“Blackhawk Block Party” Mini Jazz Music Fest in the Tenderloin (SF)
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Dodge Place, San Francisco, CA | Turk and Larkin, San Francisco, CA 94102
Submitted by the Event Organizer
Blackhawk Block Party
Exploring the legacy of jazz in the Tenderloin
A day long mini music festival celebrating the Tenderloin’s storied jazz club.
Presented as part of the Tenderloin Museum’s Sound of the Tenderloin live music series
Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (3:30pm)
SF Recovery Theater performing “Night at the Black Hawk” (2:15pm)
The debut performance of Tenderloin Voices ft. Larkin Street Youth Services Artists, composer/trumpeter Sarah Wilson, & Skywatchers (1pm)
Saturday August 13, 2022
12:30 – 5pm; Music starts at 1pm
Dodge Place SF, CA 94102
(SE corner of Turk/Larkin)
Tenderloin Museum (TLM) presents an homage to one of San Francisco’s most storied jazz clubs in a day-long mini music festival featuring performances by Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, SF Recovery Theater, plus a community-based music production, Tenderloin Voices, by Bay Area jazz composer, trumpeter and singer Sarah Wilson produced by the Tenderloin Museum in collaboration with Larkin Street Youth Services, Skywatchers, and Tenderloin writer Lyzette Wanzer. Presented as part of Sounds of the Tenderloin, a series of TLM public programs that animate the neighborhood’s undersung cultural history through live music (made possible by generous support from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass).
In operation from 1949 to 1963, the Blackhawk Jazz Club hosted a who’s who of jazz legends: Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus all performed there; Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Ahmad Jamal, and Mongo Santamaria cut records there; Dave Brubeck got his start playing the club regularly and a young Johnny Mathis was “discovered” on the Black Hawk stage.
Located in the heart of the Tenderloin at 200 Hyde Street (at Turk), the club straddled an era during which SF’s working class residential enclave & bustling nightlife district was coming down from a postwar high, its local economy squeezed by flight from the central city, willful neglect by city leaders and policy makers, more stringent policing of the neighborhood’s namesake “vice” activity (especially in queer bars), and an increasingly sensational demonization by the more puritannical quarters of the city’s media and upper crust. The club also straddled an era of gradual desegregation of San Francisco’s music scene, during which it booked “modern” jazz outside of the predominantly African American Fillmore District and the Beat adjacent jazz happenings in North Beach. The Blackhawk made its reputation booking national touring acts as well as certain hometown heroes, and cemented its reputation with the many live albums recorded on its stage. Its legacy illustrates both the mainstreaming of jazz music as well as the edgy associations mainstream society kept about the musical form, even into the 1960s.
Tenderloin Museum seeks to explore the Blackhawk’s legacy with a trio of performances with past and present connections to both jazz and Tenderloin communities:
Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers got their start as a band in the late 1980s performing at The Blue Lamp, a long running Tenderloin dive bar that catered to the theater crowd and a hard crowd of local regulars. Ever since, Lavay and bandleader Chris Siebert have cultivated the big band sound in SF, and Red Hot Skillet Lickers often feature an intergenerational mix of players, the more senior of whom had roots in the Fillmore’s robust jazz scene and who form the bedrock of the jazz community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the course of her career, Lavay & Chris have also mastered the old fashioned art of musicians’ residency in a club: from Cafe Du Nord to Enrico’s in North Beach and most recently to their family’s intimate organ lounge, The Royal Cuckoo. As such, they are deeply enmeshed both in San Francisco’s jazz scene and seemingly the clubs, bars, and nightlife that make up the lifeblood of local live music. The band’s repertoire is vast and Siebert has an enthusiasm for a song’s backstory and tales of the musicians that made them, making Red Hot Skillet Lickers apt guides to survey the music that would have sounded in the Tenderloin’s iconic jazz club.
SF Recovery Theatre is a Tenderloin organization, led by Geoffrey Grier, that aims to provide a space where people of different cultures, races and religious backgrounds can feel valued and safe. While many people are still battling substance abuse, mental health, or housing problems, the SF Recovery Theatre steps up to the challenge of assisting those in need to build healthier lives, while simultaneously enriching the city’s culture through music. One of SF Recovery Theatre’s perennial productions is “A Night at the Blackhawk,” two Tenderloin one-act plays set in the famed jazz club that give audiences a front row seat to the jam session.
Tenderloin Voices brings personal stories written in early 2020 by formerly homeless Larkin Street Youth Services artists to life through musical performance sharing their personal wisdom and insights. Composer and trumpeter Sarah Wilson has written new, original pop, R&B, hip hop and gospel music with their text to be performed by Larkin artists and Skywatchers community singers alongside Wilson’s band in a musical performance. The fruit of many years of collaboration, this performance marks the debut of the Tenderloin Voices project, realized with six performers from Larkin Street’s Arts Program and Skywatchers’ chorus alongside Wilson’s 7 piece jazz band featuring some of the Bay Area’s most dynamic musicians including heavyweights like singer Tiffany Austin, bassist Gary Brown, and pianist Glen Pearson.
Join us on August 13th for live music and to explore the sounds and legacy of a touchstone in San Francisco’s jazz history, the Blackhawk. Doors open at 12:30pm, music starts at 1pm. Free!
Many thanks to the Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD) for activating Dodge Alley as a community space and making it available for this special performance!
Tenderloin Voices is made possible with generous funding from the San Francisco Arts Commission, and Fleishhacker Foundation with residency support from Phyllis Lusher.
Sounds of the Tenderloin is made possible by a generous grant from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
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