In addition to its outstanding lineup, the SFJAZZ Collective has been praised for its innovative approach to repertoire. Each year, the ensemble performs new arrangements of compositions by a modern jazz master and new compositions by the members, commissioned by SFJAZZ. Through this pioneering approach, honoring jazz history while championing the music’s up-to-the-minute directions, the Collective embodies SFJAZZ’s commitment to jazz as a living ever-relevant art form. After exploring the work of Ornette Coleman (2004), John Coltrane (2005), Herbie Hancock (2006), Thelonious Monk (2007), Wayne Shorter (2008), McCoy Tyner (2009), Horace Silver (2010), and Stevie Wonder (2011-2012), the Collective now turns its sights on legendary pianist and composer Chick Corea.
I've been looking forward to working on Chick's music with the Collective for a very long time. He is one of my biggest inspirations as a player and composer and his music has in many ways shaped the direction of jazz for the past 40 years. I'm sure that delving into his vast songbook will be an amazing experience for the band, and for our audiences,” said Zenón.
Simon adds, “Chick encompasses my definition of a true and complete artist: a master of his instrument and a prolific composer who continues to explore new arenas and break down barriers between musical genres. Without doubt, he has been and continues to be one of the strongest living musical forces of our time... a great source of inspiration.
Among the many giants in jazz history, none stands taller than Armando “Chick” Corea. While still in his twenties he developed an utterly unique signature sound, on both acoustic and electric keyboards. Quickly noticed by Miles Davis in the late ‘60s, Corea appeared on Filles de Kilimanjaro and Bitches Brew, two of the era’s landmark recordings. As a leader, Chick’s adventurous work with Return to Forever helped define the fusion movement of the ‘70s and introduced younger stars such as Al Di Meola and Stanley Clarke. Corea’s numerous collaborations include stunning duets with Herbie Hancock, Gary Burton and Bobby McFerrin, as well as historic groups with Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell, John McLaughlin, Hubert Laws, John Patitucci, Steve Gadd, Roy Haynes and dozens of others. Several of his compositions, including “Spain,” “La Fiesta” and “Windows” have become established standards in the jazz canon. Chick has been nominated for 52 Grammy Awards, winning 18 of them to date. Now 70, he continues to tour worldwide with an array of contemporary jazz projects.
Among the great saxophonists to emerge at the end of the 20th century, Puerto Rican tenor virtuoso David Sánchez is in a class by himself. Following studies under the great Kenny Barron at Rutgers, the saxophonist was selected by jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie to join his renowned United Nation Orchestra. Sánchez went on to become a one of the most celebrated instrumentalists in jazz, recording nine albums as a leader and winning a Latin Grammy Award for his 2004 Columbia orchestral session, Coral. The five-time Grammy nominee has performed with a roster of greats including Charlie Haden, Eddie Palmieri, Roy Haynes, Tom Harrell and countless others. In addition to his work as a performer, Sánchez has an impressive résumé as an educator, conducting master classes, workshops and residencies at the world’s top universities and conservatories. His latest album is the Concord release Ninety Miles, a project recorded in Cuba and co-led by trumpeter Christian Scott and fellow Collective member, vibraphonist Stefon Harris.
Jeff Ballard is one of the most original and inventive drummers in modern jazz. Raised in Santa Cruz, California, he cut his teeth in the Bay Area jazz scene before hitting the road with soul legend Ray Charles at the age of 25. He has since became a highly sought-after collaborator, working with an impressive cast of jazz luminaries including Kurt Rosenwinkel, Danilo Perez, Joshua Redman, Eddie Harris, Diane Schuur, Mike Stern and many others. Ballard’s seamless melding of jazz sensibility with rhythmic influences from around the world was displayed brilliantly as part of Chick Corea’s explosive Origin sextet and New Trio, with whom he performed for six years. Since 2002, Ballard has worked extensively with Fly, the eclectic trio he co-leads with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and bassist Larry Grenadier. In 2004, he again joined forces with Grenadier as a member of pianist Brad Mehldau’s vaunted trio – a high-profile group often compared to the timeless piano trios of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.
Launched in 2004 by SFJAZZ and named Small Group Ensemble of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2009, the SFJAZZ Collective is a workshop band unlike any other. Each member was selected to contribute his own unique sound and all are celebrated instrumentalists, outstanding composers and arrangers, and are highly recognized both as bandleaders and first-call sidemen. The Collective presents a global music perspective with musicians hailing from Israel (Cohen), New Zealand (Penman), Venezuela (Simon) and Puerto Rico (Zenón and Sánchez).
The idea for the Collective arose from discussions between SFJAZZ’s founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline, and saxophonist and original Collective member Joshua Redman. While deeply respectful of the origins and early traditions of jazz, Kline was concerned that the modern composers, from roughly the mid-20th-century to the present, were often overlooked in the public eye. Both Kline and Redman were eager to showcase, in a manner that would resonate with jazz aficionados and newcomers alike, the artistic continuum from modern masters to today’s new generation of players.
Past Collective lineups have featured luminaries including Joshua Redman, Bobby Hutcherson, Dave Douglas, Nicholas Payton, Joe Lovano, Josh Roseman, Renee Rosnes, Robert Hurst, Brian Blade and other jazz stars.
All of this work is documented through U.S. and international tours, as well as multi-CD sets recorded, produced and distributed by SFJAZZ. SFJAZZ Records has released eight previous limited-edition CD sets since 2004, as well as a concert DVD filmed at 2007’s Jazz à Vienne Festival in France. All recordings and more information on the SFJAZZ Collective and SFJAZZ can be found at sfjazz.org.
Founded in 1983, SFJAZZ is the largest nonprofit presenter of jazz and education programs in the western United States. SFJAZZ presents over 100 concerts a year to over 100,000 fans and is dedicated to advancing the art form of jazz and cultivating new audiences through innovative programming, including: The San Francisco Jazz Festival, SFJAZZ Spring Season, SFJAZZ Collective, SFJAZZ Summerfest, SFJAZZ Hotplate and SFJAZZ Education.
The SFJAZZ Center, a permanent home for SFJAZZ, is currently under construction. This remarkable new facility, located in San Francisco’s vibrant Hayes Valley neighborhood, will open on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21, 2013. The SFJAZZ Center will be a 35,000 square-foot transparent freestanding structure designed by renowned San Francisco architect Mark Cavagnero. With the SFJAZZ Center, jazz will take its place alongside major arts institutions such as the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet in the Civic Center performing arts district. Visit sfjazz.org to learn more about this exciting new development.