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20 Years of San Francisco Jazz in the City

San Francisco Jazz Festival - San Francisco Jazz Music and Passion


By Maya, Return to SalsaCrazy.Com Features

It's only natural that the Bay Area with its diverse and culturally aware population assures survival and prosperity of such musical event like the annual jazz festival.  Named "#1 jazz festival in the world" by London Observer, San Francisco Jazz Festival marked its 20th anniversary with 3 weeks of concerts, parties and other happenings.

However, the extravaganza that ended November 10 did not fulfill expectations of salsa lovers.  The long-awaited concert of the revered Cuban band Los Van Van was cancelled due to visa problems.  The late addition of Ruben Blades was disappointing as well.  Even though his show was presented at the beautiful Regency Ballroom with a good size dance floor and little seating space, he did not play much salsa.  Blades assembled highly professional musicians who played a "salsa" of various styles of music, including an amazing mix of folk sounds from many lands - good for listening but not for dancing.  When he did sing some of his old salsa hits the crowd cheered and begged for more.

Remember Bobby "Don't Worry, Be Happy" McFerrin?  He performed at the Masonic Auditorium in a two-hour non-stop show.  McFerrin's bill announced "mystery guests" who were truly unconventional.  Besides a couple of musicians including Eddie Marshall, a marching band and a dancer, McFerrin welcomed on stage 6 kids and audience members who sang with him and even performed a juggling act.

Throughout all this hoopla going on, Bobby demonstrated his vocal virtuosity by imitating various instrument sounds, parodying country style and lounge singers and talking to the audience.  His solo scatting without too many melodic variations could quickly become boring without these interludes.  The audience did a surprisingly good job providing the harmonies for MacFerrin's vocalize under the singer's directions. Many knew the version of Ave Maria written for the duet with a Bach's prelude in Bobby's superb rendition. The sound of this improvised choir was stunning!  To top it all off here comes a flower artist who spends about 20min. arranging a huge bouquet with Bobby's vocal accompaniment.

The last concert of the festival presented 2 other jazz singers: Kurt Elling and Mark Murphy. Elling's style was too "cool" and devoid of passion and flavor of jazz. Nevertheless, he has his following considering he's been nominated for a Grammy six times.  Mark Murphy's voice is a lot warmer and his phrasing is more creative, but, it felt like he spent just as much time reading poetry as singing.  in my opinion, neither of them can compare to the royals of scat like Ella Fitzgerald, Jon Hendricks or even Mel Thormé.

As always, San Francisco Jazz Festival featured some of the most renowned jazz performers on the planet.  This year Bay Area's jazz aficionados heard McCoy Tyner, Charles Lloyd, Michel Camilo, Shirley Horn, Ahmad Jamal and many more. Let's hope that the festival's tradition to bring salsa stars for the most memorable dance of the year will not die out.



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