There was no singin’ the blues on June 3 when SFJazz honored Wynton Marsalis, the legendary jazz trumpeter, bandleader, nine-time Grammy winner, educator, Jazz at Lincoln Center artistic director and the only jazz artist (so far) to win a Pulitzer Prize for his elegiac oratorio, Blood on the Fields.
Instead, this sold-out event raised the roof with joyful jams — and some major green — snaring a record $1.9 million for SFJazz artistic and education programs. The swinging soiree, led by cochairs Bruce and Hala Cozadd, with Kenneth and Lisa Jackson, featured a VIP cocktail reception for 170 and Southerninspired dinner by Paula LeDuc. Later, 3,450 more revelers joined the groove during the After Party with spirited performances by Tank and the Bangas and Jesús Díaz y Su QBA lasting way past midnight.
But the beating heart of the evening was onstage in the organization’s Robert N. Miner Auditorium as the SFJazz High School All- Stars marched down the stairs — tubas and all — while expertly tooting “When the Saints Go Marching In,” in homage to Marsalis’ New Orleans heritage.
That down-home beat was shared in exquisite music sets, as Marsalis’ skill lifted up the SFJazz Collective, more All-Stars and Broadway vocalist Catherine Russell. He also traded teasing yet loving licks with his childhood friends and fellow artists, trumpeter Terence Blanchard and emcee, award-winning actor Wendell Pierce, who presented Marsalis with the SFJazz Lifetime Achievement Award.
Founded in 1983 by Randall Kline as a two-day festival, SFJazz now includes more than 400 performances every year, in addition to its annual June Festival and its Summer Sessions, which kick o July 7. Inspired by Jazz at Lincoln Center, Kline was determined to create the nation’s second-only, stand-alone building (opened in 2013) dedicated to this most American of art forms.
“Tonight recognizes the two leading jazz organizations in the world, SFJazz and Jazz at Lincoln Center. We cherish our longstanding friendship and growing partnership,” toasted SFJazz Board chair Denise Young. “It’s important for both organizations to encourage this art and elevate the messages of hope and collaboration [jazz] has always represented. Reaching a world that needs hope, now, more than ever.”
Next year, the SFJazz building celebrates its 10th anniversary, the festival will herald its 40th season and Kline will take his final bow as artistic director. Marsalis also shone the spotlight on Kline, praising his faith, dedication and creativity in growing his dream into an integral nonprofit among our arts community.
“Our organizations share the same mission: to raise the soul of our nation through the art of jazz. We are crying out for ways to communicate, across belief systems and -isms,” said Marsalis. “Jazz is about a feeling of community. And there’s a lot of jazz yet to be played. But the one element you must hold above all others, this feeling that has guided SFJazz all these years: Community is the highest calling, love is its calling card and balance is its destination.”