The SFJAZZ Center under construction in San Francisco's Hayes Valley… (SFJAZZ )
We may not have been able to hear the jackhammers from this far away, but jazz watchers in L.A. and beyond have been keeping an eye on the SFJAZZ Center as it continues making progress toward a planned opening on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next year.
And now, with the recent announcement of the ambitious, multimillion-dollar center's debut season and opening-night plans, music fans are left with one exciting reality: The center is not only right on schedule but also shaping up to be a real West Coast landmark for jazz.
After a public ribbon-cutting and opening on Jan. 21, the center opens with an all-star concert two days later that features musical heavyweights including McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano and a familiar master of ceremonies in Bill Cosby, who stepped down from his longtime gig as emcee of the Playboy Jazz Festival earlier this year. Many of the opening-night artists will continue to perform through the weekend with a variety of guests.
But in addition to revealing the promise that comes from a space that SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Director Randall Kline boasted of being "the first free-standing building for jazz in the country," there's no less curiosity in the center's first season, which is built around a multitude of intriguing artist residencies.
From there it's just a matter of picking your favorites among a lineup that includes Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau and Dave Holland along with artists from the fringes of the genre, such as Béla Fleck and Zakir Hussain. Are you most excited about seeing Jason Moran deliver what's billed as a Fats Waller dance party on May 3, or his band the Bandwagon paired with Bay Area skateboarders as Moran shares the stage with a custom-built half-pipe?
Other highlights include violinist Regina Carter teaming with the Carolina Chocolate Drops on May 12, saxophonist and SFJAZZ's Resident Artistic Director Miguel Zenón's big band project on June 1 and bassist Dave Holland's quartet Prism on Feb. 10, which also features pianist Craig Taborn. See the full season on the organization's website and plan commuter flights accordingly.