The Jazz House, under the aegis of the Berkeley Arts Festival, will produce the Zipper Festival, its first festival of jazz this weekend, from Friday night, with acts 6-9 p.m., Saturday 2-8:30 p.m., and Sunday 2-8:30 p.m., featuring acclaimed local players like saxophonists Howard Wiley and Dayna Stephens, Sacramento guitarist Ross Hammond, drummer Weasel Walter, saxophonist John Gruntfest, and Damon Smith on bass, at the old Fidelity Bank Building, 2323 Shattuck Ave.
“I’ve always wanted to do a festival,” said Rob Woodworth, founder of the Jazz House. “Michael Marcus, the free jazz player, came by the Jazz House when it was on Adeline and said we should have our own, like the Vision Festival that bassist William Parker started in New York, that features free and nonmainstream jazz. We don’t have anything like that out here. And something that features not only music, but links up with dance, poetry and visual art.”
The chance came with a phone call about a month ago from Bonnie Hughes of the Berkeley Arts Festival. “She searched me out and introduced herself, offering to collaborate,” Woodworth said. “She’s helped us put on shows before, to keep a presence in Berkeley after we lost our lease on Adeline.”
Hughes had a date open in May, and showed Woodworth the Fidelity Building, now dubbed the Berkeley Arts Festival Hall. “She has a wonderful knack for finding places for shows,” he said. “There wasn’t much time, but I sent out emails to a bunch of musicians I like to work with, and the response was so great, I asked for another day ... then, ‘How about a third day?’”
The result is this weekend’s Zipper Festival?
“I wanted something that would stick—in the mind, that is,” Woodworth said, explaining the festival’s name.
Friday will feature D’Armous Boone’s Special Edition, followed by Andrew Voight’s Sunday Night Band, then Bush of Ghosts, with Damon Smith, Phillip Greenlief and Spirit. Saturday sees Jim Ryan’s Forward Energy take off, with Bill Crossman’s B-Free, the Nathan Clevenger Trio, Patrick Cress’ Telepathy (with visual arts included), and the Howard Wiley Quartet following. Sunday starts with the Dayna Stephens Trio, going on to The Lost Trio (featuring Phillip Greenlief), Ross Hammond’s V-Neck with drummer Tom Monsoon, The Greatest Little Big Band in the History of the Megaverse—John Gruntfest’s group with two drummers—closing with Weasel Walter, Gruntfest and Damon Smith.
The Jazz House has been producing Free Jazz Fridays at Eighth Street, a block from West Oakland BART.
“It’s doing very well,” said Woodworth; “I’m still surprised by it. And now KCSM-fm has a free jazz show, with Greg Bridges, whose father was a free jazz player.” But Woodworth said he would like to reestablish “a regular place where people know where we are, with more shows and more variety. I’m still looking for the right place—and the money.”
Tickets: $10 Friday, $15 Saturday and Sunday. A three-day festival pass is $30 at www.brownpapertickets.com or (800) 838-3006. Further info at www.berkeleyartsfestival.org, www.thejazzhouse.com or (415) 846-9432.