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SFJAZZ Event: Comments From Attendees

Alón Sagee | Published on 3/5/2015

Comments from Attendees at our Inaugural Event with SFJAZZ, Sunday March 1st 2015

I am so grateful to all who wrote in to express their feelings and impressions of this event. This is what makes it all worth every bit of effort.
Thank you all!



Wow. what a good time. If you didn’t have a good enough time, you just needed to get up more and dance. Worked for me. However…

My opinion: The Jazz Center is a fantastic venue. I agree with all of Leslie’s comments about the sound. It really does change depending on where you’re at, but overall I think there are more good places to sit than bad. (see Leslie’s comments for the good and the bad) Except, they really do need a rearward facing speaker for those few folks who sit behind the stage. It wouldn’t take much, but the sound was totally lifeless back there. They also could have used some different lighting to warm up the place. IMHO, you can do lighting for blues or jazz, or whatever, that would help. I loved the sound up in the balcony. Every location had some compromise, but I thought, other than behind the stage, every area had descent enough sound to not detract from the performance. This was my first event there though, and I’ve heard other events naturally present different sound experiences, as our groups moderator said before the show.

I love Taj, but I have to admit the show, while enjoyable and worthwhile to me, was a little sterile. Perhaps it was the moderness of the venue, and the age of the patrons? I wanted more “life” from the performance, and agree somewhat that the bass player and the drums seemed to be up there on stage, but they never seemed like they were playing “together.” They were performing together, but they were there to just provide background rhythm for Henry, and not to play with him. YMMV

I also agree about the social aspect. It would be fun to do this on a Friday or Saturday, or a Sunday when I was off Monday and didn’t have to get up early so we could all go out for food and drinks afterwards. I think the food thing would be worked out before hand if we didn’t have a 5:30 pm meeting/social before hand, then patrons could arrive after an early dinner, perhaps.
David Hicks

Thanks Alon. The performance very good and even got better towards last 5-6 songs. Acoustics were better than I expected for any signal being produce electric instruments and then through digital. The SF Jazz Center gets my highest recommendation and appreciation.
This was my first SFAS event. Score one for the home team!

Gerry Gassman

Hi all:
I’ll chime in here on the gratitude front for Alon’s brilliant idea of creating an affiliation with SFJAZZ.

As for Taj, I have heard him in better days, and I agree that the sound was too loud.
I also want to point out that the quality of the shows both musically and sonically vary widely. Some have been sublime in every regard: Turtle Island String Quartet playing Coltrane and the recent Elling Swings Sinatra are recent examples.

I find that despite the assurance that “every seat in the house sounds great,” that it ain’t necessarily so. Plus, as Gerry mentioned, there’s a huge variance as to whether an act uses their own sound person or the in-house guy. More variables than one can shake a drum stick at.
But overall, I think that the SFJazz Center is still a stelar achievement that gets it right more often than not.

Looking forward to more musical adventures soon and to getting to know more of you.
Warmly, and with resolution,

I really enjoyed the entire evening.  I had never seen Taj and was really impressed by his vocal and musical range and lively personality.  Kudos to Alon for coming up with such a great idea to bring the audiophile community together.  I particularly liked talking to members of our group.  That made the outing a lot more fun for me.  I wish we would have had more time to kibitz afterwards about the show.

I liked the venue in general and thought it was comfortable and beautiful and I did appreciate that every seat had good site lines.  I would have preferred that the audience was a bit more lively but then that’s just me.  I guess if it was too lively there may have been a heart attack risk given the age of the crowdJ  Yes, I usually go to the Fillmore or the Fox so this was pretty tame for me.  I think his music is really bar/party music so to me didn’t seem like the right venue, not raucous enough and I really have a hard time sitting down listening to dance music.

I don’t know if you all noticed but David Hicks and I gave ourselves a sonic tour of the entire venue during the performance and we noticed that there is a HUGE variability in the quality of the sound from top to bottom and side to side.  Alon was smart to put us on the right side which we found to have distinctly better sound.   I don’t know who would want to sit on top of the stage as the sound was horrific in those seats.  David correct me if you disagree, but I have to say, I enjoyed the seats on the floor the best as you could hear the unamplified drums (a huge improvement), the vocals were a bit subdued but the fact that he was 5 feet away made up for that and the guitar was a bit less amplified as well.  We wandered all the way up to the top where the speaker array was blasting right in your face and I have to admit, I kinda liked the loudness and the pure direct sound.  You really had a bird’s eye view which was a bit odd but the sound was pretty good for my tastes.  We did also stand for a brief period of time by the sound board which had more balanced sonics in general.  They booted us out so didn’t get to linger long enough in that area.

Overall, I did enjoy the show and venue and would definitely go back, if for nothing else, the company.

Leslie Lundin

Hi gang,

Good comments from all. Yes thanks Alon for organizing this event and getting us a special SF Jazz management and technical introduction.

I too felt the show did have an odd and disengaging vibe to it. I saw Taj probably over 30 +years ago at the Last Day Saloon and again a few times since. He’s definitely showing his age, forgetting lyrics and rambling a bit. I also felt the show didn’t gel; some combo of audience and venue and approach were oddly sterile for his brand of blues. It would have been more fun in a bar. I also agree that the chorus effect on that beautiful National steel (copper?) guitar on every song was a drag. Very unlike Taj I felt. It seemed to me that the band was really backup, but following Taj’s lead and that’s the way he wanted it at least for these shows. Yes the mixer had the drums a bit loud Maybe he was trying to get some energy happening? But I thought the drummer was pretty good, so it wasn’t all bad.

I’ve heard two other shows there (Seun Kuti and Patricia Barber), which were both excellent and WAY more engaging. All shows I’ve seen were all from the same general area, so it’s great to read Leslie’s comments from their walk about. We do need to keep in mind that this is a jazz hall (700 seats) not a jazz club like Yoshi’s (310 seats). As such I think they did a great job with site lines and a very good job with the sound system. The hall is very dry, so the sound is really direct and there’s no character to the place. On the whole, it’s a great venue.

Show: C  Venue: A


Great hall. Excellent performance. Excellent acoustics, tho maybe a bit muted for my tastes. A great hall for jazz lovers. Thanks for making it happen.


Many thanks to Alon for having the energy, vision, contacts and whatever else went into conceiving and planning this event! It was overall big fun and it seemed to me a success for SFAS. As a newbie, it was a pleasure meeting a few folks. I found the acoustics excellent, but the hall overall a bit sterile-it’s no Village Vanguard-but then it’s not trying to be.

As far as the show, I was surprisingly disappointed. Surprising to me b/c I’ve been a Taj fan for many years-saw him live ~40 yrs ago (can it really have been that long?) and consider him to be a national treasure. I thought his band was uninspired and almost completely lacking in “soul”-more an unwanted intrusion than anything else. I agree with the previous post that the drums were too loud for much of the show. It would have been much more enjoyable for me to hear Taj solo.

The other thing that did not work for me was that for nearly every number, except (I think) only the banjo tunes, he played  both his acoustic and electric instruments through an electronic effects pedal or two. The sound became monotonous, but even more importantly, lacked the rootsy sound that Taj has created for so many years. It might be partly for that reason that I thought his one tune on the piano was a highlight-who even knew he could play? Another high point, albeit brief, was when he broke into a Gabby Pahinui imitation for a couple of lines-what an incredible, one-of-a-kind talent!

Despite my mostly negative review of the show, it was an enjoyable evening and I look forward to more.

Rick Trautner

Hi All:
I enjoyed the performance of last night. This is my first time seating in SFJazz center at row L4. Well, as an audiophile lover wanting to share my comments about the acoustic for the night. I felt the drum is too strong and overall bass is not tender(knocking sound).. Maybe it’s my preference or what do you think?

Eric Hwang

My impression from L2: beautiful facility, great performance, but I’m afraid I had my expectations set too high for the acoustics – better than most though.


Great comments. I’d echo all of them, including of course the huge thanks to Alon.


And yeah, Bob, he had some mistakes early on. But the line between his mistakes and his style is very blurry. After the first song I felt that he was in the zone and his signature style shone through.


I really wanted more solo Taj!


I felt quite awkward in the venue. Sterile environment (and sound and backing band) combined with a deadpan crowd made for a weird way to experience this music. It would be like having the sex pistols play a corporate event. Ok, not that bad, but you get my point. Sometimes the pursuit of perfect sound is best left for playing pre-recorded music. A live show is much more than the sound. I would take a hit on the sound quality in exchange for a standing-room-only venue filled with Taj’s friends and family any day.
Still, I’m so happy to have had the chance to hear him play live and despite my whining I absolutely enjoyed the evening.

Steve & Co:  You guys nailed it re my impressions as well:
  • Beautiful building
  • Very competent yet soulless acoustics
  • Oddly un-engaging performance
  • Great job by Alon in organizing and by the facilities manager in his expert and technically correct tour explanations 
To my ear, Taj made a few playing mistakes, especially early on. I know it’s jazz, but these distracted me too. Am I mistaken?

Hi Alon,


Thanks for all your work in getting event for for group. My wife and I enjoyed everything.
Being audiophiles it is easy for us to critic performance, sound, and venue elements. I came in with the attitude that Taj Mahal is in his late winter of his music career. I wanted to hear him again before he dies. Was it as good as his early years? No, but hearing him again brought back fond memories of his past performances and the times. I expected this performance would not be as good those past experiences. At his age, I can still treasure the man and his music.
all the best,
Gerry Gassman

Hey Alon,


here’s a quick video with three short clips:

Hey everyone:


I love the community and camaraderie building here! It’s infectious, just like a good groove.
I wanted to let you all know about four upcoming concerts that I plan to go to that should be musically extraordinary and at least very good to terrific sonically.
Lisa Fischer (from 20 Ft. from Stardom fame) – almost sold out – April 9 at Yoshi’s
Omar Sousa – Fri, April 17, yoshi’s
Lastly, I recently visited the Cathedral of Light in downtown Oakland. It’s a stunning architectural achievement that cost about $160 million to design and build.
Acoustically, it intrigues me and there is a full-on organ there with periodic performances   Should make for a fascinating experience visually and sonically if you are so inclined. It’s really worth checking out even if for the architecture alone. There are free tours that explain the symbolism and the construction/design.


I have experienced many performances at SFjazz and in my opinion to critique the facility acoustics based on music of Taj Mah Trio is not representative of the true listening experience it has to offer.  Granted if a facility is constructed to be acoustically perfect, then any type of music has the potential to sound great, but to my ears, acoustic jazz is the genre that is best suited for SFJAZZ.  I can attest to that after listening to Bobby Hutcherson, John Handy, Bob James, David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock. and countless others since it’s opening.  Although this was the first time I heard Taj Mahal live and nothing to compare, I enjoyed his music and performance especially his guitar versatility being a guitarist myself. So my take of the evening was very positive.  As a contributor to the SFJAZZ campaign and involved with pre opening festivities and events, there was a lack of in depth information about the facility, but having been part of the SFAS event, I was able to learn more about the technical aspects of the room and sound system of the venue that were never shared to that degree of detail during the pre opening festivities. In addition I was exposed to new music that I found enjoyable and for me the venue and performance made it all worthwhile.  Thank you very much, Alon for your vision and hard work in making this happen.  I am looking forward to the next event.


Greetings All,
Thank you for all your comments….So many nervous systems, so many different experiences.
Isn’t this thing- being human- so cool?

I still can not decide if my favorite part was when Taj had to adjust is Fret and with the confidence and coherence of a master, turned to his guys and said ” keep going, I’ll catch up to you” or during his encore return, a woman yelled out a heartfelt ” thank you Taj”, and he quickly, with the gratitude of a life well lived on stage said, ” you are welcome” right back to her.
Or maybe it was sitting between two great guys.

Or the drive in and home with the Master Mind whom inspired and created this whole new way for y’all to connect around your passion.

That was a grand slam in my books; high five and low five Alón.

Next time; more wives.

Or your equivalent; girl friend, best friend ( I think quadrupeds are not allowed… Albert you need to leave you Llama at home), a colleague, some one you want to hang out with…. while enjoying the company of a cool group of people passionate about Music.
Spread the vibe,
P.S. Gary is so right about Cathedral of Light; it is an architectural wonder!
Jean Marie Murphy

 One thought on “SFJAZZ Event: Comments From Attendees”

Alón says:    
March 5, 2015 at 9:01 pm Edit    

If you haven’t yet, but would like to add your impressions, please post your thoughts as a comment to this thread. Thanks!