Higher Ground

SFJAZZ Collective gets right with Stevie Wonder

music & nightlife |

By Gabe Meline

Operating as a revolving talent stable, the SFJAZZ Collective has boasted some formidable names over the years. Founding director Joshua Redman has paved the way for legends like Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas and Nicholas Payton to lend their skills to the group.

But this year’s Collective might be the most exciting one yet. Drummer Eric Harland, a miracle of rhythm. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen, a dazzling Middle Eastern-influenced trumpeter. Stefon Harris and Robin Eubanks? Nothing to shake sticks at.

Each year the group specializes in the canon of a true master of jazz, and their current passion stretches the definition: the music of Stevie Wonder. While some people, like George W. Bush, seem to think that waving at Wonder is a suitable tribute, the collective does it the best way possible. Their set includes some crowd-pleasers—”Superstition,” “My Cherie Amour,” “Sir Duke”—but everyone knows gems lie beneath the surface, and the members have taken turns arranging lesser-knowns like “Race Babbling” and “Creepin’.”

Jazz purists aren’t to fear; the set includes original compositions too when the SFJAZZ Collective play an early evening show on Sunday, March 6, at the Napa Valley Opera House. 1030 Main St., Napa. 4pm. $30-$35. 707.226.7372.