posted by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy
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.
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)
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.
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.
A 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.
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.
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.
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