THE 17th ANNUAL SAN FRANCISCO JAZZ FESTIVAL: With incredible stamina, the San Francisco Jazz Festival ground to a halt on Sunday, November 7, 1999 with a charismatic performance by Compay Segundo y sus Muchachos. With classics from the golden age of the son, the 92-year old singer, composer, and tresero charmed the crowd with sounds reminiscent of the 1920s in Santiago de Cuba.
With 34 performances in 18 days, the staff and crew of the SFJF, with the tireless Randell Kline at the helm, pulled off a celebration of jazz and related musics with world-class efficiency. In addition to Charlie Haden's Quartet West, there were exquisite offerings by Louie Bellson, Gerald Wilson, Chick Corea, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, David Murray, Kenny Wheeler, Kenny Werner, Jackie McLean, Steve Lacy, Paolo Conti, Jimmy Smith, Etta James, Virginia Rodrígues, Gato Barbieri, Brad Melhadau, and our own resident treasures.
A fresh breeze of attention to música Latina ignited with the S.R.O. on Saturday, October 23 with "Kings of Latin Jazz: Salsa Dance Party" at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium featuring Israel López "Cachao," Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente. On the Latin tip this was the biggest showcase of Brazilian, Latin jazz, and Afro-Caribbean music ever.
From the moment the doors opened the place was buzzing with lines circling around Grove St. to get in. When Cachao appeared, the 3000-plus venue was just filling up. I rushed the stage to stand in front and experience close-up this "maestro de maestros." I was thoroughly energized by the caliber of presentation from this 81-year old giant of Cuban music. On a gorgeous sounding acoustic arco-bass, his notes thumped clearly on Descarga Cubana, setting a potent tumbao.
With a superb band that included Alfredo Valdés Jr. on piano and Danilo Lozano on flute, they swung through the maestro's greatest hits including a cool rendition of the 1926 Ignacio Piñeiro classic Yambu. Riffing between coros of Ave Maria Morena, Cachao both plucked, beat and bowed his axe with masterful technique and articulation. He is truly the Pablo Casals of the string bass with an unmistakable resonance. Knowing the audience came to party, Cachao left them drenched in sweat with the comparsa La Chamalonga.
With the house now jam-packed, Eddie Palmieri's band was up next. A powerhouse band included the superb rhythm section of José Clausell (timbales), Paoli Mejias (congas), Javier Oquendo (bongo), and Joe Santiago (bass), and left you struck by...