Jazz Police


Monday, 27 July 2009
Papa's World: B.J Papa Group Live at Jazz At Pearl'sPrintE-mail
Written by Maxwell Chandler
Saturday, 26 July 2008

B. J Papa

B.J Papa is a North Beach institution. Just as things which are thought of as quintessentially Parisian made their way from other places before becoming cultural embodiments (Picasso and Spain, the croissant and Austria), B.J Papa (who is all that is hip in North Beach) came to San Francisco via Mobile, Alabama. Initially he found his way to San Francisco as a medic in the late fifties, stationed at The Letterman Hospital in The Presidio. His stay gave him a chance to delve into the then vibrant local jazz scene. When his tour was over he stayed on in the Bay Area, playing all the legendary, now extinct clubs.

Coming up through the jam sessions (system), B.J Papa has played with some of the biggest names in jazz, but also with laymen who had the passion but not necessarily the pedigree. The jam session would remain a creative catalyst for B.J. Papa, serving as a as a way for him to teach and also draw inspiration. For decades B.J. Papa would nurture each generation's up-and-coming musicians, showing them the ropes and letting his infectious passion for this art form rub off on them.

Whether he is at the piano or having a drink and swapping anecdotes at one of his local haunts, B.J. Papa knows everybody and gives off the air of making everybody feel included. This was perfectly exemplified by the eclectic crowd drawn to Jazz At Pearl's on July 10th. This diverse mix of people were all there to share in the joy of watching B.J. Papa do his thing, strangers sharing their enthusiasm and Papa stories before the show with their table neighbors.

Jazz at Pearl's is one of the few remaining jazz clubs that still possesses an air of authenticity. It is a room small enough that there are no bad seats but large enough to attract national acts. The sound engineer is very familiar with the room and there is never the waste of a first song to get volumes and E.Q's correct. Against one wall, large windows offer a view of the twinkling lights of the cityscape, the street scene serving as a sort of kinetic backdrop to the action onstage. It allows passersby to catch a glimpse of the action and further serves to enhance the often-felt sensation of being in a scene from a cool movie.

Without preamble, the quintet took the stage. The first song, “Blue-N- Boogie,” began with a strong opening statement by trumpeter Mike Olmos. He has a bright percussive touch reminiscent of the chief architects of the splatter school of playing (Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro). B.J. Papa provided chime-like comping throughout the song until he too took a solo. Kenny Hawkins, who spent the set doubling among tenor sax and flute, introduced himself in this first piece on tenor. His sax playing has a warm rounded tone. His soloing is economical, avoiding the extra flourishes that can sometimes cause then tension to sag.

B.J. Papa's solo had in its cadence a cascading, discordant yet beautiful water- breaking-upon-rocks-as-it-flows-downstream effect. Following in the footsteps and inspiration of all the great percussive players before him, B.J. Pap also in his youth studied saxophone and this is reflected in breaking up his fast runs with long fluid lines that one could imagine a horn playing. The steady pulse of cymbals over which the bass bubbled further unified the whole song together into a liquid joy.

Chris Ulf Bjorkbom on drums took the less-is-more approach with his kit. Using a smaller, traditional kit, he called upon a rhythmically rich palette of sounds, including, at more explosive moments, the ghost of Buddy Rich.

The second song of the set was a ballad, “I Love You,” which was not taken overly slow as is the recent custom of ballad delivery and what is the “American Idolization” of music. The song started with a trumpet statement which had a natural beauty in its contrast with Kenny Hawkin's flute solo, which chimed as if someone singing. After the first two solos came B.J. Papa's, a friend run into by chance who fits perfectly into the conversation without a moment's pause. B.J. Papa has always been able to change tempo and timbre within one song and here he deftly utilized that ability.

“I'll Remember April” is one of those standards that, no matter how many times one hears it, if done right it is always a welcome presence. Here it was given samba flavorings emphasized by drums and flute. The trumpet and piano intertwined themselves for the main theme, both departing for divergent solos without loosing the main thread of the piece. For his solo here B.J. Papa offered up clusters of notes, the rich effect reminiscent of chamber music. With a beautiful flute solo at the midsection, the song had the feel of a vintage Blue Note session from their heyday in the 1960s.

“Body and Soul” avoided being overly maudlin, starting with a rapidly descending trumpet figure which fell into the main theme. The sax didn't parrot all the great horns which have tread here before it, but managed to authentically call forth the song's emotional intention. It murmured, all things of the heart and night. The piano was the memory that you can not help but call upon, further emphasized by the percussionist's drums, the passage of time, day to night, yesterday until tomorrow.

Towards the song's end the sax switched for flute to add to the beautiful fragility of the song's emotional longing and avoid all obvious comparisons to other versions. The piano statement here was stately and romantic, playing over the sonorous murmuring of Attila Medveczky's bowed bass.

For the first set there were several original B.J. Papa compositions. “North Beach” was a full-sounding paean to the neighborhood. It managed, for anyone familiar with it, to capture the multifaceted aspect of the neighborhood that still manages to offer up both comfort and inspiration. Despite the fact that it was a pick up band, there was a cohesiveness to the playing which bespoke of all the musicians' abilities. The songs all had jam-like aspects to them but remained cohesive and tight.

B.J. Papa has always fed on and drawn from the energy of the audience. Here he was surrounded by an appreciative audience with strong support of a talented band in a good venue, the perfect storm of jazz.

For the full schedule for Jazz at Pearl's, visit www.jazzatpearls.com/jazz/

sf station


Thu Jul 27, 2006

BJ Papa Band

Pure bebop all the way!

Box Office: 415-291-8255

Date and Time
256 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133 map
cross street: Broadway
district: North Beach/Telegraph Hill

Thu Jul 27, 2006 (8:00 & 10:00) - Doors open at 7:30

BJ Papa Band
Recently honored with a North Beach lifetime achievement award, BJ Papa has mentored hundreds of young jazz muscians including vocalist Kim Nalley. Pianist/composer BJ Papa is a man who has "paid his dues," playing in San Francisco jazz clubs on both sides of Market Street and in North Beach for years. His first CD features a quintet of hard-blowing young players who interpret BJ’s original tunes with great gusto and straight-ahead playing. Pure bebop all the way! Papa's popular jam sessions are regularly attended by some of the Bay Area's best young jazz players. This is a chance to see young talent mixing it up with jazz veterans, with plenty of great music made, all night long.

SF Gate Loves BJ


Influential jazz pianist BJ Papa dies in S.F.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A musical tribute will be held Sept. 28 for BJ Papa, a San Francisco jazz pianist who hosted jam sessions around town for decades and nurtured many young musicians who passed through them.

His given name was William Jackson and he died of liver disease Aug. 31 at his North Beach home. He was 72.

"There are many of us that graduated from the University of BJ," said singer Kim Nalley, who honed her craft and expanded her repertoire under his tutelage. "We never paid tuition, but we received the best jazz education that can be had, on the bandstand and at the jam session."

Nalley, who played with him at the Wild West in Bernal Heights, Cafe Du Nord and numerous other spots, hired the pianist to run the Sunday night jam session at Jazz at Pearl's when she took over the now-closed North Beach club several years ago.

It was one in a long list of joints where BJ Papa presided over the informal sessions where jazz musicians have traditionally cut their teeth. A bebopper whose spare, rhythmic style was shaped by his love of Thelonious Monk, he performed at countless clubs, bars and cafes in North Beach and other San Francisco neighborhoods, among them Mission Rock, Tropical Haight, Soulville, the Streets of Paris and Cafe Prague. Saxophonists John Handy and Bishop Norman Williams were among the artists who played with BJ Papa, a genial man who could often be found sipping red wine at Caffe Trieste.

"He opened the door for a lot of musicians," said bassist-composer Marcus Shelby, who began jamming with him at the Gathering Cafe on upper Grant Avenue when he moved to town in 1996. That's where Shelby met a lot of the musicians who play in his various bands. "He was such a loving cat," Shelby added. "Everybody came to him first."

Born in Mobile, Ala., he learned music from his mother, a professional pianist. As an Army medic in the mid-1950s, he was stationed in San Francisco at Letterman General Hospital in the Presidio. He got the jazz bug listening to bands at the noncommissioned officers' club, and began taking saxophone lessons after leaving the service. (He told Nalley he switched from saxophone to piano because he couldn't afford to get his horn out of hock and there was always a piano around). He heard Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and other stars in late-night sessions at the fabled Jimbo's Bop City in the Fillmore district.

"Dewey Redman, John Handy, Frank Butler and a lot of others, they all helped me," BJ Papa told writer Jerry Karp in 2005, two years after the Upper Grant Avenue Art Fair Association honored him for his contribution to the music scene and the culture of North Beach.

Some of the musicians he helped, including Nalley, bassist David Ewell and trumpeter Henry Hung, will honor him from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Mojito, 1337 Grant Ave., San Francisco. It's free to the public.

For more information, go to www.bjpapajazz.blogspot.com.

E-mail Jesse Hamlin at jhamlin@sfchronicle.com.


This article appeared on page B - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle

BJ Papa NBJF 2007 North beach Jazz festival at cafe trieste


BJs world with bishop norman williams


sf examiner

Keep Jazz Alive
Mike Rinta says:
When BJ Papa would play around town, he would always invite young musicians to come and sit in allowing them to develop their jazz improvisation skills. I was one of those young musicians that learned how to play jazz alongside BJ Papa and for that, I will be forever grateful. BJ was a gentleman, a mentor, and a true friend. I will always remember him fondly. Thank you BJ for being part of my life and for helping me become the musician I am today.
October 10, 2:38 AM

markman says:
BJ PAPA MEMORIAL TRIBUTE--Kim Nallie & John Miles (North Beach JAZZ FEST) are organizing the celebration of BJ's life AT MOJITOS with the BJ PAPA BAND starting the tribute..all musicians ARE welcome..SEPT.28TH--2:00PM-9:00PM!

"Everyone loves BJ"

September 9, 9:53 AM
ida says:
In memory of B.J. Papa there will be a musical tribute preformed by michael Parsons & Friends, with poems to B.J. by those who love him.
Caffe Trieste
601 vallejo St.
Sunday, 9/21/2008, 5:00p.m.
September 8, 10:03 PM
markman says:
BJ PAPA..Bay area Jazz legend that touched many -a soul---will be truly missed! Loved by many musicians, artists and people of the world........

Official memorial for BJ--SEPT 28TH 2:00PM AT MOJITOS Grant ave.--North Beach!


Joy says:
I'll miss the spirited flirting matches in which we often engaged. But what a way to go! We all should be so lucky.
September 4, 7:55 AM
Maxwell Chandler says:
To anyone who knew him, his friendship was a gift which he never tired of giving. The city will now seem a little emptier. Rest easy pal.

A review of one of Papa's recent gigs:

http://www. jazzpolice. com/content/view/7820/72/
September 3, 5:33 PM