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To Commemorate Keystone Korner's 45th Anniversary, Producer Todd Barkan Hosts 3 All-star Bay Area Shows July 7-8

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The club most definitely had a transformational effect on the jazz scene of its day. The consistent inspiration and intensity of the classic live recordings made there continue to provide a living legacy we can all be proud of.
Todd Barkan
The great pianist/composer Mary Lou Williams referred to Keystone Korner as “the Birdland of the Seventies.” Art Blakey, Miles Davis, and Stan Getz all agreed that Keystone Korner was “the best jazz club in the world.” Producer and former Keystone proprietor Todd Barkan feels strongly that “the club most definitely had a transformational effect on the jazz scene of its day. The consistent inspiration and intensity of the classic live recordings made there continue to provide a living legacy we can all be proud of.”

On Friday and Saturday, July 7 and 8, Barkan will host an all-star Bay Area Celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the iconic North Beach jazz club Keystone Korner in Santa Cruz (Kuumbwa Jazz Center), Half Moon Bay (Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society), and San Francisco (Pier 23 Café).

Charles McPherson, Gary Bartz, Azar Lawrence, Benito Gonzalez, Mel Martin, Denny Zeitlin, Ray Drummond, Kenneth Nash, Juini Booth, Calvin Keys, singer Kenny Washington, {{Akira Tana, and Atsuko Hashimoto are among the artists who will be featured during the three performances.

Photographers Brian McMillen, Tom Copi, and Kathy Sloane are preparing a special Keystone Korner slide show to be enjoyed at all three venues.

“Keystone Korner was a place that I really liked to play, especially because it was a real jazz club operated by a clubowner who actually loved the music,” remembers the legendary saxophonist Charles McPherson. “It makes all the difference in the world in terms of setting the proper tone, vibe, and intimate and relaxed relationship between the musicians and the audience.” McPherson worked regularly at the Keystone during its storied eleven-year run (1972-1983) and headlined its final week from July 6-11, 1983, along with the George Cables Trio.

“It’s all about remarkable crossings,” reflects bassist Ray Drummond, who played an integral role in opening the new North Beach jazz club on July 7-8, 1972, as an anchor of the Michael White Quartet with Ed Kelly and Kenneth Nash. “I met Susan, my wife of over 44 years, there. Keystone Korner was—much like Bradley’s back in New York City—an absolutely indispensable part of the true jazz community. All kinds of musicians from all over the world looked forward to playing there. A very magical time and place, a big part of my life in this music.” As a 25-year-old pianist, Todd Barkan tried in late June 1972 to get a gig at the original Keystone Korner for the Latin jazz band he was working with at the time, Kwane & The Kwan-ditos. Then-clubowner Freddy Herrera told him that “I really don’t think your group will work for this room, but I am trying to sell this little joint and buy a much bigger rock venue in Berkeley. Why don't you buy this place so you can hire your own band?”

Barkan recalls that “I only had a little over $8,000 to my name at that time, but, to make a long story much shorter, I wound up buying the club for $5,000 down plus $400 a month until the total of $12,500 plus interest was paid off. It cost another $750 to transfer the beer license to my name. Two major benefit concerts at the Oakland Paramount Theater later—first with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones, then with the bands of George Benson and Grover Washington, Jr.—and we managed to buy a hard liquor license and a little full-service kitchen with which we could well serve all ages of jazz lovers.”

From its humble origins as a rock ’n’ blues bar serving keg beer next to a police station, Keystone Korner became a home away from home for a full spectrum of creative jazz players ranging from Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Randy Weston, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, George Benson, Art Blakey, Sonny Stitt, Jack DeJohnette, McCoy Tyner, Azar Lawrence, Illinois Jacquet, Betty Carter, Stan Getz, Horace Silver, Pat Martino, Jimmy Smith, Eddie Harris, Joe Henderson, Mongo Santamaria, Les McCann, Grover Washington Jr., Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Phil Woods, George Coleman, Billy Higgins, Esther Phillips, Tete Montoliu, Flora Purim & Airto, and Toots Thielemans, to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Gary Bartz & NTU Troop, Tony Williams Lifetime, John Abercrombie, Lonnie Liston Smith, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Henry Threadgill, Arthur Blythe, Sun Ra, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

“The fact that I was able to share so many bright moments with the Bay Area’s jazz community is one of the most wonderful blessings of my life in this music,” Barkan continues. “I could not any more deeply appreciate the generous opportunity that Tim Jackson, Barbara Douglas Richling, and Flicka McGurrin and all the participating artists are providing for me to try and share a bit more with one of the best audiences that ever graced our music.”

Friday, July 7, 7:00 pm

Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, 831-427-2227, $30/35

Saturday, July 8, 2:00 pm

Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, 311 Mirada Drive, Half Moon Bay, 650-726-4143, Advance: Adults $45/35, Students $25 (25 & under with ID), Door: Adults $50, Students $30

Saturday, July 8, 7:00-11:00 pm

Pier 23 Cafe, On the Embarcadero at the foot of Greenwich, San Francisco, 415-362-5125, No advance tickets / $10 cover charge

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