Kathy Sloane’s Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club (Indiana UP, 2011) captures a time and place in San Francisco in the 70s and early 80s that we may never see again. Owner/impresario/musician Todd Barkan ran the club on a frayed financial shoestring, but the club’s unique ambience in San Francisco’s North Beach beckoned the greatest jazz players, where jazz aficionados and neophytes alike could appreciate America’s great cultural art form.
Sloane’s fabulous black and white photographs of jazz players such as Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Betty Carter, Elvin Jones, Mary Lou Williams, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, and countless others range from the contemplative to the kinetic – and they all tell a story. Sloan arranges chapters thematically with titles familiar to jazz lovers like Bright Moments, Bobby and Bags and Teach Me Tonight. In each chapter, the Keystone family of employees, patrons and the players tell stories and reminisce as to what made the club special. And there was something special about the club, from the cramped confines to the smells of Ora Harris’s home cooking to the down-home good feeling – and it was next to the police precinct in North Beach to boot! Sloane includes a discography compiled by Stuart Kremsky and a CD of some of the great live performances at the Korner with liner notes by Sascha Feinstein.
Like the Keystone Korner itself, Sloane’s book is a labor of love and a testament to a memorable time and place. If you were lucky enough to have been there, you can relive it; if you missed it, you can go back in time and live in the heart, art and soul of a San Francisco institution that epitomized the music and feeling of jazz.