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sfjazz member perspectives:
What SFJAZZ means To Me

March 1, 2023 | by Greg Roensch, SFJAZZ Member

Monsieur Periné at SFJAZZ Center, 12/22. (photo by Scott Chernis)

As we celebrate our 10th Anniversary at the SFJAZZ Center, we are expanding beyond the journalists and writers we ordinarily feature in the magazine to include the voices of SFJAZZ Members like you —  the audiences and supporters whose perspectives have guided the evolution of the organization since the beginning. This month, we hear from longtime member Greg Roensch.

It dawned on me, after attending Stanley Clarke’s tribute to Chick Corea (which was part of the SFJAZZ Center tenth anniversary celebration), that the tenth anniversary of the SFJAZZ Center coincides with my tenth anniversary of being an SFJAZZ member. Ten years. How the musical time has flown, I thought, while also reflecting on how grateful I am that the SFJAZZ Center has become my go-to venue not only for jazz but for all types of music.

Stanley Clarke N 4EVER, 1/13/23. (photo by Rick Swig)

The thing I love most about SFJAZZ is the variety of musical offerings. When I think of jazz, my mind goes first to Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. I’ve been fortunate to hear many wonderful tributes to these legends at the SFJAZZ Center. That said, I’m not one who likes to be pigeonholed when it comes to my musical tastes, so I’ll also say that another of my favorites is Mose Allison. Some might argue that Mose’s music isn’t jazz, but to me he’s a jazz-blues-singer-songwriter supreme – a musician who Pete Townshend once described as “a jazz sage.” What I love about Mose Allison’s music is what I love about SFJAZZ, which is that neither sticks to a formula of what jazz is nor needs to be.

When I look back on my ten years of concerts at the SFJAZZ Center, my mind skips from some of my personal favorites (Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, esperanza spalding, Rhiannon Giddens) to artists I hadn’t heard about before discovering them at SFJAZZ (Petra Haden, Giulia Valle, Monsieur Periné, Marcus Shelby, Zoë Keating). I’ve also been fortunate to catch shows featuring up-and-coming musicians who, through serendipitous circumstances, I’ve become creative collaborators with (Jules Leyhe, Andrew Dixon). All of these concerts, along with so many others, have given me a greater appreciation not just of jazz but of music in general.

Listening Party with author Robin D.G. Kelley, 10/5/22. (photo by Scott Chernis)

Something else I’ve enjoyed immensely at SFJAZZ are the listening parties (free to members). It’s been such a treat to hear the casual conversations on stage with luminaries such as Angela Davis, Laurie Anderson, and Rosanne Cash. One of my favorite listening parties was with Ravi Coltrane, where he discussed the release of Kirtan: Turiya Sings, an album by his mother Alice Coltrane. From the instant I heard a selection from this meditative album, I needed to hear more. Indeed, this album has been in heavy rotation on my stereo since that day. (You can now watch Listening Parties with Jason Moran, Kid Koala and more On-Demand by going here. The upcoming Rosanne Cash Listening Party on 3/9 will be broadcast live.)

I want to give a huge shoutout to SFJAZZ for including poetry in the mix (and, if I could be so bold, I’d encourage the programmers to include more). I first learned about important voices like Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Tongo Eisen-Martin thanks to SFJAZZ.

I’ll also give major props to SFJAZZ for cranking up the innovation during the pandemic lockdown. Thanks to the online Fridays at Five program (now evolved into Fridays Live), I enjoyed watching and listening to world-class musicians from home. Two of my most memorable online shows were Laurie Anderson and Tammy L. Hall (from a 2018 concert that I attended) and the remarkable ACS Trio (featuring Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lynn Carrington, and the late, great Geri Allen). We’re so fortunate to be able to watch (and rewatch) these and so many other virtuosic performances. Thank you, SFJAZZ.

One thing I know about SFJAZZ is that no matter what your musical taste, SFJAZZ has something for you. If you check out the calendar of upcoming shows and don’t see anything familiar, I encourage you to take a chance on something new, something you’ve never heard about. That’s what I’ve done many times at SFJAZZ, including last year when I was blown away by Kid Koala’s The Storyville Mosquito, which turned out to be one of the most creative multimedia performances I’ve seen at SFJAZZ or anywhere.

I’ll leave off by saying thank you to all the performers I’ve been fortunate to see and hear at SFJAZZ during the last ten years. Huge thanks also to the staff for making SFJAZZ such an amazing venue. Congratulations on an extraordinary first ten years at the SFJAZZ Center. I can’t wait to see what you’re cooking up for next season and beyond.

Greg Roensch (photo by Richard Osborn)

Greg Roensch is a writer, a native San Franciscan, and an SFJAZZ member. Check out https://gregroensch.com/ to learn more about Greg and his work.

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