The Hole Left by Yoshi’s

Yoshi's San FranciscoYoshi’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.

Oakland Free Jazz Roosts at Duende

Duende's dining area: The view from the music loft.
Duende’s dining area: The view from the music loft.

Every other Monday at Duende, the musicians’ collective of the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society takes over over the restaurant’s music loft — a continuation of a series formerly held at The Layover. They present some outstanding local music along with some jazz vinyl DJ’ing before the show and between sets.

The vinyl part shouldn’t be underestimated. I didn’t look through the crate they brought, but it seemed like a pretty deep cut of history. Between sets on the night I attended, the musicians were marveling at the early, early Rahsaan Roland Kirk LP that was spinning.

Overall, the evening has the vibe of a cozy jazz hangout, complete with really good food and wine downstairs. I’m glad I finally made it out there a couple of Mondays ago.

Anderson, Goldberg, Brown.
Anderson, Goldberg, Brown.

Both bands that night played improvised music in jazz settings. The first set was by the BAG Trio — Vijay Anderson (drums), Sheldon Brown (sax), and Ben Goldberg (clarinet), who have been playing in this configuration for a while.

Anderson set down an aggressive groove while Goldberg and Brown wandered jointly, often pushing each other’s energy level up to a breaking point, then receding. One of these surges ended in both of them playing long, shrill tones — kind of a guitar-hero climax that was followed by babbling quick notes to bring the mood back to earth. I found myself paying the most attention to Anderson, though, his quick hands doing some impossibly fast clacketing to lay down those aggressive rhythms.

Johnston's quintet.
Johnston’s quintet.

The second set, by the Darren Johnston Quintet, was just what a late-night set ought to be — maybe less white-hot, but still intense, with David Boyce’s sax and Johnston’s trumpet jamming over vibraphone harmonies. The music settled into more traditional patterns of soloing, including one nice stretch where just Boyce and Jordan Glenn (drums) took over, really digging their heels in.

Johnston pushed the sound outward with a lot of extended tricks — squeaks, air-through-the-horn, plunger-mute antics. It was great stuff, and I found myself thinking these guys would have been a great listen on a more inside, composition-based gig as well.

You can follow the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society on Facebook or just keep checking the Duende calendar for upcoming shows. Darren Johnston reappears on Dec. 9, this time with a trio; Michael Coleman’s Sleepover (led by pianist Coleman) will perform as well. And Vijay Anderson’s trio (is it really his trio, or more a collective thing?) performs on Dec. 23 along with the Aram Shelton Group.

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When Oliver Lake Comes to Town

It’s been encouraging to see Oakland’s Duende restaurant keep up its support of creative music, and they’re kicking it up a notch with a four-night residency for saxophonist Oliver Lake, July 5 through 8.

olake-pitt
Source: Sampsonia Way; click to go there.

It’s at least the second time Duende has done this in just a few months, after Nels Cline’s multiple-night, grand-opening performances. I don’t know how the economics work out, but it seems to be a good way to make a Bay Area stop worthwhile for an out-of-town artist. (Granted, Cline is from L.A., so a trip up here is relatively common for him.)

Duende has doggedly kept up support for avant-garde and creative music.  Marco Eneidi’s trio played on June 27. Jon Raskin and Larry Ochs of ROVA have shows coming up in July. Positive Knowledge, the long-standing sax/poetry group with a rich mystical/spiritual vibe, has a Saturday night gig on July 20.

Mixed in there are plenty of more conventional jazz acts, which do seem like a better fit for Duende’s crowd and atmosphere. I don’t know how long Duende can keep up its musical chops, but I hope to savor the experience whenever I can.

Oh, right, Oliver Lake
But back to the original point.  Lake is coming to California for two solo performance at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts on June 29, at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.  He’s accompanying a visual art exhibit called “Flying Home: Inspired by Jazz,” which apparently includes some of his own artwork.

olake-sig-bigSamples of Oliver Lake’s paintings and mixed-media work are on his web site, and you know what — they’re quite good and have a strong personality: colorful, slightly whimsical.

Healdsburg is well north of the Bay Area, up Highway 101. After that show, he’ll stay at the same latitude to play in Sacramento. He’ll be doing the July 1 installment of Nebraska Mondays, the series at Luna’s Cafe, performing with Ross Hammond (guitar), Dax Compise, and Mike Palmer.

After that, it’s off to Oakland and Duende:
* Fri., July 5 — Duo w/ Myra Melford
* Sat., July 6 — Trio w/ Phillip Greenlief & Ross Hammond
* Sun., July 7 — Duo w/ Roscoe Mitchell (They’re charging $25 for this one, rather than $15.)
* Mon., July 8 — Trio w/ Scott Amendola & Todd Sickafoose

Marco Eneidi at Duende

I write about saxophonist Marco Eneidi frequently, maybe because I feel he’s underappreciated — and that, in turn, might be because of his relatively small recorded output.

But it’s also because he returns to the Bay Area from Vienna a little more than once a year, and it always feels like an event worth noting. His current visit includes only one show that I know of:  Thursday, June 27 at Duende (Oakland), as part of the trio Shattered:  Eneidi, Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), and Vijay Anderson (drums). It’s the same group that played last September.

Often compared to Jimmy Lyons for his speed and fluidity, Eneidi tends to improvise in long arcs, like a master monologuist. But where Evan Parker might do that with a fluttering, studious air, Eneidi gets more gutteral, spewing calculated musical ideas at high speed.

eneidi-cherryHere’s a segment from an album I’ve always favored: Cherry Box (Eremite, 2001).  It’s a trio with William Parker (bass) and Donald Robinson (drums), so Eneidi’s playing really stands out. In this segment, you’ll hear him use repeated phrases to build on an idea. After about a minute, he settles into focus on one idea, trailing a long convoluted thought like a Faulkner sentence — then he uses a suddenly mellow long tone to announce the shift into a new statement.

That’s Marco.

Duende Hosts Nels Cline

Source: Duende Oakland. Click to go there.Some time ago, I expressed skepticism about the “jazz” aspect of a new restaurant that was coming to Oakland. Boy, was I wrong.

Duende (468 19th St., Oakland) is giving the Nels Cline Singers a four-night residency starting January 23. Separately, co-owner Paul Canales has a blog entry where he mentions John Zorn as not only a friend but a source of inspiration for the restaurant — for the name, in particular.

I don’t expect Duende to become a full-time, all-out haven for the avant-garde. They’ve got rent to pay, and they’ve got ambitions as a restaurant.  But it’s good to know the owners have sympathetic ears for good music. And the food and coffee — there’s a blog entry about the coffee! — sound intriguing too, albeit not cheap.

nelsclinesingers-shirtI love going to DIY music events in obscure corners. I fondly remember a trip to NYC where I stared in envy at show fliers for loft shows and experienced an invigorating Elliott Sharp concert in an upper-east-side apartment converted to a dance studio. But I think a plush setting is a nice treat occasionally, and I’d imagine many musicians agree.

So, let’s wish best of luck to Duende, and help them out by providing a good showing for Nels Cline.

Each show, Jan. 23 through 26, will feature one set of the Nels Cline Singers and a set of Nels plus a guest artist. More info here.

Addendum:  As I reach for the “Publish” button, I see that Patrick Cress’ Telepathy will playing on Jan. 22. More about them here and here.