TODD BARKAN’S KEYSTONE KORNER 45 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION IN JAZZ


posted by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy

Tom Copi photo

Keystone Korner’s 45th Anniversary Celebration  July 7 & 8 2017
One of the best Jazz weekends in the San Francisco Bay area in decades. First, after you get over the initial shock of the lineup and why, then it all makes sense.

I was in touch with Todd Barkan as soon as I heard through the grapevine there was truly some type of celebration being planned months ahead of the date.  This of course forced me to research and find out just who actually played the North Beach venue .
Many of the great ones that played Keystone Korner are no longer with us.. But Todd selected an absolute stellar group of musicians, all legends and all-stars in their own right.  Tenor Saxophonists, Mel Martin and Azar Lawrence, Alto Sax, Gary Bartz and Charles McPherson , Bassists, Juini Booth and Ray Drummond, Drummers Akira Tana and Roy McCurdy, Percussion Kenneth Nash, Guitarist Calvin Keys, Pianist Denny Zeitlin and Theo Saunders, plus a great group from Japan, Atsuko Hashimoto B3 jazz trio.

photo by brian mcMillen

Equally important as the musicians themselves , Todd chose great venues for the presentation . starting on July 7 at Kuumbwa’s Jazz in Santa Cruz, a coastal city ripe for a top-shelf jazz set.

 

 

The very next day, Saturday July 8th, it couldn’t get any better for a gorgeous afternoon of riveting jazz. He chose the gem of the bay area, Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. A unique club carved out of a beautiful home on the cliff side staring into Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco on the peninsula. Follow that Car!! great management, great drinks and service.

You know it not always clear where your next great story is going to come from or, who you might see along the way to that story. but one thing for sure , If you know anything about Todd Barkan..You just grab a brew or some wine, sit down and listen. Todd Barkan the successful Jazz presenter, piano player, record producer, jazz archivist, and  husband.

As I looked around the sanctuary and hung-out down in the green room, I observed the interaction between Todd Barkan and the many friends and fans of the “Korner”,but mostly the musicians, the “fellas”, there was a special kinship or bond between both presenter and musicians.  It’s not even close to being that way “now days”. In my chats with several of the band members and supporters leading up to this great weekend, well almost to a man, they all said pretty much the same. “Todd is one of us.. we are family. “Sadly, a lot of the old gang who frequently played the club during its hey-day are no longer with us. Their spirit lives on in Todd and the musicians memories.

Part of the weekend which also made it a special “NICE TOUCH” was having some of the photographers who were, and still a big part of  archiving this genre and historic occasions in the Bay area.  Three of the best were among the guests at the happenings , Ms. Kathy Sloane, who published a book about the days and nights at Keystone Korner. Fellow shutterbugs, Jim Bourne and Brian McMillen weaved in and out of the scene and captured many great shots to document (see a smattering of their work below)

photo by Brian McMillen
photo by Jim Bourne of Juini Booth
Akira Tana & Kenneth Nash photos by Jim Bourne

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo by Jim Bourne of Ray Drummond

 

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society(founded loosely in late 1950s by Pete Douglas). But officially as a Jazz and classical music venue in 1964. The crown jewel of Bay area venues was the true “scene of the crime.”

Just prior to his opening remarks, Todd seemed like he was reflecting over his well documented record of work over the last 45 years plus!

1972 -1983, Over a decade in great music was presented on a 7 day a week basis at Keystone Korner  in North Beach. And, all of San Francisco, even the “East Bay peeps” came across the bridge on any given night to see the sights, enjoy the fruits of labor from the giants. Dexter Gordon, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stan Getz, Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner,Mary Lou Williams, Art Pepper, Freddie Hubbard, Zoot Sims and Charles Mingus,Bobby Hutcherson,Cedar Walton ,Art Blakey, Michael White featuring Kenneth Nash and, Ed Kelly on piano and Ray Drummond bass.

Todd opened the club in 1972, and that was the starting point for greatness that never ceased until the last act in Charles McPherson’s group playing the last set 1983.

Charles McPherson photo by Jim Bourne

Part of the “pomp and circumstance” were watching all that talent being switched around and configured to fit mood, moment and personnel, which was masterfully orchestrated by the “Todd-Father”(Barkan) . a pleasant surprise insertion was Theo Saunders for Benito Gonzalez ..the native new Yorker demonstrated why he’s a first-call pianist in Southern California, even international, as Saunders bio reads like a who’s who in jazz for over three decades. 

Bright Moment for me was a beautiful duet ballad by old friends, Denny Zeitlin and saxophonist Gary Bartz.  Before beginning the song, Denny told the story of meeting Bartz in a jam session while at a Baltimore, Maryland club sitting-in on piano. (club owner was Gary’s Dad) the two clicked immediately musically, but Zeitlin had a small dilemma, He was studying medicine at John Hopkins with a burning desire to become a physician. But Zeitlin worked it all out. The two musicians are still friends today, Denny is also jazz pianist and also a respected Doctor of Psychiatry in the S.F. Bay area.

Photo by Robert J. Carmack Denny & Gary duet

Another stand out and surprise performances were a jazz trio from Japan, playing in a traditional B3 style group with Organ , Saxophone and Guitar. this stellar group was led by this very animated and dynamic B3 organ player, Astuko Hashimoto, Guitarist Yutaka Hashimoto, saxophone Hedeki Karamura.

Astuko Hashimoto photo by Jim Bourne

 

hideki kawamura photo by jim bourne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yutaka Hashimoto photo by Jim Bourne

Our friends from Japan were extremely busy on a blistery up-tempo blues in F, which stirred up things. It sort of reminded us of days of Jimmy Smith and Shirley Scott. Astuko brought the Fire!

As soon as all the smoke cleared from the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s sanctuary, especially as the ZAR-Meister(Azar Lawrence reunited with bassist Juini Booth(original live album at Keystone Korner, Atlantis by McCoy Tyner) added drummer Roy McCurdy and pianist Theo Saunders took us on a journey to Africa to Atlantis and back to Half Moon Bay. Word was, they had a gathering crowd about to converge on the restaurant Pier 23 on Embarcadero for part two of the Saturday’s festivities. A quaint and cozy Jazz spot off the Pier. Great enthusiasm with a full house awaiting to start the show 8pm hit at Pier 23. This crowd was grassroots and tuned in all the pyrotechnics that were to come later as the personnel expanded to included such jazz luminaries as saxophonist John Handy, trumpeter David Hardiman and SF Bay area’s Jazz man/Pilot, Roger Glenn on flute. along with Mel Martins band mates, plus  Larry Dunlap, Jeff Marr. to name a few.

Mel, Gary, and Azar.. photo by RJ Carmack Pier 23 July 8 2017
Easy Flowing Calvin Keys photo by Jim Bourne

Big shout out to all the management and owners of the various Jazz venues. your staff and personnel were professional and very warm.. Thanks to Mr. Todd Barkan, for all the Bright Moments, historic sessions,and recordings . You ARE truly a Jazz Master.(2018) Congratulations!!

Special Thanks to Mel Martin and his lovely wife for helping me out in a glaring situation. Catch my interview and chat with S.F. Bay legendary musician Mel Martin.

Coming August 10th @ http://www.hipstersanctuary.com

 

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RIFFIN’ IN HOLLYWOOD WITH MARCUS MILLER at CATALINA’S


Posted by Robert J. Carmack-All Photos by Chuck Koton

Marcus Miller on Bass Clarinet
Marcus Miller on Bass Clarinet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz Shutter Bug, Chuck Koton was just able to eek out the last set at Catalina’s Jazz Bar & Grill in Hollywood recently. Miller was in town for a short stint to promote his latest effort entitled Afro Deezia. the Band seemed to  push out a mix of Originals and covers. Miller was just in town last month for two big concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.  The talented multi-instrumentalist was showcasing all his skills as jazz musician and bandleader. Often Marcus found himself trading licks with alto saxophonist, Alex Hahn and Atlanta-based Trumpeter Russell Gunn. One of his tunes that stood out during the last set was a thunderous bass-thumping version of Papa Was a Rolling Stone. also, a special tribute to “Goree” was highlighted by his mastery of the bass clarinet. Thanks Chuck for the pictures.

 

marcus-miller-alto-sax

 

marcus-miller-russell-gunn

 

 

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WORLD STAGE HONORS BILLY HIGGINS WITH HEAVENLY LEGACY CONCERT


posted by music journalist Robert J. Carmack   photos credits: Robert Carmack and Sol Washington

TWS_2014_Summer_Concert_Poster

You know, one of the benefits of living in Los Angeles or Southern California period, is the weather. This particular Sunday was no different than the 54 Summers past I have lived in California.But this one was very special though. The World Stage was celebrating 25 years of existence in Leimert Park (Los Angeles).and honoring one of the people wholly responsible for its foundation and support over the many years he was alive. That person was none other than, master musician Billy Higgins.One of the most storied and active drummers for a very long time at the highest level of performance.

Everybody knew he was one of the most recorded drummers in the history of jazz, But not enough knew of his tireless devotion to the community he grew up in and served  one hundred fold. That is the real reason he’s being honored. If you are looking for a review of the concert, well.. this is not it! Because I was around the World Stage during its early days of Los Angeles , Post 1992 Uprising in the streets of L.A.  I watched Billy in action a lot as he brought his musicians around to the stage, then around to the coffee House known as 5th Street Dick’s (my hang) There he would hold Court on why it was important that whenever they came into town to gig, they had to come to the World stage on an off day to play or teach a youngster about music. I witnessed this on many ocassions and Billy knew a lot of musicians cats.

Once I was in 5th street Dick’s Coffee house working on some poetry and listening to JMD & the Jam Master Band,(a local bad-ass group) when Billy brought in Chick Corea, Bennie Maupin and Larry Coryell to check out the music .. So I started reciting poetry with the JMD  Band, all of a sudden Chick Corea got up and took over the Keyboard player’s axe,  Larry Carlton cracked out his guitar and before you knew it, we had a “thang” going on..  prov-like all spontaneous… Jazz is suppose to do that to the human spirit. I looked at Billy, and He was just smiling ear to ear.. It wasn’t until much later, at another time, I realized why he was smiling so much that day. He knew then, he knew he had hooked those guys too. And soon, they were coming around a lot ,even if Billy was not there .  Whenever Billy was on the road, someone at the World Stage had the responsibility to make sure the musician guests of Billy had no problems getting comfortable helping Kids or playing an afternoon concert on a Saturday before their night gig. That was how it worked for years. Jackie Mclean and Billy had long history as fellow musicians.. but Jackie always checked to make sure someone was holding down a class or something before he settled into his hotel to wait on his gig. No Billy Higgins in the community standing in the Gap, This place or listening space don’t happen!  SO, if you want to know why Him??, Ask that long line of young drummers that have learned so much from being around and asking questions to a working drummer/legend. Seek out that long list of drummers and musicians in general who are very prominent Jazz musicians and Band leaders also today. Some of those same drummers could not afford a full set of drums to practice or work.. They got what they needed,, encouragement, inspiration and sometimes money.  “Smiling Billy the person, the MAN” was the one being honored and respected by a legion or army of admirers and peers Sunday August 24th. Yes Sir!  A Spiritual Experience for sure!!

Billy Higgins Koifi hat

 

what better way to honor the man than to allow the fruits of labor performed 25 years ago  spawned great talents that was displayed on stage on that beautiful Sunday afternoon beginning with the world stage’s own African Drum Workshop . S.H.I.N.E. MAWUSI  Troupe, they were the very first act we experienced.  it was electrifying, as it was vivid and sublime.

stage drum  wrkshop

bennie maupin  u don't know what love is
Multi-Reed specialist Bennie Maupin gets loose on, You Don’t know what Love is  

 

 

baby fingers & carmen  Lundy

It was at this point where award-winning Patrice Rushen accompanied veteran jazz singer Carmen Lundy in two riveting duets that in my opinion, should be recorded together and toured. One of the originals was played on acoustic guitar by Carmen Lundy..OMG!!

Poetess Jaha
Poetess JaHa spreading Love around through her poetry
dwight & Leroy downs
Vocalist Dwight Trible and Jazz host/MC Leroy Downs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JaHa & Trevor
POETESS JaHa Photo by Sol Washington

 

 

Dwight Trible, Trevor Ware & Miguel  Photo by Sol Washington
Dwight Trible, Trevor Ware & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Photo by Sol Washington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time Dwight was through with his performance,we were all levitating in the audience. I wish I could have sat closer so I would not need the flash. we could not shoot if we had flash .Kamau Daaood      Poet Laureate

shown on the left is Kamau Daaood Poet Laureate and John Beasley Music Director/Pianist

 

 

Hubert Laws  alto Flute

 

 

 

 

 

Near the end of the evening’s show Hubert Laws came out before his accompaniment. and played a rendition of LUSH LIFE with the most clear & pure tone on Flute  with the best and most sublime solo I’ve ever heard on any instrument.

art Farmer   Cedar walton  w Billy
Biilly Higgins shown on Drums with the Art Farmer-Cedar Walton Quartet @ Concerts by the Sea-1977 Los Angeles

On Billy Higgins: By Lew Tabackin

“Playing with Billy was like heaven. He was the greatest collaborator in the history of jazz. He played exactly right for you at exactly the right time. His dynamics were perfect, he balanced his energy off of your energy. It was the perfect ratio between his intensity and your intensity. I remember one time a friend of mine played with Billy. I said “hey how was it playing with Higgins.” He said, “you know I was expecting more energy.” I said, “no man that’s not the way it works. He plays off your energy. He your energy is low, he’s not going to kick your ass.

I did a month tour with Billy and Charlie Hayden and every night was perfect. There wasn’t one time where you thought; “we’ll he’s not having a good night.” I’ve never experienced anything like that since. That consistently musical swinging creative reality. I could hear the harmony when he would play the drums.”