SFJAZZ gave media types a preview Wednesday of its new Hayes Valley concert hall. Prepare to be impressed.
The whole place is built specifically for jazz, and the attention to detail is most notable in the main 700-seat concert area. Seating is adjustable, to accommodate more intimate acts, a dance floor or, in the case of Jason Moran, a skateboard ramp. Seating also is precisely tiered so that everybody gets a good view and a significant portion of the audience will be close enough to worry about trumpet spittle.
The acoustics are phenomenal -- you'll hear every note, whether it's a wailing electric guitar or gently plucked stand-up bass.
Oh -- and LEGROOM! After 30 decades of presenting shows in spaces designed for pre-World War II body proportions, tall folks will finally have enough feeling in their legs to keep their toes tapping.
The architects/designers even included a knothole-gang element: A street-level window in one of the concert hall doors gives pedestrians a perfect view of whoever is playing piano.
- The lobby includes fantastic tile murals (by Bay Area artists Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet) depicting jazz history in general and San Francisco in particular. But try also to get a peek into the adjacent green room, where the mural depicts an afterlife divided into a straight-life heaven (accordions and bagpipes) and a jumping, jiving and wailing jazz "hell."
- Asian fusion cuisine maestro Charles Phan doing shrimp and grits? The initial menu at the center's Phan-run cafe and bar will focus on Southern food. And judging from the feather-light beignets served Wednesday, he knows just what he's doing.
- Next Wednesday's opening night gala (with McCoy Tyner, Esperanza Spalding, Chick Corea, Bill Cosby emceeing) is sold out, but the action will be broadcast live on NPR stations and streaming video on the NPR Web site.
- Opening ceremonies start at 11:30 a.m. Monday, with live music, food trucks and a comically large pair of scissors.
- As far as getting in opening week, your best shot at this point is the Friday spotlight on the freshman crop of SFJAZZ artistic directors (Regina Carter, Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, John Santos and Miguel Zenon) or Saturday's throwdown with the SFJAZZ Collective.
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