30th Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival

30th Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival

Randall Kline's Picks

For three decades, the San Francisco Jazz Festival has been a place for legends, a place to introduce emerging artists, and a place to explore the boundaries of jazz. Here are my “baker’s dozen” picks for this 30th Anniversary Season, in chronological order:

      Saturday, August 25, 8:00pm      
      at Paramount Theatre

Esperanza Spalding is the new face of jazz. She debuted at the festival four years ago and now returns as a genuine star with her latest project, Radio Music Society.

      Friday, September 28, 8:00pm      
      at Herbst Theatre

Brecker Brothers Band Reunion is a long-awaited reunion of many classic Brecker Brothers members, including Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, George Whitty, Neil Jason and Dave Weckl. Rising star Ada Rovatti stands in for the late Michael Brecker.

      Saturday, September 29, 8:00pm      
      at Herbst Theatre

A spectacular array of Miles Davis alums come together again as Miles Smiles, with Wallace Roney, Bill Evans, Robben Ford, Joey DeFrancesco, Darryl Jones and Omar Hakim.

      Sunday, September 30, 8:30pm      
      at Davies Symphony Hall

The history of jazz and the tenor saxophone is embodied by the colossus Sonny Rollins. His probing solos are legendary, and he’s easily among the most influential jazz musicians alive. President Obama recently presented him with the nation’s highest artistic award, a Kennedy Center Honor.

      Friday, October 5, 8:00pm      
      at Grace Cathedral

The Sacred Space concerts have been an essential part our presenting since 1986. This fall, Branford Marsalis is performing solo, but matched with the 7-second echo of Grace Cathedral. Branford joins this longstanding SFJAZZ tradition and an esteemed list of saxophonists including Joe Henderson, Jackie McLean, Pharoah Sanders and Steve Lacy.

      Saturday, October 6, 8:00pm      
      at YBCA Forum

Saxophonist and clarinetist Don Byron defines eclecticism. He first played the San Francisco Jazz Festival in 1993 with his klezmer tribute to Mickey Katz, and now this musical chameleon returns with his back-to-the-roots New Gospel Quintet.

      Wednesday, October 10, 7:30pm      
      at Herbst Theatre

On Thelonious Monk’s birthday (10/10), we present Barry Harris, Jacky Terrasson and Alfredo Rodríguez — three generations of superb pianists carrying on the spirit of Monk. Barry Harris is the “voice of Monk,” a veteran who has a closer connection to Monk than any other living artist.

      Thursday, October 18, 7:30pm      
      at Herbst Theatre

Latin jazz trailblazers Jerry and Andy Gonzalez have never performed as a duo before, making this show an “only at SFJAZZ” event. They’re sharing a bill with another duo, the young Cuban pianist Elio Villafranca and percussionist Arturo Stable.

      Friday, October 26, 8:00pm      
      at Herbst Theatre

San Francisco’s own Mary Stallings is considered by many to be the top vocalist in jazz. She has been an integral part of SFJAZZ’s history, appearing numerous times since 1986. You always feel better after hearing Ms. Stallings sing, and we honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. She’s appearing with the masterful pianist Bill Charlap and his trio.

      Thursday, November 1, 8:00pm      
      at Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Making his third SFJAZZ appearance is Robert Glasper, a game-changing artist who incorporates modern pop and R&B sounds into his music.

      Friday, November 9, 8:00pm      
      at Davies Symphony Hall

Ornette Coleman has changed the course of jazz. He is an artist to whom the label “genius” has attached itself, and for good reason. In 1994 we presented the premiere of his controversial Tone Dialing, and he has performed four times since. He will be appearing with his quartet with two basses, which he debuted at SFJAZZ.

      Saturday, November 10, 8:00pm      
      at YBCA Forum

Another San Francisco jazz singer, Lavay Smith, has also performed numerous times for SFJAZZ. She and her band, the Red Hot Skillet Lickers, are keeping the swing of ’40s Kansas City alive.

      Sunday, December 2, 7:00pm      
      at Herbst Theatre

The Blind Boys of Alabama, founded in 1939, are the seminal gospel group in America. They are returning to rekindle their holiday gospel concert, which has brought the house down four previous times at SFJAZZ.