For those of you music heads out there that, on occasion, wish to branch out and experience new artistic forms of musical expression, this place will definitely not disappoint. Yoshi’s Jazz club and Japanese restaurant is the premier spot to hit up when the time comes to celebrate an anniversary, graduation, new job, or just the need for a classy night out. There are 2 locations in the Bay Area, Downtown Oakland in Jack London Square and San Francisco’s Fillmore district. The Oakland venue has been around since 1997 and has hosted some legendary musicians for all sorts of genres over the years. The San Francisco club has only been open since late 2007, but has already established itself as the most proper jazzy night out in the city.
I had a chance to get out there this past weekend for dinner and a show. The food is a bit pricey (as expected), but the ambiance is classed out with a full top shelf bar and a jazzy house dining room ensemble that provides some very appropriate conversation and eating background tunes at just the right volume. The menu is legit and conscious of all types of dietary preferences. The fish is fresh and elegantly presented. The drinks are fufu for the most part (chicks love it), but you can always order a nice solid beer or a delicious Jameson and ginger. And then there’s the kicker…if you sit in the open seating area just right…you can catch a glimpse of some college football in between wasabi slathered sushi bites! If that doesn’t sell you, nothing will.
There are few things more satisfying than entering an intimate, low-lit, table seated jazz venue that just so happens to be architecturally joined to a fancy Japanese restaurant… until you sit down and order one last drink and dessert. The jazz club is small (occupancy around 200) with lower, mid, and balcony level table seating. The walls are acoustically sound and showcase vintage music collectibles from past acts and musical inspirations. A small, raised, and red curtained stage in the front center completes the ambiance. Overall, the jazz club pretty much epitomizes what one would imagine an upscale jazz venue to feel like.
Once 8pm finally rolls around, the matinée act makes their way to the stage (there is also a 10pm show). On this particular Saturday night, the legendary saxophonist David Murray (who also happens to be a Bay Area native) took the stage with his Cuban Jazz Ensemble to play modern renditions of Nat King Cole en Español from their latest CD release. The ensemble featured 2 tenor saxophones, a trombone, a trumpet, an alto sax, and a rhythm section with a super legit stand up bassist. The tune style ranged from Latin, swing, ballad, off-beat 5/4, and monster Q&A solo sections. Check out some of the charts here http://www.davidmurraymusic.com.
Overall, the set was presented in a way that reminded some fans in attendance of old school, triple OG jazz performances from which the style of jazz made its name famous. When top notch professionals are on stage during a solo; kicking their legs, hitting crazy 32nd beat melodic riffs, and squinting their faces with every high note, anybody that appreciates music cannot help but get into it.
Yoshi’s is a place for classy outings, period. I would not recommend a group any bigger than 4. However, the atmosphere is casual enough to not have to worry about whispering to your friends or flagging down the cocktail waitress during the show. Be prepared to spend a little cash, but you can keep things reasonable and still enjoy all the club has to offer. Keep this venue as a trump card in your back pocket to play when in a little trouble when the significant other, trying to impress a potential partner, or looking for a classy, classy place to celebrate any occasion with a small group.
Party on music heads.