“Jazz” preservation is a misnomer… a pretty name imposed onto a much more complicated history, a history that centered around R&B much more so than jazz. That was the gist of Bobby “Spider” Webb’s complaint about the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s Fillmore preservation efforts when we interviewed him during Hit Parade’s community storytelling day in the Western Addition library. The city is camouflaging the Fillmore’s real musical identity, he seemed to be saying.
The famous saxophonist, music administrator and today, DJ on San Francisco’s KPOO, was referring to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s establishment of the Fillmore district as the Historic Fillmore Jazz Preservation District. His words are particularly significant this month, as the city hosts its annual Fillmore Jazz Festival during the 4th of July weekend. The festival has been touted for not only keeping the city’s jazz legacy alive but also, for increasingly incorporating other genres, like hip-hop. It was started in the mid 1980s and by the 1990s became associated with the Redevelopment Agency’s efforts to identify and cultivate the Fillmore district as the official Historic Fillmore Jazz Preservation District, a designation that was formalized in 2000 and that seeks to honor the legacy of the Fillmore as the “Harlem of the West.” Today, at the center of this effort is the SF Jazz Center. Check out this video to learn more about the Center’s history and the stories it looks to preserve.