Previewing “A Dance With Death”

Kelly Johnson and his daughter Leda Meredith in the final minutes of his life on May 7, 2018.

KQED TODAY OFFERS a preview of the New Fillmore documentary A Dance With Death, screening Wednesday night, August 15, at 7 p.m. at the Clay Theatre on Fillmore Street. It tells the story of longtime Fillmore resident Kelly Johnson’s decision — after a celebrated career as a dancer, musician and vaudeville performer — to end his life earlier this year.

PREVIEW ON KQED

A Lesson in How to Die
A conversation with director Arash Malekzadeh

Buy ADVANCE TICKETS to the screening at the Clay

 

A Fillmore film premieres at the Clay

ADVANCE TICKETS are available HERE and at the theater box office.

Kim Nalley comes home

Photograph of Tammy Hall and Kim Nalley by Dante Miguel

Q & A | KIM NALLEY

Jazz diva Kim Nalley and her band return as headliners at the Fillmore Jazz Festival again this year, appearing on Saturday, June 30, at 4:30 p.m. on the California Street stage.

It all started for you on Fillmore Street, right?

Yes. I was cleaning houses and I got a call from Chris Provo at Harry’s. They had listened to my cassette demo that had three tunes on it: Just Friends (bop jazz), Moonlight in Vermont (ballad) and Never Let Me Go (R&B ballad) They needed someone to work that night — and if it worked out I could have it weekly. They had a grand piano and the gig paid $300 for a quartet; my rent was $200 a month.

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Throwback to the ’90s

By JASON OLAINE
Artistic Director, Fillmore Jazz Festival

Throwback is a term usually used in a positive way to refer to a bygone era that conjured great memories, which is what this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival means to conjure up — positive memories of a time when all seemed right with the world: the mid-1990s.

The Bay Area music scene 20-something years ago was a melting pot that no one had tasted before or since. It simmered with a seasoning so potent and spicy, so seductive and sweaty, that it influenced artists and music around the globe. The genres didn’t need to have names — although some people tried to define the music as acid jazz or hip-hop jazz or jazz fusion or jump/swing.

The important thing was that the bands and the artists had names. They became synonymous with the scene and defined who you were, what you did and when you did it. Thursdays were the new Fridays. Mondays could be a Saturday. A handful of local bands — many of which are playing this weekend — were the hottest tickets in town, the artists recognizable and famous, the music infectious and seductive.

It was a time when everyone was listening to and performing with everyone else. Retro jazz was being influenced by Latin groove music and vice versa; rappers were riffing with saxes and horns; straight ahead beboppers were playing funk at midnight. And it was all good, as they say. The nightclubs were booming and new music rooms were popping up all over town.  The cats would be out all night, running into each other, jamming with and sitting in with each other, forming new bands. You’d find them at familiar spots like Cafe du Nord or the Up and Down Club. They were upstairs at the Elbo Room, in the front of Enrico’s, in the back at Bruno’s, in the loft at Club 11, or on the patio at Jupiter — even at Yoshi’s living room-like venue on Claremont Avenue that played host to the first ever T. J. Kirk show with Charlie Hunter, Will Bernard, John Schott and Scott Amendola back in ’94.

It was the heyday for the Bay Area scene. And then, it vanished. The music never died; the scene just changed. The Bay Area still swings and grooves hard to this day, filled with amazing artists. We just want to tip our hats to that moment in time, that bygone era, that window in the past that was truly special and life-changing for many, on the stage and off.

So let’s enjoy some of the best of the best of that Throwback era. Let’s welcome them back as old friends. Just don’t call ’em old.

ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE

Spreading the gospel of jazz

Photograph of Jason Olaine at Yoshi’s on Fillmore by Kathi O’Leary

Q & A | JASON OLAINE

Jason Olaine returns to San Francisco to book the Fillmore Jazz Festival when he’s not booking Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

You’re throwing us back this year to the 1990s — where were you back then?

Well, 1993 was really the beginning of what would be my professional life in jazz. Before applying to grad school or law school I thought I should at least look for a job in “jazz,” as if jazz music had jobs to offer.

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He has his own quartet

Michael Schwab’s four street banners celebrating the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

Q & A | MICHAEL SCHWAB

The poster for the 2018 Fillmore Jazz Festival is the fourth jazz image Michael Schwab has created for the Fillmore festival. All four now hang as banners on the street.

Are you a jazz fan?

Sure. I’m not an aficionado, but as a kid, back in southern Oklahoma, I remember hearing my dad playing cool jazz albums on the hi-fi in our living room — a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. In high school, I’ll never forget being introduced to Mose Allison: “You know a young man … ain’t nothin’ in this world these days.” Wow.

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It was the Dave Scott era on Fillmore

Dave Scott: “such an amazing, gentle and talented soul.”

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

The news was as mournful as the sound of taps in the distance. When word spread that widely beloved trumpeter-composer-teacher-bandleader Dave Len Scott was decamping from the Fillmore to be near his family in Arizona, there was no joy in jazzville.

But it’s true. For the first time in many years, Dave Scott will not be playing on Fillmore — nor anywhere else in San Francisco — on a regular basis.

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An opera star in the neighborhood

Tenor David Cangelosi, a guest artist with SF Opera, on Sacramento Street.

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

International opera singer David Cangelosi has been subletting an apartment in the neighborhood since April, when he began rehearsals with San Francisco Opera for Richard Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle: four operas over three evenings and one afternoon each week for three weeks. Cangelosi, a tenor, sings in the first opera, Das Rheingold, which opens on June 12, and the third, Siegfried, opening on June 15, and will perform on the two following Tuesday and Friday nights.

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Sheba’s keeping jazz alive

Sisters Israel and Netsanet Alemayehu own Sheba Piano Lounge.

By ANTHONY TORRES

Years ago, when I first came to San Francisco, a friend took me to see live jazz at Rasselas, located at that time on the corner of Divisadero and California. That night, Robert Stewart played some incredibly hard R&B-inflected jazz that was incendiary.

In 1999, Rasselas moved to 1534 Fillmore Street, creating a new music venue out of an old fish market, with a second bar, stage and dance floor in a very large back room.

That was eight years before the massive Yoshi’s complex opened two blocks south on Fillmore to great fanfare. While Yoshi’s for a few years attracted the biggest and best nationally and internationally renowned players, Rasselas stayed true to its mission of showcasing some of the best R&B, soul and jazz musicians the Bay Area had to offer — and that was, and is, a lot.

Adding to the mix was the intimate and elegant Sheba Piano Lounge, which opened at 1419 Fillmore Street in 2006.

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The dancer is a designer

Photograph of Susan Roemer and her costumes by Leslie Irwin for Smuin Ballet

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Susan Roemer’s second act began before she completed act one. A dancer for nine years with Smuin Ballet, she started designing and sewing costumes for dancers, collaborating with choreographers within and outside the group, even before she retired from the company in 2016.

This month her work is on view in two world premiere ballets: Val Caniparoli’s “If I Were a Sushi Roll,” in Smuin’s season finale program at the Yerba Buena Center from April 20 to 29; and David Dawson’s “Anima Animus,” in S.F. Ballet’s Unbound B program at the War Memorial Opera House from April 21 to May 4.

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