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20 Years of San Francisco Jazz in the City
San Francisco Jazz Festival - San Francisco Jazz Music and Passion
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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