The best is yet to come: 2012 in Jazz

Jan. 13, 2012, 12:35 a.m.

Between Stanford Jazz, Yoshi’s Jazz Clubs in San Francisco and Oakland, Zellerbach Hall and the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Bay Area is a great place for jazz enthusiasts, and there’s much to look forward to in 2012. It’s one of the reasons why we can attract so many world-class artists who simply love playing the Bay Area.


Start the year off in San Francisco in the Fillmore jazz district at Yoshi’s, where you can catch trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s Quintet (Jan. 12–15), vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson (Jan. 20–21) and the great bassist Stanley Clarke with his fusion band (Jan. 26–28). Keep your eyes peeled for more great concerts at Yoshi’s. Head to Berkeley on Jan. 29 to see the great young jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez do a solo concert in the Wheeler Auditorium.


Then, immerse yourself in the SF Jazz Spring Season–a city so fond of jazz we get two festivals–programmed by the fantastic saxophonist  and Bay Area resident Joshua Redman. Here you can see the Dave Holland Overtone Quartet with Chris Potter (Feb. 24); bassist Holland and saxophonist Potter have been a leading creative force in progressive jazz, and they give some of the very best jazz concerts. This season also includes Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcalba (June 9) and the best sideman in jazz, bassist Christian McBride, finally leading his own big band (June 17). The Brad Mehldau Trio will play three shows (May 18–20) at the YBCA forum, which is a great way to see pop songs like Nirvana’s “Lithium” transform into magnificent jazz pieces.


The must-see show of the year is likely to be pianist Keith Jarrett’s solo concert at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley on Apr. 1, where the audience will be treated to a couple hours of pure improvisation. Jarrett is arguably the very best living jazz pianist, and his concerts are always amazing from start to finish, making it impossible to even locate a low point. His famous album, “The Koln Concert,” is just that, and one of the very best albums ever recorded, so here’s an opportunity to see the magic first-hand.


If you don’t want to stray off campus, you can see the lesser-known Afro-Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdés (Feb. 19) and the Etienne Charles Quintet (Apr. 4) as part of the Stanford Lively Arts Series. There is also sure to be a great lineup of world-class stars for the annual Stanford Jazz Festival (June 22–Aug. 4); the lineup will be announced in May.


On the out-of-town festival front, you can make a weekend trip down to Monterey in September for the world-famous, jam-packed three-day Monterey Jazz Festival. San Jose hosts its jazz festival in August. The SF Jazz Fall Festival is also always a good bet. This year’s lineup has yet to be announced, but last year’s included pianist McCoy Tyner with Chris Potter, the great Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau as a duo and pianist Ahmad Jamal. In Berkeley, Cal Performances is always a great bet. In 2011, they played host to the Keith Jarrett trio with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock, a real tour de force, as well as pianist Herbie Hancock. The 2012-13 season, which starts in September, will likely be just as good.

Alexandra Heeney writes film, theater and jazz reviews. She has covered the Sundance Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival and her favorite, the Toronto International Film Festival. As a Toronto native, the lack of Oxford commas and Canadian spelling in this bio continue to keep her up at night. In her spare time, Alex does research on reducing the environmental impact of food waste for her PhD in Management Science and Engineering.

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