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in San Francisco's Glen Park neighborhood

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Wednesday, December 7th – 7:30pm
Jazz Evolution ’63!
All-Star Tribute to Grachan Moncur III
Out of hardbop & into free jazz

Trombonist Grachan Moncur III emerged from the Benny Golson-Art Farmer Jazztet, steeped in hardbop, to become one of the more original improvising composers of the mid-‘60s New York jazz scene. With evocative titles like Gnostic, Esoteric, Love and Hate, Frankenstein, Air Raid and Ghost Town, his pen and his bone discovered new solutions to jazz problems of the era. New forms, old forms, no form. Bay Area stalwarts Mezzacappa, Ewing and Glenn are joined by Rova’s Bruce Ackley, and led through Moncur’s wonderland by East Bay treasure, vibraphonist Dave Casini. The music is swinging, compelling and drenched in fresh shades of blue.

The casual fan of early to mid-1960s jazz knows well the names and the work of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams. Most have a pretty good handle on Cecil McBee as well, or should…

We dare say many likely don’t fully register the name of the leader on the 1964 date for Blue Note Records released in 1965 as BLP 4177, “Some Other Stuff.”

The leader in question? That would be trombonist Grachan Moncur III, who first appeared on the jazz compass at age 22 in 1959 with Ray Charles, took part in the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet as heard on two 1962 lps, and worked with Sonny Rollins before pinning his name to the top of a Blue Note record in 1963.

Moncur recorded two Blue Note albums in Jackie McLean’s combo that same year, composing one tune for the first, “One Step Beyond,” and most of the tunes for the second, “Destination…Out.”

Moncur’s first date as a leader, recorded & released by Blue Note that same year, 1963, as BLP was “Evolution,” a sextet date with Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, Bobby Hutcherson, Bob Cranshaw and Tony Williams.  Tony Williams was the drummer on MacLean’s “One Step Beyond” as well as on both “Evolution” and “Some Other Stuff.” Bobby Hutcherson was on both of those Jackie Mac records as well as on “Evolution.” Vibes and multirhythms figured big in Moncur’s aural space in ’63.

“Evolution” and “Some Other Stuff” were evidence of a remarkable evolution indeed, one that continued to spiral out in the company of Archie Shepp, Marion Brown and a cadre of players creating the free jazz movement in real time through the tumultuous late 1960s here and abroad.

In 1969, Moncur recorded two albums as a leader for BYG Actuel in Paris — “New Africa” with Roscoe Mitchell (and Archie Shepp) on saxophones plus Andrew Cyrille on drums, and “Aco Dei de Madrugada” with the French bassist Bob Guerin and Brazilian drummer Nelson Serra de Castro. He released albums under his own name in 1974 and 1977, but then it wasn’t until 2005 that he led his next date, on the octet album “Exploration” in the company of saxophonists Gary Bartz, Billy Harper and Gary Smulyan, with Ray Drumond on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums. In 2007, he made what appears to be his last recording, “Inner Cry Blues” on Lunar Module, with players we know well in these parts –  saxophonist Mitch Marcus, trumpeter Erik Jekabson, vibraphonist Ben Adams, bassist Lukas Vesely and drummer Sameer Gupta.Therein lies a tale we’ll want to hear!

Grachan Moncur III came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s, springing from a strong jazz lineage — his uncle, a saxophonist, and his father, a bassist, founded the Savoy Ballroom’s Savoy Sultans in 1937 — the year GMIII was born — and swung the place mightily until 1946. Grachan Moncur II moved the family to Miami in the 1950s and stayed active in jazz until the late 1960s. Grachan Moncur III passed from cardiac arrest just this year, in Newark, New Jersey, on June 3rd, 2022, at the age of 85.

Tonight, five avant garde players that San Francisco is enormously proud to lay claim to — trombonist Rob Ewing, saxophonist Bruce Ackley, vibraphonist Dave Casini, bassist Lisa Mezzacappa and drummer Jordan Glenn — will dig deep to explore some of the expansive music that Moncur gave us at his peak.

$25 cover charge; byob. For reservations, call 415-586-3733.

If you can’t make it to the show, catch the live stream and donate to support it on Bird & Beckett’s Facebook page or YouTube channel. Your financial support allows us to maintain a “fair wage” standards for the performers who cross our stage, as well as supporting the engineering and technical aspects of the streams and to continue to build and refine an archive, documenting the talent that manifests here. Thanks!


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The Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project

Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.

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