Searching for spaces that were intimate, inspiring, and had great acoustics, SFJAZZ artistic director Randall Kline and architect Mark Cavagnero looked at churches when designing the Robert Miner Auditorium in SFJAZZ’s new center at the corner of Fell and Franklin.
“There will be a lot of spiritual moments in this building,” Santos said. “It’s a shrine, it is a church for this music.”
Sharing the stage last week with others who played key roles in the new center, the only stand-alone one for jazz in the country, Santos seemed almost as excited as Kline, who founded SFJAZZ 30 years ago. The percussionist, a San Francisco native, has been involved with SFJAZZ just as long – he played at their first festival in 1983. The ribbon cutting for the 35,000 square-foot center, with free tours and live music, takes place on January 21, Martin Luther King Day. After the sold-out opening night concert on January 23, hosted by Bill Cosby, features musical legends including Bobby Hutcherson, Esperanza Spalding, Chick Corea and Joshua Redmond, there will be two weeks of opening celebrations.
The auditorium, which can collapse down to 350 seats from 700 and convert into a dance floor, is the heart of the new center, which also has rehearsal rooms; spaces for the education program; an 80-seat ensemble room; a digital learning lab; three murals about the history of jazz by Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet; and a café, South, by Charles Phan, of Slanted Door fame.
Phan, who came to San Francisco in 1978, calls it an honor to be part of the SFJAZZ Center. He joked that providing a menu from morning to night meant he would have to improvise – like a jazz musician.
“I couldn’t just do the same old spring roll,” he said.
Kline says the café is an important part of his vision for the center being inviting, open to the neighborhood and transparent (literally- it has three glass walls). After 30 years of thinking about it, the building seems to have almost everything he wanted, and Felice Swapp, the Executive Operating Director of SFJAZZ, saluted Kline for making it happen.
“He has a singular vision,” she said. “He has insight and foresight and conviction and passion.”