YOSHI'S CELEBRATES 40th ANNIVERSARYwith performances by Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy Cobb, Larry Coryell, The Jazz Crusaders, Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Benny Green
June 6, 2012 - Yoshi's Jazz Club and Japanese Restaurant announced plans to celebrate their 40th Anniversary this summer with milestone concert performances throughout the month of August. Since 1972 Yoshi's has existed in many forms and locations, while remaining dedicated to providing the Bay Area with the finest in Japanese cuisine and entertainment. To celebrate this momentous occasion, Yoshi's will highlight the foundational components that have worked in consort to maintain its longevity in the community: connecting Bay Area residents with the finest musicians in the country, creating opportunities for local musicians, and serving a seasonal selection of traditionally-inspired, ever-evolving Japanese cuisine.
Yoshi's opened its doors in 1972 as a 25-seat Japanese restaurant just north of the UC Berkeley campus. In only five years, the small storefront that nurtured the business' formative years began to feel confining. In 1977, the three friends and owners: namesake Yoshie Akiba, her husband Kaz Kajimura, and chef Hiroyuki Hori; converted a former laundromat on Claremont Avenue in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood into a 100-seat restaurant.
Presently regarded as one of the country's premiere jazz clubs, the music scene at Yoshi's had a humble start, beginning in the late 1970s. "Now that we have a Japanese restaurant going, what's next?" owner Kaz Kajimura recalls asking himself. The addition of a full bar and lounge with live music felt like a natural progression. "We took it step by step with total concentration, and we went on building a 40 square-foot, two-story wooden box addition. We called it simply 'Upstairs at Yoshi's.'"
What began as a side project to offer their dining patrons live music entertainment quietly developed into a proving ground for the finest musicians from around the Bay Area. Notables among the performers who appeared Upstairs at Yoshi's include pianist and subsequent founder of The Jazzschool Susan Muscarella, Oakland's musical patriarch and percussion legend Pete Escovedo, San Francisco's journeyman percussionist and bandleader John Santos, and celebrated hard-bop pianist Benny Green (then a promising young Berkeley High School Student).
Quickly the live music performances in the upstairs space became a hit with Bay Area residents. While piano trios and other local jazz artists performed on weeknights, the weekends were dedicated to salsa and Latin-jazz dance bands. Yoshie, a Mills College trained dancer can still be seen on the dance floor at Yoshi's during performances, particularly Latin-jazz and salsa. "Dance, music, and Zen - those are the three pillars of my life," says Yoshie, "It was fantastic that I had a place of my own where I could dance anytime I wanted to live music, and relate to people through my spiritual body language."
The music performances became such a draw, that in 1985 Yoshi's expanded again and added an adjacent nightclub, ultimately named Yoshi's Nitespot. Featuring a full bar, dancefloor, stage, and mezzanine, the Nitespot served as a full time music venue, and allowed the bustling restaurant to expand its seating into the bar's previous upstairs location. Happening upon the newly constructed Nitespot, mid-west jazz club operator Chuck LaPaglia was immediately taken by the venue. Conscious of Keystone Korner's closure two years prior, LaPaglia convinced the three owners to let him experiment with booking national jazz acts on the Nitespot stage.
Not even a week after Herb Caen mused in his San Francisco Chronicle column that "Two of my favorite pastimes, baseball and jazz, are in big trouble here...Jazz may not be dead - not with so many skilled practitioners around - but the venues are drying up..." Hammond B-3 organ innovator Jimmy Smith played the brand new Yoshi's Nitespot. The East Bay Express reported that "fans flocked in like they'd been coming for years...By the time Smith and his quartet launched into 'The Sermon,' there wasn't an empty seat to be found..." On a rainy Thursday night in January of 1986, Smith took the stage at Yoshi's, unaware of the integral role his weekend performances would take in shaping the club's artistic direction, and permanently solidified jazz's place in the musical landscape of the Bay Area.
This summer, as a monument to Smith's paramount performances, his protegee Joey DeFrancesco will take the revered seat behind the organ to play homage to his mentor, the man who proved that the artistry and audience for jazz in the Bay Area hadn't faded. Guitarist Larry Coryell, and iconic drummer Jimmy Cobb will join DeFrancesco on August 24-26, bringing with them an intimate connection to Smith's music through their respective collaborations with, and deep study of, guitarist Wes Montgomery.
While Yoshi's celebrates its 40th year, the Jazz Crusaders have got that beat, clocking in at over 50 years since the group's masterful debut album Freedom Sound was released in 1961. In 2010 when the group's founding members Wayne Henderson, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder reunited to put the "Jazz" back in Jazz Crusaders, Yoshi's was their Bay Area home. The Jazz Crusaders have maintained their popularity over the last half-century by continually evolving and innovating, and the club is honored to host the band's return on August 17-19.
Performing during the opening weeks of Yoshi's San Francisco in late 2007, Chick Corea and Ravi Coltrane are no strangers to Yoshi's milestones. Both artists have appeared on the stage in each the San Francisco and Oakland clubs and return to share in the anniversary celebration. Marking drummer Jack DeJohnette's 70th birthday, Corea's performance is a celebration of its own, as the two are joined by inimitable bassist Stanley Clarke on September 5-8. Ravi Coltrane embodies an unbreakable bond between his father's works and the jazz community of today. Coltrane's August 6 & 7 performances are a connection between the noisy, smoke filled jazz clubs of the past where his father honed his craft to the music's current place as a national treasure.
Returning to the club that began his career, pianist Benny Green brings his trio to Yoshi's on Thursday, August 16. From his days as a student at Berkeley High School to performing with Bay Area legend Faye Carol and touring the country with Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Eddie Henderson as well as his own group, Green still points to his weekly sets Upstairs at Yoshi's on Claremont Avenue as the point where his career began. "This ongoing engagement gave me my first chance to lead my own band consistently, programming sets and speaking on the microphone. It was [a] wonderful, irreplaceable experience...The Yoshi's gigs were a true cornerstone for my career and most importantly, musicianship....like jazz itself, the magic is eternal."
Click Here for more information on upcoming performances at both locations
In 1997, Yoshi's was invited by the Port of Oakland to relocate to Jack London Square as part of a plan to revitalize the area. Together with Morimoto Architects, Yoshi's built an award-winning 330-seat jazz club with a state-of-the-art sound system and design. Occupying 17,000 square feet in the heart of Jack London Square, the club is in its fifteenth year in that location which has become one of the East Bay's greatest destinations. The club has continued to present the finest in jazz music, as well as world music, blues, neo-soul, Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban music. In fall of 2006, Kajimura decided that it was time to elevate the menu to the quality of the jazz by recruiting Executive Chef Shotaro 'Sho' Kamio, one of the Bay Area's top chefs to make the change. Chef Kamio (formerly of Ozumo) brought a whole new generation of modern Japanese cuisine to Yoshi's, which instantly put it on the map as a destination to dine in addition to the best place to hear great live music.
Yoshi's San Francisco
Designed by award winning architect Mori Moto, Yoshi's San Francisco location opened in 2007. Residing in the Fillmore Heritage Center at 1330 Fillmore St., this 28,000 square-foot, two-story, state-of-the-art live music club and upscale Japanese restaurant features the best of local, national and international performance artists. Yoshi's highly praised Executive Chef Shotaro "Sho" Kamio impresses with a brand new generation of modern Japanese cuisine that will surely enhance the overall Yoshi's experience, making it the only place in the City with world-class food and music.
Approaching its five-year anniversary this November, Yoshi's San Francisco has expanded beyond jazz. Its programming includes an eclectic mix of world music, R&B, soul, and rock. "I am first and foremost a jazz aficionado ... My hope is that we'll draw local aficionados of one sort of music and then they'll come back for something else. It's just a matter of giving them a taste of it." ~Eric Hanson, Former Artistic Director. Yoshi's San Francisco is located in The Fillmore District, the "Heart and Soul" of the City, and remains San Francisco's destination spot for live music and fine dining.