The leaves turn, the days shorten and, each fall, performing arts groups ready their new seasons. While my colleague Nastia Voynovskaya brings you the top concerts, festivals and nightclub dates this fall, here are KQED's picks for the grown-and-seasoned lovers of jazz and classical.
Sept. 10–Oct. 5
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
The last time John Adams premiered an opera at the War Memorial Opera House, he dug back into California history for Girls of the Golden West, a gold-rush story that KQED Arts & Culture’s Nastia Voynovskaya called “a timely dialogue about our state history that helps us better understand the present.” This time around, Adams travels back even further, to one of the world’s most famous love stories, as composer and librettist. Any new work by Adams is cause for celebration, and under the direction of Elkhanah Pulitzer, Antony and Cleopatra stars Gerald Finley and Amina Edris in the title roles.
The venerable Oakland jazz club Yoshi’s has a sampladelic fall coming up. Bob James, who has been sampled so many times in hip-hop songs that he’s devoted a whole YouTube reaction series to them, hits the Yoshi’s stage Oct. 23. But drummers will rejoice at the booking of Billy Cobham, who plays Yoshi’s Sept. 20–21. Of course, here in the Bay Area, we know Cobham’s “Heather” as the sample source for one of our bona fide anthems: “93 Til Infinity.” It’s serendipity, then, that he brings to Oakland his Crossroads Project, a group formed to celebrate Crossroads, the album containing “Heather”—and the inadvertent seed of a Bay Area hip-hop hit.
SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium, San Francisco
With SFJAZZ’s upcoming ‘Traditions in Transition’ series, no jazz fan should miss out on the chance to see Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Brad Mehldau and Brian Blade (Sept. 23), Julian Lage (Sept. 24) or Orquesta Akokan (Sept. 25). But I’m gonna give it up for the new breed here with drummer Nate Smith and alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins. Wilkins’ latest album for Blue Note, The 7th Hand, is a rich entry to the modern spiritual jazz canon, and Grammy-nominated Smith is a dazzling player in a live setting.
The Lab, San Francisco
Ukrainian composer Lubomyr Melnyk is getting a little more notice this year, and it’s overdue: his prolific output of experimental minimalism stretches back to the 1970s. Unlike other minimalists like Philip Glass or Steve Reich, Malnyk veers into the eerie, the noisy, the tense. What’s probably now his best-known work, “Pockets of Light,” features the vocals of multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick, and he’s even performed a set for Boiler Room, the well-known DJ series. In the intimate upstairs confines of The Lab, a treasured arts space in the Mission District, his trance-like music should be especially resonant.
Sept. 23–Sept. 25
Monterey County Fairgrounds
The Monterey Jazz Festival is technically outside of the Bay Area, but it's a bona fide institution. In its 65th year this September, the festival is still in semi-scaled-back mode, with fewer stages and performers. But the heavy hitters are still on the bill: Ravi Coltrane, Gregory Porter, Chucho Valdés, Joshua Redman's classic Moodswings quartet, Gerald Clayton, Julian Lage and many others. Always worth the drive, the festival's setting is serene and the music top-notch.