New SF Jazz Center opens


The building used to be an auto repair shop and now it is a glitzy, glamorous showcase for all that jazz.

On its first night, musicians played to a sold out crowd. Some of the jazz stars that played are: Esperanza Spaulding, the first jazz artist to win a Grammy as best new artist, the legendary McCoy Tyner on piano, Grammy-winning saxophonist Joe Lovano, and on drums Eric Harland, a member of the SF Jazz Collective.

"It's nice to have place dedicated to jazz, where you can play music and have fun, and jazz still feels alive. It's not dead," said Harland.

Musicians say there is no place, other than Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, designed with the acoustics and sound system to enhance the beauty of their sound.

"You want people to feel invited into the music and so that's what I love about this room," said Harland.

The auditorium seats 700 and is the heart of a three story environmentally-friendly complex, which cost around $64 million. All but about 10 percent in federal funds, came from private donations.

"We built this building in the worst economic times in our lifetime have experience and it's a testament to the extraordinary generosity of the Bay Area to make this happen," said executive director Randall Kline.

Monday on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday the center threw open its doors for a free public party celebrating a new day for SF Jazz. It was founded back in 1983 and concerts were held in various venues. Now it has a home of its own.

Comedian Bill Cosby will be the emcee for the night's glitzy opener, which salutes a uniquely American art form.

"Jazz is America's music. It's our heritage, this is our gift to the world. Where else can you have this?" said Harland.

The concert began at 8 p.m. Other performers include Chick Corea, Pete Escovedo, Bobby Hutcherson, and John Handy. Wednesday's event is sold out, but tickets are available for the rest of the week.

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