This morning in Herbst Theatre SFJAZZ presented the first event in their Family Matinee series. The performance was hosted by Director of Education Rebecca Mauleón, and music was provided the Marcus Shelby Trio, Shelby on bass, Joe Warner on piano, and Teodros Avery on tenor saxophone. The topic was Sonny Rollins, whom many would describe as today’s most distinguished (to which others would probably add “influential” or “creative”) living jazz musician.
The Family Matinee series was designed for elementary school students, but it is open to music fans of all ages and definitely has something for everybody. The one-hour offering focuses on live performance but also makes time for questions from the audience and, as the occasion allows (as this one did), audience participation. Today’s performance featured five of Rollins’ compositions, most (if not all) of which are now recognized as standards; and the audience participation involved giving rhythm instruments to a selection of kids in the audience and, under Mauleón’s direction, having them set the beat for “St. Thomas” with supporting clapping from the rest of the audience. The remaining selections were “Blue Seven,” “Valse Hot” (which Rollins first performed with Clifford Brown), “Airegin” (reverse spelling for “Nigeria”), and “Pent-up House.”
After being introduced by Mauleón, Shelby did most of the talking. Over the course of the event, he profiled Rollins as a person; but the real emphasis was on the music. Therefore, he made it a point to introduce each piece by setting it in a what-to-listen-for context; and one could see that he found just the right level for communicating with his audience. Since Avery was the sax in the group, it was up to him to convey a sense of Rollins not only through the notes but also through his particularly sonorous style. That style is easygoing without being relaxed, seeking out eccentric twists to both the rhythmic patterns and an interplay between gliding stepwise melodies and off-kilter intervallic leaps.
It is also important to note that pianist Warner is an alumnus of the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Orchestra. As a result, each selection made for a fascinating blend of past (Rollins’ composition), present (Shelby’s leadership), and future (Warner representing the next generation of performers). Since jazz, like any other form of music, is all about the making, this was an event designed to cultivate the youngest of listeners and to encourage those who aspire to be future performers. At the same time the program served to preview the performance that Rollins would bring to SFJAZZ.
This concert will take place tomorrow, September 30, at 8:30 p.m. in Davies Symphony Hall (box office and main entrance on the south side of Grove Street between Franklin Street and Van Ness Avenue). Ticket prices are $30, $45, $65, and $95 for premium seating; but not very many tickets remain. The full calendar for the 30th Anniversary San Francisco Jazz Festival has its own Web page on the SFJAZZ Web site. Tickets may be purchased online through the event page for this concert, which includes a hyperlink to a seat map. They may also be purchased by calling 866-920-5299, and SFJAZZ members have a special number at 415-788-7353. Those interested in membership are invited to consult the Membership Benefits Web page, which both provides information and enables joining and renewing.