By Leah Garchik
May 20, 2014
A sit-down dinner, in all its multicourse, sauce-laden glory, was carefully avoided at Friday night’s SFJazz gala, which felt, from the moment one arrived, more like a party than a ceremony. Black tie was optional, and many people wore more imaginative options, including event chair Robert Mailer Anderson, decked out in a fuchsia dinner jacket as perfectly fitted to his torso as the format of the event was fitted to the art form.
Before the performance - which Aidin Vaziri has already described in Datebook - guests admired each other, slurped up cocktails and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres provided by an array of restaurants in the neighborhood. Fried chicken and hush puppies were served in cones; caviar was served in spoons. Rule for receptions: The fewer the plates, the more festive the fete.
Perhaps because Anderson is a writer and a friend of writers, the jazz-loving crowd was thick with them, including Michael Chabon, Thomas Sanchez, Jack Boulware, Jane Ganahl,Amy Tan, April Sinclair, Ishmael Reed, Markos Kounalakis,Wendy Macnaughton, Mary Ladd and Zyzzyva co-editor Oscar Villalon.
Also there, Dr. Andre Campbell, trauma surgeon at San Francisco General and chair of surgical education at UCSF. He’d been turned on to jazz as a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York, when his English teacher brought her friend Herbie Hancock to class. “I started listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane in college and have never stopped. And I still have my vinyl.” Campbell proclaimed jazz “great music for studying and mellowing out” and says he listens to it in the operating room (along with rhythm and blues, hip-hop, rap “and of course Beyoncé is a favorite”).
And Nancy Pelosi said she loves Hancock’s music, and “I’ve seen him all over, including Norway, when he came and played when the Chinese dissidents were awarded the Nobel Prize.”
Artist Sandow Birk’s large new painting, in the downstairs area between the restaurant and the lobby, portrays “The Discovery of the SFJAZZ Center” in mock heroic milieu, as a world-changing event. Actually, it was.