blues” and never looks back.

“In Person Friday Night at the Blackhawk” by Miles Davis (1961): The best way to access this landmark Davis recording is to pick up the four-CD Columbia re-issue from 2003. We’re talking wonderfully remastered sound and every note the band – Davis (trumpet), Hank Mobley (sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) – cut that weekend. That said, I must admit my knowledge of these sessions remains the original “Friday Night” and “Saturday Night” albums. I have listened to and loved them for years because they seem to offer the ideal introduction to classic Miles. Just consider the repertoire – “No Blues,” “Walkin’,” “Well You Needn’t,” “If I Were A Bell.” Clearly, however, I must update my listening experience of these seminal live sessions.

“Live at Yoshi’s” by Mulgrew Miller (2004, 2005): Now, I do have both volumes of this MAXJAZZ collection, along with Miller’s equally impressive “Live at the Kennedy Center” sets. Listen to them consecutively and you will reach the same conclusion I have; namely, that Miller remains underappreciated in the jazz world. Here is an artist of the first caliber, a pianist who carries his McCoy Tyner influence proudly though lightly and brings a pronounced, personal vision to his work. Vol. 1 runs more to standards – Horace Silver, Duke Ellington, Jobim – while the gloves really come off for Vol. 2. With Derrick Hodge (bass) and Karriem Riggins (drums). This is marvelous, muscular, Bay Area-born jazz.

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