Wow!  I had not been to the new SF Jazz center which opened this past January until Sunday night when an evening of stride-piano knocked me out and blew me away.  James P Johnson, Fats Waller and Eubie Blake tunes jumped and  tumbled and strode from the keys of two nested grand pianos, sometimes with four hands on two, sometimes with four hands on one and memorably, 8 hands on two!  Dick Hyman and Mike Lipskin, a longtime SF local, were the impresarios but 26 year old Stephanie Trick was the sensation.  When her husband Paolo Alderighi was called from the audience and the two playfully sat at one piano, switching the base and treble parts of James P Johnson’s “Runnin’ Wild” [link is not the SF Jazz performance] several times without losing a beat,  we knew we were in stride heaven. 

Vocalist Dinah Lee was joined by guitarist Paul Mehling and Clint Baker, and the pianos of course, for a fine balance of instrumental with voice.  We heard a bit of Gershwin and Cole Porter along the way and the wonderful “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter” which, surprise to me, is a Fats Waller tune.

The house is wonderful. It seats 700 with good proximity to the stage, very fine acoustics and lighting.  AND, you can bring your drinks to the seats!   Outside the performance space are educational and rehearsal rooms. Up and down the block new restaurants have sprung up to take advantage of the nearly nightly calendar.

If you haven’t gone, check out the offerings for the new season.  Very impressive  — and watch for a return engagement of the stride piano masters.  There isn’t a happier music to be found.

Here;s Stephanie at another venue playing James P Johnson's "Carolina Shout"


Review by Stephan Smolier of the Examiner