Black Cat Artist-in-Residency Program Nurtures Musicians’ Bellies & Souls
The Black Cat, jazz and supper club, based in the historic Tenderloin District where jazz greats such as Theolonius Monk and Miles Davis once played, announces an expanded artist-in-residency program designed to provide young musicians and singers with time to cultivate their creativity through multi-day performances. Isaiah Collier and The Chosen Few, a contemporary jazz quartet led by 24-year-old saxophonist Collier, is booked June 22-25 for a residency. In 2021, Collier released “Cosmic Transitions” to critical acclaim, including a 5-star review from DownBeatmagazine. Jazz writer Giovanni Russonello from the New York Times called Collier “an heir apparent….to the post-Coltrane sax tradition.”
The pandemic forced the closure of small and independent venues across the country, with many slow to open their doors again or not at all. The Tenderloin District experienced its own set of challenges on top of Covid, including a fentanyl crisis, crime and homelessness. Yet after being shuttered for 18 months, Black Cat has emerged as a wellspring of culture, community, music and hope in the Tenderloin District and for San Francisco. When Black Cat relaunched in 2021, it doubled down on its mission to provide young rising stars the space and freedom to create and experiment through expanded residency programs – every week contains a multi-day residency and some have been multi-week residencies.
Since covid, many artists aren’t booking multi-night opportunities that provide time and space for creativity or those opportunities that exist often shift the burdens of travel to the artists. The Black Cat residencies nurture the magic that comes through the exploration of jazz. But the residencies take care of the artists’ needs, too, providing nightly family-style dinners and comfortable, 3 and 4-star lodging. “The Black Cat residencies are designed to make an investment in a young artist, to give them a nurturing environment in which to work and create,” said Fritz Quattlebaum, owner of the Black Cat.
“The residencies change the experience for the musicians. But it also dramatically changes the experience for audiences – the level of freshness, experimentation and improvisation increases dramatically,” Quattlebaum said. The artist-in-residency program is supported through grants from generous donors and music lovers’ commitment to their community.
“Isaiah (Collier) is a great example of why we have residencies. He’s an amazing creative but because he’s a young talent, he gets to perform for a single night in venues. This doesn’t give him the opportunity to stretch out with his band, take risks, innovate, and experiment,” Quattlebaum said.
Collier is a Chicago/Brooklyn-based jazz saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist and composer who studied at the Dave Brubeck Institute in the Bay Area. His quartet includes Michael Shekwoaga Ode on drums, Julian Davis Reid, piano, and Jeremiah Hunt, bass. Collier, who grew up in Chicago and began playing saxophone at age 11, has honed his chops through his serious study of music history and theory, but he’s also been practicing his craft through gigging nonstop for years, night after night in a new venue.
“To be able to have the time and space at a club to breathe and listen and experiment with the band is, well, it doesn’t happen often,” Collier said. “I am incredibly grateful to everyone at the Black Cat for this opportunity. Trying to find places that allow us to connect to the audience and have a reciprocal relationship, that’s what we want, what I call ‘artistic nutrition.'”
Jazz pianist Javier Santiago, who completed a residency at the club in March, calls the Black Cat “a safe place” for expression. “Audiences there attend not just to be entertained, but to be moved on a deeper level. As creative musicians, we need a place that we can really stretch out and give it all we’ve got and Black Cat just felt like home and a place that welcomed creativity,” Santiago said.
Black Cat is open five nights a week from Wednesday through Sunday with three shows on Fridays and Saturdays.