Larry Vuckovich 70th Birthday Celebration at Jazz at Pearl's, 256 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, Friday-Sunday, December 8-10. Shows at 8:00 & 10:00. Doors open at 7:30.
(San Francisco, CA) San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has named Friday, December 8th, 2006, Larry Vuckovich Day" in San Francisco. By so doing, Mayor Newsom is honoring the 70th birthday of a legendary San Francisco-based jazz pianist, bandleader and concert presenter. Vuckovich will kick off the celebrations with a series of weekend concerts, Friday through Sunday, December 8-10, at Jazz at Pearl's nightclub in San Francisco's historic North Beach District. Vuckovich, of course, was a major force during the heyday of the North Beach jazz scene of the 60's and 70's.
Onstage with Vuckovich will be longtime collaborators Buca Necak (bass), Akira Tana (drums) and Hector Lugo (Latin percussion). The pianist is expecting guest performers to stop in throughout the weekend.
Over a 50-year career, Vuckovich has performed extensively in San Francisco, as well as in New York and Europe, playing alongside such jazz giants as Don Byas, Elvin Jones, Art Farmer, Mel Torme, Red Norvo and Cab Calloway. He has played a major role in supporting San Francisco jazz - honoring its glorious past and supporting its current struggle to survive - by playing at and presenting major concerts honoring those who have enhanced the San Francisco jazz scene.
Herb Caen called Vuckovich, whose career has stretched from the City's '50s bebop era to today, a demon pianist" and wrote about him often. Celebrities, from jazz to Broadway to Hollywood, sat in when he presided at the Grand Hyatt's Bosendorfer grand piano in Club 36 above Union Square in the early '80s and later in the '90s. There, he hosted visiting musicians, San Francisco Jazz Festival events, and tribute concerts, including a Bop City Night honoring the famed after-hours club, its popular owner Jimbo Edwards, and the Bop City musicians then still on the scene.
Classically trained, Vuckovich became part of the SF jazz scene soon after his family's arrival here in the '50s, having been granted political asylum from post-war Communist Yugoslavia. He had heard jazz on Armed Forces Radio and Voice of America. To Vuckovich, jazz meant freedom. He loved warmth, harmonic structure and swinging rhythms. He also fell in love with the City.
Vuckovich learned jazz from the San Francisco greats and paid them back by featuring them in tribute concerts he directed at the Grand Hyatt, Kimball's East and West, and the Napa Valley Jazz Festival. Musicians so honored have included trumpeter Allen Smith (Goodman/Ellington), vocalist Mary Stallings (Basie), bassist Vernon Alley (Basie/Hampton), saxophonist Chuck Travis (Dorsey Brothers) and the phenomenal blind clarinetist, Vince Catolica.
Often a pioneer, Vuckovich became part of San Francisco television musical history as house pianist for KGO-TV's AM San Francisco (1974-84), accompanying guests like Rosemary Clooney, Kenny Burrell, Cab Calloway and Tony Bennett. He led the studio trio for KGO-TV AM Weekend with Sonny Buxton, featuring artists including Milt Jackson, Pepper Adams, Harold Land and Julian Priester. Joining Pat Nacey and the San Francisco Friends of Jazz, Vuckovich presented San Francisco jazz legends at Fillmore Auditorium concert series. Earlier this year, he was honored as a San Francisco jazz pioneer at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Fillmore Heritage Center, now under construction.
In his early 20s, the pianist played with such San Francisco jazz stars as Vince Guaraldi, John Handy, Brew Moore and Jon Hendricks in the vibrant '50s & '60s bebop era. Then in the late '70s, he joined Hendricks' hit show Evolution of the Blues at the Broadway, and led the Keystone Korner trio for five years. Before and after, he took career-making detours to Europe, where he worked with Dexter Gordon, Philly Joe Jones and many more, and then to New York, where he played for five years with many jazz greats at such top clubs as Village Vanguard, Birdland, and Blue Note, and played solo piano at the prestigious Parker Meridien. New York Jazz piano master Barry Harris acknowledged Vuckovich's Bay Area jazz roots, calling him a premier West Coast pianist."
Since returning to San Francisco in the early '90s, Vuckovich has continued to pay tribute to the great San Francisco legends and provide concert opportunities for upcoming, as well as veteran, jazz musicians in the Bay Area. He also has released five new CDs, 2000-2006, including his acclaimed current CD, Street Scene, which hit #1 on XM Satellite Radio this past June and July, the Top 10 of JazzWeek jazz radio and #6 on college charts, showing his wide and enduring audience appeal. He lives in Calistoga with his wife, producer-singer Sanna Craig, has a son Alexi Vuckovich, a SF State University classical piano student, and a stepson, jazz guitarist Josh Workman of El Cerrito.