Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

No thanks, Yoshi’s

By awoodall
Thursday, May 31st, 2007 at 11:14 am in Uncategorized.

Is that all the thanks they get? Something to ask the folks at Yoshi’s — Oakland’s pedigreed jazz club — who stirred up some bad feelings with a 10th anniversary CD featuring live performances over the years. What the CD didn’t include was any black artists. Zero. Zilch. Nada. The only “musician of color” on the CD is Pancho Sanchez.

There is still plenty of love for Yoshi’s, which, let’s be honest, is among the cream of the crop in terms of Bay Area venues.

But the exclusion just didn’t sit right with a lot of people, including saxophonist David Murray, who weighed in on the matter Thursday night during a meeting at the Black New World in West Oakland. He wasn’t on the CD, nor was he asked, even though he packed the place many nights, Murray said. He would have refused anyway, and so would a lot of people, Murray said. “This whole Yoshi’s thing, beng a problem, it’s not that important. Not anything to really beef about. There are other positive things to focus on,” Murray said.

Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale called it “institutionalized racism crap going on.”

I was wondering how much money Yoshi’s made off of the musicians they excluded from the CD.

“Forget about Yoshi’s. They don’t care about the music. They care about what will sell drinks,” said a community radio announcer and jack-of-all trades in the music business.

But people were not getting bogged down at the meeting, or going out of their way to snipe at Yoshi’s. The exclusion — whatever the reason — wasn’t nothin’ new or unexpected, folks said. “Our music will always be taken advantage of,” Murray said, adding that he often is the only black player at European jazz festivals. “We can’t expect those kind of people to do our business. We have to do it ourselves,” he said.

And that’s pretty much what the brains behind Black New World and other groups such as East Side Arts Alliance are trying to do.

In the meantime, however, it was time for some music. The Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans rocked the club (picture a two trumpets, two trombones, and a tuba the player spun like a toothpick), which is increasingly modeled after the social aid clubs of New Orleans. It was a meeting of minds and rhythms.

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