SFJAZZ Founder Shares Views on Spiritual Transport

SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline may not be an avid ferry rider, but he certainly appreciates the relaxed and leisurely pace of ferry transport.


Published: September, 2017


SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline may not be an avid ferry rider, but he certainly appreciates the relaxed and leisurely pace of ferry transport. Perfect, we might add, for streaming jazz while taking in the stunning waterfront views.


SFJAZZ presents more than 350 concerts a year to more than 150,000 fans. Located at 201 Franklin Street in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, the LEED Gold certified, award-winning, three-story SFJAZZ Center—designed by noted San Francisco-based architect Mark Cavagnero—offers 35,000 square feet of jazzy space. The structure, debuted in 2013, features the state-of-the-art Robert N. Miner Auditorium, which has flexible seating from 350 to 700; the 100-seat multi-purpose Joe Henderson Lab; rehearsal spaces; a digital learning lab; South at SFJAZZ, a bar/café from renowned chef Charles Phan of the Slanted Door; a retail shop/box office; and the SFJAZZ administrative offices.


Bay Crossings: To give you some idea of just the kind of trivia our readers enjoy, a subscriber recently wrote in that she was fascinated by the Andrew Sister’s Ferry Boat Serenade (1940) written by Harold Adamson and set to the music of Eldo di Lazzaro. The original lyrics were penned by Mario Panzeri for a song recorded in Italian (La Piccinina) and Mr. di Lazzaro. Can you suggest any other jazz-flavored number that might appeal to our audience?  


Randall Kline: SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director and bassist Christian McBride (who also hosts NPR’s Jazz Night in America) will perform on October 5 at the SFJAZZ Center. The program consists of Dvořák’s String Quintet No. 2 in G Major as well as Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major, D.667 (“Trout”), with artists including: violinist Ian Swensen, the Isaac Stern Chair of Violin at San Francisco Conservatory; Evan Price, violinist with the Hot Club of San Francisco and Turtle Island Quartet; Carla Maria Rodrigues, principal violist of the SF Opera Orchestra; cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, founding member of the Cypress String Quartet; and GRAMMY-nominated pianist Robert Koenig.


BC: The structural values contained in the three-story SFJAZZ Center seem almost nautical. Do you care to reflect on this observation, or suggest another aspect of the Center that is evocative of ferry travel?  


Kline: We built the SFJAZZ Center around the premise of creating a space where the music can fully realize its capacity to transport listeners.  


BC: Can you tell us more about the B-Side café? Looks intriguing.


Kline: The b-side of an album is the unexpected and often the cool option to explore. B-Side is as integrated into the center in a way that the offerings, the style, the libations, food, and the relaxed decor at B-Side fit with the architecture and acoustics of the Center. Hanson Li and Salt Partners Group team have done an amazing in creating the right space for our audiences before, during and after concerts.  


BC: Having once served on the board of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau (now San Francisco Travel), you have a keen understanding of what tourists and visitors are seeking. How do you make them aware of SFJAZZ?  


Kline: We strive to program the highest level of art in the best environment possible. This is the top venue of its kind in the world.  We are recognized for our excellence by word of mouth and by the press—those two avenues are the surest way to attracted visitors.


BC: The ferry is arguably the only form of local public transportation that features a full bar for adults. By the same token, SFJAZZ permits patrons to carry adult beverages into the performances. Does this suggest that the two share a certain measure of trust and sophistication?  


Kline: Yes, I agree.


BC: What major new jazz discoveries have you made recently? Rising stars?


Kline: Every day provides new discoveries. A new rising star, at least in the United States, is British jazz trio GoGo Penguin, who will be at SFJAZZ Center’s Joe Henderson Lab on September 20 and 21.  


BC: Finally, can you recommend other resources for our readers? Books, recordings websites, to broaden their exposure and understanding this great art form?


Kline: I recommend Ted Gioia’s book How to Listen to Jazz, and you can check out SFJAZZ’s playlists on Apple Music. The SFJAZZ blog is also full of interesting tidbits of information.  Most importantly:  Go see live music!


Follow Paul Duclos’ Cultural Currents online with his blog at: www.duclosculturalcurrents.com