SFJAZZ opens December ‘Fridays at Five’ sessions with Pink Martini

Pink Martini’s China Forbes – © SFJAZZ

With the festive season on the horizon, SFJAZZ opens its December Fridays at Five online sessions with a holiday concert by Pink Martini, recorded at the JAZZ Center in San Francisco last December.

This performance, by the ensemble’s twelve musicians – fronted by dynamic vocalist China Forbes – features the mix of classical, jazz and pop music for which the group has become famous since its formation in 1994, as well as material from their most recent Heinz Records release Je dis oui! (I say yes!).

Performing songs in 25 languages, Pink Martini has appeared at events such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and with more than 70 orchestras around the world – including the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London – gathering a huge following along the way.

Pink Martini’s Holiday Concert can be viewed on the SF JAZZ Fridays at Five session on December 4th.

The following week features The Klezmatics – the American group which led a popular revival of the Eastern European Jewish music known as klezmer, and whose music is credited with helping to change the face of contemporary Yiddish culture. “The Klezmatics aren’t just the best band in the klezmer vanguard; on a good night, they can rank among the greatest bands on the planet” – says Time Out New York.

The Klezmatics made their SFJAZZ debut in this concert, recorded in December 2015, performing a selection of original compositions from their 2006 album, Happy Joyous Hanukkah, set to lyrics by the late Woody Guthrie. Having performed in over 20 countries, the ensemble has collaborated with violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman and Pulitzer prize winner Tony Kushner, and released 11 albums, including the GRAMMY-winning Wonder Wheel and their most recent recording, Apikorsim.

The Klezmatics appear in the Fridays at Five session on December 11th.

Concerts by the Blind Boys of Alabama have become an annual tradition at SFJAZZ, and the performance filmed at the JAZZ Center in December 2018 can be viewed online in Fridays at Five on December 18th. This five-time GRAMMY-winning group – including one for Lifetime Achievement – performs numbers from their 2003 Christmas release Go Tell It on the Mountain, and from their 2014 album Talkin’ Christmas on which they collaborated with legendary blues musician Taj Mahal.

The ensemble was formed in the late 1930s, by a group of elementary students at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, and although they were active during the Civil Rights movement, and sang at a benefits concert for Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the early 1960s, they saw their fan base dwindling in favor of gospel singers who were performing secular music. Undaunted, the Blind Boys of Alabama persevered, and their popularity was revived the 1980s as a result of their starring role in the Obie Award-winning musical The Gospel at Colonus. They were subsequently inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and have performed at the White House for three different presidents.

The Blind Boys of Alabama appear in the Fridays at Five session on December 18th.

In a special Thursday transmission on December 24th, pianist Adam Shulman – with his bassist John Wiitala and drummer James Gallagher – celebrates the music of legendary Bay Area pianist Vince Guaraldi, with a performance of Guaraldi’s classic soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Now an SFJAZZ holiday tradition, this concert was recorded at the JAZZ Center in December 2019.

Adam Shulman – also a bandleader and composer – has been a key figure on the San Francisco jazz scene since moving to the city in 2002. Artists with whom he’s worked include Marcus Shelby, Stefon Harris, Miguel Zenón, Paula West, Larry Coryell, and Bobby Hutcherson, as well as the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Vince Guaraldi scored a series of very successful animated television specials, including A Charlie Brown Christmas which was voted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame and added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry’s list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” American recordings.

Adam Shulman Plays Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas in a special screening on Thursday, December 24th at 5.00 pm (PT).

To watch the Fridays at Five sessions, become a digital member of SFJAZZ for just $5 a month (or $60 for a year). Proceeds will help the SFJAZZ team prepare to reopen the SFJAZZ Center, and keep you in touch with the live performances and educational programming that you love. Performances take place each Friday between 5.00 and 6.00 pm PT (8.00 pm ET, and 01h00 and 02h00 in London and Paris respectively). See the SFJAZZ website for details.

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