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Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

San Francisco — Pianists Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner highlight the 21st annual San Francisco Jazz Festival, which takes place from October 23rd through November 9th. Heralded as "probably the best Jazz festival in the World" by The London Observer, the event is a two-week series of individual concerts, held throughout the City at some of its premiere venues.

Tyner, a member of John Coltrane's famous '60s quartet and an acclaimed leader of his own combos, will open this year's fest at the intimate Herbst Theatre on October 23rd. He is one of nearly a dozen national and international master keyboardists scheduled to appear. The lineup includes groundbreaking avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor (Oct. 30); the Keith Jarrett Trio (Nov. 11), with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, who are commemorating 20 years of playing together; Hammond B-3 organ virtuosos Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco, who will be "dueling" it out at Bimbo's 365 Club (Nov. 6); and Spanish Flamenco superstar Chano Dominguez (Nov. 5).

Among the divas appearing this year is San Francisco's own Grammy Lifetime Achievement award winner Etta James, one of the great blues singers (Nov. 1); jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson (Nov. 8), who will be accompanied by pianist Ramsey Lewis; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Mavis Staples (in a gospel tribute to Mahalia Jackson at Grace Cathedral on November 24); and Buena Vista Social Club vocalist Omara Portuando (November 25).

The festival will have an international flavor, thanks to appearances by Italian trumpeters Paolo Fresco and Enrico Rava; the ensemble Doctor 3; and two duos of clarinet and accordion, Gabriele Mirabassi & Luciano Biodini (October. 25) and Gianluigi Trovesi & Gianni Coscia (October 31), who will perform at the majestic Palace of the Legion of Honor. Other artists from Greece, Brazil, Africa, and Cuba will also be part of the international mix.

Also of note: Bill Frisell & the Intercontinentals and Marc Ribot & Los Cubanos Postizos (Nov. 7); Maria Muldaur and Dan Hicks and Jazztet Noir (Nov. 2); and Ruth Brown and Joe Louis Walker (October 26).

Bay Area jazz critic Phil Elwood will receive the festival's "SF Beacon Award" for his many decades of spreading the word about jazz via articles in the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. Honoring Elwood on Nov. 3 will be a range of Bay Area-based musicians including Mel Martin's Bebop & Beyond Quartet and the Denny Zeitin Trio.

The Kronos Quartet will premiere Terry Riley's "Sun Rings" (October 24 and 25), which the festival organizers describe as "an audio-visual voyage into the solar system, combining Riley's haunting and intensely moving score — performed on-stage by Kronos-with live-triggered sound-samples of solar winds and other stellar phenomena, all set to the awe-inspiring visual accompaniment of astral images gathered by Voyager spacecraft."

The San Francisco Jazz Festival, first held in 1982, is produced by the not-for-profit SF Jazz organization, which is dedicated to the appreciation of jazz through education and promotion. The festival has grown from a small-scale local event into one of the world's most respected annual gatherings of jazz professionals.

For a detailed concert schedule, as well as information on venue locations and special hotel rates for festival attendees, visit the SF Jazz Web site. — Nicole Cohen [Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2003]


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