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SFJAZZ Collective pays tribute to ‘King of Pop’

You might not expect a jazz group to cover Michael Jackson, but in jazz the rules don’t always apply.

In light of that, the SFJAZZ Collective is on tour featuring the music of the late “King of Pop” and stopping Friday at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Hall.

SFJAZZ Collective

Where: Jazz Concert Hall, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, North Side.

When: 7 (sold out) and 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Tickets: $52.50; 412-322-0800 or

Bassist Matt Penman says Jackson’s music “is part of the same musical tree [of the jazz greats]— a continuum of African-American music. His sense of rhythm was incredible, the melody and groove are eternal. There is some funk present, which I’m happy about.”

The repertoire includes “Smooth Criminal,” “Human Nature” and “Blame it on the Boogie,” among other tunes, because “a lot of people [involved in the arranging] went to the old stuff.”

The San Francisco-based organization, co-founded in 2004 by Randall Kline and Joshua Redman, “started out as a composers’ collective, where everyone brings in original material,” according to bassist Matt Penman.

Over the years, the collective — not really a band per se because of the consistent turnover — has performed music by Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, among others. “Next year, Miles Davis,” Mr. Penman says. “[The personnel] keeps turning over, and the band has a big book of music.”

Every fall the collective sponsors a residency and extended rehearsal period, from which the music emanates. Five years ago it moved into the SFJAZZ Center, “the only standalone building for jazz in the U.S.,” Mr. Penman notes.

This year’s ensemble includes trumpeter Sean Jones, the Warren, Ohio, native and alumnus of and former professor at Duquesne University, whom Mr. Penman describes as “fabulous — someone who can lead [a section] and a great improviser as well.”

Also appearing with this tour are alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Edward Simon and drummer Obed Calvaire.

Because the collective always showcases original music from the participants, “We’ll be playing our recent music at the same time,” Mr. Penman says.

See the original story here.