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The Pride of San Francisco
The 8th Annual North Beach Jazz Festival
by Nirmala Nataraj on Sep 06, 2004
The 8th annual North Beach Jazz Festival, August 7th - August 11th, is one of San Francisco's most celebrated and anticipated summer galas and honors a host of artists, from the legends of jazz history to the modern musicians who are introducing jazz to a new generation of listeners. Among this year's highlights are Juice, the Oriente Lopez Quartet, Michael Bluestein, Richard Howell, Mingus Amungus, Ledesi, Anibade, and Vivendo de Pao.
Founder and producer Alistair Monroe and co-producer Herve Ernest conceived of the festival in 1995, and since then have offered a vehicle for some of the most unique and multicultural jazz performances around. The festival saw its inception as a one-day event in San Francisco's Washington Square Park in 1995, shortly after KJAZ, the oldest all-jazz commercial radio station in the country, came to its untimely end For Monroe and Ernest, it was crucial to find an alternative way to satisfy the city's jazz-hungry enthusiasts and a growing audience of younger people.
Past performers include mythic entertainers like Carlos Santana, Pharaoh Sanders, Bill Somers, Pete Escovedo, and Pancho Sanchez. This season will begin August 7 with Jazz on Grant, a free neighborhood-wide festivity of gifted Bay Area performers who will feature their work in bars, cafes, restaurants, and other venues in the kaleidoscopic North Beach district. Jazz on Grant is also a tribute to the heyday of North Beach's multi-hued jazz scene and spans the length of Grant Avenue, including locales like the Bagel Shop, El Matador, and the St. Francis of Assisi Church. Thursday, August 8 will showcase the Latin Jazz Series, featuring the Oriente Lopez Quintet, most well-known for its seven-year collaboration with the renowned Afrocuba band and its resonant exploration of Cuban-Caribbean culture. Friday, August 9 explores the Taste of New Orleans and showcases the work of Juice, one of New Orleans' premier live acts on the booming funk scene.
The season will climax with the festival's trademark outdoor concert series, Jazz & Heritage in the Park, on Saturday and Sunday at the Washington Square Park. One of Saturday's most anticipated performances is the illustrious Mingus Amungus, a tribute group to Charles Mingus. One of the most complex composers of the bop era, Charles Mingus drew his inspiration from political events and people. With their signature flavor and intricate freeform orchestral arrangements, Mingus Amungus channels the collective lyrical expression of the artists that made jazz such a revolutionary art form. Sunday features the gifts of Vivendo de Pao, a group formed after singer/songwriter Kevin Welch found his muse while living in the simple thatched roof hut villages of the Brazilian Amazon. The sinuous, elegant melodies of Vivendo de Pao strive to chronicle the response of the human spirit to both adversity and beauty.
Despite popular audience response and high attendance rates (both local and international), Monroe strives to maintain inexpensive, accessible programs that also feature local talent and embody the eclectic cultural history of jazz in the community. Monroe asserts, "The North Beach Jazz Festival is as much about promoting talented jazz musicians as it is about hosting a great party in one of the city's most dynamic and storied neighborhoods."
by Nirmala Nataraj on Sep 06, 2004