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Sunday, June 16, 2024

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Arts + CultureMusic3 must-see shows from SFJAZZ's smoking summer schedule

3 must-see shows from SFJAZZ’s smoking summer schedule

The venue has 90+ concerts in the wings over the next three months—check out this hot trio of picks.

Summer 2024 at SFJAZZ—featuring more than 90 concerts across both the 41st Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival, Jun 5-16, and SFJAZZ Summer Sessions, Jul 11-Aug 18—looks to prove that the real sound action for San Francisco happens indoors. 

Turn up for La Doña’s femmeton (June 5) and Oscar Peterson’s “The Africa Suite” (June 12). Get lit for Shabaka’s spiritual cosmic jazz (June 13) and Sal’s Greenhouse Oakland funk and soul (June 16). Dust off your comfy trainers for the Titans of Groove Ivan Neville with Dumpstaphunk (June 16) and prick up your ears for the youngins with things to prove, such as rising vocalist Ekep Nkwelle (June 14). 

The Robert Miner Auditorium within the center holds up to 700 attendees in theater-style seats, with taller bar-type seating accommodations in the balcony, setting the proper mood for the global top-tier musicians featured in that acoustically tuned venue. Seats above and behind the stage are available too.

But I gotta tell ya, it’s the Joe Henderson Lab, the smaller, ground-level venue, that holds about 100 attendees, with its stackable chairs, that feels accessible, funky, and gets music fans that small club, close to the performers’ energy type of feel, that can’t be fabricated, only experienced.

Add to the fact those floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, where pedestrians outside can peer in on a ripper of a sax solo, or you as patrons can catch the bizarre weather patterns happening on the street, synching with a fierce soundtrack of ambient rhythms happening.

SFJAZZ has branded this performance space, as an open invitation for bands that may be jazz-adjacent, therefore making Joe Henderson Lab that gateway place where new jazz fans can grow at their own pace. It’s for sure, a dynamite spot for Friday night listening of any kind. 

With a full slate of virtuosos and improvisers, new upstarts, and standard bearers performing all summer long, let us guide you to a trio of burning shows, worth your valuable time this summer.

With things kicking off June 5, prepare for your warm weather listening to be in a constant state of percolating tempo…

LAKECIA BENJAMIN & PHOENIX / JAMES BRANDON LEWIS TRIO, MINER AUDITORIUM, JUNE 7

Performing on one bill that any music aficionado would be anxious and excited to see, Lakecia Benjamin & Phoenix are two of the most exciting young saxophonists in jazz right now. Benjamin, the accomplished musician and composer from New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, is known for her firm grasp of melding soul and hip-hop into the previous incarnations of jazz, served last year as the 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival artist-in-residence and gracing the covers of Downbeat, UK Jazz Times, and the New York Times Arts section.

Last year, James Brandon Lewis, a CalArts graduate, who is known for his exploits of adding gospel, blues, and R&B into the brimstone and fire arrangements of  John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Sonny Rollins led his power trio lineup into free jazz garage punk territory in the Joe Henderson Lab during Noise Pop. Nearly burning down the space to a crisp. Smelting jazz standards with the wit and awe of making the sax sound like it was breathing backward, giving the impression that vinyl was being queued in reverse on the turntable between the teasing of jazz standards by John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. 

Mang! SF JAZZ has curated an evening of must-see and hear performances that speak to the future of this always-changing genre.

Grab tix here.

SAL’S GREENHOUSE, JOE HENDERSON LAB, JUNE 16

There is a legacy, a standard—a bar set in (heh) Stone if you call yourself a funk band per se from Oakland.

It’s a heavily traveled road, Bro. Sly and The Family Stone, Lydia Pense with Cold Blood, and Tower of Power are bands who did the damn thing so hard, raw, and to the highest degree, putting The Town on the map, forever.

So with that legacy swirling in the ether, a band like Sal’s Greenhouse, an eight-piece outfit led by the pistol of a dynamic vocalist and baritone saxophonist Sally Green, musically says “eff it” and deals out an updated and elevated version of that East Bay legacy.

As with all funk bands, you gotta deal it like you mean it live, and Sal Greenhouse’s is full of that plucky bravado, gangster rock-funk amalgam (with trumpet blaring over the top a la very Cynthia Robinson from Sly and The Family Stone) and sounds like they could blow the doors off any mid-major venue in the Bay or joyfully fill a local corner bar with that Friday night, thank God I don’t have to work tomorrow, type salve.

I predict they will turn the Joe Henderson Lab into a party within 30 seconds of hitting the stage.

Bay-Area funk does play on.

Grab tix here.

BRANDON COLEMAN, JOE HENDERSON LAB, JULY 20

Hustling hot funk throughout of a vocoder? It should be perceived as the quintessential hat tip to the late Roger Troutman. But buddy, it’s merely one faction of what Brandon Coleman, who plays keys for the mighty Kamasi Washington’s tour band, does in live performance.

He wastes no time showcasing his genre versatility by stitching together threads from jazz, disco, boogie, R&B, electro, and soul, on his solo album endeavors.

And  I can attest, for I saw it with mine own ears, witnessed in person, that playful nature on stage between Washington and Coleman, among many other players—he’s even given the nickname “Professor Boogie.” 

Dude earned it too.

But that Swiss army knife flexibility is all business for Coleman. It’s set the artist to collaborate with Ciara to Mulatu Astatke and Childish Gambino to Shuggie Otis… but R&B icon Babyface? 

“Those experiences shaped the way I hear and appreciate music.” 

Be ready for a whole universe of music from this wide-spanning artist, taking Jazz through all its locations.

Grab tix here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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