The Fillmore rolls out the red carpet this week for its annual jazz festival, and the timing couldn’t be better. San Francisco is on the verge of jazz renaissance, and the neighborhood that once hosted legendary musicians like Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday is still home to San Francisco’s musical soul.
With two large venues in the works — the SF Jazz Center at Franklin and Fell Streets and a West Coast extension of the New Orleans’ Jazz Preservation Hall on Velencia Street — San Francisco’s role in the national and international jazz scenes should only grow, but the Fillmore will always be the soil from which SF’s musical roots grew. Once a year, those roots are honored with two-days of music, food, and vendors from Jackson Street to Eddy Street. A few of the musical highlights:
California Honey Drops/Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
It will be hard to stray from the California Stage for a good part of Saturday. The local 16-piece Contemporary Jazz Orchestra will hit the stage with a lunchtime set featuring be-bop and post-bop tunes from musicians, such as Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, and other composers. Immeidately following, Oakland’s own California Honeydrops bring a red-hot mix Blues, R&B, and New Orleans music to the table.
The Boom Boom Room
It’s not a part of the official Jazz Festival schedule, but the Boom Boom Room should be a mandatory stop on the jazz fest stroll. The venue whips up a special blend of sangria to accompany a day of free funky music supplied by SF’s own Steppin band and special guests.
Marco Benevento Electric
With Brooklyn-pianist Marco Benevento, also on the California Stage filling two headlining slots on Saturday and Sunday, festival organizers might consider borrowing the name from another free music festival and calling their event “Hardly Strictly Jazz Fest.” While Benevento has plenty of jazz influences, his eclectic mix of styles that stretch into other genres with a variety of electronic flourishes.
You can hear the influence from the band’s namesake, master jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus, but this Bay Area-based band also adds afro-Cuban flavor, elements of dance, and other musical influences to it set. A two-hour set, from 4pm-6pm on the Sutter Street stage, while close out the festival on a high not on Saturday.
Another unofficial Jazz Festival stop, Rasselas keeps the party going with live music after the street festivities come to an end. Year after year, this is the spot to be for the after party.