Sheba keeping jazz alive on Fillmore

Sheba owner Netsanet Alemayehu is almost singlehandedly preserving live jazz on Fillmore.

Sheba co-owner Netsanet Alemayehu presents live jazz nightly with no cover charge.

SALOONS | CHRIS BARNETT

The Queen of Sheba, the Old Testament tells us, was a stunning Ethiopian temptress who dazzled King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. with a caravan of camels laden with gold, jewels and spices to promote lively trade between Israel and Arabia.

A mere 31 centuries later, the co-owner of Sheba Piano Lounge at 1419 Fillmore Street is a regal Ethiopian promoting live jazz in the Fillmore every night of the week with no cover charge.

Netsanet “Net” Alemayehu and her sister and business partner, Israel, aren’t trafficking in gold and jewels. But they jet into SFO from their homeland three times a year loaded down with hundreds of pounds of fragrant Ethiopian spices for the Abyssinian dishes and creative cocktails on their reasonably priced menu.

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Coming back home to Fillmore

Kim Nalley performing at the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

Kim Nalley performing at the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

FIRST PERSON | KIM NALLEY

Being a musician is kind of like being a foodie. If you grew up poor, you’re really excited just to have food. Then, after you get accustomed to having food and are exposed to good food, you want something better. You eat at great restaurants and become able to distinguish the different components and learn which wines are best paired with each. Your palate is ruined for fast food. You seek better food experiences and make better food at home. But every once in a while you get misty-eyed for mom’s mac and cheese, made with government cheese, because it tastes like home.

In the beginning, I really just wanted a gig singing. I was cleaning houses at the time. I gave the owner of Harry’s Bar on Fillmore, Keith Provo, a demo cassette tape I had made by exchanging house cleaning for studio time. There were only three songs on that demo: an R&B song, an uptempo jazz scat and a ballad, “Moonlight in Vermont.”

Mr. Provo loved the ballad. His son Chris called on a Thursday morning and offered me a weekly gig — if I could put together a band and play that night. I had to stiff the owner of the house I was supposed to clean, but I did get that every-Thursday gig. They paid me $400 a night, and my rent was only $250 a month. I could hire A-list musicians who were much older than me to be my accompanists. I thought Harry’s Bar was the center of the universe and I felt really important at age 18 having a regular gig on Fillmore.

But soon I wanted more. I wanted to play the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

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JazzFest a tribute to lost icons

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By JASON OLAINE
Artistic Director, Fillmore Jazz Festival

In Tribute. That’s the theme of this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival, coming on July 2 and 3.

Perhaps it would be fitting to hold a tribute festival every year. Invariably, some artist who changed the game or played with unbelievable virtuosity or defied genres or created timeless art passes on to the next stage — literally — leaving behind a legacy for others to build upon, be inspired by, or just enjoy.

This past year, though, we witnessed a jaw-dropping exodus of some of our most visionary and visceral musical artists: Prince, David Bowie, Ernestine Anderson, Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire, trumpeter Mic Gillette of Tower of Power, Dan Hicks, Natalie Cole, Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, alto sax jazzman Phil Woods, Allen Toussaint. We also said goodbye to R&B and soul icon Otis Clay, jazz singers Mark Murphy and Frank Sinatra Jr., country legend Merle Haggard and, sadly, many more.

The artists performing during the weekend at the 2016 Fillmore Jazz Festival were chosen not because they sound like or exclusively play the music of the icons we lost, but for their own creativity and talent. However, most will be playing and paying some tribute to one or more of these fallen heroes. As you wander up and down the Fillmore, you’re likely to hear songs by artists you may want to learn more about, including the Cuban trumpet marvel Chocolate Armenteros or the adventurist jazz pianist Paul Bley. You’re also certain to hear new arrangements of songs by familiar artists who are no longer with us.

It is with gratitude we salute these music masters who left us with a legacy of music to soothe our souls or make us want to dance or scream or jump and shout.

In Tribute. We give thanks and honor their spirit by offering new music for all to share.

ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE

Hello from the other side

WHEN SHE’S NOT at her day job in a medical office near Fillmore, singer-songwriter Candace Roberts can often be found on the stage or in a cabaret.

Her recent music video, “Hello Ed Lee” — an adaptation of Adele’s mega-hit “Hello” — is a plaintive cry to the mayor of San Francisco about what she calls “a tale of two cities, and not the book, but reality.” Over images of street tents housing the homeless, she sings: “Oh this city is filthy rich, yet there’s crisis in the streets.”

Hello Ed Lee” follows Roberts’ 2014 video, “Not My City Anymore,” which strikes a similar theme.

First look: 2016 jazz festival

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NOTED SAN FRANCISCO graphic artist John Mattos has been selected to create the poster for the 2016 Fillmore Jazz Festival, coming on July 2 and 3, and this week he revealed his design.

“Like good jazz, it’s unexpected,” said Mattos. “There isn’t a guy with a horn in this, so it’s not replicating the experience of the festival. After all, the real function of the poster is to get attention, and a complete departure like this might get more attention than visually interpreting the aural experience — plus, it’s kinda light-hearted.”

Mattos follows other top poster artists who have offered their take on the Fillmore festival in recent years, including Michael Schwab, Craig Frazier and David Lance Goines.

MORE: John Mattos nails it in London

City owed $18 million for Fillmore Heritage Center

The showplace club and restaurant that once housed Yoshi's now sits empty.

The showplace club and restaurant that once housed Yoshi’s now sits empty.

IT HAS NOW cost more than $18 million in city funds to build the Fillmore Heritage Center and keep it afloat.

There is no new tenant in sight for the huge empty spaces formerly occupied by Yoshi’s jazz club and restaurant. The garage is losing $10,000 a month now that the building has few visitors. The Lush Life gallery also sits empty and has no potential new tenants. The restaurant 1300 on Fillmore continues to operate, but its future is in doubt.

These are some of the details that have finally begun to emerge about exactly what is happening with the project opened in 2007 to revitalize the stretch of Fillmore Street south of Geary once known as the Harlem of the West. Public hearings on July 13 and July 27 brought out scores of restive neighbors, and a thick “informational memorandum” laid out the sad financial facts, complete with spreadsheets, term sheets, notices of default and lease terminations attached.

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At Yoshi’s, only the sounds of silence

The club formerly known as Yoshi’s closed only 75 days after it was rebranded The Addition.

By CHRIS BARNETT

As a gaggle of City Hall lawyers and bureaucrats scramble to sort out a massive financial debacle of their own making, the cavernous jazz club, restaurant and bar complex at 1330 Fillmore formerly known as Yoshi’s San Francisco, dark for the last six months, isn’t likely to come alive again anytime soon.

The city of San Francisco has now seized control of the venue from developer Michael Johnson, who built the Jazz Heritage Center complex housing Yoshi’s, 1300 on Fillmore restaurant, an exhibition space and a theater, plus 80 condominiums above.

Johnson had taken charge on July 1 of last year when he forced out Yoshi’s owner Kaz Kajimura.

In the months that followed, Johnson eventually renamed the club The Addition and added more eclectic musical acts to the marquee, but never came up with a new concept for the restaurant. Then 75 days after the new venture was officially launched on November 1, it was abruptly shut down and its staff all sacked. Since then, it’s been a ghost building.

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Fillmore jazz era project being updated

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JAZZ | MEAGHAN M. MITCHELL

In 2006, internationally acclaimed photographer and professor Lewis Watts and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer Elizabeth Pepin Silva published Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era.

From cover to cover, Harlem of the West is filled with vintage photos documenting San Francisco’s historic jazz era during the 1940s and ’50s. The book also features anecdotes from those who lived and performed in the Fillmore during this period. Currently out of print, it continues to be in high demand.

Now the pair has teamed up again to create a unique, multi-platform history project that tells the story of San Francisco’s Fillmore District in its musical heyday. The goal of the Harlem of the West Project is to bring San Francisco’s Fillmore District history back to life in a book filled with rarely seen photographs and stories from those who lived through the period.

Read more: “Gone but not forgotten

New Yoshi’s closes after 6 months

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“YOU HAVE TIME for one more before this joint closes forever?” asked the vocalist for the Hot Sardines, who performed on January 14 — the final night at Fillmore’s jazz showcase, which had opened to great fanfare seven years earlier as Yoshi’s San Francisco.

The end came quickly. Just the day before, the new owners announced they were shutting down “due to some financial hardships resulting from reduced revenue.”

The minority partners had taken over the business only six months ago, on July 1, and rebranded it as The Addition on November 1, sacking the Yoshi’s marquee with a temporary covering.

Former Yoshi’s programmer Peter Williams returned to expand the bookings beyond jazz into soul and R&B. But business declined precipitously and the bar and restaurant — which never got a new concept or chef — had been largely empty.

The new management team, the Fillmore Live Entertainment Group, was led by Michael Johnson, the developer who built the club, two restaurants and 80 condominiums above at Fillmore and Eddy.

“FLEG is in the process of determining how to address existing liabilities of the business,” said a statement the group released. The group is also seeking “a potential lead partner to take over operations [of the club] in addition to re-concepting the existing restaurant.”

Read more

The Grateful Dead at Winterland, 1977

Winterland, Steiner & Post Streets in San Francisco, December 29, 1977

Winterland, Steiner & Post Streets in San Francisco, December 29, 1977

FLASHBACK | BOB MINKIN

After my summer trip to San Francisco in August ’77, I was itching to get back to the Bay Area. The Grateful Dead provided the perfect excuse — their fabled year-end concerts at Winterland. As a young Deadhead who never got to see shows at the Fillmore, Fillmore West or Avalon Ballroom, Winterland represented the last of San Francisco’s legendary venues.

Armed with my new camera — a Minolta SRT-101 with a 50mm f1.8 lens — and a load of film, I left New York City on Christmas day, taking Amtrak to Chicago and switching to a Greyhound bus that took me to San Francisco.

After arriving late at night, I lost my wallet in the San Francisco Greyhound bus terminal. My wallet contained all of my money, plus a pair of tickets to each of the three sold-out shows. I freaked out! What was I going to do now?

A hippie I met on the bus let me stay at his place that night, and the next morning, December 29th, he drove me to the corner of Post and Steiner Streets, home of Winterland.

It was a rainy, dreary morning and here I was standing outside the venue with no tickets and no money. Not only did I lose my own tickets but my friend Joel’s as well. Fortunately I still had an ounce of Thai sticks that I had carried cross-country, and selling a few sticks gained me some cash.

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When Joel arrived, I gave him the bad news about our predicament, and he wasn’t very happy about it, to say the least. We decided to take a cab to Winterland Productions’ offices downtown, since that was where the tickets had been mailed from. I remembered the name of the woman who had originally helped me get them — Gloria Pulido — and asked for her when we got to the offices. She helped out again by selling Joel and me new sets of tickets to the three sold-out shows.

The year 1977 was a great one for the band, and they closed it out in style with three fantastic shows at Winterland. The first night, December 29th, is one of my favorite shows, and it was released on CD as Dick’s Picks, Volume 10.

Sadly, Winterland is no more, and condos now occupy the corner of Post and Steiner Streets.

— From Live Dead: The Grateful Dead Photographed by Bob Minkin

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