Friday, February 15, 2013

Mitch Marcus Plays Joe Henderson at SFJAZZ

A new performing space at the SFJAZZ Center called the Joe Henderson Lab was christened last night by the young saxophone player Mitch Marcus above playing the entire legendary 1965 Blue Note recording, Inner Urge, by Joe Henderson.

The painting of Joe Henderson above was commissioned for the Lab, since he was an integral part of the SFJAZZ Festival for decades before his death in 2001. Henderson was born in Ohio in 1937, became a noted saxophone player on the East Coast in the 1960s after a stint in the Army, and moved to San Francisco in 1971 where he became a teacher, bandleader and continued recording.

The small, glass-enclosed room on the ground floor along Franklin Street is another acoustical miracle for SFJAZZ Director Randall Kline above, thanks to acoustician Sam Berkow. He used a floating floor, ceiling and double-paned glass to banish all sound from Franklin Street which is running alongside, while giving pedestrians and drivers a full glimpse of a performance.

For the Hotplate Festival concerts this weekend, the room is set up like a bar, with stand-up accommodation only around moveable cocktail tables facing the band. Since the cost of these one-hour sets is only $10 and you can bring in drinks from the lobby, it seems an eminently practical setup.

Mitch Marcus is from the Bay Area but has moved to The Big Apple, which is a smart move for a professional performing artist. He was joined by electric guitarist Mike Abraham, bassist George Ban-Weiss, and drummer Jeff Marrs. Even though we were all standing and the music was subtly, superbly amplified, it almost felt like listening to a serious classical chamber music concert. It was an interesting mixture of playing from notated scores and memory while maintaining an aura of improvisation. Strictly as a musical performance, it was astonishingly good.

There are three sets a night this weekend, at 7PM, 9PM and 10:30, and I'd recommend you check the place out. Tonight Josh Jones plays Ray Barretto, Tiffany Austin sings Ella Fitzgerald tunes on Saturday, and Mike Olmos plays Freddie Hubbard on Sunday.

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