Category Archives: General

Todd Barkan named 2018 NEA Jazz Master

Very thankful. I’m very moved and honored by this recognition from my peers to be included with heroes Dianne Reeves, Pat Metheny, and​ ​Joanne Brackeen as one of the four 2018 NEA​ ​Jazz Masters. It’s been a lifelong blessing to have personally worked​ with​ most of the NEA Jazz​ ​Masters since I began this unlikely journey in our music in the mid 1960s. A real privilege beyond​ ​words to be able to provide ​an​ opportunity and space to these indispensable artists to swing and create together. As Bobby Hutcherson told me quite a few times, and even wrote on the wall of the Keystone Korner:​ “True love asks nothing in return.” –Todd Barkan

Posted in General | 1 Comment

KQED: Todd Barkan, Who Ran the Keystone Korner, to Receive National Honor

Photo: John Abbott

Todd Barkan, who ran San Francisco’s legendary jazz nightclub the Keystone Korner, will receive the nation’s highest honor for jazz artists, the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Jazz Master fellowship.

Barkan, pianist Joanne Brackeen, guitarist Pat Metheny and vocalist Diane Reeves are the 2018 recipients of the Jazz Master fellowships, which were announced at a concert Monday night at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where Metheny performed. Each of the winners will receive $25,000, and will be honored at a concert at the Kennedy Center next April.

Barkan, 70, will receive the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy for his decades as a Grammy-winning producer and for his time at the Keystone, the North Beach club that pianist Mary Lou Williams once called “the Birdland of the ’70s.”

“It’s been a privilege beyond words to be able to provide some opportunity and space for these indispensable artists to swing and create together,” Barkan wrote on Facebook. “As Bobby Hutcherson told me quite a few times, and even wrote on the wall of the Keystone Korner, ‘True love asks nothing in return.’”

Born in Nebraska and raised in Ohio, Barkan says he discovered jazz at the age of 13 and swiftly became obsessed with the music, taking 1,000 jazz records with him instead of clothes when he left for college. In 1967, Barkan moved to San Francisco, and by the early ’70s he was working as a pianist in two groups, and looking for clubs to play. When he stopped into the Keystone Korner to ask then-owner Freddie Herrera for a gig, the Korner was primarily a rock club known for hosting guitar gods like Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, and Jerry Garcia.

“I went to him and asked, ‘Why don’t you hire my band?’” Barkan said in a recent interview with JazzTimes. “I gave him the press kit and demo, but he came back with, ‘I hate jazz. Can’t stand it. It doesn’t sell. But I’m opening a big rock club in Berkeley, the Keystone Berkeley. Why don’t you buy this joint and maybe you can turn it into something, do something with it?’”

As the owner of the Keystone, a tiny 200-seat venue on Vallejo Street, Barkan helped bring jazz back to San Francisco. The city had been resplendent with jazz clubs in the ’50s, but by the time Barkan bought the club for just $12,500, there were little to none. As soon as the club was up and running, Barkan brought big names that hadn’t been back to San Francisco for several years, like Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins.

Barkan also created a haven for jazz artists fighting to stay relevant when rock ruled the radio and the road. Several standout artists recorded albums at the Keystone, including Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who was Barkan’s mentor as a teenager. The club gained such a reputation that artists who could fill much bigger venues, like Miles Davis and Stan Getz, frequently graced its stage. Its liquor license was paid for with a fundraiser in Oakland that featured Kirk, Tyner, and Elvin Jones, and another fundraiser featuring George Benson and Grover Washington Jr. paid for the club’s kitchen.

“Keystone Korner was — much like Bradley’s back in New York City — an absolutely indispensable part of the true jazz community,” bassist Ray Drummond, who used to play at the Keystone, said in a statement. “All kinds of musicians from all over the world looked forward to playing there.”

Barkan became known for his catchphrase, “Take care of the music and the music will take care of you.” But by 1983, jazz wasn’t taking care of the Keystone’s bills. After a Bill Graham-produced benefit at the Warfield raised only $1,500 — barely a dent in Barkan’s $50,000 tax bill — Barkan closed the club and left for New York. He came back to the Bay Area a few years later as a talent buyer for Yoshi’s in Oakland, but returned to New York in 1993 after an “unfriendly split” with Yoshi’s owners.

Barkan went on to produce hundreds of records for labels such as Fantasy/Milestone, HighNote and 32 Records. He also continued to promote live jazz, becoming the director of programming for Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center for eight years. But Barkan seems at his proudest when he talks about running the Keystone, still remembered today as one of “best jazz clubs in the world.”

“The Keystone was really a labor of love to the very last day it was open. And I tried to have the best music in the world there every night,” Barkan said in 2011.

For this year’s 45th anniversary of the opening of the Keystone, Barkan will host a series of shows in the Bay Area on July 7 and 8. The concerts — held in Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay and San Francisco — feature artists such as Charles McPherson, Gary Bartz and Denny Zeitlin. (Barkan has more information about the shows on his website,

— Kevin L. Jones, KQED

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Keystone Korner 45th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco Bay Area on Friday & Saturday, July 7-8, 2017

Press Release by Terri Hinte about Keystone Korner 45th Anniversary Concerts in Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and San Francisco, California, July 7 & 8.

Keystone Korner Slide Show with live music from the club in 1976 by Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, Bobby Hutcherson, George Cables.

High resolution photo of Keystone Korner from 1977 by Brian McMillen

Posted in General | Leave a comment


We are very happy to be celebrating the 
45TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF KEYSTONE KORNER on JULY 7-8, 2017, with Charles McPherson, Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson, Denny Zeitlin, Benito Gonzalez, Mel Martin, Ray Drummond, Juini Booth,  Calvin Keys, Kenneth Nash, et al. Todd Barkan, MC.
FRIDAY, JULY 7, 7 pm.
SATURDAY, JULY 8, 2-4 pm
JULY 7 & 8, 1972 with MICHAEL WHITE, 

Jazz saxophonist Gary Bartz

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Zeal NYC Article

GALA_Invite_WEB (1)

Jazz Notes: On May 9 The Jazz Gallery Gala Celebrates the Maestro of Bebop: Todd Barkan
Jazz & Cabaret News & Reviews

By Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor ZEALnyc, April 29, 2016
Since 1995 The Jazz Gallery has been a jazz artist incubator where brilliant music has been created and supported—from MacArthur Fellow Steve Coleman to rising-star pianists such as Aaron Parks and Gerald Clayton. The space has been a proving ground where audiences flock to check out the latest in the continual cycles of jazz evolution. As such, The Jazz Gallery presents some of the most adventurous programming in the U.S. at a time when clubs and venues have been disappearing after a few short years—or long-term stands—of operation.
Every year The Jazz Gallery celebrates its nonprofit existence by throwing a fund-raising gala (watch out: the price of the affair held at The Players Club in the Gramercy neighborhood is steep but well worth it) on May 9 where a who’s who of the jazz world in the past has been honored. This year bassist extraordinaire Ron Carter, who has been racking up numerous awards in the last several years as he closes in on the 80-year-old mark, is crowned with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Also Newark’s WBGO jazz radio founder and heart-and-soul ambassador of jazz Dorthaan Kirk is honored with one of two Contribution to the Arts Awards.
The other goes to one of the unsung jazz heroes over the last half century: impresario, club runner and producer Todd Barkan, who jumped into the jazz world full depth in 1972 when he founded the seminal jazz space Keystone Korner in San Francisco and is still dizzyingly active now, with a fresh Grammy in 2015 as producer of the Best Latin Jazz Album of 2014: Offense of the Drum by Arturo O’Farrill. He continues to push out new music, including One for Marian (a remembrance of the late pianist Marian McPartland) recorded by Roberta Piket and Steve Wilson, and the recent HighNote recording, He Was the King, by Freddie Cole in salute to his late older brother Nat King Cole. “This is the twentieth album I’ve produced for Freddie,” says Barkan. “I’ve been asking him to do an album like this for years, but finally he agreed it was time to make a unique homage to Nat.”
In our recent conversation, Barkan is spirited and spouts out his favorite motto: “Make the world safe for bebop.”
“I’ve been practicing this since 1972,” he says buoyantly. “That’s been 44 years—and we’re making progress. Bebop is the music of the future. Hey, different streets for different freaks.”
Barkan runs down a long list of jazz greats who played his Keystone club over the years, like Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, Max Roach. He acknowledges the brilliance of today’s young jazz stars like Robert Glasper, but says, “With all due respect, he’s just not playing at that level that the beboppers and hard boppers did. Young players that I adore, like [pianist] Eric Reed, just don’t do what the beboppers did. I think we’re ready to move backwards to those days.”
While it opened in 1972 and closed on July 11, 1983, the Keystone Korner alone would be fitting reason to celebrate Barkan even if he had never lifted a finger in jazz circles again—an impossibility given how earnestly committed he has been to presenting and documenting the music, including his one-time Tokyo outpost of the Keystone, a return to the Bay Area when he programmed Yoshi’s in Oakland under the Keystone brand name and more recently his decade-plus artistic directing of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club when it first launched). Even though he bows to the bebop gods, Barkan is quick to assert, “I’m no moldy fig. I’m full spectrum. Back in the early days of the Keystone, I hired people like the AACM’s Henry Threadgill [a recent awardee of the Pulitzer Prize for Music] in his band Air, and Anthony Braxton and then creative, artistically provocative bills like Stan Getz playing on the same bill as [blues great] Johnny Guitar Watson. There’s not a club in New York today that’s doing what I did at the Keystone.”
Get Barkan talking and it soon becomes apparent that you’re getting in way over your head with his experiential knowledge. So rather than drown, I asked him what were four important moments in his illustrious career. Turns out he’s got a great memory.
In 1964 he went to the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio. He had no idea that he would be struck by jazz lightning that day, forever changing his future. “I heard John Coltrane’s quartet playing right next to a bunch of Guernsey cows,” he says. “Ninety seconds into the band playing ‘My Favorite Things,’ and I flew off to another planet. My whole universe turned upside down.”
Flash back to the summer of 1955 when Barkan was taking a bus in Columbus to go to see a game by the Columbus Jets, a minor league baseball team. “I met this guy who had all kinds of instruments around his neck and a long stick,” he says. “There I was 9 years old and I had met Rahsaan Roland Kirk.” Kirk, one of jazz’s most eclectic, unpredictable and exciting artists, became a regular at Keystone in San Francisco years later.
Fast-forward to the opening year of the Keystone in 1972. Two events rocked Barkan’s early entree as an impresario. The first came when he booked saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who was scheduled to play with bassist Bob Crenshaw and drummer Jack DeJohnette. “Sonny was blowing this psychedelic, mind-bending music, but the first set was short: 29 minutes,” says Barkan. “After, I told Sonny that it was great but too short. And he said, ‘OK, why don’t we call them episodes.’” He laughs and says that he immediately went outside and changed the sign for the billing to “4 or 5 episodes each night.”
That same year Barkan’s world was shaken by the appearance of longtime Coltrane pianist, McCoy Tyner, going out on his own as the leader of his own band. “McCoy was really going for it,” he says. “There were waves of psychic energy as an extension of what Trane was doing. In fact, McCoy played tidal waves.” (Years later in 1994 when Barkan had produced his Prelude and Sonata recording, Tyner commented: “Todd brings a very rare level of intelligence, experience and sensitivity to being a producer of our music.” Added note: Barkan has produced over 600 albums during his career.)
Finally, I asked Barkan what the three most important albums were in his life. Even though he says that he has hundreds of favorites, he agreed to slim that down to three dates from the Keystone:
• Freddie Hubbard’s Pinnacle, recorded live at the Keystone—“Freddie was like a godfather to the club. He played there every four months.”
• The Magic of 2 with pianists Jaki Byard and Tommy Flanagan, recorded at Keystone—“This was artistically beyond anything I’d heard. It took place in 1980 and it took 33 years to come out on Resonance Records in 2013. Hats off to the label.”
• Getz/Gilberto ’76 by Stan Getz and João Gilberto—“This one took nearly 40 years to come out, again on Resonance. I had been trying to get the rights for years. It was never a problem with the Getz estate. But João first wanted a million dollars, then later a half million. Finally we agreed to a more reasonable figure.”
Barkan is basking in the glow of his lifetime achievements in the jazz world as well as being honored by The Jazz Gallery. “That place really has the Keystone vibe,” he says.
In addition to the awards ceremony, The Jazz Gallery will present special performances by a band comprising club regulars: trumpeter Roy Hargrove, pianist Clayton, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Johnathan Blake. And in special honor of Carter, a bass quartet with Matt Brewer, Dezron Douglas, Larry Grenadier and Ben Williams will also perform.

Posted in General | 1 Comment