Abstract Testimonials: Fall Jazz Around the Bay

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 8 years old.
 (Photo: Mike Kurgansky)

FAll arts preview 2014This fall brings some of jazz’s finest to the Bay Area, from tiny enclaves to large symphonic halls. With a wide variety of styles for nearly everybody, there’s no reason not to take in the constant adventure that is America’s native art form this season. Here are ten of the best upcoming jazz events for fall.

Lisa Mezzacappa, at left, and Bodaboda.

Bodaboda & Klaxon Mutant Allstars

Sept. 11
Duende, Oakland
Tickets and Information

Lisa Mezzacappa is a Bay Area treasure, and to this day, the prolific Berkeley bassist and composer remains creative to an almost frightening degree. Mezzacappa has chosen the conspicuous date of Sept. 11 for the Bay Area debut of Bodaboda, her newest and possibly wildest quartet; the group zigzags between Ornette Coleman’s structured harmolodics, unbridled free jazz and an inebriated reinterpretation of circus music. Initially featuring bass clarinet and tuba, but now with guitar and electronics—and sharing a bill with the equally unpredictable Klaxon Mutant Allstars—Bodaboda should serve as a microcosm of all that makes Duende’s booking so unique.

Ramsey Lewis
Ramsey Lewis, at home at the piano. Photo: Ravinia Festival. (Photo: Ravinia Festival)

Ramsey Lewis & Cecile McLorin Salvant

Sept. 20
Green Music Center, Rohnert Park
Tickets and Information

From his 1960s pop-crossover hit “The In Crowd” to his surprisingly rich 1970s fusion experiments, the pianist Ramsey Lewis has retained a singular vision. Though his recent recorded output veers toward synthesisers and swampy funk, Lewis primarily plays acoustic piano in concert, combining his classical training and church upbringing in a trademark, soul-jazz style. (His version of gospel standard “Wade in the Water” is a highlight of his sets.) Here, in the acoustic marvel that is the Green Music Center’s main hall, Lewis shares a bill with Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist and pianist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who inhabits and repossesses each song she soulfully tackles from the Great American Songbook.

The Cookers
The Cookers, an exciting coherence of jazz heavyweights.

The Cookers

Sept. 26
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco
Tickets and Information

Named for the classic 1965 Blue Note album Night of the Cookers, this jazz supergroup captures all the invention and explosiveness of hard bop’s heyday. Pianist George Cables may be best known for his subdued ballads with Art Pepper, but he rises to the fire created by hornmen Billy Harper, Donald Harrison, David Weiss and Eddie Henderson. Anchored by a rhythm section of Billy Hart and Cecil McBee, the band never fails to electrify the stage.

Chuchito Valdes
Chuchito Valdés brings Afro-Cuban fireworks to the keys.

Chuchito Valdés

Sept. 28
Yoshi's, Oakland
Tickets and Information

Being the son of a jazz legend has its downside, but Ravi Coltrane, T.S. Monk and Darius Brubeck have all transcended their bloodline. Adding to that roster is Chuchito Valdés, who’s not only the son of Cuban piano great Chucho Valdés but the grandson of pianist and composer Bebo Valdés. Raised in Havana, Valdés’ style is firmly in the Cuban tradition, bringing rhythmic flair to afro-Cuban jazz, mambo and Cuban son. You know those “blooming flower” fireworks? Light one on a keyboard, and you’ll have a close approximation of what to expect on stage.

Charles Lloyd
Charles Lloyd pushes into Eastern territory with the Sangam Trio.

Charles Lloyd with Zakir Hussain & Eric Harland

Oct. 10-11
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco
Tickets and Information

Zakir Hussain has long reimagined the Indian tabla drum as a jazz instrument, and in recent years has joined a dream team to push its possibilities further. Saxophonist Charles Lloyd continues to amaze into his career’s fifth decade, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better working drummer in jazz than the intensely prodding Eric Harland, who also doubles on piano. Together, the three perform soaring, Eastern-influenced spiritual jazz—imagine if Coltrane had lived to sojurn to India—as the Sangam Trio, who pull miracles out of thin air every time they collaborate.

Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke on acoustic upright bass. Photo: Mike Kurgansky

Stanley Clarke Quartet

Oct. 10-12
Yoshi's, San Francisco
Tickets and Information

Jazz’s favorite ex-Scientologist continues his reign as the genre’s best living electric bassist, and those who decry the amplified instrument will note that he often pulls out the good ol’ wooden upright as well. Since his time with Return to Forever and the chart-topping success of School Days, Clarke has settled into an explorative sphere that’s got both legs in jazz and only a passing glance at pop. Having Japanese-born virtuoso Hiromi on piano only adds to the riches in this group.

Dave Douglas & Joe Lovano
Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano continue to push boundaries. Photo: Alex Chaloff

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas: Sound Prints

Oct. 17
Yoshi's, Oakland
Tickets and Information

On his own, saxophonist Joe Lovano can veer into rote balladry, and an unleashed Dave Douglas has a tendency for the avant-garde on trumpet. Put them together in a quintet, and the two men balance each other out perfectly. In the quintet known as Sound Prints, they benefit greatly from Joey Baron’s unmatched drum skills, choice piano courtesy of Lawrence Fields and the rooted bass of Linda Oh. Each set the group plays is like a tightrope act—daring, dramatic, and thrilling to watch.

Robert Walter
Robert Walter redefines the soul-jazz organ sound.

Robert Walter's 20th Congress

Oct. 23
Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley
Tickets and Information

The Hammond B-3 organ has an embarrassment of riches going on these days, with an emphasis on the word “embarrassment.” Because it can instantly add a hip pedigree, especially with an attendant Leslie speaker, the instrument often finds its way into undeserving groups. Not so with Robert Walter, who expertly bouys the done-to-death “soul jazz” style with an exciting jam-band sensibility. In the intimate room at the Mill Valley club owned and frequented by the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, anything can happen.

Irvin Mayfield
The forceful son of New Orleans, Irvin Mayfield.

Irvin Mayfield & New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

Nov. 16
Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley
Tickets and Information

In many ways, Louisiana trumpeter Irvin Mayfield is the anti-Wynton Marsalis: he’s tough around the edges, jagged on the surface and goes in for the kill when neccessary. At the heart of his playing—from his early days with Los Hombres Calientes to now—is New Orleans, and with that city’s namesake jazz orchestra, the technical virtuoso is given free reign to parade around the jubilant music of his hometown.

Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint's songs are the fabric of a region.

Allen Toussaint with Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Nov. 18
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa
Tickets and Information
Nov. 22-23
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco
Tickets and Information

Like the Burt Bacharach of the South, Allen Toussaint’s stamp is on so much music in our world that at any given time, one of his songs, productions or recordings is likely being heard in all 50 states. The living legend teams up with the erstwhile Preservation Hall Jazz Band for numerous nights around the Bay Area of musical gumbo, roaring from Dixieland to 1970s funk and back in what should be part history lesson and part revelation.