Portrait of a Jazz Club
Edited by Sascha Feinstein and Kathy Sloane
Photographs and Interviews by Kathy Sloane
Indiana University Press: 2012
(Book Purchase Page)
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 28, 2012
(See Jazz and Cabaret Reviews)
Todd Barkan, Programming Director of Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, was generous to send me a copy of this fantastic book that chronicles the incredible years of Todd’s ownership and management of the infamous Keystone Korner jazz club, dating from the early '70's to the early '80's, in San Francisco. Kathy Sloane chose about 100 of her personal Keystone photographs of solo and ensemble musician portraits, all candid, all casual, all black and white and grey, from her 25,000 jazz photo collection, then supplemented the photos with dozens of poignant and/or witty interviews with those who knew Keystone way back when. Rather than list all the entertaining and unrivaled, first person memories and all the radiant smoke-lit photographs of the crème de la crème of jazz, I’ll offer some special impressions from my first, and certainly not last, experience, browsing through Kathy Sloane’s book, co-edited by Sascha Feinstein.
I’ve grown to know Todd Barkan, over the years, and have always admired his habit of seeking out the musicians backstage, chatting, and truly enjoying their company. Now I know that Todd did the same at Keystone Korner, only there the walls were psychedelically decorated with murals, plus hundreds of small photos of everyone who came by and shared the intimate spaces. And, Todd’s infamous approach to putting together new bands and booking magnetic talent, sometimes with emerging artists from all over the globe, also dates back to the 70’s, working his way to persuade a seasoned artist to bring in and mentor a younger one, who shows bright promise. Of course, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center at Frederick P. Rose Hall, has an outstanding array of wines and liqueurs to choose from. But, back in the day, Todd held benefit events to buy a liquor license for Keystone Korner, but first had to hire a cook, Ora Harris. Todd and his father took Ora shopping to buy a range and utensils, which had to be crammed into a “hole in the wall” kitchen. In 1975, Ora opened the kitchen, with Miles Davis opening onstage. In fact, there are several stories about musicians flirting and finding lovers at the club, and each is told with naturalness and humor.
Kathy Sloane, who put this book together, has also created a documentary film, “Witness to Hiroshima”, and has an extensive body of work from her Caribbean and Mexican travels. Ms. Sloane’s Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club lovingly shares her own memories, as well as those who performed onstage or relaxed offstage. The passages and interviews comment on the wide availability of marijuana, at that time, freely smoked during performances, even with the local police station across the street. Keystone was named for Keystone Cops, silent film characters in the campy, early 20th Century. Ms. Sloane’s new book has a one-of-a-kind CD tucked inside the back cover, with a selection of recordings of live performances at Keystone. What struck me most was the fact that Todd still remains so drawn to his memories at the club and wishes it were still open. That would be quite something. Some of the musicians seen in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s performance photos are Cedar Walton, Steve Turre, Pharoah Sanders, Dexter Gordon, Ron Carter, and George Cables. Women held their own, too, like Flora Purim, Aisha Kahlil, Betty Carter, and Sundance. I won’t tell it here, but there’s a great story about Todd’s keeping his fans waiting for Dexter Gordon, and dozens more just like it.
Click Here to listen to a 2012 Jazz at Lincoln Center Podcast, with Todd talking about Keystone Korner. Todd is a prolific Jazz Record Producer and Jazz Talk Host, and he’s often headlined on Jazz Cruises and Jazz Conventions for his easy repartee and incomparable historical mastery of jazz and its expansive community of artists. You can order your own copy of Kathy Sloane’s Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club by Clicking Here.