Cool cats kick back at SFJazz’s house party, awards fete
Published 7:49 pm, Thursday, May 29, 2014
Just like the soulful, bending and improvisational notes of a joyous jam, the recent SFJazz Gala was all that, too.
Expertly emceed by actor-director Robert Townsend, the fete featured legendary saxman Wayne Shorter presenting the SFJazz Lifetime Achievement Award to his fellow legend, 14-time Grammy Award-winning pianist Herbie Hancock.
"Jazz music is all about ‘we,’ not ‘me,’ " toasted Hancock. "And jazz, like life, is all about sharing."
And that was just the tip of this trombone.
Gone was the usual fussy format of a formal dinner with assigned seating. Instead, author Robert Mailer Anderson, the SFJazz Gala chairman extraordinaire who was resplendent in a hot-pink Tom Ford dinner jacket, led 700 guests in the art of having fun.
"This building is our home," said Anderson, who, with his wife, Nicola Miner, was a stalwart supporter in achieving this dream of a stand-alone cultural center. "So instead of standing around in a tent, this is definitely a house party."
A party that did require a bit of planning: Stanlee Gatti created a red-carpeted nightclub where guests noshed on four-star fare by SFJazz chef Charles Phan and Town Hall’s Mitchell Rosenthal along with nibbles from Hog Island Oyster Co., Rich Table and Jardinière.
Among the cool cats: SFJazz founder Randall Kline and his wife, Teresa Pantaleo; SFJazz Poet Laureate Ishmael Reed; Rep. Nancy Pelosi and husband Paul Pelosi; Leslie Berriman and SFJazz trustee Nion McEvoy; director Phil Kaufman; actors Connie Nielsen and Shiloh Fernandez; SFJazz trustee Del Handy and her husband, saxman John Handy; Wilkes Bashford; SFJazz trustee Michael Mauze and his wife, Alison; SFJazz Photographer Laureate Jim Goldberg; authors Amy Tan and Michael Chabon; SFJazz trustee Willie Brown and Sonya Molodetskaya; SFFS Executive Director Noah Cowan; Alfonso Montuori and his wife, Kitty Margolis; artists Lisa Brown, Wendy MacNaughton and Sandow Birk, who was commissioned by Anderson to create a glorious new painting, “The Discovery of SFJazz.”
The swinging soiree also raised more than $1.4 million for SFJazz educational and artistic programs. And SFJazz High School All-Star bassist Logan Kane not only received the SFJazz Education Award but an anonymous donor also gifted the teen with a new stand-up bass.
In fact the 700-seat Robert N. Miner Auditorium was lousy with talent: Taking turns onstage was the superb SFJazz Collective, songbird Paula West and the All-Stars followed by a rollicking post-party starring sets by Charles Bradley and Booker T.Jones with a special appearance (thanks to Anderson, who flew her in) by Dorothy Moore, whose song brought Bradley to tears.
Wheeling an old Victrola onstage as he carried a bottle of coveted Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, Randall Kline enthused: “We did something extraordinary here!”
He also toasted Anderson with a fond adieu - the longtime trustee and dedicated gala chairman (who expertly increased this gala’s funds and fun), decamps in August to Paris for a yearlong foray. Anderson will work on his next novel while his children attend school and his wife, Nicola, plots her academic path having just received her Mills College master’s.
Anderson then cranked up that ancient phonograph and asked for silence as Billie Holiday crooned the aching strains of “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
"From this magic box," said Anderson, looking from the Victrola out on the full house that jazz built, "to this magic box. SFJazz is how we live, and this is where we can create."
Catherine Bigelow is The San Francisco Chronicle’s society correspondent. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org