Monday, December 19, 2011

Evocative Photographs and Oral History of Legendary Keystone Korner

Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club
by Kathy Sloane
Indiana University Press

In its slightly over a decade of existence, the Keystone Korner became one of the most celebrated jazz clubs in the world. It hosted a wide variety of artists and was the site for a number of legendary live recordings by Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw and others. Its story is the subject of a wonderful new book from Indiana University Press, “Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club” by photographer Kathy Sloane.

Sloane frequented the club during its years and was able to shoot so many jazz artists, both legends like Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Mary Lou Williams, Bill Evans, Miles Davis and so many others. In addition to her photographs, she also interviewed not simply artists who performed there, but Todd Barkan the owner, the wait staff and folks that frequented the club. Jazz poet and author Sascha Feinstein, editor of the semi-annual publication Brilliant Corners provided the introduction and edited the interviews. He also compiled the accompanying CD that contains performances from the Keystone.A number of classic performances were captured at the Keystone and the sampling here gives a range of the room.

Keystone Korner was tucked next to a San Francisco police station and when Todd Barkan purchased it and converted a blues bar into one of the great jazz clubs. Barkan booked a wide range of styles including local acts as well as major national acts and created an atmosphere that had major artists holding a benefit to enable Todd to have a kitchen and a liquor license. It was a relaxed atmosphere that did not neglect the local performers who often were the backing band for some national acts. Performers who at the time rarely played jazz clubs like Miles Davis played the Keystone and he booked acts like Sam Rivers that never graced the stage of the Village Vanguard in New York.

Through recollections of Bay area guitarist Calvin Keys, saxophonist Billy Harper, cook Ora Harris, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, poet Jack Hirschman, Fantasy Records publicist Terri Hinte, pianist George Cables, drummer Eddie Marshall, legendary jazz record producer Orren Keepnews, writer, teacher & poet Al Young, trombonist Steve Turre, waitress Flicka McGurrin, Barkan and others the club’s history is weaved together along with the unusual sense of community around the room, It was somehow miraculously that Keystone Korner stayed alive on a shoe string budget as long as it did. Mixed in with Sloane’s images of Dexter, Elvin, Art Blakey, Mary Lou Williams, Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Bobby Hutchinson, Betty Carter, Percy Heath, and so many more and a CD with over an hour of great jazz.

Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club is terrific as a window into a legendary jazz club in addition to serving as a coffee table book. It is a fabulous book that jazz lovers will treasure to enjoy the photographs and the story of a fabled room.

I purchased this book. Here is a clip from you tube of Ahmad Jamal at the Keystone Korner in 1981

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