Music at the market

Budding musicians from the SFJazz High School All-Stars perform at the Fillmore market.

MIA SIMMANS, manager of the Fillmore Farmers Market since last May, is a true believer — both in farmers markets and in the music that makes the Fillmore market unique.

Her cred on both scores is impeccable: For the last seven years, she’s been both a vendor and musician at several of the farmers markets in the area. “It’s a great way for a musician to make a living,” she says. “You get to play during the day, and then go home and sleep in your own bed.”

In fact, two of the combos that regularly perform at the Fillmore market — the Dave Parker Sextet and the group now headed by Kenny Rhodes — have been playing at the Saturday morning market at Fillmore and O’Farrell for more than a decade.

But it can be a tough way to make a living. Most markets can’t pay musicians anywhere near what they’re worth. The mothership organization, the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, is a nonprofit and is typically strapped for funds. The Fillmore market currently pays nothing at all; musicians only pocket the tips from grateful listeners and passersby.

But Simmans is determined to change that. She takes inspiration from the pluck and perseverance of Tom Nichol, who founded and managed the Fillmore market for a dozen years until shortly before his death in 2015. The two were friends.

“Tom was able to raise money to pay the musicians from within the community,” Simmans says. “And I want to keep that going in his memory.”

With some help from market headquarters, Simmans recently applied for two grants, and at least one of them looks promising. “If we get that grant, we may be able to pay something — maybe $25 to each musician,” she says. “And if we get that second grant, well, then we could be talking about something real.”

Simmans still makes music, playing and singing under the stage name Mama Mia d’Bruzzi when she’s not out managing markets. She also manages the Castro and Alameda markets. “But the Fillmore is my favorite,” she confesses. “It’s got the music — and, really, some of the greatest vendors.”

Says she: “I really believe in the farmers. These are the guys sweating in the fields. And I really believe farmers markets are an important way to take back the country from the big corporations. It’s a peaceful revolution.”

Lawsuits multiply over Fillmore Heritage Center

Opening night of the Fillmore Heritage Center in November 2007.

NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESSMAN Agonafer Shiferaw has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging fraud and deceit at the Fillmore Heritage Center. It charges that Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Vallie Brown and other city officials violated laws and engaged in other wrongdoing that has cost roughly $100 million in failed public and private investments — and “contributed to the stagnant economic conditions that continue to plague the city’s historic Fillmore District.”

Shiferaw, who owns local commercial real estate and formerly operated the Rasselas Jazz Club at 1534 Fillmore, alleges the city’s attempt to find a new owner of the center — including the vast space once occupied by Yoshi’s jazz club and restaurant — “was characterized by irregularities that side-stepped procedural safeguards.”

Four days before Christmas, he filed for an injunction to prevent the city from further leasing or selling the center. The issue is scheduled to be heard on February 13.

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Birth and rebirth at the ballet

Sharonjean Leeds returned to the stage in the finale of Smuin’s Christmas Ballet.

CULTURE BEAT | FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

The New Year was still a couple of weeks away when a unique celebration of birth, rebirth and family joy took place at Smuin Ballet’s annual Christmas Ballet at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Sebastian-Alexander Gottschalk, age one month, was in the audience when dancer Sharonjean Leeds, age 70+, spun her way across the stage in the traditional White Christmas finale.

Each had overcome more than a few odds to be there.

Sebastian arrived at Kaiser Hospital on November 14, eight weeks ahead of schedule. His mom,  Shaunte Gipson Gottschalk, is a nurse and was quick to get to the hospital when things indicated he might make an early appearance. His dad, Georg, who works with MuleSoft, a Salesforce company, was inconveniently on a plane in London, about to take off for India. “If you’re headed to India,” the doctor texted, “you’re going the wrong direction.” Several trips through international security and one Chicago connection later, Georg got home to meet his new son at one minute before midnight. Sebastian, who weighed in at 2 lbs., 2.7 oz., then spent his first few weeks in Kaiser’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on Geary.

Baby and mom at his first ballet.

Soon after they got him home, the new parents looked at their tickets to the Christmas Ballet, a long family tradition, and decided to introduce Sebastian to Smuin. Bundled in a baby wrap, mittens and blanket, he snuggled his way happily through the performance.

Onstage in the finale was dancer Leeds, longtime ballet teacher at the University of San Francisco, who several years ago might have seemed unlikely to walk again. A fall in her Presidio Heights basement in 2016 left her with a pelvis broken in five places and a badly broken left arm. Once out of the hospital, she spent five weeks in rehab and two months with in-home care — but then set about getting back to dancing.

Leeds had last danced onstage in New Shoes, Old Souls, a piece for three women and one man choreographed by the late Michael Smuin and performed in the spring of 1999. She continues to take classes with the company. So when her husband, local dentist Rick Leeds, bid on a walk-on Christmas Ballet appearance at Smuin’s 2018 gala, artistic director Celia Fushille created a feature role in the finale instead.

Septuagenarian dancer and tiny audience member didn’t meet at the event. But both (with his parents speaking for Sebastian) agreed the event was a spectacular way to usher in the new year.

Nonprofit taking over Yoshi’s

THE LIGHTS ARE back on in the Yoshi’s complex at 1330 Fillmore. The nonprofit San Francisco Housing Development Corp. — which, it says, has been “building homes and hope since 1988” — is taking over the space, at least temporarily.

The affordable housing group from the Bayview has applied for a permit from the city’s Entertainment Commission to offer performances and other activities in the 420-seat nightclub and vast restaurant space, in conjunction with the New Community Leadership Foundation, a local collective.

The 50,000-square-foot Fillmore Heritage Center also includes a screening room, gallery and parking garage. It has been shut down since January 2015.

The group reopening the Fillmore Heritage Center. (Examiner photo)

Read more: “Fillmore Heritage Center gets a new tenant

A master sommelier — and a film star

Verve Wine’s Dustin Wilson returns for a third installment of the Somm film series.

FIRST PERSON | DUSTIN WILSON

For me, becoming a sommelier meant taking part in something much larger than myself. Working with a team of like-minded individuals on a restaurant crew for the greater goal of unforgettable hospitality really excited me.

I was totally ready for the overall restaurant scene, challenging as it was at times. But taking part in a three-part film documentary along the way was completely unexpected.

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A knack for the timpani

Photograph of San Francisco Symphony timpanist Ed Stephan by Kristen Loken

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Being the San Francisco Symphony’s principal timpanist is just one of the things keeping Ed Stephan busy these days. He’s also head of the percussion department at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh; on the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and at Northwestern University in Chicago; and timpanist of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he’s spent much of the summer.

The Pacific Heights house he calls home is being sold, so he’s been looking for another place in the neighborhood.

And the symphony’s new season begins this month. Stephan is particularly looking forward to the Stravinsky Festival. The orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, will perform the composer’s Persephone and The Firebird from September 21 to 23; and his Violin Concerto, Petrushka and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) from September 27 to 30.

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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 podcast conversation with director Arash Malekzadeh

EARLIER: “The final days of Kelly Johnson

A Fillmore film premieres at the Clay

 

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