San Francisco Chronicle
By Andrew Gilbert | March 5, 2018
Hovering around the door to Rendon Hall, the intimate 85-seat theater in the California Jazz Conservatory’s new Fiddler Annex, Susan Muscarella looked anxious on Sunday, March 4. Since opening on Wednesday, Feb. 28, the Berkeley venue had been packed every night for concerts focusing on foundational conservatory faculty, like Brazilian pianist Marcos Silva and singer Laurie Antonioli, with disappointed fans turned away at the door.
Sunday’s sold-out show featured another faculty mainstay, trumpeter Erik Jekabson and his 17-piece Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, but Muscarella was fretting about logistics and the show running behind schedule.
“We still have to wrinkle out some irons,” she said, turning a cliche into mysterious koan (which is a pretty good description of jazz).
…Ashkenaz isn’t the only venue showcasing the Bay Area’s deep bench of groundbreaking women musicians. The California Jazz Conservatory celebrates the opening of its new Fiddler Annex (across the street from its main downtown Berkeley campus) with a talent-packed run of shows, including the Montclair Women’s Big Band on March 1, vocalist Laurie Antonioli and the American Dreams Band with special guest Theo Bleckmann on March 2, and Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir on March 3.
Saxophonist Jean Fineberg, who co-leads the Montclair big band, debuts a new female-centric octet JAZZphoria on March 9, and on March 23 she and trumpeter Ellen Seeling, her Montclair partner, present a free concert marking the end of the weeklong Women’s Jazz & Blues Camp, an intensive program of ensembles and classes in jazz, blues, Latin styles, improvisation, percussion techniques and jazz history.
San Francisco Chronicle
Sam Whiting | on February 26, 2018
Susana Pineda was studying vocal jazz at a university in Medellin, Colombia, when the American singer Madeline Eastman came to perform in 2013. After the show, Pineda tracked Eastman down for a career tip.
“She said, ‘There’s this really cool jazz school in California,’” recalls Pineda, who followed that lead to the California Jazz Conservatory.
That title suggests something more than what turns out to be the basement of a bookstore in downtown Berkeley. But downstairs, Pineda discovered the only accredited stand-alone music college devoted to jazz and related styles of music in the United States.
“I found everything I needed here,” says Pineda, now 26, with a bachelor’s in jazz studies, a CD and a touring act. “My bandmates, my producers, my mentors and my vocal sound.”
Her only regret is that it ended two months too soon. In December, Pineda gave her final recital in a makeshift concert hall where you can hear the footsteps of people shopping for books overhead.
On Sunday, Feb. 25, the conservatory will emerge from this basement to open Rendon Hall, an intimate, 100-seat performance venue designed to evoke the spirit of Minton’s Playhouse, the famous Harlem club that gave rise to the style of jazz known as bebop.
An expansion of the main campus, which will stay open, Rendon Hall is the centerpiece of a $3.5 million build-out into the ground floor of a brick storefront. Called the Jerry Fiddler Annex, it will include the conservatory’s first-ever music library of 8,000 titles, largely on vinyl with turntables for playing them.