Yoshi's Boosts Bay Area Jazz Scene with New Club in S.F.


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The Bay Area jazz landscape will change Wednesday.

That's when Yoshi's in San Francisco has its grand opening, hosting two shows per night, seven days a week - the same number of concerts as its already successful Jack London Square location in Oakland.

The new venue - anchor of the $72 million Fillmore Heritage Center, a 13-story development that also includes a restaurant, gallery-museum and housing - will be expected, from the get-go, to offer a musical experience that equals or surpasses that delivered by any jazz club in the nation.

We'll begin to answer that Wednesday night when drummer Roy Haynes and an impressive group of other musicians take the club's stage.

The bigger question: Can the Bay Area jazz scene support the addition of a club of this size?

The answer, according to those with knowledge about the scene: Most likely, yes.

If the new 417-seat venue does anywhere near capacity business, which isn't an absurd assumption, it translates to about 5,600 patrons each week. Add in the somewhat smaller Oakland spot, which holds 330, and the combined numbers for Yoshi's could draw some 10,000 fans per week.

Those numbers might seem daunting to other, smaller jazz promoters in the area. But many people with vested interests in the Bay Area jazz community seem to have positive reactions to the new club, arguing that Yoshi's SF could attract new listeners to the art form and, as a result, increase attendance at smaller clubs around the Bay.

“The new Yoshi's can only help add to a great scene," says Berkeley's Scott Amendola, a Grammy-nominated drummer known for his work with guitarist Charlie Hunter and various ensembles. “Why not? Another music venue that supports improvised music? Bring it on!'

“San Francisco proper has not had a major jazz club since the closing of Kimball's in the '90s. That's surprising," he said. “So it's about time, and I'm glad it's Yoshi's."

The non-profit SFJazz holds spring and fall festivals in venues throughout the city, but, for the most part, San Francisco area fans have needed to visit Yoshi's Oakland to get their fix of, say, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Charlie Hunter and Mike Stern.

The new state-of-the-art San Francisco club will feature all of those artists, plus the likes of the Count Basie Orchestra and Arturo Sandoval, over the next few months.

So, the idea that Yoshi's SF will hurt existing jazz venues in the area probably isn't a valid concern, says Kim Nalley, jazz vocalist and owner of North Beach's 135-seat Jazz at Pearl's.

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