Noe Valley Voice July-August 1999

Cool! -- New Jazz Series Starts at the Ministry

By Jeff Kaliss

If Clipper Street resident Al Sipp has anything to say about it, Sunday afternoon at the Noe Valley Ministry will soon be the time and place to hear live, smooth jazz in the city.

Sipp's Mellotone Performances will launch a new music series called "Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon" with four concerts in July and August. All shows start at 4 p.m.

"It's a great time to go out and hear jazz," says Sipp, who conceived of Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon after retiring as a postal manager a few years back. "You can go to church, have brunch, lounge around awhile, and then head off to hear our jazz. Or you can come hear us and then go out to dinner afterwards."

As for the Ministry venue -- also the site of the long-running Saturday evening Noe Valley Music Series and monthly chamber music series -- Sipp points out that "a lot of jazz musicians who play acoustic instruments prefer to have as little amplification as possible, and the Ministry is great acoustically without amps." The church at Sanchez and 23rd is also "a hop, skip, and a jump from my house, so it's easy for me to walk over there."

A self-described "jazz pianist wanna-be" who grew up in New Jersey and took the bus to Manhattan to hear Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Jazz Messengers, Sipp is booking his series "to cover the whole spectrum from traditional jazz to avant garde, wherever I can find local people who have something to say." The concerts will showcase established artists as well as up-and-comers.

First up in the series, on Sunday, July 11, will be pianist Mike Greensill and reedman Noel Jewkes -- both Bay Area jazz treasures. Greensill is resident pianist for KALW's "West Coast Live," as well as accompanist and arranger for his wife, vocalist Wesla Whitfield. Jewkes, on sax and clarinet, has played with a long line of jazz and blues greats, including Jon Hendricks, John Handy, Rosemary Clooney, and Big Mama Thornton.

Jazz diva Kitty Margolis, on her way to the Monterey Jazz Festival in September, will perform July 25, with a band that includes sax player Eric Crystal, pianist Paul Nagel, and bassist John Wiitala.

Saxophonist Mel Martin will play a tribute to jazz legend Benny Carter on Carter's 92nd birthday, Aug. 8. Then on Sunday, Aug. 22, pianist Dick Hindman will bring his swing and mainstream jazz trio, featuring Seward McCain on bass and Scott Morris on drums.

Future bookings will probably include suave singer Mary Stallings (in September) and dynamic drummer and Noe Valley resident Eddie Marshall.

"I have a sense that there's an audience here," Sipp says about the neighborhood, his home for the past five years. But he knows he needs to attract fans from all over San Francisco.

"After they start to come," he believes, "they'll want to continue to spend their Sunday afternoons with us."

Tickets are $12 for the Greensill & Jewkes and Hindman shows, and $14 for Margolis and Martin. You can buy them in advance at Streetlight Records, 3979 24th St. (282-3550), or at the door at 1021 Sanchez St. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. For more information call 824-9557.