[JPL] Yoshi's S.F. changes its repertoire

Jazz Promo Services jazzpromo at earthlink.net
Sat Jan 10 13:42:15 EST 2009


Yoshi's S.F. changes its repertoire
Jesse Hamlin, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Like everybody else, Yoshi's has been roughed up by the recession and credit

The Bay Area's premier jazz club, which opened an elegant San Francisco
venue in late 2007 to complement its longtime Oakland operation, has seen
its music and restaurant business drop 20 percent over the past year. In
addition to losing several hundred thousand dollars, it couldn't get private
funding to pay off the huge cost overruns on the construction of its
Fillmore Street project.

Things looked pretty bleak until last month, when the San Francisco
Redevelopment Agency gave Yoshi's - a centerpiece of the city's ambitious
plan to revive the once-swinging Fillmore District - a $1.5 million
emergency loan. It came on top of a $1.3 million loan the agency gave the
club in September, and the original $4.4 million long-term loan it provided
to Yoshi's to develop the 28,000-square-foot space on the ground floor of
the Fillmore Heritage Center, a 12-story condo tower that also houses the
1300 on Fillmore restaurant and a small jazz museum.

"We're hanging on, and we're going to hang on," said Yoshi's owner Kaz
Kajimura. Getting the new loan "was a tremendous relief." He admits that the
thought of closing one of the locations had crossed his mind, but he was
encouraged that big crowds turned out last month at both clubs. Kajimura
expects to pay off creditors - including some who have filed lawsuits
against the club - as soon as the city cuts him a check. And to bring in a
wider audience, Yoshi's is diversifying its musical program; rather than
showcasing jazz at both clubs, Yoshi's San Francisco will feature a broader
mix of contemporary and traditional music from around the world, regional
American roots music and genre-crossing artists who draw on rock, soul and
other sounds.

Last year, jazz stars like Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter played both rooms
over the course of a week, sometimes featuring different bands. It was a
promising plan, but the audience wasn't big enough.

"It wasn't working. Yoshi's San Francisco was cannibalizing Yoshi's in
Oakland," said Kajimura, who has hired Bill Kubeczko from Minneapolis' Cedar
Cultural Center to program the San Francisco club. Peter Williams will
continue booking jazz at the Oakland venue.

Kubeczko, who programmed a wide range of music and dance in nightlife-rich
Minneapolis, had been hearing musicians like guitarist Bill Frisell rave
about Yoshi's for years. "It's got an international reputation," said
Kubeczko, a 53-year-old from Chicago who knows his blues and jazz but also
grew up on the San Francisco sounds of the Dead, Quicksilver Messenger
Service and Mother Earth. Since moving here a few weeks ago, he's plunged
into the local music scene, ears open to fresh talent.

Kubeczko, who wants to shift the programming gradually, has booked the
Portland-based Irish musician Kevin Burke for Tuesday and the French
Gypsy-klezmer band Les Yeux Noirs the next night. Next month he's bringing
in Morocco's Master Musicians of Jajouka, led by Bachir Attar, and Nation
Beat, a Brooklyn band that mixes up Brazilian grooves, New Orleans funk,
Nashville fiddling and whatever else strikes it. Other artists he'd like to
book for multinight runs include Bruce Hornsby, Doc Watson, the dancing
Senegalese singer Baaba Maal and the Langston Hughes Project.

"We're still going to be doing jazz at Yoshi's San Francisco, but it won't
be the main focus," said Kubeczko, who aims to widen the musical scope but
"respect the jazz history of Yoshi's and this neighborhood." He wants to get
to know the people who run Slim's, the Fillmore, Cafe Du Nord and other
local venues and work "in the spirit of cooperation rather than competition.
My hope is that given the economy, we can all survive and flourish."

E-mail Jesse Hamlin at jhamlin at sfchronicle.com.


This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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