The Hole Left by Yoshi’s
Yoshi’s in Oakland, at Jack London Square, is still in place. But the San Francisco location, part of a fantasy revival of jazz in the Fillmore district, changed owners July 1, and its replacement switched to a new name, The Addition, sometime this month.
Yoshi’s SF was never able to repay a $7.2 million loan from San Francisco’s redevelopment agency; a bankruptcy agreement has the city forgiving $5 million of that loan.
The articles linked above list reasons why Yoshi’s was an awkward fit for its neighborhood. The SF club was a carbon copy of the Oakland club, for instance; I thought that was a nice touch, but the high-end Japanese cuisine and quilted, highbrow interior didn’t catch on with the Fillmore neighborhood. I have to believe the opening of the SF Jazz Center didn’t help, either, as that’s now the premiere stop for any name acts coming through.
Turns out the locals weren’t so interested in jazz anyway, which is why both Yoshi’s locations, but especially the San Francisco spot, began booking outright pop acts.
Pop now dominates Yoshi’s Oakland, although the club is still trying. The Bad Plus is doing a three-night run, and Marcus Shelby still gets booked. Ernie Watts and Joey DeFrancesco are on the upcoming calendar as well — not really my stuff, but it’s still a chance to raise the jazz flag.
Look, I understand business is business. Jazz — or really any entertainment that’s more for the cerebellum than for the lizard brain that loves loud noises and flashy lights — isn’t a moneymaker any more. I can’t say I could run Yoshi’s any better. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be unhappy when a sympathetic venue closes down, or even when its attention to the good stuff starts diminishing. The Addition has booked a lot of jazz for November, but it’s mainstream stuff — and besides, The Addition is not going to identify itself as a jazz club.
Duende has shrunk its music calendar as well, although it hasn’t watered down the mix to the extent Yoshi’s has. Ownership says the revenues couldn’t justify running the attic space for music every night, which is believable. I also have to assume that patrons had limited taste for hearing the occasional electronics buzz or Nels Cline-style freakout over their meals.
But one of Duende’s founders had an honest interest in the music, going back to the heyday of The Knitting Factory (another club that eventually gave up the jazz thing). I’ll take what they can offer as long as they can offer it.
The thing to do, of course, is to look beyond the clubs. There are so many other venues that offer a welcome that feels less temporary. The Luggage Store Gallery, the SIMM series, Berkeley Arts, and others I’m forgetting — they’ve been offering creative music on a regular basis for years. The Center for New Music is a younger operation built strictly for new-music interests. The Oakland Freedom Jazz Society no longer has a regular slot at Duende’s but has been finding other places to host shows — here’s a pair of solo clarinet sets they’re presenting at Studio Grand (another venue to mention) on Dec. 3.
I’m leaving out many others, I’m sure. Just understand that there are a lot of options for creative music in the Bay Area. Check out BayImproviser.com if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Yoshi’s has faded from the creative jazz radar, but Bay Area music fans still have a lot to be thankful for. The hole was filled some time ago.