Dee Dee Bridgewater opens new SFJAZZ season

Dee Dee Bridgewater opens the new season at SFJAZZ this week – photo courtesy SFJAZZ

Winner of three Grammy® Awards, a Tony® Award and France’s Victoire de la Musique, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, 2017 NEA Jazz Master, as well as a producer, head of a record label, vocalist – and undoubtedly a legend in the world of jazz – this is Dee Dee Bridgewater.  She’s also the star who opens the SFJAZZ  2017-18 season next week, with four fabulous programs – each with a different theme.

With a mother who played her songs by Ella Fitzgerald, and a father (Matthew Garrett) who was a trumpeter, music teacher and jazz DJ, Dee Dee Bridgewater has been surrounded by the sound of jazz almost all her life, and has been spreading the love of it to millions since she first started performing during her teenage years. She made a remarkable debut in New York in 1970, with one of the leading orchestras at the time, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, which led to appearances and recordings with jazz greats such as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach and Roland Kirk.

In 1974 she eagerly took the opportunity of performing on Broadway, as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz – the role for which she won her Tony® Award – and which led to opportunities to perform in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris and London. She was nominated for an Olivier Award for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Stephen Stahl’s Lady Day, and took leading roles in shows such as Sophisticated Ladies – based on the music of Duke Ellington – Black Ballad, Carmen Jazz, and became the first black actress to star as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. She also took over the presentation of NPR’s Jazzset from Branford Marsalis in 2001, hosting the show until its final performance in 2014.

Dee Dee Bridgewater, says The Guardian “has a technique and musicality that bests most performers of her generation, and her understanding of the ‘great American songbook’ makes pretenders pale in comparison”.

On opening night at SFJAZZ next Thursday, Dee Dee Bridgewater celebrates the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald. In this performance, she pays tribute to  Fitzgerald with a selection of numbers from her 1967 album, Dear Ella, which she dedicated to the ‘First Lady of Song’, and which won two GRAMMYs® – for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement – in 1998.

This performance, in the Miner Auditorium on Thursday, September 7, is already sold out, but – as always – it’s worth checking on the day for returns. More information can be found on the SFJAZZ website .

In Friday’s performance, Dee Dee Bridgewater features the music of Horace Silver, paying tribute to the composer of some of the most distinctive and enduring pieces in the jazz repertoire. Her links to Silver actually go back to the early 1970s when trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater – at that time her husband – started playing in Silver’s working band. For this concert, she performs a selection of songs which were included in her 2005 GRAMMY®-nominated album, Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver.

Dee Dee Bridgewater pays tribute to Horace Silver in the Miner Auditorium on Friday, September 8, and tickets can be reserved on the SFJAZZ website.

In Saturday’s performance – Memories of Memphis – Dee Dee Bridgewater celebrates the release of her new Okeh Records album, Memphis … Yes, I’m Ready. This city, her hometown, has a special place in her heart, and on this album she performs the music which her father played as a DJ on WDIA radio – soul, blues and R&B classics which were made famous by the likes of B B King, Bobby Blue Bland and Otis Redding – music that will always be associated with Memphis.

Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls Memories of Memphis on Saturday, September 9, in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ. For tickets and more information, visit the SFJAZZ website.

In her final performance next week, Dee Dee Bridgewater presents the Music of Josephine Baker, the 1920s star to whom she paid tribute on her 2005 album J’ai deux Amours.  Like Baker, Bridgewater found stardom in Paris during the more than 10 years in which she lived there – from 1986 to the late 1990s – as a champion of jazz in France, before returning home. On Sunday evening, she brings to SFJAZZ some of the songs made popular by Josephine Baker, including those of other stars of Baker’s era – like Édith Piaf, Mistinguett and Charles Trenet.

Dee Dee Bridgewater sings the Music of Josephine Baker in the Miner Auditorium on Sunday, September 10. For tickets and more information, visit the SFJAZZ website.

Dee Dee Bridgewater is at SFJAZZ from September 7 to 10, backed by Arthur Edmaiston on tenor saxophone, Marc Franklin on trumpet, guitarist Charlton Johnson, Farindell Smith on piano and organ, bassist Barry Campbell, and James Sexton on drums.



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KQED broadcasts San Francisco Opera’s ‘Mefistofele’

Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role of San Francisco Opera’s production of Boito’s ‘Mefistofele’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

In September 2013, San Francisco Opera staged a remarkable production of Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele, and KQED viewers have an opportunity to watch a recorded broadcast of this production tomorrow evening, August 24.

Regarded as one of the most impressive productions ever staged at the War Memorial Opera House, Mefistofele – based on Goethe’s version of the Faust legend – has a libretto by Boito, with the distinction of being the only opera that the Italian composer and librettist completed.

This production stars Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov making his staged debut in the title role. Tenor Ramón Vargas is the philosopher Faust who sells his soul to the devil, and soprano Patricia Racette sings the roles of Margerita, the village girl who is the object of his desire, and Elena (Helen of Troy) when Mefistofele transports Faust back in time to Ancient Greece. Direction is by Robert Carsen.

San Francisco Opera’s Music Director, Nicola Luisotti, conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this production which is sung in Italian with English supertitles.

The broadcast, which is hosted by Frederica von Stade and Matthew Shilvock, General Director of San Francisco Opera, takes place on KQED 9 on Thursday, August 24 at 9.00 pm.


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Merola Grand Finale brings Summer Festival to a close

The 2017 artists of the Merola Opera Program – photo: Kristen Loken

The Merola Opera Program  – regarded as one of the most prestigious and selective opera training programs in the United States – presents the Grand Finale of its Summer Festival at the War Memorial Opera House on Saturday evening.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, this tremendously popular training program has given 23 aspiring opera stars, five apprentice coaches and one apprentice stage director – selected from hundreds of hopeful applicants – a 12-week intensive program to prepare them for a career in the world of opera.

In Saturday’s performance, these Merolini (as they’re known) will present staged scenes and musical excerpts from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, Lucia di Lammermoor and La favorite; Massenet’s Cendrillon, Verdi’s I vespri siciliani, Rossini’s Le comte Ory and Il viaggio a Reims, Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns, Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, Berg’s Wozzeck, Boito’s Mefistofele, Thomas’ Mignon, Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Handel’s Rodelinda – a wide ranging repertoire, which will certainly highlight the versatility of the group.

The orchestra will be led by Antony Walker, Music Director of Pittsburgh Opera, who has appeared with companies in the United States, Europe and Australia, and conducted over 200 operas, a number of large and smaller scale choral and orchestral works, as well as symphonic and chamber works. Among the opera houses in which he has appeared are The Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Rome Opera, Opera Australia, Glimmerglass Opera, the Canadian Opera Company and Vancouver Opera.

Tickets are on sale at San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330, or A special post-performance reception follows the Grand Finale (tickets sold separately).


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‘Something Rotten!’ opens at SHN’s Orpheum Theatre

The cast of ‘Something Rotten!’ which opens in San Francisco this week – Photo: Jeremy Daniel

There’s a new Broadway hit opening at SHN’s Orpheum Theatre this week. Something Rotten! – described by Time Out New York as “the funniest musical comedy in at least 400 years” – takes us back to the time of Shakespeare, the playwright who’s making all the headlines at the expense of lesser mortals such as Nick and Nigel Bottom.

Rob McClure, Adam Pascal and the cast of the Something Rotten! – Photo: Jeremy Daniel

According to a soothsayer, these two brothers are led to believe that the forthcoming trend in theatre will be productions which involve not only acting, but singing and dancing as well, so – in order to outshine this Shakespeare character – they decide to write the world’s first musical.

In a production which the New York Post calls “a deliriously entertaining new musical comedy that brings the house down”, the brothers Bottom are played by Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti, with Adam Pascal as Shakespeare – all three of whom come to the San Francisco performance straight from Broadway.

Autumn Hurlbert and Josh Grisetti – Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Something Rotten! is directed and choreographed by Tony Award®-winner Casey Nicholaw (director of Aladdin and co-director of The House of Mormon). Music and lyrics are by Grammy Award-winner and Tony nominee Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Karey Kirkpatrick (a Golden Globe and Tony nominee) who also co-wrote the book with best-selling author John O’Farrell.

The cast of ‘Something Rotten’ – Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Nominated for 10 Tony® Awards – including Best Musical – Something Rotten! runs at the SHN Orpheum Theatre until September 10. For more information and tickets visit the https://www.shnsf.comSHN website.

Adam Pascal and the cast of the Something Rotten! Photo: Jeremy Daniel

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UnderCover Presents showcases Bay Area talent at SFJAZZ

Poster for UnderCover Presents at SFJAZZ this week – Courtesy SFJAZZ

SFJAZZ winds up its Summer Sessions this week with an eclectic set of concerts, over four nights, staged by a group which goes by the name of UnderCover Presents. This collective – which has been in existence since 2010 – hit upon the brilliant idea of bringing together musicians from all round the Bay Area to “celebrate the influence of classic albums”, as they describe it.

The aim is to present a series of performances, each one featuring the music of a legendary artist, with each number being performed by a different band. The bands are given free rein to put their own interpretation, sound or personality on the song that they’ve chosen, resulting in a series of concerts reflecting the wide range of musical genres that abound in the Bay Area. It’s a fascinating concept.

The first of the performances takes place on Thursday, with The Music of Ray Charles, the legend known as the “Genius of Soul” who made such a huge contribution to American music in over 50 years of writing, performing and recording. Featuring KATDELIC (with Ronkat Spearman, former member of Parliament Funkadelic), Bang Data and Cosa Nostra Strings (with Trance Thompson, The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, and Noah Kibreab and the Arkiteks), Charles’ songs will be reinterpreted in styles such as funk, cumbia, hip-hop and acoustic chamber music.

For more information and tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.

Friday features the music of singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and civil rights activist Nina Simone. With songs from over 40 albums to choose from, curating this selection will have been quite the task, nevertheless what seems like the impossible has been achieved, and the carefully selected numbers will be presented by Jazz Mafia’s experimental Realistic Orchestra, by MoeTar, Zakiya Harris and Sólás Burke-Lalgee of the Afro-eclectic soul ensemble Elephantine, and by Vocal Rush, the a capella group of Oakland School for the Arts.

This performance is sold out, but it’ll be worth checking for returns on the day – see the SFJAZZ website.

Miles DavisBitches Brew is the album selected for Saturday evening. Influenced by rock, with electric instrumentation and advanced production techniques, this recording was ”thought by many to be among the most revolutionary albums in jazz history”, according to AllMusic, and is credited with launching an age of experimentation in jazz. At their SFJAZZ performance, Broun Fellinis, PC Muñoz, Kev Choice, and Alligator Spacewalk will present their reworked versions of the original recordings, each group re-imagining one side of this double-disk album.

Tickets and further details can be found on the SFJAZZ website.

Sunday sees Kid Beyond, Kendra McKinley, The Stone Foxes and Mino Yanci (with Vadia Rhodes) pay tribute to the four musicians who founded the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama in the 1960s. Known affectionately as The Swampers, this group was formally known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who developed their own Muscle Shoals sound, adapting it to fit the massive number of recordings made at the Studio – the music of artists such as Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett and Clarence Carter, among many more.

To find out more about the Music of Muscle Shoals, and for tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.

All four of these concerts take place in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ, between August 17 and 20.



SFJAZZ program notes

UnderCover Presents


All Music


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San Francisco Opera steals the show

A scene from San Francisco Opera’s 2012 production of Verdi’s ‘Attila’ – Photo”: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera takes to the airwaves this week, with a televised performance of Verdi’s Attila on KQED Public Television tomorrow evening, and a radio broadcast of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on Classical KDFC on Sunday. And there’s more, as the SF Opera Merola Program presents two live performances of Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

A co-production of Teatro alla Scala and San Francisco Opera, tomorrow’s broadcast of Attila was recorded at a live performance in the War Memorial Opera House in June 2012, and stars Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role. Despite his reputation as a ruthless barbarian, Attila is portrayed by Verdi as a brave, ambitious warrior, plagued by internal doubts.

The role of the Roman general Ezio is sung by Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey – who was most recently seen on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House in the title role of Verdi’s Rigoletto. The cast also features soprano Lucrecia García as Odabella, tenor Diego Torre as Foresto, bass-baritone Samuel Ramey sings the role of Leone, and tenor Nathaniel Peake is Uldino.

The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director Ian Robertson) is led by Music Director Nicola Luisotti – about to enter his final season in this role for the Company, after a magnificent tenure which has seen him conduct over 40 operas and concerts, and which which will be celebrated throughout the coming season.

Matthew Shilvock, General Director of San Francisco Opera and soprano Frederica von Stade host the telecast of ‘Attila’ on KQED – courtesy San Francisco Opera

This telecast is hosted by the General Director of San Francisco Opera, Matthew Shilvock, and soprano Frederica von Stade, and airs on KQED 9 on Thursday, August 3 at 9.00 pm.

Natalie Image (soprano), Samantha Hankey (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Hiers (bass-baritone), and Edith Grossman (mezzo-soprano) in Merola Opera Program’s production of ‘La Cenerentola’. Photo: Kristen Loken

Also taking place tomorrow evening, and again on Saturday, is Rossini’s La Cenerentola, in fully-staged live performances by the Merola Opera Program. One of the most prestigious and selective opera training programs in the United States, Merola is currently staging its 2017 Summer Season, and these performances star mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey – a 2017 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions – as Angelina.

The role of Prince Ramiro is sung by tenor Anthony Ciaramitaro, Tisbe by mezzo-soprano Edith Grossman, bass baritone Andrew Hiers is Don Magnifico, and Clorinda is sung by soprano Natalie Image. The role of Dandini is portrayed by bass-baritone Christian Pursell, and Alidoro is sung by bass-baritone Szymon Wach. The production is directed by Chuck Hudson.

Mark Morash, Director of Musical Studies for San Francisco Opera, conducts the Merola Opera Program peformances of La Cenerentola at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Tickets are available from the San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330, or

Soprano Lianna Haratounian in the role of Cio-Cio-San in San Francisco Opera’s 2016 production of ‘Madama Butterfly’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

To round off this week’s feast of opera, Classical KDFC broadcasts San Francisco Opera’s hugely popular revival of Madama Butterfly, which closed the Company’s 2016 Fall Season (see more on ArtsPreview).

Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian, considered one of the most promising Verdi sopranos of her generation, sings the role of Cio-Cio-San. Italian tenor Vincenzo Costanzo is Lt B F Pinkerton, the role of Sharpless is sung by baritone Anthony Clark Evans, and Zanda Švēde is Suzuki. The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director Ian Robertson) are led by Franco-Canadian conductor Yves Abel, currently Chief Conductor of the NordwestDeutsche Philarmonie in Germany.

The broadcast takes place on Classical KDFC on Sunday evening, August 6, at 8.00 pm. For tuning frequencies visit, or listen online.


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