The New Home of SF Jazz

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Anyone driving along Franklin Street around San Francisco’s Civic Center and Hayes Valley lately has noticed it: lots of construction, particularly at the corner of Fell Street.

The building is one of the most anticipated new builds of 2013: the home of SFJazz and the first concert space designed specifically for jazz on the west coast.

On a press tour recently, Randall Kline, SFJazz founder and executive artistic director, described the goal: providing a relatively intimate space, a cross between concert hall and nightclub, where music lovers and musicians can enjoy the full artistry of the music and performance.

And, for the first time, SFJazz will be able to present concerts in one free-standing space instead of rented venues around the city.

In mid-September, Kline announced the center’s first season of programming, including the grand opening celebration on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday — January 23 — billed as an “extravaganza” with McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Bobby Hutcherson, Mary Stallings, Rebeca Mauleon and the SFJazz Collective. Master of ceremonies will be comedian Bill Cosby.

The celebration continues the rest of opening week with many of the same musicians. Ticket sale date has yet to be determined. The center’s programming after that will be four nights a week, Thursday through Sunday, year-round.

Already, the building’s architecture is turning heads. Architect Mark Cavagnero described the three-story, $63 million building as state-of-the-art, with stunning, tall glass walls of windows that allow passers-by on Franklin and Fell a view inside, including into the main hall, the Robert N. Miner auditorium that seats 350 to 700, depending on the configuration (and a dance floor that can be arranged in front of the stage). A smaller, 80-seat ensemble room provides an even more intimate setting.

The goal is to allow the energy and music to flow out into the surrounding area, involving the surrounding community in the musical experience, he said. The center also will have rehearsal spaces, a cafe at sidewalk level, lobby with bars open on performance evenings, a retail shop and box office. Kline said SFJazz is thrilled to be part of the thriving cultural and nightlife scene around Civic Center and booming Hayes Valley.

It’s one more reason this part of San Francisco is taking off, transformed the last several years into one more of the city’s vibrant urban hubs.

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