The San Francisco Jazz Collective will perform at the Mondavi Center today at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $12.50 for students.
Hailed by the New York Times as a “serious new jazz band,” the SF Jazz Collective performs an entirely new show every year. Their performances intend to remain relevant, innovative and faithful to both jazz’s ancient roots and its more modern elements.
Celebrating the contributions of funky ’50s jazz musician Horace Silver, as well as original compositions from the eight members, the performance will include debuts from Collective members Mark Turner, Avishai Cohen and Edward Simon. Returning jazz artists include Stefon Harris, Miguel Zenón, Robin Eubanks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland.
“Going to see the Collective is like going to New York and hitting every great jazz club in one night,” said Rob Tocalino, director of marketing at the Mondavi Center and former associate director of Marketing and Communications for SFJAZZ, in an e-mail interview. “Each one of these musicians is an absolute monster on his instrument. They all lead their own bands, they’re all incredibly talented composers, and we’re incredibly lucky to get them all in one room on the same night.”
The ensemble was created to shed more light on modern jazz, as they had observed that much more emphasis is put on jazz’s ancient “golden age.”
“If the mention of jazz makes you think of finger-snapping beatniks, this show will rapidly erase that image from your mind,” Tocalino said.
Tocalino said that the group is truly diverse, hailing from Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Venezuela, Israel and America. They grew up listening to a wide range of music, including hip-hop, salsa, rock and other popular music
Founded in 1983, the Collective presents over 100 performances per year to audiences of over 100,000. In order to foster talent, practice and creativity in their members, they set aside a few weeks per year for intensive jazz workshops. During this time they also mentor young aspiring jazz musicians.
Tocalino commented that it was truly remarkable that the band steps back from their chaotic touring schedules to rehearse, calling them a rarity in the jazz world.
“I remember one rehearsal where drummer Eric Harland was pushing himself to wrap his head around a particularly challenging rhythm that alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón had written,” Tocalino said. “There was some good-humored complaining on his part about how impossible the part was. Of course, when I saw their show later that week he had it nailed. That’s how good these guys are.”
Public relations representative for the ensemble Marshall Lamm said this is the seventh incarnation of the SF Jazz Collective.
“It’s the perfect introduction to jazz for beginners,” Lamm said. “The group can be described as a modern jam band.”
Tom Slabaugh, faculty director of the Aggie marching Band-Uh and lecturer in the music department, said that Horace Silver – the musician whose work the performance will feature – is influential in adding gospel music and folk music into the jazz medium. He described Silver’s hallmark tune “Song of my Father” as a beautiful up-tempo track with a gospel feel to it.
“Silver had a really strong influence on heart-bop jazz when he started in the ’50s,” Slabaugh said. “I personally adore his work, so I’m really looking forward to this performance.”
Accompanying the performance will be a limited edition deluxe CD containing videos of all the live performances. In addition, the collective has a DVD released from their 2007 concert at the Jazz a Vienne Festival in France.
“It’s going to be fun to hear all these different musicians coming together,” Slabaugh said. “It’s an eclectic mix; you’ve got winds, traditional quartets and jazz vibes.”
Tocalino also emphasized the opportunities student ticket prices give to the community.
“You’d barely get past the door at one of the jazz clubs in New York for that amount of money,” he said. “But to see eight of the greatest jazz musicians working today together on stage? I’d call that a steal.”
ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.