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Swinging in the best jazz clubs

Jazz is not a music style that many people associate with San Francisco, but this bustling city on the west coast of the United States has a very lively jazz scene – one with an unusual history. Although the heyday of jazz may have come to an end, the city still has dozens of excellent jazz clubs.

In the 1940s, many African-American workers made their way from the south to the west coast of America. They took their musical roots with them and introduced jazz and blues to the west. Jazz was extremely popular in the Fillmore District of San Francisco in particular. During the 1940s and 1950s, this neighbourhood was home to a dazzling mix of restaurants, pool cafés, theatres and night clubs. Fillmore was also known as the ‘Harlem of the West’, referring to the jazz-loving neighbourhood of New York City.

Jazz in San Francisco
Jazz in San Francisco

San Francisco

Centre for jazz

Big names like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong often performed at the Fillmore jazz clubs, especially at Jimbo’s Bop City. The club became famous across the country for its jam sessions, which sometimes lasted until the morning hours. In the late 1950s, Fillmore experienced a steady decline and the lively jazz scene largely disappeared from the neighbourhood. The building that housed Bop City is now designated a heritage site.

Yet fantastic clubs can still be found in San Francisco. In 2013, the SFJAZZ cultural centre – the first independent centre in the United States devoted entirely to jazz – opened its doors. The goal of the centre is to introduce visitors to jazz and the history of this music style. You can also take part in workshops and master classes here. Performances are held all week in the beautiful auditorium by famous and lesser-known jazz musicians. Tickets, names and dates can be found on the website.

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A performance at the SFJAZZ centre

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201 Franklin Street, San Francisco

Jazzing at Yoshi’s

Yoshi’s is one of the best jazz clubs in San Francisco. Yoshie Akiba from Japan opened a small sushi restaurant in Berkeley in 1972 but, due to its growing success, it had to relocate soon thereafter to a larger accommodation in Oakland. Dinner to the accompaniment of live music was introduced at the new address and Yoshi’s quickly became a world-class jazz club. In 2007, Yoshi’s opened a second restaurant in the heart of San Francisco on Fillmore Street. Both the food and jazz are of excellent quality – many say it’s the only place in the world where you can listen to world-class jazz while enjoying food deserving of a Michelin star.

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“Yoshi’s is the place to be for world-class jazz and a Michelin-star meal”

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1330 Fillmore Street, San Francisco

Photo credits

  • A performance at the SFJAZZ centre: Jun Seita, Flickr