Randall Kline looked like a proud father as he looked out over the 700 seat concert hall in the new San Francisco Jazz Center.
Below him, the torch of last-minute welding cast a flickering shadow on the new walls. Beyond him a crew of technicians tweaked the massive sound system.
“What happens in here is music,” said Kline, the director of SF Jazz. “Music in a very deep and we hope profound way.”
It is profound to consider two years ago, this very same corner of Fell and Franklin in San Francisco’s Civic Center was an auto shop. Today the corner is home to a glass lined, 35,000 square-foot temple of jazz. It’s a venue Kline has envisioned for two decades.
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“The idea for this place was to create a hall for jazz,” he said, “that had the idea of the focus of a concert hall.”
The $63 million dollar center will be home base for the 30-year-old, non-profit SF Jazz organization. It opens on Jan. 21 for tours, while opening night is set for Jan. 23. Bill Cosby will serve as master of ceremonies and the lineup will feature McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Joshua Redman, Bobby Hutcherson and several others.
The building has space for classes, rehearsals and a restaurant. But the centerpiece is the sparkling new concert hall that will soon become a destination for the world’s top jazz acts.
“I think a lot of people are excited that this will benefit a lot of musicians in the Bay Area,” said musician Adam Theis, “and also benefit a lot of the music listeners.”
The center was designed with massive exterior glass windows, enabling passers-by to view band rehearsals, lessons and even concerts inside. From the sidewalk, someone outside the building could watch a piano player on the main stage.
“You’ll look in and you will see, in the daytime, perhaps the SF Jazz Collective rehearsing in there,” said Kline.
The center resides in San Francisco’s Civic Center which is already flush with arts. The San Francisco Symphony, Ballet and Opera sit just a block away.
Kline said the concert hall was designed with versatility in mind – a few chairs moved and the room becomes an intimate jazz club.
“This can become a dance floor,” he said gesturing toward the wood floor in front of the stage. “It’s actually being used as a skateboarding site for one of our performances.”
SF Jazz will cut the ribbon on the building during a celebration Monday. Starting Wednesday it will begin a series of concerts with musicians like Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding and Bill Frisell to christen the building. But Kline said the true impact of the center won’t be measured for a couple of decades. His idea of success is a day 20 years from now, with a group of students sitting in the main hall listening to a program of jazz for kids.
“That’s what I’m really looking forward to,” Kline said.