"There should be a book about those jazz clubs that have been a vital part of the evolution of the music…with reminiscences by the musicians who played and hung out there.” Nat Hentoff
With Keystone Korner: Portrait Of A Jazz Club, photographer Kathy Sloane has delivered that very book.
It is tough for me to articulate into words how it felt to go to a place like Keystone Korner - where John Coltrane Quintet bandmates McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones played a benefit so the club could afford to buy a liquor license - and not just see fun, enjoyable, entertaining music but be in the presence of GENIUS, night after night.
Without a doubt, I and the other long-haired youths who hung out at the jazz joint of jazz joints, nestled next to a police station in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, got an unparalleled music education. I personally saw everything from swing legends Mary Lou Williams and Earl "Fatha" Hines (who recorded with Louis Armstrong, the guy who started it all, in 1928) to joyfully hard bopping Art Blakey, George Coleman and Horace Silver to explosive ultra-virtuoso Rahsaan Roland Kirk to the fearlessly eclectic multi-genre Art Ensemble Of Chicago there - and loved it all.
Kathy's book includes 109 photographs, fascinating oral histories from the musicians who made it happen, and a CD of remarkable music recorded there. It will give future generations a reference to see what greatness looks like.
Today, jazz fans around the world mourn the passing of music giant Sam Rivers, who is featured in the book.
Thinking of Sam, it compels me to say that, as 2011 comes to a close, the best thing we could leave for young people today - besides hands-on music and arts education - would be a place where, like Keystone Korner, it was all about the music and miracles could happen. And did.