Anna’s Jazz Island and origins of TWIST

I was knocked over to hear about the closing of Anna’s Jazz Island, a mainstay of jazz in Berkeley, California, San Francisco Bay area. Below, with Anna’s permission, is the backstory.
Anna has been amazingly supportive to me and to our band in these last few years. Our several appearances there at different stages of development really helped us create the sound and repertoire we are doing now as TWIST. She has been a defacto collaborator with us in her encouragement and openness to our work. My gratitude is large, as is my wish for the re-birth of the Jazz Island.
a small timeline:
November 2006 – Introduced by music director Jason Martineau, we performed the first “jazz without borders” evening at Anna’s with a trio. The band was not yet named TWIST and we didn’t call it jazz without borders. We received immense coverage from the SF Chronicle – a full page with a picture.
February 2007 – We returned to the Island to shoot video in a performance; still with trio, and we coined the phrase “jazz without borders”
October 2007 – We named the band TWIST, having added a reed man (at Jazz at Pearl’s – another defunct venue to which I am grateful) and in this performance, a latin percussionist (at the suggestion of Bay Area great, Frank Jackson). This was in a series of performances that also included L.A. By the time we finished the series, we were clear that it was time to record our CD, Lua Hadar with TWIST, and that a new chapter was beginning.
Here’s Anna’s story, in brief:

Friends,

I am writing to tell you that Anna’s Jazz Island at 2120 Allston Way is now closed. We hope to move soon to a new location. I am sorry that I could not write this sooner. The agreement with my new landlord to buy out my lease was only completed a few days ago and I needed a few days to organize my thoughts…

THANK YOU.

Thank you to you, the musicians, who have shared your gifts with us. You have been generous, wildly creative, fun, smart, good to all of us and to each other. There is nobody more wonderful than you, our local musical treasures. You poets too!  Everyone, support them. Go hear them, yes, even on rainy nights. Musicians need us. And we need musicians too!

Thank you to you, the wonderful staff here. We have been friends and family. I hear over and over what I already know – you are wonderful, fun, smart, good hearted and musical. There would be no Island without you.

Thank you to you folks who have come in, who have enjoyed and supported the music. I have tried to make a place where jazz is comfortable, where there is no green room, no proscenium, no far away stage, no anonymous staff. I wanted a place where the musicians and those who come by to enjoy the music share an experience. So you are not just audience, but all part of the coming together of the music community. Thank you for being part of that.

I have been blessed by having my name on the door in Berkeley these past ten years, first on University Avenue and now on Allston Way – and even before that, on Shattuck Avenue in North Oakland! I have tried my best to do my part in bringing jazz to our community. Thousands of musicians have shared their gifts here on this Island and I am blessed to be part of that.

WHAT HAPPENED HERE?

This change has all been very sudden, just a few weeks in the making…

After happily being on University Avenue for more than five years, we moved to Allston Way, a venue twice as large with a stage big enough for a grand piano. And such wonderful acoustics!  The Use Permit for the two bottom floors specifies an Arts Center and requires only cultural use. A  theater was promised next door. It was to be a thrilling move for jazz and jazz lovers. I designed the Island and paid for the build out of the space.

Unfortunately, we encountered a string of broken promises on the part of the developer, and a pro-development majority on the city council, which  refused to enforce the commitment to the arts. The developer rented out the theater next door to private parties. Some of you have personally experienced these rowdy and disruptive events, with armed guards at the entrance, with hundreds of young adults in the street, where the block was entirely blocked off by police cars and the “parties” closed by dozens of police officers, and where jazz lovers could not get in or out of the club. Many evenings, it has been profoundly difficult for us to present music. (For more details, Google “Gaia Building Party Police” for news articles.) For some time now, we have considered other locations.

Which leads to the present moment. The new owner wished to terminate our lease and made an offer we couldn’t refuse. We are now looking for a new space and a new partner, somebody who loves jazz, to participate in opening a new venue. We have palm trees, ten years of goodwill in the jazz community, a huge e-mail list, and a loyal audience looking for a new musical home. We know the musicians are ready to play! We shall see what life brings…

GOODBYE FOR NOW…

Have joyful new year full of music…

If you need to contact us, please e-mail

AnnasJazzIsland@earthlink.net

—-

Anna tells me that The Marsh will be using the performance space and the piano, so we know it is in good hands. Please keep your ear to the ground for her!

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